The Wrong Prince Died

Prince is dead, and Erik Prince is running around Europe and Africa, trying to earn whatever blood money he can. He even tried to make and sell his own ground attack plane from converted crop dusters. https://theintercept.com/2016/04/11/blackwater-founder-erik-prince-drive-to-build-private-air-force/ Complete, they would sell for 7 or 8 million. they would be capable of carrying IR pods for targeting artillery and air to ground missiles for close air support of ground forces. In short, he was trying to build a build an A-10 on the cheap for use in third world countries whose budgets can’t quite support purpose built ground attack aircraft. But at that price point, it’s only barely cheaper than the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano which is a purpose built ground attack aircraft from Brazil, and that aircraft has been produced by the hundreds and is in use by dozens of countries including the US. The only people who should even consider buying the one of Erik Prince’s bootleg bombers are people to whom the international arms market is closed, i.e. mercenaries and terrorists.

In a more recent development, Erik Prince is now under investigation for money laundering. Prince in the Hot Seat hopefully those charges will be expanded to include his violations of arms control laws.

It’s not clear to me why a person who is still rich despite having had to sell off his stake in Blackwater (now Academi) in the wake of the scandal caused by its massacre of unarmed civilians in Iraq, keeps coming back to the idea of being some kind of mercenary warlord. Evidently, he hasn’t been burned enough, or there still exist people so dazzled by his line of patter and military record that they cannot see him for the modern day privateer that he is. Evidently in Erik Prince’s mind, Colonel Kurtz was the hero of Apocalypse Now.

 

Protecting Our Children From Homocidal Space Unicorns!


Credit for image goes to Slovene band “Unicorns on Fire”. Thank you for being willing to depict trans people in their natural form despite their terrifying Space Gestapos!

Susan Wright, Blood Red State:
North Carolina Under Attack From the Left For Passage of House Bill 2

CONTENT WARNING: Transphobia… also sarcasm. Metric buttloads of sarcasm.

It’s been awhile since I’ve penned a post for this old site and it’s not only been because of the schedule demands of being a teacher, but also because of the cold march of time.

As bitter old white people complacent in their growing resistance to growing the fuck up are often fond of saying, becoming more conservative is simply a “natural” part of getting older. And now that I’ve gotten out of the echo-chamber SJW loony lefty pit for awhile, I’ve finally come to realize how true that statement is.

I mean, some people might instead note more and more the designed oppression and the reuse of ancient political appeals to fear as a call to political arms, but that’s for like… people who try and stuff and that sounds exhausting. Much better to avoid such old hyperbolic shorters as:

Shorter (or the last port before Jungle):

  • Oh my fucking God, liberals, it’s like we can’t even ban some of you from taking a shit anymore without being labeled as “bigots” and “transphobes”. Intolerance, much?

But that’s the old me.
Read the rest of this entry »

 

Because I Love You, But also Because I’m Not Getting any Sleep

I have collected two weeks worth of half-written blog posts as an exciting goulash of important issues worthy of further discussion, addressed in a half assed manner because I can barely get my shit together I am experiencing technical difficulties. Someday I will look back on this portion of my life, laugh nervously and change the subject.

half written blog post number 1: links about the Bundys and the Malheur wildlife refuge occupation:
So this is a good essay and great reporting written by an author disposed to be sympathetic to the occupiers, but best of all written with both skepticism and a far more thorough understanding of western history, Mormon history and law than possessed by all of the occupiers put together. If you want an introduction to the context that was unreported by more mainstream outlets, and of which most of the actual occupiers were largely ignorant, you can find it here.

The American Lands Council leads the charge for the privatization of federal lands. High country news has written about them in these articles:
The hidden connections of the sagebrush insurgency
and
The surprising history of the Malheur wildlife refuge
and finally
A History of the Sagebrush Rebellion

next post
A meditation on the assholes in our midst:
Over on Lawyers Guns and Money, there was a post on how the global temperature is 2 degrees C above average, and how that represents a huge climatic tipping point. Lawyers Guns and Money Since we have passed it, we get all most of the sea level rise, ice cap melting major climate shift crap that climate scientists have been warning us about for decades. Which is a bummer. If human civilization is to survive in a recognizable form, we are going to have to start taking climate change seriously. But the most interesting thing about that thread, was not predictions of possible effects, viable alternative energy solutions, geoengineering or anything interesting or constructive. It was one commenter’s personal crusade against the consumption of meat. It was a crusade, in that he was mostly in it for religious reasons, he didn’t particularly care about making a case to the unconvinced, he was showing off for the true believers in the “confrontational vegan” choir loft. This character makes one or two good points in the most intentionally confrontational way and completely loses his shit when people disagree with his arguments. I mean, he’s not wrong, the way Americans eat meat really is a perfect storm of terrible policy, terrible conditions for livestock, terrible conditions for workers and terrible use of agricultural production capacity. If humans calmly stopped eating meat as of 11:00 we’d have a hard time realizing the so called advantages of meatless world for years. Meat packing workers would be out of their (admittedly exploitative) jobs, but they wouldn’t automatically get hired to work in an artichoke packing plant. rats and coyotes would gorge themselves on billions of livestock carcasses, we’d get to see up close and personal what a “plague of flies” really looks like. Some island communities would face immediate starvation due to the lack of food other than fish. Here in Wisconsin, the unhunted and newly unhuntable deer population would explode and it would be decades before the predator population could come anywhere near to controlling them. Until then, farmers would have to put up 10′ and 15′ fences to have any crops to harvest in the fall, and every vehicle bigger than a skateboard would need massive brush guards to protect against collision with deer, wild turkey, and any surviving feral livestock. But to be honest, that’s not the way a global embrace of the vegan lifestyle would work. It wouldn’t work that way because it won’t happen at freaking all. Look how hard it is to simply put an end to whaling. We can’t even get Iceland and Japan to stop killing creatures that are arguably sentient with human level intelligence for food. Simply asserting that the global meat industry is harmful, is brutal to workers and is an environmental disaster and accusing anyone who disagrees with those facts is a conservative, an animal torture enthusiast and a terrible human being isn’t a very convincing argument, unless the audience is already chock full of vegans.

I am going to go ahead and admit that commenter is correct, the meat industry is horrible to livestock and workers and wastes capacity that could be used to feed actual human beings instead. And it would be more efficient to satisfy our needs for protein by using soy or insects like termites. But to the extent that we moderate or eliminate our consumption of meat and beef in particular, we can together take a big step in slowing down the coming shitstorm. And maybe meat is something you feel like you can’t live without. But if we sit down and make an inventory of things we can each personally change in our lives to slow down global warming, now might be a good time to start. For that matter now is a good time to start most any positive change.

But I notice that people tend to have the default assumptions and customs and appetites of the culture which produces them. Forward thinking people (or liberals or progressives) tend not to have “enlightened” opinions on more than a handful of their own cultures, customs, and attitudes. Thus we get Berniebros who are excited about income inequality but hostile on topics like Black Lives Matter, or the sexism of some of the civil rights protesters in the 1960s. Some paragon out of time might have the most enlightened progressive take on every single issue facing humanity, but that person would have a hell of a time communicating with the rest of us especially if they spent all their time criticizing their audience as opposed to those people that are entirely hostile to the progressive agenda. And we ourselves should occasionally take the time to consider the words of the occasional obnoxious confrontational troll who tells us we are doing it all wrong. Are they telling us something about ourselves? The one honest thing about a troll is that it doesn’t care about protecting the feelings of it’s victims. It’s hard and draining work to filter out nuggets of wisdom from attacks and abuse, so I don’t blame anyone one bit if they don’t think it’s worth the effort most of the time. But sometimes when I am bored or need a distraction it can be a source of insight to at least try to find valid criticisms in attacks from trolls.

Post 3: Trumps wall
I have to decided to collect and expand on some comments I made at LGM regarding Trump’s wall on this thread The hugest classiest wall ever.

I think that if Trump is elected, there will be a border wall. I also think that the project will collapse under the weight of being an idiotic idea designed by incompetents and constructed in an unsafe manner by corrupt and mobbed up contractors employing undocumented workers at rates below the minimum wage using substandard materials. The 100 or so miles of wall actually constructed will be an F-35 scale economic disaster, an inconvenient eyesore, a hazard to navigation, an attractive nuisance, and a monument to the stupidity of humankind.

As one commenter noted a straight up wall is a really expensive way to control a border when most of the border is uninhabited desert. A more economical idea would be a well monitored and patrolled exclusion zone a few miles wide where any unauthorized person could be detained. Controlling a border is a stupid way to fight illegal immigration because most illegal immigrants in the US do it by overstaying their visas.

So, Like every Trump project ever, the concept is flawed, not to say idiotic. The thought of building a titanic wall along the entire 2000 mile long US Mexico border when we have millions of miles of roads and bridges that could actually use some infrastructure spending is infuriating. The design of such a monstrosity will be undertaken by a firm with not even a memory of integrity, because those kind of firms wouldn’t want anything to do with a surefire disaster. So the the design will be undertaken by grifters who will pay the fewest number of discount bin civil engineers they can get away with, virtually guaranteeing that the design will be flawed from the outset.

It will be the hugest classiest border wall ever. Taking inspiration from such notable historical walls as The Berlin Wall, The Great Wall of China, The Maginot Line and Some Wall Designed by Liberace’s Decorator in a Particularly Late Baroque Mood and Built by Some Dude With No Artistic Talent But a Couple Megatons of Glitter, Gold Paint and Sequins to Use Up, the Trump wall will forever redefine corrupt, tasteless, incompetent, decadent, excess.

 

Ranking the Rankest of the Ranks

Republicans in Disarray!

Here I rank the Replicant Republican front runners in the order of their likelihood to start a war. This ranking is graded on their likelihood of getting elected, or more to the point capturing the nomination, and subsequently getting beaten like a pinata in the general, but who knows, Hillary could choke on a pretzel at a campaign event in late October.

Trump refuses to be bound by past traditions! by outmoded ways of thought! by outdated and crippling notions of comity, fair play, factual accuracy, or morality. Trump is the Republican triumph of the will. He means to win at all or any cost as long as he doesn’t have to pay it. He’d start the hugest classiest world war ever, about a minute and a half after Putin makes a joke about a bad toupee.

Ted Cruz is at the intersection of tremendous self regard and dominionist fantasy. He directly appeals to the “let’s turn America into a theocracy and the middle east into a glowing crater” crowd. Like they used to say about Goldwater, “In your guts you know he’s nuts”.

Rubio is the standard bearer of Establishment Republican goals e.g. continued looting of the treasury by rich people, continued bellicose interfering foreign policy, and continuing to sell out the rights of women and Muslims to pander to the evangelical right wing. “Sadly”, it’s not selling. Republican primary voters like the gravy of racism and nativism, but aren’t particularly excited by the mashed potatoes of the establishment Republican policy goals. The super Tuesday results are one or two states eating the actual meal trying to set a good example while the rest of the states have a gravy chugging contest. Rubio would start world war three because one of his creditors tells him to. Strangely, he’d do it by invading Cuba, maybe even at the Bay of Pigs.

 

The Weak Tea Rebellion

In the ongoing shit show that is the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the last four holdouts have livestreamed the final hours of their quixotic pointless and boneheaded quest to light off the second American revolution. It was more pathetic than I ever thought possible. Nevada legislator and gun rights calendar model Michele Fiore tried her level best to interfere with the FBI negotiations, engaging in a lengthy phone conversation with the occupiers and offering to “lead them to safety”, I assume “safety” meaning “towards the news cameras in the best possible lighting”. Noted televangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s more political son, has also volunteered to cover himself in publicity by negotiating with the occupiers. But in the best news I’ve heard in days, Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher, bigot and tax cheat that inspired this whole fiasco has been arrested in the Portland airport where he was on his way to join up with the remaining occupiers. He is being charged offenses related to both the current standoff and the one at his ranch last year. source: http://www.ktvz.com/news/first-look-the-latest-on-day-40-of-malheur-refuge-occupation/37923590

For a deliberately ignorant and boneheaded review of the occupation, you could turn to Kimberly Fletcher at “The Blaze”
I mean seriously:

I find it interesting that the occupiers of the refuge were labeled as militants while the occupiers of Wall Street were simply “protestors.”

