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Team America!

Like you, we’re in full patriotic bliss when the Super Bowl comes. It’s thrilling to watch the stirring tributes to the American warrior and our noble cause overseas.

It’s just a shame that the corporate makers of war machinery don’t air their own commercials on the big day. They’re the real heroes. But “defense companies” just don’t run multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads.

Until now. This year’s Superbowl features a commercial from Northrop Grumman, one of America’s most beloved weapons makers. Northrop is eying a contract that may eventually run tens of billions of dollars, all to make America’s next great bomber.

It will be awesome to behold.

Like God, any deadly emblem of global power must remain elusive. But you can bet that it will be futuristic, stealthy, and will defeat terrorism.

You may be surprised to know that Northrop Grumman has created a slew of advertisements in the last year. But why exactly? While you adore bombers and would gladly buy one of these babies — after all, Valentine’s Day is coming up — you can hardly afford one with its projected price tag of $600 million per unit.

But you can do the next best thing and invest in the corporation! And that means scoring some big cash. It’s a bull market for weapons, and Northrop Grumman’s stock is soaring. As Bloomberg News reports, “Military contractors have rallied on increasing global instability and the prospect for rising sales of missiles, drones and other weapons.”

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And you thought world murder and mayhem are bad things!

I can hear your concerns. Yes, I want to invest my money in the war and weapons market, but didn’t President Obama talk about cuts to the defense budget?

Hey, turns out he was just kidding!

The Pentagon is seeking an increase of $20.4 billion (13%) for weapons and research, and Obama will be removing defense budget caps that prevent these critical needs. So we can buy more weapons and be safer and safer. And you can rake in the dough! It’s a great game — shouldn’t you be on the winning team?

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Our Man on the Horse

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Who is the man on the horse?

A hero, of course.

We had travelled to One World Trade Center and glimpsed,
through gaps in a high security fence, a monument featuring
the epic figure of a US Special Forces member, complete with
machine gun, riding nobly into battle upon his trusty steed.

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A natural figure to grace Ground Zero.

All real American heroes are immortalized
atop a mighty horse. There’s no greater evidence that
a man is good and great and sacred and true.

Take George Washington. Father of our country.

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Or General Robert E. Lee. His valiant defense of slavery
led to his continual veneration, as he remains displayed
prominently in Richmond, Virginia, and elsewhere.

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And we will always honor General George Custer.
So handsome, so virile. He fought to exterminate
the Sioux and the Cheyenne, but alas, those tribes
managed to exterminate him first.

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Even in the 20th century, age of the automobile and the jet,
our finest men were immortalized atop a horse.
Behold the great John Wayne, a fine actor and mighty patriot
who became the 40th president in American history.

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Now the visual grandeur continues with this 9/11
statue of a Green Beret astride an Afghan stallion,
his M4 with attached grenade launcher close at hand.
Just where did artist Douwe Blumberg get the impulse to
use this form for his monument on the war on terror?

Did God himself inspire his creative vision?

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Close.

It was this man.

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Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a hero in his own
right, was giving a news conference on November 16th, 2001.
Blumberg was watching as Rumsfeld proudly presented a
photo of a man from our Special Forces riding a horse over
the fraught and treacherous Afghan landscape.

Yes, only 39 days after the slaughter of 3,000 Americans,
our heroes were in Afghanistan, in full gallop, launching
a historic crusade to annihilate the Taliban, destroy
Al Qaeda, and end terrorism once and for all.

These mounted troops became known as horse soldiers.
Years later, anonymous Wall Street bankers funded the
monument as the perfect symbol of America’s response.

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Of course, a dozen Green Berets on horses didn’t quite win the war.
Nor did high-tech weaponry and thousand-pound bombs and foreign
troops and torture and assassination. Hundreds of thousands
of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis perished in these conflicts, tens
of thousands of our own troops were killed and injured, 4-6 trillion
dollars were spent on the massive efforts. And the result?
Jihadist terrorism has expanded and thrived, and we live in a
security state that spies on everyone for the good of us all.

But it’s nice to pretend otherwise.

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In the age of drones, nukes, and other distant but devastating warfare,
we must continually resurrect the dream of brave, rugged men who
fearlessly ride out to fight tooth and nail to preserve our freedoms.

In the American Empire, it’s always payback time.

The myth is far more attractive than the reality.

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Two Great American Forces

Good old American know-how at its best!

Yesterday the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and Quicken Loans announced a 5-year, $453 million dollar agreement wherein JSOC will use Predator drones to track down rogue vehicles whose owners are behind on their car payments.

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It’s a marriage made in heaven. For the last decade, JSOC’s track record of global drone assassinations has been the envy of terrorists everywhere. Their deadly strikes avoid the messy need of declaring war in the affected areas, or burdening Americans with any information at all. As we say in the U.S., leave your killing to JSOC and rest easy!

And now JSOC is teaming up with Quicken Loans to take out criminals in the homeland!

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Quicken Loans, America’s most trusted provider of affordable home loans, recently added car loans to its product line. Committed to providing real options for Americans facing financial difficulties, Quicken offers car loans to those with good credit, bad credit, or even no credit. That’s a reflection of Quicken’s powerful dedication to cash-strapped Americans.

Until that is, a customer is late on his payments. Then — with its new partnership with JSOC — there will be hell to pay.

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Quicken’s partnership with JSOC immediately enhances its asset recovery operations, with JSOC Predator drones able to loiter over poor urban areas for up to 20 hours to find and surveil targeted automobiles. But more impressive, its drones are equipped with the much-touted Hellfire-Mini, a more compact variant of the Hellfire missile, that brings a laser-guided, pinpoint accuracy to the problem, eliminating the driver completely (and his poor financial decisions) while leaving the vehicle absolutely unscathed.

News of this innovative improvement boosted Quicken Loan’s share price by 23% at close on Wednesday.

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Fun with Colors

Coming later this fall, The Cluster Project will publish its Drone Coloring Book. Patriotic, educational, and great fun for the whole family!

flight rough

A perfect Christmas gift for those you love.

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After Ferguson

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Chicago artist Jeff Lassahn has been creating a series of images illustrating social injustice and economic decline in America. His latest lithograph takes a striking look at the war at home. (click to enlarge)

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Go here to see more of his excellent stuff.

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Celebrating the noble slaughter

One might think the 100th anniversary of World War I would bring a careful consideration of why such a calamity happened. After all, some 16 million soldiers and civilians were killed in what was, at the time, an incomparably horrific breakdown of human civilization.

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But no. The centennial has prompted a global celebration with former colonial empires promoting nationalism, patriotism, and the myth of military glory, while obscuring the real causes of the war – the fight of the Empires to redivide the world according to their insatiable economic and political appetites.

The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, stated that “there was a cause young men volunteered for and that was to stop the domination of Europe by one power and to go to the defence of a defenceless country, Belgium.” Curiously, the noble cause of defending Belgium also gave the British Empire postwar control of Palestine, Iraq, Transjordan, Tanganyika, and parts of Cameroon and Togo – a happy accident!

Only about a million men in the British Empire had to die for that to occur.

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At the commemoration ceremony on August 4th in Liège, Belgium, where fighting started 100 years ago, royalty from England, Spain, Belgium, and Luxemburg were positioned on a platform above a small, select crowd amid tight security. Their pious concern for the war dead served as a reminder that 100 years later, victors get to keep their monarchies.

Meanwhile in France, where more than six million soldiers were killed or wounded during the conflict, the government took care to commemorate World War I with a military parade that showed off its “continued military might.”

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The most stirring comments come from Australia, which let 60,000 men die in the European Theater in return for a few islands in the Pacific. It is spending $600 million to commemorate WWI, far more than any other country in the world.

On August 4th 2014, the day a century ago that Britain declared war on Germany, and Australia immediately responded with an offer of “20,000 men of any suggested composition,” Australia’s defense spokesman David Feeney and Opposition leader Bill Shorten made a joint statement to their nation. Their statement is so striking that we feel compelled to adorn it with the wartime images of celebrated German artist Otto Dix.

Dix fought in the “great war” and like other artists who survived the conflict, his representation of events seem at odds with the giddy heroism we now see trumpeted. Indeed, Dix’s images all but strip bare the grand illusions that governments continue to fabricate about their cherished wars. Feeney and Shorten write:

“At each remembering we will honour the values we hold so dear, the values of courage…”

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“…duty…”

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“…honour…”

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“…mateship…”

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“…and sacrifice….”

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“Values that have inspired us in all we do, and that have secured our freedom down the years.”

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The Problem of Human Weakness

In the war against terrorism, drone operators have one common weakness — they’re human. They’ve been trained to respond mechanically during global excursions, obey all forms of impersonal military protocol, and even adopt an alienated parlance that refers to annihilated people as “bug splats.” But despite our best efforts, they still occasionally feel the miasma of doubt, stress, and inner confusion.

A group of artists has seized upon this weakness, and have created a visual reminder of the innocent civilians at risk from the drone campaign. They’ve set up a huge portrait of a Pakistani boy in the middle of a remote and heavily bombed Pakistani region.

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What will be the response of the drone operator when seeing this child through his grainy monitors?

Will the image remind him of all the innocent dead killed in past drone runs?

Or will perhaps a hazy vision of his own child emerge from the uncertain terrain?

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Yes, it’s a subject of grave concern. How can we overcome our human frailty to ensure our absolute safety?

The answer is robots. Killer robots.

As you read this, our nation’s top scientists, engineers, and designers are busy fabricating a new generation of exquisite killing machines. While some misguided groups opposed this new frontier, make no mistake about it — these flawless robots will protect us forever and ever.

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With any luck, the problem of human conscience will soon become a distant memory.

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Depravities of War

The United States has been at War for more than 12 years — longer than any other period of US history — and there is no end in sight.  But few American artists bother to look at this war or depict its impact on their country.

Artist Sandow Birk is an exception.

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Birk has a 20-year body of work that investigates American life, with a particular eye to U.S. militarism and its inseparable connection to domestic events.

His Depravities of War series stands out as one of the most thoughtful and visually striking statements of the entire “War on Terror” period. Fifteen large woodblock prints make up the series, showing the Iraq war from start to “finish.” [click on images to make large]

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Many of the prints depicting the U.S./allied invasion hardly look like historical battle paintings. There are no wide angles of massive competing armies, no glorious explosions or dramatic combat. Instead, the Iraqi government’s forces are seen as almost nonexistent — an accurate representation of “enemy” forces at the time.

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In Birk’s prints, the focus is not on the overwhelming military force of the invasion – the night vision spectacle of cruise missiles destroying a major urban center so beloved by TV news – but on the lengthy and violent period of occupation that followed. The print “Destruction” is followed by Desecration, Occupation, and Detention, in which truckloads of prisoners are taken away to an uncertain fate.

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When leaked photos from Abu Ghraib first revealed the torturing of prisoners by American forces, the official response was to charge a few low-level soldiers as “bad apples,” while insisting torture was not policy. In Degradation and Humiliation, however, Birk shows the notorious and horrific scenes of torture as organized and normalized actions.

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Towards the end of the series, Birk suggests an overarching process at work in the war – criminal occupation provokes opposition and, in turn, that opposition is met with depravity. In Insurrection, the chaos and social instability of Iraq is depicted with a weary inevitability. There is no sense that any kind of “peace” could possibly emerge from these operations. The final image from Iraq showing the execution of Saddam Hussein seems a continuation of the institutionalized violence, not an end.

The 4×8 foot size of these prints create a stunning effect when viewed in person, a harsh and epic look at grim events that have been persistently buried, distorted, or mythologized by the media and the state. Now that the war in Iraq is “over,” it has generally vanished as a subject of American interest or concern.

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But it is not over. Repercussion is the final print in the series, reminding us that the effects of the war continue for millions of Iraqis, Americans and others. It also raises the question – what is the lasting impact of this conflict?

For the folly, brutality, and profit of war is nothing new. Birk’s inspiration for the series was Jacques Callot’s Miseries of War. Published in 1633, Callot’s 18 small etchings offer incredibly honest and direct depictions of actual war. The overall structure – war hysteria and battle, then urban conflict, torture, and depravity – parallels that seen in Birk’s work. In both visual narratives, civilians and soldiers bear the cost of the grand designs of generals, noblemen, and kings.

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NSA taps your phone, CIA sends the drone

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There’s been new revelations detailing exactly what the NSA does with the massive amount of data it collects every second of every day. For more on how your phones SIM card helps direct drone-launched Hellfire missiles, see this investigative article by The Intercept.

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Perilous Times

Dangerous maladies are loose upon the earth, brothers and sisters.

Recently an Oxfam report emerged indicating that 85 individuals possess as much wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest human beings on planet earth. Sane humans naturally view this massive imbalance as obscene. But sanity may be a vanishing condition, as a strange neurological condition is increasingly blinding humans to basic reality.

An intriguing example can be seen here.

Yes, in this twisted variant of the disorder, which frequently flourishes among the most affluent among us, contaminated individuals actually celebrate the suffering of others. Indeed, such people experience a comforting “high” (an activation of the pleasure circuits in the cerebral cortex) when they can freely muse that the poor, the sickly, and the doomed, are victims only of their own ignorance, and undeserving of the blessings the creator has disposed upon themselves.

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However, the more common manifestation of this disorder displays symptoms that appear more benign, but are in actuality, equally lethal. In such victims, a sociopathic form of alienation frequently arises that is marked with a feigned interest in social injustice, usually lasting no more than 12-37 seconds, followed by a deep engagement with colorful distractions and other neuro-masturbatory gifts. Media outlets are dangerous hosts in this epidemic. And pop star Justin Bieber is, tragically, a potent carrier of this strain:

Fortunately, however, scientists and technicians working for The Cluster Project have closely monitored Mr. Bieber’s trajectories into the media sphere, and have initiated the Celebrity-Cluster Index to help citizens at risk.

As the current stage of global psychosis is at Critical Delusion — a disturbingly high level of toxicity — please investigate our warning system and share its vital information with your family. During these dangerous periods, we beg the public to stay away from electronic transmission devices and other instruments of virulent contamination.

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