Archive for July, 2012

“Here’s an odd question: Is it possible that the U.S. military is present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the Cold War?  It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad).  On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the U.S. had almost no military presence at all.  Now, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire” series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.

Secret American base in Africa

Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy.  For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off a bridge in Mali in April.  They died, all three, along with three women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.”  This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents.  Consider this a sample of what Nick Turse calls the U.S. military’s “scramble for Africa” in a seamy, secretive nutshell.

So here’s another question: Who decided in 2007 that a U.S. Africa Command should be set up to begin a process of turning that continent into a web of U.S. bases and other operations?  Who decided that every Islamist rebel group in Africa, no matter how local or locally focused, was a threat to the U.S., calling for a military response?  Certainly not the American people, who know nothing about this, who were never asked if expanding the U.S. global military mission to Africa was something they favored, who never heard the slightest debate, or even a single peep from Washington on the subject.”

Read more here.

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Which Mitt?

The ultimate compilation from the Man Without A Center:

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I just noted, with acute embarrassment, that the post that stirred up such a fine conversation was titled “Distibutism, True and False”.  Boy do I feel dumb. It has been corrected.

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This is scary:

President Obama continues to plan for emergencies in a way that aggrandizes the power of the Executive Branch.

Back in March, in a creepy executive order, entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” Obama authorized the President and cabinet officials to take over crucial aspects of the national economy—not only during emergencies but also in peacetime.

Then, just 10 days ago, on July 6, Obama issued another executive order, entitled, “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.”

The order says this is pursuant to section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S. C. 6066), which states, in part:

“The President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of national security or defense, may suspend or amend, for such time as he may see fit, the rules and regulations applicable to any or all stations or devices capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations within the jurisdiction of the United States . . . and may cause the closing of any station for radio communication, or any device capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations between 10 kilocycles and 100,000 megacycles . . . and the removal therefrom of its apparatus and equipment, or he may authorize the use or control of any such station or device and/or its apparatus and equipment, by any department of the Government under such regulations as he may prescribe upon just compensation to the owners.”

Obama’s executive order authorizes the heads of Homeland Security and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to make recommendations to the President on how he might enforce that 1934 law.

Read more, from The Progressive, here.

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Another Rain Song

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, the sky darkened, the wind picked up, and it began to rain.

For two minutes, after which the sun came back out and it was hotter and steamier than ever, like a sauna.

Today, the sky is grey and there is a breeze. To help things along, here is another rain song,  a live version of Bruce Cockburn’s After the Rain, which originally appeared on his 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws:

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I Miss the Rain

Man, I miss the rain.

I never understood people that felt sorry for me because my job carrying mail means having to be out in the rain. I love it, always have (well, not hard winter rains, but any other kind is fine).

I especially love summer rains; it feels so good to be cool. And the sound of rain is soothing, like all water sounds.

And this summer I, most probably like you, have had little of it. The grass was brown by early June, and now it crunches underfoot. My soul feels like that, dried out and thirsting for sweet rain, like the line in the poem by Hopkins: Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

It is rumored that this latest hot spell may break today with thunderstorms. I hope so, and am sending this out into the universe as a sort of encouragement:

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The great power struggle of the 20th century was the competition between Soviet-style communism and “free-market” corporatism for domination of the world’s resources. In America, it’s taken for granted that Soviet communism lost (though China’s more capitalist variant seems to be doing well), and the superiority of neo-liberal economics — as epitomized by the great multinational corporations — was thus affirmed for all time and eternity.

There’s a small problem with this, though. An old bit of wisdom says: choose your enemies carefully, because over time, you will tend to become the very thing you most strongly resist. One of the most striking things about our victorious corporations now is the degree to which they’ve taken on some of the most noxious and Kafkaesque attributes of the Soviet system — too often leaving their employees, customers, and other stakeholders just as powerless over their own fates as the unhappy citizens of those old centrally planned economies of the USSR were back in the day.

It’s not just that the corporations have taken control over our government (though that’s awful enough). It’s also that they’ve taken control over — and put serious limits on — our choices regarding what we buy, where we work, how we live, and what rights we have. Our futures are increasingly no longer our own: more and more decisions, large and small, that determine the quality of our lives are being made by Politburo apparatchiks at a Supreme Corporate Soviet somewhere far distant from us. Only now, those apparatchiks are PR and marketing executives, titans of corporate finance, lobbyists for multinationals, and bean-counting managers trying to increase profits at the expense of our freedom.

Read more here.

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