Category Archives: Drones

Drones

In recent years, the importance of military drones has become increasingly obvious and the use of drones is increasingly controversial.1 Periodic overviews and attempts to clarify and understand drones can be very useful for people concerned with this new technology and should be directed towards a re-imagining of what drones are and are used for.

The American military has in recent years increasingly suffered from a “Jupiter Complex”, or a commitment to a vision of one single global battlefield, where the most modern sciences and technologies are believed to be best applied to constant and continuous global surveillance, reconnaissance, and information networking, including a weaponized attack and emergency response system which is envisioned, designed, and intended to establish a constant American military presence over the entire surface of the planet Earth. Among other things, this Jupiter Complex has advocated and encouraged a program for armed drone patrols, drone surveillance, and drone-based missile strikes on a planetary scale. Following 9/11, the US Congress approved an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force”, which the Bush administration interpreted as an authorization to expand the use of armed drones, which had at that time become for some people an exciting new military technology. The American Department of Defense (DoD) operates drones under the AUMF, which is an openly overt authorization, and the DoD reports to Congressional armed services committees in public hearings where drone funding is public and known. The DoD has arrangements established through diplomatic channels and other forums and an established and known chain of command with recognized accountability standards regarding the use of military drones.

There had been at least a seven-fold total increase in drone attacks between the Bush and Obama administrations. During Bush’s presidency, there were less than 50 strikes launched between 2004 and 2009, mostly during the last year of the second term and mostly inside Pakistan. This trend would have almost certainly continued in the years following Bush’s second term, since drones are considered a Revolution in Military Affairs (RIMA), which inevitably generates repercussions in politics and government. Over the two years between 2009 and 2010, President Obama authorized more than four times as many strikes than during Bush’s entire term, at one point averaging one strike every four days compared with one strike every forty days during Bush’s term. In Obama’s first four months, there were as many strikes as during Bush’s entire term. Again, these deployments would have occurred regardless of election results. Drones had by that time become a priority amongst influential military, industry, and government leaders and an issue of intense contention.

There were at least 420 American launched drone strikes (and perhaps many more) between 2004 and 2013. As many as 5,000 people might have been killed, but perhaps many more. By 2011, nearly 2,300 people had been killed by American drones. In 2013, the number could have reached 4,700 or more with at least 3,600 verified. Most strikes and deaths have occurred inside Pakistan, where there were at least 9 strikes in 2007, 36 in 2008, 53 in 2009, 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011, 48 in 2012, and at least 27 in 2013. There have been a growing number of strikes in Yemen, where nearly 100 have happened since 2002, with nearly 500 people killed. In 2009, there were as many as 80 strikes in Yemen. In 2012, there were at least 42 strikes, with at least 200 people killed. US drones have also attacked a “handful” of targets in Somalia since 2006, including the first in two years during late 2013.

Budgets, Procurement, and Costs

The budgets of various managing authorities responsible for drone programs, including the American Defense Department, and the global expansion of drone basing are examples of how this Jupiter Complex is manifested.

Between 1988 and 2000, the United States spent about $4 billion on military “drones”. In 2000, $284 million. In 2001, at least $667 million, by 2005, there was at least an 18% spending increase, reaching $1 billion annually. Since 2001, a 23% annual spending increase. Between 2001 and 2013, there was a forty-fold increase in spending, and costs grew from less than $1 billion to an estimated $26 billion cumulative by 2013. By 2010, drones were costing America up to $5 billion annually, with at least $6 billion spent in 2011, $5.8 billion in 2012, $6 billion in 2013, $6.3 billion in 2014, and a projected $6.5 billion in 2015. Some estimates see $30.8 billion in acquisition and research spending between 2011 and 2015. Other estimates expect between $30 and $40 billion in spending by 2021 (for about 730 drones).

“Drones” collectively consume between 10% and 20% of Pentagon spending on military aircraft and at least 1% of the entire Pentagon budget, rising to an unknown total after factoring in classified spending, which could be billions of dollars. In 2010, of an estimated $58 billion Pentagon “black budget” on spending for classified programs and operations, which includes drones, investments in drones consumed an unknown but respective share of $19 billion for research and development, $17 billion for procurement, and $15 billion for operations and maintenance. In early 2014, the US Congress had $530 billion in classified spending, an unknown amount of which was (is) for drones.

By 2011, the US already accounted for at least one-third of all spending on all drones by all countries. By 2022, US spending may account for between 62% and 77% of global research and development and between 55% and 69% of procurement. Of a projected $94 billion total spending globally by 2022, the US may account for as much as $85 billion, much of which is spending for military drones, including thousands of armed and/or weaponized drones.

In 2000, the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stated that drones should comprise one-third of the Pentagon’s air fleet by 2015. Drones today (2014) represent roughly one-third of the entire Pentagon air fleet, numbering up to 11,000, with nearly 500 weaponized. There were fewer than 200 American military drones in 2001, and fewer than 10 were armed or weaponized. By 2009, there were at least 5,500 total US military drones, and there were at least 8,000 by 2012. Procurement declined slightly after an unprecedented spike peaking during the US “surge” in Iraq, the Pentagon is expected to (or was at one time expected to) double the number of its drone fleet by 2020 to as many as 15,000, including thousands of armed drones. In 2012, one of the Pentagon’s drone programs purchased at least 1,211 drones. The number of purchases for this program dropped slightly below 300 in 2013, and expected purchases in 2014 were below 60. In a separate program managed under a separate authority within the Pentagon, investment increased by $600 million for as many as 150 drones annually through 2018, with a possible two to three-fold increase in coming years. For another growing drone program at the Pentagon, directed by another separate managing authority, the US military will likely purchase at least 730 drones through 2022, which is a 35% inventory increase at a cost of roughly $37 billion over ten years.

Another example of growing procurement is the Pentagon’s “Unmanned Multi-role Surveillance and Strike” program, which had 72 drones in 2010, and could grow by 600% to nearly 500 drones by 2020, with a 700% spending increase from $1 billion to at least $7 billion. By 2022, “multi-role” drones may total nearly 550, which is a four-fold increase from 2012. Even if procurement steadies or declines, costs are still expected to rise as drone models become more sophisticated and expensive, as manufacturing monopolies on materials and technologies solidify, and as manufacturing orders are revised by the Pentagon and financial forecasts are modified. In 2005, for instance, the Pentagon was billed for an 18% increase in costs because it was buying so many drones, but in 2011, when an order for 22 drones was reduced to 11, the Pentagon absorbed an additional 11% spike in costs. Depending on the type and model, a single drone can cost anywhere between $5 million and $150 million, and in rare cases for test models and prototypes, costs can rise as high as $635 million. The most popular model right now (2014) costs about $150 million each. But costs rise in other ways not included in budgets.

In addition to research and development, and purchases, expenses increase with costs to operate “ground cockpit” systems and other support infrastructure needed to run the program on a global scale. These costs are one example of how to see where the drone program’s costs are expanded beyond procurement. As of 2014, the US had at least sixteen stateside drone training and operating bases, and more than a dozen other known drone-oriented airbases around the world, including in Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and at least six bases in Africa. Since 2013, the US has been running drones from at least four locations inside Tunisia to monitor people and events in Algeria and Libya. US drones have also been launched into Mali from a US base inside Niger, where at least 100 Americans are stationed (as of 2014, anyway). In Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, at Camp Lemmonier the US spent at least $38 million annually to lease 500 acres for an airbase that housed more than 3,000 American service members and support personnel, including as many as 1,100 Special Operations personnel ( this was a three-fold increase since 2011). Drones accounted for 30% of all US military flights from the Djibouti base and at least 16 patrols were launched daily into Yemen and other countries in the region until 2013, when crashes and mishaps forced the US to relocate. The US has spent at least $68 million on runway renovations in Djibouti, at least $7 million training local air traffic controllers to help with drone flight coordination, and a total of at least $1.4 billion building Camp Lemmonier into an airbase designed specifically to accommodate American drones. The American Congress authorized at least $13 million to relocate the base following the persistent complications encountered there.

In addition to drone basing and procurement, and classified spending and research and development, costs also rise as the US buys fewer piloted aircraft and trains fewer “flight ready” pilots. Piloted aircraft accounted for 95% of US aircraft in 2005, but fell to 69% by 2012, with a projected 10% additional decline by 2020. The most advanced piloted American aircraft cost about $100 million more than the latest drone aircraft, and costs are growing as fewer airplanes are produced and procured. A collective decrease in airplanes and pilots is expected to coincide with an increase in costs, which have been projected to rise from about $17 billion to $19 billion annually. The cost of training drone specialists is only one-tenth the cost for training flight-ready pilots, and the number of flight-ready pilots being trained has fallen to about 250 annually (as of 2014). A byproduct or consequence of the US drone program is that the cost of training fighter and bomber pilots is expected to increase while the US is producing fewer pilots ready to fly fewer, but much more expensive and sophisticated, aircraft.

Another cost in using drones comes through losses from accidents and mishaps. Despite improving technology, drones still have high failure rates, and mishaps in hostile and non-hostile environments are common and are considered inevitable. A noteworthy accident happened in 2011, when a US drone crashed into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In late 2013, a US drone crashed into the side of a US Navy vessel near San Diego, California. At least five armed American drones have crashed out of Djibouti since 2011, at least 3 have been lost inside Iran (as of 2014). The US had recurring problems at Camp Lemmonier because of crashes related to launch problems and drones congesting civilian, non-military, airspace. An unknown number of US drones have been lost inside Pakistan, and other crashes have been documented. Crashes often occur during landings or due to weather conditions, and there are high failure rates while trying to land on naval vessels. Crashes happen through systems and communications malfunctions, unintentional “engine kills”, and human error. Crashes have become the focus of studies on counter-drone technologies, including scrambling and jamming GPS signals.

A reliable idea of failure rates is difficult to gather because the number of units and locations of total drones lost is unknown, but at least 200 and possibly many more, have crashed since 2004 in several different countries. Mishaps were frequent during the Bush administration, but are less common as the US gains experience and refines capabilities using drones. Some estimates suggest a failure rate of at least 9 drones lost per 100,000 flying hours, with a higher number lost during the first 50,000 flying hours. In 2004, mishaps were very high, but flight hours were at only about 50,000. By 2011, mishaps decreased as flight hours rose to about 650,000. In 2005, five different drone models crashed between 20 and 285 different times under different circumstances. By 2009, some estimates calculated 7.5 crashes per 100,000 hours. At least 70 of 195 launched between 2008 and 2009 crashed “catastrophically” or at “crippling rates”. In 2010, there had been at least 79 verified accidents at the cost of about $1 million each, though the cost of losses has been declining. In 2012, at least 50 drones were verified as entirely lost.

These numbers show only a very general idea of totals, since a reliable absolute bare minimum total is unknown. It is also unclear how many drones have been lost in hostile incidents, which can include drones being shot down or being targeted by electronics interference, jamming, and scrambling. In addition to the financial losses of a destroyed drone, these incidents collectively lead to the unregulated proliferation of lethal technology that has no solidified legal foundations and has been the subject of intense and ongoing controversy amidst an intensifying global drone arms race which many observers suppose will turn the world into one between countries with, and countries without, military drones.

In addition to the expenses and costs detailed above, drone spending also rises during the regular operations of drones. A typical price-tag for an hour of drone airtime is between $3,500 and $5,000, not including costs for munitions during combat missions, which can run from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2005, there has been at least a 1,200% increase in US drone patrols globally, with a 600% increase between 2003 and 2009. In 2007, there were at least 21 patrols at any given time during a 24-hour period. In 2010, there were at least 500,000 flight hours logged. In 2011, there were at least 350,000 hours logged with 54 patrols. In 2012, there were at least 330,000 hours logged, and by 2013, there were more than 2 million total flight hours logged, creating such an overabundance and backlog of drone video and film to review and to edit, that outside agencies and corporations were consulted and contracted by the Pentagon, including the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency and the sports entertainment media network ESPN. At any given time, at least 65 different US drone patrols could be happening around the world. Combat patrols are made up of at least four aircraft, including one in-flight, one in-maintenance, one in-transit, and one re-fueling. For a given 24-hour patrol there are at least seven and as many as ten crews of at least twenty people each operating and monitoring drones. One-hundred is a typical number of people for lethal strike drone missions. In rare cases, up to 300 people could be involved, including remote control pilots, sensor operators, systems coordinators, information analysts, communications and video crew, field personnel, intelligence operatives, military lawyers, senior civilian officials, private companies’ representatives, and drone mechanics and other staff.

Drone Expansion and Criticisms

As the military drone program establishes itself, the US military is trying to fulfill a growing demand for drone pilots and related personnel. The drone generation in America is seeing a growth beyond military training and into university and graduate degree programs, laboratory funding, and investments in corporate development. By 2009, in the US military, there were about 400 trained drone specialists, some migrating from traditional Air Force training, or with prior “air sense” and flying experience, and some novice and entry-level. By 2009, more drone specialists were being trained than traditional combat pilots. In 2011, the Air Force Academy graduated its first class of 350 drone specialists, compared with 250 conventional pilots that year. At least 350 operators were trained in 2012, adding to the total that year of 950 operators and 1,400 drone pilots. By 2015, the Air Force expected at least 2,000 each of both drone pilots and operators, and a growing number of support staff. The cost of training drone specialists was about one-tenth the cost of training conventional pilots in 2014, and the training process has been streamlined in many cases because of high demand. Many trainees take a course of only 3 or 9 months instead of 10 or 16 months for more thorough specialization. Specialists do not usually live an “active-duty lifestyle” and do not endure the demanding physical testing which “flight ready” pilots require. Some drone specialists are assigned to patrols with as few as 20 flying hours logged, instead of the 200 hours set by higher standards and less demanding deadlines for other drone specialists. For these, and other reasons, drone specialists are considered to be detached from combat mentality except for a desensitized “push button” and “PlayStation” mentality, which is sort of byproduct of modern technologies that has raised concerns about the “dehumanization” of warfare.

Drones tend to generate a perception of war as a simulation or video game, and drone operators are often seen as a “chair force”, or, “cubicle warriors” criticized as second-class soldiers fighting a coward’s war by striking targets from remote distances (perhaps as many as 8,000 miles from a target) with no possibility of retaliation by any actual enemy in any immediately shared battle-space. There are accounts of psychological stress drone pilots endure as a result of monitoring computer screens for extended time periods and sometimes launching missiles that kill innocent people. About 30% of drone operators probably do have some stress related to their assignments, and an estimated 20% are considered clinically distressed. Of 600 operators and drone pilots surveyed by the Air Force in 2011, 42% had moderate to high stress and 20% had “emotional burnout”. In addition to concerns about the type of soldiers drone operators are, there are also criticisms about a perceived lack of honor, or a loss of virtue, in drone warfare. In 2013, for example, the Pentagon encountered a controversy by planning to issue a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” to drone operators who had an “extraordinary direct impact on combat operations”. Production of the medal was discontinued following criticisms from dozens of US senators and from service veterans about the nature of drone warfare and drone specialists’ place in drone warfare.The issue of drone operators is connected to larger issues in the age of weaponized drones.

Drones are controversial because they are an application of a non-military technology to an overtly offensive military aim. The US chose to employ drone technology as a weapon, and has since 2001 become the focus of intense criticism from observers in every academic and scientific field and discipline. The criticisms of US foreign service officers, of veteran military commanders, military operational and administrative officials, and others, suggest a situation that has struggled to reach stability but has been advocated for anyway. Despite convictions that military drones are useless or counterproductive, and amidst ongoing debates and attempts to clarify and solidify a legal framework for drones, drones have continued to be deployed in American military and intelligence operations, which many see as a serious mistake.

In mainstream American politics, for example, open opposition to drones or open criticisms of drone attacks has been noticeable only very rarely. The opposition of the American political left and others has been increasingly focused on the human rights violations, the lack of transparency and accountability, the violations of due process, the misinterpretation of authorizations, and the continued denial of information which has been happening since drones were first introduced. In the sciences and philosophy, drones have raised questions about ethical programming and computer autonomy, where drones as weapons are either considered inherently unethical or else have been put to unethical ends. Questions are also being raised about whether it is or is not ethical to allow drones an increasing amount of autonomy and separation from human control, where the role of monitoring increases and the role of controlling drones decreases. The autonomy debate involves drone operators and the so-called “human loop”, where today there is a human “in the loop”, there will be in the future merely a human “on the loop”. One of the most serious criticisms is that drone warfare makes going to war or deciding to use force less scrutinized or “easier” and that the ease with which the US seems to have been using drones has led to abuses and excesses with very little accountability and almost no transparency. The Central Intelligence Agency, for instance, employs people who answer to no known chain of command. The scrutiny over CIA drone strikes continues to be a serious controversy even though drones are being developed and deployed without any established legal agreements or consensus amongst the various people involved in these operations.

Resistance to and scrutiny of drones has been evident for as long as drones have been relevant as a new military technology. During the early years of the US drone program, the consensus within the US military was that drones were not an honorable way to fight. This sentiment became less influential as the program developed and drones were prioritized by influential factions at the Pentagon and in government and industry. During the Bush administration, CIA Director George Tenet expressed reservations about the CIA’s authority to use drones in conflict scenarios. Military hierarchy has been affected by disagreements about drones. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission expressed concerns about the US drone program being under CIA control and recommended changes that have since been reiterated, if still ignored, by policymakers. Following the 9/11 Commission’s report, the General Accounting Office in 2005 alluded to establishing a single authority for drones, amidst a lack of oversight. In 2011, the US Ambassador to Pakistan left office following repeated disagreements with the CIA and the White House over the negative impact of ongoing US drone strikes inside Pakistan. A Congressional filibuster in 2013 publicized drones, albeit in a sensationalist way, and serves as an example of a latent concern within the American government about drones amidst an increasingly tacit acceptance of drones. By 2014, the US Congress’ “Unmanned Systems Caucus” (the “Drone Caucus”), had at least 60 members in both major parties. Between 2011 and 2012, the Drone Caucus received at least $2.3 million from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a drone lobbying and trade group representing as many as 600 corporations, companies, and businesses, and over 7,000 individuals. The AUVSI gives Congress at least $250,000 annually and doubled its lobbying budget in 2011. This investment shows how, despite some concerns about drones, the defense budget can be recycled by the defense industry back into political lobbying and thereby influence government and policy to support the drone initiatives of industry and some military leaders.

Drones have been criticized by some military veterans as being “strategically dumb” and “tactically smart”, where any benefit is too costly and any mistakes too counterproductive to justify the deployment of drones as weapons. As time passes and drone specialists inevitably gain experience and influence, drone policy will be increasingly directed by a new generation of people unsympathetic to the concerns of many military officers, human rights advocates, and others. When official training for drone operators started in 2010, for instance, policymakers inside the military mostly included veteran combat pilots who were very highly skeptical and sometimes openly unsupportive of military drones. The tendency was to see drones as expensive and wasteful, and any benefit being negligible and any mistakes being very costly. Experience had shown that drones could not survive hostile conditions, but as America’s military power increased, the nature of America’s wars changed, becoming more asymmetrical and low-intensity, which some saw as an opportunity to introduce drone technology.

The conventions of war changed following the Cold War and as the Global War on Terror has changed into an undefined, open-ended, ongoing, “long” war, drones have become integrated and “federated” into the US military, and have become normalized despite the concerns of military leadership and others about the highly controversial nature of drones and drone combat. Drones were, and are, perceived as stifling reform and encouraging abuse, and as being wrongly employed as a strategy while they would have been better employed, very sparingly, if at all, as a tactic. For some, again, any strategic benefit drones might offer is generated at too great a cost and for too small a gain to justify the problems generated when drones cause damage, which is apparently far too often. The “whack-a-mole” criticism noticed by experienced observers says that for any one target the US kills, several other “enemies” will have been created. In this way, drones are known to have generated several types of blowback and to have backfired on far too many occasions and for too wide a variety of reasons.

Drones are criticized as being prone to create and sustain insurgency and to perpetuate endless war, yet they are being used in America’s ongoing military operations globally under the auspices of the Global War on Terror. The GWOT is understood to involve “asymmetrical” warfare, where the proportion of US force is strong enough to create a military imbalance making high-intensity conventional conflict between two or more superpowers increasingly less likely and low-intensity small-scale unconventional hostilities more likely. The US is not at war with other nations and national armies, but instead is at war with non-state actors in a transnational and globalized battlefield. In this situation, drones are believed or portrayed to have some relevance, but these assumptions have not been validated. Moreover, drones have been problematic beyond these military concerns expressed by veteran US commanders.

Conclusion

More than 15 years after America started attacking targets with drones, and after a period of well-documented abuses and ongoing controversies, no consensus exists, no single comprehensive international statement on drones exists, and yet the practice of drone attacks continues to establish a worrisome precedent of unregulated military activity amidst an intensifying and unregulated proliferation of lethal drone technology around the world. Drones have raised objections about and have been associated with problems including extraordinary rendition, CIA black-sites, enhanced interrogation and torture, kill lists, targeted assassinations and signature strikes, collateral damage, and extrajudicial killings. People continue to live in fear of drones, and yet there are no indications that the reality being created by drones will ever be governed by a consensus which reflects the concerns of those with valid observations, considerations, and insights about drones.

US military drones and the use of military drones have affected the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Drones have raised debates among professionals interested in just war theory, international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and law on national sovereignty and self-determination. The US has suffered allegations of war crimes, violations of rights to due process, a lack of transparency and accountability, and criticisms over a refusal to provide or share any basic information on drone warfare or to clarify the basis and justifications for the policies supporting deployment of drones.

The most serious issues about the impact drones are having include collateral damage, casualties to innocent bystanders, the CIA program and its attendant problems, endless spending on what is unpopular with experienced decision makers and many American citizens, the proliferation of lethal technology, endangering American civilians, and questions about the role of the courts either having a role in deciding who to target, or having only a limited role in deciding if US drone attacks are legal. Outside of government, human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations, and most of the rest of the word have expressed concern or disapproval of US drones. These include, but are certainly not limited to, criticisms from Reprieve, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Pakistan Body Count, the New America Foundation, the American Moslem Political Action Committee, CODEPINK, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Questions persist about the approval and vetting process used in CIA strikes, including the respective roles of the presidency, the courts, and the military. The CIA program has a black budget. Operatives do not answer to any known chain of command. The CIA operate as many as 80 drones tracking up to 20 targets at a given time. CIA drones are maintained and armed by private contractors and account for as many as 80% of all American drone strikes. The US Air Force works with the CIA during some strikes and many CIA operatives were formerly in the US Air Force.

Drones have been used under the AUMF, and also under Title 10 of the US Code of Laws, which is considered to be outdated, but which has been avoided as an issue for American politicians because of concerns that political careers may be jeopardized if any kind of public stance on drones is declared. The CIA is, and has been, running covert drone operations, and reporting to Congressional intelligence committees only in closed sessions, while receiving unknown classified funding and authorization. CIA operatives do not have a known chain of command and often work with private companies who have no oversight or accountability, or adherence to any established rules of conflict but only secretive arrangements with unknown terms with host governments.

Most countries around the world strongly disapprove of US drone strikes and popular opinion polls and informal polls within military circles around the world show a strong suspicion and dislike for US drones and drone policy generally. In countries experiencing US drone strikes and hosting drone infrastructure, the unpopularity is unusually intense. Protests are common, and in too many places the US is seen as an occupying and invasive presence, with an attendant arrogance and belligerence, that only complicates an already dismal situation for those concerned with America’s problematic attitudes and ideas about human rights in the 21st century.

  1. Note: This article was written several years ago and some of the figures can be updated to remain current, but the information is still useful and hopefully offers some general ideas about drones and drone technology as these technologies are being applied to America’s controversial military programs around the world. Thanks to the efforts of human rights organizations and others who have worked to raise awareness and to positively change the problem of military drones today.

When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are “Brothers”: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model

Newly-inaugurated Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, is set to be the arch-enemy of the environment and of indigenous and disadvantaged communities in his country. He also promises to be a friend of like-minded, far-right leaders the world over.

It is, therefore, not surprising to see a special kind of friendship blossoming between Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We need good brothers like Netanyahu,” Bolsonaro said on January 1, the day of his inauguration in Brasilia.

Bolsonaro is a “great ally (and) a brother”, Netanyahu replied.

But, while Bolsonaro sees in Netanyahu a role model – for reasons that should worry many Brazilians – the country certainly does not need ‘brothers’ like the Israeli leader.

Netanyahu’s militancy, oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people, his racially-motivated targeting of Black African immigrants and his persistent violations of international law are not at all what a country like Brazil needs to escape corruption, bring about communal harmony and usher in an era of regional integration and economic prosperity.

Netanyahu, of course, was keen on attending Bolsonaro’s inauguration, which is likely to go down in Brazilian history as an infamous day, where democracy and human rights came under their most serious threat since Brazil launched its democratic transition in the early 1980s.

In recent years, Brazil has emerged as a sensible regional power that defended Palestinian human rights and championed the integration of the ‘State of Palestine’ into the larger international community.

Frustrated by Brazil’s record on Palestine and Israel, Netanyahu, a shrewd politician, saw an opportunity in the populist discourse parroted by Bolsonaro during his campaign.

The new Brazilian President wants to reverse Brazil’s foreign policy on Palestine and Israel, the same way he wants to reverse all the policies of his predecessors regarding indigenous rights, the protection of the rainforest, among other pressing matters.

What is truly worrying is that, Bolsonaro, who has been likened to Donald Trump – least because of his vow to “make Brazil great again” – is likely to keep his promises. Indeed, only hours after his inauguration, he issued an executive order targeting land rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, to the delight of the agricultural lobbies, which are eager to cut down much of the country’s forests.

Confiscating indigenous peoples’ territories, as Bolsonaro plans to do, is something that Netanyahu, his government and their predecessors have done without remorse for many years. Yes, it is clear that the claim of ‘brotherhood’ is based on very solid ground.

But there are other dimensions to the love affair between both leaders. Much work has been invested in turning Brazil from having an arguably pro-Palestinian government, to a Trump-like foreign policy.

In his campaign, Bolsonaro reached out to conservative political groups, the never truly tamed military and Evangelical churches, all with powerful lobbies, sinister agendas and unmistakable influence. Such groups have historically, not only in South America, but in the United States and other countries as well, conditioned their political support for any candidate on the unconditional and blind support of Israel.

This is how the United States has become the main benefactor for Israel, and that is precisely how Tel Aviv aims to conquer new political grounds.

The western world, in particular, is turning towards far-right demagogues for simple answers to complicated and convoluted problems. Brazil, thanks to Bolsonaro and his supporters, is now joining the disturbing trend.

Israel is unabashedly exploiting the unmitigated rise of global neo-fascism and populism. Worse, the once perceived to be anti-Semitic trends are now wholly embraced by the ‘Jewish State’, which is seeking to broaden its political influence but also its weapons market.

Politically, far-right parties understand that in order for Israel to help them whitewash their past and present sins, they would have to submit completely to Israel’s agenda in the Middle East. And that is precisely what is taking place from Washington, to Rome to Budapest to Vienna … And, as of late, Brasilia.

But another, perhaps more compelling reason is money. Israel has much to offer by way of its destructive war and ‘security’ technology, a massive product line that has been used with lethal consequences against Palestinians.

The border control industry is thriving in the US and Europe. In both cases, Israel is serving the task of the successful role model and the technology supplier. And Israeli ‘security’ technology, thanks to the newfound sympathy for Israel’s alleged security problems, is now invading European borders as well.

According to the Israeli Ynetnews, Israel is the seventh largest arms exporter in the world and is emerging as a leader in the global export of aerial drones.

Europe’s excitement for Israel’s drone technology is related to mostly unfounded fears of migrants and refugees. In the case of Brazil, Israeli drones technology will be put to fight against criminal gangs and other internal reasons.

For the record, Israeli drones manufactured by Elbit Systems have been purchased and used by the former Brazilian government just before the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

What makes future deals between both countries more alarming is the sudden affinity of far-right politicians in both countries. Expectedly, Bolsonaro and Netanyahu discussed the drones at length during the latter’s visit to Brazil.

Israel has used extreme violence to counter Palestinian demands for human rights, including lethal violence against ongoing peaceful protests at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel. If Bolsonaro thinks that he will successfully counter local crimes through unhinged violence – as opposed to addressing social and economic inequality and unfair distribution of wealth in his country – then he can only expect to exasperate an already horrific death toll.

Israeli security obsessions should not be duplicated, neither in Brazil nor anywhere else, and Brazilians, many of whom rightly worry about the state of democracy in their country, should not succumb to the Israeli militant mindset which has wrought no peace, but much violence.

Israel exports wars to its neighbors, and war technology to the rest of the world. As many countries are plagued by conflict, often resulting from massive income inequalities, Israel should not be seen as the model to follow, but rather the example to avoid.

Drone Days of Summer

This summer flew by. While many of us were baking in the heat, the U.S. war industry was raking in the money, selling unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. “drones”). All told, summer sales of drones and related technology topped $3,509,000,000. Such waste is a national tragedy.

Boeing

Boeing’s main drone division is known as Insitu. It manufactures and assembles its products in Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River. Two of its bestsellers are the Blackjack and the ScanEagle.

Boeing sold Blackjack parts worth roughly $9 million to the U.S. Marine Corps in July and again in August, capping off the summer by selling Blackjack drones and equipment worth $53.9 million to Poland.

Poland wasn’t the only country that Boeing successfully courted this summer. At the end of June, Boeing sold Lebanon ScanEagle drones worth $8.2 million. This deal included helping set up the equipment and training the Lebanese military on how to operate it. Lebanon is a long-term Boeing customer. In September 2015, for example, Boeing sold ScanEagle drones to Lebanon, delivered to a base in Hamat.

Endless war brings endless opportunity to create and market new weaponry. Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray is a good example of this. On 30 August, Boeing sealed a deal (worth a cool $805 million) to provide the Pentagon with four MQ-25A vehicles, which are capable of flying from aircraft carriers.

Like any proficient war corporation, Boeing spreads production across congressional districts. The MQ-25 Stingray is worked on in St. Louis, MO; Indianapolis, IN; Cedar Rapids, IA; Palm Bay, FL; San Diego, CA; and many overseas locations. Take caution. The claim that the “defense” industry brings “jobs, jobs, jobs” is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on war.

Sometimes allied governments get weapons for free. In the middle of the summer, Boeing sold the Pentagon over $10.8 million worth of ScanEagle systems and spares, which the Pentagon is giving to Afghanistan’s military. The Pentagon paid for this with “building partner capacity funds,” not through foreign military sales (FMS). Building partner capacity funds come directly from the U.S. taxpayer. The war in Afghanistan is now entering its seventeenth year—seventeen years of corporate profit.

Owned and Operated

One of Boeing’s bigger payoffs of the summer came in early August when the war corporation sold up to $232 million worth of drone services to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in a continuation of an earlier deal. Under the terms of the deal, Boeing contractors—what one might call “mercenaries”—support USSOCOM operations, using Boeing’s proprietary drone infrastructure. This is a stellar example of how war corporations now run the wars.

General Atomics behaves the same way. In June, General Atomics sold nearly $40 million for MQ-9 “surge support” in U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), primarily helping U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

Not to be outdone, Textron is offering its drones to protect the Pentagon’s footprint in Afghanistan. In early August, Textron’s AAI division sold over $12 million worth of “force protection efforts” at Bagram and Kandahar airfields. Under the deal, Textron provides and operates various drones to protect the aforementioned bases.

Boeing, General Atomics, and Textron make millions selling and operating drones in war zones overseas, further increasing the corporate takeover of what was once an inherently governmental job: waging war.

General Atomics

The General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” is the Pentagon’s workhorse. When there’s a drone strike, the MQ-9 is most likely the culprit. In recent years, General Atomics has sold the MQ-9 to Spain, the U.K., Italy, and France. It’s a cash cow.

General Atomics produces many pricey gizmos for its drone fleet. On 14 June, General Atomics sold the Pentagon nearly $23 million worth of engineering on MQ-9 radars. On 20 August, General Atomics sold $133.9 million worth of new sensors on the MQ-9. On 22 August, General Atomics sold over $11 million worth of engineering services on the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” drone. (The MQ-1C is an upgrade of the Pentagon’s former favorite, the MQ-1 Predator, which was retired in recent months.)

CAE USA Inc. creates the training curriculum for MQ-9 drone pilots and sensor operators. At the end of the summer, CAE USA sold the Pentagon four months of air crew training and course work development for General Atomics’ drones. CAE USA delivers the curriculum to major drone hubs within the United States: Creech Air Force Base (AFB), NV; Hancock Air National Guard Base, NY; Holloman AFB, NM; and March Air Reserve Base, CA.

Raytheon

“The Hive” is what I’ve nicknamed a cluster of towns in northeast Texas where the U.S. war industry produces some of its most profitable and destructive goods, including the infamous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The towns comprising The Hive are Dallas, Fort Worth, Garland, Grand Prairie, Greenville, McKinney, and Richardson.

Raytheon produces many of its aircraft sensors in McKinney, including electro-optical, infrared (EO/IR) devices that are bolted onto the underside of drones. These devices cost an arm and a leg, bringing Raytheon a lot of money.

In McKinney, Raytheon makes the targeting system used on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C “Triton” drone. At the end of the summer, Raytheon received millions to get this multi-spectral targeting system up and running on some of the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C drones.

Raytheon makes the targeting system for the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper as well. In July, Raytheon received over $10 million to upgrade this targeting system in McKinney. On 31 August, Raytheon received over $281 million for targeting system (MTS-B) turrets, upgrades, and spares.

Money flowed swiftly to Raytheon this summer. In June, Raytheon received $29.6 million to develop a Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) prototype. The next day, Raytheon received $45.8 million for work on the Common Sensor Payload (CSP) system, which is used on General Atomics drones. It is worth noting that the current Raytheon CEO used to be the executive supervising development of such technology.

Northrop Grumman

The Pentagon is throwing money at the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, a new drone designed to complement Boeing’s P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft.

At the beginning of June, Northrop Grumman received $61.7 million to “provide operator, maintenance, logistic support and sustainment engineering” in support of MQ-4C drones “to ensure the aircraft are mission-capable.” In straightforward terms, Northrop Grumman got paid to keep doing what it’s doing, keeping a costly weapon of war up and running.

War corporations are greedy, just like other corporations. In mid-July, Northrop Grumman received over $41 million for MQ-4C drones, field service representatives, and work on training devices. Five days later, Northrop Grumman received $19.3 million for MQ-4C software updates. Selling software updates on a brand-new weapon of war is a blatant rip-off. No consumer would ever pay for mandatory software upgrades on their 2018 automobile immediately after driving it off the lot, yet this sort of abusive deceit is commonplace in the war machine. Such treachery highlights the real relationship between the U.S. war industry and its primary customer, the Pentagon. War corporations are running the show.

Many leeches are attracted to the funding associated with endless war. The day before U.S. Independence Day, the British corporation Rolls-Royce sold the Pentagon $420 million worth of maintenance and repair on the MQ-4C’s engines. At the end of July, Northrop Grumman received $7.5 million to incorporate “interoperability” in support of the RQ-5 Hunter drone, which was originally an Israeli product, tested in the skies over Palestine.

Millions Up For Grabs

There are many more players in the drone racket. Millions are to be made from selling surveillance drones and associated technology to the Pentagon and allied governments around the world.

SSC Pacific is an integral military node through which the U.S. war industry profits. SSC Pacific uses cyber, drones, and information technology to help the U.S. Navy dominate the Pacific Ocean. Towards the end of August, four corporations sold engineering services to SSC Pacific. Their work focuses on providing “emerging positioning, navigation and timing technologies for C4ISR applications,” basically helping to develop reconnaissance technology and the related command and control equipment.

AeroVironment Inc. sells small drones to the Pentagon and allied nations. At the end of June, AeroVironment sold hardware for its Switchblade drone. A month later, AeroVironment sold communications devices to Norway for use on drones like the RQ-12A WASP. Just like all U.S. war corporations, AeroVironment sells to governments with dismal or questionable human rights records. Previous customers of AeroVironment include Egypt and Ukraine.

War corporations like CACI and L3 sell goods and services that comprise the information technology backbone of the U.S. Armed Forces. At the beginning of June, CACI (Six3) received $48.6 million to help the U.S. Navy deploy “counter-UAS” technology. Counter-UAS equipment tries to stop drones (“unmanned aerial systems”) from approaching U.S. government facilities, usually by jamming the incoming vehicle.

On the last day of July, Leonardo DRS, an Italian war corporation, sold the Pentagon its expertise to engineer and test counter-UAS technology. At the end of August, L3 sold sensors, which will likely be used on Textron’s RQ-7 Shadow drone. The sensors (“Electro-Optic/Infrared/Laser Designator Payload”) sold for $454 million.

Academic institutions like Johns Hopkins University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the Pentagon’s favorite bastions of scientific and mathematical knowledge. But endless war corrupts all corners of academia. In mid-August, George Mason University received over $60 million to help the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) improve the hardware and software that connect and synchronize small drones.

Unmanned vehicles are not limited to the skies above. Increasingly, the U.S. war industry lobbies for dominating the depths of the oceans with unmanned vehicles. In mid-June, Metron Inc. sold its expertise ($8 million) to work on advanced modular payloads for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV). Later in the summer, several war corporations and academic institutions, including Draper Lab, L3, SAIC, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, sold over $561 million worth of UUV research and development.

While the Pentagon spends billions of tax dollars on drones, students struggle with mounting debt, children go hungry, and the nation suffers from stagnant wages and a lack of universal healthcare. Boeing, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and other war corporations do not care. They are busy developing, marketing, and selling weapons of war to the Pentagon and allies worldwide. These same corporations fund think tanks, bribe U.S. Congress with campaign contributions, and lobby Capitol Hill daily in order to sustain endless war. Drone sales over the summer months—totaling over $3.5 billion—show how profitable this racket really is.

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism.  While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe.  The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul.  This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.”  There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

Enough Is Enough: If You Really Want to Save Lives, Take Aim at Government Violence

It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.

— Celisa Calacal, Journalist

Enough is enough.

That was the refrain chanted over and over by the thousands of demonstrators who gathered to protest gun violence in America.

Enough is enough.

We need to do something about the violence that is plaguing our nation and our world.

Enough is enough.

The world would be a better place if there were fewer weapons that could kill, maim, destroy and debilitate.

Enough is enough.

On March 24, 2018, more than 200,000 young people took the time to march on Washington DC and other cities across the country to demand that their concerns about gun violence be heard.

More power to them.

I’m all for activism, especially if it motivates people who have been sitting silently on the sidelines for too long to get up and try to reclaim control over a runaway government.

Curiously, however, although these young activists were vocal in calling for gun control legislation that requires stricter background checks and limits the kinds of weapons being bought and sold by members of the public, they were remarkably silent about the gun violence perpetrated by their own government.

Enough is enough.

Why is no one taking aim at the U.S. government as the greatest purveyor of violence in American society and around the world?

The systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government has done more collective harm to the American people and our liberties than any single act of terror or mass shooting.

Violence has become our government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents.

Enough is enough.

The government even exports violence worldwide, with weapons being America’s most profitable export.

Indeed, the day before thousands of demonstrators descended on Washington DC to protest mass shootings such as the one that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School, President Trump signed into law a colossal $1.3 trillion spending bill that gives the military the biggest boost in spending in more than a decade.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Here we have thousands of passionate protesters raging, crying and shouting about the need to restrict average Americans from being able to purchase and own military-style weapons, all the while the U.S. government—the same government under Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton and beyond that continues to act as a shill and a shield for the military industrial complex—embarks on a taxpayer-funded death march that will put even more guns into circulation, and no one says a thing about it.

Why is that?

Why does the government get a free pass?

With more than $700 billion earmarked for the military, including $144.3 billion for new military equipment, you can expect a whole lot more endless wars, drone strikes, bombing campaigns, civilian deaths, costly military installations, and fat paychecks for private military contractors who know exactly how to inflate invoices and take the American taxpayers for a ride.

Enough is enough.

You can be sure this financial windfall for America’s military empire will be used to expand the police state here at home, putting more militarized guns and weapons into the hands of local police and government bureaucrats who have been trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than the U.S. Marines.

While Americans have to jump through an increasing number of hoops in order to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorizing them to make arrests, and training them in military tactics.

Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities.

Seriously, why do IRS agents need AR-15 rifles?

Enough is enough.

Remember, it was just a few months ago that President Trump, aided and abetted by his trusty Department of Justice henchman Jeff Sessions, rolled back restrictions on the government’s military recycling program to the delight of the nation’s powerful police unions.

Under the auspices of this military “recycling” program, which was instituted decades ago and allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990.

Ironically, while gun critics continue to clamor for bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, expanded background checks, and tougher gun-trafficking laws, the U.S. military boasts all of these and more, including some weapons the rest of the world doesn’t have.

In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.

Over the course of 30 years, police officers in jack boots holding assault rifles have become fairly common in small town communities across the country. As investigative journalists Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz reveal, “Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Although these federal programs that allow the military to “gift” battlefield-appropriate weapons, vehicles and equipment to domestic police departments at taxpayer expense are being sold to communities as a benefit, the real purpose is to keep the defense industry churning out profits, bring police departments in line with the military, and establish a standing army.

It’s a militarized approach to make-work programs, except in this case, instead of unnecessary busy work to keep people employed, communities across America are being inundated with unnecessary drones, tanks, grenade launchers and other military equipment better suited to the battlefield in order to fatten the bank accounts of the military industrial complex.

Thanks to Trump, this transformation of America into a battlefield is only going to get worse.

Get ready for more militarized police.

More police shootings.

More SWAT team raids.

More violence in a culture already drenched with violence.

Enough is enough.

You want to talk about gun violence?

According to the Washington Post, “1 in 13 people killed by guns are killed by police.”

While it still technically remains legal for the average citizen to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at and killed by police.

You don’t even have to have a gun or a look-alike gun, such as a BB gun, in your possession to be singled out and killed by police.

There are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order.

Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

Enough is enough.

With alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better.

Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.” In California, police opened fire on and killed a mentally challenged—unarmed—black man within minutes of arriving on the scene, allegedly because he removed a vape smoking device from his pocket and took a “shooting stance“.

Killed for holding a cell phone. Police in Arizona shot a man who was running away from U.S. Marshals after he refused to drop an object that turned out to be a cellphone. Similarly, police in Sacramento fired 20 shots at an unarmed, 22-year-old black man who was standing in his grandparents’ backyard after mistaking his cellphone for a gun.

Killed for carrying a baseball bat. Responding to a domestic disturbance call, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier who had reportedly been experiencing mental health problems and was carrying a baseball bat around the apartment where he and his father lived.

Killed for opening the front door. Bettie Jones, who lived on the floor below LeGrier, was also fatally shot—this time, accidentally—when she attempted to open the front door for police.

Killed for running towards police with a metal spoon. In Alabama, police shot and killed a 50-year-old man who reportedly charged a police officer while holding “a large metal spoon in a threatening manner.”

Killed for running while holding a tree branch. Georgia police shot and killed a 47-year-old man wearing only shorts and tennis shoes who, when first encountered, was sitting in the woods against a tree, only to start running towards police holding a stick in an “aggressive manner.

Killed for crawling around naked. Atlanta police shot and killed an unarmed man who was reported to have been “acting deranged, knocking on doors, crawling around on the ground naked.” Police fired two shots at the man after he reportedly started running towards them.

Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey. Donnell Thompson, a mentally disabled 27-year-old described as gentle and shy, was shot and killed after police—searching for a carjacking suspect reportedly wearing similar clothing—encountered him lying motionless in a neighborhood yard. Police “only” opened fire with an M4 rifle after Thompson first failed to respond to their flash bang grenades and then started running after being hit by foam bullets.

Killed for driving while deaf. In North Carolina, a state trooper shot and killed 29-year-old Daniel K. Harris—who was deaf—after Harris initially failed to pull over during a traffic stop.

Killed for being homeless. Los Angeles police shot an unarmed homeless man after he failed to stop riding his bicycle and then proceeded to run from police.

Killed for brandishing a shoehorn. John Wrana, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, lived in an assisted living center, used a walker to get around, and was shot and killed by police who mistook the shoehorn in his hand for a 2-foot-long machete and fired multiple beanbag rounds from a shotgun at close range.

Killed for having your car break down on the road. Terence Crutcher, unarmed and black, was shot and killed by Oklahoma police after his car broke down on the side of the road. Crutcher was shot in the back while walking towards his car with his hands up.

Killed for holding a garden hose. California police were ordered to pay $6.5 million after they opened fire on a man holding a garden hose, believing it to be a gun. Douglas Zerby was shot 12 times and pronounced dead on the scene.

Killed for calling 911. Justine Damond, a 40-year-old yoga instructor, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, allegedly because they were startled by a loud noise in the vicinity just as she approached their patrol car. Damond, clad in pajamas, had called 911 to report a possible assault in her neighborhood.

Killed for looking for a parking spot. Richard Ferretti, a 52-year-old chef, was shot and killed by Philadelphia police who had been alerted to investigate a purple Dodge Caravan that was driving “suspiciously” through the neighborhood.

Shot seven times for peeing outdoors. Eighteen-year- old Keivon Young was shot seven times by police from behind while urinating outdoors. Young was just zipping up his pants when he heard a commotion behind him and then found himself struck by a hail of bullets from two undercover cops. Allegedly officers mistook Young—5’4,” 135 lbs., and guilty of nothing more than taking a leak outdoors—for a 6’ tall, 200 lb. murder suspect whom they later apprehended. Young was charged with felony resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a peace officer.

This is what passes for policing in America today, folks, and it’s only getting worse.

In every one of these scenarios, police could have resorted to less lethal tactics.

They could have acted with reason and calculation instead of reacting with a killer instinct.

They could have attempted to de-escalate and defuse whatever perceived “threat” caused them to fear for their lives enough to react with lethal force.

That police instead chose to fatally resolve these encounters by using their guns on fellow citizens speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

Remember, to a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.

We’re not just getting hammered, however.

We’re getting killed, execution-style.

Enough is enough.

When you train police to shoot first and ask questions later—whether it’s a family pet, a child with a toy gun, or an old man with a cane—they’re going to shoot to kill.

This is the fallout from teaching police to assume the worst-case scenario and react with fear to anything that poses the slightest threat (imagined or real).

This is what comes from teaching police to view themselves as soldiers on a battlefield and those they’re supposed to serve as enemy combatants.

This is the end result of a lopsided criminal justice system that fails to hold the government and its agents accountable for misconduct.

You want to save lives?

Start by doing something to save the lives of your fellow citizens who are being gunned down every day by police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

You want to cry about the lives lost during mass shootings?

Cry about the lives lost as a result of the violence being perpetrated by the U.S. government here at home and abroad.

If gun control activists really want the country to reconsider its relationship with guns and violence, then it needs to start with a serious discussion about the role our government has played and continues to play in contributing to the culture of violence.

If the American people are being called on to scale back on their weapons, then as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government and its cohorts—the police, the various government agencies that are now armed to the hilt, the military, the defense contractors, etc.—need to do the same.

It’s time to put an end to the government’s reign of terror.

Enough is enough.

Don’t Believe the Media Hype About Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne after eliminating his rivals, is on a two-week whirlwind visit to the United States starting March 19. He plans to cement his ties to the Trump administration, shore up support for his war in Yemen while whipping up more opposition to Iran, and make lucrative business deals. From political meetings with Donald Trump and Congress to cultural events at DC’s Kennedy Center, a talk at MIT, gatherings with tech leaders in Silicon Valley and oil executives in Houston, the prince will be selling dolled-up versions of both his repressive kingdom and his favorite product from the House of Saud: himself. But don’t get sucked into the media hype, seeded by well-paid PR firms, that the prince is a reformer who is bringing substantive change to the kingdom.

MbS, as he is known from his initials, is really a brutal bully responsible for bombing and starving Yemenis. He’s also gunning for a war with Iran, blaming Iran for the Middle East turmoil. Meanwhile, he recklessly imposed a blockade of Qatar that has divided the Gulf States and tried to force a bizarre showdown with Hezbollah in Lebanon by holding Prime Minister Hariri hostage Recent reports reveal that he has even been holding his own mother under house arrest, hidden from her husband King Salman, for fear she would stand in the way of her son’s ruthless power grab.

Yes, it is true that MbS is making some positive reforms. Women will soon be able to drive and the morality police are not as repressive. Movie theatres are opening, and more cultural events are allowed (although they must all pass government muster and most are gender-segregated). But these reforms are minor in the larger picture of a kingdom that brooks no dissent internally and is committing war crimes abroad. According to Human Rights Watch:

Mohammed bin Salman’s well-funded image as a reformist falls flat in the face of Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe and scores of activists and political dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons on spurious charges. Baby steps on women’s rights reforms don’t paper over Saudi Arabia’s systemic abuses.

The prince’s most destructive policy is his war on Yemen (bin Salman is head of both the military and the economy). Started in March 2015 in what the prince thought would be a quick and dirty campaign to defeat the Houthi rebels, the relentless Saudi bombing campaign and restrictions on humanitarian aid have turned Yemen into the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster. The US participation in this Yemen war includes selling the Saudis billions of dollars in weapons (Saudi Arabia is the number one purchaser of US weapons) and providing in-air refueling of their bomber planes. Bin Salman’s visit is coming at precisely the time when the Senate is embroiled in a debate over Resolution 54, a bipartisan resolution that would end the unauthorized US military participation in the Yemen conflict. The prince will certainly use his visit to shore up support for the war, painting it as a fight against the Iran-backed Houthis rather than Saudi interference in Yemen’s internal affairs.

To consolidate his power at home before the death of his father, King Salman, MbS has just pulled off a heist that would make bank robber Butch Cassidy green with envy. He rounded up hundreds of his rival elites and held them hostage in the gilded Ritz-Carlton Hotel until they turned over billions of dollars, real estate and shares of their companies to his control. According to a New York Times exposé, some detainees were subjected to such physical abuse that 17 were hospitalized and one died in custody, with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse.

The whole affair was framed as a fight against corruption, but all transactions were conducted in secret and outside the law. Those who  have been released are banned from travel and are afraid to denounce bin Salman for fear of further reprisals. Meanwhile, the prince who is portrayed as a Saudi Robin Hood taking from the elite to spread to the poor bought a $500 million yacht from a Russian vodka financier, a $300 million French chateau described as “the world’s most expensive home,” and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting purchased at a Christie’s auction — the most expensive painting ever sold.

So don’t be fooled. Beneath the veneer of reform is a young man who believes that his bloodline gives him the right to become the next absolute monarch in a family that has ruled the nation with an iron fist since its founding in 1932. The Saudi kingdom is still governed by an intolerant version of Islam, Wahhabism, and spreads that ideology around the world. The government still represses the Shia minority and non-Muslims, and remains a country where atheism is a capital offense and all churches are banned. Free speech and free association are forbidden. There are no national elections and political parties are banned, as are unions and most civic organizations. Criticizing the Saudi regime can lead to flogging, harsh jail sentences or beheading.

While Saudi Arabia will soon lose the distinction of being the only country in the world where women can’t drive, the regime continues to be the world’s most misogynist, gender-segregated country. The guardianship system gives men authority over the most important decisions in women’s lives, and women are forced to be covered in black from head to toe when they are out in public.

A repressive kingdom ruled, de facto, by a cunning, 32-year-old strongman who has made hundreds of internal enemies among the elite and conducts foreign policy in a more impetuous manner than Donald Trump is a recipe for disaster. The United States should not be arming and abetting this regime and investors dazzled by the prince’s charm offensive and gobs of money should take a second look. If Saudi Arabia is indeed to move into the 21st century, it must stop being governed by royalty.

Teen Solidarity Against the Merchants of Death

Here in Kabul, as the rising sun begins to warm our chilly rooms, I hear excited laughter from downstairs. Rosemary Morrow, a renowned Australian permaculture expert, has begun teaching thirty-five young students in a month-long course on low-resource farming.

In war-torn Afghanistan, there’s a desperate need to rebuild agricultural infrastructure and help people grow their own food. People verging on despair feel encouraged by possibilities of replenishing and repairing their soil.

The night before, over dinner, one of the students discussed news from his home town in Afghanistan’s Wardak province about U.S. aerial attacks. “The blasts have become so frequent,” he said, “that people can’t find spaces to bury their dead.”

During breaks in the class, I tell some of the Afghan Peace Volunteer students about the school shootings in the United States, and the remarkable determination of teenagers from Florida to demand that lawmakers take action on gun control.

These Afghan students have also heard about Black Lives Matter activists who have been tear gassed and beaten when they’ve demonstrated against police brutality. The Afghan teens identify with the activists facing danger, but still standing up to insist on change.

I asked if they thought that the U.S. media and government would heed Afghan young people raising their voices asserting their anguish and fear regarding U.S. aerial attacks and drone assassinations.

“You’re dreaming,” said Hamid. He flashed me a warm smile and shook his head, saying, “no one will ever listen to us.”

The outrage now directed toward the National Rifle Association should also challenge all assaults made by the U.S. military.

Nasir, a third-year university student who majors in mapping technology, tells me he thinks teens in the United States have a chance to be heard. Like Habib, he doubts that the same is true for Afghan voices seeking to end the sixteen-year-old war.

But Zainab, a high schooler in the permaculture class, added that she thinks it would be great to record a vigil of teenagers in Kabul sending their support for U.S. teenagers who’ve survived school shootings in the U.S. and who’ve begun shaming the adult world into action on the issue of gun violence.

People often tell me they believe the U.S. military remains in Afghanistan because it wants to eventually control mineral wealth and other resources. But right now, weapon manufacturers like General Atomics and Boeing — which supply the U.S. base in Kandahar with drones, missiles and bombs — are profiting from the perpetuation of war. This profit gives them common cause with arms manufacturers like Sturm Ruger and Sig Sauer earning millions from equipping U.S. police forces as well as deranged killers in U.S. classrooms.

Yesterday, I read about U.S. aviation brigades training in Colorado’s Fort Carson for possible Afghan deployment: 2,000 troops, part of an exercise called “Eagle Strike,” are preparing for attacks with ground-pounding weapons. The Kandahar base in Afghanistan now has three squadron’s worth of MQ-9 Reaper drones. Costing $65 million each, these drones are outfitted to carry 560-pound GPS laser-guided bombs as well as Hellfire missiles.

Why fill the landscape of any country with craters and graves? What could we possibly hope to harvest?

Zainab tells me she thinks the teenage generation is changing and that more young people believe in training individuals and nations to avoid killing.

“Why can’t we devise sustainable ways to bring about peace?” she asks.

I consider the idea that international teen solidarity could challenge both the U.S. military and the National Rifle Association to end assaults on human life. “Our goal must be to demand that every person around the world agree to stop producing and using weapons,” says Nasir.

I sit with them, and reflect on these courageous, clear-eyed Afghan and U.S. youth working in both countries to sow seeds that bear needed fruit, hoping they can change the adults as well.

AVPs and others celebrate International Day of Peace, September 2017

• This article first appeared in The Progressive magazine.

Drones and Jets: The “Brazenness” Belongs to Israel

“Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty,” stated Netanyahu on 10 February. “They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel.”

In response to this alleged reconnaissance drone, which the Israeli military characterized as a “serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory,” Israel promptly bombed twelve Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria.

A vagueness persists about the alleged drone. Iran stated the claim was “baseless” and “ridiculous.” The US called the drone “provocative.” Israel noted that it waited for the drone to enter its territory and “chose where to bring it down,” just ninety seconds later. Some sources indicate it was over Beit Shean, some say over the Golan. While the drone caused no damage, Israeli airstrikes killed six people.

At the Munich Security Conference a week later, Netanyahu underscored his indignation: “[Iran’s] brazenness reached new heights, literally new heights. It sent a drone into Israeli territory, violating Israel’s sovereignty, threatening our security. We destroyed that drone and the control center that operated it from Syria.” He then portrayed Israel as the innocent victim under threat, characterising the alleged drone as an “act of aggression.”

Talk about brazen.

Let us recall that in August 2014 it was Israel’s drone that was shot down in Iranian territory. While Israeli media reported that the “device looks like a kind of UAV used by the Israeli military,” all sources agree with Reuters’ observation: “Israel has always declined comment on such accusations.” ­Did the Netanyahu-labelled “tyrants of Tehran” respond as Israel has just done? Did Iran retaliate by sending fighter jets into Israel? Absolutely not. Instead, Iran did what it was meant to do as a cooperative member of the international community. It verbally condemned the affront; it reported it to the IAEA (INFCIRC/867) and to the UN Security Council (S/2014/641). The IAEA merely circulated the complaint to member states, and the world ignored the brazenness of Israel.

Let us recall that in August 2011 it was a US drone that was shot down in Iranian territory. Somehow this was not “provocative,” but was rather, as then-current and former officials said, “part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran,” encouraged by “public debate in Israel.” This 2011 drone is even flaunted in current Israeli media, noting the US “initially denied the incident but eventually acknowledged the loss.” A bit brazen, wouldn’t you say?

Let us recall Israel’s unconscionable use of air power, including drones, over Occupied Palestine. Seen as “near continual surveillance and intermittent death raining down from the sky,” its decades-long aerial persecution of the Palestinians epitomises brazenness.

Lastly, let us recall Lebanon. Since the 1960s, Israel has routinely occupied Lebanese skies. This flagrant defiance of international law is a matter of record. Lebanon has issued numerous formal complaints with the UN—to no avail. Lebanese skies are violated virtually daily by a combination of helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, and two, four or eight Israeli warplanes. They fly through all regions of Lebanon, including over UNIFIL territory, over Beirut, and over the Ba‘abda Presidential Palace. The Israeli overflights might just spy, or they might create sonic booms, or they might fire flares, or they might fly round-the-clock shifts so that there are always one or two Israeli aircraft in the skies of Lebanon. Or they might fly through Lebanese airspace to bomb Syria.

A recent UN Security Council Report states:

“Israel continued to violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty. From 1 July to 30 October [2017], UNIFIL recorded 758 air violations, totalling 3,188 overflight hours, an increase of 80 per cent compared with the same period in 2016.”

This was, of course, despite the Security Council’s previously reiterated call for “Israel to cease immediately its overflights of Lebanese airspace.” But, then again, that call has been reiterated by the UN for decades. Extraordinary brazenness.

It has been argued that Israel should not be bound by Resolution 1701 because Hezbollah has remained armed. Such an argument is simply making excuses for Israel’s belligerent conduct. It should be noted that:

  • UN Resolutions do not subscribe to the all-or-none approach; they specify obligations to each party separately.
  • Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace are in direct violation of the 1949 Armistice, which forbids Israel to “enter into or pass through the air space” of Lebanon, clarifying specifically “for any purpose whatsoever.”
  • Prior to the formation of the Hezbollah Resistance there were already 28 Security Council Resolutions condemning Israel’s aggressions against Lebanon. Since at least 1972—a decade before Hezbollah—UNSC Resolution 316 called on Israel specifically “to desist forthwith from any violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon.”
  • Resolution 1701 states that prohibitions on weaponry “shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL.”  This authorization is indeed expressed, as is custom, in the 2016 Ministerial Statement of the Government, which emphasises the right of Lebanese citizens to resist the Israeli occupation and to respond to its aggression. As President Aoun, a former Army General, explained: “Hizbullah’s arms do not contradict with the State and are an essential component of the means to defend Lebanon.”

With 552 violations of Lebanese airspace in 2016, Israel has exhibited extreme brazenness. With 805 violations in the ten months of 2017 that have been officially reported, Israel has surely forfeited the right to stand in judgment. Fifty years of consistent air violations in Lebanon and Palestine. And Netanyahu calls Iran “brazen” for ninety seconds?

They Keep Saying: “Hope is the Only Thing Left”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care. Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

— Derrick Jensen, essay, “Beyond Hope

Life Measured in Gold

What is a life worth in this poisoned pen world of American deception? I have been scouring the depths of this culture for decades, 4.5 to be exact, looking for signs of hope, dredging the bowels of a country that has never been what so many today believe it was/is/will be. Ever.

I also balked for 4.5 decades at the silliness of Americans who hands down (70 percent) give the US Military Killing Machine the highest marks of all humanity coming out of the intestines of this genocidal country. These high school football games now have flyovers from attack jets and commandos from helicopters. Big fat tears for the mercenaries, and oh how this is normalized behavior.

Pretty soon, the camo and drones will be at your favorite daycare center recruiting.

Get this shit about America, ending this 2017, with Trump and friends as the new Kamikazes (all politicians and corporations love what Trump is and how he got there) pushing the national agenda for the more than just simple daft American consumer – offended by kneeling . . . getting a refund:

And if legislation from Indiana State Representative Milo Smith passes, the Colts would be required to offer those fans who feel disrespected refunds if Colts players kneel during the national anthem of home games, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”

You have to wonder if the refund includes all taxes paid since this country is run by economic hit men, buggering the people believing in government of, for, by, with the people, so called representational democracy? How many cents on the dollar go to US Military Inc. and the Little Eichmann’s running the complex that is guns-punishment-armaments-high tech tools of enslavement? Is it fifty-five out of every buck? Sixty cents? Do the extractive thugs with their massive externalities paid for by you and me and the rest of the world, is that tax refundable? Up to what, 70 cents of every dollar paid to Uncle Sam’s Killing Machine?

How many of those dollars will get refunded? All those offshore untaxable accounts? We getting refunds on that big fat kneeling of the millionaires/billionaires? Think I can cash it all in because I am offended by the high crimes insulter that is the Mafia Donald Trump for putting his knee into our proverbial groin and up against our children’s children’s proverbial necks?

I am reminded of other people’s writing looking at the blasphemy of a happy new year, let’s hope 2018 is better:

Those in power love it when we hold on to our fake optimism year after year, instead of revolting against these worn out celebrations. They love it when they see millions of mindless consumers storming stores to buy and consume more shiny and glittering gifts, as if they are genuine signs of loving and caring for each other. They love it when we keep quiet and do business as usual while “hoping for a better new year.”

An Angel in Every Household

This Wish for an Angel bullshit is America, all cuddly with Disneyland pudge, all teary-eyed flatulence when the old millionaire hands out Big Macs to the swollen masses who are homeless and dying.

In any case, there are a few bright spots for me coming into this next stage of the electrical storm, 2018 Surveillance-Punishment-Alternative Reality US/White race (sic): a teller (soon to be extinct professional) at my local bank gets it about Facebook and Zio-Zuckerberg selling us all out; and she cancelled her Page, and she understands the surveillance society she is now in, as a 28-something Latina in White-White Portland. She has plans to circumvent the reality of the controllers to her own reality.

Then there’s my buddy who is 64, Jim, and who’s worldly, playing Texas Hold ‘em in several small towns along the Columbia River and making money under the table while collecting social security checks and talking about the history of Switzerland, he’s really happy that his taxes in Washington (where he has 75 acres and a home next to my 20 raw acres) are doing what they should: providing roads, public services, fire control, all the necessary bureaucracy to keep people going and to deliver vital services.

The bright hope is that many significant people in my life knowing they are not living/working/existing in their own house, as my African-American friends say every time we face the hell of incorrigible bosses who berate and pencil-push us into corners at whichever job we find ourselves in. There are people running staffing agencies in my life who try and try to make the lives of their temps more tolerable, and try to hike up hourly wages and act as go-betweens between the employee (temporary) and the outfit bosses, typically as ugly as a Jeff Bezos fulfillment (sic) center, also known as a dead-end hell hole (for the lack of livable wages and the redneck drill sergeant supervision).

Uber fascist, Jeff, forcing journalists to not be, err, real journalists —

Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, has instituted a new policy with regard to employees’ social media behavior… a new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.”

In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”

His paper’s new social-media policy specifically lists the following among the types of communications which are now prohibited:

Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.

Ahh, this perniciousness will engulf all corporations’ policies. Imagine, a journalist who can’t “disparage” things, people, corporations, ideas, products, services. The Age of Bizarre turn into the Age of Dumb and Dumber. The devil’s in the details, and I predict in 2018 Mr. Bezos will be positioning himself to run for POTUS soon — more devils in the White House:

See the source image

See the source image

Will Anyone Really Care in a Hundred Years if There is No Amazon (forest)?

I am attempting to be cogent here coming into 2018, trying to make the deadline for this DV end-of-the-year piece so its fine editor (here, Dissident Voice, going on 17 years or more as a radical news source) can scramble and get pieces ready for that artificial tick of the clockwork. My lamentation is that as each day in 2018 unfolds, the powers will make it more difficult to even launch anything small and terse and dissident like this blog. Imagine doing all this work for free, and the question is when the lights go out because of Verizon and ATT and Comcast, all these great pieces and ideas, more than a decades’ worth, thousands, whoosh, vanished into the digital thin air.

Which brings me to my hook here, one that I will be returning to in other pieces coming up in the year of the dog. I am taking issue with this laborious and loud lament usually stated by non-working class elites, or quasi-elites –

“Well, in a hundred years, what will our great-great grandchildren think how we left the world? In a hundred years, the people will be asking, ‘What the hell was that generation thinking doing/allowing/creating/destroying/ promoting/justifying . . . THAT?”

The “that,” conveniently, is a fill-in-the-blank answer, but the reality is there is no hundred years from now species of man/woman/child/they/it, or archetype of an American who would even have the context or knowledge to ask anything of the sort. The fact is we are on a pathway to completely damaged people, a neo-species of sick, psychologically dented, ethically demented, drawn and quartered spirits, people, youth and old, tied to the giant 24/7 15-minutes of attention on a million stories cycled into the next and the next 15 minutes. Trivial and shallowness, recycled, meaningless, cult of the famous-infamous, proud to know the football scores and the murderers and NYSE’s predictions for another year of gluttony.

People also held by gut diseases, by vaccine injuries, by persistent organic chemicals eating at their mitochondria, their DNA, or the off-gassing grossness in every corner of their lives, cesspools called ponds, eddies of slurry called rivers, black lagoons and gyrating garbage patches as beaches, clear-cut forests, oh, so inundated cities, half water logged.

Do we think in a hundred years there will be memory, human memory, as the kingpins of punishment and debt collude to turn everyone as obsolete. The horror, the horror, Kurtz might say in the Heart of Darkness, not about the white princes of the British Isle, but pointed at the masters of the economics of this universe, those three men owning the wealth of a 150 million, and those thirty titans of obsolescence and greed and exploitation toppling wealth of nations, more in those 30 men’s wallets than 3.5 billion of us collectively.

There will be no teenager in 2080 asking, “Man, what were you thinking killing the great barrier reef?” No millennial in 2100 admonishing, “How could they have allowed every single waking and sleeping and breathing moment be to surveilled by Big Brother Corporation-Government?”

No activists in 2100 running around the country with their big banner drops off the top of buildings stating, “Our grandparents are responsible for the oceans rising, the end of civilization, and my chronic and genetic illness!”

There Will Be Blood and We Do Need those Stinkin’ Badges

This is the same soft-shoe soft-headed thinking that runs Hollywood and Madison Avenue, that ensconces in the hallways of schools and colleges. There is no future world of dystopia and endless rot where a new generation a century from now, or even a few radicals or dissidents, will be admonishing past generations.

What they will have will be how they think. Acceptance is the gulag, now or in a century. Acceptance now is 11 million babies dying a year of treatable diseases. The accepting masses young and old today are here watching mountains explode and insects going extinct and oceans emptying out and accepting the infinite death ray of flat screens and Netflix-HBO-Amazon-20th Century Fox. Entertaining ourselves now into stupidity, and back to the superficiality that so many Americans have that causes them to think they are smart.

It ain’t gonna happen, generations in the future catching on, lamenting, knowing, and admonishing and understanding what each season brings in this madness of pre-post-retrofitting industrialization into the hyper madness of drones-artificial people/intelligence/ecologies/relationships/thinking.

Jeff Bezos and Musk and Google offspring and Zuckerberg zygotes will be the ruling classes of information flow, the arbiters of history found, kept and scrubbed. This is the time of the carnival, the sideshow, the blaring idiot Trump genuflecting to the waitresses and the go-go dancers while his effete sidekicks like Zio-Christian Pence take it all with the glee of televangelists hiding kiddie porn and their rhinestone g-strings.

The spectacle is our own downfall, the spiraling vortex of more and more aberrations turning into regular, every day, every minute events. The homeless wandering, bused from city to city; floating islands of crap, zfor the jobless to pick through; the obsolete, more and more people coughing up spare kidneys, letting the grand illusionists pull skin off of them for the $500 ready in hand entertainment, fun.

There are bigger and more horrific things than the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades or the Nazi pogroms of experimentation with the mammals in their concentration camps. We are now in full-throttle Mengele mode, where each cell in us, the deplorables, the 90 percent, or 80, is bought and sold by the corporatists, the disrupting economists, the evil twins of racism and inequity. Segregation now is based on zip code, decay, urban rot, and the evils of war and profits so lovingly embraced by the elites here and the majority in a place like Israel are quickly transformed into the divide and conquer the rich are so deftly able to promulgate each week, each 24/7 million rip-off deals a day.

Mad-Mad-Mad World of Ad Men

Here, let me explain: It’s the power of marketing the lies of capitalism, of prompting the psychological warfare of USA exceptionalism, of inciting the us against them-isms of a modern age now, teaching the lesser of evils throughout a person’s lifetime that warps memory and erases not only history but humanity. And, unfortunately, what I call the shifting baseline syndrome allows what is happening now, today, to be normalized, and valorized.

Pissing in a cup during a job interview? Sheriff’s deputies protecting repo men and women? Banks getting away with foreclosing on not only homes, but lives? What baseline do I go by? In my time, the cops had no right to ask what was in my glove compartment or trunk on a traffic stop. In my day, people tried stopping someone jumping off a bridge instead of calling 911, after whipping out Smartphones videotaping it and then saying, ‘Jump . . . jump’ right before the selfie.

In my day and age, there was a modicum of interest in learning about ecosystems and how to protect wetlands, mangroves, grasslands, deltas, riparian areas, mountain tops.

In my day and age a healthy reef in the Sea of Cortes was dozens of moray eels and turtles and a hundred fish species by the thousands in one 50 minute dive (scuba) piloted by dolphins and sharks.

In my day, there were reliable journalists – mostly print, sometimes small-town journalists (I was one) – who could tell you about a topic like zoning for a new stadium on many levels, from many perspectives for hours on end!

I won’t even get into details around how pathetically ruined Homo Sapiens will be coming out of this America’s womb in fifty years – chronic illness is now hitting 50 percent of the population, but put that at 90 percent in 20 years, and half of the population will have several chronic illnesses. What’s it going to look like in 80 years?

Count that as auto-immune issues out the rooftop, attention deficit issues, constant brain fog and arterial clogging, aches and autism, abnormal blood draws and diabetes, General Anxiety Disorders and fear of thy neighbor, and a bloody mix of bacteria loads, gut ailments, paranoia, and fear of one’s own shadow. Day to day, the surveillance state ramps up, and the poverty level increases, the one-credit card voucher away from being homeless pervades, digital and computer fatigue sets in, automation and artificial intelligence overtake human relations, and the list goes on and on, so it is hilarious to think there is some Cormac McCarthy world of people wandering the earth looking for that one spit of land or some mossy forest where goblins and fairies will bring back the good old days, a time of human humanity!

The Truths Are in the Eyes of the Billionaires

You’ve got Trump saying, err, tweeting, “Bring on the Global Warming, man, with all this snow in Erie, Pennsylvania, ha-ha-ha,” and you have Purdue University president Mitch Daniels calling those of us who question glyphosate and Golden Rice as immoral:

The attack on GMO technology is the most blatant anti-science of the age. But it’s far worse than that. Lives are at stake, and while scientists, regulators, and business people are naturally reluctant to fight back, it’s morally irresponsible not to.

Daily, in 2018, the fight will be with those who have been brainwashed into thinking mandatory vaccines are legal and ethical, and that anti-GMO activists are loony, and that our food as produced by the chemical industry is more than safe.  Here, the power of those multi-billionaires and the chemical purveyors on planet earth will be tested:

Report on, the food-health nexus!

The World Bank and United Nations funded 900 scientists over three years in order to create an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its conclusions were diametrically opposed, at both philosophical and practical levels, to those espoused by Bill Gates and clearly state that the use of GM crops is not a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.

Changing Seed and Plant Variety Protection Laws in
Tanzania—Implications for Farmer Managed Seed Systems and Smallholder Farmers

Monsanto Weed-killer Roundup Causes Cancer, California Says

European Union (EU) recently determined that it will renew glyphosate for another five years —a shorter renewal than it could have been, but not ideal when what we really wanted was a rejection of the license renewal altogether.For over two years, this vote was delayed as member states debated whether or not glyphosate is a carcinogen. The World  Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated glyphosate a probable carcinogen in March 2015, a decision that IARC has continued to defend despite attacks from industry interests on multiple fronts (including from members of the U.S. House of Representatives).

The grand illusion is each community, each unique people’s we might imagine in the future will be covered in more than a trail of tears to the tenth power. More than slaves to debt and confusion, and commerce will be exacting punishment for being a being. More pain than what befell the first nations people, all those abused scoundrels, the immigrants – European illegals coming into a land that was once a nation of people and tribes. This recessive gene pool gave birth to the abused and abuser on a very special scale. This grand deception called America Great Again is more than the PT Barnum scam of credit and debt, land theft, gilded syphilitic ones determining the number of bellies bloated and brains blown away.

The very premise of these 50 states and territories, this country shitting on Puerto Rico while oligarchs and kleptomaniacs stuff billions inside the cadavers of their enemies, isn’t even the real shame.

The reality is Americans are bamboozled into believing they are god’s second chosen people, that the entire mess of this hyper-military society is somehow legitimate, a god-send to the other continents.

I have faced down the scourge and scrooge that is capitalism, credentialism, credit scores, and what one has to demonstrates his or her credence in society – status, money, power and say, and voice. I have failed in 60 years, and turning 61 in the Year of the Dog just militates my points of abject failure of my own voice having any weight.

The reality of who is and who isn’t an outlier forever is determined by how much scratch one accumulates, and how much limelight is shined upon him or her and the weight of digital ink expended.

I have listened to people say my position of precarity is all tied to the gravity of the decisions I’ve made throughout my pittance of a life. Every single decision I have made have put me behind the proverbial eight ball – healthy, both of mind and body, but underemployed, under-developed, under-realized, and precarious: one broken leg from poverty, one motorcycle accident away from institutionalization, or one verbal altercation with a cop from being dead on arrival.

Big Sugar Daddy in the Sky

More and more people are looking at the big daddy in the sky excuse, as if the bad one faces, and the deadly unraveling of one’s life are predestined, ordained a billion big bangs ago, controlled by the drone operator in the sky, the boss, head honcho of heaven.

The talk of the world now is mishmash of billionaire and millionaire sputtering illusions and delusions of grandeur. We have the multi-millionaire Obama interviewed by the ultra multi-millionaire Prince Harry and the world goes a shudder:

Barack Obama Expertly Snubbed Trump in Prince Harry Interview: The prince also couldn’t resist asking the former president some rapid-fire questions about cigarettes, celebrities, sports, and Suits.

We can’t talk about social justice anymore, or talk about the social contract, or the deadly poisoned well that is capitalism. We can’t talk about what might be better, a whole set of better ways to be humane and human, or how socialism and anarchy and humanism and communitarianism and collectiveness might hold some key to sanity and salvation for ones worthy of saving in our hurtling 8 billion human inhumane world.

Worth, value, integrity, something deeper inside the soul than transactional thinking, or this comedy of errors we call American politics. The news is not fit to print, and the Hollywood and Madison Avenue worlds are not real, yet dominate the axiom of perception being THE reality, the show that counts.

Ode to Hope

Oceanic dawn
at the center
of my life,
waves like grapes,
the sky’s solitude,
you fill me
and flood
the complete sea,
the undiminished sky,
tempo
and space,
sea foam’s white
battalions,
the orange earth,
the sun’s
fiery waist
in agony,
so many
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
suspended
aroma,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
and meanwhile,
we men,
touch the water,
struggling,
and hoping,
we touch the sea,
hoping.

And the waves tell the firm coast:
‘Everything will be fulfilled.’

— Pablo Neruda

Even Some Rich Know They Are Filthy Rich! 

Celebrity culture, and the cult of money. The destructive nature of capitalism married to Zionism and commerce and automation and digitization is hardly recognized in the very nature of a Jeff Bezos, working hand in hand with CIA, killing the book industry, this purveyor monopoly and headmaster of the watchtower shadowing individualism and uniqueness.

The spoils of the monsters of money will be a handsome extra $1 trillion for 2017. These Storm-troopers of Capital are so filthy and filthy rich that some of their tribe even plead for taxation, plead for the lot of them to give it away. Even in the world of superficiality, sports, the head honcho of one team is lambasting his filthy and illegal gains:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked why he thinks it’s important to give back to the community: “Because we’re rich as hell and we don’t need it all, and other people need it. Then, you’re an asshole- if you don’t give it. Pretty simple.”

It has nothing to do with the democrats losing the election. It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself. And that’s embarrassing, it’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s in a game show, and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people and our country. Every time he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s disingenuous, cynical and fake.

Or, how about:

Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week.

The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

A Kushner Cos. spokeswoman said that the firm is cooperating in the review of what it called a “routine” transaction.

Fourteen $ an Hour and the Trumps Laugh All the Way to Bedlam 

Here’s a job announcement, for Portland, Oregon, one I am qualified to perform beyond simple basic skills and experience. This is for $14 an hour!! This is what I have always pointed out in my articles that all big ideas and concepts can be tied to the microcosm — this job for hip, up and coming, California dreaming Portland, Oregon, with a housing crisis, homeless crisis and drug abuse crisis. Get it? A non-profit seeking someone with a master’s, helping disabled people get on their feet, the entire suite of services, and it’s FOURTEEN dollars an hour! In my day and age . . . .!!!

1) An understanding of workforce development programs, policies, and initiatives
2) An understanding of the process by which individuals:
a) define career goals,
b) prepare for, find and retain employment,
and c) build skills for career advancement
3) An understanding of labor market resources and how to access them
4) An understanding of the special employment needs of diverse groups and the ability to make appropriate adaptations to address these needs
5) An ability to both provide and facilitate good customer service
6) An ability to develop and track program outcomes and task analysis
7) An understanding of basic computer technology used in job development

Some Major Responsibilities Include:

• Work side-by-side with a newly placed customer at a job site
• Analyze the job, and break into manageable components
• Identify and solve problems before they become crises for the customer, employer or co-worker
• Teach effective job retaining skills
• Use the least intrusive methods possible on the job
• Gradually reduce the time spent at the job site as the customer becomes better adjusted and more independent • Work closely with local school district

Qualifications: • 1) EOP Training, and 2) APSE (or ARCE) Certification or DHS approved equivalent (can be completed within 6 months of hire)

• At least 1 year of experience working with individuals who experience disability
• At least 1 year of experience working or educated in a specific field that includes supervisory and/or training duties and/or marketing and/or sales
• First Aid certification
• Pass a criminal history background check
• Approved driving record
• Self-motivated, self-directed
• Proficient communication skills, written and oral (i.e., interpersonal skills)
• Ability to work in collaboration with TCP staff, local and state agencies, and businesses

Oh, so, let’s get back to that 100 years down the line, when most people will be unemployed, in clinics as harvest factories, or at-home care facilities, organs harvested, and each blink of the eye counted as a tax. How those Bezos sort of people love killing us with their disruptive technologies of obsolescence:

McKinsey counted more than 70 entire professions in which at least 90% of activities can be automated, ranging from mail clerks to ophthalmic lab technicians, tire-repairers, butchers, food preparers and bakers.

But many Americans don’t think they need to adapt, with 80% saying their job definitely or probably will exist in its current form in 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We often think about automation as applying to front-line, low-wage, low-skill activities and jobs — and what we’ve discovered is there are some activities that are high-wage, high-skill that are actually very susceptible to automation,” said Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner in San Francisco who studies the issue. “Almost every job in the economy has a significant percentage of activities that can be automated.”

The professional service robot industry expects to sell a third more units from 2016 through 2019 — 333,200 in all — than it sold in the past 17 years, says the International Federation of Robotics. They could be used in place of professionals, whether it’s medicine, agriculture, hospitality or even the supermarket down the street.

Consider: —Restaurant workers. In fast-food, San Francisco-based Momentum Machines already makes a hamburger-flipping robot. Several chains are gradually introducing self-ordering stations.

Shelf stockers. In stores, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics has developed a robot that is checking shelf inventory in a test at Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain.

Journalists. Automated Insights has created a software suite called WordSmith that writes thousands of automated stories every month, including Minor League Baseball game accounts and earnings reports for the Associated Press, basketball game recaps for Yahoo! Sports and financial content for dozens of other clients.

Bookkeepers. Accountants — perceived as a steady 9-to-5 job with an average salary of $67,190 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — are poised for a total makeover. About one in five people in the finance and insurance sector primarily perform data processing — and about 85% of that work can be automated, McKinsey estimates

Love as Antidote?

Enough said about the coming year, the coming decade, this century. Automatons, and disease. Am I supposed to end the year, 2017, with hope, with something?

Try this out for size:

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

— L.R. Knost

Apocalypse Now: 2017 Was Another Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

Everyday the future looks a little bit darker.

― Alan Moore, Watchmen

Nothing has changed.

Just our luck that 2017 gave us more of the same bad news that we experienced the year before and the year before that: Endless wars. Toxic politics. Violence. Hunger. Police shootings. Mass shootings. Economic rollercoaster. Political circuses. Senseless tragedies. Loss. Heartache. Intolerance. Prejudice. Hatred. Apathy. Meanness. Cruelty. Poverty. Inhumanity. Greed.

Here’s just a small sampling of what we suffered through in 2017.

The new boss proved to be the same as the old boss. True to form, the new boss (Donald Trump) proved to be no better than his predecessors in the White House in terms of protecting the citizenry from the American police state. Indeed, after a year in office, Trump actually paved the way for further assaults on our freedoms: The predators of the police state wreaked havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government didn’t listen to the citizenry, refused to abide by the Constitution, and treated the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers shot unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—were armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies were allowed to fleece taxpayers. Government technicians spied on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors made a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

Police became a power unto themselves. Lacking in transparency and accountability, protected by the courts and legislators, and rife with misconduct, America’s police forces were a growing menace to the citizenry and the rule of law. Shootings of unarmed citizens, police misconduct and the use of excessive force continued to claim lives and make headlines. One investigative report found that police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known, a number that is underreported and undercounted. For example, a San Diego man was shot and killed after it was reported he was “fiddling” with a shiny metallic object: a pen. That doesn’t account for the alarming number of unarmed individuals who died from police using tasers on them.

911 calls turned deadly. Here’s another don’t to the add the growing list of things that could get you or a loved one tasered, shot or killed, especially if you are autistic, hearing impaired, mentally ill, elderly, suffer from dementia, disabled or have any other condition that might hinder your ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order: don’t call the cops. For instance, Justine Damond called 911 to report a disturbance and ended up dead after police dispatched to investigate instead shot the 40-year-old yoga instructor. Likewise, Carl Williams called 911 to report a robbery and ended up being shot by police, who mistook him for a robber in his own home.

Traffic stops took a turn for the worse. Police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons and subject them to forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases. This free-handed approach to traffic stops has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long. Unfortunately, traffic stops aren’t just dangerous. They can be downright deadly at a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct.

The courts failed to uphold justice. A review of critical court rulings over the past decade or so, including some ominous ones by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order and protecting the ruling class and government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution. For example, continuing its disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, a unanimous Supreme Court declared that police should not be held liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a shack where a homeless couple was sleeping.

A culture of compliance paved the way for sexual predators. Twenty years after America gave a collective shrug over accusations of sexual harassment by Bill Clinton, sexual harassment suddenly made headlines after a series of powerful men, including Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, were accused of predatory behavior in the workplace.

Patriotism trumped free speech. At a time when the American flag adorns everything from men’s boxers and women’s bikinis to beer koozies, bandannas and advertising billboards (with little outcry from the American public), a conveniently timed public dispute over disrespect for the country’s patriotic symbols during football games further divided the nation and detracted from more serious conversations that should have been taking place about critical policy matters of state.

Mass shootings claimed more lives. Mass shootings have taken place at churches, in nightclubs, on college campuses, on military bases, in elementary schools, in government offices, and at concerts. The mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 injured was the deadliest to date and left us with more questions than answers, none of them a flattering reflection of the nation’s values, political priorities, or the manner in which the military-industrial complex continues to dominate, dictate and shape almost every aspect of our lives.

The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and healthcare costs skyrocketed. Despite being one of the world’s richest nations, America’s poor grew to 41 million people living in poverty. That doesn’t include the number of Americans struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet. Americans currently pay $3.4 trillion a year for medical care. We spent more than $10,000 per person on health care in 2016. Those attempting to shop for health insurance coverage right now are understandably experiencing sticker shock with premiums set to rise 34% in 2018. It’s estimated that costs may rise as high as $15,000 by 2023.

We became a nation of snowflakes. We have entered a new age where there can be no freedom speech, expression or thought. We have become a nation of snowflakes, snitches and book burners: a legalistic, intolerant, elitist, squealing bystander nation eager to report fellow citizens to the police for the slightest offense. Americans allowed their fears—fear for their safety, fear of each other, fear of being labeled racist or hateful or prejudiced, etc.—to trump their freedom of speech and muzzle them far more effectively than any government edict could. Ultimately the war on free speech—and that’s exactly what it is: a war being waged by Americans against other Americans—is a war that is driven by fear. That bottled up dissent bubbled over and fomented even more hate, distrust and paranoia among portions of the populace.

Civil discourse was drowned out by intolerance, violence and militarized police. In Charlottesville, Berkeley and St. Louis, the presence of violent protesters and militarized police turned First Amendment activities into riots. Charlottesville, Va., has become the latest poster child in a heated war of words—and actions—over racism, “sanitizing history,” extremism (both right and left), political correctness, hate speech, partisan politics, and a growing fear that violent words will end in violent actions. In Charlottesville, as in so many parts of the country, the conflict centered on how to reconcile the nation’s checkered past with the present need to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense.

The courts empowered the government to wreak havoc on our liberties. In one particularly outrageous incident, a Virginia court authorized police to take pictures of a teenager’s genitals and force the young man to masturbate—or be subjected to “an erection-producing injection”—as part of a teen sexting case. A Massachusetts court had no qualms about forcing the subject of an investigation to unlock his phone so government agents could search it. 

The cost of endless wars drove the nation deeper into debt. Waging endless wars abroad (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Syria) didn’t make America—or the rest of the world—any safer, any greater, or any richer. Meanwhile, the nation’s infrastructure is falling apart. The interest alone on the money America has borrowed to wage its wars will cost an estimated $8 trillion.

Overcriminalization went into overdrive. A Florida couple was threatened with $50 daily fines for growing vegetables in their front yard. Arizona introduced legislation that would allow the government to seize the assets of anyone associated with protests that “disturb the public peace.”

The Internet of Things crossed over into the twilight zone. Google Home updated its features to allow users (and Google) to remotely control smart, internet-enabled devices such as lights, switches, thermostats, security cameras, washers, dryers, vacuums and more. Toys that talked back with the help of connected technologies also exposed kids to the risk of strangers hacking into and communicating with them, without their parents’ knowledge.

Government agencies padded their pockets at the expense of taxpayers. In Virginia, drivers traveling along a toll road during rush hour were hit with a $40 toll to travel a 10-mile stretch of road, part of a new dynamic price gouging scheme aimed at penalizing single-occupant vehicles traveling during peak times.

The plight of the nation’s homeless worsened. In communities across the country, legislators adopted a variety of methods (parking meters, zoning regulations, tickets, and even robots) to discourage the homeless from squatting, loitering and panhandling. One of the most common—and least discussed—practices: homeless relocation programs that bus the homeless outside city limits.

Free speech was dealt one knock-out punch after another. First Amendment activities were pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship varied widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of free speech. Google also announced plans to dedicate 10,000 staffers to tracking down “extremist” content on YouTube.

The Surveillance State rendered Americans vulnerable to threats from government spies, police, hackers and power failures. The Department of Homeland, which has been leading the charge to create a Surveillance State, began deploying mandatory facial recognition scans at airports and improperly gathering biometric data on American travelers. Police were gifted with new surveillance gadgets that allows them to scan vehicles for valuable goods and contraband. Even churches got in on the game, installing “crime cameras” to monitor church property and churchgoers. The Corporate State tapped into our computer keyboards, cameras, cell phones and smart devices in order to better target us for advertising. Social media giants such as Facebook granted secret requests by the government and its agents for access to users’ accounts. Triggered by background noise, Google Assistant has been actively recording phone users’ conversations. And our private data—methodically collected and stored with or without our say-so—was repeatedly compromised and breached.

Technology drove teens to suicide. Studies show that the rapid explosion of cell phone use and increased screen time by young people have contributed to a climate in which teen mental health is failing and suicide rates among 13- to 18-year-olds are skyrocketing.

Police became even more militarized and weaponized. Despite concerns about the government’s steady transformation of local police into a standing military army, local police agencies continued to acquire weaponry, training and equipment suited for the battlefield—with full support from the Trump Administration. Connecticut expanded its crime-fighting tools to equip police with drones and surveillance to “analyze crime and traffic patterns and capture suspects.” Massachusetts police began using their military armored vehicle (intended for dealing with natural disasters) to intimidate residents making too much noise.

Drones became more lethal. DARPA, the government’s military research agency, unveiled a plan to deploy a swarm of armed, surveillance mini-drones. The Pentagon also provided a glimpse into its future plans for kamikaze drones and tethered, targeted killer drones.

Science got scary. Researchers created “humanized” mice using organs taken from fetal tissue. Genetic engineers created an entire synthetic DNA genome watermarked with encoded links and hidden messages. The FDA approved the first digital pill embedded with sensors to monitor patients’ intake. And DARPA funded research towards the creation of genetic extinction technologies that could be used to eradicate or alter whole populations.

The government waged a renewed war on cash. Championed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the government’s attempts to seize cash and other valuables under the guise of asset forfeiture moved into high gear. Denver made $2.4 million in car seizures in one year alone. One Alabama town turned its police force into a money-making operation to increase revenue.

Police waged a war on kids. So-called school “safety” policies, which run the gamut from zero tolerance policies that punish all infractions harshly to surveillance cameras, metal detectors, random searches, drug-sniffing dogs, school-wide lockdowns, active-shooter drills and militarized police officers, have turned schools into prisons and young people into prisoners. In Georgia, 900 high school students were subjected to body searches by sheriff’s deputies as part of a warrantless drug sweep.

The Deep State reared its ugly head. The Deep State—a.k.a. the police state a.k.a. the military industrial complex—took over. The American system of representative government was overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic corporate state bent on total control and global domination through the imposition of martial law here at home and by fomenting wars abroad. When in doubt, follow the money trail. It always points the way.

The U.S. military industrial complex—aided by the Trump administration—armed the world while padding its own pockets. Not content to sell an arsenal of weapons and military equipment to the world, the U.S. government pushed to amend a global arms control agreement to allow it to sell military drones globally.

Let’s not take the mistakes and the carnage and the toxicity of this past year into a new year.

The power to change things for the better rests with us, not the politicians.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the police state is marching forward, more powerful than ever.

Thus, if there is to be any hope for freedom in 2018, it rests with “we the people” engaging in local, grassroots activism that transforms our communities and our government from the ground up.

Let’s resolve to work together to make this new year better than the last.