Who is The Talking Dog?

The Talking Dog

"Sure, the dog can talk…but does it say anything interesting?"

He ain't The Man's best friend

October 22, 2016, Future Schlock

We'll start with this Gizmodo piece noting the potentially "bleak future" assuming the ever-more-regular event of massive hacks and denial-of-service attacks of intermediate/wholesale internet operators, such as this week's attack on a company called "Dyn" that took down quite a number of popular internet sites.

I note that as recently as today, I myself received notification (presumably as did 46 million other people) of a data breach associated with a company I never heard of called "Modern Business Solutions," which, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, is some kind of "leaky bucket of the internet," that our data seems to be poured into by entities beyond our control.

And breaches of internet security are a significant issue in the current presidential campaign (even today, for example, Wikileaks-- whose very name tells you that the term "internet security" does not mean what you think it means-- released hacked emails purporting to show that the Clinton Foundation paid women less than men for comparable functions [the article, of course, is from an anti-Clinton partisan-- which is fine-- but, drilling down, the alleged "disparity" is relatively small-beer... just sayin']...)

Alrightie then. I'm going to quickly go meta- and give you this broad-based piece from one of my favorite thinkers (that would be John Michael Greer) concerning a recent Pentagon report on future planning (circa twenty years from now), in which JMG observes that the Pentagon seems to "predict" a future that looks remarkably like the present-- as Greer notes, a dubious, if not utterly ridiculous proposition. The piece goes on to make a number of potentially grim predictions (particularly if the normalcy bias that grips our Establishment does not permit sufficient anything but group-think, thereby allowing the antecedents of the grim predictions to fester, and the bad stuff to come true.) But among the observations JMG makes are that American strategic rivals (that would be Russia and China for starters) have every incentive to support what amount to assisting in the marginalizing of American power (for one, they are much more rational-- as compared with American "exceptionalism" making our nation's foreign entanglements less rational if not messianic in comparison), by, among other things, supporting "monkeywrenching" of things like our military infrastructure that is shockingly complex yet not particularly resilient if anything goes wrong (and lots of things go wrong), or even supporting "warband culture"-- easily thought of perhaps in a "mad Max" concept, but more likely to be simply opportunistic thugs (think Yeltsin's Russia) operating in a suddenly more "fluid" environment able to challenge ever weaker state institutions... And these, of course, don't account for affirmative stupidity on our part, such as anyone (both Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence, for example-- though, interestingly not Trumpolini) publicly suggesting that they could implement a no-fly-zone in Syria and thereby potentially start a direct shooting war involving Russia. As our nation's greatest philosopher (that would be Yogi Berra) once said, "Predictions are hard. Especially about the future."

Anyway, as the future rolls toward us... we won't even discuss our absurd dependency on diesel fuel and trucks, or a continually-operating-electric grid, each of which is shockingly vulnerable, be it to failures just from not performing basic maintenance (many of our infrastructure systems--such as the electrical grid and many municipal water systems-- have elements that are well over a century old now), or our dangerous vulnerability to seemingly mundane things like crop failures (say, from drought, whether or not exacerbated by climate change, or disease, whether or not exacerbated by our insistence on dumping unproven GMOs into the environment), or just plain "weather events."

Here's the thing: a certain technology has been perfected. It's just not the technology you think. It's what the man considered the father of modern public relations Edward Bernays (perhaps not coincidentally Sigmund Freud's nephew) called "engineered consent." In this case, that is the widely held belief that all [scientific and technical] progress is not only inevitable but an affirmative good, as if ordained by the Divine. So, that said, as people basically see the strings holding modern life together fraying in front of them, they nonetheless go back into their bubble of talking to each other on mobile phones rather than face-to-face and spending their lives watching electronic images bounce around rather than, oh, living, and... yes, we have seen what our betters in Silicon Valley have done, and it was good.

Well, maybe... but whatever it is seems highly vulnerable, and it is not clear that we are not looking at a "bleak future" by any means... my advice, as usual, is to "grow your own garden"-- I suggest literally-- I for example have raised-bed container with a variety of vegetables on our urban roof and in our back yard, "cultivate" your relations with other people-- loved ones, friends, perhaps neighbors, try to rebuild the civic pride (via churches/synagogues/mosques, or civic clubs or freaking bowling leagues)... in short, try to live the way people did in the 1950's and 60's (preferably without the overt racism, sexism, etc.), but, you know... with a sense of community and grounding. Because I don't enjoy living in a world involving people walking around in their own zombie apolcalypses buried in their electronic apparatuses... I think this world is already lonely and unpleasant... think how much worse it will be when--not if-- those things go dark too, and the basic skills of human interaction (not to mention, human survival)... have not been learned.

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October 20, 2016, Sympathy for the Devil

The "big takeaway" from last night's third (and, thank God, final) Presidential debate of 2016 was, of course, Donald "the Donald" Trump's refusal to agree in advance to abide by the results of the election (presuming, of course, that, please God, he loses); indeed, the Grey Lady's take on it is Mr. Trump has contempt for democracy.

I will just say this: show me the part of the Constitution that obliges Mr. Trump to "personally accept" the results of an election-- indeed, any election (one of the bases for his popularity among a certain set, for example, is his steadfast refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the 2012 election, because, of course, Barack Obama is a Black man). That said, just because he has unlimited contempt for women, and the likely 2016 election winner will be Hillary Clinton,,, where in the Constitution is he required to acknowledge that he lost, concede, say a nice word, recognize that the "people have spoken", or anything like that? I'll tell you where: the same place that requires him to release his tax returns, or that requires him to use traditional code words to "wink wink" over the unfortunate racist/white nationalist/xenophobic/sexist/atavistic streak in an apparently large portion of the electorate, whose imagination Mr. Trump has captured, or that requires him to have the most rudimentary conception of how our constitutional system works (such as his irritating insistence that a single junior senator in the minority party can single-handedly enact major and controversial legislation.) In short-- he is allowed to do these things.

And if the voters-- as reflected in a majority of electoral votes, anyway-- back him-- he's the President. Yes, yes, I get the fact that potentially mobilizing millions of angry and presumably heavily armed people to deny the legitimacy of an American election would be "bad" (and, honestly, Trump's calls for racist thugs to act as "poll watchers" does bother me, though it is not likely to deter me from taking my law degree and my body down to swing state Pennsylvania on Election Day (as it did in '06 and '08) to poll watch for the flawed but serviceable Hillary Clinton.)

Alrightie then. The Establishment has a series of assumptions as to how presidential candidates behave with no particular basis in any written law, or for that matter, in anything other than what can be construed as the secret handshakes of the elites themselves. Yes, we were hoping that as a matter of societal consensus, the civil rights era had locked in certain assumptions and had put at least many aspects of overt bigotry in the rear view mirror... but apparently, they haven't.

Don't get me wrong: Trump-- a man who has not an ounce of anything redeemable in him-- calls Hillary Clinton the devil. She is not: she is problematic, duplicitous, indecisive, evasive... but she is nonetheless a knowledgeable, competent politician,,, and most critically, she does not fancy herself a fascist banana republic dictator, who will likely use the awesome power of the American presidency to play out personal vendettas-- which Trump has not only indicated he will do in his campaign, but it is how he has lived his entire seventy years.

If anything, his campaign-- at a gestalt level-- has been refreshingly honest. He's not hiding how he'd govern. He'd rubber-stamp the most backward, atavistic legislation republican majorities would place in front of him, and he'd play out his personal grudges and vendettas. And, certainly, racial minorities, be they Muslims or Mexicans, or really, anyone not White (and presumably not male)... can expect to be on the receiving end of his vindictiveness.

That said... while it is "a tradition" that the loser-- even, a sore loser as in Trump's case-- "accept" the results of an election... there is no such requirement. Nonetheless, it is at least an aspiration-- one that hopefully, enough of the electorate will recognize to place Mr. Trump's political aspirations, and eventually the man himself, in the dustbin of history, and maybe we can start to heal some of the open sores he has exposed in our social matrix.

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October 19, 2016, And then there were sixty

Each GTMO prisoner release is another victory; the latest is pretty big, as best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been released from Guantanamo to his home country of Mauritania; Andy has more on this happy development for Mr. Slahi. I previously interviewed one of Slahi's attorneys, Nancy Hollander; that interview may be found here.

Slahi's long and quite-literally-tortured tale is laid out in his best-selling book, Guantanamo Diary.

With barely ninety days left in Barack Obama's Administration, there are sixty prisoners left, of whom ten are subject to military commissions, and, if I'm not mistaken, twenty are cleared for release... and thirty more... are not (as confirmed by this Miami Herald assessment). Perhaps most of the twenty "cleared" prisoners can be moved out; it would appear that the military commissions prisoners aren't likely to either ever be released or even have their trials completed. On the commissions front, in an "unusual" (I prefer the term "psychotic") development, a civilian, in this case, a not activated military reservist, also known as a civilian within the United States was arrested, and detained, to force his testimony via teleconference at a Guantanamo military commissions hearing. (h/t/ to Candace.)

This raises more issues than anyone could count (not the least of which is why the military didn't simply place the witness on active duty, and then court-martial him if he refused to testify... particularly given that the military commissions presumably have no authority over a stateside civilian, or indeed, over anyone not charged with violations of the laws of war already within their jurisdiction). Oh well... more blurred lines and all... as I've said many times about all things GTMO, a lot of the abuses and overreach are as much a matter of the powerful simply demonstrating that they can get away with it as anything else. Indeed, not only will there be no public outrage, there may well be cheering, as a sadly not insignificant number of Americans (including majorities in both houses of Congress) beg for a military dictatorship as fast as it can be provided to them. Is it any wonder that inane platitudes like "Make America Great Again" have such resonance among so many?

