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Total number of comments: 1116 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:39)

Travis Bickle

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  • Friedman: Does Iran's Quds Force really Control four Countries and is Israel-Iran War Near?
    • Remember, there are people who believe very deeply in creating their own reality. From wikipedia we learn (sic) that as of late 2016 Iran controlled 70,000 troops (15,000 Iranian military) and controlled another 250,000 "militia and agents" in Syria through payroll. The source for this was the Gatestone Institute, with John Bolton it's (still?) chairman. link to

    • The 'thinking' of people like Friedman and Martin Indyk (see his recent essay in The Atlantic, (empowered by their eminently even-handed and Truth Seeking EIC Goldberg), can be quite useful. However, one needs to factor in their biases, goals, and the context they are evidently endeavoring to construct for the exercise of Israel prerogatives.

      Iran represents no existential threat to Israel, but they certainly do represent a threat to Israel's established way of doing business, and that threat really is set to increase going forward. For Israel, this is a very real thing.

      So, it is not unreasonable to see this sort of rhetoric, and the reality of events, as prelude to a more direct conflict with Iran, given their increasing influence, which this post may minimize, but cannot deny. These guys are just laying the groundwork.

  • The Hannity Case is so Serious it Requires a Consumer Boycott of his Advertisers
    • PS:::: Here's a breakdown of how D and GOP spending is being deployed for key House seats in November. The spending on both sides is about equal, but people living in these battleground districts can now begin to gird themselves and organize appropriately for what they will be facing.

    • Taking the House really is too much to hope for. See: link to although gains may well be made. There is also a link there for some more traditional and easier to parse handicapping.

      Should the House fall, it won't be by much, and there would be too many indies to represent a consolidated threat to the GOP agenda. Whatever happens there, they seem to be banking on holding the Senate, especially for the impact judicial appointments will have over generations. Note how young Gorsuch is. However incompetent Trump is on other areas, with appointments he is getting things done.

      It's hard to factor out Trump's personality when gauging his impact. But with the attempt, what you seem to find is how the GOP congress is running wild. What's happening isn't that much different than if someone more couth was in the White House. Not to say bringing about a nuclear war through spite or incompetence is small potatoes, but in terms of policy nothing would change if Pence were brought in.

  • Comey did it to himself & Us, by gutting Privacy, Encryption, & 4th Amendment
    • "Human beings are very good at forgetting their own misdeeds and building narratives that justify themselves..."

      Very insightful, well-integrated, and important thoughts in this post. The above line frames the core issue. Not to get all Freudian, but defense of the Ego drives pretty much everything else, so being able to control that imperative strikes me as the single thing essential for transcendence, or progress, whatever someone's political orientation.

      There have been other posts or comments here lamenting the lack of critical thinking, or a good liberal arts education, seen as essential for a democracy. But I don't think even those things are necessary, past the point of being able to read and write with nominal skill.

      Everything else becomes possible once one develops some insight to their own biases and blindspots. Like the man said, Know Thyself. From that point one can hope to avoid being manipulated by their Ego, or at least to grow and get past it whenever the wool is pulled. Growth becomes possible. They then have the ability, and inevitably will, eventually spot the behavioral patterns that have been recurring since the earliest histories of Greece, and become immune to them. Self governance becomes possible for themselves, and for society in general.

      Sadly, Comey missed the boat, and he still doesn't have a clue. Not to say he's especially lonely in that regard.

  • Reality Show violence in the Age of Trump: Striking Syria
    • If you start with the assumption that Israel more or less drives US policy in the area, things usually become clear. Doing everything they can to entangle the US in their own problems is the overarching motif of Israeli FP strategy, and the opportunity to extent that involvement would be a compelling one for them.

      Then there is the how Israel realistically fears the growing influence of Iran, now looming as close as the Golan Heights. Which all leads to Israel (perhaps willfully) being maneuvering into assuming the role of US military proxy against Russia. Israel would certainly like to have the US bear any burden for them, but in this case various pressures will be on them to do things the US is not in the position to do.

      In Syria there is this also idea of the US appearing dominant over Russia (which would be especially salient to Bolton). Since the apparently decisive presence of Russia in Syria, Russia presents a challenge to the broader assumption of US prerogatives, which would be awfully hard for this or any administration to swallow.

      Any action would not be all totally on Israel, of course, as they'll need US cover for anything involving Russia, but its hard to see them resisting the pressure from several directions to get directly involved in the Syrian mess.

    • Hey, you've had a lot of well-considered posts here, otherwise I'd not have written. In this case, I don't get your reference to the Steel Seizure Case, so tell me what I'm missing.

      Judge Jackson's three boxes distinguished between situations where the President has more or less authorization from congress. Obama asked for the approval of congress in Syria and did not receive it, but he still might've proceeded, accepting the deferral of congress as...well, deferral to his judgement (Jackson's middle box). In this case, there is the same explicit authorization (threadbare, to be charitable) that the AUMF could be tortured to provide that Obama had, but the authorization Trump is really relying on is the deferral of congress. It isn't as though he asked for their approval, but here its a given.

      In lieu of the congress exercising its prerogatives the executive will take and keep taking, indefinitely. The concept is called Adverse Possession, something that a bully like Trump understands and will gravitate toward instinctively. This attack joins a series of precedents set by prior presidents, and it stands to empower Trump for far greater abuses.

    • This does answer your question about whether Trump will lash out as a way of distracting people from Mueller et al. Incompetently, as usual, would be word, but it doesn't appear to even have that degree of intention behind it.

      It's not as though this will have any effect after the holes are filled and the debris swept up; there clearly was no strategic intent or impact. The carrier group set to arrive shortly will be in a position to blow up yet another $100M in missiles, so there is that. But the war is already over, as you noted, and this is just acting out.

  • Will Trump divert attention from Cohen Raid by attacking Syria?
    • Good point on body language. Eyes darting may indicate he is simply thinking and 'searching' for words. However, note the way he protectively clasps his arms around himself, and which issues seem to provoke it. It could be the room is cold, but neither Bolton or Pence is so uncomfortable.

  • Top 5 Ways Iran is not very much like Hitler's Germany
    • Seems to me that "worse than Hitler" remark was him rather ostentatiously pushing a button he was told not to forget to push. Not to say it was an inconsequential button.

      Nor that his intention is trivial or the affect, combined with everything else, is destined to be inconsequential. Remember that Vision 2030 thingee of his, which ties in nicely with the 10-15 year timeframe for meltdown he gave the other day.

      Say what you will, the guy seems to have a plan.

  • Saudi Prince: War with Iran in 10-15 Years w/out new Sanctions
    • Of course you're right. I like to think career civil servants in the foreign policy establishment can present policy makers with options based on what isn't that tough a situation to discern. Powers like Israel and KSA are like political sycophants throughout time, who are attempting to suborn and manipulate a stronger power to act against its own best interests to support their illegitimacies. The trouble is that the US today is politically corrupt, and there is no real sign of such efforts failing, or even that their influence is weakening in these regards.

      When MbS says 10-15 years, that may just reflect his own planning horizon. In other words, since it may take 10-15 years to bring the US around to the major military move they and Israel would need the US to do for them, he is simply sowing that seed in the US subconscious now.

      Iran can be tolerated in the near time, and there isn't much he (or Israel) can do anyway, other than a false flag provocation or more of these anemic, counterproductive proxy actions. Iran, unfortunately for him, has at this point economically adapted itself to sanctions and is essentially inoculated from more of them. With anything less than regime change, a la Iraq, they will simply be driven into tighter relationships with the rest of the world, as you note.

      Geopolitically, however, Iran must eventually be neutered for any hope of KSA regional dominance in the longer term. So, this statement becomes simply an honest reflection his long game, and suggests what we might expect.

  • Ultimate Hypocrisy: Saudi Crown Prince touts Religious Tolerance in NYC
    • I agree with your general observation, but here I would attribute MbS words and (superficial) actions more to outright cynicism about how the US policy stands to be manipulated. I had the chance to mix with a few such characters in their salad days and was struck by the glib confidence with which they assumed to handle other people, rather like chess pieces.

      That attitude would naturally be seasoned by maturity and experience with the world's complexity. Still, in the world of 'public diplomacy' in which he is now engaging (with I'm sure the steady guidance of some of the shrewdest PR people in business), each move can indeed be planned and calibrated for its impact on specific parties.

      So, let's just recognize his actions here for what they obviously are: MbS is here to mould US policy and guide it in a direction he can manage, and if he uses the various resources available to him properly he stands to be successful.

