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  • Peace is a Good Thing, Whoever Manages to Achieve It
    Undermining Trump-Putin summit means promoting war
    by: 
    Dave Lindorff

     

    Timing isn’t everything, but in politics it’s important, and the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for allegedly being behind the supposed hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in an alleged effort to skew the election in favor of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, announced today by Mueller “Russiagate” probe overseer and Associate US Attorney General Rod Jay Rosenstein just before President Trump’s planned summit meeting Monday in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin — reeks of politics.

    It is also rather thin on the announced evidence of a “hack” despite mainstream journalism’s breathless reporting that it the indictment cites “hard evidence” of such hacks.

    In fact, little or nothing of what evidence is released — supposed use of a server in Malaysia, for example — proves anyting, since the Vault 7 release of CIA hacking tools last year showed that the CIA has developed software that lets its hacking teams disguise themselves as anyone, from a lone crank in a Chicago basement to a Russian GRU hacking team in Moscow. It’s all pretty meaningless — especially since to date the FBI has reportedly never even demanded to see, much less confiscate, the DNC’s servers, which could provide real evidence that they were, in fact hacked at all.

    When two leaders, each with the ability to destroy the world, agree to get along, that's a good thing. Period.When two leaders, each with the ability to destroy the world, agree to get along, that's a good thing. Period.

    As the Veteran Intelligence Professionals (VIP) organization, whose membership includes former NSA experts like William Binney, who helped design that agency’s internet tapping systems, have declared, their own investigation, which looked at download speeds of the DNC hack, showed that it couldn’t have been done over a remote internet cable, but had to have been an inside job downloaded onto a thumbdrive or portable hard drive.

    So we’re no further down the road in the so-called Russiagate hacking scandal, but the indictment of a dozen persons who can never be interrogated and brought to trial because they are safely in Russia does effectively do one thing: it undermines any chance that President Trump might reach some agreement with his Russian counterpart Putiin to ratchet down the growing hostility between the two countries, as Trump repeatedly said during the 2016 campaign that he wanted to do.

    Say what you will about Trump and his fascist tendencies — for example his monstrous policy of jailing people entering the US surreptitiously who have legitimate refugee status claims that should be properly adjudicated, and even worse, grabbing their children and separating them — a process which is continuing even as courts have ordered the return of at least those children younger than five to their anxious and imprisoned parents, or the threat to invade Venezuela. It can only be a good thing to ease tensions between the two nations on this planet who have the capability to destroy it and render it a smoking ruin incapable of supporting life thanks to their stockpiles of thousands of nuclear weapons.

    Yet it seems clear that forces in what has been called the “Deep State” or the “Permanent Government” of the US appear hell-bent on preserving that state of hair-trigger edginess between the US and Russia, no doubt because it keeps the financial taps wide open for the arms industry, the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, and the politicians of both parties who feed on the campaign funds (bribes) offered by the industries that stand to benefit from cold war and myriad small hot ones.

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  • The Politics of Cruelty
    Our Enlightenment Legacy On the Ropes
    by: 
    John Grant

     

    Cruelty is the expression of hate and of the will to power. … The sadistic traits, the tendency to barbarousness, the impulse to destroy, manifest themselves in a manner that is senseless, brutal, scornful of every cultural achievement. … The sadist revels in the fear, the anger, the humiliation of his victim. … The sadist pictures to himself what is happening in the mind of his object, whose resistance he calls forth and breaks. Only this feeling of himself into the affective life of the object brings him the expected pleasure.
              - Wilhelm Stekel, Sadism and Masochism: The Psychology of Hatred and Cruelty (1929)
     
    [T]he powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis, not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment. . . . Once torture begins, it seems to spread uncontrollably, particularly during times of crisis, in a downward spiral of fear and self-empowerment.
              - Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War On Terror (2006)
     

