Monday, September 15, 2014

Mongo Misses Chuck

On Friday, Too, Also

Didn't mean to!

(BTW -- want to pass some time? There's some really interesting stuff out on the Intertubes. Watch a few of the 9/11 conspiracy videos available on U Tub. You'll either find it hard to stop laughing or find it hard to stop taking notes.)


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annual Reprint: Long, Strange Trip

(Originally posted September 11, 2010)


On November 22, 1963, I was on the playground for 10:00AM recess at my elementary school when teachers called classes back inside prematurely. After a few minutes, the school's public address system was broadcasting the carrier for CBS' radio network, announcing the shooting of JFK in Dallas and, ultimately, the audio portion of Walter Cronkite on CBS television announcing the President's death.

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? was a fixture in the cultural landscape for a large number of people (now referred to by the younger set as 'Bloodsucking Useless Boomers') for a long time, due to the magnitude of the event and because it was shared in real-time by the cutting-edge media of the early 1960's.

So, September 11th, 2001: Where were you on 9-11? I had gotten up to go to work around 5:30AM PDST, and as usual turned on KQED-FM's NPR news. After stepping out of the shower, I heard a report that a plane appeared to have crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York -- I've been in Manhattan and had seen how huge those buildings were. To me, "A plane" meant a Cessna, or similar light aircraft.

I remembered seeing a 1945 film newsreel about a B-25, flying through dense fog, directly into the Empire State Building. A similar incident at the WTC would be tragic, I thought; but it was an accident, for crying out loud, on the other side of the continent, distant. No one in their right mind would deliberately kill themselves, I sighed, and I shaved.

At some point the report was updated; I heard the words "jet airliner", which moved the entire event in my mind from 'Cessna-going-off-course' to the category of Did-You-Call-The-Coast-Guard-About-This?-It-Was-No-Boating-Accident.

Turning on CNN, I sat on the edge of an armchair, watching an image of the WTC towers from CNN's Manhattan headquarters, and other shots from a helicopter hovering over the Hudson. A few minutes after I sat down, I watched as the second airliner slammed into the second WTC tower.

Images Like This, and Worse, Were Broadcast And Published
In Europe, But Not In America (Photo: UK Guardian, 2001)

No joke: Aside from Holy Fuck, the only thing I recall thinking was, This is what standing at the curb in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, watching the Archduke Franz Ferdinand being shot, must have been like. I knew immediately that what I was seeing was another line in the sand being crossed, an event with consequences that would be immense. The dice were in motion in the Crapshoot that is our Universe, and what I was watching was the proof.

It also seemed unreal, a Hollywood special effect -- as if CNN would break for a commercial at any moment;  it would turn out to be this generation's War Of The Worlds broadcast.

I sat watching as the South and North towers collapsed (Wikipedia's timeline of the events puts that at 6:59 and 7:28 AM PDST, respectively), flipping back and forth between networks for coverage of the airliner plowing into a wing of the Pentagon. Finally I left to make my way to work on mass transit.

On a BART train, I was amazed at the languid attitudes of the crowd of commuters -- reading books and newspapers, a few tapping on laptops -- as if it were just another Tuesday morning. No one appeared stunned; there was no conversation about what had just occurred.

Finally, I turned to a woman sitting opposite me, reading a folded copy of the (pre-Little Rupert) Wall Street Journal, and asked if she was aware of what had happened that morning. "Yes," she replied, adding in a please-pass-the-salt voice, "There are supposed to be more of them [i.e., airliners] in the air to hit other targets."

Had anyone estimated how many? "No," the woman shrugged, and went back to her WSJ. I don't know what surprised me more, her matter-of-fact attitude, or her piece of news.

That was September 11th -- a red line on the American calendar in so many ways, the culmination of a large number of threads in our history, and the pacts and choices successive administrations have made since America decided to follow an Imperial course.

The attack on the Trade Center towers could have been another kind of defining moment for America. Our government and institutions could have taken it as an opportunity to press for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy; we could have opened a dialog with others, rather than dictate to them.

Lil' Boots, 2004 Republican Convention:
Feared And Bigger Than His Daddy, At Last

I'm not suggesting it coulda been a Kumbyah moment; I am saying that it was a crossroads moment, and that our choices mattered. But, the government was run by men who had no interest in anything except power (personal, partisan, and financial) and policies that meant the use of force in furthering that power. What else could we have expected from the likes of Lil' Boots, President Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld? From the PNAC crowd, Fat Karl Rove, Little Tommy DeLay, and Lard Boy?

(And remember, these geniuses had been discussing how to invade Iraq just days after Lil' Boots first inauguration. September 11th was simply an excuse.

And, they believed it would be simple, 'Roses All The Way', 'Greeted As Liberators' ... so no one planned for occupation, or fighting an insurgency for seven years; or for the effect on the U.S. military of multiple redeployments and 'stop-loss' denials of separation. They never conceived of failure; therefore, it wouldn't happen.)

So what followed from 9/11 shouldn't have been a surprise: An utterly unnecessary, even illegal invasion of Iraq, supported by intelligence about WMD's invented by right-wing operatives to create a causis beli, and pushed in the national media by sociopathic egos 'journalists' like Little Judy Miller, and pundits like David Brooks and William Kristol, and Little Tommy Friedman, to name but a few.

Palettes Of $100 Bills, Baghdad, 2003 (Photo: UK Guardian)

And let's not forget the $12 Billion in cash (at least; no one really knows), piles of U.S. currency shrink-wrapped and paletted and airlifted to Iraq. Some $9 Billion in cash cannot be accounted for. And all the cool new powers used by that dry-drunk, Frat-Boy younger son of an American ruling-class family; or all the power available to President Cheney.

There was plenty of money to put in C530's and airlift it: 363 Tons of it. There was plenty of money being made from the war, and tax breaks to the wealthy, which reduced tax income to the government; but there was no money  and Lil' Boots wanted to cut health care, cut social programs that continue the ideas of the New Deal, and privatize Social Security... because there's just no money to pay for it.

And there's Guantanamo, 'black airlines' flying suspected terrorists to secret CIA prisons, and the extra-legal, secret program of 'renditions'. Let's not forget Abu Ghirab. Let's not forget people like John Woo, whose written suggestions created what he still claims is a "legal" basis for torture as national policy.

Civilian Casualty Of Baghdad Suicide Car Bomb, 2007

And what followed wasn't just prisons and a lack of due process for terrorist suspects, but developing a matrix of information [Note: This was posted before Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of surveillance performed by America domestic and foreign intelligence agencies] -- based on the unprecedented data-mining of domestic email and cellular and telephone traffic, of banking records and public record databases; the rise of a government/corporate State surveillance and intelligence apparatus that outstrips the wildest dreams of the Gestapo and the KGB.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Being Interrogated At
Undisclosed Location By CIA In Middle Of Blog Rant

And, very little seemed to be about defeating Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Bin Laden and Al-Zwahiri -- otherwise, we would have finished the job in the mountains of Tora Bora in October of 2002, and Iraq would never have mattered. We would have kept Lil' Boots' promises to the Afghans about rebuilding their country, instead of ignoring it -- at least half the reason the Afghan Taliban were able to come roaring back, and are now as strong as they were in 2001, if not stronger.

The 'Go-Go', Lil' Boots Bush years were about a larger Rightist agenda; it was about deregulation, defense contractors, and higher profits; and it was about Fat Karl's dream of rigging elections for permanent Republican rule of the United States.

Victory, to these assclowns, had a very different meaning -- and little of it was military.

But let's not forget, too, how dissent or criticism of what would become that unnecessary war; of even more power given to people with poor impulse control, was looked upon in the immediate aftermath of September 11th.
  • Andrew Sullivan (9/16/01) -- The middle part of the country--the great red zone that voted for Bush--is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column.
  • Robert Stacy McCain (9/27/01), columnist for the All Perfect Great Father Moon Washington Times -- Why are we sending aircraft carriers halfway around the world to look for enemies, when our nation's worst enemies--communists proclaiming an anti-American jihad--will be right there in front of the Washington Monument on Saturday?
  • Robert Horowitz (9/28/01), Los Angeles Times -- The blood of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans is on the hands of the antiwar activists who prolonged [the Vietnam War] and gave victory to the communists... this country was too tolerant toward the treason of its enemies within.
Those who dissented, who believed the country was manifestly on a wrong track, were smeared as 'helping the enemy', a 'fifth column' for Islamic fundamentalism. "You are either with us, or with the terraists", as Lil' Boots so bravely told other governments of the world after the World Trade Center attack.

The chittering hatred all sounds like standard Tea Party rhetoric, now. From their point of view, to dissent and criticize is only permissible when you're attacking the Left -- and that socialist, illegitimate ruler in the White House; the dirty hippies; all those "in rebellion against god".

Our economy continues to implode, and it has never been clearer who is benefiting from the policies of the Right; but, then, it's been a long, strange trip from September 11th, 2001. Few things should surprise us any longer.

Another Lil' Boots quote:
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: In history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause)

-- George W. Bush, Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Is that appropriate as an epitaph for those who wish to do America harm?

Or, does it speak to how we have allowed ourselves to be lied to, and led; will it end up being our epitaph, a closing quote for the United States Of America?
There is no ‘populist’ version of a world where some few are born booted and spurred, and the many are born saddled, and ready to ride, and that's precisely the world which conservatism is trying to preserve.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kim's Small Request Of All Humanity

Why Not?

Seems Reasonable. And, It's Not As If Anything Else Has Worked.
Over the recent holiday, a friend and I were talking about Life In Our City. We spoke ruefully about the number of humans -- resident, transient and tourist -- who seemed packed into the few square miles of this peninsula, and how generally aggressive (particularly in traffic), how quick to take offense, how eager people seemed to go on the offensive over the most trivial issues.  They fought so fiercely, the old homily goes, because the stakes were so small.

"It's general incivility," my friend said, and shook her head. "Some people just don't want to put out the effort to be polite -- and it does take some effort."

We agreed there were events still playing out in the world, a sense we had held since childhood about the perceived stability of things that we could feel, shifting now, right under our feet; my friend sighed and (as I've heard a number of mothers do) wondered about the future world her children would live in.

Then she described a recent altercation while driving, with her pre-teen daughter in the back seat, and having to suffer the antics of a classic Piltdown Man in traffic.

"Eventually, I was able to pull up beside him," she related, "and I maintained myself -- didn't call him a witless motherfucker. Didn't rant and rave. I just looked at him and said, 'Come on; could you just try not to be a Dick? D'you think?'  That was right from the heart. And naturally, he wouldn't look at me."

As I'm fond of saying, about three people (four, if you count Mistah Charlie, Phd.) and a Superintelligent Parakeet read this blog. It informs no one, influences no one. It is not about to become the spark from which the global equivalent of the Slow Food Movement in politeness begins.

But my friend has a point. And yes, it looks very simple.  I'm only a Dog -- but I actually think she's on to something, because how one changes behavior, at times,  seem that simple to me. It's the Yoda theorem:  Be A Dick You Must Not.

So, for all of us -- from the Pope and the Dali Lama, all the way down to you and me; all of us -- Just Try Not To Be A Dick.

And -- pass it on. Perhaps we can get something started here.

Mongo Continues Thinking About Chuck

Because We Do


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Random Barking: News And The Dog

Wir Verlangen Eine Erklärung, Bitte
  • Ebola Continues To Spread In Africa   
Responses by governments in Africa to the disease outbreak have been too little or too late, uncoordinated and only partly successful. Both Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Director of the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta, Dr. Tom Frieden, said that the Ebola outbreak must be brought under control as quickly as possible. The "Or Else" was unspoken but present.

Dr. Frieden went so far as to say that the epidemic is already "out of control", and that the "window of opportunity" for controlling the disease is rapidly closing -- a stronger international response must occur, or a greater tragedy will unfold.  On the PBS News Hour, Frieden (who had just returned from a one-week tour through the affected areas) said unless more medical and financial resources are made available, the disease would spread -- certainly further in Africa, potentially in more urban areas where it would be difficult to control ... and the disease could begin to appear, uh, outside Africa.  Like, in Europe.  Or, here.  That, too, was left unspoken, but present.

Earlier, the 'News Hour' aired footage taken by a BBC/ITV film crew near an 'Ebola Camp' (a medical compound where Ebola patients are isolated for treatment) in Liberia, as one of the infected walked out of the isolation ward. People in the immediate area began running away in terror; it was like watching a sequence from 28 Days Later.

The patient -- sick, frightened and probably not thinking clearly -- refused to listen to anyone suggesting he return to the Camp and kept on walking. Eventually, he was forcibly stopped and subdued by a small crowd of aid workers and a doctor, dressed in isolation suits, frantically pulled into the back of a truck and driven away.
Ebola Patient In Search Of Food (Left) Trailed By Aid Workers (Reuters News)
The sheer animal panic on the part of the townspeople around the Ebola Camp was disturbing and unnerving to watch -- but the patient had left the compound because he was hungry, and thirsty:  Relatives of those inside the compound were shown telling the BBC / ITV crew that those in the isolation ward were suffering, because the government of Liberia had not provided the Ebola facility with enough food or water.

At the moment, Ebola can only be contracted through direct physical contact with an infected person who is obviously ill. It doesn't spread as influenza does. However, as any virus circulates among more and more humans, it will do what any virus does -- mutate through recombination of genetic material, in order to give itself a better chance at replication by becoming more effective at infecting more hosts. Dr. Frieden noted there was no way to know how high chances are that Ebola could mutate, only that the possibility exists.

I invite you to remember the scene in the original Jurassic Park, where cloned Dinos had all been created as females and spontaneously changed sex in order to breed -- "Nature," Sam Neill said, "found a way".
  • 101 Celebrities' Nude Photos Hacked And Shared Online
In what must rank as one of the greatest tragedies of the twenty-first century, a group of 101 "celebrities", who apparently backed up their iPhone photos to Apple's iCloud, had their accounts hacked and the photos (apparently, some number of them showing the celebrities in the nude) copied and publicly distributed on the net via the site, 4Chan (The same folks what gave you " 'sup, /b/?" selfies -- yeah; those folks).

It was briefly considered whether to suspend trading on all major exchanges and to raise the matter in the United Nations General Assembly. Okay, maybe not.

One question, though: Why did these, uh, individuals have even so much as a single photo of themselves, naked? (Oh -- the UK Daily Mail reported that "Mary Elizabeth Winstead [who?] tweeted that nude photographs of her were taken with her husband 'years ago in the privacy of our home' ". Well, okay then.)
  • Sad Vlad Continues Slow-Motion Invasion, Eats Candy Bar
Well, no one is sure about the candy bar, but it's plain that the Russian 'Republic' has sent troops into Ukraine to provide just enough support for pro-Russian "rebels" that will allow them to seize the eastern section of that country -- which Russia will then absorb.

It's kind of a playful act by the Big Red Bear, really, just a 'little' invasion. No more than a division, tops -- and not even any air support! If they really wanted to go all out, the Ukrainians wouldn't stand a chance; Sad Vlad, The Putin, observed today that if he wanted to really invade, the could "take Kiev [Capital of Ukraine] in two weeks".
Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant
The Ukrainian army had been winning against the 'rebels' in the previous two weeks -- which made Sad Vlad unhappy and peevish -- you know those Oligarchs; no one is permitted to say 'no' when they want something. So, the Russians slithered in, though one of their smaller units was captured by the Ukrainians and confessed to their active-duty status on camera.

The Russians waved a hand; ahhh, this is all a lie, a provocation. History and truth mean whatever the Oligarchs want them to.

America and the EU make noises about more trade and financial sanctions against Russia, and the Ruble continues to sink against the Euro and the Dollar -- but Sad Vlad knows he's holding most of the cards.  The EU, NATO and the United States appear weak and Sad Vlad appears fully in control. No one is going to start WWIII over the Ukraine.

And, the West Russia's diplomatic influence is needed to deal with Iran, Syria, and other nasty spots or bad actors in the Middle East.  Sad Vlad will eat another candy bar and snicker. No pun intended.
  • Lybia; Syria And Iraq And ISIS
Attacks by the Islamic Fascists in Syria and Iraq are -- unless the Ebola outbreak becomes worse -- together with the civil war in Syria, the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century to date, a disaster equal to the appointment by the Supreme Court to the U.S. Presidency election of George "Lil' Boots" Bush.  It's a tribal conflict, a sectarian blood feud, with millions of displaced refugees and thousands dead, overlaid by a struggle for primacy in the Islamic world between the Mullahs of Iran and the House of Saud.

I'll say this once: Even if the West supplies more air power for the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmurga, ISIS will still have to be dealt with on the ground and destroyed. I'm not anxious for more conflict in a region that's seen almost nonstop bloodletting since March, 2003 (thanks, Dick! Thanks, Lil' Boots!), but these Fascists have proven themselves to be -- much like another bunch of European true believers who had to be crushed sixty-one years ago -- monsters who don't deserve to draw another breath.

You don't negotiate with them. You defeat them militarily and put the survivors on trial for Crimes Against Humanity, and then execute them or imprison them for life. Period.
  • America: It's Good To Be Rich
So long as a large majority of people have nice lives and can afford not to see the Bad Things just outside their magic circle -- or are so focused on making ends meet because their lives aren't so nice, and so don't have time to see anything else -- America will probably do very little about any of those Bad Things, until they start happening here. At the moment, it's all just things happening on a big flat-screen teevee. Until it isn't.

An article in The Motley Fool recently listed a number of reasons why You Should Be Grateful -- statistically speaking, even if you're not doing so well here in America ™ you're in the top One Per Cent of the world. Compared to the people suffering in West Africa, Ukraine, or the Middle East, you've got it made, Baby; there's a long line of humans who would do pretty bad things to have your life. 

The article's subtext was, aber natürlich: So don't whine any more. Statistically speaking.
  • The Most Profound And Important News Of All: A Story For The Ages
Finally, yet another humbling, and awe-inspiring chapter in the continuing tale of Rich Kiddies Gotta Play -- the best, of course, we saved for last:
(Photo: UK Guardian)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Possible Exceptionally Bad Things

Fears of an Ebola outbreak in the United States hit home Tuesday as health officials announced that a patient at a Sacramento hospital was being tested for the virus that has killed an estimated 1,200 people in west Africa.

It will take several days to get the results and to determine whether the patient, who may have been exposed to Ebola, has the virus, according to a statement from the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.
...“While the risk is low, state and local public health officials in California are monitoring the situation closely and taking steps to keep Californians safe,” Chapman said. If Ebola cases emerge in the United States, they would still pose little threat to the larger public, Chapman said.

“Our advanced health care system has appropriate protocols in place to prevent the spread of this often deadly disease,” he said.  [Sacramento Bee]
 MEHR, MIT AUSGEZEICHNET: Und Einen Kleinen Rhumba Tanzen !!

The patient's blood test results were returned from the CDC -- negative for Ebola, but positive for Glaubner's Disease, which leaves its sufferers with weight gain, disfigurement, an urge to Make Time with girls, cross-dressing, and dancing with pom-poms.

Everyone will now please to dance the Rhumba.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Funny

Robin Williams, 1951 - 2014

Last night, I looked out at the sunset over The City as the marine layer slid in, thinking: Robin Williams doesn't get to see this. He doesn't get to see another one of these.

One more Mensch gone; what a world. At least we had him in it, for a while.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Reprint Update: The New Victims

Skulls placed behind glass at a memorial stupa made with the bones of more than 8,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at Choeung Ek, a 'Killing Fields' site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh (Reuters)
(In June, 2011,  I noted then-recent articles about both Little Bernie Madoff and the beginning of an internationally-backed tribunal in Cambodia to prosecute the remaining leaders of the Kampuchean, Khmer Rouge regime for crimes against humanity.

(Yesterday, Reuters reported the tribunal reached its verdicts. "There were widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population of Cambodia, attacks through many forms - forced transfer, murder, extermination, disappearances, attacks against human dignity and political persecution," Judge Nil Nonn said, taking an hour and 20 minutes to deliver the ruling:

(Nuon Chea, 87, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue and "Brother Number 2" in the KR's revolutionary line-up, was sentenced to life in prison. As he was sentenced, Chea sat motionless, but "his fingers were laced tightly as he could be seen gripping his hands together".

Nuon Chea At Sentencing (Photo: Mark Peters / ECCC)

(Khieu Samphan, 82, the President of Kampuchea, was also sentenced to life, "listening intently" as the tribunal's verdicts were read.

Khieu Samphan During Verdict (Photo: Mark Peters / ECCC)
(Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, 82, the sister of Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge [and who died in 1998] and the Khmer Rouge's Minster of Social Affairs. She was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and deemed mentally unfit for trial.

(Her husband, Ieng Sary, the former Kampuchean foreign minister [and Pol Pot's brother-in-law], had been the sixth defendant but died in custody in 2012.

(Kaing Guek Eav [known as 'Duch'], had been commandant of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng prison where at least 14,000 people were murdered.  Put on trial in 2009, he was found amazingly guilty and given a reduced sentence in exchange for rolling over on his fellow murderous thugs revolutionaries and testifying against them.

('Duch' did testify, but the current tribunal had charged him with the other defendants, and sentenced him to spend the remainder of his life in prison.

(Chea and Samphan, Ruters noted, face further hearings on separate charges of genocide in a second phase of the complex trial. However, further justice for the horrors perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge will probably be -- deferred.

(As so often happens in history, there are many former Killing Fields murderers and Tuol Seng torturers in the Cambodian government and its civil service. They, and those who enabled them during the Kampuchean tragedy, have a vested interest that "justice" will end with this trial of the remaining figureheads of the regime is complete.)
Cambodia's government includes remnants of the [Khmer Rouge] regime and has been accused of being uncooperative... [current] Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, has voiced his disdain for the court and discouraged further cases... there have been no new indictments.

Little Bernie And The Angkor Killers

Little Bernie In His New Home (Peter Rad, New York Magazine)

Looking through the New York Times online this afternoon, I came across two separate articles: One was a footnote to a larger story about the sentencing of fraudster Bernard Madoff by Judge Denny Chin, who recently commented on his reasoning in sentencing Madoff to 150 years in prison. The other was a report of the opening of a historic trial in Asia of four aging degenerates who, in the mid-to-late 1970's, created and participated in what was the first systematic genocide since the Holocaust.

Similarities between the perps in both articles struck me in a particular way -- the nature of people who commit crimes; how some criminals rationalize their behavior, while others are incapable of comprehending the results of their actions. That Little Bernie Madoff and the killers of Kampuchea have more in common than at first glance.

In Federal Court for the District of Manhattan in 2009, Bernard Madoff, 71, stood and listened as Judge Denny Chin spoke about the effect of Madoff's twenty-year, ponzi-scheme fraud -- reciting stories of his former clients' life savings, wiped out; of their inability to afford care for older and sick parents or special needs children; of small charities now bankrupt, their programs to benefit addicts, youth offenders and the handicapped, all ended.

Chin called Madoff's actions "extraordinarily evil", and then pronounced sentence: Little Bernie would go to Federal prison for 150 years, the maximum allowable term under law.

The New York Times noted today that in a series of interviews since he began serving that sentence, Madoff has taken issue with Judge Chin's description of him at the hearing. He complains that he will die in prison, "away from [his] family" -- that this is a punishment that does not, in his perspective, fit the crime.
"To characterize me as this monster and this evil person; I just think that was totally unrealistic and unfair... In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the [finance and investment] industry... [Judge Chin] made me the human piñata of Wall Street [while financial firms and government officials involved in the 2008 Crash and current financial crisis] walk away free.”
Uh; yeah. This is the same Little Bernie Madoff who was described in A New York Magazine online article as no longer really hiding his lack of empathy for his victims, not recognizing the scope or effect of his actions, even in prison:
But that evening an inmate badgered Madoff about the victims of his $65 billion scheme, and kept at it. According to K. C. White, a bank robber and prison artist ... Madoff stopped smiling and got angry. “F--- my victims,” he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear. “I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150...”
I've mentioned before that Little Bernie, a textbook sociopath, doesn't show a shred of remorse for what he's done or any real grasp of the twenty years in which he did it. He doesn't actually conceive that he's done anything wrong. It's all about his feelings, his nightmare... "as if," the New York magazine article noted, "he were the real victim."

Madoff talks about the unfairness of his sentence -- essentially how free of responsibility he truly considers himself to be. The extent of his reasoning for his actions boils down to, I'm the sacrificial goat for all these other crooks! Everybody was doin' it!

I'm sure that perspective was a comfort to his son, who had been involved in Madoff's business, and who committed suicide in 2010.

Then, Madoff remembers to put the mask back on, the one that covered his true reptilian features for so long; after the interviews mentioned by the New York Times, Little Bernie sent follow-up notes which said, in part,
“My comments should not be taken as an excuse for the pain and suffering I have caused,” he wrote. In another message, he said he felt “completely responsible and have remorse and shame for what I have done.”
Yeah, pal -- (F___ my victims!") -- sure you do.

And (as the NYT also reported) in a courtroom half a world away in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the trial of the last four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- all committed over thirty-five years ago -- began. The trial is "the centerpiece of a United Nations-backed tribunal that has lasted five years, cost more than $100 million and is intended finally to lay the past to rest."

"I Am Particularly Sorry For The Many Children That We Smashed
Against Trees." -- Kaing Guek Eav, 'Duch' (Actual Trial Quote)

Initially, the trial was to be of five defendants -- the fifth, Kaing Guek Eav (known as 'Duch'), commandant of Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, where at least 14,000 people were killed, was instead put on public trial in 2009. Confronted by a host of witnesses, and by his own meticulous records of torture and killing, Eav was convicted nearly a year ago. He was sentenced to 35 years, but was since reduced to 19 years.

The Khmer Rouge, Cambodia's communist party, ran Cambodia (which it renamed Kampuchea) from 1975 to 1979. Per Wikipedia,
The Khmer Rouge attempted to turn Cambodia into a classless society by depopulating cities and forcing the urban population ("New People") into agricultural communes. The entire population was forced to become farmers in labor camps. Money was abolished, books were burned, teachers, merchants, and almost the entire intellectual elite of the country were murdered, to make the agricultural communism, as Pol Pot envisioned it, a reality...

The exact number of people who died as a result of the Khmer Rouge's policies is debated, as is the cause of death among those who died... Modern research has located thousands of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia, containing an estimated 1.39 million bodies. Various studies have estimated the death toll ... most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.
The regime was too fanatical and murderous for nearby Vietnam (which had been united under communist rule from Hanoi since 1975), which invaded Cambodia in 1979 in order to liberate its population. The NVA drove the Khmer Rouge into the jungles, from which it waged a guerrilla war with a democratically-elected Cambodian government until 1989.

The defendants are old: Nuon Chea, 84, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue (second in power only to the KR's leader, Pol Pot, who died a free man in 1998); Khieu Samphan, 79, the President of Kampuchea, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 79, the Khmer Rouge's Minster of Social Affairs; and Ieng Sary, 85, the former foreign minister and Pol Pot's brother-in-law.

All of them have lived quietly in comfort, even wealth, for roughly twenty years -- much like their Capo, Pol Pot. Even though he was acknowledged to be the driving force behind the Khmer Rouge and its policies, and responsible for mass murder, he was never arrested or charged, living quietly in a Cambodian village near the Thai border and dying peacefully of natural causes in 1998.

Nuon Chea, The Khmer Rouge's No. 2 (Photo: France 24)

Khieu Samphan, President Of Kampuchea (Photo: UK Telegraph)

Ieng Thirth, Minister Of Social Affairs (Photo: France 24)

Ieng Sary, Foreign Minister (Photo: UK Telegraph)

As the trial proceedings began yesterday, Nuon Chea (as the Khmer Rouge's former Number 2, he is being seen as the lead defendant on trial) put up his hand, said, “I am not happy with this hearing,” then rose from his seat and walked unsteadily from the courtroom with the help of three security guards.

Almost unbelievably for many westerners, Cambodia is literally a society where the murderers walk free: Thousands of former Khmer Rouge officers, officials, guards, torturers, and executioners walk the streets and pathways of the country without being charged with any crime.

Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge Leader, Shortly Before His Death In 1998

Try to imagine what it would have been like if, in the aftermath of the Second World War, nazis who had helped to murder millions, and imprison and torture millions more, walked freely through the world, seen on the streets of Europe, recognized by their former victims (not that this didn't actually happen), and never charged with a crime.

However, the current Cambodian government decided not to attempt mass prosecutions of those who were the regime's mid-level officials, police and soldiers. Instead, the government made it a national priority to engage the entire country in a discussion -- part catharsis and part historical closure -- about its past, similar to the South African 'Truth and Reconciliation' commissions after the end of Apartheid.

Children -- all born after the years of the Khmer Rouge -- are taught the truth of the past from a nationally-approved curriculum. Victims whose lives were torn apart, who were tortured, imprisoned and lost members of their family under the Khmer Rouge, speak out at public forums to testify about their experiences.

Sometimes, much more rarely, some of the perpetrators have come forward to admit to their actions and talk about what it was like to be enforcers for the dictatorship.

The only public Justice most Cambodians will ever see is in the trial of these four, ex-Khmer Rouge defendants. Most of the principal leaders of the KR are dead -- those who went on trial this week are symbolic stand-ins for all the other murderers and Mitwissers who continue to walk free.

Nuremberg Defendants In The Dock, 1947 (Photo: Wikimedia)

While Little Bernie Madoff in his upstate New York, medium-security prison, isn't a criminal on a par with managers of genocide and oppression, the attitudes both evidence towards the 'unfairness' of their arrest and trial is curiously similar.
... Mr. Nuon Chea’s objection, as explained by his lawyers, pointed toward a separate version of history in which the Khmer Rouge were national liberators, guarding against Vietnamese incursions and motivated by heavy American bombing in a secret campaign during the Vietnam War...

...Khieu Samphan... the former head of state, has written a book in which he states that he was unaware of the killings, and he has said he will give the court his own version of history.
"His own version of history"; In the minds of Chea, Samphan and Thirith, and Ieng Sary, they were revolutionaries, and harsh methods have to be employed; but they all deny any knowledge of the crimes committed in Cambodia under their rule, which resulted from policies they created or orders they gave.

For the nazis, their version of history was a belief in race, and (for them) the criminality of those whose only crime was to be a Jew, and other forms of untermenschen. The nazis lived in a self-justifying, alternate reality, and they clung to the absolute certainty of their beliefs, the justification for everything done in the name of Volk and Führer; how could they be wrong?

Ratko Mladic, recently arrested in Serbia and delivered to the Hague, has a similar perspective: Everything he did, he said, was to "protect" the Serbian people -- presumably, from others whose only crime was to be a Muslim.

Madoff's version of history is simple: Everybody was doin' it, and They gave me 150 years, and they gave Goldman-Sachs $150 Billion. I'm the victim here. And oh yeah right; On advice of my counsel, I express remorse and shame for what I have done.

In the minds of people who cause harm to others -- whether twenty years of massive fraud for personal gain, or to the extent of mass murder -- there are always extenuating circumstances. There is an 'alternate reality', where their explanations make sense; and where they -- not the defrauded, or the maimed and the dead -- are the real victims.

Dog Stuff: Oh Yes I Am Too

Wages; No Sin

As I've noted, I have, uh, a life (of a sort) with a job in it. And on occasion I have to pay attention to that fact because I don't do well as a certain kind of statistic. So I'll be focused on other things for a while.

It doesn't mean that I don't love you all as only a Dog can -- unreservedly, with slobbering, and a certain level of low-key Would You Just Let Me Out The Door, Already whining -- but I'm doin' Dog Stuff.

And we continue to think about Chuck.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Der Anfang

 August 2nd is a Saturday this year. In 1914, the 2nd was a Sunday, and an unusual one in London, because the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, had called his Cabinet into session at No. 10 Downing Street -- a thing that had never happened before in British history.

It had been a difficult week, a difficult month. On June 28, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian empire, had been shot with his wife in Sarajevo.  The Serbian government was behind the assassination; Austria was determined to "crush the nest of vipers", and Imperial Germany had given the Hapsburg empire promises of support that amounted to a 'blank check'.

German Students Marching To Volunteer, August 1914
But, Imperial Russia stood behind the Serbs (protectors in spirit, if not fact, of Slavic peoples in the Balkans). They were also allied with Republican France -- if Austria were to attack Serbia and the Germans stood with them, Russia could go to war with Austria and Germany in the east, and France would attack from the west.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, Denmark and Scandinavia, and Italy were neutral in all this. So was the Empire of Great Britain -- but no one expected them to stand by in a general European war.

Soldiers Of France's 5th Infantry Regiment, August 1914
Austria-Hungary had mobilized its army and sent the Serbian government an ultimatum -- a sham, and everyone knew it. On July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia, its gunboats began shelling Belgrade, and Austrian troops crossed the Serbian border.

Russia ordered a general mobilization, and on July 31st the Germans announced a Kriegsgefahr, a general warning that meant preparation for war had begun. Great Britain, still neutral and conflicted, had quietly issued a Warning Telegram that allowed their War Office to take preparatory steps on July 29th.

The British government made a public offer to host a five-power European conference, and help mediate a solution; Austria curtly refused. After two generations of peace a general European war seemed impossible, unthinkable -- but now, seemed impossible to stop.

August 1

Yesterday, August 1st, in 1914, the situation on the Continent quickly deteriorated. Asquith's cabinet had been meeting in London during the day; there had been talk and debate about the crisis in the Commons. In discussion, twelve of Britain's eighteen ministers declared themselves opposed to any support for France should they go to war with Germany. What was the point, they argued, of taking sides in a squabble that had nothing to do with Britain or British interests? and their division mirrored their country's in miniature.

Prime Minister Asquith was "determined not to lead a divided nation into war" -- however, his Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, had declared the Germans as a force in Europe "bad as Napoleon", and intimated that if the government decided to remain neutral in the case of a war, he would have to resign.

At 4:00PM word reached Grey that France had ordered a general mobilization, and at 5:00PM he was told that Germany had followed suit. General mobilizations are serious and expensive -- disruptions in transportation; affect to businesses as reserve soldiers leave work for active service; the effects to financial markets -- and when they occur, mobilizations mean war. They carry a sense of inevitability with them.

The cabinet, in low spirits, separated for dinner.  First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was dining there when  a messenger arrived just after 8:00PM carrying one of the British government's ubiquitous red dispatch boxes. Churchill opened it, took out a single sheet of paper and read it, then told his dinner companions, "Germany has declared war on Russia".

Admiralty House, London
He walked from the Admiralty House to Downing Street, and met with Asquith, Grey, and two other senior ministers.  More bad news had arrived: at about 9:00PM, the British Foreign Office received word from the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg that German troops had crossed their border and seized the main telegraph exchange, a major European communications hub.

Churchill left the Prime Minister's residence, returned to the Admiralty, and at some time after 10:00PM ordered (as a separate act from any order for the army) the British fleet to mobilize.

August 2

10 Downing Street Is The Dark-Grey Building At Center/Right -- In 1914, Other Buildings In the Immediate Vicinity Held The Home Office, Foreign Office, India Office and Colonial Office
 So on that Sunday, when a general war engulfing the European continent seemed inevitable, the British cabinet met -- an act that had never occurred in British history. The question they faced was the same as it had been the day or the week before: why take the country to war over what amounted to a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia? How did this involve Great Britain?

Cabinet Room, 10 Downing St.
Even with the clock clearly at two minutes to midnight, all the major combatants mobilized and two out of four (Russia and Germany) having declared war, the majority of Asquith's cabinet still believed a diplomatic miracle could occur to avoid a massive conflict -- because such a thing seemed so unbelievable.

The major topic of discussion that Sunday was the British and German navies -- for decades before 1914, the Germany and Great Britain had been involved in a (principally naval) arms race. If Germany and France went to war, it was likely the German fleet could sail into the English Channel.  On principle, the British couldn't permit it -- but if they moved to block the Germans, such an act might force them into a war with Germany.
Men Outside London's Main Army Recruiting Station, August 1914 (Click To Enlarge)
 The problem Prime Minister Asquith and his cabinet faced was, Britain's government had already quietly committed their country to a de facto alliance with the French. Unfortunately, no one had informed the country, or the Parliament, about any of this.

For years, the French and British military high commands had met and developed detailed plans for cooperation in case of a war between France and Germany. The British would deploy 100,000 men to the continent within two weeks of a declaration of war, to fight alongside the French Polius. The French were pleased with what they saw as a commitment, an act of honor, from their neighbor across the channel.

The British saw it as discussions about a contingency -- just a general direction, you see. No one had made a formal commitment to do anything, and no one had signed a treaty; the military plans were on the level of a tabletop war game.  The politicos assumed, along with everyone else, that the long peace in Europe would last forever. The plans would never have to be used; the French were kept happy... where was the harm in all that?

Events on the continent since June 28th were threatening to expose the government as having committed Britain to an alliance, and a possible war, without debate or consensus. The public, its elected representatives in the Commons; even King George V would not be amused when they found out -- one more reason Asquith and his cabinet agonized over Britain's position as Europe plummeted into war.

Late on that afternoon, Foreign Secretary Grey asked the cabinet for authority to declare that if the German fleet sailed to attack France's northern ports, Britain's navy would defend the Channel. After arguments on both sides, the Cabinet uncomfortably agreed, and two isolationist ministers resigned forthwith.

While the British cabinet continued to talk, at 7:00PM in Brussels the German ambassador  met with the Belgian Foreign Minister, and delivered a note: Germany had 'reliable information' that France was planning to attack them, through Belgium -- a country which had been as neutral as Switzerland since 1830, that neutrality guaranteed in a document signed by all Europe's major powers.

It would be necessary, the ambassador explained, for the German army to cross Belgium on its way to France.  The Belgian army could 'line the roads' as the Germans marched through, or fight. If they resisted, the Belgians would be regarded as an enemy.  They had twelve hours to respond with 'an unequivocal answer'.

Word of Germany's ultimatum reached Foreign secretary Grey in London over dinner; he drove immediately to 10 Downing Street and urged the Prime Minister to give the order for full military mobilization; Asquith agreed.

The Belgians advised the British and French that they would resist the invasion; as Asquith's orders calling up British reservists were issued, another two ministers in his cabinet, shocked and saddened at what they saw as the folly of the moment, resigned.

Back in Belgium, at 9:00PM its cabinet of ministers met with Albert, King of the Belgians, at the royal palace. Albert was not completely surprised by the German demand -- while visiting Berlin less than a year earlier, he was treated to barely-disguised threats from the Kaiser and leading military officers that if Der Tag ever came and France was to be dealt with, Belgium would be forced to choose a side.

Royal Palace, Brussels, Belgium
 The Belgian army consisted of six divisions of infantry and one of cavalry, roughly 60,000 men -- and Belgium had a series of forts at Liege and Namur which (based on wars of the past) could at least slow the German advance. Over 350,000 men would swing across Belgium, towards France.  The Belgian army had Dog Carts, pulled by actual dogs; the Germans had 380mm and 420mm artillery pieces.

Even so, there was never a doubt in the minds of Albert or his ministers what their response to the German ultimatum would be. "It must be 'no', whatever the circumstances," Albert told them. Another minister said, "Well, if we are to be crushed, let us be crushed gloriously!"

The King and his ministers continued meeting past midnight. Bizarrely, at 1:30AM, the German ambassador reappeared to press for Belgium's standing aside as armies marched through their country, leaving empty-handed after an hour. At 4:00AM the ministers left to prepare the formal response to the Germans.

August 3

At 7:00AM, as the twelve hours of the ultimatum expired, the Belgian Foreign Minister delivered his government's response to the Germans: No.

In London, it was becoming clear that war could not be avoided, and that England was already, whether they liked it or not, involved in that war by it's previous vapid commitment to the French -- and they expected Britain to stand with her. In addition, the British could not allow the Germans free passage through the Channel; but the pending German invasion of neutral Belgium was an intolerable last straw.

At 3:00PM in the Commons, Secretary Grey rose to speak about the coming war and for nearly an hour was eloquent in his explanations as to why Britain could not stand aside. He explained the prior military cooperation with the French (which, given current events, suddenly appeared as sensible policy), and appealed to honor and practicality. When he was finished, the House erupted in applause. The nation, in the Commons, seemed united.

As Grey sat down, Winston Churchill asked him, Now what? "Now we shall send them an ultimatum to cease the invasion of Belgium within 24 hours. If they refuse, there will be war." At 5:00PM in Berlin, Germany issued a declaration of war on France and began their invasion of Belgium.

Not long after learning of Germany's declaration, Secretary Grey stood at the window of the Foreign Office -- believing there was little chance the Germans would stop their invasion -- watched as the gas-lamp streetlights were being lit outside, and said, "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

Felix Valloton, "Cemetery, Chalons-Sur-Marne, 1917"
Two days later, on August 5th, as German armies began an assault of the fortress system around Liege in Belgium, the Chief of the German General Staff wrote to the head of Austria-Hungary's general staff, "Europe is entering the struggle that will decide the course of history for the next hundred years."

He was too conservative in his estimation. We still live in the world that war helped to create, and will for generations more.