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The War of the Heads

 
Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.

- Country Joe McDonald
 

I like to call it The War of the Heads. ISIS beheads people one-on-one, up-close-and-personal on You Tube while the United States of America and its coalition of cautious or secret partners prefers “decapitation,” as in using powerful F16 bombs and drone rockets to whack off metaphoric heads.

It’s easy to work up a vengeful frenzy sitting on our couches watching the medieval slicing off of heads. Especially when it’s heads we recognize! It’s harder to get worked up about people we don’t know who die much more horrible deaths in the buildings we obliterate in an instant. We sometimes watch the buildings go up in a fiery cloud on our TV screens. But not to worry, no one is doing You Tube videos of the heads and torsos inside the buildings incinerated into a fine dust of biological matter and concrete. You have to be a local Arab or Muslim helping to drag the extant pieces of humanity out of the buildings to feel the call to vengeance from these F16 and drone hits.

Drone pilots "decapitating" and an ISIS fighter beheadingDrone pilots "decapitating" and an ISIS fighter beheading

In a New York Times op-ed, Thomas Friedman goes deep and explains how President Obama’s challenge at this historic juncture is to make the Arab/Muslim world recognize it’s an abject failure as a culture. It must accept the need for a ruthless imperial killing campaign to destroy the psychopathic ISIS killers. Don't pause and consider that ISIS was directly spawned as a vengeance reaction to this kind of thinking and killing in the first place. No, keep thinking it's all because Arabs and Muslims are a backward civilization in need of cleansing. I imagine getting the Arab/Muslim world to go for Friedman's line should be easy -- about as easy as someone like me getting the Exceptionalist/Imperialist world to recognize its blunders and debacles.

Over at Fox, Bill O’Reilly was on a tear advocating the creation of a 25,000 member mercenary killing force to be led by US officers. An American Foreign Legion for the 21st Century. A well-paid, highly-trained, international killer-force immune to progressive US politics and capable of working around the Constitution. O’Reilly loves to defend the Constitution -- except when it's inconvenient. The point is to make killing bad guys easier. Then all you have to do is decide who the bad guys are, which is a simple matter as long as the secret meeting is limited to the right people.

A 25,000 member American Foreign Legion is a natural progression from Vietnam’s secret Phoenix Program to Iran-Contra’s “war-off-the-books” to Dick Cheney’s “dark-side” to a flat-out extra-Constitutional, rapid-reaction death-force. “It’s gonna happen,” O’Reilly says with his bully's confidence. Eric Prince, the former Seal who founded Blackwater, agreed with him. So did Geraldo Rivera. No more pinhead discussion: It's time for the ultimate vengeance deliverance system.

Most Americans were going about their lives so they were late getting the memo that their nation was again at war in Iraq. Oh, and Syria too. This time, lies weren’t even necessary. The sophist legal pretzel-twisting of the Constitution left over from the previous administration still worked. War really began to sink in when one day Brian Williams of NBC opened his show with the usual stirring intro music and whooshing graphics and the line: “Here’s the latest about what our enemy is up to.” When the bombing moved to Syria, most Americans turned from their TV sets and hollered into the kitchen: “Hon! Where is Syria?” Congress and its Profiles In Porridge decided to let the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House have his way with the place. Mister President, you may be the hated son of an African socialist, but go ahead and soften the place up. Once you're up to your privates in war muck, maybe we’ll start asking questions and, like peeved inmates in the asylum, throw feces at you.

Freedom’s just another word:

US Launches Wars and Backs Coups in the Name of Democracy, but Won’t Back Real Democracy Activists in Hong Kong

 

The US claims to be supporting democracy from Ukraine to Cuba, and from Somalia to Iraq, often by bombing the alleged opposition, or by supporting proxy wars and subversion. But one place where real democracy activists are battling against the forces of repression they are curiously getting scant backing from the United States: Hong Kong.

There, student activists, a local occupy movement, and now the independent trade union movement, are mobilizing to prevent China from going back on a pledge made in 1997 to allow Hong Kong people in 2017 to elect their city’s “mayor,” called the chief executive, by popular vote.

The government in China, which assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, at the time established what was called a Basic Law governing Hong Kong, and granting the former British Colony self-rule for at least the next 50 years, calling the policy "one-country, two-systems." As part of that Basic Law, the partially-elected, partially-appointed legislative council was dissolved, and new elections were held. The appointed British governor was replaced with a chief executive appointed by a panel of business leaders and other prominent figures hand-picked by the central government in Beijing. But over the course of the ensuing 20 years, the number of members of the Legislative Council who are directly elected by the citizens of Hong Kong was to be gradually increased (it is currently 40 out of 70, with the balance elected by so-called functional constituencies -- basically the professions like law, banking, etc.), and in 2017, the chief executive was to be directly elected.

Now China says that this last crucial democratic reform will not happen. Instead of picking their own “mayor” democratically, China says Hong Kong residents will have to choose between candidates who will first be vetted by the government in Beijing, which will only allow to run for office those deemed to be suitably “patriotic” and to “love China.”

That backslide from a promise of true democracy has sparked a huge and growing protest in Hong Kong which began with students, who tried to occupy the grounds in front of the Legislative Council building. The students last week were joined by the large Hong Kong Occupy Central movement--the latter a local democracy movement inspired by the 2011 US occupy movement. Earlier this week Hong Kong police, who over the years generally have shown considerable restraint in dealing with public protests, acted more like today’s militarized American cops, firing rounds of teargas into the peaceful crowds, spraying pepper spray into the faces of sitting protesters, wielding batons and making large-scale arrests.

Hong Kong democracy activists on Monday brought central Hong Kong to a standstill in response to an earlier police crackdownHong Kong democracy activists on Monday brought central Hong Kong to a standstill in response to an earlier police crackdown
 

"Let's Try Democracy" Program on Talk Nation Radio:

David Swanson Interviews TCBH!'s Dave Lindorff on Ukraine, Syria, and on the Militarization of America's Police

 

Talk Nation Radio host David Swanson, a noted labor and peace activist who has been doggedly promoting the idea that war itself is a crime -- one that was outlawed by the Kellogg-Briand Pact, ratified by the Senate 85-1 and signed by President Calvin Coolidge -- interviews TCBH! founder Dave Lindorff about the crisis in Ukraine, about the US push for war against ISIS, and ultimately Syria, and about the ongoing militarization of the police in the United States.

Listen to this half-hour edition of Swanson's program "Let's Try Democracy," by clicking here

TCBH!'s Dave Lindorff (l) and David Swanson, host of Talk Nation Radio's "Let's Try Democracy" program (r)TCBH!'s Dave Lindorff (l) and David Swanson, host of Talk Nation Radio's "Let's Try Democracy" program (r)

Going...going...almost gone, but let’s not forget him

The Wretched Tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder

 

Good riddance!

Eric Holder has announced that he is leaving his post of Attorney General, which he has sullied and degraded for six years.

A corporate lawyer with the A-list Washington and Wall Street law firm Covington & Burling, Holder will be remembered for his timid defense of civil rights, his overseeing. and even encouragement of the massive militarization of the nation’s police forces, his anti-First Amendment efforts to pursue not just whistleblowers but the journalists who use them, threatening both with jail and in fact jailing a number of them (particularly in the case of whistleblower extraordinaire Edward Snowden, and Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange, both of whom reportedly face US treason charges), and his weak enforcement of environmental protection laws.

But Holder, who came into his position as the nation’s top law enforcement officer in early 2009 at the start of the Obama administration and at the height of the financial crisis, will be best remembered for his overt announcement that there would be no attempt to prosecute the criminals at the top of the nation’s biggest so-called "too-big-to-fail" banks, whose brazen crimes of theft, deceit, fraud and perjury during the Bush/Cheney years and beyond sank not just the US but the global economy into a crisis which is still with us.

Holder not only did not make any effort to put Wall Street’s banking titans behind bars for their epic crimes; he did not even make them step down from their exalted and absurdly highly compensated executive positions when his office reached negotiated settlements with the banks in civil cases involving those crimes -- civil cases that in almost all cases allowed the banks to settle without even having to admit their guilt. (His ludicrous excuse: punishing these criminal executive might jeopardize the banks’ stocks and hurt “innocent” shareholders!) Nor was this legal benevalence limited to purely financial crimes. Banks like Citicorp and HSBC, which were found to have knowingly laundered millions -- even billions -- of dollars in drug money for drug cartels, were also allowed by Holder to escape with petty fines, and no prosecution of a single bank executive.

As the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) notes in its response to word that Holder is leaving as AG, his Justice Department generally even allowed the Banks that were fined to deduct those fines from their taxes as a business expense -- something that ordinary citizens are not allowed to do by the IRS, and which Holder could have barred the banks from doing.

No surprise there. Among the clients of Holder's old law firm are both Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. The firm also has since 2010 had a lobbying services contract with Xe Services, the murderous mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide whose bloody abuses in Iraq were so monstrous the company had to change its name (but not its methods) in order to keep obtaining mercenary services contracts from the US government.

It is being suggested that Holder may opt to go back to his old post as a partner at Covington & Burling, which would be the final, though hardly surprising, insult to the American people, providing a particularly galling example of Washington’s revolving door between government regulators and enforcers and the industries that they were supposed to be regulating or keeping honest.

God, how far we have fallen from the days when Ramsey Clark was attorney general, and left to become a leading critic of Washington’s imperial government at home and abroad!

AG Holder going after the To-Big-To-Fail banksAG Holder going after the To-Big-To-Fail banks (NOT)
 

Wall Street is fertile ground for a movement:

Liberals and Liberation on a Weekend of Climate Action in New York

 

New York City -- There were many extraordinary moments during both Sunday’s huge climate march through mid-Manhattan and Monday’s more militant protest in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, from the little boy marching with a tambourine that had “This Machine Kills Fascists” written around its edge (a bow to Woody Guthrie who painted that line on his guitar) to the bored policeman along the march route blowing a huge bubble from the gum he was chewing. But the most telling occurred in the early afternoon on Monday, when, as several thousand climate action protesters sat or milled around, penned into several blocks of Broadway by hundreds of linked-together metal police barricades, a young man astride a pair of telephone booths began an impromptu IWW rant.

(Update: The IWW reports that the young man in question is named Elliot Hughes, and is co-founder of the IWW's Ecological Unionism Caucus.)

The day before, during the big march down Central Park West, Sixth Avenue and across 42nd Street, those phone booths had been favored vantage points for photographers, dancing young women and people just trying to get a better view of the march. Bored cops standing along the parade route would chat and joke with those perched above. But this time a young man, dressed in black and standing in sight of the big bronze Wall Street Bull sculpture, and just several blocks down Broadway from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange building, was shouting out a call for workers to unite, rise up and overthrow the capitalist system. It was just too much for the police who were guarding the barricades to segregate people so those on the street couldn’t leave and so supporters on the sidewalk couldn’t join the protest.

A dozen of the cops came over to the nine-foot-tall phone booths, surrounding them, and demanded that the shouting young man come down. He ignored them, realizing that they couldn’t reach him, and went on to finish his speech, which was relayed phrase by phrase via the “human mic” technique perfected three years earlier by the Occupy Wall Street movement. When he was done, he paced around on his perch like a rooster, looking down at the surrounding cops, and then suddenly made his break.

Leaping over the cops and some of the surrounding protest supporters, he managed to land on his feet on the sidewalk and started running. Protesters closed ranks behind him, slowing down the cops who all began chasing after him.

At that point, all the police guarding the metal barriers took off after the young man too. Eventually this police horde caught up with the man, and leapt on him like a rugby scrum. I don’t know what happened to him in the end. He was probably arrested and charged tautologically with resisting arrest, but for what violation I don’t know since, as the events of the day before proved that just standing on a phone booth was not illegal or cause for arrest; apparently only making a leftist speech from one is a “crime.”

Young IWW speaker atop a phone booth later fled arrest and drew cops away, allowing protesters to liberate the streetYoung IWW speaker atop a phone booth later fled arrest and drew cops away, allowing protesters to liberate the street

Ten Acres & A Yard Tractor

Plowing Under The Great Kansas Corpone Revolution

 

North Jefferson County, Kansas -- The Sept. 6, 2014 Kansas State Fair debates in Hutchinson, with a maximum arena crowd of 2500, had satellite trucks linked to MSNBC, CNN and reporters from as far away as New York. Certainly proof something was happening in Kansas, but for too many in the state that “something” remains unknown.

The “something” is easily found, though, by shaking any distracted screen grazer, instructing them to google “Traditional Republicans for Common Sense” and informing the techno-dummies that the holiest of holy, the Republican Party of Kansas, is split. Over 100 trusted, life-long members of the “Traditional Republicans” have stood up in name and print against Brownback’s Great Cornpone Revolution.

The True Believers’ Coup

The True Believers in the New Republican Party of Kansas are a mixed-blood group, part Tea Party, part “conservative” libertarian, with a sprinkling of government conspiracy freaks and “pro-life” religious zealots, many secretly funded by the infamous “non-profit” Wichita plutocrats like the Koch brothers. 

Invoking fear of “Big Government,” the New Republicans of Kansas, reliably stark raving mad about funding bigger war industries, have kept the Great Bush/Cheney Recession going here by letting every millionaire and billionaire run loose, mostly tax-free.

The New Republican Party was long in coming; I date it to before the abortion wars of former state Attorney General Phill Kline, but the 2010 elections parovided the decisive battle. That was when the True Believers took over and started targeting their own party members for political oblivion.

 Charles Koch and the man he's backing in Kansas, incumbent Gov. Sam BrownbackFair game: Charles Koch and the man he's backing in Kansas, incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback

Lawless Law Enforcers

In America the 'Terrorists' All Too Often Are the Police

 

Two acts of ugly terrorism occurred in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.

One act was widely abhorred. The other act ignored.

Many across America know about the 9/15/63 Birmingham murders of four little girls slain in the bombing of a black Baptist church 18-days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his stirring “I Have A Dream” speech.

However, few know about the Birmingham murder of Johnny Robinson, a 16-year-old shot in the back by a policeman hours after that church bombing.

If the deaths of those four children inside that Birmingham church catalyzed the 1960s-era Civil Rights Movement contributing to the racial progress America now praises itself for achieving, the death of Johnny Robinson represents yet another instance of the regression across America on the issue of effectively addressing lawlessness by law enforcers – lawlessness that most often evades legal accountability.

Historically, America has a history of downplaying brutal behavior by police.

Police abuses – from fatal shootings through false arrests to the gratuitous use of foul or threatening language – are dismissed as isolated acts of a ‘few bad apples’ instead of as an endemic scourge historically impacting minorities and increasing impacting non-minorities. Top policy-makers and even much of the public embrace this dismissal dynamic.

Michael Brown, murdered by a Fergusson cop while surrendering, and two images of modern US policing at workMichael Brown, murdered by a Fergusson cop while surrendering, and two images of modern US policing at work
 

A Cultural Essay

Going To War With a Vengeance

 
To do nothing is to send a message to the wrongdoer, and the general public, that the victim has no self-worth and will not marshal the internal resources necessary to reclaim his or her honor. Shattered dignity is not beyond repair, but no elevating and equalizing of dignity can occur without the personal satisfaction of revenge.
        -Thane Rosenbaum, Payback: The Case For Revenge

The one who forgives, far from rallying around evil, decides instead not to imitate it, not to resemble it in any way, and without having expressly willed it, to negate it with the sole purity of silent love.
        -Vladimir Jankelevitch, Forgiveness
 
 
Two months ago polls suggested the American public was weary of war. Then, a group of furious extremists nurtured out of the fertile chaos of our invasion/occupation of Iraq and led by former generals from Saddam Hussein’ army went through Anbar Province in western Iraq like Patton went through Europe: Like crap through a goose. They were taking back what the US had taken from them by empowering Iraqi Shiites. Their secret was psychopathic violence -- massacres of men, women and children from hated ethnic or religious factions.

Soon, people from around the world were being recruited to join ISIS. Two brave US journalists were captured in Syria and sold to ISIS in western Iraq. Utilizing 21st century skills with video production, they flaunted their power by brutally beheading the two journalists.

ISIS and Senator Bernie Sanders, President Obama, Senators John McCain and Lindsey GrahamISIS and Senator Bernie Sanders, President Obama, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham

Suddenly, US polls flipped and a majority of Americans now felt it was necessary to race willy-nilly back to war in Iraq. The likelihood that ISIS's goal was to stir up this kind of fear and blind reaction in America didn't seem to matter. No one is quite sure what any of it really means. Following President Obama’s war speech, Lawrence O’Donnell asked, “Exactly how many people do we have to kill to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ this movement called ISIS?” No one knows. No one wants to lose face or appear weak. Being smart didn't seem to be a concern; many were ready to hose out more treasure and lose even more ground in addressing our huge domestic problems.

                Crime Fiction and Vengeance as Religion

As part of a personal study in the area of crime fiction, I’ve been reading a lot on the subject of vengeance. One of the classic avenging angels is Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane’s popular Cold War era private detective who followed Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. They were real tough guys -- detectives. Mike Hammer was primarily about vengeance, which was generally administrated on the final page with a couple slugs in the guts from his beloved .45 automatic.

Spillane and his persona had no patience with something like the ethical movement that, for lack of a better term, goes by the label forgiveness. It's not about forgiveness in any literal sense, and it does not preclude self-defense. It's more about not getting sucked into costly cycles of violence and just getting on with life. When thinking about crime fiction, I find it useful to place the two -- vengeance and forgiveness -- as extremes on a continuum. It allows the analytic possibility of complexity and dialogue between the extremes when it comes to addressing a mess like the one the nation finds itself in right now.

Andrew Vachss is a popular, self-proclaimed vengeance writer working today. His character Burke is a fierce avenging angel hunting down those who abuse and violate children. Vachss is a lawyer who has had a colorful life working in the area of child protection. “He's not a hit man,” Vachss has written of the fictional Burke. “But he shares the same religion I do, which is revenge.”

New poem

Monster in my garden

 

After yesterday
I’m afraid to go down there
Into my own garden.
I went down after sunset to water and
There it was, crouching
Like a gargoyle among the tomatoes.
I got a good look at it
As I stood there afraid to breathe
While a spray of water
From the hose soaked my shoes.
It had two heads
That look exactly like John Boehner,
Terrible to behold...

none
 

No! Your data is not safe!

Hackers Used Government Spyware to Data-rob iCloud

 

One sensationally reported incident this week exposes a dual threat: your data isn't safe on a corporate-controlled "cloud" and spying software made for police and government agencies makes it completely accessible.

The leaking of celebrities' photos, most compromising and some nude, from Apple's iCloud storage system shows how silly we can be about nudity and celebrity and what our media thinks is important in the world. These were self-shot photos nude people and nudity is something we can all see in the mirror!

There is, however, a very important point to the entire affair and, unlike the naked photos, it's worth talking about.
 

From phone to computer! But to whose computer?From phone to computer! But to whose computer?
 

Apparently, according to Apple, this wasn't a breach; there was no break-down in the security system for the company's giant storage service. Instead, the hackers used what is called a "brute force attack" -- a password-guessing method that uses software readily available to hackers to guess and test passwords to access a private account.

In the last couple of days, however, experts have become almost sure that the software used to capture the iCloud user data is a program designed for use by police and government surveillance. The program is called EPPB or Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker and it's made by a Russian outfit called Elcomsoft. Elcomsoft specializes in selling it to government authorities but it will sell it to anyone willing to pay the price. Apparently these hackers got a hold of that program and maybe, indeed, have done so through legal purchase.

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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.

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by Dr. Radut