When the gods dance...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

'Harry Potter' And 'Dark Souls' Come To Skyrim

'Harry Potter' And 'Dark Souls' Come To Skyrim

Many Skyrim mods seem geared at making the female characters as sexy as possible, but at least a few of them are actually pretty cool.

Take the School of Witchcraft and Wizardy mod, which brings a Skyrim-style Hogwarts to the game, replete with hundreds of new spells, familiar Harry Potter NPCs, and new areas to explore.

NPCs have had their names tweaked, but many of the characters from the JK Rowling books are present in the School, many of whom will sell you spells.

Of course, you might want to equip a flying broom first, which you can get via the Flying Broom mod.

Harry Potter, My Little Pony…all sorts of fictional universes have been modded into the fabric of Skyrim.

Even better, the Elite Knight armor set mod brings the flavor of Dark Souls to the Bethesda RPG (if not the combat….) The mod’s creator plans on recreating other sets as soon as he’s finished up this one.

The Elite Knight set remains one of my favorite in the game. It’s not the fanciest or the most colorful or the lightest or the strongest, but it’s a great balanced set that looks fantastic.

What mods have you seen recently that are especially neat? I’m still on a quest to find a really decent combat mod. The ones I have tried so far are decent but not good enough yet.

P.S. If you go with the Elite Knight armor, you should also check out this ring mod which brings many of the Dark Souls rings into the Skyrim universe, as well as their powers. While there are many excellent rings, don’t expect to go ninja-flipping around any of Skyrim’s dungeons; there is no Dark Wood Grain Ring included in the mod. C’est la vie…


Light painting at an abandoned old site in Peguera (Berguedà-Barcelona, Spain)


Light painting at an abandoned old site in Peguera (Berguedà-Barcelona, Spain) 

© Marcello Scotti - All rights reserved

Arthur Crudup - That's All Right (original version)

"That's All Right Mama" by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup is the world's oldest rock and roll song, according to Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns, who also thinks this song could contain the first ever guitar solo break.


How Mitt Dodged the Draft

The Flight of the Young Chicken Hawk

How Mitt Dodged the Draft


May 1966.  Mitt Romney is just finishing his first—and only—year at Stanford.  I’m a 32-year-old ex-Strategic Air Command navigator and intelligence officer, now an associate professor in Stanford’s English Department and something of an anti-Vietnam War activist.

About a quarter of a million young American men are already being abducted each year to fight the rapidly-escalating Vietnam War.  Many college students, however, are protected by their 2S student deferments, which blatantly discriminate against all those millions of other young men unable to afford college.  As if this privileging of the relatively privileged were not sufficient, an outcry about “inequity” arises from administrations of some elite universities.  Since the 2S deferment is contingent on relatively high class rank (meaning, of course, academic class rank), they argue that this unfairly discriminates against some of the “best” students, i. e., all those attending schools like Stanford.  A man in the bottom quarter at an elite university might end up being drafted, even though he might be more “intelligent” than a man in the top quarter of some state college.

To address such claims of injustice, the Selective Service was rolling out that month the College Qualification Test, a.k.a. the Selective Service Examination, an “objective” assessment of each test taker’s verbal and mathematical skills, to be used by local draft boards, together with college grades and class rank, to determine who was entitled to that precious 2S deferment and who should be shipped off to Vietnam.   But this deferment test actually spotlighted the true inequities of the draft.  It also offered an opportunity for direct action against the war itself, right on the college campus.

One of the many myths that have buried the true history of the Vietnam War is that the anti-war movement was motivated by selfish desire, especially among college students, to avoid the draft (a view that conveniently ignores the movement’s throngs of female participants, whose gender automatically exempted them from the draft).  Quite to the contrary, students demonstrating against the draft deferment tests were specifically undermining and targeting their own privileges and exemptions, which, as they passionately argued, came at the expense of poor and working class people.  At Stanford, a number of people actually 

disrupted the test.  The young men involved thus proved that their goal was not to avoid the draft but to end it, since they had been explicitly warned that their actions would jeopardize their own deferments.  When students filed in to take the Selective Service test, other demonstrators handed them the SDS “alternative test” on the history of U.S.-Vietnam relations.  About ninety students organized a sit-in in the President’s office.  In a manifesto issued from the sit-in they denounced their own privileged status: “We oppose the administration of the Selective Service Examination . . . because it discriminates against those who by virtue of economic deprivation are at a severe disadvantage in taking such a test. . . . [The] less privileged, Negroes, Spanish-Americans, and poor whites, must fight a war in the name of principles such as freedom and equality of opportunity which their own nation has denied them.”  “Conscription,” they declared, has throughout American history “invariably been biased in favor of the wealthy and privileged.”

Enter young Mitt Romney, right on cue, waving a sign denouncing the anti-war students.   He, like his fellow almost all-male participants in this pro-war demonstration, fervently argued in support of the war and the draft.  But not, of course, for himself.

When Mitt enrolled at Stanford back in the spring of 1965, the official and overt U.S. war (as distinct from the previous forms of proxy, clandestine, and “adviser” warfare waged in Vietnam for more than a decade) had just begun.  Operation Rolling Thunder, the sustained U.S. bombing of the north, had started on March 2.  The first officially acknowledged U.S. combat units were the Marines who went ashore at Da Nang on March 8 (joining the 24,000 U.S. military personnel already fighting in Vietnam).   Draftees were not yet being used in combat.   So Mitt and his dad clearly intended the fall of 1965 to be the beginning of a fine four-year career at Stanford for the young man.  But Mitt’s last month as a Stanford student was May 1966.  Why?

Although the Selective Service Exam radically reduced the chances of college men, especially those with the test-taking skills of most Stanford students, to be conscripted into the Vietnam War, it was no guarantee of long-lasting deferment.  There were other, surer, escapes from the Vietnam nightmare.   One of the very best was the ministry.  In 1966, young men flooded into divinity schools, embarking on careers to be ministers, priests, and rabbis.  The Mormons had an even better deal than most religions, because The Church of Latter-Day Saints required each and every one of its young men to become, for at least two years, a “minister of religion.”   Thus all Mormon young men could claim deferments as ministers.   When the inequity of this arrangement became too blatant, the Selective Service entered into an agreement with the LDS that required the church to specify just one “minister” for each geographical district.  Since there were relatively few Mormons in Michigan, and Governor George Romney had considerable influence in the church, Mitt quickly received an official appointment as a Mormon “minister of religion,” consecrated by a draft deferment from the Selective Service.  So instead of returning to Stanford, Mitt went off to become a Mormon missionary in France, where he would spend the next two and a half years—while Vietnam became a slaughterhouse for the Vietnamese and many Americans drafted to slaughter them.

So who says that Mitt Romney is inconsistent?  After all, what may have been his first recorded public political act was supporting the draft for ordinary Americans, forcing them to participate in a war waged in the interest of his own class.

H. Bruce Franklin is the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University. His most recent book is The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America.


Contradictions and Hypocrisy

Professor Obama Lectures the Muslim World

by Esam Al-Amin

On Sept. 25, Professor-turned President Barack Obama lectured the Muslim World and world leaders during his annual address before the United Nations.

The beautifully crafted speech of the Nobel peace laureate would have been believed – and better received—had it simply been genuine. The president’s appeal for rejecting violence, spreading peace among nations, while emphasizing the vital use of diplomacy in international relations, as well as his call for respecting the rule of law, due process, and cultural understanding were remarkable. But unfortunately, they were simply not credible.

In his speech, the president admonished the Muslim World by underscoring the important belief that people must “resolve their differences peacefully” and that “diplomacy” should take “the place of war.” Laudable words, but only if America practiced what it preaches.

In his seminal work “A Century of U.S. Interventions,” based on the Congressional Records and the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Services, Zoltan Grossman chronicled 133 U.S. military interventions by the most active military in the history of the world, between 1890 and 2001. Similarly, William Blum’s study “A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” covered 67 interventions between 1945 and 2000 that, according to him, resulted in the deaths of 13-17 million people. In his book “The Fall of the U.S. Empire – And Then What?,” European intellectual Johan Galtung listed 161 incidents of American overt political violence between 1945 and 2001, including 67 military interventions, 25 bombings, 35 political assassinations (or attempted ones), 11 foreign countries that were assisted with torture, and 23 interferences with elections or the political process abroad. And all that was before the 9/11 attacks.

Since then, the U.S. military has been extremely busy, invading Iraq in 2003 under false pretenses and causing hundreds of thousands of casualties while creating millions of refugees. Before that, it invaded Afghanistan in 2001, causing tens of thousands of casualties in the longest war in U.S. history while still maintaining to this date over 70,000 soldiers on the ground. The U.S. has also been waging open warfare with the whole world as its theater of operations in the so-called “war on terror.” This endless war allowed the U.S. military to engage in undeclared military operations, violating the sovereignty of many countries in Asia and Africa including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, and numerous Sub-Saharan and West African countries. So much for peaceful conflict resolution and mutual respect between nations.

During that period, the Bush administration allowed (and the Obama administration has since refused to prosecute) the CIA to violate the sovereignty of allied countries including in Europe by authorizing the use of prison black sites, rendition, and torture. In one case, Italy tried and convicted in absentia twenty-three CIA operatives who violated its sovereignty when they kidnapped and rendered an Egyptian cleric to be tortured by the former Egyptian regime. Likewise, Germany condemned the U.S. intelligence agency for kidnapping and torturing one of its citizens of Lebanese descent. While Canada regretted and apologized for its role in rendering one of its citizens of Syrian descent, the U.S. – the country that actually carried out the rendition knowing that the subject would be tortured by the Syrian regime that it now enthusiastically condemns- still refuses to acknowledge its role, let alone apologize for the gross violation of its human rights obligations under international treaties.

Moreover, no American senior officials were ever held accountable for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and torture in Iraq, or for waterboarding and other “harsh interrogation techniques” (read: torture) used against Muslim prisoners (the overwhelming number of whom were innocent bystanders according to legal and human rights organizations) at Guantanamo, Bagram, or elsewhere.

President Obama further stated in his scolding of Muslim world leaders that they needed to emulate the behavior of civilized nations that respect “the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.” But such lofty rhetoric from the president might be very difficult to accept since he himself acted as prosecutor, judge, and executioner when he ordered the murder of several American citizens, including a cleric of Yemini descent and a magazine editor of Pakistani descent with a drone attack in Yemen. People across the Muslim world wondered why the rule of law was absent in these cases and why their due process rights did not apply. Even two weeks after their death, the cleric’s sixteen-year old son, also an American citizen with supposedly constitutional protections, and a child by international standards, was also assassinated in a separate drone attack. So much for due process or respect for human rights.

In fact, since Obama became president in 2009, dozens of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and else where have been killed each year. But rarely does the civilized nation apologize for killing innocent Muslim civilians because “America does not apologize” as many American politicians repeatedly love to say.

Furthermore, Obama’s commendable call for mutual respect among nations may have fallen on deaf ears because it was considered by many as disingenuous. As noted above, for years the U.S. has disrespected the sovereignty of Pakistan and Yemen as it assassinated many individuals, including U.S. citizens, on their soil without any regard for the national sovereignty of the host countries, which are not at war with the U.S. But Obama could not have dared to use a drone attack in the U.K. to kill a cleric of Egyptian descent, who the U.S. has been after for years. In the U.K., the U.S. simply asked the British to extradite him so that he could be tried on U.S. soil. So the U.K. gets every consideration while the administration only shows contempt for Yemen or Pakistan.

In his speech, the president lauded the “enshrined” American values of constitutional protections and freedom of speech, as he reminded his world audience that “citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe,” and that they should be allowed to “speak their minds and assemble without fear.” He then emphatically stated that in the U.S. “our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.”

Yet Muslims around the world wondered where were these protections of freedom of  speech when several American Muslims were indicted and sentenced to as much as life in prison in the U.S. for exercising First Amendment activities, including an American Muslim pharmacist of Egyptian descent in Boston who was sentenced to seventeen years in 2012 for translating passages and uploading videos to the internet, and a cable operator of Pakistani descent who was sentenced to almost six years in 2004 for connecting his New York customers to Hezbollah’s satellite channel.

In many of these cases, government prosecutors speculated that the speech of the Muslim defendants was not protected because it could have led to violence even though no evidence was ever presented to support such a theory. Contrast that with the proven record of hate speech spewed by numerous American Islamophobes, many of whom were quoted extensively by anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik, who deliberately killed in cold blood 77 people in Norway in July 2011. In his 1500-page manifesto, Breivik cited many American anti-Muslim haters such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller, Martin Kramer, and others. They apparently inspired him to commit the atrocious killings, though none were ever held, even morally, accountable, or subsequently condemned for their hateful inciting anti-Muslim speech.

Moreover, President Obama proudly affirmed his belief in “freedom and self-determination” and expounded that such concepts are “not unique to one culture,” since they are “not simply American values or Western values; they are universal values.” But these words ring hollow as the American president failed to explain to peoples around the world why the U.S. and its Western allies while steadfastly declaring that they “believe in these values” have continuously blocked freedom and self-determination, even symbolically at the United Nations, to the Palestinian people who have been suffering for over six decades either under brutal military occupation or in squalid refugee camps.

He further failed to justify why America has continued to fully arm and finance the tools that maintain and sustain the Israeli military occupation for decades, while shielding Israel’s atrocious policies against the unarmed Palestinian civilian population. Or why it protects Israel from any accountability for its illegal settlement activities and occupation in flagrant violations of international law and the Geneva conventions.

Towards the end of the speech, President Obama accused the Iranian government of supporting “terrorist groups” in the Middle East (none of which is known to have targeted the U.S.), while his administration has just delisted the Iranian terrorist group MEK, which has a bloody history and in recent years has been responsible for many terrorist attacks and assassinations inside Iran including the targeting of government officials, scientists, and academics.

Overlooking the fact that he started his speech by emphasizing peace and diplomacy, the president ended it by implicitly threatening Iran with war unless it accepts the dictates of the West as he stated that “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” since “it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful.”

Most Americans might simply be deceived by Israeli propaganda in regard to the Iranian nuclear program, but most of the citizens of the world are not oblivious to the facts or the double standard applied to this issue by the American administration and its Israeli ally. So here are the facts that the president is fully aware of but conveniently decided to totally ignore.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that actually possesses nuclear weapons- over 300 nuclear heads along with their delivery systems. Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), while Iran is. Under the NPT, Iran not only has the right to have a robust civilian nuclear program, but the five recognized nuclear power countries have the obligation to help Iran develop one.

Moreover, Iran’s nuclear facilities have been fully and are currently under the IAEA inspection regime. Iran has repeatedly disavowed the use of nuclear arms and has only enriched its uranium stockpile to the civilian use level of twenty percent- not the ninety eight percent needed for weaponization. Moreover, since at least 2007 the consensus of the sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies has been that Iran abandoned any steps towards building a nuclear arms program. Finally, it was Iran that accepted the conditions set by President Obama in 2010 in his communication with the president of Brazil and prime minister of Turkey for Iran to prove its civilian use intentions. But it was Obama who subsequently backed away from the diplomatic solution as soon as Iran agreed to it, the same plan that he himself outlined to the world leaders.

When Obama arrived on the world stage in 2009, people the world over including many in the Muslim World had high hopes for real and genuine change. People were ready to turn the page on the painful years of the arrogant behavior of George W. Bush. But apparently the empire’s inertia overpowers the raised hopes of any false prophets.

Regrettably, with such self-aggrandizing posture, Obama’s tenure, whether it ends in four months or four years, will not conclude in celebration or optimism.  Rather, in all likelihood its ending may follow T. S. Eliot’s words: “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sublime Energy

New and Hot Video: The Doors Bound Through 'Hello, I Love You' in 1968 Performance

Back on July 5th, 1968, the Doors lit up the Hollywood Bowl with an epic post-Independence Day show, which is the subject of the band's upcoming Live at the Bowl '68, a new concert video of the memorable gig. Here, the legendary quartet digs into "Hello, I Love You," off their 1968 album Waiting for the Sun. The band gives a tight, clean performance of their hit, with Jim Morrison's vocals draped precisely over the raucous track.

Live at the Bowl '68 will be available on October 22nd on DVD, Blu-ray and digital video, with audio available on CD, double-LP and digitally.

Rolling Stone
September 21, 2012 8:00 AM


A Resurgent Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movement

A Resurgent Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movement – Just In Time

By Ken Butigan
September 29, 2012


Ken Butigan's ZSpace Page / ZSpace

Nuclear weapons have been U.S. society’s plumb line for seven decades. Even when other issues capture our attention and the atomic threat fades in and out of public consciousness, nuclear arms and their sprawling reach — physical, political, cultural, economic, psychological — endure. They are always somewhere in the picture, even if we happen to be looking elsewhere.

It’s this constant but unseen presence that makes a story like one the Washington Post ran recently so jolting, if also so utterly predictable. “The B61 bomb: A case study in cost and needs” sets out the Pen! tagon’s plans to refurbish the 500 or so B61s in its arsenal. But more importantly it goes on to detail how the U.S. government plans to overhaul the nation’s vast nuclear weapons complex over the next decade, with a minimum price tag of $352 billion. If history is any gauge, it is likely to cost much more.

This news, so far as I can tell, hasn’t nudged its way into the speeches of the presidential candidates. The citizenry isn’t being asked to weigh in on this projected re-run of nuclear politics and all that it implies. While this would be a perfect time to have a reasoned and spirited debate about these plans, this hasn’t been scheduled. Assessing what being a nuclear state for nearly seventy years has meant, mulling on its consequences for us now, and envisioning what it might mean going forward — none of this is in the works. Instead we are put on notice, fleetingly, by the Washington Post.

Democracy is purportedly on display on many fronts, but rarely on the nuclear one. Since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, nuclearism has shaped our culture and society in incalculably far-reaching ways but no plebiscite has even been held to sort out if this is the way we want to live. Who of us voted to build and pay for — and suffer the geopolitical, psychological, epidemiological and spiritual consequences of — a globe-circling nuclear weapons regime?

That’s where the decades-old anti-nuclear weapons movement comes in. Soon after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it became clear that the robust and critical conversation that needed to take place about this new technology was not in the cards. Early attempts to have that open and searching dialogue — beginning with the scientists who designed these weapons — were smothered. It was out of the need to open space for a national debate on policies transmuting America into a nuclear national security state with long-lasting impact at home and abroad that prompted the emergence of a new peace movement soon after that system began to take shape. Relentlessly, it has alerted, educated and mobilized the populace to envision an alternative and to throw their weight behind it.

This movement created the conditions for the Partial Test Ban Treaty in the 1960s and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the 1990s. It rebelled against first-strike weapons that were put online in the 1980s and mobilized people power that moved power-holders off their adamant nuclearist positions, opening the space for a series of arms control agreements struck between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in the 1980s and 1990s. And it catalyzed a series of shifts that moved things in the right direction. For example, on September 27, 1990 — 22 years ago today — the U.S. removed the last Pershing II nuclear missiles from Germany. Installing these so-called tactical nuclear weapons nearly a decade earlier had catalyzed a massive response from the anti-nuclear movement in Europe and the U.S. and had prompted the U.S.S.R. to sign the Treaty on Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces. Exactly one year later — September 27, 1991 — President George H.W. Bush announced a series of unilateral initiatives to reduce some of the weapons in the U.S tactical nuclear arsenal, which Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev responded to with a similarly significant list of reductions. The decommissioning and destruction of thousands of specific kinds of tactical weapons took place over the next decade.

Since these half-measures were taken years ago the prospect for a nuclear weapons-free world has stalled. Although it offered a vision of eliminating nuclear weapons in 2009, the Obama administration has not taken substantive steps in this direction, as Gareth Evans, Australia’s former foreign minister and emeritus chair of the International Crisis Group, underscored in detail this week. This administration, like each before it, is loath to surrender the power that nuclear hegemony confers. While it may weave dreams of peace, it will put its money on the threat of nuclear war, and go ahead and “modernize” the capaci ty to threaten and wage it. Though the U.S. is a party to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — which requires the five nuclear nation signatories to engage in good faith negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament — the administration plans to upgrade this system rather than dismantle it.

So we are in the midst of the next phase of the movement for nuclear disarmament, where a series of campaigns across the U.S. are pumping life into the seven-decade struggle. In Kansas City a local coalition is working to stop a new nuclear weapons parts facility. It has organized several dramatic actions and, as part of this effort, a group named Peace Planters has gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the local ballot that would forbid the city from subsidizing any facilities that produce or procure parts for nuclear weapons. At the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Michael R. W alli, 63, and Gregory I. Boertje-Obed, 57, entered the facility in late July and carried out a nonviolent disarmament action entitled Transform Now Ploughshares. And at Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Santa Barbara, California, where missiles designed to carry hydrogen bombs are tested, the largest nonviolent action in 30 years took place earlier this year. A group arrested at the base — including peacemakers Daniel Ellsberg and Cindy Sheehan — will head to court October 15 to face charges for crossing the line there.

These efforts are bolstered by long-term direct action campaigns that continue to organize for a nuclear-free world — including at the Nevada Test Site (National Nuclear Security Site), Bangor Naval Base in Washington State, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in northern California,  Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico — that are led by the Pacific Life Community, the Atlantic Life Community, Jonah House, which has been the stalwart center of a! nti-nuclear nonviolent resistance for 40 years, and a host of Catholic Worker houses across the United States.

For those of us who first came to political activism by tackling the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s, the announcement that the U.S. is online to refurbish and reassert its nuclear might far into the future has a glumly déjà vu feel. At the same time, we know the power of people power movements to change history. Together we can build on this emerging next phase to take action, to stoke alternatives and to prompt a powerful nationwide debate on what, buried in the back pages of the Washington Post, is presented to us as a foregone conclusion. 

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/a-resurgent-anti-nuclear-weapons-movement-just-in-time-by-ken-butigan



Southern storm hails the start of the European Fall

Southern storm hails the start of the European Fall

 28 Sep 2012 01:05 PM PDT

With storm clouds forming over Athens, Madrid and Lisbon, one thing is now clear: a new season of crisis and protest has begun. This time it’s serious.

This week, as clouds of smoke and teargas descended upon Greek Parliament, and Spanish street cleaners were left washing the blood off the pavement in front of Congress, Europe was once again reminded that its financial, economic, political and social troubles are far from over. A storm is brewing in the South. The European Fall is about to begin. And this time, it’s serious.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of outraged Spaniards besieged Congress in Madrid and were met with a brutal police crackdown. On Wednesday, violent clashes broke out between protesters and riot police during yet another general strike in Athens, with hundreds of thousands marching and petrol bombs and tear gas flying over Syntagma Square in an eerie reminder of last year’s unrest.

On Friday, over 30.000 marched during a strike against Monti’s new spending review in Rome, while just a week ago, Portugal saw its largest street demonstrations since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, with up to a million people marching on the Presidential Palace in a highly unusual expression of popular resistance to austerity — immediately forcing the government to make adramatic U-turn on some of its most radical social security cuts.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is having trouble keeping his country together. As Rajoy announced the fifth round of draconian austerity measures in just nine months, backtracking on virtually every single election promise he’s made, the regional governor of Catalonia called for early elections that will undoubtedly serve as an unofficial referendum on secessionfrom Spain. For the first time since the Civil War, the majority of Catalans now favors independence. Not just Europe, but its states too are rapidly falling apart.

Oh, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, Spain’s banks apparently suffer a 60bn “black hole“. And Germany, Finland and the Netherlands just refused to stick to their earlier agreement to save them without adding the bill to the Spanish debt. As a result, investors are pulling their hair out of their heads (and their money out of Spain), piling even more pressure on the Spanish government to take a world record 300bn euro bailout from the dreaded Troika.

Spanish borrowing costs shot up to 6 percent for the first time in weeks. Apparently, even the President of the European Central Bank cannot reassure financial markets that he will do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The single currency, it seems, is doomed. Meanwhile, poverty and destitution keep on rising across the continent; and none of our “leaders” seem even the slightest bit concerned about the fact that Southern Europe is steadily being turned into a New Third World at the margins of the European Single Market.

This Saturday, major rallies are planned in Lisbon (with another 1 million expected to take to the streets) and in Madrid (where protests have been taking place every day since Tuesday). Meanwhile, on Sunday, a mass rally is organized in Paris after Socialist President Francois Hollande just announced major austerity measures as part of France’s “harshest budget in 30 years“.

As Bob Dylan legendarily put it, you don’t need a weather man to tell which way the wind blows. With dark clouds forming over Athens, Madrid, Lisbon and Rome, make sure to prepare for months of market and street turmoil. A storm is brewing in the South. The European Fall has begun. This time it’s serious.


Friday, September 28, 2012


How many A-10 combat planes can you count in this photo? 

All of them are deploying to the Middle East…

September 28, 2012

Posted by David Cenciotti in Military Aviation.

Although the caption of the following picture reads “more than a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt….” I can count 19 such combat planes belonging to the 354 FS, 355th Fighter Wing from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona at Westover Air Reserve Base.

Westover airfield, in Massachusetts, has long runways, ample ramp space (to accomodate C-5 Galaxy cargo planes) that make it an ideal stop for combat units on their way overseas.

The aircraft passed through Westover on their way to the Middle East. Once again, although their final destination is (currently) unknown, they are believed to be part of the U.S. military build up in the area near Syria, Iran, Libya and Northern Mali.

The A-10 is the ideal type of aircraft to perform close air support (CAS) by attacking tanks and armored vehicles. The deployment of this kind of aircraft, along with the unusual presence of AC-130U gunships, special operations helicopters, drones and tankers could be the sign that something big is going to take place in the coming weeks…

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Real-Time Glimpse of Cyber Attacks

The HoneyMap Offers Real-Time Glimpse of Cyber Attacks as They Happen
It's kind of fun to watch unless your computer is the one under attack.

HoneyMap (screengrab)

The Honeynet Project has made monitoring the war in cyber space weirdly fascinating with its HoneyMap, which displays malicious attacks as they happen. The result is reminiscent of old animated maps from newsreels reporting on battles during World War II.

Each red dot that pops up when you go to the map represents an attack on a computer. Yellow dots represent honeypots, or systems set up to record incoming attacks. The black box on the bottom says where each attack is coming from as they come in.

The Honeynet Project is a worldwide chain of honeypots that track these attacks. As The Atlantic reports, some members of the network aren’t pushing their data to the map, so it currently tends to display more attacks across Europe.

Betabeat observed several attacks occurring across Brazil and fewer in the United States, though it appears computers in Google’s home city of Mountain View, California and Microsoft’s area of Washington State are under sustained attack throughout the day. A large number of the attacks come from various locations in Russia, however we spotted a few actually coming from servers in Mountain View.

Try to not lose a few minutes gazing at the HoneyMap making exploding sounds with your mouth as each red dot bursts on the screen.

Facebook Asks Users to Report Fake Accounts

Facebook Asks Users to Report Fake Accounts

 27 Sep 2012 05:00 PM PDT


In my opinion, Facebook is focusing on the wrong problem here – they’ve got plenty of other things they need to research and fix! With roughly 955 million users, Facebook is concerned that not all their users are real people. And now they’re asking you to nark on your friends who aren’t using their real names.

According to Facebook themselves, the idea is to “gauge how people use Facebook and represent themselves to better design [their] product and systems.”

They claim they’re not going to use the information to enforce using your real name on accounts, but what do you want to bet that if enough of your friends indicate your name is a pseudonym that they’re going to have you flagged?

This screenshot was tweeted by @chapeaudefee:


So you do have the option of saying you don’t want to answer. I’m not sure about the tactic in terms of their marketing though: I don’t care how many times they tell us that they’re “only looking to understand the results in an aggregate sense,” this still feels very 1984. Which is a pretty bad way to portray yourself when you’re basically mining personal data off us all the time.

Rolling Stone: The Plot Against Occupy

The Plot Against Occupy

How the government turned five stoner misfits into the world's most hapless terrorist cell

September 26, 2012 1:00 PM ET

The Plot Against Occupy
The Plot Against Occupy
Illustration by John Ritter / Photo in Illustration by David Maxwell/EPA/Landov

Thunder rumbled and rain pattered on the leaves as Connor Stevens tramped through the darkness down a wooded path to the base of the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge. A sad-eyed 20-year-old poet from the Cleveland suburbs, Stevens was crouched in the foliage, his baby face obscured by a bushy lumberjack's beard. Beside him ducked two friends from Occupy Cleveland – the group that had come to define Stevens and his place in the world – both as gaunt and grungy as Stevens himself. Farther up the trail, Stevens knew, three other comrades were acting as lookouts. Gingerly, the young men opened the two black toolboxes they'd carried down from their van. Inside were eight pounds of C4 explosives.

They were actually going through with it. The six of them were going to blow up a bridge.

That they were on the brink of something so epic was surprising, even to the crew, a hodgepodge of drifters plus a pair of middle-class seekers: quiet Stevens and puppyishly excitable Brandon Baxter, also 20. Anarchists who had grown disenchanted with the Occupy movement, which they considered too conservative, they yearned to make a radical statement of their own – to send a message to corporate America, its corrupt government and that invisible grid underlying it all, the System. They'd joined Occupy Cleveland in the fall, but over the winter they'd waited in vain for the group to pick a direction before finally taking matters into their own hands. For weeks they'd fantasized about the mayhem they'd wreak, puerile talk of stink bombs and spray paint that had anted up to discussion of all the shit they'd blow up if only they could. But the grandiosity of their hopes stood in stark contrast to their mundane routine. They spent their days getting stoned at their Occupy­subsidized commune in a downtown warehouse, squabbling over dish duty and barely making their shifts at the Occupy Cleveland info tent; when they managed to scrounge up a couple of cans of Spaghettios for dinner, it was celebrated as an accomplishment. If not for the help of their levelheaded comrade Shaquille Azir, who at this critical moment stood as lookout, hissing, "How much longer is this gonna take?" the plot might never have come together.

Inside Occupy Wall Street

The boys anxiously fiddled with the safety switch on one of the IEDs. Even on this April night, as they planted two bombs, the plan felt slapdash. No one knew how to handle the explosives. They had no getaway plan. At one point they'd discussed closing the bridge with traffic cones to minimize casualties – 13,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily – but there was no mention of that now. Some of the accomplices weren't even clear on the evening's basic agenda. "Do we plant tonight and go boom tomorrow?" Baxter had asked in the van. "No, we're going to detonate these tonight," someone had clarified.

The red light on the other IED winked on, signaling it was armed. "One is good to go," Stevens announced. "We just gotta do this one." A night-vision camera mounted nearby captured the boys' movements as they hunched around the second IED until its light shone. Then all six jogged back to the van, relief in their voices. "We just committed the biggest act of terrorism that I know of since the 1960s," Stevens said, as a recording device memorialized every word. All that was left now was for the boys to pick a location from which to push the detonators and go boom. They were feeling pretty good. They decided to go to Applebee's.

othing was destined to blow up that night, as it turns out, because the entire plot was actually an elaborate federal sting operation. The case against the Cleveland Five, in fact, exposes not just a deeply misguided element of the Occupy movement, but also a shadowy side of the federal government. It's hardly surprising that the FBI decided to infiltrate Occupy; given the movement's challenge of the status quo and its hectic patchwork of factions – including ones touting subversive agendas – the feds worried it could become a terrorist breeding ground. Since 9/11, the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force has been charged with preventing further terrorist attacks. But anticipating and disrupting terrorist plots require both aggressive investigative techniques and a staggering level of collaboration and resources; to pull together the Cleveland case alone, the FBI coordinated with 23 different agencies. The hope, of course, is that the results make it all worthwhile: The plot is detected and heroically foiled, the evildoers arrested, and the American public sleeps easier. The problem is that in many cases, the government has determined that the best way to capture terrorists is simply to invent them in the first place.

"The government has a responsibility to prevent harm," says former FBI counterterrorism agent Michael German, now the senior policy counsel for the ACLU. "What they're doing instead is manufacturing threatening events."

That's just how it went down in Cleveland, where the defendants started out as disoriented young men wrestling with alienation, identity issues and your typical bucket of adolescent angst. They were malleable, ripe for some outside influence to coax them onto a new path. That catalyst could have come in the form of a friend, a family member or a cause. Instead, the government sent an informant.

And not just any informant, but a smooth-talking ex-con – an incorrigible lawbreaker who racked up even more criminal charges while on the federal payroll. From the start, the government snitch nurtured the boys' destructive daydreams, egging them on every step of the way, giving them the encouragement and tools to turn their Fight Club-tinged tough talk into reality. To follow the evolution of the bombing plot under the informant's tutelage is to watch five young men get a giant federal-assisted upgrade from rebellious idealists to terrorist boogeymen. This process looks a lot like what used to be called entrapment. And yet

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Thursday, September 27, 2012


As its government hides behind guns, Spain fights back

As its government hides behind guns, Spain fights back


Santiago Carrion
on September 28, 2012
Post image for As its government hides behind guns, Spain fights back

The violent clashes in front of Congress on 25-S mark an escalation for the 15-M movement. As despair in the country rises, the rage finally spills over.

Tuesday’s protest in Madrid was different from all its predecessors since May 15, 2011. Even though it was organized by collectives close to the 15-M indignadxs movement and its national network of popular assemblies, most of its identity signs were not present: the atmosphere was not festive and suitable for all ages; there was no singing or concerts; no flags or t-shirts defending universal healthcare or public education; and even though an assembly was held before the protest began, there were no proposals or details of the action, only speakers lighting up the mood of the crowd with harsh words. Because of the swelling rage and the noise, as well as the violent police charges in response to rocks and bottles from the crowd, it felt more like Greece than Spain. The majority of signs people carried simply read NO in black capital letters.

The 25-S protest marks a clear escalation in both the attitude and methods of the 15-M movement and its sympathizers. In 2011, from the very beginning, people argued that Sol square was not the right place to protest as it was not really making anyone in power too uncomfortable. There was not enough pressure. Why not gather in front of Congress, just a few meters down the road? A year and a half later, after most protests tended to avoid direct confrontation with the 24/7 police force in front of the Parliament building, the first action directly targeting the building was planned. Because of this, yesterday’s action was not approved unanimously and many people went as individuals and not as whole assemblies or groups. In order to coordinate the event, a hybrid organization was created: the Coordinadora25S.

The language used by the Coordinadora was as strong as their message. Their claims, however, are reasonable for most Spaniards: in their manifesto they state that the government has lost all legitimacy, after breaking pretty much every election promise they made; they have sold out the interests of the majority of the population, prioritizing banks and financial markets over human needs for health care, education and housing. Spanish democracy is now being kept hostage by foreign institutions, popular sovereignty has been kidnapped, they stated, and their demands were clear: on the 25th of September, Congress will be surrounded to force the dismissal of the government and the beginning of a transparent and popular process to rewrite the rules of Spanish democracy. The government has broken the social pact on which the 1978 Constitution is based and a new, truly legitimate one, is desperately needed.

The reaction on behalf of the authorities was clear and forceful, as this was no longer a parade which merely had to be escorted: one of the main centers of power, full at the time with the country’s leading politicians, was being directly threatened. Therefore, the organization of the event was repressed harshly from the beginning. Policemen disrupted assemblies weeks before the date and identified the participants, buses bringing people in from different parts of Spain were diverted and searched, with more people being identified.

A couple of days before #25S, eight of the organizers were charged for crimes against high organs of the state and yesterday the amount of police in Madrid hit a new record: around 1.300 policemen, including special horseback and riot units, were brought in from all around the country. In this same tough line, the 35 people arrested will not simply be accused of resisting arrest or disrupting public order, but for an attempted coup d’état.

Police violence, following provocations I witnessed first hand, was as excessive as always, and included the use of rubber bullets. After several charges and scuffles, 64 people were injured, including 27 policemen and one protester who was severely beaten in the head and was left temporarily paralyzed in the hospital. For the first time, protesters could be seen arguing over whether to resist passively (sit down with your hands up in front of the police, seeking to demonstrate state oppression) or to fight back on their feet, pushing against police lines, throwing rocks, bottles or pieces of metal from the fences used by the police.

Clearly, the trademark non-violent stance of the new Spanish social movements has been weakened, even though many protesters tried hard to prevent violence by standing in the middle of the confrontations. As the situation in Spain deteriorates rapidly in the face of austerity, poverty and repression, many are desperate for solutions and are willing to do anything to fight back. The confrontation with authority reached a new level this week, and the Coordinadora has stated that this is only just the beginning. More protests are planned for Saturday. For the chronology of events watch this excellent video:

Luckily, these moments of passion, anger and fear are also ripe for heroes. One of the stories that went viral on the web was that of Alberto Casillas, a middle-age man in charge of a bar near the heart of the protests. As hundreds of people fled from the charging riot police into his restaurant, he took a step forward, stood in front of the door and told the riot police they could not pass. From the other side of the street protesters were throwing rocks ripped out from the pavement, and everybody (including the police) was so nervous that Alberto feared people in the bar could be seriously injured by a probable stampede. The police threatened him violently but he resisted. Later he told the press he had voted for the right-wing government currently in power, but “when a Government hides behind guns, they start breeding something that leads nowhere good”.