politics

Halliburton behind the Gulf disaster?

Why is it that when I hear that something truly, truly horrible has happened, it is no surprise to learn that Halliburton is involved?

Just 20 hours after Halliburton finished cementing work on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, the well blew and created the Gulf oil spill that has become one of the worst environmental disasters ever.

According to Robert MacKenzie, a former cementing engineer and current managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets, "The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement." A study of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the most important factor in 18 of them.

And Halliburton has already been accused of a shoddy cement work leading to a major blowout in the Timor Sea last August.

Halliburton delenda est.

B'more cops arrest couple for asking for directions

Joshua Kelly and Llara Brook came from Chantilly, Virginia, to see the O's beat Kansas City at Camden Yards. They were having a fine time, until they got lost leaving the stadium on the way home. Unaware of the high proportion of thuggish authority freaks that infest Baltimore's guardians of law 'n' order, they made the mistake of thinking that a cop might help, and ended up getting arrested for trespassing -- on a public street:

Collins said somehow they ended up in the Cherry Hill section of south Baltimore. Hopelessly lost, relief melted away concerns after they spotted a police vehicle.

"I said, 'Thank goodness, could you please get us to 95?" Kelly said.

"The first thing that she said to us was no -- you just ran that stop sign, pull over," Brook said. "It wasn't a big deal. We'll pay the stop sign violation, but can we have directions?"

"What she said was 'You found your own way in here, you can find your own way out.'" Kelly said.

...

"(Brook's father) was in the middle of giving us directions when the officer screeched up behind us and got out of the car and asked me to step out. I obeyed," Kelly said. "I obeyed everything -- stepped out of the car, put my hands behind my back, and the next thing I know, I was getting arrested for trespassing."

more cop video follies

More from the "cops love video surveillance except when it's of them" file: the Seattle PD told Eric Rachner it had deleted the recordings of his questionable arrest, take by the department's standard-issue squad car video camera.

But Rachner's a computer security guy and didn't leave it that: he got ahold of the specs for their system, found out that the data was logged, demanded the logs under public disclosure laws, and eventually obtained to video that supposedly didn't exist.

thuggery by Maryland's forces for law 'n' order

Two recent bits of thuggery by police in Maryland:

  • Prince Georges County police were caught on video assaulting an innocent UM student. The victim suffered a cut on his head that required eight staples to close, a concussion, a badly swollen arm, and various bruising. The scumbags cops them filed false charges against their victim.
  • Anthony Graber was apparently being a dangerous jerk on his motorcycle, and got pulled over by a Maryland state cop. Ok, so far, fine. Problem is, the cop was in plainclothes, and did not make a legitimate traffic stop -- he was in an unmarked car with no siren or lights showing, when he cut Graber off (there was a marked car behind Graber, but so far I as I can see in the video, no siren or lights). The cop jumped out of his car without displaying a badge or immediately identifying himself as a police officer -- and with his gun in his hand. That's outrageous behavior that would justify a civilian drawing a weapon on him or taking other defensive action that a reasonable person might take when confronted by an armed person who must be assumed to be a violent criminal.

    It should at least earn the cop in question a suspension until he's been sent back to training and learned how to behave himself.

    But the "best" past here is that Graber was wearing a helmet camera which caught the incident on tape. (Er, on memory card, presumably.) When Graber posted the video to Youtube, hilarity ensued when Joseph Cassilly, State’s Attorney for Harford County Maryland, threatened to prosecute Graber for violating Maryland's wiretap law, a felony carrying a penalty of up to five years. As the analysis at Popehat points about, there's not even the ghost of a legitimate case here, as the law only applies to private conversations, and an arrest occurring on a public street is not a situation where an expectation of privacy arises. Indeed, I'd have to say that no action taken by a police officer in the course of his duties ever has an expectation of privacy about it.

    This is pure intimidation for daring to embarrass a cop gone wild. Graber's computers and his camera were seized, and according to a comment on the Popehat story he was arrested.

    I'm sure that scumbag cops would love for it to be a crime to collect evidence against them, but we haven't reached that level of police state. At least not yet.

militia movement rally: guys, you're not helping

I am a gun owner, and stand squarely behind the right to keep and bear arms.

But when a bunch of militia movement wackos schedule an demonstration on the outskirts of D.C., on the anniversary of the OKC bombing and of the Waco massacre, where they plan to come as close to brandishing their weapons as they can without stepping over the legal line, saying crazy shit about "totalitarian socialism" when in fact it was Obama who signed the law that allows firearms in national parks and so made this event legal...guys, you're not helping.

liberation and the imagination

(This is a long one, and wanders all over the place, but I still think there's a good idea or two in here...)

For the past few days I've been re-reading Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy. It's a psychedelic romp chock-full of quotable bits, but there's one in particular that's echoed in my head:

"Freedom won't come through Love, and it won't come through Force. It will come through the Imagination."

This seems to me an important enough idea that it ought to have a name. So I hereby dub it the "First Law of Political-Artistic Liberation" -- FLOPAL, to give it a snappy (?) acronym.

What is the argument for the validity of the FLOPAL? Shea and Wilson explain a little later on in the book, in a discussion between the characters Hagbard Celine and Simon Moon, as they wait for the cops and the tear gas in Chicago in 1968:

"Chairman Mao didn't say half of it," Hagbard replied holding a handkerchief to his own face. His words came through muffled: "It isn't only political power that grows out of the barrel of a gun. So does a whole definition of reality. A set. And the action that has to happen on that particular set and on none other."

"Don't be so bloody patronizing," I objected, looking around a corner in time and realizing this was the night I would be Maced. "That's just Marx: the ideology of the ruling class becomes the ideology of the whole society."

"Not the ideology. The Reality." He lowered his handkerchief. "This was a public park until they changed the definition. Now, the guns have changed the Reality. It isn't a public park. There's more than one kind of magic."

"Just like the Enclosure Acts," I said hollowly. "One day the land belonged to the people. The next day it belonged to the landlords."

"And like the Narcotics Acts," he added. "A hundred thousand harmless junkies became criminals overnight, by Act of Congress, in nineteen twenty-seven. Ten years later, in thirty-seven, all the pot-heads in the country became criminals overnight, by Act of Congress. And they really were criminals, when the papers were signed. The guns prove it. Walk away from those guns, waving a joint, and refuse to halt when they tell you. Their Imagination will become your Reality in a second."

Much of the "Reality" of human experience is created by Authority. And not just the social and legal aspects -- a few hundred years ago, the physical "Reality" that the Earth was the center of the Universe was enforced by putting Galileo under arrest. Eighty-five years ago, the Tennessee legislature and courts used the guns and clubs and cages at their disposal to create the biological "Reality" that Homo sapiens was not related to apes. And just a few years ago, the Bush II administration used its Authority to create a geophysical "Reality" in which human activity is not affecting the climate.

Even though all these Authorities are gone, substantial numbers of people still dwell in the Realities they created.

Authority is hard-wired into the human brain. We are a pack species, programmed to respond to the alphas. As the famous Milgram experiment showed, our natural submission to Authority will get otherwise sane and ordinary people to commit acts of torture. Or consider how in over 70 cases, a telephone caller posing as a cop was able to use his bogus aura of authority manipulate managers and employees of fast food restaurants into performing strip searches and other abusive acts. Authority, like gravity, warps space around it: and like gravity, when concentrated to the extreme, will form a black hole that tears up everything in reach.

What can fight Authority? What can break its Realities, disperse its warp?

Virginia governor honors terrorist group

Says the Washington Post, "It's fine that Mr. McDonnell decided to proclaim April as Confederate History Month; the Confederacy is an important chapter of history that merits study and draws tourists to Virginia."

I'm not quite sure it's "fine"; should Germany have a "Nazi History Month?" Perhaps, if the time were devoted to studying how such a fuck-up occurred and how we can prevent it from happening again. But instead, McDonnell's proclamation honors the terrorist group that styled itself the "Confederate States of America". (What besides "terrorists" do you call an organization that used violence to attempt to bring about political change, and opened fire on American soldiers in a time of peace?)

The Post continues:

But any serious statement on the Confederacy and the Civil War would at least recognize the obvious fact -- that slavery was the major cause of the war, and that the Confederacy fought largely in defense of what it called "property," which meant the right to own slaves. Instead, Mr. McDonnell's proclamation chose to omit this, declaring instead that Virginians fought "for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." The words "slavery" and "slaves" do not appear.

Even more incendiary is the proclamation's directive that "all Virginians" must appreciate the state's "shared" history and the Confederacy's sacrifices. Surely he isn't including the 500,000 Virginia slaves who constituted more than a quarter of the state's Civil War-era population, who cheered the Union and ran away to it when they could.

U.S. military covers up massacre of Iraqi civilians; Wikileaks uncovers it

Was it rank incompetence, or was it total disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians? You'll have to judge for yourself. But what we do know is that the U.S. military killed over a dozen civilians in New Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff, and wounded at least two children, then lied about it.

Now, the heroes at Wikileaks have obtained, and posted to the net, the video that the U.S. government does not want you to see. It may shock you. I hope it does. And I hope you'll think about how many cases just like this haven't been leaked. And I hope you'll make any naive kid you might know, who's thinking about joining the military and being some kind of hero, sit down and watch it, and think about how much glory there is in getting the sort of insane orders that lead to you shooting children and photographers.

more on the befuddled ideas of teabaggers

Bloomberg reports on a poll showing that 90 percent of Tea Party backers say that while the federal government is trying to control too many aspects of private life and more decisions should be made at the state level, 70% want the federal government to foster job creation. Even as 80% say expansion of the government’s role in the economy is a high threat, almost half of them want the government to step into the economy and do something about Wall Street executive bonuses.

And the New York Times profiles Tea Party organizers like Tom Grimes, who called his Democratic congressman for help getting government health care when he lost his job, and then got 200 teabaggers to come to the office of the that same congressman to protest the supposed "government takeover" of health care. Grimes, who also receives Social Security benefits from that chunk of change us working folks get taken out of out paycheck under FICA, says "If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own."

Grimes is also looking into getting a part-time government job with the federal government's Census Bureau.

Or there's Diana Reimer, a national coordinator for the "Tea Party Patriots", who also collects Medicare and Social Security benefits. And there's folks like Jeff McQueen, a former auto parts salesman, who organizes Tea Party groups to agitate for smaller government and who blames the loss of his job on the government not doing enough to regulate trade, saying “The government has allowed free trade and never set up any rules.”

Says Grimes, “If you don’t trust the mindset or the value system of the people running the system, you can’t even look at the facts anymore.”

Which pretty much summarizes the teabagger mindset: I know those folks are evil, so I don't have to bother with facts.

I miss having a sane conservative movement in this country, I really do.

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