Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Than I Ever Wanted to Know about Glenn Beck's O Face

This is really quite funny (h/t MMfA):

In other news, why does anyone read Time magazine?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Oinking

For some reason—it seemed like a good idea at the time? possession? tequila-fueled fever dream?—I subscribe to the New York Times's Breaking News email news alerts. Often, they're pretty unremarkable—so-and-so athlete and/or group of athletes wins thus-and-such major sporting event—but lately, they've all been about banks. And boy, have they been full of euphemisms.

Goldman Sachs Earns $3.44 Billion in Quarter

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday said it earned $3.44 billion in the second quarter, a much higher-than-expected figure that underscores how quickly the Wall Street firm has bounced back from last fall's financial crisis.

Yeah, they "bounced back." Right. This couldn't have anything to do with how, as Matt Taibbi says, "If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain."
JPMorgan Chase Posts $2.7 Billion Profit

JPMorgan Chase reported net income of $2.7 billion in the second quarter, a 36 percent rise from a year earlier, as it reported record fees from its investment banking unit.

The earnings, which exceeded analysts' expectations, were the latest sign that the strongest banks were finding a bright patch in the midst of economic troubles and financial crises.

"A bright patch"! Yay! It shines out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.
Bank of America Posts $2.42 Billion Profit on Trading Gains

Bank of America reported a quarterly profit of $2.42 billion, or 33 cents per share, beating Wall Street forecasts.

Like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase earlier this week, it reported a handsome profit from its trading business. But the company, one of the most troubled big banks, said that "difficult challenges lie ahead."

"A handsome profit"—why, it'll probably be elected prom king.
Citigroup Reports $4.3 Billion Earned in Second Quarter

Citigroup posted a second-quarter profit of $4.3 billion on Friday, beating analysts' forecasts. But its earnings were lifted primarily by the sale of its Smith Barney unit, which helped offset a decline in operating revenues as the company continued to be hobbled by the economic and financial crisis.

Jeez, Tiny Tim should be hobbled to the tune of $4.3 billion.

Economic downturn? Not for these members of the owning class, thank you very much.

And I do mean members.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Get That Vera Wang!

The Daily Howler offers the nation a Fourth of July present in the form of a typically insightful, incisive post about the recent Washington Post schmeer-for-schmooze scandal. Read. And think about it while you're blowing stuff up this weekend.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Stop This Crazy Thing

Dahr Jamail has a great new TomDispatch on dissent in "the all-volunteer military"; it's full of stories like these:

Writing on his blog from Baquba, Iraq, in September 2004, Specialist Jeff Englehart commented: "Three soldiers in our unit have been hurt in the last four days and the true amount of army-wide casualties leaving Iraq are unknown. The figures are much higher than what is reported. We get awards and medals that are supposed to make us feel proud about our wicked assignment..."

Over the years, in response to such feelings, some American soldiers have come up with ingenious ways to express defiance or dissent on our distant battlegrounds. These have been little noted in the mainstream media, and when they do surface, officials in the Pentagon or in Washington just brush them aside as "bad apple" incidents (the same explanation they tend to use when a war crime is exposed).

But in the stories of men and women who served in the occupation of Iraq, they often play a different role. In October 2007, for instance, I interviewed Corporal Phil Aliff, an Iraq War veteran, then based at Fort Drum in upstate New York. He recalled:

"During my stints in Iraq between August 2005 and July 2006, we probably ran 300 patrols. Most of the men in my platoon were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan and morale was incredibly low. Recurring hits by roadside bombs had demoralized us and we realized the only way we could avoid being blown up was to stop driving around all the time. So every other day we would find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapon caches in the fields and everything was going fine. All our enlisted people had grown disenchanted with the chain of command."

Aliff referred to this tactic as engaging in "search and avoid" missions, a sardonic expression recycled from the Vietnam War when soldiers were sent out on official "search and destroy" missions.

Sergeant Eli Wright, who served as a medic with the 1st Infantry Division in Ramadi from September 2003 through September 2004, had a similar story to tell me. "Oh yeah, we did search and avoid missions all the time. It was common for us to go set camp atop a bridge and use it as an over-watch position. We would use our binoculars to observe rather than sweep, but call in radio checks every hour to report on our sweeps."

According to Private First Class Clifton Hicks, who served in Iraq with the First Cavalry from October 2003, only six months after Baghdad was occupied by American troops, until July 2004, search and avoid missions began early and always had the backing of a senior non-commissioned officer or a staff sergeant. "Our platoon sergeant was with us and he knew our patrols were bullshit, just riding around to get blown up," he explained. "We were at Camp Victory at Baghdad International Airport. A lot of the time we'd leave the main gate and come right back in another gate to the base where there's a big PX with a nice mess hall and a Burger King. We'd leave one guy at the Humvee to call in every hour, while the others stayed at the PX. We were just sick and tired of going out on these stupid patrols."


Sergeant Geoff Millard of the New York Army National Guard served at a Rear Operations Center with the 42nd Infantry Division from October 2004 through October 2005. Part of his duty entailed reporting "significant actions," or SIGACTS -- that is, attacks on U.S. forces. In an interview in 2007 he told me, "When I was there at least five companies never reported SIGACTS. I think 'search and avoids' have been going on for a long time. One of my buddies in Baghdad emails that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda, and shoot at the cans." Millard told me of soldiers he still knows in Iraq who were still performing "search and avoid" missions in December 2008. Several other friends deploying or redeploying to Iraq soon assured him that they, too, planned to operate in search and avoid mode.

Corporal Bryan Casler was first deployed to Iraq with the Marines in 2003, at the time of the invasion. Posted to Afghanistan in 2004, he returned to Iraq for another tour of duty in 2005. He tells of other low-level versions of the tactic of avoidance: "There were times we would go to fix a radio that had been down for hours. It was purposeful so we did not have to deal with the bullshit from higher [ups]. In reality, we would go so we could just chill out, let the rest of the squad catch up on some rest as one stood guard. It's mutual and people start covering for each other. Everyone knows what the hell's going on."

Staff Sergeant Ronn Cantu, an infantryman who was deployed to Iraq from March 2004 to February 2005, and again from December 2006 to January 2008, said of some of the patrols he observed while there: "[They] wouldn't go up and down the streets like they were supposed to. They would just go to a friendly compound with the Iraqi police or the Kurdish Peshmerga [militia] and stay at their compound and drink tea until it was time to go back to the base."

According to Jamail, it's even common practice to hack the computers in Stryker armored vehicles to fake the appearance of being out on patrols.

Don't let Rush Limbaugh hear of this. His bloated, drug-addled, ass-pimpled carcass couldn't stand the strain of the strain of another duty! sacrifice! patriotism! war on terror! lecture just now.


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