Beautiful Day

It’s absolutely beautiful out, now that yesterday’s rain blew out all that humidity. Go out and enjoy yourself!

P.S. It may not last: Saturn and Uranus are in direct opposition today, so live for the moment.

Jane Austen Fight Club

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, a young man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an uppercut to the jaw & a kick to the kneecap, followed by the removal of his wallet and running like hell.

Populism: Just Like Racism!

Taibbi on David Brooks:

But leaving aside any discussion of Brooks the human being, this latest column of his is something that has to be discussed. The propagandistic argument he makes about the dangers of “populism”  is spelled out here as clearly as you’ll ever see it expressed in print, and this exact thing is a key reason why so much of the corruption that went on on Wall Street in the past few decades was allowed to spread unchecked.

That’s because this argument is tacitly accepted by almost everyone in our business, and most particularly is internalized in the thinking of most newspaper editors and TV news producers, who over time develop an ingrained habitual fear of publishing material that seems hysterical or angry.

This certainly has an effect on the content of news reporting, but perhaps even more importantly, it impacts the tone of news coverage, where outrages are covered without outrage, and stories that are not particularly “balanced” in reality — stories that for instance are quite plainly about one group of people screwing another group of people — become transformed into cool, “objective” news stories in which both the plainly bogus version of events and the real and infuriating version are given equal weight.

Exactly!

Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and “organizing hatreds.”

[…]And the really funny thing about Brooks’s take on populists… I mean, I’m a member of the same Yuppie upper class that Brooks belongs to. I can’t speak for the other “populists” that Brooks might be referring to, but in my case for sure, my attitude toward the likes of Lloyd Blankfein and Hank Paulson has nothing to do with class anger.

I don’t hate these guys because they’re rich and went to fancy private schools. Hell, I’m rich and went to a fancy private school. I look at these people as my cultural peers and what angers me about them is that, with many coming from backgrounds similar to mine, these guys chose to go into a life of crime and did so in a way that is going to fuck things up for everyone, rich and poor, for a generation.

Their decision to rig the markets for their own benefit is going to cause other countries to completely lose confidence in the American economy, it will impact the dollar, and ultimately will make all of us involuntary debtors to whichever state we end up having to borrow from to bail these crimes out.

And from my perspective, what makes these guys more compelling as a journalistic subject than, say, the individual homeowner who took on too much debt is a thing that has nothing to do with class, not directly, anyway. It’s that their “excesses” exist in a nexus of political and economic connections that makes them very difficult to police.

Oh, just go read the whole thing.

Wikileaks: Hundreds of Afghan Civilians Killed

So this is what had the Wikileaks founder so jumpy. No wonder the government wanted to keep this under wraps:

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Timesand the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

From Steve Hynd over at Newshoggers:

The newspapers admit they kept some secrets too sensitive for publication buried and the details in the document dump seem to be of the kind well known already to wonks who have followed Afghanistan reporting over the years, but the manner and volume of the War Log’s release will doubtless crystallize the opinions of many who were only casual readers of news from the West’s occupation there. With public opinion against that occupation running at some 60% in the U.S. and over 70% in the UK and Germany, these leaks will put further pressure on Western governments to find an exit sooner rather than later.

Among the stories on which new light has been shed:

— Pakistan and to a far lesser extent Iran have been offering funding and other direct aid to Taliban groups for years. Pakistan’s ISI is reported to have been behind many Taliban targeting decisions, including on U.S. and coalition troops, despite it being an ostensible ally.

— The U.S. has been using an undisclosed “black” unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. This team has been responsible for the deaths of Afghan policemen and civilians, including children but authorities seem to have been more concerned with keeping its operations secret than curtailing its zeal.

— There have been over 50 incidents of “Green on Green” fire – where Afghan police or soldiers opened fire on their fellow uniformed countrymen, many begun by drug use, corruption or indiscipline.

— There are reports of hundreds of border clashes between Pakistani troops and their Afghan or American opposite numbers – far more than previously reported.

— The 140 reports of incidents involving the shooting and blowing up of civilians by Coalition troops reveal a casual disregard for human life, including “nearly 100 occasions by jumpy troops at checkpoints, near bases or on convoys…‘warning shots’ often seem to cause death or injury, generally ascribed to ricochets.”

The reason why governments don’t want us to see war too closely is that they see how little point there is to the whole bloody mess. Why are we still there?

KGB Agent: David Kelly Was ‘Exterminated’

Once you get into the world of intelligence, anything is possible, including the idea that this agent may be lying to divert us from something else.(It doesn’t help that British authorities have classified the details of UN weapons expert David Kelly‘s death for 70 years.) Because of this and so many other unanswered questions about Kelly’s death, this is a very interesting development for those of us who believe the evidence for invading Iraw was fabricated:

The mystery over the death of David Kelly took a further twist last night after a former KGB officer said he had evidence that the scientist did not commit suicide.

Boris Karpichkov, who worked as a Russian spy for 15 years before fleeing to Britain, has sent a dossier to Attorney General Dominic Grieve in which he claims to relay information from an ‘MI5 agent’ that Dr Kelly had been ‘exterminated’.

His move comes amid increasing calls from within the Coalition Government for a full, independent investigation into Dr Kelly’s death.

Mr Grieve has indicated that he is ‘concerned’ by the growing scepticism among experts about the official version of events.

Dr Kelly was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home in July 2003, after the Government exposed him as the source of a BBC report questioning Tony Blair’s case for war in Iraq.

There was no full coroner’s inquest – instead, Lord Hutton chaired a public inquiry which concluded Dr Kelly died from loss of blood after slashing his left wrist with a blunt garden pruning knife.

A number of doctors have since come forward to say that the incision could not have caused his death.

Mr Karpichkov, who sought political asylum in the UK in 1998 and now has British nationality, says he met the ‘agent’, Peter Everett, on dozens of occasions while carrying out work for Mr Everett’s company Group Global Intelligence Services, which hiredex-MI5 operatives for corporate detective work and infiltration.

In the document sent to Mr Grieve, Mr Karpichkov says that during one of their meetings, two days after Dr Kelly’s body was found, Mr Everett told him that Dr Kelly had been ‘exterminated’ for his ‘reckless behaviour’.

Mr Karpichkov, who says that Mr Everett indicated that he was an ‘active field operative’ for MI5, writes: ‘He told me that it was extremely uncomfortable, inconsistent and unusual for Dr Kelly to slash his arm in the way he did. He would have lost some blood, but it would not have been fatal.

‘He also claimed that it was not a coincidence that Special Branch officers were the ones who first appeared on the scene – they moved Dr Kelly’s body to another location, changed the original position of his corpse and took away incriminating evidence.

‘He added that the scene where Dr Kelly’s body was found was carefully arranged and completely “washed out”, including the destruction of all fingerprints. When I asked who was behind his death, he [Mr Everett] answered indirectly, saying the “competing firm”, which I took to mean MI6.’

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