Discovering the Hutterites

SUBHEAD: Here’s what one of America’s most isolated communities can teach us about getting along.

By Amanda Duberman on 13 April 2018 fro Huffington Post -
(https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hutterites-rural-religious-photos_us_5accee42e4b0152082fe4005)


Image above: Hutterite women dress with bonnets often or polka dot scarves. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: This article is in part a photo essay by someone dear to me that I've known since 1950. We went through school together at a Waldorf School in Garden City, Long Island from kindergarten through high school. I've been closer to Jill Brody longer than anyone other than my sister Diana. Jill has honed her skills over decades in a career being a Steiner teacher, becoming a Unitarian minister, working in medical imaging to in recent decades producing documentary photography. Jill has always brought deep understanding to what she does. For more of Jill's Hutterite photos see original Huffington Post article.]

After spending just one day with the Hutterites of Liberty County, Montana, Jill Brody recalls she was “hooked.”

The educator and photographer learned of the reclusive ethnoreligious group while researching a book on ranch life in central Montana. Locals told her that if she wanted to see what good farming looked like, she ought to visit the Hutterites.

That advice would change the way she thought about life and inspire a portfolio of photos titled “Hidden in Plain Sight,” which captures the world within these small, ultra-traditional religious communes.

The Hutterites were not Brody’s first exposure to people from isolated rural areas. At a young age, she had traveled from New York to North Carolina to attend summer camp.

“There were all these nice Jewish kids from New York, and most of the counselors were from the Deep South,” she said. Many of them had limited education, which Brody said she and her youthful peers mistook for a lack of intelligence.

With age and experience, Brody came to realize that she had misjudged them and the wisdom and ingenuity demanded by rural life. “They were pretty amazing people,” she said.

Decades later, she found herself living and working among some other pretty amazing people in one of America’s most isolated communities.


Image above: Hutterite husband and wife outside community greenhouse. From original article.

The Hutterites are Anabaptists ― Christians who believe people should be baptized not as infants but only when they are old enough to confess their sins and choose baptism for themselves. They fled persecution in Austria during the Protestant Reformation and eventually ended up living across parts of North America’s Great Plains. According to National Geographic, there were roughly 40,000 Hutterites living in 480 colonies in the U.S. and Canada as of 2012.

The group is named for a 16th century leader, Jakob Hutter, who preached the tenets of pacifism and communal living. Nearly all property in a Hutterite colony is owned by the colony ― a practice that differentiates them from other rural religious communities, such as the Amish and Mennonites.

Their guiding doctrine comes from a verse in the New Testament. Acts 2:44 reads: “All the believers live together and have everything in common.”

Unlike the Amish, the Hutterites utilize various forms of modern technology. They generally sustain their communities through industrial agriculture, selling frozen meat, chicken, eggs, milk and vegetables to large local grocery chains.

Some also offer services in commercial construction and mechanics. Brody said a Hutterite man could build you a Mercedes and because every Hutterite woman is given a sewing machine when she marries ― the only possession she will ever own ― “any of them could get a job as a seamstress in Hollywood.”

Initially, while researching her book on ranchers, Brody didn’t pay much attention to the local Hutterites. “They were just these anachronistic people who wore brightly colored clothing and spoke with a funny sort of Germanic type of accent,” she said. “They were friendly but distant.”

But she took up an offer from some other area residents to introduce her. She did know that the Hutterite communities were insular, highly patriarchal and guided by strict religious tenets. Brody, who is not religious, wasn’t expecting to enjoy herself.

She eventually spent four years photographing the group and learning about their lives.


Image above: Hutterite boys and girls help cleaning farm equipment and doing chores. From original article.

“For whatever reason ― maybe it’s the way I am or the way they are ― there was space made for me to come and do something which they don’t normally like people doing, which is taking pictures of and being with them,” she said.

Brody photographed three separate Hutterite colonies in Liberty County. Her work honors the many technical skills that allow the communes, which she said consisted of about 150 people each, to function. But more profoundly, it captures the relationships that develop when a community is simply too small to allow itself to become divided.

“I thought I had a sense of who Hutterites were,” Brody said. “Then as you get to know them better, you realize they’ve got this thing ― this little jewel that they pass on to each other, that we don’t have anymore.”

Brody described this “jewel” as “the ability to be together,” which she observed while spending time with the women in the colonies. Whether they personally liked each other or not, she said their faith called on them to “live together and have all things in common.”

It’s a principle the Hutterites are committed to living by, no matter how difficult a situation or personality they encounter.

“There are just destructive people ― in almost any community, you’ll find at least one,” Brody said. “So how do you handle that? Do you ostracize them? In a tiny community, can you afford to do that? No. So you learn to adjust and adjust and make space for that person to function.”

The Hutterite women accommodate one another’s individual differences in order to protect the health of the entire community. When a person is destructive or obnoxious or insolent ― either in personality or in reaction to the community’s rules ― the group adjusts their expectations. This creates a space for the disruptive person to function within the community and, perhaps, create a path to contentment they may not have otherwise found.

“When people started asking me about what I was doing there and what I was looking at, I realized that’s what I was looking at,” Brody said. “I was looking for a piece of the puzzle in me or in us, in general, that is missing.”


Image above: Younger Hutterire children playing in the grass. From original article.

Tolerance is not the first thing one expects to find in a community that rejects almost everything outside itself. But when nothing from the outside world is allowed in, they have no choice but to cherish and protect each other.

“Part of what they came to understand was you don’t have to love everybody. You don’t even have to like them,” Brody said. “But you need to get along, and you need to help.”

“That’s a huge lesson this country has completely forgotten,” she added.

Below are Jill's thoughts on her time with the Hutterites and the lessons she believes they can teach us.


Image above: Members of a Hutterite colony eat a communal dinner segregated by gender. From original article.

“I had all these messages coming to me about rural America and its importance, from the time I was 8 years old up until the present. I was interested almost immediately in how small rural economies operate and how small communities operate. If you live in large urban communities, they don’t operate, except in a snowstorm. We are so easily split asunder. We see a horrifying, graphic example of it right now in Washington, and we don’t seem to have any sense about the importance of community in structuring our lives.”

They taught me so much about just being mindful that when there is a person right next to you who you don’t know, you might have a lot in common and you might have very little, but it’s possible to take a couple of minutes to just sort of slow down and not make the assumption that if they get something, you don’t get it. If they win, you lose. Everything that’s happening in this country now is so incredibly divisive. The Hutterites don’t vote; they don’t participate. But one of them said to me, ‘We really should now.’”

“They make everything they wear, except for underwear or shoes. If you look at the pictures, it looks like they’re all wearing different clothing. Until you look closely and you realize every apron is the same, every dirndl skirt is the same, every shirt is the same, every jacket is the same, every head covering is the same. So they express their personality in the pattern of the fabric, not in the design of the clothing. It’s a whole metaphor for them that they have these small things that differentiate themselves but they’re expected to conform on larger issues. If any Hutterite woman left there and offered themselves up as a seamstress, they could make a killing in Hollywood.”

“What surprised me most was how fearful they are of the outside world. They don’t need to be that fearful, but they are.”

“Some of the hardest work the men will do, but mostly the women do everything. They don’t slaughter the cattle, but the minute the cattle are slaughtered, they take over the butchering. They slaughter the ducks and the chickens themselves and the geese. So you might want to say to yourself, what is left? If all the women disappeared from the colony, it would take them probably five days to fall apart.”

“A lot of what they have in place relies on the women being certain types of people. The women will say to me, ’We’re going to vote on who is going to be the new head of the kitchen. I said, ‘Who’s going to vote?’ They said, ‘Oh, the men vote.’ I asked how the men know who to vote for. They said, ‘Well, we tell them who to vote for.’”

“One day one of the women asked me if I’d like to know what they were talking about. I said sure. These are women who range in age from maybe 20 to 80. They’ve lived together their whole lives, one way or another. They were talking about which scent they like better, Mr. Clean or Pinesol or something with lavender in it. I realized if you live in a dorm in college, you have that kind of relationship with somebody ― where the mundane becomes crucial and important. But in general, you don’t have that. When people started asking me about what I was doing there and what I was looking at, I realized that’s what I was looking at. I was looking for a piece of the puzzle in me or in us, in general, that is missing.”

“They’re pacifist, they’re communitarian. ... There are a gazillion people to take care of you and your kids. There are 7-year-old girls who are assigned to 5-month-old babies and they’re au pairs from the time they’re 6 or 7 years old. So you might drive in there and think of them, ‘Oh, I really couldn’t stand this, this is too much for me.’ And then you can’t let yourself leave at the end of the day because they’ve got this thing that you can’t quite describe and that you don’t have.”

“The women get up at 4 in the morning, they get their houses in order. They are constantly cleaning their houses. I don’t know what they’re cleaning. You could literally eat off the floor in any of those places.”

“One of the ministers said, ‘Well, you know in the old days we objected to the ideas of telephones and we survived that. Then we objected to the idea of mobile phones and we survived that. But I think the internet is different.’ And I said, ’You’re absolutely right. The internet is completely different.’ He said, ‘That really makes me worry. Bad things could happen.’ I said, ’But does that have to change your relationship to God?’”
 
       
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Obscuring Nature

SUBHEAD: How cleanliness and energy efficiency are damaging our relation to nature.

By Gunner Rundgren on 16 April 2018 for arden Earth -
(http://gardenearth.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/how-cleanliness-and-efficiency-obscure.html)


Image above: A techno-optimist trying to grow "Green" food under artificial light in PVC irrigation tubes. From (http://www.thecoolist.com/geeky-gardening-how-to-grow-vegetables-with-green-technology/).

Alienation
Instead of retreating into urban eco-sanctuaries and buying industrial fare in hygienic and eco-friendly packaging, people need to grow, tend to animals, muck, dig, cook and bake. Only then can we expect people to become ecologically literate and realise that we are part of nature.

After the discovery of ”germs” and their role in disease, humans initiated a war on bacteria for two centuries. It is just the last decades that we start to realize that we are totally dependent on them.

There are so many of them inside our body and on our skin that one could almost claim that we are an agglomeration of germs. While we still know that there are the bad ones we should avoid we are also aware of that some dirt is beneficial. Somethings similar need to happen with efficiency.

The realization that there are fairly hard physical limits to our civilization, sometimes called Planetary Boundaries, has made efficient the buzzword of the day.

Efficency
Of course this is hardly nothing new, scarcity was the rule for most of human existence and efficient use of resources was part of the daily struggle. When fossil fuels were systematically put into our service followed a period of assumed limitless growth and limitless waste.

For a long period, efficiency was defined mainly in relation to the use of labour and the silver bullet of enterprise was to substitute nature resources with labour. Which meant more use of energy, more use of minerals, water, rocks and sand; more everything – but labour.

Now, there are growing insights that nature resources are not as abundant and limitless as we believed and that there are also limits in the receiving end. We can’t just pump our waste into the natural pools be it the oceans or the atmosphere.

It is therefore quite natural, and good, that we look for more efficient ways of using resources. But in my view the solutions are often misguided.

Technology
Farming is perhaps the best examples of this. Nowadays we are told that we should grow plants or fish indoor with artificial light to save water and land.

And the most used argument in favour of a vegan lifestyle is that there I less need for land to grow plants than to grow animals.

Lab meats are said to solve our craving for meat in a better way. Efficient use of land is also a major argument for the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs.

Most urban dwellers have no idea of how food is grown and how animals and plants interact in natural systems and they therefore easily buy into a narrative that goes like this:
“Humans are squeezing out other species, raze the rainforest to feed cattle or oil palm and cut down mangrove to grow shrimp.

Agriculture destroys the water and the atmosphere, pesticides kills, it even destroys its own foundation, the soil. Most agriculture land is used to feed cattle which also are most harmful for the climate.”
While there is some merit in all this (with the exception for the blame on grazing cattle) the solution which has gained traction is to withdraw humanity into sustainable cities where the food is grown within city walls. In this way we can leave the rest of nature to all the other creatures in God’s garden.

Overall, the alleged efficiency of most of these systems is an illusion because land and resources are mostly used to the same extent as earlier – but somewhere else. See example further down.

What worries me a lot more than the miscalculations, however, is the view of our relationship with nature that is reflected in this narrative.

The idea that we can save both ourselves and nature by retracting from nature, limit our interaction with nature to watching Animal Planet and going whale watching or gorilla spotting on eco-touristic trips.

For sure, those creatures need all those nature reserves that we have created and we need to expand those in parts of the world, in particular to coastal areas. But, as with germs I am afraid we draw this too far.

Many advocate artificial production systems in a similar way as sterility was promoted as an ideal for hygiene.

But distancing people more from germs mostly make them much less able to strike a balanced view on the merits of washing their hands or throwing away leftovers.

Dirt on Hands
In a similar way, I think that instead of withdrawing into urban eco-sanctuaries people need to immerse themselves in nature and dirt.

They need to grow, tend to animals, muck, dig, cook and bake rather than buying industrial fare in hygienic eco-friendly packaging.

Only then can we expect people to appreciate the real work, the resources needed, the interaction between humans, animals and plants.

Only then can we expect people to become ecologically literate and realise that we are part of nature.

Saving Resource Myths

The most flagrant myth is that vertical indoor farms powered by LED lights saves space. When you point out that they require a lot of energy, you are told that that energy can come from solar panels, fully renewable and benign.

We can leave the discussion about exactly how benign solar panels are when it comes to resources.

We can also leave the discussion how to store solar energy over the seasons in the Northern parts of the globe, and just focus on the area used.

Do indoor farms really save space?

Let’s envision a house with a vertical farm in the basement and let us put solar panels on top of the building. The roof is hit by sunlight with an intensity of some 1000 W per square meter.

Our solar panels are very efficient and convert 15% to electricity that will give us 150Watts per square meter. The basement is powered by efficient LED lights.

If we want to grow lettuce we will need about 250Watts per square meter for 12 hours per day. Assuming very small losses in transmission and for the light we can grow 0.6 square meters of lettuce for each square meter of roof area.

Each layer of plants in the vertical farm thus needs a much bigger area of solar panels to produce the electricity needed. And this is only growing lettuce. If we were to grow tomatoes, grain, potatoes or cabbage we would need much higher light intensity.

These calculations are in reality extremely optimistic. Of course, in the winter where I live there is almost no solar energy produced at all. To produce food in winter we would need solar panel areas perhaps 25 times as big as each layer in our indoor farm!

So for a farm with 10 layers we would need 250 times the area somewhere else, outside of the sustainable city’s walls.

These are back-of-the-envelope calculations, an art which seems long forgotten. You can read more here.

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The Empire's new Reality

SUBHEAD: From Skripal to Syria – The empire’s “New Realities” are reaching the end of the road.

By Rob Slane on 12 April 2018 for The Blogmire -
(http://www.theblogmire.com/from-skripal-to-syria-the-empires-new-realities-are-reaching-the-end-of-the-road/)


Image above: A detail of 19th century cartoon by Victor Gillam of America's Uncle Sam with the caption "A Lesson For Anti-Expansionists showing how Uncle Sam has been an expansionist first, last and all the time." From (https://fabiusmaximus.com/2018/01/12/an-anthropologist-explains-the-american-empire/).
“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Thus spake Karl Rove, Deputy Chief of Staff in the Government of George W. Bush.
I do wish people would study Rove’s words more carefully. Judiciously study them.

If they did, then whenever the next alleged atrocity occurs and the United States, together with its coalition of supine vassals, starts yelling and hollering 10 minutes later for action to be taken, on the basis of a test-tube full of washing powder, or pictures of injured women and children in a war zone, and the entire media of dutiful stenographers shrieks that “something must be done”, then perhaps we might pause and wonder if we are being played.

Instead of falling into an emotional spasm, maybe we would instead reject the deafening drumbeats of war – wars that have a habit of killing immeasurably more women and children than the alleged incidents on which they are based, by the way — and ask ourselves whether “Rove’s Law” has come into play.


As an aside, the West’s interventionist wars remind me of that wonderfully cynical exchange in the film, The Man With Two Brains:
Dr. Hfuhruhurr: “The only time we doctors should accept death is when it’s caused by our own incompetence!”
Dr. Necessiter: “Nonsense! If the murder of twelve innocent people can help save one human life, it will have been worth it!”
Here’s Dr. Necessiter selling us into war in Iraq: “Nonsense! If it costs us the deaths of 500,000 people to topple the evil dictator Saddam Hussein, it will have been worth it!”

Here he is selling us bombs on Libya: “Nonsense! If turning Libya into a failed state, a terrorist’s playground, and causing a mass exodus of refugees is the price for getting rid of Gaddafi, it will have been worth it.”

And here’s Dr Necessiter again, this time trying to sell us into bombing Syria: “Nonsense! Risking a catastrophic clash with a country armed with thousands of nuclear weapons is worth it in order to respond to the alleged deaths of less than a hundred people in a totally unproven chemical weapons attack.”

Behold, the “logic” of the interventionists!

But back to Rove. What was he saying? Three things:

Number one: We – that is the Globalist Deep State, centred in Washington DC – are sovereign over the entire globe and we will do as we please.
Number two: That we don’t follow reality, we create it.
Number three: That we are prepared to do things that will make your jaws drop, your hair stand on end, and your eyes boggle as you wonder what is going on, and while your jaws, your hair and your eyes are busy doing their thing, we will have moved onto create our next reality.

