Category: Corruption

Comfortably Numb

Thanks, Ursarodinia

She knows how close my mind and heart are to Pink Floyd. This isn’t her most recent suggestion; but, it’s how I’m feeling tonight.

I look at numbers from some of the pollsters who suggest gerrymandering by Republicans, the incompetence of the gutless wonders in the Democratic Party [excepting the Greens, Gays and Lesbians, Black, Brown and Red Caucuses, Feminists and Grayheads - who all know better but stay stuck into the 2-party shithole] – will probably result in this ignorant land settling deeper into a bog of complacent whining and self-pity this coming mid-term elections.

At least there is music leftover from times when young and old were courageous instead of concerned about their social network presence.

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Painkiller deaths reduced by 25% in states with medical marijuana

States that have legalized medical marijuana tend to experience an unexpected benefit — fewer overdose deaths from narcotic painkillers…

Access to medical marijuana is associated with 25 percent fewer prescription drug overdose deaths each year compared to states where medical pot is illegal, according to findings published Aug. 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

What’s more, states that pass medical marijuana laws see their overdose death rates decrease dramatically in the years immediately afterward…

The study authors believe that people suffering from chronic pain tend to rely on medical marijuana when they have that option, which reduces the risk of addiction and overdose that accompanies use of narcotic medications.

The study used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the prescription painkiller overdose death rate for each state between 1999 and 2010, and then took into account whether and when each state had passed a medical marijuana law…

Critics are trying hard to come up with rationales that support continued reliance on the profitable trade in prescription painkillers – and don’t confront idjit ideology that says cannabis is the Antichrist.

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed over the past two decades, increasing 118 percent between 1999 and 2011, according to the CDC.

The agency estimates that every day 113 people die from drug overdoses in the United States, and another 6,700 land in the emergency room from an overdose…

States’ overdose death rates decline an average 20 percent in the first year following the passage of a medical marijuana law, the researchers found. By the second year, overdose death rates on average decline 25 percent, and as much as 33 percent by five years after legalization of medical pot.

Medical marijuana laws also are associated with a more dramatic decrease in overdose death rates than other means commonly used to tackle prescription drug abuse, the study noted.

There is no reason for Congressional opposition to medical marijuana other than it may cut down contributions from amoral corporations chartered to profit from pain and illness.

Creeps like Mitch McConnell and Erik Paulsen may as well take their contributions directly from the drug cartels instead of the painkiller producers. Cut out the middleman.

Obama orders review of militarizing local coppers

President Obama has ordered a review of the government’s decade-old policy of sending military equipment to local police departments across the country…

Federal officials began reconsidering civilian police department’s use of such equipment — including body armor, mine-resistant armored trucks, silencers and automatic rifles — following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Local police used military-style equipment during violent clashes with demonstrators protesting the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer…

During widespread coverage of the Ferguson unrest, the public has absorbed images of heavily armed police, snipers trained on protesters and tear gas plumes.

“This equipment flowed to local police forces because they were increasingly being asked to assist in counterterrorism. But displays of force in response to mostly peaceful demonstrations can be counterproductive,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

“It makes sense to take a look at whether military-style equipment is being acquired for the right purposes and whether there is proper training on when and how to deploy it,” Holder said…

As the country concludes its longest wartime period, the military has turned over thousands of surplus weapons and armored trucks to local police who often trained alongside the military.

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June said police agencies had become “excessively militarized,” with officers using training and equipment designed for the battlefield on city streets. The report found the amount of goods transferred through the military surplus program rose in value from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013.

RTFA for details, examples.

IMHO, this crap follows logically from the War on Drugs becoming a War on All Citizens – especially as reactionaries and bigots get wedgies over ordinary folks moving in a progressive direction. From broad acceptance of civil rights for everyone including gays and lesbians – to the wave of decriminalization heading to a crest over the sillyass prohibition of cannabis.

The bottom of the lumpen that didn’t qualify for civilian jobs – who therefore joined the military – who still don’t qualify for a lifetime gig after being demobbed, jump at the chance to become some kind of copper. Maybe they fit in because the PD chiefs are racist. Maybe they don’t even qualify for that level of policing and sink down to lower economic levels, border cop or even TSA. But, whatever road, they’re already accustomed to treating every civilian as a furriner who isn’t white Christian enough to be a proper American.

Thanks, Mike

Los Alamos political scientist fired for questioning nuclear weapons dogma

james doyle

Political scientist James Doyle had spent almost 2 decades working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues when he decided to write a scholarly article questioning the dogma of nuclear deterrence. Suspecting that his bosses at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons lab in New Mexico might not agree with his analysis, Doyle researched and wrote the article in his free time and included a disclaimer saying the views were his own. And just to be safe, he got a lab colleague steeped in classification reviews to vet the article before he submitted it to a journal.

The 27-page article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—was published in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. And that’s when Doyle’s professional life was suddenly turned upside down.

Within days of publication, congressional staff asked lab officials whether the article contained classified information. A week later, the head of the lab’s classification office decided that it did—a decision later backed by DOE. Doyle soon lost his top-level security clearance, and he says he became persona non grata among his co-workers after accusing lab officials of retaliation and impinging on his intellectual freedom. Those complaints were dismissed, and last week, after 17 years at the weapons lab, Doyle was laid off—the only victim within his 50-person group of what lab officials told him was a reduction in force due to budget cuts.

The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear. The lab’s official statement says “we do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.”…

Many outside arms control specialists are skeptical and believe Doyle’s downfall is the result of his airing of views that are unpopular among those opposing disarmament, including some of the panel’s Republican leaders and staff…

Amid the murky circumstances, many nuclear security experts are sharply criticizing the lab’s actions. “It sends a chilling message not just to employees, but also those beyond the lab, that their ability to work on topics subject to classification could be restricted if they become too critical of policies that the lab holds dear,” says Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University. “It’s a very disturbing situation,” adds Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. “DOE leadership needs to reverse this decision.”

You thought the Cold War was over, eh?

RTFA for a long, detailed and truly knowledgeable article on the politics of working for an imperial government. The White House, Pentagon and cheerleaders in Congress are unified in their conviction that only might makes right. They continue in the belief that only the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation can bring peace to the world.

Our government, from the White House down through assorted bureaucrats, continues to pat themselves on the back solid in their belief that threatening the world with death and fire somehow was the motive force behind peace breaking out a couple decades ago. A peace that was destroyed as soon as Republicans were solidly in office backed by Neo-Con ideology.

So, one employee of the atomic death and destruction brigade writes a scholarly re-examination of our Nuclear Weapons Enterprise – and that constitutes sufficient threat that he must be terminated before he infects others with his freedom of thought.

Contemptible as ever. And still above criticism or oversight.

What if Ferguson was in a province named Missouri in a foreign country?

Chinese and Russian officials are warning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the restive American province of Missouri, where ancient communal tensions have boiled over into full-blown violence.

“We must use all means at our disposal to end the violence and restore calm to the region,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments to an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the America crisis.

The crisis began a week ago in Ferguson, a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension. State security forces shot and killed an unarmed man, which regional analysts say has angered the local population by surfacing deep-seated sectarian grievances. Regime security forces cracked down brutally on largely peaceful protests, worsening the crisis…

America has been roiled by political instability and protests in recent years, which analysts warn can create fertile ground for extremists.

Missouri, far-removed from the glistening capital city of Washington, is ostensibly ruled by a charismatic but troubled official named Jay Nixon, who has appeared unable to successfully intervene and has resisted efforts at mediation from central government officials. Complicating matters, President Obama is himself a member of the minority sect protesting in Ferguson, which is ruled overwhelmingly by members of America’s majority “white people” sect.

Analysts who study the opaque American political system, in which all provinces are granted semi-autonomous self-rule, warned that Nixon may seize the opportunity to move against weakened municipal rulers in Ferguson. Missouri’s provincial legislature, a traditional “shura council,” is dominated by the opposition faction. Though fears of a military coup remain low, it is still unknown how Nixon’s allies within the capital will respond should the crisis continue.

“The only lasting solution is reconciliation among American communities and stronger Missouri security forces,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech from his vacation home in Hainan. “However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to America. So we will continue to pursue a broader strategy that empowers Americans to confront this crisis.”

That’s the first half of Max Fisher’s satirical posting at VOX, this morning. Click the link to read the rest and enjoy the chuckle.

Reflect upon the mediocrity our tame Fourth Estate has become.

Mirroring press releases from the White House or the Koch Brothers phony public interest groups is not how you revive the independence of the American press.

Paul Krugman lectures the hawks who persist in crying wolf

According to a recent report in The Times, there is dissent at the Fed: “An increasingly vocal minority of Federal Reserve officials want the central bank to retreat more quickly” from its easy-money policies, which they warn run the risk of causing inflation. And this debate, we are told, is likely to dominate the big economic symposium currently underway in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

That may well be the case. But there’s something you should know: That “vocal minority” has been warning about soaring inflation more or less nonstop for six years. And the persistence of that obsession seems, to me, to be a more interesting and important story than the fact that the usual suspects are saying the usual things…

The Times article singles out for special mention Charles Plosser of the Philadelphia Fed, who is, indeed, warning about inflation risks. But you should know that he warned about the danger of rising inflation in 2008. He warned about it in 2009. He did the same in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was wrong each time, but, undaunted, he’s now doing it again…

The point is that when you see people clinging to a view of the world in the teeth of the evidence, failing to reconsider their beliefs despite repeated prediction failures, you have to suspect that there are ulterior motives involved. So the interesting question is: What is it about crying “Inflation!” that makes it so appealing that people keep doing it despite having been wrong again and again?

Well, when economic myths persist, the explanation usually lies in politics — and, in particular, in class interests. There is not a shred of evidence that cutting tax rates on the wealthy boosts the economy, but there’s no mystery about why leading Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan keep claiming that lower taxes on the rich are the secret to growth. Claims that we face an imminent fiscal crisis, that America will turn into Greece any day now, similarly serve a useful purpose for those seeking to dismantle social programs…

But while easy money may in principle have mixed effects on the fortunes (literally) of the wealthy, in practice demands for tighter money despite high unemployment always come from the right. Eight decades ago, Friedrich Hayek warned against any attempt to mitigate the Great Depression via “the creation of artificial demand”; three years ago, Mr. Ryan all but accused Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman at the time, of seeking to “debase” the dollar. Inflation obsession is as closely associated with conservative politics as demands for lower taxes on capital gains.

It’s less clear why. But faith in the inability of government to do anything positive is a central tenet of the conservative creed. Carving out an exception for monetary policy — “Government is always the problem, not the solution, unless we’re talking about the Fed cutting interest rates to fight unemployment” — may just be too subtle a distinction to draw in an era when Republican politicians draw their economic ideas from Ayn Rand novels.

Which brings me back to the Fed, and the question of when to end easy-money policies…

But the last people you want to ask about appropriate policy are people who have been warning about inflation year after year. Not only have they been consistently wrong, they’ve staked out a position that, whether they know it or not, is essentially political rather than based on analysis. They should be listened to politely — good manners are always a virtue — then ignored.

Freshly-educated, modern economists completely ignore, wholly reject the crap that is economic dogma for Republicans. Whether they are social moderates or the more fascist-minded.

Another organic tie between modernists like Krugman and political progressives is dedication to the needs of the mass of American workers and their families. We are the real source of value created to make a cushy life for the one-percenters. We deserve more than a minimal safety net or education barely-sufficient to moderate an obedient class of producers.

Governor Susana opposes decriminalizing marijuana – and she really hates folks turning out to vote on it!

NM weed

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she opposes efforts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe to reduce marijuana possession penalties.

Martinez said at an event in Bernalillo that marijuana possession is illegal under federal law and she believes that’s the way it should remain. She called current penalties appropriate.

