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Total number of comments: 609 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:39)

Travis Bickle

Showing comments 609 - 601

  • NYPD closes Unit that Spied on Muslims
    • That was exactly my thought as I was clicking the comments link. In-line with another post about how the NSA denies there're be any abuse of its primitive bulk face-recognition practices, in the face of institution imperatives for power and growth, these big bureaucracies simply cannot let go of bad ideas.

      Instead, their inclination will be to see it as more of a public relations problem, to be "solved" by better concealing their actions, or perhaps declaring them "Top Secret," and will declare divulging existence of the new program to be a threat to national security. Thinking practically, maybe the FBI will pick it up...

  • The FBI's Facial Recognition Database Combines Lo-Res Photos With Zero Civil Liberties Considerations
    • And that would be painting a big red flag on yourself. Not a good idea if you need to use the airlines or otherwise be unencumbered by existence at the top of a potential terrorist watch-list. (Since your status would not be used for prosecutorial purposes, only investigative leads, it would be OK, along the lines rationalized in the article).

    • The behavior of these people takes the sting out of any definition of cynicism. Another perhaps more likely (e.g., demonstrated) response from their demonstrated menu would've been to make this matter Top Secret retroactively.

  • Russian Sanctions-Busting?: Putin's bruited 500k b/d oil deal with Iran draws US Threats
    • Realities aside, think about how such a deal will feed into the narrative that Iranian negotiations were nothing but a bad faith ploy by Iran, in its plan for world domination, and a slap in the face of US benevolence and forbearance.

  • Is Rand Paul right that Cheney invaded Iraq for Halliburton Profits?
    • There are also geographic choke-points for resources. Whatever it has given up, the UK has hung onto a number of the world's most strategic points/islands, of which the Falklands are only one.

  • Top Ten Ways in which it was Actually the Israeli Gov't that Derailed the Peace Talks
    • I suspect that if you were able to look into it more closely, you might well discover that when Kerry was putting together "his" team, Israel/AIPAC one way or the other told him to choose Indyk, a guy who is essentially a unpaid (e.g. legal) Israeli agent.

      Remember the case of how The Lobby exercised its veto prerogatives with Chas Freedman's nomination for the NIC?

      link to

      Keep in mind, that position would have been hardly as important a place to have a man as it would be to own the lead diplomate responsible for developing and driving Kerry's work.

  • State Department Official Freaks Out That Declassifying CIA Torture Report Might Make The World Angry
    • I'm wondering if there is an inherent weakness with groups of any sort when it comes to recognizing their mistakes, learning, and doing what is appropriate to move on. Exhibit A being when the nominal leader says its better, in this case, to put it all "behind us." Maintenance of legitimacy (e.g., the collective ego), is perhaps even more important than growth and more power, which remain imperatives as well. But nowhere in the group psyche is there any natural tendency or tolerance for significant correction, growth and transcendence, that individuals are at least capable of achieving.

      It's like once a group enter a collective they develop and become controlled by an ego which is self-reinforcing. It becomes stronger with size and is too distributed for there to be significant self-control, absent the entrance of an external (uncompromised) dictatorial force to direct change.

  • Palestine's Abbas finally says will Go to UN over Israeli Squatters
    • The purported peace deal Kerry pursues is an illusion, given the long-standing and transparent Israeli agenda. But people believe what they (desperately) want to believe, so Kerry only redoubles his effort. Its a variation on hubris on his part that will at best lead to a sham success, but he'll get his Nobel prize and a leg-up on Hillary for 2016, so he's blinded to the realities.

      Part of what's happened here is that Israel has maneuvered Abbas et al into sham negotiations since there was really nothing else they could do until the UN options became real. But its not an easy option to exercise. Israel can now say there can be no "negotiations" if they go that route: hence the Palestinians become the ones at fault, and the Israelis can quite pretending they're sincere.


      Uncle Sucker can, and if history is any guide to the future, will, help "make the peace," through concessions the Palestinians are incapable of making (or unwilling, take your pick). Thus we see "enlarging the pie," with the Pollard release. Although a faux concession, it will help mollify AIPAC for its symbolism. What I have not seen mentioned, but which we should expect, is what else really substantive the US is going to have to cough-up. This is what this drama is really all about. Not that its going to make any long-term difference, as it will simply go for the purchase of more Israeli negotiating string. Drawing on the example of Camp David I, I'm holding on to my wallet.

  • Despite Twitter ban, Corruption Charges, Turkey PM claims victory, warns Islamist rivals 'will pay price'
    • Hubris is the word that occurs to me. It strikes me Turkey's real potential has come from its growing middle class, with an educated and more worldly youth, and everything that can natural evolve into. Chase that potential out and the world spins in reverse. I get the sense of young people frustrated and disgusted rather than mad per se: a why should I put up with this s*** attitude?

      Geo-strategically, and in terms of history, the country is/was? poised to do very, very well. But, the right attitude has got to be there. The story of the lost potential is an old one.

    • Page: 6
    • What's to be gained by his gaining the presidency? Is this an in-out dodge on term-limits, like Putin performed with Medvedev and the Russian presidency?

      And what's the prognosis on the economy? With this referendum on the guy over, and apparently won, will the money markets calm down and return to pre-gezi levels?

  • The Shame of American Politics: GOP Presidential Hopefuls now Trek to Las Vegas seeking Adelson Blessing
    • I'm curious about your "old lady" advice. Was it, perhaps, to spread your bets around (hedge)...or to stay out of the game altogether?

  • Saudi King channels John McCain, demands Obama Take Hard Line on Iran, Syria, Muslim Brotherhood
    • The rather thin legitimacy of Saudi rule begs the questionability of their advise to other countries of what's in their own best interests. In fact, it'd be wise to discount anything people like that had to sell.

  • Israel Guilty of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: UN Rapporteur
    • Putting aside from the predictable, knee-jerk, "self-hating Jew," responses to Falk, the record of Israeli actions since 48 and especially 67, is crystal clear.

      Bluster, terrific PR firms, domination of US policy, and insistence in general, can accomplish an enormous amount. But unless Israel can wipe out the evidence of its behavior, demonstrated consistently over the years , it hasn't a leg to stand on.

      Israel is left to do what we now see: delay, deflect, distract, otherwise change the subject or counter-attack. The latest tactic: Try to manipulate the remaining Palestinians into recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as a transparent attempt to get them to forfeit any rights they may have retained, thereby putting themselves in a position of being expelled outright. Chutzpah indeed.

      My Question, alluded to by Falk as well: why are there even Peace Talks at all, when there is no good faith and they are simply being used as a tactic to support what is nothing more than a kinder and gentler, PR-sensitive, pogram on the part of Israel?

  • Turkey: Is Twitter Mightier than Prime Minister Erdogan?
    • Interesting post, especially as Turkey's (relative) history of secularism has served to grow a significant middle class and exposures to more progressive ways of thinking, especially about themselves. Still, I'd wonder about whether the country is SPLIT 50/50 between those with an "unconditional" belief in E and those who (actively?) want to see him gone. Is the division really that Black & While and.....balanced, in terms of its electoral impact?

      I've taken the point about how social media can make a difference here that it hasn't delivered on in Egypt, but I wonder how deep its influence goes into the countryside. The country has an animated polity across the spectrum, but isn't E in a better position to rally his supporters than S-media is to offset it? What is the alternative to him? And then a Syrian plane gets shot down just in time to stoke the nationalistic fires....falling inside Syria you have to wonder.

  • ABC: Bush's Neocon Spokesman for Illegal US Occupation of Iraq Slams Russia for Crimea
    • Seems like that in olden times Officers were issued pistols, with which to stand behind and encourage the "troops" onward. Again, I may be wrong, but is seems that it was once considered bad form to shoot at the opposing Officers.

      Things have obviously changed. But personality types and personality traits do not go away: The chicken hawks will always be with us. You would've though that the introduction of Viagra would have given us some relief from their need to act out.

  • Top attempts by Dictators to Shut down Twitter in Mideast (including Turkey's PM Erdogan)
    • Communications are essential to any movement or organization, but for mass dissemination of news to the broader population, I don't know. Even in Turkey, how many people have the initiative or ability to access twitter over VPN? As with viewers of Fox in the US, I suspect most people in Turkey/elsewhere by and large are destined to remain clueless.

      The Great Firewall of China is easily enough breached, but only for those with the initiative.

    • You know, I missed the point here.

      In neither Egypt or Turkey do the progressive elements constitute anything like a majority; nor is it as though Assad is lacking support in Syria. The issue really is the behavior of the majority toward a not insignificant minority, and even then its no so much a minority as a perspective/orientation that simply faces forward. Its not a black and white thing at all.

      So, the question, put in a starker way, is whether these countries are ready for Democracy (capitalized), where the majority rules with an abiding respect for minority rights (or, even just their perspective/concerns)? A truly functioning Democracy.

      Politicians win by consolidating and mobilizing their base, and nothing does that so well as red meat, sold in a diatribe. Dress it up as legitimate news, like Fox, and you've got a recipe for success. The result is righteous stratification, whose strength is biased toward the old, the stupid, and the inherently dispossessed and uncritical.

      It takes maturity for an elite to exist to transcend this stuff, and I don't mean liberals, progressives or intellectuals of any particular stripe. Just people with enough perspective to know that societies survive through balance, and the world really can spin in reverse (and has a consistent history of doing so) if they don't assume responsibility for things.

    • At some point developments like these make people show their true intentions and commitment. For better or worse.

      In Egypt, we have to face up to the reality of how things are unfolding. Social media or not, its increasingly evident the Man simply doesn't give a damn, and if twitterheads want to make something of it they'll get moved to the top of his midnight visit list. It's already happening.

      We'll see what Erdoğan's intentions are, as empowered by his evident sway over a potentially belligerent majority who'd like to go back to a glory that never was. I'm assured there are many who would believe the guy if he said the world was flat. Despite the transparency of his denials, I get the clear sense that its selling.

      Events ultimately turn on what the people are ready to DO. At the end of the day, is a given govt ready to go crack some heads, or more? After which, are those heads going to decide the better part of valor is discretion, and reconcile themselves to a benevolent master, or they going to do whatever it is THEY have to do.

      Its about power. One set of people has it, knows it, is used to it, and isn't going to willingly let it go. The other side has never really had real power, but somehow feels themselves empowered by media??? At best it's a tool, nada mas. What other game have these people got?

      The one thing all these govts ( with the arguable exception of of Tunisia), have in common, is a tradition of serious strong men. And culturally, I don't see any of them losing sleep over doing whatever it is they may feel the need to do. Not for themselves, mind you, but for all the little people/children they may need to discipline. And those are the nicer ones.

      Nixon slunk off to San Clemente with his faux bluster, but he didn't really have a choice. At this point in US history, under similar circumstances, would a similar President be obliged to be so considerate?

      Pressure can come in many forms, but when push comes to shove, the utility of social mead, to be kind, is limited.

  • Nancy Pelosi Admits That Congress Is Frightened of The CIA
    • "In Search of Enemies," was a memoir/criticism of CIA back in the day, and that goes to the heart of its danger. They are by definition and design, paranoid. After Snowden made his trip through HK/PRC and Russia they had to make the assumption he was compromised and that he gave both countries the whole enchilada.

      They could not get their head around the idea that he may not have, and that's the perspective narrow technocrats should have. In their little world, and properly managed, that approach is proper and works. The trouble is keeping them in their box when they must operate outside of it.

      Bringing us to where we are now. The potential enemy, dear reader, against which they are now working, is YOU.

    • Congress being managed by the "kind and gentle" hand of the NRA and AIPAC is a bit different than the sort of hardball with which CIA (or the NSA) might approach the chore.

      ASSUMING we can get past that American Exceptionalism hang-up, and consider the natural dispositions and actions of intelligence services historically, things very quickly come into a clear and plausible focus. You betcha Congress is afraid of the community, especially as it has evolved over the past decade.

      I liked that post on the right side of the new IC format on how America is now a Managed Democracy. There's an interesting, and to be fair, reasonable argument, you can get into whether this is in the best interests of the US, but its getting hard to not see things for what it they are.

  • Four Reasons Syria Refugees are a Bigger Story than Malaysian Air MH 370
    • A reality check here. Syria is old news: sad news, depressing news, chewed-over news, with no potential of narrative climax or resolution anytime soon. It's like a visiter in your home who is just one long downer and doesn't know its time to go home. Practically speaking, until it enters a new and more interesting phase, Syria is no longer news.

      MH370 is the drama of the unknown, evoking the spookiness and primal fear of a creaking floorboard in the middle of the night. It possess the giddiness of mystery far greater than that of the ill-fated Air France that ended-up on the bottom of the South Atlantic a couple years ago.

      Not being the type to get sucked into such stuff personally, hasn't some talking-head or the other had the nerve to point out the parallels with the LOST television series??? Wowee.

      Talk about programing suspense. There were also those two IRANIANS (!!!) on-board with stolen passports. Coming on the heels of revelations of those dastardly dastards smuggling weapons into Israel for the Palestinians, AND a new (al-jazeera) report showing that the Lockerbie bombing was really the work of....wait for it...the IRANIANS! Seriously, on al-jazeera last night the above 3 items were end-to-end in the crawl.

      I feel your pain, but lets wake up and smell the coffee.

  • The War on Terror Jumps the Shark as Everyone in the Mideast accuses everyone else of Terrorism
    • Reminds me of the latent danger of surveillance capabilities: especially when you have a powerful tool, its awfully difficult (if not impossible) to resist using it.

      "Terrorism" as term of rhetoric, has a demonstrated power to short-circuit critical thinking, and thus becomes the knee-jerk tool of first choice. Infinitely preferable than having to engage the issues.

      The hope is that over-using this particular tool will eventually lead to it becoming merely a term of irony.

  • A New Arab Cold War: Saudi Arabia Pressures Qatar on Muslim Brotherhood, American Think Tanks
    • Interesting analysis. In the spirit of comparative political parallels, I was reminded of the christian-conservative wing of the neocons, who tend to think of the brotherhood and "terrorism" in the same sort of self-serving, reductionist terms.

  • Can the Neoconservatives make a comeback via the Ukraine Crisis?
    • While the case could have been made for active collaboration between Medvedev and Obama, your premise of one between Obama-Putin relies on its purported secrecy. That is, not much.

      Naturally, Obama will seek to finesse the guy. But I've heard any number of prominent second chair diplomates who have, even recently, been in extended sessions with Putin, who would belie what you're describing. In fact, I hear a consensus that Putin operates by a different perception of the facts, aside from the dark perspective that you'd have to expect from his history.

      The narrative that then unfolds is rational enough, but it'd be better, and more realistically explained, by cynical realpolik on the part of Putin.

      I wouldn't argue with your conclusions, just how you got there, and it'd be risky to extend such a benign reading of Putin into the future.

  • Rachel Maddow: CIA spying on Congress ‘is death of the Republic stuff’
    • Now, lets see if our law makers can make the conceptual leap between this and potential abuses by the NSA of mere citizens.

  • This Apartheid Week, Read the Report Israel Doesn't Want you To See
    • Great, and pithy little article. This is the sort of thing that people who haven't looked at the issue closely can read and quickly absorb.

      In general, the Israel/Palestinian issue provokes so much outrage that the weight of its arguments get lost in fully justified indignation and exasperation. And that's before a bunch of very smart, highly-experienced, and incredibly well-connected apologists, move-in to deceive, obfuscate and smear them.

      Good Job.

  • Darkening of Melting Arctic Amplifying Global Warming from CO2
    • Adding to this news, seems like I've read how snow pack and glaciers throughout the Western hemisphere (world?) are suffering from a similar degradation due to the darkness of pollutants that settle-out on them, drawing incrementally more heat.

  • Not to Reason Why: A New Crimean "War"?
    • Complexity = unpredictability. On the net I rather like the map Juan posted recently a bit better than this one:

      link to

      But, it does show what seems to be a tiny enclave of some Greek language group (dialect) on the Southeast coast?

      Isn't Russia in a position to do whatever it really wants here? Which doesn't need to be a lot as long as the place is essentially Finlandized and they keep that base.

  • The Deep State is Vulnerable to People Power
    • The exercise of Deep State capabilities, as you point out, is constrained in various ways, but its development and refinement are increasing at what must be a logarithmic rate of sophistication. We may always get back to that cliché that its only a tool; but oh what a tool. We're on borrowed time before the ever increasing temptation to exercise its ever-increasing and ever-tempting power can no longer be resisted.

      And not just by those righteous folk from Dallas and Houston: its part of the Human Condition. Rationalizations will be constructed, in the same way we've seen the FBI create Terrorists out of near-destitute blowhards. Paraphrasing Madeline Albright as she pushed for more robust military action in Kosovo: what's this big, expensive, and incredibly capable military good for if we aren't going to use it?

  • Turkey's Ruling Party enacts "Orwellian" Web Censorship
    • So, with the university left and the Presidency under his sway, controlling 319 of 550 seats of Parliament, as well as having the police, military and judiciary apparently cowed, where is the suggestion that he is not in the driver's seat?

    • There seems to be a big moment looming with the coming elections. Tayyip seems an increasingly transparent and desperate buffoon, and it's hard to get (educated/literate?) people to even speculate about him winning in his bid for President for Life, as is his apparent desire.

      Still, I can't help but think that the more his opponents laugh at, dismiss and ridicule the guy, the more belligerent and hardened his supporters become. As when Karl Rove worked to tap into the underlying hatred and resentment of Republicans toward Obama, by whispering into their ears about how "they think they're smarter than you are..." These people tend to be "true believers," and not the type to take defeat graciously.

      Strikes me that when things do come to some sort of head, as they clearly promise, we will see whether Turkey really has the strength of institutions and middle class to weather the storm.

  • Christie, Clapper and other Officials who should be in Jail instead of Snowden
    • The mindset behind administration persecution of Snowden demonstrates manifest psychological insecurities. It shouldn't come as a surprise how the stridency of their attacks belies their fundamental irresponsibility with properly managing the surveillance programs.

      Yet another link to Techdirt and the revealing childishness of the administration's behavior toward Snowden:

      link to

    • Let's not get too righteous here. It really is a cruel world out there and Presidential prerogatives are best left intact, for when there is a borderline or downright illegal something that needs to be done in the (genuine and well-considered) national interest.

