Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Saturday, July 25, 2015
|A bored Dick Cheney shoots a spitball at Secretary of State Colin Powell.|
The U.S. National Archives has just released a trove of snapshots taken of Vice President Dick Cheney in the minutes and hours following the 9/11 terror attacks. The photos were captured by the vice president's official staff photographer, and were released on the National Archives' flickr page in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Frontline filmmaker Colette Neirouz, who previously covered the Bush/Cheney administration in the documentaries, Bush's War, Cheney's Law, and The Dark Side.
Below are a few samples of the newly released photographs.
|Cheney listening to C.I.A. director George Tenet shortly after the 9/11 attacks|
The Cheney photographs, many of which were taken in the secure President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) show an extremely calm and composed--one might even say sleepy--vice president.
|Portrait of composure: Vice President Dick Cheney|
|Cheney demonstrates his legendary calm by napping during the crisis.|
The full collection of photographs may be seen here.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
It's hard to say anything about Donald Trump that hasn't already been said, but no matter which side of the fence you're on, you must admit, The Donald has livened up the political season in a way that nobody expected. My favorite Donald moment so far was when he dismissed conservative Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer--a paraplegic--as a "loser," who just "sits there." Whenever I'm having a rough patch, I think about that moment, and it's like a soothing comedy balm on my tortured soul.
In a recent article in the Washington Post, reporter Chris Cillizza points out six inconvenient truths about Donald Trump. Cillizza is right on most counts, however I vociferously disagree with his injunction for the Republican party to "get away from Trump--immediately." On the contrary, with Trump surging even higher in the polls in spite of his uncharitable comments about John McCain, it's clear that Trump is the true populist of the Republican party. The GOP should stop pussyfooting around and just start lovin' up on the man. They know they want to. Republicans have never been afraid to take Trump's millions, and in our post-Citizens United world of "pay to play" politics, Trump has more than earned his right to be the official ̶h̶a̶i̶r̶p̶i̶e̶c̶e̶ mouthpiece of the Republican party.
Frankly, it's a little hard to buy into the GOP's outraged virtue. The Republican backlash against Donald Trump is a comedy of such soaring hypocrisy, it's like listening to a group of serial killers standing around worrying what to do about this Lecter guy...
Everybody knows--even Donald himself--that Trump can't possibly win in the general election. Which is why he needs to stay in the race as long as possible. Frankly, I'm enjoying the spectacle. Trump is immensely entertaining. But even more important, he's making the Republicans far crazier than any Democrat could hope to do. In fact, I may temporarily switch to the Republican party, just so that I can vote for Trump in the primaries...
Monday, May 25, 2015
The following is a transcription of my response to a Youtube user who vigorously took me to task for criticizing conspiracy theorist John B. Wells' claims that the Newtown massacre was a "false flag" operation calculated to justify a government plot to declare martial law and seize everybody's guns.
You are right, ***** (username redacted), people do have rights to their opinions, and the right to express them. Much as I may disagree with you, I would defend your right to express yours as well. The purpose of the first amendment was not to protect speech that I agree with, but to protect speech that I disagree with.
It's important to challenge authority, and to question those in power, regardless of whether that power is a government or a private corporation. Lord knows, history is full of examples of bad behavior by both. We are living at a time when people are more mistrustful than ever of the rich and powerful, and that's as it should be. Dissent is healthy, and at the end of the day, it's probably good to have the Alex Joneses of the world out there, railing at the powers that be, even if sometimes he's completely wrong.
I should say, by the way, that I'm willing to admit that I could be perfectly wrong. However, the preponderance of empirical evidence suggests otherwise.
When it comes to controversial claims of unusual behavior or phenomena, I'm not on one "side" or the other. I'm only interested in the truth. There's an old saying in the skeptic community that says "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." That's a good rule of thumb for anyone.
If you tell me there's an ant crawling up the outside wall, I will probably believe you without requiring much in the way of proof. Why? Because it's not an extraordinary claim. Ants climb up walls all the time. It's a very common occurrence that I've seen with my own eyes. Moreover, you have nothing to gain by telling me about it. So I'm likely to believe you. And there's also not a lot at stake. An ant crawling up the wall is not going to affect the structural integrity of the house, so even if I don't believe you, the consequences will be minimal.
On the other hand, if you tell me there's a widening crack snaking up the outside wall, I will immediately check it out. Why? Because it's an extraordinary claim, with potentially extraordinary consequences. Based on what I know about walls and cracks (and what causes them), the cost of ignoring your warning could be catastrophic. The house might be on the verge of collapsing. There's a lot at stake. Lives and property, etc.
In any case, it's easy enough to verify. I'll simply go outside and and look at the wall. If I see a widening crack, I'll immediately evacuate the house and call 911. If there is no crack, I'll assume that you were hallucinating or playing a prank on me.
The point is, before evacuating the house and calling 911, I want to see the crack for myself, to verify what you're saying is true. I'm not going to call Aunt Joan in Chattanooga and ask her if she thinks there's a crack in my wall, or even neighbor Bob down the street. I'll want to see it for myself. And if you knock on the door of any house in America and tell the homeowner there's a crack moving up their wall, he or she will do exactly the same thing. They will want to see it for themselves, to verify that it's true. Why? Because extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. This is the essence of skepticism and critical thinking: verification.
Suppose there's a guy in Indiana who claims to be a master engineer. You've never met him, and as far as you know, he's never even been in your state. But a lot of your friends say that he's really brilliant. And one day, he sends you an email saying that your house is about to collapse into a sinkhole. He includes impressive drawings, and graphics, and animations, along with links to videos and articles by other "sinkhole experts" just like him, about the history of sinkhole activity in your area, with a dire warning that your house is sitting directly on top of a giant sinkhole that's about to collapse. He ends the email with a urgent plea to immediately sign over your house to him or one of his colleagues, so that they can do what needs to be done to prevent the disaster.
I'm only guessing here, but I suspect that no matter how convincing his argument (or the arguments of his various "colleagues"), the last thing you'll probably do is sign your house over to him. Why? Because it is an extraordinary claim, and therefore requires extraordinary proof. Before signing over your house, you're going to investigate the claim. You'll go on the Internet to learn everything you can about sinkholes. You'll contact your state geologist, or local engineers, who have the skill, knowledge, experience and equipment to determine with a reasonable degree of certainty whether there really is a giant sinkhole under your house. But what you won't do is accept the Indiana "engineer's" word as gospel. On the contrary, you'll do everything within your power to find out the truth, one way or another. Terrified as you may be of sinkholes, the last thing you're likely to do is to sign your house over to some guy in another state, sight unseen, simply because he made a frightening and persuasive argument.
Let's say the family next door goes missing, and your neighbor Cecil claims they were abducted by aliens, while the police say that it looks like a home invasion and kidnapping. Knowing that lives are at stake, which line of inquiry should the police pursue: alien abduction or criminal kidnapping?
I'm not saying that aliens couldn't exist, or that if they did, they couldn't kidnap people. But in my entire life, neither I nor anyone I know has ever seen an alien, nor has a single alien abduction ever been reported by a credible agency. On the other hand, home invasions happen all the time. Experience tells us that the missing family was mostly likely kidnapped by terrestrial criminals, not alien interlopers.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
Question everything, regardless of whether it comes from the Pentagon or John B. Wells. And especially John B. Wells. Challenge his sources. Contact people in Newtown. But don't accept someone else's claims just because they sound good, or happen to reinforce your mistrust of officialdom. Get rid of the confirmation bias and check it out for yourself, objectively and with an open mind. If you're really, honestly seeking the truth, you will find it. And it may surprise you.
Finally, let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that you're absolutely right about the parents of Newtown. Let's say they're making great piles of cash from speaking engagements, and book deals, etc. And let's further assume that, instead of funneling that money into their efforts to stop gun violence against kids (which they're actually doing), they're putting that money into their bank accounts. To that I would say, "so what?" Jesus said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
I've never lost a child to gun violence, but I can imagine that it must be devastating. So I'm not going to try and read the hearts and minds of the parents of Newtown, and I'm certainly not going to sit in judgment of them, or what they do with their money. If we condemn the parents of Newtown for exploiting the Sandy Hook shootings in order to stop gun violence, we must also condemn the NRA--the most powerful corporate lobby in America--for exploiting those very same deaths in order to raise money and boost gun sales. Trust me, the NRA has made far more money from the Sandy Hook shootings than those poor parents ever did.
If you're really looking for a worthwhile cause to champion, get involved with the effort to to stop Congress from renewing the Patriot Act, or the urgent struggle going on right now to stop President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which he's trying to "fast track" through the Congress as fast as he can.
These are far more noble and worthwhile pursuits than attacking the parents of a bunch of dead kids...
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Presidential candidate Senator Lindsey "I will drone you" Graham has given a slobbery wet kiss of approval to another giant legislative "screw you" to U.S. servicemen and women. It's not the first time, and I doubt it will be the last under the South Carolina Republican's tenure on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
As reported by Brendan McGarry in Military.com, the SASC's nine-member Subcommitte on Personnel, which Graham chairs, recently approved a disastrous plan to privatize military pensions while gutting a modest pay increase for active duty personnel--a plan that had already received almost unanimous bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
What a shock--not! Once again, the Senate Armed Services Committee gives a giant hosing to the people they're supposed to be looking out for. This has become such a common occurrence, I'm beginning to wonder whether they're secretly on Alex Jones's payroll.
Not long ago, Graham and his Republican cronies killed the $1 billion Veterans Job Corps Act, which would have helped returning vets retrain for civilian employment. (Veterans currently have the highest rate of unemployment and suicide of any demographic in the U.S.) Instead, they chose to give that $1 billion to BAE and General Dynamics to develop the useless, doomed GCV (Ground Combat Vehicle) program, which the Army eventually got sick of and cancelled due to budget overruns and technical failures. (Why waste $1 billion helping returning vets find jobs when we can use that money to enrich defense contractors with projects that never even make it off the ground?)
Now, the SASC is offering what amounts to a slap in the face by suggesting a measly 1.3% pay raise (I use "pay raise" in its loosest possible sense)--a downgrade from the slightly more reasonable 2.3% already approved by the House--which they justify by saying their "hands are tied" due to things like budget cuts and sequestration. Blah, blah, blah.
I've often wondered how they can walk, with balls that big. When I was married as a young submariner, the first thing my chief told me was how to apply for foodstamps and WIC, because it was impossible to support a family on what I was making at that time, even with sub pay and hazardous duty pay. That was 20 years ago. Nothing has changed. Much as the bureaucrats in Washington love to spend billions on defense contracts, and much as they like to send us in harm's way, they're still notorious cheapskates when it comes to pay.
According to the Pentagon and the SASC, the lower 1.3% pay raise will save taxpayers $4 billion over the next five years compared with the 2.3% pay raise. They say this with a perfectly straight face and a furrowed brow, as if we're supposed to take them seriously after they spent $9 billion on the Navy's fleet of lightly-armed puddle skippers called "littoral combat ships" that look cool, but are essentially useless in a heavy engagement.
Perhaps they need that extra $4 billion to help defray the cost of the F-35, which is still lethally unreliable, and which is expected to exceed $300 billion, or over half of the entire national defense budget. Or the $22 billion we spent on the killer goose--sorry, V-22 Osprey--which also killed 30 perfectly good marine pilots. (31 if you count the marine who was just killed in Hawaii.)
I love military hardware as much as the next guy, but it's immoral and unconscionable to spend billions on bloated, sketchy (translate: failed) defense projects while nickel and diming our people to death.
As if that isn't enough, Graham and his bureaucrats are deep-sixing the old government-guaranteed retirement and insurance plans in favor of privatized programs, like 401Ks. Not that there's anything wrong with that if you're a Wall Street hedge fund manager, but our men and women in uniform deserve better; if the economy craps itself again the way it did in 2008--or worse--our veterans will be screwed.
Not that that's anything new...
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
According to sociologist Erich Goode, author of The Paranormal: Who Believes, Why They Believe, and Why It Matters, contrary to conventional wisdom, one's educational level doesn't preclude a belief in demonstrably false "supra-empirical ideas," but rather appears to moderate it. College educated people are likelier to believe in psychic healing and déjà vu, for example, while those with only a high school education are likelier to believe in astrology and traditional religion. It seems that educated people still believe in nonsense, they just believe in different sorts of nonsense. Mccaffree & Saide's article suggests that our resistance to critical thinking has far less to do with willful stupidity than a desire for social acceptance. (you can read the article here)
The good news is that Americans appear to be gradually abandoning the old religious superstitions that have been handed down to us from what Christopher Hitchens called the "bawling infancy" of humanity. According to a Harris survey, the number of adults in the U.S. who professed to believe in God dropped from 82 to 74 percent between 2009 to 2013. It's a start.
Monday, July 28, 2014
As if in response to Megyn Kelly's smugly nonsensical reaction to the very idea of a black Santa Claus ("For all you kids at home, he just is white"), Aaron McGruder, subversive genius behind The Boondocks, ups the ante with an irreverent new comedy called Black Jesus, premiering Thursday, Aug. 7 at 11/10C on Adult Swim. The new show stars Gerald "Slink" Johnson (Grand Theft Auto V) as an African-American Jesus--or at least somebody who thinks he's Jesus--who strolls into modern-day Compton in sandals and robes to spread his gospel of love and compassion. It is, as the tagline says, "the most anticipated comeback in history," albeit one that is robustly infused with hilariously inappropriate ghetto profanity, much of it courtesy of "Jesus" himself.
McGruder's outrageous new show promises to be the most devastatingly funny religious satire since Monty Python's The Life of Brian. As far as Megyn Kelly and Fox News are concerned, Black Jesus will likely amount to a virtual carpet bombing in the secular media's relentless war on Christmas; one can only hope that Bill O'Reilly remembers to take his blood pressure medication before seeing the trailer. Or not, depending on how one feels about Mr. O'Reilly.
There is a scene in the trailer where one of the new "apostles" complains to Black Jesus, "You smoked all the motherf---in' weed!", to which Jesus replies, "You do know I died for your motherf---in' sins, right?" To which another of Jesus's homeboys replies, "That shit's getting old! That was two thousand fourteen years ago!"
In another hilarious moment, an older follower becomes disgruntled when Jesus refuses to tell him the winning lottery numbers: "He is Jesus Christ, God's only begotten son, sent down here to save our mortal souls from eternal damnation. But you know what? That negro ain't done shit for me!"
"...McGruder's outrageous new show promises to
be the most devastatingly funny religious satire
since Monty Python's The Life of Brian."
It is that level of outrageousness--some would say blasphemy--that has sparked a volcanic reaction from conservatives, who are now giving Black Jesus the kind of international publicity it could never otherwise afford, by calling for a massive boycott of the show before it has even aired. Based on the ugly tenor of some of the more racist Youtube comments--which I won't dignify by repeating--the white Christian right seems to be more furious over the fact that Jesus is black than whether he uses the word "motherfucker." I only pray that Adult Swim and its parent company, Sony Pictures Television, will have the nuts to stand up to the ideologues when they launch their inevitable campaign to stop the rest of us from exercising our constitutional right to watch the show. (Funny, how conservative "freedoms" usually demand restrictions on the freedoms of others: the Orwellian irony is inescapable.)
Aaron McGruder was not involved with the latest season of The Boondocks due to irreconcilable differences with Sony. I suspect it was difficult to have a large corporation like Sony calling the shots for a show that McGruder had created. Nevertheless, Black Jesus is already attracting massive attention, and if the show is as funny as it looks, it's a safe bet that McGruder will have the last laugh.
Personally? I can't wait.
"'Boondocks' Creator Brings 'Black Jesus' to Adult Swim," Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter
( http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/boondocks-creator-brings-black-jesus-687190 )
"Black Jesus" episodes at Adult Swim
( http://video.adultswim.com/black-jesus/?cid=yt_blackJesusOffTrailerDescrip )
"Black Jesus" Facebook Page
( https://www.facebook.com/BlackJesus )
Aaron McGruder's Twitter Account
( https://twitter.com/aaronmcgruder23 )
( http://www.adultswim.com/ )
( http://video.adultswim.com/the-boondocks/season-4/ )
Thursday, June 12, 2014
When Hurricane Andrew slammed into Dade County in 1992, nearly 16,000 non-indigenous animals were released into the wilds of South Florida. Of these, 3,000 were never seen again.
Bonecrusher is a screenplay in progress about a wildlife officer whose love for the outdoors is tested when an escaped Saltwater crocodile--the world's largest living reptile, and a notorious maneater--stakes out the waters around a sleepy Florida tourist town and begins hunting humans.
Naturally, carnage ensues.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Probably nobody did more in the 1950s and 60s to popularize samba and bossa nova music than the Brazilian singer Sylvia Telles, who was already a star on the Latin American music scene, and was on the verge of international stardom when she was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 32, after recording her fifth album. Though many people aren't familiar with her name, she was a brilliant singer and performer who had an enormous influence on other Latin American singers, such as Astrud Gilberto.
The legendary singer/musician/songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote one of his most famous songs, "Dindi" specifically for Sylvia, because that was her nickname in Portuguese. (The word is pronounced "Jin-Jee.") The song has been recorded many times over the years, however the best version is still the plaintive and heartfelt version that Sylvia herself recorded before she was killed.
Above is a very rare film clip of a live 1967 concert with Slyvia singing two iconic Samba songs, "Samba Torto" and "One Note Samba," accompanied by Rosinha de Valenca, who was considered one of the greatest acoustic guitarists in Brazilian music.
Below is Sylvia singing "Dindi," the song that was written specifically for her by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Guitarist Rosinha de Valenca went on to record with such music heavyweights as Sergio Mendes, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, and Henry Mancini, making records well into the late 1970s. She eventually had to stop performing due to health problems, and in 1992 suffered a major heart attack that left her severely brain damaged. She lived for 12 more years in a vegetative state, finally dying of respiratory failure in 2004.
Here's to Sylvia Telles and Rosinha de Valenca, two of the amazing women of music who've made our world a better place for having been a part of it.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
A Letter From Charlie Bronson to his Supporters on
the Occasion of His Latest Parole Denial, 5 May 2013
Well, that's it, parole over for another two years. All that's expected. It's a complete farce. A joke. Another 2 years, for what? Behaving myself! Doing a Violence Reduction Programme. But where's it all got me? That was 7 months ago, I passed the course. All this system does is drag up the past. They never let it lie. It's no big deal to me, I actually expect it. I actually expect it--and always will. Now it's all systems go for this 3rd appeal. It's time to get real and face reality. I either walk out of court a free man or it's really over for me. That's how it is. They won't free me on parole until I am on a walker. They can let out sex killers and tag Islamic terrorists but they refuse to let me have a chance. So it's time to wake up and for my supporters to get their voices heard for me, please. We need to expose this evil Penal System for not allowing me a chance.
Bear in mind I have not committed a serious offence since 2000. I am now 11 years over my tariff. I am now being unlawfully detained, with no access to progression or courses--THAT is illegal, as was recently ruled by the Court of Human Rights. IPP prisoners must be allowed access to courses to progress. I am being denied this.
"They can let out sex killers and tag
Islamic terrorists but they refuse
to let me have a chance."
- Charlie Bronson
The fact is my life, my world, has been cages and boxes for years and years and years, and the truth is that they would like me to be forgotten and die an old man to make an example of me. I am shortly due a move back to Woodhilll. Obviously, I am excited at being moved out of this concrete coffin, but it is a move that is badly planned, and I believe it's being done in the hope that I will kick off. Woodhill to me has a bad history. I've taken a hostage there, attacked the No. 1 governor, taken over the wing and even had a rumble with an Alsatian. I've had so much trouble there, and it's where they will be sending me back to progress! Have I not earned better than that? But sadly, that's how it worked, test after test, hurdle after hurdle, stitch-up after stitch-up. It pisses me off. Even the screws here say it's a crazy move and the governor here agrees it's a silly move. It's as if they want me to fuck up. It's like sending me back to Broadmoor and expecting me to forget the treatment they gave me there. How do you forget torture? It's ok for the authorities to keep going on about the past, but as soon as I do it, I'm bitter and hateful.
I see the news every single day. Kids getting hurt and killed and chopped up. Look at the Woolwich incident...a soldier getting his head cut off by two Muslim nutters. The world's gone nuts, and it's Charlie in a coffin who's considered too dangerous to walk our streets! It seems to me that the worse your crime is today, and particularly if you're a foreigner or a Muslim, this government are too scared to come down hard on them. So how am I considered so dangerous they are allowed to suck my life away? Why can't I be tagged and allowed a chance? My days of violence and crime ended well over a decade ago. I could make a good living out of my art. I would be one of the first to help the youth of today from turning to a life of crime. How can I be so bad that I cannot be let out? What am I going to do that's so bad? Eat your kids? Or chop up your granny for a curry? This government is letting killers out every day. Some have served HALF my time. Some kill again. They're letting out pedophiles, rapists and terrorists, they are out there living amongst you good people.
I can't win any longer. They will do everything in their power to fuck me up. I know this. Only through the Appeal Court can I get real justice (the only reason I am moving from Wakefield is because they can no longer legally justify holding me here without progression). They'd love me to kick off at Woodhill and come back so they can say 'we told you so!'
Well, it's not gonna happen. I've come too far to fall into their trap. I also owe it to my partner Lorraine, my family and my fantastic supporters to keep up my good behaviour.
I personally do predict a victory this time around. Third time lucky? Well, my legal team are ready so it's on, it will be a good fight. To lose, well, it would then go to the House of Lords, and then on to the European Court of Human Rights. The Bronson fight will never go away. But sadly, it can and will take years. Probably another decade. Sure, I can survive it, but where's the justification for this? Where's my human rights? I've never had any.
Anyway, a massive thanks and my deepest respects to all of you who still believe in me. It means a lot. With your support we can win the appeal and change things around. Just ask yourself one question...why won't they tag me and give me a chance? There's a lot worse than I EVER was in your community on a tag, on parole, on home leave. It's time to crack this case open, because it's just one big piss-take.
20th May 2013
P.S. - It's Charles BRONSON, not Charles Manson!
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The spectacle of Megyn Kelly, with her staccato machine-gun delivery--she always seems to be channeling Jane Curtin's 'Saturday Night Live' impression of Tom Snyder's mom--publicly arguing the ethnicity of a pair of mythic characters the likes of Santa Claus and Jesus was a little like listening to a butthurt 10 year-old explaining how Jar Jar Binks ruined Star Wars, or a pair of Comic Con attendees arguing over who has the best super powers, Superman or Thor. (Or, in this case, the mighty Son-o'-God.)
Coca-Cola variety, and that there's probably far more of Ted Neely than Semite in her fantasy image of Jesus.
Had Kelly's comments been tongue-in-cheek she'd have won points for cleverness, however there wasn't an atom of subtlety or irony about them. Which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Fox News, where the closest approximation of irony are those bizarre moments when Bill O'Reilly pretends to be reasonable. The aggressive witlessness of Kelly's nonsensical jeremiad about Jesus and Santa being white because it "just is," typifies both the network she works for and Kelly's tenure as the most obnoxious of all the obnoxious, sexed-up, big-boobed women at Fox News, next to Gretchen Carlson--and that's up against some pretty stiff competition.
Below is a 1973 Christmas song just for Megyn Kelly, called Santa Claus is a Black Man, from music producer Teddy Vann, sung by his daughter Akim: