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Here We Go Again

The Debacle That Bites Back

Jeb Bush had a tough time when a female college student told him his brother, George, and his shock-and-awe debacle in Iraq had created ISIS. Jeb winced and did some ducking and covering. He’d already fumbled a question from Megyn Kelly of Fox News that, if he knew what we know now, would he have done what his brother did. He said he would have also invaded Iraq and that his older brother was one of his campaign’s foreign policy advisers.

Once Jeb realized he’d stumbled into a hornet’s nest, he quickly back-peddled and said he had not understood Kelly’s question. He said he thought he was being asked if he didn’t know now what his brother didn’t know then, would he invade Iraq? In other words, are you, Jeb, as cavalier and oblivious to reality as your brother was? Suddenly realizing how much bad freight his brother’s war carried, he revised his answer: Of course he would not have invaded Iraq.

There was a rare element of accountability, here, something rarely seen vis-à-vis the Iraq War -- or wars like Vietnam, for that matter. The question would not have plagued another candidate quite as much. Beyond voting for the war, which Hillary Clinton did and now calls a “mistake,” even before 9/11 Jeb Bush was part of the Project For A New American Century, which functioned as a blueprint for the invasion of Iraq. The PNAC fellows were about sustaining America as ruler of the world; there is little indication they were very much concerned about the truth.

UNHCR map of Iraq; ISIS controls cities with black dotsUNHCR map of Iraq; ISIS controls cities with black dots

Last week, thanks to a sand storm that grounded US planes, ISIS (or the Islamic State) was able to take Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. Since then, they’ve taken the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. ISIS already controlled Falluja, a small city between Ramadi and Baghdad, and Mosul to the north -- plus a lot of sand in between. As is its inclination, the ISIS forces reportedly executed a lot of people in Ramadi. No doubt they did the same in Palmyra.

The Islamic State is largely synonymous with the Sunni dominated Anbar Province in western Iraq; its control extends into Syria. Much of the top leadership of the Islamic State is made up of former Saddam generals angry about US Proconsul Paul Bremmer’s cavalier decision to completely eliminate the Iraqi army. In the same misguided spirit, Bremmer also disbanded the Bath Party. These decisions, taken in concert, amounted to one of the stupidest foreign policy decisions of modern times, according to the national security consultant Richard Clarke.

So who should be held accountable? Or better yet, who's gonna ever get it right?

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It's not nearly the kind of money that would allow the members of this collective -- who put out the reports on this award-winning site for nothing, doing the reporting and writing in our spare time -- to cut back on our day jobs and actually devote serious time to alternative news reporting, but it's the start. If you, our readers, can get into the habit of occasionally supporting a site like this that you turn to regularly or even occasionally to know what's happening, big things will happen here.

We know this can work. You all clearly want what we are producing, and value our reports (we know that because you keep coming back and reading what we write), and yet still far too many of you, our readers, are just taking what we do for free. That isn't going to help build a movement. We need solidarity to build a new media model. And solidarity aside, just from the point of view of self-interest, we could provide so much more of the unique news we have been providing for almost four years if we had some serious money coming in to support us in that work.

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Finally! Some climate crisis honesty

Forget About a 2˚C Future; It Will be 4˚-6˚C Degrees, and Soon

 

A tectonic shift is occurring suddenly in the debate over climate change.

Only a year ago, at least in the US corporate media, there was always a rough equivalence accorded to those experts who were warning about a looming climate disaster facing mankind, and those who called the whole thing a “conspiracy” by corrupt scientists and politicians (albeit without ever explaining a motive).

Suddenly, though, that rough equivalence in the coverage is gone. The climate deniers are now exposed as charlatans in the pay of energy companies, and the coverage has shifted to talking about climate disaster being closer than we had been being told. If there is a “conspiracy,” we are now learning, it may be that climate scientists, afraid of creating a sense of hopeless and doom among the public, have been soft-pedaling their warnings, stressing the need to quickly cut back on the use of greenhouse-gas-producing fuels in order to try and keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade (roughly 4 degrees fahrenheit), when they all really know that a 4-degree centigrade rise is already “baked into” the earth’s near-term climate future, perhaps by as early as 2100.

This shift has yet to make its way into the public’s consciousness in the US (and much of the rest of the world too), but it is clearly going to happen. The question then will be: how will governments, and more importantly, the people of the world, respond to the new much grimmer reality?

Clearly, the capitalist system, fully corrupted at this point because of the size to which global corporations have grown, and the power they have gained to buy governments, cannot and will not rescue humanity from itself. Just look at the latest news from the Shell Oil Company, where internal documents just released show that company scientists have assured top executives that global warming in the far north means Shell can aggressively lease tracts of the formerly ice-bound Arctic Ocean and move floating platforms up there to extract even more oil and gas from the newly ice-free seafloor. These documents flatly declare that a 2˚C temperature rise is passé and that a 4˚C rise is already in the cards, moving towards a staggering 6˚C rise (note for US readers: that is an almost 11˚F temperature rise globally!).

The notion that corporations and a capitalist politico-economic system could ever take the necessary steps to halt climate disaster, for example by adopting energy conservation and becoming “green” companies, was always a pipedream. Just “going green,” while still producing unneeded junk and continuing to try and grow would never reduce total carbon emissions. It would require massively scaling back the production of useless or polluting goods and services, and shutting down many operations. And while the current US Supreme Court majority may think, or pretend to think, that corporations are people, they actually are institutions that are by their very nature and structure devoid of conscience, devoid of morality, and even devoid of any sense of long-term self-preservation.

Once an endless white expanse of glaring white ice in summer, Greenland is now an endless expanse of solar-energy-absorbing gray thanks to centuries of soot-laden snowfallsOnce an endless white expanse of glaring white ice in summer, Greenland is now an endless expanse of solar-energy-absorbing gray thanks to centuries of soot-laden snowfalls
 

The US needs the Iceland option

If ‘Too-Big-to-Fail’’ Means Too-Big-To-Jail’ It Should Mean ‘Too-Big-to-Be’

 

In a couple of days, the so-called US Justice Department will be announcing an “agreement” reached with five large banks, including two of the largest in the US -- JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, the holding companies for Chase and Citibank -- under which these banks or bank holding companies will plead guilty to felonies involving the manipulation of international currency markets for at least the past eight years.

This is not really a plea deal, or what in the lingo of criminals is called “copping a plea.” It’s a negotiation in which the nation’s top law-enforcement organization -- the one that just sentenced a teenager to death in Boston in the Marathon bombing case, and that routinely sends ordinary people “up the river” for minor drug offenses or even tax fraud -- is taking seriously these banks’ concerns that if they plead guilty to felonies they might be barred by SEC rules from engaging in many profitable practices. So -- get this -- the Justice Department is seeking assurances from the commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission that they will not enforce those rules against these particular felonious banks.

There will be fines, of course, though nothing that will even dent the profits of these megabanks, which also include two British-based institutions, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as the Swiss-based bank UBS. But under these deals, not one bank executive will even be forced to quit his post, much less face jail time or even a fine. As the New York Times put it in an article last Thursday, “In reality, those accommodations render the plea deals, at least in part, an exercise in stagecraft.”

What this means is that the departure of bankers’ friend Eric Holder as Attorney General, and his replacement by Loretta Lynch, has not changed the policy announced by Holder several years back that there would be no prosecutions of the leaders of the so-called “too-big-to-fail” banks for the scandals and crimes that collapsed the US and the global economies in 2008, bringing on the so-called Great Recession that is still punishing the people of the US and many other countries. In fact it demonstrates that there will be no real prosecution of wrongdoing by these monolithic banks for crimes committed since the financial crisis either and going forward.

Child Soldier released from jail by Canadian court

US Still Seeks Jail for ‘Fighter’ Captured at 15 in Afghanistan

 

The good news is that an appellate judge in Canada has had the courage and good sense to uphold the release from jail on bail of Omar Khadr, a native of Canada who was captured as a child soldier at the age of 15 in Afghanistan by US forces back in 2002 and shipped off to Guantanamo, where he became one of the children held in captivity there illegally.

The bad news is that Khadr, who spent 13 years in captivity, most of them in America's Guantanamo hellhole, should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Brought along at the age of 14 to fight in Afghanistan by his father, a Canadian Muslim extremist who was killed in Afghanistan, the young Khadr should have, when captured, been treated under international law not as a combatant, illegal or otherwise. Under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty signed by the US and thus an integral part of US law, all children under the age of 18 captured while fighting in wars are to be offered “special protection” and treated as victims, not as combatants.

Instead, as Reuters reports, "Khadr claims that during at least 142 interrogations in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, he was beaten, chained in painful positions, forced to urinate on himself, terrorized by barking dogs, subjected to flashing lights and sleep deprivation and threatened with rape."

Under these circumstances, and fearing that he would never leave Guantanamo, Khadr in 2010, at the age of 23, agreed to plead guilty to the US military’s spurious murder charge, so that he could be sent to serve out his prison sentence in his home country of Canada. Now appealing his sentence, and renouncing his plea on the grounds that it was made under duress, he will be confined to the home of his attorney under the court’s order.

This plea clearly cannot be fairly considered a real admission of guilt. It was a desperate maneuver by someone who had spent half his young life in an unregulated and illegal prison to escape all the endless torture and abuse, not to mention the lengthy separation from his home and family.

Omar Khadr at 14, when his father brought him to Afghanistan to fight, and at 28, after 13 years of US and Canadian captivityOmar Khadr at 14, when his father brought him to Afghanistan to fight, and at 28, after 13 years of US and Canadian captivity, mostly at Guantanamo
 

New poem

Manure Cannon

 
 
BAM!
Echo, like thunder off the shell of the sky-dome.
We, all on the terrace, glance at each other,
Jump to action.
Everyone knows what to do.
Grab something quick,
Whatever we don’t want to have to wash
Or hose off tomorrow:
Mugs of ice-tea,
Trays of cucumber slices, carrot sticks,
Bowls of chips, cheese, cold-cuts,
Pitcher of wine. . .
We all know how long we have too.
About three and a half minutes
And the shit will be raining down.
Pig shit, horse shit, chicken shit, human shit, bullshit,
A fine mist of shit, covering everything.
That’s how they get rid of it now,
They fire it into the sky
As high as they can
And let it rain down on our party.
BAM!
BAM!
Echo thunders again and again.
The kids are already inside,
Watching from behind the curtains.
Dog is barking angrily at the sky.
He’s the only one who is angry.
He hasn’t learned
It’s useless to rail at fate,
I mean, the gods.
 
--Gary Lindorff

Bashing Dreams

Child Fears Violence From Cops More Than Criminals

 

I was seething inside as I watched the live television coverage of the recent rebellion/riot in Baltimore as we witnessed yet another explosion caused by America’s historic failures to rein in abusive police. Then I received a text message that led to a conversation that absolutely broke my heart.

The conversation was with my 11-year-old grandson, who himself was seething from what he saw going on in Baltimore.

My grandson told me he was mad…mad because police “keep killing black men.”

When I probed further into his anger he said he feared for his own life -– not because of what might happen when he gets older but because of what could happen even now if he encountered a police officer.

“I’m scared Pop Pop," he confided. "I’m scared that police might hurt me. I’m scared because police don’t know how to control themselves!”

The heartbreak of hearing my own grandson’s fear was compounded by the ugly reality that the thing he now fears is a daily fact-of-life for children living in East Baltimore and too many similar places across America.

Children should be focused on fun, like enjoying those computer games they like to play, instead of fearing police violence arising from the reality that too many cops really cannot “control” themselves.

 Police can kill you with impunityPolice brutality and militarization present as just witnessed in Baltimore present a scary reality for black kids growing up: Police can kill you with impunity
 

"F*%king Horrible"

The Public Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal?

 

In August 1936 nearly 20,000 people filled a vacant lot next to a municipal building in a small Kentucky town to watch the hanging of a man convicted of rape. This hanging, conducted by two executioners retained by that town, would be the last official ‘public execution’ in America.

Although states across this country have banned executions where the public can freely attend, some contend that the American public is again witnessing the spectacle of a public execution – more precisely: the spectacle of a killing occurring in plain sight administered by governmental authorities.

This current spectacle of governmental killing involves a high-profile inmate in Pennsylvania that evidence indicates is quite possibly experiencing a ‘slow execution’ through calculated medical mistreatment.

Author/activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most widely known prison inmate in America, is gravely ill, hardly able to walk or talk because of severe complications related largely to the diabetes which medical personnel inside a Pennsylvania prison failed to diagnose for months. Prison medical personnel either did not detect the diabetes earlier this year while giving Abu-Jamal numerous blood tests that easily identify the elevated blood sugar levels of diabetes or did not inform Abu-Jamal of the blood test results.

That failure to find his raging diabetes led to Abu-Jamal’s emergency hospitalization at the end of March, after he collapsed, unconscious and in sugar shock. When authorities finally transported Abu-Jamal from the SCI Mahanoy prison to the hospital, he was on the verge of a potentially fatal diabetic coma. Weeks before that emergency hospitalization, Abu-Jamal’s blood pressure spiked to a level that required hospitalization that he did not receive, stated persons working with Abu-Jamal.

After four months of substandard or nonexistent treatment for serious diabetes in prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal is at risk of organ faAfter four months of substandard or nonexistent treatment for serious diabetes in prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal is at risk of organ failure -- perhaps the goal of prison officials.
 

Our rights are forgotten.

The Government/Corporate Debate on Encryption: How Best to Spy on You

 

A debate, going on in the quasi-private and well-catered halls of government-corporate collusion, has reached the post-smoldering stage. It's now a virtual forest fire in full public view.

It pits government spies against corporate cannibals and is about the often misunderstood and somewhat tedious issue of encryption.

Like so many "raging debates" among the powerful, this one is more important to most of us not for what is being said but what is assumed.

The all-important key!The all-important key! (courtesy of Hackwhiz - http://www.hackwiz.com)
 

To believe the corporate PR releases (and some media reports), the two sides are debating the balance between protecting our rights and protecting our lives.. In fact, the debate is more about how to effectively manage spying: the government says it wants companies to give it the codes to crack all encryption while the companies are devising ways to make sure the government has a court order, or inter-agency collaboration, before doing that.

Nobody is saying the obvious: cracking encryption to steal data is unconstitutional and illegal and this debate is taking place at a moment when massive movements of protest are convering the streets of our cities organized through social media and cell-phone communications. In a sense, this is the fight over how they'll cross the line we can't let them cross.

New poem:

No hurry

 
 
It was after a sweat lodge,
early spring this was,
(l’ll never forget it)
when we raised the flap
the forest was covered in four inches of snow
that had fallen during the last two rounds,
and so it caught us all by surprise.
It was late and dark.
It had stopped falling and was just there
where it wasn’t before,
all luminous
as we emerged from the lodge.
 
That’s how nature is sometimes,
it’s like she’s saying,
 
Oh, you think you’ve figured me out?
We’ll see about that!

 
So we drove down to that lodge in spring
and we drove back home in winter.
And on the way home a mother moose
and her young one
got out in front of our car,
using our headlights
as their beacon to find their way to Tinmouth
where they finally veered off before the school.
I guess the mother didn’t want to deal
with all that snow in the woods
and she was on a mission;
for two miles we illuminated her way.
Not sure if her own shadow was a hole in the road,
she wove back and forth the whole time.
This slowed us down considerably,
down to maybe 4, 5 miles an hour.
But we were in no hurry.
Having just sweated with a bunch of friends
we were all prayed out,
feeling pretty good,
pretty human.
And we just weren’t in any hurry,
no hurry at all.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

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by Dr. Radut