Monday, April 27, 2015

Week of 04/27/2015

Were They Really That Decent?
The news is shocking.
Damnably shocking.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the supposed “top cops” of “top cops” in America, the “best of the best of the best”, recently admitted – albeit ashamedly – that their DNA hair analysis procedure was not only flawed, it was rigged.  And not just in one or two instances, but in almost three hundred trials in over two decades.  We’re talking cases going all the way back to the 1970’s!
Thirty-two of those cases resulted in death penalty convictions, with fourteen of them already executed.  In other words, fourteen people were executed on behalf of rigged testimony.  Were they innocent?  We’ll never know.
The FBI’s lab and their workers were supposedly “the” best in the world.  “Best” because it supposedly gave definitive answers.  They were the original “CSI”.  Now we find out that for at least two decades, it was used as a rigged tool of the prosecution in 96% of instances.
While this shocking revelation was hitting the wires, the FBI was also trying to explain their actions when it came to the investigation of former General David Petraeus on the charge of divulging classified secrets.  At issue was how one of the victims of the case, Jill Kelley, was being interviewed for being cyberstalked.  Although it would eventually lead to the admission that the former “Iraq War Surge” general was engaging in an affair and divulging secrets to his mistress during that affair, there were alleged efforts by the FBI to bury the whole matter by attacking the witness.
Former judge Andrew Napolitano published an article thanks to his friends in the Koch-owned Reason Foundation to talk about the abuses of power the FBI has engaged in, including sabotaging hotel cable in order to wiretap an alleged illegal gambler in – of all places – Las Vegas.  He talked about how the FBI used to have “integrity”, but now apparently they don’t.
And the first thought that came through my mind is...
Were they really that good and decent?
I’m not kidding here.
Remember the abuses conducted under orders of the late J. Edgar Hoover?  Hoover used to investigate anyone and everyone he deemed to be “a threat”, which included people like Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact Hoover supposedly had so many “secrets” that he could never be fired simply because nobody higher up knew what he had on them.
The website Listverse came up with 10 “unnerving secrets” of the FBI, which included helping brutal mobsters commit crimes, framing innocent people, and even taking part in the explosive confrontation between law enforcement and the group known as MOVE in 1985.  And by “explosive” I mean with literal bombs being dropped on people.
And this is the agency that is supposed to be “decent” and have “integrity”?
So, again, I have to question if they are as “decent” as Judge Napolitano claimed they once were.  Or was that simply media hype and clever PR combined with addled minds longing for better years?
Bear in mind that I’m not saying the FBI is rotten to the core or that every agent is evil.  I’m not pulling a page out of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and saying the whole thing has to go.  But I do have to question the idea that any law enforcement group is – by default – good and decent and has all of our best intentions.
I remember the horror stories my father used to tell me about the police when grew up in Cleveland.  He used to tell me repeated that “if a cop saw you out after dark, he’d beat the crap out of you and send you home.  And if you told your parents about it, they’d beat you up twice as bad!”
Now is that the kind of story that generates trust for police officers and law enforcement in general?
And bear I mind that my father was both a state and local police officer!
To make things worse, we have video of police officers shooting unarmed people in the back.  We have video of police officers engaged in blatant choke-holds and getting away with it.  We have video of police officers going after people for simply video-recording them doing their jobs.  We have video of police officers running over suspects with their squad car like they were playing “Grand Theft Auto” or “Carmageddon”.  We have acts of brutality from our supposed “protectors” and “public servants” that would fall under the category of war crimes if they were carried out in any other country, all of which are shown on the nightly news before eventually being swept under the rug with little or no accountability.
Does this mean that the police are corrupt to the core?  Does it mean that there is suddenly absence of right and wrong when it comes to our law enforcement?  Does it mean that every cop is simply a criminal with a badge and a “Double-O” license to kill?
No.  It doesn’t.
But let’s get brutally honest here... what we are seeing are the “bad apples” being exposed thanks in no small part to courageous citizens armed with the latest in technology.
All of these recent incidences are coming to light as they are happening because more and more people have cameras with them.  If they’re not recording their lives with GoPro camcorders, then they’re carrying around cellphones and tablets that have digital cameras build in and the means to upload those videos quickly in ways that police cannot destroy by simply smashing the device.
What doesn’t help is when those in government follow their instincts and protect their own even when the proof is damnable and very public.  The so-called “Department of Justice” cannot live up to their own name if they continually whitewash police abuses.  All of the claims of “training” and being “certified” mean absolutely squat if some good-old-boy Goober with political connections can seemingly buy his badge and buy a “pass” through all of that training, as is being revealed in Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
And if you think it all can be swept under the rug, then you have another thing coming.  You think the protests last year over Ferguson were bad?  If you want the protests to get worse, all you have to do is keep doing nothing and hiding your heads in both the sand and in phony nostalgia.
We all want to believe that the institutions we trust with our security do so with “integrity” and “decency”.  But if they can’t honestly live up to those standards, then we do ourselves a greater injustice by trying to pretend that these either exist or existed then.  It is high time that we took off the rose-colored spectacles our past and recognize that things weren’t as “good” and “pure” as we pretended they were, because that is the only way that we can move forward and actually make things better.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week of 04/20/2015

California’s Luck Is Drying Up
The State of California is in big trouble.  Huge trouble, in fact.
And, yes, it has to do with climate change.
For a couple of years now, certain people have been sounding the alarm bells about something that most of us have been taking for granted: drinkable water.
We’ve all gotten accustomed here in America to having clean running water.  Hell, our drinking water even has additives to it!  (Or did you actually think it normally comes with fluoride?)  Not only that, but we will pay money to buy bottled water, because the water we get from the tap is supposedly not “pure” enough for us.
Well here is California’s problem: they’re running out of fresh water.  And they’re running out of it quickly.
California’s available water supply is dependent on several factors, but specifically from melted snow in the mountains.  Snowfall in the winter accumulates there, it melts in the spring, and the water flows down for them to use.
But all of that presupposes that there is precipitation - snow, rain, or even ice – in those mountains.  And that it must happen with a certain amount of frequency each and every year in order to sustain the demand.  If it doesn’t... then the amount of available water dries up.  Less water comes down from the mountains to feed California’s thirst.  California dries up.
And guess what’s been happening?  The one thing that the conservatives and neo-conservatives deny just as strongly as they deny evolution: climate change.
Despite the crippling snow and ice that the American Northeast was getting this past year, the rest of the world experienced its hottest year on record.  That fed the Fox News douchebag machine and their retarded chant of “Whatever happened to Global Warming – a-yuk-a-yuk-a-yuk-a-yuk!”  It also meant less precipitation for California, and thus less water for them.  That’s what been going on since 2012.
And it’s only going to get worse for them.
Now, folks, I don’t have to guess what Californians will be going through when it comes to depleting supplies of available water.  I’ve lived through it.
In the early half of the 00’s, I lived in a little neighborhood just outside of a city in Georgia called Gainesville.  We were right along the northern part of Lake Lanier in a little cul-de-sac.  A two-story house build in a hill with access to a cove.  I rented the lower half of the house from my parents, who got the better half of the deal because they didn’t have to go up two flights of stairs and then up a hill to get to their vehicles.
Anyway, during that time, our water came from our own well, which was fed by the local underground aquifer.  That aquifer got fed from the same place as Lake Lanier... by the runoff water at the start of the Chattahoochee River up in the mountains near Tennessee. 
So when there were droughts, there wasn’t as much water to feed either the lake or the aquifer.  When that happened, we didn’t have as much available water as we normally would, so we would have to cut back.  We would have to take short showers, not flush the toilet all the time, use bottled water, wash dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, and take our laundry to the nearest coin-operated laundromat.
These were all considered short-term measures.  We knew the water levels would be back up eventually and we’d be back to our usual water uses.  We just had to “tough it out” for a little while.
But then something happened... even during normal seasons, with plenty of drenching rains to feed the local supplies, our well water would continue going down.  There would be less and less available water for us regardless of how much rain we got.
My parents (or at least one of them) didn’t want to believe it at the time, but I noticed that this started happening around the same time as the area experienced some serious growth.  New cul-de-sacs were being paved and new homes were being put up.  All of those homes with all of those people that were not on hills like ours that were tapping into the same aquifer that fed our well.
What used to be a temporary measure suddenly became a permanent one.  No more dishwasher.  No more using our own washer and dryer.  No more showers lasting longer than a couple of minutes.  No more “clear” toilets.  We bought bottled water by the gallons and stocked up on quarters for the laundromat.
And even that wasn’t enough.  There were still times when we would simply run out of water.
My parents had to bite the financial bullet and pay to have someone come in and dig deeper into the aquifer to get our water.  And that also became one of the many reasons for me to find someplace else to live.
I bring this up because Californians will have to make some serious and hard choices of their own concerning the water that they’ve been taking for granted all this time.  And it’s not just folks in California.  Montana, Texas, Kansas, even North Carolina and Delaware are starting to see signs of a looming water crisis of their own.  Georgia has been in a long-running legal pissing contest with Florida and Alabama over those same Chattahoochee waters I was talking about.
