Category Archives: Warfare

Quote of the day: Obama’s lethal gift to Trump

From New Zealand journalist Bruno Marcetic, writing in Jacobin:

Trump will inherit Obama’s drone program, something which Obama himself inherited from Bush, then set about dramatically expanding. Trump will be able to sit in the oval office, flip through “baseball cards” of various allegedly unsavory individuals, then without any due process, order them to be zapped from the sky.

The targets for assassination appear to be currently determined through a process of intelligence gathering, then sent up the chain to be approved for killing. However, with no real oversight or legal limits on the program, it’s hard to see what would legally prevent President Trump from ordering the assassination of anyone he chooses.

Not only that, but Trump will conceivably be able to order the “targeted killing” without trial of even American citizens. Despite the unconstitional nature of this power, the Justice Department under the Obama administration issued a memo in 2010 that gave legal justification for skipping a trial for US citizens when targeted under the broad scope of the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) law, passed in 2001 as part of the “War on Terror.” (The memo only came to light in 2014, because the administration refused for years to reveal its reasoning to the public).

The administration then used this legal justification to assassinate at least four US citizens with no due process, including — in a completely separate drone strike — one suspected terrorist’s innocent, sixteen-year old son. When challenged on the administration’s right to do such a thing, Obama’s press secretary at the time replied that the boy “should have a far more responsible father.”

And in 2013, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder declared that this power of extra-judicial assassination even extended to US soil. While “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur,” he wrote in a letter to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, “it is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate … for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

Think of it.

A bombastic, arrogant, egotistic narcissist who takes every slight with vehemence, empowered to kill anyone, most notably American citizens, without due process and with legal immunity.

Sweet dreams. . .

Political violence? It’s as American as apple pie

While news media have been calling threats of violence by Donald Trump and his supporters unprecedented, it’s anything but.

Threats, assaults, riots, and murder have a long history in the American political arena, writes University of Massachusetts Amherst  political scientists Jesse Rhodes in an essay in The Conversation, an open source online academic journal:

The 2016 American presidential campaign has renewed concerns about the specter of violence in American electoral politics. The campaign has been marked by tense – and occasionally violent – altercations between supporters and critics of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Trump encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, and even suggested he would pay the legal fees of followers who assaulted his critics.

By refusing to commit to accepting the results of the election, he has confirmed the doubts among his supporters about the integrity of American elections. Thereby, he has increased the risk of possibly violent resistance by hard-core Trumpists.

It would be comforting to conclude that the menace of violence surrounding the 2016 presidential election is unique. But my research on the history of voting rights in the United States suggests that this is far from the case. Indeed, the threat and execution of violence around elections has a long, sad history in American politics.

Somewhat like the 2016 election – which has revolved around issues of race and immigration – efforts by disadvantaged (and often nonwhite) citizens to secure greater political influence have been met with violent repression by those already enjoying power (usually more affluent whites) throughout American history.

History of violence

Violent conflict surrounding elections goes all the way back to the beginning of American history. The Founding Era – often portrayed as a period dominated by outstanding, level-headed statesmen who set the United States on a course toward inevitable greatness – was actually a chaotic period.

Political violence was a constant threat in that period. And, occasionally, a reality.

In 1804, Aaron Burr, vice president and an aspirant for higher office, killed Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s former secretary of the treasury, in a duel. Doubting Burr’s judgment and patriotism, Hamilton had worked to deny Burr the governorship of New York. Burr was outraged overHamilton’s efforts to deny him the political success he craved.

The period between the 1820s and the onset of the Civil War was marked by a substantial increase in ethnic and religious diversity. This period was also notable for an increase in violent conflict surrounding politics and elections.

In a precursor of today’s politics, these clashes stemmed from heightened anxieties among native white Protestants about the consequences of Irish and German Catholic immigration for American identity and social harmony.

Of particular note was the rise of the virulently nativist, anti-Catholic “American Party” (better known as the “Know-Nothing” Party) in the 1850s. For some Know-Nothings, violence against recent immigrants was an acceptable means to preserve the rights of native whites.

The Know-Nothings were hardly a fringe movement: By 1854, they had elected 52 of the then 234 members of Congress, as well as the mayors of several major cities. The rise of the Know-Nothings triggered serious conflicts between native white Protestants and those who had recently immigrated.

In a particularly horrifying 1855 event known as “Bloody Monday,” 22 people – mostly recent German and Irish immigrants – were killed, and many more were injured, in an Election Day riot in Louisville, Kentucky.

In a disturbing precedent given Trump’s request that his supporters monitor polls in “certain locations,” an immediate precursor of the riot was an effort by armed Know-Nothing supporters to prevent eligible immigrant voters from casting ballots.

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Marshall McLuhan: Still prescient, 49 years later

Back when esnl was a budding journalist, no name was better known in media theory than Marshall McLuhan of the University of Toronto School of Communication Theory.

McLuhan’s theories about the role of mass media in shaping the consciousness of the 20th Century sparked endless hours of coffee house conversation.

But McLuhan has largely dropped out of sight, enduring mainly on DVD’s of Annie Hall, in one of most memorable movie cameos ever:

But McLuhan’s theories prove remarkably resilient, most notably his prescient understanding of the computer-enabled panopticon and the power of television to shape and mobilize emotions on behalf of corporate agendas.

He also grasped that the dramatic first-person journalistic reports and prime network coverage by the free-roving reporters of the Vietnam War would lead to draconian restrictions liked the “embedded reporters” who covered the two Bush Wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, he even foreshadowed the rise of the presidential candidacy of a creature such as Donald Trump.

And that brings us to today’s video, a remarkably documentary aired on NBC 19 March 1967:


And now for the video. . .

Aired 49 years ago, yet remarkably timely, it comes from from Marshall McLuhan Speaks:

This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage

Program note:

Featuring Marshall McLuhan, and narrated by Edward Binns.

Charts of the day: A tragic Bush/Obama legacy

Since George W. Bush launched his “Global War on Terror [Terra?]” and Barack Obama expanded it with even greater zeal, the flood of refugees in the Mideast has turned into a raging torrent, with millions fleeing their homes for temporary refuge both in their own and in other countries.

Two charts from a sobering new report from the Pew Research Center illustrates the scope of the problem.

First, the overall rise in refugees throughout the Middle East:



And then the rise of refugees displaced from their homes and still living in their own countries:


Hillary threatens China with a ‘ring’ of missiles

Oh fercrissakes!

Yep, Hillary’s rattling sabers, and if a very dangerous way, given that Barack Obama has already ramped up U.S. military forces in the region as part of his “asian pivot.”

But, hey, all those defense contractors must be salivating, right?

From the Associated Press:

Hillary Clinton privately said the U.S. would “ring China with missile defense” if the Chinese government failed to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.

Clinton’s comments were revealed by WikiLeaks in a hack of the Clinton campaign chairman’s personal account. The emails include a document excerpting Clinton’s private speeches, which she has refused to release.

China has harshly criticized the U.S. and South Korea’s planned deployment of a missile-defense system against North Korea, which conducted its fifth nuclear test this year. But Clinton said she told Chinese officials that the U.S. might deploy additional ships to the region.

She also derided China’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea, saying that by China’s logic, the U.S. after World War II could have labeled the Pacific Ocean the “American Sea.”

Chart of the day: India more assertive under Modi

From the Pew Research Center, new evidence that India is growing more assertive and militaristic under Right wing Hindu populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center India Report FINAL Septembe

Headline of the day: Suspicions finally confirmed

From the London Daily Mail, another revelation from Hillary’s emails:

Israel has ‘200 nukes all pointed at Iran’, former US secretary of state Colin Powell  says in leaked private email that has Washington on edge

  • The detail is the latest revelation to emerge from a cache of leaked communications
  • The former US secretary of state revealed the information in an email he sent to a colleague last year
  • Israel has a policy of nuclear ambiguity and has never talked openly about the type or size of its weapons 
  • The email was being sent to business partner and democratic donor Jeffrey Leeds regarding Israeli PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress