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  • Russo-US dog fights over Syria?
    • "And, Russia announced that it would possibly shoot down any US air craft operating in western Syria.

      Those are about the most dangerous words I’ve heard in decades, since the era of the Cuban missile crisis or the dark Cold War film Fail Safe (1965) ."

      The longer the strife in Syria continues, the longer we allow for these type of possibilities to occur. With each successive day, we increase the risk of unconstrained conflicts to occur. Syrians and Iraqis have suffered enormously, but beyond them the this strife has been largely contained. The talks in Astana to reach a peaceful resolution need to come into effect. Russia, Iran, and Turkey signed an agreement on May 4th to create four de-escalation zones in Syria. The US needs to ensure that Saudi Arabia follows these talks and abides to the will of the international community. The strife in Syria has gone on for too long. If we don't make these deals to end the strife in Syria, we risk to lose too much. We'll have lost the ability to steer a resolution to 6+ years of continual strife in Syria, further consolidating the fact that a great deal of the Levant is no longer in the US sphere of influence.

  • London Mosque attack: Did Trump's Tweets embolden Bigots?
    • My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this attack. I also can't help but wonder is it just the Trump tweets that make individuals seek reprisal attacks against Muslims or people that appear Muslim. I think Trump's rhetoric and tweets have played a huge role in making some individuals assault Muslims. A seventeen year old girl was killed in Sterling, Virginia in what is likely to be a hate-crime.

      Apparently, the perpetrator of the Finsbury Mosque attack was a father of four. I wonder what will this mean to the family that this man was from: they will have lost someone who brings some income home at least for some time.

      When Trump demonizes Muslims, I don't think he realizes that his words actually carries weight. The result is that he maligns an entire set of 1.1 billion or so people as sub-human and therefore not worthy of the same set of human rights as everyone else.

      I agree that the way forward is through nonviolence and compassion. We (United States) should also re-examine the amount of weapons and armaments that we sell to countries: particularly those that commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or funnel these arms to extremist groups. Unhinged extremists can only do so much damage to the world if they do not have access to weapons and armaments. Unfortunately, when they do have access to weapons, the result is mass-shootings and carnage.

  • Obama's last Victory: Syrian Democratic Forces hold Parts of ISIL Capital
    • This entire episode is deeply unfortunate. I've been called many things in high school, but a war criminal... That's a first. Wish instead it were the content of my comments that were criticized.

    • @jay a metaphor requires similarity between objects of comparison to be effective. The comparison in a metaphor is obviously not literal, but some semblance of similarity is required. So, my question, unlike your retort, makes sense. Just where in my speech is there any similarity to al-assad? I've repeatedly called him a way criminal that needs to be tried.

    • Also, just what exactly in my post makes me Mr. Al-Assad?

    • "It is Obama’s policy toward Daesh that is now finally bearing fruit. That policy may have been slower than desirable (certainly for the sake of Paris and Brussels). But it was eminently practical, and is now finally being implemented."

      There is an element of partisan triumphalism here. Daesh, Nusrah Front, Jaysh al Islam, and similar terrorist groups have inflicted a great deal of harm to Syrians and Iraqis. While it is true that Obama's support of the SDP helped end Daesh's phony caliphate, it wasn't the only cause of their demise. As you note, the SDP worked in coordination with other groups that were fighting against Daesh. Is Obama's support pivotal in stopping Daesh? Likely... Yet, it is not the sole cause as it is presented in this post.

      Obama's support of Saudi and Turkish foreign policy in Syria enabled extremist groups to overrun entire sections of Syria and Iraq. These two countries, Syria and Iraq, will take a long time to recover from all the carnage that they have faced and will continue to face. If one is going to give Obama credit for supporting the SDP, then one has to simultaneously acknowledge the US support that was given to extremist groups that have inflicted an egregious amount of harm to Syrians and Iraqis.

      "That policy may have been slower than desirable (certainly for the sake of Paris and Brussels)."

      Umm... Yes, Paris and Brussels have suffered tremendously. Syrians and Iraqis have too. They too do not want Daesh and like-minded terrorist groups to carry out terrorist actions against them. Like Parisians and Belgians, Iraqis and Syrians would also like to just get on with their lives without the threat of terrorism.

  • UK hung Parliament: Is Trumpism pushing Europe Left?
    • Corbyn received extremely negative press coverage even from traditionally sources on the left. The Blairite wing of the the Labour party never accepted that the country wanted him to steer the Labour party, and were constantly plotting to end his leadership. Despite this extreme disadvantage, his campaign reversed the losses of seats due to Blair and his minions. If Corbyn is successful, he will steer Labour back to it's socialist roots and hopefully even become Prime Minister.

      His pledge to scrap university tuition fees were reminiscent of Sander's pledge. These two campaigns demonstrate that the left can only win (in recent elections) if they stay true to socialist ideals and not dilute their principles with Blairite or Clintonian elitist tendencies. It's easy to dismiss university tuition policies as less important than other economic or foreign policies, but to most families it's likely to be an extremely important matter. Not many families can afford to be saddled with the extreme debt necessitated through university tuition. It's also unjust to saddle individuals with such extreme debt even before they begin to earn an income. Much of Europe has tuition-free universities, including France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Austria. We'll have to get there too here in the US: government financed tertiary education, campaign finance reform, and a single-payer health care system.

