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Between war and peace: NATO, Russia, and the dumpster fire in Syria

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image courtesy of nbcnews.com

First let us remember our fallen brothers. One Russian airman (possibly two) and one marine are dead. Let’s be quiet for a moment and think about that. For their families, none of this will ever make sense. None of this will ever be justified. This is what war is, families torn apart by violence. The people of Russia have courageously stood up for our shared values, truth, reason, love, and peace, and now their sons are dead. They will not be returning home as their families prayed that they would. Let us honor their spirit and remember their unflinching devotion to Russia and to our collective safety as global citizens.

The Russian military command sees this conflict very differently than we see it in the West. They share our concern regarding global terror. They have been attacked from the shadows by psychopathic cowards just as we have. They understand that a bunch of deposed Iraqi power junkies are using misinformation to lure Muslim youth into a demented suicide pact. They understand that the misinformation itself is crowdsourced, has been propagated for decades by irresponsible hatemongers, just as racist propaganda has been disseminated worldwide throughout history and continues to fester in the shadows. Continue reading

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Help me Governor McCrory, you’re my only hope

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image courtesy of wikimedia.org

The Syrian refugees who are currently undergoing a two year vetting process had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris. They are the Albert Einsteins trying to get out of Nazi Germany, and we are stopping them. This is how we lose the war. We burn a whole city to get revenge on two already-dead homicidal maniacs. There are a limited number of brainwashed suicide bombers. Remember Japan. It’s an act of desperation. It’s the hallmark of a General out of options. Continue reading

Rand Paul filibuster: If a Senator talks to an empty chamber, does he make a sound?

Rand Paul is still talking after almost 8 hours. One wonders how he has managed to not leave the floor for the Senate lavatory in all that time. It’s ok to dislike Rand Paul and still think he’s currently doing a public service. It’s probably not correct to suggest that this was prompted by standard GOP obstructionism. They’d use the modern, silent filibuster to demand a more warlike demeanor, and it took hours for even a few other GOP Senators to show up and give the guy a break from talking. (Like Cruz is now by simply reading Tweets about the filibuster.) There are also the small issues of Paul having previously sponsored a bill that would require issuing a warrant before using a drone for surveillance in the United States as well as this being the culmination of his pecking at the administration over drone issues. It appears that the final prompt for this filibuster was the letter that Paul received from AG Holder which claimed that the executive branch has the authority to run a targeted killing program inside the US against US citizens, though it probably never would.

So the eye of this storm is the administration’s wishy-washy statement that the President can kill Americans without legal process but that he won’t. Filibustering the vote for John Brennan’s nomination as director of the CIA is an appropriate place to force the conversation, given that Brennan is largely the architect of the administration’s targeted killing program.

Paul, however, has not kept to such a narrow issue. He’s been questioning the whole concept of Battlefield America and its place in the unending War on Terror. He’s questioned the lackluster and expansive definition of al Qaeda that includes anyone “affiliated” with al Qaeda. It hard to be sure whether following the wrong link on the internet would classify you as affiliated. Just now, he’s talking about how most of the drone strikes have not been against people who are actively involved in combat. Of course the big example is Anwar al-Aulaqi, the Yemeni-American who was killed in a drone strike.

What little we do know about the targeted killing program, and it’s very little since the administration only releases information under extreme pressure, is that it’s based on the concept of imminence. Targets are supposed to be an imminent threat, which most would read as actively planning an attack. Nothing i’ve read indicates that al-Aulaqi was actively involved in any imminent threats against the United States. If he was, the administration never bothered indicting him for a crime. Instead, it launched a Hellfire missile from a drone, which not only killed al-Aulaqi but also his 16 year old son (also an American citizen). The administration’s response to questions about the son were basically, “He had an irresponsible father.” Of course the son was affiliated with someone who was affiliated with al Qaeda, which by our War on Terror definitions make him a terrorist. In any case, at 16 he’d be considered a combatant by the Obama administration because he was of “military age.”

The al-Aulaqi case pretty succinctly sums up the targeted killing issue, though there are enough examples, discussions, and nuances to fill books. Paul’s not addressing every one or getting them all right, but that’s not enough reason to discount him. It all boils down to the Executive Branch deciding that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, for reasons that it alone knows. AG Holder has written that “due process” doesn’t involve courts. It can be nothing more than President Obama and John Brennan sitting in an office deciding who lives and who dies.

It’s disturbing. It’s been disturbing for the last 11 years, and it’s only grown larger and more malignant to whatever is left of our Republic. Until 2008, Democrats and liberals who generally vote for Democrats would probably be up-in-arms if they found out that Bush was doing the same things Obama does today. So far there’s only one Democratic Senator involved in this filibuster. I’m no fan of Rand Paul, and i won’t be a fan of his when this filibuster ends. But on this he’s right, although 11 years is a long time to wait for even a glimmer of Congressional oversight on Executive power. What’s most unfortunate is that it had to come from Senator Paul, and that liberals and Democrats appear willing to allow a Democratic president to trample the rule of law … never mind morals.

