Welcome to the Exclusion Zone

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on 12/14/2014

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Welcome to the Exclusion Zone

Do you ever get the feeling that life in the last sixty years has been little more than a series of zone creations? Perhaps you don’t, but I do.

Like most words in the Western world, ‘zone’ comes from the Greek meaning a tract, area or belt. The Romans narrowed it down to mean a girdle, but afterwards middle English broadened it out again…until some time around the 1950s, the Americans used it as the universal collective noun for a region.

Since that era, every new bit of formative history has adopted it….to the point where it seems at times to be a banal noun. But usually, it is anything but: when something becomes a zone, it means things are going tits-up.

In the early 1960s, there was the intriguing Twilight Zone on the telly, but soon there was the all-too-real Demilitarised Zone (the Dee-Em-Zee) between North and South Vietnam. By the time I arrived in Lambeth in the mid 1970s, it had been declared a nuclear-free zone. Sadly, under Ted Knight it was also brain-free zone all the time – and a grit-free zone in the wintertime. Later – living as I did just around the corner from Railton Road – it turned into a war zone. Not long after that, it seemed that – overnight – the entirety of London became a No Parking Zone.

A long and pointless period of talking to shrinks began around this point, and the term comfort zone seemed to keep popping up. I also began a rapid period of promotion within a multinational ad agency, and so time zone calculations became a regular thing – in order to work out how knackered one might be on getting back home. I finally got to fly in Concorde, and had my first close-up view of the Ozone layer.

Shortly after I packed in going to the office and started doing different stuff, the eurozone was born. The internet showed early signs of losing its marbles, and not too long afterwards friendzones started up. I began reading about Buddhism, CBT, homoaeopathy – and so began a fascination with the oddities of the sub-atomic zone. And then just last night, I learned that Costa Rica is a blue zone country….because it has one of the highest citizen contentment scores in the world. Well I never.

Who knows what the next zone will be? Whatever it is, I’d wager it won’t be pleasant. There’s something doom-laden about zones, in that they tend to get added to a description when things are getting worse, weird, or completely out of hand.

Twilight was quite a nice (almost romantic) time until zone was added. Before the DMZ came along, something demilitarised was a good idea: suddenly, in this case, folks were fighting on either side of it. Nuclear free zones and No Parking zones sounded constructive, but were in reality early signs of London’s approaching dementia.That dementia has turned some Islamist and West Indian areas into a potential war zone. We used to have wars fought on battlefields: today, we have civilian war zones to mark just how profound our ignorance is of social anthropology.

On a more personal note, comfort zones were merely a recognition of the fact that much of modern life was mentally uncomfortable: one of these for me was constantly crossing time zones. And at the ultimately macro planetary level, big holes in the ozone layer were so worrying, not even James Delingpole was daft enough to suggest they don’t matter.

The eurozone needs no introduction. Suffice to say it will very probably wind up being the single biggest cause of global financial disaster. Much of me thinks ‘Bring it on’, but an awful lot of innocent people are going to suffer the consequences of Brussels, political, banker and geopolitical hubris…and I don’t want that: only fanatics want that.

Anyone who thinks friendzones are other than an awful symptom of the growing human desire to seek out all things unreal and unnatural needs help. The sub-atomic zone is fascinating alright, but it challenges the very reality of that same reality so many people are deserting in favour of the virtual. And no offence to Costa Rica, but if that’s a blue zone, I don’t want to think about what a red zone might be like.

However, if you were to ask me what the most telling and ironic zone of the twentieth century was, then I’d have to give the award to the Falklands War Exclusion Zone. The Falklands War for me was – along with the Dubya remake of the Iraq War – a key factor in my personal rethink. While I knew what a nasty, murderous tinpot dictator Galtieri was, it was impossible to miss that – in our hour of victory – Margaret Thatcher had finally left the Earthly Zone, and was now stationed three up from Barking. More to the point, against all the ‘rules’ of the Exclusion Zone, she sank a ship full of soldiers and got away with it.

It was the point at which I finally understood that, once you’re above the law, there is no limit to how easily you can evade it…and that there is nothing ruthless psychopaths won’t do to achieve their horribly twisted aims once they’re in this place. In truth, as we approach the end of 2014, the West’s control-freaks are in the Immunity Zone. The rest of us are in the Exclusion Zone.

The Week That Was in Doom June 1, 2014

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 1, 2014
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“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. …  They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ­ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. 

“You know what they want? Obedient workers ­ people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all… It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

― George Carlin


It has been a week less potent with news events than with movements and shifts with long term consequences. Not sure than anyone outside the Beltway has begun to wrap their minds around the consequences of the Russia-China energy and trade deal. Besides having a trillion dollars of planned trade not settled in petrodollars, what do you suppose having China as a trading partner is going to do the bite of sanctions? And how will the EU feel when they are shivering in the dark, waiting for the endless flow of fracked hydrocarbons from Saudi America? Mammon remains hungry, as a mounting toll of senseless and preventable deaths reflects our appetite for weapons and lack of common sense. And the Bildaboogers were at it again, enjoying a gathering you weren’t invited to, not that you’re bitter. You’re not in the club. Welcome to “The Week That Was in Doom-” a fascinating week, so let’s go right to the videotape.

Last week, we wrote about Fukushima, and the environmental catastrophe unfolding on the Pacific Rim. All of which will, in the fullness of time, be playing At a Theater Near You. More recent news from the Far East: China and Russia inked a little deal that some say herald the beginning of a new “Eurasian century.”

“Geopolitical Earthquake” That Is Historic China Russia Agreement Not Appreciated

The agreement between Putin and Jinpeng last week is historic, not only because trade between the two economic superpowers will not be carried out in dollars, but also because locking in China as a customer for all of those Russian hydrocarbons throws a trump on NATO’s plan to use sanctions to punish the Russians for what they are doing (or thinking about doing) in Ukraine.

The deal goes beyond just hydrocarbons. The two countries are considering joint construction of power plants in Russia, including nuclear power plants. Yes, in Russia. What could possibly go wrong? The Chinese are also making suggestions to the Germans that they use existing rail lines to decrease cargo travel time from eastern China to Europe.

And what potential quid for the pro quo might China exact? You might recall China flexing its  muscles lately with Japan in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and this past week with Vietnam in the Paracels (see below). A little Russian help with the Security Council vis-à-vis Japan couldn’t hurt. From the Russian perspective, having another friendly face (and vote) at the UN in re Ukraine, Syria, and Iran might prove useful in further negotiations with Western neocon – controlled regimes.

According to a report in Goldcore, Russia will sail $1 trillion worth of natural gas to China, all of which will be settled in rubles and yuan. If you are scoring at home, you might remember that in July, the BRICS Development Bank was announced as an alternative to the IMF for the developing world. None of which is good news for the petrodollar. If you read the Goldcore article, these guys positively are giddy about the prospects for gold, what with Ukraine simmering and the usual unrest in the usual sewers in the Middle East. Not to mention the potential flight into safety of American wealth as the rentier class wakes up to what the rest of the world is acting like it already knows. Given the state of what passes for media in this country, that won’t be happening anytime soon.


Situation in Paracels- China Attacks, Sinks Vietnamese Fishing Vessel

On Tuesday, as China pressed oil drilling claims in the South China Sea off the Paracel Islands (waters which Vietnam also claims). China had amassed a virtual armada of over 70 vessels around the Paracels around its oil rig. Yahoo Japan reported that “a Vietnamese fishing vessel is sunk after being rammed by a Chinese vessel and the 10 fishermen have been rescued.” Stern communiqués ensued. Here’s Vietnam’s:

According to new information received, at 16 am on 26/5, the Chinese fishing boat collided number 11209 90 152 DNA sinking fishing boats of fishermen in South southwest of Da Nang, Hai Duong rig – rig by 981 and 17 nm , is a traditional fishing grounds, under the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam.

In 10/10 fishermen on board the ship Da Nang we picked and safe rescue.

At the time of the incident, there are 40 Chinese fishing boats surrounded unruly group of our vessels.

ZeroHedge reported the “verbal grenades” tossed by both sides of the dispute:

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry held a press conference on Friday when officials stressed the country’s historical claim to the Paracels.

“Historical and legal evidence shows that Vietnam has absolute sovereignty in the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos,” said Tran Duy Hai, deputy head of Vietnam’s National Border Committee.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang disagreed.

“Seeing that the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry held a press conference last Friday on the subject, I felt it was extremely ridiculous,” he said at a briefing on Monday. “The Paracels are the indisputable territory of the Chinese people.”

At other times, a face-off between fleets of fishing vessels might seem to be a fit subject for musical comedy. But things are a bit antsier today. Think ahead to the end game: the prospect of the United States intervening to help Vietnam assert territorial claims vis-à-vis mainland China? View that through the lens of someone whose friends and relatives served in the war in Vietnam, and get back to me.


The post-Sandy Hook toll of gun violence continues without respite here in the FSoA, where any suggestion of common sense or political will to curtail the availability of automatic weapons and other mass killing devices is met with the snarling fury of the National Rifle Association, lobbyist for the weapons manufacturers. Any attempt to limit the availability of such weapons is met with righteous indignation as curtailing “our freedom.”  Your scribe looks on wistfully, wishing that the ardor brought in defense of the Second Amendment might have been utilized in defense of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth. Just sayin’.

Even before Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree in Isla Vista California, there were at least 80 gun related deaths across the country, according to Huffington Post.

That these shootings failed to garner the national attention that the one in Isla Vista did shouldn’t shock anyone who has followed the gun control debate. High-profile instances of gun violence are more likely to grab the spotlight than the everyday scourge of gun-related killings. And certainly, the shooting of three (and stabbing of three others) by the 22-year-old son of a Hollywood director who happened to leave a dark, depressing trail of self-made YouTube videos qualifies as high-profile.

But instances such as the one at UC Santa Barbara are rare in respect to gun-related homicides. In fact, FBI data shows that there were 900 people who died in mass shootings from 2006 through 2012. By contrast, firearms were used in 11,078 homicides in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Huffpo article notes that many of the shootings failed to garner press attention outside of their own localities. Perhaps we have become as inured to them as acceptable “background noise” for our insane culture as we have to “greed is good.” Both violence and greed are BAU in the FSA.

No need for an alternative blog to mention the work of The Grey Lady, but the New York Times’ Joe Nocera has been publishing “The Gun Report.” It is poignant to read for the matter of factness of it all; pulled from local news reports, the blog recounts in declarative journalistic style the people, many of them children, killed and injured by gun violence the past week. It concludes: 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 7,650 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 4,358 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014. That number includes 15 police officers killed, 475 children injured or killed and 355 instances of defensive gun use.

To which I’ll add this local item that I came across this morning:

James Andrew Brown II, of Norfolk, Va. was previously charged with assaulting an officer and carrying a loaded weapon, but but he got the charged reduced to a misdemeanor, so that he could exercise his Second Amendment rights, and continue to “open carry”. He was known around his neighborhood as “Wyatt Earp” because he always carried a gun on his hip. Friday May 30 Mr. Brown randomly killed a 17-yr old high school junior and an on-duty police officer, wounded a second police officer, before a third officer killed Brown. Everybody thought he was just another “good guy with a gun”. 

Res ipsa loquitur.




The Bilderburgers were it again this week, with all the hue and cry, hand wringing and consternation that their meeting generates. There are those who insist that this notoriously secretive gathering of the world’s most powerful bankers, politicians and business people meet behind closed doors to create a new world government. For its part, the official Bilderberg website is as mild as mother’s milk:

Bilderberg is an annual conference designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.
Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; one third from politics and government and the rest from other fields.
The conference is a forum for informal discussions about megatrends and major issues facing the world. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.
There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.

Much was made on RT and some other sites about the so-called “secret agenda” leaked. If you really want to know here it is:

1. Nuclear diplomacy and the deal with Iran currently in the making.
2. Gas deal between Russia and China.
3. Rise of nationalist moods in Europe.
4. EU internet privacy regulations.
5. Cyberwarfare and its potential effect on internet freedoms.
6. From Ukraine to Syria, Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
7. Climate change.
8. The new architecture of the Middle East
9. Ukraine
10. The future of democracy and the middle class trap

Read RT’s reporting here, and The Guardian’s snark at not being able to get inside here. The Bilderberg Group has been at this for six decades, and any gaggle of the world’s most influential individuals, politicians, officials, businessmen, academics and European royalty (dare we say Illuminati?) who regularly gather to discuss global policy issues is going to attract critics. And there is little doubt that these days this group is under far more scrutiny than before. Some see them as acting as a shadow unelected government, de facto rulers of the world, making decisions affecting billions him behind closed doors, with little regard for the needs or wishes of mere proles. What is ironic is that, of the subjects listed on the so-called “secret agenda,” most have been addressed in this space over the past weeks. But then ironies abound.


And in closing–

Real Life Mosquito Tornado Is Far More Terrifying Than Sharknado

Photo credit: Ana Filipa Scarpa

Damn…  and from io9, this:

While visiting Leziria Grande at Vila Franca de Xira in Portugal recently, photographer Ana Filipa Scarpa noticed something off in the distance that resembled a funnel cloud. But it wasn’t a tornado, or even a funnel for that matter. Rather, it was something… alive.

What you’re seeing here is an insect swarm. A swarm of mosquitoes, to be exact.

“It was a very high funnel swinging to the left and to the right. I pointed my camera and began shooting before it hit me. But the funnel did not move toward me — and I thought it was so strange — so I got into my car and started to drive towards it, and that’s when I realized it was a mosquito twister.”

As she drove nearer, the mosquitoes actually started entering into her car.

Leziria Grande de Vila Franca de Xira is a highly fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes, Scarpa told me, because there are many water branches to assure water to animals and harvests.

Scarpa says the swarm extended about 1,000 feet high and was nearly a quarter mile (300 meters) from her position.


And if the rest of this week’s analysis is not left your skin crawling, this last item certainly will.

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of women both young and young at heart.



Off the microphone of RE

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China, Vietnam,

Aired on the Doomstead Diner on May 20,2014


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…Whatever happenned to the Good Old Days, when a World War got underway the POTUS would get on the radio and make a rousing speech Declaring War, the Congress would back him up and they start sending out the Draft Tickets?

Nowadays when the whole WORLD goes to war, nobody mentions it and after one or two articles it gets shuffled to the back pages of the MSM.

Newz for today is that the Thai Army has declared Martial Law because Thailand hasn’t had a working Goobermint for 6 months. Nobody has a working Goobermint right now, the FSoA Goobermint has been completely dysfunctional for at least 5 years…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!

Note: Transcripts for Frostbite Falls Daily Rants are now available by request at the Diner


China-Vietnam Kabuki Theater

Of the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on May 16, 2014


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…There are any number of things going on here at any given time these days, you have China and Japan in disputes over the South China Sea and Senkaku Islands, Thai Color Wars ongoing all the time, the North-South Korea endless conflict, but the HOT one of the day here is China vs Vietnam.

Similar to the Russia Ukraine conflict, this is NFL Linebacker vs Jockey territory in terms of outright warfare, but of course as the Boys in Black Pajamas proved during the LAST conflict over in Vietnam, assymetric warfare is not waged well by the Industrial War Machine, so by no means can you say the Chinese will walk all over the New Vietcong. If the Chinese decide to go in on that one, they’ll be in the same sewer the FsoA was in the 60’s, and the French before them when they tried to hold onto the territory as a Colony…

For the rest…LISTEN TO THE RANT!

The Anti-Empire Report #125

Published February 4, 2014 | By William Blum

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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“Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for ‘objectivity’. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.”

– Michael Parenti

An exchange in January with Paul Farhi, Washington Post columnist, about coverage of US foreign policy:

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Now that you’ve done a study of al-Jazeera’s political bias in supporting Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, is it perhaps now time for a study of the US mass media’s bias on US foreign policy? And if you doubt the extent and depth of this bias, consider this:

There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe  surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”.

Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or his successor, Nicolás Maduro; Fidel or Raúl Castro of Cuba; Bashar al-Assad of Syria; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE’s point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?

Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon? Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? And keeps his or her job?

Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning as the heroes they are?

And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.

The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don’t have any ideology; that they are instead what they call “objective”. I submit that there is something more important in journalism than objectivity. It is capturing the essence, or the truth, if you will, with the proper context and history. This can, as well, serve as “enlightenment”.

It’s been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media “runs the gamut from A to B”.

Sincerely, William Blum, Washington, DC

(followed by some of my writing credentials)

Reply from Paul Farhi:

I think you’re conflating news coverage with editorial policy. They are not the same. What a newspaper advocates on its editorial page (the Vietnam example you cite) isn’t the same as what or how the story is covered in the news columns. News MAY have some advocacy in it, but it’s not supposed to, and not nearly as overt or blatant as an editorial or opinion column. Go back over all of your ODE examples and ask yourself if the news coverage was the same as the opinions about those ODEs. In most cases. I doubt it was.

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Thank you for your remarkably prompt answer.

Your point about the difference between news coverage and editorial policy is important, but the fact is, as a daily, and careful, reader of the Post for the past 20 years I can attest to the extensive bias in its foreign policy coverage in the areas I listed. Juan Ferrero in Latin America and Kathy Lally in the Mideast are but two prime examples. The bias, most commonly, is one of omission more than commission; which is to say it’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. My Anti-Empire Report contains many examples of these omissions, as well as some errors of commission.

Incidentally, since 1995 I have written dozens of letters to the Post pointing out errors in foreign-policy coverage. Not one has been printed.

Happy New Year


I present here an extreme example of bias by omission, in the entire American mainstream media: In my last report I wrote of the committee appointed by the president to study NSA abuses – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – which actually came up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”

So what do we have here? The NSA being used to steal industrial secrets; nothing to do with fighting terrorism. And the NSA stealing money and otherwise sabotaging unnamed financial systems, which may also represent gaining industrial advantage for the United States.

Long-time readers of this report may have come to the realization that I’m not an ecstatic admirer of US foreign policy. But this stuff shocks even me. It’s the gross pettiness of “The World’s Only Superpower”.

A careful search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis database failed to turn up a single American mainstream media source, print or broadcast, that mentioned this revelation. I found it only on those websites which carried my report, plus three other sites: Techdirt, Lawfare, and Crikey (First Digital Media).

For another very interesting and extreme example of bias by omission, as well as commission, very typical of US foreign policy coverage in the mainstream media: First read the January 31, page one, Washington Post article making fun of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba.

Then read the response from two Americans who have spent a lot of time in Venezuela, are fluent in Spanish, and whose opinions about the article I solicited.

I lived in Chile during the 1972-73 period under Salvadore Allende and his Socialist Party. The conservative Chilean media’s sarcastic claims at the time about shortages and socialist incompetence were identical to what we’ve been seeing for years in the United States concerning Venezuela and Cuba. The Washington Post article on Venezuela referred to above could have been lifted out of Chile’s El Mercurio, 1973.

[Note to readers: Please do not send me the usual complaints about my using the name “America(n)” to refer to “The United States”. I find it to be a meaningless issue, if not plain silly.]


JFK, RFK, and some myths about US foreign policy

On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)

RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.

MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?

RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.

MARTIN: What if it did?

RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.

MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?

RFK: No.

MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …

RFK: Yes.

MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.

RFK: Yes.

These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:

  1. Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path. In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States unleashed many different types of hostility, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat; with one or more of these occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.
  2. “Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world.”Ah yes, a vital part of the world. Has there ever been any part of the world, or any country, that the US has intervened in that was not vital? Vital to American interests? Vital to our national security? Of great strategic importance? Here’s President Carter in his 1980 State of the Union Address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America”.“What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.” – Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher
  3. If the US lost Vietnam “everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.”As I once wrote:

    Thus it was that the worst of Washington’s fears had come to pass: All of Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – had fallen to the Communists. During the initial period of US involvement in Indochina in the 1950s, John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower and other American officials regularly issued doomsday pronouncements of the type known as the “Domino Theory”, warning that if Indochina should fall, other nations in Asia would topple over as well. In one instance, President Eisenhower listed no less than Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia amongst the anticipated “falling dominos”.

    Such warnings were repeated periodically over the next decade by succeeding administrations and other supporters of US policy in Indochina as a key argument in defense of such policy. The fact that these ominous predictions turned out to have no basis in reality did not deter Washington officialdom from promulgating the same dogma up until the 1990s about almost each new world “trouble-spot”, testimony to their unshakable faith in the existence and inter-workings of the International Communist Conspiracy.

Killing suicide

Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.

As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”

Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. As some wise anonymous soul once wrote:

A person is unambivalent only with regard to those few beliefs, attitudes and characteristics which are truly universal in his experience. Thus a man might believe that the world is flat without really being aware that he did so – if everyone in his society shared the assumption. The flatness of the world would be simply a “self-evident” fact. But if he once became conscious of thinking that the world is flat, he would be capable of conceiving that it might be otherwise. He might then be spurred to invent elaborate proofs of its flatness, but he would have lost the innocence of absolute and unambivalent belief.

We have to capture the minds of these suicide bombers. At the same time we can work on our own soldiers. Making them fully conscious of their belief, their precious belief, that their government means well, that they’re fighting for freedom and democracy, and for that thing called “American exceptionalism”. It could save them from committing their own form of suicide.


  1. Boston Globe, February 18, 1968, p.2-A
  2. New York Times, April 8, 1954



William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.



Off the Keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on November 20, 2013

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Time shimmers past differently for a long-distance sailor. The daily markers that are so familiar in the real world do not exist out on the Wide Waters. There is no breakfast with the family or racing off to school or leaving for work. There is only the subtle curve of the horizon, the enveloping water, and the on-looking sky. Occasionally a wild sea creature flies past or emerges from the depths, but mostly it is an immensity of space and an undulating flow of time.

Thus, my decades as a sea gypsy have gently distorted my sense of how swiftly the years thunder by. So I was totally blindsided last week when I realized that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy was approaching. That horror bludgeoned me in my youth. It was the first time that I really had to deal with mortality. That was my initial taste of the bitter randomness of death – of someone being vibrantly alive and then gone forever.

Like so many other young people, I was inspired by JFK and hoped to one day follow his lead in sculpting a better world from the clay of our democracy’s political institutions. My grief then was overwhelming and personal – my hero had been viciously gunned down. But as the decades ebbed and flowed, my sense of loss widened and intensified. Yes, I had lost a role model, but the planet had lost a visionary and a healer.

What haunts me the most is that brilliant speech that he made before the United Nations when he offered the olive branch of Peace during one of the most incendiary stages of the Cold War. When I watch that footage and see him accepting the applause from the General Assembly after he offers to lead a campaign for total world disarmament, a heart-breaking realization assaults me. He already knew! There is a nobility and resignation in his body language that seems to imply a foreknowledge that the bullets had already left the guns and were headed his way. He probably understood that by speaking those peace-seeking words, he was signing his own death warrant. But he spoke them anyway – boldly and poetically – because he knew that sometimes Right must defy Might. Eisenhower, in his Farewell Address, only three years earlier, had warned the nation about the clandestine influence and danger of the Military/Industrial Complex. Hidden behind the scenes, these rogue power-brokers wielded enormous control. Kennedy was perceived as a direct threat to them. He had already vowed to destroy the CIA, and now with his desire to dismantle the war machine, his enemies eliminated him in a cowardly ambush. Needless to say, this was not the story that was conveyed to us 50 years ago by the media, and they still deceive us now.

Kennedy’s presidency was an absolute crossroads event in this nation’s history. To use contemporary terminology, he came from the 1% but he championed the 99%. He didn’t wish to actually strangle the ruling elite, but he refused to let them suffocate the vast majority of decent, everyday citizens. And unlike our present politicians he did not just pay lip service to such noble aspirations. He acted upon them and was gunned down as a result of his ideals.

Although polling data reveals that a great majority of Americans do not believe the absurd Lone Gunman theory, there still are millions who do. They often justify their position by saying, “But everybody loved JFK. He had no enemies. So it must have been some lone nut case like this Lee Harvey Oswald character.”

Indeed, out in the general population almost everyone did love the president. Just witness the affection from the crowds as his motorcade moved through the streets during the last hour of his life. But there is a massive difference between The People and The Power. Many of his actions during his first three years in office were specifically designed to rein in their influence. had penalized the steel industry for price gouging. He dispatched his brother Robert, the Attorney General, to try and dismember organized crime in America. He was attempting to reduce the massive tax dodge for the petroleum industry known as the oil depletion allowance. He would not bow down to the Miami-based former Cuban oligarchs in their vendetta against Castro. He refused to send troops to Vietnam, allowing only non-combat advisors. He fired the head of the CIA and vowed to greatly diminish its power. He was on the brink of implementing far-reaching Civil Rights legislation. So he was at the top of the enemy list of heavy industry, the Mafia, Big Oil, the rabid Cubans, the Military/Industrial/Complex, the CIA and the Ku Klux Klan.

Furthermore, he eloquently and clearly stated his position on extremely important issues in major speeches. These topics included the need to rid democracy of secret societies, the importance of racial equality, the fact that imperialism is the enemy of freedom and the grave imperative for nuclear disarmament. These messages further infuriated his enemies, who were weaving their secret webs behind the scenes.

How different life might be if JFK had not been viciously murdered. He was essentially the last apostle for the little people. With him gone, the men behind the curtain, what I call the Shadow Power, could enormously increase and consolidate their control of the country. And they did so with appalling success. Here are some examples of how they have increased their stranglehold over decent ordinary people:

  • They have made a mockery of the concept of representative government. Politicians represent the Few and not the Many. Congress views themselves as our Masters and not our Servants.
  • Wall Street has carpet-bombed Main Street. The Middle Class, which should be the centerpiece of a functioning Republic, has been incinerated by the 1%.
  • Because the Haves are justifiably worried about the anger of the Have-nots, they have doubled-down on their security measures. Surveillance grids that would even make Orwell blush, have been covertly put in place to monitor us. The friendly policeman on the corner has been turned into a psychotic, militarized storm-trooper.
  • The consolidation of their power has been colossal. Big Everything has stomped the rest of us into Mom and Pop Nothing. The big chains have destroyed Main Street retail.
  • Mainstream media is a fraud. It does not represent the great bulk of America – the main stream. It services the interests of the 1%. It should be called Corporate Media or Government Media or perhaps Anti-Truth Media.
  • The rise of the multinational corporations is a global version of the big chain stores. In the same way that big box retail doesn’t care about the communities that they are in, the big global corporations barely care about their home countries.
  • Without permission from the citizens, our nation has been turned into an imperial parasite that is scorned around the world. Did anyone ask you if you wanted to unleash drones on wedding parties or install 700 military bases overseas?

So, when people try to tell you that the Kennedy assassination is unimportant or that it is ancient history, do not let them do so. The Shadow Power, that literally blew his brains out, was able to gain almost full spectrum societal domination as a result of that “hit.” They are now more powerful than ever and they are INSATIABLE. They will not be content until they have turned this once great nation into Plantation America. In honor of the vision and sacrifice of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we must not let them!


Pride of Failure and the Fall

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

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Published on Economic Undertow on November 18, 2013


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“It was a miserable damn performance, just like it always is. These people won’t listen. They make the same mistake over and over again in the same way”.

– John Paul Vann after the battle of Ap Bac in South Vietnam, 1963


One of the great themes of the ongoing unraveling is the establishment’s tendency toward failure and the choice taken — usually with great cynicism — to adopt over-elaborate and punitive strategies in the place of simpler, less destructive alternatives. At the same time, this failure strategy is almost always hidden behind a scrim of public theater which by itself indicates the managers understand the choices yet purposefully make the wrong ones.

Administrative failure isn’t new or a monopoly good of the current regime, nor is it entirely the by-product of our current unraveling. Failure is the 600-year-old stepchild of modernity. Along with contrived ‘scarcity’, failures of past regimes are offered as reasons to justify modernity’s expansion into every area of human- and non-human life. Without failures there are no reasons for more ambitious follow-ups. The cans are kicked; the latest- and greatest expedients are duct-taped into place on top of all the others. Complexity isn’t designed, it grows like a fungus; as failures emerge there are more complex responses which reveal more failures which in turn give birth to more complexity.

Permanently eliminating the sources or cause for failure is always judged to be ‘costly’ or ‘difficult’, it ‘takes too long’ or discomforts wealthy clients. Structural adjustments are rejected when the choice endangers some precious aspect of modernity. Because making minor reforms risks the entire enterprise, we hesitate and the status-quo becomes institutionalized.

Failure inhabits military adventures gone awry, policies that pitch the small- but self-sufficient enterprises into competition with gigantic- but credit dependent varieties, decrees which encourage evasions of the law rather than compliance, processes that demand the worst from people other than their best. Failure emerges from money- and credit policies that enrich lenders at the expense of borrowers, support asset prices rather than incomes, that sacrifice the future to the insatiable present. Waiting for us at the end of the road is the entropic failure for which there are no possible antidotes; the light at the end of the tunnel is a grave marker. “Here lies modernity” … when the entire edifice of patched and tattered expedients collapses with a sigh of exhaustion and disillusion.

The ‘Modern America’ the world’s citizens inhabit in 2013 sprang almost fully- formed from the US’s victory over Germany and Japan in World War Two. We defeated two military superpowers in two different parts of the world at once; this was our first- and defining, ‘If we can put a man on the Moon’ moment. Americans were competent; we did things right, we were efficient yet (somewhat) humane and civilized. Our armies triumphed without massacring prisoners or raping and pillaging, they gave candy to the enemy’s children. America succeeded in spite of internal differences and a crushing economic environment. After saving the world from Nazism and Japanese militarism Americans believed they could do anything including remake the debauched old world in their own, atomic-powered, tail-finned image … and to the large degree they succeeded.

America’s failure regime emerged twenty years later in Vietnam; which gave birth to ‘Blunder, American-style’. Vietnam war is the template for our subsequent- and ongoing failures: policy-making as play; denial, the over-commitment to faulty premises and propagandistic marketing, institutionalized stupidity and sadism, fetishized violence and technology, complexity for its own sake; the refusal to consider limits, preening arrogance and intellectual dishonesty; colossal/heedless waste of irreplaceable social capital — Americans’ narcissistic idealism and naive patriotism — all of this for non-existent gains. Ambitious, corrupt men set about to satisfy trivial personal ambitions; even as they failed, the country was broken: red versus blue, old vs. young, hawk versus dove, urban against rural, liberal/conservative. Beavis vs. Butthead … The great failure in Vietnam sits like Carlos Castaneda’s death upon the left shoulder of the United States. Everything the US does and has done since 1968 has been a desperate effort on the part of both the establishment and culture to re-write history; to find a different outcome to the Vietnam War.

Enter the monetary policy failure …

… enter Janet Yellen. It’s not hard to feel sorry for Yellen because she has absolutely no clue what she is about to step into …

Triangle of Doom 110313(1)

Figure 1: The sublime Triangle of Doom: both Bernanke’s and Yellen’s cognitive failure is that they ignore the ongoing exchange relationship between money and petroleum, where both are priced regardless of interest rates. Central banks cannot ‘print’ crude oil, they cannot print jobs or value … they cannot even print money. Central banks can only refinance existing loans, they can witch-doctor and pantomime.

Yellen’s eligibility has less to do with her ordinary talents as an economist, rather more with her ability to meet public expectations of what a Federal Reserve System Chairman is supposed to look, act and sound like. Yellen is a placeholder, a technocratic character set to operate within an elaborate bit of post-modern Kabuki. Her signature characteristic to date has been unswerving support for Bernanke’s monetary accommodations, including zero-percent policy rate and securities purchases and asset swaps with commercial lenders. As Bernanke’s backup samurai, Yellen promises more of the same: more accommodation, lowest of all possible interest rates, more QE (quantitative easing or asset purchases).

That this policy is a self-evident failure does not matter! It will continue until the entire monetary/fiscal regime collapses under its own weight. How long will that take?


Figure 2: The thin, dashed line @ the middle of the chart is the amount of GDP gained by way of the amounts of credit indicated by the red line at the top since 2008; <$1 trillion of GDP gained from the +$35 Trillion in ongoing accommodation/rescue (Doug Short/Lance Roberts, click on for big). Soon enough Inevitably, there will be negative growth gained from accommodation, then what? There is no ‘Plan B’.

Enter the US healthcare flop, (Zero Hedge):


Total Healthcare “Enrollment” As A Result Of Obamacare: -3.9 Million

By Tyler Durden

“We fumbled the rollout on this health-care law,” could be President Obama’s understatement of the century. In the month-or-so since Obamacare was unleashed 106,185 people enrolled (based on a loose re-definition by the White House). However, in that same period, the WSJ reports a stunning 4.02 million people received policy cancellations. So, in a month, a total of 3,918,205 fewer people are now ‘enrolled’ in a heathcare plan than before Obamacare. So far, California, Florida, and Washington are suffering the most under Obamacare…


Figure 3: State net enrollment in the Affordable Care Act including policy cancellations, (ZeroHedge/Wall Street Journal). Failure is built into the strategies the government chooses, so is corruption, (Washington Post):


Health-care Web site’s lead contractor employs executives from troubled IT company

By Jerry Markon and Alice Crites

The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show.

A year before CGI Group acquired AMS in 2004, AMS settled a lawsuit brought by the head of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which had hired the company to upgrade the agency’s computer system. AMS had gone $60 million over budget and virtually all of the computer code it wrote turned out to be useless, according to a report by a U.S. Senate committee.

The thrift board work was only one in a series of troubled projects involving AMS at the federal level and in at least 12 states, according to government audit reports, interviews and press accounts. AMS-built computer systems sent Philadelphia school district paychecks to dead people, shipped military parts to the wrong places for the Defense Logistics Agency and made 380,000 programming errors for the Wisconsin revenue department, forcing counties to repay millions of dollars in incorrectly calculated sales taxes.

Lawrence Stiffler, who was director of automated systems for the thrift board at the time and a 25-year veteran of IT contracting for the federal government, said AMS was highly unreliable. “You couldn’t count on them to deliver anything,” he said.

In the years since the purchase, CGI has grown rapidly in the United States, dramatically expanding its role as a federal and state contractor. Agencies that tapped CGI Federal often rehired the company and, in the past two years alone, the company has been awarded contracts with at least 25 federal agencies worth $2.3 billion.


The failure of the health insurance scheme isn’t simply a matter of poorly executed software. It would have been very simple for the government to expand Medicare to cover every American. Too simple … doing so would have rendered precious insurance companies redundant so it was not even considered. No health insurance approach can succeed without cost controls — patent reform, salaries for medical professionals, the end of piecework payments and malpractice awards, breakup of medical cartels — none of these were considered, either.

Enter home mortgage modification programs, (Town Hall):


The Stunning Failures of Obama’s Mortgage ProgramKevin GlassWay back in 2009, President Obama’s Treasury Department launched the Home Affordable Modification Program, a massive authorization to help homeowners struggling with their mortgages in the wake of the financial crisis. 1.2 milllion people participated in the program at a cost to taxpayers of $4.4 billion.A report [pdf] dropped this week from the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) that HAMP has a stunning failure rate. Of the 1.2 million HAMP participants, 306,000 have re-defaulted on their mortgages, at an additional cost to taxpayers of $815 million. What’s more, another 88,000 homeowners in the HAMP program have missed payments and are at risk to re-default.

The mortgage modification schemes share many of the characteristics of the health care enterprise: complexity for its own sake, denial regarding the extent of the problem and capture by the same industries that caused the original breakdown in the first place. HARP is another failed home mortgage modification program, (Examiner);


HARP loan program has been a dismal failure

Shelby Bateson

December 13, 2009

The HARP loan refinance program, which was supposed to have aided four to five million home owners with a streamlined refinance of their existing mortgage has been a dismal failure.

The HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) program was designed to help those with loans owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, but underwater, refinance their mortgages to lower prevailing mortgage rates. The program was rolled out in April 2009 with lots of anticipation that this program would free up cash for those home owners and help the economic recovery.

The end result is that only 116,677 loans, as of September 30, 2009, have been modified. The problem has not been a lack of interest by home owners, but a lack of interest by lenders. As originally rolled out, lenders were able to refinance loans up to 105% underwater on the first mortgage, regardless of the amount of a second mortgage.

As home values continued to fall, during the summer, the ratio underwater was raised to 125%, but almost no lenders permitted the increased ratio. And, in fact, lenders found almost any reason under the sun to decline these loans.

Enter foreign development failures, (World Affairs Journal):


Money Pit: The Monstrous Failure of US Aid to Afghanistan

Joel Brinkley

More than half of Afghanistan’s population is under twenty-five, which shouldn’t be surprising since the average life span there is forty-nine. But the United States Agency for International Development looked at this group and decided it needed help because, it said, these young people are “disenfranchised, unskilled, uneducated, neglected—and most susceptible to joining the insurgency.” So the agency chartered a three-year, $50 million program intended to train members of this generation to become productive members of Afghan society. Two years into it, the agency’s inspector general had a look at the work thus far and found “little evidence that the project has made progress toward” its goals.

The full report offered a darker picture than this euphemistic summary, documenting a near-total failure. It also showed that USAID had handed the project over to a contractor and then paid little attention. Unfortunately, the same can be said for almost every foreign-aid project undertaken in Afghanistan since the war began eleven years ago.


Deja vu all over again … (Washington Post):


Top Democrat: Obama’s red line strategy on Syria ‘not well thought out’,

By Aaron Blake

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee says President Obama’s decision to draw a “red line” when it came to Syria using chemical weapons “was not well thought out.”

“I don’t think you draw a red line like that, that is not well thought out,” (Representative Adam) Smith said during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday. “You do not say, ‘If you step across this line, we will commit U.S. military force,’ unless you really mean it, unless you know the full implications of it.”

Smith also accused the administration of not working with Congress on foreign policy and of making it look like it was developing that policy “on the fly.”


There is the failure to craft responsible energy policy and climate policies … instead there is denial, (Bloomberg):


U.S. to Be Top Oil Producer by 2015 on Shale, IEA Says

By Grant Smith

The U.S. will surpass Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015, and be close to energy self-sufficiency in the next two decades, amid booming output from shale formations, the International Energy Agency said.

Crude prices will advance to $128 a barrel by 2035 with a 16 percent increase in consumption, supporting the development of so-called tight oil in the U.S. and a tripling in output from Brazil, the IEA said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The role of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will recover in the middle of the next decade as other nations struggle to repeat North America’s success with exploiting shale deposits, the agency predicted …

U.S. crude production rose to 7.896 million barrels a day in the week ended Oct. 18, the most since March 1989, according to the Energy Information Administration. West Texas Intermediate futures dropped as much as 83 cents to $94.31 a barrel in trading today on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was $94.83 as of 11:36 a.m. in London.

Global oil demand will expand by 14 million barrels to average 101 million a day in 2035, according to the IEA report. The share of conventional crude will drop to 65 million barrels by the end of the period because of growth in unconventional supplies, the IEA said without providing current data …

Brazil will triple output to 6 million barrels a day by 2035 as it exploits deep-water reserves, an expansion that will account for one-third of the increase in global production and make the nation the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, according to the agency.


How goes Brazil, really?

