Category: Viewpoints

Objective journalism is a farce. Every journalist allows personal opinion to influence their work. The Fifth Column’s journalist openly share their biases with the reader. The opinions are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of The Fifth Column.

Conn Hallinan’s 2016 ‘Are You Serious?’ Awards

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This year’s lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.

Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016.

The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:

General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”

How to Prevent Another DAPL

For the last few months, the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured the nation’s attention. After Energy Transfer Partners started construction on a pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation, local Native American tribes protested the pipeline on the grounds that it could pollute their water supplies. Word of the protests spread and thousands of protesters flocked to Standing Rock. After months of confrontations between protesters and militarized police, the Army Corps of Engineers paused the project pending an environmental impact assessment.

The Native American tribes and environmentalists hailed this development as a victory, albeit a temporary one. Donald Trump, who will soon be taking office, has vowed to complete the DAPL and has signaled a willingness to carry out this campaign promise by filling his administration with oil executives and people who have invested heavily in the project. As a result, anti-DAPL protesters are gearing up for a long protest season.

How Compulsive Privacy Has Lead to Atrocious Oppression

As humans we’ve become indoctrinated to keep our desires private. The obsession with privacy has induced a hysteria wherein we spread war like fever and ascend authority onto a pedestal from which we worship it. This practice has become the norm of civilized social and political structures. The following is a breakdown of the problem.

Trump’s victory could push the human rights movement to transform

Donald Trump’s victory is a threat to human rights, but could it also push the movement to transform and strategize with greater urgency?

Donald Trump’s victory creates serious risks and challenges for human rights globally, but this victory could have an unexpected positive effect: to push the human rights movement to carry out transformations in its architecture and changes in its strategy that were imperative even before Trump, and that are now urgent.

Before the decline of the global Anglo-American order, reflected in Brexit, Trump, and the proliferation of illiberal nationalisms across the world, the answers that many analysts and practitioners in the human rights movement offered tended to be grouped in two extremes: skepticism and defensiveness. The skeptics announced the “end times” of the international project of human rights, based on a view that human rights were imposed by Euro-America. Given this view, the end of Pax Americana will also be the end of the movement, as Stephen Hopgood writes. His work is thought provoking and inexact in equal parts, and it forgets that this regime was built in part with the ideas and the pressure of states and movements of the global South, from those who created the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man in 1948 to postcolonial nations that pushed for treaties against racial and religious discrimination in the sixties.

The Coming Fracture of Saudi Arabia

The Bible’s book of Galatians, VI teaches, «as you sow, so shall you reap». And for Saudi Arabia, which has overtly and covertly supported rebellions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia, Philippines, and Lebanon that have led to civil wars and inter-religious strife, the day of reckoning may soon be at hand. The present Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the last of the sons of the first Saudi king, Abdul Aziz al Saud, who will ever sit on the Saudi throne. After Salman dies, Saudi leadership will pass to a new generation of Saudi royals. But not all the descendants of the first Saudi king are happy about how the future succession may turn out.

Salman named his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince after firing his half-brother, Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz, as crown prince after the death of King Abdullah in 2015. For good measure, Salman also named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, who is little-known outside the kingdom, as deputy prime minister. The 30-year old Mohammad bin Salman is seen by some as the eventual crown prince after King Salman figures out some way to ease Mohammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and close friend of the United States, out of the position of heir apparent to the throne.

Why The Left Needs Utopia

We are entering a new utopian age. That may seem counterintuitive to suggest as the most right wing government since Thatcher leads the UK into a bleak post Brexit future, Trump prepares to enter the White House flanked by a team of white supremacists in the US, and the far right finds itself in ascendency across Europe, but it is happening.

Signs that a new utopian era is emerging can be read in the way we encounter these events as impossible: Brexit; Trump winning the Republican candidacy, and going on to defeat Clinton in the US presidential elections; even Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest. These all represent realities we collectively refused to conceive of as possible, until we awoke the next morning to find ourselves living them.

Impossibility, of course, is the territory of utopia.

Australians Ask: Have We Lost the War on Drugs?

Many Australians agreed with Greens party leader Richard Di Natale recently when he called for an end to the war on drugs. The Greens is a minority party that supports conservation, responsible environmental management such as climate change action, and social justice. It also advocates a more independent foreign policy for Australia.

The country’s politicians, policy makers and health professionals have been arguing for years over recreational drug strategies — ‘Just say no’ versus ‘harm minimisation’, and tough law enforcement versus decriminalisation are well trodden warpaths.

Structural Racism Has Big Oil’s Dirty Fingerprints All Over It

Climate change has long had its heaviest impact on people of colour. Were it not for structural racism that dehumanises them, and the interconnections between big oil and the arms industry, the world would have taken action to protect the climate long ago.

The Philippines has opened a new chapter in the fight against climate change. The south-east asian nation has initiated legal proceedings to summon the 47 worst polluting corporations to its Commission on Human Rights. The case asserts these major polluters should be held to account for climate change and its impact upon the human rights of Philippines citizens; notably the death and destruction that resulted from ‘super typhoons’ linked to climate change. The lawsuit is being brought by the survivors of these intensifying super typhoons, which batter the archipelago annually. These kill people thousands, and displace people in their millions. Defending against the effects of these unprecedented storms, and clearing up afterwards, consumes an increasing proportion of the nation’s GDP. To continue with this destructive business as usual, big oil conglomerates must both deny the destruction and deny the worth of those being annihilated.

Gambia: Free Speech Ban Threatens Rights in Vote Aftermath

Government Has Blocked Internet, Threatened Protest Ban

Gambian authorities should respect the rights of Gambians to peacefully express their views on the outcome of the December 1, 2016 presidential election. Prior to the vote, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh warned that protests against the election would not be permitted and the government blocked internet communications and international calls.

Although the two-week election campaign was peaceful, and included many large opposition and government rallies, President Jammeh responded to a November 29 media query about possible protests following the elections, saying, “In this country we don’t allow demonstrations.” At about 8 p.m. on November 30, the government blocked all internet services in Gambia as well as incoming and outgoing international calls. Online messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, have been blocked for several weeks.

The coming war on China

A major US military build-up – including nuclear weapons – is under way in Asia and the Pacific with the purpose of confronting China. John Pilger raises the alarm on an under-reported and dangerous provocation.

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

I have spent two years making a documentary film, The Coming War on China, in which the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency. The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way. They are on the western borders of Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, confronting China.

Standing Rock Protectors Threatened With Blockade Of Food And Medicine

Tensions flare once more as North Dakota officials graduate their militarized tactics against protesters. Sheriffs have now threatened a blockade of people, food, and medicine to the camps.

The threats comes on the heels of the US Army Corps of Engineers warning protesters to leave by December 5th. Anyone remaining stay under fear of prosecution for trespassing. Fines have also thrown into the basket of incentives for the water protectors to surrender.

Establishing a blockade represents yet another ultra-militarized tactic used against peaceful American citizens. Denying nourishment and medical treatment is a classic strategy to degrade will and resolve. Combined with harsh weather conditions, water protectors are faced with a tormentingly deadly roulette.

US Regime Change in Malaysia: Bersih 5

Malaysia finds itself weathering yet another foreign-backed color revolution, with the color of choice being the “yellow shirts” of Bersih supporters.

Bersih was created by the United States government and the political alliance of convicted and currently jailed Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim. The front organized its first rally in 2007, and has since then organized four more with the most recent taking place this month.

Over the years, Bersih has morphed, being co-opted both by elements of the very government it is attempting to overthrow, and by legitimate opposition fronts who either are cynically exploiting the movement’s size and foreign funding, or who genuinely are unaware that Bersih’s core leadership is composed of US-funded agitators seeking to divide and destroy both Malaysia and ASEAN, as a means of reasserting US primacy in the region vis-a-vis China.

The dubious honour of hosting the Olympic Games

If their economic benefits are so underwhelming, why do countries jump at the chance to organize the Olympics?

‘I’ve never won a gift. The first gift I ever had, I had to buy. It was an old bicycle with a chain that broke every day, and I had to fix it. And today, people we don’t even know have given me the greatest gift a president could wish for: to host the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.’ It was with tears in his eyes that Brazilian president Lula da Silva accepted the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to send the Olympic Games to South America for the first time.

The city, he added, deserved the honour of hosting because it had ‘suffered’ in the past. ‘This victory is a restitution for a people who often appear only in a negative light in the press,’ he said. ‘Those who think Brazil can’t afford to host the Games will be surprised.’

My Son the Jihadi

How did a perfectly normal British teenager end up fighting in Somalia as a recruit for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab?

Peter Beard’s documentary “My Son the Jihadi” follows the life of traumatized mother Sally as she struggles to come to terms with her estranged son’s transformation from a ‘normal teenage lad’ to Abdul Hakim, the violent Islamic extremist. Through this lens, we see a mother who is torn between the love for her child and a disgust at his actions in a faraway land. She admits, “I’m ashamed of him, but he’s still my son”.