  • Let's call Bolton what he is, a War Criminal with Terrorist Ties, not just "Hawkish"
    • You have given short shrift to how manifestly extreme and rabidly dangerous this guy is. It is not a matter of whether we should left speechless, yet again: in the case of Bolton we should be scared shitless.

      A pattern has emerged in all of Trump's more consequential decisions, and especially his recent appointments. They are clearly calculated to set the US to fail, and fail disastrously, domestically and internationally, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum.

      It is as though Trump, or whomever is making these decisions, is organizing things so very bad things will become inevitable. It is as though he is consciously setting the US for any number of (apparently) spontaneous disasters in the near and more distant future.

      We have seen no real, objective evidence, on Trump being controlled by a belligerent foreign power. But his actions are fully consistent with that being the case.

  • Increasingly Ludicrous WH denial that Austin bombings were "terrorism"
    • Oh yes, I love how artfully 'state sponsorship' is included or omitted, depending on whose in the drivers seat and who needs to be delegitimized at the moment. That's the problem with your suggestion. Settling on any one definition obviates its rhetorical utility.

      After all, what else could 'Shock and Awe' have been? Speaking of which, notice how another 'T' word has been tortured until it confessed, allowing for the CIA director designate to be immune from the precedent of Nuremberg.

      I say all this not to infuriate or frustrate, rather just to encourage people to be really critical when treading around these issues. Now, more than ever, words are power.

    • Forcing something like this into the box of 'terrorism', or contriving to keep it out, both tend to be tendentious.

      The 'T' word itself is the problem, being so loaded and susceptible to manipulation. This discussion rather makes my point.

      There are so many politically self-serving definitions for terrorism, and the above may be one of the most even-handed and useful, since this sort of thing does need a label.

      The problem is the lack of any clear coercive focus. Kozinsky had that in spades, but those two people related to families involved with civil rights? It may turn out they were his focus, but it may also turn out his motivation was more personal spite than any political agenda.

      This was not just an act of criminality, but I'd keep my mind fully engaged, should it be necessary to label it terrorism for lack of a better word.

  • Cambridge Analytica as the Matrix: Information Dominance and the Next Level of Fake News
    • Scarily insightful. More like 'Divide & Conquer' taken to the next level. Is any semblance of participatory democracy any longer possible?

    • Page: 11
  • Trump, McCabe and our Permanent Constitutional Crisis
    • This is the logic leading to what would be the inevitability of a Pence presidency. If this scandal were so egregious that Trump, in all his shamelessness, felt compelled to fire Mueller, would the GOP countenance that level of corruption? Only if there were no other choice to implementing their agenda. But there is the one very slick option available, and they would own Pence, body and soul.

    • This is precisely what I'm thinking: Either there is a gargantuan scandal looming, big enough to pierce Trump's teflon shamelessness, OR, this is all a brilliant ploy to substantiate exactly the sort of wide ranging purge to which you allude.

      The question becomes, if it's the first case, would the republican establishment, having found someone that will sign whatever Mitch McConnell puts in front of him, then do the right thing? Makes you wonder just how low would Trump have to have gone before Pence would become an acceptable alternative.

      The way this games out, however, is that short of that moment Mueller gets axed with the GOP congress presumably holding Trump's back. This firing seems to be anticipating just that, and in practical terms Trump is clearly threatening Mueller. If Trump should pull that particular trigger we would indeed have to have a serious constitutional and societal reckoning.

      On the other hand, whomever may be pulling Trump's stings (which would have to be the case, because we have to assume he's personally just not that smart) may have the guile for the latter scenario. In that case, Trump would continue to build the drama as we now see, but allow for his eventual exoneration by Mueller, at which point he makes his move to consolidate control as you describe.

      Call me paranoid, but don't call me crazy. Events have been shaping up over the course of months to break one way way or the other.

    • As has been noted by many impartial and even anti-Trump people, there is still no (public) evidence of any collusion/crime on Trump's part, and charges against his minions, like Manafort, were committed before joining him, or are relatively minor. It is also true that Mueller is indeed on a hunting (~fishing) expedition, originally empowered by only unsubstantiated suspicion and politics, like the frankly incredulous Steele Dossier with its Golden Showers. I mean, really...

      HAVING SAID ALL THAT, everything that Trump has been doing has virtually screamed Guilty As Hell. And not just of obstruction of justice, which makes the most sense, being so consistent with Trump's ignorance, sense of entitlement and vanity.

      The smoke now pouring out of the White House, as the rats themselves flee or are thrown from what all the world looks like a burning boat, makes one wonder, OMG, what ugliness could possible be behind the curtain once fully lifted?

      The only scenario, it seems to me, that this does NOT all end in a Huge Scandal, so large and humiliating that it would transcend Trump's shamelessness and account for the extent of his obstruction, is that this is all part of a brilliant put-on on his part, to actively bait into humiliation those who want so desperately to bring him down.

      Is this possible???

  • Pompeo, Big Oil and the attack on Iran Deal
    • You're right to mention the ascendency of Bolton. And the people Trump is promoting give real evidence that some enemy of the US (forgetting US politics) must be pulling his strings.

      What could be worse for the US than Bolton replacing McMasters?

      How about Bolton replacing Matthis? That other moderating, disloyal voice.

      Remember, the question is, where can Bolton do the most damage? And if Bolton went in as NSA, who could be tapped for Defence, given the apparent staffing objectives?

      You heard the question here first.

    • This could almost be taken for sarcasm, but of course you're absolutely right. There seems to be a fate bearing down on us here that might be deflected or delayed, but not avoided. This apparently inevitable explosion might best be explained by some mix of psychology and anthropology.

      There seem to be too many forces driving for a big kinetic conflict to avoid one. There ARE understandable pressures, thinking in terms of three big insecure kids on a particular geopolitical block, combined with the personal agendas and inadequacies of Netanyahu and MbS. But those things shouldn't be enough to take us collectively over the edge.

      What's more troubling and harder to understand is the corruption of the US, which allows its ME policy to be distorted by third parties against its own best interests. This is especially true given how elite theory says checks are in place against such madness. The influence of the Christian Right is also a factor, which when you look at it more closely is quite literally a death-wish. Something to ask those psychologists about.

      What I also don't get is why ostensibly capable and cunning people like Pompeo so very much want this outcome. And how the CIA director designate led their tortore program. And why, in reality, did Americans really choose DJT? Time to look that ugly reality in the face. I could understand his election if it was simply America giving a big middle finger to the evident corruption of the electoral system, illustrated so eloquently by HRC. But, support is consolidating behind Trump from the republic establishment and the republican polity in general.

      The wheel goes around, with ups and downs. Civilizations inevitably fall, some faster than others or more dramatically. It may just be that the luck of the US has simply run out. The difference in this particular fall is that if the US catches cold, the rest of the world may catch more that just a nasty case of flu. In our small world, the ramifications of its demise are far nastier, be it a "small" nuclear war, for which this Administration is assiduously preparing to wage with its masters (whose name can not be spoken), or climate change.

      Thinking positively: Maybe Iran can ride this thing out, allowing for deepening ties between them and a reinvented EU, in some combination with the rest of the sane world. The US thence becomes the outlaw nation it seems bent on becoming, and the rest of the world saves itself, at least in some form.

    • I share your final caveat that oil may not explain everything, even as it usually pays to follow the money. On that basis a full integration of Iran into the world economy would be in everyones best interests.

      No, there seems to be a set of deeper, more malicious and dedicated pathologies involved.

      Frankly, I've yet to read a fully satisfying explanation

  • Tower of Jello: The Struggle of Russia and UAE over Tillerson's helming of State Department
    • But, will the American people, if and when finally formally presented with conclusive evidence of Trump's corruption, and perhaps outright criminally, just shrug: burned out by cynicism and fatigue? When the process drags out for years people may come to accept these things as the new normal.

  • Netanyahu & Trump, both under Investigation, Meet on phony 'Deal of the Century'
    • Israel really does have a problem here. A few years ago they did withdraw something like 20 settler homes, I think it was from around Gaza, and there was absolute Hell to pay.

      No, this is what Israel wants and Israel is determined to have. It may happen fast or slow, hard or soft, but a racially pure and consolidated Zion, with neighboring countries, including Iran, neutered, is the goal.

    • Great summary, but this really is old news. The remarkable thing is how Bibi et al continue to get away with such a transparent con.

      Seems to me Bibi and the increasingly dominant ultra orthodox ultra right, may decide now is the time to make the move to a Final Solution.

      Now, with Trump and the US firmly under control, and no "partners for peace" amongst the Pals, they can drop their restraint and "vomit them out of Zion."

      There will never be a better time, and this has been the endgame toward which they've been maneuvering. Not to mention saving Bibi's sorry ass.

  • Why is Intel Community Targeting Kushner?
    • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, given that a number of such dubious trustees had their clearances downgraded to a mere “secret.” But your observations of The Boy v. The IC stand.

      I’d guess they are simply more worried about him than the rest, for all the reasons mentioned. And Kelly and the other generals take all this stuff dead serious, other values aside.

      I’d also say that “corruptible” doesn’t begin to fully describe the threat Kushner et al present to the nation. Again, values aside, and many in the IC may well feel the same way.

  • Saudi High Command fired by King over Yemen Quagmire
    • You may be right, in terms of a guy with MbS level of experience predictably viewing geopolitics as nothing more can complicated than a game of RISK.

  • Turks Threaten al-Assad if he sends Army to Defend Syrian Kurds
    • The business of translation in real time, aka simultaneous translation, is hardly as easy as one might assume. And at this level and with the stakes involved, hard to accept. Simply saying that someone “speaks Turkish,” or any other language is in itself meaningless.

    • Only a tiny bit off-topic, but having a clearly intense and implicitly consequential 3-hour meeting with Erdogan, relying on his interpreter and by implication no transcript to later parse internally, begs belief. It is way, way beyond amateurism.

      The congress, in fact, declined the Administration proposal to gut the State Department budget, but I gather top area specialists and negotiators have been leaving in droves. They apparently have not had that much of a head-count decline, but in terms of experience and understanding the Administration is setting itself up for failure.

      An apparent strategy can be seen across the board just looking at what is happening, even if there is no evidence of active Russian collusion or control over the Administration. If they had such influence, the Russians would be careful not do anything that would directly destroy the US or diminish its influence, thus showing their hand. They would, however, arrange for all the small things they could, such as we're now seeing, that would make disasters across the gamut of US interests inevitable, compromising the ability of this country to rebound for perhaps decades.

  • A Crisis of Democracy: Trump's block of Dem Response to Nunes
    • There is a point to the balance of a portfolio of 50, but the issue is it’s impact on Washington, and don’t forget Marbury v. Madison.

      Were there an effective move to more of a confederation, it’d mean the end of the United States.

    • As I understand it, there is a way in which a member of congress can read pretty much anything into the congressional record, with immunity from prosecution for whatever "classified" information might be included.

      There's bound to be fine-print surrounding this idea, and someone better informed might elaborate on it, but I'm pretty sure about the essense of the deal. Another idea would be for the Demos to draft a response, and then, with a wink and a nod, tacitly allow for one of their more courageous staffers to leak it.

      The two papers could be analyzed in a side-by-side manner that exposes not only the substantive differences, but the deceit and hypocrisy surrounding how the administration has handled itself, effectively neutering the outrage and possible retaliation that should be expected.

      There really is entirely too much effete kevitching about The Situation going on, which is understandable given what individuals can do. However, there are those for whom meaningful action is possible. Aside from the above ideas, people should strive to indirectly empower those with more power and access, and this approach stands a chance of success when done strategically.

      The appropriate strategy here is to keep focused on whatever can be done to reveal and spotlight The Truth, with the goal of mobilizing responsible REPUBLICANS who are positively conservative in a don't screw things up sense. Forget your precious "progressive agenda"; we ALL just need to get out of this thing alive.

      At this point the GOP has been captured by those who are, practically speaking, suicidal. The only real solution, ultimately, for everyones sake, is for the current GOP to implode from within. Otherwise, the momentum gained and the damage done by this gang will carry far beyond whatever might be redressed at a tactical level in the mid-terms.

  • Russia-aided Syria shoots down Israeli F-16 after downing of Iranian Drone
    • Get real. Israel isn’t going to screw around with someone who can fight back effectively.

      They may probe, but it’s more likely they’ll come to an accommodation with what the Russians will tolerate. That plane was not hit by flack; it was hit from a distance, falling inside Israel on its return. That means a really capable missile, meaning the Russians after some (small) deliberation.

    • Reading other feeds, seems Israel is laying this all off on the Iranians. Which, naturally, is the smart move. Also in-line with their goal of demonizing Iran.

      Bullies don’t pick fights with those who can fight back effectively, and it took something to burn through that plane’s defenses that I doubt the Syrians or Iranians have.

      If this was done by other than Russia or the US it’d be huge in terms of unmasking Israeli vulnerabilities.

    • The F-16 is normally a one seater. This may have been a variant with an electronics warfare capability, which would make downing it quite significant.

      Israel establishing a “security zone” to protect the Golan security zone is also quite rich.

      Especially in its full context, seems to me this was a forceful signal by Russia to all parties of certain lines which will not be crossed, perhaps reinforcing what was said earlier but then only in words.

  • Syria: Deir al-Zor attack on US Troops, allies, Shows their Vulnerability
    • At whatever point a US service person is KIA, there is every suggestion it’ll be hushed up (versus covered up), coming to light inside section B a few weeks later. We have to anticipate adaptation by these people.

      The egg on the regime’s face when that Special Forces guy in Mali was killed is not something they’ll allow to be repeated, inevitable though it is.

  • Cherry-Picking Intel, Nunes and the Iraq War Disaster
    • You're edging every so delicately around an issue that cannot even be spoken of directly. Not that it explains everything, and there were any number of factors contributing to the Iraq cluster---k. Many of these we now see being repeated, which was the posts point. Still, the fact that you and I can not directly address this particular one is telling.

      I read an article recently about Rumsfeld's "snowflakes," where Douglas Feith spoke about how they were handled. It was easy to see how it is these well-placed staffers who develop policy options, legitimizing or delegitimizing them, thereby moulding policy.

  • The worst thing about Year One of Trump: Fascistization of Cable News
    • Agree. Alienation, has increasingly been the leitmotif of my time on the planet. The solution is involvement locally, to the level of sophistication our pea brains can get around what's in front of us. Our brains wiring is really quite limited, as you say.

      Less complicated becomes a Federalist argument, and one which would be met with agreement from many on the right. The question becomes, as usual, a matter of finding the right balance.

      Whatever else might be done, throwing away our TVs wouldn't be a bad first step.

    • For many, many years, management of perspectives (most effectively done by the management of context) for good or evil has been the crux of the matter.

      A fine case can be made that The People are by their nature too uninvolved (and whatever), and are also too prone to manipulation to be responsibly enfranchised. Responsible journalism with a fresh approach to its responsibilities would go a long ways to help ameliorate things.

      Propaganda, and the success of fake news, depends on the manipulation of context, and that's precisely what the traditional model engenders. OTOH, practically speaking you MUST have a strong lede, otherwise your audience can neither identify the topic or be engaged by it. And, if its a subject they aren't already interested in, that burden is even more onerous.

      Properly identifying a problem is the essential first step to addressing any important issue, and this one is key, given how many TV sets are on purely for background noise in various waiting rooms, subliminally biasing audiences who are only half-listening to begin with. Thinking more deeply about this problem, and experimenting with ways to get around it, is where good effort could be very usefully spent.

  • Russia accuses US of destabilizing Syria with Kurdish-Turkish Clash
    • I also have a problem with the idea of games, especially when policy makers speak about "chess moves." There is a philosophical problem, as you note, but the dangers attendant this sort of arrogance go quite a bit deeper.

      The only things newtonian in these matters are the immediate results that (may) directly result when a particular trigger is pulled. It is not just that the permutations are incalculable, but that the eventual results are inconceivable.

  • Trump Admin Commits to Forever War in Syria against Iran
    • This would be what is known in some quarters, quite positively, as “fuzzy logic.”

      Not to be totally confused with “ready, fire, aim.”

    • This post only gives a hint of how illuminating and productive a more patient and thorough dismantling could be, of what purports to be a major policy speech with immense consequences. Don't get me wrong, you'll get a lot of huzzahs for this post. But, if you or someone else had the time and patience to organize a good solid 5000 word (?) piece with a more polished presentation appropriate for something like FP, I cannot help but think it could go far to unmask the sheer undeniable incompetence of these people.

  • The US Role in Turning Countries into Shitholes and provoking Immigration
    • Either through it’s films, MS13, or the example of djt, these are modern Americas most telling exports.

  • White Nat'list Trump Adviser Miller Bounced from CNN after Sit-in
    • Ahah! THAT was the point!

    • Looking at that interview objectively and without any context, I believe there are plenty of people who might still buy that guy.

      His delivery is calm, patient and coherent. It does not, even at its end, reflect desperation, just insistence. Most importantly, it is totally focused and consistent. Even when Tapper contradicts him, Miller just sloughs it off and keeps plowing.

      This is a great example of how an Alternative Reality is implemented. Someone already invested in Trump, or without the means to listen critically, could very well take it as a resounding defense.

      There are lessons that need to be taken from this performance.

  • Has Iranian regime repression Succeeded?
    • Your first observation highlights the upshot of this episode: if these people represented the conservative base in Iran (as parallel constituencies seem to do around the world), what does that imply for the clerics power going forward?

    • The importance of rhetorical framing is more than just interesting: it is essential to legitimize your perspective and delegitimize The Other.

      We could get a list going, if only to inoculate ourselves or trip our ears to listen more critically.

      Two biggies are, of course, terrorism, and the distinction between “their” nationalism and “our” patriotism.

    • It may useful to note the spontaneous, organic nature of these protests, versus the bigger, more organized urban movement of 2009.

      Social media was apparently key in 2009, but not a driver this time. The current movement seems to reflect a deeper base and underlying power, but lacking the organizational competence needed to carry through.

      I’m thinking that the elite participation needed here was thwarted by its reliance on social media.

      The reliance on social media may have discouraged the broader social integration necessary to be effective.

  • Trump's disastrous Year in the Middle East: Syria
    • In the good ole days, China had a huge number of bodies to surge across the Yalu, which for them was efficient.

      The USSR had nukes bigger than could possibly be employed in any practical scenario, but which made the apparently cost-efficient impression they sought. Actually, I get the impression the Russians have historically been pretty serious tacanos, as the shoe Khrushev carried in to bang at the UN was even cheaper. Now, or even then, when Russia intervenes, it seems to be pretty well thought-through and disciplined. They got sucked into the Afghanistan, but they knew when to cut their losses.

      Scarcity engenders frugality and disciplined foresight. OBL saw the leverage of $500,000 to provoke the US along a more or less successfully predicted line. That $ would hardly even generate a RFP in the US. The Russian disinformation campaign cost, what? Supporting a few hundred nerds with second-hand PC's?

      It's the "business-like" approach to these things which gets the US in trouble. That is, vested monetary interests; the business of building careers; the unchecked and unreflective pride of putative leaders and wannabees.

      The US can do things on the smart and cheap, if things are happening too fast for cooler heads to prevail: like the way the CIA went into Afghanistan post 9/11. In fact, they've done all sorts of things along those lines with relatively few people, as has the State Department in a kinder and gentler way.

      But, when the potential for something grander becomes visible, look-out Iran.

  • Nations of World at UN Humiliate Trump w/ Massive vote for Palestinians
    • The important thing to note here, is that Trump/Haley/Netanyahu et al, DO NOT RECOGNIZE OR CARE what the rest of the world thinks. They're in an alternate reality where might is right and force can prevail indefinitely.

      With a straight face, in the face of this defeat, they began to talk about being picked on for "their right to speak," which flies directly in the face of their actions against BDS. Also, the premise of that response would be that the 128 countries voting against them do not have such a right. Quite telling, really.

      No, the real point to take from this and many other current actions is the current proliferation of shamelessness. This will be Trump's legacy, even if he drops dead tomorrow: that nothing is too low, base, blatant or shameless.

      The most in-your-face example at the moment being the tax bill now being signed. Whereas before, the GOP did whatever they felt they could to serve their real masters, they would hesitate at some point, sensing that the People wouldn't stand for anything more if they were too obvious.

      Now, with the example of Trump, they have found evidence they have been giving their voters way too much credit, and that there is actually no bottom to their stupidity. Permanent tax cuts for corporations and the seriously wealthy, with the most modest ones are granted temporary for others, passing the bill for all this on to another generation while they loot. (And it isn't as though Ann Rand didn't have something to say about looters, which they conveniently ignore). Their actions are all so obvious, but they think they will wash because of the electorate's underlying stupidity and lack of memory. All this ostensibly in service to a trickle-down economic strategy which has been disproven by the consensus of credible economic research as well as the definitive experience of the Reagan administration when they tried it.

      At the point at which this all implodes, its pretty clear these guys will just make up an alternative narrative that will predictably blame it all on the Democrats. If they recognize it at all...