I will spell it out for her in small words. The Occupy movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement are unarmed and want reform and accountability. That makes them nonviolent protesters. The boneheads in Malheur are armed to the teeth and talking about coups, and revolution. That makes them militants. It the weapons and embrace of military rhetoric and tactics that makes them “militants”. They are militants because they self identify as a militia.

Yesterday I realized that this movement could be compared to the Luddite revolts of the early 1800s. There, skilled weavers and spinners revolted against factories and factory owners whose output meant that the craft these professionals used to feed their families was effectively worthless, and without income they faced eviction and starvation. Ranchers and their political allies had depended on BLM policies that ignored any kind of environmental considerations for the land which it leased out to ranchers, miners and other extraction industries. I think the “new” (most of which date back to the 1970s) environmental rules, while more burdensome than the previous BLM policy of “feh, whatever”, wouldn’t even be a big deal if there hadn’t been 40+ years of free trade agreements to accompany them. I seriously doubt many ranchers would care if they could only run X number of cattle on their allotment if that X number gave them anything like the return they used to be able to get before they had to compete with beef from South America. Even so, “the government” and “the BLM” are convenient scapegoats for every factor that has made ranching less powerful politically and less profitable in places where it has traditionally been the largest industry.

Let’s remember that “ranchers” are being used as a proxy for every person or company that wants to get its hands on free government land. Despite being relatively big deals at the local level, there really isn’t enough money in ranching to get the kind of legislative support they receive. That money comes from extraction industries like mining and oil drillers and fracking companies, that stand to make billions if they can get the feds to give up its ownership of millions of acres of western land. It would not surprise me if some people hang on to unprofitable ranches solely for the value of the minerals and water beneath the ground in anticipation of the day when a republican administration lets them buy the land for pennies on the dollar. The ranchers are only the most photogenic of the groups that want to hoover up federal land, mining and other extraction industries don’t get the same kind of nostalgic preferential treatment from the public.

 

How do you like me now?

As we look to the results in New Hampshire, I can’t help but be reminded of something:

“The Jeb[!] 2016 campaign has never made Iowa a centerpiece to winning the nomination. We have long viewed Iowa as just one of 56 contests,” it reads, adding, “The Granite State [of New Hampshire] has a much better track record in selecting the Republican nominee.”

This is clearly a case of “Sadly, No!” not being appropriate.

 

Rarely means… whatever the hell you want it to mean

So — either you need to win the Iowa caucuses or you don’t. But as Steve M. writes, the Jeb!® campaign is cranking it up to 11 12 (fuck yeah!):

In a memo Bush’s top advisers sent this morning to supporters and prominent donors, which was obtained by ABC News after first being reported by Politico, the campaign downplayed the Iowa caucuses because the winners rarely go on to win the nomination.

So what does rarely mean? Since 1976, there have been 7 contested caucuses. And the winners were:

  • 1976: Gerald Ford+ (45%) and Ronald Reagan (43%)
  • 1980: George H. W. Bush (32%), Ronald Reagan+ (30%)
  • 1988: Bob Dole (37%), Pat Robertson (25%), George H. W. Bush+ (19%)
  • 1996: Bob Dole+ (26%), Pat Buchanan (23%)
  • 2000: George W. Bush+ (41%), Steve Forbes (31%)
  • 2008: Mike Huckabee (34%), Mitt Romney (25%), Fred Thompson (13%), John McCain+ (13%)
  • 2012: Rick Santorum (25%), Mitt Romney+ (25%)
  • So it would appear that rarely means 4 out 7 times (if you count the Santorum-Mittens tie as a co-win). And of the remaining 3, one featured a 2% difference between the winner of the caucus and the eventual winner. What seems more important though is the question: How many times has a candidate who losed it up* by finishing 6th with 2.8%** of the vote go on to win? Someone should do the research on that one.

    * This is not proper English — or proper anything really.
    ** Seriously you guys, Jeb!® finished 6th behind Ben Carson and Rand Paul.

     

    My theory that I have follows the lines I am about to relate

    Again something along the lines of “arguably true but shouldn’t the examples given support the theory?” Over at The Huffington Post, Jay Newton-Small asserts:

    The GOP’s Biggest Problem: Women

    So leaving aside the many other problems of the GOP, what have we got?

    As Trump heads into Iowa and New Hampshire leading in the polls and looking likely to be the nominee, he risks doing permanent damage for Republicans with the largest of voting demographic groups: women.

    Riiiiight, permanent damage. Explain how!

    The only times Republicans have won the White House since Ronald Reagan is when George H. W. Bush and his son appealed to security moms and soccer moms; they still lost the women’s vote but narrowly enough so that their big male turnouts won the day.

    So again as was the case with Iowa, we have a “the only time except for those other times that it also happened I  noticed variable x had some value or another.” Which is great if you’re a guest contributor on Fox & Friends, less so otherwise. The “only times” in this case number 3 out of a total of 7 — seems we’re a few data points away from a clear trend. It’s also worth nothing that the smallest gender gap in presidential elections since Reagan was 4% — when Clinton beat Bush in 1992.

    In recent [?] elections the numbers are moving against the GOP. Even with a female running mate, Republican presidential nominee John McCain lost women to Obama by seven percentage points; four years later, Republican challenger Mitt Romney lost them by 12 percentage points.

    Hmm, Sadly, No! Since 1980, the gender gap has been 8-7-6-4-11-10-7-7-10. The 2012 figure is the highest of the last 3 — but lower than 1996, and at the same level than 2000. It seems also rather cruel to state that “even with Sarah Palin” Republicans still lost the women’s vote by 7 percent. Sarah Palin! (Besides, having a female running mate didn’t seem to do wonders for Mondale in 1984: 6% gap).

    It’s also worth noting the use of this statistic:

    A Quinnipiac University survey released December 22 found that among all female voters — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — Trump’s favorable rating was 25 percent, and his unfavorable rating was 68 percent, producing a net measure of minus 43 percentage points.

    One could instead look at a poll of voters rather than favorable ratings, in which case one might find stuff like this:

      • Men prefer Trump over Clinton by a 41% to 31% margin, while women prefer Clinton by a similar 42% to 31% margin. [A 9% gap, in line with results since 1980 -Rasmussen] Or you could dig through this CNN poll (PDF) and find Clinton leading Trump by 4% among women voters.  

    Did I miss something?

    But that wasn’t enough to overcome President Obama’s 20 percentage-point lead among single women, one of the largest voting blocks when they turn out and key to his winning the women’s vote by 12 points.

    You lost me at when.

     

    May I just say I have a new theory about Iowa?

    Over at Vox, Andrew Prokop has a theory about why the Iowa caucuses matter:

    Every winner of a competitive major party presidential nomination contest since 1980 except one started off by winning the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, or both.

    Which would be a great point if you wanted to argue that to eventually win the nomination you have to win one of the first two states. Except that this isn’t what is being argued. Looking at the Vox table, 7 of the 13 nominees won in Iowa. Indeed, starting off like this pretty much gives the game away:

    Like it or not, the Iowa results appear to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be — particularly [!] when considered alongside the impact of fellow early state New Hampshire. 

    Getting to first base is hugely important in determining whether you will score — particularly when considered alongside the impact of getting to second base.

    For extra entertainment, the article is also full of quotes along the lines of “but only x number of people will vote so who cares?”:

    “What is the difference between first place and third place in Iowa going to be, 4,000 votes? It’s like a student body election,” says Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012.

    In the past I have been very unkind* to this type of reasoning. But really: Unless you have a convincing case to make that the people who did vote are not representative of the overall electorate, what’s with the obsession with size? Why not just go all in and remark: “What was the difference between first and second place in Florida in 1992, 537 votes? It’s like a Manhattan co-op board election.”

    Throwing out the 4,000 number out there also does a good job of distracting from the fact that 120,000 voted in the 2012 Republican caucus there. This isn’t a large number (unless you were attacked by a group of dogs holding a total of 120,000 bees in their mouths, in which case: run away) — but let’s look at the 10 states that vote after Iowa: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Arizona, and Wyoming. Half of them don’t even come close to matching Iowa’s total number of votes Colorado came closest with 66,027 in 2012).

    If you want to argue that the Iowa results “appear [!] to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be,” it would make sense to produce such evidence before moving on to asking me this question 3: 

    But why, exactly, does this small-time contest affect the larger race so much?

    Personally, I don’t think war is unforeseeable.

    * Meaning I have been a total asshole.

     

    Smells Like Leadership

    It’s been a long time since Flint Michigan was a prosperous city. At it’s most populous, nearly 200,000 people lived in Flint and 80,000 of them worked for GM. Fifty or sixty years of disinvestment, outsourcing and globalization means that the city barely has 100,000 people of whom only 8,000 are working for GM. That’s why there was a financial crisis in the first place. It’s like Detroit but worse, they are trying to maintain services originally designed for a city twice as large, on a tax base that has been shattered by white flight, disinvestment and relentless hostility towards the well paid union jobs that built the city in the first place. Enter Rick Snyder. Republican governor of the state of Michigan. His signature piece of legislation was a “Emergency Financial Manager” law that allowed him to dismiss the democratically elected municipal government of any local government unit when “probable financial stress” was found and appoint an Emergency Manager. This law was fully and completely rejected by a referendum of the voters in Michigan. Subsequently the bill was re-introduced and passed in a form that was not subject to voter referendum. In practice what this has been is a usurpation of local control, and a disaster for local residents. For a more in depth breakdown I recommend this article: Republicans Trashed Democracy in Michigan. Now They Want To Trash It in Your State, Too. Remember the Detroit water crisis? Where the city of Detroit had almost two hundred million dollars of unpaid water bills outstanding? The reason that suddenly became an emergency instead of an ongoing crisis, is that the Emergency Manager thought it would be a good idea to privatize the water utility and they couldn’t even think about selling an asset with a 175 million dollars of uncollected and frankly uncollectable bills. Detroit Shuts Off Water To Thousands Of Broke Residents The city of Flint got their water from Detroit. The city of Detroit has been raising their water prices in an effort to balance their books. The City of Flint was building a pipeline of their to draw water from Lake Huron in order to not have to buy the suddenly more expensive Detroit water. Until the pipeline was complete, the city of Flint had the option to pay more for water from Detroit, or use the water from the Flint River. The same Flint River that was too corrosive for GM to use for washing auto parts: General Motors shutting off Flint River water at engine plant over corrosion worries. That’s what the Emergency Manager of the city of Flint and Governor Rick Snyder thought was a better choice as revealed in the FOIA requests quoted in this article from the Michigan ACLU Flint Water and the No-Blame Game .

    From what I understand, the river water in Flint isn’t particularly clean, but it isn’t contaminated with lead. The lead comes from the ancient waterworks that delivers water to the city’s 100,000+ residents and the ancient plumbing of their housing. Clean treated water doesn’t pull (much) lead out of lead pipes and lead based solder. The witches brew that flows in the Flint river has been contaminated by flowing through what amounts to a 150 year old industrial dump. Flint’s been a manufacturing hub for almost 150 years. The EPA and the clean water act were passed in the early 1970s just when GM was reeling from the energy crisis and foreign competition. They thought it would be easier to shut down Buick city than clean it up and keep operating with union workers, and I’m sure on some balance sheet somewhere it looked great. But by shutting down their factories in Flint, by sourcing their parts from abroad, GM sidestepped their tax obligations to the city that was the cradle of both Buick and Chevrolet. Now of course in addition to lead contamination, the water in the city of Flint is suspected of contributing to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease: Snyder: Flint has seen spike in Legionnaires’ disease

    So what does this ongoing train wreck look like to the best minds in journalism today? I couldn’t say. but to Ron Fournier who will never be counted among those ranks, it looks like leadership. A Refreshing Approach to Politics in Michigan in this revolting tongue bath, he paints Rick Snyder as a data driven visionary. A bold leader who can create simple order out of bureaucratic chaos. I see it as something different. I see it as a revolting disregard for human life. I see it as outright hostility to the well being of the residents of Michigan and an all too cozy relationship with the privatize the profits and socialize the costs model of disaster capitalism. It looks pretty similar to outright sabotage of public utilities and schools so that he can sell privatization to the citizens of Michigan as the cure to the ineffectiveness of deliberately mismanaged public institutions.

    So that’s what leadership is. Selling out the welfare of the most vulnerable, poisoning an entire city, to create the appearance of fiscal prudence.