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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 05/13/2012 - 05/20/2012
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

The United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world, with 90 guns per 100 people. Yemen is in second place, but only has 60 guns per 100 people

the post title is drawn from a study by the graduate institute of international studies small arms survey as quoted by cenk uygur in a story on his young turks show about guns in the u.s...

from raw story...
Friday night on Current TV’s “The Young Turks,” host Cenk Uygur charged that there’s one party in the Trayvon Martin slaying that is truly, undeniably guilty, but it isn’t a person.


Citing the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies’s Small Arms Survey, Uyger pointed out that the United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world, with 90 guns per 100 people.  Yemen is in second place, but only has 60 guns per 100 people.  David Hemenway, director of the Harvard University Injury Control Research Center, authored a paper in 2011 called “Risks and Benefits of Guns in the Home,” which stated that children in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to die in a gun-related accident than children in other developed nations.  The Centers for Disease Control’s statistics for gun fatalities in 2009 include 11,493 homicides, 18,735 suicides and 554 accidental deaths, a combined 31,347 gun deaths for the year.

i have never owned a gun, never wanted to own a gun, never will own a gun... hunters...? not a problem... weapons...? obscene...

what uygur doesn't mention is the united states role in the world's arms trade...

The unit in this table are so-called trend indicator values expressed in millions of US dollars at 1990s prices. These values do not represent real financial flows but are a crude instrument to estimate volumes of arms transfers, regardless of the contracted prices, which can be as low as zero in the case of military aid. Ordered by descending 2000–2010 values. The information is from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

2006–10 Rank Supplier

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

1  United States

7453 8003 6288 6658 8641

2  Russia

5095 5426 5953 5575 6039

3  Germany

2567 3194 2500 2432 2340

4  France

1643 2432 1994 1865 1834

5  United Kingdom

855 1018 982 1022 1054

6  China

597 430 586 1000 1423

7  Netherlands

1187 1326 530 545 503

8  Sweden

432 366 454 383 806

9  Italy

502 684 417 514 627

10  Israel

299 438 281 807 472

11  Ukraine

553 728 330 320 201

12  Spain

843 590 610 998 513

13  Switzerland

285 301 482 255 137

14  Bulgaria

5[13] 9[13] 286[14] 198[15] 354[16]

15  Canada

226 334 227 169 258

16  South Korea

94 220 80 163 95

arms manufacturing and sales is a huge business globally and no country is heavier into arms manufacturing than the united states...

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Chomsky: If the Obama administration decides they don't like somebody, they murder them

from democracy now...
As the United States carries out another deadly drone strike in Yemen, Noam Chomsky compares the counterterrorism policies of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. "If the Bush administration didn't like somebody, they'd kidnap them and send them to torture chambers," Chomsky says. "If the Obama administration decides they don't like somebody, they murder them." Chomsky also praises the whistleblowing activities of WikiLeaks, as well as the ongoing Latin American shift away from Washington's long-running political and economic dominance.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

John Pilger: Obama is as reactionary and violent as George W. Bush, and in some ways he is worse

john pilger is right up there with chris hedges in his unvarnished critique of the crap that is piled on our heads daily by our handlers...
The width of a cigarette paper separates the Democratic and Republican parties on economic and foreign policies. Both represent the super rich and the impoverishment of a nation from which trillions of tax dollars have been transferred to a permanent war industry and banks that are little more than criminal enterprises. Obama is as reactionary and violent as George W. Bush, and in some ways he is worse. His personal speciality is the use of Hellfire missile-armed drones against defenceless people. Under cover of a partial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has sent US special forces to 120 countries where death squads are trained. He has revived the old cold war on two fronts: against China in Asia and with a "shield" of missiles aimed at Russia. The first black president has presided over the incarceration and surveillance of greater numbers of  black people than were enslaved in 1850. He has prosecuted more whistleblowers - truth-tellers - than any of his predecessors.  His vice-president, Joe Biden, a zealous warmonger, has called WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange a "hi-tech terrorist".  Biden has also converted to the cause of gay marriage.

One of America's true heroes is the gay soldier Bradley Manning, the whistleblower alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with the epic evidence of American carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the Obama administration that smeared his homosexuality as weird, and it was Obama himself who declared a man convicted of no crime to be guilty.


The truth is that what matters to those who aspire to control our lives is not skin pigment or gender, or whether or not we are gay, but the class we serve. The goals are to ensure that we look inward on ourselves, not outward to others and never comprehend the sheer scale of undemocratic power, and to that we collaborate in isolating those who resist. This attrition of criminalising, brutalising and banning protest can too easily turn western democracies into states of fear.


That is why the people of Greece ought to be our inspiration. By their own painful experience they know their freedom can only be regained by standing up to the German Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and their own quislings in Athens. People across Latin America have achieved this: the indignados of Bolivia who saw off the water privateers and the Argentinians who told the IMF what to do with their debt. The courage of disobedience was their weapon. Remember Bradley Manning.

greece is offering us a model and a template for what we should be opting for in the way of resistance to the inexorable takeover by our super-rich elites... i am reasonably sure spain will be next up...

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Adbusters: The Globalization of Laughter

riotously laughing flash mobs... what's not to like...?



Hey all you believers in a new world out there,

May Day wasn’t so great was it… the numbers were low, the maxims weren’t sublime, the excitement didn’t catch on. May 12 was hefty in Europe, reigniting the snuffed Indignados, but the energy did not seem to flow over to here.

Now we’re looking at May 18 ~ 21 when protesters, possibly in Arab Spring numbers, swarm Chicago… Security experts say it will be a challenge the likes of which no American city has had to face – a leaderless, all-consuming non-violent swarm. If we can pull it off in the fierce tradition of Gandhi and MLK, the next few days could become the spark, the eruption, the new spiritual home of our Spring offensive.

On a softer, more aesthetic note, the likelihood of a global #LAUGHRIOT starting May 18 feels especially fresh and new … imagine … the globalization of laughter … millions of people around the world decide to take a few minutes off from their usual routines, get together with friends and pull off a global cascade of riotously laughing flash mobs, transforming the flow of power from the heads of the elite to the bellies of the people.

At a time when our human experiment is buckling under austerity, financial madness and eco-angst, there is something so ludicrous, bizarre, even insane about the eight most powerful people in the world trying to conduct the people’s business – to set things right – from behind closed doors and razor wire fences.
A global #LAUGHRIOT could break through the G8’s veneer of legitimacy and expose the Camp David Summit and our current capitalist model for the farce that it really is.

A global laugh-in could be the relief we’ve all been waiting for: the moment when — in a communal burst of laughter — we the people suddenly wake up to the fact that the only power our leaders have is the power we give them.

Here goes … let’s laugh like we’ve never laughed before,

for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

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A bit of good news on the NDAA

An Obama-appointed judge rules provisions of NDAA likely violate the 1st and 5th Amendments

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Predators preying on poverty

barbara ehrenreich...
Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600% a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.

It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell.


You might think that policymakers would take a keen interest in the amounts that are stolen, coerced, or extorted from the poor, but there are no official efforts to track such figures. Instead, we have to turn to independent investigators, like Kim Bobo, author of Wage Theft in America, who estimates that wage theft nets employers at least $100 billion a year and possibly twice that. As for the profits extracted by the lending industry, Gary Rivlin, who wrote Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. -- How the Working Poor Became Big Business, says the poor pay an effective surcharge of about $30 billion a year for the financial products they consume and more than twice that if you include subprime credit cards, subprime auto loans, and subprime mortgages.


I could propose all kinds of policies to curb the ongoing predation on the poor. Limits on usury should be reinstated. Theft should be taken seriously even when it’s committed by millionaire employers. No one should be incarcerated for debt or squeezed for money they have no chance of getting their hands on. These are no-brainers, and should take precedence over any long term talk about generating jobs or strengthening the safety net. Before we can “do something” for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them.

it's shitty being poor... it's even shittier being poor and then being robbed of what little you have at every turn...

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Bernardine Dohrn: NATO is a global secret cabal. It is the military arm of the global 1 percent.

bernardine dohrn on democracy now...
We’re deeply involved [with the protests against the NATO summit this coming weekend] because NATO is a global secret cabal. It is the military arm of the global 1 percent. And really, I think NATO has become background to how we hear the news: "NATO forces, NATO bombings." And when you try to find out what NATO is, you realize that it is the largest global military alliance in human history and that its key elements are that it is about permanent war, it is about dirty war, it is about nuclear war, and it is about hot wars—really four of them right now. So we don’t really know what it is. They are secretive. And when I first went to look at a NATO website to see what it was, a dove floats across the screen on the first page of the official NATO website. By the end of the NATO website, it’s helicopters, fighter planes and drones. So, we, I think, are not made safer by NATO. It is secretive. And it is opposed to peace and to our future.

So, a wide array of Chicagoans have come together in a coalition, meeting really for nine months, to stand up and ask for peace, to really say, "We don’t need NATO. We need an end to the war in Afghanistan. We need a complete end to the war in Iraq. We need to rethink what just happened in Libya and what’s going on every day in Pakistan." So there’s an array of events happening, beginning with a National Nurses Association rally, a permitted rally on Friday. I think the support of unions and workers, the support of African-American activists in the city and Latino and immigrant groups, a wide array of women’s and activist groups and Occupy and students, and, in a way, most importantly, the Iraqi and Afghan vets against the war, who will be leading the big demonstration on Sunday when NATO opens its meeting here.


[W]e think that NATO should be meeting, you know, in an underground bunker or on a remote island. The idea that NATO has been invited to Chicago to have the kind of war games that have been going on here for the last six months and now accelerated this week, so that we have restricted zones, and we have the shutdown of universities and colleges, the shutdown of businesses, the closings of the major museums here, it is being treated as really a practice military zone.

And we actually feel very strongly—I think the way Americans feel—that we want an end to these wars. These wars are hated by the American people. They don’t make us safer in any way. In fact, they jeopardize our safety. Bombing foreign countries, occupying other countries in the world does not make us safer. Killing civilians without any accountability makes people angry.

And so, our resources, this enormous amount of money and resources, and suddenly we don’t have money here for mental—community mental health clinics. We don’t have money for public libraries or for schools. We don’t have money for public transportation. But somehow we have the millions of dollars necessary, or the mayor accessed the money, to hold this event right here in the city of Chicago. So we want peace and not this wars—permanent wars abroad and military war games and national security state at home.

it's amazing that it's no problem at all to come up with the money to fund the national security state while people are being thrown out of their houses, children are going hungry and schools are being closed... our priorities are so fucked...

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Glenn: The War on Terror has normalized even the most warped powers

from the wapo...
President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.
The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.
Unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, the new order does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, one official said, it is designed as a “deterrent” to “make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition” to think again. . . .
The order provides criteria to take action against people who the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, determines have “engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the Nov. 23, 2011, agreement between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power . . . or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.”

Jeremy Scahill, who has reported extensively from Yemen over the last year, reacted to the news of this Executive Order this morning by writing: ”This Executive Order appears to be an attack on Americans’ 1st Amendment Rights and Yemenis’ rights to self-determination“; he added: ”apparently the 1st Amendment had an exception about Yemen in it that I missed.” He then asked a series of questions, including: “What if a Yemeni citizen doesn’t believe in a one candidate ‘election’ and is fighting to change their government? US sanctions?” and ”How would Obama define an American citizen as ‘indirectly’ threatening the stability of Yemen’s government?” and “what if an American citizen doesn’t support Yemen’s government and agitates for its downfall? Sanctions from US Treasury? Wow."

but wait, there's more...
[A] bipartisan group of House members is attempting to enact a law specifying that the indefinite detention powers vested in the President by last December’s passage of the NDAA does not apply to those arrested on U.S. soil; in other words, they are trying to ban military detention on American soil without charges. Even though President Obama, after he signed the bill into law, said he does not intend to use these powers for that purpose, the sponsors of this bill are concerned that — because the law does vest this power — Obama could change his mind at any time or a subsequent President could use those powers. Unfortunately, they are being opposed by key Democratic Senators such as Carl Levin in close cooperation with standard neocon members of Congress. As one tweeter wrote to me yesterday about this: “The fact that government has to be told NOT to do that is insane.” Indeed, and it’s easy to forget how frequently true that is. But the War on Terror has so normalized even the most warped powers — warrantless eavesdropping, torture, indefinite detention, renditions, due-process-free-assassinations, Executive Orders like the one today — that it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is the only real reaction that should be needed.

god i hate reading about this shit... it seems that a day doesn't go by without more bad news about the u.s. constitution and the bill of rights being summarily shredded...

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Highly recommended: Economic Alert: If You’re Not Worried Yet…You Should Be

i won't even attempt to excerpt tyler durden's excellent article, you'll simply have to go read it yourself...

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Paul Buchheit: Five Facts That Put America to Shame

from common dreams...
1. We're near the bottom of the developed world in children's health and safety

According to a 2007 UNICEF report, the U.S. ranked last among 21 OECD nations in an assessment of child health and safety. The assessment measured infant mortality, immunization, and death from accidents and injuries.


2. We've betrayed the young people who were advised to stay in school

Over 40% of recent college graduates are living with their parents, dealing with government loans that average $27,200. The unemployment rate for young people is about 50%. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees applied for food stamps in 2010.


3. The main source of middle-class wealth has been largely wiped out

American homeowners owe almost as much as the students, with $700 billion of debt over and above the value of their homes.


4. We give prison sentences for smoking marijuana, but not for billion-dollar fraud

About half of our world-leading prison population is in jail for non-violent drug offenses. Americans have also been arrested for handing out free food in a park. Mothers in Ohio and Connecticut were jailed for enrolling their kids in out-of-district schools. As of 2003 in California there were 344 individuals serving sentences of 25 years or more for shoplifting as a third offense, in many cases after two non-violent offenses.


5. You can have health care, if you pay for it

A recent Commonwealth Fund study compared U.S. health care spending to 12 other OECD countries. The data shows that reducing our costs to the median level of spending among the OECD countries would save us $1.5 trillion a year, more than our entire deficit.

so very, very sad...

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Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior

more on the social darwinian b.s. that is heaped on our heads on a daily basis...

from the nyt...
A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are “clinical psychopaths,” exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an “unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation.” (The proportion at large is 1 percent.) Another study concluded that the rich are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law.

The only thing that puzzles me about these claims is that anyone would find them surprising. Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news.


Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren’t anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught.


“Poor Americans are urged to hate themselves,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote in “Slaughterhouse-Five.” And so, “they mock themselves and glorify their betters.” Our most destructive lie, he added, “is that it is very easy for any American to make money.” The lie goes on. The poor are lazy, stupid and evil. The rich are brilliant, courageous and good. They shower their beneficence upon the rest of us.

as one who teaches ethical, values-driven leadership in a graduate business program, i'm all too well aware of the shortcomings of business education... while the bottom line focus should be maximizing the common good, instead it's all about maximizing profits... oh, well... after all these years, i'm accustomed to being a voice crying in the wilderness...

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Chris Hedges: Fear and instability ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival

as the 2012 presidential election campaigns gather momentum and obama and romney face off against each other, it is increasingly apparent just how empty our political process really is... the united states - and indeed the rest of the world - is beset by problems and challenges so big as to be practically incomprehensible, yet we are treated day after day to reality show bites on mitt's "bullying," the secret service sex-for-pay scandal, and george clooney's $15M obama fundraiser... moreover, we know that, whoever wins in november, absolutely nothing will change... the super-rich elites who stand in the shadows and pull the strings of our greedy empire will still be there, writing the script and directing the every move of their puppets strutting about the stage...

chris hedges in truthdig...
[T]he functioning of our corporate state ... We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability—keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits—ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.

A change of power does not require the election of a Mitt Romney or a Barack Obama or a Democratic majority in Congress, or an attempt to reform the system or electing progressive candidates, but rather a destruction of corporate domination of the political process—Gamer’s “patron-client” networks. It requires the establishment of new mechanisms of governance to distribute wealth and protect resources, to curtail corporate power, to cope with the destruction of the ecosystem and to foster the common good. But we must first recognize ourselves as colonial subjects. We must accept that we have no effective voice in the way we are governed. We must accept the hollowness of electoral politics, the futility of our political theater, and we must destroy the corporate structure itself.


[T]he Occupy movement frightens the corporate elite. What fosters revolution is not misery, but the gap between what people expect from their lives and what is offered. This is especially acute among the educated and the talented. They feel, with much justification, that they have been denied what they deserve. They set out to rectify this injustice. And the longer the injustice festers, the more radical they become.

The response of a dying regime—and our corporate regime is dying—is to employ increasing levels of force, and to foolishly refuse to ameliorate the chronic joblessness, foreclosures, mounting student debt, lack of medical insurance and exclusion from the centers of power. Revolutions are fueled by an inept and distant ruling class that perpetuates political paralysis. This ensures its eventual death.


A revolution has been unleashed across the globe. This revolution, a popular repudiation of the old order, is where we should direct all our energy and commitment.  If we do not topple the corporate elites the ecosystem will be destroyed and massive numbers of human beings along with it. The struggle will be long. There will be times when it will seem we are going nowhere. Victory is not inevitable. But this is our best and only hope. The response of the corporate state will ultimately determine the parameters and composition of rebellion. I pray we replicate the 1989 nonviolent revolutions that overthrew the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But this is not in my hands or yours. Go ahead and vote this November. But don’t waste any more time or energy on the presidential election than it takes to get to your polling station and pull a lever for a third-party candidate—just enough to register your obstruction and defiance—and then get back out onto the street. That is where the question of real power is being decided. 

strong words but redolent with truth...

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

John Brennan: American drone strikes are “ethical and just," "wise," and "surgically precise”

the exceptionalism of the united states...

tom engelhardt...
[C]onsider as Exhibit One a recent speech by the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” John Brennan, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  According to his own account, he was dispatched to the center by President Obama to provide greater openness when it comes to the administration’s secret drone wars, to respond to critics of the drones and their legality, and undoubtedly to put a smiley face on drone operations generally.

Ever since the Puritan minister John Winthrop first used the phrase in a sermon on shipboard on the way to North America, “a city upon a hill” has caught something of at least one American-style dream -- a sense that this country’s fate was to be a blessed paragon for the rest of the world, an exception to every norm.  In the last century, it became “a shining city upon a hill” and was regularly cited in presidential addresses.

Whatever that “city,” that dream, was once imagined to be, it has undergone a largely unnoticed metamorphosis in the twenty-first century.  It has become -- even in our dreams -- an up-armored garrison encampment, just as Washington itself has become the heavily fortified bureaucratic heartland of a war state.  So when Brennan spoke, what he offered was a new version of American exceptionalism: the first “shining drone upon a hill” speech, which also qualifies as an instant classic of self-congratulation.

Never, according to him, has a country with such an advanced weapon system as the drone used it quite so judiciously, quite so -- if not peacefully -- at least with the sagacity and skill usually reserved for the gods.  American drone strikes, he assured his listeners, are “ethical and just," "wise," and "surgically precise” -- exactly what you’d expect from a country he refers to, quoting the president, as the preeminent “standard bearer in the conduct of war.”

Those drone strikes, he assured his listeners, are based on staggeringly “rigorous standards” involving the individual identification of human targets. Even when visited on American citizens outside declared war zones, they are invariably “within the bounds of the law,” as you would expect of the preeminent “nation of laws.”

The strikes are never motivated by vengeance, always target someone known to us as the worst of the worst, and almost invariably avoid anyone who is even the most mediocre of the mediocre.  (Forget the fact that, as Greg Miller of the Washington Post reported, the CIA has recently received permission from the president to launch drone strikes in Yemen based only on the observed “patterns of suspicious behavior” of groups of unidentified individuals, as was already true in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.)

Yes, in such circumstances innocents do unfortunately die, even if unbelievably rarely -- and for that we couldn’t be more regretful.  Such deaths, however, are in some sense salutary, since they lead to the most rigorous reviews and reassessments of, and so improvements in, our actions. “This too,” Brennan assured his audience, “is a reflection of our values as Americans.”

“I would note,” he added, “that these standards, for identifying a target and avoiding... the loss of lives of innocent civilians, exceed what is required as a matter of international law on a typical battlefield.  That’s another example of the high standards to which we hold ourselves.”

yes, we are truly exceptional as a nation, ever mindful of the highest principles of accountability, the rule of law and international humanitarian conventions... no other country can lay claim to such lofty moral standards...

but wait, there's more...
In truth, our leaders should be in mourning for whatever peaceful dreams we ever had.  But mention drones and they light up.  They’re having a love affair with those machines.  They just can’t get enough of them or imagine their world or ours without them.

What they can’t see in the haze of exceptional self-congratulation is this: they are transforming the promise of America into a promise of death. And death, visited from the skies, isn’t precise. It isn’t glorious. It isn’t judicious. It certainly isn’t a shining vision.  It’s hell.  And it’s a global future for which, someday, no one will thank us.

we should feel so very proud...

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The NYT on "spy balloons" in Afghanistan - a day late and a dollar short

i've visited afghanistan, kabul in particular, at least a half dozen times over the past few years... when i arrived there in september 2009, the first thing i noticed was the surveillance airship floating over the vicinity of the main mosque and in fact i put up a blog post featuring a photo of it i had taken from the roof of our guesthouse (see here)... after inquiring, i was told that it had been there for a few months but that such tethered surveillance craft had been a familiar feature over military bases around the country for at least a couple of years... 

so, in may of 2012, the nyt "breaks" the story...
The dirigible, a white 117-foot-long surveillance balloon called an aerostat by the military, and scores more like it at almost every military base in the country, have become constant features of the skies over Kabul and Kandahar, and anywhere else American troops are concentrated or interested in.
Shimmering more than 1,500 feet up in the daytime haze, or each visible as a single light blinking at night, the balloons, with infrared and color video cameras, are central players in the American military’s shift toward using technology for surveillance and intelligence.

In recent years, they have become part of a widening network of devices — drones, camera towers at military bases and a newer network of street-level closed-circuit cameras monitoring Kabul’s roads — that have allowed American and Afghan commanders to keep more eyes on more places where Americans are fighting.

The dirigibles are now such a common feature in daily Afghan life that some people here shrug and say they hardly notice them. Other parts of the network have become lasting parts of the urban landscape as well, particularly in Kabul, where long-necked closed-circuit cameras overlook locations susceptible to attacks, like the Supreme Court building, traffic circles and main highways past the military camps.

But other Afghans describe a growing sense of oppression, the feeling that even as the Americans are starting to pack up to leave, the foreigners’ eyes will always be on them.

It is often expressed in typically Afghan fashion, as a grumbled undercurrent of quips and brooding pronouncements: “It is an American kite,” or “Afghans and Americans are up there.” (They are not; there is no one in the balloons.) “It shows us that, sure, the Americans are still here,” and, “It is not effective because there are still these suicide attacks and car bombs."

For others, the cameras are an outrageous intrusion into private lives, putting women and children on display for foreigners whom they see as immoral.

the value of this article for me which, i shamefacedly confess, i did not even think about until i read it, is the intrusiveness of such surveillance on afghans' private lives... we put bamboo screening around the rooftop terrace of our guesthouse for two main reasons - so we could be up there without being seen from the street or neighboring buildings and making targets of ourselves but also so we couldn't look down into the walled compounds of our neighbors and watch their women, an absolute no-no... it's just one more example that reinforces the idea that many afghans already have which is that we are disrespectful barbarians who don't give a rat's ass for their customs and their beliefs... and we wonder why they hate us... 

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