Middle East Word Salad, the Carson Recipe

Here, clipped from coverage this morning, is a Q&A gem from the Nov. 10 GOP debate.
(Source:  an article on HuffingtonPost.com)

QUESTION: Dr. Carson, you were against putting troops on the ground in Iraq and against a large military force in Afghanistan. Do you support the president’s decision to now put 50 special ops forces in Syria and leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

CARSON: Well, putting the special ops people in there is better than not having them there, because they — that’s why they’re called special ops, they’re actually able to guide some of the other things that we’re doing there.

And what we have to recognize is that Putin is trying to really spread his influence throughout the Middle East. This is going to be his base. And we have to oppose him there in an effective way.

We also must recognize that it’s a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.

What we’ve been doing so far is very ineffective, but we can’t give up ground right there. But we have to look at this on a much more global scale. We’re talking about global jihadists. And their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying, how do we make them look like losers? Because that’s the way that they’re able to gather a lot of influence.

And I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that? It would be in Iraq. And if — outside of Anbar in Iraq, there’s a big energy field. Take that from them. Take all of that land from them. We could do that, I believe, fairly easily, I’ve learned from talking to several generals, and then you move on from there.

But you have to continue to face them, because our goal is not to contain them, but to destroy them before they destroy us.


KevinNevada:  Wow.

Stormy Weather

The prediction for this winter on the western side of the continent is that we’ll see an El Nino period, a sustained season of heavy precip.

I woke up this morning to the first confirmation of that – a California-style heavy rainfall pouring down on Las Vegas.  Not a thunderstorm, our usual form of rain, but a fat and jolly set of rain clouds pouring water upon us.

This is, usually, one of our dry seasons.

Brace yourself at 9000-feet, and anyone else reading this who plans to be in California or nearby, between now and next May.  Plan for wet weather and heavy mountain snowpacks.  I think there will be quite a lot of it.


what is it?


Saw this guy hopping around in front of the house a few days ago and can’t figure out what it is. Before we go any further, let me say I’m not an experienced birder, or even an especially attentive one, but I do like to be able to recognize all visitors to my house be they plant or animal.

The coloration on the head, along with the pale iris and the relatively heavy bill is consistent with Sibley’s description of the Common Grackle, but the coloration on the wing coverts is not.  The tail is not quite right either, but even more importantly this guy is almost exactly the same size as the Robins he was hopping around with, and that’s really a bit too small for a Grackle.

I sent the photo to a friend who is a very accomplished birder and he’s not sure either. He’s thinking immature Brewer’s Blackbird, but the coloration of this bird is sufficiently inconsistent for him to be unsure, so he’s forwarding the photo up the birding food-chain for additional insights. The description and illustration for the Brewer’s in Sibley, especially the description which reads “glossy black overall”,  seems, to my eye anyway,  to be a poor match, because nothing about this bird left me with the impression of “black”. But then I’m a birding neophyte.

Behavior was nothing remarkable. Scavenged for dropped seeds under the feeder, and watched other birds taking seeds directly from it but couldn’t seem to figure that part out. Wasn’t comfortable hanging on the feeder at all, and would remain on it only for an instant before returning to the ground or to this little branch. And I’ve only seen just the one, a few times a day, for the last week or so. Quite skittish, rather like a Steller’s Jay in that respect, and will take off instantly at the first sign of any primates moving about, even if inside the house near a window.

And yeah, that is the first light snowfall of the season you see in the photo. Didn’t stick below 11,000, or not for long anyway, but snow it is. Already.

So, we don’t know what this bird is yet.

Any ideas?


UPDATE, Oct 26;  The consensus from the birding gurus is that it is most likely a Common Grackle.

Probably, from the brightness of the eye, an adult male rather than a hatch year bird, and possibly still in molt, hence the shorter than usual tail feathers which make the bird look somewhat smaller than is described in the guides. The Sibley guide I have doesn’t mention the possibility of the purplish coloration on the coverts, which is clearly an important omission since that coloration is not rare.

Anyway, there it is. A Common Grackle, and his name is Roger.

run. just run

There will always be those who can’t, for one reason or another, or who just won’t out of stubbornness or machismo.

I rode out a category III once, with windspeeds around 130, and that was plenty enough for me. This is category V with winds of 200+.

If you can, run.

Get the hell out of the way.

Holy crap. This is going to be very very bad. Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

pissed off

That’s what we hear every day.

People are pissed off and they’re pissed off with politicians in particular. Nothing new about that, though, is there?

But here’s an interesting graphic on the GOP goat rodeo, stolen fair and square from Professor Hubbard,  suggesting that the pissed-offiness has now crystallized beyond the usual ideological divides and is now aimed directly, and increasingly, at politicians generically.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 5.09.35 PM

Tracking combined preferences in the GOP primary polling for “politicians” vs “non-politicians”

I’m on record as predicting that we saw Peak Trump some weeks ago, and I still think he’s not going to be the nominee, but it’s possible I think that out of an inability to imagine how the GOP could fuck things up that badly, rather than out of any empirical evidence in the present moment.

One thing would seem to be clear; if the eventual GOP nominee turns out to be, say Bush or Rubio or some other actual politician, then this seemingly resolute hostile focus on the political breed as a whole will have to be reversed.

I’m not sure what kind of things—especially things within the control of the RNC et al— deserve to be on a list of things which might cause that.

(h/t MockPaperScissors)

maher gets it…

The thingy we were talking about just the other day—the need for getting a handle on the “socialism” terminology thing?

Maher, whose style I often find grating but there’s no denying that he’s smart,  goes after Bernie on this issue here, and truth be told Bernie doesn’t quite seem to get it yet.

Bernie needs to brush up on his listening skills.


controlling the narrative…

…or trying real hard to do so at least.

We all know that journalism is on life support and that the corporate media is, well, the corporate media, but shenanigans like this one from CNN after the Democrat Party’s debate are seldom this obvious;


All, and I mean all, of the denizens of Punditstan in the major media outlets declared Hillary Clinton to be “the winner” in that debate.

Every. Single. One.

Including, to the almost undiluted derision of their readers in the attached comment threads, the Guardian. (And as someone who practiced reading by pawing through the household copy of the Guardian back when it was the Manchester Guardian, this makes me sad. Briefly. I’m over it now.)

But all, and I mean all, of the polls taken in real-time during the debate or shortly thereafter, along with all, and I mean all, of the indicators derived from various internet metrics, suggest a different assessment by ordinary people watching the show, however.

I suppose we have to adjust for the fact that Bernie’s people are already much more engaged in the process than Hillary’s. And probably more internet savvy, by and large, as well.

Then again, if I had career plans for access to power in another Clinton administration, or if my paycheck came from a corporate overlord who was one of the candidate’s biggest campaign contributors, I’d probably be pretty thoughtful about what I wrote.


an argument for bernie

… by which I mean;

“Hey Bernie! Since you’re happy enough to refer to your self as a “democratic socialist”, and since you ain’t gonna change it (which would be a bigger problem by far) and since there’s a clutch of godknows how many people—whose votes you might enjoy—out there with either ambiguity or outright error in their minds about what that means, and since it’s a damn good idea to tinker with that issue, here’s an argument you might find useful.”

On one end of that clutch, the easy end, there are thoughtful people who are just not familiar with you or your political record, and who are not reflexively spooked by the word “socialism”. These folks you just have to say “howdy” to, basically, and they’ll stick around to hear more.

Bernie Sanders. Paging Mr Bernie Sanders. White courtesy telephone please….

On the other end, the tough end, are many people still reflexively using vocabularies from the Cold War, and who are damn sure they know what a socialist is and they don’t want any fucking part of it you commie piece of shit. These folks you just stuck with a cattle-prod and they won’t support you at gunpoint.

Hanging around in the deep and complex interface between those ends are some other thoughtful people who maybe think they know what socialism is, but have been misinformed and just don’t. Or they kinda know what it is, but don’t recognize socialism for the rich in terms of tax breaks and subsidies and so on, as, well, socialist in their widest principles.

So the way forward here is to frame the discussion in terms of  socialism, at least in it’s economic bare-bones context,  having long been a permanent presence in US political and economic thought and practice.

“Hey look!” I hear you growl, “There’s nothin’ new or weird about it!” — Socialism ain’t Voldemort for crissakes (thanks GreenLake), it’s possible to say it out loud. We pay taxes. The gummint takes that money and spends it on shit. All kinds of shit. This is 2015, can we say “shit” on TeeVee now? Everyone says it all the time around here.

Anyway, taking tax money and spending it on education is socialism. School buses are a socialist enterprise. Tax cuts for millionaires is socialism too along with oil subsidies and more military expenditure than the next dozen or so nations in the Galaxy combined, and, well, you get the picture.  You can make a better list than I to close out that inning.

Where we’re headed here is to take command of defining the meaning of “socialism”, because if we don’t, someone else will, and will keep a lot of people’s political wheels bogged down in a linguistic evolutionary backwater.  Command of the vocabulary in this instance is not, emphatically not, a football you can just allow to bounce around loose.

We need to define it as a wide principle, a principle which is a constant presence in US politics. There will be nitpickers, there will be scholars, there will be learned readers of the works of Dead White Men who will wish to Bring Things Up.  They may well even be right, but fuck ’em. Nobody reads those guys anymore anyway.

Socialism in the form of Medicare and Social Security are hated by the right wing, but are hugely popular is spite of the “free marketeers” best efforts to describe how stupid it is because hey, you know,  you could make so much more money if you made those payments into some private financial investment and boy do I have some triple A recommendations right here in this portfolio. Except, of course, for those times when you’d lose money in a big way,  so hey, you know, nothin’ wrong with hedging some bets, eh?  With another private financial institution, naturally.  I have some excellent recommendations for you there too, of course.

Anyway, so now the discussion is framed realistically, both recognizing and illustrating that the socialist principle of taking tax money and spending it for the “public good” is the common denominator here. Never mind what Rupert fucking Murdoch or Paul Ryan or Karl Marx say “socialism” is, we’re talking about what Bernie means by it, and that doesn’t have to be a deeply scholarly thing at all. Better if it’s not. What it does need is to be comprehensible, which means getting it down as close as possible to a catchy bumper sticker.  And then push it to become, gradually and as much as possible, what the word comes to mean for the purposes of this election.

Which then means the fight, and boy is there ever going to be a fight, is now not so much about language and old habits and name-calling, but more about what we mean by “public good” and what’s the best way to spend that tax money so we can move toward it.

What Bernie would call “actual issues”.

Bernie’s lifelong position on economic justice and the question of who should be the primary beneficiaries of government spending is rock-solid. Ordinary people should be at the front of the line. The conservative angle is that government’s primary responsibility is to business, and the bigger the business the more government help that business will get. Oil and Ag subsidies etc etc. Selling off public assets dirt cheap to private companies in the extractions industry. Room for some traditional Bernie boilerplate in here somewhere.  Then behold! The benefits of that will trickle down to everyone.  A rising tide lifts all boats and blah blah.  No mention of what happens with a rising tide to those who can’t afford a boat and we better be damn sure not to upset Jesus and .. well hell,  it all just is a religion all-of-a-piece for some of these muppets, what with Biblical flat taxes and Bronze Age morality carefully cherry-picked and marginally sanitized for today’s market and …

Where was I?

Oh right. Taking control of defining what the word “socialist” means for this election period.  Hey, attack the crap out of Bush(s)(s) for implementing their kind of socialism! Why the hell not? They’re socialist to the fucking bone when it comes to costs and people know it, but they don’t think of it like that very often.  The first word which pops into their head when they think about what in good Lancashire company were once called “those worthless tossers”  is not “socialism”.

Maybe it should be.

Then it’s just a matter of selling Bernie’s flavor of socialism by comparison with the GOP’s version. A socialism which recognizes that the source of all sovereign power rests where it’s fucking supposed to rest, with the people, and not with a bunch of obscenely wealthy crony capitalist wankers.

Oh, and it’s not just the GOP which supports measures which benefit that latter group, not nowadays, is it Hillary?

I had meant to get this together in plenty of time before the 1st debate, but firewood intervened and I see now you’re almost certainly in the Green Room waiting to go on.


Plenty of time yet, methinks.

The Funny Side

We are about 14 months away from The Big Day, and this is already shaping up to be the weirdest and most absurd election in a turtle’s lifetime.  So, let’s start a thread on the funny side.

My first offering:  something posted by Jeb Lund of the G., a promising new addition to their team.  He write a decent schtick.  This was his takedown of the inept campaign of one Scotty Walker, Gov. of Wisconsin this past weekend.  The theme is:  if you are this bad at the thing, just stop!



As a followup, the HuffPost’s Jason Linkins, who also can craft a sentence, had this up today:


This was ‘he reversed himself yet again, it’s a definite habit’, with hilarity ensuing.  Walker’s staff have corrected and reversed his stupid remarks on almost every major issue.  First he was for a wall on the Canadian border . . . then, not.  First he was for repealing the 14th Amendment . . . then, not.  Now he will NOT answer any more pesky questions  . . . then, he is, again.

The 2012 edition of Mitt Romney was not as bad (well, almost . . . but not as bad) about this.

Scotty is setting a new standard.

So cheer up.  Enjoy the show.  These guys are running the finest comedy tour of recent years.




it’s downhill from here

So one day the comment feature on all The Daily Beast articles just vanished—poof!—and was replaced with a little “How do I comment?” link.

To this;

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 8.45.14 AM

So far as I know Tomasky’s increasingly delusional columns at TDB were the only reliable place to occasionally run across Rip and 9mile, and even tommydog and KevinNevada now and then.

That the Beast would abandon their Livefyre comment platform— absolutely the worst fucking mess I’ve ever seen in terms of functionality and aesthetic appeal—comes as no surprise. And I suppose since the Beast is still losing money hand over fist (so far as I can discover, anyway) it’s understandable that they’d want to cut whatever the costs of maintaining that system were.

But there’s a trend here too, I think.

I just the other day noticed that Firedoglake, which used to have a robust comment culture populated by a committed crowd of participants not unlike Comment is Free back in its early days (Tomasky was in on that gig too, of course) has closed up shop and their URL now redirects to something called “Shadowproof”, a site which also has abandoned any in-house commenting architecture in favor of Facebook, Twitter and Disqus interfaces.

I’m not savvy enough to understand what’s going on, except in general terms I assume this is all just more churning as various online enterprises wiggle around trying to figure out how not to hemorrhage money forever. I’ve never owned a computer that’s ever been connected to Facebook even for an instant, nor will I. Disqus won’t even load for us satellite users most of the time, though as a comment platform it’s fairly workable. Twitter is just so whacko and intolerable and such a time-suck that I haven’t even looked at it in more than a year, and I tried to find a way to discover value in it, I really did.

So none of those “options” have any appeal for me at all.

There’s still a little fun to be had on the Guardian’s comment platform, and some of the old halfway sane Comment is Free crowd are still there giving it their best shot. But I don’t know how many of these online media operations make any money at all, if in fact they do, and I sure don’t understand how they do it. I mean, are there actual internet users who don’t use AdBlocker and the other available (and free!!) browser plug-ins? I haven’t seen an ad on any site I’ve visited hardly at all in I don’t know how long.

I don’t get it. I suppose they can monetize email addresses they get when  folks register with some of them, but I can’t think even a million or so email addresses would be worth all that goddam much, certainly not enough to run a high volume media website with, you know, actual employees and shit.

But hey, what do I know?


Anyway, the Beast’s comment culture sucked, and Tomasky has degenerated into an unimaginative beltway drone continuing, I remain suspicious, to trawl for a job with a future Clinton administration. But I’ll still miss the occasional visit with the usual suspects.