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Love and affection

Joan Armatrading:

The luckiest

Ben Folds:

Panhandle Slim… Art for Folk…


Panhandle Slim…

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy

Sure, why doesn’t everyone start their own spy agency? What could possibly go wrong?

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.

The silencers — 349 of them — were ordered by a little-known Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon known as the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, according to charging documents. The directorate is composed of fewer than 10 civilian employees, most of them retired military personnel.

Court records filed by prosecutors allege that the Navy paid the auto mechanic — the brother of the directorate’s boss — $1.6 million for the silencers, even though they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture.

Much of the documentation in the investigation has been filed under seal on national security grounds. According to the records that have been made public, the crux of the case is whether the silencers were properly purchased for an authorized secret mission or were assembled for a rogue operation.

A former senior Navy official familiar with the investigation described directorate officials as “wanna-be spook-cops.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the case is still unfolding, he added, “I know it sounds goofy, but it was like they were building their own mini law enforcement and intelligence agency.”

Project Grandma


I bought my first grandmotherly item at a yard sale yesterday. It was an impulse item, a cute little baby reclining seat — $3. I get it in the car, and by the time I’ve driven the mile back to my house, the interior is beginning to smell a lot like skunk. Or no, wait — cat. It smells like fucking cat spray. Ugh. (Come to think of it, the young hipster mother I bought it from did look like a cat person.)

I get it home and figure, first of all, I’ll fill up the tub with hot water and detergent, see how that works. It didn’t. Although this is when I discover the battery compartment; apparently it’s got a vibrating seat, and I’ve just soaked the shit out of it. So I take the batteries out and spray the compartment with alcohol to dry it out.

Now I’m at work on the interwebs, and discover there’s all kinds of commercial items to clean cat spray. (I just don’t have any of them.) Someone suggests throwing it in the wash with baking soda and peroxide, and this seems to do the trick.

But this morning, I’m still getting a tiny whiff of cat pheromones. I sprayed the damn thing with Fabreze and now it’s sitting down in my hallway. If this doesn’t do the trick, it’s going to the thrift store. Maybe a cat person will buy it.

Energy independence!

I’m sure it’ll all be fine, and that the state regulators were doing their job. Ha ha, just kidding!

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Workers are attempting to contain an out-of-control oil well in North Dakota, authorities said Friday.

North Dakota regulators said a well near Watford City in the western part of the state has been leaking oil, gas and water since Thursday.

The Oil and Gas Division said 300 barrels of oil and water have been contained and recovered at the well location. They described the incident as a mechanical failure at a wellhead.

An unknown amount of mist also moved off of the well location. Regulators said they are trying to figure out where the mist settled.

But they also said there is no immediate health risk.

The terrorist group that the American media never talks about:

Numerous sources in Israel-Palestine are reporting that an Israeli settler ran over two young Palestinian girls with a car, killing 5-year-old Enas Shawkat and injuring the other, in a terrorist attack at a kindergarten in the occupied West Bank today, near Ramallah.

The exact details are still being fleshed out, yet it is clear that it was a hit-and-run, while the children were crossing the main street in Singel, a small Palestinian village often attacked by Israeli settlers and their military.

Al Quds already has a report out about the murder: “The Martyrdom of a child and injuring another Dhshma settlers near Singel.” It notes that the two young girls, who were struck in the head in the attack, were immediately taken to an intensive care unit. Enas was announced dead, and the other child appears to be in a coma.

It also includes a video (in Arabic) interviewing one of the young girls’ bereaving mother, clinging desperately to her daughter’s pink Hello Kitty backpack.

This loss comes only three days after the murder of another Palestinian child. 13-year-old Bahaa Samir Badir was shot three times in the chest, at close range, by Israeli military forces.

Studies show that, for the past 12 years, a Palestinian child has been killed, on average, every three days. Bahaa was killed on the 16th, Enas on the 19th. Unfortunately, we can expect another murder in just a few days.

Meet the Huey P. Newton Gun Club


Good. This must be driving those Dallas cops crazy:

They call themselves the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, named after the co-founder of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense. Like the defunct organization which called for reform of community policing, demanding that police come from the neighborhoods they serve, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club says they are marching “to promote self-defense and community policing” in response to the recent high profile stories about police shooting unarmed African Americans across the country.

To the protesters, “community policing” is more than just a word. Communities should be protected by members of the community, and held accountable. Ironically this was the original vision for community policing, articulated in 1812 by Sir Robert Peel. That’s right, it may surprise many to discover that our communities have only had police as we know them for a little over 200 years. Even then, it took a little while for Peel’s concept of police forces to make its way to the United States. Since then it has become a norm that many cannot imagine a time before.

In Texas, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club are following in the footsteps of Newton, who was a law major, striving to stay within the bounds of legality. Though the historical Black Panthers had a notable slip-up which led to then Governor Ronald Reagan signing the Mulford Act which prohibited carrying loaded guns in public space. The goal of the Panthers, as they explained it, was to assert the rights of the people to defend themselves against corrupt police, within the bounds of the law. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club says that’s exactly what they are doing today with their open carry protests.

Police have kept a close eye on the protesters, while also trying to keep their distance. One officer we talked to said “there’s really nothing we can do about it. Open carry protests are not against the law.”

Others refused to comment.

Krugman in Rolling Stone


I have to admit, I didn’t even bother reading the article praising Obama when that issue came in the mail — because Krugman, of all people, should know better. (Once Matt Taibbi left, I figured Jann Wenner would have to justify the magazine’s all-out push for Obama in the 2007 primaries.) Turns out I wasn’t the only person who said “WTF?”. Thomas Frank in Salon:

What are the numbers on public cynicism today? Well, thanks to a big assist from the shutdown-crazed lunatics in the House of Representatives, public trust in government islower today than it has been since they started keeping records. For the executive branchspecifically, the numbers are comparable to those of the final years of the Bush administration. And the inevitable consequence appears to be headed our way next month.

Why is this important? Aside from the obvious and direct reason—that Obama was supposed to restore public faith in government and achieved the opposite—we need to reconsider the role the mighty righties play in the liberal imagination. If we want to believe that Obama has been a consequential and a great president, then the only way to explain his many failings is as a function of his right-wing opposition. He didn’t get the king-sized stimulus we needed, liberals often say, because the right wouldn’t give it to him. He didn’t break up the banks or prosecute the banksters because the Tea Party wouldn’t let him. He didn’t get single payer or the public option because Republicans wouldn’t go along with that. Ditto for card check, antitrust enforcement, cramdown, renegotiating NAFTA, and the rest of the items on the long, doleful list of liberal priorities.

However, anyone who has followed the news for the last five years knows there is another factor to be taken into consideration here: Obama didn’t do these things because he or his advisors didn’t want to do them. Oh, there were ways to get many of them done, especially in 2009 and 2010, when the world was at Obama’s feet, begging for action. (The only possible obstacle in those days was the filibuster power of Senate Republicans, which should have been—and eventually partially was—taken away.) But the Democrats’ heart wasn’t in it. They didn’t even try.

In this connection, allow me to quote Paul Krugman himself, in his column for July 18, 2010, on the matter of the then-looming Tea Party triumph: “The best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis. Obviously, he didn’t do that. Maybe he couldn’t have passed an adequate-sized plan, but the fact is that he didn’t even try.”

And that, folks, leads us to the greatest disappointment of them all: This administration’s utter failure of imagination. I admit that this beef might be peculiar to me, since one of the reasons I was once so psyched to see Barack Obama in the White House is because I thought he was a man who respected learning, intelligence, new ideas. Maybe he still does, in his private life. But as president, he couldn’t seem to see what is obvious to everyone who is not a regular golfer at Congressional: That ignoring the conventional and facing down the Republicans and doing the right thing—on the stimulus, on the banks, on inequality—would also have made him enormously popular, not to mention consequential and successful. It might even have spared him the electoral comeuppance he received in 2010, and whose second installment he seems likely to take delivery on just a few weeks from now.

Also, read Bill Black’s retort.

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