Why American leaders like being #1 Reply

Article by Stephen Walt.
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All told, this has not been a good month for war criminals, international terrorists, and tyrannical despots. To be specific: Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, Ratko Mladic has been captured in Serbia, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces are gradually wilting (and it’s hard to imagine that the Qaddafi family will ever be regarded as legitimate again), and the protests against the Assad regime in Syria continue despite repeated acts of repression.

Which tells you why it’s nice to be the leader(s) of a great power. When you’re the head of a relatively weak group like Al Qaeda, you have to stay hidden and hope you don’t get found. If you’re a fugitive from justice from a weak country like Serbia, you don’t have much choice but to hide out. And if you’re the ruler of an oil-rich but otherwise weak country like Libya, you have to worry that stronger powers might suddenly decide that it’s time to overthrow you.

But if you’re the leader of a great power like the United States (or some others), you can order the illegal invasion of other countries, torture suspected terrorists, conduct drone attacks and targeted assassinations on the territory of other sovereign nations, and cause — directly or indirectly — the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. And when you leave office, nobody will investigate you for possible war crimes, or interfere with your leisure time (though you might have to alter your travel plans occasionally). You can kick back, write your memoirs, and make the occasional snarky speech criticizing your successors. Being the dominant world power has certain downsides to it, but it’s pretty easy to understand why nobody ever campaigns for president saying their goal is to make America #2.

I just worry that we’ll keep doing things that will take us there anyway.

Police Epidemic Reply

Lew Rockwell interviews William Norman Grigg.

Paramilitary police are a relatively recent state invention. They’ve metastasized into a domestic occupation force, enhancing government, institutionalizing injustice, plundering with permission, Tasing with perversion, cloaked in full immunity, and not protecting people. Whatever you do, don’t call 911. As a mundane, your home is no longer your castle.

Gay Student Crowned Prom Queen at Va. High School Reply

So much for small town America as citadels of prejudice and intolerance.
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Becoming prom queen at Blacksburg High got harder this year.

Young women aspiring to wear the tiara don’t just have to worry about the other girls anymore – guys can become prom queen at the high school now too.

The proof: Senior student Jake Boyer took the title at this year.

“This prom queen thing sort of became a manifestation of ‘all right, this is who I am’,” Boyer told WDBJ News. “It’s time to show it off.”

Boyer came out as gay publicly during the school year. Encouraged by his friends, he entered into the running for queen of the Blacksburg Prom this spring.

The night of the dance, Boyer showed up wearing a green Lady Gaga-inspired outfit.

He called his run for prom queen a social experiment gone right. “More than anything, this experiment just gave me hope for the future,” he told WDBJ. “Like, oh my gosh, this little town in the middle of Virginia is able to be this open.”

Egypt: general confirms "virginity checks" forced on female protesters by military 1

Article by Xeni Jardin.
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Via CNN and other sources today, the revolting news that a senior Egyptian general admits so-called “virginity checks” (presumably, forcible examination of the hymen) were performed on women arrested in at least one demonstration this spring. Previously, military authorities denied it. Now, an Egyptian general who asked not to be identified defends the practice—wait for it—as a protective measure for the women’s own good.

As noted previously on Boing Boing, Amnesty International reported and condemned news of this systematic sexual abuse by military agents back in March. At the time, women were at the forefront of the historic Tahrir Square protests that overthrew the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. And Amnesty International was told then by a group of women protesters “that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.”

With that in mind, here’s a snip from Shahira Amin’s report today for CNN:

The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”

…and if you’re not a virgin, it’s not rape, anyway. But more to the point: these so-called “virginity checks” are nothing less than a form of rape.

As a human biology note, not that it would make this horrific form of militarized sexual abuse any more justified, and not that it was the point of those perpetrating the abuse: examining the hymen is not an accurate way to determine virginity. This is a myth.

And a personal observation? My god, but these women out at the protests in Egypt, knowing that these are the sort of barbaric risks they face, are strong, strong human beings.

