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Total number of comments: 64 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:58)


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  • Egypt: A People’s Revolution, Not a Crisis or Coup (Nawal El Saadawi)
    • As much as I hate to put a cloud over Nawal's deeply felt idealism ...I don't know whether Juan is going to cover this, but this is as good a place as any to bring up Al Jazeera's current story concerning U.S. funding of anti-Morsi and MB protest in Egypt.

      I think we can also safely assume that the same had been going on in Syria for some time prior to 2011.

      Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists

      Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal.
      Emad Mekay Last Modified: 10 Jul 2013 13:29

      a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country's now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

      Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.

      link to

  • Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Calls for 'Uprising' as Plan for Elections is Announced
    • His initial statement indicates that he wants to prepare Egypt for some painful reductions in government subsidies. His bonafides seem to put him squarely in the neoliberal economic circles.

      But what will be the political consequences? Morsi may well see some benefit in not reaping the whirlwind.

      An interesting analysis below of the likely consequences.

      The economics of Tahrir
      Jul 9th 2013, 16:30 by by Bessma Momani | CIGI

      I expect to see the new government adopting tough economic policies backed by military might. That may allow it to shed the subsidies without forfeiting power. However, it will not restore investor confidence or win back the tourists who account for nearly 25% of the economy. There is instead a high risk that the military government will further alienate Egypt's rural masses and urban poor. These constituencies were not among the crowds filling Tahrir on June 30th, but they do constitute Egypt’s true majority. If Egypt retains its subsidies, it will endure continued shortages. If it removes them, it will suffer further unrest. The military has overthrown the government but inherited all of its dilemmas. As the June 30th movement noted, the revolution will continue.

      link to

  • Breadcrumbs and Circus Reruns: How and why US News gave Egypt Short Shrift (Cunningham)
    • Read all about it in Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle"

      Debord defines the system that is a confluence of advanced capitalism, the mass media, and the types of governments who favor those phenomena: "the spectacle, taken in the limited sense of 'mass media' which are its most glaring superficial manifestation"

      link to

      link to

  • Brotherhood, Army risk Civil War: 30 Dead, Hundreds Wounded
    • I thought it clear that I was referring to the Islamists who were left weakened and divided towards the end.

      Naturally U.S. interests were served by the military's ultimate victory, at least we presumed to know what to expect from them, however undemocratic.

      All in all I don't think our two accounts differ much in perspective -- just that I don't see much chance of a similar civil war in Egypt today for the reasons I have stated.

    • I don't think I said or implied that the conflict in Algeria was sectarian in nature, nor that the neocons had any role.

      What does seem to be the case is that the conflict factionalized and divided them when they could not achieve their ends. In the end they were severely weakened by the war.

      The neocons took their cue from that and saw such conflicts as a paradigm of 'divide et impera' for the future.

      The Saudi state version of Wahhabism is something akin to "render unto Allah what is Allah's and render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". In this sense they have given Salafists wide lattitude in local interpretation of Sharia law so long as they recognize the supremacy of the state as ruled by the Royal Family. Those Salafists who saw the Royal family as infidels were one thing, and those who simply wanted Sharia law to be observed in their local communities either in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere received their tolerance if not their active support.

      The Saudi's are not going to thwart U.S. interests in the region in any case. Neither are the Qataris. Without this proxy support I don't see any long term organized and violent opposition holding up in Egypt.

      The MB in Egypt has historically placed its money organizational resources on politics and social welfare, even in the most repressive years. I think they will return to that given the lack of other effective alternatives. They have too much to lose in terms of economic interests any way.

    • The threat of a civil war in Egypt might be mitigated by the reality that unlike Syria and Libya, there are no major external proxy interests which would either benefit from it or which have prepared the ground.

      Algeria was a model for the "redirection" policy of the neocons, who sought to weaken non-U.S./Israel friendly states by promoting sectarian conflicts from within. This began during the Bush administration: link to

      We are not going to see this influence in Egypt, where the likes of Saudia Arabia and Qatar have played heavy roles in funding the Sunni MB, and would prefer stability at the expense of 'democracy' and Brotherhood rule if that is the choice.

      The divisions in Egypt seem to fall more along secular/youth vs religious and urban elite vs rural/indigenous lines which do not make for any easy coalition or polarization.

      How interesting is it that the Salafist al-Nour party seem to be supporters of the military intervention against the Brotherhood ...

  • Egypt's "Revocouption" and the future of Democracy on the Nile
    • There is a lot of discussion now of whether this will be called a 'coup'. Apparently there are some legal niceties which may give the current Administration a script to fall back on.

      While the Administration leadership originally referred to the events as a coup -- they were able to dodge the legal ball by referring to a part of a larger process which did not involve the military in direct rule or designated rulers.

      They may have some trouble in doing this in Egypt if the military continues with the heavy hand it has seemingly begun with, in particular the wide spread arrests of the MB leadership and the dissolution of the current parliament.

      Background Briefing on the Situation in Honduras

      Special Briefing
      Teleconference Background Briefing by Two Senior Department Officials
      Washington, DC
      July 1, 2009

      QUESTION: And so this is properly classified as a military coup?

      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, it’s a golpe de estado. The military moved against the president; they removed him from his home and they expelled him from a country, so the military participated in a coup. However, the transfer of leadership was not a military action. The transfer of leadership was done by the Honduran congress, and therefore the coup, while it had a military component, it has a larger – it is a larger event.

      link to

  • Fourth of July Comes a Day Early to Cairo after Fundamentalist President is Removed (video)
    • Will the Administration call what is happening a "coup" -- or will it play semantic word games as usual?

      The military ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Wednesday places the Obama Administration in a difficult situation: If President Obama accepts that a coup has taken place, U.S. law will force him to cut off American military and economic aid to one of America’s closest Middle East allies.

      link to

    • Will Jonathan Steele's predictions likely come to pass?

      Egypt's coup: a ruinous intervention
      Those who believe the Egyptian army's priority is to preserve freedom will soon be disappointed

      link to

  • Snowden: US now using deprivation of Citizenship as a Weapon
    • “What in the world do you expect the U.S. government to do, ignore the law?”

      I'll throw my 2 cents in here too.

      What the "law" is in this case depends on whether "government" is willing to acknowledge that wrong things were done, and that Snowden could not have had a reasonable expectation of exposing them from within the system itself.

      Hell, several senators were publicly tongue-tied beyond warning the public that they would be shocked by what they knew -- if only they could tell it. Hence no real transparency, no real pressure for a public accounting. Secrets are Secrets good, bad or ugly.

      On the other hand if the government had the political common sense to admit that Snowden was justified in acting from the outside in -- then it has the option of treating him as a genuine whistle blower even if he did not follow all the rules, the rules being insufficient to really bring the facts out.

      Lawyers can spin these things any way they want to serve a client -- and the government has plenty of lawyers to do just that.

      It's really a matter of political choice in the end. They have chosen to try to protect themselves from embarrassment, and in doing so have only made things worse for everyone.

    • The case has weakened considerably -- to the point of falling apart.

      link to

      Assange himself has said that he even believed they might be willing to drop it, and that he might be living in the Embassy for up to a year -- that was just about a year ago.

      link to

      The ball is really in the U.S. hands -- and they have enough to juggle as it is, it wouldn't surprise me if this one was quietly dropped.

    • I'm rather fond of this quote:

      “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.”

      ― Mark Twain

    • Venezuela seems like his best bet now.

      But this story has more layers. What caused Correa to back off his original embrace of Snowden? Was there a deal spun in that "polite" conversation with Biden, that even Snowden and Assange really doesn't want to question?

      Certainly Correa would like to get Assange out of his embassy in Britain -- but cannot as long as Assange fears unsealing of the charges against him and an extradition request which would bring him here to face prosecution. There is certainly nothing in Sweden that he fears.

  • How Internet Censorship Really Works
    • All I have to say is playing those error sounds was a dirty trick to hit me with in the morning...

  • US bugged EU offices, Collects 1/2 Billion German Internet & Phone Connections Monthly
    • Frankly I don't see much hope in that. What I do see is that eventually this culture will 'self-destruct' as a result of its own oppressive and incestuous mentality. Nature promotes from diversity, not conformity.

      Consider the effect that the Administration's "Insider Threat" policies is likely to have on diverse and creative thinking.

      President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

      “The real danger is that you get a bland common denominator working in the government,” warned Ilana Greenstein, a former CIA case officer who says she quit the agency after being falsely accused of being a security risk. “You don’t get people speaking up when there’s wrongdoing. You don’t get people who look at things in a different way and who are willing to stand up for things. What you get are people who toe the party line, and that’s really dangerous for national security.”

      link to

    • I am reminded of the Judaic lore of the mystical "Golem".

      This one whose DNA was coded and spawned during WWII continues grow, under no rational control.

      It rather fits the "Hubris" theme described here:

      Hubris theme

      The existence of a golem is sometimes a mixed blessing. Golems are not intelligent, and if commanded to perform a task, they will perform the instructions literally. In many depictions Golems are inherently perfectly obedient. In its earliest known modern form, the Golem of Chełm became enormous and uncooperative. In one version of this story, the rabbi had to resort to trickery to deactivate it, whereupon it crumbled upon its creator and crushed him.[2] There is a similar hubris theme in Frankenstein, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and some golem-derived stories in popular culture.[clarification needed] The theme also manifests itself in R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), Karel Čapek's 1921 play which coined the term robot; the play was written in Prague, and while Čapek denied that he modeled the robot after the Golem, there are many similarities in the plot.[38]

      If it were a dog, all Presidents since have been merely tails on it>

      link to

    • The NSA does not spy in the same way on the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, who are class 2 partners and therefore are not targets. Germany, the leaked document says, is only a class 3 partner and therefore is also considered a target.

      I think this shows the extent to which U.S. policy remains a relic of WWII and Cold War policy which marked the advent of the so-called "Five Eyes" alliance.

      All of the five are English speaking countries and today remain the only "class 2" tier allies who are not spied on and with whom the U.S. partners in its current spying web (Echelon).

      about Five Eyes:

      link to

      about Echelon:

      ECHELON is a name used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UKUSA Security Agreement[1] (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, referred to by a number of abbreviations, including AUSCANNZUKUS[1] and Five Eyes).[2][3] It has also been described as the only software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications.[4]

      link to

  • Obama at Soweto University: New Generation of Africans taking its Place on World Stage
    • Thanks, it worked in my browser originally but evidently not as a re-direct. I looked for but did not find yours in a simple search.

      What I took from the piece was the inherent "marriage" of the 'economic' and 'military' in Africom's mission statement and scope. Of course, we see how this has worked historically in other regions of Africa and the world, and the 'double standards' it entails.

    • Interesting ... "Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya" ...

      All key partners in the US Africom strategic command.

      For its full mission statement see the pdf available below:

      7 MARCH 2013

      link to

  • Everything you wanted to Know About NSA Surveillance *but were afraid to ask (Stray)
    • Excellent article. I'm sure that between government and private industry their goals will not be satisfied until they have it all together and can call it the "Akashic Record"

      The akashic records – akasha being a Sanskrit word meaning "sky", "space" or "aether" – are described as containing all knowledge of human experience and all experiences as well as the history of the cosmos encoded or written in the very aether or fabric of all existence...other analogies commonly found in discourse on the subject include a "universal supercomputer" and the "Mind of God".

      link to

  • Top Ten Ways the Beltway Press will treat Gen. Cartwright differently from Snowden
    • Muckety gives Cartwright a score of '96' -- meaning he is considered more influential than 96% of those in their data base:

      James E. Cartwright personal relations:

      Sandee Cartwright - spouse
      Gregory B. Craig - attorney

      Other current James E. Cartwright relationships:

      Aspen Strategy Group - member
      Atlantic Council of the United States - director
      Center for Strategic and International Studies - Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies
      Defense Policy Board - member
      Raytheon Company - director
      James E. Cartwright past relationships:
      Joint Chiefs of Staff - vice chairman
      U.S. Strategic Command - commander
      White House state dinner (11/24/2009) - invited guest
      White House state dinner (6/7/11) - invited guest

      link to

  • NSA says they can't reveal if they Spied on You because it would 'Help Our Enemies' (Larson)
    • When the NSA wants detailed interactive maps of the relational networks of a suspect, it probably pulls up something like you will see in the link below.

      Muckety provides a host of interactive maps detailing relationships between individuals or entities -- where the entity may be corporate, governmental or both.

      Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; have a gander:

      link to

      Right click on a box or empty space to expand or choose different context menu options.

  • Top Ten American Steps toward a Police State
    • The way I'm reading the current law is that what is known as "familial [DNA] searches" are only prohibited in states that have expressly banned them. A number of states have passed laws enabling them with varying degrees of restriction.

      Familial Searching

      Familial searching is an additional search of a law enforcement DNA database conducted after a routine search has been completed and no profile matches are identified during the process. Unlike a routine database search which may spontaneously yield partial match profiles, familial searching is a deliberate search of a DNA database conducted for the intended purpose of potentially identifying close biological relatives to the unknown forensic profile obtained from crime scene evidence. Familial searching is based on the concept that first-order relatives, such as siblings or parent/child relationships, will have more genetic data in common than unrelated individuals. Practically speaking, familial searching would only be performed if the comparison of the forensic DNA profile with the known offender/arrestee DNA profiles has not identified any matches to any of the offenders/arrestees.

      link to

      See also States Using Familial Search

      link to

    • 11. Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil" seems less surrealistic every time you view it.

  • Obama's New Syria Strategy is Nixon's Vietnam Negotiation Tactics Redux (Meyer)
    • General Salim Idriss

      General Salim Idriss is currently the Chief of Staff to
      the armed opposition Supreme Military Council. The
      55-year-old Brigadier General defected from the Syrian
      Army in July 2012 after dozens of his family members
      reportedly were killed by government forces in the
      city of Homs. Educated in East Germany, Idriss had
      been the dean of the Aleppo military engineering
      academy before his defection. Within the Syrian
      opposition, he is considered more of a political figure
      than a respected military commander. He routinely
      appeals for outside funding and material support to
      secure the loyalty of various commanders and militias

      Most observers believe that General Idriss does not exercise daily command and control over all
      SMC-affiliated soldiers. Instead, individual commanders who have affiliated with the SMC have
      done so on the assumption that their support would be rewarded militarily and financially, but
      have maintained control of their own forces. According to General Idriss, “Fighters go to where
      there is money and weapons and if I had the means … within one or two months everyone would
      join.... They will know that this is a national institution while the brigades and battalions will
      eventually disappear.”1

      It should be clear from this CRS analysis that Idris commands no loyalty beyond that required to get weapons from him. Once received rebel groups will simply pursue their own ends, or bypass him if they can.

      link to

  • Snowden was Right, they're Reading your Mail: How British Intelligence and the NSA are Tag-Teaming US
    • I'd love for someone to spirit out a copy of the algorithms and key word libraries they use to filter and analyze these communications.

      What a boon to 'transparency' that would be ...

  • Iran's New President is on a Collision Course with the Supreme Leader (Kadivar)
    • To add a little to what I think is your point -- the political situation in Iran is similar in some respects to that of the Palestinian territories.

      In both political arenas there is a 3rd player in the game, apart from the 'hardliners' and the 'moderates'. It is the 'spoilers' -- and they play from the outside.

      For them it's a game of 'divide et impera' where the object is to keep the internal game fragmented, disunited and weakened.

      They have many cards to play, and others to hold. Just as Abbas's moderate leadership has proven only more divisive for the Palestinians, achieving nothing for his efforts, the politics of 'moderation' in Iran is not likely to achieve anything of real substance so long as the West's policies of economic warfare continue -- and you can bet that they will.

  • Obama in Berlin foreshadows Coming Epic Battle against Climate Change
    • Actually I differ on the proposition that climate change is the greatest threat to the dignity and conservation of human life today.

      It is rather our obscene dependence on reliable, high speed communications carriers and networks that are essentially in the hands of corporate interest acting to maximize their profit potential -- and our failure (as a global community) to build security and redundancy into these systems -- which threatens the economic infrastructure, and the political systems dependent on it throughout most of the world.

      The rapid expansion of the world's population in the last 30 to 50 years has been made possible by the financial and trade relations it supports.

      If it is seriously degraded, or collapses, billions would be threatened -- and the threat is not incremental, like global warming.

  • Russia: Iran is ready to Cease Enriching Uranium to 20%
    • Putin is a wily dog -- I'm afraid he just might like to sit back and watch the U.S. get embroiled in a shooting war with Iran.

      Consider the impact on oil prices -- and Russia's position to reap the dividends.

    • How the United States and Israel react to this will be the real test of whether the ongoing sanctions are really about Iran's nuclear program at all.

      If points continue to made that Iran may have "undisclosed" facilities or that they have not really proven "intent" -- then, like the sanctions and subsequent war against Saddam, they are being asked for the impossible -- to 'prove a negative'.

      Which means the nuclear issue is just a cover for sustained economic warfare.

  • 60% of Free Syria Army fighting for Islamic State: Channel 4 News
    • Steven Aftergood has posted the latest CRS report on the Syrian conflict.

      It includes profiles of all the principal opposition factions and their goals, ideologies and associations. They are divided into two groups -- those who support the "National Coalition" and those who have not.

      link to

  • Why Cheney is the Traitor, and Why we Can't Believe Obama on Safeguards (The Ultimate Clip of Gov't Lies)
    • Just "don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters" and "you won't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows"


    • Apart from circumventions of the 4th Amendment, questions can be raised as to whether, on balance the NSA and its accompanying 'National Security State' is not itself a net security risk.

      Consider this extended quote from the Dana Priest and William Arkin book on our current dependence on private contractors working for profit both in and out of the 'system':

      "What started as a clever temporary fix has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal government is still even able to stand on its own. Consider the following: At the Department of Homeland Security, the number of contractors equals the number of federal employees. The department depends on more than three hundred companies for essential services and personnel, including nearly twenty staffing firms that help DHS find and hire even more contractors. At the office that handles intelligence, six of every ten employees are from private industry. The National Security Agency, which conducts worldwide electronic surveillance, hires private firms to come up with most of its technological innovations. The NSA used to work with a small stable of firms; now it works with at least 480 and is actively recruiting more. The National Reconnaissance Office cannot produce, launch, or maintain its satellite surveillance systems, which photograph countries such as China, North Korea, and Iran, without the four major contractors it works with. Every intelligence and military organization depends on contract linguists to communicate overseas, translate documents, and make sense of electronic voice intercepts. The demand for native speakers of target languages is so great, and the amount of money the government is willing to pay for them is so huge, that fifty-six firms compete for this business. Each of the sixteen intelligence agencies depends on corporations to set up its computer networks, communicate with other agencies’ networks, and fuse and mine disparate bits of information that might be indicative of a terrorist plot. More than four hundred companies work exclusively in this area, building classified hardware and software systems."

      Priest, Dana; Arkin, William M. (2011-09-06). Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (pp. 182-183). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.

  • Egypt's Morsi Calls for No-Fly Zone over Syria: A step toward regional Sunni-Shiite War?
    • Egypt's economic crisis also has its foreign policy dimensions.

      In particular, the need for IMF support, its loans from Qatar, and its need to placate U.S. policy hawks, all factor into the picture.

      The U.S. is likely playing a powerful role in ensuring that Egypt satisfies many different interests.

      link to

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • I don't think you will find any direct quantitative evidence on that subject -- but Syria has been a target of SOF forces since probably that date. It is claimed that they only operate at the permission of the host government -- but if Syria is or was one, that is hard to believe.

      Locations of Special Ops throughout the world:

      Here are a couple of links that may be of interest:
      link to

      Manual detailing goals, tactics, methods and analysis of Special Ops:

      link to

  • Sunni-Shiite Conflict Spikes as al-Qaeda Massacres 60 Shiites, Gulf States Sanction Hizbullah
    • I think another observation that can be made here is that in any social system when authority at the top loses its legitimacy and power that vacuum is filled at the ground and must be rebuilt, however haltingly, from the ground up.

      The question of 'who do you believe?' devolves to where you live, who you live among, and who among those you trust.

      Religion and ethnicity with its own traditions, sacred practices, beliefs and relationships, increasingly fill the void.

    • The United States along with its western allies and regional partners have far too much 'skin in the game' to allow Assad to decisively "crush the rebellion". The 'proxy' aspects of this war are just too large to allow for a Syrian/Iranian 'victory'.

      The conflict will drag on, if for no other purpose than to drain Iran and preclude any further growth of its regional influence which would be the outcome of a complete Assad victory.

    • It is hard to see how the outcome of this conflict is going to resolve itself except in terms of some recognition of each sects predominate distributions -- Shiastan, Sunistan, and perhaps a defacto Kurdistan as well. Iraq has led the way in that model, like it or not.

      The map on this link shows some sense of how it might look, with Assad retaining full control of Damascus, the coastal regions (fate of Aleppo will be a tough one, as will the border regions with Iraq) and perhaps the south bordering Israel.

      link to

  • Who you Call is Far more Revealing than what you Say: Landau on Gov't Spying (Democracy Now!)
    • As a graduate political science student in the 60's I remember a paper written about the 'cognitive dissonance' model of behavioral analysis. It involved the voluntary participation of a group who had what we would call today'networked' relations between each other -- friends, family, work associates. Questions were asked periodically concerning who they expected to vote for in an upcoming election. Other questions were asked about general social and political views.

      At the end of the survey period a computer, using the cognitive dissonance model, picked who each individual was expected to vote for. The results were that the computer was a better predictor of behavior than the individuals themselves as a whole.

      Of course such models have become the core of marketing and political analysis today.

      Today one doesn't actually have to know very much at all about any individuals preferences to predict their behavior better than they can themselves, so long as enough is known about their 'friends'.

  • Top Ten Ways the US Government will Smear, Slight Whistleblower Edward Snowden
    • The idea that the type of data mining practiced by the NSA and the uses and side effects which accrue from it is as innocuous as marketing trackers might be questioned by two generals whose careers were ended or abbreviated by the NSA and the FBI and their methods.

      Both Generals Petreaus and Allen were caught in the web of an investigation that originally did not have them as targets.

      But the pattern analysis of phone calls and email links led the FBI to access their email accounts -- and the rest is history.

      Just 'collateral damage' of course ...

    • Germany may have been an even better example than the Soviet Union of how things were done 'legal'.

      Perhaps we should have a good nickname for the President come out of this: 'Obama Légalité'

  • Sen. Wyden Warned us in 2011 that the Government was Running wild on Surveillance (Video)
    • Wyden owes it to the American people to make a run for the Presidency in the next election. Should I get the opportunity to vote for him, I will register and do it.

  • NSA-Verizon Surveillance: Welcome to the United States of Total Information Awareness
    • I suspect that the administration is, or will be, arguing that because the data being collected is "metadata" and not actual content, they are not subject to some of the fairly specific provisions and limitations of the current law I cited above.

      Apparently that may be the "secret interpretation" that Glen Greenwald and others are referring to.

      I can't imagine how this is going to be constitutionally reviewed -- and that is the real rub.

    • Update to my comment above...

      I believe this is the specific relevant law on which the order is based:

      link to

    • Steven Aftergood has posted this comment on his site:

      "Several features of the operation are problematic, to say the least. The FISC order is sweeping in scope, encompassing “all” call metadata (telephone numbers of callers and recipients, time, duration and more, though not the substantive contents of any conversation). It is unfocused on any designated target of investigation. It is prospective, requiring reporting of future telephone calls that have not yet taken place. And as such, it would seem to exceed any reasonable presumption of what the consent of the governed would allow."

      link to

      If this is really an "unfocused" data collection then it is truly pernicious. But I'm not so sure that the lack of stated target in the order itself means that it is. I don't believe the target needs to be stated -- but that the law just presumes that there must be one.

      This is what the administration must be pressed on. If they can make a case that it was geared to something like the alleged Iran hacking of power grid and pipeline control systems they might have an arguable case for it as those do have potentially massive national security implications. Just about anything else would make the order unreasonably overbroad.

  • Turkey: It's about the Right to be Different (Soysal)
    • ".. the diversity of people there was tremendous: liberals, young Muslims, fans of rival soccer teams, gay and lesbian groups, grandmothers, students and housewives, Kurds and Turkish nationalists, and of course, citizens of Istanbul who are fiercely protective of their beloved city..."

      The downside of this is that diversity can look more promising than it really is -- so long as it is defined by a common 'enemy' -- in this case Erdogan or his party -- but what happens in that absence?

      The opposition should take heed of Egypt's recent history after the fall of Mubarak -- most of them would not say now that they got what they wished for.

      The opposition needs a unifying leadership which it does not seem to have, without it success may lead to paralysis.

      Their motto should be "reform yes, revolution no" -- to demand more than modest changes from Erdogan and his party may be unwise.

  • Defiant Erdogan Risks Turkish Economy, as Unions enter the Fray
    • There are many different measures of income inequality among nations and you can get different sort orders depending on which one is referred to.

      In the one of the latest cited below (fwiw) Turkey and the United States rate very high on the list:

      "The Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) maintains its own GINI index and related statistics for member countries. According to a 2011 OECD report, "over the two decades prior to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased by an average 1.7% a year in OECD countries. In a large majority of them, however, the household incomes of the richest 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, so widening income inequality." In the late 2000s, Chile had the highest GINI coefficient, after taxes and transfers, among OECD member countries. The United States, Turkey and Mexico came right before it. At the other end of the scale, Slovenia, Denmark and Norway led the ranking with the lowest levels of income inequality."

      link to

  • Syria as a Prisoner of Western History (Harms)
    • You're welcome -- although I don't think I would agree with the analogy of Hezbollah and Al-Nusra.

      Hezbollah does not seem to have an Islamic "ideology" comparable to Al-Qaeda or Al-Nusra -- their policies being governed by how they see their interests as a 'defender' of Lebanon against Israel -- requiring a broader alliance with Iran and Assad's Syria for that purpose.

    • Just to further clarify what may be an important distinction between Al-Nusra and Arar al Sham -- the latter group has taken pains to express a more "moderate" approach which would recognize a secular state in Syria that is consistent with Islamic law:

      "Ahrar al Sham’s Information Operations campaign has made a big deal about being more moderate than the Al Nusra Front. While overtly Islamist in character, they stress that they are willing to replace the Assad regime with a secular government, as long as Islamic law is established and observed."

      Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reported to be its principal benefactors.

      link to

  • Turkish Opinion Poll Finds Majorities Slam Erdogan policies on Alcohol, Syria
    • Apart from the 'lifestyle' issues on which Erdogan seems to have painted himself into a corner, I suspect he could do considerably more to improve his image on the 'political' side of the equation by taking a more public, definitive and substantive stand on the Israeli-Palestinian issues where his voice seems to have weakened coincident with Turkey's growing involvement with the anti-Assad rebels and alignment with U.S policy interests.

      Indeed the Turkish people have one of the lowest images of Obama and the U.S. of any country in the world surveyed by Pew Research and surely this issue plays no small part in that.

  • Taksim Square Protests in Turkey Spread to other Cities, Police accused of Brutality
    • It might be interesting to compare current policies and conditions in Iran and Turkey relative to their respective repression or expression of 'political' versus 'cultural' values.

      I am reminded of Herbert Marcuse's book One Dimensional Man in this regard.

      Although Iran remains as 'politically repressive' as ever (if not more), there appears to be a cultural and social revolution going on that may surprise some:

      Erotic Republic
      Iran is in the throes of an unprecedented sexual revolution. Could it eventually shake the regime?

      BY AFSHIN SHAHI | MAY 29, 2013

      link to

      Of course one of Marcuse's central thesis was that social 'liberation' was actually an effective tool for 'desublimating' political issues and energies.

      Turkey, on the other hand, seems to have become a pressure cooker due to both political repression and cultural repression.

      Erdogan might do well to ease up on the latter if he expects to maintain any real political control of the population.

    • Just to add a little more to the picture here -- Turkey ranks as the number 1 'prison state' for Journalists (with Iran a close second), according to the 2012 census from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

      link to

      Unemployment among youth (under 25) is twice that for those older than 25:

      link to

  • McCain's Photo Op raises Questions about Arming Syrian Rebels
    • On the bright side, at least he didn't get caught with any Al-Nusra flags or graffiti in the background.

  • Rafsanjani's Exclusion from Iran's Presidential Race a Sign of Creeping Totalitarianism
    • Thanks for that clarification Juan, I should have referred just to the Supreme Leader, which was the reference for my remark.

      By the way, my comment about Rafsanjani's statement may or may not be credible -- this link is extremely hard to corroborate:

      link to

    • Fwiw Iran's ayatollahs are elected by that body called the "Assembly of Experts".

      Ironically perhaps, at the time of Khamenei's election the chairman of that assembly was none other than Rafsanjani himself. So if one really wants to understand "power bases" here, it might be the 'politics' and relationships of that body itself that would appear most important.

      On a side note, while Rafsanjani's exclusion from the current election has caused a flood of reporting -- his subsequent statement that he never really wanted to run, was "pressured" by others to do so, and was "relieved" at no longer being a candidate has seen only a trickle.

    • It was precisely the influence of Mao and the Cultural Revolution that turned many of his inner circle against him.

      The public 'reverence' continued even after his death, but many of his key associates (the Gang of Four) which included his wife, were subsequently prosecuted.

      link to

      And see the paragraph regarding China here:

      link to

      "The cult of personality continued for a short time after Mao's death. His successor, Hua Guofeng also practised the cult of personality and was referred as "the brilliant leader Chairman Hua" (英明领袖华主席). Reforms in 1981 led to a deconstruction of his cult status and the Chinese Communist Party was averse to a cult of personality style rule lest it recreates the chaos of the Cultural Revolution."

    • I think the Iranians, like the Chinese, have long had an in-built disdain for 'cults of personality' and prefer to operate in a more collegial environment.

      Now both Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad and his protege have raised hackles there. What makes it ironic is that Rafsanjani was certainly once a member of this inner circle -- but obviously no longer.

      To contrast such systems with more nominally 'democratic' ones can be useful.

      Which tend to be more aggressive, militaristic or 'imperial' in their behavior -- the more autocratic and 'closed' ones -- or the nominally 'democratic' ones with powerful militaries?

      The United States and Israel here might be good examples to contrast with Iran and China.

      'Democracy' may not be all it's cracked-up to be.

  • Department of Justice Spying on AP Reporters' Telephone Contacts Threatens Democracy
    • "This is absolute fair game in my mind. They fully endangered the life of American citizens."

      Well that's what Holder would like us to believe. But then we have an interview with Janet Napolitano saying:

      The "device was always under control" and "no one in the United States was ever at risk because we did have control"

      link to

      I find it hard to reconcile the two.

  • Has the Obama administration Given into Russia on Syria?
    • It doesn't seem to me that the administration is doing anything more, or less, now (in material terms) than before. But with Kerry at the State Department, rather than Clinton, there is less rhythmic breast-beating and more traditional "diplomacy".

  • Obama's War on Whistleblowers who are trying to out Government Waste, Fraud (Van Buren)
    • "What do words mean in a post-9/11 world?"

      The lead sentence here reminded me of the question that Jared Lee Loughner asked Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords --

      "What is government, if words have no meaning?"

      Does this make us all borderline sociopaths, or is there just something fundamentally wrong with the culture we have come to accept as the "norm"?

  • China and the Israel-Palestine Conflict: Enter the Dragon?
    • Thank's for the link Mark. Here's a quote from it:

      Sino-Israeli Ties

      "China today places a high-premium on its relationship with Israel, a marked shift from the periods of hostility and suspicion that characterized Sino-Israeli ties during the Cold War. Israel also sees China as an important partner, especially in the economic arena: China is Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and the volume of trade between China and Israel represents the sixth largest in the world (Xinhua News Agency, November 8, 2006). China’s vocal criticism of Israel with respect to the question of Palestine, the most recent criticism occurring during the latest conflict in Gaza, appears to have done little to scuttle one of the world’s most robust trading relationships, and there are no indications that China (or Israel) is interested in seeing this dynamic change."

      Need I (we?) say more?

    • It rather sounds like the Chinese are trying to step into the "honest broker" role the U.S. had assumed and failed at for so many years.

      The rhetoric is high-sounding and the sentiments noble, but so long as they are trying to achieve some sort of diplomatic balance and Mr. Nice Guy approach -- they will do nothing to move Israel off any of their entrenched policies.

      To do that China would have to render serious economic and material aid to the Palestinians and choose sides in this stalemate with substantive policies and consequences.

      But that is not in their nature, so don't expect much to change. This is a Paper Dragon indeed.

  • CNN Fail: Imaginary "Dark Males," "Accents," and "Arrests" Haunt Reporters
    • Great analysis. Makes me glad I don't waste my time on that type of media -- there are better things to do and better places to be.

  • The Top other thing Netanyahu Needs to Apologize For: The Gaza Blockade
    • Clearly the Syrian conflict has displaced the plight of the Palestinians as Erdogan's primary concern.

      The United States and Israel will need Turkey's full support and coordination if they are to put the squeeze on Assad in their respective border regions, particularly if any "safe zones" are to be established.

      On Israel's side the chemical weapons pretext is sufficient rationalization for them.

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