Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’


My pal Al Perry has just put up a much improved version — in terms of both audio mix and background visuals — of “Jukebox Jihad” on Youtube.  If you’re up for some high energy rockabilly and guilty laughs, click on that link right now.

(In accord with our strict adherence to the FCC Fairness Doctrine, we’d urge you to also check out Chuck Maultsby’s “Ballad of the USS Liberty.”)

USS Liberty after Israeli attack

Finally, the track that comes on Youtube after “Jukebox Jihad” is Al’s cover of the old folk rock tune, “The Snake,” which is also worth a listen.

Check it out.


American War by Omar El Akkad front cover(American War, by Omar El Akkad. Knopf, 2017, $26.95, 333 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

 

In recent decades, dystopian novels have become nearly synonymous with science fiction. It´s easy enough to see why: climate change seems to be accelerating, some areas (e.g., the American Southwest, where I live) are already feeling severe effects from it, and the results worldwide in coming years promise to be catastrophic; we’re on the brink of a new dark age under the iron fist of religious totalitarians and their political co-conspirators; we’re well into a period of mass extinction; there’s runaway population growth actively encouraged by some of the “great” religions; modern weapons of mass destruction are far beyond “nightmarish”; technological advances are far outstripping social advances; and sadism and stupidity are running neck and neck as national hallmarks.

Given such conditions and such bleak prospects, it’s easy to see why dystopianism is the far-from-new normal in science fiction.

So, having heard next to nothing about American War, I was expecting a fairly standard take on the horrors to come, especially the ecological horrors. But  American War, which describes the “second civil war” (2074 – 2095), is a far from standard tale.

El Akkad deliberately (I’d bet the farm on this) sabotages the plausibility of his dystopia.

The first hint is the map in the front of the book showing the breakaway “Free Southern States” (FSS) of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi as opposed to the rest of the U.S., with the Southwest mostly part of the “Mexican Protectorate.”

My reaction to the map was, “What the hell? Three poor, backwards states standing against the rest of the country? Holding on for 21 years?”

Very shortly into the text, El Akkad makes it very plain that he’s not projecting possible future developments in the United States, but is up to something quite different.

The reason for the FSS rebellion is the prohibition of use of petroleum products as fuels. Again, what the hell? None of the three states are significant oil producers; we’re rapidly approaching peak oil production; most new production in North America (shale, tar sands) is much more expensive than pumping from the old, rapidly depleting oil fields; and the cost of renewables is falling like a rock. This almost certainly means that oil will go up in price and will be rapidly displaced by cheaper renewables. The underlying premise is barely plausible now and will become increasingly implausible as time passes; it will make no sense at all six decades from now. So, El Akkad deliberately chose an extremely improbable background premise.

Then there’s a glaring–and I mean glaring–absence in the social structure of the FSS: racism. Racism disappearing from the American South in a mere sixty years, and during a time of upheaval and economic desperation? What the hell?! Who, if they thought about it, could possibly buy this?

So, just what is Akkad up to?

The first clue is the title of the book, “American War.” That seems a bit ambiguous, and why isn’t there even a vague reference to the “second civil war”? (It would be quite easy to add such a reference in a subtitle.)

The second clue is provided by the book description on the inside of the dust jacket:

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the war breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, her home state is half underwater, and the unmanned drones that fill the sky are not there to protect her. A stubborn, undaunted and thick-skinned tomboy, she is soon pulled into the heart of secessionist country when the war reaches Louisiana and her family is forced into Camp Patience, a sprawling tent city for refugees. There she is befriended by a mysterious man who opens her eyes to the injustices around her and under whose tutelage she is transformed into a deadly instrument of revenge.

Fair enough, but the final sentence of the second paragraph on the inside flap reads, “It’s a novel that considers what might happen if the United States were to turn its devastating weapons upon itself.”

Close, but not right.

Above all, American War is about the present. (Tellingly, there’s no mention of any technology whatsoever beyond what’s currently available.)

American War is not about the effects of developing technologies; it’s not about an even remotely plausible future in the U.S.

It’s about the psychological effects of the type of war the United States has been waging sporadically for decades, and nonstop for the last 15 years, in the Near East, Middle East and Northern and Eastern Africa. It’s about what happens to people who are torn from their homes, are forced into miserable refugee camps, are under constant deadly and random threat from above, and are kidnapped, imprisoned without charge, and brutally tortured.

Shortly into the narrative, El Akkad reveals that the U.S. unmanned drones are solar powered, can stay aloft indefinitely, rained down destruction during the entire two-decades-plus of the war, and are uncontrolled, because Southern “terrorists” destroyed the “server farms” controlling the drones. This is beyond ridiculous on several counts, and again points to the very high likelihood that El Akkad deliberately made his background — in this particular, the drones — implausible.

Why would he do that? (Such apparent sloppiness is in stark contrast with Akkad’s adroitly drawn and developed characters and his skillful rendering of both action sequences and physical background.)

The point is that the drones are simply there as a constant threat, maiming and killing the innocent, seemingly at random. The point is the constant, year-in-year-out state of fear and anger suffered by those under threat.

The same holds for all of the other horrors El Akkad describes, and their woeful, ever worsening effects on the personalities, outlooks, and consequent actions of his characters, especially Sarat.

This story could be set in virtually any combat zone in any Muslim country. El Akkad set it in the U.S., using American characters, disguising it as a run-of-the-mill sci-fi dystopian tale, simply so that American readers will be able to relate to it on an emotional level.

There’s little point in saying more, except that if you want to understand the psychological roots of the hate and terrorism engendered by America’s foreign wars, American War is a good place to start.

This book is a masterpiece.

Very highly recommended.

* * *

(Reviewer Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. He’s currently working on its sequel and an unrelated sci-fi novel. A large sample from Free Radicals, in pdf form, is available here.)

Free Radicals front cover

 

 

 

 


There seem to be two explanations for Donald Trump’s attacks on the courts, media, and objective reality: 1) He’s a whining, self-pitying baby who simply can’t stand it when he doesn’t immediately get his own way; 2) He wants to pull a full-Stalin by undermining the institutions that stand in his way — the judiciary and free press — and by creating a false reality in which his followers simply accept his bald-faced lies and self-contradictory statements while ignoring abundant and immediately presented contradictory evidence.

These two explanations are not mutually exclusive; both are probably correct.

So, what do we have to look forward to from Trump and his Republican enablers?

  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without anything approaching an adequate replacement. Trump and the congressional Republicans will almost certainly take their cues from the insurance industry and big pharma, making healthcare less available and more expensive for the vast majority of people. Probability: Virtually certain. 7-stars-72

 

  • Assaults on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Congressional Republicans will push for “entitlement reform” (never mind that people paid for these things through payroll taxes), which will amount to at the very least reduction in cost-of-living increases for Social Security and reduction of benefits for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and more stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients. Probability: Virtually certain.
    7-stars-72

 

  • Full-scale privatization of Social Security and Medicare. The more ideological (read Ayn Rand worshiping) Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, will push hard for this. If this happens, they’ll likely sell it by leaving a weakened Social Security system and Medicare in place for those over 45 or 55, and privatizing both for those under those age limits. This would result in not only younger people losing those benefits in decades to come, but also resentment among them at paying for benefits for older people which they themselves won’t get. Probability: All too possible. 
    4-stars-72

 

  • Increased voter suppression. The Republicans have used entirely manufactured scare stories about “massive voter fraud” at the ballot box, while providing no evidence whatsoever of it, to push through restrictive laws in states across the country that make it more difficult to register to vote (e.g., among the elderly without photo ID and the poor who don’t have cars who’d have to travel to get state ID) and to cast ballots (restricting early voting). This has resulted in the disenfranchisement, at minimum, of hundreds of thousands of voters, and more likely millions of voters. Now, the Republicans seem poised to do this on a national scale. They’re unpopular (look at their approval ratings), desperate to hang onto power, and are very obviously willing to do anything to retain it, including betraying America’s (supposed) democratic principles. Probability: Very, very high. 
    6-stars-72

 

  • Use of a terrorist incident to suppress civil liberties. The chance of Trump creating a “false flag” terrorist incident are low, simply because of Trump and accomplices’ overall incompetence and the outright loathing the intelligence agencies have for Trump; they very probably wouldn’t allow him to get away with this. On the other hand, if there’s continued instability in the Trump Administration, and continued appointment of the grossly incompetent to decision-making positions, it’s all too possible, in part because Trump is playing into ISIS’s and Al-Qaeda’s hands through his fear-mongering rhetoric and Muslim ban. If there were a major terrorist incident, we can expect demonization of all critical voices and opposition movements, legislation restricting freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. Probability: Likely under 50/50, but only because of the professionals in the intelligence agencies. 3-stars-72

 

  • Worsening economic inequality. Trump’s economic policies overall, basically trickle-down economics (or as Jim Hightower puts it, “tinkle-down” economics), will result in continued and worsening economic inequality. Lowering taxes on the rich and corporations will do nothing to create new jobs, because demand creates jobs, not “job creators.” When low- and middle-income people receive more money, they spend almost all of it on food, consumer goods, utilities, and services — they have to. This creates jobs. When the rich receive more money, they spend it on stock buybacks, real estate (among other things, driving up the cost of housing), and luxury goods, such as yachts. This creates very few jobs. And this is the direction in which billionaire, entitled-heir Trump is headed. Probability: Virtually certain.
    7-stars-72

 

  • Continued scapegoating, fear-mongering, and demonization of all opposition. The Clintons, Barack Obama, and the other corporate Democrats paved the way for Trump’s success through their betrayal of those who elected them, through their abject servility to the corporate elite; this resulted in long-simmering anger among working and middle class people. Trump has taken full advantage of this anger and will continue to do so. Probability: Certain. 7-stars-72

 

 


Putin’s Puppet, Donald Trump, the bully and sexual predator, the entitled slumlord’s son, wants to provoke terrorism on the part of Palestinian extremists.

Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will do exactly that.

He’s aligned himself with the Israeli extreme right in a move designed to provoke Palestinian hard liners, indeed damn near all Palestinians and damn near all Muslims.

If he actually does this, it will be as provocative as publishing a cartoon of Mohammed having sex with a dog.

Trump is aligning himself with the deeply corrupt Benjamin Netanyahu in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, which prohibits occupying powers from moving settlers onto occupied lands.

This is a recipe for permanent conflict. And it’s a mark of how deeply the U.S. corporate media and political parties are in the pocket of far-right Zionists; ask yourself this: which is more likely, that the U.S. and Israel alone are right, victims of anti-Semitism, or that the other 191 nations in the UN are all anti-Semitic? — in itself a non sequitur, because the Palestinians are Semitic.  (As an otherwise progressive Zionist put it to me a few years ago, ¨They’re our cousins.¨)

Trump apparently wants terrorism.

He’s an irresponsible, but calculating, moron, and he could actually want further conflict in the Mideast, no matter the cost in human lives.

Trump very obviously has no respect for freedom of speech, no respect for the U.S. Constitution, no respect for the Bill of Rights. He apparently wants to provoke terrorist incidents.

Why? They could provide a convenient pretext for imposing martial law.

I’m not exaggerating. This utterly authoritarian American Mussolini is a traitor to everything America is supposed to stand for.

 


We put up our 1,000th post about three weeks ago. Since then, we’ve been looking through everything we’ve posted, and have been putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the ninth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction, HumorMusicInterviews, AtheismEconomics, Science/Skepticism, and Addictions lists, and will shortly be putting up our final “best of”: Religion.

Here, we’ve folded three categories (Anarchism, Libertarianism, and Politics) into this post because of the relative paucity of posts on Anarchism and Libertarianism. We hope you’ll enjoy at least some of these posts.

Anarchism

Libertarianism

Politics


obama-saudis

“We struggle to understand why the U.S. government, led by President Obama, would so willingly drop to its knees and bare its neck to the shiny sword of Saudi extortion. What has become of our country? America needs elected officials who recognize that U.S. citizens are their constituents—not oil-rich nations that bankroll terrorists.”

–Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died on 9/11, on President Obama’s threatened veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would allow 9/11 victims and their families to sue the Saudi government (quoted on Truthdig)


Anarchist Cookbook front coverby Chaz Bufe (co-author The Anarchist Cookbook)

At a reading last weekend, an audience member asked me and Keith (McHenry, primary author of the “cookbook” and co-founder of Food Not Bombs) why we had written a new “Anarchist Cookbook.” The question took us aback a bit, as we’d assumed that the answer was blindingly obvious. Evidently it’s not. Here’s the story:

Forty-five years ago, William Powell, then a 19-year-old kid, spent several weeks prowling through the stacks at the New York Public Library searching for every instructional  book and article he could find on drug making, bomb making, and other forms of mayhem. He then compiled all of this material, unedited, into a book. He field tested none of the “recipes,” and as a result the book is riddled with “recipes” that simply don’t work and/ or are dangerous to the user.  At that point, Powell had another unknown write introductory political material that was as incoherent as it was inaccurate (equating anarchism with Maoism, for instance), and that explicitly recommended violence as a political tactic.

Powell then presented this toxic mess to publisher Lyle Stuart. Evidently smelling money, Stuart, over the objections of his staff, accepted the book. He also did something I (and virtually everyone else in the publishing field) consider grossly unethical: he presented Powell with  a contract in which Powell surrendered the copyright to him.  Powell signed, and a misbegotten monster was born. (Powell subsequently had a change of heart and has publicly denounced his book and asked that it be taken out of print, but because he handed over the copyright to Stuart, he has no control over that; we included Powell’s denunciation in the front matter of our new “cookbook.”)

Powell’s book has been in print continuously ever since it was first published in 1971, and has done untold harm. After publication, the “cookbook”  quickly became a very popular ornament for young guys who wanted an edgy coffee table book with which to impress their friends. Fortunately, probably not one in ten ever read it, probably not one in twenty ever tried its lousy drug recipes (e.g., for “bananadine”–a “drug” derived from banana peels), and probably not one in a hundred ever tried its explosives recipes.

Still, it was a constant irritant to actual anarchists. Year after year, decade after decade, it reinforced the stereotype that anarchists are violent morons with no coherent political philosophy.

Worse, the FBI began using the book to entrap naive political activists. They’d give a copy of the book to their victims, or have the victims buy it, and then use the book as evidence in trumped-up terrorism cases. This use of the Powell book accelerated drastically after 9/11, with set-up victims being both Muslims and leftist political activists. A case in point is the 2012 “Cleveland Five” case, in which the FBI used the book as part of its entrapment of five young, homeless guys at Occupy Cleveland, who it had enticed with a place to stay, hot showers, and food. As a result of this FBI-orchestrated “plot,” which prominently featured the Powell book, the “Cleveland Five” received sentences ranging from eight years and one month to eleven-and-a-half years.

That was the situation that faced us when Keith and I began talking about producing a real anarchist cookbook two years ago. Anarchists had been talking about producing such a book for decades, but nothing ever came of it, and it had become obvious that if we didn’t write, and See Sharp Press didn’t publish, a real anarchist cookbook, no one else was likely to do so. (There are a few PDF food recipe “books” around under the name, but no other physical books.)

We decided to go considerably beyond food recipes in our new “cookbook.” We decided that we’d include the following: 1) Accurate information on the nature of anarchism; 2) A section on why use of violence is almost always a self-defeating political tactic; 3) A section on nonviolent political activism, both from a theoretical and practical standpoint; 4) An evaluation of all common social change tactics and approaches; 5) A how-to section detailing ways of putting those tactics and approaches into practice; 6) A section on the nuts and bolts of political organizing; 7) A section on food politics; 8) Vegan recipes for both large and small groups; and 9) A lengthy bibliography, to give those interested in further study a handy jumping-off point.

To put this another way, we decided to write an antidote to the Powell book, a book that would do good rather than harm.

We think we succeeded. We hope you’ll agree.