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Over Easy: The “War” over Apple Pay

By: msmolly Friday October 31, 2014 4:55 am

Apple Pay is a mobile payment service that lets a shopper use the newest iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, iPad Air, iPad Mini 3, and (in early 2015) the Apple Watch, to make payments both at brick-and-mortar stores and online checkout systems. Using Apple Pay, these devices communicate wirelessly with point of sale systems, using a near field communication (NFC) antenna and a “Secure Element” internal chip that stores encrypted payment information, together with Apple’s Touch ID and Passbook. Apple Pay keeps customer payment information private from the retailer, and creates a dynamic security code that is generated for each transaction. Apple says they will not track usage, which will occur privately between customers, vendors, and banks.

Here’s how it works: You add a credit card from your iTunes account, or add a different card using the iPhone’s built-in iSight camera. Once your credit card is on file with Apple Pay, you can use your phone to check out at participating vendors — both brick and mortar and online — by authenticating with the Touch ID fingerprint reader on the iPhone. In a store, you’ll hold your iPhone in front of a reader and place your finger over the fingerprint sensor to confirm the payment. Within an app, you’ll select Apple Pay as your payment method and confirm with Touch ID.

No, this is not an Apple commercial, although I am dying to get my geeky hands on it! Since the introduction of Apple Pay, a “war” of sorts has broken out, and it has implications for how stores use our information to track our purchases.

We all are aware that retailers track us relentlessly, both online and in person, using all sorts of mechanisms, from those pesky loyalty cards to the enticements to provide our email addresses. I’m sure you remember the father who learned his unmarried daughter was pregnant from the junk mail Target sent to her based on her purchases. Now some retailers have actually shut off the ability of their NFC readers to accept Apple Pay in their stores, specifically because it detours around their ability to track us.

Last weekend, drugstore chains Rite Aid and CVS stopped accepting Apple Pay, although they had done so for a week. Rite Aid offered a vague explanation that, “We’re still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.” CVS refused to comment. But the truth is that a Walmart-led group of retailers (that includes CVS and Rite Aid) has been busily creating their own mobile payment system called CurrentC, which cuts out the credit card companies and their fees AND builds in all the tracking and spying features of store loyalty cards, making the data available to all of the merchant partners. Apple Pay, by contrast, lets people remain anonymous.

An article in the NYT explains, (emphasis mine)

[D]isabling acceptance of Apple Pay was a way to favor a rival system that is not yet available but is being developed by a consortium of merchants known as Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX. Rite Aid and CVS are part of that consortium, not part of the group of retailers that had teamed up with Apple on its payment system.
[snip]
A great deal is at stake. MCX’s payments system helps merchants keep track of customer shopping habits across the dozens of merchants who plan to accept the payment product. That is a potential treasure trove of data for retailers, who wish to better target consumers with deals and loyalty programs.

This also gives retailers the potential ability to cut credit card companies out of the payments process entirely. MCX’s system, CurrentC, will be linked to a consumer’s debit account, according to the company’s description of the product. By bypassing credit card companies, MCX merchants could potentially save money on the fees they pay per transaction.

So CurrentC lets merchants eliminate credit card transaction fees all while scooping up even more and more data on our shopping habits. And MCX tries, and fails, to explain why its merchants are blocking Apple Pay.

On Apple Pay’s first day, seven times more people added Chase cards to Apple Pay than signed up for new credit cards, according to a Bloomberg interview with Avin Arumugam, Chase’s digital executive director. Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer at MasterCard — which teamed with Apple on its new system — said Rite Aid and CVS made the wrong decision. “We think consumers should have the ability to pay any way they want.”

I wonder how long it will take the MCX retailers to cave in? They won’t do it without a fight, but they’re picking on the wrong giant. A record 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units were sold in the first three days of launch. I, for one, will be delighted to use Apple Pay instead of handing over my Chase credit card to the retailers’ tracking.

Hmmmm….now where do I get the money for that new iPhone 6?

 

12 WAYS JIM CROW IS WINNING IN 2014

By: solartopia Thursday October 30, 2014 11:37 pm

Twelve Ways Jim Crow is Winning in 2014

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Jim Crow is already the big winner in this year’s election.

The corporate elite needs him to gouge the planet, wage perpetual imperial war and rule the rest of us.

So the voting rights of millions of student, elderly, black, Hispanic and other citizens are being lynched.

