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It Can Happen To Anyone

How I Became Radicalized

 
      I saw the masked men
      Throwing truth into a well.
      When I began to weep for it
      I found it everywhere.

           -Claudia Lars
 
I’m not exactly sure when I became radicalized, but it was sometime in the mid 1980s. I purposely use the term radicalize because, with the rise of globalized insurgency in general and al Qaeda and now ISIS in particular, the word has become a favorite in the media, especially for those on the right.

Sean Hannity likes to talk fast, and he uses the term over and over as if it sounds good to him. The problem is he misuses the word. When it pops up these days, it’s in reference to young Americans or Europeans recruited on-line by violent Muslims to join a jihadi organization or, specifically, to be recruited to work for ISIS in Syria or Iraq. The more accurate word for this behavior would be to use the term extremist. Radical refers more to ideas and how someone thinks, while extremist refers to behavior, what someone does.

Dick Cheney, the radical author and Henry KissingerDick Cheney, the radical author and Henry Kissinger

I’m a radical; but I’m not an extremist. Using myself, I'd distinguish the terms this way: I think Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney should be in prison for mass murder, but since this is obviously not in the cards I don't advocate violent actions be taken against either man. My understanding of the history of the Vietnam and the Iraq Wars is radical in that I refuse to go along with selective propaganda about those wars; I choose not to willfully forget the damning facts about those wars. In this country, that’s a radical frame of mind. The word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means root. The roots of both those wars are damnable and, if there was real justice, men like Kissinger and Cheney would be prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.

The facts are clear that the roots of the Iraq war are tangled with premeditated dishonesty and misuse of power; there's plenty of criminal malfeasance if there was a prosecutor to prosecute. Bringing this radical view right up to the moment, I guarantee (I'm confident saying this) that without that war and the horrors it unleashed in Anbar Province there would be no such thing as ISIS. What the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld war did was extremisize the people now unleashing violence and fury in Anbar Province and surrounding areas. (Don't bother looking extremisize up in your dictionary, because I just made it up.)

So how did I become radicalized? And why wasn't I extremisized?

What radicalized me was ending up in the mid-1970s a very frustrated young man in inner city Philadelphia. This followed a childhood in rural, redneck south Dade County, Florida, a transplant from New Jersey. There was an influential tour in Vietnam, then an English degree from Florida State University. I came to Philadelphia for graduate school in Journalism at Temple University and ended up staying to work for local inner city newspapers. I had never lived in a city before.

New Poem:

Exclusive: Gary Lindorff, resident poet for thiscantbehappening, interviews Gaia.

 

GL: Well, here we are. I don’t know where to start. What should I call you? Mother? Earth?

Gaia: Either one. Mother is fine. Or Gaia.

GL: OK Gaia. I was going to start by asking if you are really alive but I guess you’ve already answered that. But my guess is that people are anxious to hear it directly from you. So, are you alive?

Gaia: Yes. I know that is hard for your kind to grasp. I am more alive than you because your life depends upon my aliveness. You partake of my aliveness.

GL: Wait a second. So, if the human race migrated to another world, we wouldn’t survive?

Gaia: Well, not exactly, but you would eventually metamorphose into something different than you are now.

GL: So what you are saying is, if we colonized Mars, and those colonists stayed on Mars in isolation, after a certain number of generations, those settlers would start to become Martians?

Gaia: If Mars came back to itself and was able to support human life, their DNA would gradually become Martian DNA.

GL: Oh, our scientists will have fun with that! So, how do you feel about the human race? What we have done to you.

Pennsylvania's for lovers...of convictions

The Scandal Hidden Inside a State's Porn Email Scandal

 

(Part I of II)
 

Obscured by a current scandal involving pornographic emails currently rocking the top reaches of Pennsylvania’s state government, a scandal that has cast a shadow over embattled Pennsylvania Governor and former state's attorney general Tom Corbett and the state’s judiciary, including a state Supreme Court member, is another explosive scandal.

That hidden scandal involves the persecution of Lorenzo ‘Cat’ Johnson. a Pennsylvania inmate, by prosecutors from the state's attorney general’s office -– the same office that has exposed the chain of pornographic emails dating from Corbett's tenure as AG.

The Johnson had won a court-ordered release from a deeply flawed murder conviction after having wrongfully served 16-years of a life sentence. But he was nonetheless forced to return to prison due to actions by state’s current Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who succeeded Corbett in that office.

Gov. Corbett had headed the state AG’s office when that office handled initially handled Johnson's prosecution in this badly tainted murder trial. Corbett later served as AG when that office vigorously opposed Johnson's appeal of that his verdict and sentence..

This hidden scandal exposes a pattern of state government officials who blithely tolerated this and other outrageously unjust criminal convictions. This hidden scandal also exposes the penchant of prosecutors to fight to preserve convictions they know to have been tainted by official misconduct.

Too many false convictions in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the US involve documented misconduct by police and/or prosecutors –- misconduct often covered-up for decades by courts and prosecutors. This misconduct includes authorities improperly withholding evidence of innocence at trial –- a gross violation of constitutional fair trial rights as well as professional conduct standards. Withheld evidence is a core issue in the case of this particular inmate persecuted by the AG's office.

The porn scandal, initiated by AG Kane's office, and now rocking state government in Pennsylvania, involves emails containing sexually explicit images (often accompanied by raunchy commentary by email senders and recipients) exchanged over state-owned computers by then ranking members of the state’s Attorney Generals office as well as several state judges, including one member of the state's Supreme Court.

Conservative Republican Gov. Corbett headed the AG’s office when ranking subordinates in that office engaged in enthusiastic exchanges of those pornographic emails. (No evidence released to date links Corbett himself to the pornographic emails.)

Two Pennsylvania Attorneys General, Tom Corbett and Kathleen Kane, have conspired to unjustly keep Lorenzo Johnson in jailTwo Pennsylvania Attorneys General, Tom Corbett and Kathleen Kane, have conspired to knowingly keep prisoners like Lorenzo Johnson (left), wrongfully convicted by AG's office prosecutors, unjustly locked up and facing life sentences
 

It won't protect you at all

Default Encryption: Apple and Google's Latest Marketing Ploy

A couple of weeks ago, the mere mortals who lead the voracious giants of technology -- Google and Apple -- announced that they were striking a blow for protection against NSA spying by making "encryption" the default on Google cell phone software (which is used on most cell phones) and THEY software used on Apple mobile devices.

This affects equipment like the ubiquitous cell phone, although it is also relevant to some handheld computers and similar portable equipment.

The idea would be that your data on these devices would always be encypted -- appearing as unintelligble nonsense to anyone looking at it without a key to "decrypt" it. You use a password and, bingo!, you can read what you stored. Without the password, it looks like a bunch of bizarre symbols. This would now be the "default". While you could encrypt if you chose to up to now, you will now have to consciously choose not to; encryption will be automatic unless you turn it off.

They are still connected!They are still connected!

The point of all this is that, since these companies would not be able to read your encrypted data, they can't turn over legible data when the government orders them to. Since the government orders them to turn over data constantly, that's a pretty big change.

But how real is it? Such concern for user data seems to conflict with the history of both behemoths. For exampple, the National Security Agency has long taken advantage of Google's remarkable policy of reading its users' email and data, purportedly for marketing purposes and to "make users' experience easier". That stored data has been a plum for the NSA which gets it with the company's cooperation via court order or by using sneaky programs to intercept messages and search data on-line.

Although not a data storage company, Apple's programs move data and interact with storage services. Its iPhone, one of the world's most popular hand-held devices, uses a lot of Google software as well as much of its own programming. Through cell phone technology, these two companies are the major sources of NSA-gathered information. Google gives the government copious information stored on most cell phones and Apples does the same for its powerhouse iPhone.

So savvy critics are wondering if this latest announcement is really a pledge to privacy or the latest in the long string of cynical marketing ploys that have made these outfits the powerhouses they are.

Karmic payback for selfish Americans

Dickensian US Working Conditions Almost Guarantee Ebola Catastrophe

 

Ebola is coming! Ebola is coming! America is doomed!

That, in essence, is the message of the US corporate news media, always on the lookout for the next sensational story with which to stir up hysteria among the public in the interest of higher ratings.

But the thing is, this time, unlike Saddam Hussein’s supposed nuclear weapons and poison-gas-spewing drone aircraft, Al Qaeda’s non-existent “sleeper cells,” and now ISIS and its supposed army of infiltrators coming to separate our heads from our shoulders, the threat is real.

True to form though, the threat is not what the media are claiming it is.

Ebola is a certainly terrible scourge in poor countries in Africa, where a handful of doctors are expected to provide care to thousands of people and to keep persons who contract the disease isolated so that the infection doesn’t spread. Ebola has spread so rapidly in the war-ravaged little nation of Sierra Leone that doctors there have decided they have to surrender the high ground of bringing all infected people into medical facilities for treatment, and to fall back to advising families who have a member who contracts Ebola to treat them at home as best as they can.

In the US, we have plenty of doctors, and plenty of hospitals with the ability to initiate steps to avoid the spread of disease.

But we do not have universal access to health care -- especially to the kind of front-line health care that an epidemic calls for: access to a physician at the first sign of illness, access to affordable medication to treat disease, and even in many cases access to an emergency room.

Worse yet, are US labor policies, which are as if designed by some evil villain to hasten the spread of contagious disease.

Consider this: Most, if not virtually all waiters, busboys, chefs and cleaning staff at restaurants in the US do not get paid sick days--with the exception of those few who have union contracts and have managed to negotiate sick days in their contracts. If they feel like they are getting sick workers with no paid sick leave must do their best to hide their symptoms and go to work. Ditto for the maids and housekeepers who tend to the homes of the wealthy. And the same is true for the majority of the low-paid staff at privately run daycare centers.
Would madam like some Ebola with that order? (Without sick pay, many waiters have to come to work sick in the US)Would madam like some Ebola with that order? (Without sick pay, many waiters have to come to work sick in the US)

 

New Poem:

Shopping at Walmart

 

Welcome to Walmart,
How may I help you?

You can start by reading my shirt.
On the front it says: Leave while you can.
On the back: Follow my ass.

Outside the day-sky is black.
There is a static energy crackling from
Every plant and rooftop.
Everything is charged.
There is an acidic tang to the air,
A volatile fried plastic smell.

I am homeless.
I will do anything for food.
Wash your car, clean your garage.
I am a middle-aged starving, fat American.
I see myself crucified on a solar panel.

I do not trust my governor,
My senator, or my president.
And least of all myself.
I tread lightly.
I’ve been trying to grow wings.

Where can I find reading glasses and socks?
I wander the aisles of Walmart
Trying to focus on my inner life.

Every-day-low-prices suckle my brain.

I have a real barcode on my butt.

nothing
 

When I get my glasses and my socks
I will stand in the parking lot.
I will squint at the sun
Which will be smiling
And pointing its bright middle finger
At my car
Which is on fire.

That is the future.
There are no cars in the future,
No bees, no Walmarts.
It isn’t anything like this.
That I promise.

But people will have wings.
 

--Gary Lindorff

Clarity vs. Befoggery

Troglodytes, Weasels and Young Turks

 
I’m a leftist, but I have a weakness for my brothers and sisters on the right. For some reason, I’m compelled to see what troglodytes like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly are thinking. They’re all quite entertaining as they do their best to un-man Barack Obama and advocate day-in, day-out for war with Islam. They are masters of malicious fog.

Then there’s a writer like New York Times columnist David Brooks, a man who must sit around observing current events until he figures out a safe, center-right position he can express in the most reasonable, muddled language possible. Reading David Brooks is like trying to get a grip on jello.

In this current political swamp there’s also writers like Cenk Uygur, a Turkish naturalized US citizen who left the Muslim religion behind to become an on-line journalist. He did a stint with MSNBC and now is the main man on The Young Turks show. Once a Republican, he's moved left to the progressive side. His recent effort at clarity concerning the question whether “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas” was brilliant. The topic was a TV exchange among Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Ben Affleck. Harris made the "motherlode" remark. Maher compared Islam to the Mafia. A pissed-off Affleck said they were both talking bigotry.

David Brooks and Lewis MumfordDavid Brooks and Lewis Mumford

Brooks’ October 3rd column was called “The Problem With Pragmatism.” Annoyed at “people who try to govern without philosophic or literary depth,” Brooks linked Liberalism with Pragmatism and, with some help from Lewis Mumford and an essay in the 1950s New Republic magazine, trashed pragmatism as not up to speed for our moment in history, a moment suddenly taken over by more military adventure in the Islam-saturated deserts of Iraq and Syria. Citing Mumford, Brooks writes of our national mission and how “only people with an aroused moral sense will be properly mobilized to stand up for humanity.”

Lewis Mumford seems an odd inspiration for Brooks’ soft, center-right paean to our current moral mission. Mumford wrote a lot about cities and architecture. He felt human communication, more than the use of tools, was the secret of human advancement. One imagines he would be appalled how secrecy now impedes so much human communication. Mumford was critical of advertising and marketing and of the growing use of credit -- all now on steroids in the holy pursuit of corporate profit. He didn’t like things like built-in obsolescence and product changes based on superficial fashion; again, fundamentals of our dysfunctional national condition. Mumford advocated well-made products that would last and be re-used by succeeding generations. He advocated biodiversity. He is said to have influenced people like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan. How such a writer could be critical of pragmatism I can’t fathom.

Libeling a democracy movement and its activists

Accusing Hong Kong Activists of Being Tools of US Policy is Both Ignorant and Dangerous

 

A number of progressive and left-leaning writers in the US have jumped on a report by Wikileaks that the neo-con dominated National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and various other US-government linked organizations with a history of subversion and sowing discord abroad are operating in Hong Kong and on that basis are making the leap of “logic” that the democracy protests in Hong Kong must therefore be a creation of US policy-makers.

As a progressive, Chinese-fluent journalist who has spent years working in China and especially Hong Kong, and who has spent decades exposing the secret workings of US agencies and their network of fake NGOs in support of US empire, as well as their anti-democratic activities here in the US, I can understand why people might be suspicious, but I want to explain that Hong Kong is not Ukraine or even Venezuela or Brazil.

Long a colony of Great Britain, Hong Kong has a more than century-long tradition of people fighting for their freedom and for the right to have a government elected by themselves, and not simply appointed to rule over them. Especially in the years of the 1960s-’90s, as the time drew ever closer when the British would have to leave and an increasingly powerful and assertive China would assume sovereignty over this British colony, they won freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and a legal system that largely protected them from arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. They even won a small degree of democratic power, as the British agreed grudgingly to allow a minority of the seats in the city’s Legislative Council (Legco) to be elected by popular vote by district. Britain did not, right up to the handover of sovereignty to China in July 1997, allow Hong Kongers to elect the city’s “mayor,” known as Governor, who remained a crown appointee of the UK right to the lowering of the Union Jack.

But because of the militant demands of Hong Kong people, who regularly took to the streets en masse to demand that freedom and democracy both be not just protected but expanded after the handover, China was forced -- by its need to reassure foreign investors and companies that political stability and rule of law would be continued in Hong Kong under Chinese rule -- to grant those demands. Thus the Basic Law that governs the relationship between China and what is now called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, assures the democratic election by popular vote of 40 of Legco’s 70 seats (the remainder are “elected” or chosen by various occupational sectors like law, banking, etc.). The Basic Law also guarantees the continuation of the key freedoms won by Hong Kong people: speech, press, religion, assembly, etc., including labor rights like the right to join unions and to strike. Significantly, nearly all of the elected seats in Legco have been won repeatedly by representatives of the various pro-democracy parties, which have the overwhelming support of Hong Kong residents.

I give this history to make it clear that there is a multigenerational history of struggling for and defending individual rights and of fighting for democratic rights in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people are not new to this stuff, and as an educated population with access to a world of information in their open media and wide open internet, they are not a population that is readily susceptible to the kind of manipulation and subversion practiced typically by the likes of the NED.

Certainly in a time like this, the NED, USAID (and the CIA), could be expected to try to gain some influence. Why not? But saying that they are active in Hong Kong and trying to have influence is a far cry from saying they are “behind” the protests or that they have “orchestrated” the protests. Those who make this leap are, I believe, exhibiting unintentionally an attitude of Western cultural superiority that assumes that “We Americans” are smart enough to see this kind of subversion, but Hong Kong people wouldn’t notice how they are being used.

The mass protests demanding democratic election of Hong Kong's chief executive are not the creation of US agenciesThe mass protests demanding democratic election of Hong Kong's chief executive are not the creation of US agencies

 

We don't need no stinkin' law of war! We do what we want!

Obama Admits US Bombing Attacks in Syria Pay Little Heed to Protecting Civilians

 

In a perverse way, maybe it's progress that the US is now admitting that it doesn't really care about how many civilians it kills in its efforts to "decapitate" a few suspected terrorist leaders.

Still, it's disturbing in the extreme to see this admission reported without comment in the US corporate media, which treats the information like just another announcement about how the latest war is being fought -- say what kind of ammunition is being fired by the Reaper drones being sent into Syria, or what kinds of bombs the F-16s are dropping.

Here was the White House announcement, as reported by Michael IsIkoff in Yahoo News:

The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.

A White House statement to Yahoo News confirming the looser policy came in response to questions about reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria's Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.

The article then goes on to state:

Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told Yahoo News...that a much-publicized White House policy that President Obama announced last year barring U.S. drone strikes unless there is a “near certainty” there will be no civilian casualties — "the highest standard we can meet," he said at the time — does not cover the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

The “near certainty” standard was intended to apply “only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’ as we noted at the time,” Hayden said. “That description — outside areas of active hostilities — simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.”

Isikoff goes on to write that "Hayden added that U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Syria, 'like all U.S. military operations, are being conducted consistently with the laws of armed conflict, proportionality and distinction'"

Left unsaid is that those same laws of armed conflict -- we are here really referring to the Geneva Conventions, treaties concerning the legal conduct of war that were negotiated by and signed into law by the United States and most other countries of the world -- make invading another country that does not pose an imminent threat to the invader a war crime of the highest order.

What, American journalists should be asking, is the point of worrying about whether one tactic or another, whether it's the use of depleted uranium weapons, the dropping of white phosphorus incindiary weapons, the torturing of captives, or the launching of drone-fired missiles at targets known to contain innocent civilian men, women and children?

US drone strikes are killing civilians as Obama lowers the standard for avoiding civilian casualties in attacks in SyriaUS drone strikes are killing civilians as Obama lowers the standard for avoiding civilian casualties in attacks in Syria
 

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

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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