So... twenty cleared and ten subject to commissions from sixty leaves the thirty currently forever prisoners (including Candace's own client, an Algerian named Saeed Bakhouche). These men are being held pursuant to nebulous "law of war" authority (in many cases, as upheld by United States courts), as "forever" prisoners of a presumably "forever" war against a common noun. Some "forever prisoners" actually took up arms against American or allied forces; the rest (by my reckoning, most of them) were simply wrong place/wrong time schmucks for whom some "guilt by association" angle was invented as an excuse to hold them. And they, like the "cleared" prisoners (as well as the "commissions" prisoners) will remain guests of American hospitality until such time as the United States government decides to release them, or until the day they die.

Prior to the seamless continuity of the Bush/Obama Administration, while there could be forever wars against metaphors (wars on poverty or drugs, for example), only the war against terror added the concept of taking prisoners of war... that is, while there are many-- possibly millions-- of prisoners from the war on drugs, they have, at least notionally, been subject to charge and trial (even as a system hellbent on mass incarceration got what it wanted along the way).

Not so the much smaller set of "war on terror" prisoners, although, of course, many more people than those held at GTMO have been convicted of crimes associated with terrorism, and are duly serving often quite draconian sentences in American penal institutions.

In the great panoply of injustices in the couple of centuries worth of American history, including, oh, slavery (followed by Jim Crow and if you like, the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration), the "trail of tears" and numerous other heinous acts committed against native peoples, the internment of Japanese-Americans during "the good war" of WWII, and so many other events too numerous to count, the mistreatment of Muslim men captured during the "war on terror" (whatever it's called now) is obviously morally irksome (and legally so to those of us who care), but must be kept in broader historical perspective. Still, at least this one is happening in real time, right in front of us, and, while it is not clear what any of us can "do" about it, I, for one, can sure as hell grouse about it.

Anyway... until the last decade and a half, the American government had never publicly professed that it could detain anyone (without charge or trial) forever because never before had one of its metaphorical "wars" been deemed an actual war for legal purposes, such as holding prisoners of war (even as it insists it needn't comply with Geneva Conventions when doing so). As an added bonus, no President before Barack Obama had ever insisted that he could order the murder of any person, regardless of where on Earth they may be found (i.e., whether or not in an actual combat zone), just because a drone provided the technology to do it.

And so... here we are. GTMO is by no means the entirety of what we are up against, as the Orwellian walls of authoritarianism "to keep us safe[tm]" keep closing in on us (and, as noted, a huge portion of the American public wants its fascism... good and hard.) That said, fortunately at least for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, his days under this particular American jackboot have just come to an end.

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October 13, 2016, Trump Called (Deaf "Celebrity Apprentice" Contestant) Marlee Matlin "Retarded"

Seriously. At least, thus sayeth three staffers.

Look: Mr. Trump is a guy who hates babies; has publicly made fun of the disabled as it is. A lawyer for the Grey Lady puts it best by observing that The Donald has no reputation to protect in a libel suit he threatened:

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

This all continues to defy parody.

Unfortunately, the joke remains on the American people, insofar as Hilary Clinton remains a dreadful enough candidate for this to continue to be a race. She'll probably win (and Lord knows, I'll do what I can to help make that happen)... but it will be far, far closer than it should be, given Mr. Trump's evidently inconceivably high degree of awfulness (whether at a policy level, at an operational level, and, of course, at a character level.)

Yup: defies parody.

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October 12, 2016, Trump Wanted O.J. For Celebrity Apprentice


We are, and have been, beyond parody.

The next 27 days are going to be... anything but dull.

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October 8, 2016, I didn't get a harumph out of you

It seems a recording of Donald "the Donald" Trump has emerged, showing him making "lewd remarks."

Near as I can tell, the only thing more offensive (about what Mr. Trump said eleven years ago) than what he says (or tweets) on a daily basis is that he used "the P word" (I suppose if there were a recording of the Donald using "the N word," that would be even worse). Got it: that's what American life is, these days. Substance is irrelevant. We don't go more than a micron below the surface of anything. The wrong word was used. The fact that a party that has been seeking the support of racists, xenopohobes, misogynists and other assorted troglodytes since the days of Dick Nixon's "southern strategy" has finally put up its omega candidate-- a candidate that David Duke can full-throatedly endorse-- isn't the issue. No, the daily barrage of verbal (and occasionally, at Trump rallies, physical) assaults (be they on Mexicans, Muslims, women, or any dissenters of any kind) wasn't enough to cause the defections of certain polite Republicans... Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz (who now "withdraws support" from Mr. Trump) ... or from Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who says Trump should step aside... or former Utah governor (and Presidential candidate) Jon Huntsman, who says the same... all I can say is... why now?

I mean, to their credit, leading right-wing Evangelical leaders, apparently, are somewhat offended, but will not withdraw their support from Trump, noting, ostensibly, that "it's about the Supreme Court, stupid." For them, it's never been about "principles," but about "ends justify the means." This, boys and girls, is why the Republican party, despite perennially being out-gunned numerically in voter registrations as well as in polling on many issues of importance, remains in charge of most governor-ships, state legislatures and both houses of Congress. The Republicans have their eyes on the prize: even though they currently have a candidate without an ounce of discipline himself, they, as a party, at least, have the discipline to swallow (as it were) whatever it is he puts out there, and support their candidate because of the big picture.

Democrats and alleged progressives, it seems, just don't. And, IMHO, the results are going to be catastrophic this election cycle.

So I'll say it again. Sure, I'm as offended as anyone about the latest Trump revelations; but they are merely of a piece with everything else the man has said and done in his offensive and rapacious 70-year existence (in my "interview" on 1 April, note everything the Donald said). Aside from his use of "the P word"-- and I swear, that's got to be what this is about-- why is this some kind of inflection point? I'll tell you why: because it isn't.

Hillary's strategy of relying 100% on the Donald offending the electorate has resulted in this being a horse-race-- a horse-race that can, and if she doesn't generate affirmative enthusiasm to increase support from her own base, will-- result in the election of, well... not her. She's not a very good candidate, to be sure. That's really not the issue. I'm usually the last one to go there, but, boys and girls, "it's about the Supreme Court, stupid." And about every right-wing wet-dream program piece of legislation that Republicans can dream of-- a President Donald Trump will hardly be a "check and balance" about that-- it will simply be a right-wing feeding frenzy. Hillary can't seem to even get the words out of her mouth: "Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans have told us that they would rather have Donald Trump appoint judges than Barack Obama, and we have to stop them."

No, the Donald's use of the P-word won't stop them.

Just sayin':

Update: Aside from effectively taking a whole bunch of Wikileaks released Hillary-related-disclosures out of the public's cognizance, for his own part, The Donald says he will "never withdraw."

October 1, 2016, End of an era

I exercise my privilege to write about things of particular interest to me, noting the passing of Oscar Brand at age 96, a singer, song-writer, author, arranger and all-around good guy... and notably, the world's longest running radio host, setting the world record for radio programs with a single host for his show "Folksong Festival", which was on our local public radio station for over seventy years, debuting in December, 1945, seventeen years before I was born.

Rest in peace, Oscar.

September 30, 2016, Good times

We'll start with this semi-hit piece called "The Curious Case of Alicia Machado," she the former Miss Universe from Venezuela whom Hillary Clinton invoked at this week's presidential debate to highlight Donald "The Donald" Trump's generalized contempt toward women, noting that he once referred to Ms. Machado as "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping," evident references to weight gain and Latina heritage. Trump, surprise surprise, has been fighting back, noting that Ms. Machado has "issues," including a purported sex tape (turns out to be true and was evidently a basis for baseballer Bobby Abreu to break up with his then fiancee, Ms. Machado), as well as allegations of wild gangsta' type crimes in Venezuela. The point of the semi-hit piece (as I read it... not as it purports) is the bizarre double-standard of coverage-- the very mainstream-media that created the golem-monster that is Trump in the first place, it seems, is not providing him "fair coverage" on things like Ms. Machado, by sanitizing her very public past. Alrightie then.

Mrs. TD and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We were married five years before Ms. Machado became Miss Universe/Miss Piggy/Miss Housekeeping. And over the weekend, I completed Marathon 45 (at least, I think it's that) in the Rock N Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon (earning a coveted "World Rocker" medal to boot).

Alrightie then... we won't talk about Deutsche Bank...

September 28, 2016, Shalom

The Hebrew word for hello, good bye and peace seems the appropriate notation for the death, at age 93, of Shimon Peres, former Israeli prime minister (often considered the best of Israel's leaders in the technical sense of competent leadership, although he was rarely the most popular), as well as holding a number of cabinet positions, and late in his life, the figure-head president of the State of Israel. Mr. Peres was a prime mover for most of the modern peace initiatives that formed the seemingly never-ending "Israeli Palestinian Peace Process [TM]," but, as the last of the founding generation of the Jewish State, let's just say he believed that Israel's long-term best interests included a long term resolution of its fraught relationship with its Palestinian house-guests (and those located in refugee camps in neighboring Arab states).

In an era of obnoxiously arrogant show-boaters (the likes of Bibi, Dubya, and, God help us, Trump, come to mind), Peres was kind of a bland technocrat-- passionate, to be sure, but never quite making the emotional connection to be really popular, despite, at least in my opinion, being an old-school really effective politician and leader, in a world where fear-mongering, show-boating and playing to the lizard-brain are all, quite sadly, more important it seems.

And now the world will have to go on without him; perhaps events in the Middle East, which is now reeling with outright shooting wars in Syria and Yemen, and extreme tension in Libya, Bahrain, Iraq and elsewhere, have de-emphasized the importance of "Israel-Palestine" in the great geo-strategic sense... but in the minds of many (particularly American Jews... not to mention supporters of Palestinian rights as well)... it's still significant.

Mr. Peres had obviously slowed down with age, but as a moral force... he loomed large. Shalom, Mr. Peres.

September 21, 2016, Now is the Autumn of our Discontent?

Donny Trump, Jr., The Younger Donald (TM) has been on a tear lately , appealing to White supremacists ,and neo-nazis galore, sayeth Media Matters. The latest, comparing a handful of hypothetical Skittles from a bowl containing three poison ones to Syrian refugees, an "analogy" which originated in the Nazi propaganda machine, is, evidently, just the latest in a rather loud and clear appeal to this particular demographic (i.e. White supremeacists and neo-Nazis).

I hearken back to my own post from June, noting the uncanny comparisons between Trump rallies and Nuremberg-style rallies of an Austrian-born dictator of the not too distant past, and the Democrats insistence on running a flawed candidate against him-- one who might well lose to him, unleashing God knows what on the rest of us.

And here we are. And we are left having to support that flawed candidate (even as Hillary Clinton can't even seem to tell the truth about her own medical condition) , because, for a change, the lesser of two evils actually is far less evil than... well... the extreme evil-- that the Republicans have chosen as their standard-bearer.

September 18, 2016, Bombs away

On this, the fifteenth anniversary of the first post of this blog, following a blast in Manhattan's Chelsea section that injured 29 (with a second homemade explosive device found four blocks away from the 23rd Street explosion), which, in turn, came on the heels of an explosion that, thankfully, didn't injure anyone, along the course of a Jersey Shore 5-K race called the "Semper Five" (a fundraiser for Marine Corps related charity)... I ventured into Central Park for the NYC Marathon Tune-Up, an 18-mile footrace, this morning. [BTW, "ISIS" hasn't claimed responsibility for either of those events, though an ISIS "wing" supposedly claims responsibility for stabbing attacks that injured at least nine in a mall in St. Cloud, MN... the stabber was himself killed.]

Yes, the events in Seaside Park, NJ and in Chelsea certainly were reminiscent of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, combining the twin themes of attacking a footrace with a homemade pressure cooker explosive device. And so, one might wonder, why I would knowingly and deliberately set foot in another footrace (at about 5,000 runners, roughly the same size field as in Seaside Park), and in New York's Central Park no less, barely two miles from last night's explosions at the closest point.

I am reminded of events fifteen years ago... thousands of people didn't come to New York (or, more troubling in my view, lived here but still didn't want to run) for that year's NYC Marathon. Nonetheless, I ran it, and it was one of the most life-affirming experiences I ever had. Not out of any particular principles (though the stubbornness that keeps me at distance running despite no talent or willingness to train any harder than the level required to be "near back of pack" is obviously a factor), so much as annoyance at being told that I am supposed to live my life cowering in fear, and that "terrrrrrrrorism" is the defining condition of our existence. Maybe it is, and maybe I'm delusional, but I'll be damned if I buy that. It's fifteen years later; for almost all of them, I have, as a quotidian matter, gone to work about a football field's length away from the World Trade Center, NY Stock Exchange and NY Federal Reserve Bank... I'm well aware another terrorist attack is not only possible, but perhaps even more likely than not, as the World Trade Center has already been attacked twice in my adult working life, once with me working a block from it (the other time I worked in midtown Manhattan, about five miles away).

This sentiment of media-taught-learned-helplessness certainly makes centralized authority very, very happy, indeed. Once people are so afraid of and for their lives that they seriously question whether to even leave their homes, the powerful pretty much can then do whatever they want... put an entire economy on (an extremely profitable for some and extremely detrimental to the overall economy and most people) "war footing," throw out the rule books for things like torture, dungeons, Mafia style hits (okay as long as "a drone" is the means), Orwellian surveillance on every aspect of our lives (no matter how "private"), and so many of the salutary effects on our lives that we have enjoyed since 9-11.

Yes, I fully expect the bombings to be thoroughly investigated, and I trust that our law enforcement personnel will, hopefully sooner rather than later, get to the bottom of these incidents and bring the perpetrator(s) to justice (which, hopefully, will be elucidating as to just what happened, and not involve a special operations team). Despite the toxic water under the bridge, I am still counting on "normalcy"-- that ordinary working stiffs doing their ordinary jobs will get to the bottom of this, and the rest of us don't have to cower helplessly. I recognize the potential for more bad things to happen prior to the resolution of these investigations... best call it "inevitability."

It's a dangerous world; made unnecessarily more dangerous by the actions of our own government (which, just yesterday, "mistakenly" killed over 60 Syrian military personnel, thereby allowing ISIS forces, at least temporarily to take the position held by the Syrian position bombed by American led forces), but even if the American Empire were as benificent as our propaganda and fragile-national-ego insists that it is, it would still be a dangerous world, and this would be a dangerous country, which, thanks to our bizarre worship of both firearms and psychotrophic drugs, hasa murder rate that is just about the highest in the developed world (Mexico's, Turkey's and Estonia's are a bit higher, if you're willing to count them as our peers).

What of it? Damned if I know. All I can say to the rest of you, is go live your lives. Don't buy into the fear-mongering, both subtle and not subtle, that has come to dominate public discourse. [Yes, I recognize the irony of concluding this post in the imperative tense...]

Update: (9-19-16) Rather quickly, after an evening that included the discovery (and then "uncontrolled detonation") of an explosive device at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ, a man from that city has been identified as a suspect in the Chelsea bombings. Significance? To be determined...

September 17, 2016, Who's afraid of... time marching on?

In the brief interregnum between 9-11+15 and the 15th anniversary of this blog (tomorrow, actually... not sure what, if anything, I'm going to say on the subject) we are presented with the inevitability of the march of time with the loss of one of the greats of American art, the playwright Edward Albee. Winner of the Tony and the Pulitzer, some of his best known works include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The American Dream, and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Like other geniuses of the modern era, Beckett and Ionesco (or O'Neill and Miller), Mr. Albee generally didn't write plays that would leave one with a "feel good" escapist experience; quite the contrary: he explored existential angst, in his case, often exploring the deep dark secrets of the materially affluent. Given how disturbing his work was, I can't count myself as a "fan," but in an era of ever more reality-t.v.-style-crap (which, of course, has now swallowed up the gestalt in the ascendancy of you-know-who), a dose of actual reality is always welcome.

Mr. Albee's passing, at 88, is just another marking of time. We ignore him-- and the stark (as it were) lessons that reality is trying to teach us-- at our peril. R.I.P., Mr. Albee.

September 11, 2016, 15 years on

Alright, alright. I'll quickly give you this Daily News piece noting that the Trump theme of "never give a sucker an even break" applies to the supposed reason that he received $150,000 in state funds following 9-11 for "business loss" (which may actually have been legitimate business loss at the time) which, being the compulsive liar that he is, he insisted on the campaign trail was for "charitable purposes" of some kind... and like virtually everything purportedly "good" that Mr. Trump says he did... the evidence seems scant. And so I can only say... damn it... even on 9-11 + XV, that bastard has stolen the spotlight. And worse, unlike that bastard, who was almost certainly in Florida on 9-11-01, I was actually at work a block north of the World Trade Center, with a front row seat from my 16th floor office (an office so close that I lost my job because the building was put out of commission for months)...

What I actually wanted to talk about was the broader implication of that day. The consensus is that the September 11th attacks (whatever their origins) killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000. In response to those attacks, which were brazen to be sure, the United States mobilized a massive war effort (once described as "the Global War on Terror"), first in Afghanistan (and conjointly, in Pakistan) and then in Iraq (the latter with no established connection to the 9-11 events, the former in harboring the perpetrators rather than in orchestrating the attacks themselves), which, by one published report, resulted in at least 1.3 million deaths in those countries (another suggestion is that the GWOT caused at least 4 million deaths, all of Muslims).

Even if the American response to 9-11 -- the GWOT-- was not itself per se overkill (it even got more American military personnel killed than were victims of 9-11), given just the cost in American blood and treasure, given that at least some (such as those noted in this WaPo piece) insist that the world is now more vulnerable to "the jihadist threat" than it was 15 years ago... , we can only say wtf? And so, in plain old human terms, we engaged in a vast enterprise that resulted in the deaths of many more people than were lost on Sept. 11th itself (and perhaps hundreds of times as many, although, as with so much, non-American, let alone non-White, lives don't seem to register here)... and it seems, there is a consensus that this effort has not made us particularly "safer."

So where are we now? As I write this, preparations are in their final stages for the usual annual memorial ceremony, where I'm pretty sure the names of the only people that matter, will be publicly read out, usually by surviving spouses, children, parents or other loved ones, in a rather poignant and moving ceremony, that, were it the sole response to the 9-11 events, would actually be remarkably human (and indeed, beautiful, as is the 9-11 memorial, all things told.) Naturally, the victims of that awful day are, rather than used to inspire us to something better (such as invoking the selfless spirit of the hundreds of first responders who gave their lives that day trying to save others or the heroic passengers of Flight 93), instead, used first to evoke a strong emotional response... and then, with collective reason duly suppressed, the events of 9-11 have been used to do what the powerful really want, which is the unaccountable consolidation of state power (including the spending of untold vast amounts of money).

Virtually all forms of centralized power consolidation have advanced dramatically over the past 15 years, from income inequality (which, admittedly, was increasing anyway), to the government's ability to spy on you (admittedly, assisted by helpful technology in that area), to the government's ability to, without accountability, engage in torture, or outright homicide. As I've noted before, my daughter, who wasn't quite two as of 9-11, has grown up in a world where it is perfectly normal for the American state to arbitrarily hold people in our own Devil's Island, or to (remotely no less) liquidate its enemies extra-judicially even if those enemies are American citizens, or to expect their communications, whether by telephone (assuming anyone even uses their telephones for talking rather than texting or social media) or all computer or wireless communications, to be monitored by the government, and to expect their local police forces to be a heavily armed military occupation force (as well as the spearhead of a system that incarcerates more people than any other country in the history of the world).

To be sure, given how helpful these trends are to the powerful, it is easy enough to imagine that they would have gone forward anyway even without September 11th as an oh so useful catalyst (or that a lesser event might have been seized upon, of course), but we have 9-11 as an oh so helpful focal point. And while the American public was, in the days and weeks following 9-11 looking for its opportunity to achieve meaning in their lives and to do things greater than themselves (i.e., to be our own version of a "greatest generation"), the President more or less told us to go shopping. The point being, that, just as recipients of public benefits are told that they are "entitlements," lest they have the dignity of, if able-bodied, performing meaningful work (even if not directly compensated by wages), or indeed, any dignity at all... the public was told that there was no need for their collective sacrifice... their betters had this one.

And that has more or less been the collective spirit of the last fifteen years, it seems, with no small assist from technologies that allow a veritable zombie apocalypse of oblivious people walking through our streets (or all too often driving) while transfixed by bouncing electronic images on tiny apparatuses in their hands. The spirit of the time has become one of ever more self-obsession, because, of course, we are told in no uncertain terms that there is no we... only individual selfishness (any wonder that "the selfie" has become so significant?). This collective selfishness allows our nation-state to trash the rest of the planet, whether by direct violence unleashed by our military or intelligence services... or by the effects (direct and indirect) of our out-sized economic influence (as well as military, cultural, etc.)

And so, here we are. What 9-11 should have taught us, had we been listening, was a spirit of humility: even the vast might of master-of-the-universe financiers operating 100 stories in the air, or military officers in the Pentagon, would not prevent instant death inflicted by a not-particularly-well-funded but extremely determined small group... because, in the end, nothing can... Not the illusion of "security"... not spending all the money in the world on said security, not trashing the Constitution in the interest of "security"... nothing.

We could have, collectively, had some genuine introspection about, say, why it is necessary for our nation to operate nearly 800 military bases in over 70 countries (and that's just what we know about), or to consume a wildly disproportionate share of the world's resources. Instead, appeals to emotion trumped (as it were) all forms of reason, and, despite significant internal and external opposition, the American war machine went into full speed, and we have been "at war" for... the last fifteen years, with no foreseeable end.

All I can do at this point is, as I've tried to do these last fifteen years, is try to lead by example from behind metaphorically... or something... or at least make suggestions... as to how to get through an ever more fraught world, in which, if trends continue, I see nothing particularly good coming down the pike. But this is on a collective scale... individuals can, and do, still make differences. For one thing, we can remember the spirit of Richard Pearlman, a volunteer paramedic who perished after running into the WTC on 9-11, even though it wasn't his job... and we can use that as a point of inspiration. His sense of service and volunteerism. Or of Abraham Zelmanowitz, who stayed behind with a paraplegic friend Ed Beyea on the 27th floor of the WTC, rather than save himself and leave his friend to his fate. Lessons of the ultimate heroism-- quiet service, not violent revenge. Neither man wore a uniform... but both were heroes.

And Americans wanted inspiration from their heroic spirit... and instead, for the last fifteen years, we have gotten military flyovers at football games and the ever-more-common presence of military personnel in combat fatigues... as the new normal. Well, it ain't normal. I want normal. I'm begging for normal. A normal of the aspirations of this country, and of our species. An aspiration of the better, the beautiful... the heroic. That means ordinariness... no perpetual war, no internal military occupation and Orwellian oversight... just ordinary.

If that means forgetting 9-11-- the heroes and the killers alike-- then I say we forget it. I can live with that. People have died tragically before and since; indeed, our homicide rate reflects the murders of several times the 9-11 toll every year before and since. But anything that results in a supposed justification for being at war with the entire planet, for torture, for Orwellian surveillance, for murder-by-drone, and for the countless other bad things that have happened since 9-11... is best forgotten.

Not to worry... the powerful won't let us. But we do have a choice: we can turn off our emotional response to the jingoism (including the xenophobia), and realize that, as residents of this nation and this planet, we're all in this together (even if we don't think so), and behave accordingly. That, and start growing (and cooking) your own food, making sure you get enough exercise, try to minimize your involvement with the medical industrial complex, and, ideally, minimize your "consumption" of media, and just go outside and smell the flowers... seriously. Improve yourself... not out of selfishness or narcissism but out of the complete opposite... and... with luck, fifteen years from now 9-11 will be a tragedy to be sure, but not one that has resulted in the complete hijacking (as it were) of our entire existence.

September 10, 2016, Erev 9-11-XV Pot Pourri

Item: Right here in invariably-tolerant-Brooklyn [TM], a 32-year old woman with the all-American name of Emirjeta Xhelili decided to accost, attack and assault two hijab-wearing women pushing baby strollers, including nearly toppling over a stroller carrying a 15-month old baby, suggesting strongly that they get ... out of America. Yes Ms. Xhelili is a proud Trump supporter, but... you know...

Perhaps Ms. Xhelili is in that "basket of deplorables" to which Hillary Clinton attributes half of Trump supporters (the other half being people "just looking for change.") Name calling... good strategy. Calling your opponents xenophobic racists really worked well with that Brexit thing, IIRC... Oh, yeah... To be fair, leading Democrats do wonder just why Hillary can't pull away from Clarabell Bozo Donald Trump.

Item: One of the President's hometown newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, treats us to an op-ed piece called "Why Obamacare Failed." It suggests a death-by-a-thousand-cuts problem (the law is psychotically complicated) and, as wonks these days do, fails to recognize that the problem is quite fundamental: the existence of "health insurance" for anything except catastrophe (the usual reason we have insurance) as the problem in the first place, and the fact that the only viable system to replace our existing dysfunctional order will be four simple letters (spelled "cash"), and that complexity is the problem, and not the solution.

Item: The Grey Lady does a number of interesting things in this semi-hit-piece called "The Curious Case of Susan Estrich" (which at least appears to be written by a woman... at least...) Ms. Estrich was, famously, the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review (sadly too early to make it a Presidential credential, Barack), the first female Presidential campaign director (for Mike Dukakis), a staunch supporter of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing kerfuffle, and, yada yada yada, a long-time Fox News talking head and eventual friend and defender (literally... as in defense attorney) of embattled former Fox News honcho Roger Ailes. Somehow, it seems, Ms. Estrich, as a supposedly pioneering feminist, is not permitted to have asshole friends, or even asshole legal clients. But the piece gives itself away, by observing that when a partner at Ms. Estrich's own law firm took on Bill Cosby as a client, he (suppose it was a he) took on far less guff than Ms. Estrich for representing Ailes. Got it... No double-standards here, eh Grey Lady?

And. well... I could go on and on I guess. but... Item: what 9-11 (or even Erev 9-11) could possibly go on without Mr. 9-11 himself, America's Ex-Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Rudy, evidently, came unglued, and the old prosecutor cracked under questioning by Chris Matthews concerning the Donald's Birtherism.

Good times. Happy Erev 9-11 Everyone!!!

September 3, 2016, Nothing to it

Such is the conclusion of the invariably sober Kevin Drum concerning the latest FBI revelations associated with "Hillary's damned emails." He does a thorough review, and concludes that it is as close to an exoneration of HRC and her handling of her emails as one will see anywhere. And yet, she is just such a terrible campaigner, that she just can't spit out words similar to:

"Look, I readily admit that 'best practices' were not followed, and in hindsight, certainly should have been, but there is a huge chasm between not handling your electronic communications in the most perfect state of the art way and impropriety let alone, criminality, and the FBI and Justice and State Departments have so concluded, in their conclusion that there was no basis for prosecution. To quote the Republicans following the 2000 election of George W. Bush: GET OVER IT."

Nonetheless... her "untrustworthy" ratings remain high... and the Donald, despite not paying his own campaign staff, is improving in the polls.

To be fair, yes, I believe the Presidential election is pretty much a kabuki for the rubes... nothing much will change for the better or otherwise depending on which of the two vetted by the Central Committee major party candidates ends up winning the presidency... nonetheless, in the "character" department, Mr. Trump is just in a league (of awfulness) by himself... so, I'd like to pretend, more or less, that this sort of thing matters, because it helps me sleep better.

Anyway... where does this all take us? Darned if I know. There is, of course, research on the proposition that when belief and facts collide... bet on beliefs... A deeper discussion of this phenomenon, in the realm of the political is contained in my own interview with George Lakoff.

I will just say that in my recent foray in the last couple of days through the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania (ok... OH, as PA was almost entirely on interstates)... we saw perhaps half a dozen Trump signs and not a single one for Hillary... a shocking lack of enthusiasm all around, this close to an election and I must say, pretty unprecedented in my recent experience. It seems that, to their credit, a slice of the American public has come to the conclusion that with this "election"... there might just be... nothing to it.

Update (9/4/16): Even the right-wing Telegraph reminds us that Calling Trump Names Won't Stop Him Becoming U.S. President. Just sayin'.

The Story of
the talking dog:

Two race horses have just been worked out on the practice track, and are being led back into the stable.

After the stable boy leads them into their stalls, the first race horse tells the second, "Hey, did you notice something odd about that guy?  I don't know, he just doesn't seem right to me".

The second race horse responds, "No, he's just like all the other stable boys, and the grooms, and the trainers, and the jockeys – just another short, smelly guy with a bad attitude, 'Push, push, push, run harder…We don't care if you break down, just move it, eat this crap, and get back to your stall".

The first race horse says, "Yeah, I know what you mean!  This game is just a big rat race, and I'm really tired of it."
A stable dog has been watching the two of them talk, and he can't contain himself.

"Fellas", he says.  "I don't believe this!  You guys are RACEHORSES.  I don't care what they say about lions, YOU GUYS are the kings of the animal world!  You get the best digs, you get the best food, you get the best health care, and when you run and win, you get roses and universal adulation.  Even when you lose, people still think you're great and give you sugar cubes.  And if you have a great career, you get put out to stud, and have an unimaginable blast better than anything Hugh Hefner ever imagined.  Even if you're not in demand as a stud, you still get put out to pasture, which is a mighty fine way to spend your life, if you ask me.  I mean, you guys just don't appreciate how good you have it!"

To which, the first race horse turns to the second race horse and says, "Would you look at this!   A talking dog!"

Your comments are welcome at:  thetalkingdog@thetalkingdog.com

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