The Pope On The Military Industrial Complex

The Pope On The Military Industrial Complex

From the article at Daily Kos

Pope Francis said Monday that “many powerful people don’t want peace because they live off war”. The Argentine pontiff made the hard-hitting comment in response to a question from one of the 7,000 children taking part in an audience held with the Peace Factory organisation. “This is serious,” Francis told the children.

“Some powerful people make their living with the production of arms.

“It’s the industry of death”.

Pope Francis has said so many things that make sense.  Although I’m not joining anytime soon, or any other religious organization, he has made me think of the Catholic Church in a new light.  Although I know there are still views that he has that I don’t agree with, he seems by and large a true force for good, someone that is striving for economic justice, environmental sanity, and peace.

A note to people of other sects and faiths:  If you want to be taken seriously outside of your bubble of fellow believers, do things in the name of your religion that actually bring about a better world.

Why should it be that Pope Francis seems to tower above so many religious leaders?  Why is it such a shock that an extremely high ranking religious leader is actually standing against so many of the things that cause human suffering?

Police Kill More Americans In March Than In Entire UK Since 1900

More Americans Killed By Police In March Than In UK Since 1900

I mean, read the article.  That statistic really says it all.  The United Kingdom has gone through The Troubles in that time period.  Two World Wars took place in that time period just across the channel, with bombing taking place in England, which one would imagine would raise suspicion.  England has its own problems with immigration.  I’m sure many of you have heard of the National Front, of soccer hooligans, of many problems.  What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t like the UK is a land of peace and tranquility.  Yet somehow their police don’t kill people at the rate ours do.

I give a lot of grief to police here at this blog.  Just on my way home from Florida on the last tour I ran into an exceptionally kind one who let me off for speeding without a ticket.  I don’t believe all police are bad.  I’m not saying this to balance my argument or to extend an olive branch.  I think we have a problem here, but I think it is complex and it is better to acknowledge that complexity rather than to just say police are bad.  It has to do with our culture, our history, our unique racial problems that go back to the origins of this country, our politicians, our military industrial and prison complexes, and so many other factors.  But as a country we must find the result unacceptable.  It’s time to start asking some hard questions and beyond time to make changes.

Hat tip to JR 

Isis Using Video Games for Propaganda

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ISIS Using Video Games for Propaganda

The above link is to a Salon article about how ISIS and other jihadist groups are using video games for propaganda.  As someone that just got a video game console for my birthday from my girlfriend, video games are on my mind.  Over the years I have played video games on and off.  There are some like Final Fantasy X, one of my all time favorites, which are really incredible works of art.  If you haven’t played many games you would be surprised to know that there are some which are emotional experiences with stories rivaling good movies.  There are also some where the amount of artistry and creativity that goes into them has to be seen to be believed.  Some have so much detail that just looking at the background can be like looking at a fantastic landscape painting.

However, this Salon article got me thinking about how are own video games are subject to propaganda.  This is not a new subject, but simply one I have never addressed here.  If you read the article you will see that certain games are designed in conjunction with the US Military.  There is one game they provide a link to that even includes General Petraeus.  (seen above)  It’s probably not surprising to many of you, even those of you that don’t play games, that there are games where players portray soldiers fighting generic Middle Eastern bad guys.

Earlier this year I read a book which talked about how the the military and CIA manipulated Hollywood to put propaganda in movies and television.  It is no different in video games or really any form of entertainment.  Entertainment is one way in which the Military Industrial Complex can shape the views of citizens.

I am no fan of censorship of any kind.  I am also aware that violence in video games has been linked to all kinds of societal ills which are really more complex.  Often video games get scapegoated because we don’t want to look at how we treat the mentally ill in our country, among other things.  However, when someone is playing a game, just like if you are watching a movie or reading a book, one must ask oneself what message it is trying to get across.  Also, much more than just violence, I think parents should be concerned at the propaganda that their kids might be consuming.  We must always be taught to think and to question.

Mr. X

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Today I finished L. Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  There are some of you that will read the title of this book and discount it entirely.  However, I think Prouty has something to offer, if not on the JFK assassination itself, then about what went so horribly wrong in Vietnam.  

I picked up the book months ago as Oliver Stone recommended it.  Prouty was the basis for the Mr. X character in the film JFK played by Donal Sutherland.  Prouty was a controversial character in real life as he not only believed JFK assassination was a coup d’etat, but made other controversial claims as well.  However, with his military experience and his close connections with high ranking military officials, you can’t discount everything that he says either.  

I think it is important when reading any book that deals in some way with history to read with a grain of salt. A book like Prouty’s one has to read with even more of a critical eye than usual.  Surprisingly, the actual assassination of JFK only takes up maybe the last 15% of the book.  Most of the book is telling the history of the Vietnam War, what went wrong there, what our involvement really was there, and why there was a hostile climate surrounding Kennedy due to the decisions he was making about that war prior to his death.  

I have seen some of the claims Prouty makes about Vietnam made in other places.  We entered the war with a Cold War mentality, we didn’t understand the local culture, we made many mistakes that turned the local population against us, etc.  

The book also goes into such details as how much money there was to be made in the military industrial complex due to things like helicopters.  Not only did the war create a giant market for helicopters and other weapons, but the helicopters themselves were a very inefficient way of fighting the war because of the amount of support staff that was needed and the fact that they weren’t very dependable given the kind of terrain and conflict that took place in that war.  

Up until JFK’s death we only spent between 2 and 3 billion dollars in Vietnam.  Afterwards we spent around 220 billion dollars.  

The book also goes into detail about the culture of Vietnam and how we either didn’t understand it or were at times willfully ignorant.  Much of the conflict was the result of things that we and the Diem government did that uprooted the traditional life of the Vietnamese peasants who had been living like they did before the war for hundreds of years.  We tended to view everything through the communist/capitalist lens of the Cold War while many of the enemy combatants didn’t fall neatly into that prism.  We did a lot to create our own enemies.  

The sections dealing with the Vietnam War are very thought provoking and well detailed.  It is in his claims about the assassination where I feel that Prouty overreaches and makes bold claims without a lot of detail to back it up.  However, he does provide a pretty convincing thesis on at least why JFK was despised by many members of the US power structure.  

This was a fascinating read.  Even if you don’t buy into Prouty’s theory of the assassination, or even skip that part of the book entirely, I think the rest of the book justifies itself.  It is especially thought provoking when it takes an inside look at the mindset of those carrying out the Cold War.  

 

Police Throw Flash Grenade in Crib

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son http://www.salon.com/2014/06/24/a_swat_team_blew_a_hole_in_my_2_year_old_son/ via @Salon

I have talked quite a bit about how our police force is becoming militarized.  A good deal of this is because of the military-industrial complex.  Weapons from our endless wars are making their way home.  The war on drugs, even though there have been improvements on some fronts, continues in its degrading absurdity.  Although I find libertarian economic policies to be utopian and unrealistic, I do agree with them when it comes to personal freedom.  This topic should be one place liberals and certain elements of the right should be able to reach an agreement on. 

In other news my computer is still down which is making it hard for me to do more long form writing.  Hopefully this will be a problem solved soon. 

Militarization of Our Police

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/military-equipment-used-by-police_n_5475382.html

The above link is to a Huffington Post article about how our policed forces are becoming more militarized.  In fact the article says that a lot of the weapons from our recent wars are making their way home.  The militarization of our police has been going on for awhile now, so this article doesn’t surprise me.  If you read Matt Taibbi’s eye opening The Divide, about the injustice of our justice system, you will see how our society is slowly becoming a dystopia. It starts at the law enforcement level and goes the whole way up the chain.  That’s not to say there aren’t still good people at every level, just that the system itself is flawed.  

You’ve Got to Have Hope

The above video is a long speech by author and activist Rebecca Solnit on the topic of hope.  It’s easy in this day and age to want to throw your hands up in defeat.  With climate change, reality TV, endless war, the military industrial complex, overpopulation, banal music on the radio, the increasing gap between rich and poor, people in power like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, or any number of other things, it can be hard to wake up each day with a can do attitude.  On this blog I often point to a lot that is wrong in this world.  The reason for that is simply that a lot is wrong.  However, if I didn’t think things could be better I would simply quit writing, go buy a ton of drugs, and enter my own private fantasy land.  I always loved Flannery O’Connor’s quote that if a writer writes about dirt it is because the writer despises dirt, not because they love it.  (Paraphrased)  Hope doesn’t mean looking at the world through rose tinted glasses.  It just means realizing that the potential for positive change is there if it is worked towards.  Even someone like Hunter Thompson, famous for writing things like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, believed in fighting the good fight for a better future.  There is nothing more noble in human beings, in the face of an ever growing storm, than small acts of defiance like hope.

Deadwood and The Tea Party

If you want to learn about America, but aren’t a big history reader, watch the show DeadwoodDeadwood is a western that is set in the lawless town of the same name.  The show is about how society goes from chaos to order, and the economic, political, and cultural forces that create that order.  It is also a highly entertaining TV show that features a tremendous amount of sex, violence, and swearing.  It’s brilliant however.  I always say that the language on that show is Shakespeare with cursing.

My brother Ben and I have watched the series countless times.  I recently walked in on him watching it again and caught one of my favorite scenes.  A government official is in town and he has angered the masses by invalidating some of their mining claims.  The ignorant masses on that show are called hoopleheads.  The hoopleheads decide that they are going to seek vigilante justice upon the government official.  The official is in a cage in a local saloon for his own protection and the hoopleheads, lead by a racist drunk named Steve, are threatening him.  The official says, “You can’t fuck me, I’m the future.”  To which Steve replies, “Fuck you and fuck the future!”

