Thursday 25th of April 2024

heading in the wrong direction...


On Sept. 7, 2016, Donald Trump made a specific promise to an audience at the Philadelphia shipyards: “to build a Navy of 350 surface ships and submarines.” On March 2, Trump, now president, added to the specificity of that pledge by promising to increase the number of aircraft carriers to 12. The White House budget unveiled Monday breaks both of these promises. It’s a big deal to walk on this pledge, which is why, if the president does not correct his error, Congress should reject the budget and substitute its own plan.

A 350-ship fleet is key for both national security and international stability. China is rapidly growing its navy to fill the gaps left by Obama-era cutbacks to the current level of 274 ships. Reversing those cuts is crucial to preserving American supremacy at sea and supporting allies around the world. And Navy shipbuilding also can be a great jobs program: real jobs in real shipyards producing real ships to meet real threats. 

The president’s budget has forgotten these benefits. Breaking Defense’s Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. summed up the details: “Despite his campaign pledge of a 350-ship fleet, President Trump’s first budget cuts Navy shipbuilding and aircraft procurement below what was enacted in 2017, documents released [Monday] reveal. Despite Trump’s criticism of President Obama’s defense plans, this budget sticks with Obama’s shipbuilding plan for 2018: eight ships. And it actually buys eight fewer aircraft than Obama planned.”

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what's good for the goose...

IRBIL, Iraq — A U.S.-led airstrike carried out on a building in Mosul in March detonated a cache of Islamic State explosives, killing more than 100 Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Thursday.

An unclassified summary of the U.S. military investigation into the March 17 incident determined that the 500-pound bomb used in the strike set off additional explosives that were placed in the building by the Islamic State, causing the collapse of the structure.

The blast killed two Islamic State snipers and 105 civilians, including four in an adjacent house in western Mosul’s al-Jadida district, the summary said. Thirty-six additional civilians who were allegedly killed could not be accounted for, because of “insufficient evidence to determine their status or whereabouts.” In the days after the strike, some reports said that more than 200 bodies were pulled from the rubble.

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Of course when Assad blames a depot or factory a rebel gas for the death of "beautiful children", Trump bombs one of his air-bases...

sgt pepper...

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band provided the binding idea for the album. It's a rocking song re-imagined before the sort of live audience the Beatles had just shunned.

The crowd noise on the opening track was taken from a recording Martin had made of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook's Beyond The Fringe comedy revue in Cambridge.

The Sgt Pepper's concept was dreamt up by Paul McCartney but the sessions that produced the album started months before its title track was recorded.

On November 24, 1966, Lennon came into Abbey Road and dropped his first take of Strawberry Fields. It was an epic song that inspired Paul McCartney to write Penny Lane. Both songs referenced their Liverpudlian days.

By January 1967, EMI was desperate for an "outstanding commercial success" and Martin suggested a double-A side single of Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane.

Featuring two enduring, classic tracks, the release was almost incomprehensibly kept from the top position on the British charts by Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me.

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break it so you can fix it to your own specs...

According to numerous poll results, up to 80 percent of Serbs are against the country's accession to NATO. Serbian retired Major-General Mitar Kovac explained to Sputnik why so many citizens oppose integration into the military block and how the Alliance forces countries to join it.

Serbian Prime Minister and President-Elect Aleksandar Vucic, who is set to assume office on May 31, has recently said that becoming a member of the alliance would solve many of Serbia’s problems.


However Serbia joining NATO would split the nation for decades and would have grave long-term consequences as the overwhelming majority of Serbs oppose the idea, the Serbian leader explained as he gave a lecture to students of Belgrade University’s Faculty of Security Studies.

Aleksandar Vucic admitted that such a decision would go against the will of 75 percent of the population and would only "bring a deep division and discord" to Serbia, which would have long-term consequences.

He went on to say that Serbia should maintain its military neutrality instead of seeking to join any military bloc.
Vucic also said that Serbia should set the goal of joining the EU while maintaining the best possible relations with Russia and China.

Mitar Kovac, retired Major-General, professor at the Serbian Military Academy and Director of the Eurasian Security Forum commented to Sputnik Serbia on the announcements of the Serbian Prime Minister, saying that there is a rational explanation why up to 80 percent of Serbs oppose the integration into the military block.

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What Serbia could do is join NATO, but secretly report to the Russians about anything NATO... That would stir the pot...

loose accounting of US army procurement...


The recent Amnesty International report on the US Army failing to keep tabs on more than $1 billion worth of weapons has raised the issue of arms proliferation. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence stressed that a lack of coordinated control in US arms sales and procurement lies at the root of the problem.


The lack of control over the spread of weapons in war zones usually results in arms ending up in the hands of terrorists, warns Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, a British organization carrying out research and advocacy in order to reduce the incidence and impact of global armed violence.



The latest Amnesty International report sheds light on the 2016 US Department of Defense (DoD) audit which found several serious shortcomings in how the US military equipment intended for Iraq and Kuwait was logged and monitored.

The government audit revealed that the US Army "failed to keep tabs on more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment in Iraq and Kuwait."

However, incomplete records mean those responsible for the arms were unable to ascertain their location or status.


"It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State," Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International's Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, stressed in his statement on the organization's website.The Pentagon officials refuted the allegations claiming that the watchdog's report was not "accurate."



Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Iain Overton compared his efforts to connect the dots while studying DoD's lengthy reports on its arms procurement with Alice's journey through Wonderland.

"I think one of the problems that really is at the heart is that there is a lack of coordinated control in US arms sales and procurement, and often that lack of control is partly driven by a kind of a controversial secrecy that prevails at many levels of US military. Some of that secrecy is understandable and some of that secrecy… leads to not only the situation that we have with Amnesty [International] reporting on this billion dollars loss of arms… but also leads to… a gross overspent of [US] tax money on weapons," Overton underscored.

The British expert called attention to the Action on Armed Violence's research that indicated that since September 11, 2001, the US Army has spent almost $24 billion on small arms and ammunition which were transferred to conflict zones in the Middle East.

"If you are buying a huge number of guns… and you are sending those [guns] to the Middle East to countries that don't have proper systems to ensure that those guns are not lost on the way or diverse into the hands of insurgents than you're kind of opening a Pandora's Box," Overton said.

He emphasized that there is evidence that small arms which were manufactured in the US had been found in the hands of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). It is still unclear how these weapons found their way into the hands of terrorists. Likewise, a large number of AK-47 purchased by the Pentagon for the Iraqi Armed Forces also end up in the hands of extremists.

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Meanwhile the US is annoyed that peace could break out in Syria with "bad guy" Assad keeping his job:


US Air Forces Central Command commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian has indicated that the US does not recognize the Russia, Turkey and Iran-brokered Syrian 'de-escalation zones'. Independent military analyst Alexander Sitnikov explains why tough talk notwithstanding, the US has been forced to take account of Russian military power in Syria.

Speaking to reporters at a video briefing from Baghdad on Wednesday, Harrigian said that the US was basically ignoring the de-escalation zones established by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara earlier this month with Damascus's approval.

"We don't recognize any specific zone in itself that we preclude ourselves from operating in," the commander said. "Wherever the enemy's at, wherever they present themselves, we're going to get after them," he added.


Nevertheless, recognition or not, the senior officer admitted that the US has increased its contacts with the Russian military to avoid conflicts within the confines of Syrian airspace. 


"We have had to increase the amount of de-confliction work we're doing with the Russians, given the tighter airspace that we're now working ourselves through," Harrigian said. "I'm not going to say that it is always easy, and it often takes several phone calls to work our way through it."

Commenting on Harrigian's remarks, Russian military analyst Alexander Sitnikov wrote that whether the Pentagon admits it or not, in a situation where the US military has to call its Russian counterparts to explain the purpose of US flights into de-escalation zone territory, there's a fine line separating that from a no-fly zone. Most suprising, he noted, was the fact that the situation in Syria is unlike any the US military has had to encounter over the course of several decades of unobstructed operations around the globe. "In other words, the situation does not fit into the traditional model of the behavior of the US military," the expert noted.

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patience is limited on US double-standards......

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has accused the US-led anti-terrorist coalition of being reluctant to bomb positions of the former Al-Nusra Front in Syria, and has urged them to ditch "double standards" for the sake of an “uncompromising” fight against terrorism.

"There is a strong impression, based on our fight with terrorism in Syria, that the so-called Al-Nusra [Front], or whatever it is called now, is every time spared by the coalition forces headed by the United States and its allies," Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference in Moscow.

The foreign minister went on to say that "new evidence has emerged in the past few days" indicating that the US-led international forces continue "to take the heat off" the former Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria.

Slamming what appears to be a reluctance by the coalition to target the terrorist group as "an extremely dangerous game," Lavrov called on the US-led forces to set aside "all double standards and any ulterior thoughts" in favor of an"uncompromising fight against terrorism."

In a recent phone conversation held between Lavrov and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at the latter’s initiative, the Russian official emphasized the importance of preventing provocations against the Syrian armed forces battling terrorists and urged the US to step up its fight against jihadists in Syria.

Moscow has been increasingly critical of Washington’s conduct in Syria since the US bombed the Shayrat Air Base in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria's Idlib province. During talks between Lavrov and Tillerson in Moscow, the Russian foreign minister said that they had agreed that an "highly provocative" incident similar to the US airstrike "should not happen again."

READ MORE: US coalition still owes explanation over downing of Syrian warplane – Lavrov

However, on June 18, a Syrian Su-22 warplane was shot down over Raqqa province in an attack by the US-led coalition. The incident was labelled by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as "an act of aggression" and "actually help for the terrorists the US is fighting."

While Washington argued it had downed the jet because it was dropping bombs on the US-allied militia fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Damascus dismissed the allegations, saying that the plane was in effect in the middle of an operation against the IS militants.

Last week, Lavrov said that Moscow had not yet received from Washington a "detailed explanation" on why it targeted the Syrian military jet.

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WARdrobe malfunction...

As NATO forces tried to fend off a Taliban attack during the visit of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Kabul, a “tragic malfunction” during a US air strike resulted in a number of civilian casualties.

Insurgents attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport, using civilians as shield and

— Resolute Support (@ResoluteSupport) September 27, 2017

“During a failed attack today, insurgents fired several rounds of high-explosive ammunition, including mortars, into the vicinity of Hamid Karzai International Airport and detonated suicide vests endangering a great number of civilians,” said a statement from NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

“The Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222 responded quickly to confront the attackers and end the assault. US forces acting in support conducted an airstrike. Tragically, one of the missiles malfunctioned, causing several casualties.”

Gen Nicholson welcomes US SecDef James Mattis, NATO SecGen Jens Stoltenberg & US Ambassador to NATO Kay Hutchison to RSHQ today

— Resolute Support (@ResoluteSupport) September 27, 2017

Officials said an investigation into the "malfunction" is underway and promised to release more details about the attack. NATO also blamed the Islamist group for operating in areas with a high density of civilians.

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getting naked for the counterculture...



Dividing U.S. politics and culture into old and new, 1968 remains a landmark year in the public mind. Amid failure in Vietnam, the much-detested President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election in late March, and four days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Cities across the country burned.

Berkeley, where I lived, was in turmoil. News magazines and television specials—obsessed with the California youth revolt, psychedelia, and free sex—depicted Berkeley as a red-hot center of radical politics and rapture. Street people and malcontents were pouring into town, looking for thrills and drugs. What had been an elegant academic bohemia steeped in arts-and-crafts simplicity and Robinson Jeffers-style nature worship was expiring from overexposure.

On June 5, California held its presidential primary election. I cast my first-ever vote for the charming gadfly and former Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy, in whom I believed—really believed—with the kind of political enthusiasm that is—and should be—a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Then that night, horribly, Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I was minutes from Good Samaritan Hospital the next day seeing a draft lawyer when Kennedy died. My revolutionary act, such as it was—and it seemed so to my parents—had been to drop out of business school in order to pursue a graduate history degree, rendering me draft-eligible. Amid the fast-rising antiwar movement, even my Purple Heart father was turning on the war and the carnage.

During the ill-starred Democratic National Convention and Chicago riots from August 26 to 29, antiwar protesters shouted at police and news cameras, “The whole world is watching!” They knew which side most Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Harvard students would take. Working-class America, facing a harder nut, did not join the rage or rapture. Condemned as lowbrow and backward, the butt of educated contempt, they turned instead to Alabama’s former governor George Wallace for political relief. Resentment was profound, as indicated in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections and the deep social fissures that still split the nation.

In his sympathetic appraisal The Making of a Counter Culture, Theodore Roszak argued that the youth revolt offered nothing less than salvation. Greedily pursuing progress and reason, the nation had engineered a malign, lethal society capable of nuclear annihilation. Youth culture posed a challenge to what he called technocracy—mechanistic, impersonal, planned, efficient “modern” society—and the soullessness that accompanied it.

College students obviously were not alone in contemplating the horrors of nuclear incineration, the tyranny of communism, the death of God, and the persistence of racial conflict. Many establishment guardians—themselves deeply uncertain about contemporary arrangements—unwisely turned to the youth for answers, mistaking innocence for insight.

Widely televised Berkeley protests before 1968 had stirred national attention but also some derision. “Only in California, with more beauty, wealth and freedom than mankind has ever known, tanned, well-fed, and healthy students are claiming to be slaves and prisoners,” economist Carlo Cipolla exclaimed at the time, having lived as a youth under the Italian fascists.

What had begun as lofty quest descended into bathos and kitsch. The moneyed revolt against Nietzsche’s Last Man, living in a tract house, humping for dollars, and driving a Buick, anticipated David Brooks’ middle-aged bobos in paradise. Acclaimed as saviors, rebellious youth, convinced of their genius and unique moral destiny, embraced political style as a system of belief.

The prevailing campus spirit at Berkeley in the mid-Sixties had been Camelot-style liberal, venerating the fallen hero JFK, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, fighting world communism and intending to put a man on the moon. Most students were content within the technocratic state and eager to join its ranks. Cal graduates enlisted in the Peace Corps, not Students for a Democratic Society.

Then, quite suddenly, cool moved from Kennedy-style white Oxford shirts and can-do pragmatism to longhaired forest creatures quoting Kahlil Gibran. Sorority girls wearing madras skirts donned Mexican peasant blouses one day and dangly silver earrings the next. Accessories included funky Volkswagen buses, Cost Plus exotica, and European grand tours on $5 or $10 dollars a day. Berkeley students often seemed to have quite a lot of disposable income, thanks to their uncertain, hopeful, dollar-humping parents.

Aesthetic adventure beckoned. The Sixties turned to religion and the humanities, responding to technocracy’s power. (In the same spirit, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat calls upon the humanities today to rescue time-honored wisdom and the sacred from technocratic monopoly.)

The Tao and I Ching, Carl Jung, Hermann Hesse, Alan Watts, Charles Baudelaire, and Aldous Huxley were all guides to higher consciousness. Marshall McLuhan observed an irresistible shift from printed page to electronic screen that would radically change perception and cognition. McLuhan insisted this shift was really, really big—truly revolutionary—and he was right.

By 1968, fueled by psychedelics—”Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”—a small, visible, largely coastal beau monde grew stylishly clubby. In Laurel Canyon, the Los Angeles music and drug scene was already getting very dark. Entrepreneurs like Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner and poet Rod McKuen—as well as account executives on Sunset Strip and Madison Avenue—realized there was big money to be made in the counterculture.


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of cash, spray-cans and the doorway to culture...