RIP: Gore Vidal


All in all, I would not have missed this century for the world.–Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, author, intellect, anti-war activist, openly gay literary icon of leonine presence, has died in Los Angeles. He was 86. I remember reading about him as celebrity–at Studio 54, seeing him on TV, long before I read Myra Breckenridge— and read about Caligula in Penthouse. I kinda thought making a movie for Bob Guccione, Penthouse’s publisher was slumming for him, but I still admired and respected him for his wit, insight, use of language and utter charm.  I was also fascinated by his pedigree, his ancestry which contained so much of America’s history.

Plus he believed in:

the ancient American sense that whatever is wrong with human society can be put right by human action.

USA Today’s obit is beautiful. And not just because we like the same quote.

As election time draws near, ponder Gore Vidal’s words:

Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.

Let’s Pick-Fresh!

This is about what we are getting every day or two days or so . . .

Rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel fronds, green zukes, yellow crookneck (baby one in pic), pole beans, chives, basil, chili serrano’s, Black Krim ‘maters, Beefeater ‘maters, Yellow Pear ‘maters, Red Pear ‘maters, Roma ‘maters, DELICIOUS Yellow ‘maters that are large, plump and SO tasty . . . tasty, and purdy, too.

So like, what’s in YOUR veggie and herb basket? Got Pic? I’ll post August Garden pics in a day or two . . . it’s a jungle out there! *G*

Veggie Basket

 

 

Harry Truman and Memory of Mass Murder

Harry Truman spoke in the U.S. Senate on June 23, 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning,” he said, “we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

A devastated, burned building with a dome under a clear blue sky in Hiroshima.
The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan which remained intact amid the devastation of the bombing (Photo: Imahinasyon Photography / Flickr)

Did Truman value Japanese lives above Russian and German?  There is nothing anywhere to suggest that he did.  Yet we debate, every August 6th or so, whether Truman was willing to unnecessarily sacrifice Japanese lives in order to scare Russians with his nuclear bombs.  He was willing; he was not willing; he was willing.  Left out of this debate is the obvious possibility that killing as many Japanese as possible was among Truman’s goals.

A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese person on earth. William Halsey, who commanded the United States’ naval forces in the South Pacific during World War II, thought of his mission as “Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs,” and had vowed that when the war was over, the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell. War correspondent Edgar L. Jones wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, “What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off  the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers.”

On August 6, 1945, President Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T.  It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”Hiroshima was, of course, a city full of people, not an Army base. But those people were merely Japanese. Australian General Sir Thomas Blamey had told the New York Times: “Fighting Japs is not like fighting normal human beings. The Jap is a little barbarian…. We are not dealing with humans as we know them. We are dealing with something primitive. Our troops have the right view of the Japs. They regard them as vermin.”

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Late Night: “Brady Bunch” Goes Modern

The “Brady Bunch” is getting some modern touches for a 21st century relaunch: Mike and Carol were previously married, and their respective ex-spouses are still in their lives. Plus, they have a kid together. No word regarding Alice or Sam the Butcher’s revised characters (the best butcher shop I know in Los Angeles, Lindy and Grundy, is run by a lovely couple, Amelia and Erika, so butcher shops still exist, and Alice might end up being an older tattooed hipster nanny/manny which could be interesting). Vince Vaughn is producing, and the project is at CBS

Growing up in SoCal, where almost everyone I knew was a kid with divorced parents like me, both The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family seemed to be about divorce, and a way of helping kids cope with being in a blended family (as we call them now), or having a single parent. I always wanted an episode of The Partridge Family where the kids’ dad reappears and wants to take Danny with him…

Deadline Hollywood, which broke the story, points out that in 1969, the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz (the man behind My Favorite Martian and Gilligan’s Island), a true television genius who addresses vital societal issues in his sitcoms:

wanted Carol to be a divorcée but the network refused, so the end of her first marriage was never addressed.