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 10.08.35 AM

Figure 4: Brazilian net exports by way of BP/Mazama Science Who knows what will occur twenty years from now when the promoters have retired and cannot be held accountable for their misstatements? Right now Brazilian demand is rapidly outstripping diminishing Brazilian supply. Putting cars on the highway — in Brazil as elsewhere — costs a lot less than extracting oil from oil reservoirs under thousands of feet of ocean water, (FT).


From burgeoning start-ups to Brazil’s own state-controlled behemoth Petrobras, many of the industry’s players are struggling to live up to the heady expectations of five years ago when vast offshore oil discoveries promised to transform the country.

Brazil’s 2007 pre-salt finds, estimated to contain up to 100bn barrels of oil, came as oil prices soared towards $150 a barrel and capital began to pour into emerging markets, creating a sense of euphoria in the industry that has gradually turned to disappointment.

“There was the idea that Brazil would solve all its problems with the pre-salt oil and this optimism contaminated the market, creating a large speculative bubble,” says Adriano Pires, founder of the Brazilian Centre of Infrastructure and a former member of the country’s oil regulator ANP.


The International Energy Agency says Brazil will more than double its production while the Brazilians themselves are unable to hold the modest level of production they already have; Brazil looks to have entered terminal decline, its oil fields have ‘vast’ potential but apparently little accessible oil …


Both climate change and energy depletion are serious as a heart attack. Meanwhile, Americans are unwilling to even consider make the needed material sacrifices so that the human race might escape the consequences of dumping billions of tons of carbon- and other gases into the atmosphere. As in Vietnam, we refuse to face reality, we believe our machines will save us rather than destroy us contrary to all available evidence.


Surviving Climate Change Is a Green Energy Revolution on the Global Agenda? By Michael T. KlareA week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware!  Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels.  If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on “unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble.  In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

What is a ‘green energy revolution’? It sounds like all the other energy revolutions, more waste and another opportunity for people to fool themselves …

ADDENDUM: The lesson of Vietnam

Americans in Vietnam believed that it was impossible for the US military to be beaten by poorly equipped Vietnamese farmers and tradesmen. Yet, they were beaten, and the reason was the tremendous advantages that the Americans had over their Vietnamese adversaries — of money, economic power, intelligence gathering, transport, technology and weapons. In Vietnam and elsewhere, the greater the advantages = greater certainty of defeat.

Advantages were the American’s undoing because they relied on them to the exclusion of everything else and became over-confident. The Vietnamese communists cleverly planted false information regarding communist infiltrators inside neutral- and pro-South villages and towns, this was picked up by US military intelligence networks which led to the Americans launching artillery and air strikes to harass the infiltrators. These attacks caused the deaths of many civilians who quickly turned against the Americans. Over a three-year period beginning in 1963, most of South Vietnam changed from being pro-South Vietnam and pro-American to pro-communist due to compromised intelligence and indiscriminate American bombing and shelling. Once the marginal citizen in South Vietnam become an adherent of the communist North, the war was effectively lost for the Americans. Past that point, it didn’t matter how many Vietnamese the Americans killed, more deaths simply tilted the balance against the Americans and their Vietnamese adjuncts. Toward the end, the frustrated Americans were reduced to waging a genocidal air campaign against their putative allies.

The same manner, our technological advantages are the root cause of our ongoing economic, social and political failures. Use of technology incurs costs which add up, eventually costs become greater than any possible benefit that can be gained by the technology. In the beginning the costs are so modest to be invisible, they aggregate over time, like the rate of depletion in oil fields or amounts due as interest. Eventually, the costs become breaking, like our debts, taken on to pay for and operate our precious — and money losing — machines.

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu remarked, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

In Vietnam the Americans had false ideas about themselves and contempt for the Vietnamese citizens whom they were intended to support; Americans also had purposeful ignorance about the enemy. The Americans did not know themselves or their enemy; as a result they succumbed despite a vast expenditure of treasure, materials and millions of lives.

We don’t bother to know ourselves right now, we prefer to live within bubbles of distraction that emerge from the television and from in front of the windshield of a car. We have made the world and all it contains into our enemy at the same time! We can’t bother ourselves to know anything about the world, we have contempt for it. This leaves us with a choice that is rapidly becoming barren: we can stop fighting, lay down our advantages and become peaceable. We will be uncomfortable but we need not “fear the result of a hundred battles” as Sun Tzu would say … because we would not fight any. Alternatively … we can be crushed, just as we were in Vietnam instead by the world we have taken up arms against.

Never Stop Running, Napalm Girl

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason

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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on September 9, 2013


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The Sea was mild and soothing as I sailed alone in the western reaches of the Caribbean.  It had been four days since my last human contact.  Such exile does not disturb me – it comforts me.  The wind was light, and the waves were small and melodious – like the cello phrase in a string quartet.

          Although quite relaxed, I was also vigilant, because my position was near the busy shipping lanes between the Panama Canal and the Yucatan Channel.  Suddenly, I sensed a nearby hazard.  My first scan of the horizon revealed nothing.  On my second, more careful sweep, I saw her – a gray smudge of a ship, still half below the undulating cusp of the Earth.  I took my binoculars from their rack and focused them.  What I saw slammed me backwards – both physically and emotionally.   She was one of them – a gray, military transport vessel that was all too familiar to me.  I had served aboard one – a U.S. Navy ammunition ship in Vietnam.
I had not willingly done so.  I had been drafted just after receiving my bachelor’s degree.  My first decision was whether to flee to Canada, as my courageous college roommate had done, or to let them take me.  My next choice was between a two year Army enlistment or the four-year Navy sentence.  Wishing to neither kill nor be killed because of anyone’s insipid “domino theory,” I chose the USN.  As someone who survived higher education with my capacity for critical thinking still intact, I already knew that war was horrible and this particular one was senseless and despicable.  I was not an ideal recruit.
          The toughest part of my service was being a closet pacifist aboard a ship full of gung-ho, pseudo-warriors.  And these were the worst kind – the swaggering, macho types, who had the luxury of never facing any real combat.  I kept my secret to myself, just as I kept my self to myself.  In fact, I do not have a single friend from that chapter of my life.  When I would go ashore and meet actual soldiers, they were not gung-ho at all.  They were beaten down and regretful and frightened – and wanted only to be away from there…to be home…to be far from all that madness.
          I never talk about this with my friends.  And it rarely enters my consciousness.  But that dark ship on the horizon, transporting munitions and mutilation to who knows which target this time, just staggered me.  To ease my anguish, I tried the comfort of my favorite classical music.  It didn’t work, and neither did dousing myself with buckets of sea water.  Although I resisted, I knew that the only way out of my agony was to burrow deeper into it.
So I brought out her picture.  I keep it protected in an envelope hidden in one of my favorite books.  I unfolded it tenderly, and gazed one more time at all the evil, meaningless terror of war captured in a single frozen instant from 40 years ago.  I spoke to her once more as I had done many other times down the decades, when I needed solace:
“Hello again, Napalm Girl.  Keep on running!  There must be some place, somewhere, free from this horror and insanity.  You must find that place.  You deserve that place.  Never stop running!!!”
          She is crying out, “Too hot!  Too hot!” as she flees.  Grotesque flaming jelly from the sky has burned most of the little dress from her nine year old body.  The rest she ripped off herself as she kept running and screaming “I’m dying!  I’m dying!”
When the heroic photographer got to her, she was whimpering, “Water, water.”  He emptied his canteen on her.  With ferocious determination, through insane traffic, he managed to get her to a hospital in Saigon.  They said she was so badly burned that she would never live and they would not accept her.  He flashed his Associated Press photo credentials and said, “Don’t let this child die or everyone will hear about it!”  They took her in.  And they saved her.
That Vietnamese photographer, Nick Ut, deeply understood the ravages of war.  His older brother, who was his personal hero, had already died photographing the misery of combat.  When Nick answered the call of basic human decency, and rescued that terrified little girl, he had no idea that on the film in his camera was one of the most profound and powerful photographs of all time.  He was only 19 years old.
Even though the immortal Napalm Girl picture touches me in my core being, it is the one with her mother sitting beside her in the hospital that truly haunts me.  The woman’s quiet dignity as she comforts her innocent frightened child overwhelms me.  In her noble, image, I can see what an almost unbearable burden but blessing it is to be a Woman, and to be a Mother, in this world of torment.  And it sickens me to realize that it is almost always men that cause this needless anguish.
Decades later, I can still imagine their likely conversation as the child asks the mother, “What was that horrible fire that fell from the sky?”
And the mom might reply, “It was some terrible new weapon – like a bomb, but different.”
“But why did they drop it on us?” asks the little girl.  “We were just children and old people hiding in the temple from the planes.  We didn’t hurt anybody!”
My guess is that the heroic mother, overwhelmed with grief by the sight of her incinerated child, might have said something like this.  “I do not know the answer, my beautiful daughter.  But I do know that you survived this horrible thing, and your pain will go away and you will heal.  And someday, life will be sweet and sensible again.  Now, try to go to sleep, and when you awake, I will be right here beside you.”
Kim with one of her children.

The dark gray death ship passed a few miles ahead of me, and has now disappeared beyond the horizon.  But even though it is no longer visible, its malignancy still torments me.  I stare again at little Kim’s photo in my hands, and ask myself, “How can I best honor her suffering?”  And then I realize that what makes her pain-wracked image so universal and so immortal is that it lays bare the true nature of war.  And that the best way to repay my gratitude, is to use my power as a writer, to further expose this loathsome evil.

Tragically, as I type these words, the war drums are beating again.  The Deceiver-in-Chief has scheduled a national address in which he will knowingly lie about the need for this latest “regrettable but necessary action.”  Then the commentators will babble on about “sufficient justification” and “reprisals” and “surgical strikes.  But they will never discuss what war actually is.  And that is because, at its core, it is sick and perverted and senseless.
If someone invades your home and threatens your family, it is your right and your responsibility to protect them, even if it necessitates violence.  This type of personal duty is decent, courageous and just.  But war is the killing of human beings with whom we have no personal grievance.  War is Mass Psychotic Hypnosis.  But it is never initiated by ordinary people.  One morning at breakfast, a million Norwegians do not spontaneously decide that it would be a good idea to invade Ireland that afternoon.
No, this type of insanity can only be seeded and nurtured by certifiable sociopaths.  Unfortunately, we don’t call them lunatics, and banish them to asylums.  Instead we anoint them as political and religious leaders.  These diseased power addicts use cold-blooded manipulation to convince enormous groups of people that other groups of people are their enemies…and so they must go forth…and annihilate them.
Nick and Kim at the Vietnam Vets Memorial .

Here is another truth about war that the self-righteous, talking heads deliberately avoid.  Those who make the wars never have to fight the wars.  The Great Deciders will never be in a night ambush, where the fear is so overpowering that their bodily control abandons them, and they shit themselves.  And the defense contractors, engorged on obscene profits, will never have to kick open a mud hut door after strafing it with automatic weapons fire, and discover a heap of dead children beneath a wounded mother, who is so traumatized that she cannot even scream.  And the media tycoons cheerleading for more carnage, will never rush to the flag-draped coffin of a dead son or daughter and wrap themselves around it in fury as the military band tries to sound heroic.

And here is yet another profound truth that the acceptable, credentialed pundits never state:  War doesn’t work!  It never makes the world a better place.  For thousands of years, humanity has waged hundreds of wars, but they never achieve their supposedly noble ideals.  They never “end all wars” or “bring everlasting peace” or “insure self-determination” or any of the dozen other excuses that are used to incite people to massacre one another.  What it does succeed at doing is bringing misery, murder, mutilation and madness to ordinary, decent people.
So listen carefully as the highly paid military and political analysts parade across your television screens, proclaiming the need for this latest “kinetic action.”  Observe how these shrewd distorters evade the three paramount characteristics of war that I have just discussed.  None of them will address what war really is.  Nor will they mention that those who benefit from war do not suffer its horrors.  And finally, they will not admit that war never brings good into the world and is actually a plague that sickens the human project.
Recognizing that war is Mass Psychotic Hypnosis, how do we overcome those who mesmerize us?   How do we break free from their spell?  Certainly our liberation will not come from those at the top.  War rewards them too handsomely.
We must rely on our numbers.  We are many, they are few.  When the chant from the anti-Vietnam protests, “Hell, no…we won’t go!” became a reality and not just a slogan, the war machine sputtered and died.  Refusal is our best strategy.  We must refuse to serve in their militaries or in their terror cells.  We must refuse to resolve disputes through violence.  And if they incarcerate us for our resistance, that is a better fate than killing someone who is not an enemy.  And when enough of us refuse, their prisons are not large enough to hold us.

I am perfectly mindful that such thinking is idealistic and foolhardy, but perhaps it will inspire others to come forth with better options for ending war.  Yet, even if such ideals are useless, we must try – if for no other reason than to honor Kim Phuc, the Napalm Girl.

We must sculpt a world where an innocent little girl does not have to race down a road with the flesh peeling off her body, trying to outrun her own death!


I urge you to visit  Dedicated to helping other children who are victims of war. Almost every day something utterly insipid “goes viral” on the World Wide Web.  Perhaps we can help spread this little essay at this critical time when the war drums are again thundering Inside the Beltway.  By doing so, we can all honor the Napalm Girl.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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