Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Preemptive war - unmistakable error (republished from 8 May, 2007)

(MG) On this Tuesday, 8 May, 2007, I was proud to hold a copy of the Chicago Tribune op-ed page in my hands. How much longer the insightful commentary of Charles Madigan and Leonard Pitts will continue to grace its pages is unknown. I hope and dream it will be forever. My hopes and dreams have been dashed before, however. Theirs are the types of editorials that do not appease the Trib's target readership of wealthy, white, republican males (and their spouses).

(MG) Madigan's op-ed piece speaks for itself. He raises the most cogent of points. These matters should indeed form the heart of the presidential candidates' debates. Let us not hold our collective breaths waiting to hear questions such as these asked of the candidates.

Pre-emptive war is an unmistakable error

By Charles M. Madigan -- Published May 8, 2007

We have made a big mistake.

It's not the war in Iraq. I think that is a consequence of our big mistake that seems to be proving with every passing week the degree of our error.

It seems that the early presidential campaign has landed on the question of how quickly we can disconnect from Iraq and bring our troops home.

That is a compelling debate with no easy solutions. It defies "cut-and-run" simplicities on all sides and raises deep questions about the obligations a world power takes on when it goes to war. But as complex as that is, it is not the big problem.

The big problem is the strategy the U.S. embraced with the arrival of the Bush administration to replace deterrence, a Cold War policy that had clearly outlived its usefulness as the Soviet threat cracked, shattered and then disappeared.

Boiled down, it amounts to pre-emptive war. Defuse threats before they cause damage.

It seemed like a good substitute on paper, particularly in light of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The Bush administration argued, in an important change of direction, that American foreign policy should be aimed at identifying and eliminating these threats.

It might actually have worked, briefly, in Afghanistan, when a CIA-designed reaction led to the ousting of the Taliban, the rousting of Al Qaeda and establishment of what seemed at the time to be a friendlier, more acceptable government. It's not so clear how well that worked now.

The Taliban have revived themselves. The poppy harvest is healthy and moving toward its catastrophic market. The nation is clearly not safely under friendly control.

And yet, we have a crop of GOP presidential candidates competing to make the most hyperbolic statements conceivable about how they would love to kill Osama bin Laden.

It has been almost six years, and he's not dead yet.

At the same time, the war in Iraq has become a rolling, painful, expensive and bloody disaster for us and for the Iraqis. (MG) Quite a bit more painful, expensive and bloody a disaster for the Iraqis than for us - kudos to Madigan for including the Iraqis in the calculus of the misery pain and suffering this war of choice has rendered ... It was constructed on a foundation of bad intelligence, lies and hyperbole. As that has become apparent, support for President Bush, and for the conflict, has withered.

On occasion, someone pops from the woodwork to argue that the war was necessary, that there were weapons of mass destruction, that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda was genuine. But those arguments have been roundly disproved many times now.

At the heart of all of these problems, I suggest, is the thought that we can use pre-emptive warfare to make the world a safer place. A strong case must be made to carry a nation into war. The record on Iraq shows clearly how propaganda, flawed intelligence and a longing for revenge combined to put us in exactly the wrong place.

(MG) Tracking Jim Morrison:
When I was back there listening to Rush Limbaugh,
And watching Fox TV
Someone put for the proposition to me that
We can use pre-emptive warfare to make the world a safer place.
Use pre-emptive warfare to make the world a safer place!
Use preemptive warfare to make the world a safer place?
You CANNOT use preemptive warfare
to make the world a safer place!

Pre-emptive war doesn't work.

If the candidates for the White House really want to begin a crucial political debate,

(MG) No one in the media really want to begin a crucial political debate ... too much fun to cover it as a horse race, where Clarence Page can derisively dismiss the dem front runners "performances" as designed to make no early mistakes ...
it should center on what America's role in the world should be.

Picking the next target and fabricating a foundation for a military campaign isn't going to work.

(MG) But Edwards, Clinton and Obama indeed already HAVE picked the next target and are fabricating a foundation for the next military campaign -- that would be Iran -- allegedly, the most dangerous rogue nation on the face of the planet ... they might even get a bomb ... a big one ..
The government's credibility is shattered.

Even assuming good intentions,

(MG) In mathematics, this is what one would call a VERY powerful assumption ...
there is nothing in the pre-emptive war theory that would have identified and stopped a handful of terrorists who had scoped out the weak spots in the American security network.

(MG) But there WERE voices that sounded about the dangers of Bin Laden and al Quaida -- the Clinton administration wanted to warn the Bush administration of such dangers ... same with Richard Clarke, same with Scheur ...
They flew passenger planes right through them.

We also seem to have forgotten lessons that warriors have been learning ever since the British taught the French the bloody effectiveness of the longbow. It's a mistake to keep trying to fight the last war.

(MG) There are any number of military analysts, authors, instructors at the various war colleges who speak to the issue of "fourth generation warfare" which is characterized by non-state actors, working in concert with all the tools of modern civilization, internet, military tactics and training, bomb-making, propaganda etc, etc, to use terror to achieve political ends ... such non-state actors include (but are not limited to) Columbian drug lords, Hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles, the Jamaican and Russian and Bulgarian mafias, The Crips, the Bloods, the Arrayan nation, the Klan ... a never ending list ... the theory is well known ... it's just that ... well, the US military insists on fighting the LAW WAR WE WON, which would have been the big one ... WWII ... but, fighting fourth generation warfare is NOT sexy (using shock and awe might dazzle the client base ... Joe and Jill 6-pack watching CNN or Faux News, but bombing the hell out of innocent civilians puts the militarily strong ones at a serious moral disadvantage ... in 4GW, weakness is a strength

We went to Iraq with enough cast iron and high explosives to defeat the Germans again or at least put a dent in the Russians. It was the army we had, unfortunately.