There will be at least a few of us who will remember this day. When America elects another Republican to the White House and he uses these new powers in such a way that upsets Democrats, we’ll be here to remind you that your party didn’t stand up for what was right. It didn’t stand up between 2001 and 2008, and it kept extremely quiet after 2008 when it was a Democrat doing the evil. You won’t listen. After all, you voted for for these people, just like all the Republicans who voted for Bush twice and never raised a voice in defense of what are supposedly our most cherished principles.

For now, i’m going to go back to watching the Senator from Kentucky continue pushing through this. He seems to be one of the first to say a lot of things that need to be said on the Senate floor. That’s probably why the place is empty.

Judgment and the burnt weeny terror plot

Did anyone expect this Obama character to be such a card? I seem to remember speeches and quips about judgment and its importance in leadership. No quibbles about that, it’s true and i would take a man of good judgment over one of ossified, bureaucratic experience in most cases but especially situations of threat or upheaval. As an American, i should be well-trained in this game; i’ve eaten enough Big Macs to know that they look nothing like the advertising picture used to entice me. Lukewarm, grey “meat.” Ah yes, move over Big Dog, Big Mac is running the show now.

I think that i’m supposed to be comforted by his “surge” of federal air marshals. What is it with this guy and surges? See that problem, a surge will fix it. Hell, only a surge will fix it. I feel the same way about hammers, but i don’t act on it.
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Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

The hundred and eighty third time's a charm

One hundred and eighty-three times.  It must have been that last one that made KSM say, “Oh fuck it, what do you want me to say?  Where do I sign?”  Any in-depth reading of the depravity to which the Gestapo and the SS sunk tells the story that we don’t want to hear.  Any perusing of the memoirs penned by those who managed to walk out of the Lubyanka sings the same refrain.  There should be no surprise in any of this.  Don’t be surprised by the insects, and don’t be surprised when we someday find out about the rubber hoses and the 12V batteries attached to genitalia.

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From the people who brought you the echo chamber: a call to give back

By J. Pratt Vulpes

Imagine a world where children are raised to become agents of change throughout their work and lives, not docile employees, consumers, and followers.  One in which corporate personhood has been displaced, and human needs and the environment take precedence over the unlimited quest to maximize profits.  A world where every citizen feels confident speaking out and organizing to advance a shared vision of justice.

Imagine that, in this world, health care for all prevails, with no place for insurance company intermediaries or pharmaceutical ad campaigns.  Elections are publicly funded and verifiable, and politicians are responsive to the people, not to corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors.  Openness is prized, and intellectual property restrictions, proprietary software, and closed ways of doing business have fallen from favor.

Imagine people no longer stirred by religious leaders to restrict the role of women, reject science, and hate or invade their neighbors.  People boldly charting their own courses in life according to their values and sense of authenticity, rather than following standard routes laid down by others.  People living without fear of scarcity or distrust of difference, confident that together their diverse abilities are ample to meet all their needs.

For ten decades, the industry I now have the privilege of representing has worked tenaciously to protect you from this nightmare scenario.  Continue reading

Darth Vader meets Mel Brooks

400risk_gameOur illustrious leadership is haggling over the super-sized bailout like it was the end of the world.  My god, do you know how much money we’re talking about?  Actually, i do.  It’s roughly equal to what the Department of Defense spends every year.  And for those kind of duckets we get our ass kicked by guys wearing dress shoes without socks.  To make matters worse, we’re going stone broke in the process of losing to pick-up teams.  We can call ourselves the Harlem Globetrotters all day long but that don’t make it so.  I have no use for the American Empire, but if an Empire it shall be does it have to be such a half-assed failure of an empire?

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What do George Soros and Buddhist bodhisattvas have in common?

By Martin Bosworth

Awhile back I was introduced to the concept of the “five supernatural perceptions” or “superknowledges,” achieved by bodhisattvas as a pinnacle of achievement in meditation and understanding in Buddhism. I had cause to reflect on this recently while reading George Soros’ 2006 book, “The Age of Fallibility.” If it seems odd to connect a famous financier and philanthropist with mystical powers gained through enlightenment and transcendence, don’t worry–it is odd. But there’s a common key that I found, and that is the key of flexibility in philosophy. Continue reading

Vultures (presidential and otherwise) descend on Pakistan's chaos

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By Martin Bosworth

By now you know that Benazir Bhutto is dead and Pakistan is in turmoil. I can’t say anything that Euphrosyne didn’t already say beautifully, so I won’t belabor what is already known. I also recommend Stirling Newberry’s comments on what this means for America and our declining empire.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to make himself look good using others’ deaths as the backdrop, Rudy Giuliani was quick to post a statement that the Terrorists ™ must be stopped from continuing their War On Us (caps are his, not mine). And he wasn’t the last. Continue reading

Blackwater completes the trifecta – a navy now in the offing…

nauticusbw.jpg Even though they’re being expelled from Iraq, Blackwater, the North Carolina based private dominionist military force security company, is adding a navy to its already burgeoning army and its nascent air force. An invitation only open-house for friends of Erik Prince’s private military will be held September 19 and 20 in Norfolk, VA, where the ship is on display.