The Santa Fe city clerk said Monday that petitioners seeking to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana garnered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot…And Albuquerque city councilors voted Monday to ask voters whether they supported reduced penalties, although Mayor Richard Berry could veto the measure. [Count on it!]

Martinez called the efforts political moves to get young voters to the polls

Governor Susana’s statement – rooted in RNC ideology – the larger concern is that allowing marijuana initiatives to be placed on a ballot will result in a higher voter turnout primarily among younger people who might otherwise not vote – which has proven to reduce the prospects for Republican candidates being elected.

Thanks, Mike

Ferguson: Black Town, White Power


Click to enlargeScott Olson/Getty

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

By contrast, consider the city: After decades of methodically building political power, blacks in St. Louis City elected a black mayor in 1993 and black aldermen or alderwomen in nearly half the city’s wards, and hold two of three seats on the powerful Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which must approve all city contracts. Well-established churches, Democratic ward organizations and other civic institutions mobilize voters in black wards. But because blacks have reached the suburbs in significant numbers only over the past 15 years or so, fewer suburban black communities have deeply ingrained civic organizations.

That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.

Jeff Smith begins and ends the article as published pushing for consolidation of these artificial suburbs. He believes this will benefits residents economically as well as politically. White power over Black workingclass transforms into Green Power for everyone.

I lived through that whole discussion middling days in the civil rights movement and all it produced was a few Black bureaucrats, damned little Green for everyone else.

Meanwhile, Mike suggested the Washington POST analysis of the same topic – where a troika of authors found the realpolitik included unintended consequences in a tag team with racism. A solid piece of research, sound data.

Neither article explained the perceived role of the Democratic Party, differences between St, Louis City and North County suburbs like Ferguson – but, since Smith’s article points out the racist history of municipal and local craft unions, continued exclusion of Black workers, white-dominated political campaigns they sponsor, it seems as likely to me that outside of the city of St. Louis the Democrat Party functions like Reagan populists. Perfectly willing to accept the racist status quo.

Voters in Ferguson have two alternatives. They can go the route apparently embraced by Black voters in St. Louis and fight for a decade or so for a grassroots effort which ends up with a Democratic Party organization mirroring the population – or they can organize an independent party that reaches out to Progressives to unite in bringing grassroots representation to Ferguson.

Both highways have the same tough obstacles to overcome – starting with the inevitable unsophisticated American voters. Both strategies risk demagogues who never can pass up a populist chance to be The Leader. But, over these past fifteen years, ain’t anyone else getting off their rusty dusty to change the white power structure in Ferguson. At least, not so’s you’d notice.

Thanks, Mike

Ferguson, Missouri, police arresting and attacking media

Olson arrest
Scott Olson from Getty Images taken away by Missouri highway patrolJoe Raedle/Getty

The thug police force in Ferguson, Missouri, continues wage its campaign against the public it is sworn to defend…

Obviously, the most tragic consequence of their savage brutality was the slaying of unarmed teen Mike Brown, but the police in Ferguson have also tried to light the First Amendment on fire, arresting and attacking reporter after reporter in an attempt to intimidate the media from covering their world.

The list of reporters arrested so far, according to the Poynter Institute:

Ryan Devereaux (The Intercept)

Frank Hermann (Die Welt)

Ansgar Graw (Die Welt)

Lukas Hermsmeier (Die Welt)

Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Robert Klemko (Sports Illustrated)

Rob Crilly (The Telegraph)

Neil Munshi (Financial Times)

Ryan J. Reilly (The Huffington Post)

Wesley Lowery (The Washington Post)

And it’s not going to get better…

I started this – my personal blog – to point out the work of a diminishing breed. Good, professional journalists.

The biggest problems most face are cowardly editors and even more chickenshit owners of their publications. Ownership more and more relegated to narrow-minded profiteers who would confine the Free Press into that intellectual jail called entertainment.

OTOH, you know you must be doing your job when you’re threatened by goon squads pretending to be police.