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Updated: 5 hours 11 min ago

What’s in Your First Aid Kit?

16 hours 50 min ago

Generally speaking, I have a fairly decent first aid kit.  It includes everything from a large variety of bandages to pain killers, antibiotics, essential oils, trauma supplies, first aid books, and equipment such as braces, splints and a blood pressure monitor.

That being said, I put the kit together a few years ago and as they say, I wish I knew then what I know now.  As with all things preparedness, my knowledge has increased over time and I now recognize that I need to go back and revisit my first aid kit, adding items that are missing and removing certain items I no longer consider appropriate or necessary.

Over the years, something I have learned is that in a survival situation, it may be the less common items in our supply closet that turn out to be the most useful.  The same applies to a first aid kit.

Today Backdoor Survival Contributing Author Rob Hanus is back with us to share his take on 8 uncommon first aid items.

8 Items You May Have Overlooked In Your First-Aid Kit

Having a well-stocked first aid kit (FAK) is a given. You should have one in your home and one in your vehicle, as well as in each of your emergency packs.

Once you have a basic first aid kit, consider adding these 8 items:

Liquid Bandage: Though this has become more popular, surprisingly, many people still don’t know about it. Liquid bandage, like New Skin, is just like it sounds: you apply a the liquid to a small wound and within minutes, it dries into a protective bandage. It’s good for keeping out dirt, germs and water, without the annoyance of a bandage.

Link:  New-Skin Liquid Bandage

Super Glue:  This is a common household item that also has a use in first aid. You can buy the expensive, prescription-only version called Dermabond, but it’s far cheaper to use a common tube of super glue.

This works a lot like the liquid bandage above, in that you apply it to the wound and when it’s dry, it will hold the cut together. The glue doesn’t go into the wound, it’s suppose to go over the wound. Basically, you hold close the cut and apply the glue over it, to bond the two sides together. Most people do this wrong and don’t wait long enough for the glue to dry.

Just make sure not to use super glue on the following: eyes, lips, genitals, wounds with a high risk of infection like animal bites, and deep wounds that involve damage to muscles or tendons. Also, note that will sting more than Dermabond will.

Link:  Super Glue  – The Original

Tampons and Maxi-pads:  While using these for their normal role is one aspect, they also have uses in first aid. Tampons are good for plugging up puncture wounds and the pads make good dressings. Just make sure you get the non-scented type so you’re not injecting the scent chemical into the wound.

Link:  Playtex Unscented TamponsAlways Maxi Unscented Pads

Hand Sanitizer: You can’t always wash your hands in the wilderness, but you can sanitize them with the common alcohol hand sanitizer. This is good to use both before treating wounds and after your hands have been covered in blood. As an aside, it’s also a very good fire starter (it’s essentially gelled alcohol).

Link:  Purell Hand Sanitizer

Safety Pins:  While this seems like a common item found in first aid kits, you would be surprised at how many kits don’t have any. Not only can you hold bandages in place with these, but they are also good for digging out splinters. They’re safety design makes them easy to carry in your kit. One non-medical use for them is when you lose a button on your shirt or pants.

Link:  Singer Safety Pins, Multisize

Tongue Depressors: While common in pediatrician’s offices, you should have a few of them in your FAK, too. The main use for them is as a finger split. The best way to treat a broken or severely sprained finger is to immobilize it. They’re also good for kindling if you need to make a fire

Link:  Tongue Depressors

Self Adherent Bandage: Most of us have probably learned that the way to dress a wound is to put gauze dressing on it, then wrap in gauze roll bandage and secure with a safety pin, or tuck the end under one of the wraps.

In talking to a Navy corpsman, the preferred method is to use the self adherent bandage or cling wrap. This wrap looks much like an Ace bandage, only that it clings to itself. This makes it far easier to wrap, unwrap and rewrap a wound, as you’re not having to mess around with pins or other fasteners. A few rolls of these and some maxi-pads and you have some excellent field dressings.

Link:  Pac-Kit Self-Adhering Cohesive Wrap, 2″ Wide

Hemostatic Agent: These go under several brand names, like QuikClot, Celox, and HemCon. What they do is quickly cause the blood to clot, stopping the bleeding much faster. These are best used in large wounds where the risk of death from blood loss is high. These can be more expensive than other first aid items, but they literally can mean the difference between life and death in severe trauma.

Link:  Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression BandageQuikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge

Whether you’re making a new kit or adding to your existing kit, the items above can add to the functionality of your first aid kit.  And, if you don’t have any FAKs or want to run a quick check on them, I suggest starting here: The Preparedness Podcast: First Aid / Medical.

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Painting Your Walls?

16 hours 50 min ago

Dipping a roller in some paint and slapping it on a wall seems like such a simple task—and to an extent, it is. But there are a few tips and tools that do make the job quicker, easier, and result in far less paint in your hair.

I’d painted dozens of rooms before I finally read an article on the proper way to roll on paint, and I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes at the idea of it. I typically bought cheap brushes, cheap paint, and didn’t much care for painting rooms, but it didn’t seem too difficult.

As it turns out, just because it seemed like a simple task, there were plenty of things that made the job easier that I wish I would have known several houses ago. Here are a few of them.

Learn to Roll Paint Properly

There’s an actual technique to this, and I found that when I had a system down like this, I got more consistent coverage (which meant fewer coats and touch-ups,) I also realized I hadn’t been loading my roller with enough paint in the past, which meant I was pushing the roller hard into the wall to get enough paint on it. Not only does that get tiring, it can leave streaks where paint gets pushed out of the ends of the roller. Once I had a system down, like the one described in this video, things got a lot easier, and the wall looked much better in the end.

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Drink More Water

16 hours 50 min ago

A fish without water can’t breathe, and we can’t live without water either! Staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to stay healthy and maintain a proper body weight, but most of us are dehydrated without realizing it.

Without sufficient water in your body, your cells get congested, your skin can’t detox, and your bladder and kidneys won’t work properly. You’ll feel tired and eat more, too. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.

Here’s why.

The Importance of Drinking Water, Staying Hydrated

When you feel thirsty, your body is likely already insufficiently hydrated. While you can make a habit of drinking water first thing in the morning to help stay hydrated, as many ancient medicinal arts suggest, sipping water throughout the day is also important. Remember to opt for pure, clean, filtered water whenever possible. You would be surprised to find out how disgusting tap water can be.

You should also never consider sweet juices, soda, tea, or coffee as substitutes for pure water. They simply won’t hydrate you as well. Both sugar and salt as well as caffeine dehydrate the body. If you can’t kick the morning coffee habit, be sure to drink a tall glass of water along side of it to make sure you aren’t dehydrating yourself further as the sun is just coming up.

Drinking more water is one of the safest, healthiest ways to detox the body. What’s more, when you drink more often, you will feel satiated, leading to weight loss from over-eating less often. Often when you feel hungry, this signal from the body is actually telling you that you need to drink more, so try a glass of water first, and then eat something if you are still feeling hunger pangs.

10 Benefits of Proper Hydration

The following specific functions in the body require hydration. Drink more water to:

  • 1. Combat Fatigue – You can’t run on all four cylinders if you are dehydrated. Water is one of the most important sources of energy for your body. It helps cells complete important enzymatic activities which contribute to good sleep, restoration of bodily systems, and the production of ample energy to get you through your day.
  • 2. Reduce High Blood Pressure – When the body is fully hydrated, the blood is approximately 92% water. This helps to keep the blood moving freely through the veins and arteries, helping to prevent high blood pressure along with other cardiovascular ailments.
  • 3. Halt Allergies and Asthma – When the body is dehydrated, it creates more histamines - organic nitrous compounds which help to regulate our immune response. If we have too many histamines circulating, we will feel congested and have difficulty breathing, along with other allergic reactions caused by the body’s response to foreign bodies.
  • 4. Reduce Acne, Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Premature Aging of the Skin - With proper hydration, the skin practically glows. Without it, our skin cannot properly rid itself of toxins and so it becomes irritated, inflamed, and congested, causing a host of unsavory results ranging from itching, blackheads, redness, acne, and general blotchiness.
  • 5. Stop High Cholesterol – When the body hasn’t had enough water, it will start to produce more cholesterol so that cells can still function properly.

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You’re Invited

16 hours 50 min ago

For several weeks, the tragic soul of The Mogambo has been troubled by subtle undertones in The Force, inexplicably using an old Star Wars metaphor, which brings up the interesting question as to how a Jedi light-saber would fare against a couple of belt-fed .50 caliber machineguns at point-blank range.

Other than pondering those kinds of deeply philosophical questions, it was the old “It’s quiet. Too quiet” kind of thing, where you are always nervously looking over your shoulder, and seeing enemies lurking in every shadow, every nerve on the razor’s edge. Trigger fingers twitching, too, which is difficult to say five times quickly, which only proves the point.

For instance, I started sensing strange vibrations in what people were saying, such as Paul Krugman, Janet Yellen and others, as concerns monetary policy.

And when I call them up to demand an explanation, and maybe helpfully explain how they are mere Earthling idiots who don’t know squat about economics, they won’t take my calls!

I mean, I clearly tell the receptionist that I am the Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG) on the line here, and I am calling to explain to them how their whole idiotic Keynesian idea of Quantitative Easing has been a big, fat, flatulent bust, and I want to find out what they are going to propose to do next, as concerns monetary policy, and it better NOT be any more of that stupid Quantitative Easing crap, as I am prepared to clearly and loudly detail how they must be the biggest idiots in the whole world to actually believe that the profound inflationary and bankrupting stupidity of vastly increasing the money-supply (and thus vastly increasing debt), and then committing that same incredible, suicidal folly over the long-term, could possibly, highly-improbably, one chance-in-a-million, one chance-in-a-zillion years, work!

But, alas, I never get through to anyone. Ever!  Even after I CLEARLY explained to the receptionist who I am and exactly why I, the Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG), am calling, so as to hopefully speed things along.

Even parsing their oily remarks through a Junior Mogambo Ranger Secret Decoder Ring (JMRSDR) yielded, alas, nothing.

Thus, I am left exhausted and confused, with an increased sense of dread, as actually befits the situation, but knowing little else about what’s ahead, monetary-wise.

Nonetheless, I instinctively knew something BIG was up, as my furrowed brow, exaggerated startle-reflex, and a frenzy of buying gold, silver, and defensive armaments so colorfully indicated.

And, thinking about it, with your heart pounding, covered in a cold, clammy sweat, you suddenly realize that, alarmingly, the only thing it COULD be is a new, colossal attempt by the Federal Reserve and the government to somehow, some miraculous way, some fabulous way, some glorious deus ex machina way, please, please, please let this new version of massive Quantitative Easing work, even though 2,500 years of global economic history, a sad tale of one dirtball government after another bankrupting itself, with or without creating paper money in its death throes, proves that it can’t, and it won’t.

Of course, since I am the aforementioned Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG) of story and song, I always knew that the ultimate fate of grotesquely expanding the money supply to expand the size of government was to inexorably have to, in one fashion or another, relive the infamous “bread and circuses” policies of ancient Rome, the government desperately placating the teeming, impoverished masses, suffering as they are from rising prices, a large, oppressive government and abysmal living conditions, by giving them food and entertainment, which is a disastrous policy that always leads to Bad Bad Things (BBT).

So, was I more paranoid and cynical than usual, or was something actually, you know, up.  But what?

Who knew that it would be brought to my attention by Zerohedge.com, with the chilling title “It Begins”?  When I saw it, I thought I heard banshees wailing, and ravenous wolves howling in the distance, growing frightfully closer. Ever closer.

“It Begins”, I am sorry to say, is not the title of a terrific new horror movie, a grand and glorious gore-fest of bloody, gun-happy shoot-‘em-up action, fiery explosions, high-speed car chases and hordes of mutant zombies who mostly look like beautiful lingerie models, only less clothed.

Instead, “It Begins” refers, even more horribly and tragically, to an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, written by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan, of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is spooky enough.

Unbelievably, the essence is “Print Less but Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly to the People.” Yikes!

To save you the trouble of rubbing your eyes in complete disbelief, it goes on that “Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.”

Giving cash away! It’s bread and circuses, alright, in spades!  “Here’s some money to buy your own food and circus!” Wow!

The authors, who are so wrong about so many important things in the article, are nonetheless absolutely right when they say “In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy”!!!

The three concluding exclamation points were added by me, as a clever and clearly dramatic emphasis, to make sure that you completely understood that millions of consumers suddenly spending lots of new, free cash will certainly make the economy go!! Wow! What a boom it would cause!

The most laughable part is when they said that giving people cash “wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them.” Hahahaha!

I told you they were wrong about some things, and here are three at once, because, firstly, it certainly WOULD cause inflation, however you define “damaging.”

And, contrary to the laughable conclusion of the authors, nobody doubts that it would work! Nobody! Lots and lots of new money continually pouring into an economy would NOT make a boom? Hahahaha!

And the reason that no government has tried it is because it is Stupid Writ Large (SWL), as in “No government that tried giving away money to the population lasted long enough to write it down.”

The authors thought they were so smart to anticipate the Disagreeable Mogambo Naysayer (DMN) loudly objecting “Because terrifying inflation is guaranteed to ensue, you morons, and poor people would be more and more poor and starved, and they will all get testy about their kids crying from hunger, and they can’t stay warm in the winter, or get out of the rain, and everything goes downhill pretty fast when people are rioting in the streets, and pretty soon you can’t get a good pizza anywhere within miles.”

Instead of wincing and slinking away in shame at my cruel scorn, they write, hilariously, “Other critics warn that such helicopter drops could cause inflation. The transfers, however, would be a flexible tool. Central bankers could ramp them up whenever they saw fit and raise interest rates to offset any inflationary effects.” Hahahahahahaha!

Central bankers could give away more and more cash “whenever they saw fit,” and yet there will be some glorious time when the Fed sees “fit” to stop giving away money and thus cause an economic slowdown, risking asset-price deflation that is leveraged a 100-to-1? Hahahaha! As Monty Python would say, “Pull the other one!”

And raising interest rates to somehow sterilize a tsunami of cash? I care about interest rates when I am receiving more and more cash and price inflation is roaring?  Hahaha! I’m busting a gut here!

But jocularity and complete stupidity aside, somebody must be expecting some new income, as Chuck Butler of Everbank reports that “July Consumer Credit (read debt) grew by $26 Billion, and June’s number was revised upward to $18.8 Billion from $17.2 Billion. But, $26 Billion!”

He, as well as I, characterizes it as “off the charts folks, as if 2008 never happened! What the heck is going on around here? Doesn’t anyone ever learn lessons?”

Dave Gonigam of the 5-Minute Forecast parses it down to “Of that total, $5.4 billion came in credit cards — a surge previously unseen during the anemic ‘economic recovery’ these last five years.” “Of the remaining $20.6 billion, most of that was in auto loans, very little in student loans.”

So do these people suddenly have jobs, explaining their spending spree? No. In fact, ever fewer people have jobs.

And if you want some bad news on the employment front besides the usual upsetting stories about high unemployment and how jobs are disappearing faster than a pizza at a Super Bowl party, the booklet titled “Pocket World in Figures,” from The Economist magazine, has a table titled “Largest Manufacturing Output” which puts the United States at the top of the list, at $1,771 billion.

This puts us a measly $14 billion ahead of China, which is bad enough, but when you look at the next chart down the page, under “Largest Services Output”, the United States is again number one, at $10,574 billion, while the second place is held by Japan at a measly $3,904 billion, and China at a distant $3,172 billion.

In short, five times as many U.S. workers are providing services as are employed manufacturing something.  Probably has something to do with explaining our $40 billion-per-month trade deficit! Hahaha!

But lamenting the gaping trade deficit aside, it is this terrifying kind of weird, economy-distorting “services” thing, and the bizarre thing about giving money away to people, that will almost certainly lead to new fiscal policy accommodating them both, since behavior that was once considered idiotic, suicidal desperation, is now the only way out.  Probably connected with a new war, if history is any guide.

And when the government starts doling out all that luscious cash, and calling it our patriotic duty to spend all this new cash, it’s party time! Par-tay!

And if this “give money directly to people” thing plays out even vaguely as proposed, then you will happily have some time left to accumulate lots of gold and silver during the Big Monetary Party (BMP) that will surely follow, and you will have some time to think and idly daydream of what their prices will be at the calamitously inflationary end of the aforementioned Big Monetary Party (BMP), when everything else is ashes and heartache. Astronomic!

Whee! This investing stuff is easy!

What Is the Government Hiding?

16 hours 50 min ago

August 19, 2014 – When the report “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001″ was published, 28 of its pages were deemed classified by then-President George W. Bush, who stood firm that the information within these pages needed to remain shielded from the public, as a matter of national security.

In the nearly 13 years since the horrific events of 9/11, the number of people concerned about the truth behind 9/11 has grown steadily. President Barack Obama has said he would declassify the information about 9/11, but just as he has not upheld his promise to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Obama has not been a man of his word on this issue.

What we have been able to gather from the public portions of the report, as well as from public comments made by former Senator and Chairman of the Senate intelligence Committee Bob Graham, is that these classified documents have something to do with the extent of our government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and the source of funds that supported the events leading up to the twin towers and building seven falling on 9/11.

“There’s a fuzzy relationship between Saudi Arabia and us. I was so astounded on 9/11, the day afterward that all the Saudi Arabians that were here, including Bin Laden family members, all got to fly out many many hours, if not days, before I was allowed to fly—to get on an airplane and come home. They were never even questioned or quizzed by the FBI. I got to thinking, what in the world is going on? Now it pops up. There are strong hints by those who were on this committee in saying, well, it might have something to do with Saudi Arabia. So their hands aren’t clean. This makes it so much more important that we find out exactly what is in the redacted pages.”

Questions: Share your thoughts in the comments below!

1. What is your understanding of our government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia?

2. How do you think the leadership in Saudi Arabia feels about our military intervention in the Middle East?

3. Do you believe the American public deserves to know the truth hidden in the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 report?

Listen to the podcast

Freedom for Flanders

16 hours 50 min ago

An independent Flanders with Brussels as its capital will be best for the Flemish people who represent 60 percent of the Belgium population, and provide 80 percent of its economy, Flemish MP Tom van Grieken told RT.

Following in the footsteps of ScotlandVeneto in Italy and Catalonia in Spain, and Belgium’s Flemish region may become the next to hold a referendum on independence. The Flanders area of northern Belgium has been claiming its own sovereignty for years, and if it succeeds, Belgium may be no more, along with its being the symbol of a united Europe.

The 2008 financial crisis has boosted separatism movements in Europe, with rich and developed regions in a number of countries starting to voice their discontent with policies from the capital, and the necessity to feed economically weak regions. However, for such Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders it is also a question rooted in the history of the formation of the countries they belong to.

Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia have always been rich and well-developed regions, connected to each other despite language and cultural differences. The artificial creation of the Belgian state put these nations into a difficult situation, forcing them to coexist with people they don’t feel any connections with. Meanwhile, Scotland’s independence vote has inspired the Flemish people with hope to finally create their own state.

RT: Why does your party Vlaams Belang (“Flemish Interest”) support independence of Flanders?

Tom van Grieken: We are the only party in Belgium who are for Flemish independence. We think Belgium is dead, it is from the beginning in 1830 an artificial state, where two different people are forced to live together. Although we are only 60 percent of the population of Belgium, we produce 80 percent of our economy. Independent Flanders with Brussels as its capital will be the best for the Flemish people.

RT: The world’s attention is now chained to the Scottish referendum. After this vote we expect Catalonia to follow the same path. If Flanders was to hold a referendum, what results do you foresee?

TG: The importance of holding a referendum – it’s not the result which is important. The public debate concerning becoming independent is also important. In my country there is almost no debate on public television about independence, although the population really wants it. For example, in Scotland whether it is “yes” or “no” vote when the referendum results are made public, they already have their victory simply by having a public debate about independence of the people.

image from www.brusselsjournal.com

RT: Is it mostly for political reasons that the Flemish people seek independence? Does Flanders want to take decisions on its own?

TG: Of course it’s not our main purpose. The economic part is also very important. Like I have already said, 60 percent of the population of Belgium is Dutch-speaking, Flemish-speaking and they produce 80 percent. Also there are differences between cultures – the Flemish culture is completely different [from] the French culture in the south. We also have different political views: [in] the south [people] are all socialists, social-democrats and the North Flemish part votes for the right and center-right. It would be the best democratic solution to split up Belgium.

RT: Do you think in case of “yes” vote Flanders, Catalonia and Veneto will be able to survive?

TG: Of course. Small nation-states can produce easier answers to the difficult questions we all face in Europe. Flanders will not be smaller than independent Ireland or Denmark, or Estonia, or Lithuania. We would be a full-grown nation-state in the heart of Europe.

RT: How do you see the development of the situation?

TG: I think it will be like in a marriage. At the moment we are always fighting in every discussion but we should divorce, split up and become good friends, good neighbors. I think it will be our first economic partner to work together with but it’s better to become good friends than stay together in a bad marriage.

RT: What are the reasons for a marriage to become bad? And what makes bad neighbors?

TG: What makes bad neighbors? Of course it’s not something among individuals. As you know, my country, Belgium, where I’m forced to live in, holds the world’s record for days without government because we don’t agree on anything. Every political discussion has an aspect which Flemish and Wallonia people disagree on. So it would be better not only for Flanders but also for my French friends in the south.

RT: Do you think a referendum is needed?

TG: Yes, of course. We are the only independence party in Belgium. I think referendum is a good thing because if you are afraid of the opinion of your people, then you are not ready to be a leader of your people. So I think we need also in Belgium a referendum concerning the Flemish independence.

Reprinted with permission from Russia Today.

Decomposing the Nation State

16 hours 50 min ago

Libertarians tend to focus on two important units of analysis: the individual and the state. And yet, one of the most dramatic and significant events of our time has been the re-emergence — with a bang — in the last five years of a third and much-neglected aspect of the real world, the “nation.” When the “nation” has been thought of at all, it usually comes attached to the state, as in the common word, “the nation-state,” but this concept takes a particular development of recent centuries and elaborates it into a universal maxim. In the last five years, however, we have seen, as a corollary of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, a vivid and startlingly swift decomposition of the centralized State or alleged nation-State into its constituent nationalities. The genuine nation, or nationality, has made a dramatic reappearance on the world stage.

I. The Re-Emergence of the Nation

The “nation,” of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.

The modern European nation-state, the typical “major power,” began not as a nation at all, but as an “imperial” conquest of one nationality — usually at the “center” of the resulting country, and based in the capital city — over other nationalities at the periphery. Since a “nation” is a complex of subjective feelings of nationality based on objective realities, the imperial central states have had varying degrees of success in forging among their subject nationalities at the periphery a sense of national unity incorporating submission to the imperial center. In Great Britain, the English have never truly eradicated national aspirations among the submerged Celtic nationalities, the Scots and the Welsh, although Cornish nationalism seems to have been mostly stamped out. In Spain, the conquering Castilians, based in Madrid, have never managed — as the world saw at the Barcelona Olympics — to erase nationalism among the Catalans, the Basques, or even the Galicians or Andalusians. The French, moving out from their base in Paris, have never totally tamed the Bretons, the Basques, or the people of the Languedoc.

It is now well known that the collapse of the centralizing and imperial Russian Soviet Union has lifted the lid on the dozens of previously suppressed nationalisms within the former U.S.S.R., and it is now becoming clear that Russia itself, or rather “the Russian Federated Republic,” is simply a slightly older imperial formation in which the Russians, moving out from their Moscow center, forcibly incorporated many nationalities including the Tartars, the Yakuts, the Chechens, and many others. Much of the U.S.S.R. stemmed from imperial Russian conquest in the nineteenth century, during which the clashing Russians and British managed to carve up much of central Asia.

The “nation” cannot be precisely defined; it is a complex and varying constellation of different forms of communities, languages, ethnic groups, or religions. Some nations or nationalities, such as the Slovenes, are both a separate ethnic group and a language; others, such as the warring groups in Bosnia, are the same ethnic group whose language is the same but who differ in the form of alphabet, and who clash fiercely on religion (the Eastern Orthodox Serbs, the Catholic Croats, and the Bosnian Muslims, who, to make matters more complicated, were originally champions of the Manichaean Bogomil heresy).

The question of nationality is made more complex by the interplay of objectively existing reality and subjective perceptions. In some cases, such as Eastern European nationalities under the Habsburgs or the Irish under the British, nationalisms, including submerged and sometimes dying languages, had to be consciously preserved, generated, and expanded. In the nineteenth century this was done by a determined intellectual elite, struggling to revive peripheries living under, and partially absorbed by, the imperial center.

II. The Fallacy of “Collective Security”

The problem of the nation has been aggravated in the twentieth century by the overriding influence of Wilsonianism on U.S. and world-wide foreign policy. I refer not to the idea of “national self-determination,” observed mainly in the breach after World War I, but to the concept of “collective security against aggression.” The fatal flaw in this seductive concept is that it treats nation-states by an analogy with individual aggressors, with the “world community” in the guise of a cop-on-the corner. The cop, for example, sees A aggressing against, or stealing the property of, B; the cop naturally rushes to defend B’s private property, in his person or possessions. In the same way, wars between two nations or states are assumed to have a similar aspect: State A invades, or “aggresses against,” State B; State A is promptly designated “the aggressor” by the “international policeman” or his presumptive surrogate, be it the League of Nations, the United Nations, the U.S. President or Secretary of State, or the editorial writer of the august New York Times. Then the world police force, whatever it may be, is supposed to swing promptly into action to stop the “principle of aggression,” or to prevent the “aggressor,” be it Saddam Hussein or the Serbian guerrillas in Bosnia, from fulfilling their presumed goals of swimming across the Atlantic and murdering every resident of New York or Washington, D.C.

A crucial flaw in this popular line of argument goes deeper than the usual discussion of whether or not American air power or troops can really eradicate Iraqis or Serbs without too much difficulty. The crucial flaw is the implicit assumption of the entire analysis: that every nation-stare “owns” its entire geographical area in the same just and proper way that every individual property owner owns his person and the property that he has inherited, worked for, or gained in voluntary exchange. Is the boundary of the typical nation-state really as just or as beyond cavil as your or my house, estate, or factory!

It seems to me that not only the classical liberal or the libertarian, but anyone of good sense who thinks about this problem, must answer a resounding “No.” It is absurd to designate every nation-state, with its self-proclaimed boundary as it exists at any one time, as somehow right and sacrosanct, each with its “territorial integrity” to remain as spotless and unbreached as your or my bodily person or private property. Invariably, of course, these boundaries have been acquired by force and violence, or by interstate agreement above and beyond the heads of the inhabitants on the spot, and invariably these boundaries shift a great deal over time in ways that make proclamations of “territorial integrity” truly ludicrous.

Take, for example, the current mess in Bosnia. Only a couple of years ago, Establishment opinion, Received Opinion of Left, Right, or Center, loudly proclaimed the importance of maintaining “the territorial integrity” of Yugoslavia, and bitterly denounced all secession movements. Now, only a short time later, the same Establishment, only recently defending the Serbs as champions of “the Yugoslav nation” against vicious secessionist movements trying to destroy that “integrity,” now reviles and wishes to crush the Serbs for “aggression” against the “territorial integrity” of “Bosnia” or “Bosnia-Herzegovina,” a trumped-up “nation” that had no more existence than the “nation of Nebraska” before 1991. But these are the pitfalls in which we are bound to fall if we remain trapped by the mythology of the “nation-state” whose chance boundary at time t must be upheld as a property-owning entity with its own sacred and inviolable “rights,” in a deeply flawed analogy with the rights of private property.

To adopt an excellent strategem of Ludwig von Mises in abstracting from contemporary emotions: Let us postulate two contiguous nation-States, “Ruritania” and “Fredonia.” Let us assume that Ruritania has suddenly invaded eastern Fredonia, and claims it as its own. Must we automatically condemn Ruritania for its evil “act of aggression” against Fredonia, and send troops, either literally or metaphorically, against the brutal Ruritanians and in behalf of “brave, little” Fredonia? By no means. For it is very possible that, say, two years ago, eastern Fredonia had been part and parcel of Ruritania, was indeed western Ruritania, and that the Rurs, ethnic and national denizens of the land, have been crying out for the past two years against Fredonian oppression. In short, in international disputes in particular, in the immortal words of W. S. Gilbert:

Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream.

The Beloved international cop, whether it be Boutros Boutros-Ghali or U.S. troops or the New York Times editorialist had best think more than twice before leaping into the fray. Americans are especially unsuited for their self-proclaimed Wilsonian role as world moralists and policemen. Nationalism in the U.S. is peculiarly recent, and is more of an idea than it is rooted in long-standing ethnic or nationality groups or struggles. Add to that deadly mix the fact that Americans have virtually no historical memory, and this makes Americans peculiarly unsuited to barreling in to intervene in the Balkans, where who took what side at what place in the war against the Turkish invaders in the fifteenth century is far more intensely real to most of the contenders than is yesterday’s dinner.

Libertarians and classical liberals, who are particularly well-equipped to rethink the entire muddled area of the nation-state and foreign affairs, have been too wrapped up in the Cold War against communism and the Soviet Union to engage in fundamental thinking on these issues. Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed and the Cold War is over, perhaps classical liberals will feel free to think anew about these critically important problems.

III. Rethinking Secession

First, we can conclude that not all state boundaries are just. One goal for libertarians should be to transform existing nation-states into national entities whose boundaries could be called just, in the same sense that private property boundaries are just; that is, to decompose existing coercive nation-states into genuine nations, or nations by consent.

In the case, for example, of the eastern Fredonians, the inhabitants should be able to secede voluntarily from Fredonia and join their comrades in Ruritania. Again, classical liberals should resist the impulse to say that national boundaries “don’t make any difference.” It’s true, of course, as classical liberals have long proclaimed, that the less the degree of government intervention in either Fredonia or Ruritania, the less difference such a boundary will make. But even under a minimal state, national boundaries would still make a difference, often a big one to the inhabitants of the area. For in what language — Ruritanian or Fredonian or both? — will be the street signs, telephone books, court proceedings, or school classes of the area?

In short, every group, every nationality, should be allowed to secede from any nation-state and to join any other nation-state that agrees to have it. That simple reform would go a long way toward establishing nations by consent. The Scots, if they want to, should be allowed by the English to leave the United Kingdom, and to become independent, and even to join a Gaelic Confederation, if the constituents so desire.

A common response to a world of proliferating nations is to worry about the multitude of trade barriers that might be erected. But, other things being equal, the greater the number of new nations, and the smaller the size of each, the better. For it would be far more difficult to sow the illusion of self-sufficiency if the slogan were “Buy North Dakotan” or even “Buy 56th Street” than it now is to convince the public to “Buy American.” Similarly, “Down with South Dakota,” or a fortiori, “Down with 55th Street,” would be a more difficult sell than spreading fear or hatred of the Japanese. Similarly, the absurdities and the unfortunate consequences of fiat paper money would be far more evident if each province or each neighborhood or street block were to print its own currency. A more decentralized world would be far more likely to turn to sound market commodities, such as gold or silver, for its money.

IV. The Pure Anarcho-Capitalist Model

I raise the pure anarcho-capitalist model in this paper, not so much to advocate the model per se as to propose it as a guide for settling vexed current disputes about nationality. The pure model, simply, is that no land areas, no square footage in the world, shall remain “public”; every square foot of land area, be they streets, squares, or neighborhoods, is privatized. Total privatization would help solve nationality problems, often in surprising ways, and I suggest that existing states, or classical liberal states, try to approach such a system even while some land areas remain in the governmental sphere.

Open Borders, or the Camp-of-the Saints Problem

The question of open borders, or free immigration, has become an accelerating problem for classical liberals. This is first, because the welfare state increasingly subsidizes immigrants to enter and receive permanent assistance, and second, because cultural boundaries have become increasingly swamped. I began to rethink my views on immigration when, as the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the cultures and languages of these peoples. Previously, it had been easy to dismiss as unrealistic Jean Raspail’s anti-immigration novel The Camp of the Saints, in which virtually the entire population of India decides to move, in small boats, into France, and the French, infected by liberal ideology, cannot summon the will to prevent economic and cultural national destruction. As cultural and welfare-state problems have intensified, it became impossible to dismiss Raspail’s concerns any longer.

However, on rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have “open borders” at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners’ desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors.

Under total privatization, many local conflicts and “externality” problems — not merely the immigration problem — would be neatly settled. With every locale and neighborhood owned by private firms, corporations, or contractual communities, true diversity would reign, in accordance with the preferences of each community. Some neighborhoods would be ethnically or economically diverse, while others would be ethnically or economically homogeneous. Some localities would permit pornography or prostitution or drugs or abortions, others would prohibit any or all of them. The prohibitions would not be state imposed, but would simply be requirements for residence or use of some person’s or community’s land area. While statists who have the itch to impose their values on everyone else would be disappointed, every group or interest would at least have the satisfaction of living in neighborhoods of people who share its values and preferences. While neighborhood ownership would not provide Utopia or a panacea for all conflicts, it would at least provide a “second-best” solution that most people might be willing to live with.

Enclaves and Exclaves

One obvious problem with the secession of nationalities from centralized states concerns mixed areas, or enclaves and exclaves. Decomposing the swollen central nation-State of Yugoslavia into constituent parts has solved many conflicts by providing independent nationhood for Slovenes, Serbs, and Croats, but what about Bosnia, where many towns and villages are mixed? One solution is to encourage more of the same, through still more decentralization. If, for example, eastern Sarajevo is Serb and western Sarajevo is Muslim, then they become parts of their respective separate nations.

But this of course will result in a large number of enclaves, parts of nations surrounded by other nations. How can this be solved? In the first place, the enclave/exclave problem exists right now. One of the most vicious existing conflicts, in which the U.S. has not yet meddled because it has not yet been shown on CNN, is the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian exclave totally surrounded by, and therefore formally within, Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh should clearly be part of Armenia. But, how then, will Armenians of Karabakh avoid their present fate of blockade by Azeris, and how will they avoid military battles in trying to keep open a land corridor to Armenia?

Under total privatization, of course, these problems would disappear. Nowadays, no one in the U.S. buys land without making sure that his title to the land is clear; in the same way, in a fully privatized world, access rights would obviously be a crucial part of land ownership. In such a world, then, Karabakh property owners would make sure that they had purchased access rights through an Azeri land corridor.

Decentralization also provides a workable solution for the seemingly insoluble permanent conflict in Northern Ireland. When the British partitioned Ireland in the early 1920s, they agreed to perform a second, a more micro-managed, partition. They never carried through on this promise. If the British would permit a detailed, parish by parish, partition vote in Northern Ireland, however, most of the land area, which is majority Catholic, would probably hive off and join the Republic: such counties as Tyrone and Fermanagh, southern Down, and southern Armagh, for example. The Protestants would probably be left with Belfast, county Antrim, and other areas north of Belfast. The major remaining problem would be the Catholic enclave within the city of Belfast, but again, an approach to the anarcho-capitalist model could be attained by permitting the purchase of access rights to the enclave.

Pending total privatization, it is clear that our model could be approached, and conflicts minimized, by permitting secessions and local control, down to the micro-neighborhood level, and by developing contractual access rights for enclaves and exclaves. In the U.S., it becomes important, in moving toward such radical decentralization, for libertarians and classical liberals — indeed, for many other minority or dissident groups — to begin to lay the greatest stress on the forgotten Tenth Amendment and to try to decompose the role and power of the centralizing Supreme Court. Rather than trying to get people of one’s own ideological persuasion on the Supreme Court, its power should be rolled back and minimized as far as possible, and its power decomposed into state, or even local, judicial bodies.

Citizenship and Voting Rights

One vexing current problem centers on who becomes the citizen of a given country, since citizenship confers voting rights. The Anglo-American model, in which every baby born in the country’s land area automatically becomes a citizen, clearly invites welfare immigration by expectant parents. In the U.S., for example, a current problem is illegal immigrants whose babies, if born on American soil, automatically become citizens and therefore entitle themselves and their parents to permanent welfare payments and free medical care. Clearly the French system, in which one has to be born to a citizen to become an automatic citizen, is far closer to the idea of a nation-by-consent.

It is also important to rethink the entire concept and function of voting. Should anyone have a “right” to vote? Rose Wilder Lane, the mid-twentieth century U.S. libertarian theorist, was once asked if she believed in womens’ suffrage. “No,” she replied, “and I’m against male suffrage as well.” The Latvians and Estonians have cogently tackled the problem of Russian immigrants by allowing them to continue permanently as residents, but not granting them citizenship or therefore the right to vote. The Swiss welcome temporary guest-workers, but severely discourage permanent immigration, and, a fortiori, citizenship and voting.

Let us turn for enlightenment, once again, to the anarcho-capitalist model. What would voting be like in a totally privatized society? Not only would voting be diverse, but more importantly, who would really care? Probably the most deeply satisfying form of voting to an economist is the corporation, or joint-stock company, in which voting is proportionate to one’s share of ownership of the firm’s assets. But also there are, and would be, a myriad of private clubs of all sorts. It is usually assumed that club decisions are made on the basis of one vote per member, but that is generally untrue. Undoubtedly, the best-run and most pleasant clubs are those run by a small, self-perpetuating oligarchy of the ablest and most interested, a system most pleasant for the rank-and-file non-voting member as well as for the elite. If I am a rank-and-file member of, say a chess club, why should I worry about voting if I am satisfied with the way the club is run? And if I am interested in running things, I would probably be asked to join the ruling elite by the grateful oligarchy, always on the lookout for energetic members. And finally, if I am unhappy about the way the club is run, I can readily quit and join another club, or even form one of my own. That, of course, is one of the great virtues of a free and privatized society, whether we are considering a chess club or a contractual neighborhood community.

Clearly, as we begin to work toward the pure model, as more and more areas and parts of life become either privatized or micro-decentralized, the less important voting will become. Of course, we are a long way from this goal. But it is important to begin, and particularly to change our political culture, which treats “democracy,” or the “right” to vote, as the supreme political good. In fact, the voting process should be considered trivial and unimportant at best, and never a “right,” apart from a possible mechanism stemming from a consensual contract. In the modern world, democracy or voting is only important either to join in or ratify the use of the government to control others, or to use it as a way of preventing one’s self or one’s group from being controlled. Voting, however, is at best, an inefficient instrument for self-defense, and it is far better to replace it by breaking up central government power altogether.

In sum, if we proceed with the decomposition and decentralization of the modern centralizing and coercive nation-state, deconstructing that state into constituent nationalities and neighborhoods, we shall at one and the same time reduce the scope of government power, the scope and importance of voting and the extent of social conflict. The scope of private contract, and of voluntary consent, will be enhanced, and the brutal and repressive state will be gradually dissolved into a harmonious and increasingly prosperous social order.

[Originally appeared in the Journal of Libertarian Studies 11, no. 1 (Fall 1994): 1–10.]

Far Better Than The Godfather

16 hours 50 min ago

The untimely death of the great, hulking, utterly invulnerable-looking James Gandolfini has robbed us of the chance to see what the rest of his career might have been like. Since the final season of The Sopranos he had been shaping up as an unusually imaginative producer, but now we will have to remember him just as an actor, and mainly, of course in the role of Tony Soprano. In 2004, when there was still another season of The Sopranos to come, I wrote a piece in homage to its accomplishment. Some of the show’s fans thought that the final season was a let-down, but my younger daughter and I have just finished watching the whole thing again (four episodes every Saturday) and we are united in the belief that it was great to the end.

And for all the skills of its wonderful cast, the greatest thing about the show was Gandolfini. An actor has come a long way towards monumentality when his merest smile can seem to threaten a room full of grown men with death. What you never really believed, however – even in the last episode, when he was holed up with his guns and waiting for the enemy – was that death could threaten him. I got the sense that he was watching me as I wrote, so I tried hard to get it right; while always trying to remind myself, of course, that he wasn’t really a gangster, just an actor. Given time, he would almost certainly have done so many other good things that he would have outgrown the charming but sinister legend he had created on the small screen. The world would have realised that James Gandolfini was even bigger than Tony Soprano. But when I wrote this piece, being as big as Tony seemed plenty big enough.

* * *

In the dark night of the soul, it is often three o’clock in the afternoon on the pool terrace of a mobster’s house in New Jersey. The rule of law exists only to be flouted; power to be flaunted; any scruple to be parodied. It’s appalling. I love it.

Love it more, in fact, than the Godfather movies, which are supposedly the superior cinematic achievement, the fons et origo from which the mere television serial draws and dilutes its inspiration. We shouldn’t let the size of the picture fool us. In the little picture, a lot more is going on, and it’s a lot more true. David Chase, the writer-producer who made The Sopranos in the same way that Aaron Sorkin made The West Wing, was not involved in the Godfather project. Chase served his apprenticeship as a writer for The Rockford Files and later as a writer-producer for Northern Exposure. His idea of a big movie was Fellini’s 8.5; of a crime movie, Cul de sac; superior European stuff.

There is no doubt, however, that the Godfather trilogy was on his mind, because it is on the minds of all the male characters in The Sopranos. Only two of its main actors were ever directed by Francis Ford Coppola: Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior) and Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) both played minor roles in Godfather II.

Read the rest of the article

For the New Abnormal

16 hours 51 min ago

While many economists and market watchers have failed to notice, we have entered a new chapter in the short and checkered history of central banking. This paradigm shift, as yet unaddressed in the textbooks, changes the basic policy tools that have traditionally defined the sphere of macroeconomic decision-making.

The job of a central banker is supposed to be the calibration of interest rates to achieve the optimal rate of growth for any particular economic environment. It is hoped that successful decisions, which involve perfectly timed moves to raise rates when the economy overheats and lower them when it cools, would bring consistency and stability to the business cycle that many fear would be dangerously erratic if left unmanaged. That’s the theory. The practice is quite different.

Over the past thirty years or so, interest rates have been lowered far more often than they have been raised. This makes sense. Bankers, being human, would rather err on the side of good times not bad. They would rather leave the punch bowl out there a little too long than take it away too soon. Over time, this creates a huge downward bias. But things have really become distorted over the past eight years, a time period during which interest rates have never gone up. They just go down and stay down.

Back in the early years of the last decade, Alan Greenspan ventured into almost unknown territory when he lowered interest rates to 1% and left them there for more than a year. But in today’s terms, those moves look hawkish. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Ben Bernanke brought interest rates to zero, where they have remained ever since.

But old habits die hard, and economists still expect that rates can and will go back to normal. They assume that since the economy is now apparently on solid footing, the period of ample accommodation is over. In reality, we have built an economy that is now so leveraged that it needs zero percent interest rates just to tread water.

Based on statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 1955 to 2007 Fed Funds rates were on average 230 basis points higher than average GDP growth (5.7% vs. 3.4%). But from 2008-2013, Fed Funds rates have been less than half the rate of GDP growth (0.44% vs. .92%). Rates lower than GDP, in theory, should stimulate the economy. But instead we are stuck in the mud.

Twenty-odd years ago the textbooks still seemed to work. A recession hit in 1991, which brought GDP close to zero. In response, the Fed cut rates by more than 200 basis points (from 5.7% in 1991 to 3.5% in 1992.) As expected, 1992 GDP rebounded to a reasonably healthy 3.6%. But the rate cuts did little for asset prices. In that year the S&P 500 crept up just 4.4% and the Case-Shiller 10-City Composite Index of home prices actually fell almost 2% nationally.

Compare that to 2013. With Fed Funds still near zero, GDP actually fell to 2.2% from 2.3% in 2012. But asset prices were a different story. Stocks were up 26% and real estate up 13.5%. It would appear that interest rates have lost their power to move GDP and can now only exert pressure on asset prices.  As a result, rates are no longer the main attraction in central banking. The real action takes place elsewhere.

The Fed and other central banks have made the active purchase of financial assets, known as quantitative easing, to be there main policy tool. QE is a more powerful drug than interest rates. It involves actual market manipulation by the purchases of bonds on the open market. Whereas zero interest rates could be compared to a general stimulant, QE is a direct shot of adrenaline to the heart. When the next recession comes, the syringe will likely come into greater use.

Since 1945 the U.S. economy has dipped into recession 11 times. The average length of the recoveries between those recessions was 58.4 months, or just under five years. The current “recovery” is already 73 months old, or 15 months longer than the average. How will the Fed deal with another contraction (which seems likely to begin within the next year or two) with rates still at or very close to zero? QE appears to be the only option.

Given that reality, the big question is no longer whether the Fed will raise or lower rates, but by how much they will ramp up or taper off QE. When the economy contracts, QE purchases will increase, and when the economy improves, QE will be tapered, and may even approach zero for a time. But interest rates will always remain at zero or, at the least, stay far below the rate of inflation. This will continue until QE loses its potency as well.

Mainstream economists will be quick to dismiss this theory, as they will say that policy is now on course for normalization. Although economic growth in 2013 was nothing to write home about, the set of indicators that are normally followed by most economists, point to a modest recovery, exuberant financial markets, and falling unemployment. But if that is the case, why has the Fed waited so long to tighten?

The truth is the Fed knows the economy needs zero percent rates to stay afloat, which is why they have yet to pull the trigger. The last serious Fed campaign to raise interest rates led to the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 and the financial crisis that followed in 2008. This occurred despite the  slow and predictable manner in which the rates were raised, by 25 basis points every six weeks for two years (a kind of reverse tapering). At the time, Greenspan knew that the housing market and the economy had become dependent on low interest rates, and he did not want to deliver a shock to fragile markets with an abrupt normalization. But his measured and gradual approach only added more air to the real estate bubble, producing an even greater crisis than what might have occurred had he tightened more quickly.

The Fed is making an even graver mistake now if it thinks the economy can handle a measured reduction in QE. Similar to Greenspan, Bernanke understood that asset prices and the economy had become dependent on QE, and he hoped that by slowly tapering QE the economy and the markets could withstand the transition. But I believe these bets will lose just as big as Greenspan’s. The end of QE will prick the current bubbles in stocks, real estate, and bonds, just as higher rates pricked the housing bubble in 2006. And as was the case with the measured rate hikes, the tapering process will only add to the severity of the inevitable bust.

So while the market talks the talk on raising rates, the Fed will continue to walk the walk of zero percent interest rates. The action has switched to the next round of QE. In fact, since none of the Fed’s prior QE programs were followed by rate hikes but by more QE, why should this time be any different? The most likely difference will be that eventually a larger dose of QE will fail to deliver its desired effect. When that happens, who knows what these geniuses will think of next. But whatever it is, rest assured, it won’t be good.

The Liar-in-Chief

16 hours 51 min ago

Obama gave another speech on a new, more violent outbreak of terrorism.  He began by thanking those on the front lines:

…they’ve got hundreds of professionals who are working tirelessly on this issue.

…I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women, including some who recently returned from the front lines of the outbreak.  And they represent public service at its very best.  And so I just want them to know how much the American people appreciate them.

Serving the country; the few, the proud; a global force for good.  You know the story.

Many of them are serving far away from home, away from their families.  They are doing heroic work and serving in some unbelievably challenging conditions — working through exhaustion, day and night, and many have volunteered to go back. So we are very, very proud of them.

Multiple tours of duty; living in danger; their families also sacrificing.

Their work and our efforts across the government is an example of what happens when America leads in confronting some major global challenges.

Leader of the free world.

Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace.

It is a terrorism threat like no other, but the United States government will not run from the challenge.

We’re prepared to take leadership on this to provide the kinds of capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.

America, the exceptional and indispensable nation.

The problem is extraordinary; Obama is taking strong action:

…two months ago, I directed my team to make this a national security priority.  We’re working this across our entire government, which is why today I’m joined by leaders throughout my administration, including from my national security team.

Fighting this terrorist threat will require a mobilized military:

It’s going to be commanded by Major General Darryl Williams…

But this won’t be another example of the US going it alone; Obama is calling in international support:

More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies, and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly.

This week, the United States will chair an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.  Next week, I’ll join U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to continue mobilizing the international community around this effort.

This is actually something that we had announced several months ago at the G7 meeting.  We determined that this has to be a top priority…

This military mobilization has the thanks of the military leader:

So thank you very much to the entire team that’s already doing this work.  And please know that you’ve got your President and Commander-in-Chief behind you.  Thank you.

What is this new terrorist threat?  Ebola.  A germ.

Now…I have no idea what the truth is regarding this virus or the backstory or the risks.

I only hope that this announcement is, in fact, a backhanded way of saying that the United States government has decided that its more recent methods of expanding world government have been failures: the global war on terror has been a disaster on every level, and the global war on Russia threatens to become a disaster in a most permanent level.

In other words, if fighting a germ instead of killing countless millions of innocents is what the elite have decided is the best way to try and expand their global reach, I am all for it.

Beating swords into needles.  For some reason, sadly, I don’t think it will be this simple.  Instead, it is a more likely a convenient (fortunate?) way to invade Africa without generating global resistance.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.

Flirting With Armageddon

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

Obama took to the airwaves yesterday, oh so coincidentally, on the eve of September 11, to roll out his latest “smart war.”  And it comes, oh so coincidentally, just before Congressional midterms when every member of Congress fears like the plague to be painted as a dove, just as happened in 2002 before Bush II took us to war.

Whatever role ISIS plays in this, Syria is certainly the target.  It is telling that when it comes to money, Obama is asking Congress only for funding to train the Syrian “moderate rebels” in that bastion of Sunni moderation, Saudi Arabia.

The rationales that Obama is peddling make no sense.  If the barbarity of beheading were the actual trigger of this latest onslaught on the Middle East, then the U.S. would not be sending our “moderate” trainees to Saudi Arabia where beheading is a well respected national past time – far more popular than allowing women to drive automobiles.

And if the barbarity that has motivated Obama were the wanton taking of American life, then we would be training Jewish “moderates” to overthrow the Apartheid State of Israel.  For let us remember that the IDF bulldozed the American Rachel Corrie into the ground when she stood in the way of the destruction of Palestinian housing.  And it was Israel that killed the American citizen living in Turkey, Furkan Dogan, who was on the Mavi Marmara in the Gaza Flotilla.  And it was Israel that tried to blow the USS Liberty out of the water killing 34 American sailors and wounding 171.

No, it is not the beheadings nor the loss of American life that move Obama.  Syria is now to be bombed.   That is an act of war.  In fact arming rebels to overthrow a government is an act of war but there will be no declaration of war – just a vote to supply the funds for the mythical “moderate” rebels.

We are told that only ISIS leaders will be targeted in Syria.  But Syria has not approved bombing its territory so it does not believe that story.  And let us suppose that U.S. planes are overhead when Assad’s forces are attacking “moderate” rebels that the U.S. is arming and training.  Is it credible that there will be no bombing of the Syrian forces?

And ISIS remains a mysterious entity, springing up out of nowhere and carrying arms that are supplied by American and Saudi agencies.   In Iran as was reported in the NYT yesterday on the front page, the great majority of “the street” believes  it is an American/Israeli/Saudi creation.  It may be true that ISIS has got out of control and that Saudi Arabia now fears it, but that could also be another fiction.  All we know for sure is that Syria and Iraq are to be bombed again.  And also that ISIS emerged only after our invasion, bombing and continuing presence in Iraq.

Syria of course was on the list of targets that General Wesley Clarke revealed to us that there was a hit list in the Middle East and North Africa of seven countries, “starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”  And miraculously the schedule has been modified only slightly perhaps because Assad has put up such fierce resistance.

And other lies are in the air.  Obama tells us that there will be not “boots on the ground,” but he also admits that he has sent over a thousand additional troops to Iraq.  Are they barefoot?  In fact the lies will only grow more intense and be repeated more frequently in the days to come as the war propaganda machine swings into ever higher gear.

As far as the election of 2008 goes, Obama promised peace, and Hillary war.  But so far Obama has been in perfect synch with his hawkish adversary who has been especially keen to assault Syria.  The election debate was a sham.

So we may expect Syria to be targeted and Iran next.  But Iran is supported by Russia already under attack in its West via Ukraine.  Can Russia allow Iran to be the next target?  Can Iran allow Syria to fall to the U.S. Empire?  It is quite clear where this is going.  The dream of the U.S. Empire to dominate the Eurasian land mass is  being implemented: Damascus, Tehran, Moscow  and finally Beijing unless nuclear war breaks out first.  Obama and the rest of the imperial elite are flirting with Armageddon.

How the West Created ISIS

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

Part 1 – OUR TERRORISTS

“This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated,” Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon press conference in August.

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,”declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Divide and rule in Iraq

“It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs,” said one US government defense consultant’]);”>US government defense consultant in 2007. “It’s who they throw them at – Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Early during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, the US covertly supplied arms to al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents even while ostensibly supporting an emerging Shi’a-dominated administration.

Pakistani defense sources interviewed by Asia Times in February 2005 confirmed that insurgents described as “former Ba’ath party” loyalists – who were being recruited and trained by “al-Qaeda in Iraq” under the leadership of the late Abu Musab Zarqawi – were being supplied Pakistan-manufactured weapons by the US. The arms shipments included rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. These arms “could not be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US arms would be given to them”, a source told Syed Saleem Shahzad – the Times’ Pakistan bureau chief who, “known for his exposes of the Pakistani military” according to the New Yorker, was murdered in 2011. Rather, the US is playing a double-game to “head off” the threat of a “Shi’ite clergy-driven religious movement,” said the Pakistani defense source.

This was not the only way US strategy aided the rise of Zarqawi, a bin Laden mentee and brainchild of the extremist ideology that would later spawn ‘ISIS.’

According to a little-known November report for the US Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) and Strategic Studies Department, Dividing Our Enemies, post-invasion Iraq was “an interesting case study of fanning discontent among enemies, leading to ‘red-against-red’ [enemy-against-enemy] firefights.”

While counterinsurgency on the one hand requires US forces to “ameliorate harsh or deprived living conditions of the indigenous populations” to publicly win local hearts and minds:

“… the reverse side of this coin is one less discussed. It involves no effort to win over those caught in the crossfire of insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare, whether by bullet or broadcast. On the contrary, this underside of the counterinsurgency coin is calculated to exploit or create divisions among adversariesfor the purpose of fomenting enemy-on-enemy deadly encounters.”

In other words, US forces will pursue public legitimacy through conventional social welfare while simultaneously delegitimising local enemies by escalating intra-insurgent violence, knowing full-well that doing so will in turn escalate the number of innocent civilians “caught in the crossfire.” The idea is that violence covertly calibrated by US special operations will not only weaken enemies through in-fighting but turn the population against them.

In this case, the ‘enemy’ consisted of jihadists, Ba’athists, and peaceful Sufis, who were in a majority but, like the militants, also opposed the US military presence and therefore needed to be influenced. The JSOU report referred to events in late 2004 in Fallujah where “US psychological warfare (PSYOP) specialists” undertook to “set insurgents battling insurgents.” This involved actually promoting Zarqawi’s ideology, ironically, to defeat it: “The PSYOP warriors crafted programs to exploit Zarqawi’s murderous activities – and to disseminate them through meetings, radio and television broadcasts, handouts, newspaper stories, political cartoons, and posters – thereby diminishing his folk-hero image,” and encouraging the different factions to pick each other off. “By tapping into the Fallujans’ revulsion and antagonism to the Zarqawi jihadis the Joint PSYOP Task Force did its ‘best to foster a rift between Sunni groups.’”

Yet as noted by Dahr Jamail, one of the few unembedded investigative reporters in Iraq after the war, the proliferation of propaganda linking the acceleration of suicide bombings to the persona of Zarqawi was not matched by meaningful evidence. His own search to substantiate the myriad claims attributing the insurgency to Zarqawi beyond anonymous US intelligence sources encountered only an “eerie blankness”.

The US military operation in Fallujah, largely justified on the claim that Zarqawi’s militant forces had occupied the city, used white phosphorous, cluster bombs, and indiscriminate air strikes to pulverise 36,000 of Fallujah’s 50,000 homes, killing nearly a thousand civilians, terrorising 300,000 inhabitants to flee, and culminating in a disproportionate increase in birth defects, cancer and infant mortality due to the devastating environmental consequences of the war.

To this day, Fallujah has suffered from being largely cut-off from wider Iraq, its infrastructure largely unworkable with water and sewage systems still in disrepair, and its citizens subject to sectarian discrimination and persecution by Iraqi government backed Shi’a militia and police. “Thousands of bereaved and homeless Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies,” observed The Guardian in 2005. Thus, did the US occupation plant the seeds from which Zarqawi’s legacy would coalesce into the Frankenstein monster that calls itself “the Islamic State.”

Bankrolling al-Qaeda in Syria

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business,” he told French television: “I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, confirmed that as of 2011, US and UK special forces training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway. The goal was to elicit the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

Since then, the role of the Gulf states – namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan (as well as NATO member Turkey) – in officially and unofficially financing and coordinating the most virulent elements amongst Syria’s rebels under the tutelage of US military intelligence is no secret. Yet the conventional wisdom is that the funneling of support to Islamist extremists in the rebel movement affiliated to al-Qaeda has been a colossal and regrettable error.

The reality is very different. The empowerment of the Islamist factions within the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) was a foregone conclusion of the strategy.

In its drive to depose Col. Qaddafi in Libya, NATO had previously allied itself with rebels affiliated to the al-Qaeda faction, the Islamic Fighting Group. The resulting Libyan regime backed by the US was in turn liaising with FSA leaders in Istanbul to provide money and heavy weapons for the anti-Assad insurgency. The State Department even hired an al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan militia group to provide security for the US embassy in Benghazi – although they had links with the very people that attacked the embassy.

Last year, CNN confirmed that CIA officials operating secretly out of the Benghazi embassy were being forced to take extra polygraph tests to keep under wraps what US Congressman suspect was a covert operation “to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.”

With their command and control centre based in Istanbul, Turkey, military supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were transported by Turkish intelligence to the border for rebel acquisition. CIA operatives along with Israeli and Jordanian commandos were also training FSA rebels on the Jordanian-Syrian border with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition, other reports show that British and French military were also involved in these secret training programmes. It appears that the same FSA rebels receiving this elite training went straight into ISIS – last month one ISIS commander, Abu Yusaf, said, “Many of the FSA people who the west has trained are actually joining us.”

The National thus confirmed the existence of another command and control centre in Amman, Jordan, “staffed by western and Arab military officials,” which “channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units.” Rebel and opposition sources described the weapons bridge as “a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.”

The FSA sources interviewed by The National went to pains to deny that any al-Qaeda affiliated factions were involved in the control centre, or would receive any weapons support. But this is difficult to believe given that “Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons” were being funneled through to the rebels via Amman, to their favoured factions.

Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups… are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster.”

Lest there be any doubt as to the extent to which all this covert military assistance coordinated by the US has gone to support al-Qaeda affiliated factions in the FSA, it is worth noting that earlier this year, the Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile – run by two veteran correspondents who covered the Middle East for 23 years for The Economist – reported that: “Turkey is giving Syrian rebel forces, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through its territory to attack the northwestern Syrian coastal area around Latakia.”

In August, Debkafile reported that “The US, Jordan and Israel are quietly backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions”, some of which had just “seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, the only transit point between Israeli and Syrian Golan.” However, Debkafile noted, “al-Qaeda elements have permeated all those factions.” Israel has provided limited support to these rebels in the form of “medical care,” as well as “arms, intelligence and food…

“Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms. All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.”

This support also went to ISIS. Although the latter was originally founded in Iraq in October 2006, by 2013 the group had significantly expanded its operations in Syria working alongside al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra until February 2014, when ISIS was formally denounced by al-Qaeda. Even so, experts on the region’s Islamist groups point out that the alleged rift between al-Nusra and ISIS, while real, is not as fraught as one might hope, constituting a mere difference in tactics rather than fundamental ideology.

Officially, the US government’s financial support for the FSA goes through the Washington DC entity, the Syrian Support Group (SSG), Syrian Support Group (SSG) which was incorporated in April 2012. The SSG is licensed via the US Treasury Department to “export, re-export, sell, or supply to the Free Syrian Army (‘FSA’) financial, communications, logistical, and other services otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13582 in order to support the FSA.”

In mid-2013, the Obama administration intensified its support to the rebels with a new classified executive order reversing its previous policy limiting US direct support to only nonlethal equipment. As before, the order would aim to supply weapons strictly to “moderate” forces in the FSA.

Except the government’s vetting procedures to block Islamist extremists from receiving US weapons have never worked.

A year later, Mother Jones found that the US government has “little oversight over whether US supplies are falling prey to corruption – or into the hands of extremists,” and relies “on too much good faith.” The US government keeps track of rebels receiving assistance purely through “handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field,” and the judgement of its allies. Countries supporting the rebels – the very same which have empowered al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists – “are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies.”

Thus, with the Gulf states still calling the shots on the ground, it is no surprise that by September last year, eleven prominent rebel groups distanced themselves from the ‘moderate’ opposition leadership and allied themselves with al-Qaeda.

By the SSG’s own conservative estimate, as much as 15% of rebel fighters are Islamists affiliated to al-Qaeda, either through the Jabhut al-Nusra faction, or its breakaway group ISIS. But privately, Pentagon officials estimate that “more than 50%” of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists, and according to rebel sources neither FSA chief Gen Salim Idris nor his senior aides engage in much vetting, decisions about which are made typically by local commanders.

Part 2 – THE LONG WAR

Follow the money

Media reports following ISIS’ conquest of much of northern and central Iraq this summer have painted the group as the world’s most super-efficient, self-financed, terrorist organisation that has been able to consolidate itself exclusively through extensive looting of Iraq’s banks and funds from black market oil sales. Much of this narrative, however, has derived from dubious sources, and overlooked disturbing details.

One senior anonymous intelligence source told Guardian correspondent Martin Chulov, for instance, that over 160 computer flash sticks obtained from an ISIS hideout revealed information on ISIS’ finances that was completely new to the intelligence community.

“Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875m [£515m],” said the official on the funds obtained largely via “massive cashflows from the oilfields of eastern Syria, which it had commandeered in late 2012.” Afterwards, “with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5bn to that.” The thrust of the narrative coming from intelligence sources was simple: “They had done this all themselves. There was no state actor at all behind them, which we had long known. They don’t need one.”

“ISIS’ half-a-billion-dollar bank heist makes it world’s richest terror group,” claimed the Telegraph, adding that the figure did not include additional stolen gold bullion, and millions more grabbed from banks “across the region.”