My, how things have changed. (more…)

Late Night: “Brady Bunch” Goes Modern

The “Brady Bunch” is getting some modern touches for a 21st century relaunch: Mike and Carol were previously married, and their respective ex-spouses are still in their lives. Plus, they have a kid together. No word regarding Alice or Sam the Butcher’s revised characters (the best butcher shop I know in Los Angeles, Lindy and Grundy, is run by a lovely couple, Amelia and Erika, so butcher shops still exist, and Alice might end up being an older tattooed hipster nanny/manny which could be interesting). Vince Vaughn is producing, and the project is at CBS

Growing up in SoCal, where almost everyone I knew was a kid with divorced parents like me, both The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family seemed to be about divorce, and a way of helping kids cope with being in a blended family (as we call them now), or having a single parent. I always wanted an episode of  The Partridge Family where the kids’ dad reappears and wants to take Danny with him…

Deadline Hollywood, which broke the story, points out that in 1969, the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz (the man behind My Favorite Martian and Gilligan’s Island), a true television genius who addresses vital societal issues in his sitcoms:

 wanted Carol to be a divorcée but the network refused, so the end of her first marriage was never addressed.

My, how things have changed.

The Syrian Strife and ‘The Mouse That Roared’

Time magazine’s Rania Abouzeid, from within Syria’s Idlib Province, recently painted a bleak picture…

Going Rogue: Bandits and Criminal Gangs Threaten Syria’s Rebellion

“They (the FSA) get more support than we do, but our support is delivered to us, theirs doesn’t make it to them. That’s the truth,” he says. “Their support stays in Turkey, it doesn’t make it to the revolutionaries here. If our supporters send us 100 lira, we get 100 lira. This is the reality.” He wouldn’t say who his supporters were, if they were state sponsors or individuals. “Whether it is official or unofficial doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “We have enough.”

It’s a statement many of the FSA units operating around these parts can only aspire to utter. Most blame the so-called commanders in exile for their situation, for not providing them with the weapons, ammunition and funds they need, leaving them to scrounge for supplies, and some units to resort to criminal means to secure them. {…}

…Some FSA units are snatching loyalist soldiers from military buses and demanding a ransom from their families for their return. The amount varies, and can be anywhere between 100,000 Syrian pounds ($1,550) to 200,000 SYP ($3,100) for a regular soldier, although the family of a lieutenant colonel reportedly recently paid one million SYP for his release…

“Some people have reasons for not defecting, they should not be punished for protecting their families,” one man said, referring to the fact that retribution by loyalist troops is sometimes exacted on a defector’s family or property. “If they are going to their hometown on leave, they can defect,” countered an FSA member, “and we need the money.” The consensus was that if a loyalist was picked up on leave, on his way home it was wrong, because he may be using his leave to defect. If he was heading back to his barracks, however, it was a different story, the men said. “It means he’s coming back to kill us,” said Abu Amjad, whose son Amjad heads a rebel FSA unit, “so he has to be stopped.”

The ever intrepid, Pepe Escobar, raises the very same concerns that I have of the Kurdish Question…

Welcome to the Kurdish Spring

Follow the oil
This Swedish report [1](PDF!) contains arguably the best breakdown of the hyper-fragmented Syrian opposition. The “rebels” are dominated by the exile-heavy Syrian National Council (SNC) and its Hydra-style militias, the over 100 gangs that compose the Not Exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA).

But there are many other parties as well, including socialists; Marxists; secular nationalists; Islamists; the Kurdish National Council (KNC) – an 11-party coalition very close to the Iraqi Kurdistan government; and the PYD. {…}

Show me your terrorist ID
Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told al-Jazeera [2] that yes – they are training Syrian Kurds who defected from the Syrian Army to defend their de facto enclave. It was Barzani who supervised the key deal sealed in Irbil on July 11 that led to Assad forces retreating from Syrian Kurdistan.

What is being described as “liberated cities” [3] is now being “jointly ruled” by the PYD and the KNC. They have formed what is known as a Supreme Kurdish Body.

One can never underestimate the Kurdish capacity to shoot themselves in the foot (and elsewhere). Yet one can also imagine all this cross-country Kurdish frenzy terrifying quite a few souls in Istanbul and Ankara. This [4] columnist for the daily newspaper Hurriyet got it right; “Arabs are fighting, Kurds are winning.” The Kurdish Spring is at hand. And it is already hitting Turkey’s borders. {…}

…Especially when you start itching to kill “terrorists” living in your neighbor’s territory – even though your Western allies may view them as “freedom fighters”. Meanwhile you actively support Salafi-jihadis – “insurgents” formerly known as terrorists – back and forth across your borders.

An increasingly erratic Erdogan has invoked a “natural right” [5] to fight “terrorists”. But first they must produce an ID; if they are Sunni Arab, they get away with it. If they are Kurdish, they eat lead…

Now, I’d like to delve into some of the inner-most thoughts of a true Neocon under Shrub…

Rumsfeld’s Intel Chief: Iraq War ‘Greatest Decision of the Century’

There’s a broad consensus in the U.S. defense establishment today that the choice to invade Iraq was ill-considered and that the initial plan to stabilize the country was even worse. But for Donald Rumsfeld’s one-time intelligence chief, the Iraq war wasn’t just the right call at the time. It was “one of the great strategic decisions of the first half of the 21st century, if it proves not to be the greatest.”

Stephen Cambone, who served as the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2003 until 2007, surprised the audience at the Aspen Security Forum this weekend when he hailed the Iraq war as an alloyed triumph that paved the way for the rebellions now sweeping the Middle East. “It will be one of the greatest strategic victories of the United States because…. of the aftershocks that you see flowing through the region, whether it be in Libya, or in Egypt, or now in Syria,” he said…

“There was a preponderance of evidence that led one to believe that it was reasonable to suppose that there was in fact weapons of mass destruction in that country,” he told the Forum (where, full disclosure, I served as a panel moderator). “The conclusion was mistaken. To draw the conclusion might not have been a mistake… You only know what you know at the time and you have to fill in the rest. So was it reasonable to draw that judgement at the time? I think the answer — based on what people, the judgement they did draw — yeah it probably was. In retrospect, was it accurate? No.’”

Cambone also offered a prediction: that the wave of unrest unleashed by the Iraq war would soon hit American allies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. This was an extremely positive thing, Cambone added: “After Syria comes Lebanon and after Lebanon come Jordan, and after those come Saudi Arabia; this place is in motion in a way that it hasn’t been for a century — and we have an opportunity to shape that.”

Well, f*ck me and the entire ME, Cambone…!

Here’s a great Intel update on Syria… The Syrian Intelligence War: A Tale of Two Security Headquarters… And, here’s more sober analysis… Shias and Sunnis battle it out for Mideast control… Btw, Adana is ground zero of F/U(c)K/US-GCC…

Exclusive: Secret Turkish nerve center leads aid to Syria rebels

…Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.

News of the clandestine Middle East-run “nerve centre” working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.

“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source.

“The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”

The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added…

Now, Angry Arab, in an excellent Al Akhbar Op-Ed, completely eviscerated our Western Lame Stream Media reporting on Syria…

Syria: Shameful Performance of Western Media

The performance of the Western media (American, British, French and others) regarding the Syrian conflict has been quite shameful. One does not expect much from American media. Ill-informed foreign editors and correspondents and political cowardice turn American media into tools of US foreign policy.

This is especially true when it comes to coverage of the Middle East, where extra political courage and uncharacteristic level of knowledge and expertise are rather rare, even though they are essential to challenging US foreign policy. But when it comes to Syria, British media – including the liberal Guardian which has often been brave in challenging Western foreign policies and wars – have been indistinguishable from American media…

He goes on to list 22 specific reasons, and, it’s quite the litany…!

In winding down, Philip Giraldi penned another must-read…

The Mouse That Roared

Iran is again front-page news, on this occasion for threatening the United States Navy. A lengthy featured article in the Washington Post describes how Iran has obtained new sophisticated anti-ship missiles and has added fast attack boats and submarines. It has also adopted new tactics involving swarming attacks that would put US vessels in a 360-degree battle environment, testing the ability of the conventional warships to maintain effective defense in all directions simultaneously.

None of this is really new. Wargames in 2002 and Pentagon studies in 2009 and again earlier this year confirmed that the US Navy would have considerable difficulty in dealing with the Iranian tactics. I reported the same in April of this year in my Deep Background column in the print edition of The American Conservative. Not surprisingly, the Post and I are viewing the same development in slightly different ways. For me, Iran’s capabilities are just one more reason why a war with all its unintended and unanticipated consequences would have the potential to turn catastrophic with one or more US Navy ships going to the bottom and oil going past $200 a barrel. {…}

…Actually, it is naïve to believe that Iran is some kind of Islamic superpower able to project itself worldwide. If Iran’s capabilities were as described by Warrick and Pletka it would be a good reason to be hesitant about going to war. Warrick clearly wants to promote and not spoil the more favorable narrative that Tehran threatens all of us. In reality, Iran is far behind Israeli and US military capabilities in every significant area and its sponsorship of terrorism is far from proven. Washington’s right to have a massive military and naval presence in the Middle East is unquestioned by the Post as is Israel’s right to attack Iran preemptively. But defensive measures by Iran in the face of five years of increasingly specific threats from Washington and Tel Aviv are somehow sinister.

I’d only add that Congress and the Oily Bomber, have just upped the ante on Iran… Obama’s New Sanctions Target Banks that Help Iran

President Barack Obama announces new U.S. sanctions against foreign banks that help Iran sell its oil.

*gah*

Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law

Voter ID laws? “We call those poll taxes.” (photo: USDAgov / flickr)

What is going on with PAs voter ID law? What is the real purpose of the law? Is voter fraud really a legitimate concern?

Going through the comments on the Inky’s website (The Philadelphia Inquirer puts comment sections after most articles, the section after the Letters to the Editor is, in particular, a very popular place for on-line political comments even though all the comments are usually deleted the next day) I saw a somewhat persuasive defense of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law. The commenter, clearly acting in a similar position to the one that your humble writer holds (I act as the Minority Inspector of Elections for my polling place) declared that, as an election official, his job was to ask voters for their name, look up that name in the book printed up by election officials, the would-be voter signed underneath the name and then voted. The commenters complaint was that it was impossible to verify that the person then voting was really and truly the person that he or she claimed to be, especially as the book often used signatures that were entered in a long time ago and, to a non-handwriting expert, it appears as though a different person is signing in.

To this, all I can say is that on my second ship in the Navy, my job as Personnelman was ordinarily to work with enlisted sailors, but one day a Yeoman asked me to take a document up to the ship’s Executive Officer (Known as the XO, second in command after the CO, the Captain) have him sign it and then bring the document back to the ship’s Admin Office. The XO was clearly having a bad day as he complained that he had to sign off on documents all the time and he simply had to trust the people who were asking him to sign as he couldn’t actually go to inspect the machinery he was certifying was in good working order, couldn’t question the Petty Officer who was assuring him that she was following protocol and couldn’t personally assure himself that the officers who served below him had really run through all of the proper checklists and had really exhausted all avenues before resorting to what they were now asking him to certify was the correct procedure. I stood straight, listened sympathetically, said “Yes, sir,” and took the now-signed document back to the Admin Office. Even on a medium-size ship of just 400 sailors, it was often necessary for the people in charge to simply take their people’s word for it that they were following the correct procedures and that the weapons or the machinery they were assuring their senior people was in good working order was indeed in good working order.

Are there exceptions? Are there sailors who lie and who say they’ve inspected something when they actually haven’t? Yes, there are a few such isolated, very infrequent cases here and there. Generally, by and large, the system works and American ships make it safely to and from their destinations and they perform their missions correctly all the time. In terms of voter fraud, are there cases of voters pretending to be someone they’re not? Yes, but those such cases constitute fewer than 100 for the entire country, for the entire past decade. Voter fraud, someone who pretends to be someone they are not for the purposes of submitting an improper ballot, is a more-or-less nonexistent problem. How do we know this? Well, the G.W. Bush Administration opened up an investigation back in 2002 and concluded after five years that the problem of voter fraud was more-or-less nonexistent. Please keep in mind that during those years, Republicans controlled the Presidency, the House and the Senate, so there was little or no Democratic interference to complain of.

The Montgomery County Community College hosted an information session on the voter ID law on Thursday the 26th of July. The line of questioners went out the door. The piece reporting on that session goes over all of the ID cards currently known to be valid for voting with. The Intelligencer tells of a number of cases where voters were able to obtain valid voter IDs, but as their first case tells it, she had to jump through a number of legal hoops to do so as: [cont’d.] (more…)

A Kernel of Wheat

This is a true account of two farming community events during the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87

Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939
Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939 By americanartmuseum
Smithsonian American Art Museum, creative commons, flickr

Author’s note: For those of you following the current drought, here are some corn and soybean pictures I snapped yesterday, in Western Tennessee, at the Kentucky border. Thrashing of the wheat, an activity that is one of the subjects of this post, is something I had to ask my mother about. I was not sure when they did this, because we are not seeing much wheat these days.

Drought Stressed Corn Western Tennessee/Kentucky Border
Corn, Drought2012, click to enlarge. Or not. It’s pretty sad.

Drought soybeans
soybeans, Drought2012, click to enlarge.

A Kernel of Wheat
Western Missouri, 1932

Of all farming activities we performed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, two were notable because they involved the whole community: thrashing of the wheat, and butchering the animals. Summer thrashing of the wheat was the most exciting time of the year because it was a social time rolled into sustenance activity.

The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine (or simply thresher), was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented (c.1784) for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails, and was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

Source.
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Deportation Reviews Mostly Didn’t Happen

Suer (photo: TexasGOPVote.com / flickr)

Rep. Steve King has been threatening to sue the Obama Administration over their new directive to stop deportation proceedings and instead offer work permits to DREAM-eligible undocumented immigrants. King continued that threat yesterday.

KING:I want to stop the bleeding at the border. I want to shut off the job magnet. I want to force the president to enforce the law and this litigation that I’m bringing forward that will be filed sometime soon will be asking for a writ of mandamus to command the president to enforce the law. That’s a constitutional provision we can implement. We know the president doesn’t want to enforce it. He’s said he will not.

But before King goes too far down the road, he might want to stop for a second and wait and see if the Administration actually implements what they’ve promised. Their track record, particularly in the area of immigration and deportation, is a bit shabby, you see.

For instance, the last big Administration initiative on this front was to initiate a comprehensive review of all 300,000 cases in the deportation pipeline. This was going to stop the deportations of everyone but known criminals. But the follow-through simply hasn’t occurred.

But since then, prosecutors have opted to close 1.9 percent of the nearly 300,000 cases in the immigration court system, according to the latest data released last week by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University. In San Francisco, prosecutors closed 2.9 percent of cases.

A large backlog remains, and immigration rights advocates question whether prosecutors are doing enough to dismiss low-priority cases.

The number of closed cases is “abysmally low for the number of cases pending,” said Jackie Shull-Gonzalez, an attorney with Dolores Street Community Services in San Francisco, who has taken on Candia’s case.

Prosecutors have closed 4,360 cases and reviewed 288,000 since Morton issued his directive last year, according to ICE. The closed cases include 3,302 people with “a long-term presence” in the country and a close family member who is a U.S. citizen; 303 children who had been in the U.S. for more than five years; 10 individuals with good records from the Coast Guard or Army; and 91 victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and other serious crimes, the agency said.

“Obviously ICE disagrees with those who are characterizing this ongoing effort as a failure,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice wrote in an email to The Bay Citizen. “The ongoing case-by-case review is helping to alleviate backlogged immigration courts and enabling ICE to more quickly remove those individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety.”

If this is a successful program, we have a big problem with metrics in the federal bureaucracy. 4,360 closed cases in a year is infinitesimal. Immigrants rights advocates say that the subjects being reviewed for deportation are routinely denied access to counsel, and this makes the reviews little more than cursory. What we know is that it failed to stop the deportations of all undocumented immigrants, and not just criminals, in 2011.

Now, the DREAM deferred action order works a bit differently, in that eligible immigrants can affirmatively apply rather than having to mount a defense while under lock and key. However, the track record of implementation of these immigration matters is really awful. Something gets lost in translation on the way to ICE.

So before King goes through all the trouble of suing to get the Administration to enforce the law, he might want to see if they already are.