What we found is impassioned, angry locals with car bombs and homemade explosives and an apparently unlimited supply of suicide bombers.
(MG) It would be far more accurate to state that "What we CREATED is impassioned, angry locals with car bombs ... "

We can win that war by killing everybody,

(MG) In the 1968 republican presidential primary, this was Ronald Reagan's solution to winning the invasion and occupation of Vietnam ... bomb the country into a parking lot ...
the price we get to pay for beginning a conflict in which the enemy and the innocents are mixed so closely together.

(MG) I suggest further that we CREATE enemies out of the innocents ...
There are no smart bombs that can target a teenager in a suicide vest without killing everyone within shrapnel distance.

(MG) Quite

Add all of this up and what you might conclude is that the theory of pre-emptive war doesn't work against small groups of ideologues and fanatics who are willing to die to make their point. We really do need a different kind of military to cope with the challenges of the dangerous, modern world.

(MG) What is needed is international cooperation, and also, quite frankly, addressing the root causes that attract terrorists to their sponsoring organizations ... we need to eradicate hunger, thirst, stop the exploitation of the impoverished people's of this earth and their lands ... we need to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, be hospitable to the foreigner, and take care of the widows and orphans ... the libreral project writ large ... on the pages of the Book of Exodus, echoed down through the voices of the Old Testament Prophets, and lived fully in the life of Jesus, the carpenter, the teacher, the healer, the rabbi it really is not all that complicated.

But before the nation resolves that, it must find a new definition for its role in the world. That should be the challenge that candidates wrestle with on the campaign trail.
(MG) Yes, this nation must find a new definition for its role in the world, otherwise, we may rest afraid ... that the world will find a new definition for our role in it ... and it will NOT be as a leader ... but as a pariah.

Our use of military force in Iraq was wrong.

It could take many years to find a decent way to extract our soldiers from that nightmare. The focus should be on making sure it doesn't happen again.

(MG) But as long as we continue to elect presidents who appoint secretaries of state such as Madeline Albright, who state unabashedly and without irony, "What's the point in having the world's mightiest military if you can't use it once in a while" until we start to elect people of far reaching vision, compassion and humanity, who understand the Might Does Not Make Right -- that IF a foreign power MIGHT attack us, this does not make it right for us to attack them preemptively, until that day ... the U.S. will plunge headlong again and again and again and again into these bloody forays which inflict untold misery upon the targets (the weak and the weaker to begin with) .. I'm quite sure that the next republican regime that gets elected (or appointed) to the office of the POTUS in conjunction with the military brass will take from the Iraq invasion and occupation this lesson ... the GAP (Great American Public) needs at least 15 years to develop enough historical amnesia to invade, occupy and destroy another third world power ... even though that too will fail .. again, and again and again and again.

(MG) And the world is bigger than we, the U.S. is. Do we not understand vulnerable our nation has become to the whims and vagaries of international markets, or international finance? And if the world were to reject the U.S. dollar as the petroleum trading standard .. well, THEN a major financial crisis would loom for the lower 80% of the U.S. population ... but, we've been there before .. seen it, done it ... only when the will of WE THE PEOPLE can be implemented will these asinine wars of choice cease ... The GAP has NEVER supported a war of choice without first being sold on that war of choice ... the first act of all such wars is a political act ... the convince the U.S. population of the need to fight it ... via propaganda. Hitlerize the leader of the target country, overstate its threat to security, hope its people are dark skinned ... and watch it go round, again and again.

Monday, May 7, 2007

When wars come home

(MG) Over at the Counterpunch web site, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have written an article entitled Media Silence on Kent State Revelations. This takes me back a long time, to days when I was a slender and callow fellow, dating tinker belle, a member of the WIU golf team, and feeling kind of warm and fuzzy about life in the slow lane.

(MG) There were, however, MANY students far more politically aware, and quite active in the anti-war movement. If anything ought to have caught my attention at that time, the Kent State murders should have. But, I was comfortably numb, inured to the pain and suffering of others, and had found a reason to HOPE that I would not be drafted to go to Vietnam, to die in combat, like my Uncle, 1st Lt James Raymond Hockett had before me. Besides, I had started to smoke pot, and that mellowed one's outlook.

(MG) Just give me a reason to live,
You give me a reason to live,
A reason to live.

(MG) I have forgiven myself for my former shallowness. But I hate war. I hate war mongers. I hate the policies of this country's elected officials who have lied us into war after war since the last half of the 20th century. Proxy wars, wars of choice. What the hell did they ever fear? COMMUNISM?

(MG) What was to be feared from COMMUNISM? That ideologically communism would trump the corporate welfare state? And the people would rise up, en masse, as did the Russians in the early 20th century?

(MG) Well, actually .... yes, that is what the elites most feared. So much so, that they begrduginly let FDR implement the public works programs to get "the people" back to work, so "the people" might not rise up in anger, as the French had done more than once, in the 1400's and again in the 1700's. Of course, the wealthy elites never forgave FDR for his class betrayal, and for turning this nation towards a commie, pinko, socialist direction. My how quickly they forgot.

(MG) But there ain't no commie empire no more. And there ain't no Hitler, no more. And there ain't no Saddam, no more. So just WTF are we afraid of?

(MG) Fear always emanates from within. I submit again (and again, and again and again) that PROJECTION of so much of this nation's hatred towards peoples of color is motivated by fear, that one day, the oppressed ones WILL rise up and retaliate. Retaliate for the genocide of the Native Americans. Retaliate for the rapes and murders of the African Slaves. Retaliate for the wars we have waged upon the children, wives, sisters, daughters, husbands, brothers, sons, parents and grandparents of the Arabs, the Persians, the Asians. Retaliate for the brutal right-wing demagogic dictators we have stuffed down their throats.

(MG) Deep in my soul
I do believe
That the collective unconcious
Of the American people
Understands full well
The moral implications
Of the war crimes this nation's
Elected (and sometimes appointed)
Leaders have committed
Upon the impoverished peoples
Of the world
In the name of freedom
In the name of democracy
In the name of Jesus Christ
In the name of
We the People
In the name of the
Great American Public.

Sometimes, it causes we to tremble, tremble, tremble
So ... kill them all before they kill you

But what of the innocents?
Kill them all. Kill them all.
There are no innocents.
There are no innocents.
Since there are no innocents,
They are all guilty,
And we can kill them all
Kill them all, with impunity.
Let the god of anger,
Let the god of jealousy,

the god of wrath,
the god of vengeance
let THAT god, our father
(Who art in heaven?)

let THAT god sort it all out.

Kill even the white ones,
The bitches and bastards
The harpy daughters and quisling sons
Even of the white, silent majority
Those uppity spoiled rich brats
(who don't deserve to live anyway
(teach 'em some respect
(learn 'em who's the new boss
(damn 'em all to hell,
(freakin' 'murican haters

Those uppity stinking, smelly hippie freaks
Who would dare to take up the cause
Of the impoverished
Peoples of color
Of the world.
Because they so hate America,
Those long haired, girly boys,
and boyish girls with unshaven arm pits

Those degenerates,
Those intellects,
Those peaceniks.
(Those commies,
(Those pinkos
(Those jews

Kill them all.
It is our legacy.
Kill them all.
That the WORLD
shall come to see our power.
and understand our
Merciless Cruelty (the big MC).

Kill them all.
Kill them all.
Because ...
If we do not have the resolve
To kill them all
They might
Kill us all first.

And, as we all know
As we shall show (by our killing of them all)
We do reap as we do sow:

And watch them fry on CNN
Video Game Nation
Ah, we have become,
Comfortably Numb

The 1970 killings by National Guardsmen of four students during a peaceful anti-war demonstration at Kent State University have now been shown to be cold-blooded, premeditated official murder. But the definitive proof of this monumental historic reality is not, apparently, worthy of significant analysis or comment in today's mainstream media.
After 37 years of official denial and cover-up, tape-recorded evidence, that has existed for decades and has been in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has finally been made public.
It proves what "conspiracy theorists" have argued since 1970---that there was a direct military order leading to the unprovoked assassination of unarmed students. ... (FOIA) documents show collusion between Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes and the FBI that aimed to terrorize anti-war demonstrators and their protests that were raging throughout the nation.
... The nation's campuses were on fire over Richard Nixon's illegal invasion of Cambodia. ...
... Spiro Agnew ... referred to student demonstrators as Nazi "brownshirts" and suggested that college administrators and law enforcement should "act accordingly."
On May 3, 1970---the day before National Guardsmen under his purview opened fire at Kent State--Rhodes echoed Agnew's remarks by referring to student demonstrators as "the strongest, well-trained militant revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America They're worse than the brownshirts and the Communist element and the night riders and the vigilantes. They are the worst type of people that we harbor in America."
Rhodes told a reporter that the Ohio National Guard would remain at Kent State "until we get rid of them" ...
Rhodes was the perfect messenger. Bumbling and mediocre, with a long history of underworld involvement, Rhodes was a devoted admirer of Nixon, and of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Public records reveal that Rhodes was a virtual stooge for the FBI because of the agency's files tying Rhodes directly to organized crime.
... contrary to law, [the Ohio national guard] were supplied with live ammunition. ... not one of the numerous investigations and court proceedings involving what happened next has ever contended any of the students were armed, or that the Guard was under threat of physical harm at the time of the shooting.
Prior to the shooting, a student named Terry Strubbe put a microphone at the window of his dorm, which overlooked the rally. According to the Associated Press, the 20-second tape is filled with "screaming anti-war protectors followed by the sound of gunfire."
But in an amplified version of the tape, a Guard officer is also heard shouting "Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!"
The sound of gunshots follow the word "Point." Four students soon lay dead. Two days later, two more would die at Jackson State University, as police fired without provocation into a dorm.
... massive volumes of research---including an epic study by James A. Michener and William Gordon's Four Dead in Ohio---strongly imply an explicit conspiracy to intimidate the national anti-war movement.
... Six months ago, Alan Canfora, 58, one of the nine wounded Kent students ... played it to a group of students and reporters at a small university theater.
The fact that the Guard got direct orders to set, aim and shoot flies directly in the face of the official cover story that they were responding in panic to a random shot fired at them, or that they were defending themselves from some kind of student attack.
In fact, it seems highly likely no shot ever rang out prior to the order to fire. Nor could the Guard, who killed a student as much as 900 feet away from the rally, say they were under any serious attack from the students.
The Kent State killings are now prominently featured in virtually every history book of the United States used in American schools. ...
But meaningful analysis of the implications of this tape has been mysteriously missing from the American media. ...
For we now know that a premeditated, unprovoked order was indeed given to National Guardsmen to fire live ammunition at peaceful, unarmed American students, killing four of them. The illegal order to arm the Guard with live ammunition in the first place could only have come from the governor of Ohio. The very loud, very public nod to shoot some "brown shirt" students somewhere in order to chill the massive student uprising against the Southeast Asian war was spewed all over the national media by the second-highest official in US government.
Alan Canfora intends to use this tape to re-open investigations into what happened at Kent State 37 years ago.
But the media's apparent unconcern about confirmation of the official order to carry out these killings may bear a simple message: that we should be prepared for them to happen again.

It's the Economy, Stupid

Reality versus Polls

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does a monthly survey of employment, calling roughly 50,000 businesses to get an estimate of the number of jobs created or lost over the preceding month. It is an estimate. They have a statistic to account for jobs they miss in the survey called the birth/death rate, based upon past trends. If you are going to have to make an estimate of employment, it is as good a method as any.

The BLS survey shows payroll growth at 1.8% and had wages growing at 4.3% last September. But then they come back and produce another report from hard data that comes out a few quarters later, which covers 98% of US jobs. They also go to state unemployment insurance programs which have reasonably accurate figures at to wages and taxes.

They just released the data for the third quarter of 2006. It looks like actual job growth was 1.5%, somewhat lower than the estimates. But the real eye opener was that wages grew an anemic 0.9% on a year over year basis. Given that inflation was in the 2.5% range, this means household income did not keep up with inflation.

Combine that with today's release of the Producer Price Index which showed prices rising by 1% following February's rise of 1.3%, which suggests that there is still some inflation in the pipeline, and an increase in the number of continuing jobless claims and it is no wonder that consumer sentiment is dropping. Sentiment hit a cycle high in January and has deteriorated rapidly since then.

BLS monthly numbers are based on a methodology that is backward looking. I believe that April has the highest number of estimated jobs created annually in the birth model, thus perhaps overstating the actual numbers of jobs created. This birth/death model is based on past historical trends. Thus there is no way that the BLS data will catch the real drop in employment from a recession until they go back and look at the data a few quarters later. About the most you can expect is that they will get the direction right, so take the numbers coming out in the next few months with a few grains of salt.

(This is not meant to criticize or suggest some conspiracy. The BLS staff is charged with making estimates way before they get enough data and they do as reasonable a job as one can expect. I am glad it is not my job, however.)

It's the Economy, Stupid!

A lot of (mostly liberal) pundits want to blame the lousy sentiment numbers on Bush and the war in Iraq. I seriously doubt it. It's the Economy, Stupid. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey polls sentiment about both present conditions and future expectations. The number indicates that consumers are far more pessimistic about the future than they are the present, although as noted both are trending down. Let's look at a few snapshots to get a sense as to why people are getting nervous.

The Liscio Report, among other things, tracks sales tax receipts from the various states. They report a serious deterioration in sales tax receipts in March. "In March only 18% of the states in our survey hit or exceeded their estimated sales tax collections, and levels in just over 30% of the states were lower than they were in March 2006, some quite steeply so." (www.theliscioreport.com)

Again, if inflation is 2.5%, you would expect sales tax receipts to grow year over year, not drop as they did in 30% of the states. Part of the reasons suggested were lower spending on home materials, as well as increased unemployment in some of the states, especially the Mid-west.

"In the states with the hottest housing markets, where one-third of sales tax growth was estimated to be directly related to the housing market, the housing market is the obvious culprit. Our contacts report building materials in double-digit decline, and not one felt comfortable suggesting when this might turn around. These states are now missing recently lowered collections, and many are negative year over year."

Some of this softness is certainly due to a decrease in mortgage equity withdrawals

Let us not forget Darfur

When an investment e-mail letter writer takes time out at the beginning of his lengthy (well written and isightful) analyses to spotlight the geopolitics of Darfur, I'm forced to sit up and take notice, and regret that so much of my blogging revolves around domestic issues. Many thanks to John Mauldin for turning his spotlight on to shine light into the darkness of an area of the world racked by war and misery. Mauldin also documents the extraordinary good works being done by a few to help the many, and offers some suggestions for what his readers might do to help.

But first, let's deal with something far more serious than the economy, and that is the terrible situation in Darfur, where government sanctioned violence and murder is literally meaning that hundreds of thousands are starving to death.

The conflict in Darfur, a region of Sudan located in the north eastern part of Africa, has been rising for the past 3 years. It is estimated that 450,000 civilians, (men, women and children) have been killed and approximately 2 million people who fled the fighting are now displaced, homeless, starving, and still being persecuted. Many are living in refugee camps but as the violence escalates and the camps are being attacked, aid workers are being evacuated leaving the people of Darfur with no where to go.... and NO hope of survival.

The international community acknowledges the desperate nature of the situation. The United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions to send a UN peacekeeping force to supplement the ill-equipped and under funded 7,000 troops African Union peacekeepers. However, the Sudanese government sees UN troops as foreign invaders. Aside from NGO's (non government organizations) Darfur has received little help from the international community, because politics has become an insurmountable obstacle.

I often write about my friends at Knightsbridge International who go into areas bringing food and medicine where it is usually considered too dangerous for aid groups to go. They were working in Afghanistan in 1995 and again in 2002 before our troops went in. Rwanda, Chechnya, Burma, Cambodia and Sri Lanka (after the tsunami and into rebel held territory where no one else was going) are just a few of the vacation spots they have brought aid to. They are slightly crazy, as they like to get an adrenaline rush along with their good works. But they deliver the goods directly to those in need, and 100% of the money donated goes to the work, as they assume their own overhead. (MG) Reading this passage sent goose bumps along my arms and tears down my face ... These are really the good guys. The CBS early show just did a story on them, and three of the knights are the subject of a documentary that you may have seen on PBS (Adrian Belic's award winning "Beyond the Call"). Here is a link to the CBS piece:


Two LA based ladies have created a web site to help raise $1,000,000 for medicine and supplies that Ed Artis, Dr. James Laws and others will personally deliver to the camps in the region that are the most needy. I know these guys well and vouch for them. They are the good guys. You can go to the web site www.onedollar4darfur.com and donate with your credit card or send a check to: Knightsbridge International, PO Box 4394, West Hills, CA 91308-4394. Your dollars, euros and pounds will go directly to help save the lives of kids. (And if you are crazy and want to go with these guys on a mission, let me know and I will put you in touch.)


The following letter to the editor appeared in this morning's ChiTrib opinion letters section. I agree wholeheartedly with and endorse Cynthia Mosca's recommendations.

True troop support

My son is about to be drafted. It's no longer called that. Now it's called "involuntary reactivation." And it comes with orders for 25 days of refresher training and 18 months in Iraq. He's already served four-and-a-half years of active duty with three combat tours in Afghanistan. (Remember Afghanistan, the country that still needs resources and support?)

I am told that by speaking, by asking questions, I am not supporting our troops. Instead I guess I should circulate e-mails that sentimentalize this conflict, or buy a bumper sticker for which a few cents of the price is actually used for anything that could be remotely associated with "our troops." I have, instead, a few other ideas for supporting our troops:

*Take the time to urge your federal representatives to reinstitute the draft. This is a country that symbolizes justice for all and doesn't this also imply responsibility for all? If you supported this war, then support it with a real draft and not one that goes through the back door and requires the same men and women to serve again and again. The lack of a draft was just one more political manipulation designed to move this conflict forward.

*Urge these same representatives to increase the pay of those who are serving so that the military can compete with and attract those who would like to make a career of the armed forces. Why not attract the best? Police officers and firefighters also serve, but they also receive pay and benefits sufficient (they deserve more) to attract good candidates.

*When these men and women return and they come to you for a job, hire them. One young man from Indiana told me that a prospective employer thanked him for serving his country but then added that that didn't entitle him to a job. If you can't hire them, at least point them in the right direction. Tell them what they need to do to get hired and how to do it. They've risked so much; give them at least that extra minute.

Cynthia Mosca

Oak Park

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Steve Chapman's venal, insidious racism

(MG) Now that Zell owns the Chicago Tribune, I expect to see more frequent forays onto the pity pot of poor, abused, mistreated white males. Steve Chapman started my week out filling me full of fire, piss and vinegar. His alleged deconstruction of the "myth" of "driving while black" is a perfect example of the most dangerous kind of racisim. The smug, "I'm not a racist and I can prove that YOU are racist for calling me racist and I've got the data to back me up to prove it" type of cloying treacle too often passing for sophisticaed scholastic analysis. Pundits are frequently innumerate .. so are the US (and world) populations at large.

(MG) Much better to deal with people who just out and tell you how all n***ers are lazy, criminals. They know who they are and what they believe -- they are forces of chaos and anarchy / and they are very smug and proud of themselves -- and when you CALL them on it, it washes over them as if they have an umbrella ... and they will belabor the point ... because they are SO convinced of the rightness, the correctness, the lucidity of their beliefs. Racist pigs. They drive me nuts. And they just don't get it ... I so totally disagree with them, and I am appalled by their attitudes.

(MG) At least with people such as these, one realizes (eventually, no matter how much one would like to like them) that they cannot be engaged in polite conversation, because ALL of their conversations eventually return to how much they despise black people. So, one learns to avoid contact. Besides, even when they can be interesting, the longer you sit and listen to their stories, even the ones not tainted with outright hatred, the more you realize they are essentially one-trick ponies .. because they repeat those stories, over, and OVER, and OVER again and again. So ... why get angry at their racism (which won't ever go away)... more appropriate to get angry at their wasting YOUR time.

(MG) Or immigrants. At my father's barber shop, Phil the Lip who's quick on the quip doesn't like people of color. Blacks (to him) are all lazy. He even has one black customer. Fear comes from within .. he despises blacks because inwardly, he is afraid of them ... who knows why? His parents were born in Italy. They died before they could ever get any money from social security. And those damned blacks, they just get all the breaks ... okay ... got it ... he doesn't like his tax dollars going to undeserving, lazy black folk. And Hispanics don't even speak English .. he cites as an example his forays to MacDonald's .. where, are we all know, the MacDonald's corporation hires Hispanics who can't speak English in order to frustrate as many of its white English speaking customers as possible, obviously.

(MG) For the record, the NEXT lazy black person I meet, will be the first. The NEXT lazy non-English-speaking Mexican person I meet, will be the first. And, at least relative to my cohort, for somebody living in zip code 60010, I meet quite a few Black and Hispanic-speaking people. (I take public transportation a lot, and I simply love to talk with strangers. If it weren't for Hispanics, 80% of the lawns in town would never get mown. I invariably greet landscapers with a smile and a buenos dias, and an offer of a cigarette. Just seems like an hospitable thing to do .. have spent quite a bit of time in Hispanic taverns, and met people as nice, as kind, as generous, as gregarious as any there are. The great irony, I can "get away" with "crossing over" BECAUSE I am white (except for the Commanche part, well, maybe except for the Scottish parts and the Welsh parts too) and the mere fact that an anglo takes the time to engage a person of a different race in conversation establishes a bond of humanity that doth please the Lord greatly.

(MG) I cannot make the same statements about some of the white strangers I attempt to engage in conversation. In that cohort, I get mixed reviews. But then, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, white people can be bat shit crazy.

Racial profiling myth continues to live on - by Steve Chapman

Published May 6, 2007

We've all heard of the offense of "driving while black." But not everyone has heard the good news: It doesn't exist anymore. According to an authoritative report, black motorists are no more likely than whites to be pulled over by police. So how has that study been greeted? As proof that police racism is still a powerful force.

(MG) Hopefully this "authoritative report" will be identified.

It's a widely accepted article of faith that cops systematically engage in racial profiling against dark-complexioned folks.
(MG) I'm going out on a limb here ... it is a widely accepted FACT that cops systematically engage in racial profiling against dark-complexioned folks ... note, the original premise of thie op-ed piece is that "driving while black" is a myth ...okay ... but systemic engagement in racial profiling extends to FAR more than motor vehicle offenses ... I will include supporting information later on Yet this is the second consecutive survey from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics—using information supplied not by police but by citizens—that finds law enforcement to be admirably colorblind when it comes to routine traffic enforcement. Not a puny achievement, but one that was overlooked by people straining to find lingering discrimination.

(MG) Just who these "people straining to find lingering discrimination" are is not made clear, but, Chapman puts those boogey men out there anyway .. and he will rip them apart, I can just tell

The complaint is that though they get stopped at the same rate as whites, minority motorists are more likely to get unfavorable treatment during the stop.
(MG) Is this some new complaint? Because this is the third quite distinct subset of "police profiling" that Chapman either mentions directly or alludes to .. he keeps moving the bar" According to BJS, 3.6 percent of whites are searched, compared with 9.5 percent of blacks and 8.8 percent of Latinos. African-Americans are more likely to have force used against them and to be arrested. And they more often feel their treatment is unwarranted. (MG) I would feel this way too with anecdotal evidence backed by hard statistics supporting the anectdotal evidende.

What can we make of these figures?
(MG) Whatever we want to make of them .. that's simply what one does with numbers when one is defending one's position ... Not what is claimed by critics like those at the American Civil Liberties Union, which labeled the disparities "disturbing," and columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who detected "powerful evidence that racial profiling is alive and well." Some people get their exercise jumping to conclusions.

(MG) Now do the "some people" who "get their exercise jumping to conclusions" include more folks than the accursed bastardly ACLU and columnist Eugene Robinson of the WaPo? Just who in the world are these "some people" ... straw men and women? Existant only in the space in Chapman's skull where a mind might lurk, were it not for the cesspool of confusion and smug self-satisfaction that must come from being a ChiTrib editorial board director, and white supremacy apologist ... because ... Chapman is going to rationalize away the indeed "disturbing" disparities

The researchers at BJS tried to discourage snap judgments.
(MG) Possibly, also at least as possible, they tried to obfuscate their report .. after all .. let us n'ere forget, the BJS is quite likely staffed by Bush appointees, and there is NUTHING in the world the Bushees love to better than lie to our faces "The apparent disparities documented in this report do not constitute proof that police treat people differently along demographic lines," they warn. (MG) "They WARN?" hell .. is this a warning, or is this an obfuscation ... only our beloved numbers crunchers might know for sure, only the people who kept sending the original report back for re-writing would have a clue "Any of these disparities might be explained by countless other factors and circumstances that were not taken into account in the analysis."

(MG) Or, the MIGHT be explained by racial profiling ...

Plenty of other elements could generate these divergent patterns.
(MG) But then so could racial profling ... I have always preferred Occam's Razor, when in doubt Why would black drivers be arrested more often? Maybe because African-Americans commit crimes at a far higher rate and are convicted of felonies at a far higher rate. (MG) Or maybe not In 2005, for instance, blacks were nearly seven times more likely to be in prison than whites. (MG) Quite true ... it was true in 2003 also .. and in 2000 .. the reasons for the higher incarceration rates DO in fact, need to be studied and analyzed ... Chapman will NOT do so here

Those disparities are bound to affect the outcome of traffic stops.
(MG) If these disparities are bound to affect the outcome of traffic stops .. then maybe we need a cogent analysis of the source from which such disparities flow .... Most blacks, like most whites, are not crooks. (MG) Richard Nixon was not a crook either ... I can tell you how I know ... because Richard Nixon told me so ... "I am not a crook" But since the average black driver is statistically more likely to be a criminal than the average white driver, he's (MG) Are there no she black dirvers? more likely to have an outstanding arrest warrant—which the police would find when running a computer check of his license. (MG) But WAIT a minute ... these are NOT incarcerated blacks that are getting stopper for motor vehicle violations .... the incarcerated blacks are NOT driving, Chapman --- you freaking dimwit A computer check that turns up a long rap sheet will probably induce the patrol officer to ask for a look inside the trunk. (MG) So, incarcerated black folks have long rap sheets? SOME incarceration offenses in fact deprive the offender of driving "priveleges"

A motorist of felonious habits is also more likely to have illegal guns or drugs on board.
(MG) Not necessarily .. depends on what type of felonius habits they have ... I'm a convicted felon .. and I have never carried a gun in my life ... much less in my car ... never carried illegal drugs "on board" either If the contraband is visible to a traffic cop, or If it shows up in a search, the driver can expect to be arrested. Not to mention that the vehicle itself may turn out to be stolen.

Given the racial gap in crime rates, it would be a shock if traffic stops didn't generate more searches and arrests of blacks than whites.
(MG) The seasoned criminals with whom I have ridden over hill and dale and across the country side and city streets DON'T get stopped and searched .. they drive like MANIACS to flee detention .... you'll have to trust me on this one ... been there, done that Even in a world where cops are completely free of racial prejudice, (MG) This phrasing is astonishing ... "EVEN in a world where cops are completely free of racial prejudice ... Chapman is pretty much telling us here that in THIS world .. cops are NOT completely free of racial prejudice .... but then ... WE ALREADY KNOW THAT that is exactly what you would expect. There is a similar difference, after all, between the sexes—males are nearly twice as likely as females to be arrested during a stop. Is that because cops are sexists? No, it's because men commit more crimes. (MG) No, Chapman, you poop-for-brains fool ... it's not because men commit more crimes .. it's because they break more motor vehicle laws ... Chapman keeps going back and forth, equating crime-committing criminals and people who get stopped for motor vehicle transgressions ... simply not the same things

Trying to find "compelling" evidence of racism in this data is a fruitless task.
(MG) Well, there was enough MEAT in this data for Chapman to find "compelling" evidence of a LACK of racisim in the data ... which ... in the bush/rovian/fundamentalis rethuglican world, where up is down and North is South seems about par for the course Robinson makes much of the fact that blacks who are stopped are more likely to be sent on their way without any corrective action, even an oral warning. (MG) I'm inclined to side with what Chapman reports as Robinson's analysis ... in fact, one might conclude, based on the numbers of blacks stopped and sent on their way without any corrective actions .. that in fact, blacks are SAFER drivers than whites ... they just get stopped for being black ... Occam's Razor cutting once again That, he says, "suggests there was no good reason to stop these people." Or it might suggest that cops cut African-American motorists a bit more slack on petty issues, perhaps in the hope of improving their reputation. (MG) A lot of might-ing, suggest-ing and perhaps-ing going on here ... in Chapman's world, apparently, the data could be used to make EITHER case ... and we can be REAL sure that Law Enforcement authorities are HIGHLY committed to hoping to improve their reputations in the African-American communities ... WHY? because ... well ... because LE authorities have a proven history of discrimination ... and the City of Chicago has paid 10's of millions of dollars in punitive damage awards BECAUSE of police brutality taken out with a vengeance upon the black community

Whatever they do, the cops can't win.
(MG) Boo hoo .. the poor, poor poor poor cops .. the ones with badges, who carry guns, who can call back up .. these poor guys, they just can't seem to win ... Win WHAT? Is this some kind of freaking GAME our LE agents are playing? Chapman's metaphor seems to suggest as much because where in life do we have winners and losers? Upon the playing fields of life Blacks don't get stopped more often? Big deal. Blacks have higher arrest rates? Proof of racism. More blacks are let off without a warning? More proof of racism.

And if fewer blacks were let off without a warning? I'll let you guess how that would be interpreted.

(MG) Shorter Chapman ... if it weren't for black people, there wouldn't be any racism
(MG) Ass clown racist white apologist PIG

(MG) Here are some thundering examples of racial profling by police:

(1) In New York City, police open fire on four black men seen leaving a stip club in a nice car at 4 a.m., they fire 51 shots into the bachelor party group, killing the groom

(2) In a small town in Texas, 40 black people are arrested on drug charges brought by a law enforcement officer whose notes cannot be found ... this event causes a minor media stir, and their convictions are subsequently overturned

(3) In Texas, a 14-year old black girl trying to enter her school is arrested and sentenced to 7 years in prison for pushing a white teacher while a white girl who had previously burned down her house was released from jail

(4) In Florida, a 6-year old black girl was arrested at school and charged with:
  • disruption of a school function §877.13 (a second degree misdemeanor)
  • battery school employee §784.081 (which can be charged as either a first degree misdemeanor or a third degree felony)
  • resisting w/o violence §843.02 (a first degree misdemeanor)
Upon arrest, the cops took her to the county jail, and booked her, taking mug shots and finger prints.

(MG) Now, none of these people were stopped driving motor vehicles while being black, but they WERE in fact VICTIMS of racist practices of police departments that are hardly serving and protecting.

Messing with my vices

(MG) In the interests of full disclosure, I had quit smoking for 15 of the last 16 years, lighting up again only just last August, the result of a life-changing event that created in me a new heart, led to my conversion to Islam, to stop taking "my meds" (for bipolar prophylaxis) and inspired me to want to re-engage with life as a functional, competent, self-sufficient adult. Minor matters which I had never before given any thought to whatsoever. That's what the power of love can do. God bless you, Natalie Jean.

(MG) Ceasing the meds REALLY was a change. All of a sudden, I had appetites. My thoughts focused my fully, and rather than taking 3 hours to write a 3 paragraph commentary in response to one of Steve Gilliard's blogs, I could whip those suckers out in 10 minutes. When one has the techinical training to type 90 wpm, (thanks to Louise Castelli, Max Balzer and Tony DiBona - the first two my classical piano teachers, and the last, my freshman HS bastketball coach, and jr/sr HS varsity golf coach, AND typing teacher) cranking out a 750 word essay is a snap.

(MG) Oops - I started drinking alcohol again too. Not so smart. I quit for good on Easter Sunday, as a result of a talk a sister gave at the Mosque. She had converted to Islam from Southern Baptist tradition, in a tiny town in Arkansas. Speaking of what Muslims must do to present ourselves to the GAP (great American public) she said we must learn to smile, to be open, and to L I - L I. Love Islam, Live Islam.

(MG) THAT hit me like a baseball bat across the forehead. Allah does NOT want me to be a sloppy drunk, and since I took my first sip at age 14, I have always and only been a sloppy drunk, albeit charming, suave, debonair, intelligent and kind (used to be cute, thank heavens, don't have THAT burden to carry around any more).

(MG) But, as a poor man in America, with little income, I find that tobacco smoking offers me some solace and some comfort. Yes, it might very well offer me an early death. My freaking choice, thank you very much.

(MG) And since most of the few places I can find adult, white males with whom I can be my fully actualized, caring, sensitive, provactive, talkative self are taverns, (not one bartender or bar owner has criticized me for giving up booze ... au contraire ... they are all MOST supportive), it just pisses me off to be told I can't consume a legally produced, legally purchassed product, whose consumption would be condoned by said tavern owners, becasue some holier than me micromanaging ASS HOLES, who don't frequent my places (the poorer quarters where the ragged people go) in places that I consider to be truly holy.

(MG) As if their own lives are going so well they have nothing better to do than to tell me and my smoking kind what we can't do, and where we can't do it.

(MG) I have a dream -- vote their silly candy asses the fuck out of office. I mean, the 7 1/2% solution worked quite well during the Texas Takeover of the rethuglican party by the fundies. Here's how the 7 1/2% solution plays out:

(MG) About 60% of eligible citizens are registered to vote.
About 25% of registered voters come out to vote in off presidential election year voting.
Thus, only about 15% of any population votes in a local election.
If half of that 15% -- the 7 1/2% solution, can get out to vote, they will own the party; they will own the ticket.

(MG) SO ... my vision has a bunch of smokers making sure they find out just who their elected officials who find time to so micro-manage MY life in the smoking matter, that smoking bunch starts a letter-writing campaign and just votes the micro-magaging yuppie pond scum out the fuck of office.

(MG) Stranger things have happened.

(MG) Oh, and I won't blow somke in their faces, nor in yours. And if you don't like 2nd hand bar smoke, then find a damn bar that bans smoking. Just stay the fuck out of the bars I like to go to.

Going smoke-free at last

May 4, 2007

Not too long ago, Chicago and the rest of the state seemed stuck in a continuous loop of bickering on the subject of a restaurant smoking ban. The restaurant association vehemently opposed a ban, as did some restaurateurs who feared the loss of smoking customers would doom their businesses. The American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and other advocates fought just as hard to illuminate the public health risks of secondhand smoke in public places, including bars and restaurants.

Both sides wielded powerful arguments. Both were dug in.

No longer. On Tuesday, the Illinois House joined the Senate in approving a statewide smoking ban in most public places. As in the earlier Senate vote, this one was shockingly lopsided, 73-42, signaling the dramatic momentum shift on this issue since Chicago passed its smoke-free law in December 2005.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he most likely will sign it. He should.

This law would be a triumph not only for public health, but for fairness. The new law would eliminate a confusing patchwork of local laws that some restaurant owners complained had hurt business. Starting Jan. 1, smokers who want to light up in most public places, including restaurants with bars and taverns, will have to take it outside. In a measure of how long and fierce this battle has been, cheers erupted in the House chambers after the vote. Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), the bill's sponsor, embraced colleagues and slapped high-fives.

We'll join in the cheering. This is a great moment for the health of the people of Illinois. Most of all, it's a great moment for all those who work in bars and other places where secondhand smoke hangs in the air. The vote underscores a basic scientific tenet, as the U.S. surgeon general has asserted: There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The smoking ban didn't come quickly or easily. It took years of political skirmishes in towns like Skokie, Wilmette, Arlington Heights and Orland Park, where local officials stood up for public health at risk to their political careers and their communities' tax coffers. It took years in which advocates marshaled medical studies and lobbied legislators and other opinion-makers. It took a cultural change on smoking that is evident not only in America but in many foreign countries.

Illinois now becomes the 19th state to pass a sweeping smoking ban. It will not be the last.

It's our guess that years from now people won't understand all the fuss. Just as it would seem strange to Americans now if people lit up in an airplane, or at the office -- as they once did -- it will seem strange to future generations that a ban on indoor smoking would kindle such fierce arguments. But it did. And, thankfully, for Illinois that argument is now just about over.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune