Saturday, September 7, 2013

Say Goodbye To Hollywood (Readying for Syrian/Iran Offensive (As Great Britain Bows Out) While Selling Off USA Piecemeal - Koch/ALEC Boys' Cheers Abound!)

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Any president has a limited amount of political capital to mobilize support for his agenda, in Congress and, more fundamentally, with the American people. This is especially true of a president in his second term of office. Which makes President Obama's campaign to strike Syria all the more mystifying.
President Obama's domestic agenda is already precarious: implementing the Affordable Care Act, ensuring the Dodd-Frank Act adequately constrains Wall Street, raising the minimum wage, saving Social Security and Medicare from the Republican right as well as deficit hawks in the Democratic Party, ending the sequester and reviving programs critical to America's poor, rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, and, above all, crafting a strong recovery.
Time and again we have seen domestic agendas succumb to military adventures abroad - both because the military-industrial-congressional complex drains money that might otherwise be used for domestic goals, and because the public's attention is diverted from urgent problems at home to exigencies elsewhere around the globe.

It would be one thing if a strike on Syria was critical to America's future, or even the future of the Middle East. But it is not. In fact, a strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism. Strikes are never surgical; civilians are inevitably killed. Moreover, the anti-Assad forces have shown themselves to be every bit as ruthless as Assad, with closer ties to terrorist networks.

Using chemical weapons against one's own innocent civilians is a crime against humanity, to be sure, but the United States cannot be the world's only policeman.

I'm a couple of days late in publishing this collection of thoughts/essays but they still seem current as the delusional leadership in the U.S. has not attacked Syria (with its precision strikes) yet.

Although there are over 2 million refugees today.

# mighead 2013-09-04 22:07
Military operations in Iraq cost an EXTRA $350 billion annually.

We are currently trying to cut the budget by $70 billion annually; mostly by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Aid to Education, and other critical domestic programs.

I AM concerned about the Political Costs of military action in Syria - and especially in regard to the 2014 elections where I believe politicians will be held to account for taking costly military actions with only 9% popular support (according to a recent Reuters Poll).

But I am FAR MORE concerned about the ECONOMIC COSTS of these foreign military operations. The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan have left the US economy in ruin. Just as overspending on the military in Russia brought down the Soviet government; we are risking that happening here.

It's hard for me to understand any 'representative ' government undertaking a foreign military operation which only 9% of the people support.
# seeuingoa 2013-09-04 22:16
I have been listening to the debate and the credibility of America is apparently at stake,

The Congress men and women simply don´t get it, America has no credibility anymore.

The list is long let me just mention in no specific order.

At the same time as Dr. Mengele was doing his experiments during the WW2, America was inoculating prisoners in Latin America with syfilis in order to test the effect of penicillin.

Vietnam/Tonkin Bay.

Coups of democratically elected leaders in Chile and Iran.

Green light to Indonesia for attacking Timow.

WMD/ Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

US gas to Saddam Hussein to be used against the Kurds.

Chemical attacks /Agent Orange.


Violation of the Constitution/Indefinite Detention and Drone Attacks.

Knowing about climate chaos and doing close to nothing.

Attack on Syria has nothing to do with humanitarian reasons because of gassing children. It is all about oil, Iran, Hetzbollah, Saudi Arabis and Israel.

Humanitarian reasons/what about Pol Pot Cambodia and Rwanda.

The last time US was interfering humanitarily in this world was the Marshall help after WW2.

I give them credit for that, but after that, it was all down the drains.

When America´s so called friends and allies are licking your ass, it is for purely economic reasons.

So please don´t use the credibility word anymore, it is long past, and it is as hollow as most brains in Congress.


0 # Harold R. Mencher 2013-08-30 19:18
The following article on corroborates your article:
"Rebels Admit Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attack"

An excerpt from the above article is:

"Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces."

There is a long-existing, ever-popular American myth of being the brave ones who go it alone on dangerous but necessary missions. The folks back home usually just love this idea.

But it's a myth, folks. Look at the coalitions used in real defense efforts (WWII for example).

Somewhere around 90% of Americans today say "No!" to attacking Syria. And many usual foreign suspects (ex-coalition buddies) also say "No!"

But Obama's been practicing his yoga.

U.S. involvement in Syria will be a solo effort. (photo: Lens Yong Homsi/AP)

U.S. involvement in Syria will be a solo effort. (photo: Lens Yong Homsi/AP)

Obama's Air Strike Plans in Disarray After Britain Rejects Use of Force in Syria

By Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman, Guardian UK
30 August 2013

arack Obama's plans for air strikes against Syria were thrown into disarray on Thursday night after the British parliament unexpectedly rejected a motion designed to pave the way to authorising the UK's participation in military action.

The White House was forced to consider the unpalatable option of taking unilateral action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad after the British prime minister, David Cameron, said UK would not now take part in any military action in response to a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.

Although Britain's support was not a prerequisite for US action, the Obama administration was left exposed without the backing of its most loyal ally, which has taken part in every major US military offensive in recent years.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama's national security council, indicated the administration would consider acting unliaterally. "The US will continue to consult with the UK government - one of our closest allies and friends. As we've said, President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.

"He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable."

The US appears to have taken British support for granted. Hours before the vote, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Diane Feinstein, expressed confidence that Britain would join any strike.

Feinstein, a Democrat and staunch administration ally, told Time magazine: "I think the UK makes a difference. I think if the president were to decide to go there's a very high likelihood that the United Kingdom would be with us."

The timing of the British vote, 272 to 285 against the government, was disastrous for Obama. Less than 30 minutes after the vote, senior intelligence officials began a conference call with key members of Congress, in an attempt to keep US lawmakers on side.

Congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of national security committees were briefed by the most senior US intelligence officials, amid signs that some of the support for military strikes against Syria was fading.

The officials said there was "no doubt" that chemical weapons were used in Syria last week, Reuters reported. Obama aides cited intercepted communications of Syrian officials and evidence of movements by Syria's military around Damascus before the attack that killed more than 300 people, said Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee.

The 90-minute briefing was conducted by secretary of state John Kerry, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, national security adviser Susan Rice, among others.

After the briefing, Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate armed services committee, urged a cautious approach. "I have previously called for the United States to work with our friends and allies to increase the military pressure on the Assad regime by providing lethal aid to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.

"Tonight, I suggested that we should do so while UN inspectors complete their work and while we seek international support for limited, targeted strikes in response to the Assad regime's large-scale use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people."

The UN has said more time should be given to diplomacy, and France, which earlier this week declared its support for taking action against Syria, is now calling for more time so UN inspections can be completed. A session of the United Nations security council in New York, called by Russia, broke up without agreement.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, instructed the 20-strong inspection team in Damascus to leave on Saturday, a day ahead of schedule. Ban also announced that the team would report to him immediately on departure, raising the possibility that the UN could issue an interim report on the 21 August chemical attacks that left hundreds of people dead.
The inspectors had not been due to deliver their findings for a week at least. The demand for a rushed early assessment reflects the fraught atmosphere at the UN triggered by US threats to launch punitive air strikes within days.
Shortly before Britain's parliamentary vote, the New York Times quoted senior administration officials saying the US administration was prepared to launch strikes on Syria without a UN security council mandate or the support of allies such as Britain.
Earlier on Thursday, Joshua Earnest, the White House deputy spokesman, seemed to confirm that was a possibility when he was asked whether the US would "go it alone". He repeatedly said it was in US "core national security interests" to enforce international chemical weapons norms. "The President of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests of America," he said. Any strikes would be "discreet and limited", he said.
However, Earnest also stressed the broad international support for the US position - backing that now appears to be dissipating. The Arab League has blamed Syria for the chemical attack, but stopped short of advocating punitive strikes by the US.
In recent days, Obama has spoken personally with leaders of France, Australia, Canada and Germany. But none were as important as Britain, a traditional ally during US military actions which has been lobbying behind the scenes for months for a tougher action on Syria.
Ken Pollack, a fellow from the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, said that with continuing uncertainty over the intelligence picture, and no obvious legal mandate for military action, the US will be desperate to secure more international backing to argue that intervention is "legitimate".
"If the administration can't even count o(n) the full-throated support of our closest ally, the country that stuck by us even during the worst days of Iraq, that legitimacy is going to be called into question," he said.
Now that the UK parliament has rejected an attack on Syria, Washington's space for planning one is likely to be constrained, particularly as the Obama administration prepares to release its intelligence tying Assad to the 21 August gas attack. An unclassified report is due to be published on Friday.
Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA Middle East analyst and Georgetown professor, said the loss of British support would lead to more "intense" scrutiny of the US case for action against Syria. "The UK is, in many important respects, the most important ally of the United States," said Pillar. "This action by parliament is unquestionably significant in that regard."

Charlie Pierce has a pointed essay in Esquire on the Wisconsin State Legislature Follies (followed mindlessly by the similarly well-paid politicos in NC):

Thanks to the folks at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, we now know why.
And, naturally, Walker is quite a lucrative sublet all by himself.

Walker, who has campaigned around the state to gin up support for changing rules to attract mining projects, received $11.34 million from 2010 through April 23, 2012 from interests that support mining deregulation (Table 1) including $67,068 from the prospective mine's owner, Christopher Cline, his employees and other mining industry executives. During the same period, Walker received only $650 from environmental groups.
Bear these things in mind. Walker has the money to finance his national ambitions. Also, this kind of thing is the perfect demonstration of what the Republican party, with its solid marriage to the forces of oligarchy, plans to do to the country as soon as it gets the power to do it. If you'll pardon an infelicitous metaphor, Wisconsin is the canary in the coal mine, and the people fighting Walker out in the woods are doing it for all of us.

It's not just Chicago (and all of Detroit) kiddies!

From our fine source at Whiskey Fire we learn how deep the corruption infection (and the quick sell-off of public assets) goes in the body politic:

August 30, 2013

Unaccountable Rich Spooky Corporations: Making Everything Worse for Everybody

Oh those adorable rich creepy assholes. What won't they ruin!

Devoted fans of the hideous reality teevee show that is


will recall Booz Allen Hamilton as the multi-billion corporation that Edward Snowden stole things from, making him a traitor because it is illegal and wrong to betray the secrets that an elected government in an advanced democracy gives to private corporations in order to keep American taxpayers safe from knowing what they're paying for.

. . . So, Booz Allen.

Booz... Allen.

Hold on to that a second. Let me transition.

Here is a picture of the New York City Public Library on 42nd St in Manhattan, with the famous lion statues out front.


I'm a New York City kid; I grew up to become a teacher, something of a scholar. (A GENIUS!!!!) But anyway even when I was tiny I always had this idea in my head that books and knowledge and learning were wonderful things, to be treasured, and that there were places in this world where That Mattered.

I think I first went to the New York Public Library on 42nd St when I was 14. Mid-1980s. I didn't know what I was doing; some of the unfailingly kind Library employees walked me through the whole process, told me about the concept of "stacks," sat me down... and brought me my books.
It was one of the absolute highlights of my life.
I was a kid working on a freshman high school history paper, about the Battle of Britain, as I recall. I was treated as seriously as any grownup in the whole of the Reading Room.

Changed my life, man. A place that was by any standard beautiful, and also solemn, free, and all about books -

I love that place.


And now of course we come back by ubiquitous vicus of regurgitation to fucking Booz Allen.

So . . . fucking Booz Allen.

Read that fucking link about what we can't afford publicly as regards the NY Public Library System, and then the one above about what taxpayers give to Booz Allen.

And then read how Booz Allen is planning to get even richer by having the NYC public libraries sell off their publicly owned real estate.

These assholes don't miss a trick. "Oh here is a public good. Let's rob it." And remember - Booz Allen gets ALL of its money from the government.

Whee, capitalism.

Undertaking Its Destruction

By Ada Louise Huxtable

New York

There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world's greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings in a lavish classical Beaux Arts style, it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.



A vintage illustration of the stacks built below the New York Public Library's reading room.

The plan would consolidate three libraries — moving the popular Mid-Manhattan circulating library (just across Fifth Avenue at 40th Street) and the underused Science, Industry and Business branch (in a 34th Street building that runs from Fifth to Madison Avenues) back into the main building to eliminate substantial operating costs. Two million to three million of the five million volumes in the stacks — including the more specialized material many of us depend on, and referred to by the library as the "least used" books — would be moved to Siberia. (Excuse me, to New Jersey, where the offsite storage is located.) Books would be returned in an optimistically estimated but unreliable 24 hours, by truck, on the traffic-jammed New Jersey Turnpike.

The vacated stacks would house a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered Mid-Manhattan branch designed by the library's chosen architect, the British firm of Foster+Partners. This "repurposed" space — a common real-estate term — would also make room for writers, scholars, seminars, adult education and children's activities. We are being assured that, with savings estimated at $7 million to $15 million, closed collections could be reopened, dismissed librarians rehired, and book-collecting resumed, reversing cutbacks that have downgraded a noble institution.

Demolishing the stacks, with the elaborate engineering involved, providing additional offsite storage for the books, and reconstructing the space, would be paid for by the sale of the two vacated Fifth Avenue buildings, a promised $150 million city (read: taxpayers') contribution, and a fund-raising campaign.

The rationale for the plan is a 41% decrease in the use of the collections in the past 15 years, and the increase of online accessibility of the most popular material, with only 6% of print sources consulted in a given year. A 78% drop in the use of the Science, Industry and Business library, with most of the material already online, makes that branch expendable. The Mid-Manhattan circulating library is heavily used, while its quarters have deteriorated badly. Corrective action was inevitable.

The library's embrace of the future is commendable; it has been on the frontiers of change in technology and practice for some time. But some of these numbers are misleading. A research library is devoted to the acquisition, maintenance and availability of collections of amazing range, rarity and depth, much of which will not be consulted for decades, have not been digitized and probably never will be.

If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library's own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular "People's Palace." But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.

Not surprisingly (except to the library), the plan is highly controversial. For most critics it's about devaluing the primary purpose of a research library by reducing the accessibility of its resources. A letter of protest has been signed by more than a thousand famous writers and distinguished scholars, with a particular outcry about the removal of the books. Indeed, the loss of so many books got so much flak that Abby and Howard Milstein generously donated $8 million in September to complete a second storage level, underneath Bryant Park just behind the library, to keep about 1.5 million of the banished volumes on site, a proposal previously dismissed by the library as unfeasible because of dampness and water seepage. This is clearly meant to mollify critics. But it is also a red herring. The stacks will still be demolished.

Other dissenters fear that an august institution is being turned into "a vast Internet café," an accusation the library considers a grossly unfair misinterpretation of the plan. But such skepticism was inevitable. The library lost credibility in 2005 after it sold Asher B. Durand's painting "Kindred Spirits" (1849), a depiction of the poet William Cullen Bryant and the painter Thomas Cole in a Catskills landscape, in a closed auction — something New Yorkers considered a betrayal of their artistic and literary patrimony.

If the library feels that the plan has been vastly misunderstood, it is its own fault; its communications are deplorable. Three calls made this past August requesting information and an interview with President Anthony Marx or another qualified spokesman were not returned until the head of the Landmarks Preservation Commission intervened. That produced a contact who has been extremely helpful. Asked for corrections of misunderstandings and for a statement on the rationale for the plan, she supplied them.

But when repeated requests were made to see schematic studies of how the vacated space would be used — Foster had been authorized to start them in February — they were never available. In August I was told schematics would be ready in September. In September I was told they would be available in October. In October I was told it would happen in November. In November I was promised a presentation in December. Any experienced architect would know that studies are well under way. The library has been less than forthcoming, and sensitivity to criticism has obviously reached a fever pitch.

I have been patient and cooperative, but I believe I have waited long enough. I am certain Foster will come up with impeccable, creative solutions. However, I no longer feel I must see these drawings no matter how skillfully they address the plan. They will undoubtedly be functional and handsome in Foster's trademark high-tech manner. However, after extensive study of the library's conception and construction I have become convinced that irreversible changes of this magnitude should not be made in this landmark building. I am not going to rehearse the intellectual, literary and sentimental arguments already on the record. This is all about the building, a subject that has not been adequately addressed.

No wonder the stacks seem like fair prey; they occupy 38% of the library's gross area. The buzzwords are "outmoded" and "obsolete." The fact is that they require substantial upgrading of climate control systems for proper preservation. But what no one seems to have noticed, or mentioned, is that the stacks are the structural support of the reading room. They literally hold it up.

An end section through the building shows the stacks and reading room as a structurally inseparable unit. A longitudinal section reveals their full extent, from end to end and side to side, under the 297 foot long, 78 foot wide and 51 foot high reading room. They are a supporting steel cage, with infills of iron shelving, end pieces and dividers detailed by Carrère and Hastings. There is a different structural system for the rest of the building.

Each of the seven stack levels is 7 feet 6 inches high, an extremely compact use of the space.

The stacks are an engineering landmark, but they cannot be designated because they are not open to the public. Incredibly, the Rose Reading Room has not been designated either, although it is eligible. Landmark protection covers the building's exterior and entrance and exhibition hall.

Bernard Green, who devised the system for the Library of Congress that was built a few years earlier than the New York Public Library, was hired as the engineering consultant for the New York stacks. A contact at the engineering firm that upgraded the Massachusetts State House Library believes that the space freed by moving some books under Bryant Park, along with the existing subbasement below the stacks, could accommodate the necessary mechanical equipment.

Restoration and retrofitting would be easier and cheaper than supporting the reading room with the enormously complex and expensive engineering needed during demolition and reconstruction.

The location of the stacks under the reading room was the concept of the first librarian, John Shaw Billings. His rough sketch for the building was developed with the help of William R. Ware, the founder of the Columbia School of Architecture, and incorporated into the competition to design the library. No one was allowed to deviate from it. When the distinguished firm of McKim, Mead & White had the hubris to go its own way, it lost to Carrère and Hastings — architects who realized Billings's scheme for an enormous, daylit top-floor reading room, directly over the stacks for the most efficient delivery of books to readers.

They made brilliant use of a favorite Beaux Arts theme — a processional path from the Fifth Avenue entrance to the climactic experience of the grand reading room at the top. But all of Carrère and Hastings' elegant classicism is not just window dressing. Their wonderful spatial relationships and rich detail are intimately tied to the building's remarkable functional rationale.

The current Central Library Plan was conceived internally, using commercial consultants known for doing the numbers and moving the pieces around for organizational change and the best bottom line. It has the approval of Mr. Marx and his predecessor, Paul LeClerc, under whom it took shape, and a 60-member board of successful business leaders with a few writers and scholars for literary embellishment. Commercial consultants are generally clueless about nonquantifiable architectural and cultural values. And so, apparently, are most of the 60 trustees. There is an obvious paucity of architectural historians and structural experts among them.

This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't "update" a masterpiece. "Modernization" may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language.

Buildings change; they adapt to needs, times and tastes. Old buildings are restored, upgraded and converted to new uses. For architecturally or historically significant buildings with landmark protection, the process is more complex; subtle, subjective and difficult decisions are often required. Nothing, not even buildings, stands still.

But there are better options than turning the library into a hollowed-out hybrid of new and old. The radically different 21st-century model deserves a radically different style of its own, dramatically contemporary and flexible enough to accommodate rapid technological change. Sell the surplus Fifth Avenue property at 34th Street. Keep the Mid-Manhattan building; the location is perfect. Let Foster+Partners loose on the Mid-Manhattan building; the results will be spectacular, and probably no more costly than the extravagant and destructive plan the library has chosen.

Perhaps someone could follow the Milsteins' lead with a gift to retrofit the stacks. A public campaign helped the Central Park Conservancy restore a beloved landscape. Do New Yorkers love their library any less?

Ms. Huxtable is the Journal's architecture critic.

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