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He’s the best, but is he all we need?: The ‘Bern’ and the Internet

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Bernie Sanders' stunning success in the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, highlighted by what is effectively a victory in the Iowa caucuses this past Monday, provokes serious thinking about what a Sanders presidency would look like.

SkoolLive - School Jive - A new, interactive digital invasion of our high schools by corporations and the military

By Pat Elder, WarIsACrime.org

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Student privacy protections may be undermined

For years DOD recruiting commanders have attempted to circumvent student privacy protections that are designed to shield minors from the wholesale transfer of student information  from the nation’s high schools  to the Pentagon’s Military Entrance Processing Command.
The DOD markets “career opportunities” through the schools, relying on a variety of methods, from Channel One, a 12-minute, highly commercialized, daily TV program that reaches as many as 5 million children a day, to various posters and announcements touting military service or other schemes like the Career Exploration Program.  For the most part, however, these outreach efforts ultimately rely on the schools as a third party from which to extract student data. Until now, the DOD’s quest for greater access to children has been somewhat stymied by pesky state and federal laws that regulate the flow of student information from the schools.

Imagine then, the Pentagon’s keen interest in a plan by upstart SkoolLive LLC of Fallbrook, CA to install thousands of giant 6-foot i-phones with flashing, screaming, streaming interactive screens in thousands of high school hallways across the country.  These life-size digital kiosks allow kids to directly upload their personal information without having to deal with school policies or state and federal laws!
The company has agreements with more than 2,000 schools in 27 states and intends to triple that number, according to press reports. 

According to SkoolLive, school officials allow the free installation of these devices because they are convinced the gadgets “enrich a student’s school experience by replacing mundane printed posters with high quality digital ads that require less space, reduce visual clutter, move schools into the digital age, and saves tons of time, money and trees.”  http://www.skoollive.com/#!about-us/mainPage  
But these officials may not be seeing the entire picture.
From the screen of the SkoolLive website directed toward potential advertisers, "The SkoolLive Kiosk screens are touch sensitive.  The feature allows the company to offer “interactive” ads.  With this interactive feature, advertisers are able to conduct student surveys, determine product preferences, enter contests, send  text messages containing promo codes, discount coupons, etc. Our proprietary software captures and analyzes this valuable data, providing  advertisers the analytics and feedback necessary to effectively measure audience acceptance as well as the effectiveness of their ad."

The placement of these SkoolLive kiosks may, however, circumvent The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Generally, the law states that schools may disclose information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, etc., but the schools are required to allow parents to request that the school not disclose information about children. Many state laws go even further in protecting student rights.  By allowing the placement of these giant interactive kiosks, schools, in essence, may be allowing the transfer of student information without providing for parental consent.

Additionally, SkoolLive’s interactive hallway contraptions may be violating Section 8025 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, (ESSA) https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1177/text 

Interactive Army advertising on giant kiosks

The law says schools shall provide, upon a request made by a military recruiter, access to the name, address, and telephone listing of a high school student, unless the parent submits a written request, to the school, that the child’s information not be released. Schools must notify parents of their right to opt out. SkoolLive’s kiosks remove the role of the school and allow the military to extract information directly from unassuming minors.

Not only that, but schools stand to make thousands off of each kiosk per month, the company claims, depending on the marketing dollars each generates, although SkoolLive may be exaggerating the income potential of the 6 foot i-pads.  SkoolLive officials apparently told Chris Marczak, assistant superintendent of Oak Ridge High School in Tennessee, the company had estimated each kiosk could generate between $2,000 and $5,000 monthly for each of its schools.


The interactive capability is sold as a way for students to access more information about a particular notice or event.  Need to know more about purchasing high school rings or yearbooks?  Click here. Want to leave your contact info for an advertiser to get in touch?  It’s simple! 


Want to know more about jobs in the Army or more specifically, how to find out more about taking the military’s enlistment test, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery? That information is readily available is a slick, colorful, interactive format in high schools across the country and it may be coming to a school near you. SkoolLive describes the Army’s use of their interactive kiosks this way, "The Army wanted students to be aware of Army career options while      learning student preferences.  As a part of their Career Exploration Program,  the Army ran a full-screen video interactive career survey.  Students entered their grade, selected their career preference and registered to win one of     three prizes given away monthly.  Winners were showcased in a follow up  ad.
 
Jim Metrock, of Birmingham, AL heads Obligation Inc., http://www.obligation.org/ a brilliant public interest group that opposes commercialism in schools. "A captive audience of school children is very attractive to advertisers," he said. "This is taxpayer-funded school time, and it doesn't make sense that companies can buy time to have with students."  Nonetheless,  SkoolLive’s venture is much in line with the corporatization and militarization of America’s schools.
For more information on the role of the military in SkoolLive’s business plan, contact Armed Forces Representative MAJ (Ret) Jason C. Hall, jhall@skoollive.com
 
Originally published by http://www.studentprivacy.org

Water isn't the only source of lead contamination in Flint

By Pat Elder, WarIsACrime.org

Thailynn Smith, 15, a freshman at Flint Northwestern, shoots an air rifle at the school's ROTC indoor shooting range on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Samuel Wilson | MLive.com

The firing range at Flint Northwestern High School is run by the Navy and affiliated with the Civilian Marksmanship Program which provides regulations for the shooting activity. According to the Civilian Marksmanship Program's Guide to Lead Management of Air Gun Shooting, a key to minimizing the risks of lead exposures from any residues that are deposited between the firing line and the targets is to minimize requirements for coaches or shooters to go downrange in order to prevent lead residues from migrating behind the firing line.

It doesn't seem like officials are minimizing these risks in Flint, Michigan. Apparently, the city's drinking water is not the only source of potential lead contamination.

The CMP's guide also suggests high schools control the paths used to go down-range so that no one walks in the area immediately in front of the firing line. It doesn't appear from the numerous photos on the mlive.com website the high school, the Navy, or CMP officials are enforcing this. The guide also calls for the use of disposable plastic shoe covers when going downrange which also does not appear to be happening. The shoe covers are meant to minimize the likelihood of lead fragments being tracked throughout the school.

Hundreds of thousands of high school children and school staff across the nation come into contact with highly toxic lead particulate matter as a result of inadequate supervision and maintenance of indoor firing ranges. The CMP, along with the various JROTC programs run by the Army, Navy, and Marines, and high school officials in every state, along with private gun club owners, where target practices are also held, share the responsibility for safeguarding the health of the public regarding high school marksmanship programs. School districts typically don't monitor lead contamination caused by JROTC marksmanship programs. Instead, inspections are supposed to be performed either by the Brigades/Area Commands, the CMP, or private firms.

Zackir Metcalk, 17, a sophomore at Flint Northwestern, proudly points out his accuracy on a target after a session in the school's indoor shooting range during ROTC training on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Samuel Wilson | MLive.com

According to the CMP there are over 2,400 Army, Navy and Marine Corps JROTC units in the USA. Statistics kept by JROTC commands and the CMP indicate that at least two-thirds or approximately 1,600 JROTC units offer rifle marksmanship programs to their cadets. Interestingly, the CMP doesn't count the 800 Air Force JROTC programs across the country, so the total tops 3,200 units. Approximately half, or 1,600 of these units offer rifle marksmanship programs to their high school cadets.

The cleanup of toxic lead materials is a major concern.

Here's a list of the necessary procedures in the CMP Guide designed to protect the health of children in high schools with shooting ranges. Are we certain school officials in Flint are taking these precautions? Are we certain these precautions are taking place in the 1,600 sites across the country?

  • Only authorized adult personnel who follow proper procedures should remove lead from pellet traps or target holders.
  • You must ensure all residues fall behind the target line by carefully inspecting the areas behind and in front of the target line before establishing the range map.
  • Lead consisting of spent pellets or pellet fragments that is removed from the pellet traps is regarded as a recyclable material. After a quantity of this lead is accumulated, take it to a recycling center.
  • If you are working with an older range that does not have a smooth floor, consider replacing or covering the floor to achieve a smooth surface that is easier to clean.
  • In order to carry out recommended air gun range management procedures, range managers should have these supplies and materials available to them:
    • Shop or industrial vacuum cleaner and mops and disposable mop heads,
    • Container (bucket) with secure closure for spent pellets
    • Container (bucket) with secure closure for vacuum filters and mop heads
  • On ranges where the target system allows lead pellet residues to deposit on the floor forward of the targets, it is recommended that the range staff establish a lane (paint or tape a line) to provide a designated walking path for the coach or authorized athlete to follow while moving to the target line.
  • At the target line, it is recommended that the designated target changer put on disposable shoe covers before walking over any residues that may be in front of the targets.
  • Once targets are changed, the designated target changer should remove the disposable shoe covers before stepping onto the walking path and returning to the firing line. Shoe covers are disposable, elasticized paper
  • If the air gun range is in a multi-use facility where other activities will take place in the downrange area after air gun firing concludes, that area must be cleaned after every training or competition session.
  • After firing activities have ended, have the athletes remove shooting equipment from the firing line, ensuring that they do not step over the firing line. Using a shop vacuum, start from behind the firing line and move parallel to the firing line, carefully vacuuming from the firing line downrange for ten feet. Start again from ten feet in front of the target line and move parallel to the target line, vacuuming to the tar- get line (or beyond if there is lead pellet residue behind the target line.
  • Ensure that the shop vacuum's cord, wheels and hoses do NOT drag through un-vacuumed area. Always keep the vacuum and the vacuum operator in the clean area of the range. The operator should not step on or stand in a potentially contaminated area.
  • Range floors that are roughly textured or porous may require mopping with tri-sodium phosphate, a buffering solution that suspends particulates long enough to be picked up by the mop.

ROTC students at Flint Northwestern remove their targets after a session at the school's indoor shooting range on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Samuel Wilson | MLive.com

Parents of children participating in Flint's Northwestern High School's NJROTC Marksmanship Program are required to sign a form that releases NJROTC "from any and all claims, demands, actions or causes of actions due to death, injury or illness, the government of the United States and all of its officers, representative and agents acting officially and also the local, regional, and national Navy officials of the United States."

Officials say lead pellets are not airborne and pose no health risk. In 2013 parents in Montgomery County, Maryland approached district officials regarding their concerns about the potential for lead exposure in regular classrooms that were used for both firing ranges and academic subjects. Firing ranges in the nation's high schools are managed by JROTC programs affiliated with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. They are all "regulated" by the CMP.

Montgomery County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Erik J. Lang acknowledged that Gaithersburg, Kennedy, Paint Branch, and Seneca Valley high schools all have indoor firing ranges that operate in classrooms during the school day.

In a response dated March 13, 2013 Sean Yarup, Indoor Air Quality Office, MCPS cited the CMP's Guide to Lead Management and advised parents:

  • There is no scientific evidence that firing lead projectiles in target air guns with velocities of less than 600 fps. generates any detectable airborne lead.
  • All available medical testing shows that air rifle target shooting participants do not develop elevated lead levels as a result of this activity.
  • Anyone who handles lead pellets during air rifle or air pistol shooting can effectively minimize their lead exposure by washing their hands after firing and by not consuming food or beverages on the range.

All three statements are untrue.

A Swedish study in 1992 analyzed the air in an indoor firing range that was used exclusively for air guns and found the air had lead levels an average of 4.6 ìg/m3 (range 1.8 - 7.2 ìg/m3). The study documents the presence of airborne lead as a result of air rifle shooting and cast doubt on HET's findings, as well as the CMP's claim that there's no need for special ventilation systems.

A 2009 German study examined the blood lead levels of 129 individuals from 11 different indoor shooting ranges who shot a variety of weapons. 20 individuals who shot only air guns showed a median BLL of 33 ìg/l with a (range 18-127 ìg/l). (Translated into standard American usage per deciliter - 3.3ug/dl or 3.3 micrograms per deciliter)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) said in 2011 that washing hands with soap and water is not effective in removing lead from the surface of the skin.

The CMP's 2013 Guide to Lead Management relies on the findings of Health & Environmental Technology LLC (HET), an environmental testing firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado to dispel the notion that air guns shooting lead pellets create airborne particles. The sole employee of HET is Mr. Robert Rodosevich, who has come under scrutiny in Colorado in 2012 for "gross technical incompetence in technical compliance."

The CMP says normal ventilation systems are fine for shooting ranges in America's high schools.

More unbelievable stuff:

Lead from airguns is deposited at the muzzle end of the gun at the firing line. Every pellet being fired down the barrel scrapes out the deposits from the pellets that went before. Kids pick it up on their shoes and clothing and track it throughout the building. High concentrations of lead residues are also deposited on the floor in the area around the backstops. And all of this is happening in some classrooms in Montgomery County, MD, just a few minutes before kids in the next class file in.

Once the director of environmental health at Fairfax County schools became aware that classrooms were being used for firing ranges he sprang into action and ordered lead testing on surfaces. The tests came back showing a severe threat to public health. Fairfax authorities shut down the programs, cleaned and re-cleaned, and sent letters home. They re-opened the ranges but required the switch to non-lead ammunition. That was in 2007. All Air Force JROTC units use non-lead pellets. Montgomery County's Police firing range only uses non-lead ammunition.

The Menehune High School Junior ROTC Marksmanship Program in Waimea, Hawaii has operating procedures that direct custodial staff to "sweep up lead pellets."

Will it play in Peoria? Apparently so. The Richwoods High School Marine Corps JROTC Rifle team's range supports six full time firing points. For air rifle matches for up to 20 shooters the team uses the local roller skating rink.

Congress failed to include a mandatory annual financial audit to examine the CMP's internal controls regarding compliance with the 1996 act.

The private CMP has $164.5 million in publicly traded securities. The 990 states, "at no cost to the government," the CMP "develops curriculum for marksmanship instruction in the high schools, trains and certifies JROTC coaches and inspects high school range facilities." The corporation spent just $346,000 on these items.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL 3) represents Anniston, Alabama in Congress. Anniston is the home of the CMP. Rogers inserted an amendment into the 2015 NDAA that allows 100,000 Army M1911A1 pistols to be transferred to the CMP for eventual sale to the public.

Incredibly, there are still many high school shooting programs affiliated with the CMP that continue to use small-bore .22 caliber rifles inside schools. The .22 small bore rifles that fire standard bullets deposit substantially more lead into the air and on the ground than the lead pellets in use in the classrooms.

The CMP advises, "a periodic wet mopping with a solution of water and tri-sodium phosphate" (TSP) should be used to clean classroom floors. In 2012 the US Department of Housing and Urban Development advised that tri-sodium phosphate should be avoided when cleaning up lead because it's deadly to the environment and no better than many other less harmful cleaning agents.

The CMP advises against the use of non-lead pellets in its Guide to Lead Management, arguing they don't perform as well as their lead counterparts.

The CMP's lead guide states that high school children who fire lead pellet rifles in classrooms are safe from lead contamination if they wash their hands and keep open food and drink away from shooting activity. According to a study by NIOSH in 2011, washing hands with soap and water is not completely effective in removing lead from the surface of the skin.

 

Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy. www.studentprivacy.org  He is the author of  “Military Recruiting in America” set to be published in the summer of 2016.

Rethinking Bernie Sanders: Attacking Wall Street and the Corrupt US Political System Makes Sanders a Genuine Revolutionary

By Dave Lindorff

 

            I admit I’ve been slow to warm up to the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s because I publicly backed Barack Obama in 2008 and quickly came to rue that decision after he took office.

 

Tomgram: David Vine, Enduring Bases, Enduring War in the Middle East

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Where will that money go?: The Zuckerberg Family Donation and a Legacy of Control

By Alfredo Lopez

 

When I was very young, my parents used to tell me why having "lots of toys" wasn't a good idea. "The more you have, the more you want," they would say. I didn't have many toys -- we were poor -- so the idea of possessions feeding greed didn't make much sense to me then.

More Guns! We Need More Guns!

By Pat Elder

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino mass shooting it is heartening that President Obama recently signed common-sense gun legislation in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The President stood up to critics of his community policing and counter-terrorism policies by approving a measure that would order the Army, despite its objection, to offer 100,000 of its .45 caliber semi-automatic M1911's pistols for sale to the public through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).

In its short-sighted view, the Army said it was concerned about the "loss of accountability of weapons" after transfer to the CMP. The Army also expressed an unwarranted fear of "expanding the scope of CMP's mission to include handguns" and the potential negative impacts on public safety "from the large amount of semi-automatic and concealable pistols."

Now, thank goodness, more Americans will have access to the kinds of weapons they should be carrying to protect themselves from dangerous criminals and terrorists. The one thing Americans have learned from Paris and attacks du jour like San Bernardino is that an unarmed population can't bring down the bad guys. The NRA has applauded President Obama for his courageous stance.

Although some liberals have argued that civilized nations destroy their outdated weaponry, it is our visionary Congress and President that encourage the mass distribution of these warehoused, yet perfectly operational semi-automatic handguns. Obviously, Americans need more handguns to protect themselves so we should salute our lawmakers for enacting this needed legislation.

Critics have also foolishly pointed to concerns by the Department of Justice that the handguns are "virtually untraceable" and that they are popular "crime guns." Over the last 10 years, the DOJ traced an average of 1,768 M1911 pistols used yearly in crimes with a significant percentage ultimately identified as surplus U.S. military firearms. Our lawmakers (including Obama!) should be applauded for resisting this faulty logic. After all, guns don't kill people; bad people do.

Contact the Congressionally chartered CMP to find out how to order firearms and ammunition today! Call your congressman to demand the Pentagon release for sale millions of additional surplus rifles and pistols. Those guns should be on the streets!

"You can't debate satire. Either you get it or you don't." — Michael Moore

Do War Makers Believe Their Own Propaganda?

Back in 2010 I wrote a book called War Is A Lie. Five years later, after having just prepared the second edition of that book to come out next spring, I came across another book published on a very similar theme in 2010 called Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War, by Richard E. Rubenstein.

Rubenstein, as you can tell already, is much more polite than I. His book is very well done and I'd recommend it to anyone, but perhaps especially to the crowd that finds sarcasm more offensive than bombs. (I'm trying to get everyone except that crowd to read my book!)

Pick up Rubenstein's book if you want to read his elaboration on this list of reasons why people are brought around to supporting wars: 1. It's self-defense; 2. The enemy is evil; 3. Not fighting will make us weak, humiliated, dishonored; 4. Patriotism; 5. Humanitarian duty; 6. Exceptionalism; 7. It's a last resort.

Well done. But I think Rubenstein's respect for war advocates (and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, as I think we must respect everyone if we are to understand them) leads him toward a focus on how much they believe their own propaganda. The answer to whether they do believe their own propaganda is, of course -- and I assume Rubenstein would agree -- yes and no. They believe some of it, somewhat, some of the time, and they try hard to believe a bit more of it. But how much? Where do you put the emphasis?

Rubenstein begins by defending, not the chief war marketers in Washington, but their supporters around the United States. "We agree to put ourselves in harm's way," he writes, "because we are convinced that the sacrifice is justified, not just because we have been stampeded into okaying war by devious leaders, scaremongering propagandists, or our own blood lust."

Now, of course, most war supporters never put themselves within 10,000 miles of harm's way, but certainly they believe a war is noble and just, either because the evil Muslims must be eradicated, or because the poor oppressed peoples must be liberated and rescued, or some combination. It is to the credit of war supporters that increasingly they have to believe wars are acts of philanthropy before they'll support them. But why do they believe such bunk? They're sold it by the propagandists, of course. Yes, scaremongering propagandists. In 2014 many people supported a war they had opposed in 2013, as a direct result of watching and hearing about beheading videos, not as a result of hearing a more coherent moral justification. In fact the story made even less sense in 2014 and involved either switching sides or taking both sides in the same war that had been pitched unsuccessfully the year before.

Rubenstein argues, rightly I think, that support for war arises not just out of a proximate incident (the Gulf of Tonkin fraud, the babies out of incubators fraud, the Spanish sinking the Maine fraud, etc.) but also out of a broader narrative that depicts an enemy as evil and threatening or an ally as in need. The famous WMD of 2003 really did exist in many countries, including the United States, but belief in the evil of Iraq meant not only that WMD were unacceptable there but also that Iraq itself was unacceptable whether or not the WMD existed. Bush was asked after the invasion why he'd made the claims he'd made about weapons, and he replied, "What's the difference?" Saddam Hussein was evil, he said. End of story. Rubenstein is right, I think, that we should look at the underlying motivations, such as the belief in Iraq's evil rather than in the WMDs. But the underlying motivation is even uglier than the surface justification, especially when the belief is that the whole nation is evil. And recognizing the underlying motivation allows us to understand, for example, Colin Powell's use of fabricated dialogue and false information in his UN presentation as dishonest. He didn't believe his own propaganda; he wanted to keep his job.

According to Rubenstein, Bush and Cheney "clearly believed their own public statements." Bush, remember, proposed to Tony Blair that they paint a U.S. plane with UN colors, fly it low, and try to get it shot. He then walked out to the press, with Blair, and said he was trying to avoid war. But he no doubt did partially believe some of his statements, and he shared with much of the U.S. public the idea that war is an acceptable tool of foreign policy. He shared in widespread xenophobia, bigotry, and belief in the redemptive power of mass murder. He shared faith in war technology. He shared the desire to disbelieve in the causation of anti-U.S. sentiment by past U.S. actions. In those senses, we cannot say that a propagandist reversed the public's beliefs. People were manipulated by the multiplication of the terror of 9/11 into months of terrorizing in the media. They were deprived of basic facts by their schools and newspapers. But to suggest actual honesty on the part of war makers is going too far.

Rubenstein maintains that President William McKinley was persuaded to annex the Philippines by "the same humanitarian ideology that convinced ordinary Americans to support the war." Really? Because McKinley not only said the poor little brown Filipinos couldn't govern themselves, but also said that it would be bad "business" to let Germany or France have the Philippines. Rubenstein himself notes that "if the acerbic Mr. Twain were still with us, he would very likely suggest that the reason we did not intervene in Rwanda in 1994 was because there was no profit in it." Setting aside the damaging U.S. intervention of the previous three years in Uganda and its backing of the assassin that it saw profit in allowing to take power through its "inaction" in Rwanda, this is exactly right. Humanitarian motivations are found where profit lies (Syria) and not where it doesn't, or where it lies on the side of mass killing (Yemen). That doesn't mean the humanitarian beliefs aren't somewhat believed, and more so by the public than by the propagandists, but it does call their purity into question.

Rubenstein describes the Cold War thus: "While fulminating against Communist dictatorships, American leaders supported brutal pro-Western dictatorships in scores of Third World nations. This is sometimes considered hypocrisy, but it really represented a misguided form of sincerity. Backing anti-democratic elites reflected the conviction that if the enemy is wholly evil, one must use 'all means necessary' to defeat him." Of course a lot of people believed that. They also believed that if the Soviet Union ever collapsed, U.S. imperialism and backing for nasty anti-communist dictators would come to a screeching halt. They were proved 100% wrong in their analysis. The Soviet threat was replaced by the terrorism threat, and the behavior remained virtually unchanged. And it remained virtually unchanged even before the terrorism threat could be properly developed -- although it of course has never been developed into anything resembling the Soviet Union. In addition, if you accept Rubenstein's notion of sincere belief in the greater good of doing evil in the Cold War, you still have to acknowledge that the evil done included massive piles of lies, dishonesty, misrepresentations, secrecy, deception, and completely disingenuous horseshit, all in the name of stopping the commies. Calling lying (about the Gulf of Tonkin or the missile gap or the Contras or whatever) "really ... sincerity" leaves one wondering what insincerity would look like and what an example would be of someone lying without any belief that something justified it.

Rubenstein himself doesn't seem to be lying about anything, even when he seems to have the facts wildly wrong, as when he says the most of America's wars have been victorious (huh?). And his analysis of how wars start and how peace activism can end them is very useful. He includes on his to-do list at #5 "Demand that war advocates declare their interests." That is absolutely crucial only because those war advocates do not believe their own propaganda. They believe in their own greed and their own careers.

A Waroholic Wishes You Peace on Earth

Imagine an alcoholic who managed every night to get ahold of and consume huge quantities of whiskey and who every morning swore that drinking whiskey had been his very last resort, he’d had no choice at all.

Easy to imagine, no doubt. An addict will always justify himself, how ever nonsensically it has to be done.

But imagine a world in which everyone believed him and solemnly said to each other “He really had no other choice. He truly had tried everything else.”

Not so plausible, is it? Almost unimaginable, in fact. And yet:

Everyone says the United States is at war in Syria as a last resort, even though:

  • The United States spent years sabotaging UN attempts at peace in Syria.
  • The United States dismissed out of hand a Russian peace proposal for Syria in 2012.
  • And when the United States claimed a bombing campaign was needed immediately as a “last resort” in 2013 but the U.S. public was wildly opposed, other options were pursued.

Numerous U.S. Congress Members said this year that the nuclear deal with Iran needed to be rejected and Iran attacked as a last resort, until the deal wasn’t rejected. No mention was made in 2015 of Iran’s 2003 offer to negotiate away its nuclear program, an offer that had been quickly scorned by the United States.

Everyone says the United States is killing people with drones as a last resort, even though in that minority of cases in which the United States knows the names of the people it is aiming for, many (if not all) of them indisputably could have been easily arrested.

Everyone said the United States killed Osama bin Laden as a last resort, until those involved admitted that the “kill or capture” policy didn’t actually include any capture option and that bin Laden had been unarmed when he was killed.

Everyone says the United States attacked Libya in 2011, overthrew its government, and fueled regional violence as a last resort, even though in March 2011 the African Union had a plan for peace in Libya but was prevented by NATO, through the creation of a “no fly zone” and the initiation of bombing, to travel to Libya to discuss it. In April, the African Union was able to discuss its plan with Ghadafi, and he expressed his agreement. NATO, which had obtained UN authorization to protect Libyans alleged to be in danger but no authorization to continue bombing the country or to overthrow the government, continued bombing the country and overthrowing the government.

Everyone who works for, and wishes to continue working for, a major U.S. media outlet says the United States attacked Iraq in 2003 as a last resort or sort of meant to, or something, even though:

  • The U.S. president had been concocting cockamamie schemes to get a war started.
  • The Iraqi government had approached the CIA’s Vincent Cannistrato to offer to let U.S. troops search the entire country.
  • The Iraqi government had offered to hold internationally monitored elections within two years.
  • The Iraqi government offered Bush official Richard Perle to open the whole country to inspections, to turn over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to help fight terrorism, and to favor U.S. oil companies.
  • The Iraqi president offered, in the account that the president of Spain was given by the U.S. president, to simply leave Iraq if he could keep $1 billion.

Everyone supposes that the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and has stayed there ever since as a series of “last resorts,” even though the Taliban repeatedly offered to turn bin Laden over to a third country to stand trial, al Qaeda has had no significant presence in Afghanistan for most of the duration of the war, and withdrawal has been an option at any time.

Everyone maintains that the United States went to war with Iraq in 1990-1991 as a “last resort,” even though the Iraqi government was willing to negotiate withdrawal from Kuwait without war and ultimately offered to simply withdraw from Kuwait within three weeks without conditions. The King of Jordan, the Pope, the President of France, the President of the Soviet Union, and many others urged such a peaceful settlement, but the White House insisted upon its “last resort.”

Even setting aside general practices that increase hostility, provide weaponry, and empower militaristic governments, as well as fake negotiations intended to facilitate rather than avoid war, the history of U.S. war-making can be traced back through the centuries as a story of an endless series of opportunities for peace carefully avoided at all costs.

Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half, but the United States wanted to take it through an act of mass killing. Spain wanted the matter of the Maine to go to international arbitration, but the U.S. wanted war and empire. The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War. The United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French, relentlessly insisting on its “last resort” over any other option, from the day the Gulf of Tonkin incident mandated war despite never having occurred.

Hidden in the mystery of the ludicrous “last resort” claims, taken oh so seriously by commentators on war, may lie an explanation of current bigotry toward Muslims in the United States. Should Muslims in your neighborhood turn out to be decent people, perhaps Muslims far away are decent people with whom one might speak instead of dropping bombs on their children. Muslims must be hated here so as to justify killing them there as an unavoidable “last resort.”

A half century of US hospital bombings: Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar

By Dave Lindorff

 

“US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”

       -- US Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell

 

An invisible US hand leading to war?: Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet at the Turkish/Syrian Border was an Act of Madness

By Dave Lindorff


In considering the terrifying but also sadly predictable news of a Russian fighter jet being downed by two Turkish fighters, let’s start with one almost certain assumption -- an assumption that no doubt is also being made by the Russian government: Turkey’s action, using US-supplied F-16 planes, was taken with the full knowledge and advance support of the US. In fact, given Turkey’s vassal status as a member of US-dominated NATO, it could well be that Ankara was put up to this act of brinksmanship by the US.

Limits of Liberal War Opposition

Robert Reich's website is full of proposals for how to oppose plutocracy, raise the minimum wage, reverse the trend toward greater inequality of wealth, etc. His focus on domestic economic policy is done in the traditional bizarre manner of U.S. liberals in which virtually no mention is ever made of the 54% of the federal discretionary budget that gets dumped into militarism.

When such a commentator notices the problem of war, it's worth paying attention to exactly how far they're willing to go. Of course, they'll object to the financial cost of a potential war, while continuing to ignore the ten-times-greater cost of routine military spending. But where else does their rare war opposition fall short?

Well, here, to begin with: Reich's new post begins thus: "We appear to be moving ever closer toward a world war against the Islamic State." That helpless fatalism doesn't show up in his other commentary. We're not doomed to plutocracy, poverty, or corporate trade. But we're doomed to war. It's coming upon us like the weather, and we'll need to handle it as well as we can. And it will be a "world" affair even if it's principally the 4% of humanity in the United States with a military engaged in it.

"No sane person welcomes war," says Reich. "Yet if we do go to war against ISIS we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Nobody, inlcuding Reich as far as I know, ever says this about plutocracy, fascism, slavery, child abuse, rape, de-unionization. Imagine reading this: "No sane person welcomes massive gun violence and school shootings, yet if we're going to let all these children die for the gun makers' profits we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Who would say that? What could the 5 things possibly be? The only people who talk this way about climate destruction are those who believe it's already past the point of no return, beyond any possible human control. Why do U.S. liberals "oppose" war by pretending it's inevitable and then keeping an eye on certain aspects of its damage?

Reich must be aware that most of Europe is very reluctant to engage in another U.S. war, that proxies in the Middle East are almost impossible to come by, and that President Obama still insists on a limited war slowly worsening the situation. But I suspect that Reich, like many people, has seen so much "election" coverage that he thinks the United States is about to have a new president, and that it will be either a war-mad Republican or a war-mad Hillary Clinton. Yet, such a development is over a year away, making Reich's fatalism all the more outrageous.

Let's look at the five things we're suppose to keep an eye on.

"1. The burden of fighting the war must be widely shared among Americans. America’s current 'all-volunteer' army is comprised largely of lower-income men and women for whom army pay is the best option. 'We’re staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden,' says Greg Speeter, executive director of the National Priorities Project, whose study found low- and middle-income families supply far more Army recruits than families with incomes greater than $60,000 a year. That’s not fair. Moreover, when the vast majority of Americans depend on a small number of people to fight wars for us, the public stops feeling the toll such wars take. From World War II until the final days of the Vietnam War, in July 1973, nearly every young man in America faced the prospect of being drafted into the Army. Sure, many children of the rich found means to stay out of harm’s way. But the draft at least spread responsibility and heightened the public’s sensitivity to the human costs of war. If we go into a ground war against ISIS, we should seriously consider reinstating the draft."

This is madness. As a bank shot aimed at indirectly preventing war it's incredibly risky and uncertain. As a means of ameliorating war by making it more "fair," it grotesquely ignores the vast majority of victims, who will of course be the people living in the areas where the war is fought.

"2. We must not sacrifice our civil liberties. U.S. spy agencies no longer have authority they had in the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act to collect Americans’ phone and other records. The NSA must now gain court approval for such access. But in light of the Paris attacks, the FBI director and other leading U.S. law enforcement officials now say they need access to encrypted information on smartphones, personal and business records of suspected terrorists, and 'roving wiretaps' of suspects using multiple disposable cell phones. War can also lead to internment of suspects and suspensions of constitutional rights, as we’ve painfully witnessed. Donald Trump says he’d require American Muslims to register in a federal data base, and he refuses to rule out requiring all Muslims to carry special religious identification. "We’re going to have to do things that we never did before….we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he adds. We must be vigilant that we maintain the freedoms we are fighting for."

This is delusional. The FBI needs to break through encryption but is kindly refraining from spying on anything unencrypted? The wars strip away civil liberties but are fought "for" them? There has not in fact been a war fought that did not remove liberties, and it seems highly unlikely that there could be. This has been clearly and accurately understood for centuries now.

"3. We must minimize the deaths of innocent civilians abroad. The bombing raids have already claimed a terrible civilian toll, contributing to a mass exodus of refugees. Last month the independent monitoring group Airwars said at least 459 civilians have died from coalition airstrikes in Syria over the past year. Other monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also claim significant civilian deaths. Some civilian casualties are unavoidable. But we must ensure they are minimized – and not just out of humanitarian concern. Every civilian death creates more enemies. And we must do our part to take in a fair portion of Syrian refugees."

Minimize inevitable murders? Assist inevitably displaced families turned into refugees by the destruction of their homes? This is kinder gentler imperialism.

"4. We must not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States. Already, leading Republican candidates are fanning the flames. Ben Carson says no Muslim should be president. Trump says 'thousands' of Arab-Americans cheered when the Twin Towers went down on 9/11 – a boldface lie. Ted Cruz wants to accept Christians refugees from Syrian [sic] but not Muslims. Jeb Bush says American assistance for refugees should focus on Christians. Marco Rubio wants to close down 'any place where radicals are being inspired,' including American mosques. It's outrageous that leading Republican candidates for president of the United States are fueling such hate. Such bigotry is not only morally odious. It also plays into the hands of ISIS."

Hmm. Can you name the last war that did not include the promotion of bigotry or xenophobia? By now xenophobia is so engrained that no U.S. columnist would propose a project that would kill U.S. citizens while "minimizing" such deaths, yet proposing such a fate for foreigners is deemed liberal and progressive.

"5. The war must be paid for with higher taxes on the rich. A week before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Senate passed a $607 billion defense spending bill, with 93 senators in favor and 3 opposed (including Bernie Sanders). The House has already passed it, 370 to 58. Obama has said he’ll sign it. That defense appropriation is larded with pork for military contractors – including Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in history. Now Republicans are pushing for even more military spending.  We cannot let them use the war as a pretext to cut Social Security and Medicare, or programs for the poor. The war should be paid for the way we used to pay for wars – with higher taxes, especially on the wealthy. As we move toward war against ISIS, we must be vigilant – to fairly allocate the burdens of who’s called on to fight the war, to protect civil liberties, to protect innocent civilians abroad, to avoid hate and bigotry, and to fairly distribute the cost of paying for war. These aren’t just worthy aims. They are also the foundations of our nation’s strength."

Of course the wealthy should pay more taxes and everyone else less. That's true for taxes for parks or taxes for schools. It would also be true for taxes to pay for a project of blowing up coral reefs or a new initiative to drown kittens, but who would justify such things by properly funding them?

War, in fact, is worse than virtually anything else imaginable, including many things we absolutely reject in moral horror. War is mass murder, it brings with it brutality and a total degradation of morality, it is our top destroyer of the environment including the climate, it endangers rather than protecting -- just as bigotry plays into ISIS's hands, so does bombing ISIS. War -- and much more so, routine military spending -- kills primarily through the diversion of resources. A fraction of what is wasted could end starvation. I mean 3% of U.S. military spending could end starvation worldwide. Diseases could be wiped out. Energy systems could be made sustainable. The resources are that massive. Housing, education, and other rights could be guaranteed, in the United States and abroad.

Sure it's good for liberal commentators to point out some of war's downsides. But depicting them as acceptable and inevitable doesn't help.

So what should be done? Do I love ISIS, then? Is it my wish for us to all die? Et cetera.

I've been blogging my answers to that question for many months. I just asked Johan Galtung for his answer, and you can listen to him here.

Warmongers & Peacemongers: Learning How Not to Rule the World

By John Grant

 

[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.

On Aggression as a First Choice: Is There Another Way?

By Herbert J. Hoffman, Ph.D., Member VFP National, Maine and New Mexico 

     It was my senior year in high school -- many years ago -- and I was seated, along with many of my football teammates, on the auditorium stage.  It was a pre-game rally before 1500 classmates and teachers.  The auditorium was filled with energy.  The main speaker was a much revered former outstanding athlete at Central High School.  A man in his 50’s, he spoke with passion about the upcoming football game.  It was exciting!  However, I found myself feeling revulsion as he concluded his speech by saying, “Go out there and Kill, Kill, Kill!”, repeating the last three words numerous times as the audience joined in.

     Granted that the speaker did not mean his exhortation to be literal, it was emblematic of an attitude that has prevailed in this Nation since its inception -- and even before.  Aggression is the path to solving differences and the use of aggressive and demeaning language is one of the means employed to facilitate the use of aggression.  No, I have not lost sight of the vignette being about a football game -- however, I am concerned that it is illustrative of a much more serious game -- WAR!

     The prevalent ethos in the United States is that differences in opinion, behavior, faith, gender orientation are to be resolved by aggressive actions -- not by discussion, negotiation, understanding or compassion.  We have a long history of addressing differences by means of aggression -- beginning with the conquest of the Native Americans to the present day wars with, and occupations of, sovereign nations.  Domestically, we have seen the rapid response of police officers to fire their weapons to resolve a situation -- often involving racial differences -- and this follows the examples set by our foreign policy actions.  It is no happenstance that, since its inception, the United States has initiated wars of aggression -- with the exceptions of the Civil War and WWI -- against enemies who are non-caucasian.  In these instances, as in many of the police shootings, the imminent threat to security is either highly suspect or completely absent. 

     Have we, primarily European Americans, not advanced beyond our more primitive instincts to annihilate those who are different from us, who are not members of our tribe, whom we perceive as “enemies?”  These “primitive instincts” are not sufficient to explain -- or justify -- our aggressive and often violent response to those who are “different.”  Yes, as I noted, that since before its birth the United States has demonstrated a significant aggressive streak in its approach to the resolution of conflict which is reflected in our foreign policy. 

     In February of 2015 Glenn Greenwald wrote, “What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West.”  He continued, “It’s also a reminder that the military-industrial-congressional-complex that President Dwight Eisenhower first warned us about in 1961 remains in expansion mode more than half a century later, with its taste for business as usual (meaning, among other things, wildly expensive weapons systems). Above all, though, it’s an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.”

     The ethos and the soul of the our country is at a potential “tipping point” as we move closer to the 2016 elections.  Do we continue on our course of militarized conquest -- employing the most powerful military the world has ever witnessed -- or do we begin moving towards a national stance of diplomacy, relationship and non-violence in our approach to the resolution of differences?  Spearheaded by the diplomacy of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the negotiations involved in the development of a non-nuclear agreement by the members of the Security Council and Germany with Iran can stand as a model for future negotiations.  

     It will require strong leadership for such a beginning movement in international relations to prevail.  It is clear that if this approach is to have any chance at success, the United States would have to be involved -- involved to the point of taking very strong leadership by the President, the Congress and the people.  It would be a clear message that the “exceptionalism” marking this Nation would no longer be that of the mightiest military, the strongest aggressor, the purveyor of terrorism (drones are one example, the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs another). But, instead, exceptionalism would be that of the accomplished negotiator, the preference for non-violent approaches to resolving differences and the respecter of all peoples and their cultures. 

     In a sense President Obama took a step in this direction when he stated, following the massacre in Charleston, SC, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency — and it is in our power to do something about it.”  However, his failure to mention the role of our military abroad, the violence it spreads, and the model it conveys leaves a broad void.

     Some are willing to express outrage with respect to domestic violence, but what gets in the way of our leaders taking a stand to denounce the violence which we and other nations disseminate?   In 2015 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted that the United States accounted for 31% of world military expenditures and from 2010 to 2014 which earned the distinction of being the world’s number 1 exporter of weapons.  Bill Gilson, a member of Veterans for Peace in New York City, further elaborated in his 2015 Memorial Day address, “The US cannot be the largest arms supplier in the world and hold itself innocent of the violence raging throughout the world and in our cities.”

     As far back as 97 years ago on June 16, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, Eugene Debs, a five time candidate for President, “got it” when he declared:  “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. And that is war, in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.”

     The military/industrial complex does well under the conditions of forever war.  “Orwell highlights how this operates in his novel, “1984.”  He writes about Nations A, B, and C always at war in some combination of two against one, resulting in a high price paid domestically as resources are drained from underwriting quality of life projects such as support for infrastructure, health care, and education and facilitated a class-based society.  It is notable that in 2014 the United States spent more on defense than the next seven countries combined.  

     The expenditures on war-making act as a curb on the domestic economy and function as a damper on the stability and growth of the middle-class.  A 2011 University of Massachusetts study concluded that jobs in infrastructure, health and education create “significantly greater opportunities for decent employment” than a similar amount spent on defense. “There is a common perception that war is good for the economy.  But in a paper for the Costs of War Project based at Brown University, PERI Assistant Research Professor Heidi Garrett-Peltier finds that war spending creates significantly fewer jobs than other kinds of government spending.”  The end result of lower levels of employment and the diminution of quality of life enhancements breeds aggression and violence domestically as impoverished citizens attempt to survive by engaging in criminal activity. 

     What then can be done to change what has been a national emphasis since the end of WWII, to have the strongest military war machine ever?  What can be done to change the prominent role violence has in this country?  How do we move from choosing violence and aggression to negotiation and compromise as the preferred method for resolving differences?  How do we approach what constitutes a major cultural shift?  Is it even possible?  

     As the saying goes, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.”  Therefore, we must make the effort to participate and change as a people or succumb by default.

     In this election season which candidate, which party will come forward with a platform that addresses the concerns expressed above?  The Green Party’s 2012 platform spoke directly to these concerns:  "Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament."  Will we see such a strong and moral statement appear in the platforms of the major parties in 2016; will the party standard bearers speak out forcefully, convincingly, leading the way to a significant culture change in this country?  At best the answer is, “Unlikely.”

     Perhaps Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for President, comes closest as he calls for a “revolution,” a political revolution.  “I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”  In response to Anderson Cooper’s request for elaboration, Sanders responded:  “What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness....when people come together in a way that does not exist now and are prepared to take on the big money interest, then we could bring the kind of change we need.”

     Robert Kennedy was prescient when he held, "A revolution is coming -- a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough -- But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability."

     Sanders, echoing the Kennedy theme, is advocating a major cultural change powered by the people.  It means that citizens have to realize that their own interests are being made subservient to the interests of the moneyed class, the oligarchy, a class that profits from the manufacture and sale of weapons of aggression.  The citizens have to realize that we have the power to change this equation by massive expression, non-violent actions and monumental voter turnout.  These actions would constitute “cultural change!”

     David Swanson, director of World Without War, has authored a Peace Pledge http://davidswanson.org/individual which speaks to the issues I have identified.  

I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.” 

     Imagine the majority in Congress pledging, the President pledging and the millions upon millions of United States citizens pledging -- and you pledging.  That would be a revolution!  The time is NOW!

     Perhaps in the future, football rallies will not call for “killing” the opponent, but prevailing over the opponent by playing the best game we can -- to actualize the  potential in each of us.

                                    

The proof is in the proofs: US Spy Sats See Everything, Except when the Government Says They Didn’t

By Dave Lindorff

 

            There is something fishy going on in the way the US is talking about civilian plane crashes that are in some way linked, or said to be linked to Russia.

 

UVA is 19th Most Militarized University in the U.S.

According to a new analysis by Vice News, the University of Virginia is the 19th most militarized university in the United States. Vice News lists the top 100 in order, based on "the greatest number of students who are employed by the Intelligence Community (IC), have the closest relationships with the national security state, and profit the most from American war-waging." Vice provides a detailed account of its data sources and methodology, which itself reads like a damning critique of academia in a society maintaining an alleged preference for peace over war. An additional report looks at trends and patterns in the results.

According to William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien of Vice News:

"The prestigious University of Virginia is a lawyer's paradise, feeding counsels to government agencies from the military to the CIA. The school has a National Criminal Justice Command College program, and graduates a fair share of Top Secret special agents, half of them working for the FBI. The largest portion of its graduates with Top Secret clearances, however, come from its school of continuing and professional studies, which teaches cybersecurity, human resources, "procurement," and project management. If UVA's Top Secret graduates aren't working in the federal government, then they're working for a large [military] contractor. UVA faculty have also participated in the IARPA STONESOUP program to develop a technology that securely executes software of uncertain provenance."

UVA makes rank #17, in fact, for "Top Secret Employment," while it's only #30 for "National Security Funding." It receives a whopping $27,426,000 in "DOD Research and Development Funding." UVA conducts classified research inside its campus with its Jefferson quotes about free speech and flow of information.

"This institution [University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

Hard to tolerate or reason your way out of plans and justifications for killing that are kept secret.

UVA works with "National Intelligence," the NSA, and the Homeland "Security" Department. It also has a military ROTC program, as one can observe by visiting the campus around which killers-in-training jog chanting military chants.

UVA finds itself in the area of the country whose academia (and many other things) are most militarized. Nearby schools on the list include:

#1 University of Maryland
#2 American Military University
#4 George Washington University
#5 George Mason University
#7 Johns Hopkins University
#8 Strayer University
#10 Georgetown University
#16 Northern Virginia Community College
#17 Virginia Tech
#19 University of Virginia
#20 American University

In third place is the online "University of Phoenix." That may change. This came out last month:

"The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school."

The above list of shame should trouble every UVA alumnus and every resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rarely does this atheist quote the Pope, but here's one from his speech to Congress in September:

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

Are Americans too passive?: Ben Carson and the Cult of First Responders

By John Grant


Dr. Ben Carson rocked the presidential campaign TV circus by suggesting the victims of the Roseburg, Oregon, shooting were too passive in responding to the lunatic gunman who shot and killed his writing professor and eight classmates. Carson received derision from the left and from liberals like Chris Matthews; on the right, he was defended by Bill O’Reilly and others.

Domestic surveillance blimp goes AWOL: The Spy That Quit and Ran

By Dave Lindorff

 

Most Americans living in the northeastern and Midatlantic region of the country probably didn't realize that for the last year or so they've been being spied on from the sky by a sophisticated 'eye-in-the-sky' blimp tethered to the ground in Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Regulating trade and restricting communications: The TPP is an Attack on the Internet

By Alfredo Lopez


The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, initialed by the delegations of the 12 participating countries in early October, is one of the most talked-about mysteries of our time. The moment the treaty was announced, there was a tidal wave of commentary and criticism: most of it based on previous versions, speculation and a few leaks. Because it won't be published for months (even years perhaps), nobody really knew what the document actually said.

When the War Machine Was Young

If you're into quaint, you can visit a historic village, restore some antique furniture, or for far less trouble pick up a mainstream analysis of the U.S. military from 40 years ago or so.

I just happened to read a 1973 book called Military Force and American Society, edited by Bruce M. Russett and Alfred Stepan -- both of whom have presumably updated their views somewhat, or -- more likely -- veered off into other interests. The problems and trends described in their book have been worsening ever since, while interest in them has been lessening. You could write a similar book now, with the numbers all larger and the analysis more definitive, but who would buy it?

The only point of re-writing it now would be to scream at the end ". . . AND THIS IS ACTUALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM TO DEAL WITH URGENTLY!" Who wants to read that? Much more pleasant to read this 1973 book as it was written, with its attitude of "Welp, it looks like we're all going to hell. Carry on." Here is an actual quote from near the end of the book: "To understand military expansion is not necessarily to arrest it. America's ideology could involve beliefs which are quite true and values which are quite genuine." This was from Douglas Rosenberg, who led up to that statement with 50 pages on the dangerously delusional myths driving U.S. military policy.

An earlier chapter by Clarence Abercrombie and Raoul Alcalá ended thus: "None of this should be taken as an indictment . . . . What we do suggest is that . . . social and political effects . . . must be carefully evaluated." Another chapter by James Dickey concluded: "This article has not been a call for relieving the army entirely of roles with a political context." Of course, it had been just that. Didn't these people realize that humanity just might survive for additional decades, and that copies of this book might survive as well, and that someone might read one? You can't just document a problem and then waive it off -- unless you're Exxon.

The heart of the book is data on the rise of the permanent war economy and global U.S. empire and arms sales with World War II, and the failure to ever return to anything like what preceded World War II. The authors worry, rather quaintly, that the military might begin influencing public policy or conducting foreign policy, that -- for example -- some officers' training was going to include studying politics with a possible eye toward engaging with politicians.

The warnings, quaint or not, are quite serious matters: the military's new domestic uses to handle "civil disturbances," the military's spying, the possibility that an all-volunteer military might separate the military from the rest of society, etc. Careful empirical studies documented in the book found that higher military spending produced more wars, rather than foreign dangers producing higher spending, that the higher spending was economically damaging, not beneficial, and that higher military spending usually if not always produced lower spending on social needs. These findings have by now of course been reproduced enough times to persuade a climate change denier, if a climate change denier were to hear about them.

The real quaintness, however, comes when this group of authors in 1973 tries to explain militaristic votes by Congress members. Possible explanations they study include constituent pressure, race and sex of the Congress member, ideology of the Congress member, and the "Military Industrial Complex," by which author Wayne Moyer seems to mean the Congress member's affiliation with the military and the level of military spending in the member's district or state. That any of these factors would better explain or predict a Congress member's vote on something militaristic, than a glance at the war profiteering funding used to legally bribe the member in recent election "contributions" seems absurd in 2015.

Yet, there is of course a great deal of truth to the idea that Congress members, to one degree or another, adopt an ideology that fits with, and allows self-respect to coexist with, what they've been paid to do. Campaign "contributors" do not just buy votes; they buy minds -- or they select the minds that have already been bought and help them stay that way.

To understand all of this is not necessarily to arrest it, but it damn well should be.

Veto Corleone Already in White House

President Barack Obama has vetoed a military authorization bill. Why would he do such a thing?

Was it because dumping $612 billion into a criminal enterprise just finally struck him as too grotesque?

Nope.

Was it because he grew ashamed of holding the record for highest average annual military spending since World War II, not even counting Der Homeland Security Department or military spending by the State Department, the Energy Department, the Veterans Administration, interest on debt, etc.?

Nope. That would be crazy in a world where pretense is everything and the media has got everyone believing that military spending has gone down.

Was it because the disastrous war on Afghanistan gets more funding?

Nope.

The disastrous war on Iraq and Syria?

Nope.

The monstrous drone wars murdering 1 vaguely identified person for every 9 innocents slaughtered?

You kidding?

Oh, I've got it. Was it because building newer, bigger, and smaller more "usable" nuclear weapons is just too insane?

Um, nope. Nice guess, though.

Well what was it?

One reason that the President provided in his veto statement was that the bill doesn't allow him to "close" Guantanamo by moving it -- remember that prison still full of people whom he, the President, chooses to keep there despite their having been cleared for release?

Another reason: Obama wants more money in the standard budget and less in his slush fund for the War on the Middle East, which he renamed Overseas Contingency Operations. Obama's language suggests that he wants the base budget increased by more than he wants the slush fund reduced by. The slush fund got a piddley little $38 billion in the vetoed bill. Yet the standard budget is deemed so deficient by Obama that, according to him, it "threatens the readiness and capabilities of our military and fails to provide the support our men and women in uniform deserve." For real? Can you name a man or woman in uniform who would receive a dime if you jumped the funding of the most expensive military in the history of the known universe by another $100 billion? The President also complains that the bill he's vetoed did not allow him to "slow growth in compensation."

Another reason: Obama is worried that if you leave limits in place on military spending in the "Defense" Department, that will mean too little military spending in other departments as well: "The decision reflected in this bill to circumvent rather than reverse sequestration further harms our national security by locking in unacceptable funding cuts for crucial national security activities carried out by non-defense agencies."

Hope and Change, people! Here's a full list of the areas in which Senator Bernie Sanders has expressed disagreement with President Obama's preferences on military spending:

 

 

 

 

 

##

Police murders waiting to happen: Time to Rein In the Casual Overuse of Undercover Cops in America

By Dave Lindorff

 

            The police slaying of musician Corey Jones in South Florida highlights one of the most reprehensible aspects of law enforcement in America -- the ubiquitous undercover cop.

 

Trans-Atlantic abuses and protests: Police Brutality Unites Demonstrations in Paris and D.C.

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Protests against rampant police brutality occurred recently in the respective capitals of France and the United States – two nations that proclaim strict fidelity to the rule of law yet two professed democracy-loving nations where officials routinely condone rampant lawlessness by law enforcers.

Europe’s privacy rules conflict with NSA spying: EU Court Declares NSA Surveillance Illegal

By Alfredo Lopez

 

As expected, the European Union court has thrown out an agreement, forged in 2000, that allows virtually uninhibited data sharing and transfer between the United States and EU countries and is the legal basis for National Security Agency's on-line surveillance and data capture programs.

New TCBH! poem by resident poet Gary Lindorff: 'Bombs of Love'

Let us bomb your neighborhood

Guided by our intelligence.

Let us erase your neighbor

Out of love.

 

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

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