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Poison Candy: The Murderous Madam: Inside Dalia Dippolito’s Plot to Kill – Book Salon Preview

By: Elliott Thursday March 1, 2012 3:30 pm

Today at 5pm ET, 2pm PT

Poison Candy: The Murderous Madam: Inside Dalia Dippolito’s Plot to Kill

Chat with Mark Ebner about his new book, hosted by Beth Karas.

In August 2009, former madam Dalia Dippolito conspired with a hit man to arrange her ex-con husband’s murder. Days later, it seemed as if all had gone according to plan. The beautiful, young Dalia came home from her health club to an elaborate crime scene, complete with yellow tape outlining her townhome and police milling about. When Sgt. Frank Ranzie of the Boynton Beach, Florida, police informed her of her husband Michael’s apparent murder, the newlywed Dippolito can be seen on surveillance video collapsing into the cop’s arms, like any loving wife would—or any wife who was pretending to be loving would. The only thing missing from her performance were actual tears.

… And the only thing missing from the murder scene was an actual murder.

Tipped off by one of Dalia’s lovers, an undercover detective posing as a hit man met with Dalia to plot her husband’s murder while his team planned, then staged the murder scenario—brazenly inviting the reality TV show Cops along for the ride. The Cops video went viral, sparking a media frenzy: twisted tales of illicit drugs, secret boyfriends, sex-for-hire, a cuckolded former con man, and the defense’s ludicrous claim that the entire hit had been staged by the intended victim for reality TV fame.

In Poison Candy, case prosecutor Elizabeth Parker teams with bestselling crime writer Mark Ebner take you behind and beyond the courtroom scenes with astonishing never-before-revealed facts, whipsaw plot twists in the ongoing appellate process, and exclusive photos and details far too lurid for the trial that led to 20 years in state prison for Dalia Dippolito.

After receiving her juris doctorate from Loyola University School of Law in 1998, Elizabeth Parker began her career as an assistant state attorney in the Palm Beach County Florida State Attorney’s Office. Since then, she served consecutively as the deputy chief of county court, the chief of the county court division and the domestic violence division. From January of 2009 until August of 2011, she held the position of chief assistant state attorney, in which Parker litigated high-profile cases.  She has appeared on Dateline, Snapped, Sins and Secrets, Nothing Personal, and In Session for her role as the lead prosecutor in the Dalia Dippolito case. Parker opened her own victim advocacy and criminal defense firm in Palm Beach County, Florida, and has appeared on Nancy Grace and In Session as a legal analyst.

New York Times best selling author Mark Ebner is an award winning investigative journalist who has covered all aspects of celebrity and crime culture for Spy, Rolling Stone, Maxim, Details, Los Angeles, Premiere, Salon, Spin, Radar, Angeleno, The Daily,, and New Times among other national and international and internet publications. He has repeatedly positioned himself in harm’s way, conducting dozens of investigations into such subjects as Scientology, Pit Bull fighting in South Central Los Angeles, the Ku Klux Klan in Texas, celebrity stalkers, drug dealers, missing porn stars, sports groupies, mobsters, college suicides and Hepatitis C in Hollywood. (BenBella Books)

Adventures in taxes: “Jail or No Jail”

By: Jane Stillwater

A friend of mine just told me about a friend of his who, for the past several years, has had to spend every single weekend of his life cooped up in jail.  Every single weekend, week in and week out, this guy goes to jail — with free room and board provided at the taxpayers’ expense.  “But, why?” you might ask.  Because the guy steadfastly refuses to pay that portion of his federal income tax that goes toward unnecessary wars.

But on the other hand, many huge US-based multi-national corporations also refuse to pay any kind of federal tax at all.  So shouldn’t their CEOs be spending weekends in jail as well?

Taxes are supposed to be a way that all of us Americans can pool our money together in order to buy all that expensive stuff that we couldn’t afford to buy individually.  For instance, I alone cannot afford to purchase good roads, education for my granddaughter, police and fire protection, etc. all by myself.  And neither can most of the rest of us either.  And for this obvious reason I approve of taxation.

But apparently a lot of huge mega-corporations have refused to pool their money with our money so that we can all afford to pay for these big-ticket items.  Corporatists have a better idea:  “Let’s just let everyone else pay for our share.”  And then you can hear them whispering to themselves under their breath, “Suckers.”<
Jail Cell
April is tax season, of course, but it is also Passover season too.  And this Passover, I was once again amazed by the poetry and meaningfulness of the Haggadah ritual words recited at Seder dinners throughout the world.

According to the Haggadah, Jews everywhere strongly believe that freedom is the birthright of every human being alive — and not just Jews.  “With freedom and justice for all.”  Even for dark-skinned Jews in Israel and even for Christian and Muslim Palestinians.  Yay!  And even for us tax-paying Americans too.

PS:  At last month’s Berkeley-Albany Bar Association luncheon, our guest speaker told us all about the latest changes that have been made in federal tax law.  I madly scribbled all this stuff down on some paper napkins and here it is.  Hopefully I got most of it right:

“The IRS budget for 2014 was slashed by $526 million.  It now has 8,000 fewer employees — but with a much bigger workload.   Last year there were 3.5 billion dollars in fraudulent tax returns.  And the IRS admits that it conducted 18 percent fewer audits of major corporations last year.”  Told ya.

“Not many tax laws were passed last year.”  Hell, not many of any kind of laws were passed last year by this do-nothing Congress — except for a whole bunch of laws sending Big Government into our bedrooms.

“The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), passed in 2013, permanently extends a lower tax rate on individuals with incomes of $400,000 or less.  It also provides for a new 39.6% marginal rate for income in excess of the above thresholds, as well as a higher rate for net capital gains and qualified dividends.  And for a phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions for higher-income individuals.  But even with these new increases, US tax rates are still quite low in comparison with other countries.”

“Regarding foreign income reporting, there is now a Form 8938 which requires that specified foreign financial assets must be reported.”  About time for that to happen!  “And the penalties are stiff if you fail to file an accurate 3938.”  Good.  “And there are no statutes of limitation here either.  Pursuit of US taxpayers with foreign financial accounts continues to be one of the IRS’s highest priorities.”  But the IRS is also trying to extend its statutes of limitation in other areas too.  So be aware of that.

Regarding gay marriages, “Same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriage, will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes.”

And apparently America’s fourth-largest tax preparation firm just got busted for fraudulent and deceptive conduct and isn’t gonna be allowed to prepare our taxes ever again.  “One of the more heinous acts committed by the owner involved forging customers’ signatures on duplicate refund checks, causing collection proceedings against the customers, who knew nothing about this.”

Also, when filing out your 1040, make sure you check “child support” and not “family support” because spousal support doesn’t count as child support and apparently doesn’t get as many reductions.

“The IRS assessed FBAR penalties against a taxpayer for willingly failing to report the existence of or the income from a Swiss bank account.”  And the IRS has taken a very hard line regarding overstated charitable contributions too.  And California taxes its residents on their world-wide income as well.

“S corporations have done well under the new tax act — exempt from healthcare taxes, etc.  They won’t be going away any time soon.”  No idea what an S corporation is but apparently it is a good thing to have if you are going to pay taxes.

“And roll-overs are tricky.  Be very careful.  You only have 60 days.”  And home offices aren’t so much the audit-trigger that they once were under the new safe harbor rule — as the IRS attempts to codify repairs and improvements to small businesses.

And then the speaker also explained a lot of stuff about ObamaCare and its effects on our taxes — but I got distracted by the cheesecake for dessert.

Saturday Art: Liberty Bell, for Patriots’ Day

By: Ruth Calvo Wednesday January 25, 2012 2:00 pm


Liberty Bell

(Picture courtesy of Serguey at wikipedia commons.)

Today we celebrate the beginning of the American Revolution, as April 19th was the date that the British came to ‘every Middlesex village and farm’, after Paul Revere rode to warn the colonists in Lexington and Concord, MA, where the townspeople fought back.   A symbol associated with the Revolutionary War that followed is itself a work of art, while representing our nation’s original rejection of tyranny from the king that ruled Great Britain.

The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence, located in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania. Formerly placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (now renamed Independence Hall), the bell was commissioned from the London firm of Lester and Pack (today theWhitechapel Bell Foundry) in 1752, and was cast with the lettering (part of Leviticus 25:10) “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It originally cracked when first rung after arrival in Philadelphia, and was twice recast by local workmen John Pass and John Stow, whose last names appear on the bell. In its early years, the Liberty Bell was used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert citizens to public meetings and proclamations.

No immediate announcement was made of the Second Continental Congress‘s vote for independence, and thus the bell could not have rung on July 4, 1776, at least not for any reason related to that vote. Bells were rung to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776, and while there is no contemporary account of the Liberty Bell ringing, most historians believe it was one of the bells rung. After American independence was secured, it fell into relative obscurity for some years. In the 1830s, the bell was adopted as a symbol byabolitionist societies, who dubbed it the “Liberty Bell.” It acquired its distinctive large crack sometime in the early 19th century—a widespread story claims it cracked while ringing after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.

The bell became famous after an 1847 short story claimed that an aged bell-ringer rang it on July 4, 1776, upon hearing of the Second Continental Congress‘s vote for independence. Despite the fact that the bell did not ring for independence on that July 4, the tale was widely accepted as fact, even by some historians. Beginning in 1885, the City of Philadelphia, which owns the bell, allowed it to go to various expositions and patriotic gatherings. The bell attracted huge crowds wherever it went, additional cracking occurred and pieces were chipped away by souvenir hunters. The last such journey occurred in 1915, after which the city refused further requests.


The Pass and Stow bell was first termed “the Liberty Bell” in the New York Anti-Slavery Society’s journal, Anti-Slavery Record. In an 1835 piece, “The Liberty Bell”, Philadelphians were castigated for not doing more for the abolitionist cause. Two years later, in another work of that society, the journal Liberty featured an image of the bell as its frontispiece, with the words “Proclaim Liberty”.[31] In 1839, Boston’s Friends of Liberty, another abolitionist group, titled their journal The Liberty Bell. The same year, William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery publication The Liberator reprinted a Boston abolitionist pamphlet containing a poem entitled “The Liberty Bell”, which noted that, at that time, despite its inscription, the bell did not proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land.[32]

The Whitechapel Foundry still is making bells in London, England, and makes its own statement about the bell.

At a meeting of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania on or about November 1st, 1751, the Superintendents (Isaac Norris, Thomas Leech and Edward Warner), were instructed to procure a bell of about 2,000 lbs. weight from England. This instruction laid down the prophetic inscription that was to be placed on the bell and stipulated that it should be delivered before the scaffolding around the building in which it was to be hung, was struck at the end of the following summer. Thomas Lester of this Foundry and in these same premises was the Founder chosen, and in September 1752, the bell is recorded as having come ashore in good order. A report dated March 1753 states that after hanging, it became cracked at the first stroke. They endeavoured to return it to England by the same ship, but the Master of the vessel was unable to take it on board. Thereupon, two “ingenious” workmen, Pass and Stow, both of Philadelphia, undertook to recast it. On breaking up Lester’s bell, they pronounced it too brittle and modified the alloy by adding 1½ oz. of copper to every 1 lb. of Lester’s bell.

They did not appreciate that bell metal is brittle, and relies on this to a great extent for its freedom of tone. They made a new casting which was not successful and, in their second recasting – having learnt the lesson – they restored the correct balance of metal and this is the bell that now hangs in the Liberty Bell Center, directly across from an earlier home, Independence Hall.

Later in 1753 some further dissatisfaction was expressed and negotiations were made with Thomas Lester to recast it for a charge of 2d. per lb. This, however, never materialised and Pass and Stow’s second recasting was finally hung in the State House Steeple.

While the bell can be visited in Philadelphia today, it was during the British occupation there hidden away to prevent its being melted and used for British bullets against U.S. revolutionaries.   It has been rung in celebration of our Independence Day, July 4th, but developed a crack and has been kept silent so that it would stay in one original piece.

Because so many nutjobs have used Patriots’ Day to commit atrocities, such as the Oklahoma City bombing, very few celebrate the day in ceremonies and Patriots’ Day marathon has been moved to another date in Boston.

Lexington and Concord still observe the day, itself, as part of their tradition as where the Revolutionary War began.  This year, ‘due to budgetary constraints’, the ceremony has been called off.  Backpacks are not allowed, either.   Some re-enactments will take place.

Keystone XL Review Extended, Delaying Final Decision Until After 2014 Elections

By: Steve Horn Friday April 18, 2014 1:04 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

TransCanada’s northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will not be decided on until after the 2014 mid-term elections.

Reuters and Politico broke a major story today that TransCanada‘s northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will not be decided on until after the 2014 mid-term elections.

“The U.S. State Department will…extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, likely postponing a final decision on the controversial project until after the November 4 midterm elections,” Reuters explained.

Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have final say over whether the pipeline will be built because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

Reporters learned of the decision after a call between high-level congressional staff and State Department officials.

“The justification is the need to wait on continued litigation over a Nebraska court decision earlier this year, which threw part of the project’s route in doubt, two sources said today after a call between the State Department and congressional staff,” reported Politico.

In the end, the decision came down to politics, according to Politico, though there are no shortage of climate change and ecological concerns for the prospective pipeline.

“A delay past November would spare Obama a politically difficult decision on whether to approve the pipeline, angering his green base and environmentally minded campaign donors — or reject it, endangering pro-pipeline Democrats,” they reported.

Proponents and Opponents Respond

Twitter has been abuzz since rumors of the announcement started swirling and many prominent individuals with a stake in the fight have already chimed in.

“Keystone XL delay further proof that State Department has bungled this process and has no business overseeing environmental reviews,” tweeted Friends of the Earth Senior Campaigner Ross Hammond.

Bill McKibben — whose organization led the civil disobedience Tar Sands Action in summer 2011 that put the Keystone XL and tar sands on the map for many — also responded.

It’s as if our leaders simply don’t understand that climate change is happening in real time–that it would require strong, fast action to do anything about it. While we’re at it, the State Department should also request that physics delay heat-trapping operations for a while, and that the El Nino scheduled for later this spring be pushed back to after the midterms. One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.

Elijah Zarlin, CREDO’s senior campaign manager, said: “It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL. Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project – which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL.”

On the other side, Fox News referred to the decision as a “Friday News Dump” and the Koch Brothers-funded American Energy Alliance (AEA) tweeted, “Most had never even heard of @justinbieber back when @TransCanada applied for #KeystoneXL permits,” alluding to the fact Keystone XL has now been up for debate for five years.

Industry-funded Energy in Depth spokesman Steve Everly echoed AEA.

“It took the U.S. less than 4 years to win two theaters in World War II,” stated Everly. “It’s been five years and we can’t approve a metal pipe.”

One thing’s for certain: the prospective pipeline will likely become a major politico “hot potato” in the months leading up to the November 2014 elections.

Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Xemoland

By: Kit OConnell Friday April 18, 2014 8:02 pm


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Psychedelic mushrooms growing in the forest

Two tickets to Xemoland, please.

Tonight’s selection is Xemoland, a short film by animator Daniel Katz and shared through Vice’s Shorts series.

Jeffrey Bowers introduces the film:

For his 2011 short, Xemoland. Daniel paints a portrait of a young boy who just wants to be as cool as his older brother, but whose older brother’s sole goal is to not give a shit about him. The older bro and his best friend spin tales to the seven-year-old Corey about Xemoland, a magical place where parties can be ‘cut short by an angry mob of gaylord Einsteins chasing David Hasselhoff on a hoverboard.’ As much as the young boy tries to fit in, his brother’s desire to torture rather than nurture him keeps getting the better of him.

Katz’s cartoon-style animation is simple but expressive. The characters live in a nostalgic paradise filled with real-life posters and scenes from Terminator 2, the Doors, Sonic Youth, and Back to the Future.

This movie, if anything, proves that the main thing about being a younger brother is that you’re never going to be the older one. You’ve got to realize that he treats you like his little brother because you are, and will always be, behind him. He’s going to try drugs, see R-rated movies, and watch porn before you, and that’s cool. But you still really need to pretend there are places like Xemoland out there, where every wish you have can come true. That’s what being seven is all about, and being seven is kind of badass.

Xemoland reminded me of “The Guy I Almost Was,” a classic from Electronic Sheep Comix. In addition to the obvious 1990′s nostalgia, despite the gap in ages of the protagonists, both yearn for a better world that seemed right around the corner in that pre-millennial moment. This slice-of-life style seems more commonplace in independent comics than in animation, for whatever reason.

Update: Vice credits the cartoon to Daniel Katz, but other sources say the correct name is Daniel Cardenas. I’m unsure at this time!

Bonus: Human Music,” a Rick and Morty remix by Chetreo.


Previously, I wrote:

While hilarious and improvisational, Rick and Morty maintains an internal consistency and even a continuity from episode to episode that makes it seem meticulously plotted compared to Adult Swim’s stoner alumni like Children’s Hospital or Aqua Teen Hunger Force — with a few exceptions, the humor comes primarily from carrying a premise through to its extreme, yet somehow almost logical conclusions.

The final two episodes of Season 1, “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind,” and “Ricksy Business,” are beautiful examples of that of that principle of taking hilarious concepts and following them through to their utter extremes. Having cleverly established the multiverse in which the show exists, it unveils a bizarre “Council of Ricks” from alternate dimensions in episode 10.

The final episode throws an incredible party with cameos from the entire season and a few unforgettable additions like Bird Person and Abradolph Lincler. And then ends as only Rick and Morty can: with a giant, wonderful, “fuck you!” (link contains spoilers for final moments of the final episode). The episode also highlights the importance of big sister Summer’s familial relationship with Rick, which became more important as her character gained depth in season 1.

With a consistently funny and clever first season completed and season 2 in our future, you’ve got every reason to seek out this cartoon if my first recommendation wasn’t enough. I hope all the characters continue to gain depth in season 2, particularly Jerry the dad. Right now he’s mostly the butt of jokes, though I enjoyed his relationship with the stupid Rick in episode 10. Much like Archer’s Cyril Figgis, also played by voice actor Chris Parnell, I hope he becomes more complex with time.

Seen any good cartoons lately? What are you watching these days?

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The Magic and Beauty of Hiding Behind Front Groups

By: spocko Friday November 19, 2010 1:30 pm

From a great diary at Daily Kos, ”Industry Expert Says StopRush Has Destroyed Limbaugh’s Business For Good“ by Proglegs:

Speaking yesterday on the Ed Schultz radio show, industry insider Holland Cooke credited a persistent online activist movement with completely destroying right wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s business model by using the very free speech that El Rushbo claims gives him carte blanche to do what he does.

The piece quotes Cooke on the Ed Show and discusses the lower ratings, Rush’s move to smaller stations and the impact of less income for Rush’s distributors and radio stations.
Cover up False Front
Being the self-important Vulcan I am, I commented on the piece and my role in the process that lead to this.

Discussing the article with my friend Jeff Tiedrich of the Smirking Chimp there was some confusion.

Wait, how does losing advertisers result in fewer listeners? Seems to me they’re two different problems.

I explained they they were indeed separate issues. I created the Spocko Method specifically to reduce revenue in an environment where the ratings wouldn’t necessarily be impacted by an action and could even increase the ratings because of controversy.

I know that when KSFO, Savage, Beck or Limbaugh lost advertisers that didn’t necessarily mean they would lose ratings. In fact. they would keep bragging about the ratings because people were tuning in to hear the controversy. See the Streisand Effect

Higher ratings usually translate to higher ad rates. But if no one wants to advertise or sponsor the show, then high ratings are moot, especially to the people wanting to make money off of ratings. However, the ratings are still useful to people who want to push a message.

People who like a message, and want it to continue, needed to find new sponsors who love the message but are not vulnerable to pressure the way customer facing advertisers are. These new sponsors could stand behind someone who would normally be sanctioned or be fired for violating the normal HR policies found in most corporations. The groups could even support views that a huge percent of the population find offensive.

Front Groups are Magical

Front groups like the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works and Americans For Prosperity can deflect connection and responsibility from individuals, corporations or brands who love a “no regulations ever” message, but can’t be seen supporting a sick and twisted host or his comments.

When you don’t want your brand tainted by association, you find or create a group of anonymous donors and ask them to pass money through to the messenger they don’t want to be associated with anymore.

Front groups funding right wing radio isn’t new, Politico did a piece on them funding right wing radio back in 2011. Here is another from this week. There are still reasons people and companies hide. There are marketing and brand considerations that remain. If you, as the person driving a message, find that activists have developed and harnessed a customer facing advertiser alert programs that challenges their brand, you work to remove those sponsors identities from the equation. Then you give them the option of funding you via the ‘cut out’ front group, like the Chamber of Commerce does. The other option is to reform the messenger, and that isn’t going to happen.

Customer facing advertisers, like the ones listed here at, had a hard time justifying sponsoring a sexist bigot who would be fired for violating all their own HR policies. But a front group doesn’t have to answer to HR policies, brand managers, customers or shareholders.

The people who want the money to keep rolling in do suggest the host change or tone down his views to appease the sponsors, and some of that does happen behind the scenes, although they will never admit it. The current procedure is to embrace the offensive comments and look for other sponsors.

The consumer facing advertisers were, (and some still are) a weak link in the game. They could be convinced to move away from Limbaugh. However dark money doesn’t care about what anyone thinks. They can “lose” money for decades on an influential narrative shaper, because they ARE getting an ROI. The advertisers could measure their short term ROI with new sales. But the front groups don’t have those short horizon metrics.

They are earning the money that they beg for every year from donors by pointing to their cultural impact.  They have:

Russia with Love: Alaska Gas Scandal Is Out-of-Country, Not Out-of-State

By: Steve Horn Friday April 18, 2014 12:25 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A legal controversy — critics would say scandal — has erupted in Alaska’s statehouse over the future of its natural gas bounty.

It’s not so much an issue of the gas itself, but who gets to decide how it gets to market and where he or she resides.

The question of who owns Alaska’s natural gas and where they’re from, at least for now, has been off the table. More on that later.

At its core, the controversy centers around a public-private entity called the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) created on April 18, 2010 via House Bill 369 for the “purpose of planning, constructing, and financing in-state natural gas pipeline projects.”AGDC has a $400 million budget funded by taxpayers.

AGDC was intially built to facilitate opening up the jointly-owned ExxonMobil-TransCanada Alaska Pipeline Project for business. That project was set to be both a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export pipeline coupled with a pipeline set to bring Alaskan gas to the Lower 48.


Things have changed drastically since 2010 in the U.S. gas market though, largely due to the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom. And with that, the Lower 48 segment of the Alaska Pipeline Project has become essentially obsolete.

Dreams of exporting massive amounts of Alaskan LNG to Asia, however, still remain. They were made much easier on April 14, when the Kenai LNG export facility received authorization to export gas from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Enter the latest iteration of AGDC. This phase began in January 2014 after Governor Sean Parnell, formerly a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips, signed Senate Bill 138 into law.

The bill served as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Alaska, the AGDC, ConocoPhillips, BP, ExxonMobil, and TransCanada, with the four companies now serving as co-owners of the South Central LNG Pipeline Project.

Gov. Parnell also announced who would serve on the AGDC Board of Directors in September 2013, which began meeting in October 2013. And that’s where the story starts to get more interesting.

Meet Richard “Dick” Rabinow

Under Alaska state law, you have to be a state citizen to serve on state commissions like AGDC. But one of the seven Board members, Richard “Dick” Rabinow, is a citizen of a state far from Alaska: Texas.

War Is Good for Us, Dumb New Book Claims

By: David Swanson Thursday May 12, 2011 5:28 am

Ian Morris has stuck his dog’s ear in his mouth, snapped a selfie, and proclaimed “Man Bites Dog.” His new book War: What Is It Good For? Conflict and Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots is intended to prove that war is good for children and other living things.  It actually proves that defenders of war are growing desperate for arguments.

War What Is It Good For cover

A new book claims that war benefits civilization.

Morris maintains that the only way to make peace is to make large societies, and the only way to make large societies is through war. Ultimately, he believes, the only way to protect peace is through a single global policeman.  Once you’ve made peace, he believes, prosperity follows. And from that prosperity flows happiness. Therefore, war creates happiness. But the one thing you must never stop engaging in if you hope to have peace, prosperity, and joy is — you guessed it — war.

This thesis becomes an excuse for hundreds of pages of a sort of Monty Python history of the technologies of war, not to mention the evolution of chimpanzees, and various even less relevant excursions.  These pages are packed with bad history and guesswork, and I’m greatly tempted to get caught up in the details. But none of it has much impact on the book’s conclusions. All of Morris’s history, accurate and otherwise, is put to mythological use. He’s telling a simplistic story about where safety and happiness originated, and advocating highly destructive misery-inducing behavior as a result.

When small, medium, and large societies have been and are peaceful, Morris ignores them. There are lots of ways to define peaceful, but none of them put the leading war maker at the top, and none of them place at the top only nations that could be imagined to fall under a Pax Americana.

When societies have been enlarged peacefully, as in the formation of the European Union, Morris applauds (he thinks the E.U. earned its peace prize, and no doubt all the more so for its extensive war making as deputy globocop) but he just skips over the fact that war wasn’t used in the E.U.’s formation. (He avoids the United Nations entirely.)

When the globocop brings death and destruction and disorder to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen, Morris sticks his fingers in his ears and hums. “Interstate wars” he informs us (like most of his other claims, without any footnotes) have “almost disappeared.” Well isn’t that great news?! (Morris grotesquely minimizes Iraqi deaths from the recent [nonexistent?] war, and of course supplies no footnote.)

In a culture that has long waged wars, it has been possible to say that wars bring courage, wars bring heroism, wars bring slaves, wars bring cultural exchange. One could have asserted at various points that wars were the only way to a great many ends, not just large societies that reduce small-scale murders. Barely a century ago William James was worried there was no way to build character without war, and defenders of war were advertising it as good for its participants in a much more direct way than Morris has been reduced to. Has war been the means of building empires and nations? Sure, but that neither means that empires are the only way to peace, nor that war was the only nation-building tool available, nor that we must keep waging wars in an age in which we aren’t forming empires or nations any longer. That ancient pyramids may have been built by slaves hardly makes slavery the best or only way to preserve the pyramids.