For the Global Thinker

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Interrupters

A very powerful documentary about three "violence interrupters" in Chicago who are trying to make a difference in their communities.  I thought one poignant part of the doc came about 56 minutes in when Eddie Bocanegra talks to a class of young children who live in a violent neighborhood...

Watch Full Documentary Here...

Or Watch a Trailer Here...

Six Questions to Ask Anyone Advocating War in Iran


"To that end, the following are six questions reporters should ask of anyone advocating military action against Iran:

Q. America has not had a diplomatic presence in Iran for three decades. As such, much of our knowledge relies on intelligence. Given the controversy over our intelligence on Iraq, how are we factoring in and addressing the uncertainty of intelligence on Iran's nuclear program?

Q. What are the views of the Iranian people in regards to a potential war and the current sanctions regime? Is this current path helping us win or lose hearts and minds in Iran?

Q. What are the forces behind Iran's nuclear program? Could one factor be a desire for a nuclear deterrence due to a sense of insecurity and threat? If so, how can we affect Iran's sense of need for a nuclear deterrence? Does the increasingly bellicose and confrontational approach of the West actually increase Tehran's desire for nuclear deterrence?

Q. The U.S. has thousands of nuclear weapons. Israel has hundreds. Iran currently has a mighty arsenal of zero nuclear weapons. The U.S. has successfully deterred Iran for more than three decades. Why are we assuming that suddenly, deterrence will not work with Iran anymore?

Q. The U.S. military leadership does not believe Israel has an effective military option when it comes to unilaterally destroying Iran's nuclear sites. A tense exchange is currently playing out in public between the Netanyahu government and the U.S. military, with Israeli officials accusing Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey of having "served Iran's interests." What lies behind the starkly diverging views of the Netanyahu government and the U.S. military on Iran?

Q. According to the Congressional Research Service, total war-related funding for Iraq has exceeded $800 billion -- an average of approximately $100 billion per year. With these numbers in mind -- and at a time of over 8 percent unemployment and unprecedented government bailouts -- how will we pay for a war with Iran?

Looking back at America's recent wars, the American people trusted that their elected leaders accurately assessed the pros and cons of their policies. It didn't take long before protracted quagmires collapsed that trust. With the notable exception of neoconservatives, most Americans eventually realized the sad truth: their leaders didn't have a plan beyond bombing; they knew little if anything about the country in question; and they failed to conduct a realistic cost assessment -- in both blood and treasure -- of the endeavor. By the time Americans realized all of this, the damage had already been done.

Avoiding another war of choice will require a media that digs beyond agenda-driven analysis and prevents the debate from being curtailed. It will require a media that doesn't permit a question of life and death to be framed in a simplistic manner that leaves the U.S. with a false choice of either bombing Iran or accepting an Iranian bomb. It is the responsibility of reporters -- not congressmen, senators, neoconservatives or foreign governments -- to not only get answers to their questions, but also to define the questions properly.

On Iraq, the mainstream media did not ask the right questions until disaster was a reality. On Iran, those questions need to be asked now so that disaster can be avoided.


Also here is another very interesting article about the impending war in Iran...

What's Really Happening in Iran?

The supreme war-or-peace question regarding the Iran psychodrama has got to be: What game is Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei really playing?
Sharp wits among the lively Iranian global diaspora maintain that the Supreme Leader is the perfect US/Israel asset - as he incarnates Iran as "the enemy" (although in most cases in a much less strident way than Ahmadinejad).  
In parallel, the military dictatorship of the mullahtariat in Tehran also needs "the enemy" - as in "the Great Satan" and assorted Zionists - to justify its monopoly of power.

The ultimate loser, voices of the diaspora sustain, is true Iranian democracy - as in the foundation for the country's ability to resist empire. Especially now, after the immensely dodgy 2009 presidential election and the repression of the Green movement. Even former supporters swear the Islamic Republic is now neither a "republic" - nor "Islamic".    
For their part, another current of informed Iranian - and Western - critics of empire swear that the belligerent Likud-majority government of Israel is in fact the perfect Iranian asset. After all, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and former Moldova bouncer turned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's non-stop warmongering tends to rally Iranians of all persuasions - always proudly nationalistic - behind the flag.
The absolute majority of Iranians knows and feels they are targeted by a heavily weaponised foreign power - US/Israel. The leadership in Tehran has been wily enough to instrumentalise this foreign threat, and at the same time further smash the Green movement.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Global Gangster


American war is heading for the “shadows” in a big way.  As news articles have recently made clear, the tip of the Obama administration’s global spear will increasingly be shaped from the ever-growing ranks of U.S. special operations forces.

Although the special ops crew (66,000 people in all) exist on our tax dollars, we’re really not supposed to know anything about what they’re doing -- unless, of course, they choose the publicity venue themselves, whether in Pakistan knocking off Osama bin Laden or parachuting onto Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard to promote Act of ValorIn case you somehow missed the ads, that’s the new film about “real terrorist threats based on true stories starring actual Navy SEALs.” (No names in the credits please!)
Of course, those elite SEAL teams are johnnies-come-lately when compared to their no less secretive “teammates” in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia -- our ever increasing armada of drones.  Those robotic warriors of the air (or at least their fantasy doppelgangers) were, of course, pre-celebrated -- after a fashion -- in the Terminator movies.  In Washington’s global battle zones, what’s called our “traditional combat role” -- think big invasions, occupations, counterinsurgency -- is going, going, gone with the wind, even evidently in Afghanistan by 2013.  War American-style is instead being inherited by secretive teams of men and machines, both hunter-killers who specialize in assassination operations.

And Andrew Bacevich expands on this point...

With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome.
Elsewhere -- in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, for example -- U.S. forces are busily opening up new fronts.  Published reports that the United States is establishing “a constellation of secret drone bases” in or near the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula suggest that the scope of operations will only widen further.  In a front-page story, the New York Times described plans for “thickening” the global presence of U.S. special operations forces.  Rushed Navy plans to convert an aging amphibious landing ship into an “afloat forward staging base” -- a mobile launch platform for either commando raids or minesweeping operations in the Persian Gulf -- only reinforces the point.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Photographs by Max Cardelli

Exceptional photography of what looks like Cuba in the early 60's or 70's...very nice work.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

US Prepares for Another War in the Middle East

• Growing view that strike, by Israel or US, will happen
• 'Sweet spot' for Israeli action identified as September-October
• White House remains determined to give sanctions time


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim this week that Iran loaded its first domestically-made fuel rod into a nuclear reactor, and Iran's threat to cut oil supplies to six European countries, were read as further evidence that Tehran remains defiantly committed to its nuclear programme. That view was strengthened by the latest Iranian offer to negotiate with the UN security council in a letter that appeared to contain no significant new concessions.

If Obama were to conclude that there is no choice but to attack Iran, he is unlikely to order it before the presidential election in November unless there is an urgent reason to do so. The question is whether the Israelis will hold back that long.

Earlier this month, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, told the Washington Post that he thought the window for an Israeli attack on Iran is between April and June. But other official analysts working on Iran have identified what one described as a "sweet spot", where the mix of diplomacy, political timetables and practical issues come together to suggest that if Israel launches a unilateral assault it is more likely in September or October, although they describe that as a "best guess".


Also here is an exceptional article that further points to another war in the Middle East...

Occam’s Razor states that the simplest explanation is the most plausible. Logic tells us to follow the money – and in this case, the cases of weapons shipped out by the US. So where are they headed to?

In October 2010, the US negotiated a $67 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to supply the latter with bunker-buster bombs, F-15 fighter jets, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, Patriot-2 missiles and warships. It is, in simple terms, the largest bilateral weapons deal in US history.

One month later, in November, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the United States will provide the United Arab Emirates with “thousands of advanced ‘bunker-buster’ bombs and other munitions, part of a stepped-up US effort to build a regional coalition to counter Iran.”

Washington also plans to supply Stinger and other missiles to Oman. Kuwait is in for $900 million worth of Patriot missiles. And a $53-billion arms deal with Bahrain is still on the agenda – delayed only because of pressure from international lawmakers and human rights groups.

So the United States is increasing military ties with its allies, one might claim. And it is true, but all those allies are conveniently located in the Persian Gulf…right next to Iran.


Here are some stats and maps.

IRAN OIL EXPORTS:  Where Do They Go?

MAPS... US Allies and military bases in the Middle East...

UPDATE...The Bewildered Kingdom....Can't stay on top forever...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Burma: Emerging from the Shadows

Unlike Gaddafi and Mubarak, these Generals seem to be playing their cards right.  With deliberate and calculated maneuvers, Myanmar looks to join the global economic community despite their terrible human rights record.  I guess they thought...if China can do it, why not us?  Great article...

Myanmar is winning more foreign friends while international criticism of the current and previous government's abysmal human rights records has all but ceased. Old adversaries in the United States and European Union have scrapped - or are planning to scrap - economic sanctions against the regime, and big-time multinational companies are preparing to lunge into what many seems to believe is Asia's last investment frontier. 

The reforms in Myanmar praised by Western diplomats were made public in 2003 as the "Roadmap to Discipline-Flourishing Democracy". In private, a "master plan" set out how the military would deal with the United States, break away from China's grasp, and keep the generals in power. From ceasefires to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the regime planned exactly which buttons to press to get the West onside.


Daily Life in Burma...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Alone in the City

Do we really live in a Global village?  Photographer Viviana Peretti documents alienation of humans living in cities...pretty cool.

Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” doesn’t exist. “Because in essence,” says Kapuscinski, “village means physical proximity, emotional warmth and intimacy; co-presence and coexistence; compassion and communion.” We do not live in a global village, but rather global cities where busy, frantic people walk around, indifferent to others, with no desire for closeness. New York is the perfect example of modern alienation, loneliness, and mass culture, where the wealth of electronic devices at our disposal leads to ever-reducing human contact.

See full slideshow here...  (Full screen option is in the bottom right corner)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top Secret Prison used by US/UK Special Forces Found in Iraqi Desert

Stellar reporting by The Guardian's Ian Cobain...

Death in RAF helicopter and secret prison camp in Iraq desert raises questions about legality of British and US operations


It appears from the information disclosed that some prisoner operations were being conducted, deliberately or otherwise, outside of the chain of command."
The holding facility appears effectively to have been a secret prison – a so-called black site. It is entirely possible, according to international law experts, that taking prisoners to H1 could amount to "unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement", and that the prisoners were subjected to "enforced disappearances", both of which are war crimes under the Rome statute of the international criminal court.
One former RAF Regiment trooper who was based at H1 for several months has described being involved in a number of similar missions in which prisoners were collected from coalition special forces. This always happened "under total darkness", he says. On arrival at H1, the prisoners were handed on to people whom he describes as "other authorities".


The Mixtape of Revolution

How Rap has become the music of revolution....very interesting...

DEF JAM will probably never sign them, but Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré, from a small town about 100 miles southeast of Dakar, Senegal, and Hamada Ben Amor, a 22-year-old man from a port city 170 miles southeast of Tunis, may be two of the most influential rappers in the history of hip-hop.

Mr. Touré, a k a Thiat (“Junior”), and Mr. Ben Amor, a k a El Général, both wrote protest songs that led to their arrests and generated powerful political movements. “We are drowning in hunger and unemployment,”
“ Rappers are closer to the streets and can bring into their music the general feeling of frustration among people.”


Sunday, February 5, 2012

South Korea's Pop Wave

South Korean pop music known as 'K-Pop', is flourishing around the world, finding new fans across Asia, Europe and the US.  With attractive artists, catchy tunes and polished dance moves, K-Pop is the number one draw-card for tourists to South Korea and generates tens of millions of export dollars.

But punishing schedules and contracts, plus links to prostitution and corruption have revealed a dark side to the industry.  Meanwhile critics claim K-Pop is too manufactured to create mega-international stars or to sustain its future.

101 East explores South Korea's K-Pop phenomenon and asks if it is a music revolution that is set to last.

Watch full 20 minute documentary here...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sugar should be controlled like alcohol: Report

Sugar is so toxic it should be controlled like alcohol, according to new report that goes so far as to suggest setting an age limit of 17 years to buy soda pop.  It points to sugar as a culprit behind many of the world's major killers — heart disease, cancer and diabetes — that are now a greater health burden than infectious diseases....