The Political Compass: Don’t Waste Your Time Reply

Article by Kevin Carson.
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The Political Compass, a popular online quiz, was supposedly designed to remedy the simple-mindedness of the left-right spectrum by replacing it with two axes: political and social libertarianism vs. authoritarianism, and economic Left vs. Right. Basically, everything nice you say about big business puts you further to the economic Right — which the quiz equates to a preference for free markets — and everything negative you say about corporate power puts you further to the Left (i.e. collectivism).

The quiz explicitly identifies the economic Right with libertarianism and neoliberalism. The horizontal Left-Right axis, the explanatory page says, is “economic.” “Margaret Thatcher would be well over to the right, but further right still would be someone like that ultimate free marketeer, General Pinochet.” The fact that the designers of the quiz refer to “Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market,” and that that they equate support for free markets as a right-wing position, says it all.

Remember the old “Pinochet was politically authoritarian but economically libertarian” canard? Right. Pinochet sent soldiers into factories and asked managers to point out union troublemakers for arrest. The clear intent was to prevent the owners of a “factor of production” — labor power — from exercising full bargaining rights on the market. Imagine if he’d carried out a similar program of terror against the owners of capital to force them to offer better terms to labor — do you think the designers of this quiz would call that “economically libertarian”? Pinochet took land from the people cultivating it and restored it to a landed oligarchy based on quasi-feudal titles. He “privatized” taxpayer-funded state property to crony capitalists on sweetheart terms. Somebody obviously never heard of the distinction between “pro-market” and “pro-business.”

Some of the questions have a “have you stopped beating your wife?” quality to them. For example: “Because corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily protect the environment, they require regulation.” Or “A genuine free market requires restrictions on the ability of predator multinationals to create monopolies.”

I believe the main reason corporations rape and pillage the environment is that the government is actively intervening to protect them from the consequences of pollution — subsidizing waste, preempting tort liability, and the like. The main function of government is to subsidize the operating costs of monopoly and enforce the entry barriers that protect monopolies against competition.

But the implicit framing of the questions suggests the government and big business are naturally enemies, with state intervention as the only way to prevent corporate malfeasance. So how’s a left-wing free marketeer like me, who believes big government props up big business, supposed to answer questions like those? Given the designers’ preconceptions, there’s no way to answer truthfully without giving a false impression.

And how about this little gem: “What’s good for the most successful corporations is always, ultimately, good for all of us.” Want to guess whether an “Agree” or “Disagree” puts you closer to the “free market” end of the spectrum?

The test placed me squarely in the middle of the Economic Left/Right axis. I suspect my answers cancelled each other out because, while I regard all my positions as perfectly consistent with genuine free market libertarianism (as opposed to being a shill for big business and the plutocracy), the compass works from the unstated assumption that any critique of corporate power is somehow “anti-business” or “anti-market.”

This wretched quiz takes for granted all the worst assumptions of our dumbed-down political culture. In so doing, like Newspeak, it reinforces all the ways in which our corporatized political culture obscures critical thought.

“Both sides” in American politics share the unstated assumption that corporate economic domination by is the natural outcome of a “free market,” unless the state intervenes to obstruct the process. They just disagree on whether that’s good or bad. But they share a common interest in promoting this misconception. Mainstream “conservatives” have an interest in pretending the size and power of big business, and the wealth of the plutocracy, result from success in the competitive market — and not corporate welfare. Mainstream “liberals” have an interest in pretending the regulatory state — run by people like themselves — is all that stands between us and corporate tyranny, when in fact it’s propping the tyranny up.

If I may allude to Plato, this quiz minutely measures our beliefs about flickering shadows on the wall of a cave. If reality is what you’re interested in, then tear up this wretched quiz, free yourself from your mental chains, and turn around and face the light of day.

Exporting Thuggery Reply

Article by Darian Worden.
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A report in the Guardian reveals that the British Ministry of Defense has trained, and continues to train, the Saudi Arabian force that helped suppress demonstrations in Bahrain earlier this year (“UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring,” 28 May 2011). As usual, those who rule are more concerned with maintaining the “stability” of their power than they are with the people on the receiving end of their power.

