Category: news


business is booming in the boondocks

June 9th, 2012 — 12:50pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Regardless of what the administration’s official take on the nomenclature might be, the War on Terror is not only alive and well – it is growing.  As a brief foreword to the rest of this, it probably wouldn’t hurt to keep in mind that one of al-Qaeda’s principal complaints has always been that American foreign policy has been responsible for killing innocent Muslims for decades, and that our administration recently decided that any military-aged male killed by a drone strike would be considered a militant and not a civilian unless proven otherwise.

So back in early March, an American drone opened a new front in the supposedly defunct War, taking fifteen lives on the Philippine island of Jolo:

Early last month, Tausug villagers on the Southern Philippine island of Jolo heard a buzzing sound not heard before… Within minutes, 15 people lay dead and a community plunged into despair, fear and mourning.

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Comment » | counterinsurgency, current affairs, islam, news, politics, terrorism

back-handing the casbah

June 9th, 2012 — 10:15am

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

It would be nice to be able to be surprised about Egypt’s most recent attempt to redefine irony: a mob of hundreds of men attacking and subsequently sexually assaulting a group of women marching to protest the lack of women’s rights in Egypt:

From the ferocity of the assault, some of the victims said it appeared to have been an organized attempt to drive women out of demonstrations and trample on the pro-democracy protest movement. The attack follows smaller scale assaults on women this week in Tahrir, the epicentre of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year.

Earlier in the week, an Associated Press reporter witnessed around 200 men assault a woman who eventually fainted before men trying to help could reach her.

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Comment » | current affairs, islam, news, politics, terrorism

what’s in a day?

June 8th, 2012 — 6:55pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Recent tax data recently led to a select group of families being labeled as “The Fortunate 400.”  But before we look into where that name comes from, let’s consider something real quick.

There are hundreds of people who made more in one day of work than someone who pulls in just over six-figures a year.  Much more in one day.  Five times as much in fact, more in three-hours than he made in a year.  Trying to argue that this is simply what happens in a capitalist economy gets a little bit fuzzy when you consider that although between the 1930s and the 1970s CEO pay increased by a modest four-percent, since the 1970s it has increased eight-fold while employee pay has remained stagnant:

The AFL-CIO reckons that the ratio of chief executive pay to median worker pay rose from 42-1 in 1980 to 343-1 in 2010. The average S&P 500 CEO now makes over $10 million a year, according to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Comment » | current affairs, news, politics, racial inequality, war on drugs

probably because there’s airconditioning

June 8th, 2012 — 4:28pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

Marching in the streets of Riyadh probably isn’t all that appealing when the thermometer makes it’s way up towards 110 degrees Fahrenheit most days this time of year, so it makes more than a little sense to stage your political protest where it’s nice and cool: the local mall.

Upset about the political detention of their relatives, family members of some Saudi dissidents took to the aptly-named Sahara Mall to carry out a little old school civil disobedience.

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Comment » | Arab Spring, current affairs, islam, news, politics, Saudi Arabia, terrorism

because we destroyed ourselves

May 25th, 2012 — 11:52am

(read the book free onlineread the Reddit AMA)

As our financial crisis deepens and the schisms between the haves and the have-nots continue to open, American drug laws and the prison system they’ve perpetuated are beginning to gather an increasingly harsh spotlight. But so what. It’s not like the War on Drugs, which started over forty-years ago in 1973, has done anything to increase the growing level of economic disparity in America… right?

A lot happened in 1973.

It was a few years after Nixon slammed the gold window shut, the waning hours of a decapitated Civil Rights movement, and the year we began to disentangle ourselves from Vietnam. But it also marks the genesis of the War on Drugs: the year the Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed. And that same year something funny happened: the income gap between black and white began to widen back out, instead of closing – as it had been up until 1973.

Did the start of the War on Drugs play a significant role in creating our present economic and social realities – where the average black family has eight-cents of wealth for every dollar owned by whites, and a black child is nine-times more likely than a white child to have a parent in prison?

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14 comments » | books, current affairs, domestic terror, news, politics, publishing, racial inequality, terrorism, war on drugs

when Iran wants to assasinate someone

October 12th, 2011 — 5:36pm

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

They simply find a way to make sure the guy gets shot.  In a sense the Iranians are the hipsters of assassinations on American soil, because although they’ve done it here at least once before -  you’ve probably never heard of it.

But in light of the recent “plot” that was foiled, it’s important to bring up that historical precedent.  As Salon‘s Glen Greenwald among many others have noted, this particular scheme seems about as far-fetched and shadily-orchestrated as international terrorist plots of sinister assassination come:

The Terrorist Mastermind at the center of the plot is a failed used car salesman in Texas with a history of pedestrian money problems. Dive under your bed. “For the entire operation, the government’s confidential sources were monitored and guided by federal law enforcement agents,” explained U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and “no explosives were actually ever placed anywhere and no one was actually ever in any danger.’”

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3 comments » | Arab Spring, counterinsurgency, islam, news, politics, Saudi Arabia, terrorism

the jinn in the machine

October 5th, 2011 — 9:29am

(learn more about the book at the “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit)

A kettle which has been just on the edge of simmering for a good long time now finally began to boil over earlier this week, as violent protests erupted in Qatif, a city in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia that like almost every city in that region of the nation is majority Shia.  And like almost every other city in the Shia-dominated eastern edges of Saudi Arabia – it sits directly on top of the world’s largest remaining easily-accessible oil reserves.

Instability has been built into the region since the founding of the Saudi Kingdom, a geopolitical reality that bodes disaster for American geopolitical goals in the region.  Namely, securing access to the lifeblood of Western civilization:

The Shia of Saudi Arabia, mostly concentrated in the Eastern Province, have long complained of discrimination against them by the fundamentalist Sunni Saudi monarchy. The Wahhabi variant of Islam, the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia, holds Shia to be heretics who are not real Muslims.

The US, as the main ally of Saudi Arabia, is likely to be alarmed by the spread of pro-democracy protests to the Kingdom and particularly to that part of it which contains the largest oil reserves in the world. The Saudi Shia have been angered at the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain since March, with many protesters jailed, tortured or killed, according Western human rights organisations.

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Comment » | Arab Spring, counterinsurgency, economics, islam, news, politics, Saudi Arabia, terrorism

it’s hard out here

August 25th, 2011 — 1:33pm

(read the book free online - read the Reddit AMA)

Imagine you live in a small apartment above a bookstore.

Like most bookstores, it has an area set aside for perusing novels and consuming refreshments where you can relax with a alluring and fragrant pile of books stacked in front of you.  The only sounds come from the soft mood music the establishment is piping in and the contented signs of other customers.  You’re free to evaluate each prospective purchase at your own leisure, languidly stroking their pages one-by-one, seeing if this one or that one’s spine has what you’re looking for attached to it.

No one who works there ever comes up and hassles you about hurrying up and buying something already, there’s an implicit pact between client and business – you’re free to lounge for as long as you’d like, but if you want the convenience of taking the book with you, a fee is required.

That’s really all you’re paying, a convenience fee.  Each book sits on the shelf open and waiting, shyly beckoning you with coyly designed covers and promising words – tempting you to pick them up, sit them in your lap, fall in love with them, and pay to take them home. But whether or not payment is rendered, you can still have your way with as many books as you want, regardless of whether or not you pay a single cent.

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8 comments » | books, current affairs, e-books, news, publishing, terrorism, war on drugs

innocents and innocence alike

August 13th, 2011 — 12:52pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

In one of The Dark Knight‘s pivotal scenes, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the dystopian miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

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Comment » | books, counterinsurgency, Current Events, domestic terror, islam, news, politics, terrorism

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