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Total number of comments: 78 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:25)


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  • Putin targets East Aleppo rebels; Did Trump's Election doom them?
    • I'm not sure I understand in what way would the situation be different had Clinton not failed to mobilize more voters?

      Didn't diplomatic negotiations cum coordination of military strategy with Russia disintegrate after the recent mass-killing of Syrian government troops by the U.S. airforce?

      After that, what incentives did they have to offer the Russian state to rein in its airforce, no matter the face of the next administration?

      Tensions with Russia would likely have increased had they clique around Clinton came into office, further closing the window for diplomacy let alone coordination. This may still happen with Trump's administration, one of the many wild-cards to be unveiled.

      And if not incentives, what types of coercion are left? Apart from direct military confrontation against a country that can actually defend itself or at the very least take down the whole planet with them? Compared to that, surely negotiations are a good thing? This may actually have been the one point where anti-war activists were preferring even Trump to Clinton - which may have cost her dearly in turnout.

      Also, why would the Obama administration go out on a limb for rebel-held Aleppo, given that they are ostensibly fighting a war against some of the al Qaida linked groups (when they're not directly or indirectly aiding them) which are present there.

      If civilian "collateral damage" were such a problem, then why are we doing the same thing to Mosul in alliance with the Iraqi army plus militias that the Russian airforce is doing in Aleppo in alliance with the Syrian state plus militias?

  • Sell that Oil Stock! Electric Cars are Here
    • We need to be energy-efficient. Cars aren't an efficient mode of transport to begin with, let alone "supercars". For a car to have 350 horsepower rather than 60 (or even 3, let's be honest), it will have to be massive in weight.

      About 40% of energy inputs already go into the making of a car. Was the mining for the excess metal for this huge 2 seater car "run off solar panels"?

      Let's say you have really bought enough solar panels (which were also made using fossils fuel inputs for now, btw) to power this monstrosity.

      Now imagine you instead use but a third of them to power a normal (still overpowered) car like your Volt and feed in the remainder to the net. Actually, if you were to take the train or a bike, you could feed in even more.

      Earmarking solar panels to a vanity project does not contribute at all to the (slow...) shift to renewables in the energy mix at least some of which reflects basic energy needs such as heating homes.

      Before we have fully completed this switch (2060? ever?) there is no case considering joy-driving with 350 horses as a "carbon-neutral" activity by any stretch of the imagination. Until that day the extra energy it eats up is either full of carbon if we're honest, or takes needed renewable inputs from the table that we specifically earmarked for that purpose, which is but an accounting trick.

    • The Renault Trezor concept car shown in the video has 350 horsepower to drive around 2 people. Electrical cars may be more efficient compared to internal combustion vehicles, but nowhere near enough to legitimize this insanity.

      Where is the energy coming from to move around this ornament, let alone build it in the first place? And didn't "supercars" go out of fashion in like the 1990s?

      Trains and buses are multiple times as efficient as already massively overpowered cars, let alone these monstrosities. Cars imply tons of materials: asphalt for roads, metal for bodies, rubber for tires (which ends up as fine particles in the air and contributes massively to lung disease), and while electrical ones don't burn gasoline directly, they need lithium and rare earths for batteries.

      Let's face it: for the foreseeable future we can't actually afford this one car per person extravaganza. Meanwhile, let's use small ones and keep them around for decades, cut down on the horsepower and gadgets, and share them between us rather than have them sit idle for 90%+ of the time. Oh, and have the new ones be electrical, but don't use that to pretend that we don't actually have to adapt our (quite lonely and depressed) lifestyles...

  • Iraq: Barzani pledges Kurdish forces won't Enter Mosul
    • Advancing into a heavily fortified and mined city and clearing it house by house ranks among the most perilous undertakings in modern warfare. Needless to say, taking a pass on this may not reflect humanitarian motivations alone.

  • Norman Finkelstein on 58 Years of Israeli Occupation of Palestine
  • Khizr Khan campaign ad for Hillary Clinton finishes off Trump
    • This won't even make the short list of things that should have finished off Trump but didn't.

      While the gist of this article would be regarded as quite uncontroversial in many if not most parts of the world, it would seem to go against the grain of mainstream U.S. culture infatuated with the Titans of Business. Even when pitting this ideology against the religion of military service and sacrifice, this will be a tough sell.

      (And since this blog is about the Middle East, please would someone explain to me again what good those "ultimate sacrifices" of "the finest fighting force" have done for anybody apart from war profiteers?)

      Mitt Romney not only never built anything, but his "investment funds" regularly dismantle businesses to sell for scraps, think Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. He got close to 50% of the vote. Likewise George Soros never built anything in his life. These figures are widely respected apart from those who regard them as too liberal.

      Trump looks like a Henry Ford by comparison. It is only because he is an obnoxious loudmouth that we're even talking about this. Good luck explaining that a casino economy is but a parasite on the real economy. (Perhaps don't plan on visiting Las Vegas - or the NY stock exchange - anytime soon, lest people take offense.)

      The unwritten logic of U.S. "Democracy" is:

      1) The very few who happen to exclusively own and/or run major businesses are primarily to be thought of as job creators, and secondarily as celebrities. They are agency, ingenuity, and grit personified, and their wealth and power are their just rewards.

      2) We may attain similar status if we'd only started pulling harder at our shoelaces.

      I think one of the main developments of the last decade is that people have wised up that a stable middle class life - let alone 2) - isn't in the cards anymore (if it ever was).

      Occupy was the only movement to openly question 1) that had a visible impact on mainstream discourse in a generation. Even so, I had long talks with actual Occupiers in Zuccotti Park whose main reason for discontent was that the wrong kind of people have been made CEOs. Replacing them with the right kind was the limit of their radical imagination.

  • Trump Campaign: The Donald's 5-Point Plan to Defeat Islam
    • not just waterboarding, but really really torturing them

      Waterboarding is clearly the professional way of torturing. This already is as barbaric as it gets.

      There certainly are more visually brutal techniques, such as dismemberment and boiling people alive, (which have been outsourced to allies, btw). However, what are these going to accomplish that stress positions, sleep deprivation, and recurring waterboarding will not, apart from leaving a lot of material evidence behind?

      While maybe inadvertent and guided by the understandable fear of Trump, buying into the idea that there is some form of torture lite or enhanced interrogation in Newspeak is making excuses for the torture done under previous administrations*.

      Let's use the specter of Trump to ask some hard questions about what's already been done under a more enlightened PR-facade.

      *While waterboarding was initiated by Cheney, let's not get too comfortable with the Democrats as the political prisoners in Guantanamo still have feeding tubes forced down their noses on a daily basis. Generally, when looked at dispassionately, clearly the main shift in policy has been from taking prisoners to assassinating suspects extra-judicially through drone-strikes, so no more use for torture techniques.

  • Whose Fault is Trump? Top 7 Culprits
    • With all due respect, this discussion is narrowly focused on proximate co-effects dressed up as causes.

      Why did any of those happen, then? Why did the media fold to money, focus-groups, and infotainment? Why was the population susceptible to scapegoating of Muslims?

      In the bigger picture, we could ask why both the conservative and the liberal value systems so easily and so completely sold out to the self-serving "neo-liberal" [sic] orthodoxy, in so doing cutting off their remaining connections to social democratic and to libertarian currents, respectively.

      Trump may be the perfect storm, but perfect storms need a perfect vacuum to develop. You may as well vote for the giant meteor...

  • RIP Shimon Peres: Last Great Israeli leader to believe in 2 State solution
    • His friend and colleague, Yitzhak Rabin [...]

      To quote from this week's column by Uri Avnery, who knew Peres well over many decades

      Yitzhak Rabin [...] was chosen Prime Minister, but was compelled to appoint Peres, whom he did not like, as Minister of Defense. [...]
      The following years were hell for Rabin. The Defense Minister had only one ambition in life: to humiliate and undermine the Prime Minister. It was a full-time job,

      To spite Rabin, Peres did something of historic significance: he created the first Israeli settlements in the middle of the occupied West Bank, starting a process that now threatens Israel's future. The furious Rabin gave him a moniker that has stuck to him since: "The Tireless Intriguer".

      The lesser of two evils is still evil.

      In the case of Israeli politics, it is not even clear which one is lesser: the historical record shows that more illegal settlements were built with the Ashkenazi-led Ashkenazi-oriented once left-wing party at the helm than under the Ashkenazi-led Oriental-oriented right-wing Likud.

      Strikingly, eloquent pleas for peace are always uttered by "statesmen" well after they have held any actual power. However, in power their actions were quite real and not at all ephemeral, can be measured in thousands of lives lost and uprooted, and have metastasized the problems to be passed on to the next generations.

  • Mainstream Media focusing on Political Infotainment, not Policy
    • As an observer one can either:

      1) dejectedly proclaim the end of rational discourse and decry the horrible state of affairs as this commenter has so eloquently done, or

      2) self-critically reflect about why we couldn't maintain a system that would not have allowed demagogues to shine in the first place: what is it about our current ways of living that so many people would rather see the current status quo burn then maintain it any further?

  • Merkel: Migrants did not bring Radical Terrorism to Germany
    • Merkel and her faction among the conservative party have made an interesting gambit by having admitted refugees for a time. Few countries have done so although it is worth remembering that political refugees technicaly do have a right for asylum under international treaties.

      The German conservatives likely had other reasons apart from humanitarian considerations: an increased influx of Syrian immigrants - many of them with solid qualifications - will 1) reduce the demographic burden in Germany and 2) further entrench the (bipartisan) domestic wage dumping policy that tilted the Eurozone in favor of German exports while bankrupting the periphery.

      It also pulled the carpet from under the feet of the left parties (foremost the social democrats, but even the green and the radical left party) while strengthening the right (factions within her own party, the xenophobic AfD party, and extra-parliamentary groups).

      She may have done the right thing - but for the wrong reasons - and with dangerous consequences.

  • Monsters to Destroy: Top 7 Reasons the US could not have forestalled Syrian Civil War
    • Of course, they could have "forestalled civil war" by not meddling in the region in the first place.

      This is why I cringe every time they phrase "you break it you own it" is used, apparently as a technical term in what passes for analysis in the "excellent and principled" commentariat. While it sounds nice to accept responsibility (purely in the abstract, no reparations are ever mentioned), this really only leaves the door open for more wars to bring stability to the places destabilized by the previous aggression.

  • Dear Trumpists: Khizr Khan is not 'Muslim Brotherhood' and it wouldn't matter if he Were
    • Shouldn't the countries on the map designated in orange (Syria, Iran) be more accurately labeled "countries who we had dealings with in the past", such as "sent people to be tortured to, sold weapons to and used to proceeds to illegally fund terrorist groups in Central America"?

      Or, alternatively, "countries which are de facto allies on the battlefields and indicated that they want a closer diplomatic relationship and but were rebuffed since we need official enemies to justify our grotesque levels of defense spending"?

      When we apply the label "state sponsor of terrorism" systematically rather than selectively, it is hard to see how this would actually differentiate between any countries on this map - or beyond it, given e.g. the drone assassination program of the US. On the bright side, everything on that map would be harmoniously painted orange, no borders, no nations.

  • Are the Muslim Khans better Americans than Donald Trump?
    • The Muslim Khans are a thousand times better Americans than Trump will ever be, because they understand what America is about, and because one of their own made the ultimate sacrifice. If we have to expel somebody, as Trump insists, I know which I’d choose.

      Having the Khans speak at the convention (while denying the stage or even seats to any critical voices i.e. many if not most of the Bernie delegates) certainly was a stroke of genius in a sea of blandness that was the DNC.

      Trump took the bait and now we talk more about him and about his potential expelling of more people - quietly forgetting that the Obama administration set the record for expelling people within the already punitive legal system.

      We also are supposed to somehow forget that HRC could not be bothered to vote against the Iraq war, and that she and her fellow-travelers keep outflanking Republicans from the right, constantly pushing the president to escalate the wars in Libya, Ukraine, and Syria.

  • The Palmer Raids: When Trump's Grandfather and Wives could have been Profiled
    • From the linked speech:

      "You look at Israel and you look at others, and they do it and they do it successfully. And you know, I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense," he said when asked if he supported increased profiling of Muslims in America.

      I'm really sorry to say but this fascism-lite already is the unstated mindset and working practice of the national security state from the NSA snoops down to local cops. Including close working relationships with the Israeli security state and big business at all levels. Just observe how people are treated at airports, etc., it's all around us.

      Trump merely raises it to a new level by openly talking about it rather than using allusions and dog-whistles (R) or sticking to professional talking points while glossing over actual police practice (D).

      The reason that this is important is that e.g. anti-semitism was part of the mainstream of the oh-so-liberal Weimar republic. This eased the eventual acceptance of the actual fascists by the establishment wary of the rising left.

      If the historic shift towards fascism coming out of the great depression is not to be repeated as farce today, being shocked, shocked I tell you, by fascist bile won't cut it, if history is any guide.

      Perhaps we should try actually behaving differently than proto-fascists.

  • British Trumpism? Anti-Immigrant "Britain First" White Terrorist kills Member of Parliament
    • In contrast, Liberal politics (in the 19th century sense that includes both US conservatives and liberals of today) believes that universal suffrage can extend the nation to all citizens of all backgrounds.

      This sounds so very noble and certainly is an interesting ideal.

      To be a little more (self-)critical, it is all too easy for a normative component to find room in the liberal mindset.

      At the extreme end this normative component resulted in indigenous people being sent to Christian schools/re-education camps in Australia and the Americas, so that they may become fit to have the nation be extended to them. And there are liberals who sanction such measures to this day, as the poor cannot be trusted to raise their children correctly.

      Liberal politics is inclusive, not divisive and hateful.

      Again, noble things, but inclusive on our terms, not necessarily theirs. And why would we hate the unwashed hillbillies who are too stubborn and ignorant to get it when we can feel superior and pity them. Engaging with people on eye-level is our challenge.

      There is a deep impulse in liberalism to manage their affairs for them for their own good. As in Hillary Clinton's "superpredators who have to be brought to heel" this can blend into authoritarianism.

      And, Liberal politics holds that things can be improved over time despite momentary setbacks.

      This important aspect is the crux. If social and material development is generally on the right track, and the moral arc bends towards justice, our main task is to incrementally shepherd things along.

      However, people all over the world increasingly do not believe that we as a society are on the right track.

      In Immanuel Wallerstein's analysis, liberal ideas have dominated politics from the French revolution until... a few years ago when we entered another revolutionary moment. Chris Hedges speaks of the "death of the liberal class".

      May you live in interesting times.

  • Obama: Hating on Muslim-Americans makes you an ally of ISIL, & Unamerican
    • Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?

      Didn't the FBI and all the alphabet soup agencies in "homeland security" down to local police departments practice exactly that on Obama's watch?

      Apparently Obama apart from refusing to look backwards, does not look sideways either, but is only looking forward (to having a legacy cum library).

  • World More violent in past Year, but Middle East drives Deterioration
    • Canada is not a region, North America is. And this region does make #2 overall, with Canada dragged down by the U.S., in particular through their involvement in airstrikes in Syria.

      If anything, the medium ranking that was given to the U.S. is likely a misunderestimate to use a Bushism.

      The score in particular apparently counts domestic people killed in violent conflict, which does not reflect escalating campaigns using robot drone planes, classified special ops, and private contractors operating in over 100 countries around the world.

      So maybe they need to reformulate some of their measures to catch up to the 21st century?

      And not to give Canada or Europe a pass - Western capital is driving conflict in the Global South directly (interventions, arm sales) and indirectly (dumping subsidized food, destructive resource extraction), and now even globally through our greenhouse gas emissions.

      But this hardly shows up in their measures so we get to feel a sense of accomplishment looking at their map with our countries in shiny green and can keep pontificating about the bloody red state of the rest of the world.

  • Welcome to the Party, America! 11 Muslim women who have been PM or President
    • All quotations from wikipedia:

      Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996
      "A scion of the politically powerful Bhutto family, she was the eldest daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former prime minister [...]"

      Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006
      "Zia was the First Lady of Bangladesh during the presidency of her husband Ziaur Rahman [1977-1981]"

      Tansu Ciller of Turkey, prime minister 1993-1996
      "Her premiership preceded over the intensifying armed conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kurdish separatist PKK, resulting in Çiller enacting numerous reforms to national defence and implementing the Castle Plan. With a better equipped military, Çiller's government was able to persuade the United States to register the PKK as a terrorist organisation, while controversially enlisting the help of informal organisations (known as the Deep state) to fight against Kurdish separatists and the Armenian nationalist group ASALA" [and with record weapon sales by the Clinton administration, link to Federation of American Scientists.]

      Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present
      "She is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, first president of Bangladesh"

      To be fair, some of these figures, especially from the 2nd half of the list have taken personal risks and even were resistance figures to dictatorship.

      However, taking up the position one is entitled to following in the footsteps of one's father or husband, or playing a man's role in a man's world by embracing war even more enthusiastically ("Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir) clearly is a kind of freedom that should not be denied selectively on the basis of gender.

      Nevertheless, historically the women's rights movement has been about so much more than having token figures in positions of power.

  • Dear Mr. Holder: Why Ed Snowden can't get a Fair Trial in your National Security State
    • So Holder is lying. The only question is why.

      While it is laudable to hold politicians to their word, it would seem that doing so quickly degenerates into a full time job as even a cursory look reveals that they lie habitually.

      In this particular case, it seems that Holder is staying on message, sticking to the tested talking point: "Snowden is palling around with unsavory characters: Hong Kong/China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela. Therefore he is either a traitor or at best a hapless instrument of an enemy power".

      Of course the countries in the list happen to be those they can't just order to illegally ground the plane they think he's on; but this insight already requires a basic understanding that whistle-blowers aren't safe within the reach of the U.S. which is precisely to point of contention.

      In their portrayal, Snowden's "public service" consists of merely having forced them to embark a little earlier on their professional discussion about NSA powers which was of course was already scheduled for later that year, anyway.

      Like the Iraqi defense minister who proclaimed great victories while enemy tanks were visibly rolling in on the very location of his interview, bureaucrats tend to tell such stories to themselves and anyone who would listen.

      What do you expect Holder to do? Isn't he nominally in charge of prosecuting government officials who misuse their power? He's certainly not going to admit any wrongdoing on the part of the security state thus implicating himself for dereliction of duty or gross negligence...

  • US Spec Ops Troops on Front Line in Syria with Leftist Kurdish Insignia: AFP
    • Unless Turkey wants to risk going into the history books as having fired at both Russian and American troops, they are going to have to cease firing at any and all YPG.

      This in itself will be more valuable to the YPG then the so far limited numbers of special forces - unless those are increased substantially over what is currently admitted.

  • Can Iran sue the US for Coup & supporting Saddam in Iran-Iraq War?
    • in a world where courts are making claims for universal jurisdiction

      And thus those efforts are not only held back, but worse, laws are effectively made unjust when they selectively apply only to the powerless. From the wikipedia entry on the US relations to the International Criminal Court (ICC):

      As of January 2015, 123 states are members of the court.[2] Other countries that have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute include India, Indonesia, and China.[2] On May 6, 2002, the United States, in a position shared with Israel and Sudan, having previously signed the Rome Statute, formally withdrew its intent of ratification.[2]

      This is strikingly reminiscent of the League of Nations project that was supposed to prevent another World War almost 100 years ago as illustrated in the iconic punch cartoon from 1919 [link to wikipedia commons]. The bridge of nations won't work without the keystone (i.e. the US participating), and likely neither will the ICC.

  • Winning in Losing: How Sanders pushed Clinton to the Left
    • his two military actions were to save the Kosovars

      I too believed that at the time.

      Like Palestine, all one has to do is look at a map. Locate Kosovo and Belgrade. Then tell me why they had to bomb Belgrade intensively, taking out Danube bridges, power plants, factories, and such.

      The right wing has a clear answer to that in terms of punishment and coercion. I have searched in vain for an answer in terms of "protection" from liberal supporters of the war.

      Bulletins from Serbia offers a personal account how the air war felt like on the ground, in the form of e-mail reports by a political cartoonist well networked into the U.S. and Western Europe with no love for Milosevich. What to do when your elderly aunt does not have power and so the contents of her freezer are rotting but she lives across the river you can't cross anymore, that sort of thing.

    • That depends on one's perspective.

      From an American perspective, elements of the Republican party indeed considered his presidency as a "lost decade" where the U.S. didn't throw their weight around enough and had the nerve to not increase the war budget.

      Still, from the perspective of the rest of the world, invading Somalia, the protracted air war against Yugoslavia, and the bombings against Sudan and Afghanistan, and regularly against Iraq... may we be forgiven to consider this a little bit as war mongering? No matter how golden the tongue was that sold us these policies (especially in contrast to what followed)?

    • It indeed looks like the left will have to try to find tricks to tie her down and to overcome the usual response ("what are they going to do - vote Republican?"). These tricks would have to include either persistent mass mobilization or running progressive candidates locally that put the fear of God into Democratic reps (who have taken massive contributions from the corporate class).

      However, US presidents have historically not not been beholden to either the masses or even to "their" party, i.e. Bill Clinton passed NAFTA with Republican votes. So we would have to directly disrupt business as did the civil rights movement.

      The optimism of the article seems premature, as the corporate class already has their tricks in place to tie HRC down to her center-right promises using a wide array of non-illegal instruments such as direct and indirect money contributions, speaking fees, favors to family members, money-for-access, money-for-positions, advisors, lobbyists, lobbyists who have been advisors, advisors who used to be lobbyists, prepared policy papers, focus grouped talking points, preferential access for groomed journalists, and so on.

      Rather than to touch the "center"-right economic and "foreign" (i.e. military) policies which enable the very business models of the corporations who have funded HRC, they will try to buy us off with mere words, token identity politics, and symbolic environmental decisions. Unfortunately they will not be able to address inequality with polite conversation nor global warming with hot air.

      Still, it may be true that HRC will not have to (openly) belie her feint to the left already during the campaign season, by sticking to her singular advantage ("I am not Donald Trump").

  • Is Hillary Clinton responsible for rise of ISIL, as Bernie's Campaign Manager Alleged?
    • We seem to have very different ideas about taking responsibility. It would seem to me that the more you have supported a war the more you are called upon to be open critical re-evaluation and to constantly question whether a better avenue would have been available, what with war being the option of last resort, the failure of imagination, and so on. I'm not sure what anyone gains by defending the war and dismissing critics. When you are dissatisfied with the level of criticism of that war, then by all means be more critical, achieve a higher level of scrutiny, show by example how to take responsibility.

      How can any sane analysis put the blame for that war on Clinton.

      I distinctly remember NATO warplanes bombing government troops and the US foreign office giving diplomatic and PR support by widely exaggerating claims of impending genocide - and then switching seamlessly from protecting a majority rebel city to supporting rebel takeovers of majority regime cities, this time choosing to de-emphasize the resulting atrocities. This effectively killed any initiative towards a cease-fire locally and by the UN.

      You are free to disagree. However, would you please refrain from questioning my sanity?

      People on the left seem to think that US intervention is responsible for all ills, as if wars wouldn’t happen if we weren’t mixing in other’s business.

      I have never met anyone who would think that. This sounds rather like an outside perspective to dismiss the messenger.

      The US (and France) dropped bombs on Libya - how can one escape responsibility for such things?

      The widespread tumult in the Middle East is a result of many long time forces, including colonialism, the Versailles Treaty, lack of development, and despots who care about only themselves.

      Which is why we need to pick these things apart and take responsibility for our actions. Ironically, the lack of development stems in part from Gadaffi switching to neo-liberal economics in an effort to appease the West. He even had his son hang around the London School of Economics and such. A lot of good that did them.

      To say it is all the US fault, and more specifically that of one Secretary of State

      Again I've never heard anyone say any of these things.

      What we did say is that when you drop bombs on a country you carry responsibility. This is hardly a radical concept and should be especially clear when things go spectacularly south starting immediately after the bombing. Going on the record (as the civilian side of the government) to openly boast about an extra-judicial execution that pre-empts negotiation for a cease-fire clarifies things and helps with assigning responsibility. Isn't the job of a foreign secretary to pursue diplomatic solutions rather than trying to out-macho the military?

    • Fair enough. I think we are really saying the same thing, looking through the empty shell from two different sides as it were.

    • These allegations are directed more broadly against a set of policies (with financial, economic, foreign/military aspects).

      The claim is that those policies are ingrained in HRC's persona - with her allegiances regularly confirmed and greased through speaking fees to the likes of Goldman-Sachs, exclusive fundraising events and so on.

      In the classical (Kantian) sense we hold an individual responsible for their actions and foreseeable consequences - but that is the crux: The deeper insinuation is that HRC is not her own person at all, but merely an echo of a larger set of forces - forces that she has unfailingly served whenever she was in office (and would again).

      But even in terms of individual responsibility, didn't her Iraq war vote precisely empower the executive to go ahead with the policies that created ISIS - and for which she therefore holds responsibility as a member of the legislative? While nobody could foresee the particulars, I remember the anti-war movement running ads with a picture of Osama bin Laden saying "I want you to invade Iraq". Sadly the only foreseeable consequences HRC cared about were on her electability ratings and Iraqis don't get to vote against her. She did miscalculate the depth of anti-war sentiment among Democratic primary voters - which cost her one election already - and hence professes to be sorry.

      a little blame?
      HRC is clearly directly responsible for the civil war in Libya. Perhaps Prof. Cole would care to explain how snidely applauding the (needless to say, illegal) torture and extra-judicial murder of the Libyan dictator in captivity would facilitate anything but civil war in a country where some factions were supporting said dictator. We cannot know whether later actions (that could have been taken but didn't) would or would not have ameliorated the situation somewhat - (or would have further escalated it, for that matter).

      Even if one were to take the so-called "humanitarian intervention" argument seriously with regard to Libya (and I do believe Prof Cole is on the wrong side of history on this), overstepping the UN security council resolution authorizing a limited no-fly zone was the last straw for Russia and China, on top of Kosovo and Iraq. A minimally sane foreign policy would have been to build trust and cooperation in the UNSC rather than to hand the keys over to neo-cons like Nuland to instigate proxy wars between the U.S. and Russia - which directly helped fuel the rise of Daesh in Syria. A great record for a foreign secretary indeed.

  • Turkey's Erdogan exports Press crackdown to US as his guards manhandle Journalists in DC
    • The PKK waged a dirty war in the 1970s-1990s and was guilty of massive war crimes, and is still a ruthless and brutal purveyor of terror

      The other side of the coin of state atrocities and denial of basic rights of "mountain Turks" to their culture and language.

      Why the one-sided language?

      Iirc, things were pretty quiet before the Syrian Kurds in Kobane were on the verge of being wiped out by Daesh which the Turkish state was seen as actively supporting. So "still" does not seem warranted... "again" at most?

  • Foreign Policy Winners and Losers in Iowa
    • most elections in the US are dominated by older, wealthier voters, that is bad news for Bernie in my view.

      This may be true but misses the bigger picture. 80+% of the <30-year-olds voted for the movement candidate and against the establishment candidate.

      While Bernie may be unique in some ways and as he himself is getting old (though not showing it yet), the movement may have more difficulties galvanizing voters in the years to come. Still the implications are clear:

      The establishment is finished. If not now, then in a few years.

      They say that demographics work against the Republican coalition. Clearly demographics also works against the establishment Democrat coalition (unless people of my generation begin converting back to them as they get older which I don't find likely as the system is giving us nothing).

      As in the German Weimar Republic, the "center" (or whatever that really has become by now) has lost legitimacy and likely cannot hold.

      This could go either way now.

  • Abortion Clinics, White Christian Terrorism and GOP Candidates
    • A judge once famously declared that pornography is hard to define but one knows it when one sees it, i.e. "interior dialog".

      The death penalty is still practiced in a number of states in the US, despite controversy. How much of that controversy has been functional in nature, weighing costs and benefits, such as its (lack of) deterrence?

      The standards you are invoking do not seem to guide lawmaking and jurisprudence in actual practice - other than as an ideal to strive for or as a facade to legitimize the system. Quite like religious ideals, come to think of it ;-)

  • Paris at Midnight: Attempt to push France out of anti ISIL coalition in Syria?
    • Attempt to push France out of anti ISIL coalition in Syria?

      This seems unlikely. This attack will likely lead to escalation and demagogues on all sides who feed this spiral of death expect and indeed depend on it. Escalating attacks in Syria, escalating repression against refugees or anyone vaguely "Middle-Eastern" looking, escalating poll numbers for the right and parties who have shifted to the right, thus directly and indirectly boosting recruitment for whoever organized this.

      The Spanish public already largely detested the Iraq war as something evil and imposed on it from the outside and the attacks were largely seen as blowback. In contrast, the new French militarism championed by the "Left" seems quite popular, and only criticized from the Right. Citizens are well insulated from even noticing the effects of the protracted air "war" their country has been engaging in (for years in different "theaters"). The media by and large do not connect any dots, not even between the war in Syria/Iraq and the refugees, let alone to the attacks.

  • Death Sentence for Morsi: Egypt's Junta takes another step toward being N. Korea
    • But these charges and this sentence are not rational. They are like the rumors that North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un has fed his uncle to the dogs. Sisi and his fellow officers are beginning to act like Kim.

      I'm confused.

      Are you saying that our media is also uncritically floating rumors - however loony - about official enemies (here the North Korean dictator)?

      Or are comparing the North Korean regime (official enemy), said to act irrationally, to the Egyptian regime (de facto ally), relying on conspiracy theories as a political tool?

  • Education, Health, and Global Warming: Top 5 Reasons 45% of Scots Wanted to Leave the Right Wing UK
    • Also a lots of Scots did not want to burn a substantial amount of their budget to build new nuclear weapons - costly, dangerous, and illegal under the terms of the NPT

      maybe in 10-15 years changing demographics will push them over 50%...

      It will also depend on how well nationalists and leftist internationalists can play together...

  • The Court Trial of Bibi Netanyahu
    • there are 2 problems with this scenario which should give us pause (outside of problems of balance of power).

      In driving the political spectrum to the right and off the cliff, the main legacy of the old Likud guard is that they now find themselves trying to keep a lid on a next generation of politicians who not only outflank them to the right but whose belief systems seem to have decoupled from reality altogether (ironically the very charge Bibi used to level against ayatollahs and Hamas).

      Second, remember how it rallied public opinion in Israel when those Turkish and international hippie-Islamist-pirates brutally assaulted Israeli commandos on the high seas before running back-of-the-head first into bullets at point blank range? Then think of what a reverse Eichmann trial would do (and for that matter, remember how isolated Hannah Arendt became just for trying to understand the mindset of the oppressor).

      Let's dream of a truth and reconciliation commission instead?

  • The Fall of the New Year Throne (Complete Sword & Sorcery Novel of ancient Persia)
    • One thing that attracted me about the material was that it clearly was about conflicts among generals, holy men and workers– i.e. it had resonances with the contemporary Middle East! But it was also a world of wonder with distinctive legends and mythical creatures. Too much of Sword and Sorcery as a genre is just a re-imagining of medieval Europe, and ancient Persia seemed a world worth exploring in this context. Being a historian, I went back and did a lot of reading about the ancient Near East where the novel is set, and had fun exploring. Of course, this is a novel, so I used the material as a basis for imaginings.

      Thanks for all the imaginings! The above paragraph brilliantly captures the potential of the project. Throughout the story, the novelty and richness of history, myths, its Mesopotamian setting, portrayal of class conflict and Persian spiritual teaching intermittently shine through, which kept me reading on. At the same time, however, the novel is happily following the well-trodden format of the "sword and sorcery"/Fantasy genre and so it feels like a story that does not know itself: is it a creation of a modern story inspired from Mesopotamian lore, ancient myths made accessible in a modern guise, a story which needs to be told? Or a writing exercise of instant Fantasy but brewed from ancient Iranian, instead of medieval European, material?

      This being a re-write of earlier material may have something to do with the mis-matches I kept experiencing while reading. It may be interesting to compare The Fall of the New Year Throne to Carpet People. In this novel, Terry Pratchett reworked a manuscript written by his much younger self, and reflected: "hang on. I wrote that in the days when I thought fantasy was all battles and kings. Now I'm inclined to think that the real concerns of fantasy ought to be about not having battles, and doing without kings" (from the foreword).

      [spoilers to follow]

      What if the Persians had werewolves? If we are to explore this fantastic premise, surely this could go anywhere, be anything? Well, we know a bit about Persia, we certainly know all about werewolves; the "technology" behind Lycantropy is used as bargaining chips in diplomatic negotiations, again familiar terrain. There is, of course, the immediately recognizable problem of drug overdosing, which we are constantly reminded of, that serves as back story for the main villain explaining his straying from the path of being a noble and benevolent king and also serving as the Achilles heel to his overpowered omniscience.

      Those scripted narratives, tropes, and at the end of the day, the utter predictability of such standard Fantasy fare is what is keeping projects like this from reaching the literary potential of the genre, compared to truly imaginativeartists like Ursala LeGuin and Tolkin.

      One aspect of the Fantasy fare that stands out is the obligatory portrayal of violence and voyeurism: we begin by ogling big black naked priests, and later get to see brother and sister make out in terms of an archaic vocabulary for PG sex. Such juvenile excursions are liberally sprinkled throughout these chronicles of chaotic times, the good old days when boys can be boys. Clearly, the author is only too happy to let himself be lured by the escapist tendencies of Fantasy (while covering current affairs in the Middle East certainly makes this understandable, do we really need to regress to escape?).

      All this is juxtaposed with a fleeting recognition that it just doesn't sound like much fun to be in the middle of all this turmoil, especially for women, children, the elderly... anybody, really, who is not blessed with superpowers. Or so it would, were the novel to take itself seriously more often. Instead, the modern conception of gender-awareness translates more into ancient super-heroines getting to kick ass alongside the boys (because they either love or have been wronged by men).

      While we do get an inkling of war and slavery being actually atrocious for most people, tellingly this is portrayed almost entirely from the point of view of the temporarily déclassé who are really meant to be upper middle class (or its ancient equivalent, master artisans in service to the king). The protagonists need to weather trials of fate and teach peasants about irrigation techniques before re-achieving their predestined Bourgeois standing (and love story), for now. To boot, they - much like Harry Potter - are touched by the gods from the beginning of the story...

      It seems being invested in established rules is keeping the story from charting its own way and doing justice to its people, stories, and places, historic and fantastic.

  • As US Pressures Maliki to Resign, will Iraqi Gov't Collapse?
    • While they may have believed their own rhetoric about spreading freedom, in practice the US regime in Iraq reflexively backed separatist factions (dawa, "sons of iraq", kurdish parties, "el salvador option" death squads...) and moved against anyone with some kind of nationalist agenda (oilworkers Union, Sadrists when they were reaching out to Sunni groups e.g. in Falluja). Occupations have their own momentum, leading to divide and rule, torture, and so on.

      So it is a little rich for them to drop their puppet - whose real "crime" is being too independant and too close with Iran - on account of factionalism.

  • Student Debt: Blame Law-Makers, Tax-Shirking Rich, War on Drugs, not Universities
    • well, Chris Wendel needed 44 words to my 300 ;-)

    • Reducing state funding has certainly been a major factor for the exponential rise of tuition in the US.

      European monopolies drove up the costs of medical journals in ways that the European Union should look into.

      However, this is a bit of a cop out. George Monbiot has written an exposé on price gouging by the big three scientific publishing corporations (Elsevier, Wiley, Springer). While two of them technically have their HQs in Europe, all are really international corporations, and one of them (Wiley) is based in New Jersey.

      While there is some pushback through open access and non-profit journals such as the PLoS series by the Public Library of Science, we academics need to face the fact that we have lost control of academic publishing and are contributing immense unpaid work (reviewing, editing) to a machine that is fleecing us (with most of the bill being unfairly passed on to undergrad students via tuition hikes).

      We also have largely lost control of our academic culture and administration, as chronicled in Ginsburg's The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. I would contend that one of the reason this matters is that those "professional" outside administrators tend to be steeped in neo-liberal ideology. Rather than fight for state funding on principled grounds (public service), the idea of higher ed as a personal investment came naturally to them, as did spending on ludicrous boondoggles in the race for building the biggest sports and amenities facilities yet.

      While neither beleaguered academics elbowing for the vanishing tenure track positions, nor students loaded with debt scrambling to finish and recoup the "investment" make for natural revolutionaries, we need to take back our own academic guilds, our publishing, as well as restore public state systems at all levels.

  • No Regime? Egyptian Satirist Bassem Youssef Cancelled b/c "Enormous Pressure"
    • [...] it was difficult for the adoring public to take.

      Difficult for the public or the regime?

      If Sisi still had an adoring public, why couldn't they get out the vote? It would seem that rather than to foster and maintain broad support, their strategy of dealing with the mass disapproval they know is coming their way is to deny any stage to people who would articulate it.

  • Whether Princesses or Paupers, Long Road to Saudi Women’s Rights
    • Ultimately King Abdullah needs to show he’s serious about women’s rights – not just as the king, but as a father and husband too.

      This is rather absurd. If you study history, oppressed groups first organize and stop acquiescing to the rules of the powerful. When enough of them do so, the powerful either graciously grant them some concessions for the time being (mostly recognizing new realities) or it comes to a showdown with police and paramilitaries.

      If one looks closely, essentially all celebrated leaders - Lincoln, Kennedy, LBJ, Khrushchev... actually were pushed by organized movements which are airbrushed out of Hollywood movies like The Butler and Lincoln.

      There is really no need for the autocrat to show us that he is "serious". I think the people in Saudi Arabia know very well just how serious he is.

      What the autocrat needs to do is decide whether to call off his henchmen who apprehend women or indeed anyone who is publicly showing resistance (i.e. by driving) or tell them to redouble their efforts.

      Closer to home, we need to push our plutocrats to stop supporting the autocrat and selling him "crowd control" weapons and training.

  • Israel Guilty of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: UN Rapporteur
    • In November 2013, more than 50 public figures in Britain wrote a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land –an act that critics considered ethnic cleansing

      Well, how else can one consider such a "resettlement" policy?

      Anyone remember the theatricals dutifully reported in the media when the state resettled a few thousand settlers from the Gaza strip (who tried to hold on to a third of that strategically unimportant area while fencing in a million and a half Palestinians into the remainder) ferrying them into subsidized housing in the occupied West Bank, which happened to have much higher strategic value? Remember the drama, the splitting of political parties?

      Now a much bigger number of people already have their houses demolished regularly after all mainstream parties have signed off on their mass expulsion and forced urbanization projects reminiscent of the rounding up of Indigenous people into reservations in the US, Canada, Australia are gearing up. For some reason, this time it the land that people are living on right now (and have been for a very long time) happens to be strategically important whereas compensation will be cosmetic.

      We dutifully report that critics have suggested that this may not be a very nice policy. Israeli officials have not returned our queries. What is truth?

      It is remarkable how quickly even comparatively critical journalism succumbs to the "he said, she said" formula.

  • The Public Professor: Dissent in Commodified Higher Education
    • well, it is refreshing to see this sentiment so clearly laid out.

      For me that comment itself is a clear example of a right wing perspective: one class of people/views is better/more accurate than the others.

      The "left wing" counter-view would be that you'll find a range of accuracy all over, from wherever.

      I found that with things like so-called "free" "trade" "agreements" people who otherwise hold extreme views (sometimes even downright racist ones) had impressive critical analysis to offer whereas so-called centrists are often too invested in the whole thing to see clearly.

      btw I find the idea that the center is somehow special to be peculiarly American: in Europe, there are Centrist parties represented in many parliaments and nobody thinks their point of view is in any way moderate... their actually known for their sometimes extreme views on e.g. laissez-faire economics, on which both social democrats and conservatives typically are more "moderate".

      I agree it's problematic for one person (Chomsky) to hold such sway (both in politics and linguistics/cognitive science incidentally), which is why I am actively trying to find solid critiques of his works. There are established critiques and explicitly worked out alternative accounts in linguistics and cognitive science. Not so much in PolSci, but I'd like to be proven wrong on this.

    • well, it is refreshing to see this sentiment so clearly laid out.

      For me that comment itself is a clear example of a right wing perspective: one class of people/views is better/more accurate than the others.

      The "left wing" counter-view would be that you'll find a range of accuracy all over, from wherever.

      I found that with things like so-called "free" "trade" "agreements" people who otherwise hold extreme views (sometimes even downright racist ones) had impressive critical analysis to offer whereas so-called centrists are often too invested in the whole thing to see clearly.

      btw I find the idea that the center is somehow special to be peculiarly American: in Europe, there are Centrist parties represented in many parliaments and nobody thinks their point of view is in any way moderate... their actually known for their sometimes extreme views on e.g. laissez-faire economics, on which both social democrats and conservatives typically are more "moderate".

      I agree it's problematic for one person (Chomsky) to hold such sway (both in politics and linguistics/cognitive science incidentally), which is why I am actively trying to find solid critiques of his works. There are established critiques and explicitly worked out alternative accounts in linguistics and cognitive science. Not so much in PolSci, but I'd like to be proven wrong on this.

    • This is true almost by definition, and for everyone.

      So why bring it up at all? And why in relation to Noam Chomsky?

      I can understand that we may want to cut Chomsky down to size as the man seems to be everywhere in political theory. Still, Chomsky's main "ideological lens" is a strand of anarchism, surely an extreme minority position in the "mainstream". Also his dominance of sorts probably says more about the lack of accessible original thought and systematic study elsewhere than about Chomsky himself.

      We're sorely missing critical discussion of Chomsky's work - what little there is mostly consists of dishonest hack jobs from the right and the vague title of "gatekeeper" from the left. Establishment pundits merely wring their hands and mutter something of the format "but he is not one of us", which is correct but also useless.

      So would you consider crafting a more detailed critique beyond these generalities?

    • This is true almost by definition, and for everyone.

      So why bring it up at all? And why in relation to Noam Chomsky?

      I can understand that we may want to cut Chomsky down to size as the man seems to be everywhere in political theory. Still, Chomsky's main "ideological lens" is a strand of anarchism, surely an extreme minority position in the "mainstream". Also his dominance of sorts probably says more about the lack of accessible original thought and systematic study elsewhere than about Chomsky himself.

      We're sorely missing critical discussion of Chomsky's work - what little there is mostly consists of dishonest hack jobs from the right and the vague title of "gatekeeper" from the left. Establishment pundits merely wring their hands and mutter something of the format "but he is not one of us", which is correct but also useless.

      So would you consider crafting a more detailed critique beyond these generalities?

  • Take that, France: Iran has Halted Expansion of Nuclear Facilities: IAEA
  • Will Avigdor Lieberman's return as Israeli Foreign Minister scupper Talks with Palestinians?
    • End/ (Not Continued

      Looks like an incomplete tag - it probably is too much to ask for those sentiments to be done with and a thing of the past ;-)

      Max Blumenthal's new book Goliath gives some background on Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Bennett going back to their days in the Likud youth... so in a sense they really are all branches of Likud, running under 2-3 party names (actually 4 including Tzipi Livni). Too much continuity for not continuing with the escalation of the dispossession policies it would seem.

      (Unfortunately also with the so-called Labor party whose main distinction is being smart enough to tone it down for international audiences)

  • America may Shutter the Gov't, but not the Gov't's Wars (Astore)
    • More likely, there are misunderstandings between stated and perhaps intended principles on the one hand, and organizational principles which outside observers attribute to the system to describe recurring patterns of the its behavior, on the other.

      As Groucho Marx remarked: These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others.

      ... checks and balances among the three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. At times it has been directed toward war. At times it has been directed toward economic recovery after a depression or a recession. At times it has been directed toward advancing civil rights.

      In the historical record, you won't actually find many examples of any of the three branches actively directing efforts to advance civil rights. If you look closely there happened to be a strong movement originating outside of the three branches every time there was an advance, with some branches of government being more responsive than others.

      Likewise, directing efforts to recovery has been and still is to an alarming degree connected to military Keynesianism since at least WWII. This is really in keeping with the article and the first comment.

      Neither the executive, the legislature, nor the judicial branch have put noticeable breaks on the business of war in recent memory, even though the president was voted into office on the coattails of anti-war sentiment.

      While the legislature supposedly has the mandate to declare wars, it is painfully transparent that it seldom bothers to uphold appearances rubberstamping the "unitary executive's" war powers (admittedly the recent aborted push to war with Syria might have played out differently)

      As for the legislature... they have been complicit in concocting legal opinions that concur that wars are really interventions, interventions are really kinetic actions, torture is interrogation, and targeted killings exist in a sphere between war and peace where international law somehow doesn't apply and so on.

      While there have historically been a few legal/congressional barriers for selling weapons directly to certain regimes, those have been circumvented through selling weapons secretly or through intermediaries. Even these barriers are now being dismantled by the Obama administration.

      The mismatch you correctly feel between the analysis presented in the article and comments vs. the stated principles of government may be more due to behavior not conforming to principles rather overzealous analysis.

  • Ted Cruz and America's Super-Rich say "Let them eat Cake"
    • At least one telling of Marie Antoinette's one liner has her giving the estate's supplies to the poor, and when they run out (of bread), she opens up the royal bakery's well stocked supplies to the masses as well.

      The prospect of torches and pitchforks might have something to do with it, motivation-wise, and it was too little too late, anyway.

      Obama/Romney/Heritage foundation care itself would seem to be the closer analogy, then: Too little to actually affect structural change, too much for some of the .1%. Let them eat mandatory commercial insurance?

  • How Putin Saved Obama, Congress and the European Union from Further Embarrassing themselves on Syria
    • For Spain to defy Germany at this point in time is rather like a deeply indebted gambler being rude to the casino owner

      Apart from the fact that the poor are at the mercy of the rich, the only part of the sentence that rings true is that the (casino) owners naturally made sure the odds are stacked in favor of the banks. Whoever enters their establishment and plays according to their rules will wind up indebted.

      Spain did all what it was supposed to do in our "modern" economy - so referring to them gamblers only works if we recognize all of business-as-usual as gambling. They even ran a budget surplus before the European version of the housing bubble imploded (so their debts are a consequence of the meltdown and the austerity madness it triggered).

      (Implicitly) placing the responsibility for that bubble on Spaniards is akin to saying that poor minorities in the US fleeced the banks by imposing those great subprime mortgage deals on them... or that those greedy entitled third worlders have gotten such easy money from the IMF (never mind that they have paid back twice over and are still indebted).

      So let's watch our language even in throw-away sentences...

  • Indiana: "How do we get rid of" Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States?'
  • The Gezi Park Protests: Is Turkey becoming Egypt? (Schubel)
    • The author mentions in passing resistance to the neo-liberal model:

      It is fascinating to see Alevis, environmentalists, anti-capitalist Muslims, women’s rights advocates, LGBT activists and others making common cause against what they see as the growing authoritarianism of the current government

      Beyond its one-sided economic recipes, neo-liberalism set out redefine public participation by reducing it to voting in elections, identity politics, and consumption.

      However instructive, the article is unfortunately itself largely confined to "identity politics". Are those LGBT activists or environmentalists fans of the WTO? And aren't many of them muslim? Why not discuss resistance to neo-liberal takeover of people's livelihoods and spheres of creative life explicitly, instead of as a qualifier to a specific religious group whose resistance to the AKP would otherwise be hard to explain?

      It certainly goes a long way to explain the premise:

      Among American academics and policy makers there is an influential contingent who have held up Erdoğan’s government as a model for “Islamic democracy” in the rest of the Muslim world

      Try even mentioning alternative ideas (such as not for profit "islamic banking") - let alone holding them up as a "model" - and see what happens next in supposedly pluralist liberal academia...

  • Everything you wanted to Know About NSA Surveillance *but were afraid to ask (Stray)
    • I am not sure how much confusion this roundup actually dispells. It is a rather conservative assessment.

      The final point made in the article, that all "bets are off" for non-Us citizens otherwise known as 95% of humanity undermines the limited safeguards documented before.

      Even if the NSA complex really had those limitations (and there are more leaks coming) they can easily get around the limits placed on the remaining 5% (otherwise known as US citizens) by conveniently logging in to databases set up by British colleagues for whom all Americans are fair game in turn.

      Any sane government would work with other countries to get their citizens off limits to them as well.

  • Top Ten Ways the US Government will Smear, Slight Whistleblower Edward Snowden
    • "some Americans consider him a hero"

      To blow the whistle publicly and in doing so trading in a very cosy life for one of hardship and constant danger is certainly impressive.

      Are you among those who consider him a hero?

  • Egyptian Comedian Bassem Youssef on Kafkaesque Interrogation (CNN Video)
  • Everybody Leaks in Washington: What the Bradley Manning Trial Tells us about a Broken System (Schanzer)
    • Schanzer has written a reasonable article about responsible government policy and press outlets and the normal workings of a democratic system.

      Even when giving the benefit of the doubt to calling press outlets responsible and pretending they would actually release embarrassing information rather then self-censor, and slandering wikileaks by recycling the charge of info-dumping without evidence - the omissions stand out more:

      ... and then our responsible government puts Bradley Manning in a cell without charging him for 3 years much of which in solitary confinement (a subtle form of torture) and without underwear (a not so subtle one). The president, a law graduate, pronounces him guilty in passing and the press outlets barely report on what happens to their main source for a lot of stories for the past years.

      Does this look like reasonable and responsible functioning of a democratic system?

  • Christian woman in Egypt Shoe-whacks Salafi Fundamentalist for Calling her a Harlot (Photo)
    • The woman was understandably upset, but such physical responses to verbal provocation are unwise

      Your reporting of the anecdote has an interesting contradictory element in that you publicize it and then get to say it was unwise. Well, at least "media-wise" there is apparently some wisdom.

      Do not get me wrong, I generally come out in favor of non-violence in discussions, but where is the wisdom to dogmatically state that physical responses to verbal provocation is unwise?

      Even turning the other cheek is a physical response with a lot of symbolic meaning (in Roman times)
      link to

      Very much like the shoe has symbolic meaning in Egyptian culture I take it.

      At any rate, I am not sure how deeply we (men) actually "understand" how understandably upset she was, nor how such throwaway sentences assist the billions of women who struggle with the mismatch of their sense of fairness and equality and their actual social and economic condition to find their way between non-violence and physical response - which sometimes does have its place even though me may not like it, e.g.
      link to

  • Top Ten Ways President Obama has Expanded our Rights, in Rev. King's Footsteps
    • One of the moments in the primaries when Obama connected to the audience more than his opponent Hillary Clinton was when they were asked who MLK would support. Clinton predictably did the usual waffling about how he would support her ;-). Obama himself said that MLK wouldn't support any of them but would be out in the streets building a movement that would hold their feet to the fire (from memory, cannot find the exact quote).

      Certainly we can all get behind wanting to live in a country that is moving in the right direction and having common achievements such as having elected a black president in the first place (and the minor points raised in the article)... but beyond that what is the point about writing a blogpost about Obama in Martin King's footsteps now?

      MLK life's work was dedicated to poverty, inequality, discrimination, war, and the spiritual decay connected with those issues.

      Household wealth of (especially black) people has largely been wiped out by the housing crisis. Inequality is highest since the 1920ies. Schools are re-segregating and Black incarceration figures are off the scale.

      But even if the opposite was true, and whatever one thinks of Obama's record regarding poverty, inequality, and war, for the last couple of weeks the president has been involved in negotiations which may well involve rolling back the social safety net (grand "bargain"); if ever, now would be the moment to hold his feet to the fire.

      Generally, as a white guy I would respectfully suggest we leave it to racialized persons and women for that matter to assess their struggles themselves for now. I just don't see how this is helping them; at worst it may give them the feeling of being put them on the defensive even more.

      From my experience, it has been a much more difficult but ultimately rewarding if humiliating exercise to focus on discrimination and inequality and their effects on us especially when one (unwittingly) finds oneself as a beneficiary. Martin King had a lot to say about spiritual decay in society and it was not confined to the minds of the oppressed.

  • Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker in Gaza Conflict
    • Israel wants an end to the launching of small home-made rockets against its territory

      You'd think they would go for a truce if that was a priority - or at the very least not assassinate the person they were just negotiating the terms of a cease fire with...

      If anything, when played up these rockets are very convinient to the .001% as they have taken the momentum away from social movements which do not have a coherent policy on palestine other than falling into line.

  • Top Ten Coming Disasters: Romney's America 2016
    • if the voters show, are not disenfranchised (i.e. in the name of battling fictitious voter impersonation)), and their votes are counted (especially provisional ballots and such which can be simply "lost")...

  • Comedian Chris Rock: Obama is the Great White Hope
    • Chris rock's comedy works because we know there are deeper, uncomfortable levels he only touches on.

      For starters, no white president would have gotten away with a lily white cabinet, advisors, and so on as Obama has.

  • The Pentagon's Imperial Overstretch and Victory Culture (Engelhardt)
    • To an outside observer, this article seems to be more critical of the Libya war than how I remember Prof. Cole's writing on the subject. i.e.

      In the world of unintended consequences, however, the fall of Gaddafi sent Tuareg mercenaries from his militias, armed with high-end weaponry, across the border into Mali.  There, when the dust settled, the whole northern part of the country had come unhinged and fallen under the sway of Islamic extremists and al-Qaeda wannabes as other parts of North Africa threatened to destabilize. 

      do you agree with this assessment and if so, could you clarify your position?

  • On Human unity and the "Curiosity" NASA Control Room
    • I don’t see only one race or gender. I see human beings of various shades and cultures and both sexes

      While I respect the sentiments behind this celebration, I am uneasy about the conclusion. Speaking as one pale male to another (Prof. Cole), I cannot but see a predominance of while guys in the room. The comparison with the Star Trek TOS crew (token black woman, Asian man, and Walter Koenig with Russian accent, all in subordinate positions) seems indeed apt.

      Therefore I'm thinking maybe we should leave it to members of the various under-represented groups themselves (women, racialized, non-Christian, LGBTQ, handicapped...) to declare achieving the 1960 vision (of a white guy) grounds for cultural celebration?

  • Syria Revolt Enters Second Year as World Stands Feckless
    • If we substitute "Bahrain" for "Syria" and consequently "US" for Russia, etc, I could understand the underhanded swipe against people "not caring" about the oppressed population since we actually have a lot of leverage with this regime (being close ally and all).

      Perhaps now would be a good time for the policy elite to redesign foreign relations with the emerging powers away from a new cold war to a framework based on peace and mutual respect. Then we could perhaps have the conversation again about which types of intervention can have positive effects (after we have made every effort to consult the actual oppressed people about what they want us to do and not do).

      While we're at it, actually supporting democratically elected governments over pliable dictators generally would express our caring more than a having bombs dropped on a country.

      btw the jury on the Libyan intervention is still out. And it is in for Kosovo/Serbia for anyone willing to look into a complicated history with an open mind. Those interventions show clearly how much the elite cares about minerals, control, and people if convenient.

  • Changing Iran's Nuclear Calculation with Green Energy: Buonomo
    • Why argue for a rational foreign policy strategy to achieve officially stated policy objectives in the first place?

      De-escalating military tensions with Iran would seem to be a rational exercise in its own right, and certainly make everyone safer. Assisting in developing their renewable energy sector would also be a rational exercise in its own right that may go some way in addressing global ecological crises and secure a common future.

      But all this would require accepting a regional power, which would by its very existence impede (illegal) military strikes (e.g. in Lebanon) by "the West" or its local proxies; as well as to accept that such a local power could pursue their economic policies more or less independently - even if this might entail, say aligning with the Russia-China axis on the grand chessboard of the great resource game in central Asia, if they deem doing so is in their national interest.

      Assuming our policy makers could bring themselves to do that, it seems unlikely that we would be any longer interested in the Iranian nuclear program any more than they are in the Indian or the French one.

      Clearly "the West" is either pursuing official policies - preventing an Iranian (capability for a) nuclear weapons program - in a non-rational way; or we are pursuing adversarial policies guided by ulterior motives in a quite rational (if short-sighted) way.

      In either case, Buonomo's critique is misdirected, since appealing to the rationality of the "decision makers" seems rather self-defeating, as they use their rational faculties for different purposes to the extent that they value rationality at all: Why on earth would they want to further strengthen the energy sector - including high technology transfer for solar power - to a demonized enemy / economic competitor?

      Other than missing its target audience, pointing out the contradiction between official goals and actual policies is an important critical contribution and the author also excels at demonstrating how easy it would be to think of opportunities for trying something far more interesting and beneficial from a global perspective than current policies towards the Middle East.

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu attacks Gen. Dempsey as Servant of Iran
    • While I agree with your analysis, I am culturally puzzled at the "war hero" part.

      Heroism is admittedly subjective, yet I have a hard time understanding what actions would count as "heroic" in the context of enforcing an occupation against the will of a population.

  • The Dilemma over Syria
    • Let's take a page from immanuel kant and substitute any country where the government has its armed forces oppress people with reports of massacres for "Syria" at a particular time. This list would be quite long, wouldn't it?

      Let's also substitute "Russia" and "China" with whatever power with influence offers diplomatic support to a particular country. We are left with a long list including rather more inconvenient pairs such as "Bahrain-USA", even "Iraq-under-Saddam-USA" ...

      Somehow I think there will be less enthusiasm for a proposed Indonesian initiative to break the power of the Veto in the UNSC allowing it to legally intervene in Bahrain, Uzbekistan, or Northern Ireland not too long ago for that matter.

      Perhaps the matter of a new international system to handle interventions needs more reflection, unless we are bold enough to specify that only "responsible" nations can apply for intervening, which just so happens to include only our own country and allies.

  • Ahmadinejad in Latin America
    • excuse my being pedantic, but the Roman empire pretty much ran on slave labor, actually making the dark middle ages look good by comparison (I'd rather be a serf than a slave...)

      as you state yourself, slavery was (re-)instituted mostly in the colonies, including what became the US of A...

      if you really think America eliminated every form of bondage and servitude you may want to check in with the local unemployed, working poor, and the prison population as well as reflect on what happened to those of us who have begun to stand up and sit in against debt bondage, the oldest form of them all...

  • Iranian Students attack British Embassy
    • It is ironic that the analysis came from Reuters, a family who was - as Robert Fisk points out in his latest article - deeply involved in the history of Anglo-Iranian relations/exploitation.

      While progressive voiced in Iran (and Iranians in exile) will understandably yearn for more openness, the state of Iran has much more historic and maybe also current reasons to distrust British foreign policy than the other way around, as the article amply documents.

  • Libya Should Turn Saif over to the Int'l Criminal Court
    • While everyone has a right to their opinion (and even to ridicule) i am not sure that this is a very honorable position to take vis-a-vis the diverse pacifist traditions such as quakers and buddhists.

      Also it is telling that you need to go all the way back to WWII to find precedence for a positive intervention.

      If pepperspraying non-violent protesters or outright killing largely non-violent protesters is wrong (on which almost all of us here would agree) then why is it so exotic to be wary of dropping explosives from the sky on densely populated areas? Even if there were a clearcut case in history of aerial bombing that may have reduced overall violence (and I am frankly hardpressed to find a single one) I still would always be haunted by the dead, maimed, and poisened by heavy metal dust over generations, never quite sure if "the price was worth it"... who am I to decide who should live and who should die?

      I would suggest treating those who advocate against bombing with respect, while criticizing their critiques to make them ever sharper...

      What is the use to stop doubting the morality of our past actions? It is only a matter of time before they kill in our name again - let's practice some soul-searching before the next round of killings.

  • Berube on Libya and the Left
    • What is the point of these exercises?

      Counter-critiques of "the left's" anti-war position are of course welcome.

      If "the left's" critique of military intervention by our representatives is found wanting, then by all means let us work out better and sharper critiques (or look around for more interesting ones in the rather big tent that is the left).

      After all, it is not like helping people by bombing a foreign country and killing people is an intrinsically unproblematic activity that cannot be criticized?

      Reading informed comment on Libya I get the sense that more ink is invested in counter-critiques of "the left's" anti-war critiques than on actually inquiring into whether getting our hands bloody was really the best option available at the time.

      Now what is the sense in that?

  • US out of Iraq, but Peace remains Elusive
    • "The Iraq War is over except for the packing"

      well, let's hope that they manage to pack the security contractors, trainers, and so on. Perhaps Christo* can help with the packing of the Vatican city size "embassy" complex? [*that's the artist who shrouds buildings such as the Reichstag]

      also let's work together to deal with the baggage the planners, troops, and contractors have been bringing back with them: everything from PTSD to the mindset of invading and controlling a population with checkpoints, iris scans, and the like.

  • Qaddafi's People's Temple
    • While I appreciate your insights about the last stand of the regime's side, I am at the same time afraid that by focussing on that side's action and likening them to a death-cult we inadvertently may be sidestepping the question of culpability of the other side and NATO forces and their backers in political and media circles.

  • Pirio: Military Offensive against Al Shabaab in Somalia
    • Why is it that "realist" foreign policy / military analysis is couched in "objective" terms and usually ends up on an upbeat note about interventions the very illegality of which it touched on in passing? There is "no military solution"? How about having this sentiment inform the article as a whole rather than paying lip service to it just before channeling the best possible outcome of carnage...

  • Kusha: Iran vs. Egypt: Qualitative Differences in Capabilities
    • This academic exercise seems to omit or at least hide a crucial point:
      No matter what we think of the Iranian regime, it is still popular especially with the working class and the rural poor and can mobilize masses to the streets as well.

  • US Case Against Wikileaks' Julian Assange Collapses
    • Perhaps. The main function would seem to be to deter future whistleblowers so that only those committed enough to risk their freedom and mental health for their country will go through with it.

  • Iran's Oily Revenge on US Drivers, US Troops
    • (1.2 billion Indians are thinking seriously about driving automobiles instead of riding their bikes)

      Well, the fraction of the population who actually benefitted from the "miracle" growth might...

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