Member Profile

Total number of comments: 66 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:04)

Philosophical Ron

A long time truth seeker, I was awarded "Highest Honors in History" for my B.A. in History from UCSC 12-74, and worked for over 9 yrs. FTE as a researcher-ghostwriter. Including that and other ventures, have been self-employed in micro-business 38 out of the last 40 years. A long-time advocate of small-d democracy, I have also been active in local politics off and on since the 60's, and I believe an op-ed of mine ten years ago actually caused local government to change its plan for re-developing our neighborhood, for the better.I remain active as a writer, a summary of my next book is up on my website, my old book still has original signed editions available. The website also has interesting ruminations on such topics as why Plato was wrong, how we shouldn't be waiting for the next "Mandela", how the American advertising industry can be controlled using current Supreme Court consensus, and how to effectively organize in American left-wing politics, among other topics.


Showing comments 66 - 1

  • Antarctic Ice Melting Faster than Ever in "Unstoppable Decline"
    • philosophical ron 03/29/2015 at 3:01 am

      Capitalism is not the worst economic system on earth, especially if it can be well-regulated. Yet our overwhelming economic miracle rests on a corrupt foundation: in nearly every important industry in nearly every nation, the ability of producers to dump toxic wastes into the air, waters and earth without significant cost or penalty has been an important part of the cost-convenience equation in keeping the economic machines rolling.

      Carbon dioxide wasn't even recognized as a potential killer for a couple of long centuries, while Britain, Germany and France developed on coal, and then America's championship of the gasoline-powered automobile powered the carbon dioxide dumping by orders of magnitude.

      Now it's kicking us. We (speaking as a member of so-called "Western civilization") have been pretty foolish, and it is not clear that either our so-called civilization can survive, or even our dear physical progeny.

  • Mideast Apocalypse 2030: Why Obama wants the Palestine Issue Solved. Now.
    • Fairly plausible, Juan, and more than a bit entertaining. I did like the best parts of your novel much better than this, however.

      If I may quibble with two of your plot elements, the first would be that you see the crisis as being wholly political. I'm inclined to see unforeseen effects of climate change pushing things along: crop failures, epidemics, severe droughts and floods. These would then have political effects, but migration would be less of an issue; all lands would be suffering, there would be no refuge to flee to. At the worst, mass frustration in antagonistic societies could result in a sort of Hobbesian "war of all against all."

      And these things could happen in 2019 or 2022, no need to wait until 2030.

      Secondly, you see the ISIS/caliphate surviving apparently unchanged from 2015 to 2030, ruling in Syria and Western Iraq. I am much more dubious and doubtful about this. Survive? Possibly, yet unchanged, No. The survival of an ISIS/Caliphate for 15 years would imply very significant changes in at least the foreign policies of America, the Gulf states, Iran and Israel, if not significant internal political disruptions in at least some, and possibly all, of these geopolitical actors.

      Also, 15 years would give the caliphate a history -- there would have to be a caliph, if not a history of 2 more caliphs. And there would be a pretty significant history of caliphate domestic and foreign policies.

      And of course, if it did survive for 15 years, we historians would be forced to capitalize Caliph and Caliphate in referring to it.

  • The "Hindenburg Trap": Dump Oil, Coal & Gas Stocks if you Want to Retire
    • philosophical ron 03/08/2015 at 4:53 am

      I grew up in the early '70's, studying oil markets and world history. (My honors degree was a major in History, minor in economic History). My graduation coincided with the world in shock because American gasoline was at $1.50-2.00 and Gerald Ford was saying "whip inflation now."

      So I did feel I had some insight into the oil industry when some decades later, my father, who started out as a young chemical engineer for what is now Chevron before making his money helping the cement industry be more productive, passed on an inheritance in the low 6 figures. Part of it was in an American pipeline stock, 90% distribution of oil with a bit of production. Polluting? Sure! Am I willing to be a plaintiff for radical lawyers who want to sue them for pollution? Yes to that as well. In the meantime, over about 11 years the sucker has gained about 160% in value, while paying 6 to 8% dividend. A little bit better than a savings account or Treasury bonds, and has covered my losses in tech and health stocks.

      And since my inheritance coincided with an oil market low, I did put 20 - 30% into buying low and selling high with producers and drilling servicers, over the next years into the great crash of '08-9, and helped myself significantly through that.

      I'm almost all out of production and drilling, except for about 3% in a European oil major, privatized successor to the national oil Co. of a "European power." It's been up and down over ten years and is now just about exactly where I bought it, while paying about 4% and some foreign taxes every year. So 4% is OK, that's all I ask of any investment, yet I do would wish that I could sell out with WTI closer to 150 than to 50.

      However Juan is very persuasive, this is a very good argument for why that last oil panic may never come through.

      I was old enough when I got my inheritance to understand that my economic desires and my political desires would always be opposed, I do understand why oil and coal need to be utterly banned, by the power of a global citizens movement. I give monthly to 350-dot-org.

      Yet still, a part of me grew up with those predictable ups and downs of the oil market, it's hard to stop hoping for one more up. But how much of an up am I gonna get from 3% of my retirement fund anyway? The argument gets more convincing.

  • Hidden Dragon: China quietly becomes a Major Player in the Middle East
    • I haven't got thru the whole article, but the line:
      "the overriding concern of the Western powers remained securing energy supplies (a major reason for the original British-Saudi alliance signed in 1915)."

      sent me racing to my old bookshelves. I didn't find the oldest ones I was looking for, but Lacey's 1981 history _The Kingdom_ was at hand. (I know it wasn't 100% praised by historians, but he's generally reliable, especially on the older stuff.) He has the British mission arriving in Riyadh Nov.. 30, 1917, with the aim of enlisting an attack on the Ottomans to the north. (The British war effort & pre-colonial maneuvering was much more focused on Hashemite kingdom centered on Mecca in what is now western Saudi Arabia, the Sauds did not gain Mecca until 1924.)

      The rare old book I have somewhere, but didn't immediately find, was by an American from 1933, if I remember correctly ... and he finished his book on the Saudis by bemoaning their poverty, from which he saw little chance of escape, his final hope was that maybe pearl-diving in the Gulf could be more developed!

      Lacey has the first American oilman suspecting oil in Saudi Arabia in 1931, the British oil company not believing in the possibility, the first contract for exploration in May 1933 with Standard OIl of California (today's successor is Chevron), who outbid the British precisely because the Brits didn't think there was oil there, and Lacey has Abdul Aziz agreeing with the British that he was getting the American's money for nothing! Lacey has the first productive well on Mar. 20, 1938.

      So that part of the author's effort is not nearly as correct as it could be. I am going to read the rest, hopefully the author did his homework much better concerning China in the Middle East now.

  • Hyenas vs. Rhinos: Who could the NYT get to write an Op-ed on Iraq? Hmm...
    • Philosophical Ron 06/30/2014 at 4:40 am

      In numbered paragraph 3, you have "the nuclear industry was tightly in control of the French," surely that should be "the nuclear industry was tightly under the control of the French," if I recall correctly from when it all went down.

  • How the Media Missed the Story of the Millennium: One Climate Blockbuster after Another
    • As a historian, I thank you greatly for putting so concisely. I grapple with this all the time, except it does resist grappling: our current political and economic values, and the institutions we have evolved to express these values, are quite likely leading us to civilizational suicide. There are a few people at the tops of oil and coal companies and governments who are much more responsible than the rest of us, yet the vast majority of the rest of us who can't get out of our cars and our heated homes and our high-energy use foodstuffs are also a part of the problem to the extent that we cannot change our political and economic values, or even the expression of our existing political and economic values.

      Oh, and check the big article at my site, I'm pretty sure our psychological and philosophical values, and their expressions, are also involved in all of this.

  • The GOP's War on Science Endangering America: Climate Change, Evolution, Regulation
    • The scientific analysis is absolutely pessimistic. People -- at least the modern Americans I am most familiar with - really are too short-termly selfish to save themselves. You really have to be monster to kill your great grandchildren, but all of us who can't easily get out of our cars are doing it, and I'm as bad as anyone.

      As I pointed out in my latest article, we can't wait for a new Mandela, a new Martin Luther King, a new Mahatma Ghandi to save us. In all of their cases, they were supported by a population that was being deprived of rights by another identifiable, and identifiable as "other", population. In our case, the population killing our great grandchildren is ... ourselves.

      The scientific evidence is absolutely pessimistic, yet for the sake of our individual and collective spirits, and for the sake of our activism and the survival of our grandchildren, we must approach out tasks with as much optimism as we can muster. Just another one of those civilizational contradictions. Can intelligent Americans learn to organize and compromise with each other to work towards a goal, or will we continue our bad habits of individualism, unsustainable idealisms, and excuse-making?

  • Turkey's Fierce Battle on the Religious Right
    • Thank you, thank you, thank you very much, Ayse Soysal and Informed Comment.

      That was tremendously more informative, and more aware of and sensitive to human feelings, than anything we've seen in the larger more conventional media in America, regarding Turkey, for many years now. (Of course Turkey can only be covered in the American media when it's violent or stricken.)

  • Top Five Differences between Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and Miley Cyrus
    • As a union retail worker at a branch of America's largest supermarket in a progressive city, the buyers way overloaded on Duck Dynasty products, they have been dying on the shelves since October. There's no Christmas rush for them (though one 40-ish Black lady wanted one specifically for a "white elephant gift exchange" at her office). No money being made here.

  • Top 10 Ways the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
    • Sadly, sadly all too true. I read quickly, did you even get into the incredible corruptions of local political elites? We have some publicity on national politics being bought-and-sold, unfortunately the average American would need to keep up a vigorous network of local journalism, in-person government board monitoring, and reliable local gossip to understand the bought-and-sold aspects of their local governance. And that's not easy!

  • Annual Informed Comment Fundraiser
    • Hopefully you've received my recent contribution by now. Mostly loving the new re-design, however clicking on this article to read in full, it seems pushed way over to right side of screen, losing the end of lines, enough so I can't guess at what's missing. Obviously we need to contribute even more generously, as your work is not to be missed these days !!

  • Guinness World Record Day shows Human Spirit Indomitable and Silly
    • How many times can I thank you, Juan, very many indeed. This reminder of our human condition, bound between earth and spirit, hope and disappointment, love and the failure to love, is a bright spot in one's day, and also a bright spot in the web of silliness and artificially-fomented controversy that our global intertubes are becoming.

      The traditional great historians are Thucydides and Herodotus, they did it back in the old days. For my money the greatest modern historian has always been Solzhenitsyn, he accomplished the tremendously human and moving work of history _The Gulag Archipelago_, 3 volumes, while a victim of the Gulag and under the conditions of the Gulag.

      You're too young to be a great historian yet, however as one who admires the craft, you are cutting quite a trail of excellent work, every day, covering all the most important issues of the day. Quite an example for any aspiring historians to follow, Congratulations and thank you again so much for all your effort. I will be sending additional financial support, and urge others to do the same.

  • How America's Global Surveillance Empire made it a Helpless Giant (Engelhardt)
    • I have done a bunch of that reading you suggest, and while those who still believe in "Ameircan exceptionalism" can make plausible-sounding arguments along the lines you lay out so very proficiently.

      However, the clean line you try to draw between "imperial powers that governed those colonies" and "the US and Near Eastern countries cooperating out of mutual interest" is laughably naive/propaganda. While the US was much more isolationist governmentally before World War II regarding European colonialism, economically and socially America was involved in the various colonial projects, sometimes by entrepreneurs getting in on the colonial project and sometimes by lobbyists protesting the colonial economic monopolies, and by various charities and missionaries trying to "civilize" or ameliorate the natives, and I remember George C Marshall's experience included some well-intentioned warlord-type military campaigning in China in the 1920's, plus we maintained our own privileges in ostensibly independent Latin America before 1945. And sure, there is indeed an independent center of actual geostrategic power in Saudi Arabia, however their "cooperation" with us -- which could just as easily be cast as feudal relationship as an independent one -- also reflects our own assertions of governmental, economic and social power. With regards to independent centers of government in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc., which do not share the Saudi's oily legacy, our behavior towards them has hardly been one of "cooperation in mutual interests."

      And in places like the Congo in the 1960's, our policy was indeed one of near-complete colonialism, except with the convenience of a local dictator substituting for all that messy and bureaucratic colonial administration. By the time of Angola in the '80's it was even more simplified: the oil interests supported the central government dictators, the mineral interests supported the rebel warlords, and the CIA got to spy on/control/mess with both sides while the mass media kept the public from understanding anything.

  • The World's Fate hangs on Obama's Keystone XL Decision (McKibben)
    • It's all about organization, folks, and again, we on the so-called "left" of America don't have it (and too many apparently don't even seem to understand why we would need it).

      If you consider yourself an intelligent American who is concerned about your ability to breathe or eat in the future, and you have not made some sort of attempt to support or work with, then you are not really demonstrating that you are an intelligent American who is concerned about your ability to breathe and eat in the future.

      And for our friend tinbox, it's true, in the short term the oil and coal companies don't need our investments to do their dirty work. In the long term, however, what we value economically, and the choices we make among goods and services to implement those economic values, is indeed determined by our individual and collective psychological, philosophical and political choices. We can change all these things, over time, if enough of us really want to.

  • How the US Government Betrayed the Constitution and invented an Imaginary Fascist One
  • Sanders: Climate Change more Menacing than Terrorism (Germanos)
    • I am not one to put one person ahead of all society, all humanity. It's all in the organization, folks, and frankly we on the so-called American left don't have diddly-squat worth of it these days.

      Yet with that introduction, big congratulations on the Senator for telling us the brutal truth. May we have the ears to hear.

      May we have the brains to consider how our own idealism (and our unwillingness to see how it hurt our effectiveness) froze up and corroded, for example, the very hopeful beginnings of the Occupy Movement.

      Plenty of tomorrows lie ahead to make it better. A positive attitude is an asset to any activist.

  • Top 10 Ways Ted Cruz & the Tea Party Weakened America with Shutdown
    • oops, got caught in an editing typo. In the second sentence, the very first opening parenthesis, and the very last closing one, should have disappeared, leaving only five words in parentheses.

    • Thank you once again for an excellent summary of this sad situation.

      It's got to be an open question whether American Congressional democracy is ever going to be able to reform itself -- and of course this is a major problem in what seems to be our slow path toward civilization suicide (with the unexpected breakdowns from climate change (with which we can't cope) providing the fatal cause).

      Positive outcomes very likely need to involve a large role by an engaged citizenry actually getting organized, and practicing smart politics themselves.

  • US Drone strikes Continue in Pakistan despite PM Nawaz Sharif's UN Protest (Serle)
    • This is indeed one of the key situations which will determine the future evolution of the nation-state power system, and whether the Hegemon can continue to have its way (though our American eagle is looking pretty henpecked lately, more by by internal forces than the finger-waggings of ostensible allies), or whether smaller powers can effectively work to counter the Hegemon.

      So far in the story of humanity, power has always won over attempts at international law (understood or defined), and popular concepts of morality. Can this ever change? With all the climate change news that Professor Cole is teaching us about, does the sclerosis of the international relations situation (and the internal sclerosis of too many nations, again specifically including the USA) mean that we are on a slow path to species suicide because our rulers are too rigid to change as the oceans die and agricultural and other geo-economic systems fail?

  • Is Iran Ready to do a Deal with Obama over its Nuclear Program?
    • "But if Iran and give solid evidence that it has no active weapons program, that might be enough for a deal."

      Dear teacher, thank you so much again.

      However, I believe that in this sentence you have made the same typo I have made many times while writing quickly, to substitute one common short English word for another. (And we can't catch it in proofreading our own work, because our brains know what the word should be and don't catch the wrong word.)

      What you meant was, "But if Iran can give solid evidence that it has no active weapons program, that might be enough for a deal."

      Your service to the muse of Clio is very much appreciated.

  • Orwell's 'Big Brother' Was less Intrusive than our own Feds & We OK'd That (Calabrese and Harwood)
    • Thank you very, very much for this excellent and (hopefully) exhaustive overview of how we are tracked, monitored, data-mined and spyed-upon by our various local, state and federal governments.

      Hopefully someday tens and hundreds of millions of citizens will be aware of, concerned about, and ready to take action to reverse these policies which our governments will not even discuss openly and honestly at this time.

  • How America's 'Espionage Empire' is Paid for: The 'Black Budget' (Queally)
    • And has anybody mentioned that the whole thing is blatantly un-Constitutional, at least as far as the Constitution was interpreted up until that point (1960's-70's ? ) when the national security state accelerated into its current arrogance and insularity?

  • The Ghost of Iraq haunts Obama on Syria as British Parliament Defects
    • Thank you once again, Juan, for an excellent analysis.

      You say "Obama should pivot now," and lay out a wise course to follow.

      The next few days and weeks will answer the question of whether the highly-institutionalized and centralized organs of the modern American national security state still have any ability at all to consider a different course of action than bombing and dissembling -- the preferred courses of action that their ideological postulates have led them to again and again in the recent history of America's involvement/hegemony in the Middle East.

  • Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship
    • "Presto, what looks like a democracy is really an authoritarian state ruling on its own behalf and that of 2000 corporations, databasing the activities of 312 million innocent citizens and actively helping destroy the planet while forestalling climate activism."

      Thank You Once Again Juan Cole, thanks a million! I think you've just about nailed it there!!

  • Levison of Lavabits on FBI gag order: "There's information I can't share with my lawyer"
    • For those of use who were watching, the erosion of constitutional civil liberties was apparent in the '90's. (My friends and I were able to get 5% of our state to vote against it.) Clearly the 9-11 incident accelerated the trend, while also accelerating the trends of disassociation & individualization in society, which combined with total snooping of all electronic media makes it harder for idealistic, well-meaning Americans to organize against it.

      Pure speculation, my guess is that Barak got some fantastic lectures from some generals and spooks in January '09, and he has basically given them everything they've wanted. He did manage to get his speech _suggesting_ reform out just before the Snowden thing broke, did they know that was going to happen?

      As I said 20 years ago, if all the people who don't vote because they feel disgusted by the corruptions and failures of American politics could somehow organize to vote against the political duopoly, that would be the revolution right there. Slightly less unrealistically, if the 25-40 million Americans who do vote towards Democrats (and minor parties) yet are the cultural leaders of more advanced concepts of all types could somehow organize to really press Hilary and whomever else in the Dem. primaries in '16, on all types of questions from the Bill of Rights to climate change to the warfare state, in contrast to our usual disfunctional idealistic individualistic behaviors, that would be actual progressive politics and it would bring changes. Of course I have thousands of more words of discussion of these topics at my site.)

  • Barbecuing the Planet: With Fracking, we'll go on investing 3x in Hydrocarbons what we will in renewables (Klare)
    • Congratulations on a superb job of reporting on an aspect of of our environmental disaster of a civilization that the conventional media apparently cannot cover.

  • Wall Street has a Cow as Town uses Eminent Domain to Help Homeowners avoid Foreclosure (Lazare)
    • Three cheers for Richmond! (As a former Bay Area resident who traveled thru it often enough.)

      It is truly inspiring to see a governmental power such as eminent domain used constructively, for the benefit of local homeowners. Again, three cheers.

      The non-democratic nature of far too many local governments in America, from 1789 to the present day, is a major historical fact that receives too little attention, from either academic historians, relatively impartial journalists, or popular perception of any sort. If I may toot my own horn here, check my site's "political ron" page for how the city manager model of city government has anti-democratic effects, yet also why some level of local government,at least in the modern American context I am most familiar with, is absolutely essential for civil peace.

  • Top Ten Things that don't Make Sense about NSA Surveillance, Drones and al-Qaeda
    • Hannah Arendt told us about the banality of evil, yet even beyond that, reading History teaches us about the silliness of evil, the complacency of evil, the bureaucratic ass-covering mindless routine of evil.

      They can get phone metadata, so they do. They can get all your Google searches, so they do. There is no plan, there is no strategy, there are no tactics, capability is the only consideration.

      It's likely that they aren't even looking for American citizens making low level drug deals, any more than they're looking for financiers arranging insider tips or buyouts of Congress-critters, it's just that they have the capability, so they suck up all the data, and then the DEA finds out they have it, and they ask for it, and the NSA says "sure, why not?" And it all stays classified and Congressman Rogers lies about it because it's just so much cleaner and neater that way.

      No real volition exists at any point, yet bureaucratic inertia is a force more powerful than a bulldozer.

  • BOIJ on Pakistan: First the CIA Droned them, Then it Droned the Rescuers (Woods and Yusufzai)
    • No one will officially take responsibility, no one will officially comment, these strikes didn't really happen because no one will officially acknowledge them.

      It's not just the banality of evil, it's the obliviousness of evil, the invisibility of evil.

      And we American taxpayers are paying for every over-priced penny of it.

  • Egypt: Military announces 'War on Terror,' Calls for Massive Demos Against Muslim Brotherhood
    • "I tweeted that when activists call for demonstrations, that is activism; when generals do, that is Peronism. Al-Sisi gave the Muslim Brotherhood 48 hours to sign on to the national road map to the future (new constitution, new elections). I also tweeted that in history, giving the opposing side a 48 hour ultimatum is often a prelude to war."

      I don't know enough about the situation "on the ground" in Egypt (or the situation that I'd really be interested in knowing, in the minds of all 80+ Million of Egyptian people) to say anything about that, however I have to say thank you again Juan, as a historian I have to fervently applaud your two conclusions about types of calls for demonstrations, and the nature of 48-hour ultimatums in "high political" situations.

  • Detroit's Bankruptcy and America's Future: Robots, Race, Globalization and the 1%
    • "It seems to me that we need to abandon capitalism as production becomes detached from human labor."

      Interesting speculation, Juan. I need to get to bed with many family obligations coming early, however so many basic thoughts beg to be placed on the table.

      - This is essentially a "should" statement. These type of statements are the lifeblood, the meat and marrow of our typical modern political involvement -- stating our ideal opinions on how and what actual situations "should" become, in our individual opinions. However, they are also very difficult to articulate into actual political actions, very difficult to organize around, and have a very poor record in terms of ever becoming reality or performing well if they are lucky enough to become reality.

      - In an ideal world, in an ideal sense, I agree with your "should" statement. The question for anyone in this situation of agreeing to anyone's "should" statement is always: "how do we make it happen?" The responses to these questions determine whose "shoulds" are listened to and whose are ignored.

      - The people developing robots are going to be absolutely opposed to any hint of anything like a partial nationalization of robot labor/value/productivity, and may even "go Galt" in refusing to develop their robots if they see such a regime arising. I happen think that would be a great outcome, as I see no future for massive robot use that does not also include massive disruption of all existing social, political and economic environments.

      - The people who are ultra-happy about a possible robotic future are absolutely not talking to the people who are ultra-unhappy about a possible global climate change of significant warming and significant weather extremes. Indeed, they are not likely living in the same mental "universes."

      - Do check my site for my views on how humans make history: with every decision, with every choice they make in every moment of every day.

  • Snowden was Right, they're Reading your Mail: How British Intelligence and the NSA are Tag-Teaming US
    • Somewhere in the last 70 years, the reality in the United States of America stopped supporting the proud boast that we "are a nation of laws, not of men." Meaning that we are protected by a functioning Constitution and a judiciary that enforces it.

      The tacit approval of "black ops" in the early Cold War after 1949, and the effort to come up with a cover story of a "lone assassin" after the Kennedy assassination were most likely two of the key turning points; by the time FBI agents were assassinating Black Panther leaders in '69-70 the process was well under way.

      We live under a government ruled by men, not by law or the Constitution. The 4th Amendment has been shredded with a series of shrugs by officialdom. And now we need to focus more than ever on the fact the men who run this government are being paid by our alphabet soup of secret intelligence agencies.

      It is extremely difficult to see how ordinary Americans, with all their faults, ignorance and distractions, will ever be able to change this. And that is extremely depressing. Which makes it all the more important for those of us who do wish to change things be clear in our goals, positive in our temperaments, and supportive to our fellow-victims of unaccountable government, no matter how ignorant and distracted they may appear at any moment.

  • Mueller: FBI Drones on US Soil, used 'Minimally' (Young Turks)
    • OK, this is really bad.

      I speak as someone who has the honor of having been investigated by the FBI before my twelfth birthday -- I had subscribed to a socialist newspaper. This was in Southern California in the early '60's, and even there they managed to arrive on a dark rainy night, wearing trenchcoats! Later, my draft-related federal felony convictions were pardoned, unasked by me, by President Carter.

      Only slightly off-topic, I was remembering today how I had an outburst of emotional road-rage a few months ago, when I drove out of my driveway on some morning errand and met a Google street-view vehicle coming toward me. I'm an old man now, so nothing really happened, but the emotional side of me could have done unprovoked illegal violence on that vehicle. I was remembering that incident today, and mulling the consequences and ethics of various courses of action.

      I could go on and on, the point is that Google has the legal right to take those pictures of my house (essentially on modern interpretation of old English common law).

      The FBI legally, AND any other alphabet intelligence agency, under current precedent, by secret legal interpretation of any of thousands of draconian laws and executive orders issued and not rescinded since Roosevelt's first term in the 30's (and including some cold war total-state-authority-doctrine doozies from the 40's and 50's that could justify just about anything), could use the same legal authority to bring their drones 20 feet over my head while I take care of my yards or put out my garbage.

      And don't forget the tech possibilities, they might have nano-drones that look like insects!

      What a great nation to live in. I've gotta have a fog machine, or a big snare trap rigged up in the trees, or at least a white noise generator to keep them from hearing me talk to my cat.

      What I've learned from it so far, is to always remember, the worse things seem to get, the more necessary and ethical it is to keep positive emotions on all topics and events.

  • Syria, NSA Spying, Popular Mobilization and History: Cole Interview in La Prensa (Ricky Martinez)
    • Thank you very much for corroborating my own reading of modern American economic history. This is a truly under-publicized area of American life. There are a lot of "sharks" out there, oversight and law enforcement has been non-existent, and the most meek and moral (of the top 20% of American income & wealth holders) have suffered greatly from persons in the financial industry abusing their fiduciary duties. The damage caused by the "sociopathic freebooter" element among American "businessmen" is perhaps even greater.

    • Thank you very much, Juan, for another superb _tour de force_ of current topics in modern history.

  • An Outbreak of Reasonableness in Tehran: Top Ten Conclusions from Iran's Early Election Returns
    • Rouhani: "As a moderate, I have a phased plan to deescalate hostility to a manageable state of tension and then engage in promotion of interactions and dialogue between the two peoples to achieve détente, and finally reach to the point of mutual respect that both peoples deserve.”

      Our two peoples, Americans and Iranians, do deserve mutual respect.

      Is there any chance, any hope, that any signs of such respect will be forthcoming from the major American media of news and opinion? Almost laughable, I know, yet let's continue to hope ...

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • As an ordinary American interested in Algeria (from college studies) yet distracted by family life with young child, a small business running around the country for sales, etc. etc., it was practically impossible to find any source of deep or interesting news on Algeria -- and I was an _Economist_ subscriber at the time -- even with trying to do so.

  • Syria as a Prisoner of Western History (Harms)
    • A very nice presentation of the basic source material.

      As a historian I heartily agree with the idea that Syria today encapsulates the (rotten, selfish, what's your worst adjective) history of the 20th Century. As a writer I know exactly how I'd treat the same material differently, yet congratulations to Gregory for getting out first with a very nice presentation.

      An interesting further point to consider in the tragic story: the rise of nationalism, even in an "artificial" state like Syria. Nationalism was so important in the social organization of the successful world powers, the rest of the world organized itself around the model without even trying (i.e. Syria through the 1930's and '40's).

      Also important for any who may still be trying to assign blame for imperialism, was the behavior of the British and French in 1914-18, where they simultaneously, and politically-sincerely, promised the Ottoman lands three times over to successor regimes: to the Arab kingdoms with Lawrence and Hussein, to the Zionist nationalism in the Balfour Declaration, and to themselves in the post-war carve-up of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which basically came to pass, though deliciously complicated for future history by the unforeseen addition of Wilson's League of Nations). In other words, there was no one great cause of imperialism: it was just an ordinary by-product of the whole state-power system.

  • A Forever War that Dares not Speak its Name (Bacevich)
    • Thank you very much, Professor Bacevich, a concisely and precisely excellent article, calling forth many truths.

      I especially like the "Second Hundred Years War," and your analysis represents an excellent use of historical narrative summarizing the gazillion details of the actual history of billions of people over centuries of time.

      When I tried to write about our recent past, I've purposely referred to the 20th Century as a "Century of War" just to be provocative and highlight the underside, the victims of historical "progress."

  • Rockets in Beirut Target Hizbullah as Violence spreads from Syria to Lebanon
    • Thank you so much, Juan, you are really outdoing yourself in recent days keeping us up with so many interesting, fresh, historical narratives of people's choices in the here and now.

      I have a life, I don't have to comment on every piece, however you have in recent days out-reported and out-published truths about our current global historical situation, than all other American print or internet media -- by a ratio to be measured in powers of ten.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, you are helping young people all over the world understand the value of history, the stories of people.

  • Obama must Make Fighting Climate Change National Project, or Die the death of a thousand Scandals
    • Another very excellent and timely essay, Thank you again Juan Cole.

      There is a bit of a political-culture conundrum facing Obama, in that whatever forward-looking policy he may wish to favor, the very act of his speaking out for X policy will increase the irrational hatred of that policy, on the part of both the ignorant conservative American population base, and the cynical, over-powerful financial, media and (exploitative/polluting) industrial interests that enjoy and nurture the irrationalities of the base. (Remember, global warming and all types of pollution do hurt Republicans and conservatives too.)

      The American political and financial systems are in great need of fundamental reform (and our psychological and philosophical systems most likely need great transformations as well). As a 15-year veteran of the Green Party, my thoughts on that are mixed, we need intelligent and influential new parties and movements and I don't want to disdain anyone's effort. However as we saw especially with the Occupy movement, the tendency of we, American radicals, towards overly-idealistic radical democracy in our own efforts does not help our effectiveness. I have a nice long article from 2010 which is still valid in looking for ways out of these problems that we would-be progressive reformers create for ourselves.

      Yet again, a very excellent contribution again from Juan and far more realistic and evidence-based than 99% of our mainstream political commentary.

  • Iraqi Youth Demonstrate against Sectarianism, in Favor of National Unity (Video by Cole)
    • Again, truly good and heart-warming news.

      I have been on the record since 1980 favoring the "soonest possible" transition to some sort of localized-federalized world government -- yet somehow not replicating the authoritative/elitist tendencies of existing national governments. Back in the days before the internet I spoke "3 or 4 generations" of education and reform before such a transition might be realistically possible.

      Now, perhaps, with 21st Century technology, such a transition may be possible more quickly (and I've done my best to think about the tools such a transition would entail, and write about that at my site). The challenges facing us seem to make a hasty transition more necessary than ever.

  • Unsustainable: The American Empire Project and the Health of the Planet (Engelhardt)
    • I have been pounding and pounding on this same theme, in comments on various sites.

      The American Empire as we know it now was never really intended to become such a thing ... it happened over a ten-year period after WWII, the 3 principal figures were FDR, who I believe would have loved to live to enforce his idealisms, George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff who won the war with training programs and who became Truman's Secretary of State, and Eisenhower who didn't have power until 1953. Truman and Marshall made the fateful decisions, to put an end to liberal/conservative political competition in the intelligence agencies (which Roosevelt and early Truman had tolerated) with the formation of the CIA in 1949; and the decision to allow the "black warfare' teams within the CIA to exist and prosper, despite their own official rhetoric denying such intentions/capabilities. Eisenhower had some urgings towards reform, yet soon approved "black" operations in Iran and Guatemala, and the CIA-bred poisons which would crop up in death squads in Central America in the 1980's and death squads plus torture prisons in Iraq in the 2000's, were in place by the end of Eisenhower's administration.

      I've read the published volumes of Marshall's letters from his early life to 1945, he was a very complex and wholly admirable character, a true citizen soldier who literally conquered the world with a very specific bureaucratic, American vision of a professional army existing as an educational institution to train citizen-soldiers to win pre-1945 conventional military battles. I will eventually read the latter volumes, yet I can already guess the story of intelligence agency (including "black" capabilities) consolidation: with the US facing apparently severe challenges from a global communist challenger in China, Berlin and Greece, there was no alternative, and we had to have the black capabilities survive -- thus eventually acting as a "solvent" or a "cancer" on our official rhetoric -- because the Soviets had those capabilities too.

      As Englelhardt so ably points out, it is completely unsustainable, and we the intelligent people of the world need to build our capabilities to be more able to discuss the possibilities of various transitions to more intelligent, serving-the -average-person types of political/economic structures.

  • China and the Israel-Palestine Conflict: Enter the Dragon?
    • This seems to be a rare outbreak of actual good news, China essentially pledging itself to a future of peace.

      Of course they are not saying they wouldn't defend themselves if threatened, yet let's focus on the positive. They are making a very solid point in reference to the UN Charter. Their formulation of the UN Charter is of course subjective, yet also hopeful and more Jeffersonian than Marxist, Leninist or Maoist: (the UN charter) "stresses fairness and justice, helps maintain obligations and norms in international relations, and strenuously promote the resolution of differences and disputes through peace talks. This is also China’s basic position on the Middle East issue."

      If only there was another Great Power with the wisdom to understand that it's commitment to eternal global Empire (in contradiction to it's own culture, alleged principles, and Constitution) was an unsustainable weakness rather than a strength, that could see and take the Chinese statement as an opening for a similar (diplomatic, no legal force) pledge that could begin a dialogue on transitioning away from the policy of eternal global empire.

  • Top Ten Problems in South Carolina Lindsey Graham should worry more about than Benghazi
    • The neocon fascination with Benghazi has always been very strange from any rational perspective. Apparently they really are desperate to tie Obama to any kind of deterioration in "national security," so-called.

      The conversation on the transformation from American empire to globalized/localized democracy really needs to get seriously started, however apparently no one anywhere is ready to get serious about it. The latest computer games and movies will always have much more interest.

      The transformation we need is not helped by the fact nearly all national governments including America's, are absolute obstacles to any kind of meaningful localized democracy, or any kind of peace, progress, transparency, honesty or necessary change.

  • Bush and the American Right Wing: Top Ten Ways they are Like the Children of an Alcoholic
    • While rolling on the floor laughing, I have to say, thank you, thank you once again, Juan Cole.

      Now I happen to know that you were in a sunny West Coast city today, attending a (presumably very nice) conference of historians, giving the same very informative talk on Minorities in the Arab Spring twice, once to the conference and once again to us in the public (and being incredibly generous and gracious in answering our questions after the talk).

      How the heck did you also find the time to write this hilarious, yet oh-so-truthful piece? If someone were to pitch me a good yarn on your superhuman powers, I could go there. Thank you again for everything you have done, as a reader for the last eleven years.

  • Ontario First Major Industrial Region to Abolish Dirty Coal Plants (Coal should be Illegal)
    • Thank you, thank you, thank you once again Juan, thank you again for speaking the truth about the major issues of our time in a clear voice.

      The fossil fuel economy is, almost certainly, going to have to be just about completely transformed, or every successive generation is most certainly being condemned by the selfishness and apathy of those of us, over the age of 16 or so, who are living today.

      The necessary transformation to sustainable economic practices needed to happen ten years ago, however to now give ourselves ten years for a transformation unlike anything ever experienced by humankind is challenge enough for now.

      In order to transform our history in this way, we will, each and every one of us, have to also transform our psychologies and out internal psychological structures. We will have to transform our systems of "explanations," whether we call those explanations sciences, religions or philosophies. We will have to transform our politics, that is to say our systems of how we give honor, status and rank to certain behaviors, to certain persons.

      And of course, to transform the global fossil fuel economy, we will have to transform our systems of creating economic values, economic desires, and our systems of providing goods and services to fulfill those values we desire.

      If you don't plan on living much past 2020, OK, you're excused. For the rest of us, our lives are pretty much gonna depend on how well we achieve these transformations.

  • Republicans not liked, even by 25% of . . . Republicans
  • What we Lost: Top Ten Ways the Iraq War Harmed the US
  • St. Patrick's Day Explained (ReportingSatire Video)
  • Rising China's Muslim Problem: What is the Future of the Uygurs? (Alimglu)
    • Thank you very much for this deep and heartfelt report on another of the world's suppressed and repressed peoples, who do not receive (any/enough) attention in the media of so-called "western civilization."

  • Egypt on the Brink: The Danger of a Left-Liberal Boycott of Elections
    • Thank you again, Juan, for a clear and sharp analysis of the situation at hand. It is hard to think of any national situation in the last 150 years in which the tactic of boycotting an election, no matter how odious the regime holding that election, has worked towards a better outcome, sooner, for the vast majority of the population. If you are sure the election is rigged against you, campaign on that and adjust your expectations; keep your own count, too! Refusing to participate takes away even the long-shot odds you might prevail, and can easily be twisted against you in scores of ways in the regime's propaganda. Plus it makes you look like whiners.

  • Bahrain's Agony Continues 2 Years Later
    • If one is not a Bahraini, it's easy, perhaps, to think this only a minor instance of man's inhumanity to man in the cause of giving rank, status and honor to certain groups of people, and not to others.

      But there are no "minor chapters" in the story of humankind, every person counts. Each and every one of us is important, of course most of all to ourselves, yet ultimately for every other person as well, as we mutually create the history of 21st Century with our thoughts and action in every moment of every day.

      Still, this Bahraini chapter of political oppression seems so sad, so particularly unnecessary.

  • What Future for the Women's Movement? (Rosen)
    • A very nice summary of a lot of history. And to me (still striving for my platform) it's more evidence that each and every one of us creates our history -- our psychologies, our philosophies, sciences and religions, our politics and our economics - with every thought and action we take.

  • 13 gigawatts of New Wind power in US in 2012, Renewables Half of all New Energy
    • The tones of urgency and alarm that you raise here are absolutely necessary. I don't think these alarms can be exaggerated or over-played.

      It is really time for us to stop playing games. I do mean both our personal entertainments, and such games as nationalism, militarism, fomenting ideological hatreds and disputes, supporting political parties that act selfishly in their spheres of action, and so on.

      Of course we won't do it. You may young, or disabled, or otherwise feeling that your community and political efforts will not be effective, your personal games and entertainments may seem very necessary in your life experience. And of course the serious adults who embody hateful & destructive nationalisms and coercive military forces and the silent genocide of the petroleum and coal industries will never change until they encounter sufficient opposition (from active citizens who are no longer willing to play games with their future).

      It's time to stop playing games, or the social environment that allows you to play games may suddenly change for the very worse. We're not going to do it immediately, yet it's time to start thinking it and saying it, and becoming aware of the citizen power that can be mobilized against the destructive elites that now dominate our political and economic elites.

  • Administration Seems Confused On Afghan 'End Game' - AP (.... in 1988! - Screenshot)
    • As I wrote (in 1980), "Societies are elastic; changes in social and political behavior have a way of snapping back into an older pattern after 5 or 20 years."

      I don't think there were any big changes in imperial behaviors in this case, it's just that perfect coincidence of Washington group-think running in exactly the same ruts as it was 25 years ago.

  • First, Kill all the Fossil Fuel Subsidies (Plus, a Democracy Now! Video)
    • The transformation of the fossil fuel economy in the next 10 years is perhaps the most important task of global human consciousness -- and of course, "global human consciousness" is a very thin blanket of verbal description to cover a phenomenon that has never actually been present until the current times, and is still very much in the act of being formed and shaped by the actual thoughts and actions of every human being on earth.

      The word has been set down: organize. Organize however and as often as you can, to become serious about transforming the fossil fuel economy in the face of serious resistance from governments and their local fossil fuel industry supporters. It won't be easy, it won't be quick, yet perhaps by focusing our efforts, some progress can be made towards preserving a livable earth for our grandchildren.

  • Top Ten Steps that are Necessary for Lasting Gaza-Israel Peace (or, Good Luck!)
    • In the last paragraph and sentence, the one consolation is that the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio will probably not continue the downward course you so ably describe for decades, because the problems of climate change (or some other crisis of the waste products of our so-called civilization) will probably get to us all first.

  • Top Ten True costs of BP Gulf Oil Spill
    • As I wrote back in 1980, "Economically, there is no human life without exploitation, without making use of things or people for your own purposes. To live for one more minute, we must breathe, and thus exploit the economic object, 'air.' Polynesian islanders exploit the breadfruit tree and the palm leaves and the fish in the sea, they make use of these items for their own purposes. By this definition, who can avoid being 'an exploiter?' "

      In the context of 2012, every one of us who has ever traveled in a vehicle with a gasoline engine, every one of us who has played a video game powered by electricity generated by coal,, oil, or natural gas is guilty in the destruction of the our natural environment.

      However, it is not important for us to feel or act guilty, it is important for us to organize socially and politically to oppose and end the power of those who are very, very, VERY guilty in creating and maintaining a world economic structure based on fossil fuel energy which looks quite capable of killing all prosperity, and perhaps even all "higher civilization" in another generation or two.

  • The Tesla S and World Peace: Can American Green Energy End the Gulf Oil Wars?
    • Every step is important. Every thought, every action towards fewer carbon dioxide emissions needs to happen, quickly.

      For the long term, we need 350-dot-org or someone like them, to be creating the Axelrod-Plouffe voter database in America (and dozens of other countries) that can get fifties and hundreds of millions of voters out to support serious, radical transformations of the fossil-fuel economics, politics, and imperialisms that linger from the polluted, corrupt heritage of the 20th Century.

  • UN Allies Strike Convoy near Brega as Rebels begin Oil Exports
    • Thanks to Henry James above, for giving me a chance to spin off on to my own concerns. We analyze at that level because that is what we (people in general and historians in particular) have always done.

      All through the past the problem has been getting data. Even the commanders of ancient armies usually had only anecdotal data on who's supplies and resources were being more relatively depleted.

      Now, like a few other instances of particular campaigns in the last two centuries, we have a heavy media focus on every tiny incident, every day's pushing and shoving. I have been pretty silent on the whole Libyan adventure, because I have been heavily torn. My heart has yearned for a victory for Libyan freedom-fighters -- I so much want to see one common person win over dictatorial power, just one somewhere! My head is very much hearing all the complaints about imperialism and process from my anti-imperialist friends whom I generally side with. I have also been very struck that I am one of the few people who understands and can live with the uncertainty that pervades all our understanding.

      Even when a story is being subject to media scrutiny, there is still a good chance that many interesting parts of the story are being missed by the media!! Even when a story is getting media scrutiny, there is a good chance reporters are misunderstanding or missing things, and putting out mis-leading information!!

      Pundits and commenters have been so wrapped up in the apparent daily ins and outs, I am trying to hang back and get a longer view. You've got to disengage your emotions from the evidence you're seeing over many days.

      It does have to make us laugh to now hear the rebels saying NATO isn't doing enough, and to hear the all-too-familiar tales of being refused permission to use their own planes while the master's planes don't appear. The wheels of empire travel in familiar ruts, the Eastern Mediterranean is the territory that world empires most need to dominate, there was no chance that Benghazi's anxious and courageous youth could escape getting caught up in imperial games, once they came to own territorial power on a portion of the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • The World Oil Politics of the Libyan Revolt
    • Just to clarify, please don't ever count me as a "detractor" of Juan Cole. I was in a late night mood, I saw a debating point and jumped on it.

      We need more and better historians like Juan Cole, and we need to read them more closely and listen to them more attentively.

    • Dear Juan,

      Still love you and will send $$ as soon as feasible, but the poke at the experience of the Benghazi elders is beneath your usual standards.

      Americans are put to shame, in general, by the civic wisdom of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and others in recent weeks. In Tunisia, in Egypt, in Benghazi the Arab 'street' -- so much maligned in mainstream Western poli sci & historical literature -- has stood up to govt. sponsored repression, including gunfire, in a manner not known in Europe or North America for many decades.(Maybe the Warsaw ghetto uprising or some other episode of that era would be equal in moral fortitude.)

      While it is somewhat less than welcome to see the elders of Benghazi repeating the errors of American Greens & radicals that I have criticized -- embracing ideal forms of democracy, despite practicality, precisely because they feel they've been deprived of it -- A.) this is an Arab movement and we need to let them have their excesses, and B) isn't is refreshing that their excesses are for an over-idealization of democracy, and not a dismissal of it?

  • Alimagham: What Egypt & Tunisia Tell us About Iran
    • Bengazi falls as troops defect to rebels? Do my ears hear correctly?

      This is a world-historical moment. The Egyptian revolution succeeded on the tacit understanding that the conscript Egyptian troops, and lower levels of officers, would not fire on their population. This is the first example of troops actually leaving the state command structure and going over to the truly populist revolution.

      In such situations, the negative reasons why the old order failed to maintain are at least as important and interesting as the reasons the new order formed. And I would also like to stress that it is all a process, which depends on the moment-to-moment experiences of millions of individual persons in these nations (who do see themselves as part of a larger Arab nation), a process which had begun long before the 15th of January, when Tunisia overthrew its dictator, or the 25th of January when the Egyptian process began. And it is a process that will go on, Allah willing, through 2012 and 2015 and on and on. And this process will continue to be mediated by the individual experiences, and social interactions, of millions of persons in the affected Arab states, who will in fact be creating and distributing philosophies, psychological attitudes, political understandings and economic systems of value with their every minute-to-minute experience. See my previous work for more on these topics.

  • Meyer: Clinton's Fear-Mongering about Egyptian 'Chaos'
    • I have an 8-page article up detailing my thoughts on ways forward. I am not an apologist for the Democratic Party by any means, yet for my science the relevant fact is that what exists of a "left" in America is not organized enough to confront Obama in 2012. And I often fear we are not realistic or mature enough to get as well organized as we will need to be for the struggles of the future.

      And the difference between 10 and -30 Fahrenheit is a difference I'll take, maybe at 10 one could get some shelter in a snow cave or something. I can process all the evidence that calls for pessimism and despair, my spirit demands that be an ever greater reason for finding scientific optimism.

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