the second generation of the House of Saud…

As Saudi Arabia and Allies Continue Airstrikes, Sorrow and Rage in Yemen

Airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia, and supported by other members of Gulf Cooperating Council and the U.S. government, continued to hit Yemen on Thursday as the situation in one of the world’s most impoverished, yet strategically important countries continues to unravel amid what can only be described now as all-out war.

Reports indicate that a first wave of bombings overnight which resulted in a number of civilian deaths—including entire families trapped in flattened houses—have spurred widespread anger in Sanaa and other targeted cities, even among members of the population opposed to the Houthi rebels who have now wrested control of much of the country from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose whereabouts remain hard to establish.

The White House, reports Reuters, has said it is actively supporting the operation and President Obama has authorized U.S. “logistical and intelligence support” for the bombing campaign. However, according National Security Council spokeswoman, U.S. forces are not involved in direct military action in Yemen.

Another Week, Another War: The Iron Logic of America’s Middle East Madness

Just to recap: the President has lined up the United States shoulder to shoulder with a wanted war criminal, al Qaeda and, of course, the world’s primary supporter of violent Islamic extremism, Saudi Arabia.

This is taking place at the same time that Barack Obama is massively escalating U.S. military operations in Iraq, launching a bombing campaign in Tikrit, ostensibly in aid of the Iraqi government’s attempt to recapture the city from ISIS but more likely just to keep Iranian-led Iraqi Shiite militias from retaking the town. (Alternatively, some have suggested, not entirely implausibly, that the bombing is actually a bid to save ISIS from defeat by the Iranians, and keep both sides embroiled in conflict; the same strategy followed by the U.S. in the Iran-Iraq War.) In any case, the American bombing campaign has had the entirely predictable — and no doubt desired — result of making the fiercely anti-American Shiite militias withdraw, at least temporarily, from the battle for Tikrit.

Obama’s intervention in Tikrit is so murderously stupid that even the New York Times — that ever-eager cheerleader for imperial violence — calls it “a dangerous escalation”: “President Obama has escalated America’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State without providing a shred of evidence showing how it could advance American interests, or what happens once the bombs stop falling. The strikes are part of a campaign that from the outset has been waged without the authorization from Congress required by the Constitution.”

But in some ways, attempting any kind of rational analysis of the situation and its strategic ramifications is pointless. The burning hell that the United States has made of the region with its war of aggression against Iraq and its repeated violent interventions is beyond any sensible comprehension. Washington supported Islamic extremists in Libya — now its trying to combat those same extremists. Washington fights with al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, and against al Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq. Washington wages war against Iranian-backed militias in Yemen while fighting alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Washington backed and participated in Ethiopia’s aggressive war that destroyed Somalia’s first stable government in a generation — and now has spent years fighting the extremists who arose in the vacuum … while putting the leader it originally ousted back in power. Washington’s aggressive, repressive military-security apparatus has grown to gargantuan proportions for the ostensible reason of fighting Islamic extremism — while Washington is the strongest ally and chief weapon-supplier to the chief source of Islamic extremism in the world today, Saudi Arabia. Washington (belatedly) backed the overthrow of the military dictator Mubarak in Egypt and now supports the restoration of the Mubarak regime under another military dictator. Washington sanctions and condemns as a war criminal the leader of Sudan — and is now fighting alongside the war criminal leader of Sudan in Yemen.

The one certain thing you can say about this bizarre goulash of iron and blood is that it doesn’t make any rational sense. At least, not in the terms usually used to discuss policy goals, geopolitical concerns and the national interest. Nor in the terms used by the policymakers themselves for their aims: fighting terrorism, national security, advancing democracy, establishing peace and stability, etc. Look at the situation in the region before the “War on Terror” and look at it today: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen torn by war and chaos, extremist militias controlling cites and whole regions, the armed forces of many nations on the attack, millions of people displaced, atrocities on every side. The present horror far surpasses the worst case scenarios of those who warned of the wide-ranging disasters sure to come from the invasion of Iraq.

There is no rational way to reconcile the stated goals with the policy outcomes of the War on Terror (or whatever one wants to call the incessant, ever-expanding military campaigns of the United States and its extremist, repressive allies). The War on Terror began as a monstrous hybrid of imperialist adventurism, blood-money boondoggle and psychosexual power trip for the stunted, blunted second-rate souls who hold sway in our corrupt system. Its only real purpose is to perpetuate itself in any way it can, both wittingly and unwittingly. It has become the system, it is now the organizing principle of the American state and its relations to other countries.

Seen in this light — not the light of reason or coherence or consistency, but the shooting flames of a drone-bombed house — American policy makes perfect sense.

The War on Yemen: how to read it

It is fair to say that it will be more fun to watch the second generation of House of Saud as they find their way in regional and international politics. King Faysal believed that the stability of the regime and its preservation requires resort to secrecy and caution in pursuing Saudi regime interests around the world. That is why the royal family perfected the art of dissimulation especially in Arab-Israeli issues (it supported Sadat behind the scene while funding the anti-Sadat coalition at some points). This war is also an American war: it is a gift from the US to the GCC countries who didn’t like US policies in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen. The Saudi regime is now pursuing the Israeli option: that it will now be more clearly aligned with the Israeli interests in the region and that it will also be aggressive and violent in pursuing regime interests. Qatar and UAE were the first to openly and officially participate in an open war in Libya, and Saudi royal family didn’t enjoy watching the Qatari prime minister lead the Arab League from 2010 to 2012. The Saudi regime took matters in its own hands and decided to pursue an alternative policies in Egypt. On every issue in Arab politics, the Saudi regime is aligned with Israel. Make no mistake about it: Israel is the secret member of the GCC coalition bombing Yemen. In the 1960s, the Saudi regime ignited the war of Yemen to thwart a progressive and republican alternative to the reactionary immate regime (and Israel supplied weapons to the Saudi side in that war). In this war, the GCC countries are supporting a corrupt and reactionary puppet regime created by Saudi Arabia and the US. Saudi Arabia never allowed Yemen to enjoy independence. It saw in itself the legitimate heir to the British imperial power in peninsula. The Huthis (with whom I share absolutely nothing) are a bunch of reactionaries but who were created due to the very policies and war pursued by the Saudi regime in Yemen and their then puppet, `Ali `Abdullah Salih. South Yemen had the only Marxist state in the Arab wold and the experiment was sabotaged by the reactionary House of Saud. There is an entertainment value to this war as the Saudi regime actively and openly launches war on another Arab country. Who does not want to see, yet again, the Huthis humiliating the Saudi army on the battle field (look up the last battle with the Huthis on Youtube when Saudi soldiers ran for their lives). And who does not want to see a Saudi royal brat leading his army to yet another humiliation on the battle field. In all the Yemeni war, the Saudi regime always sponsored the option that guaranteed more longevity for war and destruction. This is no exception. I have never thought that the demise of the Saudi regime would be expedited by the 2nd generation of Saudi princes. I never thought that there could be a more corrupt and more incompetent prince than Khalid bin Sultan: but think again. Muhammad bin Sultan (seen above leading the battle from his office) is your man, o US and Israel. Enjoy him.

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“Ugly fruits & vegetables need love, too.”

On Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

Eat Your Wonky Vegetables Dept: Those rows of glossy, flawless apples you see at the store, it turns out, come at a grim cost: The U.S. and other developed countries waste up to 40% of their food, bringing total global food waste to a staggering 1.3 billion tons worth almost $400 billion, and wreaking environmental havoc with it. Cue fabulously sensible new campaigns to discount produce that’s “naturally imperfect,” creating an improbable win-win all around – for farmers, consumers, the planet and the feelings of uncomely vegetables alike.

According to a 2013 report, the production of food that’s not eaten because it’s not cute enough for grocery shelves devours an amount of water equal to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River. Most of the food waste is dumped in landfills, where it decomposes and releases over 3 billion tons of methane, a greenhouse gas. Globally, organic waste accounts for at least 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions; if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of emissions behind China and the U.S.

Enter Loblaws, Canada’s largest food retailer, which has launched the No Name Naturally Imperfect campaign, offering “ugly” – like the rest of us, less than perfect on the outside and just as divine on the inside – fruits and vegetables at a discount of up to 30%. They’ve started with apples and potatoes, and hope eventually to include most produce. The launch in Canada, which each year wastes over $31 billion worth of food, reflects growing international efforts to combat the obscenity of rich countries tossing enough food to feed most of the world’s estimated 870 million hungry people.

Love Food Hate Waste

8 ways to save money and waste less food…
Work out what most of your meals will be for the week ahead – leave 1 or 2 days free to eat from the freezer in case your plans change. Check your cupboards, write a list, take it to the shops and stick to it. If you don’t have time, use your phone and take a snap of your fridge and cupboard before you rush out the door – no double buying!

More on portions and planning >

Check your dates and take control. The display-until and sell-by are only for the shops and not for us – ignore them and scribble them out at home. The Best-Before is all about quality – it’s at its best on this date but is perfectly safe to eat afterwards, providing it looks, smells and tastes ok. The Use-By is the important one – this will only ever be on foods that have a safety risk such as meat, fish and pre-prepared fruit and veg. Never eat after the use-by, but you can use and freeze the food right up to the use-by date. Freezing on day of purchase is just a myth. When you want to use it, defrost overnight in the fridge (or if needed quicker in the microwave) and use within 24 hours – cook till piping hot.

Download our date label infographic >

Do you usually make too much food? Get your portions just right using our perfect portion tool. If rice is your nemesis, weigh out what you need then pour into your favourite mug. Keep the mug near the cooker and then next time you won’t need to weigh it – just pour and go.

Try the perfect portions tool >

Store your food in the best way possible to keep it fresher for longer. Apples (and all other fruit other than bananas) go in the fridge, onions in a cool dark place, and store bread in the cupboard or freezer. If you buy them in packs, keep them in their original packaging to keep the moisture in and your fresh food crispy and fresh.

More storage advice >

Chowdafest Diverts Food Waste, Feeds Hungry

Although there could be only one winner last Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, it was a different story at a pre Super Bowl event at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where we had a “souper” time partnering with Chowdafest to make their Feb. 2 chowder tasting competition a zero-waste event.

Now in its sixth year, Chowdafest brought together 28 award-winning chefs and restaurants offering samples of chowder and bisque to thousands of hungry football fans before they retired to watch the Super Bowl. Attendees sampled great food while restaurants had an opportunity to showcase their talents. This year, Sustainable America jumped into the soup to divert the event’s food waste to composting, instead of where it usually goes in Connecticut: to an incinerator. And perhaps the biggest win of all was that both the proceeds and a large amount of direct food donations went to the Connecticut Food Bank to help feed the hungry.

Sustainable America volunteer helps sort food waste During the event, volunteers from Sacred Heart University’s women’s volleyball team and the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club donned our signature Sustainable America foam fingers and construction hats and manned 11 waste stations. They were on hand throughout the event to direct patrons on how to sort their waste and offer information about composting.

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looking back…

photo by Katie Orlinsky

The Scene of the Crime

On my recent trip, I spent five days in Hanoi, which is the capital of unified Vietnam. Retired military officers and Communist Party officials there told me that the My Lai massacre, by bolstering antiwar dissent inside America, helped North Vietnam win the war. I was also told, again and again, that My Lai was unique only in its size. The most straightforward assessment came from Nguyen Thi Binh, known to everyone in Vietnam as Madame Binh. In the early seventies, she was the head of the National Liberation Front delegation at the Paris peace talks and became widely known for her willingness to speak bluntly and for her striking good looks. Madame Binh, who is eighty-seven, retired from public life in 2002, after serving two terms as Vietnam’s Vice-President, but she remains involved in war-related charities dealing with Agent Orange victims and the disabled.

“I’ll be honest with you,” she said. “My Lai became important in America only after it was reported by an American.” Within weeks of the massacre, a spokesman for the North Vietnamese in Paris had publicly described the events, but the story was assumed to be propaganda. “I remember it well, because the antiwar movement in America grew because of it,” Madame Binh added, speaking in French. “But in Vietnam there was not only one My Lai—there were many.”

One morning in Danang, a beach resort and port city of about a million people, I had coffee with Vo Cao Loi, one of the few survivors of Bravo Company’s attack at My Khe 4. He was fifteen at the time, Loi said, through an interpreter. His mother had what she called “a bad feeling” when she heard helicopters approaching the village. There had been operations in the area before. “It was not just like some Americans would show up all of a sudden,” he said. “Before they came, they often fired artillery and bombed the area, and then after all that they would send in the ground forces.” American and South Vietnamese Army units had moved through the area many times with no incident, but this time Loi was shooed out of the village by his mother moments before the attack. His two older brothers were fighting with the Vietcong, and one had been killed in combat six days earlier. “I think she was afraid because I was almost a grown boy and if I stayed I could be beaten up or forced to join the South Vietnamese Army. I went to the river, about fifty metres away. Close, close enough: I heard the fire and the screaming.” Loi stayed hidden until evening, when he returned home to bury his mother and other relatives.

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Still waiting for “zero tolerance”…

There’s this:

Doctrinal chief says bishops must be accountable in abuse prevention

but then there’s this:

Chile’s bishops back prelate linked to notorious abuser priest

When Barros’ transfer was announced in January, Juan Carlos Cruz, a former seminarian and one of Karadima’s victims, accused the bishop of covering up the priest’s sexual abuses, being present while the abuses took place, threatening seminarians, and “doing Karadima’s dirty work.”

James Hamilton, another of Karadima’s victims, has also testified that he saw Barros in the room while he was abused by his former mentor.

“This is who gets named to be bishop of Osorno?” Hamilton told CNN. “For those of us who know the truth of this story – and apparently the Vatican also knows – this it is unbelievable,” he said.

And there’s this:

Church rejects whistleblower priest’s bid to reverse sacking

Father Patrick Lawson has been told by the church’s highest court that it was upholding a decision dismissing him as a parish priest in Ayrshire, citing ill-health as preventing him doing the job.

The ruling, by the Signatura in Rome, added that Father Lawson’s “ministry has been rendered substantially ineffectual to a large body of parishioners”.

But one fellow priest said “all fingers pointed” to the priest speaking out against Father Paul Moore in the 1990s, as the root cause of his dismissal. Moore later admitted to his bishop he abused boys

And this:

Archbishop Philip Wilson becomes world’s most senior Catholic charged with concealing child abuse

Charged: Archbishop Philip Wilson.Charged: Archbishop Philip Wilson. Photo: David Mariuz

Former Hunter priest Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has become the most senior Catholic clergyman in the world to be charged with concealing a child sex abuse allegation against another priest on what a Hunter paedophile priest victim has described as “a Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll never forget”.

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“Policy is frozen politics.”

AIPAC Discovers 47 Useful Idiots

The invitation and the letter were both unprecedented, far exceeding previous stunts by the ubiquitous GOP “maverick” Senator John McCain cavorting with terrorists in Syria or appearing in Tbilisi or at Maidan Square in Ukraine to instigate either a new war or a change of government. McCain’s hubris, as well as that of other peripatetic Congressmen prowling the world looking for an audience, was on display “over there” where he had no real authority and no one would listen to him anyway but the current incarnation of Republican leadership was and is, unfortunately, doing its damage over here.

The visit and letter were together an assault on how American democracy is supposed to work. Retired Major General Paul Eaton summed up the impact of the letter succinctly: “…to directly engage a foreign entity, in this way, undermining the strategy and work of our diplomats and our Commander in Chief, strains the very discipline and structure that our foreign relations depend on to succeed. The breach of discipline is extremely dangerous, because undermining our diplomatic efforts, at this moment, brings us another step closer to a very costly and perilous war with Iran. I think Senator Cotton recognizes this, and he simply does not care.”

The most significant damage is to the separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States. One might argue reasonably that executive authority has increased dramatically in Washington since 9/11 and should be rolled back by the legislature and judiciary. But the GOP is not addressing the issues that it should be confronting like war powers, immigration, state secrecy privilege, illegal spying and death by drone. It is instead seeking to challenge Article 2 of the Constitution, which specifies that the executive is the lead agency in dealing with foreign governments. The House of Representatives can choose to defund presidential programs and the Senate can refuse to “consent” to treaties that the executive has entered into, but the actual work of diplomacy and protecting Americans overseas is the responsibility of the president.

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

Marxists describe the State as “the executive committee of the ruling class.” When the top financial posts at the U.S. Treasury are handed off among various alumni of Goldman Sachs, the way a prostitute is passed around drunken sailors, it sure seems as if government is a subsidiary of Wall Street. But occasionally, as in the alliance between Roosevelt and labor radicals, or between MLK and LBJ, the government actually functions as ally of the working class and the broad middle class of ordinary citizens. That’s why one can cling to the hopes of liberalism.

Which role the State plays depends on the balance of activism. As current politics reveal all too vividly, government’s default setting in a capitalist economy is to serve the wealthy and the powerful. Liberals can write policy proposals to their hearts’ content. But unless they are backed by radicalism on the ground, they are playing in a sandbox.

David Rolf, a key architect of Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage and one of the best of today’s radical labor organizers, puts the problem with prescience and eloquence. In a recent speech, he offered an aphorism that should stay with us:
“Policy is frozen politics.” (I actually googled it — and as far as I can tell, the phrase is original to Rolf.)

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