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Total number of comments: 705 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:39)

Travis Bickle

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  • King on Guns, War and Non-Violence as a Social Movement
    • And, as Mao said, in the long-term it is the people who are powerful and “all reactionaries are paper tigers”. In that same passage, he was also clear in noting the bombs and bureaucracies of countries like the US were very real and had to be respected.

      I'm not arguing with MLK or this perspective, and with new technologies the social dynamic has changed with the power to empower a more bottom-up governance. But the conflict between rulers and ruled has existed for a long time, and the will to power is not going away. The stage and form of conflict may change, but the song will remain the same.

      In this country, and with mukabarats (sp) around the world, there is evolving a far more nuanced application of force/technology to maintain power, and that's what people need to wake up to, and make plans based on. Protest is not only sanctioned but encouraged, and closed-circuit tapes patiently made and assessed, leadership and organizers identified. Same with blogs like this and a handful of others, whose servers (with email addresses/identities) can be penetrated very efficiently by routine National Security Letters. All this can be done very simply, economically, and discretely, thanks to these same modern technology, and accommodating legislation. A couple hundred select "citizens of interests" could easily be rounded up in a single nite to join Jose Padilla, the substantive difference in their cases mattering not one whit.

      We are all very comfortable at this moment, on this road. The US is a rich country, and most of us are just tinkering around, people with some degree of interest that doesn't promise any real action or make much of a threat to the powers that be. But when the mass starts to build, look out. There is not the pressure to draw a knock on ours doors, at least today. But, off to the edge of this current road is a sheer precipice. And the guns and bureaucracy we will face then, which is the one we can see know, will be very real. This is our history.

  • New Wikileaks: US Knew Tunisian Gov. Rotten Corrupt, Supported Ben Ali Anyway
    • OK, when my premise is that the US is "we", and actions need to conform to "our" best interests, I am immediately off base in the cosmic scheme of things. I do, however, believe the enlightened best interests of the US, in such a narrow sense, are not inconsistent with that perspective.

      Complexity is by nature tough to manage, and any sort of popular revolution has got to peg the scale when it comes to presenting a forecasting challenge, or environment in which you might aspire to manage events. First do no harm, has got to be the wisest course, in Tunisia or Lebanon. I just heard Baby Doc has returned to Haiti: who wudda thunk it??? And who would have the temerity to tell us what the upshot of that will be? Well, there will be people who will think they've got a plan to do just that, as there are creative sorts now contemplating T and L, but they are not just delusional in their planning, but dangerously so. Wiser hands will find the discipline to sit on them.

    • It's not totally splitting hairs to say there's a difference between saying the US "supported," Ben Ali, and your analysis of the cables which reflects their tacit acceptance.

      What the US is now presented with in Tunisia, and in Lebanon, is an opportunity to do what is appropriate. By an large, doing what is appropriate is nothing, or at most to act in an even-handed manner, and as benignly as possible, to encourage a reasoned discourse leading to a fair and equitable future for all concerned. An ideal? Sure.

      US objectives are usually best served by stability. So, our policies must be to First Do No Harm. The cables seem to reflect an appreciation for the realities of things and nowhere advocate doing otherwise.

      IF the US continues with that approach, despite the pressures we can expect to be brought to DO SOMETHING!!!, it may not be pretty, but events are more likely to unfold in a way that actually supports stability and a more enduring peace. These are two great cases where the US needs to sit on its hands.

  • Another US Quagmire? Lebanon Government Falls
    • OK, I can see profound instability and a vacuum Hizbullah will inevitably fill. The US and its 51rst state will get anxious, clearly. And understandably, since this is part of wave of fate moving against there influence in the region. But do the circumstances exist to take any sort of action that could even plausibly make any difference?

      Israel doesn't need much more that a dirty look to feel an existential threat, but who is there is assassinate (which seems to be all either is able to do?) And this assumes the bad judgement (which I suppose should be presumed), to do that or anything else. Even putting yourself inside the reactionary head of a neocon, just what can they do that wouldn't be utterly insane?

  • Palin Borrows 'Blood Libel' from Israeli Far Right
    • Having read the new posts and the new info, I think I may be all wrong about Palin.

      When it gets down to it, Obama, for example, is really just our Salesperson-In-Chief. Whatever his intentions when elected, Obama is bound by the momentum of events and elite (establishment) pressure and advice to do their bidding. The GWOT and banking reform have changed not a whit. His practical function has been to put a better face on established policy; the best the Little People can hope for is that he resists the sort of BIG screw-ups that GWB embraced.

      Leading me to rethink Palin. If Randy S. is her handler-in-chief, then the rhetorical premeditation of that phrase really could have been deliberate and witting, not that she personally would have known it.

      Its way to easy to start seeing conspiracies, and even worse, not seeing them when they really do exist. I have never bought the idea of a Jewish conspiracy, but the free-floating loosely-knit group of kindred souls elaborated on by Mearsheimer and Walt is persuasive. Going along with these formal and informal groups is the work done by thousands of individuals of more or less influence.

      Like Alan Derschowitz.
      And like those lesser knowns who influence the media and its programming. Speaking of programming in a different sense, whenever you (Pragmatic Realist), or anyone else, watch NCIS you are being programmed to the rightness of the special relationship between the US and its 51rst state. (I keep repeating that line about the 51rst state, so should say I first heard the phrase used by a bodyguard to Ehud Barak, who in a grad school seminar with a dozen American students, couldn't contain himself and with unsettling passion interjected how we should understand how Israel sees itself as such).

      It doesn't end there. From old movies like Exodus to any number of spy novels, the relationship mentioned above dominates and is reinforced. Its propagation/propaganda by a thousand mentions....the very essence of what mktg people call "branding." It becomes an accepted wisdom through repetition that makes it part of the accepted background scenery.

    • Interesting and perhaps even a useful take on the underlying psycho-pathologies. Still, in a given case, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      I have trouble seeing Palin or her handlers having such a deeper understanding of what Blood Libel means. I rather think that for them the phrase merely had the rhetorical ring they were looking for. For most of us common folk, the phrase might more likely have evoked the Hatfields and McCoys, as in Blood Feud. To attribute anything more may be giving these people too much credit.

  • Naw, There's been no Right Wing Extreme Rhetoric
    • Just a little nitpick: Glocks are not a cheap gun nor are they inexpensive. Being made of a very high quality polymer (yes, a plastic), has simply allowed for higher quality at a lower cost. Saturday nite specials were called that because because they might get used one time before blowing up in the user's face.

      Owning that gun, of course, did Giffords no good. I suspect it never gets out of the closet except for election year photo-ops. That's just the way they swing in Tucson, being right down the road fr the OK Corral.

    • Well, hate to bring in first reports from the lines of American public opinion....but, CBS has just released a poll showing American people do not attribute the Tucson shooting to right wing incitement.

      link to cbsnews.com

      Maybe they're right. And we could go round and round about reality and what the perceptions of the general US population are really worth, eventually concluding Reality really doesn't matter. In fact, I think many us were thinking this sort of thing was bound to happen when the rhetoric finally connected just the right (wrong) way with one loose screw, and if it wasn't this guy Saturday it'd have been another guy on Sunday with some other politician.

      As I've been thinking since events broke, what we should be looking at is reactions: the incident itself doesn't so much matter. The question to ask is whether people in general sense there may be some causation, or that the political climate could be making a contribution. And to that answer, notice if Limbo etal respond with anything but bluster and belligerence. The answers we may be hearing are something we all need to take straight up, and act upon realistically. The first thing to get past is denial.

  • Sarah Never Does Anything Wrong
    • It has occurred to me that much of the draw of Fox is the pundits they hire to get people excited (titillated (sp?), is probably a better word), and the right wing/fascist perspective has always been easier for the broader population to grasp. A demagogue like Palin is motivated by her personal narcissicism, but it is clear where she'll find herself appreciated, as Americas top MILTF. For people like her, this sort of thing is a matter of practicality and she becomes a product of our times.

      The root problem, or causation, I suspect is the homogenization of life in the US: it has become one big soul-less, secular, strip mall. You can take a long trip by whatever means you choose, and outside of Queens, or other big city immigrant communities, it has become one big franchise. Sure, there are a few scrappy start-ups sandwiched in between the franchises, but there business model is to build-up, sell-out, and move on. There is no difference between Orlando, Dallas, or Fresno, except for the weather. Into this vacuum of meaning must come something: mass market churches, based on a similar depth of spirituality. Something seems to be needed to get the blood moving in this spiritual wasteland, and righteousness of pretty much any sort is going to have to be at its core. And if this is the case, we have a problem.

  • White Terrorism
    • Happily (?) the US is miles from resembling that scenario, but you add to it the long run up to the Spanish Civil War, where there was a long breakdown/political splintering to the point nobody was able to work with each other any longer. When you get a population that's totally polarized and righteous about their positions you create a tender.

      The US is and will probably continue to be rich for the foreseeable future (or so the economists say), relatively speaking, and people with full stomachs don't usually have the motivation to go get themselves killed just to make a political point. The question about what tips people to civil violence on a grand scale is another (very deep) topic, but it strikes me a slippery slope we don't want to play on.

    • Incitement is incitement, although the context can vary. If someone yells fire in a crowded theatre, you have a problem. If the general population is incited with the consistency it has been, it'd be unlikely someone somewhere would not pop. As one poster said, there is a significant population who cannot differentiate between what is said metaphorically and what is meant literally.

      The surprise is that it has not happened earlier. I have had to pay off a couple bets, where I had money on one of these guys having taken a shot at Obama within a year of his election.

      That this happened in AZ speaks to the mood out there. There's a state senator there who spoke of how their water problem was due to all those trees in the mountains that were soaking it it all up: get rid of trees, solve water problem. Maybe there's something in their water. But still, at my own local sporting goods superstore in pinko college town, they could not keep up with demand for small caliber ammo in the run-up to O's election and the months thereafter.

      None of this is a surprise. It will be telling how our putative leadership reacts. After all, as Boehner said, "she was one of us...(ie, an elite. It'd be another thing to kill a Little Person, after all). If this event becomes accepted as some sort of aberration, it will not bode well. We need to see the (true) reaction of the media and politicians, in term of actions versus eyewash, over the next few weeks/months.

  • DOJ Subpoenas Twitter Account of Wikileaks Volunteer and now Iceland MP
    • I'm afraid the "relativism" of the rule-of-law ideal is at the core of this and many other problems. Whenever some little piggies are more equal than other little piggies, there's a receipe for disaster. Maybe only "bad guys" got tortured by Bush II (oops, an enhanced interrogation), but what happens when you or I are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and don't have a friend in the politburo (oops, there I go again....) to straighten things out and explain we're really insiders.

      Not to go overlong, but you, or Julian Assange can be fully technically legit in what you do, but law enforcement (the man/establishment/status quo, tke your pick) can choose to destroy you/him through simple malecious prosecution, if nothing more than to make an example of him/you/whomever else gets in the way of The Machine.

    • Seems like I've heard of some tech company/entreprenuer wanting to buy an island, country/barge, to somehow go offshore and avoid whatever govt initiative might come up next.

      Iceland has a wonderful opportunity here that I've heard tossed around before. The way they got screwed (arguably screwed themselves, but at least learning), by the financial conmen/system may have shocked them more than others.

      Seems like there was talk of them writing a raft of legislation to provide a structure to address the range of such issues, for the benefit of the people (now, there's a thought...). If Iceland could provide the legal infrastructure (explicitly against the interference of foreign states) for the range of services to enable a bottom-up society, I'd sign up for them in a minute.

  • Today in Apartheid
    • Clever link. No, I think there is more a problem with dumbness than stupidity. And on the positive side, people do eventually sniff out BS, as with what Israel is really up to (40+ years on!). Or with torture: I was at a public seminar/debate on it 5 years. and it became apparent how desparatly its adherents needed tortore as a matter of having satisfaction in a sadistic sense, and as an end in itself. Others present noted the same thing: we learned.

      No. My problem is with the inherent advantage pretty much ideology has over a democracy, with its agendas being as varied as its members. Outright fascism, or totalitarianism in whatever guise, has a huge advantage when it comes to pressing policy, given the power of group dynamics over otherwise intelligent, thinking, and perceptive people. Their soldiers salute and march, and people are social animals. Many, many, people at Jonestown drank the koolaid due to sheer peer pressure, when they were NOT into it.

      This (latest) bit from Israel, and more importantly, their ability to get away with it (by and large, although increasingly less), is symptomatic of the lag between when a con is begun and people finally wise up to whats going on. And we see the same thing with pretty much any policy issue you can name. Only when it gets extreme do the ideologues need to shift their BS, or otherwise reposition themselves, continuing to pursue the underlying objective while those who might check them once again are juked off their feet.

      My point is that ALL this stuff is symptomatic of a corrupt system. It is the system that needs to be fixed. And ironically enough, the teabaggers really ARE stupid, but at least they're not dumb.

    • We need to get beyond the symptoms to hope to make a difference on what is simply the latest indignation by Israel, reflecting a larger pattern.

      One obstacle to doing so is that nations today are general not as self-UNAWARE as they used to be. That is, back in the day they provided tip-offs as to what they were up to, through their goose-stepping and jackboots. Nowadays, its only clueless commies and outright crazies who are so accommodating. As a corollary, if modern nations wants to do anything questionable (usually in the interest of their ruling elites/oligarchy, who are nothing if not self-AWARE), they're smart enough to first make sure they have a good PR firm on their team, and they work with them closely.

      Similarly, there is the advantage a centrally managed ownership/vision has over more diffused humanistic values. When you have a set of goals for gaining and consolidating power, and acolytes who will stick to them, it becomes a powerful investment strategy. In the case of present day Israel, one tactic shows up in their attitude that they are the 51rst state, hence by definition Jon Pollard (and others yet to act) can do no wrong in spying against the US, since our best interests are one and the same. It spares them having to think and all the inconveniences that entails: In the case of Israel, God gave them the disputed lands, they believe it, and that settles it. This is not being sarcastic or contrived: these are very much the pillars on which Israeli actions are supported. They are not weak nor applied inconsistently. I used to say it was just the likudniks, but mere tacit acceptance by the rest of their polity becomes a distinction without a different when you consider Israeli actions over the years.

      Poised against a vision so empowered, you have a US citizenry, rarely with any real stake in terms of personal blood. We may all get indignant at the (latest) outrage. But then its time to go have a cup of coffee or do the next meeting, and when it gets down to it, what is or is not fair, or is against the best interests of the US, simply gets forgotten or shunted to the back burner, and the focus of their initiatives prevail. We are a frog (or is the metaphor a lobster?) being slowing cooked because, by design, the various issues never provoke us quite hard enough.

      This is symptomatic of a fundamental corruption. To see how this is all part of a trend we need to consider how and for whom the US govt is now functioning. Im thinking, in addition, of health care reform over the past year and what it now faces; banking reform; defense/budget reform, ad nausium.....

      The Tea Partiers may be uninformed, manipulated bunch of Yahoos, but the lack of an ability to say anything coherent doesn't mean there isn't a deeper pathology that needs to be dealt with.

  • Al-Maliki: US Troops Out!
    • Yes, DeGalle kicked the US out of France, and there are other examples of the locals asserting themselves. But we have to look at cases. France was, after all, comprised of white people, albeit eccentric and proud people, with none of the white mans burden with which our relationship with Iraq is saddled. Not to mention, France had nothing like Iraq's oil

      If McCain had won the election, other things being equal, I don't think any of us would give a nickel for the odds of the SOFA holding. John Yoo or one of his buddies would answer the call and provide whatever ever-so-elegant rationale was needed.

      Obama is apparently be made of sterner stuff, and this alone is what our vacation is premised on. Against his plan (?!), we have to factor in the forces of the neocons/likudniks/etc, that are impressive if by nothing more than their relentlessness: They still have time to do...something... active and provocative, and pressure in some form can still be brought to bear on the big O. As is true in human events generally, when someone really wants to do something they generally find a way...

  • Egypt: Israel's Nukes Destabilizing to Region (Wikileaks)
    • Looking back at the Liberty, clearly Israel knew what they were doing, although it was probably considered a rash tactical decision even in their internal review.

      What was most important about the attack is the upshot: that they learned they could get away with practically anything with the US. They paid the families of the killed sailors $100K@, which especially in 1968 dollars is better than we pay third-worlders who get in the way of our military. Of course, that money came indirectly from US taxpayers, so it was, as they would say, merely regrettable. Again, not that they did regret it, given the lessons learned about US weakness, and how the attack allowed them to reposition their military from Egypt under cover of ceasefire to take the Golan.

    • Again, the predictable indignation we all share at knowing a lack of even-handedness is at the bottom of the apparently intractable confict between Israel and its neighbors.

      Its a bed right-wing Israel has made, and actually insists on, observing the time and energy they have expended to develop the influence on the US to keep it so.

      Ergo, nothing will change until they do. Change, I do not feel, is consistent with the temperament of these characters. The intensity of the animosity THEY are fostering with their neighbors will continue to build until it is somehow resolved, and THAT is a metaphysical FACT they cannot con their way past.

      The point I'm trying to make, is that all this indignation is at best shouting into the wind of committed intransigence. Either they change, which is not going to happen, or something has to happen to shake their hold on power. Until there is a way to do that which is taken advantage of, public awareness and indignation amount to nothing more than ineffectual 'bitchen.

  • Former CIA Official Ray McGovern Defends Assange
    • McG seemed remarkably restrained with the Talking Head, who got a bit sanctimonious about his status as a journalist. Without becoming strident he could've been far more pointed and perhaps should have been. A fine balance to be found there: to engage critical thinkers who are otherwise too occupied to follow this stuff more closely and to still come off as informed, reasonable citizen. He did a job all things considered.

  • Obama Should Let the UN apply Economic Sanctions to Israel
    • OK, Obama tries to play to the center for better or worse: the option is civil war or a total meltdown. Maybe his approach will work on the margins, but that is be about the most we can hope for. But then,maybe he IS playing 11-level Vulcan chess, where he's planning to show his backbone at just the right time, having gotten the Forces of Darkness right where he wants them....

      The thing about Prof Cole's post is the idea would only entail the US abstaining from a UN move to sanctions. It would come close to being evenhanded, and being evenhanded is the ONLY way we can hope to being to help sort out the I/Pal problem. Why the US should be involved at all is another matter, and the chance of his being able to withdrawal our UNQUESTIONING support of Israel is unlikely, all things considered, soberly. Not to say it'd be impossible, but he'll really be one of those Great Men we read about in leadership books that grown-ups cannot bring themselves to believe in.

      IMHO, we make a mistake thinking Obama can do much very easily. The presidency's greatest power tends to be to make mistakes with executive fiat. Think Dubya. Getting re-elected and the limited options the bureaucracy thinks to deliver him, or cooperates on. also limit him horribly. (ex: notice how the Pentagon boxed him in with the menu of options they provided on Afghanistan).

      Being an optimist and thinking the guy may be shrewd, with the necessary egoless cajones, I think Prof Cole's hope is a good idea. The problem is timing: you know, if you aren't WITH Israel, you are AGAINST it. The day after he is re-elected he might try to buck them: Cut and deal with Iran immediately, and wire it in with enough commercial deals during the next few years to preclude the peace being undone by the neocons and their lackeys, and Israeli intransigence will have ended up finessing itself. With that move there might be a chance of changing the balance of power back to where we are pursuing its enlightening best interests of the US, and the region as well.

  • Israelis Jettison Peace Talks in Favor of Massive Land Theft; Brazil, Argentina Recognize Palestinian State
    • The assumption you're making is that the Israelis were actually "showing up" at the negotiating table. They were not. They were perhaps, in the generally sense, talking, but merely to keep people's eyes off their continuing expansion of irretrievable facts on the ground. "Yeah, let's talk", is not the same thing as being engaged in a good faith effort to reconcile differences.

    • I think these sorts of analogies go far to put things in practical terms. So, taking it a step further:

      For practical purposes, how secure will one party ever feel, having reached a formal accommodation with another to return PART of the land they took? Taking it a step further, how secure could they feel if they went so far as to return all the land? And it isn't as though Israel had any inalienable right to land of the 48 mandate.

      In either case, their underlying insecurity would remain. So having committed themselves to this course of action, they understandably feel they have no choice but to stick with it to the bitter end. Having convinced themselves that they have waited 2500 years to reclaim their Kingdom, their inclination is to just keep their swords sharp and angle to wait out the Pals resistance another 2500. Just a thought.

    • When consistently disrespected by Israel over the course of decades, more or less directly (depending on what they could get away with at the moment), the US needs to look coldly at what is in its own best interests. Concept seems simple enough.

      What this means is seeing who we really can do business with. Israel has never really worked with us: what they have done is WORK us, meaning to skin and fleece us for all we're worth, in terms of money (directly and indirectly, the amounts of which are mind-boggling), and unquestioning diplomatic cover for actions no other country could think of getting away with. In return for which we have gotten less than nothing. The same thing happens between individuals all the time; Its sick, and pathetic.

      On the other hand, if Iran CAN be worked with, however difficult it may be, that would be where US interests really lie.

      People will either work with you (in genuine good faith) or they won't. Antagonistic styles or negotiating difficulties are beside the point: if at the end of the day you might cut a deal that would leave you in better shape by working with a given party, you do so. If another party does nothing but screw you around, and shows itself to be acting, consistently, in bad faith, you drop them.

      A well-cut deal with Iran would go a long, long ways toward stabilizing the ME, and in a way that could be very much in the best interests of the US. Directly in terms of energy and the Iran/Afpak conflicts, but also in terms of modulating the pressure on Israel (the pressure from Hezbollah might actually be abated) to deal with the Palestinian issue in a civilized manner.

  • Cole in Truthdig: Iran is Winning, Israel Losing
    • I agree. But my point (above) was that a big, dumb bully, when totally finessed by a barely third-rate power, can still do ONE thing, and the naturally reaction of such a character is to strike out, however wildly and irrationally it may appear. It is a matter of striking out against impotence, in a way that is in equal parts desperate and pathetic.

      The only thing that stands between that eventuality, as relentlessly pressed by the neocons and Israelis, with their bought and paid for US Congress, is the Big O.

      Now, given his current domestic impotence, his only chance to show himself as capable and defeat a plausible GOP candidate would be to effectively execute a War or a Peace, and Iran is the glaringly obvious problem to be solved. (It just occurred to me that when his biggest worry is Sarah Palin, he's got more wiggle room than I was originally thinking. Still, the pressure will be on to go one way or the other.)

    • Very true, and the case you make becomes stronger the more you look at the geopolitical circumstances, especially when viewed over time.

      The answer to pursuing true US interests is aligned very much with a modus vivendi (sp?) between Iran and the US. The problem with that scenario is that Hillary cannot go to Iran as Kissenger went to China. Politically she doesn't have the juice and any such deal would get creamed by the GOP, just in-time for the 2012 elections (and now would be the very time to press this potential).

      Actually, STRATFOR.com analysis has developed this whole scenario. The way they see it, Obama has to go to his foreign policy portfolio at this point, being boxed in by a GOP committed to defeating him, personally. Iran is the center of gravity in many, many, regards. But, his choice is too effectively make a peace or a war.

      Now, thinking of the various pressures he must contend with, and more importantly, the options developed by his staff and the executive branch, how much traction do you think the notion of a grand bargain would get....versus a more manly option?

      Remember, the bottom line line of the GOP is that real men harden their positions and wimps go soft and pull out. When it gets down to it, the only reason we are still in Afghanistan is for Obama to have the hope of some support from the tough guys.

      Given your observations that Iran is slowly but surely having its way, won't the political pressure become ever stronger to do the ONE thing we know we can do to attempt to spoil Iran's successes and reelect a president in a time of war? Do we think Obama has the strength of character to go up against all that pressure? Would the GOP, the right wingnuts, or Israel and its acolytes, ever tolerate the suggestion that a deal cut with Iran was a good deal?

  • Is AIPAC a Wikileaks Operation?
    • A number of posts like this hark back to that ole' Rule-Of-Law question, and the consequences for applying it selectively. For political reasons Wikileaks cannot expect fairness; Treatment of AIPAC will be "more" fair, assuming a prosecution was pressed against it and the bought-and-paid-for US Congress has any say.

      Anytime we have an issue that is political, or otherwise important to gaining/maintaining power, ROL becomes discretionary, susceptible to spin and necessary adjustments.

      On the positive side, for an individual who gets crosswise on a criminal or civil issue of no real importance there should be reason to hope for a fair resolution.

  • Map: Religions & Ethnicities of Iraq
    • I hope such maps will go into a special file/site, with annotations to address their various limitations.

  • Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government
    • Here we are, 15-20 posts into this topic, when someone finally mentions the elephant in the room. It might have been taken as understood who is behind the attacks on WLs, but I've heard commentators on NPR and elsewhere studiously avoiding the subject of active US government measures against Wikileaks....Indeed, reporters are strenuously contriving to wonder Just Who MIGHT Be Behind the DOS attacks.

      What's at stake here runs far deeper than the fate of wiki/Assange: Success in this suppression, and confidence gained in the tools used, will encourage more such actions. What that means for individuals is not good.

      Along these lines, Assange may actually be a world class woman-abuser, but nobody seems to wonder that for these allegations to emerge when they did was a bit timely. It's a brag point at Langley about how they pressured Stockholm into denying one of their disgruntled employees political asylum back in the 1980's. People and governments give to get, and when it comes to trashing or otherwise persecuting some individual troublemaker who otherwise has no special jack, it isn't as though it would've been a tough call for Sweden to contrive a case against Assange (again, aside from whether it had any merit). To say the US couldn't be behind that is like saying an intelligence agency would never resort to blackmail, or torture.

  • Map Ethnic Groups in Iran and Central Asia
    • Context is EVERYTHING.

      Even with their flaws, such a collection can cut through a lot of bluster and shouting. Thing is to use the best ones you can find and add all the astericks/explanations necessary to keep them in the most accurate perspective. Be very terse, factual, and evenhanded.

      A series of well-chosen maps for the Middle East would illuminate more than a 4000 word essay, and be far more persuasive and compelling. Seems like you did somewhat of a lecture on IC along these lines awhile ago. Nothing against your writing, but the facts presented graphically can be extraordinarily eloquent.

  • The Karzai Problem in Afghanistan: Wikileaks
    • "The troubling question is what they died fighting for. My own hypothesis is that the US is still in Afghanistan at this late date mainly to shore up the central government of President Hamid Karzai."

      How about the presidency of Barak Obama?

  • Palin: "We must support our North Korean Allies"
    • Simple point beyond dyslexic v. stupid question: Palin is all about being looked at and heard, and nothing to do with listening or understanding. Everything else follows from that.

  • Looking for PETN, Scanning Grandma at the Airport, and the Future of Air Travel
    • What's needed is rationality, but as has been noted before, the more The People in general can be inflammed and the harder it to take this approach. AND inflamming The People with fear is a pretty good route to gaining/holding power.

      I believe many responsible people agree the point of dimishing returns was reached with fortifying the cockpit doors; that along with passenger awareness virtually eliminated the threat in the air*. A reasonable airport screen would eliminate bombs of the size needed to bring down an airplane*, or of a group of guys big enough to get through that door or overwhelm the rest of the passengers*. Of course, there will always be those nagging little *.

      If ONE life could be saved, who (or at least, which politician) is going to say it wouldn't be worth it. Along these lines, what would've been the impact of 9/11 had there not been television coverage? 3,000 people is academic unless it can be made personal, and then drummed into the public consciousness in a particular way.

      What's important here, seems to me, is to consider the proper role of govt in its relationship to the general population.....the difference between a republic and a mob.

  • Bush-Cheney Use of Torture Derails Ghailani Prosecution
    • Your essential observation is right, but isn't the reality otherwise?

      Even tho Clinton pretty well played ball with the GOP on substantive policy issues, he ran into that impeachment business from the GOP faithful about actions that objectively had nothing to do with his performance as President: So much for forbearance. Have the Demos ever got credit from the GOP, even when the do as they are told? What is accommodation and compromise when it goes in one direction?

      The RIGHT way for Obama to handle this, if Rule-Of-Law is so sancrosanct, or that is our "aspiration" (a word I hear entirely too much of), is to allow some federal prosecutor to make the indictment, as provided for by law (or however a case is brought; there is a normal legal procedure for recognizing and bringing prosecutions).

      Once it all becomes official and a federal case has been made of it (as they say), Obama would issue a pre-emptive pardon along the lines of Ford/Nixon. He might politely say something about Dubya having "done his best under the circumstances", and how "someone had to make a call and there was no one else to buck the decision to." And that'd all be true: Bush, I'm convinced, did act in good faith. And this would be the sort of awkward/exceptional case a pardon would be legitimately, if still arguable, exercised with. It wasn't the boy's fault, that elected as a caretaker president, he found himself 9 months later, in totally over his head. That's the reality, and we need to put all the rotten debris of his presidency behind us as such. There's a relatively clean, R-O-Law way, and the way of denial and avoidance, which errodes the putative integrity of our system.

    • For one thing, what you're noting here is a fundamental disconnection between two perceptions of justice. In a line not quoted from these same people, this acquittal was ascribed as a "miscarriage of justice." From their perspective, interfering with a lynching would be a miscarriage. It is very much the same thing, and when that is the starting place for someone's thinking, there is very little you will be able to say to influence them.

      This gets back to the rule of law business, and the post a week ago that provoked the question of WHY, oh why, hasn't Dubya been indicted for war crimes (torture, etc)? The answer is, because the politics would never condone it. Study just out from Heritage Institute (OK, we might question the source, but itd be better to just look at the methodology, since it was not the Saban wing), that with a very pointed question drew a 60% agreement from the public on the idea of US exceptionalism in the world. It would appear that might be our starting point in terms of attitude.

      Rule of law says some little piggies are NOT more equal than other little piggies. If someone skates a minute past the statute of limitations, they're as free as when I stay right at the speed-limit and the cop cannot arbitrarily saying 70 mph was a technicality in my particular case. When things become arbitrary, people cannot do anything without wondering if its legal. That's when freedom is lost.

      To be more realistic about this trial, and why the govt will not be putting more such people through the civilian legal system, the enemy is us (at least collectively). Sadly, putting a bit of arbitrary fear about may also figure into the establishment's needs.

  • Why Obama gave in on Israeli Settlements in Jerusalem: Eric Cantor, Ros-Lehtinen Channel Israeli Right on Usurpation of Holy City, Displacement of Palestinians
    • Has it occurred to anyone to look at the power another country has, essentially, which extends beyond a regional conflict that superficially has little/no impact on US national security?

      It is true the massive US loans, grants, and guarantees, that have been granted due to this special relationhsip are something the US can afford, if for no other purpose than PR and Goodwill, or as an indulgence. And, objectively, whether one ethnic group or another occupies that small part of the levant does not impact the US one whit.

      However, when a foreign country directly or indirectly holds hostage/manipulates US foreign policy, resulting in US actions that are not in its strategic best interests, the thing need to be called for what it is: a national security threat.

  • Species Loss Threatens Humankind
    • You must've missed that Arizona state legislator (at least she wasn't in the US House...), who figured out their states water deficiency could be effectively addressed by getting rid of all the damned trees up in the Arizona mountains that were using it all up!

      You just cannot make this stuff up.

      What I think is that Mother Nature doesn't give a flip: if things get rewound back to plankton and ferns again, fine. It's happened before, it'll happen again. If (when) the next big explosion on the scale of Krakatowa, Vesuvius, or Yellowstone cork-off, modern life will spin in reverse faster than you can say....Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuoooooooooooooooooooooo...... And by the way, there are a number of other events along these lines, all of which are NOW OVERDUE.

      There are some things you/we can have an impact on, where worry might do us any good. But ultimately, we're on borrowed time. Best thing that could happen in terms of government would be a truly enlightened and benevolent autocracy (the only way to administer peoples disparate greed and agendas) , but even that wouldn't save us from the fate which has ALWAYS awaited us.

  • ACLU calls on Att'y General to investigate Bush for Torturing
    • With apologies to John Woo, whomever that would be, I believe that esteemed legal scholar's name was "Yoo".

    • Ah..... but in presenting "torture" as something objective, you're forgeting the role of good lawyering, amongst other things:

      As Dubya said in big Matt's intrepid interview, the lawyers were asked, and they said it was OK (that would be John Woo, mainly). Posed to a top lawyer, any such question can be rationalized by the application of sufficient intellectual footwork. Wish I could get the same sort of help before stealing your property, like Dubya and his buddies did to take the property to build the Texas Rangers stadium through eminent domain.

      Then there is the case where, paraphrasing Nixon (I suppose, it was in the film Frost/Nixon: maybe he didn't say it): "when the President does it, it is by definition legal."

      And then there are the matters of perception and the reality this is all political and quite beyond the normal standards you or I would ever be subject to. I'll never forget Lindsey Graham, arguably one of the saner Republicans, "there we were on 9/12, a nation on its Knees!" So, it becomes OK because the nation was on the brink of oblivion fighting for its life. Reality TV nation. Or that was the mood that made it excusable.

      Or the ticking bomb scenario, where anything goes! We see it on TV all the time, so America, we know its true! Of course, in its history, the FBI has said it has never had such a scenario, nor has it ever encountered a case where gaining information through winning-over their target's cooperation one way or the other wasn't the better tact.

      No, Bush/our actions (all Americans are at some level complicit if they do not prosecute), are a reflection of a simple primal need to beat-up, hurt, and otherwise take our frustrations out on whomever we could get our hands on. Thing about those CIA tapes, if they still existed, would be that the answers I doubt were even listened to: I suspect much of what was going on was simply getting satisfaction. Just think of those guys you KNOW were sitting behind the one-way glass and running the cameras, with their creepy thin smiles and shallow rapid breathing.

      I've always wondered, and perhaps someone can tell me why, absent a preemptive pardon, the normal course of a citizens/state's complaint shouldn't set the wheels of justice rolling to determine culpability and establish we do indeed live by the rule of law? Politics shouldn't be able to intrude until later, so why has this not happened?

  • Gates, the Adult in the Room, Rebuffs Israeli, Republican Warmongering on Iran
    • My first impulse on the recurring topic of War with Iran is to yawn: the whole notion assumes a US government that is simply 180 degrees away from what where it was in 2002/3, with a President and staff who have not abdicated to ideology.

      However, what we have to acknowledge is the long game these people play. Even a two year time horizon is practically tomorrow, and it is not hoping for too much in their eyes and planning scheme. I happen to be encouraged that the Tea Party may split the effectiveness of the far right and on the net neuter the neocons. Still, if Obama is NOT re-elected, you'd probably end up with Huckaby or Romney as it now stands. Looking out even 2 years into the future it is hard to anticipate with any confidence how things might play out, and especially in a political environment this dynamic, even the most probably event today is itself going to be highly unlikely.

      We've no cause to be worried about this sort of loose talk now, but things really could change, and that's how the Israelis/neocons are playing things.

  • On How War with Iran might Destroy the United States
    • On the one hand we have Prof Cole's rationality, but on the other you have the information, advice, and general framing of options that are presented to him, which two years into his term has the potential to leave better thinking behind.

      Obama is a smart, critical guy, and would not be as easily snowed as an empty-suit like Dubya. But since his election, for example, Israel's top agent in the US executive branch has burrowed into position as his lead NSC adviser on Iran. And so it goes.

      Geopolitically, George Friedman at Stratfor has a series of analyses which support, from a number of angles, the pivotal role Iran can play in regional peace as well as US politics, in which it seems Obama can either pull a Nixon-To-China move, or allow the US to somehow be "provoked" into war, for domestic reasons essentially. But the economic case to be made for war, to goose the economy through increased demand and consumption, requires a REAL war that really stimulates things, not one of these effete simmering affairs we see in Iran/Afghanistan.

      There are other cases to support this drift as well. So, the real question is what sort of guy is Obama. To someone with a mindset as entitled as Dubya's, an invasion was like playing a big game of Risk, but I simply cannot see Obama being snowed into a serious attack on Iran with all the death and calamity it would involve (even if restricted to the air), even if he were boxed into it by his advisors. But that's just my read of someone I've never met, and we never really know what people are capable of.

  • Ted Nugent vs. Jon Stewart: Fumigating the Democrat Rats vs. Can't we all Get Along?
    • But....to the truly commited, true-believers, can the issue of whether the ends justify the means every crop up? When 15% of orthodox Jewish Israelis (OK, use your own numbers) can skew Israeli politics, and arguably that of domestic US politics, what does rationality have to do with things? The rational person just forks over his wallet/car/whatever, and files for insurance or prepares to move to Costa Rica. There always seems to be some sort of vanguard ready to have a disportionate impact on things, and thats what lies beneath all this stuff.

      The trouble with Stewart, and by definition Progressives, is that they are fundamentally rational, whose disposition is toward finding rational long-term solutions that people as a whole should be able to live (often even better) with. Shouldn't be a tough appoach to sell. Even so-called "realists" who pose as classic conservatives, fall into this camp if they don't go the ideological route. Of course, that alternative is awfully attractive for the lazy, or those who just cannot accept the notion that some problems are not fundamentally easy to solve "if we just quit holding all these go-darned meetings and go the job done" or "if we just obey the constitution".

      Watching Glenn Beck the other day, it's clear he (or his handlers/producers) have people reading blogs like this and tracking the Madow/Obermanns of the world. He has in an instant piroetted (sp?) from transparently John Birch/Lyndon LaRouche rhetoric, to that which seems designed to inflame class conflict ("you know, they think you're stupid....").

      And that really does seem to be where all this is heading, and the question becomes whether a full participatory democracy can work in an increasing complex world with an increasingly incompetent citizenry. Something to think about.

  • Suzuki: Our Global Economy is not Sustainable
    • This reminds me of "peak oil", but that would be wrong: more oil can be discovered and there new technologies will emerge for economical extraction as its price rises. To some degree this is true of food, but at the depletion rates he cites we might also end up having to talk about Soyent Green at some point.

      It will bear reading Suzuki's book, but somehow I'm reminded of the Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich back in the late sixties, which had similar alarming conclusions. Looking out 20-40 years with straight line projections is at best tedious and simplistic. We now see a bunch of languishing Ethiopian fisherman adapting to bigger fish, and you never know what may happen if Obama gets cornered by domestic political gridlock into rolling the dice on something dramatic with Iran.

      To anyone who wants to get into specific long range forecasting, say past next week, Good Luck!

  • Renewed Conflict Looms as Israel-Palestine Talks still in Limbo
    • The usual outrage and exasperation is hard to get away from, but hardly productive in itself. The more difficult thing is to consider what scenario, would lead to a plausible future leaving the region in a reasonable peace, aside from die-hard extremists on both sides. That's where things get difficult, and a better place to exercise our energy than collective indignation.

      In that spirit, the only meaningful accomodation made by Israel with the Arabs that occurs to me was the Egypt/Israel peace of CD I. What began that process was a serious Egyption threat that forced Israel to deal in good faith. (Not a White House dinner party; I'd bet Dennis Ross thought that one up.) Putting aside what a sweet deal Egypt and Israel got in terms of money for CD I, where they shook down the US for tens of billions over the years, consider also the freedom of action Israel gained for its various exercises in the years immediately following: OSIRAK and the Invasion of Lebanon come immediately to mind.

      The underlying lesson to draw is that this is hard core real-politik. Israel is not going to give back an inch of the WB unless forced to, with a bayonet. CD I also provided the bankroll for (I believe) what was the single biggest 10-yr arms buildup of Israel in its history. So, on top of everything else, when lemons were forced on them, Israel made lemonade. Not that anyone can blame them for making the most of their circumstances: Its what everybody ultimately does.

      The least we should do is support Abbas in writing off the totally abused Israeli "commitments" at Oslo, knowing how Israel will then point and say, "look, we told you so, they never meant what they said about recognition." At most, and realistically, the US should support whatever actions put REAL existential military and economic pressure on Israel, either through a wholesale denial of aid to them or support of Hamas, and wherever those actions may lead. Once there is a degree of true parity we will discover some good faith on Israels part. And though they may again drive a great deal, so be it; it'll be in their own best interests as an (ongoing) nation.

  • Clinton Cabinet Member Sought Iraq Provocation
    But W. Himself Proposed Ruse
    • Oh boy...these gets back to that exasperating business of perception management, and the imperatives of imperialism (acknowledged or not).

      A few weeks ago I was reminded of how the US maneuvered Japan into a corner during the 1930's, in what Walter LaFeber characterized as a "slipknot", where the more they tried to get out of their economic corner, the stronger US sanctions became, essentially provoking what Japan knew would be an utterly desperate attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time it struck me not dissimilar from those meetings in Dubya's adm when Rummy's memo provided concrete evidence of endeavoring to manufacture a cause for war. The difference is there was no such smoking-gun memo from FDR (that we know of, anyway), and there was a lot of argument within his adminstration about how to avoid what in retrospect appears to have been inevitable.

      As it happened, the muscle of the US fleet was out looking for Yamamoto's task force when the attack came, never suspecting he was going for Pearl Harbor. FDR's preoccupation at the time was how to arrange things so THEY would fire the first shot. In a number of ways the Japanese played into their hands. LBJ found his excuse, as have others, and its a scenario we might expect to see repeated.

      What this comes back to is how to A) legitimize your war/attack against someone who doesn't stand a chance, in order to B) mobilize the support of your populace, to C) help your economy, and C) thereby get re-elected, etc. Providing, is how politicians get re-elected.

      There is a pattern to these things, and it isn't limited to constitutionally democracies. The same sort of thing seems to happen throughout history whenever a bully want/needs to take something from the little guy. Managing the people is the essence of political power: politicians have to read which way the herd is moving and/or do something to spook them appropriately. A great speech may last overnite, but a 911 allows things to get done!

      Once again, my attitude is not to (once again) get too upset by this stuff. My gas and my bananas, and any number of other things, are cheap, and all of us in the US have neo-imperialism to thank for it. The thing is to think and promote a more enlightened self-interest when we inflict ourselves on the world. At least, IMHO, US alternatives with Japan in the 1930's were scarce....we do have options with Iran and the rest of the world. And the forces of darkness are evidently just that.

  • Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar Walk out on O'Reilly's Muslim-Baiting
    • Just working from the consensus wikipedia account, filter out the agreed-to absolute facts (dates, locations, etc) of events over the course of the war. Plot them on a map, follow the chronology. Develope alternative hypothesis; test objectively as possilble. This doesn't lead to any absolute Truth (what does?), but it leads a reasonable person to a reasonably confident conclusion.

      That Israel pilots hesitated would be tough/irrelevant as an objective fact to incorporate. I once read Noam Choamsky citing a retired US Navy officer with the Sixth fleet, who said they'd dispatched NUCLEAR armed aircraft to the Liberty's aid, only to be recalled by LBJ. There's no need to waste our time with such stuff.

    • There are some really perceptive/good responses here.

      FWIW: I now avoid getting into any sort of political discussion with someone who is not speaking out of at least good faith. If someone is a boor who insists on interrupting and talking over me, it is what it is and has to be worked through if you want to try to contribute and hope in some small way to make the world incrementally better.

      However, when someone "artfully" drops the definite article when referring to Muslims, in an obvious attempt to inflame the stay-at-home audience, it is time to walk-out AND pull the plug if you are a station owner with any integrity (guess we know why that didn't and it wouldn't happen...)

      It's ALMOST off topic to re-litigate (as they say) the USS Liberty incident, but in this day and time, revisiting what happened over 40 years ago is NOT a bad idea. At the time, US citizens were far more (believe it or not) trusting of their govt in general, (even in Vietnam in 67, speaking of the general populace), and certainly when it came to giving Israel the benefit of the doubt.

      I took the time to look into what happened closely and objectively and it made me want to scream, as Chris S suggests. I think it sheds a great deal of light on what is a mindset that is now even stronger in Israel and represents, today, more of a national security threat to the US than Iran. Once we start dealing with the reality of things and stop being snowing by one incredibly effective and ongoing public relations campaign we will be on a better road.

  • Top Ten Questions about Chile Mine Collapse: Was it Nixon-Kissinger's Fault?
    • With all due respect....

      There is an overwhelming plethora of examples of US neo-imperialism looking over the last 100 years, especially in Latin American, and most especially in Central America, without having to make one up. Not that the US did not initially make plans and attempt to dabble in Chilean politics, but we don't need to stretch/distort the facts and indict the Nix/Kis for the Pinochet golpe. There is no lack US sins in these regards, but this was not one of them: In 1973, Vietnam was falling, The Yom Kippur war exploded, and the Nixon Presidency was melting down. An active adventure in Chile was not in the cards, and the "evidence" cited is inevitably circular. After some earlier abortive attempts to screw around with Chile, the evidence shows a attitude of allowing their socialist govt to implode under its own increasingly evident incompetence. Although we might dismiss the remark by its source, at the time K (spontaneously?) quipped how Chile represented a dagger aimed at the heart of Antartica.....smacks more of a truthful attitude than anything I've read to the contrary that holds water.

  • Americans are always Shouting About Religion But Don't Know Much About It
    • This information is interesting, and to the extent we can make reasonable inferences through this poll it is useful in appreciating the world wholesomely.

      I once read a study (wish I could remember source/details), that compared "religious-ness" by national income/prosperity, and found there was direct correlation between countries with prosperity and less religion on the one hand, and those lacking prosperity and having more of the stuff.

      The one dramatically striking outlier in the graphical summary was the US. Maybe some ineffable poverty draws a certain type of seeking personality to this country, which has to be assuaged by massive material, and spiritual, consumption.

  • Redd: What About Jerusalem?
    • Prof Redd is looking at the right issue, which lets us get away from the often futile exasperation we feel with the latest news. But, it does become a philosophical issue of evolution that is hard to imagine being managed directly in any planned sense.

      In the real world, on one hand you have the evolution possible through a herky-jerky 2 step forwards/1 step back process, driven by enlighted self-interest and memes. On the other hand, you may have a deep seated pathology that (paradoxically when you think about it), serves to enpower a given country or group of people, at least in the short run. This is a tough force to rollback, even temporarily. My read is that the essential model of colonialism, from the earlier Persians, to the Romans, to the British, and now to the Americans, has varied only in style and sophistication. It is rooted in economics, avarice, and not a little bit of racism. At bottom, what individual is not drawn at some level to want to improve his lot (or that of his family, or some larger group), at the expense of others? The notion of a non-zero sum world only works when there is some third party/danger to collaborate against. When it gets down to it, even in the face of knowing better, people are remarkably creative when it come to enriching themselves at the expense of others.

      Education, through formal argument, meetings, classes, essays, etc, may infect (in a positive sense) the evolution of behavior, morality, and the sort of vision the Prof is alluding to, but overall progress can only comes as society itself matures, and it is an awfully slow and painful evolution that can as easily go in a backward direction.

  • Netanyahu Blows off US; Mahmoud Abbas pleads for Settlement Freeze
    • Well, if you don't want to sleep particulary well tonight, google "jericho III" (if I'm not misspelling it). In short, Israel has apparently just fielded a full-fledged ICBM that covers the the east coast of the US. It is said these missiles are needed to hit Iran because the extra power can be used for speed and a lower trajectory, to defeat a new generation of air defense missile that may be deployed at some point (if it performs as advertised, the S-300 the Russians just 86ed). Due to their size these missiles are also "mirv-able" meaning they can put multiple warheads on them.

      For many years Israel has had multi-stage thermonuclear bombs, which are the genuine city/civilization busters. Nukes get a bad rap, since smaller ones can be used (putting aside the radiation issue) to annihilate an air base, armor column, etc. MacArthur wanted to use a series of, I think it was 26, to stop the chinese from over-running our troops in a tactical setting back in Korea. These big guys, however, are sheer weapons of terror.

      Sweet dreams.

  • Will Resumption of Israeli Colonization of West Bank End the Two State Solution?
    • Er....I was trying to be positive. Really.

      On a more cynical note, as a corrolary to the Oslo II strategy, I suspect Israel would pursue meaningful negotiations, if Benny can make the more rash settlers slow down to see how negotiations could lead improve things for them....

      What we do, he tells them, is let the palestinians have a "state" with no real sovereignty (the KEY word/concept), on whatever land has the least value that Israel can persuaded to do without, then foist a PASSPORT of some sort on the Palestinians. If they can be maneuvered into accepting such a deal, we have, presto, solved the demographic problem that will otherwise get to be just too ugly.

      So, I suppose Israel really could be wholeheartedly into pursuing negotiations.

    • At least from the responses on this blog thus far, people are getting wise to the Israeli game. But they are nothing if not clever, creative, and relentless. I would see, based on history, Benny etal angling for some sort of Oslo II breakthrough, where the PA can be coopted into once again doing their bidding in the WB, in return for somehow (?) receiving the mantle of legitimacy in speaking for the people that rightly belongs with Hamas. Do all this, shut up the western press, and shake down the US for billions to make it all happen, would kill several birds with one stone that is bought, paid for, and legitimized by, the US.

      Certainly worth a try, and if things don't work out, contrive/provoke some incident to cause another intafadah (sic), where you can lay the blame for everything on the Palestinians (as with Camp David II).

      Question here is how Abbas will handle himself. He was Arafat's #2 and chief money man since forever. If he's fundamentally as corrupt as Arafat, this would lead credence to the above Israeli strategy, and its a safe bet Israel has a deep psychological workup, and no telling what sort of other leverage on him at this point. If, despite everything we can reasonable assume, Abbas has the strength and commitment to dedicate himself to the Palestinian people AND uses the lessons from his checkered history, then there is hope.

      The biggest hope I can see is of keeping Israel from pulling another big con; I don't see any (please, correct me if I'm wrong...I mean this, PLEASE) desire on the part of the Israels to stop settlement construction, much less give enough of what they have taken to be able to form ANY definition of a sovereign state.

  • Rumsfeld, Bush and the Supreme War Crime
    • When we REALLY get down to it, its that White Man-Brown Man thing that seems to explain alot of this, as far as looking for explanations go. Karzai may be a 'ferringner, but who wouldn't invite him to dinner with his great english, charm, and stylish green cape. In contrast to that guy fr Iran with his 3 day beard, who MUST smell like a camel.

    • Of course, you're right. And not to get drawn into too much ultimately ineffectual naval gazing, but in alot of ways the US put Japan in a corner. Walter LaFaber made a point in his history of noting how the events that made Japan do what they did may have gotten that reaction from a country that was less dominated by its military. In context, he had been discussing how the Yamamoto and the smarter guys knew even if successful they were starting a loosing fight and could only hope the US would somehow be intimated by a big early win.

      The point we get to is one of needing a more open-minded and benevolent morality. That doesn't mean being stupid or naive, but simply being more open minded and rational about our enlightened best interests. We'll still screw up, as there was plenty of competing wisdom in the US FS in the 1930's, but this stuff with Rummy etal is beyond excusable.

    • This isn't so much new news, as there were formal committees within the NSC of the Bush administration working on regime change in Iraq before 911.

      As to Nuremburg, a number of high officials in the Roosevelt administration, as well as Bombs-Away LeMay, have been quoted saying if they had been on the losing end, they would have been the ones facing the hangman for war crimes. The "shock and awe" in Iraq was the very definition of terrorism, but, as Dubya noted on another topic, "the US does NOT torture".

      The ultimate stake is indeed the "rule of law,". I rather think the reality is such traits of civilization and progress only serve to clothe the underlying beast, and are a "preferred" way of operating when it comes to the Big Picture. After all, as Lindsay Graham said in as many words, "911 left the US was on its knees......" People are inherently weak, and when confronted with something for which they are unprepared and ignorant (and the more conservative are always the most complacent and vulnerable), they understandably panic, better thinking being beyond these reactionary souls. This is all about national IN-security.

  • Makdisi: The Tragedy of Obama's Middle East Policy
    • Camp David II was the climax/write-off of theOslo Accords, a process started in 93. It was all a charade, but don't take my word for it. Look into this segment, in context of the ongoing conflict, and Israel's lack of good faith and cynicism becomes evident. A WHOLE lot written on it, so read critically. Very few balanced accounts, and you can dismiss alot pretty quickly. Clayton Swishers account is a great starting place, and then there was a book by an Israeli whose name I forget, who was doing a doc for French TV, and was able to get a bunch of contemporaneous interviews which are transripd. Looking at these two you'll get good real-time inside reportage, rather than most of this stuff which tends to be half-remembered or self-serving dribble. And read wikipedia more critically...it has its place, but this topic takes a more critical and discerning look. It clarifies a great deal, which is a mixed blessing....

    • Maybe I should be more succinct: people believe, and get conned, by what they desperately want to be so. Obama etal desperately want Israel to not be jerking them around like so many puppets that they have no ability to resist the pressure when it is applied. There emerges a cognitive dissonance, but they have no choice but to soldier-on, participating in these pathetic charades for peace with at least one party that is not there in good faith, as demonstrated by the entire history of their actions.

      And, of course, many, many people have already observed that nothing is really going to change in this game until the US somehow cures itself from the undue influence of the likudnik interests.

  • Obama dismisses Iran War Prospects, overrules Clinton
    • Lennart has good observations in general. However, a guy like Powell does circulate, and people in DC cannot help but want to impress a guy like him at parties with their access and inside dope, if only given in nods and winks. In other words, he may not get any briefings, but he's the sort of person who can tell if there is a drift in the system toward war preparations.

      Also, Hillary may want to be team player, but she has been thoroughtly socialized by the domestic powers that be to respect the need for Israel to do whatever it takes blah blah blah. So, her straying from the company line is understandable. I'm also not sure I'd interpret Obama's words to be a repudiation of an "option on the table", although I think he's entirely too sane, and in his case those words would more likely be designed as a sop.

      As to Clinton easing Netanyahoo out.....huh, this is Israel's lawyer we're talking about! Were this so in any practical sense, we should recognize the PM reflects the Israeli polity and does its bidding. Barak has always been a more moderate face, I'll give you that, but when it comes to his actions I see little difference. Camp David II was, IMHO, handled with far more finesse than Netanyahoo would've been able to muster, but it served a definate Israel purpose/goal, and what we're talking about here is the wishes of the Israel elites running things: the PM is not some sort of ruler.

      Finally, I don't see where Israel cannot attack Iran and get their pilots back. Their raid on Tunisia (what, 20+ yrs ago?) was the same distance, with Vietnam era aircraft. Israel has plenty of strike aircraft, has had the time to do the immense planning, and to convert/acquire whatever additional planes are needed for aerial refueling. Solving complex logistical problems and acting bolding is what Israel is all about, and they have demostrated a absolute fondness for this sort of thing in the past. They'd need the tacit cooperation of the Saudi's, but I suspect they'd get that approval for a single strike (how dare they overfly us? the Saudi's could say....once). But to do "the job" properly would take multiple strikes, re-assessments, revisits, etc. All they'd be able to do is cause a HUGE mess and totally screw themselves in politically significant ways on issues that are more genuinely important. That said, once a country (or person) repeatedly lays down a marker that something is "unacceptable", and relies hugely on their reputation for not bluffing, they pretty much have to make good on their words. Its a very basic law of the jungle, and my own observation of the likudniks that run things is that are very much in tune with it.

  • Ahmadinejad as Cyrus the Great?
    • Just maybe you're right. We may think Islamaphobia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe at some level we (collectively) want drama and define ourselves by what we are NOT....leading to differentiations that we find offensive, threatening, and ultimately that have to be attacked. Gad.

    • As events appear to be drifting, who wouldn't prefer to offset the growing power of Iran with reinforcement of Sunni intersests through the KSA/GStates. Realpolitik's sometimes get a bad name for its flinty-eyed lack of humanity. But properly developed, a regional balance of power can be in everybodies best interests. The Gulf Arabs, with all this new weaponry, will have an enhanced ability to defend themselves and inflict pain offensively. But they simply don't have the population or economy to dream of somehow conquering some part of Iran...the idea is ludicrous. Iran has a great military for trench warfare, but their capability is defensive, with an asymetric ability to cause alot of defensive naval pain; their position is also inherently defensive, like that of a porcupine.

      There keeps seeming to be momentum towards the US somehow reaching a modus vivendi with the Iranians, to the enormous distress of the Israeli's. The above gives more support to that idea. But it begs the question of whether this drift can carry through, given the influence of the various domestic/foreign lobbies on US policy. If, rationally, this is where things are going and it is the conscious and competent intent of the administration, then Israel has to be able to find that "acceptable", when it has laid down its marker consistently, that essentially losing their hegemony is unacceptable (an merely potent Iran = a nuclear armed Iran). In the world, you cannot afford to bluff on such things, and Israel's great strength in managing its neighbors has been the assurance they simply do not bluff. So, where does that ultimate observation, if we decide to acknowledge it, leave us?

  • Maher: Tea Bag Repubs are Racist
    • Racist GOP? Well, whatever really changes?

      The more I sit back and think objectively about ALL these oh-so-provocative and hopeless issues, the more it seems nothing really ever changes (except the ability of the "system" to absorb and accommodate the underlying emotionalism that really drives things....).

      When you think about, there is a scale on which people's attitudes toward labor can be labelled: from some definition of pure slavery on one end, to pure (whatever that means) collectivism on the other. My own depression-era parents where taught when growing up that slavery was wrong, as was the N word, etc, but it was all ephemeral: their fundamentally patriarchial attitude towards "coloreds" remained, and it is still easy to tease out those underlying attitudes. In fairness, it extends to all "little people", including the poor white people whose ancestors once sharecropped with the emanancipated slaves on their post civil war family farms.

      This gets back to the premise of rationalism in this and similar blogs. The vast majority of people find such thinking tiring, and ultimately pointless. There is "us" and "them", and its even easier to work with that reality when you tell the difference at a glance. Even that amount of effort is a strain, and primordial imperatives drive actions, better thinking not withstanding. With the economy twisting slowly in the wind, diminishing demand is leading to layoffs in smaller groups than would otherwise draw even more attention, and things are getting worse, one family at time.

      And so, to the most "progressive" reader out there, I make a challenge: are YOU really going to hire the most qualified person for the rare position you may have control over, when the nominally qualified son of an important business partner is scratching around desperately for a job? The point is, as the economy unwinds, people get mightly parochial about their loyalties, so don't expect things to get any better politically, and they may very well may get quite a bit worse.

  • Collapse of Kabul Bank Points to Fatal Corruption of Karzai Government
    • Stepping back from things, this is the scenario that seems to always seems to just peak through.....

      The way out, if there is any other possibility, is the one Obama seems to be steering toward: of putting lipstick on the pig, declaring victory, and slinking out of Afghanistan in a year as in now happening in Iraq.

      However, a Grand Bargain with Iran seems to somehow be possible, either that or I need to get off the pipe (just kidding). Seriously, the Mullahs may be too infatuated with their notion of chess and of a Great Game here, but for all the world it can be argued that is just the sort of game they're playing with their posturing. This business with nukes, most evidently, being a bargaining chip/gambit to squeeze Israel into behaving in a TRULY civilized manner, with a parallel goal of getting the US out of the Gulf. Of course, loosing their essential hegemony in the ME is not something Israel is going to find acceptable since (in the pathological of the Likud) any scenario that doesn't leaving them in the drivers seat is an existential threat. But, no one said it'd be easy. Even, and especially if, they are able to bamboozle Obama into neutering Iran, they're now on a road to nowhere to with demography steamroller they face. If they play their hand carefully, Iran is in a position to make good things happen.

      There are alot of other elements that could addressed that cannot be gotten into here and now, but I agree, Iran could be the key, and to me it appears they themselves appreciate that potential. The question now is, if Kissinger could go to China, could Hillary go to Tehran?

  • Afghanistan and Paris Hilton's Purse
    • Your comment made me realize something about when I visit relatives/others outside the "elitist" overgrown capitol & research university town where I live. That there is an incredible homogenization and sensory deprivation that has been visited on the general population, that makes it seem to yearn for something to either numb them out or stimulate their glands (rouse the rabble, as it were).

      I know, I'm some guy just now realizing how the US has been big-boxed and franchised. But what I'm seeing goes deeper, and its what you're hitting around. People watch TV at EVERY opportunity, and its always switched to FOX, Glenn Beck, and whomever can make their blood boil. I have seen these citizens watching in waiting rooms and chain restaurants, slack-jawed, as one indignity and revelation after another is revealed. Obermann is too much of a fancy guy to make points and he isn't feeding them what them really want; He and Madow often just mock people for their stupidity, whereas Beck etal cozy up to them. The smart guys just make these folks feel stupid: not a good way to be persuasive. You cannot imagine how much Obama lost by even knowing what arrugula was.

      Oh....and aside from the public observations, I've been down to the college educated coffee klatches, and those guys are even worse, thinking they actually have a handle on big picture, grand strategy, etc......

      But the thing

  • Republican National Committee Slashes New York Muslim Cabbie
    • Stephen Walt at FP drew deep comparisons with Weimar Germany a few days/week or so ago at:

      http://walt.foreignpolicy.com

      He was actually citing another scholar of that era, but was referring to the contemporary mood....PRE-cabbie attack. A number of parallels, but one difference (arguable?) was how German liberals/intellectuals basically threw up their hands rather than getting in a never-ending series of food fights with the nascent power of national socialism (Naziism taken most broadly).

      The takeaway was we'd really be in trouble if the Obermanns/Coles just said screw-it and took a hike for Costa Rica.

  • Bolton was Contradicted by Bush on Iran's Bushehr Reactor
    • Yet another terrific display of rationality. However.....

      I keep thinking of the remarks made to Ron Suskind by whomever it was in the 2nd Bush administration, about creating a reality by action, while others studied and analyzed to no effect. Creating their own reality, was how the fellow put it.

      The reality (?!) is that the Israeli attack on Osirak is accepted (?!) as a successful intervention: the eventual political fallout impact you noted becomes just another tenuous argument and irrelevant at this point. As Suskind's interlocutor said, by the time "you rationalists" get around to figuring out what may have happened, they will have moved on to create new realities. (Kind of like building settlements, now that I think about it).

      Ultimately we're on the better side of things the closer we stick to the rational truth of things and try to learn from history, but this whole business with Iran is disquieting.

      Rationally, there appears to have been simply a lot of posturing for domestic consumption on all sides. But the reality is Israel feels a....special need and entitlement....for regional hegemony, that is beyond the pale. They also have a well-founded belief in their influence over the US, and an even more heightened sense of the need to pro-actively dominate events, as shown by their history, chapter and verse.

      Sure, Goldberg's article in The Atlantic comes off as alarmist, but there was a certain smugness to it as well. Reread the final parts, where JFK spoke with Ben Gurion about what the US could do after the election he thought the Jewish vote delivered to him (let's stipulate this exchange happened). The underlying message was what was good for Israel was good for America. This unbridled sense of righteousness constitutes a danger that completely swamps mere rationality.

  • An Israeli Attack on Iran would reduce Barack Obama to a One-Term President
    • Your final line tells the tale:

      A Netanyahu attack on Iran would reduce Barack Obama to a one-term president, which may be what Goldberg and his fellow conspirators are really aiming for. That success would after all allow them to keep to the 5-year timetable for another Asian land war.

      Context, as always, is everything. Thus, the neocon agenda would be advanced, and with all due respect, your sense that Bibi doesn't have the cojones doesn't pass. Its a different political scenario, with the Kadima driving things far harder, and it isn't as though Bibi was a total wimp at the Wye River finesse/gutting of Oslo anyway.

      In these matters its always best to back up to the 40,000 foot perspective. Its like when Israel smoked the USS Liberty so they won't be reported as they repositioning the IDF to take the Golan Heights under cover of truce. Even in the near past, I can tick-off a half dozen provocations from which Israel MUST have learned that those silly goyam in Washington will either just take it or get use to it. If they attack Iran, Obama will get really.....and I mean really mad....but hey, he'll get over it.

      It makes more sense when you realize all this posing accomplishes what is needed without firing a shot. And what Israel REALLY is angling for with all this BS, is to keep its regional hegemony, which an ambiguously nuclear Iran would deny them, and with it their (relative, but declining) freedom of action, against Hezbollah and the squatters remaining on the West Bank. The real issue all along is what to do about Palestine, and these sorts of recurring broohahas kicks up a lot of dust as the settlements continue their relentless expansion.

      Like any good magician, they draw you to watch one hand while the other does its dirty work.

  • Abedin: The Illusion of a ‘limited war’ against Iran
    • Here we go again....

      Mr. Abedin immediately acknowledges the conventional wisdom, but brushes by the reality that is occassionally correct. Certainly it is foolish to believe the course of events have ever been maintained by rationality for any extended period, but for a war scenario to emerge along these lines implies a world that is far scarier than the prospect of a lot of people getting killed, the price of oil skyrocketing, and America having once again stepped in deep poo-poo.

      There was plenty of skepticism about WMD in Iraq or whether our attack was in our national interest, but it was stampeded by yet to be discredited neo-cons who were able to make the ultimately unbeatable argrument that Iraq not having them was a risk we could not afford to take.

      The neo-cons had a larger agenda, but we're talking here about gaining the support to do the deed. And for that rather lame case to stick it took serious and deliberate deceit, a president who was a empty suit, and the fact the US could not conceive being hamstrung by two failing wars a few years later. We are now in a different world.

      The "conventional wisdom", as derided, is sound. These latest pronouncements are simple, easy and cheap posturing. Through them everyone gets what they want, even Israel. Nothing would be gained by Israel, even if they did have the power to manipulate the US into participating in some hair-brained some plot to (having now won in Iraq) move on to "defang" Iran.

      The bad news is these things don't seem to always happen for rational reasons. But there is too much hard-won experience and better wisdom now in place to stop it from happening as it did in 2002/2003. If the US does manufacture some excuse, or Tonkin gulf event, or Israel somehow drags us into it as an indirect response to some act Israel takes against Hezbollah, it will be a proof that the US has lost control of its own foreign policy.

      The author is staking out a prospect that is ultimately rather breathtaking.

  • Take that, Dennis Miller; Climate Change is Real and Dangerous
    • The fundamental problem, to be a bit inflammatory, is with democracy, or this idea that The People are able to govern themselves wisely.

      Or at least its worth considering how people in general have knees that jerk widely to what's in front of them, and don't have the concentration or education to appreciate and act on the deeper complexity of things. The situation is aggravated as time goes on because the impact of what man does has increasingly less tolerance for error. No longer is it safe to view our backyards as trashdumps (many rural Americas have traditionally treated them that way), and a slash and burn mentality is simply not sustainable. Yet, this is the mindset in the country, and even more so in the world generally.

      I think you'll find most Americans are beginning to view the BP disaster "over" because the clean-up crews are no longer finding oil on the beaches; those 5600 pelicans were a shame, but we'll recover. Its only the superficial they can respond to, and it will be a pure abstraction and intellectual irrelevance when they are told the shrimp eaten beach-side is flown in from Thailand; It'll take 3-4 years for the destruction of the gulf tuna hatchery to show up in the store price, and you can bet BP lawyers will argue they were involved. And as long as there's a clean beach to walk on in 3 years, this will all be ancient history.

      Ditto for climate change and any other issue you name. The reality of our policies in Afpak, for example, are driven by the need to assauge such mentalities. When Joe Biden's take on area policy alternatives are arguably far more practical, realistic and economical, they simply do not square with domestic US politics. Meaning the need for Obama to do all these half-baked things in foreign policy to gain no-neck support for watered-down health care reform . And while we go through all these gyrations in South Asia, Mexico, a true foreign affairs/national security issue, melts down: talk about a country that really should be treated with the importance of a 51rst state when it comes to its impact on us in a myriad of ways.
      As the man said, we has met the enemy.......

  • The Closing of the Zionist Mind
    • Maybe it'd help to look more closely at the FNS pathology, noted here for the first time!

      It may be that it'll be revealed to have predictable phases and stages of degeneracy. As when it gets to a certain point it refuses to listen, strikes out with increasing wildness, and so forth. At a certain point it would clearly become totally irrational, and we may be getting to the point where there is nothing "civilized" left to kept those afflicted from bringing down their own temple...

  • Repubs Plot Israel-Iran Apocalypse and the Collapse of the US Economy
    • Via Saudi Arabia , and the other Gulf States, who would like someone to do "something" tangible to neuter Iran and will support them as much as they (feasibly) can, and what does Israel care about about Jordanian airspace?

      But then, we do have to think of how rational it'd really be to have a serious fight. The PR gains from all this posturing serves the regimes in Jersusalem, Tehran and DC just fine, without firing a shot; a shutdown of the gulf would screw the Iranians even worse than us. But then, it is the Israelies, and not the US, who'd fire the first shot (obviously, be prepared for the Iranian "provocation"), and people find a way to do what they want to do emotionally (see: Salesmanship 101).

      The issue here, and the problem, IMHO, is that events do not unfold rationally. Statesmen can steer their ships and grand strategies, but the weather is tricky and the most probable odds of any one event are themselves improbable relative to what actually unfolds. A long way of saying, that whenever you put a bunch of combustable materials and attitudes increasingly close together, you never know WHAT will actually happen. You/we are here tempting fate.

  • The Israel Lobbies and Breitbartism: Dirty Tricks, Taboos and the threat to American Democracy
    • In standard histories/interviews of participants in the 6-day war, its easy to find Moshe Dayan nonchalantly explained how the IDF initiated the majority of incidents with Syria as a way of intimidating them and gaining tactical positioning edges for when they finally got the civilian leadership under control and could do what they really wanted.

      My personal read of the history, along with that of historians (often Israeli) who know far more, is that Nassar was doing a lot of dangerous posing and acting tough for PR purposes, that played into their hands. The Israelies had started pushing the issue (with water generally) pretty much when Egypt withdrew its genuinely competent military from the Sinai in 65 to go fight in the civil war in Yemen. Seriously, disinformation becomes accepted fact through retelling....land without a people for people without a land, etc: it's appalling how this sortof thing has been sold through the years. Correct me if I'm wrong, although clearly there is more nuance and drama than what I've just sketched out.

      Frightening thing, going along with Prof Cole's post, is how these patterns of aggressive momentum build and recur in such a consistent way. With Iran there really does seem to be a same song second verse scenario looming.

      IMHO, Obama at least knows better (versus Dubya), and he is a smart guy trying his best to deflect/manage the situation. But the power of the warmongers, principly through their relentlessness, is frightening.

    • I follow Stephan Walt's blog at Foreign Policy, which The Lobby has had probably at the top of its hit list since Walt & Mearsheimer did the first really methodical take-down article on right-wing Israeli influence. (Sorry Juan, I'm sure you rate high as well, but then, comments on THIS website are monitored!)

      What I've noticing over the last year or so is how the tone of responses to Walt has shifted, in several subtle and not-so-subtle ways, to intimidate his supporters and otherwise confuse any rational comments re Israel and its policies.

      First there are a (very) few outright apologists, who must have no other job than to attack what Walt says along with anyone who otherwise supports him. Only a deeply experienced retired regional analyst with NOTHING else to do, or someone with a dedicated staff to support them, would be able to put together those posts, with their combination of selectively chosen substance and rhetorical misdirection. But along with the content they attack other posters with a vitriol that is extraordinary, and effectively they seem designed to intimidate, in the crudest ways imaginable, anyone with an opinion that is not supportive of Israel.

      Then there are just a huge number of posts by the ostensibly illiterate that seem designed to dominate through sheer numbers, who at least appear to be foreign commentators with poor English, who misrepresent the case for Walt and come-off as dangerous crackers. They are difficult and tiring to read, and often don't make a lot of sense, regardless of their specific comment. Their net effect is to confuse, tire, muddy the waters, and make the blog unreadable.

      Maybe 20% of the posts are on a par with the respondents I read here, so even if you allowed some of his more informed and virulent respondents to attack your own posts (at least they'd be substantively-based), that'd still leave a huge number of others that appear to me to be disingenuous by design. Apparently the FP staff went back and edited-out a number of these obvious shills, and on one of his more controversial threads reduced it from something like 260 to 160 respondents.

      The point I'm trying to make is that there appears to be a organized effort to dilute the influence of Walt's blog. The overall impact of these posters does not appear to be erratic or spontaneous when you look at them as part of a whole. There are a handful of other people who are clearly professionals with substantive backgrounds who check-in and make thoughtful and illuminating comments (and objections) to Walt's posts during what could be spare time (before class or whatever, they're never that long, but always cogent), but they are more than offset by people with similar backgrounds who seem to be free to post all day.

      It is so cheap, relatively speaking, for a Cole or Walt to have a blog that has a impact, that I think there exists a concerted effort to smear you guys, and this work doesn't have to cost a lot more than yours. At some level there are people who view this all as a existential issue and I'm not sure there's anything they wouldn't do, so I sense this behavior to be not only appalling, but potentially dangerous.

  • Was Amiri a Double Agent who Hyped Iran's Nukes?
    • You and RS Hack, above, have ideas that complement one another and they shine some light on things. Few days ago on juancole.com there was a link to a area order-of-battle study by Anthony Cordesman (less US and Israel) that put things in even clearer context: there is a military balance in the area, with a bias toward defensive systems.

      Iran's ability to project power in a meaningful way is nil, and that's not going to change for a long time. What they can do is make things awfully nasty/stinky/messy in the gulf. Or plant bombs through Hezbollah worldwide, that'll look bad on the news, but otherwise make like impact. Or they can throw a missile against Israel that'd stand to cause more heart attacks than direct casualties (never mind the excuse it'd provide Israel to do what they really want to do).

      Iran's power is in its potential to make such a huge and inconvenient stink in the gulf. Looked at objectively, Iran's actions appear very rational, apart from posturing that seems designed to inflame and/or for domestic consumption. There's no doubt they, or any country, could do something irrational, being managed by Human Beings of one strip or another. The issue here has been seized on by because there is no way we can know their intentions absolutely, and they can change as fast as your own mood after a plate of bad shrimp. All things considered, however confident we may be in Iran's intentions, we are taking a chance, and is their sincerity re nukes a chance we can afford to take? In the case of the US, the real answer is a simple yes; in the context of the political power of our 51rst state, I'm afraid its a resounding NO!

      But there will need to be an excuse to attack them: a 911, or a Tonkin Gulf incident. Obama, I'm convinced, knows better, but "these other guys" know what they want and they are...relentless.

  • Libyan Aid Ship Extracts Concessions from Israel;
    Resumption of House Demolitions in Jerusalem
    • ".....several concessions from Israel in return for diverting to the Egyptian port, including a pledge that travel abroad for treatment of ill Palestinians in Gaza would be expedited and reconstruction projects would be allowed to go forward"

      With all due respect, as people have been saying for years, first observe the facts on the ground. Whatever "concessions" may have been wrung-out, we should be more impressed by what Israel might choose to do in....well....Good Faith, for real.

  • Erdogan vows that Turkey will not Let Israel Get away with Flotilla Attack
    • So, especially with Obama's most recent performance we have a pretty good sense of the power of The Lobby on US policy. What we MAY get to see is how powerfully they really are, since the most direct lever they could apply to Turkey would be threatening its relationship with the US.

      Not that Turkey would be as sensitive to such pressure, which would be indirect, but a serious attempt along these lines would be visible and could provide a way of gaging their reach and power, especially over the next few months.

      Of course, the fix may already be in, and these Turkish statements could be for public consumption, given deep existing relationships, and how business is business, and what's all the hubbub about these Troublesome Little People anyway....

  • Abbas: Israeli Colonization Impedes Start of Direct Talks
    • Thanks for the link. Always interesting to look over a piece by a guy like Cordesman. Still, having scanned it, that paper reminds me of those pictures reprinted in Psych 101 books, where depending on your bias you see what you want to see (the crone or the babe, as I recall). Iran could be interpreted by someone with a us-against-the-world perspective as coming on hard, only with a more economical approach to regional hegemony.

      C makes a big point of their development of asymetric capabilites, which are the only type that can/might work against the essentially economic strength of the US and its 51rst state. He talks about Iran angling for a "bomb in the basement" capability, and that's too close to comfort given that POWER over those that would oppose/contradict your nation's agenda is what its all about.

      To me the more instructive thing about that report is the strength of Saudi Arabia, which offsets Iran's nicely, although messily, given what Iran can do simply to disrupt the region if it's assaulted. Iran looks to have very much of a Porcupine/Skunk strategy, but you have to admit, nobody really wants to have either of them around.

    • After listening to this sort of hoop-la over the course of years, reading into the matter enough to become informed, and having no (directly) vested interest in either party, Palestinian or Israel, there's only one conclusion I can come to:

      Israel has NEVER operated in Good Faith. Maybe (although its a stretch) in Oslo, but what came out of that began to immediately be diluted, eventually petering out entirely with Netanyahu's election, and an apparently pointless assassination to make a larger point to any Israeli politician who was not with the program.

      Some would say the only "two state solution" will come (as another poster opined) with the Palestinians underground. I wouldn't go that far: they would be allowed a few rocky scraps of land, assuming no Israeli wanted it.

      This whole drama, demonstrated clearly by their actions since 1967, has been one of Israel taking what it wants, constrained only by the need to make things as palatable as necessary in a PR sense, and the pace at which settlers can be brought in.

      I sometimes think our sense of indignation and protestations are more about not wanting to face this reality, and thinking our objections are going to make any difference. Call me cynical, but to the powers that be in Israel, and the US, I suspect these voices amount to nothing more than troublesome and pathetic nuisances.

  • Asadi on Iran: "Today's Internal Affairs, Tomorrow's Global Impact"
    • Asadi essay may repudiate that idea and itself could not be hijacked for the purpose of the neocons ("neocons" being kindof a lazy catch all label here), but isn't that a fine point? Demonstrably "they" do have an agenda that will twist anybodies words, as they certainly have with Huntington and Michael Doran. Its what they do.

    • Its interesting how this essay is at odds with a more benign reading of the potential of Islamic Rivivalism on the broader world, and what we often read on this website when it recurrently debunks the hyperbole of the neocons. We might agree Bernard Lewis's blather about "Islamofacism" is overblown (although perhaps leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy), but a more nuanced reading such as this leads credence to the larger conflict of civilizations hypothesis.

      It may be alarmist to talk about "them" being out to "conquer the world", but the resolution of such an internal Iranian dialectic that empowers their extremist elements may well lead to a larger region-wide conflict between sunni and shia states, in a way that more informed and rational analysts than Lewis have comtemplated for a number of years.

      Maybe we really should engage the Middle East more energetically, versus backing-off on our involvement, with some notion of letting the wounds of colonialism heal.

  • 50 Dead in Baghdad Attacks on Shiites;
    Netanyahu Warns of Eastern Front
    • We all become aggravated when seemingly evident good sense and better ideas are ignored; we just cannot get it how these guys keep on being able to sell their tripe to the US and its people. There is a natural indignation when a loose collection of powerful entities, with seemingly organic cohesion, are able to orchestrate policies that when looked at closely are against the long-term interests of Israel as well as the US.

      Where does this consistency come through, when there is not some conspiracy? I suspect it comes from an implicit understanding that Israel is the 51rst State. When anyone starts off with that perspective, all the potential moves and counter-moves to build and maintain a compelling narrative of our relationship along those lines come into harmony.

      Just an observation. Maybe I'm off, but I've always thought the first step in getting past/resolving any problem is to recognize and accept the reality of things. The best way to treat the corruption now infecting better policy decisions in the US as well as Israel is with sunlight.

  • Hurricanes could Threaten BP Ships, Relief Well Operations
    • Just a thought, that I hope is more in-tune with reality:

      Maybe BP really just does not care about pesky pelicans and tree-hugging obstructionists. Had the situation not be pressed, would they not have just saved zillions of $ by starting the relief wells and not going through all these futile gyrations of top-hatting etc??

      Lets review somethings obvious and already forgotten. Through just a 5 sec snippet of film, using standard engineering tools, profs at Purdue and Berkeley quickly KNEW, with huge confidence, that the leak was 30-60 whatever gallons a day. No argument or question, except for the proportion of oil to gas. With more footage and access to samples BP must CERTAINLY have known the same thing, along with proportion of methane.

      Entonces, this whole exercise was one of keeping the Little People satisfied that "something" was being done, when nothing effective COULD be done, and they have simply been pursing their economic self-interest by manipulatin the PR. Sure, they are now recovering a fraction of the leak, but I suspect it is at lost given the total expense these efforts have entailed, and because of the PR problem they had no other choice. Relocation of these rigs from the North Sea is incredibly expensive, but unitl it was forced on them, they could at least avoid that daily expense for a few weeks since they had "no idea the spill was larger than whatever". Keep in mind, the astronomic cost of operating this offshore equipement (the reason drilling equipment everywhere is leased). Saving money will, I am confident, be shown the cause of the spill, and their subsequent actions.

      As a business entity whose alligiences and values are ONLY to the bottom line, BP cannot care less, and will do everything it can (legally and in a PR sense) to not spend money on anything other than the relief wells, which may have been the only solution as they always knew.

  • Obama's MacArthur Moment? McChrystal Disses Biden
    • I've been listening to the news about McC offering an apology for "poor judgement", and having read the more current posts think everyone is right about what Obama should do versus what he likely will do. It really will be a telling moment. If Obama chooses to accept such an apology, he will be saying he is OK with the underlying sentiment, which McC was sorry to have voiced. Doing so would speak eloquently to Obama's underlying spinlessness.

      In fairness, Obama can be excused for the outcome on healthcare, where he arguably played his cards as well as possible. This, however, will be a test of his executive judgement: he CANNOT afford to have an indispensible general, or be perceived too weak to execute his perogatives. There is entirely too much evidence of that already. As demonstrated by the recent meeting with Netanyahu, the world has already recognized his effeteness. Obama now has thean opportunity to either reaffirm that perception, or grow up and be the President of the US, versus the local PTA.

    • At some level McC must've known he was pushing things by speaking this way to a reporter from....of all places....Rolling Stone. It would be a way, if he gets away with it, of showing who's Boss, and whether he has the free-hand and authority he would obviously think essential to do the job. Or maybe he wants to get himselve canned, rather than face the failure that he may sense looming in Kandahar. Or just maybe, the quote from Truman about dumb (and arrogant, in my experience) generals, is probably more on the mark. But put this all in context:

      Obama was neutered on healthcare; juked off his feet on Too-Big-To-Fail; and (possibly) has been finessed by a single foreign oil company. He has nowhere shown the sort of leadership that leads from the front with the full authority of the office. He's been hesitant, preferring to use a consensus-driven approach, that at least in purely executive situations is totally inappropriate. Clinton's mistake with Healthcare was in NOT coopting the Congress in his (her) plan, so we can forgive Obama for that approach, but the Gulf Mess and Foreign Policy DEMAND direct executive action. He's got to step up to the plate and show he's got this essential ability. Now is the time, having been there over a year. If he doesn't show he's up to the job, he'll spend the rest of his term twisting in the wind.

  • Turkey Shelves Israeli Cooperation,
    Considers breaking off Ties;
    Israel Lobbies in Congress denounce Ankara
    • So interesting how analytically unanticipated specifics unfold in these matters: that it might have been Turkey where the inevitable crack in Israel's obstinance might (emphasis might) begin. Who wudda thunk it?

      The story here will be whether Turkey is able to resist the omnipotence of the Lobby any better than the US, which to all intents and purposes is owned by them. Turkey will be subject to all sorts of obviously direct pressure as noted, but may well be brought under the full pressure of the United States. Put another way, what if all US relations with Turkey are endangered? After all, doesn't Turkey's attitude reflect an unacceptable anti-semitism? Doesn't it reflect an existential threat to Israel that must be resisted? And if that were were not bad enough, that there may well be an alliance building between them and Iran???

      If we do indeed make our own realities, this all may have been ostensibly unforeseen, but only in the details. I really think, regarding it from a broad enough perspective, that it is all the inevitable unfolding of a self-fulling prophecy on the part of Israel's Zionist right wing. Stress "Inevitable".

  • Obama Launches Green Equivalent of Moon Mission
    • Yeah, like another commission will take care of things.
      Whether you notice how Industry got the better of Obama on medical insurance reform, or downright spanked him on Too Big To Fail, Obama is eloquently showing us who is really running things. Now, he's going for the Tre-fecta: Can he come out on top of the tenth largest oil company in the world, under these circumstances, limited by being a foreign company whose national sponsor has told them they're on their own? Stay tuned for how much ll "legitimate" damages Tony Hayward promised will amount to, or how much this whole business will REALLY change things. Perhaps some window dressing to address appearences until the next news cycle/crisis de jour, but it'll be a facade.

      As to this particular HJ. Remember how the guy who had this job (doing what he was told;look critically at how differnt Obama really is from The Shrub, objectively), announced in the spirit of JFK how we were going to Mars! Whatever toots your horn, space cadets!

      IMHO, to honestly and accurately presume to anticipate what the future holds, and what we need to do to properly manage it, you have to look at the awkward reality that Obama does not have the power to do much but get us in worse trouble. He or any president. Exhibit A: The Shrub.
      Only when CORPORATE, taking the original meaning of the word, associated with the notion of whole, somehow, decides to do what needs to be done. In other words, once WE ALL come together. Until then, the only entity that has come together is corporate America, who various desparate parts are all driven by The Bottom Line and The Next Quarter; maximizing shareholders wealth in the immediate term.
      These people have a very elegant and powerful system. And until the People of the country are able to come up with a coherent and common set of values, that are something they are willing and able to go to barricades for, these sort of remonstrations will be like gas in the wind. I think we have to realize one thing: the forces you/we are up against, are not just bitchin and moaning on some blog before going off to water their gardens...power, is what they do.

  • Big Oil's Predations are not Your Fault
    • I just rediscovered a 1985 book by Marilyn French, Beyond Power, which is a rather breathtaking indictment of what she terms Paternalism, which could more fairly be seen as the overall paradigm of how society is structured. The future, based on trends she perceived, was one of wealth and resource transfers to the rich taking taking place ever faster, leading to a future of corporate totalitarianism (versus facism or simple dictatorial authoritarianism).

      Her solution was a return to more benign feminine values of sharing and collaborative win/win relationships, versus the deference to the Big Daddy who art in Washington, Heaven, or wherever mindset. Or, IMO, as opposed to taking personal responsibility, which sadly dominates most thinking and behavior. In this sense, think of the power of a religion that insists that its adherent hew to their role of "lambs" before some sort of Cosmic Shepard.

      French's was an impressive book and worth finding and/or rereading. But the ULTIMATE answer to your/our frustration, IMHO, is a change in values. Nothing else is ever going to do more than momentarily and nominally make any difference whatsoever, in the face of the relentless human greed, desire for control and power, and the institution momentum and power already aggregated by corporations.

      The current "Teaparty", is a lame joke, and will amount to nothing. But it could be a beginning in that it represents a lot of people who are in their own ways frustrated and looking for an alternative. Their vision, to the extent they have one, is a return to some mythical notion of truth and simplicity. Naive at best, but once a alternative force or energy begins to appear, it has a chance of evolving into something that could serve as a vehicle for an alternative value system.

      And the bottom line is that without a change in our overall value system we are on a collective course with negative time and space.

  • Meh story about $1 Trillion in Minerals in Afghanistan
    • "Hype"

      Not just hype, by well-timed hype. Notice the recent back-peddling on MacChrystal's expectations for the upcoming Kandahar offensive, the escalation of corruption indications and the recent dis-jirga.

      Yawn.

  • Russia: Missiles not Covered by UN Weapons Ban on Iran
    • FWIW. Just read in military trade journal how new 30,000 lb bunker-busting bombs are to be deployed to the US B-2 (the delta wing stealth) bomber fleet toward the end of this year. In an interview, their wing commander spoke about then being prepared for "when" they are called to go after deeply buried targets on the other side of the world.

    • This hooh-haah serves all parties--Iran, Israel and the US--as a way of creating a threat to keep people variously distracted, but more basically to help keep the current regimes of these countries in power.

      The problem is how the current scenario has been evolving as a matter of underlying dispositions: how can any responsible government EVER trust the Other Guy if they are not emasculated or unless you have your foot on their throat. It isn't as though the powers that be in Israel (or the world, take your pick), have not earned a real and deserved bunker complex. That Iran may well have deliberate designs on a nuke, or immediate break-out capability, is their only rational course when it would present their only real deterrent to the demonstrated malevolence of the US and Israel, when Iran has such a critical and coveted position in terms of resources and geopolitical positioning.

      Aside from all that, what is unfolding can easily be seen as a relentlessly self-fulfilling prophecy, supported and perpetuated by the reality that "managing" such an ongoing conflict, perhaps subliminally, is in the self-interest of regimes across the ME, as well as the US. At this point, the issue appears to have developed a life and a momentum all its own.

  • Mystery of Iranian Nuclear Scientist and the Duelling YouTube Videos
    • The speculation here reflects how easy it is to get into the conspiracy business. Even with limited data, the prejudiced can make whatever case they wish.

      This reminds me of how one of those "balanced" analysts at WINEP proposed how the inspection of that "hole in the ground," missed the chambers with the centrifuges, hidden 50-100 feet beneath their very feet. Of course, had they probed for such hidden chambers and found nothing, it could as easily be claimed that they existed just another 50 ft lower.

      Go figure why at some point, that I suspect we are long past, talking is pointless.

  • Northern Ireland Condemns Israeli Raid on Rachel Corrie,
    "Completely unacceptable Use of Force"
    • I Think alot of posters are nibbling around the underlying truth here: those in power generally, but specifically in Israel, really JUST DO NOT CARE about starving (palestinian) babies, or bulldozed engenues like Rachel Corrie. At a dinner party following these incidents I suspect all you'd see in the way of reactions would be resigned sighs and eyerolls.
      Maybe these people are empowered somewhat by these purported gas deposits, or god-given righteous, or maybe only by the primal need to never give on anything (otherwise we'd be on the way to holocaust II, after all). However, I suspect the mindset that these passive resisters hope to influence is a great deal different than the crumbling colonial mindset of post WWII Britain......Maybe we should accept the evidence that these people REALLY just do not care.......?

      As to 30 gunshots and nine fatalities. The boarders were NOT customs or police people: they were specially trained to kill without hesitation. At Kent State there was an accident, due to national guard folks who as easily could've shot over the students heads. There was no real control. Militaries have an ongoing problem training troops to kill without hesitation, even in the most desperate and bona fide combat situations; hence the endless peacetime training, bonding, indoctrinations, etc, etc. In this case, shooting "over their heads" or whatever, was precisely what the leadershop (Ehud Barak, Defense Minister, a blooded and veteran commando himself), did NOT want to have happen: THAT sort of thing would have been the Disaster these people really would have feared.
      It would be FAR more realistic and rationale for the instructions to be, Kill anyone who gets in your way. In real life, shooting to injure is NUTS: it only serves to motivates to resist in effective (lethal) ways, rather than just talk. People with real experience know this. Special Forces, and especially guys like this, are imprinted with a 1-2 shot patterned-reflex: one shot to the trunk, since its the biggest area, in order to stop/freeze a target, followed immediately by a "double tap" to the head, since its a smaller target and easily missed by only one bullet under stress. With that opponent confidently dispatched, its on to the next smuck. Sure, they'd be able to adapt somewhat, knowing these people were there to make a PR statement and would be unarmed. But, make no mistake, this was all intentional, and in those same salons with the eyerolls, you WOULD, in all reality now get a few resigned, "well, just MAYBE, that'll teach them a lesson".
      Its high time for people to revisit their premises about this situation and how to best handle it.

  • American Citizen Killed by Israeli Navy
    • Real good point.....once we start acting in America's best interest we can argue about what that may be, but to put the Israeli Right Wing first is nuts.

      All Israel's are not Jews: no, but those that matter and have any power certainly are (80% +/-). Many, perhaps most(?) Jews worldwide disagree fundamentally with Israel govt policies going back to say 1967 (when the BIG land grab commenced), but the more adamant control things. A moderate, at some point, will pack his bags and leave, as many Israelis now do when the opportunity arises. The Right Wingers, however, will KILL whomever doesn't go for their implicit (explicit) racial purity, uber alles agenda (remember the traitor who signed the Oslo accords: the assassin is now an unofficial hero in a min security tennis camp).

    • Not to make too fine a point, but the Liberty was a spy ship, and Israel had just opened up its attack on the Golan Heights, which it had been coveting for some time due to its water.

      Imagine an episode of Bonanza: Little Joe sneaks up to watch while one of their neighbors is unloading/stealing from another; He's spotted and takes a bullet for it. The incident gets covered up since the shooter was considered Big Ben's only buddy in the area and it was only a wing-shot (hate to tell you, these poeple are all Little People when it comes to the Great Game of Nations).

    • FYI. If you, hopefully as white person, ever find yourself broken down in the REAL america, or otherwise needing to deal with such REAL americans, then the colloquialism of choice for those unlike you is mud-people.

    • At first I thought I had inflammed you. Then I realized this was just a pretty straightforward observation.

      In which case, all this handwringing is pointless. If you/we aren't for them, we are against THEM, right? In which case what they are up against is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and its a matter of time before the inevitable happens.

      Of couse, Israel can hope to delay and deflect the true reality (of not being special) indefinately and hope the Pals eventually give up or are "died" off to a person. Otherwise they need to gird themselves for a couple thousand years of resistance, which is how long it took THEIR fanciful narrative to come to fruition, such as it is.

      Racism, and exceptionalism in any form, is ultimately unforgiving.

  • "The Ship Turned into a Lake of Blood": Israeli Commandos Used Beatings, Stun Guns, Live Ammo
    • Yes, Dennis is a face if you need one, but the problem at the heart of this mess runs deeper.

      Were the US able to treat the I/Pal conflict in an even-handed way it might be possible to have progress toward peace, but we cannot, and its because of AIPAC etal. Why?

      1-Because AIPAC, etal, work the system, with an ability to flood $ to the congressional districts of anyone who does not ACTIVELY and UNQUESTIONINGLY support their cause. Individual congressmen or a President who wants to keep his job/majority cannot go against them or fail to support them. These guys are holding a political gun to Obama's head. To be fair, this is how the game is set-up and we (america first, anyone?) only have ourselves to blame.

      2-Regularly, senior members of the administration come before AIPAC to kowtow personally. Members are senstive to sincerity as well as words and the very tone of these presentations is carefully parsed by the real powers that be. Such demonstrations of absolute fealty are NEVER mailed in or infrequent. In the last 2 months, Jim Jones the National Security Adv, and Ms. Clinton, both came to reassure their masters that "there was NO distance between the US and Israel". Obama tried to get tough (in a tellingly closed meeting) with Netanyahu after he so pointedly and in public put the stick to poor Joe Biden (does anybody still remember this stuff? It was several weeks ago now), but Benny just talked him down and apparently was able to gently return him to Step 'N Fetch mode.

      3-How could our putative leaders address this underlying problem, and simply deal with everybody in a even-handed manner? Thinking about it critically, it'd be political suicide for O to do anything more than what he's doing with the mid-term elections looming, not to mention the DIRECT pressure from his masters. He can hope to finesse the problem, since Israel really is of no concern to the US except to the extent it is such a liability; letting Turkey do the heavy lifting may somehow work but he's got to be indirect. He has no other choice, but (perhaps) not get in the way.

      4--There is nothing else O could do other than this. Looking past the immediate symptons, If you properly see how undue political influence has corrupted our political system, think about how to press for an Article V on the US constitution. This mess is symptomatic of a problem that is larger and runs deeper.

  • Israeli Commandos Kill as Many as 10-16 Aid Activists,
    wound over 50 as they Board, Capture Gaza Aid Flotilla
    • This really makes the most sense. There were a dozen standard ways to effectively intercept those ships: the Israelis wanted to make a point, and at least in the immediate aftermath I fully expect there was a lot of smug That'll-Teach-Those-Monkeys, and See-If-They-Try-THAT-s***-Again understandings.

      Big PR chess match going on here, and this was a horrible move by Israel. Still, they've been able to dominate the airwaves and are spinning the narrative mightily, against all odds. We'll see if, as usual, they can sell this bilge to masses in the US. If not, things may actually begin to change, and for the better.

      But its not over yet. Despite the (original, presumed) Israeli smugness, I understand other boats are now enroute. If so, will Israel assert its "special status prerogatives" once again?

      If the Pal's, Hamas, etal, can refrain from the suicide bombers, etc, and focus on the PR front, they may here have an opportunity they would have otherwise never seen, trying to fight the IDF/Israel on their own terms.

  • Why Economic Sanctions on Iran will Fail
    • BECAUSE....the right wing of Israel, their neocon fellow travelers in the US, along with the current regime in Iran (in all fairness), will forever need some sort of "them" with which to consolidate and maintain their power.

  • Wright: Assassinations Strengthen Religious Terrorist Groups
    • Of course there is enormous truth in what you're saying, the problem being the mindset that might listen with a relative open-mind to your/her arguement, and to recognize when they are dealing with a social movement.

      Not so much cynically, but as simple observations: 1) people hear what they want to hear, and 2) people tend to achieve power in organizations through enormous focus on the acquisition of power and their own importance.

      Hence, the mere thought there is NOT some other Big-Cheese out there pulling the levers, as they themselves do, does not square with experience: they have always had and will always have rival personalities to contend with. They are not inclined to either see or give much thought to leadership arising spontaneous from Little People, who you would argue are essentially motivating themselves. After all, how could that possibly be? To accept this perpspective would invalidate their worldview and diminish their extraordinary sense of self-importance (which is often rather tender point to begin with).

  • US Attitudes, Discourse on Israel Shifting to Realism
    • Polls aside, I am not dissuaded from the notion that elites, or at least the involved, have a larger influence on policy. The rich/powerful right-wingers noted above will have a more "equal" voice and ability to sway the masses, but I sense a real change in the disposition of people to buy into whatever the likud is dishing-up at the moment. What we are then left with is the backbone of our government to manage things to the TRUE best interests of the US, as well as Israelis and Palestinians.

      The viral impact of blogs like this one, as shown by an impressive set of responses to a tift on foreignpolicy.com between Steven Walt and Robert Satloff (of WINEP) was illuminating and heartening. I don't think its too much to hope for some serious erosion of the Likudnicks influence. Sadly, this assumes our govt hasn't been totally corrupted, which in looking at a number of other fronts, from the reform of heathcare to banking reform, leaves me far less optimistic....

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