US media’s way of covering for US war crimes in Afghanistan

Korengal valley boy (Lynsey Addario) Feb 14 2015

This haunting photo is 7-year-old Khalid after his shrapnel wounds were treated by US army medics in the Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan. It was taken in 2007 by Lynsey Addario, then a NY Times photojournalist, but first published in her recent memoir “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love & War” where she describes its unsavory political history & the role of media in covering for US war crimes.

Korengal Valley is a sliver of mountainous terrain only six-miles long & a half-mile wide but for the duration of the war it has been a focus of intense US-NATO land & aerial assault because it borders the area of Pakistan where US drones & the Pakistani air force have been attempting to bomb out the Taliban. An estimated one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in Korengal & 70% of US-NATO bombs are dropped in the area.

Addario was assigned along with writer Elizabeth Rubin to cover the area for the NY Times Magazine in 2007 at the same time British photojournalist Tim Hetherington & writer Sebastian Junger were assigned there by Vanity Fair magazine. Both teams were embedded with US troops.

The NY Times team went there originally to report the affects of massive bombing on civilians, including what Rubin referred to as “collateral damage.” (When you start talking the language of the military you might consider un-embedding your head from the Pentagon’s ass.) The article shifted from less about civilian deaths to a profile of Captain Dan Kearney, in charge of a US platoon. On a followup trip, Rubin’s video documentation primarily follows Kearney (referred to by Rubin as Dan) & his platoon as they try to take out the Taliban.

Originally, the NY Times Magazine was going to publish this photo of Khalid with Rubin’s article. But just days before publication, fact checkers at the NY Times asked for evidence the injuries were caused by bombing shrapnel. Since the story had shifted from civilian deaths to hunting the Taliban & glorifying Kearney, the photo wasn’t so relevant anymore but this was one of the few photos of civilians injured or killed by bombing. Addario, Rubin, & even Captain Kearney agreed it was from shrapnel because they were present when Afghan elders brought the boy for treatment & said he was injured the previous night when the US bombed a compound where the boy lived. The NY Times instead took the word of public relations officers from the US military who said that could not be verified. Addario protested the blatant censorship to the NY Times, which did not use the photo because it does not suit the Pentagon script about the US-NATO war. (Addario doesn’t tell us much about her views on the war.)

Hetherington & Junger were also embedded with a US army company in Korengal Valley & made an industry out of their work. Combined, they’ve produced three documentaries & each a book on the experience. Their 2010 film, “Restrepo” was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary & received several other awards. A sequel by Junger (Hetherington was killed in 2011 during the US-NATO war in Libya) using Hetherington’s footage was produced in 2014. Hetherington received many awards for his work.

Like Rubin, Junger & Hetherington focused on the human experience & emotional distress of US soldiers using the film tagline, “This is what war feels like.” Some reviewers faulted the documentaries for divorcing the personal trauma of soldiers from the politics of the war. In fact, that’s baloney. Both Junger & Hetherington supported US-NATO wars in Afghanistan, Libya, & elsewhere & detested those who opposed intervention. At his death, Hetherington was feted by the Pentagon, right-wing veterans, & people like Senator John McCain.

Focusing on soldiers was their way to ennoble the US-NATO war. Ignoring the affects of fighting & bombing in Korengal Valley on Afghan civilians was an expression of colonialism, white supremacy, & pro-war ardency. Afghans were intentionally excluded in that tagline, “This is what war feels like” because to racist, colonial thinkers what Afghans feel like when they’re being bombed to smithereens is of no consequence whatsoever.

Join the spring antiwar protests demanding “US out of Afghanistan!” “US out of Iraq!”

(Photo by Lynsey Addario)

David Brooks is proof that corporate funding makes you stupid

If anyone needs proof that corporate funding makes you stupid check out PBS on TV & NPR on the radio. What distinguishes them from the networks is pomposity & an aura of intellectualism while they tell you everything you don’t want to know about a news event.

NY Times reporter David Brooks is a regular commentator on PBS news. He has an impressive pedigree, an expensive education, & political grooming by William F. Buckley, Jr. That grooming done him in. With a far less pretentious vocabulary than Buckley & a curious inability to spit it out when he’s talking his viewers are subjected to twitchy commentary chock-full of banalities. Oh let’s be frank: idiocies.

He’s an ugly-assed Zionist who claims Jewish intellectualism & achievement is superior to others. A guy who twitches & mumbles while drooling inanities should give serious thought to making that claim. Tonight the moderator asked him about ISIL. It took him a moment to congeal a thought–if what he says qualifies as thought–but he produced this gem: “The Middle East has always been the Middle East. For 5,000 years it’s been a trouble zone. The Islamic State seems to be a new order, a new order of magnitude, a new sort of threat building on an ideological threat, a unique level of evil even by the standards of the Middle East.” If you put a melody & beat to that you could do the hootchy-kootchy. But don’t try to swing it past political activists who actually know something. If our man was ever subjected to a Q & A session he’d be eaten alive by even simple minds.

Betty Windsor wants to go into hiding and no one blames her

Windsors Feb 13 2015

It’s just so deplorable you can only get important news in the checkout line at the supermarket. Many frugal news junkies no longer pay for internet & just stand in line all day, with one product at a time, so they can find out what’s going on in the world from National Inquirer, Globe, & People magazine. One Texas supermarket has actually set up bathroom stalls & lounge chairs at checkout so people can do their duty, catch up on news, & shop in one fell swoop. What has this world come to!?

Today we find out Betty Windsor wants to give up the throne so she can go into hiding from the shame of her kids. We’re surprised Betty knows shame. It’s heartening so we don’t want to taunt, but what did she expect when she married flatulent Phil? Even in his youth he was no prize package. Now they can’t tell if he’s dead or alive without poking him with a stick & they’ve hired a special vassal to do that.

Betty’s had more than her share of misery with those kids. We won’t even go into Andrew who needs to go from drug rehab straight to a penitentiary. It’s Cammy that’s distressing. They say she’s so eaten alive with jealousy over KKKKaty that she turned to whiskey for comfort & they had to force her into an ashram in India to detox with meditation, medicated oils, & vegetarian foods. We wouldn’t wish an addiction problem on anyone but Cammy needs to give up a lot more than chateaubriand & whiskey to recover. She needs to dump Charlie because he could drive anyone to drink. The only reason Betty is still sober is because she never liked her own kids. Or anybody else’s. That’s why it’s so easy to strip social services, education, & healthcare to pad her coffers. Cammy doesn’t have to ostracize; she & Betty can still play the horses together since it’s the only thing in their lives with meaning. That & Betty’s Yorkies.

Well, according to the Globe, the plot sickens. They report Willy doesn’t want to be king. But that doesn’t make sense. Why is he walking around like he has a pole stuck up his butt & an attitude if he just wants to live plebeian? Globe might be falling for PR here about Willy & KKKKaty. Betty knows if they don’t play that plebeian thing out those republicans will be crawling up her ass with demands for ending moochocracy. She’s walking a thin line here between scandal, perversion, idiocy, & exhaustion. We do wish we could confidently include shame in that litany.

They say KKKKaty is looking forward to being queen. She thinks the food rations may be increased from one biscuit a day to two & she may be able to get a lump of sugar in her tea.

The Janus-ass of US war mongering

Eddie Ray Routh & mother (Routh family:AP)

The trial in Texas of Eddie Ray Routh for the murder of American Sniper (more aptly called American Psycho) Chris Kyle & another guy gives a window into the psychosis that afflicts law, politics, militarism, war propaganda, & all of social life in the US. The ironies in the defense & prosecution of Routh are worthy of the Greek tragedians or Shakespeare but when the drama all shakes out, & if you can get past the burlesque, what remains is the criminal neglect of troubled veterans & the adulation of war criminals.

At the age of 25, Eddie Ray Routh shot to death Kyle & & another veteran Chad Littlefield at a shooting range in 2013. Routh served in the Iraq War from 2006 to 2010 & was deployed to Haiti in 2010. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2011. As his behavior spiraled out of control with homicidal threats & violence, drugs & booze, in & out of psychiatric wards, his mother Jodi Routh approached the media-feted Kyle for help–the last person on this earth she should have trusted with her seriously disturbed son. So Kyle took the guy under his wing because helping veterans was part of the schtick he created to make himself a hero in the public eye. What could possibly go wrong?

Kyle, heralded as “the deadliest sniper in American military history,” was a former bronco rider in the rodeo & a farm hand. He had no training in psychology, addiction, trauma, mental illness, PTSD, & he glorified murder. Since he was a thrill-killer, Kyle was never troubled by PTSD. On the contrary, his psychosis was rewarded big-time by media war mongering, including Clint Eastwood’s film, right-wing war mongers & talk shows, & military bloggers.

Apparently in pro-war veteran circles & among right-wing gun nuts, gun therapy is considered therapeutic. Shooting a gun, smelling gunpowder, hearing the crack of gunfire is alleged to trigger a therapeutic response in those suffering PTSD. That must explain why so many veterans are involved in homicidal, even mass murder incidents & why now 22 veterans a day commit suicide. They’re trying to relive the thrill of war. The VA can skip the counseling & meds & just hand them all AK-47s. That’s why Kyle & Littlefield took the deranged Routh to a gun range. Unfortunately he took out his therapy on them.

Defense lawyers claim Routh was psychotic at the time. Kyle’s phone conversations with his wife enroute to the gun range make clear that Kyle thought that too & if anybody would know psychotic, it would be Kyle. But much more damning is that the two cowboy therapists took Routh to a gun range when he was completely drunk. Now that’s nuts!

Prosecutors claim Routh knew what he was doing when he murdered the two guys. And the trial hinges on whether he could distinguish right from wrong. What happened to the PTSD diagnosis? Did his war-generated mental illness disappear sometime between the 2011 diagnosis & the 2013 murder? Was he all cured when he went to the gun range? Media & other war apologists parse the PTSD saying Routh never served in direct combat so it’s questionable he had it. Do you have to actually kill people to get PTSD in a war zone? And why didn’t Kyle have it when he excelled at mass murder? So many unanswered questions; so much baloney.

You knew it had to come up when the extreme right-wing is involved. Here’s where burlesque enters the story. On military blogs & goofball right-wing talk shows they’ve found a Routh link to Islam. They analyzed his facial hair & found it matches the profile of a convert. Examining his military record, they found Routh was a prison guard over “Muslim terrorists” at an airbase in Baghdad in 2007. They claim (without breaking a smirk), “He never served in battle, but spent most of his time looking & talking to Muslims in jail. He could have likely interacted with the inmates & got converted; prison has a higher conversion rate than any mosque.” As the analysis continues, he murdered Kyle & Littlefield because Kyle was a well-known Islamohobe. Whoever said satire was dead never met a right-ring talk show host in the US?

What this kangaroo court of a mentally ill veteran exposes is the vicious treatment & neglect of veterans by the US government who talk out of two sides of their ass about soldiers, lauding them as heroes at recruitment & parade time & then dumping them when they come back with mangled bodies & souls. In the Janus-face of US war propaganda, Routh is one face & Kyle is the other. Routh was chewed up by the war (likely from watching prisoners being tortured according to the CIA manual) & Kyle went on to become a celebrity for thrill-killing.

The only response to this at once tragedy & farce is to join the spring protests demanding US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!

(Photo Eddie Ray Routh & his mother Jodi Routh from the Routh family/AP)

Women’s beauty just not good enough for the misogynists

Uma Thurman Feb 11 2015

Uma Thurman is being taunted in media for showing up on the red carpet without eye makeup. Mind you, she has a full face of makeup but not the false eyelashes that are de rigueur glamor. She resembles Tilda Swinton.

The scrutiny these actresses are put under to conform to a beauty matrix is vicious & it must be said, white supremacist. You can hardly distinguish the Latina under the layers of makeup & prosthetics imposed on women like Jennifer Lopez or Raquel Welch. Those Black women who make it in Hollywood have to look at least as Caucasian as Black.

But those false eyelashes are among the worst prosthetics since eyes truly are “the windows to the soul.” Movie stars have worn them for decades, along with phony hair & other trompe l’oeils of beauty, but now they’re showing up on young working women. The false lashes are mesmerizing but an utter distraction from their eyes. Is that because the misogynists who create the beauty matrix think women have no souls?

A secret of old age is there are no homely, ill-favored young people. They’re all just beautified by the energy of youth. There are no homely seniors either unless cruelty has been etched into the face.

This is not a diatribe against use of cosmetics. They’re fun to use & enhance one’s beauty. But when they hide beauty or hide that part of the soul we’re meant to see in each other, or shame us for what we are, then they become impedimental to a fully human life.

(Photo of Uma Thurman)

Brian Williams suspended so politicians can keep lying with impunity; it’s the American way

NBC has suspended Brian Williams for six months for lying. They wouldn’t want to be setting any precedents here. If they fire him for lying there are legions of politicians lined up to get canned instead of elected to the presidency or a presidential library of their own. American politics would come to a standstill since lying is the language of war

FEMEN’s fifteen minutes of fame is up. Time to leave the building!

Apparently FEMEN hasn’t gotten the message that they’ve become irrelevant. Their exhibitionism took the media by storm for awhile & not just the media but the misguided left entranced by the sight of half-naked women with placards. They saw feminism redux & considered feminist critics “sex-negative,” dried up old prunes too ugly to get a man & jealous. Where have we heard that charge before!?

It wasn’t just that they tried to substitute exhibitionism for politics but what was deplorable was their unapologetic, low-level Islamophobia & the fact that they were controlled & bankrolled by a man. How unseemly is that!? And how like Slut Walks, where the organizers in several cities were men. They were undone, reduced to irrelevancy because their libidinal appeal could not compensate for their blatant Islamophobia & social hatred of Arabs.

They apparently don’t know that yet because they’re now making an important half-naked political statement at the pimping trial of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, jumping up & down on his car & shouting insults. Not long ago they were doing that in St. Peters Square & just recently were grandstanding in Davos. Can one of their former supporters please send them the memo that they’ve over-stayed their 15 minutes of fame?

Immigrant rights denied again at Melilla

Melilla (Photograph- Angela Rios:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 11 2015

Morocco plays the same role in immigration to European Union countries as Mexico plays in Central American immigration to the US: as a southern flank of repressive immigration policy. Yesterday, Morocco announced it would take “all due measures” to dismantle camps where thousands of African immigrants live while waiting for a chance to scale the fence into the Spanish territories of Melilla or Ceuta. They already frequently attack & attempt to destroy the camps but since immigrants have no place else to go, they just wait the cops out & move back.

The announcement must have set off a panic & today 600 immigrants attempted to storm the 20-foot (six-meter) fence at two different times in two different locations. You can’t see it in this photo but a small phalanx of Spanish riot cops are confronting them below. The ladders are not there to facilitate their entry into Spain without injury but to facilitate attacking the immigrants & deporting them on the spot in violation of international asylum laws. Thirty-five actually managed entry despite police assaults but five were injured including two with broken legs who need to be hospitalized.

The massive increase in immigration from African countries to Europe parallels that from Central America to the US. Neoliberal predation must be putting millions of people under such acute economic, political, & social pressure that they are forced to take perilous measures. There isn’t much reporting on how most African immigrants get to the Mediterranean area but if it’s anything like the trek from Central America to the US border, it’s a horror show–or worse. In 2013, there were 38 attempts to rush the fence at Melilla; 3,000 managed to get into Spain. In 2014, an estimated 16,000 immigrants made 65 rush attempts; about 5,000 got into Spain where they can lay claim to asylum rights under international, Spanish, & European Union laws & possibly move on to live & work in Europe.

Spain’s new security law targets immigrants & Spain is beefing up the border with more riot cops so they can beat entrants back & deport them on the spot without answering to their own damn laws. The Spanish government sleazes out of the laws by claiming the undocumented arrivals are social & economic immigrants, not refugees & asylum seekers. This is a distinction contrived in some think tank to deny millions the human right to move to, live, & work wherever the hell they want on this planet. It’s a distinction of no value–or as the French so eloquently put it, it’s “merde.”

The working people of Spain who are being thrown out of their jobs & out in the streets in mass evictions have much more in common with these immigrants than with the boneheads who run Spain & Europe or with that useless moochocracy who strut around the palace in phony military uniforms. When immigrant’s rights & struggles are linked to those of Europe’s working people there will be a new day dawning.

(Photo by Angela Rios/AFP/Getty Images)

Waste disposal in China indistinguishable from waste disposal in Haiti

China dump (Reuters) Jan 30 2015

It would be a whole lot easier to change the world if you could tell the difference between capitalism & socialism, if there was a place you could point to that stood for economic, political, & social equality. China ain’t that place. It’s trying to pull off some kind of magic trick–a combination of capitalism & socialism–but in the end it all comes out to barbarism.

This landfill in China is a case in point, where migrant workers compete with elderly & unemployed in scavenging as a means to survive. Most scavengers around the world earn between one or two US bucks a day. Chump change. A few reports however claim a scavenger in China can earn up to $16 bucks just for one old cell phone & that one old woman actually became a millionaire from scavenging. What do you bet those reporters are smoking dope or getting their information from questionable sources like the Politburo of China?

It’s a country of nearly 1.5 billion people & it’s estimated each produces about 2,000 pounds of household waste a year. That’s another iffy estimate since it’s more than Americans produce with considerably greater discretionary income. There is also massive industrial waste that has prompted thousands of protests across China in the past several years. The government stopped releasing annual protest statistics after the annual number surpassed 100,000 over several issues, including most prominently, environmental issues & land grabs. One staggering figure from a Chinese professor is there were 180,000 protests just in 2010. You can see why the government tried to block news on the mainland about the Hong Kong democracy protests.

Some articles attribute the waste problem to “wanton waste disposal” & explain that while the government tries to regulate recycling there is a low level of environmental awareness. When all else fails & your investigative powers aren’t up to snuff, blame the people. Why not? That’s what capitalism does.

In fact, since 2007 about 300 Chinese companies do a brisk multibillion-dollar business in importing & disposing of US & European waste including plastic bottles, cardboard, scrap paper, scrap metal, electronics, appliances, & almost anything else they can stuff in those shipping containers. In one recent year, the US sold almost $11 billion & 16 million tons worth of scrap to China. China imports nearly half of US recycled plastics, around $500 million worth. That doesn’t include what they’re hauling in from Europe. The land grabs are probably necessary to accommodate mountain ranges of waste.

In the past few years, almost certainly in response to massive environmental protests, China began Operation Green Fence to enforce higher standards for the waste they would accept. What do you bet the reform is all on paper & effects actual practice very little? So that medical waste & dirty diapers come along in the same container as the computers & cell phones full of toxic metals. Again, that’s what capitalism would do.

(Photo from Reuters)

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