"American Sniper" lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society -- the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a "Christian" nation to exterminate the "lesser breeds" of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society. read more
Dan Froomkin, The Intercept: Monday's guilty verdict in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on espionage charges -- for talking to a newspaper reporter -- is the latest milepost on the dark and dismal path Barack Obama has traveled since his inaugural promises to usher in a "new era of openness." Far from rejecting the authoritarian bent of his presidential predecessor, Obama has simply adjusted it, adding his own personal touches, most notably an enthusiasm for criminally prosecuting the kinds of leaks that are essential to a free press. read more
Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country's citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.
The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here. read more
Tuesday night, in his next-to-last State of the Union address, President Obama flashed the suckers a bag of tricks that has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, but will allow his apologists to claim that the genuine, more progressive Obama is revealing himself in his final two years in office. Of course, the final-years Obama could have accomplished his modest 2015 agenda, and much more, back in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats dominated both the House and the Senate and the Republicans were in despair and disarray. Which is precisely why Obama chose, instead, to put his party's perishable congressional majorities at the service of bankers, Wall Street, private insurers and Big Pharma. Now that Democrats are the endangered species on Capitol Hill, Obama hangs a piñata of subsidized community college education, additional tax deductions for child care, seven days paid sick leave, higher capital gains taxes on the wealthy, and billions in fees on casino bankers. read more
Police in a number of U.S. cities aren't just tasering and tear-gassing protesters, they're attacking their sense of hearing. The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), also called a "sound canon," is a powerful, military-grade electronic megaphone that, in addition to broadcasting police commands, can be used to disperse crowds with a chirping noise reaching 162 decibels, 42 decibels above the level that can cause immediate and permanent hearing damage.
It condenses the noise into an acoustic cone with an angle of 30 to 40 degrees in front of the machine, which can be mounted on a vehicle or held by hand.
The U.S. military has already used the device against enemy combatants whom soldiers wanted to keep at a distance without firing upon them during the Iraq War. read more