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Total number of comments: 75 (since 2013-11-28 15:54:38)


Showing comments 75 - 1

  • The worst thing about Year One of Trump: Fascistization of Cable News
    • You've identified a key dynamic that has allowed the news organizations to be essentially co-opted by more and more extreme versions of the right. What I don't see is a counter-dynamic that works in the opposite direction. This suggests a rather dismal prognosis.

  • Exodus of Climate Scientists to France only the Beginning if GOP Guts Grad Education
    • The US educational system contrasts with the that in the rest of the world in several important respects.

      1) It's slow. Elsewhere, specialization begins early --- right out of high school, even before. Americans go through broad undergraduate programs with all kinds of exposure across the disciplines, and with many possibilities for relatively late commitment to specialty.

      2) The end result is that a lot of organized education takes place in graduate school.

      3) Researchers in the US are for the most part located in universities rather than in educationally-isolated outside research centers, as elsewhere.

      The consequence is that the US generally has the best, most active graduate programs in the world. Ambitious international students flock to them, indeed in some fields constitute their core population. The effect of this dynamism on the US and the world has been gigantic.

      It's easy to see in this outline a number of features that the rightwardly inclined do not like. Destroying the system of graduate programs in the US will put the final touches on the project of collapsing the educational system, which has already achieved the near defunding of the state universities, catastrophic for social mobility. It's a sure bet that the overall outcome will be, to put it euphemistically, transformative.

  • Tillerson tells Iraqi Shiite Militias to "go home." Sad.
    • Great catch. One thing to remember is that Tillerson is a CEO type. My impression, from CEO's-I-have-known, is that they occupy a kind of queen-bee position, surrounded by minders, helpers, interpreters, and subservients of all kind. They sit at some considerable remove from operations and management and expect their whims and commands to carry immediate force. Very poor preparation for confronting a real world filled with independent actors.

  • No, Trump, British Crime isn't going up because of Muslims
    • This is certainly true in the sense that he has no interest in constraining his fabulations to reality. But one might wonder if facts are indeed relevant, but in a perverse sense: it may actually be important to him that almost everything he says is false, even obviously so.

      I see two benefits.

      (1) Blatant falsehood greatly lengthens the front page time of any particular assertion, as it is stated, then scrutinized, then doubled-down on, and so on till the next.

      (2) Because of this extended sequence, his underlings are compelled to back him up. This ties them more closely to him, as they have publicly debased themselves and thereby reduced themselves to subservience. And it makes them expendable, as they have shown themselves to be trash, in anticipation of the inevitable downgrading or firing.

      Remember he's been doing this (successfully!) for a long time --- it's a highly polished, automated routine.

  • Top 5 Trump Secrets of Sadism, from Trans People to Priebus to Police
    • This is an important step away from the flabby, moralistic 'narcissism' analysis that has been endlessly repeated. The danger to us all --- physical danger --- is palpable.

      In support, I recommend Josh Marshall's careful minute-by-minute timeline of the Priebus firing event.
      link to

  • After Trump Massacres in Mosul, Campaign against ISIL Halted
    • Isn't this pretty much the way that every city has fallen in the re-take effort?

  • Dirty, Hot, Deadly: The Real Trump Scandal is What He's done to the Environment
    • Worth keeping in mind a point that Ryan Lizza made a couple of months ago: a very large portion of Trump's policy is what any standard-issue modern R would be doing in his place, with complete control of government. Trump brings virulence, nihilism, incompetence, and a court of comic-book level thinkers to the WH --- but the institutional Rs are solidly behind all the internal policies (is that the right word?) that you cite.

      For anyone whose pessimism is wavering, a glance at the line of presidential succession is like peering into Miltonic depths: Pence>Ryan>Hatch>Tillerson>Mnuchin>Mattis. Like some 3rd world country, we have to get all the way to the General to get even a glimmer of rationality.

  • Trumpworld Fake News: Iran attacks US Navy, Iraqis Massacre Bowling Green
    • It's tempting to admire, or at least marvel at, Conway's fluent psychopathy. She fits the tale right in with the American idea that ubiquitous terrorists are likely to bomb a mailbox down the street at any moment --- even as the cosmopolitan schemers of media hide the heinous act from public view.

      There must be some way out of here: but what is it?

  • The Sadism of Racist Exclusion: Courts Temporarily Block Trump
    • Bannon and Trump are trying out a governing strategy rather new to the US: rule by decree. It's clear that the President can issue illegal (even unconstitutional) orders and get action on them well before any legal or legislative machinery clanks into semi-effective reaction.

      Now we have Bannon disconnecting the military and intelligence services from the NSC, on which he has installed himself through the addled and complaisant Trump.

      Ryan and McConnell stand between us and outright autocracy. Any bets on what happens next?

