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

Travis Bickle

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  • The Generals try to stop an Iran War
    • Why, or Why, so much hand-wringing here and now with Iran? The answer is Israel's power over US domestic politics and thus its foreign policy. And that power is supercharged by how it taps into an underlying racism, which certainly exists when considering NKorea/China, but the thought of those Crazy A-Rabs (sic) getting The Bomb is a emotional button with power to support Likud interests that's hard to minimize.

    • Since their growing ability to constrain Israeli freedom of action, capitulation on the nuclear issue appears to be a smoke screen for what is being advocated by the more plain-spoken neocons: regime change. Short of that, effective capitulation would be to surrender in as many words....forfeiture of sovereignty to the point Israel would not feel pressured, constrained, or somehow threatened.

    • You do have a point in there. Were Iranian power allowed (somehow) to slowly grow, it would put increasing pressure on Israel, curtailing their current omnipotence and freedom of action but inspiring them to negotiate more wholeheartedly. Something there has been very little of in the last 50 years.

      Under such circumstances Israel would eventually have to reach a fair and abiding peace with the offsetting power. Peace could be achieved, in theory anyway. Would Israel allow that to happen? Could they tolerate a fair peace, given the commitment they appear to have made to their current way of doing business and underlying regional dominance?

      As Thucydides said, discussions of fairness are only possible between equals....

    • Thinking rationally, if Israel cannot more or less permanently neuter Iran by itself, and it cannot get the US to finish the job, its regional power...especially given all this posturing...will be on a path to nowhere. Unless, of course, they want to do what it takes to reach a fair peace with the Palestinians and their neighbors, and that doesn't appear to be up for negotiation.

      So, how can Israel get out of the corner their attitude has left them in? Manipulate the US to do the job? Maybe, but that'd only be a temporary fix (remember the Clean Break Memo?). But if you believe in a US determination not to commit economic harri-kari, it occurs to me they could have another idea in-mind that would be consistent with the mindset of those running the Likud:

      Conventionally, the IDF would be capable of making only one half-assed mess attacking Iran itself. Even with the ongoing support of the KSA (which I suppose is plausible), they'd still have to rely on drawing the US in. But, objective, tactical Nukes get an undeserved bad rap, and they could be just the tool. Aside from released radiation, civilian damage could be quite minimal, and even the fallout wouldn't be all THAT bad, at least from the Likud's perspective, if the winds took it out to sea. Pick a number from 10-20 warheads, that can land within a hundred yards of their targets. Think of the MESSAGE that would send within 20 minutes. When people speak of how an attack would only set them back a few years, would Iran or anyone DARE think developing a counter after such a demonstration of Israel determination? And what other option does Israel really have, when you think about it, when their existence has always been premised on domination, rather than working for a true and full acceptance of its legitimacy? One way or the other they have to continue to dominate, or capitulate (to their way of thinking), and the conventional tools are no longer working.

      More informed speculation could nail down the specifics, but this scenario wouldn't be all that bad, from THEIR perspective, compared to the alternative of losing their freedom of action and where that would inevitably lead. And when you consider the history and mindset of the people in power, it becomes a plausible contingency.

    • Obama has managed to cull a few of the more dangerous Likud agents from his staff, such as Dennis Ross, but that doesn't mean he would be getting the staff support he needs to develop and implement saner options.

      Sanctions, and Iranian responses to them, amount to a game of Chicken. Thinking positively, current events could be setting us up for reaching an overarching peace with Iran, but there simply is no staff support for that scenario. Obama can not develop it all by himself, even if he drafts Michelle, Beau and the Girls. So, there is only one way this logically ends.

      Said staff has been increasing US military presence in the Gulf to the point that a war could be started at any point by some overenthusiastic NCO or Jr Officer, never-mind the Revolutionary Guard folk, who I understand dominate their coastal patrol boats. Should Israel take its shot first, its hard to imagine the US not being immediately drawn in tactically. The direct costs wouldn't be that much, but the fallout would be mind-boggling. Not that the Likud would care, and therein lies the danger that cannot be managed.

      This confrontation has always been about Israeli freedom of action, as noted, as another Israeli "red-line" has an effective Iranian air defense. Would they start such a war to preserve this ability if they didn't know the US would finish the job? Look to their history and trust your read on the true leadership of the Likud, knowing Netanyahoo is really more of a tool. The context for all this, depressingly enough, is precisely how ineffective the IDF and coercive measures generally have become. The real question to ask here is what does a certain type of person do when they feel cornered?

      Ehud Barak recently minimalizing the Iranian threat, after years and years of doomsday comments. When the dog quits barking is when you should start to worry. That said, the manipulation of the public by our administrations has gotten to be an art form, and his comments could well have had exactly the intent of eliciting my reaction. It strikes me this is ALL part of a organized PR campaign, from the Greenberg article in the Atlantic during the fall, to that obvious reprisal that came out last week. Ditto the ambiguity of Panetta's comments. The underlying intent is to ratchet up the pressure on Iran to cave in, but given Iranian nationalism how conceivable is that? And with Iran not buying into the posturing and ready to play out this little game of Chicken to the end, it leads in only one direction. The knot could be cut, but as said before, who can see Obama's staff doing what needs to be done, and finding willing interlocutors on the other side. Possible, true, but what are the odds?

      All this artful maneuvering appears to be disguising an inexorable drift. The zero-sum personalities running things in Israel have a mind-set that is hard to overestimate in its capacity, and their disrespect for the US and the rest of the world is similarly profound. Nobody can predict precisely how things are going to unfold, but where events are leading us appears clear. Invest accordingly.

  • Romney: "I'm not concerned about the very poor."
    • This is all the politics of saying (whatever) it takes for him to grab the magic Ring (think Golum in The Hobbit).

      Romney's intention is to create a wedge between those who think of themselves as "middle class" and the poor. Obama etal are setting their own wedge high, between the middle and upper class, while the GOP is going low. From a strictly sporting perspective, the GOP is taking a far better tact, as only a fool takes on someone who is capable of fighting back.

      In this case, the genuinely poor are too busy scrabbling to get their next meal, much less become effectively involved in politics (even to the extent of casting a vote), thus they are the perfect patsies for the politics of division. If successful, the GOP can consolidate the working poor, whose lot has been deteriorating, with their ongoing con that the middle class is somehow on the "inside" and needs to defend itself against the Welfare Cadillac, etc.

      This is an insidious strategy, but it's one the GOP has been developing since the 1960's, when they took in all those disaffected Southern Democrats LBJ lost in the name of civil rights. The one thing rednecks have to cling onto, other than their guns, religion, and domination of women-folk, is their superiority to "coloreds." It's tough for these people to look at themselves in the mirror unless they think the there's someone beneath them.

      Thinking Big Picture, the leifmotif here is essentially an appeal to the timeless attractions of slavery. (It applies to international as well as domestic politics as well). Remember, the ostensible abolition of slavery was a very, very recent development, and historically speaking there would be a very natural inclination and disposition for society to backslide.

  • Can Obama Prevail against a Romney-Netanyahu Ticket? - Robertson
    • The most worrisome, yet unappreciated indicator the crazies in Israel may act EVEN FURTHER against their own best interests comes from Ehud Barak's apparently relenting on the imminent existential Iranian threat (sic).

      Israel is, if nothing else, all about the sucker punch. The rationality is ALL, and I mean ALL against it in every way, but rationality is not what is driving the overall trend that is apparent.

  • GOP Candidates Harm Israeli Security by Pushing for Impractical "Greater Israel"
    • Trying to stand back and look at trends, its hard to see any sort of demi- zionist vision with any legs. Aside from bringing down their own Temple, Israel has to adapt or die, and this means recognition and accommodation with the Palestinians. In fact it takes work to imagine it even staying a Jewish state to the extent it now is. This transition can happen the hard way or the (relatively) easy way. The harder the various parties resist the inevitable, the more it'll hurt. And at this point, that pain may be felt worldwide, in terms of the economic (and perhaps real) fallout.

      A larger point, however, is how the subtext of this post supports a trend towards bottom-up power. Sure, elites will always endeavor with some degree of success to guide events to their benefit and prejudices. But technology and (good) education is eroding their power, at least to the extent they are allowed to empower a broader group. Larger, established groups are inherently dangerous and ultimately become effete, due to the hardwired inevitabilities of group behavior and dynamics. There has always been a cycle to which the power or individuals grows to eventually become co-opted by their own success (if there isn't some more-clever group around to hasten the process). At this point in history, I cannot help but think we are heading into a time where the power of the few will begin to wan. We can now see the power of individuals becoming ever more highly leveraged toward this end with the success against Israel by Hizballah.

      This is where we come to appreciate the increasing power of rhetoric and the need for more critical and discerning education. Rhetoric is what the various establishments increasingly have to rely on, to manipulate individuals into backing ideas/actions that go against their interests and the course of nature in general. It strikes me this is why the concept of "terrorism" has become so central to governments, and the events the are trying with increasingly less luck to control.

  • To avoid War, Obama Should Offer Iran Renewable Energy Aid: Buonomo
    • And that's the point made by many people: that without at least a break-out nuclear capability the momentum of Iran's presence regionally becomes "manageable" (read: neutered). Not to say that isn't a worthy policy objective for the US, but it begs the question of how sustainable and enlightened such a policy is.

      And, not to put too fine a point on it, but it is not the nuclear issue that appears to be empowering this "need" for regime change, but Iran's growing power regionally, when a nuclear capacity is still far off at worst/best. The thing is that a nuclear capacity would go far to assure Iranian sovereignty from the US "management" you allude to.

      The phrasing you use is I'm sure that which is also used in closed-door policy discussions, and if you sit back and think about it in a clear-headed way for a very few solid minutes, you'd probably see this attitude is what is at the root of the problem we have.

    • Geopolitically, Iran is gaining increasing power regionally, aside from its nuclear potential. This is ultimately what the US is most concerned with.

      Not to say the influence of Israel doesn't count mightily, but recent statements from Ehud Barak reflect Mossad reports, showing Israel backing off threats they've been leveling for years now. Who knows how real or how long this condition will last? Best thinking is that this is all a quid pro quo to help the US get through its election year.

      Continuing, and where possible escalating sanctions, seems to be the course chosen to support regime change in Iran, the underlying US goal. It needs to be done with a kinder and gentler PR face, to be sure, since we are, after all, civilized people. But the essential pattern is not unlike the Japanese/US confrontation over who'd dominate the Eastern Pacific that led to WW II.

      The analogy doesn't hold when you try to line up specifics, but the policy initiatives are strikingly similar: the target is either brought to heel or they ultimately have to try to break out, allowing you to be the offended the good guy: back the little guy into a corner until he takes his one good shot, knowing he hasn't got a chance. For Japan/Iran, its either that or accept strangulation. For the US, the alternative here is to accept a rising Iranian dominance of the region. To be fair, they could build up Arabian penninsula defenses to achieve an acceptable ongoing balance of power, but that could never be seen as the best option to aim for.

      Should spontaneous military combustion occur, which is increasingly likely with all the forces being concentrated in the Gulf, it doesn't serve the purpose of US or Israeli security. In fact, it positively harms their cause, barring a commitment to conquer Iran on the ground. But pressure to see some sort of positive regime change over time is an arguable course; Building up economic sanctions that can be relaxed as part of secret/future negotiations can also work; Buying time to see Iranian politics inevitably evolve also makes sense as the US tailors an offseting force in the pennisula. The thing here is to see the nuclear issue is not really the core issue.

      This is all a dangerous game, with so, so many moving parts and uncontrollable players. The dynamics are simply unmanageable. Events are not going to play out as the various chess players are planning.

  • Perry talks Crazy about Turkey, but is Par for GOP Course
    • C'mon. The Mossad is and has been the single best source of intel on those wild-eyed middle-easterners that the US has, and without them we never would have gotten the substantiation we needed for the Iraqi WMD.

  • A Murder in Tehran
    • "Terrorism" is a term of political rhetoric, as you imply. You'll find different definitions by the FBI, State, etc, etc.

      What they have in common is their intention of de-legitimizing potential adversary to their omnipotence. "Non-State" crops-up alot in these definitions, seeing as how that handily separates out those who have no "right" to exercise violence from those who can be retaliated against by an aircraft carrier. This gets back to the classic definition of a "legitimate State" (power?) as one who has a monopoly on the use of force/violence.

      Trouble here is when we have an Iran, who hence must become a "State-Sponsor of Terrorism." But then, Rummy's "Shock & Awe" was nothing if not State Terrorism designed to intimidate, albeit in a (whoops!) undeclared war, which was practically the same thing as declared, so that was NOT Terrorism. Get it? This all gets kinda confusing, I know, but that's just part and parcel of trying to make lies make sense. It's what requires so much from people like SOS Clinton. (Truth has a certain elegance to it, although so does a really well-crafted lie. groan.....why can't things be simple?)

      Then we get Wikileaks, or Anonymous, who are nothing if not terrorizing me and the status quo. And I don't particularly like the look on your face either. Come to mention it, I don't find it particularly comforting how much power you now have with nothing more than an average education, a second-hand laptop, and a degree of commitment (that shouldn't be minimized, given that drone I've got hovering 1000" over your dreary little apt)).

      The center of gravity now, as ever, has always been with ideas. The difference is how they can be proliferated with modern technology, so we have the raw ideas and their presentation (art, in a word), and the technology to get past the forces arrayed to squelch these ideas (ie, against Wikileaks). There is a pure intellectual dimension as well as one of technology.

      And the bottom line, is that the oligarchs have to work with the same realities, the most important of which is deploying the power of rhetoric, and "Terrorism," as a concept, is the most blatant example. The only defense for those who would resist is education, in the sense of being able to see through matters by being able to think critically, which is not the same thing as "education," which now is more akin to simple job-training. Unless you're a lawyer who has really thought things thru.

  • Why the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Victory at the Polls May not be Decisive
    • Is it fair to equate the MB with the TP? This is a fairly nuanced analysis of an remarkably subtle political evolution, and it shows the MB playing off other forces within the context of SCAF, whose ulterior motives have yet to be fully exposed. It reflects good, patient and smart politicians, and the best politicians work the whole crowd to one degree or another---hardly a description of those in the TP.

      At the most, the TP reminds me of the uncompromising, know-nothing Salafists. The ideology of the TP hasn't jelled into anything as empowering to simple-minded Searchers, but its all that's bubbled up too date. At best, what they have grasped onto as a belief is a fundamentalist interpretation of a Constitution they've never read that was explicitly written NOT to be a dictate.

      Great, nuanced post, that highlites how the actions of the SCAF are going to be so very telling to the future of Egypt, for better or worse.

  • Jahanpour: As US and Iran Confront Each other, where is the Diplomacy?
    • PS: And effete diplomatic "yaking" isn't going to do the job.

    • With all due respect to Prof Jahanpour, this is pretty much conventional wisdom amongst the rational non-aligned. What we need are concrete ideas and approaches to be pursued, not to be convinced that to somehow do so would be the far wiser course.

      So, what about some ideas about ideas about how Obama (or more likely, some smart Scandinavians), might be about to cut this ever-tightening slipknot, given the momentum and the forces that would be arrayed against them?

  • Turkey Warns against Sunni-Shiite Civil War in Mideast
    • It's a pain when I'm tempted to leave a source-link, so I don't. In the case of these fuel shipments, it'd be worthwhile seeing the substantiation and whether there wasn't, as I'd expect, some reasonable explanation for them.

    • This smacks of Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis manifesting itself as the Shia Crescent. People have been trembling about this for years. I've never gotten a reasonable answer about the existence of any inherent animosity between the two traditions, other than what can whipped-up by whomever for their own reasons (and there do seem to plenty of involved whomevers).

      I once saw a graphic/map representing the density of adherents, aside from political boundaries. Seems like there was a concentration of Schia throughout the coastal areas, including very much Saudi Arabia. Seems like that graphic included foreign workers.

  • Will his New Sanctions on Iran Cost Obama the Presidency?
    • It really does make a lot of sense, I agree.

      What makes it improbable, IMHO, is the power of the neocons/Lobby, whose presence in Washington has hardly been diminished, have hardly given up on their goals or worldview, and who would get wind of the groundwork being done and nip things in the bud. These guys are relentless.

      When secular rationalists approach a problem, they come up with and perhaps even execute a reasonable plan, then they go on to other things. If their plans don't work or are disproven, they compromise or otherwise work things out. These ideologues, however, when stymied, go to prayer-meeting; compromise means agreeing to let the other guy cave-in. Let's not even get into their penchant for "creating reality," that Ron Siskin recounted in his book on the Bush 41 White House.

      Obama really is playing to the middle, essentially as a Eisenhower Republican, which isn't a bad thing. But let's face it, the guy is a Tool, and to a degree he should be—he isn't our Daddy or King. He has his vision, but the momentum of the defense/NS bureaucracy, official and unofficial (the beltway, with all its Think Tanks), defines the mindset and worldview of the Elites who provide him with his options, and this is the core of the power of the neocons/Lobby.

      Obama may manage to resist, or just delay the impact of this pressure, but he is what he is, and ultimately he does what he's told. His actions have shown themselves to be a reflection of our democracy, responding to the real and manufactured wishes of the people as led by our Elites.

      I'm hoping/wishing/dreaming/hallucinating, he'll find a backbone after getting by 2012, if he hasn't totally sold out to the powers that be to get re-elected. Otherwise, he becomes just the next stanza in the ongoing song that Bush 41 sang to us, however much more crudely and stupidly, the difference being one of style.

    • The situation with Iran is trending badly, and there's a lot of momentum to keep in on course to something that, when you look at long festering confrontations like this, rarely ends well.

      A modus vivendi with Iran makes excellent sense and would be doable, were it possible to work beneath the radar of the neocons/Lobby, which makes that barely possible (?). Getting into a fight with Iran wouldn't just be shooting ourselves in the foot, as with Iraq. Nixon was able to slip away to China, but does anyone think that's even conceivable for Obama?

      A degree of ongoing tension/conflict between Iran/Israel/US serves the domestic purposes of all three. The new round of US arms sales to KSA make sense to the extent they are used to maintain balance and stability with the rise of Iranian power.

      But then, things aren't that simple.

  • Top 5 Foreign Policy Challenges for US, 2012
    • I thought it was only me thinking along these lines.

      Once you get past the hang-up about the US being immune to this sort of thing through its Gods-Given excellence, it appears long, long overdue. The technology is simply too accessible. How long will it be before the Iranians can launch a few hundred (!!!) knock-off Chinese cruise missiles with a 300 mile range, with a new chip that on a given day can evade the multi-zillion dollar defenses build at the course of decades....which even now are expected to only stop a handful?

      Whatever fine tactics our people might deploy, including a pre-emptive sneak attack, a fate along these lines appears is locked on unless we have a massive shift in our attitude. If not this week, then soon. Big dumb, brute force military force, like the US 5th fleet, is on a crash course with negative time and space. Could the US possibly get its head around loosing a dozen big capital ships in a few hours, along with 6-8,000 sailors.

      We (the US), can still make a huge positive difference in the world, but we've got to be smart and I see nothing but dumb when it comes to this situation.

    • #5 I suspect is even more dire than you describe, and I'm resisting the inclination to say so merely due to a common fascination with large-scale kinetics.

      Your other problems are festering and potentially chronic, but situations we in our parochialism can live with. But the business with Iran, if it goes sideways, can disrupt our safe little All-American lives immensly.

      What you aren't apparently factoring-in is how bringing so many combustable elements (diplomatic, military, political) into relative antagonistic proximity increases the odds of an unforeseeable (in its details) incident, with huge consequences. Add to this how the incessant, longterm, and ongoing drumbeat by the Usual Suspects has instilled a sense of inevitability of a large and direct conflict on the American Sheeple (ie, "they've been just asking for it since like forever."

      Happy New Year

  • Israeli Hardliners attack Police over Women's Segregation
    • It doesn't seem unreasonable to extrapolate an apparently inherent conflict between the backward vision of religious fundamentalism as it rears its head across religions and a more modern appreciation of a given tradition. Of course, thinking specifically of Islam and Christianity, as we see how things are now unfolding in Israel.

      Conflict resolves itself through one sidecaving-in and going along or both doing so as some sort of consensus. But when any fundamentalist worthy of the name will never, ever, ever, compromise, its up to the ever-tentative "believers" to come into line.

      Historically, does this lead pretty much always to cultural clashes? The protestant/catholic conflict hadstruck me as one that wasn't driven so much by pure ideology as the political forces that were harnessing them. In the case of Israel, however, the Zionistic vision seems to be part and parcel of who they are: in which case, what is the God-sanctioned fate they are to apply to those other Jews who do not see their Truth so clearly?

  • Iran has US Surrounded, All Right
    • Breaking news: The US is asking (how politely I don't know) that Iran return the drone, in the course of which Obama is making noises about respecting each others sovereignty.

      Who makes this stuff up? Is he somehow playing that 9-dimensional vulcan chess here?

    • You guys are getting close to the REAL and vital US interests here: If Iran is allowed to get away with such blatant SASS, there will be no end to it, worldwide.

      With their example, and its potential success (merely in the region), what you have is far worse than some theoretic and incremental domino theory, that could lead to the spontaneous implosion of the American Way Of Life. The BRICS of the world could/would be empowered not to cooperate with American best interests on any number of issues, and the whole system of assumptions we live on would be in serious question.

      As it is, if a single country, Argentina for example, doesn't play ball, it can be subtlety disciplined and managed with no undue drama. Their economic health can be modulated by trade policy as preferential policies are withdrawn or steered toward others who are more amenable. The essence of a kinder and gentler soft power is its transparency and civility. Its pretty well agreed by everyone that in cases where military resources have to be mobilized that there has been a failure of such modern diplomacy.

      Iran is not playing ball, and it is attempting to "game" a system designed to integrate them within the community of nations (in its proper subordinate place, rest assured). So, it is this critical issue of insubordination within the modern scheme that is at stake.

      There is no question that Iran has through its actions and statements been DARING the US/Israel to attack it. They think this is all a big chess game. They think have every contingency covered and that they have US/Israeli options boxed in. They are wrong. Putting aside Israeli pressure (!!!), the continuing existence of the American Way Of Life is what is really at stake. These guys are potential disrupting the whole economic system (that matters, anyway), and THEY ARE JUST ASKING FOR IT.

  • Iran Displays Drone, Complains to UN
    • One problem with reactions from many of the people you hear commenting on this is simply how difficult it is for them to get their head around the idea that "those" people might possibly have the wherewithal to defeat such high-technology. Part of their thinking is biased by pride, part by bigotry; we could, I suppose, argue the proportions. Among those that think clearly there will be similar statements, meant to give talking point to their minions, but that's just the way things work.

      DOD analyst I know works in this area, and while he does not discuss "double-dutch secret" matters, he got quite exercised on the matter of the Iranian nuclear program. It struck me how incensed he was with how the "Iranians are gaming the system."

      Interesting statement that goes to the heart of this business, although in ways he, as with his peers, again cannot get his head around: Iran is trying to assert its prerogatives as a sovereign nation; the US is trying to intimidate them from exercising those same prerogatives for all sorts of reasons. The US and Iran are both gaming the system for their own purposes. There has been relatively little blood spilled, at least directly, which might be taken as a good thing.

      Prof Cole objectively sums up the status of what Iran is/is not doing, but that doesn't get to their intentions. We can very rationally infer that Iran is indeed developing a deliverable weapon system to within a quarter screwdriver turn of completion, which is barely different than having the capability outright. But so what? Hillary notes all the chaos that'll come from having nukes introduced to the region, never mind that Israel has already introduced them.

      There is no right and there is no wrong, but that a given country's interests cannot be argued to be more righteous. As a visiting political scientist from Keppler 22, just waiting for a bus off this planet and noting the local games, this seems to be a situation that is fairly straightforward, while somewhat complex in its details. The US has a bigger PR challenge to keep the righteousness on its side, but it has always been good at that sort of thing. The Iranian's are relatively clueless to the PR stuff, and they know that if they hope to maintain their own sovereignty they would be well-served to somehow gain a nuclear weapons capacity (at least practically speaking).

      People on Earth like to quote Thucydides about how (to paraphrase), "the strong do what they want and the weak do as they must." I do believe there was a preceding clause, essentially, that "Fair and equitable deals can only be reached between equals, because....(see above)". There's a similar lesson here for any fair and lasting Israel/Palestinian peace, and conflicts in general.

  • Gingrich slots MEK terrorists' supporter John Bolton for State
    • Short of Gingrich actually being elected, at what point does the power of his ideology/perspective become such that it becomes wise to liquidate and move-out? And then, where are you going to go? We're skating on thin ice here.

  • Fox Viewers think Mubarak Still runs Egypt
    • I know not why, but in my travels I find public TV's in airports and assorted waiting rooms set by default to FOX.

      The drumbeat of FOX advocacy/commentary, and how this programing (and even its formatting) is positioned right up next to formal reporting, is what makes them such a powerful political force. In this way, by design FOX works to confuse what is (ostensibly) objective reporting with opinion. This is while it is an ongoing challenge for the MSM to be even-handed: the right always thinks they're being misrepresented while the left thinks its being screwed over by the same segment

      With all these networks there is pressure to gain and hold an audience, in order to keep selling soap. Aside from plots, I rather think (hope) this is what's driving FOX, and CNN has suffered by not following suit. It seems like I read where CNN is now trying to move more in the direction of sensationalism. I watch and talk to people in waiting room settings, and they are indeed drawn to FOX presentations because of the element of indignation/inflammation you can reliable get from segments with guys like Bolton. What they do not get is how they are being manipulated, and I don't get them as being stupid people, just naive.

      Similarly, being more/less "intelligent" doesn't strike me as so pertinent. Few people with busy and responsible lives outside of current events have time to follow the news critically. What most people have is a "sense" of things, so the background noise, impacted by comparing impressions with friends socially, combine to give them their opinions.

      IMHO

  • Theocratic Dominance of the New Egypt may be Exaggerated
    • Taken by itself, and with an eye that is not only uncritical but already sympathetic (and who cannot be sympathetic to Israel as a concept), her argument becomes quite effective, practically speaking.

      The essence of propaganda is propagation of an idea, and the underlying idea/concept here is one I get weary of hearing. But there is no weariness in keeping up this basic message. And it is its relentless that is most dangerous, when even highly cogent messages to the contrary are relatively inconsistent and uncoordinated.

  • Israeli Ads against Marriage with American Jews are Part of a Population War
    • Isn't there obviously a natural hyper sensitivity Jews have to Germany?

      In any number of other cases where the setting is a provocative one I've seen a defensive chip-on-the-shoulder reaction from any number of groups. Think of when Southerers insist on running up the confederate flag from time to time.

      I'm thinking in this case of a Jewish friend who as an unemployed engineer in the US had a contract opportunity in Munich. There was none of the above behavior, and his client seemed nothing if not welcoming. But the sum total of all the stories he'd been told, the uncle with a tatoo, and socialization he'd gotten while growing up, made him simple weak in the knees. He eventually took the job and everything went fine, but he in a sweat about things, and the behavior you've noted does not surprise me.

    • When you're part of a disenfranchised, put-upon, and persecuted group, it may get to the point your racial identity is all you have left. You cling to it within increasing fervor the worse things get.

      And in a community where there are so many others unlike you, when you do spot a compatriot, you recognize each other and bolster each other; you help each other find a place to life, leading to a ghetto...to put it in the most derogotory sense. Italian-Americans and every other ethnicity that has come to the US has, even absent the persecution the Jews have known, followed this essential force that's not unlike gravity.

      The Eastern European Askenazi, speaking in generalities, seem to exude more of this identity-centered racism (and that's what it is), than their North American kin. Liebermann a case in point.

  • Senate Bill Allows Arrest of Americans by Military Anywhere
    • Good points. But what I'm thinking about is what I am assuming is merely a generally benign adoption of these capabilities, for the moment managed by presumably serious and competent people who have the strength to resist the temptation (or pressure) to use their power in a good system of cks and balances. (BIG CAVEATS, eh?)

      Remember that business a few yrs ago when INS clerks were looking up the coming and goings of celebrity passport holders? Of course, those were just worker bees on lunch break....

      The social psych research (Zimbardo, Milgram, etc, etc), done from the 50'2-early 70's has been corroborated and extended (Cialdini), and is a pretty well formed/accepted body of knowledge at this point.

      Even as someone who works/reacts to the world independently, and knows how this hard-wiring works, its a sweaty sensation to feel the wave of power group processes washing over you at a megachurch, etc.

    • Without meaning to re-litigate the torture business (it was all in the past, right?), Bill's rejoinder captures some important, not so subtle nuance. Still, most every thoughtful opinion/analysis I've ever read about torture concludes it is at best stupid and at worst counter-productive. Even for the immediate tactical needs of a commander in distress, it would tend to distract him from working with the the more objective facts and lead him into even deeper trouble.

      HOWEVER. All this misses an important political utility implied at above: it is simply how deeply and profoundly satisfying it is to somehow "get back" at someone who has gotten the best of you. In the wake of 911, who could deny the urge to break some knees just to get it over the psychological sense of helplessness and vulnerability?

      AND, if your group's political positioning relies on harnessing the power of reactionaries and rednecks, being two-faced about all this is needed to tap into the righteousness of your base. Even if you know better, inflaming the common 'folk has a mighty utility when it comes to mobilizing these people against all those people who read books and "think they're smarter than we are".

    • Great bottom line question:

      How long will it take, given whatever checks and balances might exist, before these powers are abused? Not just abused in the way of unwarranted investigation of Quakers or the existing monitoring of Muslims by NYC police, but a systematic abuse for individual or group gain, ala Nixon, or worse?

    • As DSkousen alludes, much of these and other problems of over-reaction can be traced to the B&W viewpoint, which is exacerbated under the pressure of circumstances.....or the need to gain the support of people who do not have the perspective of the nuance that exists with most problems. ie, For any legitimate issue, there is going to be something to be said on both sides. (As far as the potential success of French torture in Algeria, it is hard to imagine a scenario where torture would led to a sustainable "relationship" with any person or group. That would be the equivalent to arguing that slavery works over the long run: its a case that can be made, but its awfully thin.)

      If tomorrow any of us were to find themselves sitting next to McCain etal for a long flight and able to have a non-polemically driven conversation, I am confident you'd find someone who was not stupid and really cared, as far as that goes. So, to take a breath and try to square things:

      GROUPS are part of the problem. There's a political necessity of working with others to get things done or just to have an identity. From Jonesville to Iraqi torturers, you have normal people who are swept up by the group to do crazy things. If you've ever been to a major football rivalry you will have felt the force: The group gives us our identity, even outside a mob. For better or worse we are social animals. For anyone committed to any sort of career, much less a politician or a senior military officer, going against the organization is psychologically impossible, for all practical purposes. Groupthink is just the tip of this iceberg's power.

      Your traveling compradre will talk about the need to "work from within the system." He can, he will say, do more good to make things better/safer/saner by not passing things off to someone else. I suspect there were officers at the concentration camps who rationalized things along the same lines. What else can you do: the choice is to retire or start a revolution.

      "You can trust us" they will say. And they mean it. They will say these laws really can help keep us safe from AQ etal, and the above hand-wringing really is just silly, and they're right as far as that goes. After all, what have we got to worry about with tracking software in our phones? Unless we have something to hide it's very much in our best interest to do all this, and more. It isn't as though YOU are some sort of criminal/terrorist, right?

      Of course, the problem with this is the disposition of select individuals and groups in power to abuse power. The odds of such power being held benignly and not abused over any length of time is nil.

  • OWS under Pressure: Banks Bailed out, People Sold Out
    • Well, someone has to pay for all the (ongoing) malfeasance. Should we expect those in power (the banks) to assume that responsibility when they can foist it off on some other sap? AND, if the current situation presents a good business model, in terms of quarterly profits and bonuses, it will be continued.

      Question is how long this can be continued, all things considered.

  • Serri: Iran's UN Inspectors are Repeating the Iraq Mistakes
    • There really seems to be an inevitability being spun around the need to "go kinetic" on Iran. Iran seems to regard this as a big chess game, and on that basis they're correct and safe, since all this political posturing serves the domestic purposes of Iran, Israel and the US, and rationally it should go no further. And as events unfold, the US withdrawals at least from Iraw, Iran is being left sitting pretty, sanctions asides. The KSA may gets its nose out of joint by developments, but they'll just learn to live with them, as the balance of power between Iran and KSA simply augers for regional stability. Rationally this should be the end of it, insofar as military action goes.

      One problem with this scenario is the power of self-fufilling prophecies, even when the perpetrators know all their posturing is theatre. There is a ton of very good psychological research about how brains do not differentiate between acting and the real thing....its the essence of learning and preparation through practice. And going on down the line about the general population thinks and perceives, expecting them to be well-informed and rational is a pretty lame bet.

      The other problem is the relentlessness of the neocons and Israeli rightwing to press the attack agenda (to the very last American). They have had nothing but time, and the war drums have been beating at some level for, what, 6-8 years? Wasn't the real main driving idea in 2003 to make the world safe for our 51rst state, by first neutering Iraq, then Iran?

      When we see these sort of patterns and developments maybe we need to remember the notion of manufactured consent, per Chomsky (although, I think the phrase came from someone else.)

      Looked at THE PATTERN and CONSISTENCY of all these things, wouldn't you see a fight with Iran as an inevitability? And, as it unfolds, the underlying justification you'd hear, would be, "They (Iran) just keep on asking for it...."?

  • Arab League Suspends Syria as Israeli Warns of "Islamic Empire"
    • Think that was Larijani. I saw him on Peirs Morgan and their exchange was along the same lines. The guy spoke good, nuanced English, which even if accented was very much to his advantage---others in the region, in addtion to Israel, should take note.

      OBJECTIVELY, he gracefully and effortlessly parried all the usual manufactured talking points being channeled thru Peirs, but the BIG POINT WAS:::

      It made no difference, and his points were neither recognized or responded to.

      Larijani would answer, then counter with a few simple questions in a unambiguous and conciliatory tone that PM, or his his handlers, simply could not accept: what should Iran do when surrounded by US forces and public language? What about sanctions, and supporting barely concealed covert actions, is not belligerent? When Israel has already introduced nuclear weapons into the region with no regard to world opinion, how could Iran be the one to let the geni out of the bottle? And so on.

      To be fair, he was a slick with his responses and the distinction between nuclear weapons possession and peaceful latency is a thin one. But again, to your observation, nobody has any interest in listening to what he or Iran says or does, this is all about Israel's wishes, for whatever reasons.

  • NYPD Attack on OWS and the End of the First Amendment
    • Nothing really changes, at least below the surface.

      Today we have a set of back-bench leadership with PhDs in political science; We have a sophisticated set of public relations firms. And we (they) have learned the utility of vaseline.

  • Herman Cain Painfully Clueless on Libya
    • Interesting ramifications on the notion of what constitutes "education."

      Having the background to smell out competence is nice to have, as long as you're within that arena and have maintained some currency in it. What I see/feel more often is how it can lead to a false sense of confidence or security, unless the person is exceptionally self-aware.

      Its better, even when you know something, to be able to come at it with the mind of a beginner. Taking that to extreme you end up with decision-making that is tone deaf, or has a Spock-like lack of context or sensibility.

      What's needed is to find a balance between critically drawing on the knowledge of others and your own experience, leading to an ability to put/keep things in balance/context.

      As a case, its hard to accept the above performance by Cain. But great executives are usually good at finding a balance, which I have observed to be based on an exceptional sense of humility in their knowledge as well as an appreciation for the world's complexity.

  • The Little Iran Nuclear Report that Couldn't
    • 1--These recurring alarms about Israel taking a shot at Iran serve a very objective purpose: to build the background noise/assumption that "those people" are bound and determined to get the bomb, and our only "friend" in the region has to do whatever...to save us and themselves. This appears to be a deliberate process of building an acceptance of an inevitability.

      2--The "Winnebago of Death," is a great example of the need to think and exercise judgement: the facts, such as they are even known, will only get you so far. Who is to say that van did NOT have a hydrogen bomb, for heavens sake? Who could take the chance, as C. Rice put it, that final evidence would emerge as a mushroom cloud over Manhattan? Or that when an inspection in Iran appeared to find nothing but a vacant cave, Dr. Evil's lab could still have been right there, 50' beneath their feet (or 100', or 150', 200', ad naseum). And of course, who's to say, or could take the chance, that Canada is NOT at this moment poised to launch fleet of bombers from their secret bases to conquer their neighbor to the south ?????? Lets have a little sanity.

      3--On the other hand, that Bush etal were discredited in their alarms about Iraq does not mean that clear evidence of malevolent Iranian intentions does not exist. What the example of Iraq should do is merely (?) alert people to consider the case carefully, nothing more. And of course, their conclusions should lead to the issue, of "so what?". The linkage to Iraq ONLY serves to alert people to THINK and exercise sane judgement.

      Problem: the sanity and judgement of the general population, which stands to be manipulated by people who really do know better. I'm not so sure about this (pure) democracy business.

  • Netanyahu a "Liar": Sarkozy
    • Its always killed me how the agenda of the Israeli right....and the rest of Israel, to be honest...through their collective acquiescence, has been there for all to see.

      You have to give them credit for the dust they are able to throw-up in the way of cover. But even then, for a reasonably awake person, alarms go off when you see the sort of transparent snow job their minions deliver.

  • Would Obama Greenlight an Israeli Attack on Iran?
    • "Unless, of course, the Israelis prefer that the Americans take naval casualties to ensure a U.S. commitment to war with Iran.."

      Hmm, now there's an idea Israel could get into. If you think they'd give a second thought to US casualities look to their history in the 6 day war.

    • PS.....

      AFTER January, as you imply, could be another story.

      But wouldn't it be driven by US presidential politics? The supplication of GOP candidates to Israel has been total; even though its been hard to beat that of Dems.

      Israel's ability to touch the scales in strategically crucial elections, along with their ongoing influence on politics, can give them nothing but confidence in their total freedom of movement, to do whatever they choose on Iran.

      And that may, to put it simplistically, boil down to them ordering a strike by the US, under whatever threadbare rationalization is provided. Just look to our next used-car salesman of the week.

    • With all due respect,

      One assumption you're making is that decision-makers are rational, and would be reacting to a the same set of pressures you perceive. Israeli domestic politics seem to have more than a little fluidity, but are biased toward the right by hard core Zionists. One top of that, given the actual authority/power to do something like this, a single person can do anything if they didn't get enough coffee at a given moment. I don't know how sound their cks n balances are, a question your post raises as well.

      The other assumption is that the US actually has power over Israel: a genuine ongoing check versus an ability to pay them off with secret deliver of more advanced weapons, etc. My read of the Israel attitude toward the US over the last 10 (????) years is that they may well consider themselves to have the US well in-hand. The cumulative evidence of how the US has reacted to any number of tests, in the form of direct insult to Obama, and tepid US initiatives in general, simply could not have left them with any other impression.

      There is, IMHO, alot of light that has been directed on the Lobby, but I don't think their effective power, judging by the way the US congress jumps when they speak, has diminished a whit. The reality is that the sophistication of their ops in the US have become increasingly effective, in terms of effecting policy directly (Note how Dennis Ross was inserted into the State Dept, and now is the White House as , I believe, the= Top NSC Guy on Iran).

      The thing(s) precluding such a strike would be: 1) rationality, if that is a valid assumption, and 2) Logistics.

      I think this has been covered before in this blog, but the bottom line is that IDF would not been able to do more than one big airstrike, best case. It'd be tough, but with time to prepare they could do it. But they simply don't have the planes to do a full campaign with sufficient follow-up strikes to do the job properly. That is, they could sneak in thru Turkey, once. The KSA maybe more than once, but that'd mean a state of war between Iran and KSA, which I don't think they're really up for (at this point anyway.

      Still, overall scary. Precisely due to how posturing like this can spiral out of control. The Nassar example extremely pertinent, except there the IDF clearly had the means to do everything they wanted to do for their longer term objectives.

      Insofar as US people/forces in Iraq and the region....I think you make a BIG mistake thinking they really give a flip: at this point I think they think they own the US for practical purposes. And I would find it hard to disagree with them.

  • UNESCO Palestine Vote Isolates US Further
    • Want a positive sign? Even 10 years the odds of such a series of responses clearly seeing through what Israel is up to would've been nil, even for a seriously contrarian/intellectual venue. (With apologies to Noam Chomsky).

      And at this hour, notice how the Israelis are accelerating development of their Eastern Jerusalem takings, in response/punishment for the Palestinian impertinence (in so many words).

      This is partially due to the ever further right-leaning regime they have in power, but I think the more important point is....and get this...they really do think this is an appropriate response that will somehow (???) work to their advantage.

      To those in the LIkud monitoring this site and taking notes on developments among their "enemies", take a note and pass it up:

      IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A HOLE, STOP DIGGING.

  • Why a No-Fly Zone won't Work in Syria
    • Libya----Aside from the aggressiveness of Q's military, the opposition really was committed to doing whatever it took to see him gone: either in exile or on a lamppost. Their amatuerism was evident, but so was their commitment.

      Syria---There is this effete, non-violent, wishy-washy "commitment" of some of the people, even as those who stick their heads up are having them blown off. There simply is not the overall commitment to change, however messy it might be, that we saw in Libya.

      IF there was a sizable group in Syria really committed to change, and whatever it took, that'd take it to a civil war, which was what there really was in Libya.

      At that point, the West might entertain what it might do, geography and military practicalities notwithstanding.

      What we have here is a shame/sham. There's alot of good thinking about situations like this, where a good part of the population is on the fence, waiting to see how things shake out before declaring, but it isn't even that complex. Looking at the number of people actually resisting, relative to Syria's population, this seems inclined to go down as a messy police action: to see that happens relies mainly on Asad playing it pretty much as he has, so as not to provoke a more general resistence.

      So, if things do not change, and he does not overplay his hand, at some point in the near future he will have killed/eliminated enough of the dissenters so that things will subside back to his liking.

      Next case.

  • Sefat: Top 10 ways OWS can Excel: Counsel from Iran's Green Movement
    • I really am afraid you may be operating on a couple of weak assumptions.

      One is that at some level these regimes, in a given case, have a sense of shame. Another is that they do NOT believe that ends (THEIR ends) justify the means (ANY means). The best you can hope for in such a case is that, as in Syria today, the net effect of such an approach is to modulate the degree of ruthlessness shown by the regime.

      With a more "civilized" (ie, media-savvy/sensitive) regime, this modulation can be important, because the regime is not going to want to come down so hard as to incite a more serious problem than its already gotten. Ergo, let the people vent, then send out tax rebates, etc; Retain Hill & Knowlton or the Lincoln Group; take their advice seriously.

      So, yeah, if you want kinder, gentler, and more sensitive regime sodomizing you, this is a good play book. But when you are facing an entrenched oligarchy, or a family that'd rather die than let go of (some) sovereignty, you have to meet that particular energy with your own; that you may have to go through several iterations to get it right is to be expected: you have to find some founding fathers/mothers who are not corrupted by the power they'll initially need do have to get things done. Think Attaturk (and even his case is arguable). The scenarios we see today are not analogous to Gandhi getting the Crown to finally let go of India.

      Smell the coffee. With all due respect.

  • US out of Iraq, but Peace remains Elusive
    • This stuff is naturally arguable, otherwise there'd be no issues at stake. However,

      1) Your're splitting hairs in saying ongoing infringement of another nations sovereignty, in the form of ongoing surveillence and regular air strikes is not an act of war, perhaps because war has not been declared or the pilot is doing his work by remote control.

      2) An even-handed approach to both parties in the A/I conflict would be a good start toward reconciling a problem that many thoughtful people simply cannot imagine being reconciled. The neighboring states not accepting Israel is no more the problem than Israel not being able to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian grievances. You can argue extremist on both sides are the root problem, but one-sided support of Israel by the US is part of the problem, not the solution.

      3) The Iranian bogeyman has the potential of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, the US has support of other countries, but there is a clean continuum between what is going on now and the degree of additional sanctions that would qualify, legally, as a blockade. Again, there is the splitting hairs on what is being down, when the underlying problem is a failure to recognize the legitimacy of Iranian interests and sovereignty of action.

      None of this is to say we should necessary do anything differently. But if you start from the position of bending others to your will, versus reconciling points of conflict and building relations based on mutual self-respect, events will unfold differently. And it doesn't mean being a wimp, merely looking after YOUR OWN enlightened self-interests.

      The point I took from this post was the one about unscupulous politicians. Right-wing Israelis, the US Republican part, and the Ayatollahs (this is arguable, but lets just say the powers that be in Iran), all have an interest is maintaining or building politica/military tension. In addition to which, there is very legitimate inherent conflict between the Sunni/Shi spheres, namely between the KSA and Iran. In this view, the A/Israel conflict is more like a festering side-show: messy, but ultimately more of chronic sore.

  • Iran Alleges Saudi Plot Story is MEK Sting
    • And then......

      We hear the PKK has just made a raid and the Turks are in hot pursuit into Iraq.

      When (!!!) we finally get to the bottom of all these unfolding developments I suspect there may be more than a little agitprop involved. It clearly is the way to go in the today's world, if you find yourself on the short end of the stick.

      The thing is, that in todays world, a smart coordinated set of moves can set events in motions that nobody ever could've anticipated. It doesn't take more than a committed and creative guy/group with a very nominal amount of resources beyond guile and guts. Not to minimize that business about commitment, and for the fully committed the ends certainly justify the means.

      In fact, that was the essential proof offered by OBL and the 911 attacks.

  • Amanda Knox and Troy Davis
    • As with the healthcare issue, which everybody at some level admits there is a problem, there are many, many alternatives that have been developed to draw lessons from.

      The problem, as with considering this business of appeals, is that they were not originated here.

      Ultimately, the problem comes from having grassroots (aka dirt clod) democracy.

  • What should have been Headlines in the Corporate Media: Today's Best of the Blogosphere
    • BACHMAN: The key to power is to get people's attention and that's done by sowing FEAR (a real News Flash here, I know).

      STATE DEPT SNAFU's: This guy being pursued was interviewed on NPR yesterday (All Things Considered), and pretty well knew this'd happen. The point is intimidation. It's a world thinner case against him than, say, Bradley Manning, but the point is to shut people up. Its a variation of dirt-common Regime Survival Strategies that we are told don't apply to the land of the Free, etc.

      MORROCCANS: There is a place I go for coffee, where a gaggle of Morroccan Cab/Limo drivers hang-out between calls. Very social crowd apparently, and enough of them to be regulars, and I'm on a nodding relationship with them over the course of 3+ yrs. So, after all that time, I turn up one day and only one of them is there, and he's got the only table with a seat free. Graciously he offers a seat, and I start a (very) casual conversation.....which quickly makes him suspicious and to become dissimulative. Very seriously uneasy.

      Another time I make a joke to friend about leaving my bag unattended and the eminent Terrorist Threat, which is overheard and reported to Mall Security. I have to do so ducking and weaving to avoid the cuffs (for my own protection), and to just get out there.

      These things all contribute to a pattern and a trend. Over the course of a couple hundred years it'll probably run its course, but for practical purposes, we all have some adapting to do.

      It's all sick, and perhaps not so obviously, this stuff all eventually leads at some point to a self-fulfilling prophecy

  • Iraq Denies calling for Syrian President's Resignation
  • Palestinians seek UN Moxie
    • It seems almost too easy to point out the obvious. On the margins we can argue about any number of important fine points, but this issue is really pretty one-sided in terms of what is going on. That it cannot be dealt with squarely is the real issue to be concerned with.

      Were an political scientist from Mars to beam down he'd quickly see the I/P conflict as rather clearcut,and historically not that unusual of a case. It is bound to be settled against the Israelies at some point, probably in an ugly way due to their collective ideological intransigence, in a variation on those infamous "internal contridictions" that made the old USSR unsustainable. The big difference is that the Likud has a really strong appreciation for the power of PR and politics, and a real skill/talent/ability to use it. The nazis were clueless caracatures of evil; these guys are genuinely sophisticated, and nothing if not committed.

      Ron and Don Utter have comments that complement each other, and this thing WILL resolve itself. It'll happen in a one-state solution,one way or the other. It'll be tough for the Israelies to swallow, but swallow they will, if they want to survive. They can fight against their internal contridictions, and how their attitudes and actions are against the tide of history in support of the people. But their approach is only buying time and building up pressure that'll have to be resolved at some point. The first thing one does when one finds themselves deep in a hole (in this case, finding an enduring accommodation with the Arabs/Palestinians), is to stop digging. So far, they are, sadly, along ways away from that basic awareness. An there will come about a balancing and a settling, either controlled or uncontrolled,be it a hundred or a thousand years.

      The bad thing about racism, is that it makes the Likudniks think those A-rabs won't remember/resent what is being done to them better than they do. The closest thing to a claim they have is that the land was "given" to them, which amount to nothing more than incredibly thin, self-serving,B*** S***.

      Hopefully, Obama does have a game-plan that he'll be able to attempt to pull off after a re-election. But what if Biden is told to do....something else. These guys have bought and paid for the US congress, and that still includes guys like Joe and too many others to think Obama would be able to get the staff work he'd need in order to do anything significant. Would Hilary (if she weren't going to quit anyway) do anything without the Likud's permission?

      Yeah, closest thing to action that Israel EVER took along these lines, was Camp David I. Even that was an example of making lemonade out of lemons, when you look objectively at the event that followed during the eighties.

  • Ten Years after 9/11, Do the Arabs value Democracy more than We do?
    • When there's something as dramatic as 9/11 it stands to unleash forces unforeseen and perhaps unstoppable: the course of history stands to be changed or at least deflected from its prior momentum. Here, I fear it simply accelerated things.

      Autocratic grasping, greed, and will-to-power has been relentless since at least Thucydides wrote about it, and neo-liberal thinking had already been gaining momentum and currency, when 9/11 afforded these forces their golden opportunity.

      My own read is that economic pressures in the US, and the world, have built to the point that The People do not have the wherewithal to make a difference, short of True Revolution (and, I'm sorry, the Egyptian "revolution" doesn't qualify). Real revolution means fundamental change in a system, and as sordid as life has become in the developing world, it'd stand to get worse to make a fundamental change. Maybe it can be done: something along the lines of kicking heroin. Even in the US, real change is unlikely, as liberal/progressive elites stand to be effectively managed by that trillion $ (domestic, internal) security establishment you alluded to.

      Aggravating the situation, as societies get larger, herd and group behavior kicks-in, in addition to whatever power the otogarchs have been able to grab directly. So, we have the bureaucratic rationalizations behind torture (could any responsible politician defend NOT torturing if that might allow NYC to be vaporized?). Personal judgement is set-aside, even absent peer/social pressure; its a function of human nature. And then, there is the phenomena of how the more important a issue becomes, the higher up in an organization the decision is deferred, where political appointees with progressively less nuanced background and preparation inflict their collective inadequacies and weaknesses on the rest of us.

      Maybe the neo-classical economists are right, in their essentially Hobbsian vision, of the world sorting out between the deserving rich (them, naturally), and the rest, left to rot outside their gated communities. The only course is finding a full and autonomous community which can think and be something more.

  • Downgraded US Credit Rating: What comes of Coddling the Super-Rich
    • Couple points to maybe provoke thinking about ROOT causes, and get beyond what amounts to a bunch of pointless bleating...not that I've got any answers...

      1-With the oligarchs (ie, Rich), there is just so much more sophistication than there once was. The spin and manipulation by and of the media, to get guys like Joe The Plumber to think HE was actually on the inside (in real life he was a plumber assistant, as I recall). There are an awful lot of people out in Red American who just cannot get their heads around the idea that they're being conned into backing a perspective that is wholly against their best interests.

      2-An extraordinarily highly-leveraged society. People don't have the time to read critically, even when their putative educations give them the tools needed to look at issues/events critically. There isn't a college educated (whatever that may mean) person out there who is working a simple 40-hrs a week and coming home with the mental energy in reserve to think/read critically (emphasis on word "critically": even zoning out in from of The PBS Newshour barely counts). 40 hours really equals 50, plus a commute, and I'm leaving out the young and ambitious who have the ability to make a difference as advocates. What you're left with is professional researchers like Prof Cole, or journalists who somehow have the freedom to speak/write freely. I'm thinking here specifically of guys like Jeremy Cahill, who has done a lot of writing on the Blackwater/Xe mercenaries.

      3-Consistent with the above, people are up to the eyebrows in debt or otherwise justifying scared witless about what'd happen to them if they went active. Who has the fiscal freedom of action to think about doing more? Blogging is fine, but I sense a lot of disconnected nodes out here. At some point there has to be real organization with real power to force change, whether or not it needs to take to the streets.

      I don't know who those protestors were in Wisconsin when the republican governor/party essentially steamrolled them, but there is an enormous amount of pressure that can be brought to bear against folks who are tempted to do more, especially if/when they are in a position to be effective. Normal folks cannot afford to just blow off a job, even a crappy one, any longer.

      I would speculate that those folks involved enough to just read this blog regularly are often somehow beyond such fiscal/physical constraints. I'd bet a big portion of the regular readers here are retired, semi-retired, or otherwise in no real position to threaten the oligarchs. Myself, I'm just a guy living under a bridge with a (small) social security income and using a library computer.

  • Cole, ACLU, Sue CIA, FBI seeking Bloggergate Documents
    • And, I imagine, that was a facial recognition system that never forgets a face?

      Seriously, whenever a law has no teeth, or relies on a potential defendant to investigate themselves, all you have is eyewash. Don't hold your breathe on that FOI.

      Law, in the best case, and that is not what we have here, is a matter of politics. At least politics as practically defined as how people get along and resolve conflicts as group.

      We could fine-tune that definition, but there is a reason why those behind the torture policies and their implementation will get away with it. There are reasons why Manley must go down. The frustration and exasperation shown so eloquently by Glenn Greenwald comes from a failure to see things as they are. Reality can be a real bitch.

      Sadly, some of us have to come to recognize the Group (ie, the Establishment, the State), has its imperatives and prerogatives, and the individual is there for cannon fodder and to do its told. There is an idealist posture based on individual rights, and the state serving the needs of the people, but at this point the US is beyond all that.

      The Republic of by and for the people has run its course. We're back to the baseline behavior of governments throughout history. Good news is those of us in the US are collectively rich, and if we're old enough can ride things out to our own end. The rest of you guys are on your own.

  • Ret'd. CIA Official Alleges Bush White House Used Agency to "Get" Cole
    • Another thought, perhaps more positive, and consistent with other remarks here.....

      The fact you show up on the radar of those in power, as someone to be somehow managed, should be taken as a compliment.

      The fact you are able to do so, with nothing more than a blog (well, there is the lifetime of preparation before launching it....), is a tribute to the notion of intellectual leverage.

      The trim-tab effect, where you can potentially exercise enoromous influence by being read by any 100 thinking people with power or influence, is astounding.

      Take this, amongst other things naturally, as a compliment and endorsement for what you're doing.

      Never knew Paul Newman was on Nixon's enemies list....

    • Groups, any groups, but especially politically determined ones, have little/no tolerance for dissenters. ANY GROUPS.

      The record of whistle-blowers, for example, in ANY setting, ever being adopted by any organization again, is nil. Yes, they be brought on as a loose affiliate by some Public Citizens group, or invited to speak to business schools on matters of ethics, but their attitude (and yours, with all due respect), makes them persona non grata to any group requiring team players. It is the exceeding rare manager, who has any career aspiration, that would hire someone who has proven they have what it takes to not only resist managerial control, much less to buck the system in general.

      Michael Schauer, the CIA analyst who wrote Imperial Hubris, strikes me as nothing if not a patriot and team player, and was evidently valued a great deal while working with The Team. That would've included developing alternative opinions and going against conventional wisdom, and guys like him you'd undoubtably respect the thinking of at the conferences you'd both attend. But at the end of the day, guys like him would have then (before going rogue)filed
      their opinions/reports and doneas told or directed by their masters. That's called being a Team Player. And if you aren't ON the team, and exercise any ability to sway thinking people to some other perspective, you are a danger.

      Ironically, it'd is thinking people, who tend to acquire influence, that respect your thinking and that of guys like Schauer, because of the truth, or even just honest contrasting perspective it provides. But you'd be equally dangerous to them, ultimately, being unmanageble.

      The folks in the Cheney White House, and those in Obama's, are no different in being proven team players. Their bona fides have been tested and proven over decades before getting their little cubby-hole in the administration. And a guy like you, is potentially a threat, even if at any one moment you are saying things that support them. The point is you are fundamentally unmanageable.

      Give a prayer of thanks to the concept of tenure to the extent it now holds. To the rest of us, WHEREEVER we fit in the world, the above is a reality of negotiating our way through society.

  • The Muslim World Sounds off on Bin Laden's Demise
    • Really interesting responses, given my point was clearly about the power of semantics, and these tend to validate it in a oblique way.

      The attacks on the WTC in 93 and on the Cole were overt acts of war, in retrospect unwisely diminished by Clinton treating them as "mere" crimes. But treating them as acts of war in fact, and acts of a mere archcriminal to the public (think of The Joker, in the last Batman installment), would have helped keep the phenomena of "terrorism" in perspective. Assuming that was the wish of a given politician.

      Letting the words get out of hand potentially leads to a guy like OBL becommming more than he rationally deserves to be. Whatever the facts, if the rhetoric gains too much traction in whatever unforeeable way, in a hundred years what has passed over the past ten years could become something quite different.

    • "Terrorism is just garbage, and produces nothing but garbage. It has mostly been taken out, with nothing but the stench hanging in the air. Most Muslims have moved on. So should Americans".

      This is a real truth. The word itself is so loaded, and it has been so manipulated by those who would....well, no need to get exercised on that and everything that has followed from it.

      911 could have been handled as an extreme case of criminality, without the over-reaction of the GWOT, domestically and overseas. And for a whole lot less in terms of $ and everything else. Similarly, we could have avoided allowing "terrorists" like Hamas from being perceived as threats to anyone other than our 51rst state (which gets back to the political nature and use of the term). What's left is stray, spontaneous, and ultimately effete anarchism, if we only allow it be what really is.

      But what we have collectively done is allow ourselves, through the word, to be manipulated for the agenda others, legal and illegal. All this for a Word.

  • Corporate Welfare Royalty
  • Free Libyan fighters exult in small Victories, as US begins Drone Strikes
    • Air Power has enormous attraction when people don't have the time, patience and wherewhithal to regard it critically. Part of it is as you noted, part is the promise of a clean involvement: like "safe" sex with a condom. Mostly, it really is prone to be regarded with sheer ignorance.

      Martin Van Crefeld (sp?), noted military historian, just came out with a history of air power, developing the thesis that its had its day. Still, you cannot argue with Field Marshall's Hillary Clinton, or Madeline Albright, when the later argued for the use of the military in Bosnia in the nineties: to paraphrase, "what's the good of having this big expensive, powerful military, if you cannot use it?"

      The pros know better, but they don't make policy. And policy makers are accountable, often at too great a level, to the masses.

    • From long-ago experience with allycat vandalism, I suspect (not REALLY knowing what I'm talking about) rebel AND govt fighters improve commensurate with the level of darwinistic winnowing that takes place. When you don't have to stand, fight, adapt/die, increases in skill come far slower.

      Outside of Benghazi the enthusiasts raced out in chase when the govt was on the run, but ran backwards even faster when the govt started shooting back. Hence, the dumb,stupid, and slow got to live and the quality of low animal aggression, cunning, and ruthless cruelty that makes for efficient/effective killers stayed low. In Mesurata (sp?), the turkeys who pop their heads up to see what's going on loose them: the herd is getting culled, on both sides. On the net, I suspect a skilled observer, these few weeks later, now sees better tactics being executed on both sides in the West, versus in the East.

      Taking it a step further, and this is supported by the arguments/thinking of alot of academic and military historians, this is another reason why "mission creep" is so pernicious: it allows for the targeted country to adapt, and those on the short end of the stick have a tendency to quickly adapt and grow stronger, not only in a darwinistic sense, but in a moral, us-versus-them sense. Not encumbered by the bureacracy of NATO, the govt military is adapting on the fly, and it appears to be doing a good job of it.

      Think of how the US air attacks on North Vietnam drew that country together in terms of moral righteousness, even as their strategies and tactics where evolving to offset the US onslaught. The TRUE success of any War appears to be an awfully tough thing to call on its onset. Especially if one party does not make a coup de main. (I think that's the expression for it: overwhelming force to totally succeed immediately....not just to have defeated Iraq as in 2003, but to have totally dominated the situation.) So, when we get these unfold, ratchet-up scenarios you leave the door to unanticipated fate wide, wide open.

  • Should Professors in Public Universities Give up their Email Addresses?
    • Over the years academics have been tamed quite a bit. Not just socialization, but political/intellectual emasculation, which is what this stuff is making painfully obvious. Universities nowadays are implicitly seen/justified as trade schools: notice the importance/support given schools of engineering and business. Polisci is the pre-law trade school, and the natural sciences are for pre-meds, (aside from those who want to go into teaching trade). Knowledge for knowledge's sake, go fish.

      When hiring or supporting profs, the single most valued skill is grantsmanship (with apologies to the fast shrinking poplulation of the hip-pocket liberal arts schools with big endowments). Profs are rarely valued (substantively) for the ability to provoke thought or further scholarship, unless that scholarship is somehow grant underwritten or will lead to something worthwhile in the sense that univerities have assumed much of the work previously done by industry R&D (versus genuine basic research).

      Of course, you have your philosophers and historians. But even a gadfy (to the system,that is ;-)) like Prof Cole, undoubtly gets points for "contributing," with the talks and seminars he does with the military and other government professionals from time to time. Overall, I have the sense professors, and most anyone wanting to make a future in the world today, need to play a game increasingly sensitive to...the market.

    • The actual rational initial used in denying privacy to emails is that they were very much like post-cards. That was the analogy use by the courts at that time.

    • Report on NPR a few days ago yielded some surprising twists. One, if I'm not mistaken (and it was too startling to have been gotten wrong), was that the case law is extending email foraging to "off-campus" accounts for public officials (whether or not this would effect a prof, as some sort of public official?) This may be constrained by distinguishing between purely speculative fishing in public records vrs an ongoing civil/criminal investigation, but the essense of it was that these were officials about which the public had a right to know. This intrepretation seems to have derived from how Bush operatives where doing all sorts of stuff on non white house/govt servers. Where I a high-profile prof at a place like Michigan I would assume there were crosshairs on me and that with enough money the lawyers can always make an arguement (just call John Yoo). But this you already know.

      Intimidation is clearly the objective. Still, assuming a prof is tenured, there is at least some protection if he can take relatively harmless political heat, and I think guys like Cronan know what they're getting into by lending their voice to anything. But I'm thinking more about how Mearsheimer and Walt would've been toast were it not only for their tenure, but also the sheer weight of their reputations publishing the Israel Lobby. Putting aside a case like Norm Finklestein, a common (tenured) associate at a place like Iowa State would have found himself in an un-heated broom closet (or worse) for saying the wrong thing to/about the wrong people.

      I'm of the realist school, and looking at history you have to acknowledge it is a long ways from here to hearing your door broken down by thugs at 4 am, BUT things can and do change more quickly than most of us would like to think. We know we are on thin ice, in the sense of cultural constraints to the contrary, when you see the work of a guy who pretty much single-handedly took down ACORN, got caught trying to bug a Senator's office, and STILL has not been dissuaded from his activities, contemporary standards for acceptable behavior being what they are.

      Ultimately, in a changing and increasing fluid world, we cannot get too tied into notions of security and invulnerablity. Even amongst tenured profs. If you want to keep speaking you have to be willing, push comes to shove, to bag your gig at the University, or if things get physical, check out totally and disappear. My in-laws parents left established careers/extended families in Germany in the early 1930's because of the trends, and they weren't even Jews.

  • King's Nixonian Hearings against American Muslims
    • 1- I heard King split this hair a bit further: that the IRA never attacked the US...unlike the Muslims (they were all M, right?).

      2- The final paragraph on making PAC contributions to his opponents is the way to go here. King is clearly pandering to a local constituency that includes lower Manhattan; its pretty much to be expected that their rep will be a demagogue on this subject. Using PAC contributions to give the freedom to think/act to his opponent isn't what the system was designed to do with (being sarcastic...), but its a nice adaptation to the reality of things.

  • It's Official: Tunisia Now Freer than the U.S.
    • This gets at the single great truth to be aware of and to which its people need to see past their complacency to resist.

      Once people in the US transcend the notion of their exceptionalism, they can come to see the world can spin in reverse: progress does not always extend forward.

      Quite to the contrary, and this was the real lesson of the Holocaust, which has in the grandest of ironies, been lost on the powers that now be in Israel.

  • Ras Lanuf Falls to Rebels
    • Brian:

      Could it be what you're seeing is a bunch of marginally trained infantry just "sprayin' and prayin"? I've heard AK are notoriously ineffective, even in skilled hands, unless you're pretty close-up.

      Not know WHAT I'm talking about....my sense from looking at this fighting is alot of guys running around shooting zillions of rounds wildly, with casualties more often being inflicted by stray rounds than competent fire. Is it possible what you've seen is incompetent fire rather than fire withheld?

    • Appreciate Brian's comment. In fact, the dimension of informed speculation, at a minimum, is sorely lacking in this matter.

      Best thing I've heard were a few lines repeated by the CNN talking head on site, who was parroting a few insights gathered from their security crew, regarding quality of armaments, etc. All these guys are telling us is that there was fighting of some sort, there was an explosion of some sort.

      Beyond the volume of sheer ignorance on the part of reporters, there is the ACTIVE ignorance from people that are worse than amateurs. A Tom Clancy enthusiast at least is oriented, but these guys are clueless and prone to projection that they have no excuse for.

      I'd like to know just how far esprit de corps will get the rebels when they have no "corps"? In fact, they're just a bunch of swarming individuals; there is a body of knowledge how fighters work under these circumstances, but I haven't heard it. And, even knowing that, how well can they fare, even going up against a rag-tag, bare excuse for a army like Q's?

      Most of all, I'd like a guest editorial from someone like Anthony Cordesman, or informed speculation from anyone else, about how this thing plays out, militarily. How possible will it be for those officers in the East to get their forces organized to the point where they can hope to "hold" ground, as Q's gang starts to leverage their organization. Is a stalemate really plausible, or is thing going to implode on the East pretty much inevitably at some point?

  • Egypt's Unfinished Revolution: PM Shafiq Ousted
    • Actually, I'd think differently.....

      Perhaps in a hair-splitting, but not insignificant way. Inasmsuch as the NEO-version of classical colonialism has changed the face, if not the eventual substance of things, no such takeover is going to take place in an afternoon (or whatever time frame might otherwise be logistically arranged). There's more to it than that.

      Neo-colonialism means doing the same old thing, only sub rosa, ostensibly as a outgrowth of the people's free will, and that takes a more patient guidance. Whatever is desired needs to be guided/legitimized by the "invisible hand", and today that means the (ostensible) will of the people, as manipulate by Hill & Knowlton, Lincoln, or on-staff visionaries. The Invisible Hand is an awkward metaphor to attempt to manage with the crude lever(s) of formal planning, especially by an informal group with nothing more in common than a shared interest in re-establishing the status quo in a fresh set of clothes. At its most sophisticated and subtle, its what we see in the US, and it is increasingly what is needed to manage the Little Brown People. Hence, your observation.

      That's why we got the NEO-conservatives; see how this NEO stuff works? A group of Deep Thinkers, many at the U of Chicago, propogate a worldview that leads to an ideology that results in a doctrine that can be opportunistically implemented whenever the proper conditions present themselves. Like a boa constrictor, relentless and consistent in its overriding intent, all things in time will come to them.

      Back in classical Greece, there was an underlying conflict represented by Athenian democracy and Spartan oligarchy. The human condition hasn't changed much since, except in terms of the sophistication of eyewash used to con people to what's really going on.

  • 30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement
    • Along these lines, there is a strained (careful, circumspect) mockery amongst those in the US intelligence community for how a certain type of person is drawn to (successfully) apply for work at Christians-In-Action, over in Langley. The Cohen brothers movie "Burn Before (after?) Reading" recently took a few sly digs at the culture they've evolved over the years as well.

      What it gets down to is the attraction of having a belief system and how that empowers righteousness in a certain type of person, who is not terrible hard to find. (Check out taliban.com, likud.com, etc) If you really believe in something, and if you are really committed to it, don't the ends justify the means? You Betcha.....

  • Top Five Myths about the Middle East Protests
    • I'll second that.

      With all due respect to BH, he's a hipsot, and at his worst is a progressive (contridiction in terms, I know) reflection of those unmentionable idiots on Fox. The difference, IMHO, is that he has a bit more perspective of his own failability and a real desire/ability to engage the truth of things.

      The guy is by and large an impulsive and immature peter pan pot head, whose managed to stay a kid all his life. On the other hand, he cares about The Truth and getting on with things. So, if someone who shares the same general agenda is willing to come on and engage him, its hard to see it becoming a food fight: I'd see education of Bill, along with alot of viewers who in the day to day trials of their own lives simply don't have the time and means to know better.

      Good idea!

  • Days of Rage in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain
    • If you want to know where to anticipate serious governmental violence, give some encouragement to west bank palestinians to try something demonstrable, with or without media coverage.....

      On the subject of which, the US just vetoed a UN resolution against Israeli encroachment/settlements. It had an opportunity to be even-handed by abstaining, if nothing more, but it couldn't bring itself to do so. Once again.

      UN ambassador Rice, said "it would encourage them to return to the UN whenever an impasse was reached...." which, of course, would have encouraged getting past the intended impasse. Funny how that works.

      Funnier was saying, "we reject the legitimacy of the new settlements...", which gave the US position away. We reject the legitimacy, but will do nothing about it, even if a potential action is to do nothing.

      Off topic, I suppose, but this goes to the power of the US in the region.

  • Iraq Roiled by Protests, 2 Killed in Sulaimaniya
    • What I can't understand is why we haven't heard the "They're Terrorists!" card being played yet. All these malcontents are nothing if not terrifying, eh?

  • Scenarios for Egypt's Future: How Democratic Will it Be?
    • Think this is central to future prospects. Also think it goes a bit deeper (if you can imagine that), in a way that isn't so obvious and relatively easy to see and explain.

      An enormous amount of "investment" has been made in Egypt since 79 by the IMF (aside from the 1.5-2B/yr payoff, depending on how its counted, by US on behalf of Israel). While military is HEAVY in control of manufacturing and construction, the money itself comes from the outside, and profits have been shown to usually leave the country. Although in modern, refined clothing and altogether more subtle clothing, a colonial extraction scheme, in this case the mechanism being financial manipulation versus raw commodity resources.

      There is Egyptian cotton, of course, and they make a lot of money off tourism, as well as a fair amount from remittances (citizens sending money home from the EU/US/wherever). But Egypt's value to the world's elites has been how it has served to facilitate the manufacture of wealth through financial manipulation. Sound Familiar?

      They are going to need a serious revolution to begin to address this, and the detoxification and development of a legitimate economy is going to take generations, assuming everybody is genuinely on board.

  • Wael Ghonim vs. Barack Obama: Change we Can Believe in, Yes we Can
    • Recent CNN poll amongst rep voters "shows" they place a higher priority on "defeating Obama in 2012" than complaints on any particular policy points.

      There would be a terrific hypothesis here to poll with serious design rigor (versus whatever they used). The idea being to test whether the GOP really is ready to accept a black president, regardless of what he does. The American Street knows they're not supposed to be bigoted racists, and many even have friends and relatives who've gone into mixed marriages or whatever over the past 20-40 years.

      But when it gets down to it, to accept a black man as their Big Daddy... ???

      The poll would have to do all the usual things for validity, but the main thing would be to phrase the questions in such a way as to allow people to show what they really think and feel, and not get misled by what they know they're supposed to feel or not feel.

  • Egyptian Protests Swell in Response to Ghonim
    • Hate to keep reading the situation like a game, trying to anticipate plays without a direct personal investment.

      But, last week Stratfor did sketch out a coup scenario. It pointed out how aged the leadership of the military it, and how even mid-grade field officers in their fifties are not part of closely-held true power club. Historically, apparently, it is these relatively junior grade officers who have taken charge in the past. So, the military keeps its power by sweeping out the ossified and intransigent senior leadership. Don't know why S would've couched this as some sort of ominous threat: sounds like a reasonably painless way to move M out, wind the protests down, and move on...

      Forgot name, but Air Force chief of staff (the branch M comes from), came out with some pretty direct statements of M needing to go. Whether he or others who talk this talk are just staking out prerogatives or are part of a potential new wave, heaven knows.

  • Egypt's Google Gandhi Released, Interviewed
    • Taking a deep breath, sitting back and thinking, what might we begin to conclude about the prospects for The People of Egypt?

      First, there are parallels between them and us, however us is defined. The US may be the most dramatically different case, but only due to its wealth. In its case, the velvet glove of power, allowed to emerge by its panicked people, has had no need to come down on a herd so fat and uninformed, whose gullibility and complacency makes them harmless to begin with. For the moment anyway.

      At this moment, however, its hard to see a happy ending for the Egyptians, especially if The People think they afford a strategy of waiting Mubarak out. In that contest The People lose. If any group attacks a King, they better finish the job or they're the ones who will be finished.

      For their part, M and the party (the Kleptomatics) are clearly set to bide their time until those in the square evaporate, are forgotten. Or, as in Tiannaman (sp), once the cameras have gone and the crowds thinned, move in for the kill. The current drift doesn't promise a happy ending.

      At the bottom of events, though, are modern status quos, even as ossified as Mubarak's, too economically and politically entrenched to fail? His regime appears too important for the US to let go for security and political reasons (The Lobby). 40% of Egypt's economic output, according to some, comes from military (ie, state) industries, which combined with the rest of the state bureaucracy makes any restructuring of the status quo practically impossible. Especially so because replacement leadership has been systematically emasculated over the years: there is little leadership or practical alternative vision to make a meaningful change.

      Could this be an illustrative case, where even such a hollow regime is too big and entrenched to be changed? In simpler times there was not the same reliance on the state and its bureaucracies. Now, could it be that with modern states--like big business---they are no longer necessarily an accountability, and they are immune to the needs and will of The People?

  • Egypt: I ask Myself Why
    • Is this moment of Ronald Reagan Revisionism running amok, it's good to recall how he spotted the talent of Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who went on to represent the US at UN, etc.

      She was a prof at Georgetown (?) who managed to split hairs between authoritarians (ours), and totalitarians (theirs). It had to do with when the intent of the Dictator was to wash brains or simply control (with benevolence, it was implied, as the Little People matured), as I recall. Easy enough to google this short essay. It was facile. Glib. Useful.

      Kinda like Reagan himself.

    • Facebook has also received funding from In-Q-Tel. Doesn't mean they control Zuckerber, just that this is the technology they are encouraging in order to....do what they want to do. The movement of money is more eloquent than words, so make your plans accordingly.

  • Cunningham: Every Uprising is Different
    • Insightful: either an embryonic civil war or one that is stillborn. All things considered, Mubarak will be able to ride out out this wave of enthusiasm, aided by a kinder and gentler (more subtle) repression, and business will resume as usual. M has little time remaining on his clock and his son is not sellable, so the status quo will simply need to regurgitate a successor who'll make all the appropriate promises/gestures, swinging smoothly back to business as usual. Stability will triumph.

    • Maybe we should also add to this list, our own biases and expectations.

      That there might not be a significant population of Tories, in either the Egyptian or Iranian case. The twittering class doesn't necessarily represent the overall people, much as it may be we can identify with them. The masses don't speak even bad English, but its those who speak it reasonable well that get interviewed on TV.

      One open-minded reporter/source in Cairo did a number of broader interviews on feelings toward Mubarak and found a recurrent mention of the word "Father."

      No, we have to be careful not project here. The notion of The People wanting to govern themselves isn't something I'd take for granted. Having some strong, benevolent, father figure is historically more the norm. In fact, the motif of the good sheperd/caudillo/pharoh/Big Daddy, taking care of his unwashed children/sheep is downright Christian.

      In the US, there are plenty of elites, or for obvious self-serving needs, gravitate to this model as well. Isn't a nation far better equipped and able to take care of itself if it can just make a (good, right, and sensitive) decision and DO IT, without having to develop a consensus amongst the whole, breathtaking stupid herd?

      What we have to remember, is that many, if not most people, buy into this sort of thing at some level. Certainly, with less educated people in places that've known nothing else.

  • Repression Fails as Thousands Demand Mubarak Departure
    • If The People really expect Mubarak to go, asking him will not get it done.

      In fact, telling him to go, by itself, will not work.

      Only when Mubarak comes to understand his very life is in clear danger and the odds are not improving, will he do anything substantive.

    • If Mubarak thinks he can wait them out, he will. Guaranteed.

      In fact, even if he doesn't know or have confidence he can wait them out, he'll try. He's an old man whose had it his way for a long, long, time. The thought of having to respond to the pressure of a bunch of.....Little People...is unlikely to be something he can easily get his ossified head around.

      The ONLY thing that will definitely work is if he sees (and fully fears) a big mob bearing down on him, with the clear intent of promoting him into a lamp-post ornament.

      Do The People show that sort of intensity? Somebody more knowledgable tell me. But in the general reports, I get the same sense he probably has: of a bunch of complainers, that when it gets down to it are harmless.

      Like children, He may well think this bunch is making a lot of noise that is really nothing more than aggravating, and if ignored they'll soon enough lose interest and go back to sucking their collective thumbs.

    • Sometimes it helps to listen to what is being said between the lines, in the heart and intentions, in this case with Mubarek:

      HM to Protesters: GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!

      But admittedly that's not serious. Here is what is more likely to be going on inside the head of a fellow like him (with apologies to other 82 y/o's, who've succeeding in entrenched themselves as demigods for 30 years):

      HOW DARE THEY!!!

      Assuming no coup, or some other more kindly group carting him off to The Home, this guy is going nowhere. He is hunkered down and locked in, and there's nothing like the stubbornness to be seen in his profile, as a human being.

      Outside the scenarios noted, if the protesters keep this up, his head is eventually going to swell up and explode in sheer rage against the people's...ingratitude.

      Its all there to read between the lines.

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • And for any other (open-minded and curious) reader, Finklestein's BEYOND CHUTZPAH, is priceless. In fact, by dealing with one particular disimilator, he provides a clue as to how Truth gets corrupted and how you have to look at things with special rigor, especially when the forces aligned against the Truth are so focused.

    • Great bottom line!

    • Is that money part of a buy-off or a shake-down? Depends. Look at the facts and who benefits.

      Much of the dough was in form of military credits, so it becomes partially US corporate welfare (military industrial complex). It's really a fleecing of the US taxpayers to enrichen corporations and 2 govts, who'd rather do that to line the pockets of elites than take care of their people.

      The Egyptian economy has been "doing better", but that's on the whole, with the profits going to the rich: a classic Marxist outcome.

    • The key word was "introduced".

      "Peace" is an interesting word as well, that has, I read, many inches of column inches of space in the OED. In this case, let's say its related to balance, and people being comfortable with each other. Without getting into the whole whose-at-fault trap, think of how you get to a state of true stability, where people are comfortable with each other.

      Its starts with not having one party INSISTING on having its neighbors by the throat. Having them only implicitly by the throat is a mighty fine distinction.

    • You've beat around this bush for years, but this is the first time I can recall you putting it all right out there so directly. However, the alternative narrative about Israel, precisely to the contrary, has been sold with overwhelming skill, as Norm Finklestein (I think) put it, as the greatest story every sold.

      But, we have to understand, as you're finally saying, that it reflects a deeper corruption. Obama is not stupid, and whatever he owed the various interests coming into whatever power he has, his education in the realities has been abrupt enough that he must know and even resent whats going on. Nor is Hillary stupid, but people like her have been corrupted over time, so we have to realize they actually BELIEVE what they say (I about gagged a couple weeks ago as she railled impressively against the potential of Iran going nuclear, asking the audience, "can you just imagine how destabilizing it'd be if they (Iran) were to introduce nuclear weapons to the region?")

      This situation is symptomatic of a deeper and more profound problem. In the face of adamant and relentless greed and selfishness, the wider population who is distracted by the needs of day to day living hasn't got much of change. That is, short of revolution once it gets too bad. But then you've got guys like Mubarak who have contingencies for that day wired in: over the past week, every day of relative peace has allowed his goons to spot whatever leadership might emerge, who should be expecting midnight callers if they haven't already arrived.

      For a smart guy, the smart move is to join 'em since you cannot beat em. I'm waiting for alternatives....

  • Mubarak's Basij
    • Neo-repression, lets call it. When an autocracy is cunning enough to send in ringers and the other things observed. Modern autocracies rarely give themselves away so clearly as they did in the good 'ole days.

      The governmental actions unfolding are likely to have been on the shelve and ready to go for some time. Notice how the Egyptian internet presence was designed to be unplugged domestically within minutes, while leaving it intact as a conduit for other countries in the region.

      The upshot is evidently that Egyptians can count on a series of countermoves already in-place to put them back in theirs. When push comes shove it will be time for the people to do what it takes, and then we'll see how much the people really want to do without their dictatorship. The government may prove itself illegitimate in this way, but that simply wouldn't matter to them.

  • Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979
    • A very linkable post, hopefully to help offset the platoons of alarmists now swarming.

      On the other hand. There is a element of irrationality in human movements, especially with group movements. Like a herd of buffalo, a mere flash of color can spook a single individual whose reactions can turn the whole herd. There were many people who very knowledgeably and rationally opined a couple weeks ago that Tunisia was NOT Egypt. And while they were absolutely right in their analysis, they were absolutely wrong in their prognoses.

      So. All this analysis sounds rock solid, except for seeing unmistakable moderation in the MB. Fundamentally, Egypt seems to be regarded in the region as a place of thinkers and ideas. In one formulation, repeated to the point it may have become true if no other reason than repetition, Egyptians write books, the Lebanese publish them, and the Iraqi's read them. Qutb wrote the infamous and arguable seminal "Signposts", which has resonated with many within Salafist movements across the Arab world. Zawahiri, of AQ fame, was a product of this influence/thinking, nurtured by Egyptian state repression. It is unlikely these influences ended with him. What is more likely is that folks so radicalised have learned to be invisible in the face of a Mukabarat consider one of the most capable in the middle East. Supported to no small extent by the US, as a manifestation of softer and gentler modern neo-colonialism. The latent strength of this resentment and thinking, and the opportunity it now has to bubble up, shouldn't be minimized.

      Adding to the other side (on the first hand?), is seems like Sunni's are a whole lot less centralized than Sunnis. Its a crude analogy, but the Iranians in 79 could be seen as more responsive to the need/call of a commanding Pope-like presence, whereas the Sunni formulation of Islam simply doesn't present itself with such centralized control

      Bottom line, I wouldn't place my bets on or against any one particular outcome.

  • Kolin: How the US Became a Police State
    • As a polemic I'd buy it; As a explanation of reality, forget it. Things are far more nuanced. The essential conflict of haves and have nots, reactionaries and progressives, old and young, is as old and as fundamental as the tension between fathers who cling to the past and their sons who are creating a future.

      We hope for a prudent balance, which in the US has been afforded by sheer wealth: it becomes a two steps forward and one step backward thing (or one step forward, two back, pick your ratio). Yes, there is this danger in any society, especially cropping up in recent years, but there are correcting mechanisms. The wheel never ceases to turn.

  • Egypt's Class Conflict
    • An analysis from STRATFOR, worth reading at:

      link to stratfor.com

      pulls together many of these observations, reading into them the historical context and precedence. Most interesting point is the hypothetical potential for a junior officer coup reflecting genuine sensitivity to the people and their situation, (if there is to be any true revolution, IMHO).

      This is the only obvious way the people can really get past the status quo. That is, some general/pal of Mubarak's picking things up where he leaves off. The only other scenario, assuming the revolution doesn't subside or isn't successfully suppressed, as in China, would be the MB/Iranian alternative/model.

    • With all due respect to Max Weber...

      The Chinese Party had to reassert its authority with guns in 1989, but that it did. Sitting back we can sniff at how they, and now Mubarak, have lost their authority, but such a construct is intellectual and ultimately misses the point we can see in China: the people where not committed to see things through, and the full price they'd have to pay.

      When the people have genuinely had enough, they will do what it takes (and pay the price in blood) to change things. The same can be said about the US, but its people are so rich and complacent, it hard to imagine when that could/would ever happen.

      The question is how committed the Egyptians are to change, and how committed the status quo (ie, the Army) is to resisting it/obeying orders. Until one side caves i, it would seem you have the set-up for a civil war.

  • Mubarak Turns to Military for Support
    • Appreciate your attention to such a fast-breaking story....And when it seems whatever we anticipate intellectually could be overcome by the mood of the people, who may now be ready to do whatever it takes for real change. Peaceful demonstrations by themselves don't mean a lot: only when push comes to shove will things change in a place like Egypt.

      My questions: How close is the military to the people, really? One of NPR's talking heads on the street equated their relationship like that of the Chinese people to the PLA. The "praetorian" history since 52 is also clear. But when push comes to shove, will the military respond to the people or to the commands of Mubarak? I'm wondering what they will do, and what will happen, in something like a Tiannaman scenario.

      What difference will any revolution, here or in Tunisia, if house is not totally cleaned. If the bureaucracies are left intact, the status quo continues on auto-pilot, until the next President for Life emerges. I read that the mukabarat in Tunisia is now carrying on as usual. And in Egypt this is (as I understand it), one of the largest, most sophisticated and capable "internal security" apparati around.

      The MB is supposed to have something like 1 million members in Egypt, which'd be a little over 1% of the population. That's enough to constitute a revolutionary vanguard, especially assuming the mukabarat has winnowed-out its weaker and less-committed people. (And that they will have an activist orientation due to that repression).

      So. What doe you think the military will really do, and what do you think the odds for a TRUE change that does not continue along secular lines?

  • The US Corruption Game - Cole in Tomdispatch
    • "The notion that, if the U.S. hadn’t given the Tunisian government hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid over the past two and a half decades, while helping train its military and security forces, a shadowy fringe group calling itself “al-Qaeda in the Maghreb” might have established a “toehold” in the country was daft. .......Yet this became an all-weather, universal excuse for bad policy."

      First point is how telling this all is, as a reflection of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without massive US (over?) reactions around the world, the nature of the AQ threat might've faded as have any number of anarchist movements. On the other hand, who knows? If the prudent course is to "stabilize" the situation, in the sense of setting a bone until a critical time passes, the US course charted in Tunisia was credible. Trouble is when the metaphorical bone is not set properly, and is fundamentally corrupt. Empowering a kleptocracy is at best desperately shortsighted, but that was the definition of Dubya's administration.

      Once again, the bureaucratic imperative of taking the most defensible course prevails. So yes, that was the excuse, and I suspect it has been since the beginning of conservatism, as it defines taking the most "responsible" course in any organization.

      It'll be interesting to see how the scenario in Egypt plays out. It is different, but similar in the sense that the status quo has been living in its "state of emergency" for 30-odd years. But ultimately it is the will of the ultimately irrepressible will of the people that will tell the tale, regardless of whatever factual analogy does or does not exist.

  • King on Guns, War and Non-Violence as a Social Movement
    • A critical education that at least gives people the tools of discernment appears to be the only course. Even then, stupidity ultimately is trump, but at least people would not be so dumb, and they are arguing from relatively firm premises: It gives society a fighting chance. As people become relatively well informed, however, we are still left with immature/foolish values and judgement. Which, if open-minded, leads to the attractions of the benevolent master (wasn't that Rousseau?). And THAT is the vision these fellow travelers to the neocons are so drawn to: see how well the Chinese are doing, after all? The unitary executive and all that.

    • Don;t know that it explains everything, but the big O was mighty astute referring to the rura hardscrabble clinging to their guns and religion. I expect this could be related to the post here last week, about the psycho-pathology of nations, referring specifically to Israel.

      What is fascinating the more you look at, and read into it, is the power of group processes. Absent a orienting peer group, people are forced to make up minds based on biases, but also draw heavily on experience and rational thought. But even with the benefit of a good education, meaning a solid understanding of rhetoric, statistics, and the scientific method, the influence of the group can, and often will, sweep them off their feet. We're a social animal, for better or worse. To feel the power, for a relatively benign example go to a big time college or pro football game. Or to get really depressed, read the story of those who somehow survived Jonestown, about how an awful lot of people drank the koolaid when it was NOT what they wanted to do, sheerly due to the power of the group. And this assumes American exceptionalism, without bringing up WW II. These are deep, murky and scarey waters.

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