  • Anger and youth fan flames of terror – not race and religion
    • Just how many countries in the Near East need to be completely destabilized before we quit using the refrain that this is a fault of "Western inaction." The only action that residents in the Near East want from the West is to be left alone, or cease supporting Saudi Arabia in their destabilizing policies in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Residents in the Near East don't like the Saudi strategy of funding extremist groups or bombing Yemen to smithereens.

      But, all of this would be fantastically solved, if we magically just created a military apparatus in Libya (after supporting Saudi Arabia in funding the most extremist groups that are now awash in heavy armaments and overrun entire sections of the country). What fantasy!

    • So, given that no administration, Republican or Democratic, has successfully engaged in rebuilding in any capacity, despite all the money that has been poured down these military adventures, shouldn't we desist from the fantasy that a reasonable American government will take seasoned advisers to rebuild the military apparatus in these countries. We no longer spend money at home on projects that desperately need funding, and instead pretend that we will spend money on fantastical projects overseas. All we need to do is stop Saudi Arabia and Turkey from supporting extremist groups. If we are going to continue to insist that we can successfully rebuild the military in the Near East, then we should at least be able to provide a recent example of where we have effectively done so. Just how much money have we spent destroying lives in the Near East.

    • "Of course, we can still see the terrible effects of the 2003 Iraq war, but the escalation of events in Libya, Syria and Yemen, resulting in humanitarian crises not seen since World War II has, in part, been brought about by Western (in)action. The absence of any sound plan following the toppling of the Ghaddafi regime created space for militias to gain power and commit violence across Libya."

      We've heard this same refrain again and again in so many different contexts of inaction, but the evidence is lacking. In Iraq, we had plans for nation building, including re-building the Iraqi military apparatus. Yet, we see the result today: the Iraqi military is not very effective. Given how much resources we have poured into Iraq, just how would Libya turn out differently with regards to nation building. Who exactly would fund these repeated mistakes.

      The phrase "escalation of events" is a euphemism: it belies what has actually happened. Turkey and Saudi Arabia funneled heavy armaments to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, and the result is what you see today. The same holds true in Libya, where Saudi Arabia funneled heavy armaments and financial supports to extremist groups.

      The action that the United States and allies took was deliberate: it supported Saudi Arabia and Turkey in funding extremist groups, including terrorist groups. The actions we take in the Near East are extremely destabilizing.

  • The Other Terrorism: Toxic CO2 Gas Promoted by Trump Budget, Shell
    • "Terrorism is properly defined as non-state actors using violence against civilians to achieve a political purpose. Some argue that this definition lets states off the hook to easily, and that there is state terrorism as well. International law, however, puts those actions under the rubric of “war crimes” or crimes against humanity. Me, I think state terrorism is a useful conception, though legally speaking it probably is synonymous with the latter two terms."

      The only reason why it would let states off the hook (for something that isn't even defined) is that we have eroded international law to such a degree that war crimes and crimes against humanity do not matter anymore (they should of course). In comparison, for the past decade, it appears the only crime that actually matters to the media or for which larger states will actually punish smaller states is the crime of terrorism (and that too on the proviso that the smaller state does not agree with the larger state's geopolitical will). If the less powerful state agrees to everything the more powerful state dictates (eg Saudi Arabia and United States), then it can do whatever it likes.

      It's important to note that some of the most important crimes are war crimes or crimes against humanity. It's when we deliberately obfuscate the definition of terrorism that we enlarge it's importance: terrorism has hurt a great number of people (in the Near East and globally), but it's not the only mechanism through which humanity has suffered. A great deal of the most awful crimes in history aren't terrorism, but crimes against humanity.

  • Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shi'ism
    • apologies for the tone of this post... Been too cantankerous lately: for no good reason.

    • "Then they condemn Iranian intervention in Syria but don’t mention that Saudi Arabia backed the radical terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that had genocide against Syria’s Shiites on their minds."

      This is the first time I've seen IC refer to Jaysh al-Islam as a terrorist group. Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and other terrorist groups supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have already carried out pogroms against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. It's not that they have "genocide on their minds," but they have actually emptied entire sections of Syria and Iraq through their carnage.

  • Trump in Absolute Monarchy during Iran's Election
    • I am aware that KSA purchases weapons many fold the price that the United States sells to other countries, which makes the purchases all the more insipid. KSA must be the only country in the world that would willingly purchase 110 billion USD of weapons that they are unable to use or don't even amount to much. This is precisely the problem with the ruling elite in KSA: they believe there isn't a problem that money cannot fix. Unfortunately, the world is moving beyond petro-carbons, and no amount of money is going to reshape the Near East (much less the world at large) according to their aspirations.

    • That ordinary Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia might be just like any other citizens in other countries has nothing to do with how the state of Saudi Arabia acts with regards to spreading terrorism. It is a completely ancillary fact.

      That the United States has committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan is incontrovertible. Does this make every American a war criminal? Of course not: that's stupid. It just means that our government has committed war crimes, which many Americans would admit with great shame. In the same capacity, ordinary Saudi's might be just ordinary like every other ordinary human, but their state pursues policies that support terrorism (ie support of Jaysh al-Islam and other extremist groups) in the Near East.

    • "It suborned liberal Syrian revolutionaries into a fanatical Salafism (the Jaysh al-Islam) that threatened Alawite Shiites and other Syrian minorities and preached against democracy. "

      Jaysh al-Islam is a terrorist group. John Kerry admitted as much, but our state department did not like to formally put the group on terrorist groups. When xenophobia fulfills it's stated ambitions of xenophobia and actually ethnically cleanses parts of Syria and Iraq of Alawites, Shias, Christians, and Yazidis, it's more than fair to call such actions terrorism. Zahran Alloush called for the ethnic cleansing of Shias and Allawites from Syria. These actions are continuously supported from Saudi Arabia.

      With regards to the second observation, I would like to see the analysis of such data (though the inclusion/exclusion criteria of what constitutes a real observation would be contentious).

    • "Trump just sold the deputy crown prince another $110 bn worth of high-tech, state of the art weapons. "

      This amounts to more than a fifth of the Saudi foreign exchange reserves. Given that that they are operating a budget deficit, such profligacy hardly makes sense. Just what exactly to they intend to do with all this weaponry. Further attack Yemen? That's not going their way. Such behavior is so extremely shortsighted. As you note, when electric cars are just as cheap as petroleum cars, the Saudi royal family will wish it didn't spend this 110 bn USD on something that it can't even use.

    • "Nor does the Saudi government deliberately spread terrorism. I don’t think they realize that in Sunni societies, their hard line Wahhabism (coded as “Salafism” outside the kingdom) is not quietist or loyalist, as Wahhabism is in Saudi Arabia. It tends to turn radical."

      They know... If for nearly six decades Saudi-funded madrassas in countries all over the Near East have produced extremism, you should pick up that your curricula is teaching extremist theology that demonizes other religious groups. It's not as though they don't keep track of their alumni, and don't realize that a significant percentage of these alumni commit atrocities all over the world. The curricula in these schools is extremely sectarian, and does a great deal of damage to the local communities.

      It's hard to also accept that Wahhabism is quietist or loyalist when applied in Saudi Arabia. The government actively punishes non-Wahhabis. Quietism is defined by acceptance of things as they are; Wahhabism remains deeply problematic even when applied in Saudi Arabia for it's local citizenry. That women are not permitted to drive is another example of Saudi intolerance.

      "Electric cars will be as cheap as gasoline cars, probably by the early 2020s, and after that oil will quickly become worthless. How will that change this screwy picture?"

      This day can't come soon enough. Iran has already demonstrated that it doesn't need to rely primarily on oil revenue to drive economic growth. It has an educated population base that is innovative and productive. One cannot say the same about Saudi Arabia. Mohammad bin Salman's 'plans' aren't going to change this problem.

  • Trump's Real sin in DC is not distinguishing between "Good" and "Bad" Dictators
    • "Saudi Arabia would be too easy a subject here."

      It is worth writing about. Let us examine the ways Saudi Arabia commits human and international rights abuses:

      (1) Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid, and bans women from the most basic human rights, including but not limited to the (1) right to drive a car, (2) the right to self-representation in court and public offices, and (3) the right to assembly in public spaces. Of these offences, the second offence is particularly egregious. This offence is not repeated elsewhere on the planet.

      (2) Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that denies all it's citizens the most basic democratic aspirations. It denies its citizens to contest the policies and governance of the largely uneducated and venal royal family. As the royal family lives off oil revenue, it denies the most basic services to ethnic and religious minorities.

      (3) Saudi Arabia commits the most egregious war crimes and international law violations worldwide, including but not limited to it's actions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It has funded extremist groups allied with known terrorist groups that have committed pogroms in Syria and Iraq. In Yemen, it's military has deployed clustered munitions and other heavy armaments to destroy Yemen. The result is that Yemen is food deprived and a humanitarian catastrophe.

      There are numerous other abuses that Saudi Arabia inflicts upon its citizenry and the world at large. In all of these listed cases, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed either tacit or overt support from United States and United Kingdom to enact these policies. Saudi Arabia sits upon half a trillion dollars worth of foreign exchange reserves. Instead of using this money for the betterment of its citizenry and the world at large, it pursues policies that are inimical to everyone.

  • Top 5 Ways Bill O'Reilly gave us Trump and cheapened America
    • Few individuals have caused as much harm to the American body politic as Bill O'Reilly. He pioneered Fox demagoguery. Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are all just different iterations of his shtick. All have cashed in tremendously through scapegoating ethnic and religious minorities for the legitimate economic woes of ordinary Americans. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did us all a service in exposing the deceit and demagoguery of Bill O'Reilly. Alas, as funny and insightful as they are, these liberal antidotes were just not enough.

  • The Coming Muslim Century: Bad news for President Bannon
    • "And, a small sliver of the US left, exemplified by Bill Maher, hates Muslims almost as much as they hate Evangelicals and Republicans."

      Does Bill Maher believe in progressive taxation? Does he believe in income redistribution? He's called himself libertarian previously. I can't see how Bill Maher can fit into the tent of the left.

  • Why Population Exchange Fails: Over 100 Dead as Buses Bombed
    • Kefraya and al-Foua had been beseiged for the last 2.5 years. It is difficult to envision a short-term solution that would have enabled the residents to carry out a normal life. I agree completely that population exchanges never meet the stated goals of their ideal. The Pakistan-Indian exchange of Hindu/Sikh/Muslim exchange was catastrophic. So, many millions of lives extinguished.

      What would make these events less likely in Syria and Iraq is ensuring that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the United States abide by international law. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it has funded the most extreme groups in Syria: groups that either carry out the terrorist attacks on the buses, or at the very least are allied with groups that carry out these attacks on civilian buses. Al-Assad's government deserves condemnation for the war crimes it has committed in Syria. Simultaneously, the extremist groups that have operated in Syria over the past 6 years need to be condemned and blamed for the terrorism they have inflicted upon the Syrian population. This extremism is abetted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and needs to be stopped by the international community. Place an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

  • Washington's demonization of Foes jumps Shark with Sean Spicer on Hitler
    • "And we’ll never get a just world unless there is a single rule of law for all, rich states and poor states, powerful states and weak states, us and them."

      This is cannot be stressed enough. We have eroded international law to such a degree that it matters so little now. Yet, if it were equally and justly enforced on all authorities and states that commit war crimes, the world would be far better than the current anarchy of us deciding arbitrarily which dictators need to go and which dictators we like.

      "Bashar al-Assad is just a run of the mill global south war criminal. The US probably can’t do much about him given Russian and Iranian support for him."

      I have yet to hear a cogent explanation of how we and our allies would stabilize Syria post-regime change. We bombed Libya to enable the rebels to depose Qaddafi, another war criminal. It did not go well there: what makes us think that regime change will go any better in Syria? Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal, but further eroding international law through bombing the Syrian military is not the solution, but trying him under the auspices of international law is a plausible solution.

      After six plus years of strife, in which Syria has had a quarter of it's civilian population turn into refugees and another quarter turn into internally displaced persons, that the international community just cannot agree on viable mechanisms to stabilize Syria is immoral. Syrians will continue to suffer as long as we don't work with the Russians and Iranians to arrive at a diplomatic solution of the ongoing strife in Syria.

      Thank you for this post.

  • Russia: US attack on our Sovereign ally Illegal
    • At the rate at which we are going, will there be countries left in the Near East that we don't invade or attempt to change regimes. We keep telling people that our track record alone in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya should be enough to dissuade people of these interventions, but it's no use. Even supposedly liberal commentators now insist on the righteousness of bombing Syria. One begins to wonder just what evidence do people need to reassess their hawkishness.

  • Putin and the Ayatollahs: How Russia's Alliance with Iran is reshaping the Middle East
    • "Russia, on the other hand, is keen to preserve Syrian state institutions and does not support the Shiite religious proselytism of some of these military groups, such as the Hezbollah and Shia militias."

      Russia does not appear to be completely averse to Shia militias operating in Syria, and Iran knows that Syrian institutions (the government of al-Assad) needs to survive. Iran knows that it should not and cannot turn Syria into a satrapy, and Russia knows that for its interventions in Syria to be effective it needs Iranian support and coordination.

      American neoconservatives are naive or mistaken to believe that they would be able to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran on Syria. Any differences between Iran and Russia on Syria appear to be so minute or immaterial that it seems unlikely that it would make them re-evaluate their cooperation in Syria.

      In 20 years, (I hope) it's not going to be "Russian Middle-East" or "American Middle-East," but simply a series of independent, democratic states that care about the welfare of each of its citizenry and are too unimportant for American or Russian calculations.

      The ongoing strife in Syria is now more than six years old, and has turned 5 million Syrians into refugees and another 6+ million people internally displaced. This means that more than half of the 22 million Syrians are now not living in their own homes. Instead of looking to leverage the carnage in Syria for illusory geopolitical gain, our government needs to work with Russia, Iran, and Turkey to put an end to this conflict.

  • As 100,000 Rally in Yemen, Houthis Defy Trump, Saudis
    • According to the Yemeni constitution, a president that calls for foreign powers to intervene militarily in the state is committing grand treason. Saleh has called for Saudi Arabia's aggression against the state, and consequently by the Yemeni constitution forfeits the authority conferred to him by the constitution. Any legitimacy (I fail to see how he ever had it), is by now long, long gone. That said, the more important aspect is ensuring that the United States and Saudi Arabia abide by international law and not attack other countries.

  • Daesh/ISIL encouraging Loner attacks to Mask its Death Spiral
    • Yet, they've financed the some of most extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. That they continue to flood Syria with armaments gives rise to the environment where Daesh is able to take over large swaths of Syria, and terrorize the local population.

      Saudi Arabia has pursued policies that are inimical Syrians, itself, and the world at large.

  • It is Comey who should be Investigated
    • @Gary Page

      Largely--I think the debate about the emails is secondary or even immaterial to all the lies, deceit and scandal of Trump. However, I don't like it when we insist nothing was wrong about the emails. Internal State Department reviews under then Secretary of State John Kerry state that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not have received permission to use the private servers for emails if she ever asked for permission for such an arrangement:

      link to nytimes.com

    • @Gary Page

      Going forward, the amended Federal Records Act makes it difficult for government officials to use private servers for emails: at the bare minimum it is required now to forward the records promptly to the official government messaging service. One can argue as you suggest that this was not the case then with former Secretary of State Clinton. If one cares about the historical record, which I hope commentators here do, then the new amendment is welcome. Prior to the amendment, the spirit of Federal Records Act was still to the effect that emails should not be culled through individuals other than the national archivists. Your comment: "However, I find it unlikely that the attorneys who did it would have intentionally violated the law as it would have put them at great risk professionally and they must have been well versed in the law before they acted..." is speculative. The entire purpose of the act is to remove doubt with regards to the authenticity of the archives. That's not possible if individuals use private servers and cull whichever records they chose.

      As I stated in the previous comment, one can take the view that no law was violated through former Secretary of State Clinton's use of a private server: a view that others might have grounds to contest. What I think any reasonable person would have to concede is that the use of a private server and not allowing national archivists to determine which records are relevant for the archives did violate the spirit of the Federal Records Act.

    • The Federal Records Act was amended in 2014 (after Clinton left office) so that any communication on a private server must be forwarded to the official electronic messaging account within 20 days. Unrelated, there is security liability. Regardless of whether or not government servers are less secure than private servers, if one keeps a private server, then one is assuming liability for the security of any classified information (even if such information is classified retrospectively). On the other hand, if it's in government servers, then the onus is on the government to ensure security of it's servers.

      The Federal Records Act and Section 1924 of Title 18 aren't just empty words or laws: they place profound restrictions on our government officials in the manner they communicate via email. Even if one genuinely believes that no laws were violated when former Secretary of State used a private server, the spirit of the law was disregarded. This disregard for the law might not mean much, when placed into context of all of Trump's lies, deceit, and scandal, but we shouldn't mitigate what was done for political expediency. Former Secretary of State Clinton acknowledges that it would have been wiser to not use a private server.

    • "There was not actually anything suspicious about a private server. As for the charge that her personal server was more at risk of being hacked than a government one, this is not true in any way that matters."

      I will know people who are very severely hurt by Trump's travel ban: people that I work with or even closer to heart. Some of Trump's policies will directly negatively effect me, and Clinton would never carry out such policies. We shouldn't mitigate the facts on the ground with regards to Clinton's private email server due to our dislike of Trump. These are two very separate issues.

      There is a lot wrong with Clinton's use private email server more than what you highlight in your post: (1) it is against the law and (2) it is not up to Clinton's team to parse through her emails and decide which ones should be sent to government archives as this tarnishes the historical record. Separately, with regards to email security, what you have stated is not sufficient to establish that private servers are just as secure as government servers. The rate of hacking in private servers like Clinton's is likely to be higher than dedicated State department servers. If not, that is all the more reason why our government officials should dedicate more resources to establish securer governmental servers instead of using their own servers which provides further disincentive for our elected officials to make our government servers secure.

      Contextualize Clinton's private email server fiasco with regards to all the lies, deceit, and scandals of Trump, but don't claim that Clinton's use of a private email server is not against the law or at the very least against the spirit of the law or that it simply doesn't matter. The Federal Records Act requires agencies to hold onto official communications: Clinton circumvented this by keeping a private server. This was wrong.

  • Does Trump's slashed Foreign Aid Budget give China the Advantage?
    • Pakistan has the sixth largest population in the world. It isn't sixth largest in land area--quite far from that. It's probably closer to number 30 or so in land area.

      China engages in projects that are extremely smart. They fund manufacturing and industrial projects worldwide, ensuring that both donor and recipient gain from the project. We largely bankroll military purchases worldwide, which amounts to a subsidy for our private defense corporations. China with much less foreign aid gains far more in terms of influence than we do.

  • Saudi throws Muslims under Bus, Sucks up to Islamophobe Trump
    • "I suppose it should come as no surprise that Prince Bin Salman, who is only 31 years old and has no military training, should be the impetus for the Saudi-led coalition campaign that has created a horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen with no end in sight..."

      Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) approval of Trump's travel ban is of secondary importance in comparison to the carnage that MbS has unleashed on Yemen and Syria. Trump's travel ban is going to deeply hurt refugees, immigrants, and ordinary muslims. Yet, all of this hurt pales in comparison to the destruction of Yemen, where famine is now a reality due to Saudi belligerence.

      " The spread of their intolerant Wahhabi doctrine is part of the genealogy of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Yet, it seems as long as they are willing to spend billions of dollars buying American military hardware, they remain a friend."

      Wahhabi Islam has damaged many different countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria through sectarianism. Yet, this too is of secondary importance in comparison to the large scale Saudi financing and support of extremist groups allied with ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. That our international criminal court does not appear to have the ability to bring MbS and Saudi leaders to trial for the death and destruction that they have inflicted on Yemen demonstrates how weak are transnational justice systems.

      As we move away from a petro-based global system to one where alternative energy sources are far more important, I would assume Saudi Arabia would reassess it's foreign and domestic policy. Profligate spending on unethical wars will have to go, and so will unemployment benefits that make Saudi citizenry avoid taking regular jobs. The sooner Saudi Arabia ends it's profligacy and unethical behavior the better for us and for them.

  • Wind Power Juggernaut Really doing for 100K Workers what Trump only Promised
    • "Leaders like Donald Trump who are not aboard the Renewable Energy Train are going to be left behind in the backwaters while others do the really big, earthshaking deals."

      Part of my comment might appear ageist, and I struggle to avoid that aspect. The world has moved on in more ways than one. Both Trump and Clinton--though more Trump than Clinton--were set in such fossilized thinking. Green energy is going to become an important driver of the global economy. The internet and information technology is also going is also going to be a far larger piece of the global GDP. I really cannot see how geriatric individuals who cannot write an email on a computer, much less code, will be able to serve as effective leaders in a decade or two. I keep hoping that we'll see a new type of leader (one that is truly feminist, technology savvy, green, and peace-loving) emerging every election cycle, but with the political forces so strong, my hopes might actually come to fruition.

    • Thank you for this update. The returns on wind power and other green energy sources are tremendous as you highlight in your post:

      "It is altering our world, causing upward mobility in West Texas, causing massive infrastructure cooperation among the North Sea nations, and perhaps even reshaping entire countries."

      That green energy could delay, forestall, or ideally prevent climate change should be enough incentive for investment. While government investment in green energy would have been salubrious, as you have in earlier pieces private investment at this stage in both RD and production is tremendous. The geopolitical ramifications of green energy, while secondary to climate change, are still noteworthy as you highlight.

      Green energy has the potential to snip away at the unjustified and inhumane power of dictatorial regimes in the middle east. In two to three decades, can Saudi Arabia fully finance its budget through oil? It has the potential to be a solar energy hotspot, but still they would have to tax their population to finance their budget. Taxation would lead to the Saudi citizenry demanding democratic and civil rights that would demolish or severely curtail the monarchy.

      A Saudi Arabia that invests in it's people, will be forced to obey basic human and international law. It won't be able to wantonly destroy sections of Yemen, or finance extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The people of the greater middle east would be far better off through such a development, and so would we. This development cannot come fast enough for our climate and the future of all life on this planet. It also cannot come fast enough for the indigent of this planet whose potential to succeed is curtailed through the actions of despots and unscrupulous businessmen whose only desire is to further enlarge their near bottomless coffers.

  • How Much of Globe's Humanitarian Crisis is Fault of US?
    • Simply stating that US foreign policy for the past 16 years has been a net negative for the people of the world is not anti-American. It just acknowledges that we have done a great harm to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries. The most patriotic Americans are those that are capable of acknowledging the harm that our country has inflicted on many other countries in the form of war, aggression, and climate change. It's actually those whose blinders make them incapable of acknowledging the continued harm we inflict on the world that do our country a profound disservice.

      The biggest counter-example to your analysis is Iraq. Our intervention there was the biggest calamity to befall the people of the middle east. Saddam was a war criminal, but those crimes are not our responsibility. What is our responsibility is the humanitarian disaster that we inflicted upon the Iraqi people (and the rest of the world too).

      " And the Syrian calamity is mostly the fault of Assad. Other intervenors include Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, the Kurds, the Saudis and god knows who else in addition to the US and Turkey. Syria was a mess and going to be a mess even if we never intervened."

      This counterfactual can be assessed. Your counterfactual analysis is extremely unsound. Had the US not green-lighted Saudi Arabia and Turkey to provide arms to extremist groups in Syria, the situation would have been far different. All of the extremist groups that got their arms from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and US would not be able to further funnel them to ISIS and Nusrah Front. Consequently, we would not have seen pogroms of ethnic and religious minorities in Syria. What has happened to the Arab Spring is a quick death at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Secular, moderate, and democratically-inclined opposition were quickly destroyed through the actions of extremist groups that got their financial and munitions from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and US. Yes, Russia and Iran have also committed crimes in Syria, but we are not responsible for those crimes. As I've said time and time again, our actions in Syria are in contravention of international and humanitarian law.

      What you also fail to write about is Yemen. Is there any support that you can provide of US actions there? The use of cluster-munitions and double-tap bombings of civilian properties are Saudi war crimes that our government supported. These war crimes happen to be defined through international law.

    • "The US pushed for the secession of South Sudan from Sudan, but then appears, typically, to have done nothing about nation-building."

      We were not effective at nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should stop intervening in these countries with the promise that we'll help rebuild them.

  • Trump Visa Denials target same countries Bush vowed to Overthrow
    • @Gary Page

      It is not called disobeying procedural niceties when George W Bush decided to decimate Iraq and Afghanistan. It is called committing war crimes (something that is defined by international law), and wiping out whole sections of Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is argument largely true in Libya and Syria, where the USA supported Saudi Arabia and Turkey to funnel arms and heavy armaments to extremist groups that went on to commit pogroms and destabilize the entire region. Funneling arms and heavy armaments to non-state actors (extremist and terrorist groups) is against international law, and happens to have deep repercussions for humans that happen to die from their fire. You might think it's a procedural nicety (international law) that could prevent these civilians from dying from those arms, but I'm pretty sure any Syrian, Iraqi, or moderately educated human doesn't see it your way.

      What you write about Rwanda largely supports my contention. The United States never even tried to prevent genocide there. It never even made the argument that it was time to assemble troops to stop the ongoing massacre. It could have--very early on called for a UN Security council meeting. It chose not to.

      I think I'm done posting here--and even largely reading posts here--it's 2017, Trump will further abrogate our constitution, and we will quibble instead about the law being relevant and important, or how Obama's actions in Syria and Libya amounted to hurting innocent lives through providing arms through Turkey and Saudi Arabia to extremist groups (in contravention of international law).

    • The Rwandan genocide was catastrophic. Our government refused to categorize the carnage there as genocide precisely because international law would have compelled them and the United Nations to act to safeguard Rwandans, which was an action they never wished to undertake. So, your stated premise is actually completely bogus. International law compelled them to act, and they chose to willfully abrogate their duty to whole sections of the UN charter.

    • " Libya is a mess but Gaddafi is gone."

      Is the implication here that removal of Gaddafi justifies the intervention to depose of him and funnel munitions to rebels? This next comment supports that interpretation.

      "I don’t personally think Obama’s actions in Libya resembled those planned by the Bush administration. The former was faced with a genuine national uprising and there is a question about whether the carnage would have been even worse if Moammar Gaddafi had been allowed to try to stay in power."

      Were some of the actions Europe and the US undertook to remove Gaddafi against international law? The UN security council resolution on Libya did not give Europe and US authority to funnel arms to extremist groups. Yet, that was conducted regardless, and is against international law. Had the Obama administration decided against any support of Saudi's support of extremist rebels in Libya and Syria, our world would have been a much better place for it. Instead, in 2017, in a post about a visa ban that will cost residents here severely, we have odd comments that support interventions whose only effect is the obvious loss of civilian lives. IC decried the Iraq war on international law grounds, stating it was illegal. Our actions in Libya and Syria are likewise illegal. Our appeals to international law cannot be selective. The multiple illegalities of our actions in Libya and Syria mirror the multiple illegalities of our interventions in Iraq. If you decry the latter, you have to decry the former.

  • Welcome to Psychopathocracy
    • Trump's muslim registry will hurt muslim's severely, and will further weaken our already eroded American civil liberties. One can talk about Trump's policies without resorting to calling him a psychopath. I'm not trained as a psychologist, and there's no way I could diagnose him as such. That said, I think it's not needed. His stated policies are so pernicious that one could just catalog them and critique them.

      There are so many pernicious policies that he espouses that it is sometimes hard to know where to begin, but regardless of which set of policies one chooses at first, any critique would be an evisceration and far superior to calling him a psychopath. One could critique the nepotism that Trump is now displaying by appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as Senior Advisor. Or, his appointments of former Goldman Sachs employees to financial regulating agencies. Or, his plan require muslims to register on a database, further stigmatizing them and demolishing the first amendment. This path obviates the rhetorical reply that your post is likely speculation. The sheer amount of harm that such policies would inflict on innocents would be enough for your readers to form their own opinions of Trump without calling him a psychopath.

      Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2008 democratic nomination campaign on two separate occasions mentioned that she would "obliterate" Iran in a hypothetical situation. One doesn't need to resort to calling her a psychopath in order to highlight just how pernicious is this stated policy. Or, one can very easily critique that choosing to separate herself from President Obama with her goals to more forcefully arming rebels (extremists) and implementing a no-fly zone over Syria is not good policy. None of this requires calling her a psychopath, but highlights the vast amount of human harm these policies would exact on innocents.

      This focuses the attention on where it's due: those that are victims of the stated policies. Trump could be a psychopath or narcissist for all I know, but making the focus of a post his psychopathy only further feeds what I imagine to be his narcissism, and diverts attention from the victims.

  • Preparing for the Normalization of a Neofascist White House
    • I agree that Trump's statements and cabinet picks do not auger well for our democratic ideals, and are a step towards neo-fascism (if not there already). That said, the tendency to view Trump's ideas as a complete aberration in our democratic process is also unreasonable. The slow slide to fascistic tendencies was long apparent in legislature that was passed by Bush II, and then the rise of the xenophobic tea-party. Trump is set to inherit executive powers and nearly unlimited eavesdropping capabilities from Obama that should and could have been curtailed. We just trusted Obama with these vast powers, but now that Trump is set to inherit these same unconstitutional powers, we see the error in our ways.

      It's this blind trust in our party's leader (Democratic or Republican) that makes ordinarily educated and thoughtful individuals give up their constitutional rights for party loyalty and gains. We should argue and fight for our constitutional rights and ideals. These rights and ideals were also harmed, unfortunately, during the Obama administration, but few commentators noticed or wrote about it. Trump definitely will erode our constitution even further and more precipitously, which is catastrophic...

  • Now is the time for Obama to Recognize Palestine
    • There is a problem with Kevin Drum's analysis. He may rightly dislike Hamas and the PLO, but this dislike does not justify the continued and future statelessness of the Palestinians. Nothing in his arguments abrogates the reality that Palestinians are stateless. Under international law, Israel is bound to safeguard Palestinian lives as the occupying power. It is also bound to work towards extricating itself as an occupying power. It does neither. As member countries of the United Nations, all these countries are bound by international law; human feelings of dislike or antipathy towards international actors or authorities is secondary to just application of the law.

      In this case, Kevin Drum is just plain wrong.

  • Top Five ways Jesus was not White
    • I appreciate this Christmas day message, and I think Jesus would have appreciated it too. An aspect of this that is eluded to in your post, is that if Jesus were "swarthy" or "olive-skinned" does this make him less worthy of Christian worship?

      Even more importantly, I think, Jesus would profoundly disapprove our treatment of today's refugees, homeless, orphans, or generally hapless individuals. He'd almost certainly see himself more akin with a Syrian refugee than any American Congressperson that wishes to extend a no-fly zone over Syria or fund more wars worldwide that create even more refugees.

    • I appreciate Ben Norton's writing: though the part in the post to which you link, where he suggests that Jesus would be considered communist by today's standard's is a bit wanting. It's stated without any logical or historical support. Also, who is making this claim: Ben Norton, historians, or is it a generally acknowledged argument? I don't doubt that some of Jesus's teaching could be used to favor income redistribution or other socialist ideals, but how this makes Jesus a "communist" is still a logical step away.

      The last paragraph in the post you link to is actually important: the word Jesus would use for God is the Aramaic word "Alaha," which is also the word native Arab speakers would use for God too: "Allah." So, when neoconservatives or speakers with animus against muslims use the word "Allah" in a negative or derogatory fashion, they are twisting a word Jesus himself used to supplicate. Jesus would most definitely not recognize our world as following his teachings: in word or in spirit. Hopefully, we will get there eventually.

  • Why do GOP Presidents get to go Hard Right, and Dems are just GOP Lite?
    • Apologies for harping on this while we have moved on to probably better discussions, but as you write...

      "As for the Senate, surely there are things they want from a president that they won’t get if they completely shut him out. Not to mention that Obama actually briefly had a Democratic majority and squandered it. A Republican president would have had several major pieces of legislation ready to go and given it to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and said, “Here, go pass this while we have a bare majority."

      He could have passed campaign finance reform in this time.

    • I squirm when someone tells me: "Imagine if he’d been far Left. And Black." Are people of color not allowed to state their opinions in order to be taken seriously by whites?

      He was certainly more left than former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and likely even on domestic issues, though unfortunately more centrist than either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

      As a person of color and progressive, I definitely admire President Obama. I think he will look back at his time as President, and take pride in dealing with a recalcitrant Congress, but at the same time wonder, could it have been different. Could he have kept his progressive ideals as a constitutional law Professor at University of Chicago on issues where he doesn't even have to deal with Congress? Could he have gotten more in his bargains with a Republican-held Congress? I think so... For whatever reason, he chose not to.

    • After reading the first half President Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," I started to believe in President Obama's sincerity. I don't doubt that President Obama has deeply held progressive positions. It's just that as a community organizer, he probably realized that to forcefully make unwilling participants (Congress) follow your dogmatic positions, no matter how correct and valid, might end up hurting one's cause and the community.

      In the case of campaign finance reform, I have no doubt that he would like Congress to pass legislature. However, it just remained that: a wish, one that has to be temporarily, if not indefinitely, ignored in order to get re-elected... I think he could have had campaign finance reform, but he probably thought Obamacare was either more viable politically or more important.

      I agree that single-payer is better: countries that have single-payer systems have far better health metrics. Hopefully, we'll get there. I'll settle in the mean-time for Obamacare over insurance companies denying people with pre-existing health conditions.

    • Agreed: I've heard this reply whenever I state this. Yet, I always wonder that if Obama was able to get through Obamacare through Congress, had he first attempted campaign finance reform rather than Obamacare, would he have gotten it? I'd like to think he would have... One could argue that Obamacare is significantly more important than campaign finance reform, but I find such arguments difficult to accept, considering just how effectively billionaires subvert our democracy and constitution.

    • As a senator, President Obama knew part of the solution of these problems is public financing of our elections. Crowdsourcing only goes so far: I agree with you that Senator Sanders demonstrated that it is possible, but I worry just how much longer our public is willing to crowdsource when billionaires are able to so effectively drown out their voices.

      Had President Obama followed through with legislation on campaign finance reform our nation would be far better off. Obamacare is far better than what we had previously, but campaign finance reform is even more important. Had campaign finance reform been enacted, the chances of electing Trump and a billionaire-beholden congress would have been far smaller. Thereby, reducing the chance that progressive legislature, such as Obamacare, is knocked down due to the whims of our billionaires.

  • Is Bruited Sec. of State Tillerson allied with Iran & at war with Iraq?
    • "So, yes, you got it. Tillerson’s corporation is de facto an ally of Iran and would have a reason to want US sanctions on that country dropped (those sanctions were just renewed by Congress for 10 years)."

      This last paragraph is confusing: the implication is that through Exxon-Mobil's dealing with Iraqi Kurdistan, Tillerson is de-facto allied with Iran, because Iraqi Kurdistan is " is planning to take advantage of the end of international sanctions on Iran by pumping oil through Iran to get around Iraq’s objections."

      That Iraqi Kurdistan's plan will actually come to fruition is still in doubt. Even if this plan were to actually come to fruition, it still does not provide sufficient evidence that Tillerson would be allied with Iran. Does trading with Iran make one an ally of Iran? I guess IC sees it this way. The more important part that remains completely unaddressed: just what is wrong with doing business with Iran? . . .

      The rest of the world, including Europe, China, and Russia, no longer believe in such sanctions, and are probably not going to follow the US if the rip the Vienna accord.

  • More districts of East Aleppo fall to Regime & Militia Allies
    • "The crushing of the rebellion is a tragedy, since Syria has a seedy one-party state that tortures people to death and brooks no criticism."

      I largely agree with T. van Ellen. The real tragedy is not that these extremist groups will be defeated, but that ordinary civilian lives were destroyed through all this carnage. The secondary tragedy was that the entire protest movement in Syria that began with the Arab Spring mutated into something quite vile. This mutation was not homegrown. As T. van Ellen eludes to, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States were complicit in making an ordinary protest movement into an extremist movement. Had Saudi Arabia not funded the most extremist groups, the real opposition that has support of all of Syria would have been able to come to power. Instead, what you have is these extremist groups, overrunning whole sections of Syria, and ethnically cleansing large swaths of the Syrian population.

      " But the rebellion also did lose its soul on the whole, moving toward hard line fundamentalism and pledging to ethnically cleanse 2 million Alawite Shiites."

      The extremist groups have already committed genocide in parts of Syria and Iraq. The future tense in your sentence belies this reality.

  • Emails and Groping: Our Halloween Election keeps Scaring us to Death
    • I never related President Bill Clinton's actions to former Secretary of State's Hillary Clinton's campaign for President. That is an unjustified imputation on your part. There was absolutely no guilt by association.

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