  • Torture works . . . to produce Fake News (and that's how we Got into Iraq)
    • A valuable reminder that the level at which Cheney- Bush operated was not higher than that of Bannon-Trump. Obama bears full responsibility for giving them an official pass, ensuring recurrence, or worse. And here we are.

  • Translating Trump's inaugural Speech from the original German
    • File under 2nd-time-as-farce or at least 'theatrical performance'. Germany wasn't stabbed in the back, but the rightists had some distant connection with some things that actually happened --- they did lose WWI, they did experience severe economic woes, etc.

      The US today doesn't remotely resemble Trump's (OK: Bannon's) comic book vision. We have a new kind of Potemkin Village -- one made to look like a disaster area, to cover up strength, prosperity, and freedom from serious threat. Onto this crudely painted stage-set marches Trump, the community-theater Mussolini, with his jutting jaw and put-on pout. Yet the act will almost certainly destroy the reality it masks and distorts.

      Cole's voice is ever more essential.

  • Meryl Streep calls out Trump: Having Bully-in-Chief Coarsens whole Culture
    • While it's true that the Republicans, spearheaded by the Trumpista vanguard, are doing all they can to turn the diversity, richness, and humanity of modern America into a sewer of vituperation, we are in fact in a kind of honeymoon period. In two weeks will have the actual power to destroy and, and as they thrash and fumble, tonal questions will become secondary.

      I hope we will be able to do more than make noise, but as in the great dark periods of the past --- think of the massive, futile resistance to the Vietnam slaughter --- it's not clear that we are more than hapless onlookers.

  • Why do GOP Presidents get to go Hard Right, and Dems are just GOP Lite?
    • Still not seeing the 'why' of it. Obama wins another merit badge for helping Mitch McConnell cross the street. Hillary tells us we will be stronger together with her, presumably in small, realistic increments. Sanders runs an issues-based campaign and is stridently ridiculed. The DNC cannot hire a tech staff that reaches high-school hacker levels of competence.

      I profoundly do not get it.

  • No, America, it wasn't Russia: You did it to Yourself
    • In a multi-agent situation with many actions and interactions, the notion of cause is hard to pin down. Particularly when there is no chance of repeating the experiment.

      The Russian/Wikileaks email dump kept the magic word 'email' in the news, ousting other themes from coverage. This was not nothing, and, though it may not have had the weight of Hillary's basket and various other fumbles and bumbles, it clearly played its role in thickening and sustaining the general miasma.

      How this could be allowed to happen is beyond me.

  • US and Russia plan Joint Air Command to hit Terrorists in Syria
    • Could it be that Trump's Putinophily is merely ahead of its time? What else lies ahead of us in the looming, mutually beneficial US-Russian alliance?

  • A Story of Two Syrian Sieges: Manbij and East Aleppo
    • "On Wednesday, some 28 Daesh fighters were killed."

      I'm always amazed at the small scale of casualties in this war. Daesh stands aside Syria and Iraq like a colossus, apparently able to hold on against armies and air forces with minimal troops of their own. Perhaps you could give us an account of this strange phenomenon?

  • Arab Youth view ISIL as major Mideast Obstacle, want less Religion
    • Here's a worry, which I hope you might address: the gap between youth and power --- and whether it will ever be closed.

      Reading your argument, one is immediately reminded of the situation in the US, where the younger segment of the population always measures as socially liberal, even (I believe) in the large swaths of the country conspicuously under the control of reactionaries. Looking at the 'youth' --- under 40, under 30? --- one might think that the deeply-rooted nastiness of US social mores has simply evaporated. Yet in many areas we are seeing the legal rebirth of a grim backwardness that's not been public for 50 years or more.

      The depressing model behind the worries is, of course, 1968 and thereabouts. Youth and a lot more than youth was vociferously, actively against the war in Vietnam and everything that went with it. Not only were the effects nil, but by 1980 we got Reagan and the decades of rightwing ascendancy that followed, in which militarism continued its triumphant march and liberalism was bleached out of the Democratic party. The youth of that era made plenty of noise in the streets, but hardly reached the levers of power, and if in power, then no longer very distinct from their predecessors.

      Who would have thought then that we'd be what we are now? --- looking very much the same, in many ways, as status quo ante that was supposed to have been transformed.

  • 30 Americans die worldwide from Terrorism annually, while 130,000 die by accident
    • Problem is, the human cognitive system in its native, automatic mode doesn't really do numbers. It works by salience and sears into memory what is memorable, not what is statistically significant. It is folly, of course, to develop policy based these natural inclinations and incapacities. But it makes for good politics.

      The real problem is to get the actual risks across to the mass of onlookers in a way that can be grasped viscerally. This is probably as difficult as getting people to see the self-interest that they're voting against.

  • Ghoul's Glossary: A Donald Trump Translation Dictionary
    • Curiously, with the latest extrusion of nastiness, we've moved into the trahison des clercs phase. The obvious is too obvious, so we learn from various know-better types that Trump is merely confusing words (Pinker:WaPo) and that fascism is a muddled term (Marshall:TPM). Is this somehow part of the normal process of social and intellectual disintegration that accompanies these insurgencies?

  • Top 10 Signs the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
    • "Corruption" should be set beside "terrorism" as a term of art used to describe Bad Things done by Bad Guys. There's a whole system of culture-soaked terminology built along these lines --- if there's a modern Devil's Dictionary somewhere, it would need constant updating. (The latest addition might be "carpet-bombing" which we learn from the NYT editorial today is something we never, ever do.)

      There's a positive side, too: the US is a "democracy" even though it is governed by a minority which has struggled mightily and successfully to keep the majority out of the process. Even on the liberal side, it's OK to speak of our "democracy" as being "threatened" but scarcely permitted to insist that the democratic illusion is over and has been for quite a while. The whole thing has an Orwellian flavor, but it's more conceptual than linguistic --- it's just unthinkable that we share properties with the Bad Guys and the vocabulary adapts to this unshakable, self-defining belief.

  • How the NRA is harming American Security: Mass Shootings as Serial Terrorism
    • This is, alas, one of those situations that seems hopeless. It's not due to just one faction that has temporarily gained ascendancy and can be removed. There's an interlocking triad (at least): the manufacturers, the god-and-guns voters along with their representatives, and the rightist elements in the courts, especially of course the Supreme Court, with its bizarre interpretation of the amendment relating to a "well-regulated militia." The effect is that we can't even have safe areas in the country, where rationality is allowed to prevail. If you see even a glimmer of a way out, I'd like to hear about it.

  • Did Daesh/ ISIL's Paris attacks bolster al-Assad? Spain calls him 'lesser of evils'
    • Isn't it an inescapable fact that there are no nonbarbaric actors on the Syrian scene? Hasn't US policy foundered on the fantasy that there are 'moderate' forces to be wooed and built up?

      In a situation like this, Realpolitik would seem to be the only Politik. The greatest danger to us --- and I would like to hear realistic ways to deal with it, since none have presented themselves --- is the triumph of the right, which may be equally unstoppable.

  • Has the GOP given up on winning the Presidency? Carson, Trump on Muslims, Latinos
    • Important fact here, which Cole is right to bring to the fore: the GOP doesn't need the presidency to achieve its goals. It has both houses of congress, the supreme court, and much of the rest of the federal judiciary. Just as significant is its stranglehold on the states: from a WaPo article of May 4, 2015 (Cillizza), one learns that they currently control both houses in 30 states and have split control in 8 others, a startling figure and a major increase since 2008 (doubling the amount of double control). This means that their current strategy is paying off handsomely and that there is little substantive pressure to change it.

      What's astonishing is the success, and the continuing success, of the rightwing penetration of the US polity, and the complementary diminution of nonrightwing presence. The brute facts of who holds the political power should always be right in front of us when we set out to talk about the US.

  • Trump Pledges to "Look into" Paranoid Charges of Muslim-American Terror camps
    • "Thought exprimnt: imagine Q with “Jews,” “Asians,” “blacks” etc & he doesn’t respond."

      I believe this is meant as a way of chastising the selective blindness of the media. But it is also, and perhaps even more significantly, a way for Trump to use this blindness to say what people really want to hear. "Moslems" is a cover term for the subhuman enemy, defined by intrinsic evil and an enmity toward all good things, accompanied by a burning desire to take them away from us. That is.... Jews, Asians, Blacks, Immigrants, Liberals, Yankees, whoever.

      Trump displaces the focus of hatred from one set of targets to another target that is right next to them. His listeners have no trouble grasping the intent.

  • Israel plans to tear down 13,000 Palestinian Buildings in Palestine
    • It's abundantly clear that there's an established and pervasive 'sense of things' that involves driving the Palestinians out of Palestine by various repetitively applied techniques. The interesting question at this point is whether there's a script, an explicit Generalplan that's being followed.

  • How the Israel Lobbies hurt U of Illinois-UC & 1st Amendment (Salaita Case)
    • There is one feature of the case that I've never seen addressed. It is very common in academia for tenured people to take a leave without pay for a year when they take a job elsewhere. Then if something goes wrong with the expected rubber-stamping during the first year, they can simply stay on at the institution where they have a permanent, secure job. Salaita was clearly the victim of injustice and worse, but I don't understand why he didn't follow this quite standard procedure.

  • Memo to Jeb Bush: It was W's Surge that created ISIL, not Hillary
    • Problem: Jeb is not offering empirical hypotheses subject to correction. He is assembling a story. Imagined events take place in an absolute moral space, without causality. Saddam was a Bad Man, therefore it was a Good Thing to demolish him. Similarly, the Surge was a Good Thing, and subsequent linked events cannot tarnish this. Of course, Jeb himself is just mouthing, semi-competently, doctrines that are being developed by others. But I think we can be certain that no amount of reasoning or evidence will cause him to swerve.

  • Trump Swiftboats McCain the Way W. Swiftboated John Kerry
    • "...we don’t know the test of character they faced and can’t speak to that."

      Bombing Hanoi was a test of character? I can remember the glory days -- lasting perhaps as many as 3 decades after WWII -- when people were held morally accountable for their actions.

      Trump is a madman, and his madness comes out in breaching the rules of public deference to all things military, but the fact remains that McCain was a poor airman cushioned by his father's rank.

      Trump's twist has a crazed samurai/Totenkopf flavor: he got captured! Death before surrender! No retreat! That's what we should be complaining about: the descent into overt fascism.

  • How the Washington Post got Taken in by Syria's Taliban
    • On the broader issue, are there really any 'moderate' factions in the struggle, or is this yet another of those hallucinations that the US seems to favor as the (public) basis for policy?

  • The Middle East Policy of President John Ellis "Jeb" Bush: Iraq, Iran Wars?
    • It seems almost a mistake to refer to "Bush's" policy, implying that he personally has something to do with it. Like his brother, he merely repeats - stumblingly - what he has been told to say. It would be a significant step in the direction of realism to avoid the personal possessive altogether, and to only refer to "the Bush team" or "whoever it is that makes up the policies he endorses."

  • Iraq: Kurds repel ISIL/ Daesh w/ help of the Shiite Militiamen they Distrust
    • A third point implied in the text may also deserve recognition. Crushing Daesh would presumably be a relatively straightforward task for an organized military that behaves properly. Iran is the major if not only candidate in the region. If they play their cards right, the Iranians could be the big winners. It's worth looking a few moves ahead, since Daesh is highly unstable and probably won't last long in the nation-state business.

  • Williams Affair: Reagan and Bush Lied about Military Records but Get a Pass
  • Iran-Iraq War 2.0? Iran Flies bombing Raids on Extremists in Iraq
    • The fight against Daesh requires a local, organized military force. It looks like only the Iranians fill the bill. So we can almost certainly expect more involvement, no?

  • Antarctica Glaciers Melting 3 Times Faster than 10 Years Ago
    • In case you want to read the actual paper, you can pay Wiley --which is, to put it delicately, not a nonprofit organization -- $6 for 48hrs of access, $15 for cloud read-only access, or $35 for the pdf. Let me guess that this research was funded in numerous ways by the government. Science marches on, but the piper must be paid.

  • Ferguson & Israel? Netanyahu Calls for Stripping Palestinian-Israelis of Citizenship
    • "The Nazis denaturalized many groups, including German Jews. Arguably, taking their citizenship rights was what made it possible for the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust."

      Perhaps you could expand on this point? Jews were a tiny minority in Germany (less than 1%). The Holocaust took place in Poland, where the Germans killed essentially the entire population of Jews, close to 3 million, in 1942, in the Baltics, and in regions of the Soviet Union. These actions took place in wartime conditions, were aided and abetted by the German Army, and had little to do with the niceties of citizenship status.

  • Middle East "Allies" decline to Commit Forces, Resources against ISIL
    • The most plausible conclusion is that the various Middle Eastern states see the existence of ISIS as being to their (internal) advantage. The guiding rubric seems to be 'all politics is local'. The US, engaged in its perpetual internal electoral drama of 'leadership' and 'standing tall', is stumbling around like a rube among the sharks. Bad luck for those living in the wrong place, outside the fictions.

  • Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense
    • Presumably what's needed is some kind of quasi-competent state apparatus in the north and west of Iraq, to which the citizens of that region feel loyalty. Will the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government provide it? Will the Shiite-dominated Iraqi 'army' be accepted as a defense force, should it even choose to fight? This doesn't seem likely. It appears the local citizenry regards them as a serious threat --- and they have their reasons.

      Could it be that the current 'caliphate' is a fairly natural region for a state of some sort, distinct from neighboring regions? And that the only hope is to establish one? Perhaps JC can comment on this speculation.

  • The New Jim Crow: Has the Right finally Repealed the Civil Rights Act?
  • Gaza: Israel has Left 1.7 mn. with no Clean Water, Little Electricity
    • Eliminating an undesired population through deprivation and disease was a major tool of the 19th and 20th century role models that are being imitated by Israel. The unique spin they bring to the process is gradualism, implacable claims of victimhood, and reliance on external funding.

      It's important at this point, if difficult, to look beyond the local horror of small-scale massacres and see the overall program for what it is. Reports like this one are an important contribution to our knowledge of what's happening at the most fundamental level.

  • Israel Bombs Gaza back to Stone Age: Razes only Power Plant & Plunges Strip into Darkness
    • Is murder really 'punishment'? It's possible we should retire that designation. No schools, no hospitals, no shelter, no electricity, no water, no sewage treatment. No great analytical skill is required to connect the dots here.