This story of ISIS’ stupendous bank looting spree across Iraq made global headlines but turned out to be disinformation. Senior Iraqi officials and bankers confirmed that banks in Iraq, including Mosul where ISIS supposedly stole $430 million, had faced no assault, remain open, and are guarded by their own private security forces.

How did the story come about? One of its prime sources was Iraqi parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi – the same man who under the wing of his ‘Iraqi National Congress’ peddled false intelligence about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda.

In June, Chalabi met with the US ambassador to Iraq, Robert Beecroft, and Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. According to sources cited by Buzzfeedin June, Beecroft “has been meeting Chalabi for months and has dined at his mansion in Baghdad.”

Follow the oil

But while ISIS has clearly obtained funding from donors in the Gulf states, many of its fighters having broken away from the more traditional al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Jabhut al-Nusra, it has also successfully leveraged its control over Syrian and Iraqi oil fields.

In January, the New York Times reported that “Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources”, bolstering “the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of al-Qaeda.” Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels had “seized control of the oil and gas fields scattered across the country’s north and east,” while more moderate “Western-backed rebel groups do not appear to be involved in the oil trade, in large part because they have not taken over any oil fields.”

Yet the west had directly aided these Islamist groups in their efforts to operationalise Syria’s oil fields. In April 2013, for instance, the Times noted that al-Qaeda rebels had taken over key regions of Syria: “Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo”, where the al-Qaeda affiliate had established in coordination with other rebel groups including ISIS “a Shariah Commission” running “a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings.” Al-Qaeda fighters also “control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.” Additionally, they “have seized government oil fields” in provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, and now make a “profit from the crude they produce.”

Lost in the fog of media hype was the disconcerting fact that these al-Qaeda rebel bread and oil operations in Aleppo, Deir al-Zour and Hasaka were directly and indirectly supported by the US and the European Union (EU). One account by the Washington Post for instance refers to a stealth mission in Aleppo “to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians – all of it paid for by the US government,” including the supply of flour. “The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States,” the Post continues, noting that local consumers, however, “credited Jabhat al-Nusra – a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organisation because of its ties to al-Qaeda – with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.”

And in the same month that al-Qaeda’s control of Syria’s main oil regions in Deir al-Zour and Hasaka was confirmed, the EU voted to ease an oil embargo on Syria to allow oil to be sold on international markets from these very al-Qaeda controlled oil fields. European companies would be permitted to buy crude oil and petroleum products from these areas, although transactions would be approved by the Syrian National Coalition. Due to damaged infrastructure, oil would be trucked by road to Turkey where the nearest refineries are located.

“The logical conclusion from this craziness is that Europe will be funding al-Qaeda,” said Joshua Landis’]);”>Joshua Landis , a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

Just two months later, a former senior staffer at the Syria Support Group in DC, David Falt, leaked internal SSG emails confirming that the group was “obsessed” with brokering “jackpot” oil deals on behalf of the FSA for Syria’s rebel-run oil regions.

“The idea they could raise hundreds of millions from the sale of the oil came to dominate the work of the SSG to the point no real attention was paid to the nature of the conflict,” said Falt, referring in particular to SSG’s director Brian Neill Sayers, who before his SSG role worked with NATO’s Operations Division. Their aim was to raise money for the rebels by selling the rights to Syrian oil.

Tacit complicity in IS oil smuggling

Even as al-Qaeda fighters increasingly decide to join up with IS, the ad hoc black market oil production and export infrastructure established by the Islamist groups in Syria has continued to function with, it seems, the tacit support of regional and western powers.

According to Ali Ediboglu, a Turkish MP for the border province of Hatay, IS is selling the bulk of its oil from regions in Syria and Mosul in Iraq through Turkey, with the tacit consent of Turkish authorities: “They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep. They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.” He also noted that the extent of this and related operations indicates official Turkish complicity. “Fighters from Europe, Russia, Asian countries and Chechnya are going in large numbers both to Syria and Iraq, crossing from Turkish territory. There is information that at least 1,000 Turkish nationals are helping those foreign fighters sneak into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved. None of this can be happening without MIT’s knowledge.”

Similarly, there is evidence that authorities in the Kurdish region of Iraq are also turning a blind eye to IS oil smuggling. In July, Iraqi officials said that IS had begun selling oil extracted from in the northern province of Salahuddin. One official pointed out that “the Kurdish peshmerga forces stopped the sale of oil at first, but later allowed tankers to transfer and sell oil.”

State of Law coalition MP Alia Nasseef also accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of secretly trading oil with IS: “What is happening shows the extent of the massive conspiracy against Iraq by Kurdish politicians… The [illegal] sale of Iraqi oil to ISIS or anyone else is something that would not surprise us.” Although Kurdish officials have roundly rejected these accusations, informed sources told the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat that Iraqi crude captured by ISIS was “being sold to Kurdish traders in the border regions straddling Iraq, Iran and Syria, and was being shipped to Pakistan where it was being sold ‘for less than half its original price.’”

An official statement in August from Iraq’s Oil Ministry warned that any oil not sanctioned by Baghdad could include crude smuggled illegally from IS:

“International purchasers [of crude oil] and other market participants should be aware that any oil exports made without the authorisation of the Ministry of Oil may contain crude oil originating from fields under the control of [ISIS].”

“Countries like Turkey have turned a blind eye to the practice” of IS oil smuggling, said Luay al-Khateeb, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, “and international pressure should be mounted to close down black markets in its southern region.” So far there has been no such pressure. Meanwhile, IS oil smuggling continues, with observers inside and outside Turkey noting that the Turkish government is tacitly allowing IS to flourish as it prefers the rebels to the Assad regime.

According to former Iraqi oil minister Isam al-Jalabi, “Turkey is the biggest winner from the Islamic State’s oil smuggling trade.” Both traders and oil firms are involved, he said, with the low prices allowing for “massive” profits for the countries facilitating the smuggling.

Buying ISIS oil?

Early last month, a tanker carrying over a million barrels in crude oil from northern Iraq’s Kurdish region arrived at the Texas Gulf of Mexico. The oil had been refined in the Iraqi Kurdish region before being pumped through a new pipeline from the KRG area ending up at Ceyhan, Turkey, where it was then loaded onto the tanker for shipping to the US. Baghdad’s efforts to stop the oil sale on the basis of its having national jurisdiction were rebuffed by American courts.

In early September, the European Union’s ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybášková, told the EU Foreign Affairs Committee that “several EU member states have bought oil from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist organisation that has been brutally conquering large portions of Iraq and Syria,” according to Israel National News. She however “refused to divulge the names of the countries despite being asked numerous times.”

A third end-point for the KRG’s crude this summer, once again shipped via Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, was Israel’s southwestern port of Ashkelon. This is hardly news though. In May, Reuters revealed that Israeli and US oil refineries had been regularly purchasing and importing KRG’s disputed oil.

Meanwhile, as this triangle of covert oil shipments in which ISIS crude appears to be hopelessly entangled becomes more established, Turkey has increasingly demanded that the US pursue formal measures to lift obstacles to Kurdish oil sales to global markets. The KRG plans to export as much as 1 million barrels of oil a day by next year through its pipeline to Turkey.

The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline: Iraqi Kurdistan alone could hold up to 45 billion barrels of oil, allowing exports of up to 4 million barrels a day in the next decade if successfully brought to production.

Among the many oil and gas firms active in the KRG capital, Erbil, are ExxonMobil and Chevron. They are drilling in the region for oil under KRG contracts, though operations have been halted due to the crisis. No wonder Steve Coll writes in the New Yorker that Obama’s air strikes and arms supplies to the Kurds – notably not to Baghdad – effectively amount to “the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal – as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example – are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company.” The Kurds are now busy working to “quadruple” their export capacity, while US policy has increasingly shifted toward permitting Kurdish exports – a development that would have major ramifications for Iraq’s national territorial integrity.

To be sure, as the offensive against IS ramps up, the Kurds are now selectively cracking down on IS smuggling efforts – but the measures are too little, too late.

A new map

The Third Iraq War has begun. With it, longstanding neocon dreams to partition Iraq into three along ethnic and religious lines have been resurrected.

White House officials now estimate that the fight against the region’s ‘Islamic State’ will last years, and may outlive the Obama administration. But this ‘long war’ vision goes back to nebulous ideas formally presented by late RAND Corp analyst Laurent Muraweic before the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board at the invitation of then chairman Richard Perle. That presentation described Iraq as a “tactical pivot” by which to transform the wider Middle East.

Brian Whitaker, former Guardian Middle East editor, rightly noted that the Perle-RAND strategy drew inspiration from a 1996 paper published by the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, co-authored by Perle and other neocons who held top positions in the post-9/11 Bush administration.

The policy paper advocated a strategy that bears startling resemblance to the chaos unfolding in the wake of the expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ – Israel would “shape its strategic environment” by first securing the removal of Saddam Hussein. “Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and ‘roll back’ Syria.” This axis would attempt to weaken the influence of Lebanon, Syria and Iran by “weaning” off their Shi’ite populations. To succeed, Israel would need to engender US support, which would be obtained by Benjamin Netanyahu formulating the strategy “in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war.”

The 2002 Perle-RAND plan was active in the Bush administration’s strategic thinking on Iraq shortly before the 2003 war. According to US private intelligence firm Stratfor, in late 2002, then vice-president Dick Cheney and deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz had co-authored a scheme under which central Sunni-majority Iraq would join with Jordan; the northern Kurdish regions would become an autonomous state; all becoming separate from the southern Shi’ite region.

The strategic advantages of an Iraq partition, Stratfor argued, focused on US control of oil:

“After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential US geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-US forces.

Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”

The expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ has provided a pretext for the fundamental contours of this scenario to unfold, with the US and British looking to re-establish a long-term military presence in Iraq in the name of the “defense of a young new state.”

In 2006, Cheney’s successor, Joe Biden, also indicated his support for the ‘soft partition’ of Iraq along ethno-religious lines – a position which the co-author of the Biden-Iraq plan, Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, now argues is “the only solution” to the current crisis.

Also in 2006, the Armed Forces Journal published a map of the Middle East with its borders thoroughly re-drawn, courtesy of Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters, who had previously been assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence where he was responsible for future warfare. As for the goals of this plan, apart from “security from terrorism” and “the prospect of democracy”, Peters also mentioned “access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself.”

In 2008, the strategy re-surfaced – once again via RAND Corp – through a report funded by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command on how to prosecute the ‘long war.’ Among its strategies, one scenario advocated by the report was ‘Divide and Rule’ which would involve:

“… exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts.”

Simultaneously, the report suggested that the US could foster conflict between Salafi-jihadists and Shi’ite militants by:

“… shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes… as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.”

One way or another, some semblance of this plan is in motion. Last week, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman told US secretary of state John Kerry:

“Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.”

The rise of the ‘Islamic State’ is not just a direct consequence of this neocon vision, tied as it is to a dangerous covert operations strategy that has seen al-Qaeda linked terrorists as a tool to influence local populations – it has in turn offered a pretext for the launch of a new era of endless war, the spectre of a prolonged US-led military presence in the energy-rich Persian Gulf region, and a return to the dangerous imperial temptation to re-configure the wider regional order.

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Reprinted with permission from MintPress News.

The World’s Best Paper Airplanes

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

There are many skills fathers should pass on to their children: how to ride a bike, how to skip a stone, and of course, how to make a paper airplane. When it’s time to show your kids how to fold a humble piece of paper into a soaring jet, don’t stumble around and hastily construct one from the poor memory of your youth — one that takes a disappointing nosedive as soon as it leaves your fingertips. Instead, teach them the art of making a plane that can truly go the distance.

The three designs below are tried and true (you wouldn’t believe some of the science behind paper airplanes) and are perfect beginner, moderate, and expert level models to play with. They go in order from easiest to hardest, so there’s something for every age level — including adult; don’t act like you’re not going to try these out in the break room.

The Bulldog Dart

This paper airplane is a warm-up of sorts. It’s simple, requires few folds, and flies well. It’s just not going to win you any contests or style points. If it’s your kid’s first time making a real paper airplane, this is a good place to start.

First you fold the paper in half lengthwise, and then unfold. This initial crease is simply a guideline for the next folds.

Fold the top two corners down so they meet the center crease. This is the classic way to start a paper airplane, and probably what you first learned as a kid.

Flip the plane over, and fold the corners in again to the center crease. You want the diagonal line coming off the top of the plane (on the left side) to be lined up with the middle (like on the right side).

After both folds are completed.

Fold the top point down so that the tip meets the bottom of where the previous folds come together.

Fold the entire plane in half, in on itself. This creates the snub nose, which gives the Bulldog Dart its name.

Fold the wings down so that you’re making a straight line across from the top of the snub nose. Repeat on the other side.

The finished Bulldog Dart. This flies better when thrown at lower speeds. Your tendency is to launch it, but the heavy nose will just fly it into the ground. Give it a softer throw and you’ll have better luck.

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I Don’t Carry a Gun on the Border

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

Of course you carry a gun, right?  You live in the state with the No. 1 ranking for preservation of gun rights.  You live on the Mexican border.  We all know what Fox News says about that.  You roam the rural areas near the border.  Why wouldn’t you?  Of course you would sling that AR-15 over your shoulder or wear a sidearm as a matter of routine when working, driving, and hiking near the border.  You could probably even get on TV as you act out the part of a besieged rancher who is afraid of his shadow.  Well, not so for me.   I own guns, but I don’t regularly wear one when I am near the border or have one available in any visible fashion.

I would like to carry a firearm for defense because I do see bear and mountain lion sign with some regularity when I am working and hiking in rural areas, but the human problems are a bigger threat and come first when ranking the potential for harm to myself and my family.

First of all, there are no endemic human violence problems to deal with on the southwest border.  Crime and violence on the U.S. side of the border are very low contrary to the message of the well-harmonized voices of the court intellectuals who try to promote expensive wars at home to augment the expensive wars abroad.  I have walked the border my whole life and enjoy the peaceful friendly nature of the border area and its people.

And I do love the fact that gun rights have been preserved to a large part in this state.  In Mexico, that is not the case and the population has suffered.   Freedom to be armed and defend oneself does deter violent crime as is visible in this state’s crime statistics.

The violent force in this area that presents itself daily is the roaming passel of unaccountable federal agents who have orders to stop everybody, despite the lack of “reasonable suspicion,” “probable cause,” or any other supposedly legal standard because of the person’s presence within 100 miles of the international border.   I am subjected to their whims continuously with the flashing red lights, vehicle stops, angry interrogations, roadside detentions, and violent posturing with lethal weapons.   The oft shaved-head minions do their best to escalate the encounters as they feign an angry offended attitude in response to my few pleasant words as I am restrained from movement during an “official” encounter.   Verbosity in explaining one’s daily activities, background, personal possessions, or car ownership doesn’t defuse the situation either.  A demonstrated willingness to be interrogated often emboldens the agents who then press harder to manufacture “inconsistencies” that they will use to justify a more intense forced search.

E.g. “Subject said he was planning to take a hike, but I noted that he was wearing tennis shoes not hiking boots.  This inconsistent statement prompted me to investigate further.”

E.g.  “Subject said he had run into town to grab a bite to eat at McDonald’s, but I didn’t see any fast food items in his car.  This inconsistent statement prompted me to investigate further.”

E.g. “Subject said he was driving along looking for his stray cattle.  I didn’t see any cattle in the area.   This inconsistent statement prompted me to investigate further.”

This is all about manufacturing a reason to search you and your car and detain you.  Agents have their favorite “inconsistent statement” logic that they deploy over and over in their reports to justify a more intrusive involuntary encounter.   They claim the right to search you and your car anyway for any reason, but the intense word game remains as a legacy from less intrusive days when searches were justified by either consent or a one-sided conclusion drawn by a state representative that a detainee had been tripped up sufficiently with unrecorded word play.

A consistent, “I don’t consent to any searches;  I don’t want to make any statements” will raise their ire momentarily, but will dissipate after they detain you for up to half an hour, their policy prescribed maximum roadside detention period for persons who have done nothing.

If you are one of those that think you are safe because of your racial appearance, be aware that the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies are now very careful to insult and accuse all races despite what your driver’s license, license plate, spoken language, and genetic appearance say about your probable nationality.

I wish that the Fox News groupies across the country could walk the border, experience its peaceful friendly nature, experience the regular encounters with the oppressors, and learn to ignore the latest attempts to manufacture a crisis and steal wealth in support of an American Stasi.

My family and I have been subject to many of these occasions of manufactured emotional intensity.  So, I don’t want the presence of a gun to raise the hackles of the already offended officers who aren’t getting their way with me in an attempt at a forced interrogation.  At that moment, they have already been the victim of “contempt of cop” in their minds and all the allowed “good shoot” scenarios from their academy days may scroll through their heads if they are the type that is riled sufficiently by my failure to give up my freedoms and bare my soul and life history for their judgment, scrutiny, and subsequent lecture.  Officers often have their firearms drawn and presented when approaching a rancher chopping firewood or a family having a picnic on private property.    The appearance of a firearm at that moment on the body of the innocent victim may be the only excuse the wanna-be killer hero needs to start blasting.     These agents are likely to be ex-military or ex-cops from a less gun friendly state who think that armed persons are all ne’er-do-wells.   If there is more than one of them, I expect one to scream “Gun! Gun!” when he sees my holster followed by the sound of M-4 bolts cycling and the usual array of guns pointed at my head.  And, since officers are “legally” allowed to act on the statements emanating from other officers, even regarding things they haven’t witnessed, it would only be fair in the mind of the “Gun! Gun!” hearer to join the fray and act upon that overheard information with reciprocal deadly force.   After all, officers only have half a second to make a decision, right?

And for those who think they can list a couple of violent agent encounters with bad guys to show me where I’m wrong about the noble heroes and the peaceful nature of the border, you would be surprised to learn how often the Border Patrol throws bullets around in an unreported fashion and how easily the resultant “friendly fire” issues that do require paperwork can be turned into an encounter with the fabled, clichéd, universally hated, and supposedly ubiquitous “drug rip squad.”

The other night I was reading a thick booklet on Arizona candidates in this latest election cycle.  It was shocking how many of them listed “sealing the border” as one of their core positions.   Western states are big and these candidates and their electorate don’t live on the border for the most part.  They capitalize on the dragons created by the mass media and know that most of the voters are in bigger cities like Tucson or Phoenix and have no real knowledge of the border.  As I see the iron curtain descend in my home town, I can imagine the feeling in Berlin when people were forced into economic and personal segregation enforced by the Stasi for the benefit of state-proclaimed taxing districts.

When I was interviewed on camera by Lt. Col Oliver North for Fox news a few years ago while flying in a Huey over miles of new and improved border fence, we moved into the inevitable discussion of “sealing the border.”  I explained that 60% of the winter produce consumed in the U.S. crosses the Mexican border on its way to U.S. supermarkets.  I told him my concerns over the economic and personal damage that would occur if a new iron curtain was forged and dropped in-between close-knit communities separated by an international border.   He agreed, but said that his “taskmasters” at Fox News required a different angle to the story.  So, obviously, that never aired.

Many people from border states relish the tough guy image and will be the willing source of scary disinformation as they describe to relatives and acquaintances back east the evil badlands that they wander.  A modern version of Wild West folklore is disseminated to up one’s personal cachet.  This self-perpetuated mythology enthralls politicians who gleefully witness the public spreading the noble lie on their behalf.   Pray that you never have to instruct your family in your part of the country, as I do, on how to react, what to say, and where to keep their hands so as to not be shot by a gang of thugs that will disappear and disavow their actions as quickly as they appear.

Organized Thuggery

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

The uproar over the Ray Rice domestic-abuse incident cries out for a truthful, politically incorrect article, so I decided to volunteer for the job. Rice’s Ali-like left jab to his then-fiancée’s kisser is but a blip on the crime screen of the hoodlum-saturated National Football League. Stuff like this, and worse — much worse — has been going on at an accelerating pace since at least the late seventies.

Poor Ray just happened to get caught on tape. Heck, his “mentor” (Ray Lewis) pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a double homicide case in 2000 and got off without jail time in exchange for testifying against two friends. And now, to rub insult into the wounds of decency, he has been immortalized with a statue next to that of the legendary Johnny Unitas in front of M&T Stadium in Baltimore.

Thuggery has been a trademark in the NFL and NBA for decades. Who can forget Latrell Sprewell nearly choking his coach to death, Ron Artest (“Metta World Peace”) jumping into the stands and starting a brawl with fans, Ben Roethlisberger mysteriously not being able to avoid crossing paths with women who accuse him of rape, and, of course, Aaron Hernandez, now sitting in prison awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges, to name but a few of the more infamous acts of thuggery in pro sports?

What most everyone misses is that violent acts such as these are just symptoms of an underlying condition — the decadent, thug culture in professional sports that the power structure not only allows to flourish, but encourages.

Because of space constraints, I’m going to focus on just three of the most visible symbols of the thug culture in pro sports — symbols that most fans have come to accept as the norm. They are: long, baggy shorts (in basketball), outrageous hairstyles, and tattoo-drenched bodies.

Let’s start with the shorts. Mystified by the emergence of knee-length, baggy basketball shorts in the 1990s, the immortal John Wooden (of UCLA fame) aptly labeled them “bloomers.” Even though they look ridiculous on grown men, bloomers have long been a staple of basketball thuggery, so much so that clean cut John Stockton of the Utah Jazz used get laughed at for insisting on wearing regular basketball shorts.

As to tattoos, there’s nothing wrong with a tattoo here or there — and no doubt many people reading this article have one or more tattoos on their bodies — but plastering one’s face and neck with snake and spider tattoos is a bit over the top. It’s an act of pure defiance, a way of saying to the world, “Up yours!”

The champion in this category of decadence is a character known as “Birdman” (Chris Andersen). You’re probably dying to see his evolution from a once semi-presentable humanoid to a walking freak show, so get out the Pepto-Bismol and have a peek: The Evolution of Birdman

Finally, we get to thug hairstyles. In the NFL, in particular, for reasons that continue to mystify me, thugs love to flaunt their girly men hairstyles. The white guys have an affinity for blond strands flowing out from under their helmets and down onto their shoulders, while many black players are partial to dreadlocks.

Then, of course, there’s the Samoan Steel Wool look worn by Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu and a few others. As with tattoos, the girly man hairdos are a not-so-subtle way of giving the middle finger to the establishment.

Do I really believe that baggy shorts, tattoo-covered bodies, and outlandish hairstyles promote violence? Yes, I do. Do I have proof? No. It’s just the opinion of a humble social observer.

It’s also my opinion that it’s a way of arrogant but insecure athletes saying, “In your face. If you don’t like it, don’t watch the games.” But millions do watch, and with great enthusiasm. In fact, the sad truth is that most sports fans idolize these thugs (and live vicariously through them) and, by doing so, act as enablers for their bad behavior.

I’m probably a lone wolf here, but I believe that most of the violence in professional sports could have been avoided had the NFL and NBA set up stringent anti-thug (that’s anti-thug, not anti-drug) rules when they started welcoming miscreants into their leagues, beginning with a strict physical-appearance code.

By still refusing to do so (for fear of being accused of violating the “civil rights” of the players?), league owners are just as guilty as Ray Rice and all of the other bad dudes in professional sports who are involved in criminal activity.

Even now, if the powers that be had the courage to lay down a strict, civilized code of conduct that included physical appearance, language, and behavior on and off the court or playing field, professional athletes would think twice before engaging in criminal activity. The operative word here is strict.

I realize that some people might argue that a strict code of conduct would not have stopped Ray Rice from kayoing his fiancée, because he didn’t even stop to think about it. But that is precisely my point. If league rules outlawing thug culture were severe enough (the words lifetime ban come quickly to mind), his subconscious would have been preconditioned to think about the consequences of his actions even in a highly emotional and volatile situation. It’s called conditioned response — and it works. Just ask Pavlov’s dogs.

What’s the takeaway message for you on a micro scale — i.e., what lesson or lessons can you apply to your own life? I believe that the most important lesson is that you should not be afraid to lay down rules that people must adhere to if they want to be involved with you on either a business or personal level.

My memory takes me back to an actor acquaintance of mine (“Richard”) who practiced this rule religiously and unapologetically. One day, he invited my wife and I to dinner at his home in Pasadena (California), and after I accepted his invitation, he said, in a matter-of-fact way: “Great. Then I look forward to seeing you and your beautiful wife next Sunday. Oh, and by the way, I require that all dinner guests at my home wear a coat and tie.”

His words took me aback at first, but the way he said it, I knew there was no negotiation. And instead of being offended by his requirement, I actually respected him for it — and for the straightforward way in which he communicated it to me.

Straightforwardness is the key. You don’t need to be obnoxious when it comes to laying down rules, just unapologetic and clear — clear about what is acceptable to you and what is not. While decadence may be in vogue right now with a significant portion of the populace, always remember that you have the power to outlaw it in your “league” and lay down your own rules for those who want to be involved with you. After all, it’s your life.

When people know you’re serious about your rules, they are conditioned to fall in line accordingly. Unfortunately, in professional sports, the thugs know that no one is serious about any of the rules, so they don’t hesitate to push the envelope. Not what Pavlov had in mind.

Reprinted with permission from Robert Ringer.

Serial Killer-in-Chief

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

As the debate rages over whether the president needs congressional authorization for war prior to his deployment of the military to degrade or destroy ISIS, the terrorist organization that none of us had heard about until a few months ago, the nation has lost sight of the more fundamental issue of President Obama’s infidelity to the rule of law.

On the lawfulness of his proposed war, the president has painted himself into a corner. Last year, he quite properly recognized that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a statute enacted by Congress in 2002 to permit President George W. Bush to use the military to track down, capture, degrade or kill all persons or organizations that planned the attacks of 9/11, cannot apply to organizations that did not exist at the time of 9/11, of which ISIS is one.

That leaves the president with two remaining alternatives. One is the War Powers Resolution (WPR), a statute enacted by Congress in 1973 to limit presidentially ordered military invasions absent congressional assent to 180 days or fewer. But the WPR is unconstitutional, as it consists of Congress giving away to the president express authority to declare war, which the Constitution delegates to Congress. The Supreme Court has prohibited such giveaways of core powers and responsibilities from one branch of the federal government to another.

Even if Obama decides to rely on the WPR, and expects that no federal judge will interfere with that decision, his military advisers have told him he cannot achieve his objective in 180 days. They also have told him he cannot achieve his objective by the use of air power alone.

The remaining mechanism for starting a war is to follow the Constitution by seeking a congressional declaration of war. But Obama has not yet asked for such a declaration. Why not? No doubt, he has two fears. One is that Congress will impose restrictions on the location and duration of hostilities, unlike the AUMF, which is open-ended. The other is that he will disaffect his loyal political base by doing what he promised he would never do: bring the country into another offensive war in the Middle East.

In 2008 and in 2012, Obama ran as a candidate and an incumbent determined to end American military involvement in the Middle East, not increase it. Hence his promise, by now made many times, that he will not introduce ground troops into this war. Apparently, just as when he bombed Libya into chaotic instability in 2010, he does not consider bombs an act of offensive warfare.

But he does consider the use of boots to be an act of war. When the president promises no ground troops, note the phrase he uses: “No boots on the ground.” This is a term of art that apparently has different meanings to different folks.

There are already more than 1,000 pairs of American military boots on the ground in this effort to destroy ISIS. Yet, because they are not yet directly engaged in the use of violence in pursuit of ISIS fighters (they are training others to do so or finding targets to destroy by air), or because they are Special Forces and thus out of uniform (but no doubt armed and violent and wearing boots), the president feels he has a clear conscience when he says there are no boots on the ground.

When he says that, he means, “There is no one in an American military uniform shooting from the ground at an enemy target” — but there are military personnel in uniform on the ground, and there are military personnel out of uniform shooting ISIS fighters. Is this hair-splitting language consistent with the president’s moral obligation to be truthful to us?

In another deceptive move, Obama announced on Monday that the operation against ISIS, whether authorized by Congress or not, will be directed by retired Marine Corps General John Allen. This is a novel use of government assets, as Allen is no longer a part of the Pentagon and thus not subject to the military chain of command. Apparently, the president does not trust his military advisers, whose advice he has repeatedly rejected, to run his war. Is the White House planning to run this war directly as LBJ did in Vietnam? Is the State Department? How can a civilian who is not the president command military troops?

On Monday of last week, the White House announced that in its pursuit of ISIS, the U.S. will go wherever it finds ISIS targets, and if ISIS hides in Syria and the government of Syria does not permit U.S. jets to use its airspace, the U.S. will attack Syria. That sounds like Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine.

Attacking Syria because its government denied the U.S. airspace would be an unprovoked and unlawful act of war that would probably provoke Putin. Congress rejected declaring war on Syria just a year ago. If it does so now, there would be no lawful or moral basis for such a declaration, as Syria is a sovereign country, lawfully entitled to control its airspace, that poses no present threat to American freedom or security. The U.S. can no more legally commandeer Syrian airspace than Syria can commandeer ours.

Something is amiss here. Last year the president wanted to help ISIS indirectly by degrading the Syrian military. Now he wants to help Syria indirectly by degrading ISIS, but only if Syria stays out of our way. And he is prepared to violate the Constitution, break the law and lie to the American people to achieve his purposes.

Why all the unlawfulness, when he could and should leave these disputants to their own devices and keep the American military at home for genuine defensive purposes?

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

No More Secrets!

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

9/11 Commissioners Want the Facts to Come Out

9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Keane has previously called for the declassification of the secret 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 Inquiry, and said that 60-70% of what was classified shouldn’t have been classified in the first place.

The New Yorker reported last week:

Thomas Kean remembers finally having the opportunity to read those twenty-eight pages after he became chairman of the 9/11 Commission—“so secret that I had to get all of my security clearances and go into the bowels of Congress with someone looking over my shoulder.” He also remembers thinking at the time that most of what he was reading should never have been kept secret. But the focus on the twenty-eight pages obscures the fact that many important documents are still classified—“a ton of stuff,” Kean told me, including, for instance, the 9/11 Commission’s interviews with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Bill Clinton“I don’t know of a single thing in our report that should not be public after ten years,” Kean said.

9/11 Commission Co-Chair Lee Hamilton agrees.

And so does 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer. As the New Yorker writes:

“In some ways, it’s more dangerous today,” Timothy Roemer, who was a member of both the Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission, observed. “A more complex series of threats are coming together than even before 9/11, involving ISIS, Al Qaeda, and cyber-terrorist capabilities. The more the American people know about what happened thirteen years ago, the more we can have a credible, open debate” about our security needs. Releasing the twenty-eight pages, he said, might be a step forward. “Hopefully, after some initial shock and awe, it would make our process work better. Our government has an obligation to do this.

And others who have seen the classified 9/11 materials agree that we can’t move forward with an effective security program until the American people know what’s in the classified materials.  The New Yorker adds:

Thomas Massie, a Republican congressman from Kentucky and a sponsor of the House resolution to declassify the material, told me that the experience of reading those twenty-eight pages caused him to rethink how to handle the rise of ISIS. It has made him much more cautious about a military response. “We have to be careful, when we run the calculations of action, what the repercussions will be,” he said.

The Co-Chair of the congressional investigation into 9/11 – Senator Bob Graham – notes:

Although it’s been more than a decade ago when this horrific event occurred, I think [the questions of who supported the attacks] have real consequences to U.S. actions today.

Graham told PBS:

We need to have this information now because it’s relevant to the threat that the people of the United States are facing today.

And the Independent writes:

The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has been aided by the continuing failure of the US Government to investigate the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks and its support of jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda in the years since, says former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chairman of the official inquiry into 9/11.

Senator Graham, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that successive administrations in Washington had turned a blind eye to Saudi support for Sunni extremists. He added: “I believe that the failure to shine a full light on Saudi actions and particularly its involvement in 9/11 has contributed to the Saudi ability to continue to engage in actions that are damaging to the US – and in particular their support for Isis.”

But 9/11 Commissioners Admit They Never Got the Full Story

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My Barn Burned Down

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

I sure have missed Hardscrabble Farmer’s wisdom, perspective and truth over the last few weeks. But it was worth the wait. Enjoy.

Last night I dreamed of buildings. In the dream they were on our farm- a church, a small theater, a haunted house we had once looked at before we bought our place. I went from one to the other examining the flaws and estimating for repairs; rotten framing, new coat of paint, leaky pipes that ran inside the walls. I was overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me and in each building were groups of people I didn’t know, a cluster of young girls waiting to dance at a recital, college boys gathered in knots by a fire escape, old men and women in recliners on the porch watching the evening sky.

Everyone nodded at me as I made my way from job to job and at one point an old friend I haven’t seen in years asked me to help him move a fawn across a large field to the safety of the forest before someone accidentally hit it with their car. I remember clearly the mood of the dream- it was neither ethereal nor fantastic, but mundane and simple. I was required to fix what was broken, to make the repairs and work while others went about their lives doing what was expected of them. I recall my work clothes and tools, the turkey leg someone offered me to eat, the fact that nighttime was approaching and there was still so much work left undone.

When I came downstairs this morning it was not quite light but you could see the water vapor ascending from the surface of the pond like a pillar of smoke, obscuring the lower pasture in a lavender haze. I made my coffee and thought about my dream while it was fresh in my mind.

A couple of years ago while we were visiting our family for Christmas the barn burned down. The shock of that loss has long since passed, but the memories of what people did for us remains the clearest and most profound artifact of that event. It took me six hours of driving at speeds that should have landed me in jail to reach the smoldering ruin of what had once housed innumerable possessions and lives. The firemen were wrapping things up, a few of them were hosing off the last of the smoking hay bales that continued to burn, and where that beautiful barn had once stood was nothing more than a blackened pile of ash and twisted metal.

When I got out of the car I was surrounded by neighbors who all seemed to want to hug me and hold me as if that would help fix what was lost. It was already getting dark and as I stood there trying to come to grips with what had happened I noticed a steady stream of pickup trucks ascending the hill, filled with hay bales for our animals. I knew some of the people, casually, but most were strangers to me. This outpouring of concern and unfettered kindness continued for days. In the morning there would be casserole dishes and boxes of baked goods left on the porch, notes tacked to the front door wishing us well, checks in the mail from people we’d met only once or twice. That night as the last of the firemen headed off to their trucks my oldest son stood at the head of the driveway and shook each hand, one by one and thanked them for saving our house.

The past month has been busy for all of us. We have spread composted manure and planted grass seed in the new pasture, brought in enough timber to split fifty more cords of firewood and make boards for the new equipment shed. We’ve slaughtered of the last of the goats and chickens for the year and filled the freezers. We’ve pickled and canned and hayed and dried more than enough to carry our family and livestock through another New England Winter. We’ve set new fence posts and split oak rails to line them.

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Top 24 First-Class Airline Cabins

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 02:01

It’s a tough job but someone had to do it.

Inspired by Eithad’s launch of a new First Class luxury suite named ‘The Residence’, crowd sourcing travel website Flightfox has devised a comprehensive list of the 24 best First Class in-flight cabins from around the world.  

To produce the list, they took into account everything from seat configuration, aisle access and suite privacy to the type of champagne served, whether pyjamas were provided and how caviar was plated.

And it also shows the best rate flyers can expect to pay when booking a seat in luxury. 

Singapore Airlines was crowned king of the skies while second place went to Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific and Emirates bagged bronze.

When Eithad’s The Residence launches in December it will raise the bar even higher, offering guests a three room fully staffed suite, a chauffeur to a private check-in and lounge, an onboard butler, fine Italian Poltrona Frau leather sofa, two dining tables and – better yet – an in flight personal chef to whip up whatever takes your fancy.

But, for now, you could do a lot worse than booking a first class trip with any airline featured in Flightfox’s survey, you’ll just need deep pockets.

The cheapest price for a one-way ticket with survey toppers Singapore Airlines in their Singapore suite will set you back £2,053 ($3,324) for a flight from Singapore to Mumbai. 

For that, you’ll be served 2004 Dom Pérignon, provided with pyjamas to sleep in and sit on an spacious armchair hand-stitched by Italian craftsmen – their most leg room friendly design to date.

When it came to overall ‘rockstar’ status – one of the categories judged – Singapore suites came out as the overall winner too and offer a double bed option.

Comparatively, Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific’s cheapest one way first class ticket – who came second – costs just £440 ($713), but you’ll need to fly from Hong Kong to Taiwan to bag it.

Choose them and, according to Flightfox, you’ll enjoy five star food and drink service. 

Cathay Pacific serve Krug Grand Cuvée champagne, an la carte menu and freshly steamed rice, toast and eggs cooked to your personal specifications.

The most expensive best-priced first class flight, according to the survey, is flying between Tokyo and LA with Japanese airline ANA, and will set you back at least £5,835.

Emirates, known for deluxe treatment, came third and slings it all on. You’ll get pyjamas, use of a limousine, an in-flight shower to freshen up, an onboard bar, caviar and Dom Pérignon champagne for flying first.

When it comes to value-for-first-class-ticket-price Emirates scored forth overall, with their cheapest flight taking you from Auckland to Brisbane for £509 ($824).

Forth and fifth place went to Etihad and Lufthansa respectively. Etihad’s cheapest ticket costs £563 ($911, United Arab Emirates to Mumbai) whereas Lufthansa’s best deal is £3,409 ($5,520) for a first class ticket from South Africa to Germany. 

Though pricey, Lufthansa climbed higher in the ratings thanks to five star scores for seat configuration, size (a two-metre-long flat-bed) and food and wine. They serve Krug Gande Cuvée champagne, canapes, caviar and food designed by Michelin-starred chefs.

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