    The way the Trump administration has gotten tough with immigrant families and children from Central America and Mexico shares something with psychological studies of sadism and the United States government’s own research on torture tapped by the George W. Bush administration to justify its cruelty in a moment of perceived crisis. Cruelty and torture are like pornography; as a famous Supreme Court justice put it: “I know it when I see it.” Cruelty as policy -- ie. the inducing of suffering among the powerless by the powerful -- is an ancient reality that hinges, as Dr. Stekel put it in 1929, on “the expression of hatred and of the will to power.” Stekel was an Austrian and a student of Freud's; it's noteworthy he wrote his 430-page work on sadism synonymous with the rise of European fascism. Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign can be seen in such a psychological and mythic light as a return to the “greatness” that presided over this land during the days of slavery, Jim Crow and Manifest Destiny, an expansive period when the politics of cruelty prevailed as a necessary tool for the capture and control of a wild land. As McCoy suggests, above, the politics of cruelty appears in times of crisis. For the atavistic populist, there's no need to articulate this clearly; since it's all there buried deep in the loam of US history and myth, dog-whistling will do.

    The wall separating the two Nogaleses seen from the US; two boys on the Mexican side.The wall separating the two Nogaleses seen from the US; two boys on the Mexican side.

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  • Boom!
    A poem for Independence Day:
    by: 
    Rip Rense

     

    July the Fourth
    Sallies forth
    And people blow up gunpowder devices
    Indulge all cheapshit vices
    Gobble down cows and pigs
    Smoke clouds of pot and cigs
    Fornicate and regurgitate
    Bloviate and crepitate
    Making America great again
    Increasing sewage rate again
    Trash landfill refill
    Plastic bottle overkill
    Rivers of wrappers and
    overflowed crappers
    Run to the ocean
    Crippling wave motion
    Paralyzing currents
    Making you wish that you weren't
    Living among buffoons
    Sending earth to doom
    So lift a can of American beer
    To still being here
    In the land of the me
    and the home of depraved
    Where all is instant gratify
    'Cause pretty soon, in the bye-and-bye
    Jesus gonna fly you home
    Where nobody got to moan
    About houses you can't afford
    and being fired and being bored
    And kids and teachers blown apart
    By some alt-think punk upstart
    With a forty-seven AK

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  • Ready for a New ‘Missile Gap’ and Trillion-Dollar Arms Race?
    The fireworks next time!
    by: 
    Dave LIndorff

     

    It’s July 4. Do you want fireworks? You’re in luck, because that’s what your militarist government wants to deliver.

    You may have to wait a bit, but what’s in store is a new arms race, a new era of super instability with the chance for, or even likelihood of a catastrophic ending in the form of a global nuclear war.

    It’s all about a new race between the US, Russia and China to be the first to develop a fleet of intercontinental hypersonic cruise missiles capable of flying low to the ground at speeds of between 4-15,000 miles per hour while maneuvering and even changing targets along the way, making them virtually unstoppable.

    A new 'missile gap' and a new arms race are underway, this time over hyper-speed nuke-tipped cruise missiles (government image)A new 'missile gap' and a new arms race are underway, this time over hypersonic nuke-tipped cruise missiles (government image)
     

    Apparently spending 60% of our annual tax payments on the military and on pointless wars around the world that only seem to create more chaos and more hatred of the US as we already do now isn’t enough. We need to blow even more of our hard-earned income on weapons and war in another pointless arms race that never should have even been contemplated, much less launched. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s it was the so-called “Missile Gap” threat that led to a paroxysm of massive spending on developing ever larger missiles and nuclear bombs to be carried by them, the construction of costly missile silos to house them, and a fleet of huge missile-launching Poseidon and Triton submarines to bring them closer to the coasts of the Soviet Union and China. There actually never was a “gap.” US intelligence knew from satellite and U-2 spy plane overflight photos that the US always had more ICBMs and shorter range IRBMs capable of delivering H-Bombs to Russia than the Russians had, but the fake story that the Soviets had more missiles than the US did the trick. The missile arms race was on.

    Now we’re getting new scare stories out of the Pentagon and militarist members of Congress claiming that a new “missile gap” is developing: Those sneaky Russkies, we’re told, “are building ultrafast missile technology at a quicker speed than the U.S,” and have jumped ahead of us, developing hypersonic maneuverable long-range nuclear cruise missiles that could be launched in waves, fly at multiple times the speed of sound, and alter their course significantly at low altitude to avoid detection and interception while reaching targets in the US.

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  • Assaults On Red Hen Restaurants Evidences Overlooked Epidemic In America
    Trump effect oozes again
    by: 
    Linn Washington Jr.

     

    An epidemic is sweeping across America at record speed.

    This epidemic is ignorance -– a fatuousness way beyond the malady of merely ill-informed.

    Alarmingly, this epidemic of ignorance has received too little attention despite the quintessentially existential danger it presents to the very existence of America. America’s Founders proclaimed that an ‘informed electorate’ was essential for democracy to flourish. It is an immutable fact that ignorance floods the flourishing of that element for democracy- – informed electorate –- the Founders deemed essential.

    The latest example of the debilitating impacts of this epidemic of ignorance is the vile and violent reactions to a recent incident in rural Virginia that involved President Trump’s ever-prevaricating press secretary, Sarah Sanders.

    Red Hen Restaurant -- No, not 'that one'  LBWPhotoRed Hen Restaurant -- No, not 'that one' LBWPhoto
     

    The owner of that restaurant asked Sanders to leave because workers in that eatery, who are gay, expressed discomfort with the presence of The-Public-Face of the Trump Administration that has taken discriminatory stances on gay rights and other issues.

    Reaction to that perceived slight of Sanders from Trump loyalists involved ire directed not only at that Virginia establishment but ire dumped on many restaurants with the same name: Red Hen.

    Exhibiting clinical levels of ignorance, complete with willful disdain for facts, Trump supporters unleashed a variety of assaults/insults on Red Hen named restaurants in Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and even in Ontario, Canada -- all far from Virginia and all having absolutely no affiliations with that Virginia restaurant beyond sharing a name.

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  • High Court Killing of Closed-Shop Public Employee Contracts a Needed Wake-Up Cal for Business-Model Unions
    Stop whining and start organizing!
    by: 
    By Dave Lindorff

     

    The wailing you hear from public sector unions and from trade unions in general in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Wednesday Janus decision banning the mandatory payment of fees to unions by workers who choose not to join them in the public sector is overwrought. In many states with strong public sector unions, this has been the case long before this ruling came down.

    It’s also the way things have long been for unions in the private sector, as “open-shop” rules, called “right-to-work” rules by their advocates, have become increasingly popular with state legislatures. Nevada, for example, has had an “open-shop” or “right-to-work” law on the books since 1952 and unions remain strong and common in that state.

    It is certainly true that having an “open-shop” rule banning contracts that require all employees to join the union once one is formed at a company, or in the case of public sector unions, at some government or university workplace, can make organizing new workers harder, and can put a financial strain on unions which also by law have to represent all workers, for example those who have a grievance with the employer, whether or not they are full dues-paying members.

    But there is a downside too to the once wide-spread practice of negotiating contracts requiring all member in a unionized workplace to join the union, or to pay some kind of agency fee to the union in lieu of dues in the case of workers who simply don’t want to be union members. That downside is that it encouraged a shift during the last half century or more away from unions as part of a vast political movement of workers to a kind of business-unionism featuring well-compensated executives and staff, costly office buildings, and expensive annual conferences held in places like Orlando or New Orleans or Las Vegas — generally all-expenses-paid for those attending as representatives of their locals.

    Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital workers on strikeNorwich and Norfolk University Hospital workers on strike
     

    One big problem is that if it has a closed shop at a workplace, the union doesn’t have to go to work to organize those workers who don’t want to join. It has their money, and all too often, that’s all union leaders care about since it pays their salaries and perks. But a union that only has 50-60% of a workforce as willing dues-paying members is not a strong union. It can’t count on the other 40-50 percent of non-willing members to support a strike, for instance. Far better to work and earn the support of those members than to just compel them to pay dues or agency fees and remain disgruntled about the union.

    Such business unions then often have also lost their democratic roots, and have become sinecures for comfortable union leaders, who lost any visceral connection to the membership, live in better houses in better neighbors than their members, send their kids to better schools and to private colleges, and in general are in a different class than their members.

    By undermining the ability of unions to collect that much revenue from members and non-members at workplaces, Justice Sam Alito, who wrote the Janus opinion for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, and the right-wing movement to attack unions whose attorneys supported this case, may have actually done the slowly vanishing US labor movement, such as it is, a favor with this swift kick in the head.

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  • Why is the Six-Sigma Management Model Still Praised When It Led to GE’s Collapse?
    A recipe for disaster
    by: 
    Dave Lindorff

     

    Over a generation ago, engineer Bill Smith, working at Motorola, developed a management system called Six-Sigma, designed to help companies avoid quality problems in their products and business processes. His system caught morphed into a general theory of management, and became a catch-word and marketing goldmine at business schools as well as requirement for promotion at large corporations.

    In 1995, Jack Welsh, CEO of GE, made Six Sigma central to his company’s whole management approach. If you wanted to be promoted at that leading Fortune 100 industrial firm, you needed to be certified in Six Sigma -- a situation that continued under his successor and protege Jeff Immelt who retired as CEO last year. Other companies followed suit and today most large US corporations and many abroad, as well as some public organizations (including the US military), claim to adhere to the model, and to promote management personnel based upon their having achieved so-called “black belt” or “green belt” status in understanding its precepts.

    Indeed, GE’s success in growing rapidly and achieving record profits year after year made Welsh and Six Sigma (a trademarked term owned by Motorola) a leading model for top-level managers everywhere.

    US Army personnel receiving Six Sigma training (US Army Public Affairs photo)US Army personnel receiving Six Sigma training (US Army Public Affairs photo)
     

    Jump forward, though, and GE is now being called an epic management disaster by analysts. The company, with Welsh at the helm, famously expanded into banking and financial services, got caught with its corporate pants down in the Fiscal Crisis and Great Recession that hit in 2007, and is now going through a wrenching divestment and break-up process that has seen its stock price fall from a high of $87 a share in August of 2000, when everything seemed to be humming along nicely, to today’s low of $12.88, a level that valued the company at 50% of what it had been worth just a year ago. (The day's latest 2.3% share price drop was largely an investor response to the company's announcement that it was selling its profitable distributed power unit for $3.25 billion in another seemingly desperate effort to pay off its mountain of debt from years of ill-conceived acquisitions)

    Last week, in a final indignity, the company, which had been one of the original Dow Industrial Average listings when that index was created back in 1896, was kicked off that widely followed list of Wall Street’s largest and most important firms, embarrassingly replaced by the pharmacy chain Walgreens.

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  • Baby-Snatching Practice Blocked Motherhood For 20-million Seconds
    Justice system abuses mothers with no apologies
    by: 
    Linn Washington Jr.

    Debbie Africa with son Mike Jr. (right) and lawyer Brad Thomson (left). LBW PhotoDebbie Africa with son Mike Jr. (right) and lawyer Brad Thomson (left). LBW Photo
     
    The piercing, bone-deep pain for a parent from having their child forcefully snatched away by authorities is a hurt Debbie Sims Africa knows in horrific ways.

    The immense suffering some immigrant parents currently experience -- triggered by the child-snatching/ family separation anti-immigration policies pursued by the Trump Administration on America’s southern border – is something that impacts Africa very personally.

    On August 8, 1978 authorities in Philadelphia, literally snatched Africa’s two-year-old daughter from her arms.

    A few weeks later when Africa gave birth to her son, Philadelphia authorities snatched him away also.

    For more than 39-years Africa could not do what she wanted to do all her life: be a lovingly embracing, nurturing and protective mother.

    Those 39-plus years Africa lived with that agony of unfulfilled motherhood are more than 467-months: more than 14,200-days, more than 341,640-minutes and more than 20.5-milion seconds.

    On August 8, 1978 Philadelphia police arrested Africa following a shootout between police and members of the radical MOVE organization where a policeman was killed. Africa is a member of MOVE – in fact, a niece of MOVE founder John Africa. (All MOVE members utilize Africa as their last name.)

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  • Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
    As the scaremongering begins, this is your fight too!
    by: 
    Davve Lindorff

     

    Let me start out with full disclosure: I'm 69 and next April I will start collecting nearly $30.000 a year in Social Security benefits -- the amount I qualify for both on the basis of my highest 35 years of work history as an employed and later self-employed journalist, and because I've waited until I hit 70, the maximum age for starting to collect benefits, before starting to receive my checks.

    So it particularly galls me to read news articles about that program (and Medicare) saying things like:
     

    New warnings about cuts to Social Security and Medicare are a reson to worry

    Social Security is Running Out and Nobody Will Like the Solution

    and Ryan's Retirement Won't End the Social Security Debate
     

    Such ill-informed and often deliberately scare-mongering pieces make my blood boil, particularly because I know they, and news reports like them, are targeted at younger people, where the goal is to make them believe that Social Security is not going to be there for them, and so they should stop supporting the whole program. Take, for example, the dire stories warning that the Social Security program this year has begun drawing funds from the Social Security Trust Fund. Actually, as I explain below, that was precisely why the Trust Fund was created! It was advanced funding for that predictable time when an increase in retirees meant that more funding would be needed.

    For years, the defense against a concerted drive by the right to kill Social Security by privatizing it as George Bush tried and failed to do, or to whittle it away as Barack Obama tried and failed to do in pursuing a "Grant Bargain" of benefit cuts and tax increase, has been a solid lobby of the elderly retirees who know full well how important the program is. They for years made it a "Third Rail" that politicians challenged at their own risk. But now the strategy appears to be to say, "We won't take Social Security away from current retirees or people about to retire, but younger people will have to expect something less." The other tactic is to simply do nothing to fix the system, while the cost of doing so rises with each passing year of shameless inaction.

    This article is addressed to those younger Americans -- from people just starting to work on up to those in their 40s and early '50s -- because it's really you who are being conned and who need to start fighting to keep what was created for all of us, young and old, some 83 years ago. You're also the ones who are starting out as adult workers without for the most part, or the benefit of a healthy, powerful trade union movement to keep pay and benefits high. You will have a much harder time, between greater college debt, higher costs-of-living, and lower net wages and job security, building up the kind of assets your parents and grandparents had.

    President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act (1935) and President Johnson signs the Medicare Act (1965)President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act (1935) and President Johnson signs the Medicare Act (1965)
     

    Here's the message: Forget all the propaganda! The reality is that Social Security is not facing an actuarial problem of too many people living too long. It's a socio-political problem: Do we as a people want to adequately fund the retirement of our elderly parents and of those suffering from disabilities or do we want to go back to an era where they ended up starving on the streets and dumpster diving, or as a burden to their children?

    If we want a decent, secure old age -- and you're going to need that when you're older -- the money is there to fund it. What's needed is the political will and the collective power to demand it.

    Medicare's Under Attack Too

    The same can be said of Medicare and of health care in general. Do we as a society want health care to be good for those with money, and shitty or nonexistent for those without it? In the case of both programs, it's not that solutions don't exist. In most of the countries of Europe, and even many in Asia, retirement is generously funded by government programs like Social Security that are not going bankrupt even though benefit amounts paid are much higher and populations are even skewed older than here in the US. Likewise, health care is in most modern countries seen as a right and is fully funded by some kind of state-run program, while we have a jerry-rigged system that relies primarily on for-profit systems and private insurance which, taken as a whole, costs more than double as a percentage of GDP and on a per-capita basis what it costs to deliver in other countries. And state-run systems cover everyone while ours leaves tens of millions unable to see a doctor or to get timely care in a hospital.

    To those who might say we as a nation cannot afford the hundreds of billions it would cost to adequately fund these vital programs, my reply is: America is currently spending two-thirds of all federal discretionary funds each year -- about $1.3 trillion a year -- on the military. That's more than the next 10 countries including China and Russia spend on their militaries. $5.5 trillion has been spent by the US just on the so-called "War on Terror" since 2001 (during which time the amount of terrorism around the globe and the number of people committing acts of mayhem have soared, which shows what a waste the whole "war" has been). And then recall that President Obama ordered, and President Trump has backed a $1-trillion 10-year program to "upgrade and modernize" America's nuclear weapons. It's a staggeringly expensive program which serves no defensive purpose and only increases the pressure on other countries to do the same and raises the chance that we -- and they -- will eventually use them.

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  • However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump's Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
    One cheer for Trump
    by: 
    Dave Lindorff

     

    The summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was pretty much all symbols and no solid content — basically it’s an agreement to talk further with plenty of wiggle room for either side to back out later. But that said it was a striking departure from the gutless and arrogant refusal of 11 prior presidents to make any move towards ending the state of war between the US and North Korea during the 65 years since fighting ended in the bloody Korean War with an armistice in place back in 1953.

    Kudos to both Trump and Kim for that.

    Odds are that even if North Korea doesn’t get rid of its nuclear weapons, ultimately the US will have to grin and bear it because South Korea looks ready to sign, either on a four-party basis with the US and China, or bilaterally on its own with just North Korea, a peace treaty ending one of the last relics of the Cold War that began with the end of World War II and the division of Korea, Vietnam and Germany into two parts.

    If the pro-peace president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, were to sign a peace agreement with North Korea’s Kim, it would eliminate any justification for the US continuing to keep military bases in South Korea, where 32,000 US soldiers are still stationed as a “trip-wire” in the event of an invasion from the north. At that point the US would lose all leverage for trying to pressure North Korea to eliminate its recently developed nuclear bomb arsenal.

    The idea of a neutral Korean peninsula with no US bases is surely horrifying to the neo-conservative strategists of Russia and China containment like Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton, a chicken-hawk war monger who’s never met a war he didn’t like or even promote. But for Koreans and the broader peoples of Asia, getting the US out of Korea would be a blessing. It would remove a crucial component of any potential US first strike against China — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile launch systems recently installed in South Korea on the bogus justification that they are guarding against North Korean missiles. (Any North Korean missiles aimed at South Korea would necessarily have low-altitude trajectories because of the short distance to target, and would not be vulnerable to THAAD missiles.)

    THAAD missiles the US placed in South Korea are targeted at Chinese, not North Korean missilesTHAAD missiles the US placed in South Korea are targeted at Chinese, not North Korean missiles
     

    Furthermore, once North and South Korea signed a peace treaty, it would eliminate any ratioale for the still-in-force UN Security Council Resolution 82, a measure which authorized the US-led UN defense of South Korea in 1950 and which has continued to provide the fig leaf of legal cover for America’s continuing colonial domination of South Korea ever since. Even if the US were to continue to veto moves to revoke that Security Council resolution, it would be seen as meaningless with the war officially over.

    Surely this was not the intention of President Trump in meeting with Kim, but let him have his moment. Because he desperately needed something positive in the foreign affairs realm to show for his now bumptious, goof-ball 18-month-old presidency, he had to reach an agreement of some kind with North Korea, and now he’s gotten that. The agreement is going to turn out well, too, even if not the way he’d have intended. If President Moon now nominates him and Kim for the Nobel Peace Prize, as he has suggested, they’ll deserve it at least as much as war criminal Henry Kissinger (awarded the prize in 1973 jointly with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho who unlike Kissinger at least had the decency to decline it) and Israel’s Menachim Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat — and surely far more than his predecessor Barack Obama, who proceeded, upon collecting his medal, to ramp up the Afghanistan War yet again, to invade Libya, overthrowing the government there, to meddle in Syria and threaten that country with a missile blitz, and to launch more deadly drone and Special Forces targeted murder attacks against people in numerous sovereign nations than the Bush/Cheney administration ever did.

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