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Hometown: Green Mountains
Home country: US
Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:27 PM
Number of posts: 7,915

Journal Archives

Guardian: A torrent of ghastly revelations: what military service taught me about America


Excellent reflection on the author's changing attitudes.

My first and only war tour took place in Afghanistan in 2010. I was a US Marine lieutenant then, a signals intelligence officer tasked with leading a platoon-size element of 80 to 90 men, spread across an area of operations the size of my home state of Connecticut, in the interception and exploitation of enemy communications. That was the official job description, anyway. The year-long reality consisted of a tangle of rearguard management and frontline supervision.

f boot camp had given me a keen awareness of my country’s violence and the overcompensating sentiment that went with it, my experience in school at Twentynine Palms took longer to register. For a while, all I retained was unrelated impressions: a sulphuric stench that would come with the rain, something of which, years later, I would get a second whiff during the wet sand season in Afghanistan, or the sight of meth-heads and tweakers (that’s what we called them) on the public bus I’d take to Walmart where I’d buy items like cheap portable irons or rechargeable Bluetooth headphones. They were alive with death, and their deathliness had an aggression to it, one that burned with a spirited rage.

It is exhausting having to declaim the same talking points over and over again: that the majority of the US official adversaries were once clients and allies. That almost every intervention comes with an ex post facto assessment from the government acknowledging the failure of the mission. That investigative reporters and historians almost always unearth internal documents betraying motives that not only run counter to public rationales but undermine all claims to humanitarian intent. That the US supplies the world with a preponderance of its weapons and fuels a plurality of its animosities. That the US is the only power to have ever dropped the bomb, that it did so twice, and that it did so not to end a world war (a war that was about to end anyway) but to launch what became a half-century-long cold war on superior footing. While not alone as a global malefactor, the US is the world leader in conventional foreign invasions since 1945, with 12; has engineered at least 38 coups or regime changes since the Spanish-American war of 1898; and has offered direct military support and training to dozens of governments with no regard for human rights. The US incarcerates the most people today, both in absolute and relative terms. It has incarcerated the most people for at least 30-odd years, and it either led the world in its incarceration rate or trailed closely behind the Soviet Union and South Africa for the preceding decades. As early as 1976, one study described America’s rate as the “highest in the world and still rising”. By any standard, the US empire ranks among the world’s most formidable producers of violence, and one would be hard-pressed to defend such all-consuming production on liberal democratic grounds.

En route to Afghanistan, I read the American political theorist Michael Walzer. Back then, I was still a reluctant believer in the gospel of American righteousness, and when Walzer wrote that the global fight against terrorism was “not backward looking and retributive, but forward looking and preventive”, that was enough to keep me faithful. Walzer had come after a more vulgar procession of neoconservative evangelists like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. These were the men who had ushered me to the right as an idealistic high school student, and I became quite the campus missionary when, weeks into my freshman year of college, the two towers fell. I became an opinion columnist and an op-ed editor for the school newspaper, where I penned romantic paeans to the democratising missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of my final contributions was a sombre explanation of why I felt obligated to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and don the uniform. But by the third month of my deployment, even the subtle apologetics of Walzer struck me as dangerously absurd. If only Walzer and others could see what I saw. If only those who saw it with me could really see it.

Boffins don't give a sh!t, slap Trump's face on a turd in science journal


A pair of boffins are in hot water after the image of president Donald Trump made an unexpected cameo in a paper on how to gather animal DNA from their poop at scale.

The paper, which was published in Nature Scientific Reports, discusses the difficulties of gaining high-quality DNA samples from wild animals in a non-invasive way.

Feces is the obvious option, but it is dominated by DNA from other organisms, such as bacteria – so the authors proposed a way to enrich the desired animal's DNA from the sample.

However, the pair also buried an Easter egg in a figure depicting the method, which shows a baboon sitting next to an average-sized turd. And on that turd, is a tiny image of the leader of the free world.

For those of you that can get twits,

And the actual paper from Nature:
(Methylation-based enrichment facilitates low-cost, noninvasive genomic scale sequencing of populations from feces)

When the subjective overrides the objective


It is a frequently repeated truism that Donald Trump is a narcissist, but if that is true, how did someone with such a repellant trait gain the highest office in the land, and what does it even mean to say someone is a narcissist?

Another commonly heard remark, while, not precisely narcissistic, is an indicator of how we got to our present predicament. It is not unusual to hear someone say, “I might have voted for Hillary, but I just didn’t like her.”

My response: “You didn’t like her? So what? The election is not about you. It is about the country. Whether we like a candidate is not important. Would you like to have a beer with Hillary? Not important. Citizens of a democracy are supposed to ask themselves what would be better for the country.”

Thinking about the country requires an awareness of civics — how the government works — and of history — how we got where we are. It requires people to reach considered conclusions about what would be good beyond their own narrow horizon. The better candidate might institute policies hurting one’s self-interest, but improving the nation — for example, raising taxes to pay for education or infrastructure improvements. Whether we like a candidate is less important than whether the person would do a better job for the country as a whole. Certainly, the list of presidential candidates whom I have liked over the years is a short one, but that doesn’t mean I have not had the obligation to choose which one was better for the country. In a fit of pique, I cast my first presidential ballot for comedian Dick Gregory rather than for Richard Nixon or Hubert Humphrey. It was a juvenile gesture that was more about me than about the good of the country. Humphrey did not lose because of my vote, but it would be a different world if he had won.


“Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age,” Andersen wrote. “The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.”

A famous quote of an adviser to President George W. Bush, attributed to Karl Rove, though he denies it, chillingly foreshadowed the way that politics untethered from a belief in objective reality can be hijacked by authoritarian leaders. The advisor disparaged journalists who remained part of the “reality-based community.” Ours is a time when those in power can create the facts, according to the adviser. That the facts created by the Bush administration — the Iraq war, the Great Recession — constituted disasters of a historic dimension is a new fact that the American people are still grappling with.

An interest in keeping the health care status quo


The great majority of Americans — 70 percent or more — support the idea of “Medicare for All” as the answer to the fragmented, expensive and inadequate system of insurance-based health care we now have. That’s enough support to scare the companies that make tons of money off that broken system, so they have formed an alliance to once again fend off what most Americans want: a sensible universal health care system. They call their alliance the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF).

Members of this “partnership” include America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the association of 1,000+ companies that sell commercial health insurers to many millions of Americans; the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) whose members also sell commercial health insurance; the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), an association that promotes the business interests of companies that sell health insurance; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the association of drug companies; the Federation of American Hospitals, an association of for-profit hospitals; the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers an association of “200 of the world’s top commercial insurance and employee benefits brokerages”; the National Retail Federation; the American Medical Association (AMA); the American College of Radiology (ACR); and several others.

It is clearly dominated by those who make money — lots and lots of money — from our current health care system that relies on insurance. This is not a partnership that will ever reach the conclusion that we need a truly universal, efficient system like Medicare for All. Based on the partnership’s own internal documents, the group will campaign specifically to “change the conversation around Medicare for All,” then “minimize the potential for this option in health care from becoming part of a national political party’s platform in 2020.”

The whole point of the partnership is to play around with a few changes at the edges of our current system to mollify the people demanding change, while preserving the status quo under which many Americans get inadequate care that in some cases, actually causes their deaths. If they succeed, Americans will continue to suffer when they can’t afford commercial insurance premiums and go “uncovered” with the health consequences that follow; when they choose high deductible policies because they can’t afford better coverage and end up sick, dead or deeply in debt; when they can’t afford the medicine they need and skip it or cut down the dose and end up sick or dead; when they stay up nights surrounded by bills and try to figure out how to pay rent, buy food and still get the health care they need; when they do go get care that they cannot afford and end up so deep in debt that their lives are altered for the foreseeable future; when they delay going to a doctor to avoid a cost they really can’t afford and the delay makes them far sicker or kills them.

KHN: Democrats Taking Key Leadership Jobs Have Pocketed Millions from Pharma

Top House Republican also received more than $1 million from drugmakers since 2007.

Three of the lawmakers who will lead the House next year as Congress focuses on skyrocketing drug costs are among the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, a new KHN analysis shows.

On Wednesday, House Democrats selected Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland to serve as the next majority leader and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina as majority whip, making them the No. 2 and No. 3 most powerful Democrats as their party regains control of the House in January.


High drug prices surfaced as a major campaign issue in 2018. With almost half of Americans saying they were worried about prescription drug costs last summer, many Democrats told voters they’d tackle the issue in the next Congress. But the large amount of money going to key Democrats, and Republicans, raises questions about whether Congress will take on the pharmaceutical industry.

In the past decade, members of Congress from both parties have received about $81 million from 68 pharma PACs run by employees of companies that make drugs and industry trade groups.

Propublica, WaPo: How Congress Stopped Working


Today’s legislative branch, far from the model envisioned by the founders, is dominated by party leaders and functions as a junior partner to the executive, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and ProPublica.

To document this transformation, the Post and ProPublica analyzed publicly available data from the House and Senate, committees, and members of Congress, dating back several decades. Some institutional decline began 25 years ago, but the study showed that the steepest institutional drop came in just the past 10 years.

This is exactly what I have experienced. The sourness of the politicians started around the time of Gingrich (gawd, he's still polluting), and reached its height with McConnell.

I don't know if a Democratic House can fix this as long as the repuglicons are doing everything they can to destroy democracy.

Can Yale withdraw Kavanaugh's law degree, and if so would he lose his judgeships?

I know this wouldn't happen, but it is fun daydreaming.

Anyone else want more in the Title line than click-bait? "Do This Now!"

Why do I think that it would be just as easy to make a title like "Please vote now!" when that is the body of the rest of the post?

Are there points gained by having clicks through the title? Is this google or facebook?

While I'm mildly venting, perhaps DU could implement a hover text that shows the first 100 characters of the actual post without actually clicking through. I did this for a tiny company a decade ago in one day.

Bloomberg: Brett Kavanaugh Is Cursed Either Way

This is an exceptionally strong piece. I hope it presages the future.

If he makes it to the Supreme Court without being cleared, his ordeal won't be over.

One way or another, Brett Kavanaugh will have to pay.


He will not necessarily pay explicitly for whatever it was he did or didn’t do on that contested night long ago. Although if Christine Blasey Ford appears to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if she acquits herself credibly, then Kavanaugh is unlikely ever to sit on the Supreme Court – no matter what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says.

Kavanaugh can wait to see if Ford’s allegations fall apart under questioning. It’s possible she’ll prove a jumble of contradictions. But from what we know so far, it’s hard to imagine she would. Ford doesn’t have to be sure of the color of paint on the wall 35 years ago. She only needs to be sure of the details of the attack as she has already described it.

Conservatives viewing her actions as a product of Democratic skulduggery fool themselves. Her allegations were problematic for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who first received them in confidence. If Democrats had plotted to weaponize the allegations for best effect, this late-inning muddle would not have resulted.

If McConnell is correct and Republicans manage to push Kavanaugh through to the high court, no matter what, Kavanaugh won’t be out of the woods.

This is not 1991, when Anita Hill accused soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And Kavanaugh, the beneficiary of virtually every privilege that status and education can afford, is not Thomas.

Democrats in 1991 were already the party of feminists. But many of the Democratic men in Congress – Barbara Mikulski was the lone Democratic woman in the Senate – were just as doltish toward a female accuser as Republican senators are today.

That’s no longer the case. Democrats have four women on the Judiciary Committee, and the men are so different from the cast of 1991 that Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has publicly mused that maybe he should cede his committee time to his two female colleagues who are former prosecutors and superior interviewers.

More important, the Republican Party of 1991 is not the party of 2018. The party leader then was George H.W. Bush, a war hero with pronounced social graces. The current leader is a habitual liar and crude demagogue who has been accused of sexual predation by more than a dozen women while continuing to behave as cad-in-chief.

The GOP of 2018 views the Supreme Court differently as well. Republicans were not facing electoral attrition in those days, desperately trying to sabotage the future. Republicans had held the presidency for three terms and were on the verge of a historic victory in the House over a corrupt and complacent Democratic majority.

Now, Republicans are investing in a partisan court to deliver partisan outcomes to advance partisan goals that are insulated from democratic accountability, such as elections and popular opinion, which Republicans increasingly fear.


I figgered it out! Trump and the repuglicon leaders are really trying to kill the party!

Everything they are doing is obviously to set the train down the track to self-destruction.

They were planted as saboteurs after being instructed at ivy-league and other schools.

I hope it works!
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