Which may now decide control of the US Senate, many state legislatures…and the White House in 2016.

The corporate-Christian right has long used the drug war to disenfranchise millions of citizens of youth and color. Gay and reproductive rights, feminism and the politics of hate have mobilized Christian crusaders to flood the polls for the GOP.

But we have turned the corner on the culture war.  With the winding down of marijuana prohibition, widespread gay rights victories and more, Republicans now need the outright destruction of democracy itself to win an election:

1.        The Corporate Cash Tsunami: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows gargantuan sums of corporate money to shape this election. It’s now the norm for unlimited cash to buy air time, fake “news” reports, billboards, phony astro-turf campaigns, and key election officials in charge of counting the ballots.

2.        Killing Voter Registration: With a wide range of tactics, corporate/GOP functionaries are restricting access to the polls. In Ohio and elsewhere millions of citizens have been stripped of their voter registration rights, almost all in dense-packed urban areas that lean heavily Democratic. “Golden Days” when voters can both register and vote have been eliminated. Voter registration organizations like ACORN have been destroyed and strict restraints have been placed on others, all with the focused agenda of making it increasingly difficult for grassroots, non-millionaire citizens to vote.

3.        Denying and Destroying Absentee Ballots: More than 40,000 absentee ballots are now “missing” in Georgia, as they were in Ohio 2004. Georgia’s critical US Senate race may well be decided by fewer votes than were “lost” in the mail, and we expect parallel outcomes elsewhere.

4.        New Poll Taxes: Despite the 24th Amendment abolishing the poll tax, voter ID and other requirements put targeted restrictions on who can vote. Citizens registered at the same address for decades are being turned away at the polls. At least 500,000 Texas voters may be disenfranchised by ID laws aimed at students, the elderly and people of color, more than enough to turn most key elections in the state, including the widely watched governor’s race.

5.        Discriminatory ID Demands: Student IDs are being rejected in Texas and elsewhere, with the obvious impact of denying young people the vote. Gun owners’ permits are being accepted as valid voter ID.

6.        Electronic Vote Theft: Easily manipulated electronic voting machines were key to Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 victories for George W. Bush. They have spread far and wide.  The easy electronic flipping of entire elections has obvious appeal to hugely funded corporate players throughout the US.

7.        Suppressing Electronic Dialog: But the Democratic Party generally refuses to even discuss electronic vote theft, apparently fearful the mere dialog will scare away voters. The Daily Kos website has banned numerous election protection bloggers (us included), apparently for just that reason. But without hand-counted paper ballots, anti-corporate campaigns are mere exercises in futility.

8.        Bought Democrats: Democrats also depend on corporate money and regularly vote pro-corporate. As with Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, they walk away from elections they legitimately won, and refuse to fight for the basic rights of their core supporters to safely vote and have those votes counted, even if it means their own defeat

9.        Buying Rigged Legislatures: Numerous key states have been gerrymandered to guarantee GOP majorities no matter what the states’ citizens want.  Ohio’s strong popular Democratic majority is “represented” by an overwhelmingly GOP state legislature. And 12 out of Ohio’s 16 US representatives are Republican. Throughout the US, corporate money is buying parallel GOP control of legislatures and Congressional delegations in states with Democratic majorities.

10.     Buying the US Senate: With unlimited cash, Jim Crow attacks on registration and voting, electronic vote theft and much more, the corporate GOP is on the brink of taking over the US Senate. Even if they only come close, corporate billionaires can count on Democratic timidity and easily purchased swing votes.

11.     Assaulting Local Activists: In Ohio, the conservative governor John Kasich has a “hit list” of anti-fracking activists.   Pennsylvania state police and the FBI have put environmental activists in terrorism pamphlets. Wherever a governor or mayor or town council or grassroots activist group has risen to block corporate theft, a heavily funded coup d’etat ensues. In Richmond, California, Chevron is spending millions to remove a mayor and town council that have been trying to bring a local refinery to heel. Wherever corporate interests are threatened, huge sums of cash now pour in to rid local governments of grassroots citizens and legitimate regulators.  On the local, state and federal levels, public servants are everywhere being replaced by corporate flunkies.

12.     Killing Hope: The corporate media regularly denies, ignores and marginalizes election integrity activists and campaign finance reformers. The for-profit punditocracy continually declares the “popular support” for their bought politicians, as they will again should the GOP sweep on Tuesday. (Think 1980, when network bloviator George Will declared a “sea change” for Ronald Reagan while hiding his role as a paid Reagan operative).  Now and forever, expect the usual corporate wind bags to proclaim great “grassroots victories” for corporate flunkies as they buy, steal and lynch their way into the new Gilded Age.

Through it all, the activist community must maintain our balance—and our levity. The new Dark Age of Robber Baron excess will only last forever if we fold our tents, ignore the problem and fail to fight for our core beliefs.

Despite the temporary triumphs of corporate personhood, it’s the human survival instinct that must bat last.

——————————————-
Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored numerous books on election protection, which are at www.freepress.org, where Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES can be found. Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org.

 

Reflections on Halloween

By: Ohio Barbarian Thursday October 30, 2014 4:54 pm

When I was a little kid in San Antonio in the 1960′s, Halloween was a huge holiday. Scores of kids would dress up in costumes, walk around local neighborhood blocks, and trick or treat, with the emphasis always on the treat part. Just about everybody participated, and those who didn’t were thought of as antisocial tightwads, too cheap to give candy to the kids.

After the kids got home, many adults would pawn them off on babysitters who had to endure sugar-high kids while they went to costumed Halloween parties where alcohol and all kinds of food flowed freely. Many took off work the next day if it was a weekday. Then, in the 1970′s, at least in Texas, things began to change.

Southern Baptist and Pentecostal ministers railed against “The Devil’s Holiday,” fueled by reaction to New Age paganism and movies showing that the Devil might just be real, such as The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen. Wild rumors circulated about evil people putting razor blades in apples and poisoning candy. There were a couple of such incidents nationwide, but really few and far between, and always between family members, not between strangers. But much of the media jumped on board, whipping up fear for higher ratings and newspaper sales.

By the time Reagan took office, in my part of the world back then Halloween was essentially dead. Fewer and fewer people displayed any Halloween decorations, and fewer and fewer kids went trick-or-treating. A couple of weeks before Halloween, solemn local newscasters would start warning of the dangers of allowing one’s children to trick-or-treat. It was sad. Years later, I moved to Colorado and found much the same thing going on there and more. Once church in Arvada even went so far as to have a haunted house where they graphically pantomimed abortions and the Devil gleefully waiting in hell to torment women who had them for All Eternity. I understand that eventually Children’s Services got it shut down because they found the Bible-thumping parents who dragged their kids to it every year guilty of psychological child abuse.

Then we moved to northeast Ohio. Halloween’s HUGE here. Weather permitting, hordes of kids flock through the streets trick-or-treating and there are Halloween parties all over the place. It’s great fun, like it should be, IMHO. Maybe it’s Ohioans’ love of celebrating seasons, or of feasting, or both. Maybe it’s something cultural. Whatever, I like it. I have yet to see any fearmongering on local news, or hear many  Christian types railing against Halloween because it’s the Devil’s Holiday, though there is a smidgeon of the latter. Most people here dismiss them as being handicapped by having no sense of fun.

There are haunted cornfields and mazes in the country. There are haunted houses aplenty, complete with costumed folks brandishing chainsaws. There are lots of parties. It’s nice to see what was probably once a Celtic harvest festival with deep religious meaning millennia ago still living on, no matter what form it takes. For that matter, there are real, live pagans and Wiccans here who try to celebrate old Samhain in their best approximation of the ancient rites. There’s ceremony and music and dancing and a lot of fun.

It’s a pity that there are still plenty of people in this country who take after the Puritans and try to ban what is for most just a chance to have some fun, eat some sweets, and maybe swill a bit o’ brew. Funny, you never see them call for a boycott of commercialized Christmas.

Anyway, Happy Halloween! I just finished carving my now traditional Vampire Jack o’ Lantern. Gives the little kids a fun fright, it does. What do you do for Halloween?

Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

By: wendydavis Thursday October 30, 2014 3:37 pm
vallen_illegal-770x740

(from Creative Resistance, CC)

but mainly those with an H1-B-eee 

(Yes, this post is long, but I consider it a  Labor of Love, and I hope you will, too, and read it.  These are things I believe we need to know.)

‘A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

~ Emma Lazarus

No, no; not so much those nameless deportees that came here to escape the depredations and murderous dangers in the global south, so many of which were aided and abetted by US policies and activities.  They might be carrying ebola.leprosy.drugs.alqaedacards.unbornbabbies.bedbugs.lice.whathaveyou.

Wsws.org  writes that Obama deported a record 438,421 people last year, the highest number of annual deportations in US history, and that number is on track to escalate, of course, especially with the reported 60 or 70,000 unaccompanied minors that came over the summer and created the ‘crisis on the border’.  I know you remember reading about it; it was the talk of the nation for a few news cycles.

A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World: 30 Oct 2014

By: KateCA Thursday October 30, 2014 2:31 pm

A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World:

*US.  Fracking has resulted in the “highest level in at least three decades” of US crude oil production, with  379.7 million barrels of oil now stored.  An industry spokesperson, however, said, while they’re “still optimistic about shale growth”,  2014 is likely to be a peak year.

*US.  Scientists have found about 30% (roughly 2 million barrels) of the oil BP’s Macondo Well blowout spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.  Much of the oil is southwest of the well, deep down on the sea floor.  Maps and pics. More.  A recent BP pr effort.

*US.  “The Great Invisible”, a film documentary, records the impacts of BP’s blowout on regular folks along the Gulf.  BP did provide compensation to 100,000+ residents, “but hundreds of thousands of others were refused any compensation.”

*US.  BP and Chevron have struck oil “at a key exploration site in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.  This is BP’s second major discovery in the deepwater Gulf since the 2010 oil spill.”

*AR/CO/PA/OH/WY.  According to a University of Albany-State University of New York study, 8 “poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites” in AR, CO, PA, OH and WY at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits.”  Gases included benzene and hydrogen sulfide.  One site’s benzene levels were “Five orders of magnitude over federal limits”.

*AK.  Fellow followed a bull moose walking across his property, only to discover “the deepening piles of ashy cement powder coating the trees and running off into a gravel pit”.  Workers from fracking company Baker Hughes had  dumped what remained of cement mixtures into the woods, reportedly including “a foul-smelling, oily liquid”.

*CA. Drill now, deal with the consequences later”—that has led one man, a former military and aerospace engineer, to run for the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.  Pivotal time, since frackers are trying to get permits from the US Bureau of Land Management to exploit the San Ardo Oil Field, which lies underneath much of “America’s Salad Bowl”.

*CA.  Chevron reportedly  ”greases local elections with [a geyser of] dark money”, including the elections in Richmond.

*CA.  Also up against big oil and gas, Santa Barbara backers of Measure P, designed to protect the county from “under-regulated” fracking, continue their fight.

*CO.  See UT & CO.

*MT.  “Tribal chiefs and leaders” of the Blackfoot Confederacy (one tribe from Montana, three from  Canada) issued a “joint proclamation insisting that the U.S. Department of Interior cancel . . . illegal oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area”.  They also want Interior to “vigorously defend” against a developer’s lawsuit and to establish, with the Blackfeet Nation, protections for Badger-Two Medicine.  (Just three paragraphs down for Badger-Two Medicine info.)

*ND.  A measure on the November ballot would “divert 5% of future oil revenue to fund clean-water projects, wildlife preservation and parks.”  Backed by conservationists and hunters, it’s opposed by the “agriculture industry, oil producers, education groups, builders and business organizations.”

*OH.  Good grief! 400 families evacuated after a natural-gas fracking well blew out in Jefferson County, “spewing natural gas and methane into the air.”

*PA.  A first-term state Congressman, Matt Cartwright (D), has reportedly “just launched an investigation into how his state deals with fracking waste”!

*SD. Keystone XL pipeline opponents in Nebraska will be given “intervenor status” before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission—but “All evidence and testimony must pertain to the project in South Dakota only”.  TransCanada, Keystone XL’s builder, objected, but lost.  Many fear contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer which underlies eight states (see map).

*TX.  Denton has become a major hot spot with a fracking ban on the ballot.  It’s atop the Barnett Shale, and “money has been pouring into Denton from oil and gas companies anxious to stop [the ban] before it spreads to other towns.”

*TX.  Another grassroots effort, this one in Mansfield, to restrict fracking by “enhanced regulation at fracking sites within city limits”, such as imposing a limit of 1500 feet from homes or schools, rather than the 600 feet currently in the city ordinance.

*TX.  Superior Crude Gathering will be paying $1.6 million for “at least 2,200 barrels from two tanks at its facility” that spilled in Ingleside  in 2010.  That’s a civil penalty; the payment will become part of the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

People-Powered Reporting In Action: Jon Walker Testifies at DC City Council, Thanks to You

By: Elliott Thursday October 30, 2014 12:29 pm

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s contributed during our fundraising week. If you haven’t contributed yet, please do. The money goes for tech upgrades and security improvements, site redesign (!), in addition to funding our writers.

We are grateful for your support, you keep us operating.

Your gift makes it possible for Jon Walker’s influential work on marijuana legalization and drug policy rationalization; we’ve come a long way baby, thanks to you. Just today he testified in front of the Council of the District of Columbia to help them establish the best marijuana legalization plan for the city.

From his prepared remarks:

The D.C. Council has the unique chance to make history. It could be the first legislative body in the country to adopt a law approving the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana use, and it could serve as a model for other states.

While I support marijuana legalization, I will leave it to others here today to make the arguments in favor of it. Instead, I want highlight six specific policy considerations the Council should keep in mind when drafting the final version of the legislation.

And you are the people who make this happen! You’re doing this.

It’s you who make it possible for Kevin Gosztola to report from Ferguson MO. Not to mention all the other civil rights efforts he covers — Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, James Risen, to drop a few names.

And Dan Wright’s work as well, he’s got a sharp tongue he wields where it’s needed as he covers the follies of our government’s policy for us.

Don’t forget our pride and joy, FDL’s Book Salon. What a fabulous place to discuss the most influential books new to the market. And I don’t think anyone anywhere else comes close to BevW’s scheduling crystal ball!

No one else has weekends with Phoenix Woman, Peterr and Masaccio. And BrandonJ’s news Roundup all week long; mornings at Over Easy, and Late Late Nights with Suzanne and CTuttle. New and interesting films every Monday with Jane, you make it happen. This is your community.

So, please give generously. Give what you can. Five dollars here, ten dollars there, it adds up, it matters. You make us possible, and we thank you for that.

Ferguson peacemakers–No Justice Without Peace

By: jeanine4truth Thursday October 30, 2014 9:26 am

Note: The Grand Jury is expected to make an announcement in the Mike Brown case any day now. Supporters of Officer Darren Wilson anticipate violence from the protesters, and the Don’t Shoot Coalition expects violence from the police and a declaration of ‘open season’ on communities of color and political dissenters.

By : Jeanine Molloff

The search for ‘peace makers’ in the Michael Brown tragedy has revealed an activist community more complex than the vapid, two dimensional representation seen on corporate media.

Covering the events here on the ground in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis region is akin to performing surgery on a flesh wound and finding a malignancy. The cancers of racism and police brutality have metastasized from Fallujah to Ferguson, and inspired a renewed call for global justice. Oppressed people from Gaza to Hong Kong have sent messages of support to protesters in Ferguson. During this investigation, one thing was clearly evident—there can be no peace without justice.

As the corporate press continues to focus on teargas, rubber bullets and looting—the deeper story focusing on ingrained racism, police brutality, and blatantly unjust laws, is treated as a curious anecdote. In addition to these problems; we have a scenario familiar to the protesters—namely the ‘leaking’ of evidence aimed to vilify Michael Brown and support his police killer.

Illegal ‘leaked’ evidence aimed to trivialize protests… and prejudice juries…

Now that detailed information about the Michael Brown shooting has ‘leaked’ to various news outlets, (ie. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times, The Atlantic and the Washington Post); the pundits are ready to declare that no indictment of Officer Darren Wilson is necessary. Based on the shooter’s police report and the autopsy conducted by St. Louis County—the mainstream media has concluded that Officer Wilson’s story is supported by the same leaked information. A CNN commentator complained that the protesters are still in the streets, in spite of the evidence—all with the exasperated tone of a woman being kept from her mani-pedi.

The fact that the police report and the autopsy were confidential information restricted to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and the Grand Jury—is irrelevant to the pundits—the evidence supports the police officer—or does it?   First of all, the leaks are illegal and clearly intended to prejudice any jury pool, in Wilson’s favor. Secondly, the evidence from the autopsy supports the story that there was a struggle between Brown and Wilson—nothing else. I obtained the copy of the official autopsy and it can be viewed here.   (http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/stltoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/e0/ce018d0c-5998-11e4-b700-001a4bcf6878/5447202ea9b4e.pdf.pdf)

Contrary to the exasperation of helmet hair broadcasters; the evidence of ongoing police brutality and suspension of civil liberties remains a serious concern to all but the corporate media.

Medical examiner contradicts pundits…

Dr. Judy Melinek was one of the forensic experts the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed. She took the paper to task for misrepresenting her comments. Dr. Melinek explained to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that her comments had been taken out of context.

“I’m not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation. I’m saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that,” Melinek. “I have limited information. It could also be consistent with other scenarios. That’s the important thing. That’s why the witnesses need to speak to the grand jury and the grand jury needs to hear all the unbiased testimony and compare those statements to the physical evidence.” Source : (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/judy-melinek-ferguson-autopsy-report-msnbc)

Whether you believe the family of Michael Brown, or the supporters of Officer Wilson; one thing becomes clear—the early suppression of evidence, the tacit disrespect and brutality of police, and the battleground denial of civil liberties by Ferguson, St. Louis County and Governor Jay Nixon, speaks to a political culture of repression and police lawlessness.

Not since Occupy, has such a public display of police abuse been witnessed against anyone daring to question the police and their authority.   So, in order to identify the peace makers; an examination of false or tepid peace makers is needed.

False peace maker …the Police….

Ann Jones: Genuine, Handcrafted, Man-Made Government

By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday October 30, 2014 8:05 am

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

 

[For TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a special, limited-time offer. Ann Jones is going to pass through New York City early in November.  It’s a rare opportunity to get a personalized, signed copy of her remarkable Dispatch book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.  If you remember, at age 73, she followed grievously wounded American soldiers just off Afghan battlefields all the way back home, an odyssey of a journey and a vivid education in the true cost of America’s recent wars.  The book is already a classic and we at TomDispatch are proud that it’s in our publication program.  For a $100 contribution to this site, you can get that copy signed by Jones.  Just check out our donation page for the details (and note that signed copies of former Army Ranger Rory Fanning’s book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, are also on offer).  Ann will sign books on November 7th, so make sure to get your donation in before then.  It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity. 

And TomDispatch readers in or near Santa Fe, New Mexico, don’t miss Jones in conversation with Andrew Bacevich on November 12th at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, part of Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom program. It's an event that shouldn't be missed.  Tom]

From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.”  First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia.  As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would later put it, “On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the [Afghan] border [in 1979], I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’” And with that in mind, the CIA (aided by the Saudis and Pakistanis) would arm, train, and advise extreme Islamist factions in Pakistan and dispatch them across the border to give the Soviets a taste of what Washington considered their own medicine, Vietnam-style.

It worked in a major way. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later call Afghanistan “the bleeding wound” and, in 1989, a decade after the Red Army had crossed that border, it would limp home to a fading empire on the edge of implosion.  It was a classic Cold War triumph for Washington, the last needed before the Soviet Union stepped off the edge of history and disappeared… oh, except for one small thing: those well-armed extremists didn’t conveniently go away.  It wasn’t mission accomplished.  Not by half.  A taste of Vietnam for the Russians turned out to be only the hors d’oeuvre for a main course still to come.  And the rest of the disastrous history of what Chalmers Johnson would term “blowback,” even before it fully blew back not just on devastated Afghanistan, but on New York City and Washington, is painfully well known and not yet over.  Not by half.

As a result, when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s.  Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring.  Now, another 13 years have passed.  We’re three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case.  The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 billion.  In the meantime, the “democracy” that the U.S. promised to bring to the country has experienced a second deeply fraudulent presidential election, this time with a vote so contested and filled with questionable balloting practices that the final count couldn’t be released to the country.  A new government was instead cobbled together under Washington’s ministrations in a way that bears no relation to the country’s constitution.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is rife with corruption of every imaginable sort and, worst of all, its only real success story, its bumper crop, is once again the opium poppy.  In fact, last year the country raised a record opium crop, worth $3 billion, beating out the previous global record holder– Afghanistan — by 50%!  On America’s watch, it is the planet’s preeminent narco-state.  And keep in mind that, in line with the history of the last 13 years of the American occupation and garrisoning of the country (with a possible 10 more to go), the U.S. put $7.6 billion dollars into programs of every sort to eradicate poppy growing.  So, once again, mission accomplished!  Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story, looks back at what those 13 years of “America’s Afghanistan” meant to the women whom the Bush administration so proudly “liberated” on invading the country.  And given its success in poppy eradication, how do you think Washington did on that one? Tom

The Missing Women of Afghanistan 
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law 
By Ann Jones

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.  Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted.  (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different — not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani. Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.