Poem – Nam: 40 years

By Alan Gilbert, reprinted with permission from Democratic Individuality
For two other poems in this series, see here.

***

One took his own life

one drank his way

out of this world

one became University President

mourning the women and

children he shot

in a village

one thrown out of school

at night

fighting the war

gathered himself against the storm

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War Promoters Drown Out Dissent

“A mix of politics and mainstream media fear-mongering may be leading the US into another Middle Eastern war. From pundits with financial interests to politicians trying to look tough before the midterm elections, a chorus of war hawks is making their voices heard loud and clear. RT’s Ben Swann leads a discussion on the issue with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, and RT producer Tyrel Ventura.”

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Accept the Fact That You’re Livestock and Move On

A Review of Snowpiercer
By Michael Troncale

“What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.”
–Robert Frost, from his poem “Design”

“Soylent green is people! We’ve got to stop them, somehow!”
–Charlton Heston, from the film Soylent Green

The conspiracy theory of history infects every frame of Snowpiercer, the recent South Korean film that was barely released in theaters. It’s basically an extended metaphor of all human relations since we created civilization—societies that have been almost always ruled by a small group of elite individuals who control and manipulate large swaths of other people so that these elite can live in comfort and luxury.

The premise of Snowpiercer is that a catastrophic ecological disaster has taken place, leaving the Earth a frozen wasteland. The last groups of survivors are left riding a train that circumvents the globe nonstop with a perpetual motion engine; it was devised by a mysterious industrialist who created the train to ostensibly preserve some form of human life. There is a strict economic class system on the train where the elite thrive on the suffering of the leftover masses.

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VIdeo: Joe Elder Talks Blowback and ISIS in Syria, Iraq (3:14)

Joe Elder, co-host of PaleoRadio, discusses empathy, blowback, ISIS, and why arming the rebels is not the best solution in Syria.

“The enemy of our enemy is not our friend in this case.”

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BOEING: “Breaking Up Is (Is Not) Hard to Do”

By Joe Scarry, via Scarry Thoughts

When I lived in Philadelphia in the ’80s, there were two related events in the business world that made me sit up and take notice.

The first was the acquisition of a venerable Philadelphia bank — Girard Bank — by a big Pittsburgh institution — Mellon Bank.  People were pissed.  It didn’t make complete sense to me, but I eventually learned a little bit about Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, and I came to understand a little better why people had feelings about the bank. (Hey, nothing personal, Mellon . . . we just like things in Philadelphia the way they are . . . . )

The second was the recognition by Mellon that Mellon had a substantial volume of bad assets on the books — as in, enough to bring the company down.

In the event, Mellon made a brilliant decision: they split Mellon into two parts — dubbed “the bad bank” and “the good bank” — and dealt with them separately. They recognized that as long as Mellon remained a single entity, the investment community would value the entire company in light of the problems occurring in some of its assets. The solution was to quarantine the bad assets, take the hit, and focus on saving the the part of the bank that still had (substantial) value. (See “Rich Bank, Poor Bank: Mellon’s Surprise Success” in Business Week, March 8, 1992.)

Every time we talk about the substantial part of the Boeing Corporations that is used for war and violence, I can’t help thinking: “bad Boeing, good Boeing.”

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Tavis Smiley: Dr. King’s Unfcomfortable Truth

By Kevin P. Kelly, reprinted with permission.

“The reason I wrote this book is because Martin has been so sanitized and so sterilized that the truth about who he really was, at some point, is going to be irrecoverable…we have frozen him in this frame at the Lincoln monument giving his “I have a Dream” speech.  That was in 1963. He lived 5 years after 1963 and his views on America were dramatically different in ’68 than they were in ’63…”

So began my conversation with PBS broadcaster and author Tavis Smiley about his latest book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Smiley’s work marks a departure from other biographical efforts about Dr. King, both in scope and content.  Focusing on the tumultuous year leading up to King’s assassination, Smiley challenges the widely-held, media-perpetuated view of Dr. King  as simply an idealistic civil rights “dreamer,”  introducing instead a sentient and discerning King focused on expanding his message.  While 1963 King dreamed of integration, 1968 King recognized that the malignancies of war, intolerance and penury were all inextricably linked, and that successful continuation of our democracy demanded attention to all three.  According to Smiley, it was the promotion of this belief- that racism, militarism and poverty were three legs of a stool upon which sat most of the ills of the world- to which King devoted the final years of his life.

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War Is the Disease of the Country

“War is the health of the state,” wrote Randolph Bourne, a maxim with which all anti-warriors are quite familiar. Conversely, war is the disease of the country.

Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in which he claimed that his administration deserves some credit for an improved economy. But he cited some recent government statistics of newly created jobs and declining unemployment in such an underwhelming, lackluster manner, you have to wonder if even he had a hard time believing what his speechwriters wrote for him. His own acknowledgement that millions of Americans would find his claims somewhat difficult to swallow seemed to give away the game. Perhaps he knows that the cat is out of the bag when it comes to the U.S. government’s self-serving methodology for tracking unemployment, or that in any case new jobs in and of themselves do not necessarily mean that real prosperity is being created.

Millions of ordinary people in this country are struggling with diminished wages in real terms as they see their grocery and utility bills steadily increase while their take-home pay stays the same. Their rent’s increasing as well, or if they own their home, they’re suddenly being hit to cover a wide gap in their mortgage escrow accounts as municipalities hike up their property taxes. And the Affordable Care Act isn’t delivering what its title promised as health care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate. It seems that the poorer everyone becomes, the richer Obama’s inflated economic claims get.

But there are at least some Americans who are better off these days–the stockholders of the military-industrial complex. “Syria-To-Ukraine Wars Send U.S. Defense Stocks to Records,” Bloomberg recently declared.

“As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said [BMO Private Bank chief investment officer Jack] Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Boeing Co. (BA) shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.”

Bombardments of Islamic State strongholds added to tensions this year that include U.S.-led sanctions on Russia for backing Ukrainian rebels and China’s feuds with neighbors over disputed South China Sea islands. The U.S. also is the biggest foreign military supplier to Israel, which waged a 50-day offensive against the Hamas Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip

Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense company, reached an all-time high of $180.74 on Sept. 19, when Northrop, Raytheon Co. (RTN) and General Dynamics Corp. (GD) also set records. That quartet and Chicago-based Boeing accounted for about $105 billion in federal contract orders last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government…

The fiscal year 2015 U.S. military budget is a whopping $756 billion. Washington’s hawks screeched when some modest cuts were enacted a couple of years ago. It’s hardly outrageous to predict that military spending will once again spiral upwards as the Syrian-Iraq-ISIL conflict drags on and yet-undreamed-of foreign military interventions blossom well into the future.

Ordinary Americans, already squeezed by more than a dozen years of wars and recession, will be squeezed even more as ever scarcer resources in a continually diminishing economy will be allocated to the U.S. government’s insanely messianic global crusades. Disillusioned war veterans will return with unmarketable skills to a U.S. job market that will have little to offer anyway. But the shareholders of Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon will be living pretty high on the hog, largely at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense.

Americans at home who have been cheerleading all the U.S. wars have always found it easy to do so because they don’t expect to bear the ultimate cost of war–their own lives. They’re pretty certain that retaliatory bombs and missiles won’t be falling on their homes, killing their loved ones, their children, their husbands and wives. And they’ve been correct, of course. Other than those who suffered injury and death on 9/11/01 or in last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, hundreds of millions of Americans have gone about their daily lives reasonably secure in the knowledge that they won’t have to fear the kinds of dangers people on the other side of the world–in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen–have to accept as a fact of existence as U.S. drones and missiles fly freely about in their respective countries.

But even a country that wages constant war with the great benefit of not having to be a “theater of operations” will bear other kinds of costs, and to significant degrees: mass plunder by the ruling elites, economic hardship for the many, and the social upheaval and disintegration that results.

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