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Total number of comments: 71 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:06)

Jack Corbett

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  • Syrian regime Propaganda coup as Israel Downs Syrian Plane over Golan
    • Could you be a little more specific about why suggestions Israel may be providing support for Muslim extremists are "conspiracy theory"? What better way to keep the United States tied up in complex, no-win situations than to have it engaged in military campaigns against Muslims? Israel has worked very hard to untrack any American overtures to Iran despite strong arguments that it is in our interest to improve relations there. Pushing the US further into the embrace of the same conservative dictatorships that accommodate Israel reduces the political maneuver space of the US vis-a-vis Palestine. Indeed as long as Israel is able to assure extremists do not turn toward Hezbollah it has a plausible case for using Muslim extremists as cannon fodder in its desire to keep the US confronting a hostile Arab world.

  • Media, Politicians should stop Letting ISIL Manipulate them
    • Unfortunately the dramatic beheadings, intended to provoke media coverage both for their grotesqueness and because they confirm the dominant media narrative of Muslims as barbarous savages, generate precisely the response ISIL seeks. Expansion of bombing campaigns inevitably generate an abundance of local victims ISIL, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or the villain of the moment can in turn use to generate recruits and support. Of course this facilitates expansion of conflict and assures there will be additional reporters or aid workers or aircrews in line for beheading. Both the victims of bombing and the victims of beheading thus play their sad, grisly parts in furthering a cycle of death and destruction assuring the continuance of conflict for the benefit of others.

      The same is true of Israel and Hamas. Generally forgotten is that at one time Israel supported Hamas as an alternative to the PLO. More recently, however, it has been useful to have Hamas as an enemy to be trotted out at Israel's convenience. Three Israeli teenagers murdered? Must have been Hamas, a response generating hundreds of arrests, inevitable killings, and the certainty of retaliatory rocket fire. That in turn provides the rationale for a major attack on Gaza. That Prime Minister Netanyahu knew Hamas was not involved in the killings is beside the point. He sought an opportunity to mobilize domestic support for a confrontation providing cover and legitimacy for further expansion on the West Bank while generating pressure for collaboration by the United States. He got what he wanted on both fronts and now leaves a wounded but defiant Hamas to be used again in the future. The rest of us are pawns both parties of the conflict use to stir outrage and support against the barbarities of the other. American bombing of Syria will produce more recruits for ISIL and more advances and beheadings by ISIL will assure demands for expanded military operations in the Middle East.

  • How the Gaza War Backfired on Netanyahu
    • Whatever the immediate and transient outcome of the recent conflict it is difficult to imagine Israeli leadership and a sizable portion of the population seek to render a two-state solution impossible although they have no clear view of what should happen to the Palestinians. But no substantively meaningful concessions. And neither the United State nor any combination of international actors have the political will to assure a just solution. Unfortunately the only recourse for the Palestinians, a terrible and dangerous option solution, is to opt for the creation of weapons of mass destruction capable of exacting a toll so great Israel will have no option but to reach a just peace. Tiny rockets and modest tunnels are nowhere near enough. Israeli insistence on taking the entire loaf leaves a starving people few options.

  • Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense
    • Something I was hoping to hear from President Obama and did not was a clear differentiation between ISIS and Muslims. That is, our opposition to ISIS has to do with its wanton violence and brutality, not to do with its religious claims. Perhaps it is too much to ask that the President make clear what the media do not, i.e., that we have no interest in trying to alter or punish religious belief but we do believe we have a stake in the way in which groups articulate social and political grievances when those ways threaten peace and justice. Of course we are lumbered with our own extremists who are happy with a renewal of the Crusades; for them to make this a religious conflict is just fine. And there are those who would shy away from discussing social and political grievances because such discussions illuminate the ways in which policy, e.g., the support for dictatorships or for the repression and displacement of the Palestinians, feeds contemporary conflict. To address grievances rather than value sets such as religion may risk recognition of the sordid and self-interested actions giving rise to the grievances that threaten society at large.

      To the extent members of ISIS are fundamentalist extremists they need the same kinds of restraints we impose on others whose arrogance and self-absorption makes them a threat to society at large. To the extent they are people whose frustration and rage are situationally-derived we may want to invest some effort managing causes rather than effects.

  • Israel can't Afford to Lose Jews Like Me
    • I need some help here. It is my understanding that most of the people considered Palestinian were born in or to people born in Palestine and would be considered linguistically and perhaps culturally Semites. If this correct? So supporting Palestinians cannot be considered "anti-Semitic. At the same time most Israelis were born or born to people from Western and Central Europe, Russia, and the United States, i.e., people who heritage is not, or only marginally, Semitic. So if I am unhappy with them or the settler state they have created how does that make me anti-Semitic? They are not Semites but Russians or Poles or Americans. Does criticizing Israel for killing Palestinians therefore make me anti-American?

      Many Americans have been supportive of a romanticized notion of a settler population carving out homes under difficult circumstances, a somewhat rosy view of our own past. But what we are seeing in Gaza and the West Bank are those aspects of our own history largely repressed or sanitized, the destruction of the original population so our ancestors could take land and resources for their own. The tunnels and rockets are the raids on homesteads and wagon trains, tragic for those killed but ineffective against the lethal juggernaut destroying villages, spreading smallpox, and killing the buffalo. It should not surprise Professor Schanzer that some observers have little affection for the promoters of the juggernaut.

  • Obama & Airstrikes to Protect Iraqi Kurds: 1991 Deja Vu all Over Again
    • As President Obama is fond of Grand Bargains perhaps the time has come for one with Iran. The United States and European allies will be more accommodating of Iranian nuclear interests in return for Iranian assistance to contain the Islamic State. This could include resupply, other military support, and relief for civilian populations. Possibly there could be some Iranian military support on the ground to supplement US air power.
      I know, I know, the Iraqis would be unhappy. Too bad, the current situation reflects poor decisions there. And of course the Israelis are likely to whine but they are doing so anyhow. We need to decide who we find less objectionable, Iran or the Islamic State. In the long run I think Iran will be more likely to balance long-term strategic interests than will a narrow religious group.

  • Not War on Poverty but War on the Poor: Washington's Real Foreign Policy Aims
    • While I agree with Professor Chomsky's argument……I have seen this up close from Iran to South America…..one curious and complicating factor is the resilience and determination of the oppressed. From the Zapatistas in Mexico to the Palestinians and Taliban there are groups that continue to struggle against the power of technology and capital. This is not to argue these groups do not have their awkward, unsavory, even repressive dimensions as well. I am not in any way whitewashing their defects. But when one watches the Palestinians continue their struggle for justice over more than a half-century, a struggle that pits a largely-unarmed population against the brutality of the Israeli military backed by American technology and capital, or twenty years of struggle by the Zapatistas against a security apparatus supported by the US, one has to ask what elements of the human spirit keep these struggles going. One does not have to embrace the Taliban's fears and fantasies (matched in remarkable ways by segments of our own population) to recognize their willingness to struggle against fearful assaults on their survival. So while I agree with Chomsky's depiction of the largely-ignored dimensions of American history I still wonder why surrender to its dark side has not been more complete.

  • Obama Prepares for Drone War in Iraq
    • Meanwhile someone somewhere in Washington is drafting the President's remarks on the first deaths among American military personnel sent to Iraq, lamenting deaths of Iraqi civilians killed in "an unfortunate, isolated incident" involving drones, acknowledging an increase in the number of American contractors in Iraq, expressing satisfaction with recent events, denying deep disagreements with the Iraqi government, hailing the signing of a new Status of Forces agreement protecting the growing number of American advisors…….heck there are enough drafts necessary that it is not a single individual but an entire office!

  • It’s come to this: Fox News brings on NFL’s Terry Bradshaw for Benghazi analysis
    • In other news, Fox announced it had signed Hillary Clinton to provide coverage and analysis at the 2015 Superbowl. According to a Fox spokesperson "Ms. Clinton 's insights into conflict management will offer provocative perspectives and a new slant on football, a welcome change from the predictable droning of long-retired players of yesteryear". Reportedly the contract includes an option for her to cover the 2015 NBA play-offs as well.

  • Is the US Mil. Training of African Special Ops a prelude to disaster?
    • One of the problems of getting special ops recruits who are "true to their country" is their very sense of commitment may lead them to believe politicians inclined to negotiation, to the ambiguities of democracy, and an openness to multiple perspectives may be a threat to national dignity and honor. How many militaries announce they are seizing power in order to return their countries to democratic government, cleansing them of corruption, radicals, and those hostile to the military's sense of appropriateness (which may coincide to what they learned from American trainers)? The history of Latin America from the 1960s to the 1990s was marked by such seizures of power in the name of democracy and cleansing national politics.. Will the history of Africa for the next generation follow the same pattern?

  • Dear GOP: Here are Some Basic Real Questions to ask about Benghazi & CIA
    • Roskin raises important points meriting much more attention than they have received. In addition we need to recognize this was not the first time an American facility abroad nominally diplomatic in nature had been attacked. Rather than avoiding one more inquirí we should be looking at ALL the attacks on consulates and embassies over the past three decades to answer the question "How can we make these facilities safer"? After all Benghazi was not the first time, nor even the tenth time, they had been attacked. We need to know how the government responded to such attacks over time.......was there a learning curve that lagged due to circumstances as Roskin suggests or is there an institutional failure to learn from experience? That is the question worth asking although it seems highly doubtful this investigation is prepared to ask it. Republicans are big on idolizing history, not learning from it.

  • Top Ten Ways in which it was Actually the Israeli Gov't that Derailed the Peace Talks
    • Perhaps it is time for the United States to recognize a sovereign Palestine, then immediately sign mutual defense and trade agreements with it. Our responsibility is to protect the interests of the United States, not Israeli intransigence.

  • Pace Sheldon Adelson: Top 5 Signs West Bank is Occupied Territory
    • Isn't Adelson still under suspicion of bribing Chinese officials in relation to his gambling interests in Macao? How much confidence could we have that President Christie would persuade investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution for violation of federal law? How much faith should we have in the judgment of Christie (and others) when they set themselves up for potential pressure, even blackmail?

  • Peeping Toms of the Intel World: Recording Bulk Private Yahoo Webcam Chats
    • Such programs and technologies are justified on the narrow grounds of fighting terrorism. But as this a very expensive and inefficient way of doing that the scope of the operation grows wider with the certainty that if you scoop up enough material on enough people you will find someone guilty of something and that becomes the central rationale……it caught dope dealers or pedophiles or someone undesirable, and then the trumpeting "it works!" drowns out the fact that it still did not work on terrorists, the original purpose.

  • Dick Cheney Broke US Military, now blames Obama for Cuts
    • Has anyone had the opportunity to ask Dick Cheney whose taxes he will raise by how much to pay for the force he wants? And while he is at it, let's recover the one trillion borrowed for Iraq from those who benefitted from the tax cuts. No problem at all if we kick the top marginal rates back to 70 percent.

  • The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won't Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You?
    • It is worth noting Nugent has admitted dodging the draft during the Vietnam War and is linked to sex with underage females. So apparently Sarah Palin, Greg Abbott and others are ok with unpatriotic stances from someone who explicitly rejects "family values". Couple that with the subhuman mongrel talk and you have Republican embrace of a particularly unsavory individual.

  • "The Iranians are Coming!" Derangement Syndrome over 1 Destroyer in Atlantic
    • This Iranian incursión is excellent news! We clearly need to increase our submarine fleet and its ability to shadow such threats. We need to increase our ability to intercept radio communications between Iranian vessels. We need to enhance our long-range bombers with long-distance cruise missiles. And it would be wise to deploy a Marine amphibious forcé just in case the Iranians attempt to set up a land base somewhere. Perhaps Cuba or Venezuela. Time to set aside the sequester in the name of national security.

  • Boycott of Israeli Universities by American Studies Assn. being Tried in a Kangaroo Court
    • Regardless of where one stands on the notion of "boycott", the challenge to any and all of us, from faculty to university presidents, is to insist on equity, fairness, and opportunity for Palestinian scholars and students. Will those chapped by calls for a boycott step forward to support, to promote protection for Palestinian academics?

  • GOP isn't Getting more Ignorant on Evolution, it is Just getting Older
    • It may be the sky really is falling. This is not a situation where that segment of the population rejecting science simply sits on its hands while dying off. Efforts at voter suppression are clear attempts by the most retrograde elements to hold on to power by disenfranchising younger and minority voters. Aggressive gerrymandering is another example, and the formation of disinformation PACs a third. The business sector has largely co-opted immigration reform as it will bring in bright, well-trained foreigners to provide manpower, or simply conduct research abroad, using political power to protect privilege. While I would prefer this not to be true I see no reason why a strategy of manipulate voters at home and do your innovation abroad will not appeal to those business sectors supposedly amenable to working with centrist Democrats.

  • Benghazi Consular attack was Local, not al-Qaeda: NYT Correspondent Demolishes GOP Talking Points
    • There now needs to be a comprehensive investigation of the production and distribution of "Silence of the Muslims". Who created it? Who financed it? Who was responsible for its dissemination? Given its impact are similar ventures underway?

      Juan Cole suggests the film may have been produced by Islamophobic elements in the United States. If that is true they must be unmasked before they can do us more harm. It is also possible this was a false flag operation financed and promoted by Al-Qaeda fanatics to produce a backlash among the Muslim faithful. If that is the case we need to know how Al-Qaeda manages to pull off such an operation when NSA surveillance is supposedly necessary to keep it from happening.

      And we need to know whether there are clear or tacit alliances between whoever financed and distributed the film and other groups. This may be well-organized cooperation or simply marriages of convenience where each partner is using the other to advance their own objectives but we need a serious exploration to avoid another major crisis we could have prevented.

  • Photo of the Day: Was St. Nicholas "White"?
    • Please keep in mind this is a Russian icon. In all probability it represents St. Nicolas of Myra as dark-skinned precisely as a way to sow discord and controversy in the United States. Why anyone would believe Russian attempts to portray the original model as anything other than a chubby bearded white man puzzles me. Next they will attempt to undermine the US governments $4.1 billion research project on load capacity and flight endurance among reindeer teams, putting American security further at risk. Resist Soviet meddling by believing in a white Santa. And airborne reindeer!

  • Top Ten Ways the US and Iran could avoid a Catastrophic War
    • While I do not disagree with your overall assessment it is a bit disingenuous to address Iran's military concerns without clearly headlining Israel's nuclear weapons capacity and continuing belligerence toward Iran. Agreeing to a permanent defense asymmetry with Israel is asking a lot of Iranians. Would we accept the same relationship vis-a-vis China? Look how Americans freak out at the idea of a North Korean nuclear capability.....Israel is Iran's North Korea. Until the United States can provide Iran with guarantees against Israeli aggressiveness a strong rationale for a nuclear-armed Iran continues.

  • Why Israel's Plan to Bomb Iran is more Dangerous to Israel than Obama-Rouhani Diplomacy
    • One way to reduce the probability that a bellicose Israel would strike Iran is to sign a US-Iran mutual defense agreement. The United States would send personnel to Iran, probably to Isfahan, and receive Iranian military in the US for air defense training. There would also be an exchange of university students. An Israeli attack would be like to cause casualties among Americans in Iran while the presence of Americans would make it less likely Iran would risk pursuing work on nuclear weapons in defiance of such an agreement. The United States cannot continue to be held hostage to Israeli desires for war with Iran, especially as Americans would once again bleed and die at the behest of a foreign power.

  • Congress Could now Alter our Militarized approach to the Middle East-- But likely Won't (Bacevich)
    • Barack Obama may be a constitutional lawyer but it is difficult,after his enthusiasm for trashing the 4th Amendment, to think of him as having much regard for the Constitution. Having made a politically-expedient pronouncement in August, 2012, he finds himself embarrassed in August, 2013. So be it as that sometimes happens when one is a political narcissist. Unfortunately your assessment of the courage and foresight of Congress will probably prove all too correct, leaving us (and the rest of the world) subject to the inclinations of a president all-too-ready to engage in rash behavior cloaked in the rhetoric of anguished decision. Not sure I would describe it as "entertainment" and "comedy", probably more as the worst kind of American tragedy as we all pay for the shortcomings of those playing leadership.

  • NSA Spying Abroad isn't OK Either (Kurzman)
    • While the deaths in Boston of three people and horrible injuries to many others captured public attention, 5 times as many died in the chemical explosion in West, Texas, with devastating impact on the small town. Yet our appetite for "terror" and the implication that a private business and a complicit state government were instrumental in the West disaster, meant that within a few days the Texas terrorists could breathe freely while those in Massachusetts took on larger-than-life proportions.

  • Obama's Limited Options: Bombing Syria unlikely to be Effective
    • Actually substantial US involvement is justified but in humanitarian, not military, ways. The crisis affecting children, the burdens refugees create for Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, and deteriorating long-term prospects for the refugee and displaced populations all foreshadow creating an environment where extremism thrives and the West is understood to be indifferent to human suffering.

      Unfortunately a major humanitarian push satisfies neither the hawks who once again are convinced that if only we spread enough weapons around and do some surgical bombing all will be well nor the military contractors who see an opportunity to expend military stockpiles that must then be replaced. Our unshakeable belief in our ability to "fix" things overlaps our outrage when things refused to be fixed meaning we need to up the investment. Arming al-Qaeda, morally and militarily, does not seem to make much sense but neither does letting millions of innocent people suffer hunger, illness, and desperation. As the military options are limited at the very least we could address the suffering. And that is what we are least likely to do.

  • Bradley Manning in a World of Cheneys, Hadithas, and NSA Domestic Surveillance
    • Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden deserve the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize as at great personal sacrifice they exposed to the world the danger of combining fear, power, and conceit with technology and the decline of a moral compass. It is quite possible the actions of both have damaged the United States in some way and put some undeserving people unnecessarily at risk. In that sense their actions were imperfect. But the revelation of a complex network of manipulation, surveillance, and abuse challenges Americans as never before to think about the values and mission of their country. And it may force countries and people abroad to think very hard about the extent to which they want to trust their futures to collaboration with a country that has so lost sight of its own.

  • On Eve of "Peace Talks," Israelis Subsidize their West Bank Colonies, build new Units
    • These steps are retribution for John Kerry's comments regarding peace talks without getting prior clearance from the Israeli government. In the future he will be sure to check with Israeli officials before making any such statements.

  • How the GOP Libya Witch Hunt Made us Close our Mideast Embassies and Crippled US Diplomacy
    • Shows Al-Qaeda's learning curve. At one point closing a US Embassy would have required mobilizing human resources, explosives, gathering data on embassy vulnerability, strategic planning, practice runs, etc. Then the US began gathering all kinds of signals intelligence, sweeping up huge amounts of data regarding "chatter" or communications, and we heard boasts about how this would enable us to track and disrupt threats.

      Result? Al-Qaeda learned it may not need to do something, just talk about it, and the US propensity for over-reaction, out of miscalculation or panic, will accomplish its purpose. A few phone calls and e-mails and the US shuts down much of its public presence across the Arab world for a week. From time to time a minor event to keep the US on edge and as a result a half-dozen operatives can assure confusion and embarrassment in 20 countries.

  • Putin as America's Frenemy: The Snowden Paradox
    • The Snowden/Russia screw-up has been so badly handled that I sometimes wonder whether there is a deep and devious plot behind the mess. If Snowden's knowledge was so vast and dangerous to US security our very first concern should have been to make sure he was beyond the reach of Chinese and Soviet intelligence. Whether Ecuador, Venezuela, Sweden, or some other non-communist country theoretically our interests would have been best served by reducing his vulnerability. Either some brilliant strategist presumed the US would be successful persuading Vladimir Putin to surrender Snowden or US intelligence was fully aware that while Snowden's revelations were news to Americans they were not to the Russians and Chinese. Indeed with at least four million people walking around with various levels of security clearance it is probable that at least a portion of this sensitive material is in the hands of other countries. In this case the "hunt" for Snowden is really part of the Obama administration's war on whistle-blowing. As with the aggressive prosecution of Bradley Manning this is more about keeping inconvenient information from the American people.

      Or else it represents one of the most impressive examples of totally inept security management in modern American history.

  • "Whoever Speaks of 1967 borders speaks of Auschwitz": Israel Cabinet not Serious about talks on a Palestinian State
    • It is difficult to believe that John Kerry takes any of this seriously. Time after time Israel has demonstrated a total absence of good faith in negotiating with the Palestinians, leaving the United States standing foolishly by the side of the road.

      The assumption thus far has been that only a change of heart on the part of Israelis or on the part of Americans will lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Yet if the Iranians or some other pro-Palestinian groups in the Middle East decide to make a serious and concerted effort to develop weapons systems that can do unacceptable damage to Israel this could change. Israel alleges Iranian nuclear weapons development because it understands that raises American apprehensions. And concerns about Hezbollah acquisition of rockets speak to Israeli fears, as do Israeli attacks on Syrian weapons depots or research facilities.

      If Iran or someone else decides to support the development of chemical or biological weapons geared to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood the threat to Israel could be far more serious. At that point American subordination to Israeli interests will leave it without leverage and the threat of overt conflict will magnify. Assumptions about perennial Palestinian powerlessness may prove exactly that, i.e. assumptions, rather than certainties.

  • Obama Administration Facing Congressional Rebellion, Civil Suits over NSA Surveillance
    • T.he creation of the surveillance state has little to do with catching bad guys. It has a lot to do with software design, hardware fabrication, systems management, and data analysis all routed through private vendors. We know Homeland Security is spending billions annually, much of it on such services. In addition vendors may derive collateral benefits via linkage with other sources of private data or other public data sources.

      As long as we persist in thinking this is about public security we are looking in the wrong direction. This is about private profit

  • Evo Morales of Bolivia joins in Offering Leaker Snowden Asylum
    • Why is Spain involved in this matter at all? Spain would be within its right to deny an aircraft overflight privileges but Spain is not a party to Snowden's activities (unless perhaps he has unreleased information on corruption or illegal activities by members of the Spanish government or royal family). If the Spanish ambassador to Austria demanded a search of Morales' jet on the basis of rumors or unverified information Austria should request that he be replaced for conducting unbecoming a diplomatic representative. And perhaps Bolivia should declare the Spanish ambassador non grata. If third parties understand there are potential costs to doing the dirtywork of the US perhaps they will be more resolute in avoiding it.

  • Top Ten Ways the Beltway Press will treat Gen. Cartwright differently from Snowden
    • In both the Cartwright and Snowden cases the emphasis will be on what the individuals did not on what the US government did. Snowden will be painted as a villain while Cartwright will be an example of someone with critical information who got carried away in talking with a reporter, never imagining the reporter and his paper would be so imprudent as to actually publish details. That the US committed what many Americans would consider an act of war had it been done to us will go unaddressed. What we have is a US government demonstrating aggressive behavior toward those we continue to treat as an axis of evil, recklessly toward close allies such as Germany, and without scruples toward the US population. But media and political emphasis will be on Snowden's maliciousness while "understanding" Cartwright's deplorable lack of judgment. Snowden will wander in exile (if not worse) while Cartwright's social invitations will be curtailed for a time.

  • Top Ten Ways US TV News are Screwing us Again on NSA Surveillance Story (Iraq Redux)
    • The Peter Ludlow piece offered by Kyzl Orda above underscores the extent to which the vast private surveillance network that has grown up over the last decade is omnipresent yet never mentioned. For example Edward Snowden is commonly mentioned as a NSA contractor, implying he was an individual associated with the agency, when in fact he was hired and managed by Booz Allen Hamilton. That firm has been remarkably successful in keeping its name out of the spotlight, and by staying in the shadows leaves us with an incomplete understanding of what is happening. To me one of the central concerns is the extent to which public power, including the ability to strip you of the right to travel, to confront charges against you, and to own information about yourself , is put at the service of private interests. It is easy to impugn the motive of Snowden but how do we know to whom private surveillance, protected by the US government, are channeling our information?

      I am less concerned about what Snowden did, which is in the open, than what those in the shadows continue to do.

  • So When will Dick Cheney be charged with Espionage? His Crime was the Same as Snowden's
    • I find it interesting that specific reference to Booz Allen Hamilton almost never appears in articles regarding this episode. Somehow the relationship is between the US government (an institution) and a private individual. In fact some news stories incorrectly identify Snowden as a US government employee. But otherwise he is usually identified as a "contractor".

      Yet he was not where we was as an individual, he was there as an employee of a powerful contracting operation that thus far has been permitted to skate through this unscathed. How many other Snowdens are on the Booz Allen payroll? NSA needs to do a complete audit of Booz Allen activities and the company should be barred from contact with sensitive information until that is complete. Otherwise there may be others, for ideological or mercenary reasons, passing critical material to the Chinese, Soviets, Israelis, Taliban, drug traffickers, and who knows who else. Snowden's real service to the country may be revealing the extent to which the US government has handled legal authority over American records to private buccaneers exploiting the records, and us, for private profit.

  • Why Obama doesn't want to intervene in Syria
    • President Obama has good reason to be cautious as there are at least two categories of interest that would benefit from bringing us into the Syrian conflict. First, it is conceivable Syrian rebels, having captured small quantities of gas, might make the difficult decision that it would be better to sacrifice some civilians now in the hope that our intervention would hasten the fall of the Assad regime. The expectation would be that the appearance government forces employed gas would lead President Obama to declare his "bright line" had been crossed and seek to topple the current government.

      Second, and more disturbing, is the strong possibility that gas, if used, was employed by an Israeli team as part of an effort to draw the United States into the morass of the Syrian civil war. American action against the Assad government would benefit Israel by hindering Syrian support for Hezbollah. Simultaneously it would damage American standing with the Arab world by embroiling it in another conflict with the inevitable cost of civilian Muslim dead. The US would pay the cost, Israel would benefit.

      Under these circumstances the United States would be prudent to avoid being stampeded into actions intended to benefit others.

    • There is another reason for caution on intervention. If reports of small amounts of gas are accurate there may be some question of the real point of origin. Presidential statements of a "bright line" that would trigger US intervention give two different actors motivation to use gas in a way that would incriminate the Syrian government. First, rebel groups concerned about recent recovery by Syrian government could decide the sacrifice of some civilians, were it to prompt US action against the government, would be worth the outcome if in the long run it reduces the carnage. It is entirely possible that small amounts of gas fell into the hands of rebels and they decided to try to provoke US intervention against their enemy.

      The second possibility is more disturbing. It is quite plausible that Israel, eager to weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon, launched a clandestine operation in Syria using poison gas in the hope of triggering a US retaliation against the Assad regime. Dragging the US into the conflict in a way that damages the existing Syrian government while triggering a popular revulsion against US for the inevitable civilian deaths gives the Israelis best of both worlds, i.e., undermining Hezbollah and leaving the US even more isolated in the Arab. Given so much uncertainty efforts to stampede the US into intervention smells of an eagerness to enhance the Israeli position.

  • America's Murder Inc. Abroad: Engelhardt on Scahill's Latest
    • Excellent observations but there is another point worth noting....While the great manhunt for the two bombers convulsed Boston and gripped the media, a far more powerful explosion rocked West, Texas, killing 14, wounding around two hundred, and devastating a small town. The cause seems to have been negligence plus lack of regulatory inspection. But why no inspection? Perhaps because we have been so absorbed with "terrorists" that we overlook the ways the venial and corrupt among can threaten our wellbeing as effectively as terrorists can do. Hence we pour resources into armored police vehicles hoping they will keep us safe while neglecting elementary steps to avoid far more dangerous threats. It is no way demeans the efforts and sacrifices made to bring the Boston bombers to justice to note an equally bloody crime in Texas is already old news and the likelihood anyone will be held accountable diminishes day by day. It is supremely unfortunate for the bombers they were operating on their own in search of their own ends; had they been part of a corporate network the media and authorities would have ignored their presence and activities.

  • Palestine PM Fayyad Resigns, a Victim of Israeli and US funding cut-off and backlash against Austerity
    • Usually I agree with your assessments of US-Israel relations but it is difficult to do so here, i.e, when you refer to Israel as a "client" of the United States. An American president who in 2009 seemed ready to press for greater recognition, opportunity, and status for Palestinians while in 2013 embraces Israeli repression operates from a posture of subordination, not domination. Whether assessing US policy toward Israeli-Palestinian relations, Illegal settlements, or tensions with Iran the U.S. appears subservient to Israeli preferences, not the reverse. I see little evidence to suggest President Obama will emphasize American interests, much less speak on behalf of Palestinians.

  • Palestinians Alarmed at Obama's New Christian Zionism, Failure to Push for Settlement Freeze
    • President Obama has once again shamed the United States through his unwillingness to speak forthrightly on behalf of the Palestinian people. The call for a Palestinian state while embracing Israeli occupation of Palestinian reflects the president's continuing belief that as long as he says something he can avoid awkwardness through inaction. Not only does he once again embarrass the American people but provides a rationale for those who will argue in favor of an aggressive response to Israeli expansionism.

  • Austerity and the threat to Democracy, in the US, Europe and the Middle East
    • All this fuss over overtly taking $100 billion yearly from the economy when the gradual shift of wealth from the middle class to the top 1 percent has taken ten times that from the economy annually. The shift of 1 trillion per year to the top reaches of the economy means that money is not available for buying appliances, dental care, houses, vacations, cars, restaurant meals, legal services, bicycles, and all the other goods and services generally consumed by the middle class. In addition it is not available to pay income taxes. The grand weakness of the US economy is directly attributable to this shift. As long as Americans could play with borrowed money during the housing bubble the economy survived but once that popped nothing has replaced it, revealing how the economy has been hollowed out. We are already past a tipping point and withdrawing another $100 billion just steepens the slippery slope.

  • Why Scalia is Wrong about Voting as "Racial Entitlement": Texas' Long History of Minority Vote Supression (Beckett & Lee)
    • Not sure I see what the problem is with a photo ID voting requirement as long as the state must send an official authorized to produce and extend the ID to the home of the applicant at no charge. The ID burden falls on the state, not on the individual.

  • Top Five Objections to the White House's Drone Killing Memo
    • Under this document would it be lawful for a foreigner to conduct a lethal operation against senior operational leaders of the United States or "associated forces" on the grounds that such leaders operate beyond the reach of international law? After all American forces or actions have killed far more people than Al-Qaeda and the layers of protection afforded to such leaders make ordinary law enforcement impractical. Would it be lawful for American citizens to act against senior operational leaders of U.S. forces using the same logic? To me that is a very scary proposition.

  • Matt Taibbi on Big Banks’ Lack of Accountability (Moyers Video Interview)
    • Joe from Lowell has a point but that should not be an insuperable barrier. At some point individual X made a decision, whether to do something or to not do something, that contributed to an illegal act. If I can be barred from doing something, e.g., frequenting a specific part of town (i.e., via exclusionary laws) because I have been found to look for prostitutes there, then I am being barred from being in a place for general purposes even though my intent was to buy dog food, not sex. Thus if HSBC used electronic funds transfers to facilitate laundering drug money it should be barred from any electronic funds transfer for Y period of time. What would happen to HSBC if it could not transfer any funds for any purpose for a period of one year?

      Just a question.

  • FBI Violated Constitution by Branding Peaceful Occupy Wall Street as Terrorist threat
    • Eric Holder will go down in American history as totally absent in prosecuting the abuses of the Bush administration, totally ineffective in prosecuting the financial abuses related to the Crash of 2008, totally disinterested in protecting civil liberties, and totally eager to pursue any revelations possibly embarrassing the Obama administration. His sole responsibility has been to protect corporate power through inaction, a responsibility he has fulfilled admirably.

  • The Republican Assault on Minority Voting Rights (Goulka)
    • I have no problem with the notion of a photo ID for voters as long as it is the responsibility of the state to go to the voter, not the voter to the state. As a citizen I simply make an appointment for someone authorized to issue an ID to come to my home, assist me in gathering any documentation necessary (the state wants me to have a birth certificate to issue my ID, fine; it is the state's responsibility to make sure I have that documentation without charge). If I live in a nursing home or I am homeless it is the state's responsibility to come to me. And anyone seeking to suppress my vote, whether by providing false information about polling places or refusing me access to the polls if I am legally registered) does jail time for violating my Constitutional right. Give me this and I will consider asking for photo ID for voters.

  • Obama set precedent with Drone Killings for Romney to become Terminator-in-Chief (Ross)
    • Unfortunately President Obama tilts toward opportunistic time horizons defined by the next politically-relevant event, e.g., the November election. But what happens when members of Pakistani security agencies decide the time has come to give Americans a taste of their own policy by setting off some bombs in shopping centers frequently by people who make or fly American drones over Pakistan. After all, if any military-aged male in Waziristan is potentially a militant then any military-aged male near an Air Force facility is potentially a drone pilot. And if it is acceptable for the US to kill civilians while pursuing US policy on foreign soil what is our basis for complaining when civilians are killed in the US by foreigners pursuing policy objectives?

      Of course we operate on the assumption power asymmetries favor and protect us. It appears neither President Obama nor his staff contemplate the day that may no longer be true. One expects there are others in the world looking forward to that day.

  • Netanyahu 2002: Iraq has Centrifuges 'the size of Washing Machines' to Produce A-Bomb
    • I would disagree that the Israelis lacked good intelligence on Iraq. In all probability the intelligence they had was not the intelligence they wanted, i.e., that Iraq represented a threat. So they simply lied knowing such a lie would be readily accepted and embraced by US authorities and the media. It was not an error but policy.

  • It's Psychological Warfare, Stupid: Why Netanyahu Really wants to Destroy Iran
    • Two thoughts on this insightful column:

      1) Would Israel be continuously threatening Iran if Iran already had nuclear weapons? In all probability the answer is "no" because an Israeli attack could trigger a response devastating the attacker. So a nuclear-armed Iran could contribute to a reduction, not an increase, in tensions (rhetoric is another matter). In other words it is the asymmetry which provokes the danger, not nuclear weapons.

      2) Everyone focuses on weapons that go "boom". Were I advising the Iranians I would have them hard at work on chemical and biological weapons that could do terrible damage to Israel without the negatives of nuclear conflict. Or on air-borne radiologicals not requiring the sophistication of nuclear warheads. The Israelis created a nuclear weapons stockpile because they had access to American resources and because doing so established a threat capable of protecting them from their neighbors. What the Iranians need is a credible threat to protect them from the Israelis, and the capacity to sow Israeli cities with terrible toxins could be such a threat.

      All things considered I would prefer to see a nuclear-armed Iran constrained by the prospects of mutually-assured destruction to an Iran with a potent arsenal of CBR weaponry offering greater deniability and greater ease of deployment. A just resolution of the Palestinian situation might help us avoid either.

  • Top Ten Repeated Paul Ryan Lies
    • So here I am, a guy who works long hours for a declining real wage and I am listening to Ryan tell me I should vote for a candidate whose principal economic proposal is to reduce Mitt Romney's tax rate from 13.9 percent, a whole lot lower than I pay for those long hours, to less than 1 percent? You have got to be kidding me!

      Obama should pound these guys as a group of Bain buccaneers planning to do to the whole country what they used to do to specific companies. The audacity of running for President in order to cut your tax rate to 1/20 of what every working person pays is an extraordinary mugging. And they want me to pay for the mugging by giving up basic services? It is time for the Democrats to shift from the culture wars crap that allows Karl Rove to set the agenda and start making the case that Mitt Romney's refusal to come clean on his taxes is evidence of dubious ethics and betting against America. And now he wants the rest of us to give him personally a bigger piece of the pie by sacrificing from our own crumbs.Stop fussing about abortion....the point is made....and start emphasizing the Romney plan to plunder the country.

  • Top Ten Pieces of Bad News for Romney on Eve of Convention
    • As a fairly conservative Republican I think the Democrats need to pound, pound, pound on Romney's dubious ethics when it comes to taxes and investments. And none of this compromising on five years of returns crap either. That just reminds people of Obama's fundamental lack of a spine. Obama should be emphasizing he has shown his birth certificate AND his tax returns, Romney has done neither (maybe he does not want to remind people he is the son of a Mexican immigrant). What about taking business deductions on expenses at a time he claims he had no management role in Bain Capital? There are dozens of questions that should be raised about Romney's loyalty to money rather than to the US.

      I cannot stomach Obama's betrayal of the Constitution but Romney should be answering questions from the IRS, not campaigning for the Presidency.

  • Israeli President Peres Smacks down PM Netanyahu on Iran Attack, Supports Obama
    • It seems we are confronted by a vague theoretical future threat....Iran's possible development of a nuclear weapon....versus Israel's increasingly aggressive threat of an imminent attack, a threat far more dangerous to our national security and world peace. It would be in our own interest to sign a mutual defense pact with Iran, making an attack by an outside power far less likely.

      Prime Minister Netanyahu's unaceptable meddling in the American presidential election is sufficient reason for this Republican to vote Democratic. Any Republican not repudiating such intervention is not to be trusted.

  • 58 Murders by firearms a year in Britain, 8,775 in US (Oak Creek Reprint Edn.)
  • Sanity and Insanity in American Politics (Bachmann, Sessions, Romney, and Chicken)
    • How does a political party expressing concerns about possible security leaks in the White House reconcile such concerns with assigning a House member linked to a terrorist organization to the Intelligence Committee? Who is responsible for assigning someone with terrorist ties to a sensitive committee position?

  • Top Ten Most Distasteful things about Romney Trip to Israel
    • The New York Times reports (Sunday, 29 July) that Mitt Romney supports Israel's right to take step to counteract the Iranian nuclear threat. Except Iran does not have nuclear weapons and therefore such a "threat" remains conjectural. As Israel actually has nuclear weapons and has threatened Iran on numerous occasions would Romney acknowledge Iran's right to counteract the Israeli nuclear threat?

  • Romney in the Land of the Anglo-Saxon Uncertain Olympics: Not Ready for Prime Time
    • Mitt Romney raised (via an "advisor") expectations by calling attention to presumed shared Anglo-Saxon heritage. This obscures the reality that he is the son of an immigrant from Mexico. There is nothing wrong with having Mexican heritage but to claim some mystical awareness of Anglo-Saxon heritage based on parents born in Mexico is more than a little strange.

      Couple the claim of heritage with the sense of entitlement that absolves Romney from the need to attend to the same level of detail (name recognition, observing protocol) expected from everyone else and he is left vulnerable to the kinds of gaffes we have seen the last two days. He really does seem to confuse running for president of the country club with running for President of the United States.

  • Hajizadeh: If Israel attacks Iran, it will be Destroyed
    • So much hand-wringing over the maybe-possibly Iranian nuclear weapons as a response to incessant Israeli threats against their country. One wonders why the Iranians do not set to work on some really nasty chemical and biological weapons than could be delivered with less complex technology yet render contemporary Israel a wretchedly unpleasant place to live. And as a plus they could be a lot easier to deliver to the US as well.

      Far from advocating this I think it is long-overdue that the US take a really hard look at the dangers Israeli aggressiveness toward Iran creates for this country. Everyone can feel quite macho letting computer viruses loose in Iranian nuclear facilities. When the Iranians shut down air traffic control in the USA we will be singing a different song. And if that song is "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" how will we feel with massive plague outbreaks in a half-dozen American cities?

  • Low Life Expectancy tracks with Opposition to Obamacare (Map)
    • Low life expectancy reflects both higher levels of infant mortality and shorter life spans. It is supremely ironic that states home to populations promoting right-to-life agendas are more likely to permit children to die once born. On the other hand, to the extent the elderly in these same states embrace opposition to expanded health coverage, and therefore experience earlier mortality, they are simply reaping what they sow. It is God's will and way of controlling excessive short-sightedness.

  • US Pentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada: Hersh
    • And exactly where does the MEK obtain its financing? To my knowledge it has never held a bake sale. Paying tens of thousands of dollars to prominent American politicians is just a tiny portion of the cost of maintaining its facility in Iraq, running events in Paris and New York, sustaining operational networks in Iran, etc. Does the funding come from Saudi Arabia? Israel? the United States? One assumes active US intelligence efforts to track terrorist financing as this has been a recurring charge against Muslim organizations and individuals in the United States, so who finances the MEK?

  • Afghanistan Massacre: Unstable Soldiers, Untreated Brain Injuries, PTSD
    • In the case of the Fort Hood shootings we found connections between the shooter and an American abroad, a case that resulted in the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen by the US government. It is far too early to argue this infividual acted along; he may have had similar encouragement from "abroad", i.e., the United States. His background and connections need to be carefully screened, and the possibility of unattended injury from his previous head wound given careful scrutiny. We need to be able to rule out the involvement of American religious extremists and negligence by the military command.

  • Iran Displays Drone, Complains to UN
    • Please help me understand what is going on. It appears we have critical US surveillance technology in Iranian hands for what reason. Is it to facilitate an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities or to gather evidence enabling us to persuade Istael not to attack those facilities. Either way US security interests have been compromised to benefit a country that neither signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty nor desists from threatening Iran. Were I a high-ranking Iranisn defense official I would (A) use this to urge a priority effort not only to develop a nuclear capability but to press plans to do maximum damage to the US in the event of conflict, and (B) provide the Russians and/or Chinese with free access to the drone in return for a nice weapons deal.

      Or how about an agreement with the Cubans permitting such technology to send drones over the US?

      Dumb-ass arrogance, folks. Dumb-ass arrogance.

  • Would Obama Greenlight an Israeli Attack on Iran?
    • On the other hand the Obama campaign for re-election leaves this administration highly vulnerable to Israeli steps forcing its hand. In an election year would a president who repeatedly shows himself to be politically risk-adverse and inclined to capitulate under pressure suddenly reverse his field?

      On the contrary, 2012 is a year when Israeli military adventurism could pay big dividends. It would be difficult for the president to resist calls to support Israel if the Iranians respond. And any Iranian response runs the risk of imperiling US forces in nearby countries. Furthermore, drawing the US into such a conflict would further erode any possible linkages to the Arab world, deepening the divide and locking the US even deeper into the role of Israel's enforcer.

      If Obama wins re-election some of the leverage of the Israeli lobby will be temporarily weakened. This increases the temptation to attack while he is in a weak position. After all, if he loses a Republican president will be eager to march on Teheran, probably destroying NATO in the process.

  • Likud Government takes Revenge on Palestinians for UNESCO Membership
    • One wonders whether Palestinian political strategists will not seek to join every international body they can, not only to secure greater voice and legitimacy for Palestine but to systematically isolate the United States. It is beyond understanding and logic that the US will turn over to Palestine the power to decide in which international organizations this country holds memberships. From Moscow to Beijing to Teheran our rivals must be howling in delight. Five years from now we could be without a voice in almost every major international forum in the world. Yet somehow this will be seen as the fault of the Palestinians, not the predictable outcome of turning our foreign policy decisions over to foreign governments.

      And what happens if these organizations then decide there is no need to re-admit countries that surrendered membership as part of blackmail schemes?

  • Ganann: Police raids and violence against activists are Un-American
    • It says volumes about American values and priorities that the few weeks of the Occupy movement have produced far more arrests and far more violence toward participants than three years of serious recession provoked by monied interests destroying trillions of dollars in assets and displacing millions from their homes. When have the police clubbed hedge fund managers and partners from major banking firms?

  • 5000 Birds fall out of Sky in Arkansas
    • Keep in mind Arkansas elected a Republican Senator. This is God´s retribution.

  • Senate Repeal of DADT in Global Context
    • Once again Republican legislators follow Muslim fundamentalist thinking. Is it because they share a common philosophy (and fear) or because campaign contributions flow from Middle Eastern sources via US intermediaries?

  • Wikileaks on Israel, Iraq and the Iranian Specter
    • One wonders how many Israelis think about the Iranians who do not want their children or grandchildren grow up under the threat of a nuclear-armed Israel? The difference is for the Iranians that is a reality, not a possibility.

  • Obama fails to Galvanize the Youth on Daily Show
    • Regrettably President Obama never saw himself as the leader of the Democratic Party. perhaps doing so would have besmirched his self-image as bi-partisan, perhaps because in his mind the 2008 election really was all about him. Consequently he never worked to shape the Congressional agenda, never used the political levers available to encourage party discipline, never asserted leverage with Republicans, etc. Indeed he has spent much of his political capital protecting Republican leaders and policies while rebuking his own supporters.

      Either the Republicans will simply trample Barack Obama to the point where he is completely ineffectual, or the President will make common cause with them in the name of bi-partisan fantasy. I would not be surprised to hear him announce in fall, 2011, that he will not be a candidate for re-election, too late for anyone except Hillary Clinton to make a bid for the Democratic nomination. Should the Republicans gain the Presidency in 2012 I would not be surprised to see Barack Obama nominated for the next opening on the Supreme Court as he has proven he is a reliable defender of Republican interests.

  • Meyer: NY Times: Saber-rattling Against Turkey
    • That these "reports" emerge from a newspaper well-established as a media outlet for pro-Israeli sources is no surprise.......note how frequently it refers to nuclear policies in Iran as "illicit" despite the fact that they are not. The Times is eager to bolster the notion of Israel as noble but abused victim in the eyes of Washington policy-makers and influentials. Whatever the Times' virtues in other arenas it is rarely a reasonably objective source of news related to Israel.

  • Petraeus Memo Widens scope of US Military Covert Operations in ME
    • So US military are to become clandestine cells operating in foreign countries? Presumably then it is okay for the Pakistanis, North Koreans, Cubans, and anyone else feeling threatened by the US to send cadres into the US to gather intelligence and connect with possible sympathizers. And if we discover Iranian, Israeli, Chinese, or other operatives here we will treat them the way we want our military to be treated if discovered abroad? Of course.

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