Monday, May 25, 2009

Torture Works!

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Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars

by Ralph Peters

t he most troubling aspect of international security for the United States is not the killing power of our immediate enemies, which remains modest in historical terms, but our increasingly effete view of warfare. The greatest advantage our opponents enjoy is an uncompromising strength of will, their readiness to "pay any price and bear any burden" to hurt and humble us. As our enemies' view of what is permissible in war expands apocalyptically, our self-limiting definitions of allowable targets and acceptable casualties—hostile, civilian and our own—continue to narrow fatefully. Our enemies cannot defeat us in direct confrontations, but we appear determined to defeat ourselves.

Much has been made over the past two decades of the emergence of "asymmetric warfare," in which the ill-equipped confront the superbly armed by changing the rules of the battlefield. Yet, such irregular warfare is not new—it is warfare's oldest form, the stone against the bronze-tipped spear—and the crucial asymmetry does not lie in weaponry, but in moral courage. While our most resolute current enemies—Islamist extremists—may violate our conceptions of morality and ethics, they also are willing to sacrifice more, suffer more and kill more (even among their own kind) than we are. We become mired in the details of minor missteps, while fanatical holy warriors consecrate their lives to their ultimate vision. They live their cause, but we do not live ours. We have forgotten what warfare means and what it takes to win.

There are multiple reasons for this American amnesia about the cost of victory. First, we, the people, have lived in unprecedented safety for so long (despite the now-faded shock of September 11, 2001) that we simply do not feel endangered; rather, we sense that what nastiness there may be in the world will always occur elsewhere and need not disturb our lifestyles. We like the frisson of feeling a little guilt, but resent all calls to action that require sacrifice.

Second, collective memory has effectively erased the European-sponsored horrors of the last century; yesteryear's "unthinkable" events have become, well, unthinkable. As someone born only seven years after the ovens of Auschwitz stopped smoking, I am stunned by the common notion, which prevails despite ample evidence to the contrary, that such horrors are impossible today.

Third, ending the draft resulted in a superb military, but an unknowing, detached population. The higher you go in our social caste system, the less grasp you find of the military's complexity and the greater the expectation that, when employed, our armed forces should be able to fix things promptly and politely.

Fourth, an unholy alliance between the defense industry and academic theorists seduced decisionmakers with a false-messiah catechism of bloodless war. In pursuit of billions in profits, defense contractors made promises impossible to fulfill, while think tank scholars sought acclaim by designing warfare models that excited political leaders anxious to get off cheaply, but which left out factors such as the enemy, human psychology, and 5,000 years of precedents.

Fifth, we have become largely a white-collar, suburban society in which a child's bloody nose is no longer a routine part of growing up, but grounds for a lawsuit; the privileged among us have lost the sense of grit in daily life. We grow up believing that safety from harm is a right that others are bound to respect as we do. Our rising generation of political leaders assumes that, if anyone wishes to do us harm, it must be the result of a misunderstanding that can be resolved by that lethal narcotic of the chattering classes, dialogue.

Last, but not least, history is no longer taught as a serious subject in America's schools. As a result, politicians lack perspective; journalists lack meaningful touchstones; and the average person's sense of warfare has been redefined by media entertainments in which misery, if introduced, is brief.

By 1965, we had already forgotten what it took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and the degeneration of our historical sense has continued to accelerate since then. More Americans died in one afternoon at Cold Harbor during our Civil War than died in six years in Iraq. Three times as many American troops fell during the morning of June 6, 1944, as have been lost in combat in over seven years in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, prize-hunting reporters insist that our losses in Iraq have been catastrophic, while those in Afghanistan are unreasonably high.

We have cheapened the idea of war. We have had wars on poverty, wars on drugs, wars on crime, economic warfare, ratings wars, campaign war chests, bride wars, and price wars in the retail sector. The problem, of course, is that none of these "wars" has anything to do with warfare as soldiers know it. Careless of language and anxious to dramatize our lives and careers, we have elevated policy initiatives, commercial spats and social rivalries to the level of humanity's most complex, decisive and vital endeavor.

http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/2009/16/peters.php

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The Case of the Missing H-Bomb: The Pentagon Has Lost the Mother of All Weapons

 
60 years have passed since a damaged jet dropped a hydrogen bomb near Savanah, Ga. -- and the Pentagon still can't find it.

By Jeffrey St. Clair

Things go missing. It's to be expected. Even at the Pentagon. Last October, the Pentagon's inspector general reported that the military's accountants had misplaced a destroyer, several tanks and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of machine guns, rounds of ammo, grenade launchers and some surface-to-air missiles. In all, nearly $8 billion in weapons were AWOL.

Those anomalies are bad enough. But what's truly chilling is the fact that the Pentagon has lost track of the mother of all weapons, a hydrogen bomb. The thermonuclear weapon, designed to incinerate Moscow, has been sitting somewhere off the coast of Savannah, Georgia for the past 40 years. The Air Force has gone to greater lengths to conceal the mishap than to locate the bomb and secure it.

On the night of February 5, 1958 a B-47 Stratojet bomber carrying a hydrogen bomb on a night training flight off the Georgia coast collided with an F-86 Saberjet fighter at 36,000 feet. The collision destroyed the fighter and severely damaged a wing of the bomber, leaving one of its engines partially dislodged. The bomber's pilot, Maj. Howard Richardson, was instructed to jettison the H-bomb before attempting a landing. Richardson dropped the bomb into the shallow waters of Warsaw Sound, near the mouth of the Savannah River, a few miles from the city of Tybee Island, where he believed the bomb would be swiftly recovered.

The Pentagon recorded the incident in a top secret memo to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. The memo has been partially declassified: "A B-47 aircraft with a [word redacted] nuclear weapon aboard was damaged in a collision with an F-86 aircraft near Sylvania, Georgia, on February 5, 1958. The B-47 aircraft attempted three times unsuccessfully to land with the weapon. The weapon was then jettisoned visually over water off the mouth of the Savannah River. No detonation was observed."

Soon search and rescue teams were sent to the site. Warsaw Sound was mysteriously cordoned off by Air Force troops. For six weeks, the Air Force looked for the bomb without success. Underwater divers scoured the depths, troops tromped through nearby salt marshes, and a blimp hovered over the area attempting to spot a hole or crater in the beach or swamp. Then just a month later, the search was abruptly halted. The Air Force sent its forces to Florence, South Carolina, where another H-bomb had been accidentally dropped by a B-47. The bomb's 200 pounds of TNT exploded on impact, sending radioactive debris across the landscape. The explosion caused extensive property damage and several injuries on the ground. Fortunately, the nuke itself didn't detonate.

The search teams never returned to Tybee Island, and the affair of the missing H-bomb was discreetly covered up. The end of the search was noted in a partially declassified memo from the Pentagon to the AEC, in which the Air Force politely requested a new H-bomb to replace the one it had lost. "The search for this weapon was discontinued on 4-16-58 and the weapon is considered irretrievably lost. It is requested that one [phrase redacted] weapon be made available for release to the DOD as a replacement."

There was a big problem, of course, and the Pentagon knew it. In the first three months of 1958 alone, the Air Force had four major accidents involving H-bombs.

http://www.alternet.org/environment/140060/the_case_of_the_missing_h-bomb%3A_the_pentagon_has_lost_the_mother_of_all_weapons/

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A black woman's journey to the rabbinate in North Carolina

When Alysa Stanton officially becomes a rabbi next month, she'll be walking into history.
 
By Joe Sterling
 
Alysa Stanton, 45, will become the first African-American woman to be ordained as a rabbi next month.Alysa Stanton, 45, will become the first African-American woman to be ordained as a rabbi next month.

She'll become the first African-American woman ever to be ordained as a rabbi and the first African-American rabbi to lead a majority white congregation, according to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Stanton, 45, will be ordained June 6 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she received her master's degree from the HUC-JIR, which is the rabbinical school of the Reform movement. Then in August, she will begin her new job at Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, North Carolina -- long a Conservative synagogue and now affiliated with both the Reform and Conservative movements.

She describes her new position with great enthusiasm, saying the congregation -- while small -- has a lot of children, a sign of a bright future. And she says the congregation is vibrant and the region, where East Carolina University and a major medical center are located, is dynamic as well.

"My goals as a rabbi are to break down barriers, build bridges and provide hope," Stanton told CNN. "I look forward to being the spiritual leader of an inclusive sacred community that welcomes and engages all."

The HUC says the milestone reflects the diversity that permeates Jewish life.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_05/018315.php

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The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay More

Poor? Pay Up.

Having Little Money Often Means No Car, No Washing Machine, No Checking Account And No Break From Fees and High Prices

By DeNeen L. Brown

Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don't often explain.

So we'll explain it here. Consider this a primer on the economics of poverty.

"The poor pay more for a gallon of milk; they pay more on a capital basis for inferior housing," says Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). "The poor and 100 million who are struggling for the middle class actually end up paying more for transportation, for housing, for health care, for mortgages. They get steered to subprime lending. . . . The poor pay more for things middle-class America takes for granted."

Poverty 101: We'll start with the basics.

Like food: You don't have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe's, where the middle class goes to save money. You don't have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar.

A loaf of bread there costs you $2.99 for white. For wheat, it's $3.79. The clerk behind the counter tells you the gallon of leaking milk in the bottom of the back cooler is $4.99. She holds up four fingers to clarify. The milk is beneath the shelf that holds beef bologna for $3.79. A pound of butter sells for $4.49. In the back of the store are fruits and vegetables. The green peppers are shriveled, the bananas are more brown than yellow, the oranges are picked over.

(At a Safeway on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, the wheat bread costs $1.19, and white bread is on sale for $1. A gallon of milk costs $3.49 -- $2.99 if you buy two gallons. A pound of butter is $2.49. Beef bologna is on sale, two packages for $5.)

Prices in urban corner stores are almost always higher, economists say. And sometimes, prices in supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods are higher. Many of these stores charge more because the cost of doing business in some neighborhoods is higher. "First, they are probably paying more on goods because they don't get the low wholesale price that bigger stores get," says Bradley R. Schiller, a professor emeritus at American University and the author of "The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination."

"The real estate is higher. The fact that volume is low means fewer sales per worker. They make fewer dollars of revenue per square foot of space. They don't end up making more money. Every corner grocery store wishes they had profits their customers think they have."

According to the Census Bureau, more than 37 million people in the country live below the poverty line. The poor know these facts of life. These facts become their lives.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/17/AR2009051702053.html

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Milk: The Gateway Drug

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Verizon to cops: we won't help you track down sick, possibly dying man unless you pay his $20 phone bill

Two K-9 units, several fire departments and 100 individuals on foot also were involved in the search for the man, who Sheriff Dale Williams said fled his residence on Kensington Rd. after a domestic disturbance call to deputies...

Williams said he attempted to use the man's cell phone signal to locate him, but the man was behind on his phone bill and the Verizon operator refused to connect the signal unless the sheriff's department agreed to pay the overdue bill. After some disagreement, Williams agreed to pay $20 on the phone bill in order to find the man. But deputies discovered the man just as Williams was preparing to make arrangements for the payment.

Unconscious Carroll man found after 11-hour search
 
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/05/22/verizon-to-cops-we-w.html
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Pro-Copyright Propaganda Enters US Classrooms

by Ernesto

Pro-copyright lobbyists and anti-piracy outfits have a clear idea of what is needed to manipulate the minds of the younger generations. The MPAA most famously handed out a "merit patch in respecting copyright" to LA Boy Scouts, and now the Copyright Alliance has entered US classrooms in an attempt to educate today's youth about the benefits of copyright.

copyright allianceThe Copyright Alliance describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to promoting the value of copyright as a means to make money. The more restrictions, the more money can be made is their credo, and they go to extremes to prove their point.

One of the key research documents listed on their website is a highly critical review of Professor Lawrence Lessig's book "Free Culture". According to the review, Lessig is a "hypocritical demagogue" whose book imposes a "quasi-socialist utopianism" while "demonizing" copyright.

Of course, everybody is entitled to their own opinion but with regard to what's being taught to youngsters in schools, one should at least try to get the facts right. Unfortunately, the Copyright Alliance screws up badly in this respect.

For example, in one of their their featured reports it is claimed that The Pirate Bay is selling pirated movies and music to its users. "Up until 2006, one of the largest global sellers of pirated films and music files was sold by a company based in Sweden – Pirate Bay," it reads. Despite their blatant lies in their research reports, they have still managed to convince several schools to use their course materials.

http://torrentfreak.com/pro-copyright-propaganda-enters-us-classrooms-090522/

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The New Robert Anton Wilson Website

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Yet Another Bogus 'Terror' Plot

 
By the now, it's maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it's revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne'er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.
I've seen this movie before.
In this case, the alleged perps -- Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen -- were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they're not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself. Noted the Los Angeles Times:
 
Prosecutors called it the latest in a string of homegrown terrorism plots hatched after Sept. 11.

"It's hard to envision a more chilling plot," Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Snyder said in court Thursday. He described all four suspects as "eager to bring death to Jews."

Actually, it's hard to imagine a stupider, less competent, and less important plot. The four losers were ensnared by a creepy FBI agent who hung around the mosque in upstate New York until he found what he was looking for. Here's the New York Times account:

Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, the imam at the mosque where the authorities say the confidential informant first encountered the men, said none of the men were active in the mosque. ...

Mr. Cromitie was there last June, and he met a stranger.

He had no way of knowing that the stranger's path to the mosque began in 2002, when he was arrested on federal charges of identity theft. He was sentenced to five years' probation, and became a confidential informant for the F.B.I. He began showing up at the mosque in Newburgh around 2007, Mr. Muhammad said.

The stranger's behavior aroused the imam's suspicions. He invited other worshipers to meals, and spoke of violence and jihad, so the imam said he steered clear of him.

"There was just something fishy about him," Mr. Muhammad said. Members "believed he was a government agent."

Mr. Muhammad said members of his congregation told him the man he believed was the informant offered at least one of them a substantial amount of money to join his "team."

So a creepy thug buttonholes people at a mosque, foaming at the mouth about violence and jihad? This is law enforcement? Just imagine if someone did this at a local church, or some synagogue. And the imam says the people "believed he was a government agent."

Preying on these losers, none of whom were apparently actual Muslims, the "confidential informant" orchestrated the acquisition of a disabled Stinger missile to shoot down military planes and cooked up a wild scheme about attacking a Jewish center in the Bronx.

 

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Jihad-lite?

by Stephen C. Webster

This terrorism sting case from New York keeps getting stranger. In two New York publications, the girlfriends of those accused are stepping out to defend their men. What they're saying is certainly enough to raise eyebrows.

From The New York Post:

She said Maqsood promised to get Cromitie jobs and once said he would give him a black Mercedes-Benz. On repeated occasions, he gave Cromitie cameras, cash and even drugs, she said.

"Maqsood gave him a lot of marijuana," she said.

An FBI spokesman did not return a call for comment on the alleged gift giving.

Williams' mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, said her son fell under Maqsood's sway in April with promises to help with medical bills for his sick brother.

From The New York Daily News:

"Maqsood would keep ringing our doorbell, and James would hide behind the sofa," Baynes said.

"I know something wasn't right with Maqsood from the beginning. He would call and say, 'I got lots of money. Anything you need I can give you, sister.'"

[...]

"It's all a lie, and the government knows deep down inside that these four men are not terrorists," Baynes said. "We're going to stand together as a family and watch God move mountains."

"We are not entrapping or encouraging anyone to commit a crime," Joseph M. Demarest, head of New York's FBI office, told the Associated Press. "We merely facilitated their wishes."

It's too early to pronounce public verdict on this strange case, but needless to say, the latest developments certainly warrant closer scrutiny.

http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/05/jihad-lite/

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Brief History of Weed

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Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?

by Maia Szalavitz
 
needle heroinPop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.)
 
Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly

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Michael Moore must do a film about marijuana prohibition

Few people are better at bringing hypocrisy and injustice to our attention than Michael Moore.  The reformation of marijuana laws has become the subject of much discussion and debate in recent months and, although his would not be the first film on this topic, a film from Mr. Moore would really get people's attention and put a big nail in the coffin of prohibition.  Just imagine what he could do with this subject.  Join me in begging him to take up this cause.
 
sign petition!
 
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Health care reform

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