      Even if Bush was too immature/incompetent to know he was not using that leeway responsibility wisely, the authority at some level needs to be maintained.

      The question is how do you (we, the people) constrain necessary executive power and its inherent potential to be used foolishly, or even turned inward against us.

    • You're getting at what I think is what really angers and threatens The Establishment about Snowden: That He Dared, and the example he sets for others, which is now set to erode the power our putative leadership has labored so mightily to hoard unto itself.

      Bradley Manning was bad enough just on the face of things. But its a different and entirely more dangerous threat when a mere "29 year old" Snowden (what would they say were he 59?) gives sensible and articulate interviews that make apologist arguments and lies look as lame and transparent as they are. At this point their rage becomes downright apoplectic.

      That he, Snowden, has been genuinely responsible and effective, and is essentially right, while with every comment the "authorities" are confirming their insincerity and incompetence in serving the true public best.

  • Edward Snowden Interview: NSA is Engaged in Industrial Espionage for Interests, not Security
    • There would be a response along the Whats-Good-For-Coporate-America-Is-Good,,,etc. Part of the trickle-down logic; and there is something to it, however thin. There's also the reality that with a 401 or any other US investment instruments, you may benefit in some small way. Shades of Gray.

    • This really is very, very revealing. Its not so much the substance of what he says that scares the bejesus out of The System,, but Snowden's manner. It stands to empower others and to persuade more directly responsible people.

  • Only post-Snowden did FISA Court even Consider if NSA Bulk Phone Collection is Legal
    • The genie is out of the bottle in terms of surveillance trends. Factor in the FACT that these technologies stand to increase in power and sophistication exponentially (at least) regardless of political and bureaucratic incentives to do even more, and its a waste of energy to fight the tide.

      Our energy would be better spent on how to manage the inevitable, and given the toothlessness of the FISA court and NSA resistance to Obama's absolutely nominal reforms, such a redesign needs to start with a clean slate.

  • Why Tunisia's Transition to Democracy is Succeeding while Egypt Falters
    • Thanks. Very much appreciate the blog reference and others with which to keep the place in focus.

    • Just had to add that Erdogan really does appear to be the quintessential example of the Rooster who thinks he's responsible for the sun coming up. The question seems to be whether Turkish system/institutions are at this point strong enough to resist such a hubris-filled individual or whether the world of Turkey may be preparing to spin in reverse.

    • It had struck me that coups are usually thought of as when the military takes things over. In the case of Turkey's modern history, at least not following the Pinochet model.

      Adding to your remarks, a certain shakiness seems to have emerged and be spreading throughout an Ankara-centric bureaucracy. Perhaps aggravated by understandably skittish investors as we can see FX rates goosed dramatically since mid-Dec. Then there are govt projects being cancelled at municipal level for no apparent reason. THIS IS NOT any sort of observable trend, and the various incidents only anecdotal, but there is a natural temptation to connect dots and any number of people I met seem to be waiting for some.....other/next shoe to drop.

      What's funny is that in these sort of situations people can usually spin sort of theory of what's going on that makes sense, somewhat. Here the situation seems nothing if not byzantine.

    • I suspect many of us would be interested in understanding your perception of how a slow-motion coup is underway in Turkey. Looks to me like Recep Bey has managed to neuter the military and would like to cultivate a soft dictatorship (e.g., President for Life). Dense politics to be sure, but a coup???

    • To be clear, that there is something like a slow-motion coup underway in Turkey.

  • Top Ten Ways Ariel Sharon Ruined Israel and the Middle East
    • My thought is that one party feels the need to engage in repeated PUBLIC humiliation of its lackey, it betrays not only a lack of confidence but an underlying weakness. I would say that doing so would tend to confirm their power so that they will not discover it gone at some particularly inopportune time. But taken altogether, it is impossible to see how this attitude/approach/strategy has any hope of sustainability.

  • Top Ten Things wrong with NSA Surveillance of Americans
    • Perhaps the best point-by-point unmasking of this mess I've seen. Still, I think it could be boiled down a bit more, made little more accessible, and then put on the back of the box of every major brand of breakfast cereal.

  • Did Ariel Sharon get a pass on War Crimes because he was White?
    • The title of this post is rhetorical. Special treatment came not because he was white but because he had the clout to get away with it. He was a True Believer empowered, backed, and on a mission from God. This is seriously powerful and dangerous stuff when a guy like him is supported by like-minded people who had (and have) a ring through the nose of those who might conceivably hold them to the standards of the rest of the world.

      It's not to be inflammatory but rather to try to look squarely at the underlying problem, that people need to think about the deference they give to a nation state that considers itself God's Chosen People, with all the rights and privileges associated.

  • Top 5 US Government Decisions that put Troops more at Risk than Snowden Did
    • Whether he believes he'll get a fair trial???

      Ask Jose Padilla. And yes, your premise about the underlying question is the right one. Its that rule of law thang.

      Snowden at this point is really irrelevant, except for his utility as an example to be made of, and how he can be used to distract people into discussions like this one. This seems pretty obvious as well as is his awareness of his status.

    • From the very beginning, the core and recurring complaint against Snowden boiled down to How Dare You Little Man. Further discussion of Snowden, past identifying himself for the sake of the materials credibility, distracts from the real issues, as he was the first to point out. However, being another "Little Man," as are most of the other readers here, I think that concept is worth mulling over seriously.

      The real issues with regards to these systems (including those at the NSA) is who is responsible and are they living up to their responsibilities. The answer is clear-cut. Since the Genie is out of the bottle, and it's really no surprise given the exponential increases in technological power over the last 50-odd years, the only response we should expect from the Establishment are calls to shoot the messenger.

      Whatever we may think of Gates, he was a guy who had assumed responsibility for weighty issues throughout his career. Similarly, that Bush was in over his head and made such a hash of things is beside the point that we, collectively, empowered him to do so. That Snowden was not so anointed has marked him for the vilest retribution, because when you get right down to it, he has been MORE responsible than all these other jokers combined. That Snowden took the responsibility necessary, given effective congressional (and presidential?) abdication, is something it appears they just cannot get over.

      Another issue, as Snowden (That Little Man), was also the first to point out (others certainly have, but I heard it first from him), is that we have to decide whether we are a Nation effectively governed by law, or rather by policy which is evidently now the case.

      So, I wonder, just who really are the Big People and just who really are the Little People. Who else, Little or Big, is going to be responsible for pressing these issues, with whatever tools they may have, so as to have more than just another effete "conversation," as Obama so artfully (gratuitously?) put it.

  • 60 Minutes goes Benghazi on Cleantech & Gets that Wrong Too
    • Hey, so maybe we need an exposé of 60 minutes: in fact, this article implicitly begs for one.

  • Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is like saying the US is a White State
    • THAT would make sense in terms of the overall momentum.

    • Think this goes to basic human nature: when one is in the minority they argue for parity in sharing (in your case, democratic power and influence); when strong one they would naturally argue to keep that which they feel themselves to have rightly earned (sic). Kinda like how our attitudes toward taxation vary depending on whether or not we have something to lose.

    • Of course, there's the implicit idea of how disingenuous this latest need is, couched in terms just near enough to that of Palestinians need to "recognize Israel," and Israel's "right to exist." It's as tho he's simply defining those needs a bit more clearly.

      No, this is really just another tactic in the ongoing strategy of delay, deflect, deceive and obfuscate, while the colonization proceeds. In fact, for a moment blow away all the public-relations and diplomatic smokescreens that have been generated over the last X number of years and Israeli behavior and objectives have shown themselves to be very, very clear.

      Laughably so, when you think of the people and countries which seem to take them seriously or upon which they are effective.

  • Assange warns of Information Apartheid & Encompassing State: "This is the Last Free Generation"
    • Strikes me his rhetoric was a bit over the top, but on reflection I'm not sure his observations aren't fairly accurate. And no, its not the result of any well-managed conspiracy, but rather the natural course of bureaucratic momentum and human nature. Until there is an offsetting check societies will stratify, the rich get richer etc, in terms of money and power (information and otherwise). This would would seem to be the natural course of events driven by introduction of new technologies to fallible humans.

      So, we're now at the point of seeing whether there is such an offsetting force emerging.....or whether we have to wait until the inevitable widespread abuses, at which point dissent may well be impossible.

  • Top 10 errors in Netanyahu's Speech Demanding Iran give up 'Genocidal' Policies
    • I think Bibi is a pretty astute politician. His abuse of Obama appears to be done for domestic consumption, to demonstrate amongst other things just what he can get away with (and it really is very, very telling).

      Is he Nutz? That's the question he's maneuvering to make us all ask, striving to sow seeds of fear that maybe he is crazy enough to do something irrationally kinetic if we don't do his bidding. And this leads directly to the extortion I see shaping-up, as a "compromise" position to present to the US. But as far as actually being crazy? Nixon's approach to the Xmas bombings of Hanoi back in the day, were a tactical calculation along these lines, but its hard to see any utility for Bibi to want to carry through on the bluster. Ultimately States tend to be pretty rational, as were Nixon's actions, and I don't think Bibi has such a card to play with any real effectiveness......still, you DO have to wonder (which, again, would be his intent), because there are a lot of people to the Right of him, who give the guy much of his domestic power, who are capable, IMHO, of ANYTHING.

      So, the real question becomes: How well can Bibi handle folks like Lieberman?

    • These reactions and a few others have all been made many times in many similar posts re Israeli behavior.

      The point that hasn't been made is how, judging by their past behavior, Israel is most liable to handle this sort of inevitably:

      One, that they would hope to capitalize on, is a threaten to carry out military action. they are, however, too rational, and that option really isn't a viable one here; the threat does help set up a second action. And the sort of publicity we now see suggests what we (especially America) can now expect it:

      Israel will tacitly cooperate with a potential peace by shutting-up, "not" taking military action, and (promising) to freeze additional settlements (as they are apt to do from time to time), IN EXCHANGE for $$$$$$$$$. In other words, expect a BIG aid package or other concessions in the works from the US when Kerry returns from a trip like the one he's now on.

      Nothwithstanding all this, as Sherm notes, Israel really does stand to lose its position in the driver's seat with US foreign policy in the region, and Iran nominally rejoining the regional economic scene really does pose an existential threat to Israel's traditional way of doing business. But you know what they say: when presented with lemons, make lemonade.

    • Your points well taken, but you have to remember it is in the politician's nature to be two-faced. They are plenty of statements made, having left office, when senior people voice their absolute resentment, if not anger, at the way Israel has handled themselves. The problem here is when such statements, over time and with endless repetition, actually become a matter of institutional policy.

  • Breaking “America’s Last Taboo”
    • It is telling how the Snowden revelations provided documentation that Israel was EXPLICITLY told they were under no legal obligation if they choose to rummage through the emails of US citizens the NSA made available to them, regarding which the NSA is nominally supposed to access only with a FISA warrant. In all fairness, I suppose, Israel was told they shouldn't do so.

      Mearsheimer & Walt provided chapter and verse documentation of Israeli influence over American foreign policy, but if you pay attention to the volume of public discourse that is managed by Jewish-American spin control, you can get a sense of how deep this influence runs in swaying public perceptions in the US domestically. There are an incredible number of individuals in positions of power in the media, as producers, executive producers, and content executives of different stripes, so that any comments against the underlying righteous of the Israeli cause will not be heard, except for the stray comments of Oliver Stone or Glenn Greenwald on Bill Maher's comedy hour.

      I've come to watch Charlie Rose regularly, and there are constantly interviews about what form American support should take for Israel, as well as a few Israeli leftists who will handwring about the Palestinian issue, but I have never heard a semi-articulate voice with the perspective that Israel has effective control (and responsibility) for any positive progress toward a just and equitable peace (paradoxically, Israel's only route to the lasting security they would claim to be seeking).

      The premise from the onset is that Israel has a right to exist on its terms as it defines them, and it is the obligation of the US to support them, however they may decide to proceed (through their domestic politics). There is tacit if not active support for this proposition from the US jewish community, and although they may disagree dramatically on the details, anything to the contrary will make such a remark little more than anti-Semitic.

  • The Middle East warmly welcomes Iran Deal, sees it as Step toward Denuclearizing Israel
    • Perhaps that's not a bad analogy, reflecting an over-reaction, but you'd have to take it further. For their part, Israel would say its like they're a pregnant, vulnerable woman in the passenger seat, and Iran is like a crazed, irrational, suicidal guy, in which case even those "hints" represent an existential danger.

      The premise of such an Israeli position does not, in fact, exist: quite to the contrary. But from the perspective of rhetoric generated for a gullible public and lazy/co-opted/cowed/superficial press coverage, it does serve their cause nicely.

      No, don't get distracted by this deal with Nukes. The real issue is regional domination. If Iran, BY ANY MEANS AND CONCESSIONS, manages to get the sanctions lifted and even nominally joins the world economy, Israel and the the Saudi's positions of power will by horribly compromised. Add to this the pressure both countries are feeling due to the demographics in the case of Israel and falling revenues (due to alternative energy sources) in the case of the KSA, and you can appreciate some very genuine anxieties.

      Both Israel and the KSA exist with a lot of what used to be called "internal contradictions," when it came to speaking of the old USSR. They are inherently weak regimes due how they were founded and how they manage themselves. Until the time at which they change to get more in-sync with their TRUE internal and external politics they will need to rely on coercion (military and economic), and their abilities have been largely enabled by the US to this point.

      Israel and the Saudi's really do face an existential threat to their historic way of doing business.

  • Top Ten Ways the US and Iran could avoid a Catastrophic War
    • Travıs Bıckle 10/17/2013 at 3:35 am

      ....And wıth the 2016 electıon whatever moves Obama makes will evaporate due to the quıd pro quos the wınnıng candıdate must gıve Israel and the Lıkud. Hence, ıts hard to see how thıs scenarıo evolves positively; it seems like a show, put on for who knows what real reason.

    • It's nice to see a vision, which is essentially one of balanced rationality.

      You also observe its essentially the fanatics on both sides that stand in the way. But I'd also add its the practical politics, where the existence of a boogyman has been serving Iranian, American and (perhaps most importantly) Israeli interests, all to well to this point. In fact, the centrality of the Iranian foe to Likud politics, and hence to internal American politics, is not something to glos over.

      You do observe quit well how US Executive authority can slide past this obstacle. And over time I see evidence Obama knows full well what is going on and resents the pressure to act in ways that are not in the US interest.

      So more importantly the question seems to be whether such a understanding could be sustained, given the pressure that would be brought by the Forces of Darkness on any emerging 2016 candidates.

      Any politician good enough to gain the office would equivocate, but ultimately they'll be willing to ditch anything Obama does. There's a real temptation to go for maintaining something like the current balance of conflict for domestic advantage: screw Iran, who wouldn't be able to do anything really significant to the US anyway.

      It may be shortsighted and backward, but this is all too pragmatic of a course for the new administration to take, and its something Iran would be bound to understand.

  • Congress Could now Alter our Militarized approach to the Middle East-- But likely Won't (Bacevich)
    • Good to be reminded of the very pertinent Steel Seizure Case, from which much of the better thinking on exec authority flows.

      The thing is that Judge Jackson's opinion boiled down to how presidential power could be confirmed by strong congressional support or denied by a lack thereof. However, a shaded authorization in terms of authorization added little and would leave his authority circumscribed. The President should want to avoid congressional involvement altogether if there were a lack of decided support in that he could always assume tacit support in lieu of actively pressing his case. A tepid approval was an approval, but would leave him hobbled.

      Indeed, there's a great history of congress/voters rallying actively behind the president post-attack where polling before the action suggested a total lack of support.

      This all makes Obama"s game here all the more interesting and hard to discern, as he would have very likely based this gambit on the well-known salience/upshot of the SS case to people who have studied this stuff, as he has.

      Makes sense to me that he wanted a way to bail-out of the corner that in many ways he has been backed into by the Usual Suspects. After all, that "Red Line" business had its "if-then" being that he"d .....what was it?"? Nada Mas. I'm not at all certain he really wants to do this thing, and his actions as a whole belie that idea.

      It strikes me that he has had a full-time job stiff-arming all these characters who have been working so very hard to get up a war on Iran, in which context Syria is a means to an end. The real end being to keep the US as heavily involved in the ME as possible, to support Israel in every possible way. If you look at an attack more coldly it really would be more an Israeli way of doing business.

  • Why Correa might give Snowden Asylum: All the Horrible things the US has done to Ecuador
    • You really need to add Walter LaFeber's classic, Inevitable Revolutions, to the must read list of anyone wanting to get a handle on Latin America. Its focus is Central America, and it seems to have been written largely to shed light on events unfolding there under Reagan. But the pattern pertains elsewhere.

      Trouble with these others is they tend to be overly polemical. LaFeber's must end-up making a thinking Americans feel equal parts ashamed and exasperated.

  • Why Cheney is the Traitor, and Why we Can't Believe Obama on Safeguards (The Ultimate Clip of Gov't Lies)
    • I'm increasingly less interested in Snowden (aside from the drama of the thing, which cannot be denied), and more interested in seeing the substance behind his assertions. THAT, and only that, are what is important.

      The substance may be released so as to finesse the predictable responses from people like Clapper, who can then be serially unmasked, leveraging their impact. I have no way to know, but guys like Snowden are, in fact, generally pretty detail-oriented and methodical about things, and if the Powers That Be could with a nod and wink see his disappear I'm sure they'd do it. He's beginning to look like WAY too much of a hero and role-model.

      The reality is that Manning is being made an example of, so all those other E-3's don't forget their place. Snowden, would, in the culture of CIA, indeed be considered a Traitor and referred to as such internally and in operational terms. One way or the other, there is a huge and massive imperative for him to be made an example of.

      The more he speaks up for himself with the eloquence he has shown so far, the more weight will need to be brought down on his putative example. Still, like I said, this thing is just starting to play-out, and that appears to be the intent of GG, LP, and Snowden. This really is the way they need to play their hand, but they are in very, very deep water, and are going up against the most sanctimonious gang of elite liars this country has managed to produce.

    • Your use of quotation marks in referring to "Terrorism," tells the tale. It means whatever the authorities want it to mean, as Snowden would say, "as a matter of policy."

      Sure, it'd be great to have awareness of malcontents worldwide that might conceivably grow into "some sort of threat" (a plausible definition of terrorism), but wouldn't it be smart to be aware and prepared for threats closer to home?

      That would be me and you, regardless of what you have done or even intend to do....its a matter of YOU as a POTENTIAL terrorist, which strictly speaking, each and every one of us is.

  • British Gov't Spied on Diplomats at G20 (& on UN before Iraq War)
    • This just in from a Guardian Q&A with Snowden: He holds that the NSA has provided Congress a blanket pass from their surveillance:

      link to

      A quid pro quo perhaps. A REALLY fascinating read, better than the initial interview. There has just GOT to be a hit out on this guy.

  • You are the Terrorist (Video)
    • This clip gets at the underlying assumption, which you have to concede given how technology can leverage the power of any single person so much: every single person is indeed, a POTENTIAL Terrorist. All that it would take is a little motivation for YOU to perhaps do something bad: who could take the chance that YOU don't have this potential in you, when pretty much every effective person with a cheap laptop does?

      So, the State organizes their surveillance depending on HOW dangerous a given person appears to be at the moment. You can't lock everyone up, and ankle bracelets would be unacceptable, so monitor everyone with a secret program and only pull their strings when the need arises.

      The whole process is largely automated until you tick off some combination of red flags, when a human being looks you over, maybe reviews your work in kindergarden. Oh, I really am being silly, right?. Or, someone decides to take a closer look at you because they didn't like a look you gave them at your bosses fundraiser. Whatever: a system that is not flexible is of no use.

  • Top Ten Ways the US Government will Smear, Slight Whistleblower Edward Snowden
    • Hey, get on your Netflix and look up ENEMY OF THE STATE, with Gene Hackman and Will Smith. Not a bad movie, although a bit on the thriller side.

    • "talk show host suggested....."

      Wouldn't YOU, based on what the list provided in this post anticipated, suspect that thought might've been put into their pretty little ear.....?

    • Those assertions sound like classic first-pass, knee-jerk disinformation. Maybe its true? Why not post a link to your source/s and see if it holds water?

    • An insightful deconstruction.

    • Point #8 already underway, regarding PRISM and the activities of the FISA court.

      PRISM is a small, although hardly uncontroversial, piece of this system. The capabilities Snowden referred to....along with the growth trends and architecture he spoke of, which are really more important...... are far more powerful and pervasive.

      The FISA court is also a smoke screen. I've heard any number of reporters who know the facts who seem to be unable to look at them critically. Some wise "specialist," yesterday summarized the courts activities and found their influence laudable. I took notes of HIS facts, then simply looked at them with my own brain actually turned-on. Connect these following dot yourselve:

      - From 1978, at inception, through 2012, roughly 22,000 FISA warrants were issued.
      - During 02 and 03, 70 and 80 applications respectively, were bounced-back by the court for rewriting. (these years would've represented a clear skyrocketing of activity).
      - A total of 11 applications in all those years were denied. (OK, our intrepid reporter did not mention that #, probably because it would've offended his sources in the administration, but it is a glaring piece of public knowledge).

      I wonder what the average approval/modification/rejection rate of search warrants is among Federal judges?

      MORE IMPORTANTLY, as discussed by Snowden, there are thousands and thousands of analysts authorized to target individuals, at whim, in the US. It MAY or MAY NOT be that they using this capability only with FISA authorization, but I suspect in the fine print of their authorizations they have no such need. Remember Michael Hayden's dismissal of some allegations along these lines, because the targeting was "a training exercise," or "we destroyed the records as soon as we were finished."?

      It really doesn't matter who is authorized or not authorized. It has to do with meaningful and effective controls. Who is watching the Watchers, and how can such a task ever be managed, knowing even the slightest bit about Human Nature? Snowden himself was NOT authorized to reveal all this stuff yet he did, nor were Karl Rove and Scooter Libby when they made their Fair Game decision to target someone for political reasons.

      If we want to automate this System to take it out of the hands of so many weak and petty human beings, we'll end-up with an even smaller and more select group of Humans Beings holding all that power, still with all their inherent weaknesses.

    • And then there are the ad hominem attacks which are so very reflexive: see the example of Bradley Manning.

      I would expect Snowden's relationship with his family to be used to delegitimize him, as is already being done with his GED. The fair and balanced news now often preface his name as, "High School Dropout..........."

      I was impressed by the deeper argument being made by neocon, imperial presidency, CIA Director-for-20-minutes, James Woolsey, immediately following the NPR airing of Snowden's statement for The Guardian yesterday:

      link to

      Woolsey was apoplectic, as were I imagine any number of the elites who run things officially or unofficially. Their indignation will take many forms, in addition to following the standard distortion & smear and free-standing ad hominem delegitimization models. The core of his indignation, and that of others, boils down to "How dare you Little Man....just WHO do you think you are....."

      And we have to give Woolsey etal credit, in terms of facing their argument for what it is: We do have a representative form of government who has allowing this situation to develop, perhaps tacitly or as a matter of benign neglect. Snowden had essentially said his understanding and judgement of the state of things is superior to the collective judgement of the elites running things. There's a lot to digest in that argument, viewed in its entirety.

  • Its the Corporations, Stupid: Why we are 2nd Amendment Fundamentalists but the 4th Amendment doesn't Count
  • We Misunderstood Barack: He only wanted the Domestic Surveillance to be Made Legal, not to End It
    • Simon's post, as you note, eloquently gets more to the heart of the matter, but then he minimizes the immediate issue because of the superficiality with which it has been reported.

      The REAL issue, to be clear, and he agrees with in an offhanded way, is the inevitable abuse of such power that will occur. Here's where he misses the boat: with this Total Information Awareness, the power at the fingertips of the system is infinitely more than in the becomes, in fact, TOTAL, aside from those whispers you make lip-to-ear in a noisy subway station with your hand cupped (be aware that lip-reading technology is being developed and refined at this moment).

      These technologies stand only to grow stronger and more pervasive, and they are mindless and indiscriminate: In this application there does not even exist the thin economic impediment to their proliferation.

      EXAMPLE: The line item stock codes on a grocery receipt, linked with your credit card (and we already know National Security Letters have gone to the big card companies) could easily be stored in a computer to build a general profile of a store's patronage, or to target your particular habits. To my knowledge this hasn't been done, but it will be done once it makes economic sense. That SAME information, along with everything else you do digitally, could under the current regime of technology be mined to build a profile of YOU on an ad hoc basis, and the government is operating under no such economic constraint. Simon would say it'd take a court order at this point, but the real point is that its all done in secrecy, in the bowels of a machine, with a very limited group of (always potential) human abusers at the helm. Who's REALLY watching the watchers in any sort of effective way?

      What Simon also fails to mention is how the FISA court has been a rubber-stamp for governmental requests to the extent they have been made, and there is plenty of well-founder suspicion about how they have frequently NOT been involved, even on the sheerly nominal basis.

      Here's a fact for you that rather speaks for itself: From 1978 through 2012, the FISA court has rejected a grand total of 11 government applications, while approving more than 20,000.

      I could go on. Simon is correct that we need to look at the real issue here, which is the potential, and I'd argue, inevitability of abuse. Its as simple as human nature. But I'd also say the stakes now are far higher than a set of pay phones in Baltimore...... Don't buy into Simon's point mindlessly: do your reading and thinking very, very critically. The stakes are way too high not to.

    • I'm sympathetic to your reactions, but you have to acknowledge "their" thinking that the answer is more and better technology, not throwing up your hands and saying its all hopeless.

      In fact, by instituting and constantly refining the mechanisms of monitoring every last person, people of interest can be watched with increasing closeness as their actions become more suspicious and more of a potential threat. You can argue such systems aren't that good, but they'll be better next week than they were the last ("better" being a word to consider critically).

      Barry etal are accepting that case, and saying that as long as its well-managed all will be hunky-dory. Oblivious, as it were, to human nature and its track record, and those who will generate/run this closed-system engineering solution. Remember Hal and his lip reading of those smug tech-savvy guys in their secure pod? "I'm sorry Dave......"

  • PRISM: The US Government is mad at Bradley Manning for doing to it what it is Doing to All of us
    • In practical terms I think you're getting close to it: The People, or any one person, can potentially become an Enemy of the State, so at some level EVERYONE must be watched.

      Therefore, the system needs to be able to flesh-out a dossier on any individual as their tendencies coalesce, so they can be entrapped before setting off a bomb, or just become effective in some venue like this one. These trouble-makers can then be tracked, co-opted if possible, or otherwise intimidated at places like customs to keep them in their place. The thing is, all this stuff can NOW be automated and administered with a far lower profile.

      It becomes a highly robust and flexible form of surveillance, that can tract absolutely EVERYONE to the extent appropriate for their level of evolving "danger" to the System.

    • If this were not true, it would still only be one National Security Letter away.

      But before Visa/MC, wouldn't it be interesting to have a bot that collected your reading/shopping habits off Amazon? It'd only be looking for patterns, of course, or maybe that you happen to have shown interest in some suspect book, God Forbid in Arabic. I think this would be more fact, likely.

      As the for the technology, the constraints are more in server space, access letters (a trivial nuisance), and the constantly refined algorithms to burb-up general "people of Interest," when there isn't some malcontent like you, me, or Prof Cole, that some power drunk politico or bureaucrat wouldn't rather take a special look at.

      The next step, again hardly constrained, is mining/monitoring your line-item purchases. That would be every coded item you see on the receipt they just handed you down at the grocery store. Let's see now.......apparently Steve is really into a high-fiber diet, but it isn't doing him much good (judging from his prescriptions), so we (the algorithm) won't flag him JUST YET, but will schedule a return check to see how he's doing in a couple weeks. All automated, and nothing for YOU to worry about....and no need for a court order in that case by the current thinking.

      Beautiful thing about THIS scenario is that it is NOT even a hop, skip, and jump away: It may already be in-place. The great thing is that businesses will at some point maintain their own database storage of buyer information like this, so the Feds can mine that stuff without investing in the server space: just the bots which stand to be continuously refined. Its a reasonable bet Amazon has already been compromised in this way: its just too juicy a target for these guys to ignore.

      It will all become ever-more pervasive and efficient, and you really will have to shut yourself down as an involved person to avoid it.....thereby flagging yourself as someone who is resisting and deserving to have a special eye kept on them.

      The choice we will all be forced into making is being and nothingness.

  • NSA-Verizon Surveillance: Welcome to the United States of Total Information Awareness
    • You're on the right track in your thinking....that one order for Verizon was just the one released, and since it was rather a fishing net we can expect copies went to everybody else. I suspect this one came out in the Guardian due to the work/commitment of Glenn Greenwald and others there, hoping they may be outside of the reach of this SYSTEM. But those running things will be after whomever leaked this document with this very SYSTEM as surely as they pressed down on James Risen and Fox, as came out last week. Just connect a few dots; observe the trends and consistency of behavior exhibited.

      Integration??? Bet on it! That's the point. It'll take work and planning, but 10s of thousands of smart guys are on it! The kinks will take time and a series of national security letters to iron-out, but it all appears a rather straightforward task technically, given a modicum of vision/commitment. Otherwise, as you point out, its kinda pointless: for a system like this to hum along as it should it must be designed for integration...following the vision given these people by their fellow adolescent role models, Jack Bauer and his "crew" at the Center on "24."

      How difficult would it be, administratively, for the powers that be to mandateMicrosoft and Apple design discreet little back-doors in their OS, only for "real emergencies" of course? What are the odds you'll be told about it without some whistleblower, who then stands to be targeted?

      Trackfone throw-aways. Yeah, that could work to some degree, but the attention to discipline you'd need from being detected and tracked through associations and a hundred other ways would be tough to pull-off.

      You'd have to go off the grid, and thats where this leads. Following such process you will become of no consequence and hence no longer of any potential interest, because "potential" is what drives this program. So, on the one hand you have the off-the-grid role model of Ted Kacynski, and on the other hand......nothingness.

    • Prof Cole's remarks, and those of the respondents so far, are far, far too tepid.

      You might try summaries which are available, but here is the final report from the Senate in mid-70’s, documenting the systematic abuse of surveillance powers:

      link to

      I would like an informed professor or whomever to educate me on those spans of time when a given government which had an ability to abuse its powers did not do so. If would be a nuanced argument if done fairly, like most things. But what we've got here should should outright chills through everyone.

      The technology developed to harvest what has been described here could be scaled up to cover ABSOLUTELY everybody, limited only by server space. Has anyone heard the technical discussions of what Bluffdale, Utah, will be capable of? And there are distributed processing that wouldn't draw such attention and would be easier to institute and hid, necessitating Bluffdale for higher security stuff.

      The technical sophistication to write the code to link and collate names with these "anonymous" files would be trivial, thereby enabling an ad hoc file to be generated on every thing you have ever done related to that number as well as each and every of your associations (correct me if I'm wrong, more informed readers). Systems are already in-use that automate social network analysis, and I'm sure the NSA's is far better (eg, notice what LinkedIn/Facebook do). It would be ONE simple piece of code....and al ot of (becoming) available server then have recordings of your conversations/emails digitally recorded for your dossier.

      Off-the-shelve systems are now available to scan any such dossiers, on an automated or ad hoc basis, to flag and collate portions relevant to those in-power. Ah, the Ring of Power...and who will be able to resist using it for long?

      What does anyone think would be going on in Turkey today if THEY had such a system? what would happen if the US had a replay of the sixties?

      Those Turks would never have made it to the streets, and neither will anyone in the US with an opposing views who wants to organize anything not deemed appropriate by the authorities. Your voice will be heard at the sufferance of the System, and the forbearance that can be expected for anything of any real significance will be nil.

      It will, really and truly be all over. It cannot be over-stated what thin ice we are on with this technology, especially given those bent on using it. It's a matter of time, and time is running short.

  • Syria needs a dozen S-300 batteries to protect itself - Russian general; Kerry Denounces Plan
    • It's always interesting listening to smart, articulate people, explain how someone else exercising their right to self-defense, puts them at risk. It becomes a tangle of illogic, to be spun quickly and spoken with blustering conviction, before changing the subject or counter-attacking whomever dared to pose such a question. I'm sure there are strong, advanced briefs for these lines of argument now being circulated at the WINEP.

      But its becomes far easy to explain such a position when you drop the facade of respect for the sovereignty of others, and your own over-riding need to keep others at your mercy.

      As an American, such a defensive capability by another state not beholding to us really is a threat, because no longer can we effectively threaten them. And let's not even touch the even deeper, arguably pathologic insecurities, of our "only real friend" in the Middle East, whose name must not be spoken.

  • McCain's Photo Op raises Questions about Arming Syrian Rebels
    • No need The guy is cut from the same clothe as Dubya: Where it not for his Daddy he'd have nothing more than a mediocre sales manager. At least Dubya's parents were smart enough to get him out of flying before he killed himself or someone else.

  • A Forever War that Dares not Speak its Name (Bacevich)
    • Whenever you look at politics, especially when the stakes are as high as any sort of real War, rhetoric becomes central. The use of "Terrorism" the prime example.

      You've an interesting point, nowhere more on the record than with Teddy Roosevelt, but it may be more a matter of happy happenstance with modern neocons. Off course, is anything beyond the machinations of those people? Teddy notoriously made numerous remarks about how a good War would serve to build the national character.

  • Civil Disobedience and Jail Time for Opposing Big Oil: Tim DeChristopher (Moyers Interview)
    • I'm afraid your first mistake is wanting to like the guy just because he's nice looking: that stuff is the foundation for believability bias.

      Your second mistake was not listening to him more carefully, and critically. Since his explanations weren't in as much depth as they might have been, let me add a few points to his remarks about how "morality is the foundation for the rule of law and his evolution," which was the short answer he actually gave to your query.

      The power of the "rule of law" and civil obedience are magnified in military settings, where enlistees are explicitly expected to abdicate their sense of morality. This make it more dramatic when people forfeiture their moral responsibility: you get Good Germans working the ovens because it is what they were told to do. That's the sort of things that WILL happen, most easily in the military, when people abdicate this responsibility. A civilian faces the same pressure not to exercise his moral responsibility when he contemplates becoming a whistleblower. Its always easier to do what you're told than what's right, but doing what's right eventually serves to mould the rules.

      Basic Common Law, rooting in tradition and Common Sense, is supposed to trump the mindless Black Letter Law, and these evolving values and the morality of the people are reflected by how a jury applies the law. This is how precedent develops and evolves. Its why there are jury trials, as was explained, and why its a problem when they are essentially nullified, as was the case here.

      If someone breaks into your house, threatens your family, etc, and you shoot them, you're guilty of 2/d murder. If everyone agrees on the facts, as a matter of law you're guilty, just as this guy as a matter of law was guilty as charged. Laws supporting the "Castle Doctrine" are now making it explicitly OK to shoot in self-defense as an explicit matter of law, but Common Law would have always given you a pass as a matter of the underlying morality of self-defense. You would have been arrested, apologetically released by the judge to your own recognizance, and the case against you summarily no-billed by the Grand Jury.

      If Maxwell Smart had caught up with Doctor Evil just as he gleefully entered the countdown code on a Nuke in downtown Manhattan, he would have similarly free to do whatever he needed to do, as a matter of morality and Common Law (Common Sense), to extract that code from the Doctor. That no one has ever been able to cite such a ticking time bomb scenario speaks to the need some people feel to legitimize torture as a matter of Law, outside of morality. But any law that is not supported by the values and morality of the people is hardly something to cherish, and is as hollow as the how the law was applied in the the Lot 70 case. For using torture when it was genuinely moral and necessary, the torturer would be given a pass, just as in self-defensem, and he would have received the accolades of his community for doing the right thing.

  • Nice Speech on Closing Gitmo, Mr. President; but It's still Open (Schanzer)
    • How many of the total who are NOT the 20-odd hard cases have been radicalized by their treatment to the extent they should never be released?

      A halfway house/program for re-entry into whatever society can work for those motivated to get on with their lives; "de-radicalization" for someone who isn't motivated to do so is at best naive, since by definition they would not be so motivated.

  • PBS and the Koch Brother Scandal (plus "Koch Brothers Exposed")
    • I admit its a subtle thing, but think about how this plays from the Koch's perspective, or that of any other plutocrat with an agenda:

      1-They make a huge no-strings contribution to their target. I should add that at the local art cinema I was similarly puzzled to see them as key underwriters of a rather hard-hitting documentary, I think it may have been "Inside Job." Still, an ongoing program like Front LIne or Nova makes the point far better.

      2-Then they just sit there quietly at the head of the donor list. Especially over time the recipient of their largesse comes to rely on it even more. They may have to stiffle themselves from time-to-time in the early going, but the idea is to get them hooked on your patronage.

      3-And Step 3, like the Medicis of old, if it should even become necessary, they simply send a cast brow at their ever-attendant and yet straying supplicant. Such folks are managers who have gotten to their positions by serving the wishes of those in power, in a beautifully insightful line from Mad Men, "before they [their clients] even know they have a problem."

      That the PR department of the Koch's should have had to do something as gauche as call someone at NPR, or otherwise show their displeasure, is more a reflection of the Koch's vulgarity and clumsiness. In most cases, across society, such overt "corrections" never have to be made.

  • The Lotto Symbolizes the False Promises of Barracuda Capitalism, and it Won't make you Happy to Win
    • Speaking of morality tales concerning class and the social-climbing nouveau riche in the movies! Finally got around to catching Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. I suspect a modern Great Gatsby would best it in terms of Eye Candy, but Kubrick's care and wit still connects (even with Ryan O'Neal starring).

    • The paradox of thrift is that what's good for the economy is bad for individuals. As I understand it, the Japanese culture of thrift has accounted for their extended economic doldrums; the German culture must be every bit as frugal, but they've had to spend huge amounts (and very carefully) to fix the old DDR and the East in general.

    • .......give everyone in the US that $75,000 basic level of well-being.....

      One problem with all the blarney we hear from the republicans is that when they make a reasonable observation it gets lost or applied in a self-serving way. So, when they speak of makers & takers, that over-simplification detracts from the truth that people do need a motivation to take risks and there are more than a few who are use any excuse to keep on slacking, with a chronic psychological mindset of amazing tenacity. As usual, things are not so black & white.

      In Europe there are a variety of ways in which they've tried to get this balance right, and it's a moving target that can never be taken for granted, even with apparent success. To be objective about it the Swedes are doing a pretty reasonable job. Come to think of it, they were able to effectively sort out their problem with irresponsible bankers a couple years before the US essentially caved-into ours.

      People naturally want and need to stratify, but money makes a nominal contribution to that process. There are still plenty of rich people living rich lives in Scandinavia. And there's no reason the controls on social services cannot be administered more rigorously. The industry supporting social services could be managed to build capacity rather than to support, as it is largely now handled.

      But these things all become a matter of good management once there is broad-based support and buy-in. As usual, it becomes a matter of politics and a need to develop policy based on the greater good.

  • The Great Benghazi Conspiracy and Republican Forgeries
    • The GOP is intellectually bankrupt, as was obvious in the 2012 campaign. When they have nothing else, stuff like this is all they have left to dish-up to their brain-dead base.

    • Actually I think the talking head here is Scott Pelley.

      What's also remarkable is how careful and measured the report is. It is as though the whole thing was run through a series of committees at CBS, so as to be a strict recitation of the facts, emasculating their importance. I suppose at some level this is how something this combustable should be handled. But unless a listener has half their brain engaged these things could be spun as "misunderstandings," or "paraphrasing" which are the threadbare defenses that will be proffered if this goes any further

      The implications of this are far more serious, per the post. That they have declined to name names, nor to make the most obvious inferences, gives serious pause. Is CBS so cowed by these people that it could only report the bare minimum?

  • Belize Construction company Destroys Mayan Pyramid in Latest Refutation of Libertarianism
    • That's sorta my point:

      In a Gilligan's island view of the world, slash & burn progress works. As long as there is an infinite cheap source of whatever, people don't worry about it, and business certainly doesn't. Slavery instead of technology in the US would've kept on "working" indefinitely: never mind how the complacency it enabled in the gentry kept the plantation economies from innovating and moving on. The result was extreme social stratification (don't forget the poor whites) and profound economic stagnation in the South, human values completely aside.

      This reminds me of todays post on (somehow) getting the nation/world/industry!!! productively focused on global warming. Unfortunately, the tendency to stagnation in this case will broil us, literally. The Greenhouse Effect is like a steamroller, where even if we recognized and acted on it appropriately starting tomorrow, it would be highly, highly put it mildly.

      Instead, we get guys that could/should be natural leaders acting thus: link to

      A few days ago Schmitt had another great op-ed about how rising CO2 levels are GREAT!! "The Plants will just eat that stuff up!, This is good News!!"

    • It was Adam Smith in the very Wealth of Nations, that is never actually read by those always citing it, who made the very specific point about the role of govt to keep the Invisible Hand in check.

      Simplistic reads of neoclassical economics just don't work, but they appeal to the needs of second-rate economists and sociopathic politicians with a Will to Power. As Uncle Milton would've said with a sly smile, slavery, for example, didn't work and the system corrected itself.....By the same logic, this guy in Belize will be "corrected," as he genuinely deserves, by the market, rather that by a bunch of idealistic malcontents.

      Such thinking really does work out oh so nicely when working with closed systems, where all the variable are known, explained away, or can be shoe-horned into some uber impressive regression model. Too bad about that "friction" of the civil war or everything that's happened since with the slaves, or as long as there are an infinite artifacts of our history in places like Belize, or Mother Earth is content to serve as our garbage dump.

    • Executives with a conscientious, or at least those that act on it, are by definition unprofessional, and are not going to a position of any real responsibility.

      OK. There are exceptions, such as when the organization they represent has some benign purpose as its charter, but the typical mantra is to "increase shareholder wealth," and do what it takes to do so.

      There was the Bhopal gassing in India lo those years ago, written off by Union Carbide as simple cost of doing business. Yesterday I heard of a gold mine cave-in in Indonesia that was operated by Freeport-MacMoran: same thing. This sort of thing is standard Operating Procedure, and nobody rises to a position of responsibility in a modern traditional corporation if they aren't very good at lying to themselves and the world about what they're really up to.

      Anybody invested in a pension fund that isn't set up otherwise will also be supporting this imperative to Do What it Takes, and if you're willing to accept less return on your investment you're in the minority. Money ultimately talks, as long as its ugliness isn't too blatant, and the various investment funds provide a very nice arms-length complicity.

  • Two Kinds of anti-Muslim Racism in the Netherlands (Wertheim)
    • It strikes me there is an understandable over-analysis by people who were profoundly affected by one trauma or the other. It's part of working through the cognitive dissonance created by unambiguous evidence of how nasty human nature really is, when we all wish so hard it weren't so.

      There is a level at which a natural and useful tendency to discriminate starts to enable backward attitudes and behavior. That is what we see too much of, as it enables the worst in people in terms of greed, avarice, and, in relatively civil societies, lazy thinking, such as we see in opinions on immigration.

      My brother is good at math and cannot put together a coherent thought, while my strengths and weaknesses are exactly the opposite. He has become "The Other" at a very benign level, and from there things balloon. There is one useful analytic framework along these lines, for racism as its serves a very human need for self-validation ("whatever else I may be, at least I'm not a X.")

      When it became politically incorrect to speak of non-whites as inferiors, the discourse amongst those with the same need to differentiate for validation was to speak of their own special excellence. It isn't that The Others are inferior but that WE are superior. Arguments for American Exceptionalism have become possible that side-step the reality that they are essentially racist.

      What the author has experienced isn't special is any real sense. It was the simple outgrowth of one group of people taking advantage of their power to enslave others because it was possible to differentiate them as Outsiders who it was possible to treat in that way. Enslavement is as old as humanity and is a part of human nature. It emerges whenever one person (or group of people), is able to exercise power over another.

  • Is the Government reading your Email without a Warrant?
    • The IRS wants to troll through emails as well???

      There's a line of argument here that gets back to the original intent discussion of the constitution you hear on a variety of topics. It always seemed a bit tendentious to me, given how the very word "eavesdropping" came from the act of loitering under the eaves of house's roof in order to listen, doing what they could to compromise a reasonable expectation of privacy.

      "High" technology, such as a van that can now sit down the street and hoover up your bedroom conversations (or your political ruminations), are no different from that of the "low" technology of an apartment neighbor who put up a water class up against a shared wall 300 years ago.

      The pernicious thing about all these capabilities is how they serve to keep people's mouths shut and new thinking to emerge. Its a kinder & gentler sort of repression, and its far more efficient when people don't know when and where they are being monitored, which could be anywhere and everywhere.

      After all, how could a contributor here not know their thinking was open to review by Big Brother, even years later? One rather small project of the NSA might easily have already generated the code to penetrate the privacy of a website like this, assuming that access hadn't been surreptitiously been written into the code on the basis of a potential national security necessity.

      Great thing about this sort of program, it would be pointed out by the enthusiast supporters, is how it could all be done by an algorithm, that could be triggered to run automatically or ad hoc, at the whim of whomever was at the controls. Imagine the sense of empowerment that would give any one human being, and then just try to imagine how long any one human being would be able to resist using it, for whatever rationalization of the "common good" that inevitably came to mind.

  • Israeli Airstrike on Syria ups the Ante, Draws Iran Threats
    • If it is true the bureaucracy has/had firm control of Syria's air defense system, then shooting down that Turkish F-4 a few months ago was a well-considered and deliberate attempt to draw them (and NATO) into the war. The idea would have been to make it look spontaneous: dropping a match accidentally (so to speak) instead of making an outright provocation that could easily be recognized by everyone for what it was.

      That action would be clear evidence of Assad's style of thinking, to try to draw 3rd parties into his war. For a desperate player this would reflect a need to somehow create a new/better hand, in place of one recognized as a loser.

      This mind could predictably be expected to make available ambiguous evidence of having crossed some "red-line" with WMD. The underlying provocation would be vague and open to interpretation, as it is, leaving Assad in the position of arguable innocence and able to use an intervention to draw people together against an outside (neocolonial) threat.

  • UN has strong suspicions Syrian Rebels used Sarin Gas
    • Ditto that. Just heard her statement and vague is quite the word: its rife with ambiguity.

  • The Failure of Gun Legislation in the Senate Tells us we Need to fight for our Democracy (Graeber)
    • These observations are apt and at some level useful, but somehow all this TALK and verbiage dilutes the imperatives.

      So, some little piggies are more equal than others: this we already know. Writing of his sort might be a useful eye-opener to someone just returning from suspended animation. But by and large the set of people who are capable of reading through all this effete VENTING, already know the score, and the author fails in what may be his underlying wish to mobilize them.

      Sorry, I know you burned up a lot of coffee and keystrokes here. I think a talented political cartoonist might well make more of a contribution. Otherwise, what I want to see is a clear and pithy path forward. Or ideas that can mobilize others to build on even rough, rash, and premature ideas....

  • Six Myths about Bush Torture Punctured by New Report (Thompson)
    • And then there's the more common, "it was YOUR own fault."

      (Said by the lawyer/owner of the wolfe/wolfhound hybrid, trained to attack and kept in San Francisco apt building, when it killed one of his neighbors for apparently showing fear. There's nothing beyond man and his rationalizations.)

  • Terrorism and the other Religions
    • Usually they only say that sort of thing in Hebrew, snickering similarly at "Uncle Sucker."

      I once attended an early post-911 seminar about "terrorism," with one of the panel a local Rabbi (at a big land-grant university in US). I tossed out a reference to the King David Hotel, amongst other Irgun attacks, in the context of the one-mans-terrorist is the next man's freedom-fighter quandary.

      What was not so much surprising was how he jumped all over me and that statement, but rather how locked & loaded this Backwater Rabbi was, going through a checklist of "corrections," starting with the hotel being a military target. He protested a bit much, as the Bard would say.

      You make a potential mistake (in my now cynical opinion) trying to engage in a rational conversation to deal with the truth in these matters. There are those whose only intent in such exchanges is to deceive, delay, or deflect you from the truth. In the absence of good faith, further conversation along these lines is not only a waste but counterproductive.

      At this point I can fully appreciate the case for the stick, to change the balance of power and absence of motivation now evident.

  • Obama's Israel Trip Reinforced Dangerous Fantasies of the Right on Iran (Chernus)
    • As far as reinforcing dangerous fantasies go.... the enemy is us, insofar as these things have such a tendency to become self-fulfilling prophecies....and often NOT by accident.

      Watching how the Iran "crisis" has been managed over time, It appears as more a matter of consistency of vision, for an agenda not genuinely shared by the US. The strategy is to keep the drumbeat going past the point of rationality to the realization of their goals.

      Here is an observation about a poll done by the CATO Institute about Iran, which generally endeavors to shine the light of Truth. The blog is that of a guy who used to be (as I recall), head of CIA near east analysis:

      link to

  • Instead of offering to Buy East Jerusalem, the Arab League should invite Israel to Join It
    • Ah, but you and the other respondents miss a deeper utility suggested by your review of the history: to spotlight the reality that Israel simple does not care about any such initiatives; only to maintain a nominal facade.

      Its overt and demonstrated agenda since 67 has been to consolidate Israel West of the Jordan, including the entirety of Jerusalem (with a few "Indian Reservations). Whatever eb & flow has occurred in the momentum of this agenda over the years has been due to the logistics of moving out Palestinians and moving in settlers in an orderly manner, with just enough PR consideration to keep the world sufficiently off its back and US financial/diplomatic underwriting to continue.

  • Taming Capitalism Gone Wild (Bill Moyers Interviews)
    • His point was that capitalism by its nature encourages individuals to act as we have seen, and that (for example) to prosecute individual banking executives does not change the problems with the underlying system. For every set of constraints designed to harness the positive energy of capitalism, those empowered will immediately set to eroding and dismantling said constraints, Glass-Steagel being illustrative. Its inherent to the nature of capitalism, and unless we address the underlying problem nothing will really solved.

      A "corporatist" system might be defined as a scaled-up and more professionally executed capitalist system, but Wolff is more squarely addressing the underlying problem by not confusing the issue. This was a great interview, and the way he puts our current situation in context was quite worthwhile, along with his read of where the current drift leads us.

      The problem ultimately is largely a matter of human nature: in communism, the underlying nature of individuals to work the system to their advantage quickly emerged (had it ever really gone away?) and eroded whatever theoretically hope M-L might have offered.

      Pure capitalism, unchecked, ultimately takes us back to Kings and Serfs. It can be argued to be the natural state of things: dog eat dog. Not necessarily a bad scenario, depending on your perspective. But as Wolff points out, that's not only a short-sighted attitude, but a position that historically doesn't prevail for long.

  • When we Kill without Caring: Bill Moyers on the Downside of Drones (Video)
    • When you don't have any skin in the game you don't have any skin in the game.

      There are flaws in my thinking, put the essential point stands. SF could/should be supported by drones and it'd hardly diminish their personal presence; it'd enhance it by the magic with which 8 guys can get to X on his home turf, put him against the wall, and then disappeared (Powerful Mojo, them folks have); versus Them with Their X-Box and Gadgets, where Their Fighters kill a man and his extended family based on associations, then relax from their video game with an evening in Las Vegas.

      Having SF there for symbolic reasons is what you can question as naive on different levels, but that argument gets back to heart of the ideas raised.

      We sent in SF for OBL rather than just blowing the compound away—along with the evidence that gave closure to the hunt. We put more importance on his scalp than with these other guys: it was personal and important and we where committed.

      With these other people there is danger (?!) of acting like our actions are driven merely by economics. Perish the idea this could be the case: were it so, it would demonstrate how Americans know the price of everything but the value of nothing. We should think carefully before we chose to give the world even more evidence that's what we stand for.

    • You could develop this point even more, and it really is central. When one's character is on the line to either prevail or cave-in, it becomes a conclusive event. The character of the Droner and its commitment is presented for what it really is, hollow.

      It's not just a "blind faith in technology," as Moyer's says, but a pernicious sort of laziness.

      Alternately, in response to a posting on this subject earlier from someone with a Special Forces background, many of these missions could be done by them. It'd be less economically effective, but not by a whole lot; there'd be the potential of ".5" casualties (or some factor that could be quantified); and it'd be technically less effective in terms of 24-hr surveillance over time, etc.

      Still, I wonder if that wouldn't be a more effective way of handling these things over the long run. It wouldn't be a matter of giving the Bad Guys a fighting chance, but rather demonstrating how seriously we take these things; through using drones, in many cases, we are ironically demonstrating we do NOT take the matter that seriously.

  • Top Five Objections to the White House's Drone Killing Memo
    • Still, their intent is political rather than material. Labeling them as criminals does help to delegitimize them, appropriately all things considered. Still, their intentions are political and ultimately the force that empowers them need to be recognized on that basis to be properly addressed. A bit of a paradox I suppose.

    • Speaking of the constitution, Art III, Section. 3, in its entirety:

      "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

      The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."

      --- Nobody here has mentioned treason, but I suppose it wouldn't be...torturing....the above definition to see AQ as an enemy of the US. As to remedies and the power of the presidency, that's been effectively a matter of congressional deference since Jefferson engaged the Barbary pirates. When they get their act together (!), it has been constrained (see Jackson's opinion in the Steel Seizure case which is considered a defining precedent).

      The bottom line is that the congress has the power of the purse, and if it really wants to assume responsibility for these kind of things it can, but doesn't. Actions do need to be taken, and often with decisiveness, and the Executive is happy to gather that power unto itself, aside from the fact it needs to in the face of congressional fecklessness.

      The issues raised here are real, and profoundly troubling, but to address the underlying circumstances and attendant problems is a far more complex problem.

  • Paranoia Strikes Deep: A Cowering America still Haunted by Bin Laden's Ghost (Engelhardt)
    • Hey Bill,

      Your response to Rosemerry was disappointing: kinda a cheap shot, since you're a smart enough guy to have known a negative can't be disproven. Hey, I started going to the gym in the fall of 2001, and I defy you to prove that didn't do the trick for ensuring our security.

      But keep posting.

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