  • Gaza: Why a 'Cease-Fire' is Not enough
    • Aren't their strategic goals pretty much the same as their 19th and 20th century role models, and pretty much the same as they've always been? To rid a territory of its inhabitants. Each attack makes further strides toward rendering Gaza nonsustainable --- the pretext doesn't matter ("Hamas", "tunnels", whatever). As for those who live there now, every depredation visited upon them is their own fault, no? -- so morality dictates that it's their own responsibility to save themselves if they can.

  • Mosul w/out Christians for First time in 1,900 Years as Radical Fundamentalists Threaten Minorities
    • Suppose, as seems likely, that the Iraqi army is not any kind of organized military force at all --- just a ghost structure built of corruption and delusion, erected after all the competent (or even semi-competent), experienced people were ejected from the army by the US occupation authorities. Who then is going to unseat ISIS, which gives signs of being organized? Not the ragtag 'militias'. One could even imagine a collapse so thorough as to include Baghdad and the central government, which would certainly earn the name of disaster.

      Two options come to mind, and I'd appreciate comment on their plausibility. One is the Syrian army. This seem quite improbable, giving its current engagement in protecting Assad by destroying much of Syria. The other is the Iranian army. Presumably, a few divisions of actual troops, with actual officers and with air support, could squelch ISIS. This seems politically dodgy on multiple fronts: the Sunni-dominated areas where ISIS has its hold will not welcome them or cooperate; the US and Saudi Arabia would go bonkers. If neither military option is possible, it looks like we're back to disaster as the most likely outcome.

  • Obama Prepares for Drone War in Iraq
    • Obama may not be old enough to remember Vietnam, but isn't that why we have books? There's really no excuse for parrotting 1964 in 2014.

  • Obama's Just Right Foreign Policy
    • It's amazing how even in a reasonable take like this one, there a background presupposition that the US foreign adventures of the postwar era somehow provide a model of strength that should only be regretfully abandoned because the world has now become such a different, multipolar place. The merely factual history of interventions, machinations, coups, wars, and 'intelligence failures' is almost unremittingly dismal. The rational onlooker might say: maybe it's time to try something that could at least have a less direct relationship to disaster.

  • The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won't Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You?
    • The upside of the re-emergence of racist talk in American discourse post 2008 is its unashamed explicitness. The foghorn not the dogwhistle is the political instrument of the 21st century.

      "Hitler gave racism a bad name: before Hitler everyone was a racist." So a sardonic friend once remarked. We're now very much post-post-Hitler. This is all part of the Great Transition, getting over the liberal oddities of the period 1930-1980 in US history.

  • Kerry Blasts Climate Denialists, equates Climate Change with Terrorism, WMDs
    • Blast from the past! Looking to the left and looking to the right at the top of your page (2/18/2014), I realize that 2016 will be Kerry vs. Romney. Or at least, they'd like it to be. Very 21st century to circle around tightly, chasing the re-invented tail.

  • Walt Whitman's "Salut au Monde" (Poem of the Day)
    • Thanks! Readers might enjoy the droll take by Borges on something like the same theme in his story "El Aleph." The text can be found on the web.

  • Planet Tahrir: The Coming Mass Demonstrations against Climate Change (Klare)
    • "In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution."

      Why should we imagine that 'mass upheavals' will lead to an unambiguously positive and revolutionary change? A few examples would be comforting. Usually they lead to a state of instability which settles into control by a new elite --- or, often enough, the same old one, invigorated.

  • American Writers are Self-Censoring to Avoid NSA Scrutiny (McCauley)
    • Any ordinary soul who doesn't avoid certain topics and phrases in email is playing a dangerous game. It used to be that 'email is forever and easily replicable' was the chastening constraint. Everybody knows now that at least the NSA and are keeping & mining your text, and they are not your friends.

  • It wasn't Arafat who was Assassinated but the Palestinian People
    • "There will be no Palestine, and the Palestinians are doomed to be a stateless people, a people without the right to have rights."

      As JC has himself established, never more potently than through the maps which show the transformation of a green region into a salting of green dots, this has the status of simple fact. So it's time to recalibrate away from a tone of crypto-optimistic outrage, and simply take it as established: a premise from which conclusions may be coldly drawn.

  • How the US Government Betrayed the Constitution and invented an Imaginary Fascist One
    • There may be a simple dynamic here that, although it subserves fascism in this case, is not of a piece with it. Namely: people can be counted on to use the tools they have in hand, and also (alas) not to spend a lot of time assessing and dealing with the problems that face them. It's technically feasible to gather immense amounts of data, and this gives the appearance of being a vigorous intelligence activity. It's of little interest to the doer whether there's an actual favorable outcome, as long as there's hustle and expenditure, which there is in plenty.

      9/11 happened because the FBI and CIA were not in communication with each other, because the mentally ill Cheney was in charge and in the grips of delusions about the capabilities of non-state actors, and even perhaps because the Republicans made every effort to diminish Clinton's effectiveness in the late 90's. There was plenty of intelligence of exactly the right kind. But post 9/11 a few quiet organizational changes were not going fill the bill. Along the same lines, replacing professional interrogators with bumbling torturers might not seem like the most effective course of action --- but effectiveness was not the top priority.

  • How America's 'Espionage Empire' is Paid for: The 'Black Budget' (Queally)
    • With nothing more than simple competence and functional lines of inter-agency communication, the 9/11 attacks would have been stopped. The most effective countermeasure? -- locking the door to the pilot's cabin. With standard interrogation techniques used by trained interrogators, the network could have been unwound rapidly. With simple, direct tactics, Osama bin Laden would have been caught at Tora Bora. With attention to the obvious, the assault on Irag would have never even been contemplated.

      The $50B/yr --- or make it $75B/yr, all told --- seems like one more chapter in an increasingly intricate history of avoidance.

  • Military-Ruled Egypt Opposes US Strike on Syria
    • Putting aside that fact that no limited, punitive strike has ever punished anyone into good behavior and can only become effective when unlimited, we have to credit Team Obama with reaching an astonishing level of paint-yourself-into-a-public-corner blundering.

      It would be really interesting to know who is generating this kind of 'policy'.

  • Eight things to consider before intervening in Syria (ECFR)
    • Isn't it really a lot simpler than this? If we know one thing about air strikes, it's that it takes a whole lot of them to do serious damage. There's simply no way that Team O's flyswatter-level attack is going to have any military effect.

      So don't do it.

  • Is the US Government the Managing Committee of the Pirate Banks?
    • It doesn't seem completely right to speak of The American President as "captive to powerful interests." That's like saying that the actor playing Hamlet is captive to the script. The actor might have personal 'instincts' in the sense that, were he in a similar situation, he'd do something different. Nothing could be more irrelevant to the job.

      It's increasingly plausible to think of Obama in this way. He gave a stirring performance as The Democratic Candidate back in '08. Elected, he embraced the role of American President with the same level of commitment.

      As a thought experiment, it might be worth while to ponder this question: will the US ever have a progressive president? I'm not seeing how this could realistically come about, given the current machinery and ownership of the state.

  • Police Clear Taksim Square: Turkey's Protests and the Neoliberal Market (Cole interview)
    • We seem to be in a kind of anti-60's. The occupy movement is wiped out in 2 weeks of "uncoordinated" police action, all local authorities using the same federally-supplied equipment and the same tactics(and therefore in no need of coordination). Across the world, longings for democracy, or at least representation, are expressed, crushed or supplanted, and fade. Authoritarian structures refine their techniques, and nobody much cares, as along as trade flourishes. Most curious.

  • Woman in Red (Turkish Police Spray Tear Gas on Modern Young Protester)
    • "Having technically and tactically advanced police serving a conservative government is among the paradoxes against which the young protesters are mobilizing."

      I'm not convinced that this is a paradox, except verbally. 'Conservative' regimes want and need the latest means of projecting force --- ignorance of modern military technology is not one of the virtues of the past that they wish to 'conserve'.

      Perhaps the term 'conservative' ought simply to be retired. It tends to denote little more than an authoritarianism that draws its sustaining myths from a fictionalized past. We have 'leftist' commonly used for their more-or-less opposite numbers who lay claim to an equally fictional and inauthentic future. Maybe we should work to rehabilitate 'rightist' as a term of ordinary discourse.

  • The Conservative Logic of Ferguson's Smears of Gays, Muslims, Obama and Krugman
    • Lost in the '30's tonight? The 20's? Ferguson's line is doubly weird in that it is long absent from the attitudes associated with serious universities, which are by and large islands of anxiety-free diversity.

      I suspect alcohol and the loss of boundaries that comes with too-long adulation: playing out over a substrate of Mitt-like opportunism.

  • WaPo says Gasoline Price Increase Mysterious, Ignores US blockade of Iran Oil!
    • This is a striking insight into a kind of systematic blindness. Do standard outlets ever focus on the broader effects of policies that are deemed intrinsically noble?

      U.S.wars are treated as essentially free. And the massive, absurd reaction to 9/11 cost the U.S. trillions, apparently.

      By contrast, any government steps to sustain a decent society must be viewed first and foremost as expenditures of our vital essence -- money.

      One could imagine that this asymmetry is driven by cynical calculation on somebody's part -- but more likely, as the newspaper level, it's just an ethos.

  • Top Ten Republican Myths on Benghazi that Justify Hillary Clinton's Anger
    • What's interesting, if not new, is how reckless the Rs are in pushing an internal advantage.

      It's hard to construct a rationale for their behavior: 'rationale' in the sense of the word that retains a connection to 'rational' and avoids reference to cynicism, stupidity, and mental illness.

      This is also one more confirmation of the under-noted fact that "all-lies-all-the-time" was not just a campaign strategy.

  • Alex Jones, Gun control, and White Terrorism
    • Anhistorical wishful thinking. The revolting colonies won with a paid, trained army and a lot of help from foreign professionals, especially the French, whose fleet was not sailed by farmers. Washington was particularly unenthusiastic about guerrilla-type war.

      Militias were notoriously unreliable, not just because they went home to farm but because they tended to flee the battlefield.

  • Republicans Tip world off to covert CIA Role in Libya
    • Too much to hope for, but isn't it about time that the US govt took steps to deal with rightist elements embedded in its political structure that are seeking to undermine it?

      That's how we'd put it if we were looking at another country.

      Whatever the laws are in the letter, it must be the case that the executive branch has the resources to harass these enemies of the state into ineffectiveness. Come on, Dems, let's see some spine --- or at least hints of a nervous system.

  • Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect
    • "In the older model of Newtonian physics, small events have small effects and large events have large effects, so you wouldn’t expect a minor action to produce big changes."

      Newtonian/Modern isn't quite the right distinction here. After all, the weather works on purely Newtonian principles. Newtonian gravitation in the celestial sphere also gives splendid, incomprehensibly complicated effects of the type you allude to when more than 2 bodies are involved. An excellent, accessible reference is Ivar Ekelund, Mathematics and the Unexpected.

  • Tampa Area Republicans terrified of Tea Party, Ryan (Guzzo)
    • What's the support for the demographic & structural claims in this article? Guzzo seems to have his heart in something like the right place, but his methodology appears to involve little more than talking to a very small number of people who view the TP as social inferiors. Unreliable in the best of times, selective interviewing simply has no hope of penetrating, or even factually characterizing, the turbid TP phenomenon.

      This strategy ends up playing to the nostalgic trope of the decent Republican of yesteryear. True, we can't quite remember them having *done* very much that qualifies as decent in all those decades --- but it's comforting to live in a symmetric world where we all share the same "values" and differ politely over details of implementation.

      I was at a suburban pool party at about this time during the last presidential election. A border state -- and not with Mexico or Canada. "He's really an illegal alien, you know" -- this drifts into my hearing from a table of nodding red-faced one- and two-percenters. Not a mullet in sight.

  • Dear Rep. King: Meet a Pregnant Rape Victim
    • Cole has made a connection with a major source of horror that I, at least, haven't seen discussed in the current abortion go-round.

      The only upside to 2012 politics is that the hardcore TP types are giving free public voice to their vileness, as if they were chatting among friends. Even Ryan may no longer be able to hide behind his vague numbers much longer.

      They are rapidly turning the election into a referendum on insanity. One wonders how it will play out.

  • How to Cuddle with an Elephant Seal
    • Best guess: juvenile, female, southern elephant seal.

      Grounds for belief: pictures at Google images + this:

      South Georgia has been a host for six species of seals. Elephant and fur seals are the most common.

      The Antarctic Fur Seal (Arctocephalus gazella) and the Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) have large breeding populations at South Georgia, whereas the Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) is restricted to a single, small colony.

      Non-breeding Leopard Seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) are recorded year-round, most especially during the winter months and may (rarely) have bred in the area. Crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus) and sub-Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus tropicalis) are very occasional visitors.

      link to

  • Dear President Obama: On Iran, Listen to the Israelis, not the Likud
    • Might it not be that this isn't primarily a matter of listening, but of political calculation? This could be one key:

      "The Likud actually got fewer seats than its main rival..."

      indicating that Netanyahu is himself not in a stable position and is posturing belligerently because he needs that posture. It's hard to believe that on either the US or Israeli side, the military is really behind the folly of attack. Obama has to thread the election season, which requires appearing security-strong, a status best obtained by bluster and gangland-style hits rather than big, messy, ambiguous bombing assaults. He's also can't be seen playing geek (anymore) to Netanyahu's Zed. So both "allies" --- I almost wrote "sides" --- are perhaps as interested in playing each other for local political advantage as they are in blowing up things in Iran, where the classic boa constrictor style of US-led economic warfare seems to be the actual order of the day.

  • South Carolina & Gingrich, Egypt & the Muslim Brotherhood
    • The uniquely valuable force of your discussion today is its emphasis on 'attribution'. The reality is that we have little or no idea why voters did what they did in either country. A set of stock explanations is pulled off the shelf, with great confidence, every time, making journalists seem like sober-faced socio-political analysts.

      One explanation virtually never considered is that voters are simply going with the perceived flow --- doing what others are doing, just because others are perceived as doing it. In the S.C. case, there's some evidence for this: the NYT all but headlines the fact: "Many Voters Moved to Gingrich With Days, or Moments, Left."

      The sense of flow, these days, is created not by personal contact but via media coverage. Gingrich surges! -- in media citations, and therefore in the polls, which are dutifully fed-back into yet-more-excited assertions of surging support, which yield yet more go-with-flow supporters, etc.

      Because there is nothing (or very little) in the way of solid support for any candidate, and because the campaign is structured as a sequence of local events with local topics dominant, the feedback bubble pops rather quickly. It seems to me that this gives a pretty good model of the wild fluctuations of the Republican primary season. The voters approach with some sort of generic orientation, and artifactual surges are created by the electoral process itself.

      It's worth noting that the illusion of substance is maintained by the standard polling techniques: these are essentially forced-choice quizzes. The choices are drawn from the motifs of the standard narrative. Not included: 'everybody else seems to be going for him -- or so I hear'.

  • Al-`Awlaqi Should have been Tried in Absentia
    • It seems to me that the procedure followed was significantly worse than 'lawless'. According to widely-published reports, a secret DOJ memo was constructed to justify its legality. What's happened, then, is the substitution of a star-chamber-like action, with full formal trappings, for 'due process'.

      We now apparently have a full-fledged legal mechanism in place, in the hands of whoever controls the executive branch. This is Obama's real contribution: building structure around the Cheney-Bush initiatives, which are therefore 'rogue' no more.

  • Casio Watches an Arresting Offense in Afghanistan: Wikileaks on Guantanamo
  • Afghan Protests against Qur'an-Burning cause Deaths
    • Does this perhaps represent the spread of mass protests, albeit with a violent edge, from the Mid-east proper to Afghanistan?

      If so, we could have the US more-or-less supporting peaceful transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, actively supporting violent transition in Libya, covertly supporting violent suppression in the Saudi area, and itself the object of mass civil pressure in Afghanistan (and therefore itself acting to suppress?). Yikes.

  • Arab League Requests UNSC to Impose No-Fly Zone
    • The military necessity is clearly to neutralize Qaddafi's advantage in machinery -- airplanes, tanks, ships. NFZ is a kind of metaphor for that.

      Don't the members of the Arab League themselves have sufficient forces of the right kind to do something useful on their own hook?

  • The Karzai Problem in Afghanistan: Wikileaks
    • It may be a bit of stretch to look for an over-arching cause structuring US actions at this point. To a large extent, we are enmeshed in a dynamical system, where the current state is calculated from the immediately previous state, rather than from a global goal.

      We are in Afghanistan today because we were there yesterday. It's hard to break the dynamic or even steer it. Global goals appear as post hoc explanations. Lacking a sudden change of phase -- like the one signaled by the arrival of the NVA in Saigon -- we can hope that the energy in the system dissipates through friction of various sorts and the whole thing just winds down. The consequences, of course, will not dissipate in the same way.

  • Blair, Hitchens Debate Religion
    • There are two very distinct questions mingled here -- only one of which has any kind of answer.

      1. Truth. An unassailable argument against religion is that it depends on propositions that are false, meaningless, or incoherent. It's just a bad idea, pure and simple, to give up on rationality and on the only methods we've ever developed that leads us to facts about the world.

      2. Utility. Has the practice of religion had a net positive or a net negative effect? Is it good or bad, better or worse (than what?)? This question is unanswerable because there's no measure that can be applied (piling up anecdotes is not a replacement), and because we're in a forced choice situation where the effects of the choices are unknown and unknowable. Hitchens does no one a favor by fulminating on this almost meaningless question.

  • McChrystal Drama is Sideshow;
    Can Obama define a realistic Goal?
    • Here's a follow-up question: what would a "realistic set of goals" consist of? We can enumerate the possibilities easily enough ourselves... should any at all come to any mind.

      I'd suggest that Afghanistan represents the typical situation in which global 'goals' are generated post hoc to cover for a complex dynamical process that is dominated by a multitude of contending forces and incentives, themselves often quite local in scope if not in impact.

      The military -- one of the actors now and no mere tool -- has set up shop in Pentagonistan, a wealthy country all of its own that overlies the Afghan wretchedness, where new hardware and software is beta-tested in an endless live-fire exercise, where the officer corps gets its promotion-worthy combat cred, where McChrystal Pasha and his like inflate their theories of dominion and control, cushioned by inexhaustible billions. They don't need goals; they have plentiful incentives to stay the course from week to week, month to month, year to year.

      Other networks of advantage, real and imagined, can surely be discerned in the worlds inhabited by each of the parties to the situation, starting with simple inertia (change itself being costly) and branching out in many directions, at many scales.

      The question, then, is what the use would be of declaring a set of goals, even 'realistic' ones, should they exist. Perhaps they could serve temporarily as a force in the local calculus, pushing us to get out sooner rather than later; but we shouldn't think of the situation as one controlled by long-term goals, so that all we have to do is pick the right ones to control it.

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