New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Fire Its Gun Until 2019


America’s $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter, or F-35, is slated to join fighter squadrons next year—but missing software will render its 25mm cannon useless.
The Pentagon’s newest stealth jet, the nearly $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter, won’t be able to fire its gun during operational missions until 2019, three to four years after it becomes operational.

Even though the Joint Strike Fighter, or F-35, is supposed to join frontline U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadrons next year and Air Force units in 2016, the jet’s software does not yet have the ability to shoot its 25mm cannon. But even when the jet will be able to shoot its gun, the F-35 barely carries enough ammunition to make the weapon useful.

The JSF won’t be completely unarmed. It will still carry a pair of Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM long-range air-to-air missiles and a pair of bombs. Initially, it will be able to carry 1,000-pound satellite-guided bombs or 500-pound laser-guided weapons. But those weapons are of limited utility, especially during close-in fights.

“There will be no gun until [the Joint Strike Fighter’s Block] 3F [software], there is no software to support it now or for the next four-ish years,” said one Air Force official affiliated with the F-35 program. “Block 3F is slated for release in 2019, but who knows how much that will slip?”

The tri-service F-35 is crucial to the Pentagon’s plans to modernize America’s tactical fighter fleet. The Defense Department hopes to buy 2,443 of the new stealth jets in three versions—one for the Air Force, one for the Navy, and one for the Marines. Versions of the jet will replace everything from the air arm’s A-10 Warthog ground attack plane and Lockheed F-16 multirole fighter, to the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18 Hornet carrier-based fighter, to the Marines’ Boeing AV-8B Harrier II jump-jet. But the F-35 has been plagued with massive delays and cost overruns—mostly due to design defects and software issues. There have also been problems with the jet’s engine. An F-35 was destroyed on takeoff earlier in the year when a design flaw in its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine sparked a fire.

Another Air Force official familiar with the F-35 confirmed that the jet won’t have the software to fire its gun until the Block 3F software is released to frontline squadrons sometime in 2019. Neither Lockheed nor the F-35 Joint Program Office responded to inquiries about the status of the jet’s gun.

Right now, the F-35’s software doesn’t support the use of the aircraft’s GAU-22/A four-barreled rotary cannon. The weapon was developed from the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump-jet’s GAU-12/U cannon, but it has one fewer barrel and weighs less.

It’s also supposed to be more accurate—when it can be fired, that is. The gun can shoot 3,300 rounds per minute, though the Air Force’s F-35A version can carry just 180 rounds for the gun.

“To me, the more disturbing aspect of this delay is that it represents yet another clear indication that the program is in serious trouble.”

The Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 have differing configurations and rely on an external gun pod. The software won’t be ready for those jets for years, either. And while that gun-pod version for the Navy and Marines carries slightly more ammo, with 220 rounds, some in the military are complaining that it’s not enough. “So, about good for one tactical burst,” the first Air Force official said. “Hope you don’t miss.”

The lack of a cannon is a particular problem, as the F-35 is being counted on to help out infantrymen under fire. (This is known as close air support, or CAS, in military jargon.) The F-35 will lack the ability to mark a target or attack enemy forces in “danger close” situations, said one highly experienced Air Force fighter pilot.

“Lack of forward firing ordnance in a CAS supporting aircraft is a major handicap,” he added. “CAS fights are more fluid than air interdiction, friendlies and targets move… Oftentimes quickly. The ability to mark the target with rockets and attack the same target 10 seconds later is crucial.”

Typically, aircraft will work in pairs where the flight lead will make an initial pass to mark a target with rockets. A second aircraft will then attack with its guns. Incidentally, the F-35 won’t be armed with rockets, either, sources told The Daily Beast.

The reason pilots would choose to use guns over a bomb or a missile is simple. Basically, a pilot might not want to drop a bomb near ground troops in situations where the enemy has gotten in very close to those friendly forces. Even a relatively small 250-pound bomb could kill or injure friendly troops who are within 650 feet of the explosion.

By contrast, a gun will allow a pilot to attack hostile forces that are less than 300 feet from friendly ground forces.

Proponents of the F-35 within the Air Force leadership argue that the jet’s sensorsand ability to display information intuitively will allow the stealthy new fighter to do the close air-support mission from high altitudes using satellite-guided weapons. But there are situations where that won’t work.

“GPS-guided munitions with long times of fall are useless when the ground commander doesn’t know exactly where the fire is coming from, or is withdrawing and the enemy is pursuing,” said another Air Force fighter pilot. “GPS munitions are equally useless when dropped from an aircraft when the pilot has near zero ability to track the battle with his own eyes.”

The lack of a gun is not likely to be a major problem for close-in air-to-air dogfights against other jets. Part of the problem is that the F-35—which is less maneuverable than contemporary enemy fighters like the Russian Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker—is not likely to survive such a close-in skirmish. “The jet can’t really turn anyway, so that is a bit of a moot point,” said one Air Force fighter pilot.

“The JSF is so heavy, it won’t accelerate fast enough to get back up to fighting speed,” said another Air Force fighter pilot. “Bottom line is that it will only be a BVR [beyond visual range] airplane.”

That means the F-35 will be almost entirely reliant on long-range air-to-air missiles. It doesn’t carry any short-range, dogfighting missiles like the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder when it’s in a stealthy configuration. One pilot familiar with the F-35 added that “they will not have a large enough air-to-air [missile] load to be on the leading edge” of an air battle in any case.

Another senior Air Force official with stealth fighter experience agreed. “From an air-to-air standpoint, an argument could be made that the F-35A not having a functional gun—or any gun, for that matter—will have little to no impact. Heck, it only has 180 rounds anyway,” he said. “I would be lying if I said there exists any plausible tactical air-to-air scenario where the F-35 will need to employ the gun. Personally, I just don’t see it ever happening and think they should have saved the weight [by getting rid of the gun altogether].”

However, the Air Force official said that very fact the F-35 will not have a functional gun when it becomes operational is symptomatic of a deeply troubled program. “To me, the more disturbing aspect of this delay is that it represents yet another clear indication that the program is in serious trouble,” the official said. F-35 maker “Lockheed Martin is clearly in a situation where they are scrambling to keep their collective noses above the waterline, and they are looking to push non-critical systems to the right in a moment of desperation.”

Cybersecurity investigators raise doubts about North Korean responsibility for Sony hack


By Niles Williamson

31 December 2014

On Monday, researchers from the Norse cybersecurity firm provided the FBI with evidence discovered in the course of their independent investigation into the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment which allegedly points towards a small group of individuals including a disgruntled former employee and away from North Korea.

A group known as Guardians of Peace has claimed responsibility for the hacking attack and issued threats against theaters which were to screen “The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. In the face of the threats, Sony initially pulled the film from theaters throughout the US, but has since made the movie available online and in a limited number of theaters.

Pyongyang has officially denied any involvement in the hacking attack, and an offer by the regime to assist in any investigation into the leaks was rebuffed by the United States.

Kurt Stammberger, a senior vice president at Norse, told the Security Ledgerthat the company’s investigation uncovered six individuals directly involved in the hack including a former Sony employee who had been employed by the company for ten years before being laid off in May. The other suspects identified included two other individuals in the United States, one in Canada, one in Singapore, and a final suspect in Thailand.

Starting with the assumption that the attack was an inside job, the Norse researchers utilized leaked Human Resources data to identify recently laid-off Sony employees with the technical skills necessary to carry out the hack. They identified one possible suspect and followed her activity online, where they noted that she had made disgruntled posts on social media about Sony and the layoffs.

The Norse investigators also recorded conversations related to the Sony hacking attack on IRC (internet relay channel) forums where hackers communicate with each other online. The investigators were able to connect an individual involved in the IRC conversations with the former employee and a server on which one of the earliest known iterations of the malware used in the attack was assembled in July.

Norse’s allegations of an insider attack directly contradict the claims of the US government, which has explicitly blamed North Korea for the hack of Sony’s server network which resulted in the leaking of sensitive employee information and embarrassing emails from top executives.

The FBI released a statement on December 19 explicitly blaming the North Korean government for the hack. The agency claimed that its analysis of the malware used in the Sony attack “revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”

The statement also pointed to an overlap in the internet protocol addresses utilized in the attack and attacks previously connected to the North Korean government. It also claimed to have found similarities in the tools used in the Sony attack and attacks last year on South Korean banks and media firms.

The same day, President Barack Obama, in his final press conference of the year, blamed North Korea for the attack and promised that the US would carry out a “proportionate response” against the country “at the time and place of our choosing.”

Last Monday, several days after Obama’s warning, North Korea lost its connection to the Internet for several hours possibly as the result of a US cyber-attack. North Korean internet and mobile 3G network service went down again for several hours on Saturday.

The evidence put forward by the US government has been scrutinized by a number of internet security experts who argue that the government has not yet provided enough evidence to convincingly support its contention of North Korea’s responsibility.

Marc Rogers, principal security researcher for mobile security company CloudFlare, wrote in The Daily Beast that the evidence was “weak” and “flimsy.” He pointed to the fact that the malware shared source code with previous attacks is not unusual as hackers sell malware, and source codes often leak online.

Rogers noted that all but one of the IP addresses used in the attacks were public proxies utilized in prior malware attacks. Hackers often route their attacks through public proxies to avoid being traced back to their real IP address, meaning that it cannot be known exactly where the Sony attack originated.

According to Rogers, hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware indicated that whoever wrote the code had detailed knowledge of Sony’s servers and access to crucial passwords, things to which it would be much easier for someone on the inside to gain access.

Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at Co3 Systems, writing in The Atlantic, expressed his deep skepticism about the evidence provided by the US government. According to Schneier, the evidence put forward by the FBI was “easy to fake, and it’s even easier to interpret it incorrectly.” He also pointed out that Korean language in the malware code would indicate Korean origin but would not directly implicate North Korea.

A linguistic analysis of online messages put out by Guardians of Peace published last week by the cybersecurity consultancy group Taia Global concluded that the nationality of the authors was most likely Russia and possibly, but not likely, Korean.

NYPD Work Slowdown Results in Massive Drop in Arrests

Police activity rates drop by two-thirds as cops try to stick it to Mayor de Blasio.

There has been a dramatic drop in arrests in New York City after the police union leaders called for an NYPD work “slowdown.” According to theNew York Post, arrests are down 66% overall, drug arrests are down by 84%, and summons and tickets for minor offenses are down by a mind-blowing 94% since last year.

Ironically, protesters and other critics of the NYPD have called for less low-level policing. The end of “stop-and-frisk” policing by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton last year was in response to many of these critics. However, Bratton is a proponent of “broken windows” policing, the practice of cracking down on minor offenses based on the theory that they create visible signs of public disorder that encourage more serious crimes.

Community and minority groups argue that broken-windows policing tends to be racially biased, referring to it as  “the same old stop-and-frisk.”

In the wake of the shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on December 20, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the police unions called for the slowdown, which the Post now equates to a work stoppage. The unions are upset over what they perceive to be anti-police rhetoric by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the slowdown is said to be an organized protest. It began the week beginning with December 22, two days after the Ramos and Liu shooting. The Post obtained the figures and compared that week to the corresponding week from a year ago.

This afternoon, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton are holding an emergency summit with the leaders of New York’s five police unions to try to mend a rift between the city’s administration and police rank-and file.

The PBA and the unions have told their members that their safety comes first and not to make an arrests unless they are “absolutely necessary.” Police sources have told the Post that it is these safety measures that are behind the plummet in low-level policing activity. However, the same sources have told the Post that some cops are staging their own work slowdowns as a form of protest over de Blasio’s response to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Immediately after the Ramos and Liu killings, PBA president Patrick Lynch politicized their deaths and pointed blame in the direction of Mayor de Blasio among others.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight: those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” said Lynch. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall — in the office of the mayor.”

Lynch, who says the NYPD is now a “wartime police department” who will “act accordingly” had also called on rank-and-file to sign an emotionally manipulative letter that would ban de Blasio from the funerals.

Since Lynch’s tirade against De Blasio, the Mayor has faced open hostility from some NYPD police officers and their unions. On Saturday, a cordon of officers standing outside Christ Tabernacle Church turned their backs to the church as de Blasio spoke at the Ramos funeral. The next day, Police Commissioner Bratton denounced the protest of rank-and-file officers, saying that it was inappropriate and highly politicized the funeral.

“This is a mayor who cares very deeply about New York police officers, cares very deeply about the divide in the city and is working hard to heal that divide,” Bratton said on CBS This Morning on Sunday.

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, Raw Story and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.

The continuing US war in Afghanistan


30 December 2014

On December 28, the US-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, formally ended its combat operations in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama issued a statement declaring the step “a milestone for our country,” adding, “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Like virtually everything else that comes out of the American president’s mouth, this is a lie. The shabby little ceremony in Kabul Sunday, in which a US commander hauled down one battle flag and ran up another, only confirmed that the murderous 13-year US war in Afghanistan continues.

The flag-changing ceremony was held on the floor of an indoor basketball court at the Western military’s Kabul headquarters. Non-resident staff were told to stay away for fear of the Taliban, which has carried out an unprecedented wave of attacks in the capital while retaking territory abandoned by US and other foreign troops.

Over 18,000 foreign troops will continue to occupy Afghanistan—about 10,600 of them American. While ISAF—created after the US invasion of Afghanistan to lend multinational legitimacy to the country’s occupation—is being wound up and its flag furled, Operation Resolute Support is being launched under a virtually identical green banner (with the letters RS substituted for ISAF).

Approximately 5,000 American troops will be deployed as part of Resolute Support, in what one NATO commander described as a “non-combat mission in a combat environment,” training and advising Afghan security forces. Another 5,500 of the US forces will be deployed as a “non-NATO” contingent that will be engaged in so-called “counterterrorism” operations. While previously, US forces formally operated under a UN resolution and as part of a NATO contingent, these troops will be answerable to no one but the Joint Special Operations Command, which in turn answers to no one but the US president.

Initially, Washington had insisted that these operations would be aimed solely at Al Qaeda, which by US accounts has for years had barely 50 members in Afghanistan. In the run-up to the formal end of the ISAF mission, however, the Obama administration announced that they would also be used to combat the Taliban and other armed groups opposed to the US puppet regime in Kabul.

While drawing down the number of uniformed troops, Washington is keeping over 20,000 military contractors, who will help man some 25 bases scattered around the country. Because of these plans, the Pentagon command has stated that there will be little reduction in the staggering cost of the war, which is estimated to have risen to over $1 trillion since 2001.

Far from begin concluded, the war is raging. This year has seen a record number of Afghan civilian casualties, topping the 10,000 mark, while Afghan security forces have suffered nearly 5,000 fatalities, more than all the 3,500 foreign soldiers—including over 2,225 Americans—who have lost their lives in the 13 years since the US invasion. US military analysts have described these losses—together with a closely related spike in desertions from the Afghan National Army—as “unsustainable.”

The US military is increasing its air strikes in an attempt to prevent a rout of the Afghan security forces. While on the decline over the last two years, these strikes, which have aroused intense popular hostility in Afghanistan, have sharply risen in the past few months. One of the more recent took place on December 25 in central Logar province. A local official told Pajhwok Afghan News that the bombing, while supposedly aimed at alleged “militants,” demolished two homes, killing five civilians and wounding another six.

With US backing, the government of neighboring Pakistan has launched a bloody new offensive in that country’s northwest, near the Afghan border. Washington, meanwhile, has stepped up its drone assassination program against targets in Pakistan. The country has seen more than 50,000 people killed over the last decade in fighting that was provoked by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Just as Obama’s declaration that the war is over is a lie, so too is his explanation for its causes. He repeated the shop-warn claims that the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans are all justified in the name of “devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.”

This is all nonsense. By early 2002, Al Qaeda had been largely driven out of Afghanistan. It and related movements have since developed and evolved in large part with the support of Washington, used as proxy forces in wars for regime-change in Libya and Syria.

On October 9, 2001, two days after the US military began the aerial bombardment that would be followed by the US invasion of Afghanistan, theWSWS firmly rejected the claims that the war was being waged for “justice and the security of the American people against terrorism.”

The WSWS warned:

“The US government initiated the war in pursuit of far-reaching international interests of the American ruling elite. What is the main purpose of the war? The collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago created a political vacuum in Central Asia, which is home to the second largest deposit of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.

“The Caspian Sea region, to which Afghanistan provides strategic access, harbors approximately 270 billion barrels of oil, some 20 percent of the world’s proven reserves. It also contains 665 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, approximately one-eighth of the planet’s gas reserves.

“These critical resources are located in the world’s most politically unstable region. By attacking Afghanistan, setting up a client regime and moving vast military forces into the region, the US aims to establish a new political framework within which it will exert hegemonic control.”

Whatever the US tactical changes, these geo-strategic aims remain and are at the heart of the continuing war in Afghanistan, just as similar objectives are the driving force in the renewed war in Iraq and Syria.

Today they are much more intimately bound up with the escalation of militarist threats and encirclement of both Russia and China, Washington’s principal rivals in the region.

All of Obama’s rhetoric about an end to war notwithstanding, Washington’s continuing aggression in Afghanistan is part of a growing eruption of American militarism, from Syria and Iraq, to Ukraine and the Baltic states, to the South China Sea. One or another of these military provocations will inevitably erupt into a nuclear third world war unless the international working class mobilizes itself as an independent revolutionary force against imperialist war and its source, capitalism.

Bill Van Auken

The Real Reason So Many Cops Hate Bill de Blasio


Police officials have launched a media assault against the New York mayor

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/lev radin

Some liberals have expressed disappointment in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned on a platform of reforming the NYPD, saying he has failed to turn his rhetoric into significant action. Yet in the past few weeks police officials have decried his “revolution” and launched a media assault against the mayor, with a few holding him personally responsible for the deaths of two officers this weekend. What explains the discrepancy?

The contentious relationship between police unions and Mayor de Blasio is, in many ways, parallel to President Obama’s skirmishes with the military and the intelligence community. Policy alone cannot explain the animosity directed at these elected officials. As happens so often in our postmodern era, we must look to the politics of the persona.

Obama and de Blasio both built movements around inclusion. Just as candidate Obama presented himself as the man who could reshape our 21st-century national identity in the image of its more progressive “better history,” Bill de Blasio encouraged voters to unite in opposition to economic stratification that was pitting borough against borough and neighbor against neighbor. His landslide victory among all key demographics showed his “tale of two cities” theme resonated with three of every four New Yorkers.

“There are little pieces of everybody in me,” Senator Obama said in 2006. At a time when the country seemed ready to divide along socioeconomic lines, the biracial Chicagoan was able to unify much of the electorate by being a figure upon whom many groups could project their own identities. He embodied change just by being on the ballot.

A similar dynamic is at work in the case of Bill de Blasio. Emphasizing his multiracial family and personalizing issues of social and economic inequality has allowed him to capture the support of an Obama-esque coalition of people who never had access to the halls of power. Further, like Obama, he projects a masculinity that is empathic and introspective, anathema to the patriarchal attitudes that dominate hierarchal institutions like the police.

When Mayor de Blasio first spoke about the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner, he placed the case in a personal context:

“Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

The opposition also took a turn for the personal. New York City’s largest police union created a form letter members could send to the mayor and the city council speaker, requesting the pair not attend the officer’s funeral should he or she die in the line of duty. The union said officers felt as if they had been “thrown under the bus,” and said the mayor instead should encourage parents to teach their children “to comply with police officers, even if they feel it’s unjust.”

Therein lies the fundamental split between the mayor and the NYPD—it is the clash of egalitarian and authoritarian mindsets. There was no tipping point in their relationship. The police hated Bill de Blasio from day one.

Officers who have threatened the mayor and who have abused their power must be relieved of duty. Yet the work must go further than that. What is needed is a cultural shift in how we understand law enforcement. Police officers must be people who understand that they are agents of the people and work for our elected officials, not against them. Mayor de Blasio has, willingly or otherwise, become an icon for these efforts. That’s why he has drawn the wrath of those invested in upholding the status quo.


A political mobilization of the American police


29 December 2014

The funeral Saturday for New York policeman Rafael Ramos, attended by an estimated 25,000 police from all over the United States, was a carefully orchestrated political event. With a list of speakers that included not only New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but also Vice President Joseph Biden, its purpose was to exploit the December 20 killing of two New York City patrolmen to mount a counteroffensive against the upsurge of popular anger over police brutality and murder. It provided an opportunity for a display of force aimed at intimidating and delegitimizing opposition to the wave of lethal police violence.

Prior to last week’s killing of the two New York City policemen, the police were on the political defensive. December began with coast-to-coast demonstrations against the rigged grand jury proceedings that allowed policemen in Ferguson, Missouri and New York’s Staten Island to go scot-free after killing unarmed black men. The whitewash of Officer Darren Wilson November 22, and the similar result for Officer Daniel Pantaleo December 3, underscored the reality that policemen kill with impunity in the United States.

These two cases resonated in the context of daily police violence, including the November 20 killing of Akai Gurley, 28, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project by a cop who claimed his gun went off “accidentally,” and the November 22 execution-style killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, shot from a police car one second after it rolled up to the playground where he was playing with a toy gun.

Angered by these events, tens of thousands, including many youth and students, took part in protests demanding action. Many raised chants such as “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” and “I can’t breathe,” alluding to the last action of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. and the last words of 45-year-old Eric Garner, the victims in the Ferguson and Staten Island police killings.

The initial response to these protests by the political establishment was an attempt to co-opt them. Political agents of the Democratic Party such as Al Sharpton were assigned to give the protests a racial orientation, presenting the problem purely as one of white cops and black victims and thus disguising the deeper issue: the systematic buildup of state violence against all sections of the working class and the steady dismantling of democratic rights and constitutional procedures in the United States.

President Obama mouthed words of sympathy and appointed a commission to study police-community relations (packed with policemen and Democratic Party operatives). At the same time, he declared his support for the continued militarization of the police, keeping in place the Pentagon program that supplies local police departments with armored cars, machine guns and other advanced weaponry for urban warfare.

The demonstrations grew, with 25,000 turning out in Manhattan and at least 10,000 more in Washington DC on December 13.

The December 20 killing of New York patrolmen Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu provided an opportunity for the defenders and apologists for police brutality to push back. The two were gunned down by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a mentally disturbed Baltimore man who first shot his ex-girlfriend, then posted threats against police on the Internet demanding vengeance for the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and finally took a bus to New York City and shot the two policemen as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

There was no connection between Brinsley’s deranged action and the mass protests against police violence of the preceding weeks and months. But this did not stop fascist-minded cops and politicians, from the appropriately named police union leader Patrick Lynch to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, from declaring that all those who publicly opposed police violence had “blood on their hands.”

Perhaps the most politically significant statement of this slander came from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in his address to the funeral service Saturday. “I frankly was amazed at the discipline and professionalism that the NYPD demonstrated,” he said. “The NYPD protected the right of freedom of speech even though they themselves were the target of false and abusive chants and tirades by some.”

Cuomo’s statement exemplifies the extent to which a thoroughly fascistic and police-state mentality pervades the ruling elite. The governor expresses his amazement that the police deigned to tolerate protests against its violent attacks on the civilian population. Apparently, Cuomo would have understood and sympathized with a bloody police crackdown on protesters.

The real attitude of the NYPD to constitutional rights was on display outside the church, where hundreds of police turned their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio took the podium to deliver a eulogy. This action was a demonstration against de Blasio’s public posture of sympathy with the demonstrators against police brutality, and especially to his statement that he had counseled his biracial son to be cautious and avoid any possible provocation in encounters with the police.

The demonstration of contempt for de Blasio has a more far-reaching significance, however. It reveals the attitude of the police-military apparatus at every level to the civilian officials who nominally hold authority over them. From the cop on the beat to the CIA torturers and the military brass, those who carry out the dirty work of violence on behalf of the financial aristocracy are resentful of the restraints of legality and outraged when called to account for outright crimes.

The corporate-controlled media promotes this contempt for civilian authority. The New York tabloids have had one screaming headline after another aimed at glorifying the police and whipping de Blasio into line—quite successfully, as his meek performance of the past week has demonstrated.

No police department is less deserving of such praise than the NYPD, which has a filthy history of corruption and violence. As far back as the Knapp Commission (1970-71), triggered by the whistleblowing of detective Frank Serpico, the NYPD has been a watchword for bribe taking, shakedowns, and the virtual police takeover of criminal enterprises such as drug dealing. The names of victims of NYPD violence—from Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Abner Louima to Eric Garner and Akai Gurley—mark its endless and ongoing brutality.

Democratic politicians like Vice President Biden, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio can be counted on to toe the line in defense of the police. But these efforts only expose the extent to which even the formal trappings of democracy are being eroded and the Bill of Rights trampled upon.

Patrick Martin

Are We Approaching the End of Human History?

For the fourth consecutive year, NASA research aircraft are flying over the Arctic to assess the health of the ice in the fast-changing region. Global warming has had a particularly strong impact on the Arctic, yet the effects on the region’s ice have been anything but steady or predictable. Some glaciers are spitting out icebergs and draining the Greenland ice sheet at an alarming pace; others are barely moving; a few are growing thicker. (Photo: NASA /For the fourth consecutive year, NASA research aircraft are flying over the Arctic to assess the health of the ice in the fast-changing region. Global warming has had a particularly strong impact on the Arctic, yet the effects on the region’s ice have been anything but steady or predictable. Some glaciers are spitting out icebergs and draining the Greenland ice sheet at an alarming pace; others are barely moving; a few are growing thicker. (Photo: NASA/Jefferson Beck and Maria-José Viñas/Flickr CC 2.0)

Global warming has had a particularly strong impact on the Arctic, yet the effects on the region’s ice have been anything but steady or predictable. Some glaciers are spitting out icebergs and draining the Greenland ice sheet at an alarming pace; others are barely moving; a few are growing thicker.(Photo: NASA/Jefferson Beck and Maria-José Viñas/Flickr CC 2.0)

This post first appeared at In These Times.

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

“The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.”



The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck’s devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today’s sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group’s major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt’s fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before it ran a summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Power Systems, Occupy, and Hopes and Prospects. His latest book,Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books, which is also reissuing twelve of his classic books in new editions over the coming year. His website is

The Next Big Social Idea: Unconditional Basic Income

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In 2014, serious voices from Pope Francis to Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, have lamented ever-widening inequality. Others have expressed concern that “the second machine age” of digital technologies will entail the massive elimination of jobs.

Few, however, have proposed policy solutions equal to the scale of the problem. But there is one proposal — perhaps the next big social idea — that has emerged: Unconditional Basic Income.

The UBI is a monthly monetary income granted every month, unconditionally, by a political community to each of its members from birth. Depending on the nation, in Europe and the U.S. it would probably be $2,500 per adult and $1,500 per child. It must secure a minimum livelihood and enable a participation in society. It is unconditional because it constitutes a human, civil and legal right and shall be provided without proof of need and without obligation to work, search for work, or performing any services in return. Yes, you’re being paid to live, work and participate as you please.

This is not a utopian hand out, a socialist smorgasbord or high five for couch potatoes; the UBI is the only solid socio economic strategy we have available to us that will solve our intransigent social issues while stimulating the economy through the newly gained purchasing power of more than 50 million citizens (who are now no longer poor) and who now have the ability to participate meaningfully in the economy. And there are many ways to pay for it: through reworking our tax system, by instituting a consumption tax, eliminating income taxes and putting in a small wealth tax; and there are many other ideas that should be discussed and reviewed.

Some social movements have begun to promote the UBI, notably in Switzerland, where over 100,000 people have signed a petition that will put the idea forward in anational referendum in 2015 or 2016.

Ultimately, the UBI will enable us to rewrite and renegotiate our social contract with each other because with the unconditional basic income you are given access and opportunity to participate in the economy and society as you see fit. When everybody receives the same basic amount of money to secure a livelihood, the social and economic playing field will be leveled, making equal opportunity and access real, while unleashing incomprehensible amounts of human energy and potential.

UBI cures the disease of most social ills once and for all and does not just treat its symptoms. The positive outcome of a UBI is manifold: it gives respect to all; it includes all; it liberates human creativity; it eliminates poverty; it empowers women; it reduces unnecessary government bureaucracy. The UBI will have a drastic effect on reducing crime since poverty, lack of work, meaning and education, and unhealthy social environment and family structures, are its root cause. Even more, the UBI, in creating a fairer society, will help advance environmental issues as people are no longer stuck in the poverty trap and can now make their community and environment a priority.

Finally, UBI respects human work and therefore income is not as a result or reward of your work but as the enablement of your work. Work becomes biography and we are all set free.

Check out HuffPost Live’s full interview with Piketty below: