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Stalker: Obama’s obsessive harassment of Syria & Ukraine

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday September 23, 2014 10:04 am
     CBS is premiering a new TV show called “Stalker” this October, and this program is fierce and scary as hell — all about a bunch of creepy guys who go around stalking their prey mercilessly.  http://www.cbs.com/shows/stalker/video/B0B62848-22B9-1295-487F-F8062516D6D8/stalker-first-look/
      But what is the exact definition of a stalker?  “A person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.”  Further, “Any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking.”
     I personally know of two insanely obsessive examples of stalking at its worst.
     In one case, the unwanted and illegal harassment has gone on for years and involves relentless fear-producing acts of violence so intense that it is like being in a horror movie.  Home invasions in the middle of the night.  Masked attackers brandishing weapons.  Harassing phone calls.  False lies and accusations.  Family members followed and stalked. http://www.palestinechronicle.com/now-through-the-front-door-into-syria/#.VBog9BYa6d8
    Imagine your worst nightmare and multiply it by a thousand — and then imagine this horror going on for three years.  Imagine going to the authorities and begging for help but having no one believe you or even listen to you!   http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-history-of-isis-beheadings-part-of-the-training-manual-of-us-sponsored-syria-pro-democracy-terrorists/5402566
      And of course you immediately realize that I’m talking about President Obama’s strange and evil obsession with stalking Syria.  And Obama continues to stalk Syria even now — and with deadly intent.  And it appears that Syria is helpless against her attacker.  http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/09/how-to-bomb-syria-2/
     Or not.  Not if everyone in America gets on the phone and calls the White House and says, “America sees you.  We know what you do.  Stop stalking Syria.”
http://jpstillwater.blogspot.com/2014/06/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html
     And the second case of stalking?  Just as bad as the first — with evil intent and malice aforehand.  Ukraine is also being stalked.  Home invasions.  Planes being shot down.  Fear-inducing jack-boot visits in the middle of the night.  Lots of blood.  Lots and lots and lots of blood.  http://www.globalresearch.ca/in-the-wake-of-the-ukraine-cease-fire-the-road-map-to-war-with-russia/5402574
     In CBS’s online preview of “Stalker,” Maggie Q states that stalkers are motivated by “rejection, jealousy and revenge”.  Well, Syria and Ukraine have both rejected Obama’s demands for a dance — so that is probably the cause.  http://www.globalresearch.ca/train-and-equip-the-islamic-state-white-house-might-still-be-arming-isil/5403459

But exactly why have Syria and Ukraine rejected Obama’s offer?  Because they both saw what happened to Libya when Obama took her to the prom!  Obama tortured and raped her while John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Bolton held her down.  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25958-focus-stupid-stuff-on-steroids-syria-and-comic-book-thinking

And Obama learned his grisly stalking techniques from the masters.  First he watched Bush and Cheney stalk, torture and rape Afghanistan.  Then he watched Bush and Cheney stalk, torture and rape Iraq.  http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39697.htm

“But, Jane,” you might ask, “why are you being so hard on President Obama?”  http://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/brzezinski_interview

Why?  Why?  Because even if all this psychopathic stalking is actually being orchestrated by Wall Street and War Street or the military-industrial complex or the wingnuts and war-hawks in Congress or even the PNAC and Dick Cheney — all of these stalking nightmares are still happening on Obama’s watch.  http://thearabdailynews.com/2014/09/15/obama-bites-can-chew/

PS:  If the CIA, the American military-industrial complex, the PNAC war hawks, the Pentagon and even the White House and Congress can get so deeply involved in stalking and tormenting and threatening and bullying other countries throughout the world — and apparently get away with it too, then what’s to keep these evil stalkers from saying to themselves, “Hmmm.  Let’s stalk Americans next.”  My blood runs cold at the thought.  http://jpstillwater.blogspot.com/2014/06/syria-iraq-captain-phillips-isis.html

Where is Maggie Q when we need her!
_______

From journalist David Swanson:  “In violation of the Constitution, our Constitutional scholar president, in violation of the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, our Nobel Peace Laureate president, in compliance with the stated desire of ISIS that the United States help it grow by attacking it, President Barack ‘don’t-do-stupid-stuff’ Obama has just attacked another country and no good can come of it.

“He’s attacked the opponents of the Syrian regime he said needed to be attacked a year ago, and done so in defense of Iraqis who just held a demonstration opposing such U.S. action.  The world needs actual aid and serious support for the rule of law, diplomacy, and good government.  So-called ‘military aid’ doesn’t aid anyone, and the U.S. public’s willingness to stand for more of it being offered in our name has been greatly overestimated.”
http://warisacrime.org/content/isis-weapons-makers-thugs-benefit-crime
______

From Judy Bello of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars:  “On Democracy Now, Vijay Prashad just pointed out that the US airstrikes on Syria are more symbolic than otherwise.  They are destroying a lot of infrastructure in Raqqa around Aleppo and Dier Ezzor.  But they aren’t attacking ISIS’ hardened positions and forward positions around Kobani on the Turkish Border.  There are also reports that ISIS has abandoned its bunkers in Raqqa and moved into residential areas so US bombing merely destroyed the buildings and bystanders.”  http://www.democracynow.org/2014/9/23/expanding_us_strikes_to_isis_in

 

Peter Van Buren: Apocalypse Now, Back to the Future in Iraq

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 23, 2014 9:04 am

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

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at Riverside Church in New York City titled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” In it, he went after the war of that moment and the money that the U.S. was pouring into it as symptoms of a societal disaster.  President Lyndon Johnson’s poverty program was being “broken and eviscerated,” King said from the pulpit of that church, “as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war… We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.  I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”  Twice more in that ringing speech he spoke of “the madness of Vietnam” and called for it to cease.

Don’t think of that as just a preacher’s metaphor.  There was a genuine madness on the loose — and not just in the “free-fire zones” of Vietnam but in policy circles here in the United States, in the frustration of top military and civilian officials who felt gripped by an eerie helplessness as they widened a terrible war on the ground and in the air.  They were, it seemed, incapable of imagining any other path than escalation in the face of disaster and possible defeat.  Even in the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when there was a brief attempt to paint that lost war in a more heroic hue (“a noble cause,” the president called it), that sense of madness, or at least of resulting mental illness, lingered.  It remained embedded in a phrase then regularly applied to Americans who were less than willing to once again head aggressively into the world.  They were suffering from, it was said, “Vietnam syndrome.”

Today, almost 25 years into what someday might simply be called America’s Iraq War (whose third iteration we’ve recently entered), you can feel that a similar “madness” has Washington by the throat.  Just as King noted of the Vietnam era, since 9/11 American domestic programs and agencies have been starved while money poured into the coffers of the Pentagon and an increasingly bloated national security state.  The results have been obvious.  In the face of the spreading Ebola virus in West Africa, for instance, the president can no longer turn to civilian agencies or organizations for help, but has to call on the U.S. military in an “Ebola surge” — even our language has been militarized — although its forces are not known for their skills, successes, or spendthrift ways when it comes to civilian “humanitarian” or nation-building operations.

We’ve already entered the period when strategy, such as it is, falls away, and our leaders feel strangely helpless before the drip, drip, drip of failure and the unbearable urge for further escalation.  At this point, in fact, the hysteria in Washington over the Islamic State seems a pitch or two higher than anything experienced in the Vietnam years.  A fiercely sectarian force in the Middle East has captured the moment and riveted attention, even though its limits in a region full of potential enemies seem obvious and its “existential threat” to the U.S. consists of the possibility that some stray American jihadi might indeed try to harm a few of us.  Call it emotional escalation in a Washington that seems remarkably unhinged.

It took Osama bin Laden $400,000 to $500,000, 19 hijackers, and much planning to produce the fallen towers of 9/11 and the ensuing hysteria in this country that launched the disastrous, never-ending Global War on Terror.  It took the leaders of the Islamic State maybe a few hundred bucks and two grim videos, featuring three men on a featureless plain in Syria, to create utter, blind hysteria here.  Think of this as confirmation of Karl Marx’s famous comment that the first time is tragedy, but the second is farce.

One clear sign of the farcical nature of our moment is the inability to use almost any common word or phrase in an uncontested way if you put “Iraq” or “Islamic State” or “Syria” in the same sentence.  Remember when the worst Washington could come up with in contested words was the meaning of “is” in Bill Clinton’s infamous statement about his relationship with a White House intern?  Linguistically speaking, those were the glory days, the utopian days of official Washington.

Just consider three commonplace terms of the moment: “war,” “boots on the ground,” and “combat.”  A single question links them all: Are we or aren’t we?  And to that, in each case, Washington has no acceptable answer.  On war, the secretary of state said no, we weren’t; the White House and Pentagon press offices announced that yes, we were; and the president fudged.  He called it “targeted action” and spoke of America’s “unique capability to mobilize against an organization like ISIL,” but God save us, what it wasn’t and wouldn’t be was a “ground war.”

Only with Congress did a certain clarity prevail.  Nothing it did really mattered.  Whatever Congress decided or refused to decide when it came to going to war would be fine and dandy, because the White House was going to do “it” anyway.  “It,” of course, was the Clintonesque “is” of present-day Middle Eastern policy.  Who knew what it was, but here was what it wasn’t and would never be: “boots on the ground.”  Admittedly, the president has already dispatched 1,600 booted troops to Iraq’s ground (with more to come), but they evidently didn’t qualify as boots on the ground because, whatever they were doing, they would not be going into “combat” (which is evidently the only place where military boots officially hit the ground).  The president has been utterly clear on this.  There would be no American “combat mission” in Iraq.  Unfortunately, “combat” turns out to be another of those dicey terms, since those non-boots had barely landed in Iraq when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey started to raise the possibility that some of them, armed, might one day be forward deployed with Iraqi troops as advisers and spotters for U.S. air power in future battles for Iraq’s northern cities.  This, the White House now seems intent on defining as not being a “combat mission.”

And we’re only weeks into an ongoing operation that could last years.  Imagine the pretzeling of the language by then.  Perhaps it might be easiest if everyone — Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and Washington’s pundits — simply agreed that the United States is at “war-ish” in Iraq, with boots on the ground-ish in potentially combat-ish situations.  Former State Department whistleblower and TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren spent his own time in Iraq and wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People about it.  Now, he considers the mind-boggling strangeness of Washington doing it all over again, this time as the grimmest of farces. Tom

 

Apocalypse Now, Iraq Edition

Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over
By Peter Van Buren

I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and he presciently declined, saying sardonically, “So you’re gonna be the one to write the last book on failure in Iraq?”

I couldn’t do any of that. As someone who cares deeply about this country, I find it beyond belief that Washington has again plunged into the swamp of the Sunni-Shia mess in Iraq. A young soldier now deployed as one of the 1,600 non-boots-on-the-ground there might have been eight years old when the 2003 invasion took place. He probably had to ask his dad about it.  After all, less than three years ago, when dad finally came home with his head “held high,” President Obama assured Americans that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” So what happened in the blink of an eye?

The Sons of Iraq

Sometimes, when I turn on the TV these days, the sense of seeing once again places in Iraq I’d been overwhelms me. After 22 years as a diplomat with the Department of State, I spent 12 long months in Iraq in 2009-2010 as part of the American occupation. My role was to lead two teams in “reconstructing” the nation. In practice, that meant paying for schools that would never be completed, setting up pastry shops on streets without water or electricity, and conducting endless propaganda events on Washington-generated themes of the week (“small business,” “women’s empowerment,” “democracy building.”)

We even organized awkward soccer matches, where American taxpayer money was used to coerce reluctant Sunni teams into facing off against hesitant Shia ones in hopes that, somehow, the chaos created by the American invasion could be ameliorated on the playing field. In an afternoon, we definitively failed to reconcile the millennium-old Sunni-Shia divide we had sparked into ethnic-cleansing-style life in 2003-2004, even if the score was carefully stage managed into a tie by the 82nd Airborne soldiers with whom I worked.

In 2006, the U.S. brokered the ascension to power of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia politician handpicked to unite Iraq. A bright, shining lie of a plan soon followed. Applying vast amounts of money, Washington’s emissaries created the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, a loose grouping of Sunnis anointed as “moderates” who agreed to temporarily stop killing in return for a promised place at the table in the New(er) Iraq. The “political space” for this was to be created by a massive escalation of the American military effort, which gained a particularly marketable name: the surge.

I was charged with meeting the Sahwa leaders in my area. My job back then was to try to persuade them to stay on board just a little longer, even as they came to realize that they’d been had. Maliki’s Shia government in Baghdad, which was already ignoring American entreaties to be inclusive, was hell-bent on ensuring that there would be no Sunni “sons” in its Iraq.

False alliances and double-crosses were not unfamiliar to the Sunni warlords I engaged with. Often, our talk — over endless tiny glasses of sweet, sweet tea stirred with white-hot metal spoons — shifted from the Shia and the Americans to their great-grandfathers’ struggle against the British. Revenge unfolds over generations, they assured me, and memories are long in the Middle East, they warned.

When I left in 2010, the year before the American military finally departed, the truth on the ground should have been clear enough to anyone with the vision to take it in. Iraq had already been tacitly divided into feuding state-lets controlled by Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. The Baghdad government had turned into a typical, gleeful third-world kleptocracy fueled by American money, but with a particularly nasty twist: they were also a group of autocrats dedicated to persecuting, marginalizing, degrading, and perhaps one day destroying the country’s Sunni minority.

U.S. influence was fading fast, leaving the State Department, a small military contingent, various spooks, and contractors hidden behind the walls of the billion-dollar embassy (the largest in the world!) that had been built in a moment of imperial hubris. The foreign power with the most influence over events was by then Iran, the country the Bush administration had once been determined to take down alongside Saddam Hussein as part of the Axis of Evil.

The Grandsons of Iraq

The staggering costs of all this — $25 billion to train the Iraqi Army, $60 billion for the reconstruction-that-wasn’t, $2 trillion for the overall war, almost 4,500 Americans dead and more than 32,000 wounded, and an Iraqi death toll of more than 190,000 (though some estimates go as high as a million) — can now be measured against the results. The nine-year attempt to create an American client state in Iraq failed, tragically and completely. The proof of that is on today’s front pages.

According to the crudest possible calculation, we spent blood and got no oil. Instead, America’s war of terror resulted in the dissolution of a Middle Eastern post-Cold War stasis that, curiously enough, had been held together by Iraq’s previous autocratic ruler Saddam Hussein. We released a hornet’s nest of Islamic fervor, sectarianism, fundamentalism, and pan-nationalism. Islamic terror groups grew stronger and more diffuse by the year. That horrible lightning over the Middle East that’s left American foreign policy in such an ugly glare will last into our grandchildren’s days. There should have been so many futures. Now, there will be so few as the dead accumulate in the ruins of our hubris. That is all that we won.

Under a new president, elected in 2008 in part on his promise to end American military involvement in Iraq, Washington’s strategy morphed into the more media-palatable mantra of “no boots on the ground.” Instead, backed by aggressive intel and the “surgical” application of drone strikes and other kinds of air power, U.S. covert ops were to link up with the “moderate” elements in Islamic governments or among the rebels opposing them — depending on whether Washington was opting to support a thug government or thug fighters.

The results? Chaos in Libya, highlighted by the flow of advanced weaponry from the arsenals of the dead autocrat Muammar Gaddafi across the Middle East and significant parts of Africa, chaos in Yemen, chaos in Syria, chaos in Somalia, chaos in Kenya, chaos in South Sudan, and, of course, chaos in Iraq.

And then came the Islamic State (IS) and the new “caliphate,” the child born of a neglectful occupation and an autocratic Shia government out to put the Sunnis in their place once and for all. And suddenly we were heading back into Iraq. What, in August 2014, was initially promoted as a limited humanitarian effort to save the Yazidis, a small religious sect that no one in Washington or anywhere else in this country had previously heard of, quickly morphed into those 1,600 American troops back on the ground in Iraq and American planes in the skies from Kurdistan in the north to south of Baghdad. The Yazidis were either abandoned, or saved, or just not needed anymore. Who knows and who, by then, cared?  They had, after all, served their purpose handsomely as the casus belli of this war. Their agony at least had a horrific reality, unlike the supposed attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that propelled a widening war in Vietnam in 1964 or the nonexistent Iraqi WMDs that were the excuse for the invasion of 2003.

The newest Iraq war features Special Operations “trainers,” air strikes against IS fighters using American weapons abandoned by the Iraqi Army (now evidently to be resupplied by Washington), U.S. aircraft taking to the skies from inside Iraq as well as a carrier in the Persian Gulf and possibly elsewhere, and an air war across the border into Syria.

It Takes a Lot of Turning Points To Go In a Circle

The truth on the ground these days is tragically familiar: an Iraq even more divided into feuding state-lets; a Baghdad government kleptocracy about to be reinvigorated by free-flowing American money; and a new Shia prime minister being issued the same 2003-2011 to-do list by Washington: mollify the Sunnis, unify Iraq, and make it snappy. The State Department still stays hidden behind the walls of that billion-dollar embassy. More money will be spent to train the collapsed Iraqi military. Iran remains the foreign power with the most influence over events.

One odd difference should be noted, however: in the last Iraq war, the Iranians sponsored and directed attacks by Shia militias against American occupation forces (and me); now, its special operatives and combat advisors fight side-by-side with those same Shia militias under the cover of American air power. You want real boots on the ground? Iranian forces are already there. It’s certainly an example of how politics makes strange bedfellows, but also of what happens when you assemble your “strategy” on the run.

Obama hardly can be blamed for all of this, but he’s done his part to make it worse — and worse it will surely get as his administration once again assumes ownership of the Sunni-Shia fight. The “new” unity plan that will fail follows the pattern of the one that did fail in 2007: use American military force to create a political space for “reconciliation” between once-burned, twice-shy Sunnis and a compromise Shia government that American money tries to nudge into an agreement against Iran’s wishes. Perhaps whatever new Sunni organization is pasted together, however briefly, by American representatives should be called the Grandsons of Iraq.

Just to add to the general eeriness factor, the key people in charge of putting Washington’s plans into effect are distinctly familiar faces. Brett McGurk, who served in key Iraq policy positions throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, is again the point man as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. McGurk was once called the “Maliki whisperer” for his closeness to the former prime minister. The current American ambassador, Robert Stephen Beecroft, was deputy chief of mission, the number two at the Baghdad embassy, back in 2011. Diplomatically, another faux coalition of the (remarkably un)willing is being assembled. And the pundits demanding war in a feverish hysteria in Washington are all familiar names, mostly leftovers from the glory days of the 2003 invasion.

Lloyd Austin, the general overseeing America’s new military effort, oversaw the 2011 retreat. General John Allen, brought out of military retirement to coordinate the new war in the region — he had recently been a civilian advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry — was deputy commander in Iraq’s Anbar province during the surge. Also on the U.S. side, the mercenary security contractors are back, even as President Obama cites, without a hint of irony, the ancient 2002 congressional authorization to invade Iraq he opposed as candidate Obama as one of his legal justifications for this year’s war. The Iranians, too, have the same military commander on the ground in Iraq, Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Quds Force. Small world. Suleimani also helps direct Hezbollah operations inside Syria.

Even the aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf launching air strikes, the USS George H.W. Bush, is fittingly named after the president who first got us deep into Iraq almost a quarter century ago. Just consider that for a moment: we have been in Iraq so long that we now have an aircraft carrier named after the president who launched the adventure.

On a 36-month schedule for “destroying” ISIS, the president is already ceding his war to the next president, as was done to him by George W. Bush. That next president may well be Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state as Iraq War 2.0 sputtered to its conclusion. Notably, it was her husband whose administration kept the original Iraq War of 1990-1991 alive via no-fly zones and sanctions. Call that a pedigree of sorts when it comes to fighting in Iraq until hell freezes over.

If there is a summary lesson here, perhaps it’s that there is evidently no hole that can’t be dug deeper. How could it be more obvious, after more than two decades of empty declarations of victory in Iraq, that genuine “success,” however defined, is impossible? The only way to win is not to play. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker at the geopolitical equivalent of a carnival ringtoss game with a fist full of quarters to trade for a cheap stuffed animal.

Apocalypse Then — And Now

America’s wars in the Middle East exist in a hallucinatory space where reality is of little import, so if you think you heard all this before, between 2003 and 2010, you did. But for those of us of a certain age, the echoes go back much further. I recently joined a discussion on Dutch television where former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra made a telling slip of the tongue. As we spoke about ISIS, Hoekstra insisted that the U.S. needed to deny them “sanctuary in Cambodia.” He quickly corrected himself to say “Syria,” but the point was made.

We’ve been here before, as the failures of American policy and strategy in Vietnam metastasized into war in Cambodia and Laos to deny sanctuary to North Vietnamese forces. As with ISIS, we were told that they were barbarians who sought to impose an evil philosophy across an entire region. They, too, famously needed to be fought “over there” to prevent them from attacking us here. We didn’t say “the Homeland” back then, but you get the picture.

As the similarities with Vietnam are telling, so is the difference. When the reality of America’s failure in Vietnam finally became so clear that there was no one left to lie to, America’s war there ended and the troops came home. They never went back. America is now fighting the Iraq War for the third time, somehow madly expecting different results, while guaranteeing only failure. To paraphrase a young John Kerry, himself back from Vietnam, who’ll be the last to die for that endless mistake? It seems as if it will be many years before we know.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A Tom Dispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Peter Van Buren

Caliphate vs Caliphate… Obama’s wild goose chase

By: David Seaton Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:45 am

“Globalization is the caliphate of the financial markets”

Andrés Rábago’s quote is rather perfect.  Here is Wikipedia’s definition of the Muslim Caliphate:

Conceptually, a caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful, (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia).

Globalization being the universal rule of the financial markets under the laws of liberal economics, with the bankers being a collegiate “caliph” and “god” being written as “$”.

A fundamentalist reading of our system would go something like this: “there is no $ but the $ and the NYSE is its witness” to which its devotees would add, “peace be upon it”.

However, our system is bleeding charisma.

Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. Max Weber

What is the heart of our system’s charisma? It’s symbol might be the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty: our faith is based on our system’s heretofore eternal ability to create endless wealth and spread it around widely enough so its glaring inequalities were accepted painlessly.  This version of the economy has been in the tank since Lehman Brothers went down and the middle class of the developed countries, not having had the darshan of  “$” for quite a while are losing the faith.

Our economy’s inability without end to cut the mustard for the middle class is a gross betrayal of faith which might be compared to some future pope saying ex-catedra that God didn’t exist and that he had sold the Vatican to the Holiday Inn chain and was taking the proceeds and moving with his husband to the Bahamas. The tragic chaos and desolation of betrayed faith would shatter the lives of millions.

Thus under the rule of the global caliphate, the natives are restless: Scotland, Catalonia, even in the USA, where according to Reuters, one out of four Americans would like to “secede”, all this while thousands march worldwide to “save the planet”.  However, with Karl Marx on the “ash heap of history”, sitting there in the penalty box, waiting to get back in the game, it seems to me that, for the moment, the only revolution in town is Islamic…

Am I the only one to see a resemblance between Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Pol Pot… between the Islamic State and the Khmer Rouge? With the difference that the Khmer Rouge were a relatively small group of whacked out Maoists in a tiny out of the way place like Cambodia and the IS (according to the CIA) consists of 31,000 well armed, well trained, fanatical, young men (and women) who come from all over the world, bankrolled by some of the most pious of Arab billionaires, armed with one of history’s most powerful ideologies, smack dab in the middle of the world’s most strategic real estate. “Bring ‘em on” said George W. Bush…. well now here they are.

What impresses me most is not all the beheading. We think this brutality is a message directed to us… it isn’t; it is a message for everybody except “us”. Americans might be shocked and disappointed to discover that after several centuries of  colonial oppression a great part of the world’s population can see a white man get his throat cut with total equanimity if not a certain schadenfreude.

What truly does impress me is that the CIA puts IS’s numbers at 31,000. This certainly is no a small group of terrorists.

Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of statistical sampling should shudder at that number. With only 30,624 Muslims randomly polled you would have a reliable indicator of the Ummah’s opinion on any subject, so it would be safe to say that for every young man (or woman) with enough courage and initiative to travel so far at so much risk of death, there must be thousands on thousands of young men (and women) who wish they had the guts to do so too.

Certainly these numbers tell us that even the most moderate Muslims could imagine a young family member involved, very much in the same way that moderate Irish or Basques could easily have a family member in the IRA or ETA and while they disapprove of what they do, they don’t stop loving them… As a friend of mine from a very rich family once told me, “blood is thicker than toothpaste”.

This means that our success in running down and exterminating the young men (and women) of the Islamic State may bring us much more trouble down the road than we have today.

A very reliable leading indicator of how wrong this could all go is the recent statement by Tony Blair advocating sending in ground troops… I’m waiting to hear what Bush thinks.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

Without Intending to do so, Wisconsin Budget Request Strengthens Arguments for Taking Federal Medicaid Money

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:37 am

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

Without intending to do so, the Department of Health Services (DHS) budget request has substantially strengthened the arguments for expanding BadgerCare and taking federal funding available for that purpose, which would  erase much of the state’s currently projected Medicaid funding shortfall.  There are many compelling reasons to accept the federal funding, and the DHS budget request unveiled last week adds to that list.

The following are four aspects of the budget request that bolster the arguments for expanding BadgerCare eligibility for adults up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).  Although the first point noted below is reason enough to take the federal funding, a closer reading of the DHS budget request reveals other reasons why the strong arguments for expanding BadgerCare are now even stronger.

1)  The $760 million in additional state revenue needed simply for a cost-to-continue budget – The DHS budget request seeks an increase of $760 million in state General Purpose Revenue (GPR) simply to maintain current Medicaid and BadgerCare benefits.  A WCCF summary of the DHS document explains the primary reasons for that increase, and the next two items in this blog post also shed light on a couple of the factors.  Finding that much additional funding will be extremely difficult at a time when the state is facing a $1.8 billion structural deficit (which means that $1.8 billion of new revenue is needed in 2015-17 before the state can set aside any funding for spending increases).  Expanding BadgerCare would take a very large bite out of the Medicaid shortfall and would help avoid deep cuts in Medicaid eligibility or services.

2) A large increase in projected enrollment of childless adults – The budget request indicates that DHS now expects the number of childless adults enrolled in BadgerCare to reach 145,000 by the end of the current fiscal year.  That’s almost 50% more than DHS projected during budget deliberations, and 10,000 more than DHS assumed when the department revised its enrollment projections in late June!  As that number grows, so do the potential savings from expanding BadgerCare and taking the increased federal funding (which would finance 100% of spending for childless adult coverage in 2015 and 2016, and 95% in 2017).  Based on the assumptions made in the budget bill about average per member costs, we calculate that the state share of covering 10,000 additional childless adults will be roughly $41 million GPR in 2015-17, which is a factor that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau didn’t take into consideration in its August estimate of the potential savings of a BadgerCare expansion.  Expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would cut that incremental cost to about $1.3 million if the expansion is in effect by July 1, 2015, or to about $11 million GPR if the change were delayed until January 2016.

3) A widening gap between the regular Medicaid match rate and the federal match for expansion states – In contrast to the federal matching rate for Medicaid expansions, which is fixed by statute, the regular federal match rate for each state fluctuates and is declining in Wisconsin.  That federal share, known as the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP), is determined by a formula and automatically declines when a state’s median income is increasing. According to the DHS budget request, the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP) for Wisconsin is falling from slightly over 59% in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2014 to slightly under 58% in FFY 2017. A 1.1 percentage point drop might not sound like much of a difference, but the DHS document indicates that it is expected to cost Wisconsin $188 million during the next biennium.  The FMAP decline in 2015-17 was only partially accounted for in the LFB’s August calculation of the substantial savings from expanding BadgerCare to 138% of FPL.  I estimate that the latest FMAP estimate will increase the potential savings of a Medicaid expansion by roughly $1 million more in 2015-17 than the LFB calculated.

4) Demonstrating flaws in the logic behind the Governor’s rejection of the Medicaid funds – The Governor contends that it would be risky to accept the increased Medicaid funding, but the DHS request illustrates one of the flaws in that line of argument. The much higher federal match rate for expansion states is locked in by statute, and that helps make the federal share of Medicaid expansion spending more secure than the regular federal match rate, which is gradually declining. In addition, the Governor’s alternative plan relies on another source of federal funding – the subsidies for Marketplace insurance plans – to finance coverage of parents the state cut from BadgerCare.  As I noted in a previous blog post, over the next couple of years there are more reasons to fear the elimination of that subsidy funding than the federal funds for Medicaid expansions.

To sum up, the Fiscal Bureau estimated in August that expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would save state taxpayers $261 million to $315 million in the next biennium, even if the expansion doesn’t take effect until January 2016.  Based on the latest enrollment estimates in the DHS budget request and their assumptions about the federal match rate, we estimate that the lower end of the potential savings is $31 million GPR more than the LFB indicated (or $41 million more if the change took effect by July 1, 2015).  To close the $760 million hole in the Medicaid budget, it’s critically important for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and accept the increased federal funding.

 

ISIS, Weapons Makers, Thugs Benefit from This Crime

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 23, 2014 5:13 am

President Obama is bombing the opposite side in Syria from the side he swore we needed to attack one year ago, and those pleased by this declare that he is “doing something.”

U.S. polls suggest that the same people recognize that this something will make the U.S. more likely to be attacked and nonetheless favor this action. This is unthinking fear produced by slick beheading videos for audiences too distracted to notice that the Iraqi government, Saudi government and numerous other U.S. friends and allies behead. And are we to imagine that when Obama kills a 16 year old American and the 6 kids near him his head remains intact? Should we pretend that the people being killed by U.S. missiles right now aren’t losing their heads?

This action is illegal under the UN Charter, Kellogg-Briand Pact, and U.S. Constitution. This action is immoral as it fuels violence that needs to be reduced. This action is knowingly, maddeningly counterproductive, guaranteed to build hostility to the United States, which is already so hated that ISIS openly advocates for a U.S. attack on it. This action by this White House is what ISIS wants and what weapons makers want. It is not what the people of Syria or Iraq or the world want. It further shreds the rule of law while dumping gasoline on a fire of U.S. creation.

What’s needed is, contrary to what your television suggests, not to “do nothing” or love beheadings. What’s needed is an arms embargo. The U.S. ships 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military. An arms embargo could be 79% successful with just one country participating, and others could certainly be brought to do so.

What’s needed is actual aid on a massive scale, restitution to the people of the region for the crimes of the U.S. government. An aid program sufficient to make the United States beloved rather than hated would cost a lot less money than the missiles and bombs for which price seems to be no concern at all.

What’s needed is diplomacy. The U.S. government is happy to talk with Syria or Iran or Russia when the object is war. Why can it not talk to them when the object is peace?

Our Constitutional scholar Nobel peace laureate no-dumb-wars end-the-mindset president will be protested today at the White House and at his appearance in New York, and should be protested everywhere he goes.

Congress members should not know a moment’s peace, but should be taught that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. None who voted for weapons to Syria should be returned to Washington next year.

War as a first resort, as our biggest public program, as the be all and end all of U.S. foreign policy is a form of insanity that has no redeeming feature. War is our top destroyer of the natural environment, of the economy, of civil liberties, of self-governance, and of morality. This is a case of a doctor trying to cure the world while suffering from a deadly and highly infectious disease that in his own mind is the epitome of health.

You can’t cure war fever with more war. You can only get to peace through peace.

Stop the bombing.

 

Stop the Bombing: Bravery in an Evil Cause Is Evil

There will be a protest of the new war at 10 a.m. Tuesday in front of the White House. Some thoughts on the context of this latest decision to bomb yet another country are below.

Following a screening of Phil Donahue’s film Body of War in Washington, D.C., on Monday, during which the United States began illegally bombing Syria, Donahue engaged in an interesting exchange with one of those audience members who asks a question and a dozen follow-up questions.

Donahue had belittled drone pilots as sitting at desks with cups of coffee. This member of the audience shouted out that that was unfair, that drone pilots were often engaged in perfectly legitimate murders, and that drone pilots were serving their country just the same as the U.S. Army veteran who is the focus of the film.

The film and its director treat this Army veteran as having honorably served a worthy cause even while describing the war as unjustified and a horrible decision. So, if a ground troop in an immoral illegal war is to be thanked and honored, not just respected and sympathized with, why not thank and honor drone pilots?

Donahue’s response to this sort of logic was that the drone pilot is less brave.

At the end of an exchange on that theme, Donahue reached a conclusion that ranked various types of troops based on their levels of bravery, and possibly also of suffering. That last point ran into trouble, as the questioner pointed out the PTSD rates among drone pilots who do in fact sometimes see their victims more than do troops who are physically closer to the action.

But bravery remained standing at the end of the discussion as a contributor to the level of morality.

In my view, this is madness, as Bill Maher lost his job for pointing out. Nobody was braver or more immoral than the 911 terrorists. Bravery in a good cause is admirable. Bravery in an indifferent cause is aesthetically nice, but morally indifferent. And bravery in an evil cause is evil. I made this case to Donahue after the event, and he said that he actually agreed with me.

The idea that bravery redeems participation in evil is war-thinking. Participation in evil can be understood and sympathized with but not redeemed.

Another audience member on Monday evening pointed out something useful about U.S. polling: Americans believe that bombing Syria will make attacks on the United States more likely (indeed, experts agree and history seems to solidly confirm it) and at the very same time, Americans believe that Syria should be bombed.

A willingness to endanger one’s self and family and neighbors and millions of people in order to be tough is an irrational and apparently macho position.

This culture of machismo is not without humanity, but that humanity is horribly misinformed. We’re not told by the big corporate media about the 95% of deaths in U.S. wars that are the deaths of non-Americans.

The brilliant Peter Kuznick pointed out at Monday’s event that as states require women to watch movies about fetuses before having abortions, they could require people to watch Body of War before wars.  I wish they would. It’s a powerful movie. But there’s been no Ludlow Amendment and people don’t get to vote on wars. And we’re now being sold a war on the claim that it won’t kill Americans.  If we don’t acquire the knowledge that wars also kill non-Americans and that non-Americans matter, we’ll be susceptible to manipulation into the idea that a war is a character choice, a matter of expressing and demonstrating bravery.

Following discussion of the film on Monday, we heard stories of bravery in noble causes from five whistleblowers who had put their lives and welfare at risk to advance peace, justice, public safety, the rule of law, and honest government. Their names are Jesselyn Radack, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Thomas Drake, William Binney, and Kirk Wiebe. They talked about morality, not machismo. Here’s video of them in Baltimore on Sunday.

A sixth speaker on the topic of speaking out was Phil Donahue, who lost his job at MSNBC for dissenting from war fever in 2003. He heartily denounced the dishonesty and sycophancy of corporate media on Monday. He also came back to the topic of bravery, rightly pointing to the five panelists next to him as the highest examples of moral courage.

Now there’s a useful phrase:moral courage. Let’s celebrate only that kind.

I spoke at an event Monday morning at American U. at which I asked people to raise their hands if they thought war was good for us and character building, or if they thought some wars were necessary, or if they thought all war was unjustified. The crowd was roughly evenly split between the last two choices. Not a single person accepted the notion (popular 100 years back) that war is good for us. But this unscientific poll was conducted in a room of peace studies students and opponents of war. What would the whole U.S. public say?

After the event I spoke with Medea Benjamin about the just-begun bombing campaign, and she remarked, “This is exactly what ISIL wants. They’re trying to get the U.S. involved in a war. There are already U.S. troops in combat and this will mean more. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of another immoral and unwinnable war.”

Medea and I will be protesting this new war at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in front of the White House along with National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.  We encourage you to join us or to demonstrate locally. Your Congress members and Senators have fled Washington in order to pretend the blood is not on their hands. Take your message of peace to them where they can be found.

Over Easy: To Market To Market ….

By: cmaukonen Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:50 am

Silex Coffee maker

Well I have just finished a cup of coffee brewed in my new vacuum stove top coffee maker. Not unlike to old Silex one my grandmother had. I am not coffee connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, so would not know if it does any better job of brewing coffee than any other method.  But I always thought it was nifty to watch it in the morning on my grandmother’s stove, with the water bubbling up tp the top and then being sicked back down in the bottom.

This one I got from Amazon and is made in Taiwan. As is most things that are no made in China or Japan.

As I said in the title to market, to market as Wednesdays are generally my market days, when I make my trip to The West Side Market.   The West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest market and for my money the best place for meats, fruits and vegetables. Not to mention breads, cookies, cakes, sausages, poultry … you name it. With venders for just about anything. Dairy, pasta, Mexican, fish and even Asian.

There is also one area that sells only imported items like teas and spices.

Not a place for anyone with an eating disorder that’s for sure. The only other market of this type I have been to was the Reading Terminal Market in Phillie. and that was when I was much younger.

It has venders that specialize in locally grown meats and vegetables and organic GMO free.  I like to go on Wednesdays as it is less crowded then but can become a real zoo before a Holiday, with parking a challenge. Though they do have a good sized parking area.

The West Side Market is where I get my meats and chicken and Italian meat balls. But you have to be early for some things like baked goods, as they sell out very quickly.

Some venders don’t even open on Mondays but are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only. I have yet to get anything there that was not fresh and the venders are always very nice and helpful. Often giving advise how best to prepare their meats etc.

West Side Market

The market is located in a semi gentrified area of Cleveland called Ohio City. I say semi gentrified since the area is nicer than most, it’s not what I would consider up-scale.

West Side Market Interior

At the corner of West 25 Street and Lorain Av, you easily see Progressive Field and downtown Cleveland.

I have just shopped for my meats and what not for the next two weeks so likely not go until next week. Good thing as I always buy too much there.

What’s on you minds Fire Pups ? Off topic is topic here.

 

Boston Bombing News: Whistleblower Whitehurst and Other FBI Problems

By: lauraw Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:31 am

A few threads back we were discussing the Tsarnaev defense’s Motion for Continuance. In Exhibit G attached to this motion, explosives expert Frederic Whitehurst stated that the thousands of photos and video he had been given “did not appear to depict all of the evidence from the crime scene.” (Certainly an interesting and suggestive statement.)

Jane commented that Dr. Whitehurst is an FBI whistleblower, a fact I believe deserves a bit more attention.

According to Wikipedia, Frederic Whitehurst has a PhD in chemistry in addition to a JD. He joined the FBI in 1982 and worked as a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI Lab from 1986 to 1998. During his employment, the Bureau touted him as the world’s top explosives expert.

FW eventually went public as a whistleblower, citing both procedural errors and misconduct. He was suspended in 1997. In 1998 he officially resigned from the bureau and received a settlement of more than $1.16 million. In exchange, he dropped a lawsuit which alleged that the FBI had retaliated against him for his actions. The bureau issued the following statement: ‘’Dr. Whitehurst played a role in identifying specific areas to be examined, and some of the issues he noted resulted in both internal and external reviews.’’

Dr. Whitehurst is currently Executive Director of the Forensic Justice Project, part of the National Whistleblower Center. This project specializes in making sure that innocent people are not convicted due to the misuse of forensic science.

FW and the Feds.  According to this article, FW originally was troubled with what he saw as widespread contamination of evidence in the FBI lab. He ultimately accused several colleagues of manipulating evidence to favor prosecutors. In a 2009 documentary titled Lockerbie Revisited, FW described the FBI lab itself as a “crime scene,” where at least one unqualified colleague would routinely alter scientific reports.

“Incited by Whitehurst’s numerous allegations, the Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General carried out an investigation into the practices and alleged misconduct of the FBI lab culminating in a report released in April 1997.” This investigation looked into a number of high profile cases including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.

“The DOJ agreed with some [of FW’s allegations], dismissed others, and provided their suggestions into the future course of the FBI lab.”

Among these suggestions was the following: “Records of all case files must be thorough in their recount of the examiner’s data and analysis and must be easily retrieved upon request.” Has this particular resolution been adhered to?

Consider FW’s complaints in Exhibit G: “Much like the reports themselves, the manuals and protocols are labeled in such a way that I have had to take an inordinate amount of time to go through each file simply to determine what is in it … So far I have not seen any validation documentation for any of the protocols I have reviewed. Attempting to find these documents among the documents I have received is extremely time consuming due to the complexity of the file labeling as well as the sheer number of documents that must be read … Another of my tasks is to determine whether the defense should hire experts in specific fields. However, I am unable to give an accurate recommendation unless and until I have been able to review the analysts’ reports … Without knowing what may be provided in the future, I cannot say with any confidence when my work will be done.”

Tip of the Iceberg? The bureau’s carrying out of its good resolutions is further brought into doubt by a July 2014 Washington Post article about the FBI lab’s hair and fiber unit.

“Nearly every criminal case the FBI and DOJ has reviewed during a major investigation that began in 2012 … has involved flawed forensic testimony. The review … was cut short last August when its findings ‘troubled the bureau.’ … The probe resumed once the DOJ inspector general lambasted the FBI for the delay in this investigation … Reviews were completed and notifications offered for defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-row cases, that FBI examiners ‘exceeded the limits of science’ when linking hair to crime-scene evidence.”

The article goes on to quote NYU forensic expert Erin Murphy: “I see this as a tip-of-the-iceberg problem. It’s not as though this is one bad apple or even that this is one bad-apple discipline. There is a long list of disciplines that have exhibited problems, where if you opened up cases you’d see the same kinds of overstated claims and unfounded statements.”

We’ll Be Good Now. We Promise. Reading about the Bureau’s good resolutions to clean up their act bring to mind their COINTELPRO program, which ran between 1956 and 1971, and then officially ended. This program targeted various subversives, anti-war protestors and civil rights activists. In the name of national security, bureau operatives employed forgery, false info planted in the media, harassment, wrongful imprisonment and illegal violence.

After the whistle was blown on this program in 1971, the Bureau promised to stop doing that stuff. But, quite obviously, they are still doing it. I am sure they feel that these dirty tricks are more necessary than ever, because of all the dangerous Muslims in the Homeland.

 

The Tsarnaev defense has a distinguished researcher  participating in the guilt-phase portion of the case. Dare we hope he will again challenge the supposedly “inviolable” word of the FBI?

Former Obama and Bush Undersecretaries for Imperialism Agree, the U.S. Needs More Military and Weapons.

By: Big Al Monday September 22, 2014 5:21 pm

In the bipartisan fashion we’ve come to expect from both major parties when it comes to war, imperialism and the Military Industrial Complex, the former undersecretaries for defense under Bush (Eric Edelman) and Obama (Michele Flournoy) have written a joint letter begging for more tax dollars for the U.S. imperialist war machine and by extension, the Military Industrial Complex.

http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/cuts-defense-spending-are-hurting-our-national-security

First they build up the reason. They start with lies like Russia invaded Ukraine, the threats we face in the Middle East and with China.  Then probably without realizing it they  state what the U.S. and NATO war machine has caused this century.

“the United States faces perhaps the most complex and volatile security environment since World War II.”

Ya, you helped do that Michele and Eric. You guys are so special.  You’ve helped create a pretty messy situation here on Planet Earth.

Then they post the problem.

“But scant attention has been paid to ensuring that we have a robust and ready military, able to deter would-be aggressors, reassure allies and ensure that any president, current or future, has the options he or she will need in an increasingly dangerous world.”

You see, it was that dang Budget Control Act of 2011 which has caused across the board cuts to the national budget, including war and imperialism spending. We knew this was coming. The full court press is now on to prep Congress and citizens for what comes next. They want more money for war and imperialism and it’s going to have to come out of other programs, like maybe Social Security or Aid to the Handicapped. We still have that other thing to worry about, the national debt.  I think the thinking goes that if we don’t have the most expensive war and imperialism budget ever imagined then we’re all going to get killed so we won’t be able to retire anyway. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t man.

They even had a Commission, the National Defense (War and Imperialism) Panel and they wrote a report.  They always write reports.

“The commission’s report concluded that, without budgetary relief, the U.S. armed forces soon will be at high risk of not being able to accomplish the national defense strategy.”

Face it, these people and their friends want to rule the world with the U.S. military.  That’s what it’s all about.  They say the U.S. will soon not be able to do all it’s war and imperialism stuff if we don’t give them more money. We could actually go back to how we were just after Vietnam they say, a hollow force that could barely destroy Grenada or Lichtenstein.   This comes after a ten year military buildup envisioned by the neocons with their Project for a New American Century (PNAC), Rebuilding America’s Defenses which was dutifully implemented by Congress under Bush and Obama.  By the way, the two former undersecretaries published their article on Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the neocon successor organization to PNAC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

They talk about those U.S. interests again.  There are evidently U.S. interests in every fucking corner of the planet. They never really explain what those interests are but they assure us that defending them with war and imperialism will keep us all safe and prosperous. I get goosebumps when I read that.

“Hi, I’m Big Al, and I’m safe and prosperous.” I’m also a citizen of an Imperialist country that goes around the planet killing people for it’s “interests”.

Their demand?

“That’s why the National Defense Panel urged — and we reiterate today — that Congress and the president repeal the Budget Control Act immediately, end the threat of sequestration and return, at a minimum, to funding levels proposed by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his fiscal 2012 budget.”

So this is coming after the election along with the continued austerity that will be placed on domestic programs, including Social Security. The stakes could not be higher for the Military Industrial Complex they say, and our nation’s security is at risk. Actually the stakes could not be higher for the American citizens and the rest of the world’s security is at risk, particularly those “we” want to kill and subjugate.  This would be a good time to have a national conversation about the role the United States should play on this planet.  Can the citizens force the ruling class to allow us a say in the matter?  Do enough citizens even care?

How could we have let ourselves get into this position?