The Guardian notes that the Saudi Arabian National Guard was “established by the kingdom’s royal family because it feared its regular army would not support it in the event of a popular uprising.” Sounds like a true force for freedom, doesn’t it? Since 1964 the National Guard has been trained by the British government in “weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training.” Some of these skills were undoubtedly put to use by the hundreds of Saudi troops who helped put down a popular uprising in nearby Bahrain.

The training these men received is just one element in the latest episode of Western intervention in the Middle East, a show that has been running at least since Napoleon. It’s part of the tradition of making a deal with local strongmen who will work in your interests – which are often at odds with the interests of those the strongmen rule over. This tradition includes the US School of the Americas, where many graduates would go on to leave a path of pillage and torture across Latin America, and it includes US support for the Shah of Iran’s brutal SAVAK security service. It’s done with the same motivation as trading weapons for political support, an act countless governments have involved themselves in, recently seen in the “Made in the USA” teargas canisters used unsuccessfully to maintain autocracy in Egypt.

Politicians in powerful countries want to get strongmen on their side to extend their influence globally. A dictator might be a “son of a bitch,” but as the saying goes, if he’s “our son of a bitch” then he’s okay.

And what becomes of the training and weapons given or sold to such upstanding individuals? Thugs use them to seize and control political power. Loyal forces like the Saudi Arabian National Guard use them to keep the cannon fodder in line. And superior firepower tends to be helpful in keeping the population from rising against the government.

Even a cursory examination of human rights in Saudi Arabia paints an ugly picture: censorship is widespread, religious freedom is curtailed, women are not even permitted to drive automobiles, homosexuality is a crime, prisoners are tortured, and official punishments include amputation, flogging, and public execution. Saudi forces in Bahrain reportedly discriminated against Bahrain’s majority Shi’a population – that is, discriminated at the point of automatic rifles.

When the West provides military training and weapons to regimes that actively suppress the freedom of millions of Muslims and engage in sectarian repression, it highlights the absurdity of the claim that Westerners are primarily hated for our freedom. Sure, there are people who harbor resentment for greater degrees of liberty than they are willing to tolerate – and not all of these people are native-born Westerners. But is it any wonder that people are attracted to violence or seek answers in repressive religion when Western governments help suppress peaceful options for reform?

It also reveals the arrogance of Westerners who proclaim that people from a certain area are “not ready for democracy.” This is like giving a person a swift kick to the knees then announcing that he isn’t ready to run.

So long as there are enough people who insist on ruling over others, and enough people who let them, violence and repression will be subsidized. The practice of statehood is the expansion of power on behalf of those who rule and those whom rulers need the most. If there is power to be gained in helping governments that murder peaceful demonstrators, then weapons and trainers will be sent. Authorities at home export brutality abroad.

NIETZSCHE: THOUGHTS & PERSPECTIVES, VOLUME THREE Reply

Troy Southgate

FRIEDRICH Nietzsche, despite being one of the world’s most brilliant and influential philosophers, is still grossly misrepresented by political theoreticians and court academics alike. His ideas, which are notoriously hard-hitting and uncompromising, have often been used to justify or legitimise anything from capitalist exploitation and social-darwinism right through to psychopathic behaviour and totalitarianism. The articles contained in this new study examine his thought in relation to Morality, the Soul, Dionysianism, Judeo-Christianity, and Nietzschean-Darwinian Pseudosynthesis. The text also takes a look at how Nietzsche’s vision can be applied in the twenty-first century and outlines the development of his life and work in general. Contributors include Troy Southgate, Michael Walker, K.R. Bolton, Keith Preston, Gwendolyn Toynton, Mariella Shearer, Mike Kleen and Thomas Dalton.
Signed copies of NIETZSCHE: THOUGHTS & PERSPECTIVES, VOLUME THREE are now available to preorder. The book is over 300 pages in length and costs just £24 (UK), £26 (Europe) & £27 (America/Rest of World). All prices include postage and the Paypal address is: blackfrontpress@yahoo.co.uk

Book review: Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870—1940 Reply

Review by Wayne Price.
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It is widely believed on the radical left that anarchism has been solely a movement of Europe and North America. Marxists and liberals state that anarchism has never had anything to offer the majority of humanity in the oppressed and impoverished nations (the so-called “Third World”)—unlike Marxism or pro-Western liberalism. This is not just a historical argument. Today there is a great expansion of international anarchism. The assertion of anarchism’s supposed irrelevance to the exploited nations in the past is an assertion that anarchism cannot be relevant to most of the world today. The contrary claim that anarchism as a movement was once significant for colonized peoples is a claim that it may be significant now and in the future.

That claim is made by the papers in Hirsch and van der Walt’s book. It covers the period from the last quarter of the 19th century up to World War II, although some chapters only include shorter periods (such as up to the 1920s). Within this timespan, the papers cover the historical impact of anarchism in several countries throughout the regions of the earth.

For Eastern Asia, chapters discuss anarchism in China and in Korea. For Latin America, it covers Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, and Brazil. For the Arab East, it has a paper on Egypt. Subsahara Africa is represented in a paper on South Africa. There is a chapter on Ukraine. This is a brilliant, brief, summary of the Ukrainian movement led by Nestor Makhno during the time of the Russian Revolution.

The only Western European country discussed is Ireland, which was a colony of Britain. Ireland did not have much of an explicitly anarchist movement, but it had a significant syndicalist movement (radical unionism, which overlaps with anarchism).

The writers do not deny that anarchism and syndicalism began in Western Europe. Capitalism and industrialism began there and, therefore, so did the reactions to them: liberalism, nationalism, Marxism, as well as anarchism.These ideologies then spread over the world, interacting with and merging with local conditions.

In particular, anarchism was spread by the international circulation of workers and others. Many Spanish-speaking anarchist workers went to the Western hemisphere. They went mainly to make a living but they spread anarchism and built syndicalist unions in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the U.S.A. Italian anarchists worked in Egypt, and spread their ideas to Egyptians and workers of other countries. Chinese and Korean workers and young intellectuals traveled to Japan, to learn from Japanese anarchists, as well as a few going as far as Paris, to bring back radical ideas. European workers settled in South Africa and spread anarchist ideas to the Africans. International networks of anarchists were central to the spread of anarchism.

Throughout the world, class-struggle anarchist ideas merged with ideas of the IWW and with Marxist syndicalism (such as DeLeonism), as well as with “native” traditions of struggle against oppression. Anarchist-influenced syndicalist unions were built throughout the oppressed nations, even more than in Western Europe.

Chris Hedges on corporate liberalism 1

From Roderick Long’s blog. This is what I’ve been saying for years: That the Left has sold out to the state-corporate-military power elite in exchange for establishment support for the Left’s social agenda.
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The pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party – all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. …

By extolling the power of the state as an agent of change, as well as measuring human progress through the advances of science, technology and consumption, liberals abetted the cult of the self and the ascendancy of the corporate state. …

Of what import are brief, nameless lives ... to Galactus?

The state, now the repository of the hopes and dreams of the liberal class, should always have been seen as the enemy. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements – the communists, socialists and anarchists – has left liberals without a source of new ideas. …

The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. Liberalism, cut off from the radical roots of creative and bold thought, merged completely with the corporate power elite. The liberal class at once was betrayed and betrayed itself. And it now functions like a commercial brand, giving a different flavor, face or spin to the ruthless mechanisms of corporate power. This, indeed, is the primary function of Barack Obama ….

To accept that Obama is, as West said, a mascot for Wall Street means having to challenge some frightening monoliths of power and give up the comfortable illusion that the Democratic Party or liberal institutions can be instruments for genuine reform. It means having to step outside the mainstream. It means a new radicalism. It means recognizing that there is no hope for a correction or a reversal within the formal systems of power. It means defying traditional systems of power. And liberals, who have become courtiers to the corporate state, must attempt to silence all those who condemn the ruthlessness and mendacity of these systems of destruction. …

The Sky Really Is Falling 3

Article by Chris Hedges. What do our eco-inclined readers make of this?
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The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with two kinds of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation—the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry—is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted pied pipers and fools.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Horticulturalists are busy planting swamp oaks and sweet gum trees all over Chicago to prepare for weather that will soon resemble that of Baton Rouge. That would be fine if there was a limit to global warming in sight. But without plans to rapidly dismantle the fossil fuel industry, something no one in our corporate state is contemplating, the heat waves of Baton Rouge will be a starting point for a descent that will ultimately make cities like Chicago unlivable. The false promise of human adaptability to global warming is peddled by the polluters’ major front group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” This bizarre theory of adaptability has been embraced by the Obama administration as it prepares to exploit the natural resources in the Arctic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

How America Screws Its Soldiers Reply

Article by Andrew Bacevich.
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Everyone claims to “Support Our Troops.” But as Andrew J. Bacevich explains, telling the military it can do whatever it wants works for everyone—except for the soldiers themselves.

Riders on Boston subways and trolleys are accustomed to seeing placards that advertise research being conducted at the city’s many teaching hospitals. One that recently caught my eye, announcing an experimental “behavioral treatment,” posed this question to potential subjects: “Are you in the U.S. military or a veteran disturbed by terrible things you have experienced?”

Just below the question, someone had scrawled this riposte in blue ink: “Thank God for these Men and Women. USA all the way.”

Article - Bacevich Memorial Day Troops United States Marines place a colleague wounded in an IED strike into a waiting medevac helicopter in Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan, Friday, May 13, 2011. (Kevin Frayer / AP Photo)

Here on a 30 x 36 inch piece of cardboard was the distilled essence of the present-day relationship between the American people and their military. In the eyes of citizens, the American soldier has a dual identity: as hero but also as victim. As victims—Wounded Warriors —soldiers deserve the best care money can buy; hence, the emphasis being paid to issues like PTSD. As heroes, those who serve and sacrifice embody the virtues that underwrite American greatness. They therefore merit unstinting admiration.

Whatever practical meaning the slogan “support the troops” may possess, it lays here: in praise expressed for those choosing to wear the uniform, and in assistance made available to those who suffer as a consequence of that choice.

The 12-Step Plan to Restore American Femininity 4

Article by Gavin McInnes.
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Like firing a fetus from a slingshot, feminism catapulted women out of the kitchen and onto the streets, where they were invited to do anything a man can do—but better. This was a blessing for the few women meant to lead a man’s life, but for the vast majority of womankind, it was like that human cannonball from the Isle of Man who died after being catapulted across the sky and right through his safety net.

As this fascinating article by the Daily Mail‘s Liz Jones explains, feminism hasn’t relieved women of any female obligations; it’s only added male obligations to their burden. The kitchen may have been a prison, but it was a hell of a lot easier than staying at the office all night to prepare the PowerPoint presentation for the Clifford account, especially when you have to make the kid’s lunches the next day. Women now get the worst of both worlds.

The girls I grew up banging had rooms that were light years filthier than mine, and I was quite a sloppy lad. I’d say less than half of my female peers can cook, and big loud walrus belches have become the modern lady’s version of, “Charmed, I’m sure.” After graduating from this androgynous youth, women are invited to join the workforce and either bust their ass doing physical labor or get a desk job sifting through numbers without the testosterone to be able to crunch them. (The president of Harvard lost his job for broaching the subject, but “Exposure to testosterone in the womb is said to promote development of areas of the brain often associated with spatial and mathematical skills.”)

For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target 3

From the New York Times.
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A fat sheaf of F.B.I. reports meticulously details the surveillance that counterterrorism agents directed at the one-story house in East Austin. For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front, recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and, in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway.

“The content could not be determined from the street,” an agent observing from his car reported one day in 2005. “It had a large number of multi-colored blocks, with figures and/or lettering,” the report said, and “may be a sign that is to be used in an upcoming protest.”

Actually, the item in question was more mundane.

“It was a quilt,” said Scott Crow, marveling over the papers at the dining table of his ramshackle home, where he lives with his wife, a housemate and a backyard menagerie that includes two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. “For a kids’ after-school program.”

Mr. Crow, 44, a self-described anarchist and veteran organizer of anticorporate demonstrations, is among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the F.B.I.’s increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Other targets of bureau surveillance, which has been criticized by civil liberties groups and mildly faulted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska. When such investigations produce no criminal charges, their methods rarely come to light publicly.

But Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.

In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.

Democratic Dawn—or Darkness? Reply

Article by Pat Buchanan.
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With the end of the Cold War in 1991, it seemed the world was moving toward unity. The post-Cold War era saw the expansion of the European Union, NAFTA and GATT, the creation of a World Trade Organization, the Rome Treaty for the prosecution of war crimes, the Kyoto Protocol, and the G-7 expand to the G-8 and then to the G-20.

Nations seemed to be coming together to solve global problems.

Today, nations seem everywhere to be coming apart.

Is the future more likely to bring deepening global integration, or continued disintegration, as we saw with the collapse and breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into 24 nations, separated along the lines of ethnicity, culture and faith?

What America has on offer to the world is democratic pluralism.

Unlike the Founding Fathers and every generation before 1960, all of which sought to keep us European and Christian, we declare to the world that diversity—religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, the more the better—is now the American ideal.

In 1960, 97 percent of all Americans spoke English. Today, we take pride in the fact that Americans speak hundreds of languages.

China, the emergent rival power, fears diversity, as it portends inevitable division. It thus represses religious and ethnic minorities—Christian and Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians. China offers the world another face, the face of the ethno-national state of Han Chinese. Like Korea, Japan and the other Asian nations, China is closed to immigrants.

Looking to the Middle East today, half a year into the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia, we see Libyan tribes standing by Moammar Gadhafi against Benghazi and the east, and Muslims attacking Christians in Egypt.

In Syria, the Alawite Shia minority, to which President Bashar Assad belongs, speaks with terror of a seizure of power by Sunni, whose slogan is, “Christians to Beirut and Alawites to the coffin.”

‘Bibi’ Votes Republican Reply

Article by Pat Buchanan.
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Not since Nikita Khrushchev berated Dwight Eisenhower over Gary Powers’ U-2 spy flight over Russia only weeks earlier has an American president been subjected to a dressing down like the one Barack Obama received from Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

With this crucial difference. Khrushchev ranted behind closed doors, and when Ike refused to apologize, blew up the Paris summit hosted by President de Gaulle.

Obama, however, was lectured like some schoolboy in the Oval Office in front of the national press and a worldwide TV audience.

And two days later, he trooped over to the Israeli lobby AIPAC to walk back what he had said that had so infuriated Netanyahu.

“Bibi” then purred that he was “pleased” with the clarification.

Diplomatic oil is now being poured over the troubled waters, but this humiliation will not be forgotten.

What did Obama do to draw this public rebuke? In his Thursday speech on the Arab Spring and Middle East peace, Obama declared:

“We believe the borders of Israel should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. … Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat.”

“Moreover, Jewish contributions, by some estimates, may make up half of all the contributions to the Democratic Party.”

Ignoring Obama’s call for “mutually agreed swaps” of land to guarantee secure and defensible borders for Israel, Netanyahu, warning the president against a peace “based on illusions,” acted as though Obama had called for an Israel withdrawal to the armistice line of 1967.

This was absurd. All Obama was saying was what three Israeli prime ministers—Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert—have all recognized.

To get Palestinian and international recognition for a united Jerusalem and Israel’s annexation of the settlements around the city, Israel will have to trade land for land.

Obama was not saying the 1967 borders were to be the end of negotiations but the starting point. Indeed, where else would one begin land negotiations if not from the last recognized map?

Europe: The Rise of the Extreme Right Reply

Article from Newsweek.
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weden has revealed the future direction of Europe, and not for the first time. For decades, Sweden led the way in defining the mixed model of free trade and social solidarity that became the European ideal. Not anymore. In the election this month Swedish voters joined their less successful EU neighbors in turning their backs on traditional politics, in which the pendulum swung between parties advocating more free trade and parties on the center left advocating more solidarity—but no further. Now even the solid Swedes have ushered in to Parliament a block of single-issue politicians obsessed with the perceived loss of national identity and angry about immigrants and other outsiders who supposedly threaten their Swedishness.

Thus the arrival of a new politics in Europe. A decade ago extremist politics was confined to fringes and street protests. It has now arrived as a parliamentary force and is beginning to change how other parties behave and speak. The binary politics between a Christian democratic right and social democratic left, with a small space for classic liberal parties, is now over. The world’s biggest democratic region, the 46 nation-states grouped in the Council of Europe, is now giving birth to a centrifugal politics with identity replacing class alignment. No single party or political formation can win control of the state and govern on the basis of a manifesto with majority support from voters. Even Britain requires a coalition to have a majority in the House of Commons. Belgium and the Netherlands still have not formed governments months after elections produced inconclusive results.

Postwar Europe had one great foe and one great friend to produce unity of political purpose, even if big parties battled over priorities. Social and Christian democrats were united against sovietism and Moscow’s proxy parties on the communist left. The United States allied itself to the moderate right and left to create NATO, support the suppression of nationalisms with the creation of the European Union, and wean Europeans away from protectionist economics in favor of open trade and competitive markets.

Now Europe no longer faces an agreed common threat, despite the best efforts of an Islamaphobe right to present Muslims as an alien invading force that must be confronted and contained. Nor is the United States an inspiration any longer. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been quagmired in their respective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from which most Europeans recoil with dismay. The recession and banking crisis are blamed on unregulated American free markets. Even the business minister for David Cameron’s new Conservative government, Vince Cable, was heard lashing out at the evils of capitalism and the “murky world” of corporate behavior at his party conference this month in Liverpool.

The Patriot Act and bipartisanship Reply

Article by Glenn Greenwald.
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Several days ago I noted that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had agreed to a four-year extension of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act — a bill Democrats everywhere once claimed to revile — without a single reform (despite the long and documented history of its abuse and despite Obama’s previously claimed desire to reform it).  Tonight, a cloture vote was taken in the Senate on the four-year extension and it passed by a vote of 74-8.  The law that was once the symbolic shorthand for evil Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism just received a vote in favor of its four-year, reform-free extension by a vote of 74-8: only resolutions to support Israel command more lopsided majorities.

As I’ve noted several times, I once thought that the greatest American political myth was “The Liberal Media,” but I realized some time ago that it’s actually the claim that “there is very little bipartisanship.”  Washington is driven by overwhelming amounts of bipartisanship, as today’s vote (and the Reid/McConnell agreement that preceded it) yet again demonstrates.  The 8 Senators voting against cloture were Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrats Jeff Merkley, Mark Begich, Max Baucus, and John Tester, and GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller (GOP Sen. Mike Lee announced he’d vote NO but missed the vote due to inclement weather).  Sen. Paul, along with Sen. Tester, took the lead in speaking out against the excesses and abuses of the Patriot Act and the vital need for reforms.

But what’s most notable isn’t the vote itself, but the comments made afterward.  Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who — despite voicing “concerns” about the bill — voted for cloture).  Paul’s announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:

 

“I think it would be a huge mistake,” Feinstein told reporters. “If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear.”

In other words:  Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passage or else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause.  That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor Reply

From Cracked.Com

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Being poor is like a game of poker where if you lose, the other players get to fuck you. And if you win, the dealer fucks you.

A bunch of you reading this are among the 45 million “working poor” in America, and if you’re not, you know somebody who is. Like me.

I’m not blaming anybody but myself for getting into this situation (I was drunk for two straight decades) and I’m not asking for anybody’s sympathy. What I am saying is that people are quick to tell you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and just stop being poor. What they don’t understand is the series of intricate financial traps that makes that incredibly difficult.

If you’re not poor, that’s awesome. I’m not mad at you, or jealous. Hopefully you’ll never find out that …

Patriot Act Extension Signed By Obama Reply

Article by Jim Abrams.
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Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

“It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.

Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.

The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote.

A short-term expiration would not have interrupted ongoing operations but would have barred the government from seeking warrants for new investigations.

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince’s Private Army of “Christian Crusaders” in the UAE 3

Interview with Jeremy Scahill. It’s the likes of Blackwater we will have to fight in the streets when the Revolution comes.
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The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the military firm Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries. The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. Prince has one rule about the new force: no Muslims. We speak to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch.