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It's all about Ukraine

Two Chance Meetings While Traveling in Europe

 

On a trip to Europe for a two-week stay in Finland, my wife and I at one point found ourselves seated next to a congenial 30-something guy, dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt. He said he was US Army major.

Initially, our conversation revolved around his little kids, and his complaint about how often he was sent out on “short assignments” in Europe far away from home. He also mentioned being somewhat hard of hearing after having been sent out on 250 missions in Iraq as a soldier in the cavalry, where he had been the gunner on a stryker armored vehicle. (He explained that he couldn’t wear ear protectors despite the constant loud roar of the heavy vehicle’s engine, “because you have to hear when you’re taking fire, and also to be able to communicate with the other guys inside the vehicle.”)

He was voluble, but discreet when it came to his current Army role, saying only that he had been reassigned from cavalry to “international relations,” which he later explained meant “handling relations” between US military forces and various countries’ militaries in the “European Theater.” He said he had become particularly busy since the beginning of the “Ukraine crisis,” but wouldn’t go into detail about what he was busy doing.

One could make an educated guess. Looking at the bulging muscles on this guy’s arms, shoulders and chest, it seemed clear that this was not a someone who just who sat at conferences and talked across tables discussing protocol. More likely, he was Special Forces in some training capacity.

In any event, his regular travels, which he said had him flying back and forth from the US to assignments in Europe almost every other week, make suggest that the US has ramped up in its military activities in Europe.

Later, in Finland, I made a road trip from the southern city of Kuopio to northern Lapland above the Arctic Circle, to report on arctic climate change. Just before reaching the Arctic Circle on my first evening on the road, I came on two young people, a man and a woman, who were hitchhiking. Being a long-time hitchhiker myself, and deeply in karmic debt as a driver, I immediately pulled over and invited them to hop in.

Ukrainian mothers in an anti-conscription protest against the Kiev government, and destruction as separatist rebels advanceUkrainian mothers in an anti-conscription protest against the Kiev government, and destruction as separatist rebels on a demoralized Ukrainian military
 

Let's get reimbursed!

Time Warner Customers of the World Unite!

 

Are you a Time-Warner Internet customer? Have you ever experienced an outage? Have you called the company for a reimbursement? Most people would probably answer "no" to that last question. In fact, most company customers don't realize that these companies aren't required to reimburse and, in Time Warner's case, they usually don't. You have to call them.

Maybe it's time to make this sensitive movement for Time Warner a bit more sensitive.

This is already a sensitive time for the Cable and Internet giant because, holding hands with its fellow giant Comcast, the company is asking the Federal Communications Commission to approve what amounts to a merger of the two companies which would give the resulting offspring virtually complete control of cable and high-speed Internet service across this country. Comcast is already the biggest provider of such services in the U.S.; Time Warner is the second largest.

Good things to do but Time Warner shouldn't charge us for them!Good things to do but Time Warner shouldn't charge us for them!
 

Since they have worked (Adam Smith would have said conspired) for several years to divvy up territory and avoid over-lap and competition, their combination would blanket most of this country's major (and many smaller) markets. The very goal of the regulations that forced them to split up service areas is now being turned on its head by this proposal. Given recent FCC rulings on issues like Net Neutrality riding the wave of corporate cannibalism that has deeply affected the Internet, opposition to this corporate hip-joining has been fierce and nationwide.

So Time-Warner's recent Internet outages are causing a bit of embarassment and spreading the concern activists have long had to lots of "regular" customers.

Get a grip America

Who’s the Real Aggressor in Ukraine? (Hint: It’s Not Russia)

 

The US corporate media are awash in fevered articles and news stories about a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, as though it was 1938, with German troops marching into Sedetenland and Austria. But let’s step back and look at what’s going on, calmly and rationally.

Ukraine, the eastern half of which country has historically been a part of Russia (the western part having in the past been a part of Poland), is in truth an ethnically and geographically divided “nation,” composed of Ukrainians, the majority of whom live in the western part of the country, and ethnic Russians who, while a minority within the whole of Ukraine, are a majority in the eastern part of the country.

After the pro-Russian elected prime minister of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, was driven out of office and out of the country in a putsch earlier this year, financed and backed politically by the United States, the new post-putsch government in Kiev begin instituting or threatening to institute laws that were viewed as threatening and repressive by the Russian minority in the east -- things like restrictions on the use of Russian language, for example. As a result, the Ukrainian Russians rebelled, declaring their several regions to be autonomous republics. In Crimea, where Russians are the overwhelming majority of the population, a snap election was held on whether to leave Ukraine altogether, and rejoin Russia. It passed overwhelmingly, with over 90% of voters opting for reunion with Russia. (similar votes were also held, against Russia's advice, in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, with similar results.)

Russia’s parliament agreed to annex Crimea, which not incidentally hosts Russia’s only southern naval base (it was at the time being rented to Russia by Ukraine on a long-term lease).

Subsequently, the Ukrainian government (under strong pressure from the US, including a secret visit by the head of the CIA) launched a military campaign, increasingly violent and bloody, to put down the rebellion in the “autonomous” regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, as well as in the cities of Odessa and Miriupol. After some 2200 civilians had been killed by indiscriminate Ukrainian shelling, rocket bombardments and aerial bombing of eastern cities by the Ukrainian airforce, and by armed fascist thugs in Odessa and Miriupol, with the outgunned separatist rebel forces being pushed back into the centers of the of Lugansk and Donetsk, where their situation looked increasingly desperate, Russia has apparently responded. It did this either by a direct intervention of Russian troops and armor, as claimed by the Ukrainian government, or, more likely, by allowing or encouraging Russian volunteers to cross the border and join the fight, as claimed by Russia. The result, either way, has been a rout of Ukrainian forces, who are now in almost full retreat.

Russia’s increased support for the separatist forces in the east, and the Ukrainian military’s abject collapse in the face of the separatist counteroffensive, has US officials, and the once war-mongering US corporate media, apoplectic. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! America needs to act!

An entire village in the majority Russian-speaking Lugansk region, leveled by Ukrainian military shellingAn entire village in the majority Russian-speaking Lugansk region, leveled by Ukrainian military shelling
 

Where even the reality cop shows are boring:

Smart Social Policies in Finland, Dumb Ones in the US

 

Kuopio-- Finland can be a shock to a visitor from America. The cities are clean, the highways and byways are smoothly paved and pothole-free despite the punishing winter climate faced by a country that straddles the Arctic Circle, schools look shiny and new, and it’s hard to see anyone who looks destitute.

It’s also incredibly hard to spot a police car or a police officer. Indeed, despite my spending two weeks in Finland earlier this month, including driving over 2000 miles from the city of Kuopio to the upper reaches of Lapland and back, I never saw one law enforcement officer, except at the Helsinki airport on my way home, when an elderly tourist from Turkey insisted that an airport cop accompany him to the tax rebate desk so he could file a complaint about the alleged misconduct of a woman behind the counter (the officer gently explained to the man that the law only provided for rebates of the value added tax to tourists for their purchases of goods valued at over 100 Euros, not for services).

It’s not that Finland doesn’t have its share of crimes, including violent crimes, but police are not swarming the streets, they don’t carry semi-automatic rifles on patrol, and they are even polite when they make arrests. When the teenage son of a friend of ours in Finland was caught with friends one evening a year or so ago smoking marijuana in a playground, the police simply called his parents, who came in and were advised to reprimand him and talk with him about the seriousness of taking drugs. There was no arrest or appearance before a judge, no fine, and no handcuffing.

One evening in Rovaniemi, a city in the south of Lapland, I found myself in a kabob joint, watching a Finnish TV reality cop show while I ate. Man, was it boring! Two cops joked in their patrol van. Eventually they happened on what appeared to be a young prostitute being propositioned by a young man. They pulled over and got out, not even putting their flashing lights on. Strolling up to the pair, they were all smiles. They questioned the two, informed them that they were engaging in an activity that was illegal, and told them to move along. Nobody was arrested. Nobody was yelled at. Then, still joking, they went back on patrol. Next they encountered a young man wearing (gasp!) a hoodie. Although he had a dark complexion, indicating he was part of that tiny minority of people in this country where 99.5% of the citizens are white, their approach was again polite. When they questioned him about why he was hanging around a closed shop, he tried to leave. At that point, the two cops each grabbed an arm, but there was no roughing him up, no slamming him face first on the ground with a one cop’s knee in his back, no punching or kicking. They just held him firmly and led him over to the van. In the US, that arrest would have looked totally different, and the suspect would have sustained at a minimum facial injuries and back injuries, plus he would have been cuffed. If a suspect receiving such abuse in the US were to try to resist at all, the consequences could be far worse -- perhaps even death at the hands of the officers via choke hold or bullet.

Compare that reality program to the US, where the latest filming of the reality police show, “Cops!,” resulted in the police fatally shooting one of the video crewmembers filming them. They were reportedly firing at a fleeing suspect who had (allegedly) shot at them with a toy air pistol that fires harmless BB-sized plastic balls. Shooting fleeing suspects is illegal in Finland and in the US, unless the suspect is armed and poses a risk to the officers or others, but there is rarely a prosecution of police in the US who do this, even when they kill a kid.

Two weeks and thousands of driving miles in Finland, without seeing a single cop (try that in the US)Two weeks and thousands of driving miles in Finland, without seeing a single cop (try that in the US)
 

How many wars can the US fight at once?

David Swanson on America's Obsession with War as Foreign Policy

 

Carl von Clausewitz once called war "the continuation of politics by other means." Turning that on its head, China's brilliant diplomat, the revolutionist Chou En-lai, said "Diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means."

America, through the decades of the Cold War, but especially since the inception of the Bush/Cheney administration, and continuing during the two terms of current President Barack Obama, has largely eschewed diplomacy altogether, in favor of war, says David Swanson.

A long-time labor and peace activist, Swanson, the author of the book War No More: The case for abolition, and of the website War IsACrime.org, was the guest on ThisCantBeHappening's radio program "This Can't Be Happening!" on Wednesday's show on the Progressive Radio Network.

He and host Dave Lindorff attempted to count the number of places around the globe where the US is either technically at war (by sending in attack drones to bomb targets inside countries without permission) as in Pakistan and Somalia, is committing acts of war, as in the case yesterday of a US Coast Guard vessel firing a shot at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf or in Iraq, where US planes are bombing ISIS targets, or is pushing for or preparing for war, as in Ukraine or Syria. They found the number too high to tally.

Swanson argues forcefully that no US military adventures or military threats are legal or moral, but also argues that Russia likewise has no legal or moral right to send its forces into eastern Ukraine to defend ethnic Russians against brutal attack by the Ukrainian military.

While Lindorff argues that at least in the Ukraine, Russia will probably have to, and indeed should, send in its military to defend areas under indiscriminate attack by Ukrainian rockets, cannons and aerial bombardment, both he and Swanson agree that the various crises around the globe are largely of US making, and that this obsession by US policymakers with exacerbating local conflicts, selling and donating arms to conflict regions, often to both sides, has to be ended.
 

To hear this interview, click here or on the image below.

Peace activist David Swanson, US Coast Guard cutter on 'routine' patrol in the Persian Gulf, and war in eastern UkrainePeace activist David Swanson, US Coast Guard cutter on 'routine' patrol in the Persian Gulf, and war in eastern Ukraine

Break the Vengeance Cycle

Why We Should Not Go To War Over James Foley

 
Back in June 2011, James Foley gave an hour-long interview before an auditorium of students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he had graduated three years earlier with a Master’s degree in journalism. It was 15 days after he had been released from 45 rough days of captivity in Libya. He was a handsome young hero returning to his alma-mater.

In a recent item in The New Yorker, Mark Singer quotes Foley that his Libyan captivity was “a cautionary tale.” He makes it clear to the journalism students at Medill that the business of covering wars was pretty new to him when he was captured in Libya in early 2011.

James Foley at Medill School of Journalism in June 2011, with Timothy McNultyJames Foley at Medill School of Journalism in June 2011, with Timothy McNulty

"I started as a leftist war protester," he tells interviewer Timothy McNulty, a Medill professor and former editor at the Chicago Tribune. Foley's brother was a soldier in Iraq, which led him to sympathize with his brother. He began to feel pulled to get into the middle of conflict himself; he aspired to become an active voice in the affairs of the world. So at Medill he took academic coursework on covering international conflicts. Singer points out he participated in something called the National Security Journalism Initiative, in which ex-British commandos grabbed him in a mock kidnapping and shot blanks by his head they'd covered with a bag.

In the interview, he says one thing the US military learned in Vietnam was the need to control journalists. So they came up with the "embed" idea. With a shiny Masters degree in hand, he got a job embedded with a US National Guard unit in Iraq. At one point, he worked for US-AID.

"You start to bond with these guys," he says. "You wonder about your objectivity sometimes -- especially with US soldiers." He fully appreciates the history and the thinking behind the military’s embed program, which relies on a reporter bonding with the soldiers he is covering. These same soldiers are protecting his life. He seems to understand the pressures this relationship puts on his ability as a journalist to be “objective.” By now, everyone in the journalism business knows there is no such thing as objectivity. I have a Masters Degree in Journalism from Temple University and I first learned the same lesson about objectivity in coursework there.

Foley next reveals the key to why many war journalists are so driven to do what they do.

“When you see something violent it doesn't always repel you. It can draw you close,” he says. Shots of individual students in the audience reveal young faces in rapt attention. “Feeling that you survived has a strange sort of force." There's the famous adrenaline rush.

The ThisCantBeHappening! news collective loses a founding member

Charles M. 'Chuck' Young (1951-2014)

 

The ThisCantBeHappening! collective has lost a friend and a perceptive and peerlessly witty analyst of the American political and cultural scene, while Rock& Roll has lost its leading critic. Charles M. Young (Chuck to his friends), has died, following a year and a half of battling an aggressive brain tumor.

When Dave Lindorff decided back in the Spring of 2010, to convert his thiscantbehappening.net blog into a collectively-owned and collectively-run news site, he immediately contacted three friends and journalistic colleagues--John Grant, Linn Washington, Jr. and Chuck Young. All three immediately jumped for the idea. But Chuck's response was classic Young. His lip curling up in a sign that cued a listener that he was about to crack a joke, he said, "Wait, let me get this straight: a newspaper that has no editor? It sounds like a dream come true! Sign me up!"

Charles M. 'Chuck' Young, Presente!Charles M. 'Chuck' Young, Presente!

 

New poem:

Close the gate

 

Close the gate

I’m tired.
Don’t visit,
I’m not home.
Why should I have to explain?

Now you show up.
I hear your voices.
You come in a group.
You turn on the tap.

I hear the squeak of the faucet.
I hear the water running
Through the pipes.
I go to the door.

There are a lot of you.
Go away.
Can’t you see I’m busy?
I’m working on something.

I can’t be disturbed.
Follow that path
Through the garden.
Close the gate.

none

The latest 'ThisCantBeHappening!' Show on PRN.fm

An Interview with Charles M. Young

 

Journalist Charles M. Young talks with Dave Lindorff, host of PRN.fm's new program 'This Can't Be Happening!" about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, New York's last mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD vs. the LAPD, music & politics, getting groined by Hunter Thompson and interviewing Noam Chomsky.

You can hear the podcast of Wednesday evening's show by clicking on the image below:

Hear Dave Lindorff on 'This Can't Be Happening!' every Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on PRN.fm or on the web at www.PRN.fmHear Dave Lindorff on 'This Can't Be Happening!' every Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on PRN.fm or on the web at www.PRN.fm

Even in Los Angeles

Gentle Things

 

            In brutish, crass, profanity-spitting L.A., in developer-ravaged $2500-a-month “elegant density” L.A., in have-and-have-not ethnically separated L.A., in get-out-of-my-way-asshole, hit-and-run texting-and-primping-while-driving L.A. . . .

            Gentle things still happen.

            She sat at the front table at Papa Cristo’s, the Greek place at Pico and Normandie in the so-called Byzantine-Latino Quarter. Across the street from St. Sofia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, or, more appropriately considering that masses come with mariachis, Iglesia Santo Tomas Apostol.

            “This is excellent!” she said, and, really, it was amazing she could say anything at all, let alone in a clear, commanding voice. The withered and dry autumn leaves on the sycamore trees in the neighborhood were stronger. This was, to be indelicate, a corpse that hadn’t gotten around to officially dying. Stick limbs, prune skin, sunken cheeks. Talk about frailty, thy name is woman. . .

            “Okay, Babe,” said her companion, a young guy with brown curls pulled back in a pony tail. “I’ve got you.” And he steadied her as he removed her walker, and then helped her ease into a wooden chair at one of Papa Cristo’s wobbly tables. She didn’t seem comfortable.

            “Does your butt hurt?” said her companion.

            What butt, I wondered. Nothing there but bones.

Esther Cicconi, lifetime Communist and icon of LA's left fringe, says 'hello, not goodbye'Esther Cicconi, lifetime Communist and icon of LA's left fringe, says 'hello, not goodbye'

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This is the video tape of Davis in Lahore police custody


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Live Stream of the Occupation of Wall Street! The Revolution will be filmed after all! (Courtesy of Globalrevolution)
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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

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by Dr. Radut