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    Wednesday
    Nov122014

    Veterans Day and the Last Day on Earth

           On the eve of Veterans Day, President Obama announced that he will send another 1,500 Americans troops to Iraq to advise the Iraqi military on how to fight militants in a civil war. 

             While not seeking Congressional approval for the troop surge, the White House intends to request $5.6 billion for this latest military campaign, the end of which is nowhere in sight.  This at a time when the cost of the decade-long war in Iraq has exceeded $2 trillion ($6,250 for each American citizen), which makes it one of the most expensive clusterfucks in modern history.  Yet war spells profit for numerous weapons manufacturers (roughly half of all the weapons in the world are sold by the United States), military contractors, and oil companies, all of which have joined hands with the mainstream media to churn out war propaganda and lies while funding the election campaigns of unscrupulous politicians whom later vote to re-direct taxpayer dollars to their corporate sponsors.  Mainstream media highlights the horrors of the enemy (who is often a former ally) and showcases U.S military successes, yet kept hidden from the television audience are the bodies of the tens of thousands innocent civilians killed by American bombs and by the military of the puppet government installed in Iraq.  We hear about the crimes of ISIS, but hear very little of the Hell on Earth that the U.S occupation has created for countless Iraqi families whom the $5.6 billion dollars could serve to assist if spent on medical aid, food, shelter, and programs of social uplift.  We hear nothing of the environmental destruction that modern warfare has brought upon the Iraqi ecosystems of deserts and alluvial plains, where rivers and marshlands lay devastated by the formidable munitions exploded by the U.S Department of Defense (formerly called the Department of War), which is largest contributor of pollution on Earth.  We also hear nothing of the U.S veteran suicide rates; amounting to at least 8,000 a year, this figure translates into twenty-two veterans killing themselves every day. 

            Some important questions we should be asking ourselves include:  How did this happen?  When will it end?  What is the solution?  And what does the current state of affairs say about humanity and the direction we’re headed?  Steven Pinker makes a good point in The Better Angels of our Nature, pointing out that in terms of a percentage of human population over time, the rate of violent deaths has declined and societies have become largely pacified since the rise of civilization.  Indeed, deaths from armed conflicts are down significantly from previous decades, especially when compared to the WWII and Cold War eras.  But this current deviation from global warfare doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re on the right track.  If you factor in the realities that humans cannot seem to curb their propensity toward violence and continue to build and stockpile nuclear arms despite the existence of international diplomatic forums and technologies which allows us to communicate instantaneously and take airplane flights halfway across the world in a matter of hours to either visit other people or bomb them – and in the latter scenario we sometimes end up knowingly killing little boys and girls – then something is drastically wrong.  These realities compounded with others such as human racism, religious bigotry, and an insatiable appetite for limited natural resources on a planet that may be experiencing a “sixth extinction” makes some of us wonder what the future holds. 

            Historically, our species, born of the same blood, has surmounted extremely challenging obstacles, such as transitioning away from ancient deistic and animistic religious hierarchies (i.e Egyptian pharaohs or Aztec god kings) and overthrowing monarchical tyrannies (i.e the French and American Revolutions), we’ve emerged from the Dark Ages into a period of enlightenment, stamped-out diseases and slave trades, and have recovered from myriad wars, including two massive ones in the past century.  So the question remains, as Aeschylus put it 2,500 years ago, can we “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world?”  And if not, shall humanity validate this prediction of Einstein: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”   Will we relapse into barbarism and attack each other like primitive tribesmen, only this time with the aid of hydrogen bombs, so as to deny all posterity – those would-be and yet unborn humans incubating in the invisible womb of time – a chance to improve this world and experience the rare and beautiful things that have filled countless lives with some sense of meaning and awe? 

           There will arrive a day which shall be the last for humans on Earth, a day when a person breathes humanity’s final dying breath or leaves this planet for the last time, and never again will our species bear witness to and experience the wonders of nature and miracle of existence in this particular world.  The arrival time of this day and the manner in which it manifests is dependent upon the actions of those alive today.  We can either speed it up or postpone it.  We may either bow out gracefully or go down with our hands wrapped around each others necks.  Ultimately, I’m not sure how much it even matters, but nevertheless, fifteen year-old Anne Frank makes good point: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” 


    Calvin and Hobbes, scanned from the current (and last printed) issue of The War Crimes Times, a publication of Veterans for Peace.  www.warcrimestimes.org

    Tuesday
    Sep162014

    The Rise of the Barbarians and Why the United States Has Lost All Credibility

              Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

                                                                                                                                             -Hermann Goering

              The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.

                                                                                                                                              -John F. Kennedy

     

    Monday, September 15, 2014

              While much of the western world was sleeping, the United States escalated its airstrike campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq, in a theater of operations that may expand into Syria.  In an ostensible justification for the intensification, President Barack Obama went prime-time last week and labeled ISIS militants as “terrorists…unique in their brutality.  They execute captured prisoners.  They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.”  Obama went on to evoke the beheadings of two American journalists to emphasize the brutality of ISIS, thus reinforcing the rationalization for a renewed bombing campaign.  In truth, both ISIS and the United States are guilty of serious war crimes and egregious human rights violations, the difference being that the United States government and military usually get away with murder. 

              Since the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War, the United States has humiliated, tortured, and killed numerous Iraqi prisoners of war in Abu Ghraib, a former prison of the Saddam Hussein regime.  In its frenzied foreign military campaigns throughout the Middle East, the U.S has murdered thousands of innocent mothers and fathers, destitute villagers and nomads, little girls and boys and newborn babies. Extrajudicial airstrikes have destroyed homes, weddings, buses, and killed foreign journalists and American citizens.  U.S government security contractors have committed large-scale massacres of Iraqi civilians.  U.S military soldiers have raped teenage girls, covered-up civilian deaths, and thrown puppies off cliffs.  In Afghanistan, they’ve desecrated the bodies of the slain by urinating on their corpses and collecting their fingers as war trophies.  Through the practice known as extraordinary rendition, the U.S has abducted and transferred an unknown number of persons to secret prisons across the world and continues to hold nearly 150 untried detainees in Guantanamo Bay.  The list of recent transgressions goes on and on – from the use of depleted uranium munitions to endless cruise missile and drone strikes on civilian populations, we have created a living hell for millions of innocent families that have lost loved-ones and fled their homes. The sad truth is that our corporate-sponsored politicians and pundits utilize a hypocritical, arrogant, and selective logic when justifying further aggression in response to the “acts of barbarism.” 

              The United States government has cloaked its immorality in executive orders and cryptic laws.  Under the guise of humanitarianism, the white-collared barbarians of high-technology conduct airstrikes with 1.5 million dollar cruise missiles launched from state-of-the-art fighter jets and multi-billion dollar aircraft carriers.  Using expensive weapons, the U.S military prefers to slaughter from above, away from the cameras.  (As for beheadings, the U.S usually leaves that to its allies such as Saudi Arabia, or its pawns such as the Free Syrian Army, whom the CIA is funding now just as they have funded al-Qaeda in the past.)  We have granted ourselves the legitimacy to commit these crimes by citing bureaucratic mandates spawned from corrupt political systems.  Along with our NATO allies, we have hosted decadent conventions in France and England in effort to prove that support for ISIS airstrikes is broad even if it includes the undemocratic regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and Turkey – states whose support has been bought through billions of dollars of military aid.  The result is a cadre of wealthy officials – who usually have political and financial interests in perpetuating war, and whom often have ties to media corporations that have invested interests in weapons sales – assuming the moral highground and using humanitarianism as an excuse to exact their own form of barbarism (in which murder is called collateral damage) for the unstated objectives of establishing a western caliphate comprised of embassies and military bases that subjugate the people in the Middle East, props-up dictators and puppet governments, and assures access to their oil and rare earth minerals.

          Those who beat the drums of war are consistently manipulative.  Americans and others are never presented with sound, peaceful, or diplomatic options, only ultimatums:  you are either with us or against us, we either fight them there or we fight them here, we either go to war or let the terrorists win.  We claim that our reasons for launching attacks are noble, but it is no secret that the history of United States Empire is soaked in the blood of innocent masses and based on a foundation of hypocrisy and lies.  The wholesale slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of millions of Africans set the stage for the evolution of a nation that would become the only one to drop a nuclear bomb on other people; a nation which helped to overthrow numerous elected-governments throughout the Cold War and conducted secret bombing campaigns across the world.  At home, Americans must contend with the possibility that internal forces within their government may have facilitated the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.  As our politicians and government officials claim to fight for freedom, they line their pockets with corporate donations, they transfer billions of dollars of military weapons to local police forces, they have been caught unlawfully spying on millions of Americans, and they do virtually nothing when it comes to addressing the social maladies of poverty, immigration, and the prison industrial complex, nor tackling the great environmental challenges that lie ahead.  

              As the United States continues to embark down a dark path of violence and war, which is one the greatest causes of human and environmental destruction in history, there seems to be little Americans can do to change the course of our nation’s future.  So day to day, many of us remain immersed in a pattern of addressing our personal matters and enjoying our lives, which is fine.  Yet for those of us with the luxury of free time, it is becoming increasingly important to discard those habits which diminish our intelligence, health, and connection with the natural world.  If we turn a blind eye to problems others face, if we remain inert and mentally lethargic - failing to experience the beauty of nature - and instead choose television shows, video games, and other meaningless forms of entertainment over expanding our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us, then the barbarians will prevail. 

              In conclusion, I leave you with an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, given April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his death:  

    I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

    Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history….

    And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.


    The Pale Blue Dot, the Earth suspended in a sunbeam like a mote of dust.  Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot

    Friday
    Aug222014

    Introducing…Altered Ads*

              Advertisements are often a reflection of the values held by wide cross-sections of a society.  Ubiquitous, they serve to impose ideas and persuade the way one thinks.  The desired effect is usually to influence your perspective about a product or service.  Yet it is often what we don’t see that is most important.  While advertisements for frivolous and decadent products and services are flourishing (especially in America), problems in the natural world and across humanity are neglected and go largely unnoticed.    

                 In San Francisco, there is a giant advertisement for the game FarmVille 2: Country Escape.  (First of all, if you’re a grown man earning a living by working to develop and sell this stupid fucking game, then you need to do some real soul-searching, and if this leads to you leaping off of the Golden Gate Bridge, we will try to understand and probably will not blame you.)  In a world where over 850 million people go to bed hungry each night, and where 16,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes everyday, many people (mostly in wealthy countries) sit around playing FarmVille, or some variation of it.   This is not right.  Healthy people in relatively stable and robust economies should be striving to draw attention to the plight of those who are starving across the globe, not promoting FarmVille.  There is a rift in the psychological and moral well-being of those who care more about video games than in the welfare of their fellow men.  So, having said that, above is the old ad, and below is a revised rendition.

     

              The photograph pasted into the altered ad was taken by Kevin Cater in 1993.  It is of a girl attempting to reach a feeding-center in Sudan.  Three months after winning the Pulitzer Prize for the photograph, Cater committed suicide.  His suicide note read:

    I'm really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist... depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…

     

    Rest in peace.

     

    *Divided Core has set out on a silly and offensive campaign called Altered Ads, which will attempt to offer a different side of the reality presented by certain advertisements.  Feel free to join with us or start your own campaign.

    Wednesday
    Aug202014

    Letter of Inquiry to the Police in Regards to Militarization

           Below is the template of a letter that I sent to my local police department and city government inquiring about any weapons or equipment the police may have received from the U.S military.  Considering what's going down in Ferguson, I think it would behoove you to ask your local police station if they've accepted any dangerous gifts from the U.S Pentagon.  (I received a polite response from the Sebastopol Chief of Police, and am happy to report that Sebastopol, CA is does not currently participate in any program in which military gear is provided to them by the Department of the Defense.)  Here's the template of the simple letter:

    Dear Chief of Police ________ and the City of _____,

    I am a resident of ______ and am curious if our police department receives any funding and/or equipment and weapons from the Department of Defense.  I love our town and respect our police department, yet (in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, MO) I am curious if our police force has accepted any arms, ammunition, robots, or otherwise from the U.S military. 

    Also, do you know of any _____ county towns or cities that have recently received any weapons or equipment from the federal military?

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,

    ________________

     

    http://static.infowars.com/bindnfocom/2013/07/KImXt.jpg
    Image from: http://static.infowars.com/bindnfocom/2013/07/KImXt.jpg

    Monday
    Aug182014

    Alan Watts - An Implicit Agreement

    Let's hope Watts is right on this one...

         Duality is always secretly unity.  Take the contrast between the words we use: explicit and implicit – very valuable words.  What is explicit, what’s on the outside, let’s say how we come on publicly.  Explicitly, we are thus and so, we have a fight, we’re in competition – say in business – explicitly.   But implicitly, we’ve worked this out.  We’ve agreed in a secret way that nobody knows about that this competition is extremely valuable to both of us.  Take it politically, for example, let’s take the situation of Russia versus the United States.  Explicitly, in public, this has to be a big fight.  These two ways of life, these two ideologies are opposed, the say, “Brrrrrrrr!” You know, “We’re...Argghh!”  But behind the scenes, it’s all been carefully worked out – you bet it has.  That this opposition has to happen, because our economy depends on it, and their economy depends on it, and everybody knows this who’s smart, but there are a lot of people who get taken in by the propaganda, and they should be taken in because that makes the thing work.  It’s crazy, but that’s the way it goes…

    http://redpilltimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/putin.jpg
    Image from: http://redpilltimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/putin.jpg

    Transcribed from the Alan Watts lecture titled, An Implicit Agreement, part of the Out of Your Mind Lecture Series.