Let’s get brutally honest here... this is not a situation that can be resolved overnight.  It certainly can’t be resolved in the same way that Fox News deals with climate change, which is to wait until the next snowstorm to dismiss the whole thing as being “bunk”.  A few days of rain will not repair the damage of long-term droughts.  Even a few weeks of rain won’t cut it.  There needs to be some serious long-term planning.
Water rationing won’t cut it; especially when you’re expecting residents to make the biggest sacrifice and they’re not the ones taking the biggest share of the water.  That’s a short-term solution to a long-term aggravated problem that simply will not work.  And, besides, you can’t expect the average Californian to cut back on their water usage when they see corporate buildings with sprinkler systems running and they get a letter from their local homeowner’s association demanding they keep their lawns green “or else”.
We need to establish once and for all which group takes precedence when it comes to water: human beings, big corporations, livestock, nuts and berries, or little snails and fish.  And if human beings are not on the top of that priority list, then you have a serious, serious, problem on your hands.  Think “French Revolution” problem.  You know, where they invented the guillotine and the “let them eat cake” meme.
Makes you think about the continual militarization of the local police into stormtroopers, doesn’t it?
We also need to abandon the idea that you can simply import water from other places, such as the asinine idea that you can pipe in water from the Great Lakes to California.  Or, for that matter, from Alaska.  These are short-term solutions at best.  And remember that this isn’t just a “California” problem.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration – yes, the place with the real rocket scientists – speculate that North America could be heading for a “mega-drought” in the next few decades.  So what happens when the so-called “heartland” needs water and they find out all of the water is going to California?  You may find out sooner than you think.  Remember, Kansas is already sounding the water alarm.
We need to accept that we can’t build and build and waste water like there’s no tomorrow.  Nor can you pipe water in to places that traditionally don’t have any simply so you can build more neighborhoods and shopping malls.  Drinkable water is a finite resource and needs to be treated as such.  Developers and regional planners need to think less water parks and more desalination plants, less cul-de-sacs and more reservoirs, and they need to do it sooner rather than later.  A lot sooner.
California and other places have been pushing their luck for years when it comes to available resources.  Well, that wellspring of luck is starting to run dry, along with all of the other springs.  And, contrary to the delusions of the Governor of Texas, we can’t just pray for rain to solve it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week of 04/13/2015

Is Iran Playing Saddam Hussein’s Game?
Remember when you were a kid and you were told to clean up your room?
You didn’t want to, right?  You liked your mess.  Everything you needed was right there for you to grab.  You knew where it was.  You didn’t care if it looked messy or chaotic.
But your parents would tell you that you needed to clean up your room and you needed to do it right that minute, or else you wouldn’t be allowed to do the things you liked doing.  You couldn’t go see that movie you wanted to see or go play with your friends or go bike-riding like you wanted to do unless you cleaned up your room.
So you did the least amount of “cleaning” that you could in the fastest possible time.  You pushed things aside, you piled things up, and you swept or vacuumed just enough to “look clean”.  You broke land-speed records for cleaning, because you had more important things to do than waste your time doing something you did not want to do in the first place.
Then your parents would make that required inspection, and you would hope that they just took a quick look and give you the okay to go on with your life.  You hoped they wouldn’t look under the bed to see the piles of stuff pushed under it.  You certainly hoped they wouldn’t open up the closet door to see all the stuff you crudely piled up in there and are balancing only on the flimsiest of platforms.  You hoped they wouldn’t notice that your bed wasn’t really made or that you only vacuumed the parts of the carpet that they could see from the door.  You hoped they would just take your word for it.
Except it never would work out that way, would it?  Your deception would eventually be discovered. If not then, then at some later point when things would come crashing down around you.
There’s a part of me that is wondering if the leadership in Iran is playing that same game right now.
America’s longest-running constitutional-theocratic villains are in something of a bind right now.  Once upon a time their biggest export was oil.  Then, after they overthrew the Shah and took Americans hostage, their biggest export was fear and terror.  Then they lost their credibility as the fear-mongers of the world when the extremist sects of Sunni Islam took over from their own Shia Islam craziness in terms of American-hating fear-mongering.
I mean, come on Iranians!  You guys used to own the “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” chants!  Now you’re getting usurped by Syria and Somalia.  That’s like Emenem losing a rap contest to Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory”!
About the only thing Iran has left to stay relevant right now is their hunger for nuclear power.  They want the world to think that it’s for “nuclear power” in terms of electricity and power plants, but there are many that fear that the “nuclear power” Iran truly wants is for nuclear weapons, so they would automatically join the “elite” group of countries with the power to contaminate a whole city or small country.
Yes, having a nuclear weapon is a huge international stick, and the war-mongers and fascists here in America (and “certain other countries”) continually shriek in fear of Iran making and exporting nuclear weapons to every terrorist group around the world, turning the “Cold War” into a radioactive Ice Age of death and destruction that will take untold millenniums to clear.
That’s the image that the fascists and the war-mongers want to stick in our heads when it comes to Iran.  Iran gets “the bomb” and suddenly every terrorist around the world will have one. 
The war-mongers in those “certain other countries” have an even grittier picture to paint.  Iran gets “the bomb” and suddenly those “certain other countries” would become radioactive dead zones.
Here’s the thing: terrorists don’t need to get “the bomb” from Iran to spread fear and radioactive death.  They can accomplish the same thing using waste materials from nuclear plants or hospitals or universities.  There have been plenty of “dirty bomb” scenarios thrown about in the media during the Bush Imperium and their “duct tape and plastic sheeting” fetish to show that it’s not a dirty little secret or an inconceivable scenario. 
But what “the bomb” really represents is political power.  It’s about being able to lord over other countries, acting as the “big bully” for fear that it “might” be used, and to do so would court possible nuclear extinction.  After all, that’s what many nations see America as being.  We are still the only nation in the world that has used nuclear weapons against another country.  Twice.  And don’t assume for a moment that America’s cons and neo-cons don’t have that in the back of their minds as a positive.
It’s an image, and the one thing that fascists and war-mongers understand is how to use images to manipulate the masses.
Which has me wondering about the recent events concerning Iran and their strange talks with America about their nuclear ambitions.
America wants Iran to abandon any dreams of getting nuclear weapons.  Iran wants to have the crippling economic sanctions lifted.  It seems to be a simple enough of a barter, right?  Get rid of the nuclear weapons development in exchange for the lifting of those sanctions.
So why isn’t it that simple?
Maybe it’s because Iran doesn’t really want to deal with America.  They just want to mess with all of our heads.
Let’s see if you guys can keep up.
President Barack Obama would like a deal with Iran to cement his place in history (as if he doesn’t have enough of those little cemented places).  Jimmy Carter got Israel and Egypt to the table.  Bush Junior got Mommar Qadaffi to behave... for a little while anyway.  Even Richard Nixon managed to go to China.  So why not get Iran to behave?
Iranian leaders know that talks with the so-called “Great Satan” would shove a wedge between America and Israel.  Israeli leaders don’t want Iran to have any kind of nuclear technology, never mind a bomb, because the Iranian extremists don’t believe Israel should exist.  Israel depends on American support, so if they feel they’re not being “loved” in Washington, they’ll throw a temper tantrum until they get their way.
Plus the Iranian extremists know that America’s own political extremists are obsessively in love with Israel and with the idea of war, and also with their seething hatred of Obama, so much so that they’ll do anything in the world to sabotage the talks just to spite Obama.
So Iran goes into talks with America, and just in time for their artificially-imposed “deadline”, they have a supposed “framework” for a possible future deal that would satisfy everything that America is looking for, and would result in ending the economic sanctions, which is what Iran is looking for.  Nothing is set in stone, of course, never mind on paper.  But it’s enough to give the pretense that there is a deal in the works.
Right on cue, the Israelis throw their temper tantrums, and the GOP throw their temper tantrums.  And, as an added bonus, the price of gasoline and the price of oil start sinking at a time when they should be going in the opposite direction.  Big Oil is in deathly fear that Iran will flood the market with their crude, so they’re preparing now for the supposed “shock”.
But then... that country’s supreme leader throws in a new curve that is certain to sabotage any talk of a deal.  He demands that any deal include the immediate removal of all sanctions instead of using them as an eventual reward for compliance.
This should sound a little familiar.  This was the same trick used by Saddam Hussein in the months prior to the launch of the Iraq War.  He kept on demanding that sanctions be lifted for simply allowing weapons inspectors to be there, never mind validate that there were no weapons of mass destruction. 
But why throw this curve ball?  The framework was set, the political wedges were in place, political fear was rampant, and the economic fear had taken hold.  It would seem stupid to go through all of that effort only to hose it at the last minute.
Unless it was by design.
Let’s get brutally honest here... I strongly suspect that all of this is just one big game.  Like the kind Saddam Hussein used to play for Iraq, and like the kind that North Korea has been playing all this time.
The leaders of Iran don’t really need the sanctions lifted.  They have everything they want.  They’re still in power.  They are still able to continue their quest for nuclear power.  Hell, they can still ship drugs around the world all they want to.  The sanctions only hurt their people.  And those people won’t do anything to hurt them.  After all, to go against the religious leaders there is like going against God.
So they can play these games to keep themselves relevant, to keep themselves in the news.  To keep the other nations interested in them.  And, of course, to piss off the war-mongers and fascists in America and Israel.
The childish Iran says they’re cleaning their room.  Just don’t try to look under the bed or open up the closet door.