Thursday, June 27, 2019

That Picture

You’ve seen it.  Here it is again.  If this offends your sensibilities, if it makes you cringe or click on some other site, well, I suppose that’s the risk we all take by allowing this to happen.

Photo by Julia Le Duc/AP

This is the legacy of Trump, but it is also ours because it was as predictable as sunrise and as inevitable as death.

MEXICO CITY — The father and daughter lie face down in the muddy water along the banks of the Rio Grande, her tiny head tucked inside his T-shirt, an arm draped over his neck.

The portrait of desperation was captured on Monday by the journalist Julia Le Duc, in the hours after Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez died with his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, as they tried to cross from Mexico to the United States.

The image represents a poignant distillation of the perilous journey migrants face on their passage north to the United States, and the tragic consequences that often go unseen in the loud and caustic debate over border policy.

It recalled other powerful and sometimes disturbing photos that have galvanized public attention to the horrors of war and the acute suffering of individual refugees and migrants — personal stories that are often obscured by larger events.

We allowed this to happen.  And like we must with every other violation of our rights and our conscience, we have to stand up and say Never Again or we’re complicit.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Murder On Fifth Avenue

The New York Times has a very chilling account of how the hit squad from Saudi Arabia tortured, killed, and them disposed of the body of Jamal Khashoggi.  Warning: the following content is graphic.

His killers were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. They severed his fingers and later beheaded and dismembered him, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.

Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, and within two hours the killers were gone, the recordings suggested…

…A team of 15 Saudi agents, some with ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was waiting for Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate the moment he arrived, at about 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 2.

After he was shown into the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers, the senior Turkish official said.

“Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,” Mr. al-Otaibi, the consul, told them, according to the Turkish official and a report in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, both citing audio recordings said to have been obtained by Turkish intelligence.

“If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,” one of the agents replied, according to both the official and the newspaper.

As they cut off Mr. Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body, a doctor of forensics who had been brought along for the dissection and disposal had some advice for the others, according to the senior Turkish official.

Listen to music, he told them, as he put on headphones himself. That was what he did to ease the tension when doing such work, the official said, describing the contents of the audio recording.

And yet, the White House and Trump are giving the Saudis all the cover they need, and it’s a murder.

So far the reaction from both the base and the Republican leadership has been a shrug: yeah, we know they did it, but they’re Arabs and that’s what they do, and besides, it’s not like he was an American, and even if he was a permanent resident of the U.S., he was a journalist and aren’t they the enemy of the people, anyway?

Trump was pretty much right when he said he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it; swap in a hit squad in Istanbul and it barely registers.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

This Vicious Buffoon

Charles P. Pierce:

Everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor and a scoundrel.

—HRH George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland

This video should be the only news from now until Election Day, and probably beyond that, all the way to the next Election Day in 2020 as well.

This video captures perfectly where we are as a nation at this moment in history. It shows with startling clarity the end result of civic disengagement and democratic apathy. It shows without question that we have allowed our republic to fall into the hands of a sociopath whose feeling for his fellow human beings can be measured against a poker chip. It shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the better angels of our nation have been sold out to anger, and greed, and stone hatred. It shows precisely the depths to which our fellow citizens will follow this bag of old and rancid sins. Some of those citizens know better. Some of them don’t. All of them are dangerous blockheads.

Look at the man behind the seal of the President of the United States, mocking the recollections of a survivor of sexual assault. In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.

And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.

The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides.

We have had good presidents and bad—a Buchanan is followed by a Lincoln who is followed by an Andrew Johnson, and so forth. But we never have had such a cheap counterfeit of a president* as currently occupies the office. We have had presidents who have been the worthy targets of scalding scorn, but James Callender went after giants. We never have had a president* so completely deserving of scorn and yet so small in the office that it almost seems a waste of time and energy to summon up the requisite contempt.

Watch him make fun of the woman again. Watch how a republic dies in the empty eyes of an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness, and who cannot find in himself the decency simply to shut the fuck up even when it is in his best interest to do so. Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity, and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.

Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scarred For Life At A Tender Age

This is hard to read, hard to watch, hard to stomach.

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said they were fine, clean and safe, but the kids — who have no idea where their parents are — were hysterical, crying and acting out.

“The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said South Texas pediatrician Marsha Griffin, who has visited many.

Since the White House announced its “zero tolerance” policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.

Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers whom the government separated from their parents.

“The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” said Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which provides foster care and other child welfare services to migrant children. “Toddlers are being detained.”

These shelters are not open to media coverage.  Perhaps that’s because ICE and the administration know that if they were, the reaction from anyone with a heart would be visceral and overwhelming.  What the hell kind of country are we that imprisons babies?

Mercifully the children may not retain actual memories of these events, but the scarring is already taking place.  No matter what happens to them, whether they end up here or sent back, they are going to carry the trauma of this event with them for the rest of their lives, and it will leave a mark.  Not just on them, but on us, and not just a mark of moral outrage and political reprisal.  Forget about whether their parents are asylum seekers, drug smugglers, or gang members; we’re creating our own crop of traumatized people right now. The impact will be felt for years, perhaps generations.

And one way or another we will end up paying for it, years after the people who came up with this cruelty have left the stage or served out their term, prison or otherwise.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Close To Home

One of the first e-mails I had waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday afternoon was from my sister, who lives in Ohio, asking where Parkland, Florida, is and what I knew about the area.  My brother, who was cc’d on the e-mail, replied before I could with a link to Google Maps showing, as I did in the post yesterday evening, that it is within an hour’s drive of my home.

The massacre of seventeen people at a public school is a horrific event, and it really doesn’t matter to me that it was in the next county.  According to people who count these things, this was the eighteenth school shooting this year and it’s February 15.  At this rate, we’re going to have another 100 by the end of the year.

We have already heard from our alleged leaders that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the families of those who have been killed and injured and the community.  Well, that’s all very nice, but a Hallmark card isn’t made of Kevlar and all the appeals to a deity haven’t yet stopped a determined shooter from getting in to where they can unload their AR15.  And some bigmouth on cable TV will say, if they already haven’t, that someone at the school should have been armed and that would have ended it before it began.  The fact is that this particular high school, like most large high schools in this part of Florida, had two armed police officers stationed at the school.  They’re not hired security guards, either; they are sworn officers of the law.  But they’re patrolling a campus with 3,000 students plus staff, so basically they’re keeping watch over a small town.  They can’t be everywhere, and unlike the Rambos of the wet dreams of the NRA and the gun lobby, they don’t just fire at the first sound of gunfire.  Their first priority is to get the rest of the students and staff out of harm’s way and to safety, then go after the shooter.  Period.

We’re also going to hear gunslingers tell us it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control and banning certain types of weapons or anything else that resembles a sane approach to this uniquely American epidemic of slaughter.  According to them, we shouldn’t let the emotions of these events overwhelm us and make us do something rash or that threatens the sanctity of the Second Amendment.  What they’re really saying is “Don’t do anything until we’ve come up with some kind of argument against whatever reasonable and effective solutions, such as a national database or thorough background checks, you come up with because we haven’t worked up our counterarguments yet.”

But in a way the gun advocates have already won.  It’s been almost twenty years since Columbine, it’s been five since Sandy Hook; if killing children is acceptable to our society, so indicated by our profound lack of an ability to do anything more than think and pray, then all the black ribbons and blog postings aren’t going to make a difference; we accept them as the norm now.  The fact that this one took place in a town less than an hour from my front door doesn’t matter.  They are all close to home.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Via the Washington Post:

Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, said that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were fatally shot by an Afghan police officer on June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed — shot by someone he was training.

“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ ” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”

Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds a dimension to his relationships with Gold Star families, and the disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to the parents or spouses of those killed.


Trump said this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” At least 20 Americans have been killed in action since he became commander in chief in January. The Post interviewed the families of 13. About half had received phone calls, they said. The others said they had not heard from the president.

It’s not that he hasn’t called everyone.  It’s that he lied about it and also said that other presidents didn’t call when he did.

This pattern is in keeping with how he did business before he was elected.; he’d refuse to pay bills for services rendered.  He’d make up all sorts of bullshit excuses and wait it out, thinking that the creditors would just give up and he’d get away with it.  He still works that way.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why Nothing Will Change

Former Rep. Steve Israel sums up why we’re not going to do anything about guns ever.

First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.

Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.

Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.

That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget. To accept the deaths of at least 58 children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends as the new normal. To turn this page with one hand, and use the other hand to vote for members of Congress who will rise in another moment of silence this week. And next week. And the foreseeable future.

Not that I’m in the mood to get all smug and say “Told you so,” but Mr. Israel is saying what I’ve been saying after every mass shooting since I started this blog: Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and on and on.  I grow tired of this repetition; of saying it.

I almost think that instead of coming back to the same points over and over again I should just provide a link to kittens falling into boxes or squirrels being ejected from bird feeders so you’ll have a place to go to until all the politicians with their “thoughts and prayers” and stories about the lives lost have moved on to the next distraction.  Oh, look at the kitty.  But then nothing really would change.  We’d just keep doing this over and over.

I keep hoping that we will do something, and it’s beyond just hoping.  I bring this up with every politician I meet; I make it part of who I vote for or against; I make sure that people who know me know that it’s the deal-breaker.  It’s not because I wield so much influence; but no less than anyone else, either, and voices united — even against the gun lobby — will make a difference.  The part I hate the most is that it doesn’t get noticed until there are body counts.  And there are those every day.

So instead of just waiting, make your point and keep making it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You Can’t Make This Up About Fake News

The story of how the FBI investigated a journalist who made a joke about fake news:

One Twitter user warned that she had reported me to the FBI and to Project Veritas — a right-wing organization led by James O’Keefe that stages elaborate stings of reporters, liberals and others; heavily edits its gotcha videos; and then tries to get those people fired.

Project Veritas did not contact me.

But the FBI decided a journalist’s joke was worth its time.

I seriously wish I was making this up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Worst. Boss. Ever.

Via CLW who knows how corporate management — and mismanagement — works — or doesn’t work.

How many of us have not faced that situation where a complete neophyte was made your boss? Someone put in charge of something about which their only understanding is from the outside?

Maybe their dad owned the company, or they had a freshly printed MBA. They made it worse by putting their drunken frat buddy in charge of your department.

Remember the resentment, the horror, the disgust? Did you cheer them on and root for their success? I’m guessing not. Maybe you didn’t actively sabotage, but I’m betting you didn’t just “get over it”.

You probably relished in the schadenfreude when that person suddenly realized the job was way different and far more complicated than they thought. But you did your best to stop them from screwing up the whole place because it’s where you worked and you needed that job.

We are living it.

Not only do you need the job, the company itself cannot fail because if it does, who’s the boss and what you did will not mean anything anymore.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

“Our Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”

President Obama responds to the shooting in Oregon.

“America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” Obama said. “But as I said, just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.”

Obama has had to respond to multiple mass shootings in his tenure. In his speech Thursday, he said that laws have been put in place to prevent other disasters — but not gun violence.

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we work to make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities, we have seat belt laws because we know it saves lives,” Obama said.

“So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations. Doesn’t make sense.”

Amen, Mr. President.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life Among the Lowly

Oh, the humanity.

Whiny BabyJPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, reported a 6.6 percent drop in quarterly profit as legal costs exceeded $1 billion in the wake of government probes, leading Chief Executive Jamie Dimon to claim banks were “under assault.”

JPMorgan agreed in November to pay $1 billion in penalties over its conduct in foreign exchange markets. Investigations into that and other areas of the bank’s business, including alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates, are continuing.

“Banks are under assault,” Dimon said on a call with reporters, responding to a question about legal costs.

“We have five or six regulators coming at us on every issue,” he said, taking a less conciliatory tone after admitting last year that he had a “tin ear” when dealing with officialdom.

However, while legal expenses rose to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, from $847 million a year earlier, total legal costs of $2.9 billion for the year were far less than the $11.1 billion recorded in 2013.

Poor Jamie.  He’ll have to sell off one of the houses in the Hamptons to pay for his lawyers.  How can he live like this?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Murder in Paris

Je Suis Charlie 01-07-15

I have little more to say about the horrific attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo except to offer my deepest sympathy to the people who lost loved ones, to the injured, and to remember that those who would try to destroy free speech and mockery only makes us more determined to carry on speaking and mocking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Again and Again

I never know what to say when something like this happens.

It doesn’t matter if it is in Pakistan or in Connecticut; if it is in the name of religion or tribalism, or if it is just in answer to the voices in the head of someone who is desperately ill.

Because we don’t know what to say, we search blindly for answers or we lash out and vow revenge.  But more often than not there are no answers and vengeance does not renew or restore.  So we just go on, putting it out of our mind until it happens again.  And again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Top Ten

The Washington Post has the list of the ten worst things the C.I.A. did in our name.

1. Of the 119 CIA detainees, 26 should not have been apprehended.

2. President Bush received his first briefing on enhanced interrogation techniques in 2006, about four years after the program started.

3. The CIA used rectal feeding and rectal rehydration on at least five detainees.

4. CIA interrogators threatened to harm the family members of at least three detainees.

5. The CIA apprehended two foreigners working for a “partner government” allied with the agency.

6. Abu Zubaida, the CIA’s first detainee, spent 266 hours in a coffin-size confinement box.

7. When Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, tried to breathe during the procedure, interrogators held his lips and poured water over his mouth.

8. The Senate committee found a photo of what looked like a well-used waterboarding station at a site where there was no reported use of the technique. The CIA could not explain the presence of the waterboard.

9. Of the at least 26 detainees who were wrongfully held, one was “intellectually challenged.”

10. CIA officers would “strip a detainee naked, shackle him in the standing position for up to 72 hours, and douse [him] repeatedly with cold water.”

Read them and weep.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

They All Look Alike

Freshman Tea Party Congressman Curt Clawson of Florida mistook two senior State Department officials as being representatives from India.

In an intensely awkward congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S. government officials as representatives of the Indian government.

The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about “your country” and “your government,” in reference to the state of India.

Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if “their” government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.

“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he said. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

The question prompted a lengthy pause and looks of confusion from State Department and congressional staff attending the hearing.


It’s extremely uncommon for foreign officials to testify before Congress under oath. Even so, it’s unclear if at any point Clawson realized his mistake, despite the existence of a witness list distributed to the various members detailing Biswal and Kumar’s positions. Clawson’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

During the hearing, he repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies. None of his fellow colleagues publicly called him out on the oversight — perhaps going easy on him because he’s the new guy.

Actually, I hope his fellow colleagues didn’t call him out on it because they were having too much fun letting this idiot make a fool of himself on live TV.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Annals of Asshattery

Bush-administration CIA director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was getting “emotional” about the Senate Intelligence Committee report that details the tactics they used to try to wring intelligence out of prisoners.

Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis [sic] Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

Wallace — who is far from a sympathizer for Senator Feinstein and her party — responded incredulously to the Director’s assertion that Sen. Feinstein’s emotions drove her to want a public report on the U.S.’s potential use of torture. “Forgive me because you and I both know Senator Feinstein,” Wallace said. “I have the highest regard for her. You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?”

Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.

What a steaming pile.