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  • 'Thanks for your Service' = Silencing the Vets
    • I'm feeling so sad as I see this video; Jacob David George recently took his own life. I wish I had met him. He comes across as someone who was willing to try anything to learn how to keep living with PTSD. His heartfelt desire to make sense of what he had become--a morally wounded man--and his poignant questions deserve to be witnessed and heard by every single American. His quest needs to be continued; there are a lot of soldiers thinking "red, white & blue, I trusted you" and wondering what went wrong.

  • Ebola & Immigrants and Muslims, Oh My! Operating the Fear Machine
    • General Kelly says that the migrants (5-6 black men) on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua had flown into Trinidad. The implication is that they flew from West Africa to Trinidad, and then traveled up to the Costa Rica / Nicaragua border which would be a logical way to emigrate from West Africa. Travelers from Liberia, Costa Rica would not have flown into Trinidad--that's the opposite direction from their intended final destination, New York City.

      The over-the-top fear mongering is silly, but It would not surprise me to see people leaving West Africa; not only is there the threat of Ebola, but food prices have doubled and businesses are struggling. So folk who have enough money to get out would have every incentive to do so.

      And migrants could fly from Dakar, Senegal (with stops in Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, & Panama) and land in Port of Spain, Trinidad. So it is a possible migration route.

      Still, it's rather absurd to picture thousands of fleeing West African migrants coming to the U.S. given the extreme poverty and the distance. It's a lot easier to get away from West Africa by heading to another part of the African continent.

  • Is Baghdad next? ISIL takes Hit Base in Iraq, loots it for Weapons
    • There was a triple suicide bombing reported by ISIS bombers against bases used by Kurdish security forces:
      link to aljazeera.com

      And here's an article about Kurds doing a suicide attack against ISIS: link to sofrep.com

      As to whether there are "lots" of suicide bombers out there, well, all I know is that, per the news, they keep on coming...so it doesn't look like we're about to run out of volunteer martyrs...

  • Ben Affleck on Bill Maher's Muslim Problem
    • Bill Maher really needs to get out more. How does anyone live in any cosmopolitan city in the U.S. and NOT meet neighbors, colleagues, etc. who are practicing Muslims?

      I don't have a huge social circle, but I've met people of all faiths--including practicing Muslims--in my college days, at the various apartment complexes where I've lived in Los Angeles and San Diego, and at work.

      There's nothing like an ordinary friendship or two to make it obvious that the practice of Islam (which has much in common with the practices of Christianity and Judaism) does not require adherents to run around beheading non-believers.

  • Rep. Louie Gohmert’s Ebola Theory Is Dumber Than He Is
    • Is there any hope that conservatives will realize that the possibility of global epidemics (whether from Ebola, flu, or other disease) is a really good argument for universal healthcare?

      President Obama and other leaders have been reassuring Americans by pointing out that Ebola is unlikely to spread within the United States because we have a "world-class health system".

      Well, we do have world-class medical facilities, world-class medical research, world-class medical procedures, and world-class medical treatments, but we do NOT have world-class access to health care.

      In an epidemic, what's needed is ACCESS. If citizens avoid seeking healthcare because they lack access (no insurance; can't meet the deductible if they do have insurance; afraid of deportation; no local clinics and hospitals; etc.), they are more likely to not get treated and to spread their illness to others.

      A 2013 article link to fiercehealthcare.com states:
      “Over the past 50 years, Detroit has gone from 42 hospitals serving 1.5 million people to four hospitals serving 700,000 people, many of whom are uninsured or unable to pay for treatment.”

      Detroit's lack of hospitals is a serious problem if residents and/or visitors get ill. And Detroit is just one of many cities in the U.S. that has been shuttering hospitals. Add that to the continuing problems of access (despite the gains of the Affordable Care Act), and the reality is a health system that has a long way to go before it is truly world-class.

  • Why Obama underestimated ISIL in Syria and Iraq
    • So you take a little kid and you deprive him of food until he's crying with hunger (sanctions), you deprive his family of medications and he watches his big sister die of a simple infection (sanctions), and his little brother die of dirty water (sanctions), and his father leaves (Gulf War) and never returns (Highway of Death), and the little kid experiences the terror of plummeting bombs while hiding under a table (Shock & Awe), and his cousin gets raped and killed by American soldiers (101 Airborne Division), and his remaining relatives lose their jobs (DeBa'athification), and his great aunt has miscarriage after miscarriage (depleted uranium poisoning), and he never learns to read because all the schools are closed (Iraq War), and his best friend is killed by a car bomb (Iraq War), and his next best friend is shot by American soldiers at a checkpoint (Iraq War)--and, after all these years of positive reinforcement and exemplary role models, he grows up to be a man who tortures and beheads people. Baffling. I simply can't understand it!

  • Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declares Christian Jihad on all Muslims
    • It's a shame our founding fathers didn't require members of Congress to pass a course in basic logic. One Bachmannstrosity that's common among her ilk is the idea that there's no need to worry about adding CO2 to our atmosphere because 1) CO2 is natural and already exists in the environment and 2) the amount of CO2 added by human activity is small.

      My favorite analogy to combat such ignorance is to compare CO2 to salt. Yes, salt exists in the natural environment. Yes, salt is an essential part of a normal diet just as some CO2 is a normal part of the air that we breathe. But excess salt is a killer. If you drink a 16 oz. glass of water to which someone added 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt, it will taste salty, but it will be drinkable. But if you drink a 16 oz. glass of water to which someone added a tablespoon of salt, you will most likely throw up. And if someone were to force you to drink nothing but salty water, you'd get severely dehydrated, suffer kidney failure, and die.

      I've got to wonder if Bachmann ever baked a batch of biscuits in her life. If the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, but the cook reverses the portions; the biscuits will bake up as nasty, flat lumps and be almost inedible.

      That baking powder and baking soda are only a small portion of the total mass of the ingredients of a batch of biscuits is not what matters. What matters is whether the right proportion of the right ingredients is available to produce the desired effect.

      Straying from the proven recipe for our atmosphere is a good way to end up with an inedible planet.

  • The Arab Political Crisis: It isn't a Matter of Civilization and it isn't Unique
    • RC--
      I agree with you on your point about the role of Western aggression and interference. I see the main focus of colonialism as resource acquisition.

      The length of time that people have lived in the Middle East, cultivating the land and using the waterways, has meant that the natural resources of the area have been stressed by human habitation for longer than similar resources have been stressed in areas of relatively more recent habitation.

      In addition, the location of abundant oil and natural gas has drawn other nations as carrion draws wolves and coyotes.

      I see this entire scenario as driven by humans using resources faster than such resources can be produced by the Earth.

      I'm not blaming the ME for having the misfortune of being in the center of this tug-of-war for wealth. I'm interested in seeing all human beings able to understand and confront how our behavior (whether as colonizers or colonized) is shaped by a basic struggle over resource consumption.

    • Hisham Melhem's dismay over what is happening in the Middle East is understandable. But he is looking at history with a narrow and blinkered focus; he is truly "unable to see the forest for the trees".

      It is the entire human species that is on the brink of collapse. That the unraveling has started where civilization itself began is not that surprising. It's often the oldest part of an old mechanism that goes first.

      We need to see ourselves not as Westerners or Middle Easterners, Christians or Muslims, Iraqis or Americans--we need to see ourselves as human beings.

      There are some 7.1 billion people on the planet. We are on this finite globe together. And, as curious and clever beings, it is our ability to use resources faster than the Earth can replenish those resources that underpins the current upheavals around the world.

      The West is only another economic downturn away from becoming as factional and war-torn as the Middle East. We have as much divisiveness here as there is in Arab society. The only thing keeping us from turning on each other is the luck of being, for now, at the top of the global economic food chain.

      To move forward, we need to stop talking about problems in terms of us versus them. We need to talk about humanity as a whole. When is the last time that you heard a political leader refer to "humans"? I.E. - "Today, all human beings face the challenges of a resource insecure future. We need to come together, as a species, and work to create sustainable models of living before we become so insecure (in food, water, and energy) that we begin to turn on each other."

      That is what we need to hear: a focus on how we (and that includes ISIS) are all in this together. United we stand. Divided we fall.

  • 'We're on edge of large war in MidEast' - Daniel Ellsberg
    • Perhaps we have few whistleblowers today because organizations are so huge and jobs are highly specialized. If a worker is a tiny cog in a corporate or political organization that has 10,000+ employees, he or she is likely to have a highly specialized job that provides only a peephole view into what the organization as a whole is doing.

      Here’s a link to an investigation by the Washington Post on the size of the US intelligence apparatus:
      link to projects.washingtonpost.com

      A U.S. intelligence worker may be an IT systems analyst who spends his or her whole career on one component of one particular project. It’s like working in a forest spending your time inside a tent placed at the base of tree where you shift through a 6” by 6” patch of soil to find and list types of microscopic bacteria. If that is all that you do, and if, when you lift your head, you see nothing beyond you but the grey paneling of your cubicle “tent”, then you can’t see what the greater “forest” of the company is doing.

      In fact, you may know only as much about the overall scope of the company as what the public knows because that’s all HR gives you during your introduction to the workplace. Many Americas work like ants or honeybees, each busily doing a highly specialized little job, with only a general idea of how their work fits into the greater mission of their company and with no ability to provide meaningful input to employers at higher levels. (Cue Pink Floyd’s song “Another Brick In The Wall”)

      How can a worker blow a whistle if it’s impossible for that worker to see the larger misdeed that their work makes possible?

  • Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense
    • ISIL seems very familiar to me because it seems a lot like the street gangs here in the Southwest where I live. In many ways, ISIL's action mirrors the brutal behavior Los Zetas, MS-13, the Bloods, the Crips, and the dozens of other gangs that are in the United States and across the border in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. See this link about MS-13:
      link to samuellogan.com

      Note what the Director of US Programs for World Vision says, "You don't move people out of gangs, people move themselves out of gangs."

      What does our "Gang" of the West offer the young people who have been "jumped in" to ISIL? People who often lack family (i.e. father killed in tank during Shock and Awe; mother shot at U.S. checkpoint?), lack jobs (thanks to sanctions and war), and lack education (thanks again to sanctions and war) are not likely to be intimidated by the threat of more random death raining down from the heavens; after 13 years, they have learned to live with the uncertainty of death. What we need to offer is an alternative path for youth so that ISIL isn't their only option for finding a social network and support.

      Many of today's 20-year old militants were scared 7-year-old kids when we blew into Iraq in 2003. Their lives were turned upside down. Many of them were pulled out of school and never learned to read or write. What can we expect of human beings who were thrust into hell on earth? That they should somehow come out of such horror as grounded, productive, and decent human beings?

      And now we plan to kill them for becoming Hellboys in the Babylonian Crucible of Hell?

      I've tutored former gang kids, helping them study to get their GEDs. They struggle to find a path out. The gangs offer family, security, work, and clear-cut objectives. The best way to beat gangs is to provide a healthier option that also offers family, security, work, and clear-cut objectives. You see the right path in organizations like conductor Gustavo Dudamel's musical program El Sistema where the "gang" is a new musical family. You see it in programs in the U.S. where urban kids dance in hip hop groups, compete in spelling bees, or participate in science competitions.

      Rather than bombing we should be asking Saudi Arabia and Qatar to form moderate schools of progressive Islamic learning and institutes that teach the best traditions of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Arab world as well as the latest in modern thought. They should be recruiting just as heavily as ISIL.

      If there is somewhere else for disaffected youth to go, it will be hard for ISIL to exist. If we don't help to create that somewhere else, we shouldn't be surprised if lost people continue to look for meaning in the arms of ISIL.

  • "Obama to outline campaign against ISIS" (Juan Cole at Chris Hayes, "All In")
    • BACK to war footing? I thought we were still in the War on Feeling Very Scared Something Very Bad Might Happen.

      The family and friends of Brian K. Arsenault (listed as the latest casualty of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan on 09/04/2014) would be surprised to hear that his death by "hostile small arms fire" happened in a moment of peace.

  • Are the 17 Intel Agencies now the Fourth Branch of Government?
    • I would say that we have five branches of government: executive. legislative, judicial, military/intel, and corporate. And it is the military/intel and corporate big wigs (fluttering back and forth from one branch to another to maintain maximum control) who oversee the three traditional branches that we like to think of as "our" government. So, alas, we're ruled by the war suits of a military-industrial oligarchy.

  • About a Girl: To ‘Liesel’ in Gaza…
    • Oh, my goodness. I looked at this young woman and I thought, she looks so much like Anne Frank! And just like Anne, she is suffering because humans are foolish and generalize about each other.

      Anne Frank had nothing to do with the figures used to frighten her fellow Germans (the Bolshevik anarchists throwing bombs, the war profiteers like the Barmat brothers who cheated others via shady investment schemes, etc.); yet she, along with millions of other Jewish people, was scapegoated as being like all the "dangerous Jews" of the Weimar Republic headlines.

      Sadly, we seem to have learned nothing. People continue to generalize, blaming and fearing entire groups when they are scared by the behavior of a few.

      As a young teen, Anne continued to trust in the basic good of humanity. The least that we can do is try to teach each other to believe it, too.

      The majority should not be seen as responsible for what is done by specific individuals. Only those individuals are responsible. Palestinian toddlers (and the majority of their 1.8 million neighbors) don't shoot rockets. Afghan toddlers (and the majority of their 31 million neighbors) don't run militant training camps.

      I look again at the picture of the girl retrieving her books, and I can hear Anne Frank's voice: ""Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?"

  • Why Israel is losing the social media war over Gaza
    • In human folklore, all around the world, people tell stories about the suffering and unexpected triumph of the underdog.

      Here's a list of just a few underdogs who are well-known in the West: David versus Goliath. Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. Captain Stephen Hiller versus Alien Invaders. Harry Potter versus Voldemort.

      Historically, the Jewish people were the underdog, chased from place to place around the globe by a never-ending list of "giants" who forced them to develop the resilience and creativity that is the hallmark of the underdog's unexpected success.

      But, today, Israel is the giant. The Palestinians are the underdog. And Israel is dismayed to discover that many see it as a mash up of Goliath + Darth Vader + Alien Invaders + Voldemort.

      When you get power, the only way to not become a figure of evil is to be magnanimous and treat all others very well, even better than they deserve, simply because you are powerful enough to do so.

      A familiar heroic example is of The Lone Ranger who was powerful enough that he could have used his gun to shoot foes through the heart, but who instead wins our favor by treating each enemy with dignity (even the baddest of the bad) and by shooting the gun out of his opponent's hand.

      The lesson for Israel? Security measures like the Iron Dome along with restraint, compassion, mercy, and dialogue are the only way to achieve peace and to be respected as a figure of power. To do otherwise is to cross to the dark side.

  • Is Rula Jebreal right about US Media Bias against Palestinians?
    • One thing that also goes unmentioned is that the tactics used by the fighters in Gaza are typical of asymmetrical warfare (not anomalies employed only by Hamas).

      When fighters have no gunboats, submarines, tanks, F-16 fighter planes, and the like, the only possible way to fight is to use guerrilla warfare and the only way to survive is to fight out of the areas that Israel is less inclined to hit. Israel (and supportive media) imply that such a tactic is monstrous and bestial and shows that Palestinian fighters are "less human" than Israeli fighters.

      But this kind of fighting is par for the course among any groups where the playing field is uneven. Israelis should know this as their fighters used guerrilla tactics against the British back when their forces were vastly inferior.

      The media's bias shows when pundits don't discuss the normal differences between fighters of vastly disparate strength and what that means for trying to end the combat.

  • "Evacuate Where? Have you Seen [how teeny] Gaza is?" - Jon Stewart
    • As someone who lives in the U.S. Southwest, a region of big states with vast open spaces, I often find it hard to comprehend the size of other parts of the world.

      To the north of me, up in Oceanside, CA, is Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corp Base Camp. The entire Gaza Strip at 139 square miles would actually fit INSIDE Camp Pendleton, which measures 200 square miles.

      I was born in Flagstaff, Arizona. To the north of my hometown is the Navajo Nation. The Navajo tribal land is 27,413 square miles. So how many Gaza Strips would fit inside the Navajo Nation? 197. That is not a typo. One hundred and ninety seven Gaza Strips would fit inside a single Native American reservation located in northern Arizona. (Note: The total number of Native American reservations across the state of Arizona is 22.)

      It boggles the mind.

  • Stop Saying 'If X fired Rockets at U.S.': It's Racist, & assumes we're Colonial
    • Excellent post. The media also should do a much better job of comparing the weapons used by the Israeli army (guided missiles, white phosphorus, DIME bombs dropped from fighter jets, etc.) with those used by individual Hamas fighters (unguided, short-range rockets that travel 9-14 miles).

      Here is a link to a 2009 Alternet article which describes the DIME blasts:
      link to alternet.org

      If a lone nut built a crude rocket from a bunch of Fourth of July fireworks and then fired it from your neighborhood toward a local police station so that it hit on the ground outside, shattering the precinct windows, would it make sense for the police to respond by requesting that the US Military go in and drop GBU-28 bombs (5000 pound bombs with laser and GPS guidance systems) throughout your neighborhood in the belief that this will terrify you into locating the lone nut and convincing him not to fire more homemade rockets?

      The majority of people in Gaza have no control over Hamas operatives. They have no more control than you and I have over crazed gunmen or criminals of all sorts who kill within our communities. It makes no sense for Israel to attack the general Gaza populace whenever a few Hamas fighters shoot off crude DIY missiles that travel about 9 to 14 miles. Israel has a missile shield that intercepts many of these simple rockets. It has the ability to move settlers near the border regions into more protected areas away from the range where these rockets fall. Israel has many, many choices.

      Given that most Gaza rockets do nothing more than land in fields, Israel could scoot people out of range and sit back and laugh at the pathetic "firecrackers" that fall harmlessly without effect. Full military attacks by the IDF serve as recruiting tools for Hamas and encourage Palestinians to be militants. If the IDF focused instead on shielding Israelis without retaliation, it would make it clear to Hamas that their use of violence is a completely impotent way to try and improve their situation.

  • Americans need to Answer: When Will Palestinians get their Fourth of July?
    • I've seen more hardline articles coming out of Israel where the writers are essentially saying, "Israel needs to annex the West Bank (Judea and Samaria being the preferred term by the right) and remove all the Arabs."

      Here's an example by Joel Meltzer of The Jerusalem Post) link to jpost.com

      How Mr. Meltzer envisions removing the majority Arab population from the West Bank he declines to say, other than wishing for an "alternate or creative solution".

      Particularly alarming is a renewal of remarks like that of former Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai who once stated: “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they [the Palestinians of Gaza] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” That some in Israel are willing to consider a "shoah" (Holocaust) of Arabs as the final solution for the Palestine / Israel conflict is sobering indeed.

      Netanyahu's current strategy looks like a piece-by-piece push to get all the Arab population to go to Jordan, Egypt or elsewhere in the greater world.

      Unless a Palestinian Mandela and an Israeli Mandela come up with a whole new vision, it looks like the incremental dispossession of the Palestinians will continue.

  • The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi's Grandiosity doesn't Matter
    • It could be argued that al-Baghdadi is “our” Frankenstein monster. He was born in 1971, so he was only nine years old when the Iraq-Iran War began in 1980 (a war that the U.S. indirectly supported by giving Iraq financial aid and selling Iraq the components needed to make weapons, including chemical munitions).

      After growing up with the hardship and deprivation of the Iraq-Iran war, he was 19 or 20 when we bombed Iraq during the First Gulf War in 1991. Then he experienced the deprivation of sanctions, followed by the horror of the U.S “Shock and Awe” attack in 2003, and the ensuing bloodbath that has run from that year until today.

      One account says that he was a farmer living in the north of Baghdad when he was picked up during a mass sweep by U.S. forces in 2005 and held as a “civilian detainee”. Another account says that he was a hard-line Salafi Sunni imam and lecturer who was detained by U.S. forces on June 04, 2004. He spent four years in Camp Bucca prison, a U.S. facility that often came under heavy militant rocket fire, and he was released when the center was closed in 2009.

      I’ve yet to find a clear explanation of why al Baghdadi was arrested and held. This vagueness indicates that our military prison record keeping is deeply flawed. Per the Washington Post, Camp Bucca was “viewed by many as an appalling miscarriage of justice where prisoners were not charged or permitted to see evidence against them.” (“In Iraq, Chaos Feared as U.S. Closes Prison” by Anthony Shadid, 03.22.2009)

      Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears to be a textbook example of how the strategy that we’re using in our War on Terror is actually a Factory for Terror. After experiencing so much carnage and possibly torture at the hands of outsiders, is it any wonder that al-Baghdadi has turned on his creator? Uncle Sam deserves a new name: Uncle Samenstein.

  • Dear Neocons: Why we're not Sending Combat Troops to Iraq no matter how much you Pout
    • Ah, but according to the White House, the new and improved definition of "boots on the ground" = regular American military troops doing a tour of duty.

      Special forces and mercenaries from companies like Academi are apparently something else altogether. Perhaps we could call them "shadows on the ground". These "shadows" can be sent into combat without notifying the American people of their deployment or of their return in boxes, which puts an end to that pesky thing known as the anti-war protest. If we don't know we're at war, we can't protest. Right?

      And if you want to become a "shadow on the ground", just go to this website for a list of all the available positions:
      link to careers.academi.com

      And you can join the thousands of other shadows on the ground who are already in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, and who knows how many other places.

  • Mass Sunni Uprising in Iraq: Sectarian Blowback of 2003 U.S. Invasion (Cole on Democracy Now!)
    • Back in Sept of 2002, I sent letters (via snail mail) against the Iraq war to President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Barbara Boxet, Thomas Daschle, Dianne Feinstein, Susan A. Davis, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Blair.

      It's so painful to re-read today what I wrote in 2002. I took such pains to make clear arguments against invading Iraq (setting up an analogy of how the win-win doctrine used in business could be used to avoid war), but I only received in return the most insipid, form responses.

      Tony Blair's "Direct Communications Unit" wrote: "Mr. Blair receives many thousands of letters each week. It is impossible, therefore, for him to respond personally to the great majority of them....he has asked me to assure you that the points you make will be carefully considered." George W. Bush responded in April 2003 after the war was underway with the assertion, "Saddam Hussein's regime has ended and the Iraqi people are regaining control of their own country and future. Pockets of resistance still remain."

      Ahh, yes. Those annoying little "pockets" that merely need to be sewn shut with a bit of tactical bombing...

      In a second 2002 letter to Bush, I wrote, "The U.S. would take Baghdad, but the fact that we attacked first and the sheer destructiveness of the battle would make us appear as the bad guys--upsetting our allies and incensing many people within the Muslim world...beyond this, we would have the difficult task of stabilizing a shattered country which would be at the mercy of opportunistic warlords and dissenting factions. All this turmoil might only encourage the growth of extremist groups--especially if we do not have the support of surrounding Arab states".

      Seeing my old letters reminds me that it was very clear at the time that the war on Iraq was wrong and would make things worse. What remains unclear (then and today) is how to get any of the people in power to listen...

  • That time when White Terrorists Ambushed Nevada Police after Fox Supported Bundy Gunmen Threatening Law Enforcement
    • So after all these years of a War on Terror to stop foreign suicide bombers, we now have a rash of domestic suicide shooters.

      Like the suicide bombers, the suicide shooters intend to intimidate the public and to demonstrate that civil government can't protect the people. Inflammatory hate TV and hate radio delivered by fearful commentators serve the same purpose as radical Friday sermons delivered by extremist imams: the goal is to stir up the masses, persuading the disturbed and susceptible to kill themselves and innocent others to instigate a revolution against the state.

      What is the responsibility of the US media and of US political organizations? Shouldn't we discuss how, at the very least, we ought to act like adults, be ladies and gentlemen, and demonstrate civil discourse, dropping the hysteria of click-baiting headlines and hyperbolic posturing over political platforms, and conduct our lives with a common sense restraint that won't encourage the vulnerable to embrace suicide shooter martyrdom?

  • Top 5 Wars on Religious Extremism in Today's Muslim World
    • The FOX pundits don't seem to realize that not all countries have free speech like we have in the United States. They also seem to think that "speaking out" means rioting in the streets.

      But, in repressive countries, protests where people take to the streets are often organized by government and/or religious authorities. So, street protests are more likely to measure what a few powerful authorities care about, not what the majority of people believe.

      FOX also ignores the many articles, essays, and books where Muslim thinkers make arguments for a more secular vision of Islam. For example, "A Religion, Not A State" by Souad Tagelsir Ali. Or "Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari`a" by Abdullahi Ahmed Ah-Na`im.

      It's a pity that FOX doesn't invite the authors of such books to be guests so that viewers could see the diversity of opinion across the Middle East.

  • Operation American Spring aims to drive Obama from office this Friday
  • No Sense of Urgency: Obama's New Solar Energy Commitments are still Just Baby Steps
    • The slow pace of solar power development is absolutely maddening. You would think, for instance, that Phoenix, Arizona would have built the first commercial solar plant decades ago and that the entire state would be solar by now, but, in Arizona, the first solar facility was built in a much smaller city--Flagstaff (my hometown).

      Here's a link to the APS website which includes a video celebrating the 16th anniversary of the APS solar facility in Flagstaff. link to azenergyfuture.com

      The above is good, but unfortunately, APS has the monopoly on power in the state, so it continues to hang on to old sources of power while developing solar very slowly.

      On top of that, in 2013, the Arizona Corporation Commission eliminated corporate incentives for solar and reduced residential incentives.

      We all need to speak out and push for more solar!

  • Fox News asks Rand Paul if Reid is right to "call Americans" "Domestic Terrorists"
    • Actually, there were lots of black cowboys and several who ran large cattle operations. One of the more famous black cattle ranchers was Daniel Webster Wallace; he worked as a cowboy and, in 1885, he purchased 1280 acres in Texas where he later ran his cattle. When he died in 1939, his estate was worth more than 1 million dollars.
      link to tshaonline.org

      If you Google “black cowboys”, you’ll see lots of great images from the frontier days!

      As for today…
      Here’s a video of Charles Sampson (1982 World Champion bull rider)
      link to youtube.com

      And here’s another “Black Cowboys In Texas” featuring rodeo riders.
      link to youtube.com

      Given that a number of Black Americans (like boxer Muhammad Ali) converted to Islam in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it’s certainly within historical possibility that there could have been a black ranching family who’d run cattle since the late 1800’s and converted to Islam in the 20th century.

  • US Press once again Declines to Call White Terrorism in Kansas, Nevada, White Terrorism
    • Imagine that the Bundy ranching family in Nevada, instead of being white and Mormon, are all black and Muslim. And imagine that they, too, believe not only that the federal government should have no jurisdiction over the public land adjoining their ranch, but also that a second revolutionary war should topple the U.S. government.

      Imagine that, just like Mr. Bundy, they lost two court decisions and are expected to either pay one million in overdue fees or have their cattle seized to pay the debt. Imagine that they send out a call, via Facebook and Twitter, for all like-minded thinkers to take up arms and prepare to fight the agents sent to collect the cattle.

      How would the media describe some 2000 black, Muslim men, armed with automatic rifles and shotguns, who drive from all across the country to show up in Nevada ready to kill government officials?

      How would the media portray those black, Muslim men when they used their guns to shut down I-15, a major interstate freeway, forcing hundreds of travelers to bake in the hot desert sun until the road could be re-opened?

      What would right-wing pundits say about those black, Muslim men who were crouched on overpasses training their sniper sights on the cowboys and drivers hired by the federal government to move the cattle?

      Would they agree with those black, Muslim militants who planned to put their wives and girlfriends on the front lines so there would be news footage of federal agents shooting women?

      Would Nevada politicians, senator Dean Heller and Governor Brian Sandoval, still throw their support behind a Bundy who said, “. . . I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing,” if he were Muslim and black?

      Try as hard as I can, I can’t see people on the right using any word other than "terrorist" to describe homegrown, black, Muslim militants who are willing to use violence to support their belief that the U.S. government is meaningless.

      And that shows us exactly how far Americans have to go before we define each other by character, not race or religion.

    • Ironically, Cliven Bundy has been hoist by his own (the cowmen’s) petard. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 was created in response to the demands of Western ranchers just like Mr. Bundy. The act made it possible for ranchers with money and connections to exclude others from what had been open range.

      Before the BLM-administered act, Mr. Bundy would have competed and possibly feuded with anyone else who wanted to run livestock on the open range next to his 150-acre ranch in Nevada. In the late 1800’s, when folk like the Bundy’s moved to the West, they faced grazing competition from Spanish ranching families who’d been in the area since the 1500’s along with many others (Native Americans and immigrants including the Basque, the Germans, and the Irish) who also wanted to feed their sheep, goats, and/or cattle.

      A grazing allotment is generally good for ten years and buys the purchaser freedom from feuding with neighbors, freedom from land turned to desert by overgrazing, and freedom from doing repairs (water improvements, noxious weed removal, wildfire prevention and recovery, etc.) that are done by the feds.

      If the BLM was not providing the services that Mr. Bundy purchased, then he should have kept records and taken them to court for their delinquency. Suing them for removing the competition makes no sense.

      I’d be willing to bet that if the public lands where Mr. Bundy has his cattle were scorched by a severe, national-disaster level wildfire, he would be more than happy to see federal crews arriving to restore the native flora for his cows.

  • Ban Coal: Coal Industry Chemical Threatens 300,000 in West Virginia
    • On my way to see relatives in Arizona over the holidays, I drove past the recently commissioned Solana solar thermal power plant near Gila Bend, Arizona. It’s an impressive achievement in renewable energy. During testing in October 2013, using molten salt thermal energy storage, the plant provided power for a record six hours without sunlight:

      link to phys.org

      With a goal to provide 15% of its power from renewable sources by 2025, Arizona has set its sights low, but technology like Solana’s could easily provide a much higher percentage of energy given Arizona’s sunshine and vast open spaces.

      So what innovative company, you ask, designed and built this marvel of solar collection, perhaps some industrious homegrown Arizona engineering firm? Nope. Abengoa is a company from Spain! link to abengoa.com

      How is it that the United States, a nation that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of technology, is not the birthplace of this innovation?

      If you’re a student and considering careers, please look seriously into becoming an engineer who will shake up this country and get us as excited about sustainability as we once were about exploring outer space.

  • Thank You for Your Support
    • Juan,
      Thanks for your long hours of work. Amidst so much trivial and thoughtless media commentary, your site is an oasis!

  • "Off the Charts": Deadliest Storm in History Kills 1200, Displaces Millions in Philippines
    • The storm surge (at least 15 feet high and as far inland as five miles) has caused horrific devastation across the Philippines.

      Coastal dwellers need to understand that the threat of "wipe-you-off-the-map" surge flooding is likely to destroy cities long before the oceans rise enough to permanently cover coastal land.

      Many of our biggest U.S. urban centers (New York, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco) are on or very near the coast.

      Imagine the impact if these cities were washed over by 15 foot high waves that ran five miles inland.

      Imagine if all our military capability could leap into action to provide rescue assistance with the same speed with which it now leaps into war.

      Military cargo planes would already be dropping thousands of buoyant packets of water and food across Haiyan's devastation (just as we scatter PSYOP leaflets) and cargo drones would be going back and forth from offshore naval ships to lower goods into inaccessible areas.

      Imagine that. Drones bringing aid instead of drones bringing death.

  • Alshabab attack on Nairobi a Sign of Political Defeat
    • I’m puzzled by the assessment (from Professor Cole and Joe from Lowell) that the Westgate mall attack is a sign of “weakness” and will have only a negligible effect. Isn’t terrorism a concern precisely because it requires such a minor effort (in terms of money and training) on the part of the terrorist group?

      Kenya relies heavily on its tourism industry. If only ½ of one percent of all tourists who were planning to visit Kenya in the coming year decide to cancel their plans, that is still a significant economic impact. A four-day act of terror arranged for only a few thousand dollars could wipe out a year of million-dollar advertisements for the adventure of a lifetime on safari in Masai Mara.

      Isn’t that one reason why, after 9/11, our country embarked on a war rather than a fugitive hunt? If the members of Al Shabab figure out that their survival depends on learning how to remain fragmented, to become better ghosts, to hit and disappear, hit and disappear, couldn’t they rebound and continue to wreak havoc?

      The video from Channel 4 showed that there was a lot of local support for the Al Shabab fighters. I find that worrisome. Also, the report that a number of Americans may be among the terrorists in the Westgate mall is a big concern. What is happening to make refugees leave our land of opportunity for the wastelands of war? ...

  • How US Grand Strategy in Syria led to the idea of Missile Strikes
    • Why is it that the U.S. is having a strident debate about striking Syria, while Israel simply carries out hit after hit without provoking much international comment? If Al-Assad is already having his capabilities degraded by Israeli missile strikes—and these strikes have not deterred him from continuing to fight—why should U.S. strikes be any different? Furthermore, if Israel is carrying out strikes, why does the U.S. need to get involved? It appears that Israel is capable of targeting sensitive military / research sites and can hit Al-Assad by launching missiles/bombs from its submarines, fighter planes, and air bases. Since Israel has already been hitting Syria (and apparently isn’t hindered either by public approval or by international law), why haven’t they stepped up their attacks in response to the sarin gas? Also, why did the Israeli populace rush to buy gas masks at the thought of U.S. strikes when their nation is already at war with Syria? If Al-Assad doesn’t hit back when Israel bombs, why he is more likely to hit back if the U.S. bombs?

      The following strikes are described in articles at http://www.israelnationalnews.com and at http://www.nytimes.com as well as other major media.
      Friday, July 26, 2013 – Israel bombed Syrian military base near Quneitra.
      Friday, July 05, 2013 – Israel bombed the Syrian port of Latakia to destroy a suspected shipment of Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles.
      May 05, 2013 – Israeli missile strikes hit the outskirts of Damascus, targeting the bases of the elite Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles, in addition to the Jamraya Center for Scientific Research on Mount Qassioun that American officials have called the country’s main chemical weapons facility. Other targets were a paragliding airport in the al-Dimas area of Damascus and a site in Maysaloun. (Per photos below, they also hit a chicken farm.)
      link to dailymail.co.uk
      May 03, 2013 – Israel bombed advanced, long-range ground-to-ground missiles stored at a warehouse at Damascus International Airport.
      January 29, 2013 Israel bombs may have hit the following targets: a convoy of sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles (per Israel) or the Jamraya Center for Scientific Research outside Damascus.
      November 12, 2012 Israel bombed mobile artillery units on the Syrian side of the Syrian/Israel border in the Golan Heights.

      Also, note that in December 2012, Israel asked Jordan for permission to hit some of Al-Assad’s chemical weapons, but Jordan refused to grant permission: link to theatlanticwire.com

      September 06, 2007 Israel bombed a site in Syria alleged to hold an underground nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar. The Syrians insisted that it was not. (Per an article “The Silent Strike” by David Makovsky in The New Yorker, in March 2007, the Mossad stole plans about the facility from the computer of Ibrahim Othman, the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission, by sneaking into his Vienna home. In September, they inserted commandos to assist with setting the laser guidance for the Israeli missiles and carried out the bombing.)
      link to newyorker.com

  • Kerry signals US Intervention in Syria, but to What End?
    • That the U.S. is ready to go to war without waiting to gather evidence is very suspicious. Doesn't this sound like Iraq Redux? Listen to the news. Note the lack of detail.

      Doctors Without Borders doesn't have staff at the three hospitals in Damascus; the hospitals are ones to whom they send supplies so they know the workers there, but none of their staff have been able to visit and see the patients. So the full extent of evidence is photos and video and the reports of survivors who say that they don't know who fired the missiles.

      We need to get blood samples and autopsy results. The area needs to be combed for debris to see if pieces of the missiles and canisters can be found. It makes no sense to go in hurling bombs when for all we know there are chemical weapons stockpiles hidden in places that we might hit. Anyone with half a brain gathers all relevant data first before embarking on a mission that could make things worse.

      All this reminds me of the 2007 interview from Democracy Now where Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark and Clark says, "So I came back to see him [another general] a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

      With leaders that Machiavellian, it's no wonder Americans distrust their government.

  • Afghanistan: If a White House Report on a Massacre isn't Released, did the Massacre Happen? (Currier)
    • This reminds me of a news article that I read over ten years ago. It was an obituary for a U.S. solider who had returned home from a tour of duty and then committed suicide. A family member (a sister, I think?) said that he had come home changed, suffered terrible nightmares, and had told her that he was haunted by having to bulldoze bodies into mass graves. She then made the curious remark that she didn't believe what he said about mass graves because "we [the U.S.] wouldn't do that." At the time, I remember thinking, poor fellow. His own sister didn't believe him. And I wondered why the sister had such complete faith in the integrity of the U.S. and so little faith in the word of her brother...

  • Obama: "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago"
    • Ah, but the question is why did Trayvon Martin decide to hit George Zimmerman? No one witnessed the start of the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. We only have Zimmerman’s side of the story. So we cannot know whether or not Martin was justified in hitting and knocking down Zimmerman. If Zimmerman reached toward his holster or attempted to pull his gun out, then Martin would have every reason to think that he was about to be shot and that he needed to hit Zimmerman to stun him and take away the gun. If Zimmerman was simply standing and asking questions, then Martin did not have a right to step forward and hit him.

      This is the truth: at the most crucial moment, we do not know what happened. We don’t know if Zimmerman blocked Martin’s path. We don’t know if Martin jumped Zimmerman. We don’t know who grabbed first, shoved first or swung a fist first. We don’t know if Martin realized from Zimmerman’s body language that Zimmerman had a weapon.

      Many a policeman has shot someone and claimed self-defense because the person who was killed “made a furtive move like he was pulling out a gun.” Did Zimmerman make a furtive move that Martin interpreted as pulling out a weapon? We don’t know. It’s even possible that Zimmerman doesn’t know either. In the heat of the moment, when each man was anxiously eyeing the other, it’s possible that Zimmerman reached back and felt for his holster without even being aware that he had done so.

      There is a fog of war even in fistfights. I recall a fight that happened in a hallway back in high school. A conversation became a debate became an argument became shoves became fists within the space of a few seconds. Afterwards, each of the two teens claimed that the other one started it. And those of us who were standing right there, within feet of the tussle, were unable to say who was to blame. The whole thing happened too fast with each young man reacting negatively to the other. The principal ended up lecturing both students that they were equally responsible, that each man could have walked away, and that was the end of it.

      In the initial police interview, Detective Chris Serino makes it clear he believes that Zimmerman is exaggerating how hard he was hit and that he was “slammed multiple times” into the pavement. Serino says, “That’s why we’re here today. Once again, these can be interpreted as capillary-type cuts or whatever, lacerations, uh, not really, um, coinciding with being slammed hard into the ground. OK? That’s skull fractures is you happen with that. I’ve seen ‘em all, you know.” link to txantimedia.com

      Per the medical report of the Altamonte Family Practice, George Zimmerman suffered two scalp lacerations (one 2 ct. and the other 0.5 ct.) which did not require stitches and mild bruising on the back of his head. The scalp is filled with blood vessels and even a minor cut will bleed profusely. Getting slammed multiple times into solid pavement would have produced far more swelling, deep bruising, and most likely skull fracture. Look at pictures of boxers after fights if you want to see how much the human head will swell and bruise under severe trauma.

      Just because Martin ended up on top of Zimmerman and struck him does NOT prove that Martin was the guilty party. Imagine if you thought a man with a gun was about to shoot you, wouldn’t you fight back? And wouldn’t you keep hitting him, trying to stun him, until you secured his gun?

  • Whites and African-Americans in America by the numbers
    • Back in the mid 1990's, when I (as a young single white woman) was living in Los Angeles, I used to take the city bus to work. One morning, as I stood within a covered bus shelter and watched a stream of cars going past, I was baffled that virtually every driver who glanced toward me and the bus stop, gave a hard stare or even looked downright angry.

      There was a traffic light a few feet past the bus shelter. As vehicles stopped at each red light, and various drivers again looked my way, face after face inexplicably darkened. I heard the "thunk, thunk, thunk" of door locks clicking down as drivers locked their doors. "What is going on?" I wondered. I was used to seeing a variety of gazes as I waited at bus stops, some indifferent, some friendly, some clearly checking me out flirtatiously, but never had I felt such a wave of universal hostility.

      "Has something crazy happened in Los Angeles? Did every Angeleno get up on the wrong side of the bed?" I wondered. It was a very unpleasant feeling. At last, the city bus pulled up. The doors opened and as I stepped out of the shelter, a young black man stepped forward and went up the steps into the bus ahead of me. He had been standing, hidden from my view, on the other side of the bus shelter.

      In a flash, I realized, given the angle, that all those hard glances, all those abruptly darkened gazes, all those hammered down door locks were quite likely directed at him.

      It was the darkest epiphany. He was otherwise absolutely unremarkable. Just a tall young black fellow in jeans and a t-shirt. "My God," I thought. "Is that what he always faces? Looks of suspicion, fear, and outright anger? I'd be depressed if I had to face such universal hostility day after day." It was a true eye opener--the only time I ever felt that I had slipped into another person's skin and known the world as that person did.

      For a few moments, I had intensely felt what had always been a rather abstract realization: that we each experience the world quite differently, according to the first impression reception that we receive from others. I can't begin to fathom how such an ongoing hostile reception might change and shape who I would be. It's no wonder there's such a huge gulf between white and black experience; we walk the same earth, but we live on separate planets.

  • Stateless! The Core of the Palestinian Crisis (Juan Cole Video)
    • A group of prominent indigenous scholars recently wrote a letter of protest to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly (link to indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)

      Growing up in Northern Arizona, I heard a great deal about the many difficult problems facing the Navajo Nation, but I would guess that most Americans know far more about Palestine and Israel than about the Navajo / Hopi land dispute and native rights issues which impact fellow citizens.

      President Shelly traveled to Israel last December and again in March. As much of the Navajo Nation is arid, he wanted to learn about desert farming techniques used by the Israelis. But his trip offended many natives who identify strongly with the Palestinian plight.

      Since Israeli politicians have since made a reciprocal trip to the Navajo Nation, I wonder if that visit made any of them consider the similarities between the experience of the Palestinians and the Native Americans? Does it make them realize that, at the very least, Palestinians ought to have what the Navajo have?

      The Navajo are U.S. citizens and Navajo tribal citizens; they have a voice as Navajo and as Americans. Their situation is not perfect, but the Navajo are certainly not stateless--and that in itself gives them hope for a better future.

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