Member Profile

Total number of comments: 130 (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 130 - 101

  • Obama Condemns hatred of Muslim-Americans, Affirms their Importance to Nation
    • philosophical ron 02/04/2016 at 5:01 am

      You eloquently write, "Above all, it was a decent speech, which restored some decency to our public discourse at a time of casual racism and unchallenged fascist sentiments being spouted by lesser men, by demagogues and psychopaths, who threaten our society with division and the creation of second-class citizens and a new Jim Crow. Obama is a symbol of how we got past the original Jim Crow. We will not be dragged back to that, no matter how many billions proponents of such reactionary politics may have.

      I hope and pray that you are right.

  • The "Democracy" of Billionaires & the Most Expensive Election ever Bought (Except for Bernie Sanders)
    • philosophical ron 02/02/2016 at 4:27 am

      I'm writing after the Iowa caucuses showed Hillary and Bernie in an extremely close race with a few votes still outstanding. I'm also writing as one who has been involved in American activism since 1966 (check my bio at my site), the experience of which has helped teach me that BOTH the daily, dedicated small-step work and struggle, AND the revolutionary vision of mass mobilization, are necessary parts of a victorious campaign.

      So, let me be the first to say it. Whoever wins between Hillary and Bernie, in the finals of the nomination contest, should pick the other for VP.

      Yes it's crazy, yet it may also be brilliantly necessary. And since it will inevitably come up as internet meme sooner or later, i just want to get my claim out there. I see the good and bad points of both, I am genuinely torn, it's the best solution.

  • Rhetorical Terror: GOP Candidates Pledge War Crimes, Carpet-Bombing, Asian Land Wars
    • Thanks for the comparison of Daesh barbarity with the Khmer Rouge.

      I studied this all at the time, but now it's growing faded, isn't it true, if I recall correctly, that the Reagan and Bush I administrations diplomatically supported the remains of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in all world forums, as part of a strategic alliance with China and against Russia & Vietnam? I won't claim to be an expert here.

  • Top 5 Ways Putin has won big in Syria and why Europe is embracing him
    • philosophical ron 01/28/2016 at 4:50 am

      Take a larger view of American culture. Obama is not a dictator, and I did not say it was he specifically being influenced.

      I see it more as the American culture and especially the big TV and Print media which, among other mythologies, clings tightly to the pro-Israel lobby -- and go into any synagogue in America and talk about politics, this is not just a few people in Washington. Both the American populist right and the populist left dislike the Assad regime, from different news sources and prejudices.

      And as for Obama not fighting too directly with Netanyahu and the Israel Lobby (or with the Saudi Lobby either), he sits with his advisers all day and they are all very convinced that for their political futures, it is not worth opposing either the Israelis or the Saudis in the ways you might wish him to do so. It's a compromise (that doesn't prevent them from taking other less public actions and attitudes), it's not a conspiracy.

    • Thank you very much for this astute analysis, I for one appreciate it very much.

      As for judgements, I'm trying to hold back. Despite the violence and repression the Assad regime has demonstrated against its own population, it never projected that in the military realms of the international balance to any great degree. So it was actually very little of a threat to the US or Israel (or anyone else). The US has become fixated on the threat posed by "Islamic terror" in general and Daesh in particular, and has been influenced by a global human-rights movement to become fixated on the Assad regime as something to be opposed (while the cooler temperaments among the American foreign policy community have so far prevented any kind of outright call for regime change).

      For Russia, I was taking it at face value that they opposed Daesh for reasons of large Muslim minority in Chechnya and other regions of their own territory. But perhaps I was wrong, and the motives of supporting a traditional ally while slapping the figurative faces of Obama and Erdogan reign supreme in the Kremlin.

      In any case, much interesting maneuvering among the greater and lesser powers awaits our breathless attention, as many of us worry that so-called "modern civilization" is most threatened by our failure to think and act better than rats, who will not soil their own nests with their toxic waste products, if given any alternative to do so.

  • Dragon & Phoenix: Khamenei Lauds New Sino-Iranian 'Strategic Partnership'
    • philosophical ron 01/24/2016 at 5:08 am

      For anyone who has studied modern international diplomacy, this development is entirely predictable and ordinary.

      The extent to which the promises that "the Dragon" and "the Phoenix" are consummated in actual human behavior will depend, of course, on millions of other future unknown variables, such as the future behavior of/cooperation from/antagonism with, that China and Iran may experience with Russia, the USA, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc., , and the decisions that the future political leaderships of China and Iran may make regarding whether they have the resources to follow their own particular desires "no matter what," or whether they live in a threatened world human society which requires all actors to cooperate if any are to have any chance at survival, and other such basic future variables that human actors may decide to change their thinking on, at any time.

  • Fearing the Bern, Billionaire Bloomberg Threatens to Buy Election for Establishment
    • As a veteran of third-party efforts (and one who could write a long article on how Nader wasted and shredded Green enthusiasm and practical organizing in the 1996-2004 era), I would like to raise the practical questions of a Bloomberg run, no matter who it may be aimed at.

      Most states have definite requirements for placing a third party/independent candidate on the ballot in November -- and from what I remember, unless Bloomberg is _immediately_ ready and organized with cadres of lawyers, to be circulating petitions, and/or taking over existing third parties, he's already missed the ballot deadlines on about 10 or more states, and if he doesn't get on it with real resources by mid-March he's lost at least 20 or more states. And a "write-in" campaign in the era of easily manipulated (by insiders) voting machines is a joke, that's not gonna make it. What are the odds right now that Bloomberg can mount an a campaign on the ballot in 45 states? I say at least 3 or 4 to 1 against.

  • Netanyahu demands more billions from US after Iran Deal, insults US Envoy, Steals more Land
    • philosophical ron 01/22/2016 at 4:42 am

      Thank you very much, Juan, for another "right on" observation.

      Not sure at all that, as you say, their shoplifting that land requires that we American taxpayers give them extra billions.

  • US–Saudi relations and the search for leverage
    • philosophical ron 01/14/2016 at 2:12 pm

      America needs to have good, normal relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. (And with Israel and Egypt and Syria and Turkey and Kurdish groups and everybody else in the Middle East, of course.)

      We don't need to be giving any of them huge quantities of top-end armaments that help separate military/political elites from their ordinary citizens of their own lands, and that help divert resources from these countries from helping the development of their own people. And we certainly don't need to be supporting any of them in their desires to carry on quarrels with their neighbors.

      And it would be a lot easier to have good relations with these nations if leaders of Middle Eastern nations actually cared about cooperating with us against modern-day pirates and thugs who pose a threat to all global citizens who want to see their leaders building a better world.

  • Prince of Araby: The reckless power behind the Saudi throne
    • philosophical ron 01/13/2016 at 5:33 am

      Sorry, I messed up in the editing process, I was trying to change the sentence of the 5th paragraph to end with a more proper grammar of "... which becomes a danger to all as hostile forms of nationalism _are_ practiced by all."

    • philosophical ron 01/13/2016 at 5:26 am

      The author notes, and I tend to agree, that "Shouldn’t Britain and America, supposedly ‘developed’ countries claiming to be beacons of progress and democracy, be brokering the rapprochement between these two extremist regimes that is key to regional peace, and a political solution to the Syrian crisis?"

      A key part of this work, as our host Juan noted in his latest post, is to point out the fallacy of the analytical/political myth that Sunni-Shi'ite conflict is somehow a primary characteristic of the historic Middle East.

      Yes, there was a conflict back in the day (when London and Paris were still hoping to become overgrown villages), the Muslim world in its first hundred-plus years after their Prophet had brought his revelations was divided over which branch of the Prophet's family tree should inherit the political leadership of the secular empire that had arisen, through the swords of Arab horsemen, on the momentum of the Prophet's achievement in the religious/philosophical/ideological sphere (as we would call it today).

      There were factions, there were battles, and basically the Sunni faction won, and got the empire, and political leadership in the Arab and Arab-influenced lands (i.e., not Iran) has basically remained in Sunni hands ever since.

      But the crucial point is, that these battles have NOT been continued in the Arab world over centuries, but have only re-awakened as deadly political battles in the last 50 or fewer years, under the pressures of un-relenting modernism affecting all aspects of Arab & Middle Eastern society, especially including the deletrious aspects of the urge towards "nationalism," which smaller and smaller communities become engaged in as an effort to protect themselves, yet which becomes a danger to all as hostile forms of nationalism is practiced by all.

      Again, the outcome of the Sunni-Shi'a battles of the early Caliphate period was NOT a tendency towards hatred, hostility, and continued violence. The Sunnis took the capital cities, but there were NO massacres of local populations who happened to prefer the Shi'a explanations and tendencies. Instead all the historic Middle Eastern empires allowed a pragmatic "federalism' in which each local area maintained its own local hierarchies, who protected their local citizens in their particularities of belief and practice, and who cooperated in the larger goals of maintaining trade and promoting the respective survival of their various communities and thus the survival of the current over-arching empire. The history of the Arab and other lands of the Middle East, before the colonial period, is NOT one of ever-brewing Sunni-Shi'a conflict. It is much more a pragmatic story of neighboring communities protecting their mutual interests with civil peace and negotiation of conflicts, while all submitted to various over-arching empires.

      When those over-arching empires went through their times of overthrow and re-establishment by a new elite, these events were generally carried out, with the great exception of the Mongol invasions, with relatively little civilian bloodshed and practically no disruption of local community fiefdoms.

      In my opinion, the history of the pre-colonial Middle East is an example that both "Western" and "Eastern" political leaders should be urged to imitate, and should not be twisted into a way of blaming Middle Eastern conflicts on local populations which cannot, in the mythmakers twisted ideology, think for themselves or change for themselves.

  • Top 7 Middle East Foreign Policy Challenges in 2016
    • philosophical ron 01/01/2016 at 6:04 am

      The ending of Point 1 is a truly brilliant summation of the actual historical situation created by milliions of independent human actors, thank you once again Juan.

      " It is clear now that neither side is likely to win a complete victory and years more fighting are unlikely to turn rural Sunni religious people into Baathists or Alawite Shiites into Salafis. Only by a negotiated end to the civil war and national elections can Syria be restored to order. Previous such conflict zones have been able to transition, if not to order, to a much less parlous situation, and there is no reason Syria cannot. Obama needs to put enormous pressure on Riyadh/ Ankara and on Moscow/Iran to get them to the negotiating table. It isn’t his instinct to buck a close ally or to put his own prestige on the line, which is why his Israel-Palestine diplomacy never went anywhere, but Syria is an even bigger threat to global order and indeed, to our civil liberties because of the terrorism emanating from it."

      Everyone interested in helping humanity survive the multiple crises we may have to face in coming decades, should be jumping on, and pumping up, Juan's point that "Only by a negotiated end to the civil war and national elections can Syria be restored to order."

    • I'm loving it so far, however a quick note about a typo in Point 1? I think you did what I always do at first, insert an opening parentheses and not follow it up with the closing parentheses.

      In this sentence: "But the Saudi-Turkey plan of turning multicultural Syria (maybe 14%-18% Shiite and 5% Christian and 10% leftist Kurds and 60% secular Sunnis) into a Taliban emirate is also impractical (and monstrous, since the other half of the population would end up ethnically cleansed. "

      there needs to be closing parentheses, I was taught that it should go after "cleansed" and before the period.

  • Rare victory for Freedom of speech in Turkey, as Pianist allowed to quote Omar Khayyam
    • philosophical ron 12/29/2015 at 5:52 pm

      To bring in a news flash I saw on BBC today, Turkish PM Erdogan's harsh reaction to a call by Kurdish activists for local government autonomy in the southeast Kurdish regions seems to be an extremely unhelpful development.

      When a leading Kurdish-identified politician repeated the call of a grassroots conference for eventual autonomy in Kurdish regions -- not demanding it immediately, just trying to bring up the issue for discussion -- Erdogan said the politician was committing "treason" and that he would be "taught a lesson."

      Most people and institutions that have survived their problems will say, in retrospect, that it is much easier to solve problems if you can at least discuss them.

      Which seems more likely: that Erdogan can learn something from this appellate court's judgement, or that Erdogan and his party will make sure the appellate court's decision does not stand?

  • What Islamophobia and ISIL/ Daesh have in Common: The Political Use of Fear
    • philosophical ron 12/13/2015 at 5:08 am

      Thank you very much for this cogent analysis, Prof. Buruma. It is very much appreciated.

      Fear is an important human behavior to focus on, as it operates on several different levels. Obviously it is a psychological behavior, tying into basic personality structures. Fear is also shaped by our explanations, our scientific and/or religious and/or philosophical explanations of what we think the world is all about. Fear also operates at the economic level, affecting our sense of economic values, and fear of course affects the political level of human behavior, majorly or minor-ly affecting our willingness to give respect, honor and status to some people over other people.

      So in all of these ways, fear is an extremely important factor in shaping the behavior of individuals and nations, when it becomes a deeply felt experience in a society's self-awareness.

  • If Defeating ISIL/ Daesh is so imp't, why isn't Ramadi Campaign all we're talking about?
    • philosophical ron 12/10/2015 at 6:26 am

      Another excellent report on the current state of reality among human beings, thank you so much Juan, your donation is coming. (I have realized that I have to pay for better media to continue to exist in the current environment. Do support your favorite web publishers on the political and cultural left!)

      Asking for "US cable news" to "bother... to notice that out there in the real world" actual news actually exists that viewers might actually be interested in, must, unfortunately, be counted as an act of folly. American mainstream media of all types have proved over and over that any story lines not approved by the politico-corporate masters will be ruthlessly ignored and unmentioned.

  • Roof, Dear and Tashfeen Malik: 'Self-Radicalized,' 'Terrorism,' 'Lone Wolf' and Double Standards
    • philosophical ron 12/05/2015 at 5:48 am

      Of course there is a firm and generally unchalenged double standard, both in official treatment and statements, and in media coverage, which seems to be at the root some especially American late 20th-early 21st Century institutional dysfunction.

  • How Turkish President Erdogan went Wrong: Dividing and Not Ruling
    • philosophical ron 12/04/2015 at 3:34 am

      Thank you, thank you once again, Juan, for this excellent original analysis of this difficult current historical situation.

  • Did Turkey send a deliberate message to Russia & was the US involved?
    • philosophical ron 11/28/2015 at 4:55 am

      And the point that I wanted to get to in my previous comment, was that both sides (but especially Turkey) have so much more to gain by eventually cooperating in a global culture of "we've all just got to get along, so we can solve serious problems that threaten us all."

      In addition to the challenges of possibly quite literally suffocating in our own waste products on a swiftly-warming planet, I do count the modern nation-state system that allows and excuses authoritarian and totalitarian nation-state governments (of all backgrounds and types) to exist and waste resources and lives as a serious problem that threatens us all.

      Obviously such ideals won't be easy or quick to achieve, hopefully we can at least get a start on before widespread environmental disasters thrust the necessity of cooperation between "ordained enemies" such as the Turks and the Kurds, or between American whites and American non-whites, ruthlessly in front of our faces.

    • philosophical ron 11/28/2015 at 4:29 am

      I'm 8000 miles away and I've always been 8000 miles away, however I've read a lot of history.

      The historical empires of ethnic Turks, culminating in the Ottoman empire, were never recorded as being particularly focused on, or bothered by, speakers of the Kurdish language. Militarily, they just rolled over all of their neighbors in their times of success. Also, it's important to remember that in history there were many, many small language-groups, local societies unconnected with any others, Central Europe alone had over 600 language groups as recently as the 1400's and 1500's, who were later gradually absorbed into Frenchmen, Germans, Poles, and so on. While I don't know any specifics about Anatolia, I suspect that today's Turks are almost certainly, and today's Kurds are probably highly likely to be, the results of a similar process.

      The modern Turkish state, in the last 40 years, has apparently become ultra-focused on opposing all possibilities any Kurdish success, anywhere, out of the fear of an eventual Kurdish seccession from Turkey. Yet like many other imperial-political-ethnic-conflict type situations around our world, it does seem that the intensity of that fear, and the steps taken to ward it off, become the primary cause of the eventual evolution/revolution.

  • Against Trump: 9/11 Muslim Candlelight vigils Sympathizing with US
    • philosophical ron 11/24/2015 at 4:53 am

      Thank you, very much, for helping spread this information.

      Is there any chance American TV networks ever mention this??

      NO. It really does seem that they are deliberately trying to make Americans more and more stupid, in both their choices of which "news" items to cover, and in their presentation of "entertainment" programs. I mean really, a guy takes a pill, and he's a super-dooper genius? The Devil is a real being, and he takes a corporeal form and hangs out in LA, being cool while all possible computer-generated chaos of property destruction happens all around him??

      They really are trying to make Americans more and more stupid all the time.

  • 'Very Soon' US forces will Arrive in Syria; Russia bombs near Turkey
    • philosophical ron 11/23/2015 at 6:24 am

      Count one involved aware American citizen very much in favor of Obama sending his special forces to work with the relatively left-wing -- and relatively enlightened in allowing female participation and leadership in their own social/military organization -- Kurds of the YPG grouping in Iraq and Syria. To the extent that they are NOT carrying out bombings within Turkey, they are a very positive local development in a region that is, to most outside observers, quite lacking in positive developments.

      Kurds and Turks, Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Americans, all there groups are going to have to find a way to "all just get along" -- or we all going to be swept away by the "climate catastrophe" of suffocating in our own waste products, which I am increasingly convinced is quite upon us already.

      I retain my natural optimism, because I must, but unless we all start working together and not "against," CO2 is now at 4 % of the atmosphere when it was at 2.8 when I was a kid learning these things, we're not proving the "evolutionary advantages" of our so-called "Western Civilization." And Trump is close to Hilary in the polls. We're not that smart, and we may well be going down.

  • Dragon v. Eagle: China & the US compete for Eurasia
    • philosophical ron 11/23/2015 at 6:41 am

      Dear Pepe Escobar, thank you for an article with a possibly optimistic conclusion. (Sorry, I've come to view you as a pessimism-monger, a conspiracy-monger, after some of your past work.)

      If Americans are ready for a future leader who welcomes a future with "the G-20 as a multipolar global mechanism for coordinating a common development framework" and that "Within it, Washington and Beijing might sometimes actually work together in a world in which chess, not Battleship, would be the game of the century," I'm here, tanned, rested and ready.

  • Is Daesh/ ISIL a modern Raiding Pirate state?
  • Splintering World: Looking Back on the Great Collapse from 2050
    • philosophical ron 11/12/2015 at 2:00 pm

      I'll give it a B+ for dystopian speculation. In my own work, however, I prefer to focus on how the great trends of both greater unity and cooperation in human affairs, and of disunity and fragmentation in human affairs, are usually occurring simultaneously, starting at the most personal level of our basic choices (and tracing how these choices do in fact create our psychologies, our philosophies, and the political and economic aspects of our human societies).

      It is very difficult to track all this at the individual level, yet it can be done if we care. And of course all these individual choices do end up aggregating across societies, to produce the grand historical trends that historians like to point to. Feffer presents an interesting picture, I suspect the actual "working-out" of the future will be even messier, with trends and counter-trends exploding in all directions, for those who are trying to see them.

  • Iran's Attendance at Syria talks in Vienna marks its Emergence as Regional Power
    • philosophical ron 10/29/2015 at 4:22 am

      A very positive summary of what I, for one, consider a very positive development in world affairs.

      Nothing may come of it quickly, but at least they are talking, and I absolutely favor whatever political/diplomatic sausage-making is necessary to getting to goal of avoiding massacres of civilian populations being the primary result of any non-negotiated, one side victorious ending of the Syrian Civil Wars.

      Or should we call it the Syrian descent into the Anarchy of A Thousand Militias? One things the powers could do to help the way forward, would be to offer a $10 billion fund to buy up guns at high prices in the region, how many frustrated tired soldiers might go back to a more civilian life with the promise of some cash n hand?

      And is it too soon or too cheeky to give credit for the willingness of the Powers to congregate in the face of cross-continental crisis, to a more assertive public involvement, thanks to a global penetration of some sort of "internet culture?"

  • Does Obama have a Syria Strategy? Putin Does.
    • philosophical ron 10/12/2015 at 4:42 am

      You write, " So the US is irrelevant to the major military development on the ground in Syria in the past year!"

      From the viewpoint of this US citizen, that's OK!

      The Defense Department of the U.S. may feel a need to be "relevant" to the Syrian civil war; yet I would love to develop the argument that ordinary citizens of the US have no interest in being, and no need to be, "relevant" to the Syrian civil war.

      You note that Russia may be getting itself into a "long run ... quagmire," yet also write that Russian efforts to defend regime territory are an "achievement."

      I would love to know the innermost thoughts of all Syrians, of all factions and grouplets and clan fragments, on whether foreign powers need to be seeking "achievements" in the on-going civil war. I'm guessing the majority would not see much need for such "achievements."

      At this point, the only red line in any eventual settlement (whether achieved by internal Syrian forces or by regional and/or global power intervention) must be "No Massacres of Any Civilian Population." All other items in any eventual settlement are negotiable. It would be great if such a settlement could be reached (mainly or only) by Syrian actors , but what ordinary citizens of all lands need is some sort of effort towards a settlement by anybody and/or everybody.

  • Deal with Saudis? Why does the US care if Russia bombs al-Qaeda and its Allies in Syria?
    • philosophical ron 10/03/2015 at 4:45 am

      You write, "Saudi Arabia and Turkey support the Army of Conquest, which is heavily al-Qaeda."

      Two of America's 'best allies' in the Middle East apparently believe that an ideological commitment to Sunni forms
      of Islam over Shi'a forms of Islam (including murdering people who disagree with you over these preferences) is a good basis for policy. And thus end up supporting people with guns who would also wish to overthrow their own regimes in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

      Many of the people in the Middle East, and most of the people in the rest of the world, are intelligent enough to see the foolishness of this path. They will need much help to develop and grow a local-based political consciousness that rejects the strongly authoritarian governments that exist throughout the region -- the governments which are
      keeping conflicts going, on and on, and on, just because it might benefit some local elite class, some day in some way.

      And American political activists will have to work harder to make sure that even Democratic presidential administrations do NOT get sucked into supporting one side or another in such ancient religious conflicts in faraway lands.

  • Syria: Is Bashar al-Assad winning the Diplomatic War? Rebels Fret
    • philosophical ron 09/28/2015 at 4:11 am

      " oonnved" is not in my dictionary. You were going for "connived, perhaps, or "maneuvered" ?

  • Iranian Activists Call On Iran To End Support For Syria's Assad
    • philosophical ron 09/27/2015 at 1:02 pm

      This stance by Iranian activists, some of whom know exactly the type of repression they face for it, is a true act of political courage.

      Comparing their action to US Senator Ted Cruz in another posting here today, it shows that he is nothing but an irresponsible, irrational demagogue, fomenting international strife for his own narrow (and very short-term) advantage

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  • Germany seeks Talks with Russia over Syria as Putin conducts Naval Maneuvers off Tartous
    • philosophical ron 09/13/2015 at 6:10 am

      Frankly, any discussion anywhere involving the great powers in in the ongoing multi-dimensional disaster that is the Syrian civil war, is to be welcomed.

      Involve Turkey, involve Iran, Oman has been doing good work as a diplomatic "entrepot." Talk about Lebanon if needed, talk about Yemen too. German Minister Steinmeier sounds like an adult in a room full of children.

  • Nearly Half of Republicans Could imagine backing Military Coup
    • philosophical ron 09/13/2015 at 6:18 am

      Of course they would ! It's the culmination of their psychological and sociological imperialism, exalting patriarchy and violent domination !

  • Russia Ramping up Military Involvement in Syria?
    • My daydreams did not imagine any role or territory under ISIS/Daesh control emerging from such a settlement -- and isn't the whole point of their ideology that they will not admit any role for Great Power (or local power) diplomacy in the region.

      The whole point of my day dream was imagining a future or peace for everyone who finds that more valuable than they find today's mix of conflict that may have multiple ethnic and/or ideological dimensions. Neither being in a different national/religious/ethnic group than another population, nor being convinced that your ideas require the murder of others, would be a valid reason for warfare in an imaginary peaceful future. In our real present, civilian populations on all sides have become complicit in the tyrannies and murders of their traditional leaders, as the region has not developed traditions of peaceful changes of government, or of peaceful methods of government. It's a problem, and I was searching for a way to a positive outcome.

      Hopefully, in the end, more of the region's populations will want futures of peace rather than of conflict. And hopefully the waste products of our global and regional political-economic cultures will not poison our chances of having any kind of future at all.

    • A serious twist in the increasing complexity of an already complex situation.

      The short-term outcome is almost certainly more misery in the region.

      It is just barely possible, however, that this injection of great-power games into the Syrian situation might also hasten a world-power diplomatic intervention to produce a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war.

      Yes, it seems impossible, but let's dream. Maybe the Assads & their worst henchmen get an exile in Russia, perhaps (or a central Asian state that will take them), while for the civilian populations the deal is essentially that there will not be mass murders of civilians on any side.

      Nobody wins, the Syrian state might have to be heavily regionalized and/or federalized, but no civilian populations die either, and they get to go about re-learning how to co-exist with each other as they did for nearly all of their previous thousands of years of history.

  • Top 4 Issues Saudi King Salman will discuss in first visit to Obama's White House
    • philosophical ron 09/04/2015 at 4:07 am

      Unfortunately, the largest divergence between the US and Saudi Arabia is occurring at a cultural level below the likely attention of President and King. Yet it is also the one most consequential to all of our futures: Whether the fossil fuel economy continues for even one more decade, or whether the current uncomfortable symptoms of climate change are multiplied suddenly to levels that will certainly threaten our grandchildren, and which may possibly affect all of us who plan on living later than 2025 or so.

      Much of America, especially the Republican plutocratic class, is bound up with the fossil fuel economy, so nothing is going to change quickly, yet too many people are waking up. The fossil fuel economy must be transformed, soon, or our world will be transformed, most likely in extremely unpleasant directions.

  • Defending Natalie Portman on Holocaust: Sometimes it can be subverted to fear-mongering
    • philosophical ron 08/26/2015 at 5:31 am

      Thank you, Juan, for your careful language in describing the situation.

      "She was talking not about history but about psychology, not about comparative statistics but about emotional maturity, not about past wrongs about about present-day moral compass.

      We all know Likudniks who use the genocide as a get out of jail free card, who think they can do no wrong because, Holocaust. They are not unique. All massacres and genocides are available for both extreme nationalist and empathetic purposes. The difference does not lie in how many were tortured and killed. The difference lies in what we take away from it."

      I have explored many types of English wordings to help describe these intricate close-ups of individual and group beliefs, I like my formulations regarding "social and psychological imperialism" and my long-winded attempts to show how human beings do create their psychologies, their philosophies (and sciences and religions) and their economics and politics in every choice they make in the course of their every day lives. I'm getting some readers around the globe, and am proud of it, here I want to congratulate you on your ability to explain this situation in everyday language, I love your summation:

      "But to confuse protests against the illegal Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank with racism is just naked nationalism, a demand to be freed from all critique or constraint because of past suffering. It is not the demand of a grown-up."

  • Can Iraq's Shiite Militias save the Country from Sectarian Division? Qais al-Khazali thinks So
    • philosophical ron 08/26/2015 at 5:50 am

      Dare I say it?

      Considering the various cultural, psychological, philosophical-religious, and political environments in which Qais al-Khazali must live and operate, and the populations he considers himself to be representing and defending (more than half of Iraqis, by most counts), he seems to be a very reasonable and moderate leader, trying to say the right things for the various interest groups involved, and not to "piss off" anyone he may have to live with in the future.

  • How many thousands US troops would GOP Hopefuls send to Iraq and Syria?
    • philosophical ron 08/18/2015 at 5:20 am

      First, for background, read Conor Friedersdorf's column with the letters of people who support Trump as a Republican presidential candidate. Such a collection of human ignorance, with arrogance, in one place is hard to top.

      Ignorant Republicans and conservatives are the audience for this fantasy-land stuff that Bush, Graham, Walker and others are selling. America is pure and beautiful, America is and must be undefeated in anything it attempts.

      It's all just pure "ignorance-bacon," magic pills to sell to the stupid. None of it has any relation to reality, or to the actual policies these clowns might announce if we are stupid and unlucky enough to elect them to the chief executive office n the American government.

  • How Likely are the GOP Presidential Candidates Top 10 to drag us into War?
    • philosophical ron 08/06/2015 at 5:04 am

      The various Arab and non-Arab populations of the Middle East, with their even more varied permutations of Muslim and other religions, did pretty much manage to maintain a civil peace between each other for many centuries (though always under the various imperial structures of the time). Off the top of my head without any research, I'd date this beginning way back like Bronze Age or more, up until our own late 20th Century and early 21st Century times.

      Subtract 50 from 2015, that's 1965, the current level of inter-social tension,widespread warfare and refugees, certainly didn't exist then. The roots of the current situation were visible ten-to-fifteen years later, 1975-80.
      I don't blame the US alone, many selfish actors have acted, but it is certainly an untruthful insult to see the populations of the Middle East as particularly prone to inter-communal hatred and warfare.

  • Top 5 Ways Obama's 'All of the Above' Politics led to Sanders & Trump
    • philosophical ron 08/03/2015 at 4:05 am

      Some of us still wish to have sympathy with Obama the man, your clear focus on his policies is a welcome corrective. Unfortunately for our grandchildren, I suspect your social analysis is correct -- and don't forget about the dictatorships that so often get established after explosions of social unrest.

  • Bernie Sanders launches "Political Revolution" w/ 100K Virtual House Partiers
    • philosophical ron 07/30/2015 at 3:35 am

      My evening was spent trying to make sure I got to the hospital to visit a dear relative going through a crisis, and as I said to them, "I'm the eternal optimist, I spent 30 years falling asleep thinking about ways that inspired activism in my current situation could lead to me to the Presidency. Well I finally gave it up, and then along come Obama and now Bernie to follow that kind of path and actually fight for some things I'd be fighting for, so yeah, it's like it worked. "

      Feel the Bern!

  • Turkish Tanks Shell Syrian Kurds who expelled ISIL from Zur Maghar
    • philosophical ron 07/28/2015 at 3:57 am

      Erdogan (apparently with the full support of the AKP and the military) is doing his best to compete in the race for the most selfish, most destructive national leader among today's nation-states.

      As a young American reading history, I tended to gravitate towards an admiration of Ataturk the man and the "Kemalist project" in general (compared to the alternatives). But the paranoia the Turkish nationalists have amply demonstrated, in recent decades, on even recognizing the existence of a Kurdish people or a Kurdish language does not speak well of their own confidence in the nation and the culture they have created.

  • Is this how the Establishment takes down Outsiders like Bernie Sanders?
    • Hector, thank you. I wrote an article commenting on the American left's tendency to prefer fantasizing about ideal cultural figures running for president, as opposed to actual political work like talking to random citizens and running candidates for city councils and state legislatures, being one of our greatest faults (and making many other points as well). I wrote it in 2010, and so little had changed in American political fundamentals that I was able to update it for 2015-16 with very little work.

      I don't consider Bernie to be a cultural icon for many people, maybe some New England political activists, however if people stick with him this could become a wave, and Bernie is saying all the right things to help us find our true potential as an American political movement. Out here in the big cities of the left coast, it's beginning to feel like the thousands of faces of "progressive" are the overwhelming dynamic of the population base.

  • Iran Deal: Winners & Losers in the Greater Middle East
    • philosophical ron 07/19/2015 at 2:35 am

      Most regions of the US are among the lucky places where there are competitive energies among the sellers.

    • The price of gasoline remains "sticky" in many nations because of because of local monopoly/oligopoly market situations.

      The big boys got the stuff, and you don't, and if there's not a lot of competitive energy bringing things down towards world market levels, they don't have to lower prices if they don't really want to. And of course, they usually don't want to.

  • Michael Oren, Neo-Orientalism and the Ghost of Edward Said
    • philosophical ron 07/01/2015 at 3:08 am

      I am in general, in my historical writings since 1980, a huge advocate of the radical concept that we need a science of history that says that _Every Person_ is important, in the whole story of human beings in the world.

      In this particular article, however, Brumberg has me heartily agreeing that Obama's policy decisions are much more motivated by -- dare we say ? -- strategic vision, than by any personal/psychological factors in Obama himself, or by any huge wave of Said-worship among American commentators on the Middle East over the last 3+ decades.

    • philosophical ron 07/01/2015 at 2:54 am

      At the end of the second paragraph, the phrase

      " Because he partly attributes such mental failings to Said’s influence, I being this assessment of the “Oren controversy ...”

      reads better as:

      Because he partly attributes such mental failings to Said’s influence, I begin this assessment of the “Oren controversy...”

  • Tehran Press on Talks: From "Iran will be US Strategic Ally" to "US Sanctions here to stay"
    • philosophical ron 06/29/2015 at 4:28 am

      See !

      Proof positive that Obama and the US still serve as a source of influence and attraction, despite the bleatings of the Republican reactionaries !

  • Iran Talks Down to the Wire: Diplomatic Breakthrough or Prelude to War?
    • philosophical ron 06/27/2015 at 3:30 am

      Both sides need a deal, however both sides are also being lobbied heavily by their hardliners.

      Thus, there will be another agreement to keep talking for 3 months or 6 months or whatever, trying to find a time to slip it through while the hardliners are distracted by some other crisis of facts trumping their ideologies ...

  • As 700 Die in Pakistan from Extreme Heat, Pakistanis Deny Climate Change
    • philosophical ron 06/24/2015 at 4:15 am

      The current population of Pakistan, today's people, whose average/median age (guessing) may be around 20, generally did not consciously make the psychological choices, the philosophical/scientific/religious choices, and the political choices that helped frame and institutionalize the current economic system that is (just barely) supporting their lives and livelihoods, their sufferings and their joys.

      Yet at every moment, their borrowings and creations of ideas of how they value economic goods and services, and their thoughts and actions in producing /consuming the goods and services they most desire, are creating their economic systems of the future -- which will play a large part in determining whether Pakistani, and world, civilization literally suffocates in its own waste products, or is able to create sustainable inputs for sustainable forms of future Pakistani/world human society.

  • End of Sykes-Picot: Is Independence for Iraqi Kurdistan a Decade Away?
    • philosophical ron 06/20/2015 at 5:07 pm

      My sense would be that the Sykes-Picot boundaries of Syria and Iraq may be relatively fragile in the case of further regional & sectarian strife, however Turkey is a different case. A much stronger state structure, and a majority population that is probably much more invested in the idea of maintaining the current boundaries. They seem like they may be willing to shed Kurdish blood, and of course some of their own as well, to keep those lines in the case of any challenge ...

  • The Forgotten Costs of War in the Middle East
    • philosophical ron 06/16/2015 at 4:16 am

      An absolutely indefensible action by the United States government, in service of the national-security machine which has effectively taken over all foreign policy & defense functions of the executive, slowly but surely since its formalization in 1949.

      By the time of Johnson and Nixon, who presided over this disgusting episode of American arrogance, the machine was already irresistible.

      Were Johnson and Nixon even informed? Maybe in the fine print of a document they skimmed, using the lie about
      "no permanent residents." Absolutely disgusting all around (including the destruction of our own "democracy.")

  • The Wrath of Netanyahu: What does Orange Telecom's departure from Israel really Mean for BDS?
    • philosophical ron 06/05/2015 at 4:42 am

      Back in the day, we practical leftists who were capturing up to 15% of the vote in our metropolitan county, spent many hours arguing over whether "the big social change" would come from political action, seeking out citizens' and media attention, or from "changing people's attitudes," the more subtle process of long-term attitudinal changes, as most recently exemplified in the American case of acceptance of gay marriage over the last five or so years. My argument was that yes, historically it was indeed mostly through attitudinal change over time, but that that came about with the necessary assistance of the retail politics of of street-corner petitioning and grassroots media attention-seeking. Both are necessary for meaningful social change.

      This story shows the gears grinding through the sand, so to speak, to produce such meaningful social change on the ground ...

      And BTW, used sustainably with current USA pricing, IMHO Sodastream can be a very pleasant product for home use. For me I just need something neither caffeinated nor alcoholic to drink thru the day. With a little bit of fruit (that my family is wasting anyway) run thru the blender and a tiny scoop of stevia powder, and a very gentle touch on the Soda stream button, I get a vaguely fruitish, lightly-carbonated water, about a 10 on the scale where American commercial soft drinks are 100, I can drink it all day (which I can't do with commercial products) and I use maybe three Sodastream recyclable canisters a year, for about 15 cents a day. I'm glad I found it.

  • Shiite Militias announce "Here I am, O Husayn" Campaign for Sunni Ramadi
    • philosophical ron 05/27/2015 at 4:21 am

      Every day brings something new; for once I have to agree with a Pentagon spokesman !! "Unhelpful" is a very measured, vaguely venomous word choice to describe the Shi'a militias' choice of an operation name.

      Clearly these religious arguments and history that Juan so excellently summarizes remain extremely important in the psychological/personality structures of many of the region's populations (the plural to signify the many self-defined communities of religion, national identity and accepted degree of "modernization/globalization" that exist among the people of the states from Libya to Iran. And clearly these religious arguments also remain important in the philosophies/religions/sciences of people in the region, and in their choices of which other persons in their communities to give honor, status, rank and official position to, the human behavior that gives rise to what we call "politics."

      I do suspect/fear that both the blindly Potomac-centric strategists of the American conventional wisdom, and and the various peoples of the Middle East who form militias and armies to spread their views (or defend against their neighbor who is spreading his views) may be overcome by larger climate-change related catastrophes: major crop failures, or unforeseen breakdowns of several important global infrastructures at once. Even if the physical environment allows all these wars to be played out to their ends, it doesn't look good for human happiness or personal satisfaction, anywhere on the globe.

      If it's not a digression to pick up a comment of my own on a previous post a few days ago, I re-read my Saudi history literature as I promised (and the subject is closely tied to modern Sunni-Shi'a relations).

      My conclusion is that the rise of the Saudi state was an extremely close-run thing, and that Abdul-Aziz was an amazing character to pull it off. But he faced disaster about every other year, and a large part of his success was his ability to operate in several socio-historical environments, in the Arab context both the nomadic/traditonal society and the settled city society, and to successfully grasp and use the colonial/world power conflict international environment, in dealing with British power from before World War I, to using motorized vehicles & weapons to defeat the fanaticallyy-religious nomads who had helped him capture Mecca a few years before -- and also for understanding the behavior necessary for the Muslim world to accept his rulership of the Holy Cities. And later, to making the "Gasoline-Powered Economy Alliance" with America after 1944.

      All in all, a remarkable combination of traditionalism and modernity in one national leader, Abdul Aziz. Can the current generation of Saudi leaders be as creative in understanding the many types of threats that our 21st Century rapidly-warming poses to their patriarch's state? And the many modern attitudes that they may eventually have to negotiate to retain their successes?

  • US Kneejerk support for Israeli Nukes Torpedoes UN Disarmament Talks
    • philosophical ron 05/24/2015 at 4:21 am

      Another very serious sad step in the apparent process of killing our so-called "Western Civilization:" the most serious political problems cannot even be addressed, so that when the environmental/economic stuff hits the fan, no one can cooperate because they are too stuck with their old hatreds, fears, and lies ...

  • Daesh/ ISIL blows up Shiite Mosque in Saudi Arabia, seeking Sectarian Civil War
    • philosophical ron 05/24/2015 at 4:12 am

      The alliance of the Saudi monarchs with the Wahhabi religious leaders has lasted since the 1700's -- along with the United States, one of the few political-cultural arrangements that has lasted uninterrupted in that time period. Yet for the first two centuries and more of that alliance, it was just the relatively isolated Bedouin of central Arabia; the conquest of the East Coast came only in 1913 (i.e., .long after European penetration of that region) and the conquest of the western mountains and coast, with the holy cities of Medina and Mecca, only in 1924 -- an episode that I strongly feel the need to read up on, again.

      The Saudis have had a few decades now to construct an internal police-surveillance apparatus with oil money, so maybe they've been able to construct something that can keep a lid on ordinary dissension.

      This could possibly mark the beginning of much stronger Saudi action against Daesh, or perhaps it will come to be seen as the first match in the conflagration that takes down the Saudi state? Much depends on the psychological/religious inner thoughts of the Saudi elite: is their hatred of the Shi'a really their worst itch, or can they see that an ostensibly ultra-Islamic "caliphate" -- which must have a goal itself of taking the holy cities if it is to fulfill that label -- can be an even more serious threat to Saudi power?

  • Washington asks, "Who lost Ramadi?" But Washington never had Ramadi
    • The disconnection between the psychologies and philosophies of the political elites, on one hand, and between 97% of the populations they supposedly represent on the other side, has long been a favorite theme in my writing.

      My latest article at my place is a long dive into this same topic again. Teaser quote: "Yet whether they inhabit either the decidedly-more-democratic nations, or the determinedly-more-dictatorial nations, ordinary citizens everywhere find it very difficult to believe that their day-to-day thoughts and actions will have any effect on their political structures. In all nations, political elites tend to have significantly different psychological experiences than average citizens ..."

  • Who does Jerusalem belong To?
    • philosophical ron 05/19/2015 at 3:59 am

      History, the story of people, and what they find important.

      It may be a barren hillside, and how odd that it seems that after a stone age founding it was uninhabited in the 1000 BC - 900 BC time period -- which without checking corresponds to the time I that historians thought most likely for Solomon and David to be having significant kingdoms --

      yet you must see how this bit of hillside has animated a lot of people, who have found it important.

      As far as I can tell, this importance -- and the growth of Jerusalem's importance in the last century -- has so far contributed far more to creating divisions, and aggravating divisions, among individuals and social groups, than it has to contributed to anything more positive in human affairs.

  • How Muslim-Americans can avoid being Trolled by Israel-Firsters: Look again at the Prophet's example
    • Juan. you grow more acute and incisive from day to day.

      It's great to read it, yet it makes me wonder and worry, our so-called civilization is just not set up to hear so much truth.

      And looking back on human history as a whole, has truth ever really been considered such a virtue? In nearly all societies and situations, the mythic lie, the necessary misrepresentation, have been far more preferable to many more people than any serious pursuit of the truth, wouldn't one think?

  • Anger Translation: Why Obama was Ranting against GOP Climate Policy at Press Dinner
  • Gallipoli: Prince Charles, Prince Harry in Turkey Honor 130,000 War Dead on Both Sides
    • philosophical ron 04/25/2015 at 4:47 am

      Every person is significant, every person deserves to be remembered in the story of all human lives, the story of history ..

      I may have made many mistakes on specific historical questions, lord knows, and in general I think I've forgotten more history than you may ever know unless you study a lot, however I will claim precedence, since 1980, in arguing for a theory of history which regards EVERY PERSON as being important.

      We can't get there for the past, but that's what narrative historical art is for. However for the present and the future we can begin to fulfill that ideal, of having every person's thoughts and actions recorded for history.

      The NSA is on it, but getting access to those files and whatever shape they're in is pretty uncertain.

      We can, if we put our minds to it and work hard, begin to do the good parts of that work ourselves ... on the way to creating a global movement to improve politics and economics around the world, by building a culture of love, peace and understanding, or whatever else it's gonna take to get us thru the dangerous future that apparently lies ahead ...

  • Assad: Syria has 'no relation' with Hamas, will Never Trust it Again
    • philosophical ron 04/20/2015 at 4:26 am

      Those of us who experience many things, and who think about many things, tend to understand that human emotions, and human relationships, are hardly ever as binary as electrical connections or computer data cells, where it's either on or off, the data point is either one or zero.

      In the world of human beings, where every individual has a distinct history of psychological structures, and of philosophical/scientific/religious beliefs and explanations, and they also have unique histories of political and economic relationships, we are let loose on an infinite landscape of shifting shapes and melting colors. Two individual human beings in a society, may have between them hundreds hundreds of reasons for appreciating the relationship, and hundreds of reasons for regretting the relationship. And they may change their minds about their feelings on all these things in the next moment.

      It should hardly be surprising that major political actors in the Middle East (and elsewhere) can be much more subtle than the logic of Western media (which I believe has largely taken this logic from the American military): group X is involved in a global movement of (democracies, communists, Sunni or Shi'a) and therefore it must be good friends with other members of that movement, and the enemies of its enemies must be its friends. Human relationships (whether between individuals or between political forces) will always be far more complex and subtle than that, and it is only the stupidity of our media's expectations and insistence on framing all events within conventional mythologies, that prevents us all from understanding this.

  • Netanyahu slips, Reveals reason for Opposition to Iran Deal
    • Love your work, Juan, yet in the 8th paragraph,

      "And, as far as social spending goes, Iran is in principal as progressive as Israel"

      should probably be "And, as far as social spending goes, Iran is in principle as progressive as Israel"

      not to nitpick a thoughtful article, or anything ...

  • As Iran talks Progress, US, Iran forces cooperate in taking Tikrit
    • philosophical ron 04/01/2015 at 3:58 am

      It's not amazing that Saudi policy and American policy now diverge -- what's amazing is the fidelity with which both Saudi and American leaders made sure that their policies did NOT diverge, at least in public, for nearly 70 years after Roosevelt's date with Abdul Aziz in 1944.

      It was, essentially, the alliance in support of the gasoline-powered economy of the US and other nations, based on the "economy" of dumping 8 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every single gallon of gasoline burned.

      Every single one. I challenge my fellow Americans, can you really say you never wasted a gallon of gasoline? Most of us have to admit we've contributed at least, in friend and family situations, in rituals of growing up, and in rituals of the business world, to wasting thousands and thousands of gasoline burned, each and every one shoving 8 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And now much of the rest of the world has joined us in our modern high-carbon-doxide-dumping economy. Juan does a good of giving the good news of renewable energy taking over globally, here in my Western metro area I see the 3-ton stupid ugly vehicles with one person packing the roads, no doubt getting to their jobs or doing urgent family necessities (as I try to get my 20-year-old Toyota past them as I do the same).

      As the realization of the potentially disastrous consequences of all that carbon dumping begins to bite us, it's no surprise that the Roosevelt-Adbul Aziz agreement to build that economy is finally falling apart.

  • 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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