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Forty Years After the Carnation Revolution

Portugal as a Model for a New Socialism?

by Leila Dregger

 

Preliminary note of the author:
In this text the words socialism and communism are used synonymously. I see their differentiation and the rift, which has been stretched between their representatives, as no longer appropriate today. This article is directed toward all those interested in justice, solidarity and freedom.

 

 

End the Drug War: Happy Pot Legalization Day!

A Special Report today on the issue of ending Marijuana Prohibition and the massively destructive War on Drugs, by TCBH! collective journalist Linn Washington, Jr. and three students in his Temple University journalism class:


Marijuana: Facts and Falacies, by Linn Washington


Clueless or Callous?: Philly's DA Professes Dubious Expertise on Prejudice

By Linn Washington Jr.


Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Rufus Seth Williams, the first African-American in Pennsylvania to hold a powerful top prosecutor post, persistently projects himself as an expert on racism.

Commendably Williams has acknowledged the corrosive impact of racism within the criminal justice system.

Admiral Dennis Blair: "We Sent Troops to Middle East...Because of Oil-Based Importance of Region"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

At the just-completed U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled, "The Geopolitical Potential of the U.S. Energy Boom," Admiral Dennis Blair — former Director of National Intelligence, President and CEO of Institute for Defense Analyses and Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command — admitted what's still considered conspiratorial to some.

Put tersely: the U.S. and allied forces launched the ongoing occupation in Iraq and occupy large swaths of the Middle East to secure the flow of oil to the U.S. and its global allies, explained Blair. 

Follow the Money: Three Energy Export Congressional Hearings, Climate Undiscussed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions in Russia, Ukraine and hotly contested Crimea, three (yes, three!) U.S. Congressional Committees held hearings this week on the U.S. using its newfangled oil and gas bounty as a blunt tool to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market.

U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu at the U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Photo Credit:  U.S. Sen. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Though 14 combined witnesses testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power and U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, not a single environmental voice received an invitation. Climate change and environmental concerns were only voiced by two witnesses. 

Using the ongoing regional tumult as a rationale to discuss exports of U.S. oil and gas obtained mainly via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the lack of discussion on climate change doesn't mean the issue isn't important to national security types.

Indeed, the Pentagon's recently published Quadrennial Defense Review coins climate change a "threat force multiplier" that could lead to resource scarcity and resource wars. Though directly related to rampant resource extraction and global oil and gas marketing, with fracking's accompanying climate change and ecological impacts, "threat force multiplication" impacts of climate change went undiscussed. 

With another LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal approved by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Coos Bay, Ore., to non-Free Trade Agreement countries on March 24 (the seventh so far, with two dozen still pending), the heat is on to export U.S. fracked oil and gas to the global market.   

So, why wasn't the LNG climate trump card discussed in a loud and clear way? Well, just consider the source: ten of the witnesses had ties in one way or another to the oil and gas industry.

Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?

By Dave Lindorff


If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.


The same thing goes for nations.

Operation Nazification

Annie Jacobsen's new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.  It isn't terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent.  Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more.  But the basic facts have been available; they're just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler's closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial.  Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials.  Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution.  Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification.  Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it's possible to view as nazification.  Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on -- and torture -- Soviets. 

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler's bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide -- and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale.  Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange.  A new drive to visit and weaponize outerspace was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA. 

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream.  When a former Nazi spoke to a women's luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event's headline was "Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today."  That doesn't sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II.  Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets.  Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that "the total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government." Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex.  Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler's scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering.  The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman.  Henry Wallace, Truman's predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program.  It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero.  Truman's subordinates debated, but Truman decided.  As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

"Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?"

In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex.  The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence.  George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them.  War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip?  Isn't a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place?  As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis.  If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala.  The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans.  Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany.  These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself?  We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war's losers.  But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too.  Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps -- camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans.  Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists.  But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists?  I don't think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side.  And I don't think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor.  I do think those actions should offend us.  But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives.  And it should offend us whomever it's done for.

It's curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?

Misremembering America’s Wars, 2003-2053

The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment 
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch

It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online.  At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States.  Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay.  And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you.  Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record, and Amazooglebook search history.  (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals.  (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.)  So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline. 

Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering U.S. Marines with flowers and candy.  Was that exactly how it happened?  Who really remembers?  Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush.  He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “mission accomplished” banner.  A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant U.S. troops would have to re-win the war again and again.  Sounds a little strange, but okay. 

A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison.  Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken.  Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.”  Fair enough.  Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up.  (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.)  “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”

A man of many convictions: The Shape-Shifting Secretary of State John Kerry

By Dave Lindorff

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man of many convictions--many of them in open conflict with one another. 

Recall that back in 2004, while trying to unseat President George W. Bush, he famously told students at Marshall University who wanted to know his stand on the US invasion of Iraq, that he “actually did vote for” a bill funding the war “before I voted against it.”

The Militant Mystery of World War I

By Clancy Sigal

Boys like me like to blow up things. I was trained to place Composition B plastic explosive in bridge struts and watch them  explode sky high in the Texas sun. It's fun. Blam! That’s why there is no such thing as an “antiwar” movie if it shows us cannons shooting and guns blasting.  ANY violence is a recruiting poster for the beast inside us.

We'll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months that “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the August 19l4 opening barrage of World War One.

Already there’s a flood of books, articles and TV specials focused on muddy trenches, corpses hanging on barbed wire, German Maschinengewehr spitting at a firing rate of up to 400 7.92mm rounds per minute at French, British, Canadian, Italian, Australian, colonial (Senegalese and Vietnamese) soldiers dying in insane assaults designed by generals most of whom slept soundly in their beds during battle.

While strolling or marching down London’s Whitehall I always had this terrible temptation to take some of that Composition B and place a sticky bomb under the arrogant horseback statue of Butcher Haig, the Great War commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France whose class-based stupidity was responsible for the two million casualties under his command 19l5-18.  This isn’t simpleminded officer-prejudice since so many junior officers were slaughtered in abbatoirs like Haig’s Somme and Ypres.

I emigrated to England in time to talk to still-living Great War survivors.  Hitchhiking one day this older gentleman picked me up in his three wheeler  just outside Eastwood, Notts, birthplace of D.H. Lawrence.  He chatted about his 45th Foot-Sherwood Foresters regiment in 1916.  “Oh aye, hardly anyone from my lot got back.  I was gassed.  The mustard.  After, went back down to (coal) pit.  Imagine, with my lungs.  You know, they killed us all, even ones like me made it out felt dead.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  My wife knew.  Daft kid I was.  For a long time, I couldn’t stop shitting myself like I did before a Heinie attack.  Not a bit ashamed to say it.  It’s what I remember most.  The bloody embarrassment.”

Triggered by a young Serbian’s assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Ferdinant and his wife at Sarajevo, it began as a minor family quarrel among cousins: King George V, his lookalike Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas 2d, all from Queen Victoria’s brood.

There was nothing at stake in this war except prestige and more African colonies.

Nobody wanted it except the decision makers and their generals and admirals.  But oh boy did they love the prospect.  As British admiral Jackie Fischer wrote of the atmosphere in his navy, “We prepared for war…talked war, thought war, and hoped for war.”

The French and German brass and their poodle politicians couldn’t wait for a short sharp war – like 19th century wars – that would result in quick medals for the boys and a glory parade – not to speak of  profits to the “merchants of death”, the munitions makers like Krupp , Vickers Armstrong, Winchester, Browning and  Remington, Westinghouse and DuPont. The generals had not reckoned on advances in weaponry like the tank, mustard gas, barbed wire and aeroplane.

Before shooting began there were energetic antiwar movements in France and especially Germany. Marxists, anarchists, and radical trade unionists were influential all over Europe, causing strikes and talking class struggle.  The socialist Second International was a sort of think tank for antiwar resistance.  Meetings were held, resolutions passed, members swore to heaven they would never raise a hand or bayonet against their fellow working classes of another country.

In July 1914 the Social Democrats, Germany’s strongest party polling the most votes, called for militant street demonstrations against impending war.  A few days later it voted “war credits” to the Kaiser opening the way for 37 million people to be killed in four years of slugmatch trench warfare…and creating chaos exploitable for a future Hitler and Stalin.  (Lenin thought the coming war a fine idea because, as he correctly predicted, it would cause revolution in Russia.)

General Haig was the military moron who caused the needless deaths of his men by frontal assault in the face of withering machinegun fire.   But who today remembers the names of the German  and French socialists who were pacifists on Sunday and warmongers Monday and as responsible for the catastrophe as any blundering field marshal?

A wave of militarism engineered and propagandized from the chancelleries swept Europe.  It took extraordinary guts to stand out against the patriotic orgasm.  Civilians who had no grudge against their fellows across the border suddenly jumped to join the colors and murder their brother workers.  The “war against war”, except for a few lonely souls like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht – both assassinated for their protest - was forgotten in a popular blood lust of we-versus-them.  British women formed a White Feather League to shame men into fighting (“British Women Say – GO!”), and many once-radical Pankhurst suffragettes bought into the war in exchange for the promise of getting the vote.

Lessons for today?  I just hope that the Democratic presidential front runner, the war hawk Hilary Clinton, who wanted to intervene in Syria and advocated U.S. bombing of Libya and was terribly keen on Afghanistan, has read her Barbara Tuchman and better yet a good biography of Rosa Luxemburg.

Public Vengeance as a Career Tool: "American Hustle" and Prosecutorial Politics

By John Grant

“In this town, money talks and bullshit walks.”

                        -PA Rep. Ozzie Myers on his Abscam tape

Political sports scorekeeper Chris Matthews recently predicted American Hustle would become a classic film of American politics of the order of Citizen Kane. I’d add All the King’s Men and All the President’s Men.

What’s so wonderful about American Hustle is that it’s very serious at the same time it has great fun with a contemporary political system dominated by the archetype of the aggressive prosecutor. While a servant of the state, he or she ruthlessly advances a career by bringing down others. Dishonesty and the entrapping scam are major tools of the trade.

With Chris Christie, the whole smelly system has narratively come full circle. An aggressive federal prosecutor with eyes on the White House is suddenly the hunted prey of other hungry prosecutors looking for a career boost. The attorney credited with getting the goods to put away Governor Blagojevic in Illinois has been hired to go for Christie.

While American Hustle may be based on the late seventies Abscam scandal, it’s more art than journalism or history. “Some of this actually happened,” we’re told on screen up front. Like all good fiction based on reality, the art is in finding a deeper truth...

More than a Civil Rights Leader: The Martin Luther King, Jr. You May Not Know

By Brian J. Trautman

Most Americans know Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the twentieth century’s most revered voices for racial equality, the charismatic leader of the American Civil Rights movement, who gave the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Perhaps they even know a thing or two about his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Birmingham Campaign. This knowledge by and large derives from compulsory education and mainstream media. It is significantly less likely, however, that very many Americans know much at all, if anything, about King’s radical and controversial activities related to the issues of poverty and militarism, particularly the latter.

King highlighted three primary forms of violence, oppression and injustice in American society and across the world: poverty, racism and militarism. He referred to these as the “triple evils,” and considered them to be interrelated problems, existing in a vicious and intractable cycle, and standing as formidable barriers to achieving the Beloved Community, a brotherly society built upon and nurtured by love, nonviolence, peace and justice. King posited that when we resisted any one evil, we in turn weakened all evils, but that a measurable and lasting impact would require us to address all three.

King’s work to educate about and eradicate poverty was among his greatest passions. In “The Octopus of Poverty,” a statement appearing in The Mennonite in 1965, King observed, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it.” Accordingly, “the time has come for an all-out world war against poverty.” He strongly believed “the rich nations,” namely the United States, had a moral responsibility to care for its most vulnerable populations, noting that such “nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed.” King held, “ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation,” and maintained that “no individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.”

In late 1967 King announced the Poor People’s Campaign, an innovative effort designed to educate Americans on poverty issues and recruit both poor people and antipoverty activists for nonviolent social change. The priority of the project was to march on, and to occupy, if you will, Washington and to demand the Congress pass meaningful legislation to improve the social and economic status of the poor, through directed measures such as jobs, unemployment insurance, health care, decent homes, a fair minimum wage, and education. Alas, Dr. King was assassinated only weeks before the actual march took place. And while the march went ahead as planned in May of 1968, it is thought that the lack of substantive change to result was due in large part to King’s absence. Still, a positive outcome of the initiative was a heightened public awareness of the nation’s growing poor population.

Perhaps most controversial were King’s positions on militarism and U.S. foreign policy. In “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” published in 1967, King said of war and its consequences: “A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped, psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.” He cautioned that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King’s most pointed speech against militarism was “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” delivered at Riverside Church in NYC on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. While King’s popularity among political allies and his inner circle was already beginning to wane because of his increasing public criticism of U.S. foreign policy and the growing war in Vietnam, the Beyond Vietnam speech was to become his most public dissent of the war to date, a war still largely unopposed by the majority. To speak out in opposition to the war, he acknowledged, was personally necessitated, asserting, “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” With such a call to conscience, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” And in the present day, argued King, “that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.” In the speech King calls the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and questions why money is being spent to wage war on foreign lands against foreign people while the war on poverty at home was being neglected, financially and otherwise. The major media of the time denounced the speech and King lost a great deal of support among his colleagues and the American people for it.

We owe it ourselves and our children and grandchildren, as well as our communities and nation to learn and teach about and take up King’s efforts focused not only on ending racism but all three of the evils against which he untiringly stood. Only then will we find ourselves closer to achieving King’s dream of the Beloved Community. A small but important step toward this goal is to volunteer, as my family and I do, with a charitable and progressive cause on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a national day of service.

_____________________________________________________

Brian J. Trautman writes for PeaceVoice, is a military veteran, an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, and a peace activist. On Twitter @TrautBri.

Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law. 

Thou Shalt Not Make Fun of World War I

From The Guardian:

<<Once, in Blackadder, the eponymous first-world-war British army captain learned that the Germans were stealing our battle plans. "You look surprised, Blackadder," said Stephen Fry's absurdly over-moustachioed, rubicund General Melchett.
"I certainly am, sir," retorted our hero. "I didn't realise we had any battle plans."
"Well, of course we have!" shouted Melchett. "How else do you think the battles are directed?"
"Our battles are directed, sir?"
"Well, of course they are, Blackadder, directed according to the Grand Plan."
"Would that be the plan to continue with total slaughter until everyone's dead except Field Marshal Haig, Lady Haig and their tortoise, Alan?"
"Great Scott!" exclaims Melchett. "Even you know it!">>

The Secretary of Education of the United Kingdom (The United Kingdom has education?!) is royally upset that anyone would make fun of World War I as that great and glorious event hits the 100-year mark. And he's not upset because British humor is so relentlessly unfunny. He's upset because people might laugh.

But of course if people had been permitted to make fun of World War I at the time, without being thrown in prison (Yes, that was also Woodrow -- the Obama delusion for liberals of his day -- Wilson's policy), well then, perhaps the stupid bloody idiocy could have been stopped or prevented.

The Secretary of Education, if he had a bit of -- what is that stuff? oh yeah -- education would know that the majority of observers have very good reasons for believing that World War I was, as he puts it, "a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite."

Well, what would you call it when a group of inbred cousins meet to squabble over petty matters of competing egos at all the best weddings and funerals and then return to ruling over their respective nations as divinely appointed monarchs and ministers eager to send their peoples off to murder each other for no particular reason, especially if these sociopaths and their sycophants each decide they must defensively attack the other first, not because war can begin so quickly but because it takes months to badger people into knocking off the wisecracks, abandoning all sense of human decency, and picking up a gun, and then to put those people on trains to send them on a trip to a big field in which imbeciles on horses with swords will try to conquer machine guns and poison gas, eventually realize how ridiculous they are being, and hide in tents far from the fighting while ordering millions of others who have no interest in the affair to kill each other year after year after year for no earthly reason and with nothing to show for it at the end -- an end pre-determined by mutual agreement, but with the fighting continuing until that appointed day and hour?

And that was the wise, deliberate, and admirable part of World War I.  The stupidity really took hold, along with the influenza falsely called Spanish and the brilliant notion of banning alcohol, with the settlement of the war in a royal French palace where it was decided to punish the entire nation of Germany severely, begin preparations for World War II, carve up the so-called Middle-East in order to produce a century of chaos there, and to tell Ho Chi Minh to go to hell, laying some early groundwork for the never-to-be-ridiculed war on Vietnam, which the U.S. government is now funding a major campaign to beautify (don't laugh!).

All right, so maybe I find it all too horrific to laugh at, but if others can laugh at it -- even when the jokes are predictable and stupid -- I can think of nothing better for the world.  In fact, I wholeheatedly encourage everyone to complete this line: How many Secretaries of Education does it take to change a lightbulb?

Take away the gun
From every mother's son
We're taught by God above
To forgive, forget, and love

The weary world is waiting for
Peace, forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother's son

And put an end to war

—Al Jolson
 

 

Erdogan, Gulen, and the United States - Endgame Triangle

Is is really Erdogan versus Gulen or is Gulen a proxy?  Image: Wikicommons

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan faces major challenges from the opposition and within his own party, the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party).  Through his rash actions and compulsive need for control, the PM has paved the road to his political demise.  He may fall as a result of the current scandal or his exit may be somewhat delayed.  In either case, things will be very ugly in Turkey before PM's not so long good-bye is over.  This will be at the expense of the Turkish people, who have done nothing to deserve this. (Image:  Turkish PM Erdogan and former ally, Fethullah Gulen.  WikiCommons)

On December 17, Turkish police and prosecutors brought corruption charges against members of Erdogan's cabinet and some of their family members.  The charges came after a nationwide investigation of political corruption.  As police in Ankara rounded up suspects, the Istanbul police chief refused to arrest 30 of those charged in that city.

Erdogan responded in a manic fit by firing prosecutors and key police investigators involved in the arrests.  Then, the PM went on the attack with a blistering series of invectives aimed at the opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP), other outsiders, and the U.S. Ambassador.  The death of a key Turkish corruption investigator in Ankara added fuel to speculation on the intensity internal politics surrounding the PM.

Erdogan versus Gulen?  

Looking for clues, not 'sacred' relics: NY Times admits Exhumation Proves Ex-Brazilian President Murdered

By Dave Lindorff

A few weeks ago, WhoWhatWhy ran a piece of mine criticizing a subtly deceptive article in the New York Times that made light of a wave of exhumations of popular leftist figures in Latin America. Quoting unnamed “scholars,” the paper’s Latin American correspondent Simon Romero suggested the forensic digs may be the secularized continuation of customs from the time of early Christianity, when a vibrant trade involved the body parts of saints.

That, in fact, is nonsense.  The purportedly “natural”, “accidental”, or “suicide-related” deaths of such important left-leaning figures as Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, Brazil’s President Joao Goulart and Chile’s President Salvador Allende all occurred during the rule of various rightist dictators.

The re-examination of evidence in these cases is based therefore on strong skepticism about the “official” narratives of their deaths.  This skepticism, in turn, is based on a well-documented history of thousands of cases of political murder in the region.

Far from looking for relics to sell, investigators are looking for evidence that these deaths were actually assassinations, the work of fearful tyrants anxious to prevent the victims’ return to power.  Now one result is in, and it’s explosive.

Truth Commission: Juscelino Kubitschek Assassinated

Investigators from Brazil’s Truth Commission, looking into the 1976 car crash of former leftist Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek and his limo driver, have discovered a bullet fragment lodged in the driver’s skull. This finding, the Commission ruled, along with other evidence, suggests that Kubitschek was murdered—most likely at the behest of the leaders of the CIA-backed military coup that also ousted his successor Joao Goulart.

US hypocrisy over diplomatic immunity: US Embassy and Consular Employees Deserve It, Foreign Diplomats Not So Much

By Dave Lindorff

 

The diplomatic brouhaha between the US and India over a federal arrest and multiple strip-search and cavity search of a high-ranking Indian consular official in New York has exposed the astonishing hypocrisy of the US when it comes to the issue of diplomatic immunity.

A Holiday Fantasy: If I Were Emperor of the USA

By John Grant


It’s that time of the year again. Ho. Ho. Ho. There’s the urge to celebrate the Winter Solstice (AKA Christmas) with family and friends. It’s also time for end-of-the-year assessments concerning the absurdities of life in a fading empire in denial.

New "Frackademia" Report Co-Written by "Converted Climate Skeptic" Richard Muller

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of "frackademia," and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled "Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking" and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth "Liz" Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed "converted skeptic" on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study "about two years ago."

"We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player," he said. "The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking."

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

"They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes," he said. 

This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas." 

99 Years Ago: A Pause in the War on Christmas

Frank Richards recalled:

"On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with 'A Merry Christmas' on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one. Platoons would sometimes go out for twenty-four hours' rest -- it was a day at least out of the trench and relieved the monotony a bit -- and my platoon had gone out in this way the night before, but a few of us stayed behind to see what would happen. Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the Germans done the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench.

"Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.

"We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.

"The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches."

 

Bruce Bairnsfather remembered:

"The dawn of the 24th brought a perfectly still, cold, frosty day. The spirit of Christmas began to permeate us all; we tried to plot ways and means of making the next day, Christmas, different in some way to others. Invitations from one dug-out to another for sundry meals were beginning to circulate. Christmas Eve was, in the way of weather, everything that Christmas Eve should be.

"I was billed to appear at a dug-out about a quarter of a mile to the left that evening to have rather a special thing in trench dinners—not quite so much bully and Maconochie about as usual. A bottle of red wine and a medley of tinned things from home deputized in their absence. The day had been entirely free from shelling, and somehow we all felt that the Boches, too, wanted to be quiet. There was a kind of an invisible, intangible feeling extending across the frozen swamp between the two lines, which said 'This is Christmas Eve for both of us—something in common.'

"About 10 p.m. I made my exit from the convivial dug-out on the left of our line and walked back to my own lair. On arriving at my own bit of trench I found several of the men standing about, and all very cheerful. There was a good bit of singing and talking going on, jokes and jibes on our curious Christmas Eve, as contrasted with any former one, were thick in the air. One of my men turned to me and said:

"'You can 'ear 'em quite plain, sir!'

"'Hear what?' I inquired.

"'The Germans over there, sir; 'ear 'em singin' and playin' on a band or somethin'.'

"I listened;—away out across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices, and an occasional burst of some unintelligible song would come floating out on the frosty air. The singing seemed to be loudest and most distinct a bit to our right. I popped into my dug-out and found the platoon commander."

"'Do you hear the Boches kicking up that racket over there?' I said.

"'Yes,' he replied; 'they've been at it some time!'

"'Come on,' said I, 'let's go along the trench to the hedge there on the right—that's the nearest point to them, over there.'

"So we stumbled along our now hard, frosted ditch, and scrambling up on to the bank above, strode across the field to our next bit of trench on the right. Everyone was listening. An improvised Boche band was playing a precarious version of 'Deutschland, Deutschland, uber Alles,' at the conclusion of which, some of our mouth-organ experts retaliated with snatches of ragtime songs and imitations of the German tune. Suddenly we heard a confused shouting from the other side. We all stopped to listen. The shout came again. A voice in the darkness shouted in English, with a strong German accent, 'Come over here!' A ripple of mirth swept along our trench, followed by a rude outburst of mouth organs and laughter. Presently, in a lull, one of our sergeants repeated the request, 'Come over here!'

"'You come half-way—I come half-way,' floated out of the darkness.

"'Come on, then!' shouted the sergeant. 'I'm coming along the hedge!'

"'Ah! but there are two of you,' came back the voice from the other side.

"Well, anyway, after much suspicious shouting and jocular derision from both sides, our sergeant went along the hedge which ran at right-angles to the two lines of trenches. He was quickly out of sight; but, as we all listened in breathless silence, we soon heard a spasmodic conversation taking place out there in the darkness.

"Presently, the sergeant returned. He had with him a few German cigars and cigarettes which he had exchanged for a couple of Maconochie's and a tin of Capstan, which he had taken with him. The séance was over, but it had given just the requisite touch to our Christmas Eve—something a little human and out of the ordinary routine.

"After months of vindictive sniping and shelling, this little episode came as an invigorating tonic, and a welcome relief to the daily monotony of antagonism. It did not lessen our ardour or determination; but just put a little human punctuation mark in our lives of cold and humid hate. Just on the right day, too—Christmas Eve! But, as a curious episode, this was nothing in comparison to our experience on the following day.

"On Christmas morning I awoke very early, and emerged from my dug-out into the trench. It was a perfect day. A beautiful, cloudless blue sky. The ground hard and white, fading off towards the wood in a thin low-lying mist. It was such a day as is invariably depicted by artists on Christmas cards—the ideal Christmas Day of fiction.

"'Fancy all this hate, war, and discomfort on a day like this!' I thought to myself. The whole spirit of Christmas seemed to be there, so much so that I remember thinking, 'This indescribable something in the air, this Peace and Goodwill feeling, surely will have some effect on the situation here to-day!' And I wasn't far wrong; it did around us, anyway, and I have always been so glad to think of my luck in, firstly, being actually in the trenches on Christmas Day, and, secondly, being on the spot where quite a unique little episode took place.

"Everything looked merry and bright that morning—the discomforts seemed to be less, somehow; they seemed to have epitomized themselves in intense, frosty cold. It was just the sort of day for Peace to be declared. It would have made such a good finale. I should like to have suddenly heard an immense siren blowing. Everybody to stop and say, 'What was that?' Siren blowing again: appearance of a small figure running across the frozen mud waving something. He gets closer—a telegraph boy with a wire! He hands it to me. With trembling fingers I open it: 'War off, return home.—George, R.I.' Cheers! But no, it was a nice, fine day, that was all.

"Walking about the trench a little later, discussing the curious affair of the night before, we suddenly became aware of the fact that we were seeing a lot of evidences of Germans. Heads were bobbing about and showing over their parapet in a most reckless way, and, as we looked, this phenomenon became more and more pronounced.

"A complete Boche figure suddenly appeared on the parapet, and looked about itself. This complaint became infectious. It didn't take 'Our Bert' long to be up on the skyline (it is one long grind to ever keep him off it). This was the signal for more Boche anatomy to be disclosed, and this was replied to by all our Alf's and Bill's, until, in less time than it takes to tell, half a dozen or so of each of the belligerents were outside their trenches and were advancing towards each other in no-man's land.

"A strange sight, truly!

"I clambered up and over our parapet, and moved out across the field to look. Clad in a muddy suit of khaki and wearing a sheepskin coat and Balaclava helmet, I joined the throng about half-way across to the German trenches.

"It all felt most curious: here were these sausage-eating wretches, who had elected to start this infernal European fracas, and in so doing had brought us all into the same muddy pickle as themselves.

"This was my first real sight of them at close quarters. Here they were—the actual, practical soldiers of the German army. There was not an atom of hate on either side that day."

 

John McCutcheon reimagined:

 

Joe Henry and Garth Brooks rediscovered:

 

Even Snoopy was inspired:

 

And now, after 99 years, what will we do?

Historic opportunity missed: Obama Failed To Deliver Long-Overdue Apology To Mandela

By Linn Washington, Jr.


When Barack Obama, the first black president of America, delivered remarks during a South African memorial service for that country’s first black president, he muffed a historic opportunity to right a grave wrong done by the American government – one that helped send Nelson Mandela to prison for nearly 30-years.

Obama, during his remarks at a Johannesburg, SA memorial service for Mandela, who died on December 5 at age 95, recalled how that world-revered leader had endured “brutal imprisonment.”

Historic opportunity missed: Obama Failed To Deliver Long-Overdue Apology To Mandela

By Linn Washington, Jr.


When Barack Obama, the first black president of America, delivered remarks during a South African memorial service for that country’s first black president, he muffed a historic opportunity to right a grave wrong done by the American government – one that helped send Nelson Mandela to prison for nearly 30-years.

Obama, during his remarks at a Johannesburg, SA memorial service for Mandela, who died on December 5 at age 95, recalled how that world-revered leader had endured “brutal imprisonment.”

Talk Nation Radio: Adam Hochschild on Ending Slavery and Not Ending War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-adam

Adam Hochschild discusses his books, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

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