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The Circus Is In Town

The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015

 

Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.
                                    - Franz Kafka, The Trial
 
A couple weeks ago, our military special operations command began an eight-week military exercise called Jade Helm 15 in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. As reported in The New York Times, some Texans worried it was “actually a ruse for a federal takeover of the state.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor movements of federal special ops elements. A group of volunteers planned to follow military vehicles they could detect and post their locations on a website.

This is not your traditional, old-school military. This is ARSOF Next. No, that’s not a movie title along the lines of Apocalypse Now. ARSOF Next: A Return to First Principles is the title of a propaganda magazine put out by the US Army Special Operations Command. ARSOF stands for Army Special Operations Forces, the doctrine specializing in surgical strike capabilities and special warfare now taking over our military.

A special ops soldier, a lecture on ARSOF Next, and a local police force having fun with a cool new toolA special ops soldier, a lecture on ARSOF Next, and a local police force having fun with a cool new tool

According to the magazine, the United States has reached a “strategic inflection point” characterized by an “uncertain strategic security environment framed by diminishing defense resources and an increasing number and variety of potential threats.” Huge invasions and occupations are totally yesterday, something the Bush debacle in Iraq made quite clear. “Social, political, informational and economic trends in international competition are converging between state and non-state actors and others for superiority over the physical, cognitive, moral security and adequate governance of populations.” Read this military gobble-de-gook about 10 times and you begin to realize we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The nation state idea begun with the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia is breaking down and corporate and other “non-state actors” are filling the void. The New York Times has been running a series on the lawless nature of the world’s oceans, where seaborne slavery and unaccounted-for murder are common occurrences. The next step up in this brave new world is the geographical “failed state,” a term of world politics applied by still-intact nation states to those places where anarchy rules. The “free” market is now king and the still-civilized world is engaged in a world-wide capitalist free-for-all. The “real” world is becoming very mixed up with the cyber world. This all means powers like the US will rely more and more on sophisticated intelligence-gathering and secret, a-legal operational capacities to protect their realms. Hence ARSOF Next and PR about our military as a great empathetic institution.

Big donations are great, but what we really want are lots and lots of small ones

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What's been raised so fare is not nearly the kind of money that would allow the dedicated 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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New poem:

Holding the door

 
I watched a man whipping an apple tree.
I held the door open to him.
I knew that when he got tired
he would turn around and see me
holding the door for him.
And maybe he would come inside and we could talk.
I could see that many of the trees in his orchard
bore the scars of the whippings
they had received over the years.
Some of the older trees were bent over and knotted
as if riddled with pain.
Finally he turned around.
Who are you? he asked.
I am your door-man, I said.
I never saw you before, or that door.
Has that ever helped, I asked?
Whipping your trees?
It helps quiet my demons, said he.
And then I saw that the grass was crawling
with a nasty host of creeping and flying
and buzzing creatures of hideous appearance.
Anyone might have thought they were insects.
Nothing will make them go away, he said,
so I whip my trees
and they submit, agreeing to stand in
for everything that ever caused me pain or held me back.
You see, they are selfless.
Have you ever tried therapy? I asked.
My brother is a therapist, he answered.
Oh, I said, still holding the door
as he moved to the next tree
as if I wasn’t there.
 

--Gary Lindorff

It's not terrorism if it's retaliation or reciprocal action

Chattanooga Shooting, If Linked to ISIS, is a Legitimate Act of War

 

I'm not a fan of war or of killing of any kind, but the labeling of the deadly attack by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez on two US military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee as an act of terror is absurd.

Maybe Abdulazeez will turn out to have been a nut-case bent on committing "suicide by police." There are plenty of those kinds of psychos in the gun-soaked culture of America. But what we're hearing,

increasingly, is that he was somehow linked to Middle East jihad, and ultimately to ISIS, and that he is therefore a "terrorist."

That is ridiculous!

If it turns out that Abdulazeez was in any way linked to ISIS, then his action in attacking US military personnel in the US and killing them has to be seen not as terrorism but as a legitimate retributive act of war. That is no dishonor to those Marines killed. It simply makes it clear that they were killed in a war, not by some crazy person.

US citizens need to start accepting the reality that if the United States is going to go around the world blowing up people with fighter-bombers, special forces actions and drone missile attacks, eventually the targets of those aggressive acts of war will start responding against the US in kind. And they would have a legal right to do this under the rules of war.

Was the Chattanooga shooting an act of terrorism or an act of war? (Think before answering)Was the Chattanooga shooting an act of terrorism or an act of war? (Think before answering)
 

A tale of sexism, racism and corporate pressure?

Ellen Pao's Resignation from Reddit

 

The Internet -- always ablaze with controversy -- is a wildfire these days with revelations about more pernicious government spying, deals between governments and corporate "hacker companies", and Ellen Pao's resignation as head of Reddit.

I'll have things to say about the rest later this week but the Pao blaze is shining brightest right now and there are some important lessons to be drawn from it.

Since last Fall, Pao has been the "interim CEO" of the privately held corporation (a subsidiary of Conde Nast) that owns one of the Internet's most remarkable phenomenon. In its ten years of existence, Reddit has grown so large and become so complex that it defies definition.

Happier times? Ellen Pao at Reddit's OfficeHappier times? Ellen Pao at Reddit's Office
 

At its core, it's a message board system, but with 160 million users and tens of thousands of message boards under its roof tied together by dizzying interaction, it is the closest thing the Internet has to a city. True to Internet culture, it's run by a kind of anarchistic democracy. People start message systems (called "subreddits") whenever they want about whatever they want and users who start them moderate and control them. You can post text, photos, links to any kind of content you want (including videos) and people answer each other constantly.

For the most part, it works wonderfully, making it potentially a model for larger societies -- except that in this case the "mean user" is male between 18 to 29 years old and living in the United States. Whether that particular demographic is a cause or an effect, the fact is that this is no utopia. While most subreddits are friendly informative communities talking about the subreddit's subject, there are subreddits that are virulently sexist, homophobic and racist. Reddit can, and sometimes does, quickly turn into a lynch mob of immature young men acting destructively and viciously.

Ellen Pao was brought in to deal with the craziness; the craziness has forced her out.

We’re #1...in the heroin business!

US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Manage to Make Afghanistan the World's Top Heroin Exporter

 

Afghan Brigadier General Abdul Sama was accused recently of smuggling over 40 pounds of heroin.

It should come as no surprise that an Afghan general was caught smuggling heroin, the surprise is that any high official in that country should be charged with a crime for profiting from the trade in illegal drugs while under the watchful eye of American forces.

Under American occupation, Afghanistan quickly became the world's leader in opium production, producing over 90% of the world's supply. The Taliban had almost shut down opium production prior to the US invasion in 2001 to the chagrin of international drug runners, and no doubt the international banking industry, which earns big profits laundering billions of dollars in illegal drug money annually. Illegal drugs account for about 8% of all international trade.

Few Americans are aware of the long history of the CIA's running illegal drugs internationally, thanks to the untiring efforts of the mainstream press. Were citizens aware, few would be surprised that heroin production has skyrocketed under US occupation of Afghanistan.

The tragic case of journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News is a case in point, and represents perhaps the widest-known attempt at suppressing the story of CIA drug-running endeavors, with the mainstream US press shamelessly and dutifullly attacking Webb for attempting to expose the inconvenient truth.
Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)

Is this taking democracy too far?

The Greek People Have Voted ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail

 

Something huge has happened in Greece, though you wouldn’t know it if you rely on the US corporate media for your information.

That reporting has, with rare exceptions, followed the party line that a bunch of naive “leftists” led by Greece’s relatively young and new prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his motorcycle-riding radical economist finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, have pushed Greece “to the brink of chaos” through their ineptitude. This same biased reporting has been pushing the argument that Greece has “no choice” but to swallow even more austerity, selling off all its public assets to circling capitalist vultures, in the vain hope that someday the country’s economy will bottom out and begin “growing” again.

The reality of what has just happened is quite different. Actually, Greece has suffered seven years of austerity the likes of which countries like the US and northern Europe haven’t seen since the Great Depression. Unemployment is over 20% (50% for young people!), and there is no end in sight if the so-called Troika -- the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- continues to hold the country by the throat, demanding regular payments on a debt that even the IMF admits can never be repaid.

Far from being naive or inept, Tsipras, Varoufakis and the ruling Syriza Party have done two remarkable things brilliantly -- one of which should not really be remarkable at all, except that the so-called “free world” has moved so far away from real democracy at this point that it’s forgotten what democracy is, and the other of which would not have been necessary were the global media not so fawning towards ruling elites in their respective countries.

The first of these two things was the bold decision by Tsipras to hand the question of what to do next in Greece to the Greek people, by allowing them to vote on whether they wanted to surrender to global and European bankers and the governments of the world’s wealthiest nations, or wanted to say “No!” to further demands for austerity. When Tsipras walked away from further bailout negotiations and made his surprise call for that referendum, and when the Greek parliament backed him by passing a bill setting the poll up, a cacophony of doomsaying pundits in Europe, the US and the Greek conservative media all warned the Greek people to “see reason” and to “vote for Europe,” as though voting against more austerity would inevitably mean pariah status for Greece.

There was a kind of smug gloating over early polls showing that a majority of Greeks planned to vote “Yes” to accepting whatever the banks and the European Union demanded, or later, when it appeared that the vote would be close.

In the end, of course, the Greek people voted by a landslide (61% to 38%)against European austerity demands that Tsipras labeled “blackmail” and “national humiliation,” and that Varoufakis called “fiscal waterboarding.” Tsipras was fully vindicated in his trust in democracy and in the people of his country, which he pointedly reminded had “invented democracy.”

 Greek Prime Minister Alexis TsiprasIs Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, in letting Greeks vote on national policy, and in putting their interests first, at risk of becoming another Mossedegh or Allende?
 

A pariah in his home state

Storm Smashes Chris Christie's Presidential Candidacy

 

If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has any chance of gaining traction in his bid to become the 2016 Republican candidate for president he has to maintain support in suburban communities like East Greenwich Township, a small, predominately white, upper middle income area located about fifty miles south of Trenton, NJ’s capital city.

Republican Christie received 71.5 percent of the votes in East Greenwich Township when he won a landslide reelection in 2013, up nearly twenty points from his 2009 victory margin in that community where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.

Today however, the most likely thing Christie would get from East Greenwich Township is a chorus of boos and a mass wave of middle fingers because he was notably MIA (Missing In Action) during the aftermath of a recent storm that tore through large sections of southern New Jersey. The 85 mph winds in that storm sent trees crashing into houses and cut electric service to tens of thousands of homes and small businesses for days.

Residents of East Greenwich Township and other Gloucester County communities pummeled by that storm are fuming because Christie, a self-proclaimed Hands-On Manager, ignored their pleas for help. Residents across sections of four South Jersey counties hit hard by that powerful storm are bitter that their state’s governor campaigned heavily during past weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire but couldn’t find time to at least tour their storm ravaged communities.

Dale Archer, the Republican mayor of East Greenwich Township, told reporters that, “I have lost all respect for our governor. Most importantly…he’s lost my vote.”
Chris Christie's running for president, but would be hard-pressed to win dog-catcher these days in his home state of New JerseyChris Christie's running for president, but would be hard-pressed to win dog-catcher these days in his home state of New Jersey
 

A victory for common sense and basic decency

5 Cheers and 4 Raspberries for the Supreme Court as it Bars States from Blocking Gay Marriage

 

The pig-headed small-mindedness and intellectual dishonesty of most fundamentalists of whatever religion knows no bounds.

Kudos to the narrow majority of the five Supreme Court justices for today at least blowing one result of that pig-headedness out of the water with their ruling declaring that states cannot abridge or deny gay couples from marrying in a state-sanctioned union, and receiving all the benefits that come from such a union.

The opposition to gay marriage has never made any constitutional sense. It has always been based upon a false conflating of church weddings and the legal marriage that is conferred by local governments in accordance to state laws. The fundamentalists -- people like Jerry Falwell or ex-Senator and perennial GOP presidential wannabe Rick Santorum and their ilk -- have claimed ad nauseum that sanctioning gay marriage would "weaken" marriage as an institution, citing in support the Bible, which they erroneously claim "defines" marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." (Hell, it doesn't even include the number one, as many male characters in the Bible have more than one wife.)

But aside from the obvious point that with divorce rates in the US running at close to 50% for first marriages, the "institution" itself is pretty weak on its own and doesn't need any help from gay couples, who actually have a pretty good record of staying together, when it comes to that, even when denied the right to marry as has long been the case.

More importantly, nothing in the Supreme Court's decision would require any church to itself offer marriage services to gay couples. That is a battle that has to be fought religious sect by religious sect -- something that has been going on for some time now. What the court has done, and its action is shamelessly long in coming -- is say that the civil procedure of registering a marriage cannot be denied to anyone because of sexual orientation, and that with that change, gay couples who marry in accordance with Constitutionally protected state law anywhere in the US (or elsewhere in the world one would assume), have the same rights and legal responsibilities and liabilities as do heterosexual couples.

With this decision, gay couples have the same right to adopt children, to visit each other in the hospital, to have joint bank accounts, to obtain health benefits offered to employee spouses, to file joint income taxes and to share in driving a rental car. They also will enjoy the protection of divorce law, will be liable where appropriate, for paying child support and sometimes alimony in the event of a divorce, and will have the protection of shared ownership of property except where there are pre-nuptial agreements signed.

If any of that weakens what's left of religious marriage vows (which I sincerely doubt), then tough.

The SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage strikes a small blow against fundamentalist bigotry, but there's plenty left to combatThe SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage strikes a small blow against fundamentalist bigotry, but there's plenty left to combat
 

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

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by Dr. Radut