In other words – we are God – and not a kind and merciful God, but a God who lords it over all peoples’, nations and tongues, who tells lies, and then tells more lies to cover up those lies and – when you poor saps are trying to work out what it is we’re really up to.

Before you know what has happened, those lies and those lies to cover up lies will have become the new reality. We’ll have moved on and the world with it, and the narrative we have created will have been written in the history books, which we ourselves shall write.

The cases of Sergei Skripal and the alleged chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta seem somehow to represent the zenith of this ideology.

I do not know who poisoned Sergei Skripal or for what reason.

It could be that the Russian Government was behind it, although this would mean accepting the highly improbable thesis that they decided to target a has-been MI6 spy, who they released from prison eight years ago, using perhaps the dumbest assassination method in the history of the world.

It was an ineffective, slow-operating, “military-grade” nerve agent, which could be traced back to them, and which they smeared on a door handle in rainy Salisbury –, a week or so before a Presidential election, and less than 100 days before they are due to host the World Cup.

In other words, the official narrative does not rest on accepting that the Russian state is the epitome of pure evil; it rests on accepting that it is the epitome of insanity and bumbling incompetence.

I do not know what happened in Eastern Ghouta. It could be that the Syrian Government was behind what is alleged to have happened (if it indeed did happen), but this would mean having to accept the thesis that just 24 hours away from completely liberating the last pocket of resistance in Damascus, after the US, the UK and France had all warned that they would attack if chemical weapons were used, just a week or so after the US President, Donald J. Swamp, announced that the US would be pulling out of Syria (which they occupied illegally, by the way), they made the decision to use a weapon that gave them no military advantage whatsoever, but which was practically guaranteed to be used as a pretext for airstrikes against them.

In other words, like the Skripal case, the theory does not stand on accepting that the Syrian state is the epitome of pure evil; it stands on accepting that it is the epitome of self-defeating stupidity on an epic scale.

But you see what I’ve done? I’ve fallen right into Karl Rove’s trap, haven’t I?

I’m asking questions about whether the narratives in these cases stack up. In the Skripal case, I’ve been judiciously studying reality by asking lots of questions that ought to have occurred to anyone with a keen interest in arriving at the truth (here and here, for instance). I could do the same with the Syrian case, if I had the time.

Yet while I’m doing so, the narrative is moving on. I’m falling into exactly the trap that Karl and his disciples have laid.

They want two sorts of people: those who just blindly accept that it was the Russians that did it, or that it was Assad that did it; and those who spend their time asking questions about the official explanations. The first group call the second group conspiracy theorists and nutters. The second group call the first group dumb sheeple.

And the Globalist Deep State laughs and laughs and laughs as the two groups battle it out to make sense of what has happened, leaving it free to march on to create the next reality. Truly I tell you, these Bolsheviks have learned their Hegelian Dialectics well.

Now, this is not to rule out that in the Salisbury and Eastern Ghouta cases the official narratives might – just might – be the correct ones. That both Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad might be the Laurel and Hardy of Geopolitics.

Yet it has to be said that whatever else you think about them, neither of them tends to come across in interviews as being what you might call dumb or inept.

Nor do either of them give the impression that they have sudden insane impulses to do things which have absolutely no benefit to them, but which hand their enemies massive PR victories.

But this is besides the point.

The point is not whether these particular incidents are what the official narrative says they are, or whether they are provocations.

It suffices for the “new reality creators” to create their realities on occasion, or perhaps to distort occurrences which they didn’t create, and before you know it you have your two groups battling over events which may be real or fake.

On one hand are the conspiracists – who are studying every event to try to work out the details and the inconsistencies – and the other are the sheeple – who believe that their Government is full of good hearted, white hatted chaps and lasses who would never, ever do anything bad – unlike those orcs over in Mordor.

Rove and Co have basically created a “reality” where truth is no longer discernible, where assertions of guilt are taken as fact, and where holes in these kinds of incidents only serve to divide the people further, so that the Globalist Deep State can move on to create their next reality.

But let’s not get gloomy. The good news is that although they clearly think they can get away with it indefinitely, they can’t. No kingdom or empire built on a mountain of lies can stand indefinitely. They all fall.

And can’t you start to sense the signs that the empire’s “new realities” – or what are known as lies in laymen’s terms – are reaching boiling point?

Don’t you sense that they have just got too confident and in doing so have begun to get careless? They are making mistakes. And as they do, they are having to resort to bigger and bigger lies to cover up the ones they’ve already told.

Sadly for Rove and Co, but happily for the rest of us, the world doesn’t actually work the way they think it does. Reality — I mean real reality, rather than the phony reality they have created — will catch up sooner or later. I sense that it’s on its way even now.

And when it finally comes, the whole rotten edifice that these “history’s actors” have tried to create will crash and burn. Bringing much rejoicing.

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The Dog Wags Trump

SUBHEAD: The "missile attack" on Syria hardly diverted attention from the impeachment lava flow headed Trump's way.

By Juan Wilson on 14 April 2018 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-dog-wags-trump.html)


Image above: US Tomahawk fly missiles over Damascus, Syria. Photo by Hassan Amma. From (http://www.srzd.com/geral/putin-acusa-eua-ataque-agrava-crise-humanitaria-na-siria/).

The Upside
Bombing hardly worked to divert attention from "Trump's bad press problem a year ago when US navel forces in the Mediterranean Sea sent 59 Tomahawk missiles to a pre-warned Shayrat Air Base in Syria on 7 April 2017. That "wagging of the dog" ended with Syrian combat flights resumed from the airbase the same day on the relatively undamaged runways.

Now we have another show of force against the Syrian government in reprisal for another supposed "weapons of mass destruction" incident with poison gas. This time 71 of 105 Tomahawk missiles were intercepted by high tech Russian installed missile defense systems.

This kill count was likely enhanced by US military information provided to the Russians to avoid tripping into WWIII.

The effort to drag our allies into this mess did more harm than good, in that England and France (both nuclear powers) came along for the show but Germany and Italy wanted no part i it. This effectively splits the NATO alliance in two.

The Downside
It appears the Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's "personal attorney" and "Fixer"- who did not practice law or have other clients to speak of - will likely be the fall guy for a myriad of felonies related Trump's "business activity" otherwise known as  "organized crime". As in the "Godfather", Cohen has been the Consigliere (counselor Tom Hagen) to the Don ( mob boss Michael Corleone).

Unfortunately for Trump, the warrant the FBI obtained to search the home, office, and hotel room occupied by Cohen will likely produce a treasure trove of records pointing to criminal activity of the Trump organization.

If you look at the leadership personnel of the FBI, Special Prosecutor's Office, and Court of the Southern District of New York, you will realize that it is the Republicans that are legally going after Trump in a way that will likely lead to impeachment in the Republican controlled US Congress and Senate.

Trump is Toast
I think the writing is on the wall. The conservative Deep State has been embarrassed by Trump's crudeness, ignorance, narcissism, selfishness and impropriety. The stench of corruption is everywhere and it's too ugly for them to watch. George Bush was an embarrassment as well, but at least he took orders from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. Trump has the misconception that he's "The Boss". Sorry chump! YOU'RE FIRED! 


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Warmonger's Remorse

SUBHEAD: Defense head “Mad Dog” Mattis put the kibosh on the latest neocon temper tantrum.

By James Kunstler on 13 April 2018 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/warmongers-remorse/)


Image above: "Mad Gog" General Jim Mattis looks at Donald Trump with some trepidation as "Golden Gollum" speaks in a Nationa Security Council Meeting. From (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-likes-mattis-will-it-last/2017/12/21/341f7654-e694-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html).

I don’t know about you, but for a couple of days there I expected to wake up to the sight of mushroom clouds billowing across the horizon, all our exceptional hopes, wishes, troubles, and cares as a nation gone up in a vapor of smoking plastic.

I think it was the Defense Secretary, nickname “Mad Dog,” who put the kibosh on the latest neocon temper tantrum against Bashar “The Animal” al-Assad. General Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that the US was, er, “still looking for evidence” of an alleged poison gas attack against civilians in Douma, Syria.

That phrase “still looking for evidence” sounds like an elliptical way of saying we have no idea what, if anything, might have actually happened over there, just possibly even nothing at all.

The Russians were busy looking for evidence on the ground in and around Douma, and they claimed to have found nothing — no traces of poison gas, no corpses, no gassing victims in the local hospital — and put out a call for international inspectors to come have a look.

No reply on that from our side. Which does raise the question: are we even interested in the truth?

Maybe not. Also apparently not in the strange case of the poisoned Skripals that preceded the incident (or not) at Douma, and which touched off an expulsion orgy of Russian Diplomats among the US and our allies. Sergei Skripal, a Russian/British double-agent who had been exchanged to Britain in a spy-swap, fell ill along with his daughter, Yulia, on a park bench after lunching in quaint old Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK.

The supposed weapon in that case, Novichok, an advanced neurotoxin that kills instantly, was found on the doorknob of the Skripal house, and yet the couple made it downtown, enjoyed a leisurely meal, and took a post-luncheon stroll.

Casual observers did note that Salisbury is only a ten-minute drive from the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, where military poisons are stored and evaluated, and after two weeks of idle chatter, scientists there released a galling report that they could not determine the origin of whatever knocked out the Skripals.

In any case, it didn’t kill them. Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital this week and is, apparently, some sort of hostage of the British government.

You’d suppose that in a free country, Yulia might be interested in talking to the press, and certainly vice-versa, but she is incommunicado and was whisked away under guard to some mysterious hideaway. Sergei, we’re told, is coming out of it, too, in his hospital room, and seems to have nothing to say, either.

There was chatter in the US media that the Skripals might be sent here under some sort of US witness protection program. It looks like the US and Britain are running out of rugs to sweep stuff under.

Clownish as it was, the Skripal affair ramped up already poor relations between Russia and the West (mainly the US) to code red levels, as perhaps intended by the dream factory known as the Intelligence Community. At least that’s how it played in Deep State officialdom. The distracted public has stopped paying attention to it.

Note: neither The New York Times, the WashPo, nor CNN, have issued any righteous calls for answers in the malodorous Skripal matter. They’re all probably embarrassed that they latched on to the story and played it like “Pearl Harbor.”

But no one is accountable and the net result is a Russian diplomatic presence reduced to a skeleton crew in Washington, which can’t be a great thing for mutual understanding.

So, now, the Russians and Syrians have had plenty of time to scramble their airplanes and move personnel around the landscape to await another US smackdown, and the Russians have promised to shoot down our missiles with some spooky new technology, and it looks like our side is blinking.

Do we have any idea whether the Russians actually can shoot down our offensive missiles? Maybe we don’t want to know. We surely don’t want the world to know. It would be — how you say? — bad optics.

Of course, this latest uproar over the Douma poison gas incident coincided with the first day at work of National Security Advisor John Bolton, a reputed devotee of military monkey business.

But it’s possible that even Mr. Bolton is embarrassed by these crude shenanigans, which just preceded his return to influence on the political scene.

If he has any influence at all, perhaps he might use it to suggest that the President of the United States just shut the fuck up for a while.

.

Trumped up war with Syria

SUBHEAD: In order to to save his presidency the Donald will have to connive a "Fatal "Distraction".

By  Juan Wilson on 11 April 2018 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2018/04/trumped-up-war-with-syria.html)


Image above:Trump, Pence, Bolten meet with US military leaders on Syrian crisis.From (https://www.politico.eu/article/syria-crisis-collides-with-donald-trump-chaos-russia-vladimir-putin/).

Anybody here remember how the United States was conned into a full out effort to join into the Vietnam War?

Under President Kennedy our "contribution" to keeping South Vietnam from joining the north in what might be a Communist union had been through "advisors" - a few tens-of-thousands - who provided expertise, communications, weapons and aerial and naval backup.

Even so the corrupt South Vietnamese government was unable to beat back the revolution.

In 1965 US President Lyndon Johnson's CIA came up with a plan fort us to join into the ware effort openly.

Our Navy, in August of 1964 arranged for the US Maddox to be in the Gulf of Tonkin off the North Vietnam port of Hai Phong and was met by North Vietnam naval patrol boats.

The ensuing engagements in international waters of North Vietnam were our excuse to enter into the longest (and most useless) American war.

Until we got into the endless Middle East War that has destroyed several nation states that include Afghanistran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Syria.

Donald Trump's crimes of corruption are about to destroy his presidency. There are a limited number of unlikely scenarios that might save it... economic collapse or more war.

We now have a convenient "war crime" in Syria to act on.

It's not exactly clear if Syria's President Bashar al-Assad decided on a chemical ware attack on innocent civilians as part of a desire for suicide, or one of his bombs hit a military target where chemical weapons were stored or the event was caused by another party in order to instigate a war that America would see as its destiny.

In any case it is convenient for Trump to deflect interest in the investigation that is about to show his bottomless corruption with organized criminal oligarchs working out of the remnants of the former Soviet Union. So war it is!

See articles below for a hint where Justice Department is going. Why the Cohen warrant search reaction while Trump sits with military brass on subject of Syria War.



Trump knows he's the real target
(https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trump-knows-hes-real-target-fbi-raid-michael-cohen)

SUBHEAD: "It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for."

President Trump made a statement on Monday that many people in American never thought they'd hear from him. He said, "It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for."

Unfortunately, the president wasn't talking about the interference in our democratic election process in 2016.

He was referring to the FBI warrants served on his attorney Michael Cohen's office and two residences that morning, in which agents seized documents reportedly pertaining to suspected wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Trump believes that such an investigation is an attack on America because he believes it is an attack on him.

To paraphrase a quip from the great Molly Ivins, it sounded better in the original French: L'état, c'est moi.

Trump was very worked up, so worked up that he spent the first 15 minutes or so of a televised photo-op with his national security team and the Joint Chiefs railing against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Hillary Clinton and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, among others.

It wasn't the first time we've seen this president deliver a petulant and angry denunciation of the Russia probe. But to do it as he sat around a table with the military brass, for a meeting called to decide how to respond to a chemical warfare attack, was stunningly narcissistic even for him.

The cameras didn't show much of his team, but one can imagine how they felt being led by such a man.

It's not hard to imagine how most people in the country felt either. No one will ever describe Donald Trump as a leader who shows grace under pressure.

These warrants were issued by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (a Trump appointee, by the way), based on a referral from the special counsel's office. Nobody is quite sure exactly why it happened that way.

Some have speculated that this is about the Stormy Daniels case, and therefore far afield from Mueller's mandate, while others have suggested that Mueller passed this to a federal prosecutor to avoid the accusation that he crossed Trump's (nonexistent) red line.

At this point, all we can say for sure is that all warrants targeting an attorney go through an extraordinary process all the way up the line in the Department of Justice and are subject to extreme scrutiny by the magistrates who must approve them.

These are all lawyers, and by training and instinct they are protective of attorney-client privilege. The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual identifies six additional safeguards to ensure that the Department of Justice doesn't violate it in cases where an attorney is the subject of an investigation.

This particular lawyer is also the president's personal attorney, so it's fair to assume investigators were careful to demonstrate probable cause that Cohen had committed a crime in the course of representing his client and that he would be likely to destroy the evidence if they simply subpoenaed his records.

That may be the most extraordinary aspect of this entire event, although if you look at the way Cohen has talked and behaved over the years, it's not hard to see why someone might assume he could do that.

Nonetheless, any prosecutor would have to be aware of the political implications, and think long and hard about whether or not he or she had the goods to pursue such a case.
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Nobody should have been all that surprised by this, least of all Michael Cohen himself. He's at the center of the Stormy Daniels case, and the president unhelpfully exacerbated his problems last Friday on Air Force One when he referred questions about the alleged $130,000 payment to "my attorney Michael Cohen."

There is some speculation that he and Cohen believed they'd be protected by attorney-client privilege; if so, they were wrong.

But while that probably didn't help, it's almost certainly the reason Cohen's office and homes were raided on Monday. There's plenty of reporting to indicate that Cohen has been in the crosshairs for quite some time.

The Washington Post reported back in March that Mueller's office was interrogating witnesses about Cohen's negotiations during the presidential campaign to build a Moscow Trump Tower.

Reportedly, investigators were also exploring the odd story about the Russia-friendly "peace proposal" for Ukraine that Cohen received about a week after Trump was inaugurated.

Last week McClatchy reported that Mueller's team had shown up unannounced at the home of an unnamed Trump Organization business associate, "armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony."

This person had reportedly worked with the company on overseas deals for years, and investigators were specifically interested in interactions with Cohen.

According to The New York Times on Monday, Mueller is also interested in a $150,000 payment paid to the Trump Foundation by a Ukrainian oligarch for a brief speech Trump gave during the presidential campaign. (You will recall that Trump has a way of pocketing money collected for his foundation.)

That deal was allegedly solicited by Michael Cohen. This apparently doesn't pertain to the warrants issued on Monday but rather the subpoenas issued to the Trump Organization last month.

Whether various federal officials are tracking Cohen's activities overseas, like the Moscow tower or the Ukraine speech, or the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, it looks as though all roads lead to President Trump's personal lawyer.

Considering that it's well understood whom Michael Cohen is working for every minute of every day, that means the road dead-ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.



Trump reacts to Cohen raid
By Michael D. Shear on 9 April 2018 for the New York Times

(https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/us/politics/trump-cohen-mueller-full-transcript.html)

President Trump spoke to reporters on Monday at the beginning of a meeting with military leaders and national security officials. He reacted to the news that the F.B.I. raided the office of his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and discussed his frustrations with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the special counsel’s investigation being led by Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump also touched on the potential for military action in Syria in the wake of a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government that killed dozens of people over the weekend.

The following is a transcript of those remarks, as prepared by The New York Times, with analysis from The Times’s Michael D. Shear, a White House correspondent.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, I just heard that they broke in to the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages worth of documents to the special counsel.
Analysis
If there was one sign that Mr. Trump was furious about the raids of Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel, it was this phrase: They “broke in to the office.” Arms crossed, the president was clearly angry about how his friend and loyal attorney was treated — and did little to hide it.
TRUMP: They continue to just go forward and here we are talking about Syria, we’re talking about a lot of serious things with the greatest fighting force ever, and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now, and actually much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination it started.

And it’s a disgrace, it’s frankly a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.

So when I saw this and when I heard it — I heard it like you did — I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness. So this has been going on, I saw one of the reporters who is not necessarily a fan of mine, not necessarily very good to me, he said in effect that this is ridiculous, this is now getting ridiculous. They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia, the reason they found it is there was no collusion at all. No collusion.
Analysis
In a presidency not known for consistency, Mr. Trump has never wavered from his insistence that “they found no collusion.” In fact, what congressional investigators have always said is they had not yet determined whether the president or his aides had colluded with the Russians. Mr. Mueller has not said publicly one way or the other.

TRUMP: This is the most biased group of people, these people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen. Democrats, all — or just about all — either Democrats, or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama — they’re not looking at the other side.

They’re not looking at the Hillary Clinton, horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They’re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the independent side.
Analysis
Mr. Trump immediately focused on Mr. Mueller and his team, but in fact, Monday’s raids were authorized by a United States attorney who was appointed by Mr. Sessions and is a former law partner of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Trump supporter. They were not authorized by Mr. Mueller.

TRUMP: They only keep looking at us. So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, “Well, let’s keep going,” and they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning and I think it’s a disgrace.

So we’ll be talking about it more, but this is the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever seen. The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country, but you’ll figure that out.
Analysis
Mr. Trump’s statement that “we’ll be talking about it more” — a reference to bias among the special counsel’s team — is an ominous one, suggesting that he might do something about it. What that would be is unclear, though adversaries and allies alike have at times worried that he might fire Mr. Mueller.
TRUMP: All I can say is after looking for a long period of time, not even before the special counsel because it really started just about from the time I won the nomination, and you look at what took place and what happened and it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. I’ve been president now for what seems like a lengthy period of time. We’ve done a fantastic job. We’ve beaten ISIS. We have just about 100 percent of the caliphate or the land. Our economy is incredible.

The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise of, you know, this nonsense that’s going on. It dropped a lot. It was up — way up — and then it dropped quite a bit at the end, a lot. But that we have to go through that, we’ve had that hanging over us now from the very, very beginning and yet the other side, they don’t even bother looking. And the other side is where there are crimes, and those crimes are obvious:

Lies under oath, all over the place, emails that are knocked out, that are acid-washed and deleted, nobody’s ever seen — 33,000 emails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress, and nobody bothers looking at that.
Analysis
After repeatedly hailing stock market increases during his first year in office, Mr. Trump has all but ignored the market’s steep declines in the wake of his protectionist trade policies. So it was ironic that the president would blame what he called “this nonsense” for a drop in the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average actually ended the day up slightly after at one point rising nearly 400 points.
TRUMP: And many, many other things, so I just think it’s a disgrace that a thing like this can happen.

With all of that being said, we are here to discuss Syria tonight. We’re the greatest fighting force anywhere in the world. These gentlemen and ladies are incredible people. Incredible talent, and we’re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus, and it will be met, and it will be met forcefully. And when, I will not say because I don’t like talking about timing, but we are developing the greatest force that we’ve ever had.

We had $700 billion just approved, which was the reason I went along with that budget, because we had to fix our military. General Mattis would tell you that above anybody, we had to fix our military and right now we’re in a big process of doing that, $700 million and then $716 billion next year. So we’re going to make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter and you’ll be hearing the decision.

But we can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed, and you can see that and it’s horrible. We can’t let that happen. In our world, we can’t let that happen. Especially when we’re able to, because of the power of the United States, because of the power of our country, we’re able to stop it.

I want to thank Ambassador John Bolton for joining us. I think he’s going to be a fantastic representative of our team. He’s highly respected by everybody in this room and, John, I want to thank you very much, this is going to be a lot of work.

Interesting day, he picked today as his first day. So, generals, I think he picked the right day. But certainly you’re going to find it very exciting but you are going to do a fantastic job and I appreciate you joining us.
Analysis
The president shifted briefly to Syria, taking note of John R. Bolton’s first day as national security adviser. He hinted that the United States would respond militarily to the chemical attacks in that country, saying that “we can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed” happen. He did not indicate whether Mr. Bolton — a noted national security hawk — had argued for a strike.
JOHN R. BOLTON: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

REPORTER: Any concerns about what the F.B.I. might find, Mr. President?

TRUMP: No.

REPORTER: Do you have any concerns?

TRUMP: No, I’m not.

REPORTER: Did you have an affair with Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: Why don’t I just fire Mueller?

REPORTER: Yeah, just fire the guy.

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s a disgrace, what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. But I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.
Analysis
Among Mr. Trump’s verbal tics is the phrase “we’ll see what happens.” He says it all the time. So when he was asked why he doesn’t just fire Mr. Mueller, it popped out. It is not clear whether that means he is really considering doing that, or if the response was just another instance of this habit.

TRUMP: If you know the person who’s in charge of the investigation, you know all about that deputy Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, he wrote the letter very critical of Comey. One of the things I said, I fired Comey, well, I turned out to do the right thing because you look at all of the things that he’s done and the lies and you look at what’s gone on at the F.B.I. with the insurance policy and all of the things that happened, turned out I did the right thing. But he signed, as you know, he also signed the FISA warrant.

So Rod Rosenstein, who’s in charge of this, signed a FISA warrant, and he also, he also signed a letter that was essentially saying to fire James Comey, and he was right about that. He was absolutely right. So we’ll see what happens. I think it’s disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Analysis
The president appointed Rod J. Rosenstein to be the deputy attorney general. But at Monday’s meeting, he criticized him for signing a FISA warrant, an apparent reference to the fact that Mr. Rosenstein had authorized agents to seek a warrant to wiretap Trump associates in the Russia probe. Mr. Trump and Republican allies have said the warrants were sought under false pretenses.
[Cross talk]

REPORTER: Can we get more clarity on who was responsible … [Inaudible]

TRUMP: We are getting clarity on that. Who is responsible for the weapons attack. We are getting very good clarity, actually. We have some pretty good answers. REPORTER: What are your options?

[Cross talk]

TRUMP: We have a lot of options militarily and we’ll be letting you know pretty soon.

AIDE: Thank you, everyone. Thank you all.

TRUMP: Probably after the fact.

AIDE: Thank you.


.

State of Failure

SUBHEAD: How is it in Bashar al-Assad’s interests to provoke a fresh international uproar against him and his regime?

By James Kunstler on 9 April 2018 for Kunstler.com  -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/state-of-failure/)


Image above: War Criminal Votes. Bachar al-Assad and his wife Asma at a polling place during a recent vote in Damascus, Syria. From (http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2018/mar/19/syrias-assad-congratulates-vladimir-putin-on-natural-victory-1789486.html).
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Days after President Trump said he wanted to pull the United States out of Syria, Syrian forces hit a suburb of Damascus with bombs that rescue workers said unleashed toxic gas.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the old saying goes. So, tread carefully through the minefields of propaganda laid for the credulous in such low organs as The New York Times.

There are excellent reasons to suppose that the American Deep State wishes strenuously to keep meddling all around the Middle East.

The record so far shows that the blunt instruments of US strategic policy produce a consistent result: failed states.

Syria was well on its way to that sorry condition — prompted by an inflow of Jihadi maniacs fleeing our previous nation un-building experiment in Iraq — when the Russians stepped in with an arrantly contrary idea: to support the Syrian government.

Of course, the Russians had ulterior motives: a naval base on the Mediterranean, expanded influence in the region, and a Gazprom concession to develop and manage large natural gas fields near the Syrian city of Homs, for export to Europe.

The latter would have competed with America’s client state, Qatar, a leading gas exporter to Europe.

But the US objected to supporting the government of Bashar al-Assad, as it had previously with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, as well as Russia’s presence there in the first place.

So, the US cultivated anti-government forces in the Syrian civil war, a hodgepodge of Islamic psychopaths variously known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, Ansar al-Din, Jaysh al-Sunna, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, and what-have-you.

As it happened, US policy in Syria after 2013 became an exercise in waffling. It was clear that our support for the forces of Jihad against Assad was turning major Syrian cities into rubble-fields, with masses of civilians caught in the middle and ground up like so much dog food.

President Barack Obama famously drew a line-in-the-sand on the use of chemical weapons. It was well-known that the Syrian army had stockpiles of chemical poisons.

But the US also knew that our Jihadi consorts had plenty of their own. Incidents of chemical atrocities were carried out by… somebody… it was never altogether clear or proven… and Mr. Obama’s line-in-the-sand disappeared under dust-storms of equivocation.

Finally, a joint mission of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was called in to supervise the destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons, and certified it as accomplished in late 2014.

Yet, poison gas incidents continued — most notoriously in 2017 when President Donald Trump responded to one with a sortie of cruise missiles against a vacant Syrian government airfield.


Image above:  War Criminal Votes. Donald Trump, with his wife Melania, votes for himself at polling place during 2016 Presidential Election. From (https://qz.com/831181/election-2016-how-do-you-write-donald-trump-in-chinese/).

And now another incident in the Damascus suburb of Douma has provoked Mr. Trump to tweetstormed threats of retaliatory violence, just days after he proposed a swift withdrawal from that vexing corner of the world.

Surely by now the American public has developed some immunity to claims of nefarious doings in foreign lands (“weapons of mass destruction,” and all).

The operative sentence in that New York Times report is “…Syrian forces hit a suburb of Damascus with bombs that rescue workers said unleashed toxic gas.”

Yeah, well, how clear is it that the toxic gas was contained in the bombs, or rather that the bombs dropped by the Syrian military blew up a chemical weapon depot controlled by anti-government Jihadis?

Does that hodgepodge of maniacs show any respect for the UN, or the Geneva Convention, or any other agency of international law?

As in many previous such incidents, we don’t know who was responsible — though there is plenty of reason to believe that parties within the US establishment are against Mr. Trump’s idea of getting the hell out of that place, and might cook up a convenient reason to prevent it.

Lastly, how is it in Bashar al-Assad’s interests to provoke a fresh international uproar against him and his regime? I’d say it is not the least in his interest, since he is on the verge of putting an end to the awful conflict. He may not be a model of rectitude by Western standards, but he’s not a mental defective.

And he has very able Russian support advising him in what has been so far a long and difficult effort to prevent his state from failing — or being failed for him.

[IB Publisher's note: We have been at war in the Middle East since 2001 and at war in Syria since 2013. As Americans we are now in a state of perpetual war in that region that accelerates ecosystem collapse and permanent climate change and mass exodus. Next stop Iran!]

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Syriasly! 4/2/18
Ea O Ka Aina: US shoots down Syrian jet 6/19/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Australia suspends Syria overflights 6/ 20/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Syria poison gas story unravels 4/18/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Source of Sarin gas attack faked? 4/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: US has used DU in Syria 2/19/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Ms Gabbard goes to Syria 1/29/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump amps up war in Syria 1/29/17
Ea O Ka Aina: US shoots down Syrian drone 1/20/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Need for New Syria Policy 12/19/16
Ea O Ka Aina: To prevent still worse in Syria 10/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: WWIII has begun in Syria 9/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Skidding towards Syrian War 6/19/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Hillary and the Syrian Bloodbath 2/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Road to World War III 2/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Don't Bomb Syria 11/28/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Ten reasons not to overthrow Syria 11/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Tulsi Gabbard on Syria 11/1/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Michele won't go to Syria 9/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Pentagon's Syrian Blackout 6/6/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Syria a preview of 2030 6/2/13
.

Where's the "eco" in ecomodernism?

SUBHEAD: A techno-green future of limitless abundance sounds great, but it's totally unsustainable.

By Aaron Vansintjan on 6 April 2018 for Red Pepper -
(https://www.redpepper.org.uk/wheres-the-eco-in-ecomodernism/)


Image above: Windmills under an overcast sky. Photo by Richard Walker. From original article.

If you hadn’t heard, despair is old hat. Rather than retreat into the woods, now is the time to think big, to propose visionary policies and platforms.

So enter grand proposals like basic income, universal healthcare, and the end of work. Slap big polluters with carbon tax, eradicate tax havens for the rich, and switch to a 100% renewable energy system.

But will these proposals be enough? Humanity is careening toward certain mayhem. In a panic, many progressive commentators and climate scientists, from James Hansen and George Monbiot to, more recently, Eric Holthaus, have argued that these big policy platforms will need to add nuclear power to the list.

In a recent issue on climate change in the Jacobin, several authors also suggested we need to consider carbon capture technologies, geo-engineering (the large-scale modification of earth systems to stem the impacts of climate change), and even GMOs make an appearance.

What’s more, one of the contributors, Christian Parenti, actually proposes that we should increase our total energy use, not reduce it.

Any critique of this kind of utopian vision is often dismissed as green conservatism. In her article, “We gave Greenpeace a chance”, Angela Nagle argues: faced with President Trump promising abundance and riches, greens can only offer “a reigning in of the excesses of modernity”.

Despite all its failures, modernity freed us from the shackles of nature. Modernity promised a world without limits—and the environmentalist obsession with limits, she says, amounts to “green austerity.”

This argument is associated with an emerging body of thought called ecomodernism. Ecomodernism is the idea that we can harness technology to decouple society from the natural world.

For these techno-optimists, to reject the promise of GMOs, nuclear, and geo-engineering is to be hopelessly romantic, anti-modern, and even misanthropic. An ecological future, for them, is about cranking up the gears of modernity and rejecting a politics of limits.

Maxed-out modernism

Like it or not, this attitude actually fits quite well with the socialist tradition. For Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, modernity brought wonders and horrors. They argued the desire to go back to a feudal world of craftspeople and cottage industries was reactionary: their revolution would try to move beyond the present, not before it.

Fully Automated Luxury Communism (FALC), is the embodiment of this kind of maxed-out modernism, rebranded for the 21st century. But, given that we are fast approaching the planetary boundaries of the capitalist system, is it really that reasonable to suggest that now is the time to power up the automated factories?

In his article “Fully automated green communism”, Aaron Bastani, one of the main proponents of FALC, tries to respond directly to this kind of criticism. For him, eco-modernist socialism can be sustainable, too.

“[T]he idea that the answer to climate change is consuming less energy – that a shift to renewables will necessarily mean a downsizing in life – feels wrong. In fact, the trends with renewables would point to the opposite: the sun furnishes our planet with enough energy to meet humanity’s annual demand in just 90 minutes.

Rather than consuming less energy, developments in wind and solar (and within just a few decades) should mean distributed energy of such abundance that we won’t know what to do with it.”

For eco-modernists like Bastani, the problem is not technology itself: the problem is who owns it. When asked if his techno-optimism doesn’t understate the reality of climate change, Bastani responds that any tool can be turned into a weapon. Technology is only violent in the hands of a for-profit system.

Technology without context

The thing is, there’s very little “eco” in eco-modernism. Ecology is about the big picture: understanding the relationships between people, animals, plants, materials, and energy—how they co-evolve and are interdependent.

So, for an ecologist, any technology cannot be understood as separate from the context that created it. In contrast, eco-modernists see technology as simply a tool, which anyone could pick up and use. Their modernism becomes “eco” when we take the machines of modernity and use them to decouple society from nature.

This is certainly the case for nuclear power. Anti-nuclear activists point to the harmful effects of nuclear radiation and accidents, but, as ecomodernists point out, coal has killed more people historically and will kill many more if we don’t do anything soon.

The only thing that can save us, they say, would be to replace the fossil fuel-based energy system with one dependent on nuclear power—which in turn would require large state subsidies and centralized planning. We have the technology for a low-impact energy system, we just need the political will.

Sounds simple, but let’s look at the big picture. Nuclear power requires a regime of experts to manage, maintain, and decommission; a centralized power grid; large states to fund and secure them; and, then, a stable political environment to keep the waste safe for at least the next 10,000 years.

The technology is only 80 years old, modern states have existed for about 200, humans have only been farming for 5,000, and most nuclear waste storage plans operate at a 100-year time-span. To put it mildly, an energy grid dependent on nuclear means having lot of trust in today’s political institutions.

The problem with nuclear clearly isn’t technical, it’s political. The prospect of scaling up nuclear to the level needed to replace fossil fuels begs two questions.

First, are our political institutions robust enough?

Second, do we want the world that nuclear creates?

A world full of nuclear power plants is a world of highly centralised power, an energy system removed from people by an army of specialised engineers and, to protect it, a maximum-security state. To think that any technology can be grabbed out of the current system and scaled up without consequences is a profoundly un-ecological idea.

Similarly the idea of going 100% renewable and increasing total energy use, as advocated by ecomodern socialists like Aaron Bastani and Christian Parenti also has its faults. As Stan Cox points out,
“There’s nothing wrong with the ‘100-percent renewable’ part… it’s with the ‘100 percent of demand’ assumption that [scientists] go dangerously off the rails. At least in affluent countries, the challenge is not only to shift the source of our energy but to transform society so that it operates on far less end-use energy while assuring sufficiency for all. That would bring a 100-percent-renewable energy system within closer reach and avoid the outrageous technological feats and gambles required by high-energy dogma. It would also have the advantage of being possible.

The idea that there will be so much solar energy that “we won’t know what to do with it” also merits a second glance. True, solar energy is practically infinite. But unlike the alternatives, it’s dissipated and difficult to collect, transport, concentrate, and store.

It’s like trying to catch the rain when you’ve spent the last two hundred years drawing water from enormous underground reservoirs. It would mean more than democratising ownership of technology, but a total reboot.

And even if we were able to press that restart button, this luxurious future would require infrastructure, land, resources, and energy to build. These are unfortunately not super-abundant, but, by definition, limited. Simply grabbing technology from the machine of profit won’t solve this problem.

Energy or barbarism

It’s here that we’re forced to really think through the ecological position. Capitalism, as Andreas Malm argues, was built on coal and oil, and is inextricable from it.

The extraction and burning of coal made the creation of the working class possible, and it generated new forms of hierarchy and inequality. In other words, any technology developed in the current system isn’t neutral—by its very design, it shapes relationships between people and nature.

Being an ecologist today certainly doesn’t mean refusing to improve humanity’s lot, but it also means having a real conversation about the limits we face.

And if an alternative system is to be at all ecological, it would mean democratically weighing the costs and benefits of different technologies: which ones we want, and which ones we don’t. That’s not anti-modern, that’s a basic requirement for a better world.

So how do we get out of this mess? Now, more than ever, we need visionary proposals and new imaginaries. But, with the ecomodernists, this gesture to “think big” gets taken to the extreme: any “buts” and you’re branded as, basically, eco-Thatcher.

Today, breathless modernism—the refusal to collectively discuss limits—is no longer tenable. The dismissal of any political discussion of limits has real costs; Ironically, modernity without limits will send us back to the dark ages.

For Andreas Malm, there is only one option. If we want to avoid a new dark age, we can’t just collectivize the grid. We have to dismantle it and build a new, very different one. And if those driving the train of modernity can’t see the catastrophe up ahead, we’ll need to pull the emergency brake.

Politics is the collective deliberation of the future we want. It follows that we would also need to debate the things we really don’t want, the things whose price we refuse to pay.

Without this kind of discussion, we’ll never have a truly sustainable society. Talking about limits isn’t constraining, it’s liberating—perhaps paradoxically, it’s the basic requirement for building a ecological future of real abundance.

[IB Publisher's note: Nuclear power is no solution to the devastation we face with climate change and ecosystem collapse. The "ecological activists", like Stuart Brand (Whole Earth Catalog), James Lovelock (Gaia Principle), James Hanson (NASA scientist) and George Monbiot (Environmental author) among others, argue that nuclear power is the is the only energy source that can keep civilization going. That's only partially true. The only thing that can keep nuclear power going is fossil fuel driven technology like trains, cement trucks, semi-tractor-trailers, bulldozers, derricks, and all the other coal, oil and gas powered portable technology needed to build, maintain and dispose of nuclear power plants. Keep in mind the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear meltdowns have not been "fixed" because they are out of the headlines. In human terms all the inevitable future nuclear accidents are "forever".  There is no way to clean them up. You can only try to tightly contain or widely distribute the damage. Alternative energy (wind, solar, dams, ocean wave) will never run the industrial system we have now. At best they may sustain a much smaller human population at a level of worldwide consumption last seen in the early 18th. We could still maintain the fine arts, libraries and universities in an agrarian setting, but forget about all those air-conditioned glass-sealed seaside skyscrapers.]

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Too Little Too Late

SUBHEAD: We are about to come out of the self induced social media coma of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

By Juan Wilson on 5 April 2018 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2018/04/too-little-too-late.html)


Image above: We are witnessing the unavoidable fate of sandcastles at the edge of the ocean. From (https://odis.homeaway.com/odis/listing/fbebe127-4378-477a-9339-49e95ef6cd07.c10.jpg).

Just check out the trajectory of our Fearless Leader, Donald Chump. In a desperate effort to keep the wheels on the bus he is going to trash every safeguard put in place to keep civilization from becoming a fatal cancer on Gaia. He's pulling out the stops and stepping on the gas - Thelma and Louise style.

But I know you know the "American Dream" is over. "Make America Great Again" is worse than an empty slogan... it's going in the wrong direction... back to an even greater consumption of what little of the Natural World is left. It's like eating babies to keep from starving... not a good long term plan.

We are about to come out of the self induced social media coma of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Did we really think is had any substance beyond the dull glow of the screen on our faces as Siri or Alexa whispers in our ear?

It did allow us to not look at the landscape transforming around us as we pilfered the last of Mother Nature. Too bad the party is over and we have a hangover.

We are going to have to clean up the mess and get on with the work at hand... that is work with hands on shovels, hoes and rakes. It's down to this for most of the survivors - gardening.

 That and learning how to do something useful without utility services and container shipping.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Activism in the Anthropocene 12/15/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Sculptures from the Anthropocene 6/18/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Grow Food for Collapse 6/8/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Back to the Future 5/31/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Real Wealth & Trusting No System 5/23/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Find and Limit Ourselves 2/17/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Capitalism is a form of Cancer 10/7/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How about a "Grown" economy? 10/11/16
Ea O KA Aina: Planet Kaauai 2/26/16
Ea O Ka Aina: From Here on Down 8/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina : Oases on a future Eaarth 6/28/15
Ea O Ka Aina: The Last Straw 12/17/14 
Ea O Ka Aina: Ownership of the Anthropocene 5/4/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Worse than you think 5/21/14
Ea O Ka Aina:Things won't get back to normal 2/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The New Game 11/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Food, Water, Energy & Shelter 1/31/13
Ea O Ka AIna: Embrace the Change 7/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Trick or Treat! 10/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Last Trip to the Moon 5/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Five Year Plan 3/4/10
Ea O Ka Aina: All Aboard! 12/9/09


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The Big Tech Backlash

SUBHEAD: Elizabeth Warren agreed with Trump on China, now Bernie Sanders agrees with him about Amazon.

By Raul Illargi Meijer on 5 April 2018 for the Automatic Earth -
(https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2018/04/the-big-tech-backlash-of-2018/)


Image above: Kiva’s squat orange robots, which pick and move merchandise for Amazon could prove essential to helping Amazon return to profitability. From (https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/12/01/will-amazon-owned-robot-maker-sell-tailer-rivals/FON7bVNKvfzS2sHnBHzfLM/story.html).

Something must be terribly wrong with the world. A few days ago Elizabeth Warren agreed with Trump on China, now Bernie Sanders agrees with him about Amazon. What’s happening?
Bernie Sanders Agrees With Trump: Amazon Has Too Much Power
Independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders echoed President Donald Trump in expressing concern about retail giant Amazon. Sanders said that he felt Amazon had gotten too big on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, and added that Amazon’s place in society should be examined.
“And I think this is, look, this is an issue that has got to be looked at. What we are seeing all over this country is the decline in retail. We’re seeing this incredibly large company getting involved in almost every area of commerce. And I think it is important to take a look at the power and influence that Amazon has,” said Sanders.
A backlash against Facebook, a backlash against Amazon. Are these things connected? Actually, yes, they are connected. But not in a way that either Trump or Sanders has clued in to. Someone who has, a for now lone voice, is David Stockman. Here’s what he wrote last week.

The Donald’s Blind Squirrel Nails An Acorn
It is said that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn, and so it goes with the Donald. Banging on his Twitter keyboard in the morning darkness, he drilled Jeff Bezos a new one – or at least that’s what most people would call having their net worth lightened by about $2 billion:
“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” You can’t get more accurate than that. Amazon is a monstrous predator enabled by the state, but Amazon’s outrageous postal subsidy – a $1.46 gift card from the USPS stabled on each box – isn’t the half of it. 
The real crime here is that Amazon has been exempted from making a profit, and the culprit is the Federal Reserve’s malignant regime of Bubble Finance. The latter has destroyed financial discipline entirely and turned the stock market into the greatest den of speculation in human history. That’s why Bezos can kill established businesses with impunity. 
The casino allows him to run a pernicious business model based on “price to destroy”, rather than price for profit and a return on capital. Needless to say, under a regime of sound money and honest capital markets Amazon would be a far more benign economic creature. That’s because no real investors would value AMZN’s money-loosing e-Commerce business at $540 billion – nor even a small fraction of that after 25-years of profitless growth.
The bubble economy, the everything bubble, that we have been forced into, with QE, ultra-low rates, central banks buying trillions in what at least used to be assets, and massive buybacks that allow companies to raise their ‘value’ into the stratosphere, has enabled a company like Amazon to kill off its competition, which consists of many thousands of retailers, that do have to run a profit.

It’s a money scheme that allows many of the most ‘valuable’ tech companies to elbow their way into our lives, in ways that may seem beneficial to us at first, but in reality will only leave us behind with much less choice, far less competition, and many, many fewer jobs. Once it’s done someone will mention ‘scorched earth’. But for now they are everybody’s darlings; they are, don’t you know, the tech giants, the brainchildren of the best that the best among us have to offer.

They don’t all work the exact same way, which may make it harder to recognize what they have in common. For some it’s easier to see than for others. It’s also difficult to list them all. Here’s a few: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Tesla, Uber, Airbnb, Monsanto. Let’s go through the list.
Apple
Yes, Apple too. But they make real things! Yes, but just as Apple CEO Tim Cook seeks to distance his company from the likes of Facebook on morals and ethics, he can’t deny that Apple sells a zillion phones to a large extent because everybody uses them to look at Facebook and Alphabet apps until their faces are blue. If data ethics are the only problem Cook sees, he’s in trouble.

Silicon Valley infighting shows that the industry does have an idea what is going wrong, in ways that should have already led to many more pronounced worries and investigations.
Silicon Valley Rivals Take Shots At Facebook
Mr. Cook, who has long sought to differentiate Apple on privacy matters, contrasted its focus on selling devices with Facebook and Google’s ad-based businesses that are built on user data. Asked what he would do if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Cook replied: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Facebook’s newsfeed, he wrote, “manipulates your worldview and seeks to maximally waste your time.”[..] Days earlier, François Chollet, an artificial intelligence engineer at Google, sought to draw a line between his company and Facebook. He tweeted that Google products like search and Gmail help users “to do more, to know more.”  
[..] In January, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, whose company sells business software services, said that the addictive nature of social media means it should be regulated like a health issue.“I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry,” Mr. Benioff told CNBC when asked how Facebook should be regulated. Some of the most cutting rebukes have come from people who know Facebook well. 
In November, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said that Facebook executives, including himself, were “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” by designing a platform built on social validation. Mr. Parker didn’t respond to a request for comment. 
Facebook generally hasn’t responded to the criticism, but it did after sharp comments from its former vice president of growth, Chamath Palihapitiya. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” Mr. Palihapitiya said at a talk at Stanford University in November.

I would expect to hear a lot more of that sort of thing. Big Tech is changing the world in more ways than one. And spying on people Facebook-style is merely one of a long list of them. So yes, Apple certainly also belongs in that list. Facebook doesn’t build the devices people use to see what their friends had for breakfast, Apple does that. Moreover, Apple profits hugely from stock buybacks, so it fits in Stockman’s bubble finance definition of Amazon, too.

The failure of politics to investigate, and act against, those dopamine-driven feedback loops which exploit a vulnerability in human psychology in order to maximally waste your time and sell you product after product that you never (knew you) wanted is downright bizarre. Politicians only started talking about Facebook when a topic connected to Trump and Russia was linked to it.
Amazon
Trump can’t act fast enough on the tax situation and the US Postal deal. Not that that will solve the issue. Amazon, like all the companies on my list, can only be cut down to size if and when the everything bubble is. They are, after all, its children.

The most pernicious aspect of the Amazon ‘business model’, which all these firms share, and all are able to live by thanks to the central banks and the “greatest den of speculation in human history” they have created, is the prospect of world domination in their respective fields. They all hold in front of speculators the promise that they can crush all competition, or nearly all. Scorched earth, flat earth.

Facebook
Their place in the list is obvious. What is it, 2.5 billion users? And what they don’t have is divvied up between them and Google when they buy up apps like Instagram. Officially competitors, but they have the exact same goals. And, like me, you may think: what’s the problem, just ban them from collecting all that data. Facebook has no reason to know, at least not one that serves us, where you were last Friday, and with whom. And just in case you missed that bit, they do.

But there their connection to the intelligence world comes in. Their platforms are better than anything the NSA has ever been able to develop. So we can say we don’t want Zuckerberg and Alphabet spying on us, but our own spies do want to do just that. That makes any kind of backlash much harder to succeed. And it doesn’t matter if you delete your Facebook account, they’ll find you anyway. Friend of a friend. We all have friends who are on Facebook, rinse and repeat.

The only hope there is, with Facebook as with the other companies, is for investors and speculators to dump their holdings in massive numbers. And that will only happen when the central bank Ponzi collapses. And it will, but by then we have a whole new set of problems.

Google
Largely the same set of issues that Facebook has. Its tentacles are everywhere. Former CEO Eric Schmidt’s connections to the Pentagon should be really all you need to know. The EU may have issued all sorts of complaints and fines on competition grounds, but that makes no difference.

The one country with an effective response to Google and Facebook is China, that has largely banned both and built its own versions of their products. Which allows Beijing to ban people from boarding planes, buying homes etc., if their ‘social credit’ is deemed too low. If you want to be scared about where Big Tech’s powers can lead, look no further.
Tesla
Elon Musk has built a fantasy (and maybe I should put Paypal in this list too) on what everyone thinks must be done to ‘save the planet’ (yeah, build cars…) by grossly overstating the number of cars he can build, and financing his growth on not only speculation, but also on spectacular amounts of government subsidies (politicians want to save the planet, too).

And now he needs additional financing again. He will probably get it, again, but the Amazon backlash might have people take another look. One fine day… Fits David Stockman’s complaint to a t(ee), doesn’t have to make a profit. Musk has perfected that model.
Uber & Airbn
Why anyone anywhere would want to send money generated in their community, by renting out cars and apartments in that same community, to a bunch of people in Silicon Valley, is beyond me. Someone should set this up as an international effort that makes it easy for a community, a city etc., to provide this kind of service and make the profits benefit their own cities.

But like Amazon, they are free to run any competition into the ground because no profits are required until they have conquered the world. And then they can go nuts. It may look like a business model, but it isn’t. It’s a soon to be orphaned bubble child..
Monsanto
Less obvious perhaps as an entry in the Big Tech list, but very much warranting a spot. And of course it stands for the entire chemical-seeds field. From Agent Orange to your children’s dinner plate. Monsanto has more lawyers and lobbyists on its payroll than it has scientists, but then its lofty goals outdo even those of Google or Amazon.

Facebook may focus on your addiction to human contact, but Bayer, DuPont, Syngenta et al have decided to make your food so addicted to their chemicals that they will in the future profit from every bite served on your table. How they will grow that food long term without any insects, bees or birds left is unclear, but they don’t seem to care much. As for profits? Monsanto seeks to rule the world, and for now care as little about profits as they do about insects.

Zuckerberg may claim that he only wants to improve Facebook’s service, but when that is done through for instance the 2012 so-called Transmission of Anger experiment in which the company tried to alter their users’ emotional states -and succeeded-, by manipulating their friends’ postings, that claim becomes pure ridicule. Selling off user data to scores of developers doesn’t help either. But do you see Congress tackling him in any serious way next week? Neither do I.

Because there’s one huge catch to the scenario that David Stockman -and I- painted, of the whole tech bubble collapsing when the financial bubble does. It is the links tech companies have built to intelligence. A group of Google employees wrote a letter to their CEO Sundar Pichai to protest the company’s involvement in “weaponized AI”, in the shape of Project Maven, a military surveillance engine to-be.

These people undoubtedly mean well, but they’re far too late. They will have to leave the “don’t be evil” company to actually not be evil. Because it’s not a big step from weaponized AI to killer robots. Microsoft is also part of the project, and Amazon is. If you work there and don’t want to be evil, you know what to do.

Yeah, it’s about our safety, and security, and political and military and economic power. But it’s also about spying on people, in even worse ways than Facebook does. So even as the central bank bubble, and the tech bubble, go poof, some of these companies may be saved by their military ties.

That sound you hear is George Orwell turning in his grave.

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