And why does Blackwater, already operating military bases in a number of states and buying planes from a Brazilian company for its own air force, need a navy? Continue reading

9/11: Living without fear

By Martin Bosworth

This is going to be a slightly different 9/11 recollection. I’m not going to start by telling you where I was and what I was doing that day. Because 9/11 isn’t about me, really. Or you, or any one single person. It’s about something deeper, something that touches every person, everywhere.

It’s about fear. Continue reading

Iran may be a once and future threat, but al-Qaeda is a clear and present danger

men_of_letters_061130_4755.gifSpeaking before an American Legion group yesterday, President Bush described Iran as the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” Its pursuit of technology which could lead to nuclear weapons, he added, threatens to put the region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”

To most Americans this is just bluster. They can’t imagine that the administration, bogged down in one war gone bad, would be crazy enough to start another one. Apparently Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concurs. As also reported on Tuesday, he asserted that Bush & Co. wouldn’t dare attack Iran.

“They have to solve the question of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “Politicians do not deal with imaginary things.” Continue reading

Blackwater Flies…

supertucano.jpg Our friends at Blackwater Security are creating their own air force. The company which provides “security solutions” by contract to the United States in Iraq (and is building bases in every coastal state in the US), already has a fleet of armed helicopters which it uses in Iraq. The first of the planes that Blackwater is buying, the Embraer Super Tucano light combat prop jets, will be shipped to the US so that Blackwater may begin training pilots shortly.

So why does Blackwater need an air force? Continue reading

Who needs a police state when the state polices itself?

bigbrother2.jpgLast week, Homeland Security approved a program “giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers,” as Joby Warrick reported in the Washington Post.

That’s nice, we think. The CIA can use all the help it can get. Oh, did we mention the “cloud cover” is the skies of America and the buildings are your homes and offices? Continue reading

“Expert” advice on how to survive multiple-city terror attacks: deploy psychic abilities

Scholars & Rogues presents a post by Guest Scrogue Darryl Mason. The veteran Australian blogger is creator of The Orstrahyun and Your New Reality and author of a Philip K. Dick biography.

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The second biggest boom industry in the United States today, after the manufacturing of bombs, guns and bullets, is the “terror” industry – how to fight terrorists, how to catch terrorists, how to prepare for terrorist attacks and how to survive terrorist attacks.

The US spends tens of billions of dollars a year on “anti-terror”-related industries. It’s the new Cold War, and the fear-mongering is just as dire, overblown and hysterical.

“Experts” pumping out warnings, advice and propaganda in the press and on TV haven’t been this busy since the early 1980s. It’s boom time in the US right now, but since 9/11, thankfully, there haven’t been any real booms when it comes to terrorism.

There have, however, been literally hundreds of Continue reading

The Bush Quartet

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The war maestro’s magnum opus requires two more wars.

As a country founded on the principle of majority rule, most of us have yet to accept that a small cabal of extremists infiltrated and wrested control of our government. Despite Bush & Co.’s violations of our trust, we remain incapable of believing they’d commit an act as “befuddling,” according to the title of the incomparable Gareth Porter’s latest article, as attack Iran. Continue reading

State Dept. asked to hire ex-military gay linguists

If you’re fighting a war against an enemy who speaks a language — or several — you don’t know, you’re at a disadvantage. It would be hard to make sense of captured documents or question “enemy combatants,” glean useful intelligence from civilians or simply to make new friends for your side.

Donated computers with translation software would help, but it’s just not the same as being conversant in your foe’s language. You want your soldiers to be able to speak the language. But in Iraq, writes Jeff Stein, national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, “The war has been hobbled by a lack of language abilities in Iraq.” Part of the reason, says Stein, is the United States has sent people into theater with sub-par training.

The other reason: The military has been flushing its ranks of many Arabic and other language specialists — because they are gay. Yes, that’s not news. But there’s 300 ex-military linguists versed in the languages the enemy speaks who aren’t putting sorely needed expertise to work.

Democratic Congressmen Tom Landos (D-Calif.) and Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) want to change that.
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House votes to cut all aid to Saudis…kinda sorta….

The House of Representatives has voted to cut off all aid to Saudi Arabia. The vote came despite assurances from the Bush administration that the Saudis are cooperating in the War on Terror.â„¢ The aid ban was passed as part of a 34.2 billion dollar bill to support US foreign operations.

dubyaandabdullah.jpgThis isn’t the first time the House has tried to stop aid to Saudi Arabia, but on this occasion the loophole that allowed President Bush to waive the ban by invoking War on Terrorâ„¢ requirements has been closed.

So this means something, right? Continue reading