It made me think of the Tea Party.  I’ve always thought that the base of the Tea Party has a right to be angry.  They have just misdirected their anger.  In the show the government official is making his decisions to invalidate claims because he is backed by the super wealthy George Hearst.  Hearst wants the claims for himself.  He is using the weak government official, who would never make such a power play by himself, for his own purposes.  The hoopleheads are directing their anger at the government official, who is pathetic and dislikable, but they should be banding together to take on Hearst.  Hearst turns out to be far more dangerous and detrimental to the town than any government official could be.

As careers disappear and livelihoods go up in smoke, the base of the Tea Party has every right to be angry.  However, their anger at the government is misdirected.  The government, even at its worst, is only as bad as it is because it has been corrupted by large corporations.  They are aiding, probably without knowing it, the further degrading of the government and the rise of corporate power.  It is in corporations’ interests to have the government become as weak as possible.  That way the government won’t pass those pesky regulations.  A strong government, with strong regulatory power, even as imperfect as it might be at times, is the only chance we have of using the force of law to stop these corporations from ruining lives.  They are the ones that are moving jobs overseas, poisoning the environment, ramping up the military industrial complex, and degrading our school systems.  Anger is a powerful thing.  How do we redirect it?

Guns, Guns, Guns

I have plenty of friends that own what could be best described as “arsenals”.  Although I’m very liberal in most of my political beliefs I can’t say I’ve ever felt very strongly one way or the other over guns.  I don’t own a gun, although I’ve fired them at targets and at skeet.  It’s not that I don’t see problems with certain aspects of American culture concerning guns; it’s just that it has always been way down the totem pole on my list of priorities.  I’m much more interested in issues concerning poverty, healthcare, the environment, and the military industrial complex. 

     I’d rather let someone else that is much more passionate and informed about gun control make the case for it.  I do think that there are weapons that don’t belong in the hands of the general public.  If all guns disappeared tomorrow I sure wouldn’t miss them.  Again though, I think there are those far better suited to make the nuanced case for sensible gun control than me. 

     However, one particular argument really makes zero sense to me.  It’s the argument concerning protecting your home from the government.  It’s the whole militia mentality.  Look, at this point in time, if the government wants to take you out, there is no kind of machine gun that you can keep in your basement that is going to stop them.  Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that some kind of localized rebellion started.  You are barricaded in your house with your high powered assault rifle.  The government would simply fly a drone over your house, or ride up in a tank, and turn your dwelling into a giant crater.  You and your loved ones, if there was anything left to find, would be scraped up with a spatula.  It would probably be hard to tell who was who.  You and everything you own and everything you love would be eviscerated in a giant fireball.  Better luck next time!

     So I don’t want to hear the argument that owning guns is to keep people free.  The technological ship on guns being able to do that has sailed.  I think there are too many rights being infringed upon too, though I may differ with right wing Americans over what those are.  There are too many people in prison.  The government should stay out of your private life as a general rule, so long as you are not hurting others.  The only thing we can do if we don’t agree with what is going on in this country is to get informed, get organized, let our voices be heard, vote when we can, protest when we can, and contribute what money we can to organizations that are doing work we believe in.  If it ever comes down to guns having to keep you free, cremation will be done on taxpayer dollar.  

That B Movie Future is Now

Who thought that by this point in our history our world would look like science fiction B movies from the 80’s?  The three movies I have in mind are Robocop, The Running Man, and Ice Pirates.

In the movie Robocop the government of Detroit can no longer take care of security, so they entrust a private corporation to do so.  Private corporations are militarizing our police around the nation as we speak thanks to Homeland Security.  And look at all the mercenary contractors taking the place of jobs our military used to do in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Hell, with Detroit going bankrupt I wouldn’t even be surprised if a private company bought the whole city.

The Running Man is a movie about reality TV taken to the extreme.  Criminals play the game The Running Man for a chance at freedom while they are chased by stalkers who try to kill them.  I feel like we’re only a couple extreme challenges away from that.  And with some of these shows Ice Road Truckers and Naked and Afraid it probably won’t be long before someone dies on one of these shows.  If someone doesn’t and the ratings start to slide, I don’t expect it will be to long till a TV executive pushes things even further.

Ice Pirates, the worst movie by far of the lot, and a movie I haven’t seen for some time, is about a bunch of space pirates that steal and transport water because it’s so rare.  With global warming there is going to be a lot of wars over water.  Central Texas, where I live, is going to be in big trouble, too.

That’s what we’ve done folks.  We’ve taken this big beautiful blue ball, the only home we’ll ever know, and turned it into an 80’s science fiction B movie.  Is everyone happy now?  When someone asks what happened to Miami or some other place that gets cut off from the rest of the country due to rising sea levels, I just hope there is a big muscle bound Austrian around to say a one liner like, “It had to split”.