Saturday, November 17, 2012

it started with piracy in the caribbean...,

It starts with piracy in the Caribbean, which gives way to growing sugar there - and forcing slaves from Africa to work them. Trade with India brings wealth to men like Robert Clive who progress from trader to governor. The empire grows piecemeal as chartered companies take over large tracts of foreign territory - answering only to head office in the City of London. Illegal opium sold to China makes a fortune for British businessmen - but sparks a war with the Chinese emperor.

Druglibrary | IN a vague way, we are familiar with the "opium evil" in China, and some of us have hazy ideas as to how it came about. The China Year Book for 1916 has this to say on the subject: "The poppy has been known in China for 12 centuries, and its medicinal use for 9 centuries. . . . It was not until the middle of the 17th century that the practice of mixing opium with tobacco for smoking purposes was introduced into China. This habit was indulged in by the Dutch in Java, and by them taken to Formosa, whence it spread to Amoy and the mainland generally. There is no record to show when opium was first smoked by itself, but it is thought to have originated about the end of the 18th century. Foreign opium was first introduced by the Portuguese from Goa at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1729, when the foreign import was 200 chests, the Emperor Yung Ching issued the first anti-opium edict, enacting severe penalties on the sale of opium and the opening of opium-smoking divans. The importation, however, continued to increase, and by 1790 it amounted to over 4,000 chests annually. In 1796 opium smoking was again prohibited, and in 1800 the importation of foreign opium was again declared illegal. Opium was now contraband, but the fact had no effect on the quantity introduced into the country, which rose to 5,000 chests in 1820; 16,000 chests in 1830; 20,000 chests in 1838, and 70,000 chests in 1858."

The China Year Book makes no mention of the traders who carried these chests of opium into China. The opium came from India, however, and the increase in importation corresponds with the British occupation of India, and the golden days of the East India Company. "Opium was now contraband, but that fact had no effect on the quantity introduced into the country," smuggled in wholesale by the enterprising British traders.
China was powerless to protect herself from this menace, either by protests or prohibition. And as more and more of the drug was smuggled in, and more and more of the people became victims of the habit, the Chinese finally had a tea-party, very much like our Boston Tea Party, but less successful in outcome. In 1839, in spite of the fact that opium smoking is an easy habit to acquire and had been extensively encouraged, the British traders found themselves with 20,000 chests of unsold opium on their store-ships, just below Canton. The Chinese had repeatedly appealed to the British Government to stop these imports, but the British Government had turned a persistently deaf ear. Therefore the Emperor determined to deal with the matter on his own account. He sent a powerful official named Lin to attend to it, and Lin had a sort of Boston Tea Party, as we have said, and destroyed some twenty thousand chests of opium in a very drastic way. Mr. H. Wells Williams describes it thus: "The opium was destroyed in the most thorough manner, by mixing it in parcels Of 200 chests, in trenches, with lime and salt water, and then drawing off the contents into an adjacent creek at low tide."

After this atrocity, followed the first Opium War, when British ships sailed up the river, seized port after port, and bombarded and took Canton. Her ships sailed up the Yangtsze, and captured the tribute junks going up the Grand Canal with revenue to Peking, thus stopping a great part of China's income. Peace was concluded in 1843, and Great Britain came out well. She recompensed herself by taking the island of Hongkong; an indemnity Of 21 million dollars, and Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo and Shanghai were opened up as "treaty ports"-for the importation of opium and the "open-door" in general.

Mr. Wells, in his "Middle Kingdom" describes the origin of this first war with England: "This war was extraordinary in its origin as growing chiefly out of a commercial misunderstanding; remarkable in its course as being waged between strength and weakness, conscious superiority and ignorant pride; melancholy in its end as forcing the weaker to pay for opium within its borders against all its laws, thus paralyzing the little moral power its feeble government could exert to protect its subjects. . . . It was a turning point in the national life of the Chinese race, but the compulsory payment of six million dollars for the opium destroyed has left a stigma upon the English name."

He also says, "The conflict was now fairly begun; its issue between the parties so unequally matched --one having almost nothing but the right on its side, the other assisted by every material and physical advantage-could easily be foreseen" and again, after speaking of it as being unjust and immoral, he concludes "Great Britain, the first Christian power, really waged this war against the pagan monarch who had only endeavored to put down a vice harmful to his people. The war was looked upon in this light by the Chinese; it will always be so looked upon by the candid historian, and known as the Opium War."

Within fifteen years after this first war, there was another one, and again Great Britain came off victorious. China had to pay another indemnity, three million dollars, and five more treaty ports were opened up. By the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin, the sale of opium in China was legalized in 1858.

From a small pamphlet, "Opium: England's Coercive Policy and Its Disastrous Results in China and India" by the Rev. John Liggins, we find the following: "As a specimen of how both wars were carried on, we quote the following from an English writer on the bombardment of Canton: 'Field pieces loaded with grape were planted at the end of long, narrow streets crowded with innocent men, women and children, to mow them down like grass till the gutters flowed with their blood.' In one scene of carnage, the Times correspondent recorded that half an army of 10,ooo men were in ten minutes destroyed by the sword, or forced into the broad river. " The Morning Herald " asserted that "a more horrible or revolting crime than this bombardment of Canton has never been committed in the worst ages of barbaric darkness."

Naturally, therefore, after the termination of these two wars, China gave up the struggle. She had fought valiantly to protect her people from opium, but the resources of a Christian nation were too much for her. Seeing therefore that the opium trade was to be forced upon her, and that her people were doomed to degradation, she decided to plant poppies herself. There should be competition at least, and the money should not all be drained out of the country. Thus it came about that after 1858 extensive tracts of land were given over to poppy production. Whole provinces or parts of provinces, ceased to grow grain and other necessities, and diverted their rich river bottoms to the raising of opium. Chinese opium, however, never supplanted Indian opium, being inferior to that raised in the rich valley of the Ganges. The country merely had double quantities of the drug, used straight or blended, to suit the purse or taste of the consumer.

Then, in 1906, the incredible happened. After over a hundred years of steady demoralization, with half her population opium addicts, or worse still, making enormous profits out of the trade, China determined to give up opium. In all history, no nation has ever set itself such a gigantic task, with such a gigantic handicap. China, a country of immense distances, with scant means of communication; with no common language, a land where only the scholars can read and write, suddenly decided to free herself from this vice. The Emperor issued an edict saying that in ten years' time all opium traffic must cease, and an arrangement was made with Great Britain whereby this might be accomplished. To the honor of America be it said that we assisted China in this resolution. We agreed to see her through.

A bargain was then made between China and Great Britain, in 1907, China agreeing to diminish poppy cultivation year by year for a period of ten years, and Great Britain agreeing to a proportional decrease in the imports of Indian opium. A three years' test was first agreed to, a trial of China's sincerity and ability, for Great Britain feared that this was but a ruse to cut off Indian opium, while leaving China's opium alone in the field. At the end of three years, however, China had proved her ability to cope with the situation. Thus, for a period of ten years, both countries have lived up to their bargain, the amount of native and foreign opium declining steadily in a decreasing scale. April 1, 1917, saw the end of the accomplishment.

China's part was most difficult. In the remote, interior provinces, poppies were grown surreptitiously, connived at by corrupt officials who made money from the crops. However, drastic laws were enacted and severe penalties imposed upon those who broke them. If poppy cultivation could not be stopped, England would not hold to her end of the bargain. Not only was there a nation of addicts to deal with, but these could obtain copious supplies of opium from the foreign concessions, over which the Chinese had no control. We shall show, in another article, to what extent this was carried on. Yet somehow, in some manner, the impossible happened. Year by year, little by little, one province after another was freed from poppy cultivation, until in 1917, China was practically free from the native-grown drug, and foreign importation had practically ended.

In this manner, first by large smuggling, then by two opium wars, was China drugged with opium. And in this manner, and to this extent, has she succeeded in freeing herself from the curse. But in one way, she is not free. She has no control over the extra-territorial holdings of European powers, for in each treaty port are the foreign concessions already mentioned-German, Austrian, British, French, Russian. And in these concessions, opium may be procured. Simply by crossing an imaginary line, in such cities as Shanghai and Hongkong, can the Chinese buy as much opium as they choose. China will never be rid of this menace till she is rid of these extraterritorial holdings. Opium shops, licensed by foreign governments, are always ready to supply her people with the forbidden drug.

We say that the China market is closed. So it is, in one way. But the British Opium Monopoly is not ended. The year 1917 saw a tremendous blow dealt to the British opium dealers, but other markets will be found. There are other countries than China whose inhabitants can be taught this vice. The object of this discussion is to consider these other countries, and to see to what extent the world is menaced by this possibility.

Friday, November 16, 2012

everything you think you know about white working class voters is wrong

theatlantic | The white working class depends on government assistance more than the population as a whole, yet its members heavily favor smaller government and lower taxes -- and they strongly believe that the poor are too dependent on government programs.

Nearly half of the white working class (46 percent) reported receiving Social Security or disability benefits in the poll, versus 38 percent of the overall population; they were also slightly more likely to receive food stamps and unemployment benefits than the general population. Six in 10 white working-class voters said the federal government should cut back on services and reduce taxes. And three-fourths agreed with the idea that "poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs." If Romney is able to get past his "47 percent" comments, this may be why: Even those who frequently depend on government strongly dislike the idea of dependency and entitlement.

The white working class has often been depicted as the backbone of the Tea Party, angered by what they perceive as Obama's socialistic policies and, in the president's own memorable phrase, "clinging to guns or religion." But the poll knocks down some of these myths:

* They're not the Tea Party: Only about 13 percent of white working-class voters consider themselves part of the Tea Party, and 34 percent say they share its values. Among college-educated whites, the numbers are about the same -- 10 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

* They're not unusually religious: About half (48 percent) go to church at least once a month, and 60 percent say religion is important to them. That's about the same as the general population. The white working class is more heavily evangelical, however -- 36 percent describe themselves as evangelicals, versus 21 percent of the overall population.

* They're not culture warriors: On the wedge issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, white working-class voters are pretty evenly divided. They favor abortion being legal in all or most cases, 50 percent to 45 percent, and oppose allowing gays to marry, 50 percent to 43 percent. Less than 5 percent of these voters said abortion or gay marriage was the most important issue, as opposed to 53 percent who cited the economy.

* They want to tax the rich: Contra Joe the Plumber, these voters aren't opposed to spreading the wealth around. "In fact, white working-class Americans display a strong strain of economic populism," the report states: 70 percent of them believe the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, and 62 percent want to raise taxes on incomes over $1 million. And there's a clear reason both candidates have accused each other of favoring outsourcing: 78 percent of white working-class voters blame corporations moving jobs overseas for America's economic woes.

gov. martinez: romney "set us back" as a party...,

yahoo | After two days of meetings at the Republican Governors Association conference this week, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez heard a lot about the party's need to reach new constituencies--particularly women and ethnic minorities--but few specifics about how.

As a Republican governor of Mexican descent who won all but four counties in a Democratic state, Martinez has ideas for how the party can reach voters who traditionally support Democrats. But it's going to take some work--and a touch of humility--from her colleagues.

"Republicans need to stop making assumptions, and they need to start talking to younger people, people of color, and ask them--not talk to them--ask them, What is it that we can do better? How do we earn your vote? How do we earn the ability for you to see that we can be the party that will make your life better and that of your children?" Martinez said in an interview after the conference here. "But we can't be the ones that come and tell them how things are going to be and how we have all the solutions."

President Barack Obama in 2012 expanded his lead among Hispanics, black voters, Asians and women, according to exit polling, leaving many Republicans wondering what they need do to adapt to the nation's rapidly shifting demographics.

The topic has dominated much of the party's post-election soul searching. Some have placed part of the blame on the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who wrote off nearly half the electorate as inevitable Obama voters when he told donors at a closed-door fundraiser last spring that 47 percent of the population would support Obama "no matter what." Martinez criticized Romney's comments when they were reported in September, and on Wednesday reiterated that she found them "ridiculous."

"It's a ridiculous statement to make. You want to earn the vote of every single person you can earn, whether they be someone who relies on," she said. "Why would you ever write off 47 percent?"

racists don't understand that if you want people to like you, you need to like them first

Thursday, November 15, 2012

romney understands his magical thinking better than you do!

Romney quotes Cleon Skausen , boasts passionately about being a bishop and state leader in his church, the second coming in Jerusalem and Missouri, jes dayyum...., is it any wonder this cat couldn't run as himself?!?

when try'na impress a skeezer and reckless teabaggery go wrong...,

NYTimes | Mr. Humphries, who was identified on Wednesday by law enforcement colleagues, took the initial complaint from Jill Kelley, a Tampa woman active in local military circles and a personal friend, about anonymous e-mails that accused her of inappropriately flirtatious behavior toward Mr. Petraeus.

The subsequent cyberstalking investigation uncovered an extramarital affair between Mr. Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer, who agents determined had sent the anonymous e-mails. It also ensnared Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, after F.B.I. agents discovered what a law enforcement official said on Wednesday were sexually explicit e-mail exchanges between him and Ms. Kelley.

A spokesman for Ms. Kelley provided her version of events in two conference calls with reporters on Wednesday. Ms. Kelley’s concern when she took the e-mails to Mr. Humphries was that she feared the sender was “stalking” Mr. Petraeus and General Allen, said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified.

“She asks the agent, ‘What do you make of this?’ ” the spokesman said. “The agent said: ‘This is serious. They seem to know the comings and goings of a couple of generals.’ ”

General Allen himself had received a similar anonymous e-mail message, sent by someone identified as “kelleypatrol,” advising him to stay away from Ms. Kelley. The general forwarded it to Ms. Kelley, and they discussed a concern that someone was cyberstalking them.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said he had asked the Senate to postpone a confirmation hearing for General Allen’s next assignment while the department’s inspector general reviewed his e-mail correspondence with Ms. Kelley, which was discovered by F.B.I. agents investigating her initial complaint.

Pentagon officials said the review covered more than 10,000 pages of documents that included “inappropriate” messages. But associates of General Allen have said that the two exchanged about a dozen e-mails a week since meeting two years ago and that his messages were affectionate but platonic.

A law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, disputed that assertion on Wednesday, saying some messages were clearly sexual. Investigators were confident “the nature of the content warranted passing them on” to the inspector general, the official said.

if this is the very best the military has to offer, that splains some things...,

National Journal | They were said to be generals cut from the same cloth, David Petraeus and John Allen: whip-smart, adaptable, erudite and above reproach. Indeed Allen was Petraeus’s hand-picked successor in Afghanistan, having served as deputy commander at Centcom in Tampa, Fla., first under Petraeus, then under Marine Gen. James Mattis. Petraeus and Allen, the soldier and the Marine, represented, in other words, the very best that the U.S. military has to offer.

And yet, in less than a week, the careers of two very different men may be ruined as a result of alleged inappropriate behavior with women.

It was scandalous enough when Petraeus stepped down as CIA director after an FBI investigation uncovered his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The latest hairpin plot twist came early Tuesday when the Defense Department abruptly announced that the nomination of Allen, the outgoing commander in Afghanistan, to be commander of NATO forces was “on hold” pending an investigation by the FBI and the Pentagon inspector general related to his relationship with Jill Kelley – the woman who kicked off the FBI probe by reporting threatening emails she had received from Broadwell, and who has denied having any relationship with Petraeus beyond family friend.

A senior U.S. defense official told National Journal on Tuesday that investigators are now looking into “potentially inappropriate communications” between Allen and Kelley, 37, a doctor’s wife who worked at Centcom in Florida. According to The Washington Post, in the course of the Petraeus-Broadwell probe, the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 documents — most of them e-mails —shared between Kelley and Allen.

In the end, Petraeus’ downfall marks the formal finish to a career that had in some ways passed its peak. The influence of his signature contribution to U.S. military doctrine—expensive counterinsurgency programs that take years to implement, with little to show in the way of results, as in Afghanistan —has been fading.

As for Allen, his tenure in Afghanistan is proving at least as troubled as Petraeus’, beset by “green-on-blue” attacks by Afghan soldiers and officials on allied troops, and a stubborn Taliban supported by Pakistani elements across the border.

During a visit to Afghanistan I made last May, he came across as sober and largely humorless in manner as he described in intellectual terms his strategic plans in Afghanistan. “There is this sense, and it’s a very Western sense I think, that there is a Napoleonic decisive battle that tends to end wars. In counterinsurgency, it’s much less about that than about creating an enduring capacity that grows and compounds on itself over time," Allen said. "And that’s what’s happened.”

He was far less of a glamorous or show-boating figure than Petraeus. Nevertheless, he’s now one of the leading men in a national soap opera.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the real lesson boys and girls, is, if you're sketchy, use Tor and PGP

slate | Using the dead-drop tactic can certainly reduce the chances that sweeping surveillance dragnets will gobble up your communications—but it is not exactly secure. The method was used by the planners of the Madrid train bombings in 2004, which killed 191 people, helping them to operate below the radar of Big Brother. However, law enforcement agencies over the years have grown accustomed to terrorists using the dead drop, and technologies have been developed to help counter it.

An interception tool developed by the networking company Zimbra, for instance, was specifically designed to help combat email dead drops. Zimbra’s “legal Intercept” technology allows law enforcement agencies to obtain “copies of email messages that are sent, received, or saved as drafts from targeted accounts.” An account that is under surveillance, with the help of Zimbra’s technology, will secretly forward all of its messages, including drafts, to a “shadow account” used by law enforcement. This may have been how the FBI was able to keep track of all correspondence being exchanged between Petraeus and Broadwell.

(It’s also worth noting that archived draft emails stored alongside sent and received messages on Google’s servers can actually be obtained by law enforcement with very little effort. Due to the outdated Electronic and Communications and Privacy Act, any content stored in the cloud can be obtained by the government without a warrant if it’s older than six months, as Wired reported last year.)

What this means is that if Petraeus and Broadwell had been savvy enough to use encryption and anonymity tools, their affair would probably never have been exposed. If they had taken advantage of PGP encryption, the FBI would have been able to decipher their randy interactions only after deploying Trojan-style spyware onto Broadwell’s computer. Further still, if the lovers had only ever logged into their pseudonymous Gmail accounts using anonymity tools like Tor, their real IP addresses would have been masked and their identities extremely difficult to uncover.

But then it is unlikely that they ever expected to come under FBI surveillance. Their crime was a moral one, not a felony, so there was no real reason to take extra precautions. In any other adulterous relationship a pseudonym and a dead drop would be more than enough to keep it clandestine, as my Slate colleague Farhad Manjoo noted in an email.

Broadwell slipped up when she sent the harassing emails—as that, as far as we know, is what ended up exposing her and Petraeus to surveillance. Whether the harassment was serious enough to merit email monitoring is still to be established, as Emily Bazelon writes on “XX Factor.” It goes without saying, however, that the real error here was ultimately made by Petraeus. If he had stayed faithful to his wife of 38 years in the first place, he’d still be in charge at the CIA—and I wouldn’t be writing about how he could have kept his adultery secret more effectively by using encryption.

fbi's surveillance state abuse is the real scandal...,

guardian | So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.
This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America's national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"

It is usually the case that abuses of state power become a source for concern and opposition only when they begin to subsume the elites who are responsible for those abuses. Recall how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - one of the most outspoken defenders of the illegal Bush National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program - suddenly began sounding like an irate, life-long ACLU privacy activist when it was revealed that the NSA had eavesdropped on her private communications with a suspected Israeli agent over alleged attempts to intervene on behalf of AIPAC officials accused of espionage. Overnight, one of the Surveillance State's chief assets, the former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, transformed into a vocal privacy proponent because now it was her activities, rather than those of powerless citizens, which were invaded.

With the private, intimate activities of America's most revered military and intelligence officials being smeared all over newspapers and televisions for no good reason, perhaps similar conversions are possible. Put another way, having the career of the beloved CIA Director and the commanding general in Afghanistan instantly destroyed due to highly invasive and unwarranted electronic surveillance is almost enough to make one believe not only that there is a god, but that he is an ardent civil libertarian.

The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that - in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment - monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part "Top Secret America" series, reported: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications."

partisan teabaggery pulled the petraeus story off the rails

mockpaperscissors | Talking Points Memo pulls out the four most telling paragraphs from the NYTimes (paywall) story about the convoluted Patraeus affair story:
Ms. Kelley, a volunteer with wounded veterans and military families, brought her complaint to a rank-and-file agent she knew from a previous encounter with the F.B.I. office, the official also said. That agent, who had previously pursued a friendship with Ms. Kelley and had earlier sent her shirtless photographs of himself, was “just a conduit” for the complaint, he said. He had no training in cybercrime, was not part of the cyber squad handling the case and was never assigned to the investigation.

But the agent, who was not identified, continued to “nose around” about the case, and eventually his superiors “told him to stay the hell away from it, and he was not invited to briefings,” the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday night that the agent had been barred from the case.

Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his “worldview,” as the official put it, he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama. The agent alerted Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who called the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, on Oct. 31 to tell him of the agent’s concerns.

The official said the agent’s self-described “whistle-blowing” was “a little embarrassing” but had no effect on the investigation.
So… the shirtless FBI Agent–who’s advances were spurned by the ingenue Jill Kelley went to the GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor to tip him that a scandal was brewing that could help the GOP, you know, because of his world view.

The little factoid that kept confusing me as this stupid story unfolded was why Cantor was briefed and the President wasn’t, and now we know: Teabagging. This sad and stupid story now officially has no legs. I hope that Mrs. Petraeus gets a good settlement and that miserable little rat-fucker General gets what he deserves.

in measured results, how successful have Petraeus' strategies been in Afghanistan and Iraq?

aljazeera | Defence Secretary Robert Gates referred to him as "the pre-eminent soldier-scholar-statesman of his generation".

But his critics say, the legacy of his career is not that stellar and deserves far more scrutiny than the US media and politicians are willing to give it. 

Earlier this year, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis released a whistleblower report on conditions in Afghanistan.

He said that Petraeus consistently gave glowing and inaccurate accounts of US military progress and that Petraeus built a so-called "cult of personality" around himself.

"A message had been learned by the leading politicians of our country, by the vast majority of our uniformed service members, and the population at large [that] David Petraeus is a real war hero - maybe even on the same plane as Patton, MacArthur, and Eisenhower .... But the most important lesson everyone learned [was to] never, ever question General Petraeus or you'll be made to look a fool!"

In his report, Davis was scathing in his assessment of US military commanders:

"Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognisable.

"This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

global system of cultural supremacy...,

more myth than man...,

globalresearch | The man behind the image was fake. He’s a shadow of how he and spin doctors portrayed him publicly.

Competence didn’t earn him four stars. Former peers accused him of brown-nosing his way to the top. It made him a brand as much as general. Talk about him being presidential material surfaced.

In 2007, Time magazine made him runner-up as Person of the Year. The designation is as meaningless and unworthy as Nobel Peace awards.

So is current and previous praise. John McCain once called him “one of (our) greatest generals.” His judgment leaves much to be desired.

He’s not the best and brightest on Capitol Hill. He once admitted to graduating near the bottom of his Naval Academy class.

White House and media spin praised Petraeus’ performance as Iraq commander and CENTCOM head. It was falsified hype. Performance contradicted facts. Iraq was more disaster than success. His Afghanistan surge failed. Syria on his CIA watch didn’t fare better.

Before he fell from grace, he was called aggressive in nature, an innovative thinker on counterinsurgency warfare, a talisman, a white knight, a do-or-die competitive legend, and a man able to turn defeat into victory.

In 2008, James Petras described him well in an article titled “General Petraeus: Zionism’s Military Poodle. From Surge to Purge to Dirge.”

He explained what spin doctors concealed. He quoted Petraeus’ former commander, Admiral William Fallon, calling him “a piece of brown-nosing chicken shit.” Petras added: “In theory and strategy, in pursuit of defeating the Iraqi resistance, General Petraeus was a disastrous failure, an outcome predictable form the very nature of his appointment and his flawed wartime reputation.”

The generalissimo is more myth than man. He shamelessly supported Israel “in northern Iraq and the Bush ‘Know Nothings’ in charge of Iraq and Iran policy planning.”

Petraeus had few competitors to head CENTCOM. It was because other candidates wouldn’t stoop as low as he did. He shamelessly flacked for Israel and supported Bush administration belligerence. Petras criticized his “slavish adherence to….confrontation with Iran. Blaming Iran for his failed military policies served a double purpose – it covered up his incompetence and it secured the support of” uberhawk Senator Joe Lieberman.

Doing so also served his unstated presidential ambitions. He climbed the ladder of success by being super-hawkish, brown-nosing the right superiors, lying to Congress, surviving the scorn of some peers, hiding his failures, hyping a fake Iranian threat, supporting Israel, unjustifiably claiming Iraq success, and boasting how he’d do it throughout the region.

In other words, he hoped to rise to the top by manufacturing successes and concealing failures. Manipulated media hype made a hero out of what Petras called “a disastrous failure” with a record to prove it.

a whole lotta family bidnis being concluded...,

NYTimes | Along with a steady diet of books on leadership and management, the reading list at military “charm schools” that groom officers for ascending to general or admiral includes an essay, “The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders,” that recalls the moral failure of the Old Testament’s King David, who ordered a soldier on a mission of certain death — solely for the chance to take his wife, Bathsheba.

The not-so-subtle message: Be careful out there, and act better. 

Despite the warnings, a worrisomely large number of senior officers have been investigated and even fired for poor judgment, malfeasance and sexual improprieties or sexual violence — and that is just in the last year.
Gen. William Ward of the Army, known as Kip, the first officer to open the new Africa Command, came under scrutiny for allegations of misusing tens of thousands of government dollars for travel and lodging.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, is confronting the military equivalent of a grand jury to decide whether he should stand trial for adultery, sexual misconduct and forcible sodomy, stemming from relationships with five women. 

James H. Johnson III, a former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was expelled from the Army, fined and reduced in rank to lieutenant colonel from colonel after being convicted of bigamy and fraud stemming from an improper relationship with an Iraqi woman and business dealings with her family.
The Air Force is struggling to recover from a scandal at its basic training center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where six male instructors were charged with crimes including rape and adultery after female recruits told of sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

In the Navy, Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette was relieved of command of the Stennis aircraft carrier strike group — remarkably while the task force was deployed in the Middle East. Officials said that the move was ordered after “inappropriate leadership judgment.” No other details were given. 

While there is no evidence that David H. Petraeus had an extramarital affair while serving as one of the nation’s most celebrated generals, his resignation last week as director of the Central Intelligence Agency — a job President Obama said he could take only if he left the Army — was the latest sobering reminder of the kind of inappropriate behavior that has cast a shadow over the military’s highest ranks. 

The episodes have prompted concern that something may be broken, or at least fractured, across the military’s culture of leadership. Some wonder whether its top officers have forgotten the lessons of Bathsheba: The crown of command should not be worn with arrogance, and while rank has its privileges, remember that infallibility and entitlement are not among them.

the cult of david petraeus...,

wired | When it came out that CIA Director David Petraeus had an affair with his hagiographer, I got punked. “It seems so obvious in retrospect. How could you @attackerman?” tweeted @bitteranagram, complete with a link to a florid piece I wrote for this blog when Petraeus retired from the Army last year. (“The gold standard for wartime command” is one of the harsher judgments in the piece.) I was so blind to Petraeus, and my role in the mythmaking that surrounded his career, that I initially missed @bitteranagram’s joke.

But it’s a good burn. Like many in the press, nearly every national politician, and lots of members of Petraeus’ brain trust over the years, I played a role in the creation of the legend around David Petraeus. Yes, Paula Broadwell wrote the ultimate Petraeus hagiography, the now-unfortunately titled All In. But she was hardly alone (except maybe for the sleeping-with-Petraeus part). The biggest irony surrounding Petraeus’ unexpected downfall is that he became a casualty of the very publicity machine he cultivated to portray him as superhuman. I have some insight into how that machine worked.

The first time I met Petraeus, he was in what I thought of as a backwater: the Combined Armed Center at Fort Leavenworth. It’s one of the Army’s in-house academic institutions, and it’s in Kansas, far from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, Petraeus ran the place, and accepted an interview request about his tenure training the Iraqi military, which didn’t go well. Petraeus didn’t speak for the record in that interview, but over the course of an hour, he impressed me greatly with his intelligence and his willingness to entertain a lot of questions that boiled down to isn’t Iraq an irredeemable shitshow. Back then, most generals would dismiss that line of inquiry out of hand, and that would be the end of the interview.

One of Petraeus’ aides underscored a line that several other members of the Petraeus brain trust would reiterate for years: “He’s an academic at heart,” as Pete Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served as Petraeus’ executive officer during the Iraq surge, puts it. There was a purpose to that line: It implied Petraeus wasn’t particularly ambitious, suggesting he was content at Fort Leavenworth and wasn’t angling for a bigger job. I bought into it, especially after I found Petraeus to be the rare general who didn’t mind responding to the occasional follow-up request.

So when Petraeus got command of the Iraq war in 2007, I blogged that it was all a tragic shame that President Bush would use Petraeus, “the wisest general in the U.S. Army,” as a “human shield” for the irredeemability of the war. And whatever anyone thought about the war, they should “believe the hype” about Petraeus.

fbi deemed petraeus affair part of criminal probe

abcnews | Fury is an inadequate description for the former-CIA director's wife, Holly Petraeus' reaction after she learned that her husband had an affair with Broadwell, a former spokesman for David Petraeus told ABC News.

"Well, as you can imagine, she's not exactly pleased right now," retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Boylan said. "In a conversation with David Petraeus this weekend, he said that, 'Furious would be an understatement.' And I think anyone that's been put in that situation would probably agree. He deeply hurt the family."

As for Petraeus, the retired Army general who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting the extramarital relationship, he, "first of all, deeply regrets and knows how much pain this has caused his family," Boylan added.

"He had a huge job and he felt he was doing great work and that is all gone now."

Petraeus knows "this was poor judgment on his part. It was a colossal mistake. ... He's acknowledged that," Boylan said.

One result is that Petraeus could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.

But Boylan says the affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, both of whom are married, began several months after his retirement from the Army in August 2011 and ended four months ago.

Broadwell, 40, had extraordinary access to the 60-year-old general during six trips she took to Afghanistan as his official biographer, a plum assignment for a novice writer.

"For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me," former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor told ABC News.
The timeline of the relationship, according to Petraeus, would mean that he was carrying on the affair for the majority of his tenure at the CIA, where he began as director Sept. 6, 2011. If he carried on the affair while serving in the Army, however, Petraeus could face charges, according to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which reprimands conduct "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."
Whether the military would pursue such action, whatever evidence it accumulates, is unclear.

Monday, November 12, 2012

is it the end of the road yet for the alliance of corporate oligarchs with poorly-educated southern suburban white trash religious fanatics?

kunstler | The Birchers retailed all kinds of ideological nonsense that made them the butt of ridicule during the Camelot days of John F. Kennedy and the heady Civil Rights years of his successor Lyndon B. Johnson. (Bob Dylan wrote a song about them in 1962: "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues.") Everything perceived to be a threat in a changing society was sold by the Birchers as a communist plot - water fluoridation, de-segregation, even, by a kind of tortured logic, the US strategy in the Vietnam War. Since a Democratic president and congress passed the civil rights legislation of 1964-5, the traditionally Democratic "solid South" revolted almost overnight and eventually turned solidly Republican. (It was also good for business.)

Something else was going on in Dixieland from the late 1950s on. The region boomed economically, partly from luring northern industry down with cheap labor, and partly because so many large military bases were located there - hence the hyperbolic, militant patriotism of a region that had lately staged a violent insurrection against the national government. The region also went through an explosion of air-conditioned suburban sprawl because the southern states were geographically huge and the climate was unbearable half the year. The sprawl industry itself generated vast fortunes and widespread prosperity in a part of the country that had been a depressed agricultural backwater since the Civil War. 
Consequently, a population of poor, ignorant crackers crawled out of the mud and dust to find themselves wealthy car dealers and strip-mall magnates in barely one turn of a generation. The transition being so abrupt, their cracker culture of xenophobia, "primitive" religion, and romance with violence came through intact. They were the perfect client group for a political party that styled itself "conservative," as in maintaining the old timey ways. Toward the end of the 20th century, as the old northern states' economies withered, and Yankee culture lost both footing and meaning, and poor white folks all over America looked with envy on the glitz of country music and Nascar, and gravitated toward the Dixieland culture of belligerent, aggressive suburbanization, religiosity, and militarism. This cartoon of the old timey ways swept the "flyover" precincts of the nation. Along in the baggage compartment was all the old John Birch Society cargo of quasi-supernatural ideology that appealed so deeply to people perplexed by the mystifying operations of reality. That perplexity was supposedly resolved in a Bush II White House aide famously stating, "We make our own reality." The results of the 2012 election now conclusively demonstrate the shortcomings of that world-view.

And so the news last week was that a different version of America outvoted the John Birch Dixiecrat coalition by roughly two million ballots. Meaning, of course, that there are still a lot of dangerous morons out there, but also that the times they are yet a'changin' again. Fist tap Dale.

mitt romney is the president of white male america...,

NYTimes | IT makes sense that Mitt Romney and his advisers are still gobsmacked by the fact that they’re not commandeering the West Wing. (Though, as “The Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver jested, the White House might have been one of the smaller houses Romney ever lived in.)

Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.
Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.
Maybe the group can retreat to a man cave in a Whiter House, with mahogany paneling, brown leather Chesterfields, a moose head over the fireplace, an elevator for the presidential limo, and one of those men’s club signs on the phone that reads: “Telephone Tips: ‘Just Left,’ 25 cents; ‘On His Way,’ 50 cents; ‘Not here,’ $1; ‘Who?’ $5.”
In its delusional death spiral, the white male patriarchy was so hard core, so redolent of country clubs and Cadillacs, it made little effort not to alienate women. The election had the largest gender gap in the history of the Gallup poll, with Obama winning the vote of single women by 36 percentage points.
As W.’s former aide Karen Hughes put it in Politico on Friday, “If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue.”
Some Republicans conceded they were “a ‘Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ world” (although “Mad Men” seems too louche for a candidate who doesn’t drink or smoke and who apparently dated only one woman). They also acknowledged that Romney’s strategists ran a 20th-century campaign against David Plouffe’s 21st-century one.
But the truth is, Romney was an unpalatable candidate. And shocking as it may seem, his strategists weren’t blowing smoke when they said they were going to win; they were just clueless.
Until now, Republicans and Fox News have excelled at conjuring alternate realities. But this time, they made the mistake of believing their fake world actually existed. As Fox’s Megyn Kelly said to Karl Rove on election night, when he argued against calling Ohio for Obama: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”
Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America. But the more they insulted the president with birther cracks, the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.
The election about the economy also sounded the death knell for the Republican culture wars.
Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner. But in the real country, many wives were urging husbands not to vote for a Brylcreemed boss out of a ’50s boardroom whose party was helping to revive a 50-year-old debate over contraception.

where america's racist tweets come from...,

theatlantic | The day after Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States, the blog Jezebel published a slideshow. The gallery displayed a collection of screen-capped tweets.

There were, both shockingly and unsurprisingly, many more where that came from. And many of those tweets were geocoded: Embedded in them were data about where in the U.S. they were sent from.

Floating Sheep, a group of geography academics, took advantage of that fact to turn hatred -- and, just as often, stupidity -- into information. The team searched Twitter for racism-revealing terms that appeared in the context of tweets that mentioned "Obama," "re-elected," or "won." That search resulted in (a shockingly high and surprisingly low) 395 tweets. The team then sorted the tweets according to the state they were sent from, comparing the racist tweets to the total number of geocoded tweets coming from that state during the same time period (November 1 - 7). To normalize states across population levels, the team then used a location quotient-inspired measure -- an economic derivation used to analyze norms across geographical locations -- to compare a state's racist tweets to the national average of racist tweets.

So, per the team's model, a score of 1.0 indicates that the state's proportion of racist tweets to non-racist tweets is the same as the overall national proportion. A score above 1.0 indicates that the proportion of racist tweets to non-racist tweets is higher than the national proportion.
Here's the LQ formula the team used:
Screen Shot 2012-11-09 at 11.39.21 AM.png
Their findings?

Alabama and Mississippi have the highest LQ measures: They have scores of 8.1 and 7.4, respectively. And the states surrounding these two core states -- Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee -- also have very high LQ scores and form a fairly distinctive cluster in the southeast. Fist tap Dale.

the republican brain

skepticblog | Hearing the speakers at the GOP convention spout their ideas this week, I’m again reminded that an entire American political party is proudly and openly espousing views that are demonstrably contrary to reality, from claiming that rape does not cause pregnancy, to claiming that global climate change is a hoax, to even weirder idea, like the bizarre notion that the President of the United States is a Kenyan Muslim. For years, I’ve puzzled over why people can believe such weird things as creationism or other kinds of pseudoscience and science denials. In my 2007 book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, I devoted an entire chapter to asking why creationists can so confidently believe patently false ideas, and refuse to look at any evidence placed in front of them. I’ve compared it to Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, where Alice steps through the mirror and finds that the objects and the landscape look vaguely familiar—but all the rules of logic are reversed or turned inside out. How can people continue to believe things that are clearly wrong, and refuse to change their ideas or look at evidence?

It turns out that human brains are constructed very differently than what we would like to believe. As described by  Chris Mooney (2012) in The Republican Brain: The Science of Why they Deny Science—and Reality, our brains are not logical computers or non-emotional Vulcans like Dr. Spock, but organs in emotional animals who navigate the factual world to fit our beliefs and biases. Mooney explains this by starting with an anecdote about the Marquis de Condorcet, an important figure in the French Enlightenment (he helped develop both integral calculus and also wrote many important works on politics and philosophy). Condorcet believed in the Enlightenment ideal that humans would always be rational and guided by reason, and persuaded if logic and evidence were considered—and lost his life in 1794 during the irrational, emotional, highly political Reign of Terror. Even though Enlightenment philosophy and political science long argued that humans are rational animals, modern psychology and neurobiology  have shown this is not the case. Humans filter the world to see what fits their emotional and cultural biases, and easily neglect evidence and information that does not fit  (confirmation bias). Even more to the point, we are prone to what psychologists now call motivated reasoning—confirmation bias, reduction of cognitive dissonance, shifting the goalposts, ad hoc rationalization to salvage falsified beliefs, plus other mental tricks cause us to constantly filter the world. Our minds do not behave by objectively weighing all the evidence and listening to reason, but instead acts as if we were lawyers seeking evidence to bolster our pre-existing beliefs. Instead of the Enlightenment ideal that humans would change their minds when the facts go against them, motivated reasoning explains why humans are adept at bending or ignoring facts to fit the world as we want to see it.