      But, to get back to manifest religious destiny, which has always been Israel's trump card, maybe they'll just say the coming, inevitable turn in Israel's fortunes will be due to a failure to totally believe. You know, the bottom-line of faith healers and snake handlers, from time immemorial.

  • Will Americans finally start fighting back against tax cuts for the rich?
    • Think you're right, at least to an extent. As usual, there are a blend of things at work, as this article proposes.

      What may make this cut different is the 60% disapproval, notwithstanding the influences mentioned. Nor is this the first time 'trickle down' has been tried, and this cut is being rammed through despite the failure of Reagan's within easy memory.

      My thought, as I've come increasingly to believe is the key one here, across a gamut of issues, is that Trump has emboldening the GOP to try things they previously would not have dared. They're thinking along your lines.

      But, there is hope, and there are signs it is real, that they may have over-played their hand. The Virginia, and particularly the Alabama senate election, show an energized Democratic base; even Republicans, at least on the margins, are wavering when it comes to voting against their own best interests, as shown by that 60% disapproval.

      If they actually get away with this, and their basest assumptions of the electorate are proven true, there is no way of saying it will not be The End.

      OTOH, even with a decisive 2018/2020 backlash, Trump is successfully stacking the judiciary with an appalling assortment of losers, and that would be the something felt for generations.

  • FCC begins restoring Corporate Privilege to the Internet
    • Anyone who is not following these developments closely, as elites endeavor to consolidate their control over individuals, should be monitoring for as long as they and other websites IC are able to continue.

      The empowerment of fascism in its variety of forms, is what techdirt tracks with depressing professionalism and thoroughness. There are lessons IC might take from them in its current re-invention.

      This particularly pertinent post shows the total lack of good faith with which Ajit Pai and his cronies are manipulating events, showing them mocking the people they ostensibly serve and actually reviling in the maliciousness of their agenda. Inflammatory as it is, back-out to their homepage to get more detailed documentation of what the new FCC is doing and other developments along these lines.

      link to

      Another reaction to the original IC post is that there are bound to be numerous technical work-arounds to what is very much a determined plot. Things such as VPN's can evolve to provide more privacy and maintain access, but it will be at a cost and that is the intention. Pressure will also doubtlessly increase on the technical sophistication to use such tools. This would all be part of a plan which has to be seen clearly for what it is.

      The point of barriers being created for the purpose of (no other word for it) subjugation, is what to keep in focus.

  • Muslim Countries call for E. Jerusalem as Palestine Capital, reject US as Honest Broker
    • Thinking about it, this could be seen as a fresh breath of useful and ultimately positive honesty.

      Whatever one's vision of the future they want to live in, it does no one any good denying the reality of what is going on, when denial only frustrates the natural dialect that should be playing out.

      In this case, the US quitting its pretense of being anything other than Israel's lawyer and lackey allows everyone to see things more clearly for what they really are. Whatever lies ahead, we are closer to reaching an honest truth today then we were yesterday, when everyone was pretending the relationship between the US and Israel was anything other than what it really was. The cowardice of prior administrations really can be seen as having obstructed reaching an appropriate resolution to the conflict, whatever forces this particular move may yet unleash.

      This is the upside to Trump in a number of other spheres as well. No longer does the GOP hypocrisy of pretending to care about the 99.99% need to be tended. It takes a lot of bandwidth to keep up a benign front, especially when you need to think of yourself as caring about anyone other than yourself and your cronies.

      With this liberation will come exposure that cannot be denied. Trump's unique manifestation of leadership has been quite empowering insofar as allowing many in the GOP to come out of the closet in a variety of ways. Although he lost, for example, "Judge" Moore's honesty in wanting to repeal amendments 11-27 to the US constitution has doubtlessly mirrored the private thoughts of many other GOP politicians. Antes Trump, one couldn't just come out and say they wanted to return to the Antebellum South.

      What this could mean is that the many conflicts Trump is engendering may provoke the polity in general to wake-up and stand-up for that they really believe in. It may be wishful thinking and we may be in for some real pain, but Trump's asunder provocations may ultimately work out for the best.

  • What's the Difference between Roy Moore and a Muslim extreme Fundamentalist? A Cowboy Hat
    • This post complements yesterdays, insofar as backward attitudes toward knowledge exist is both religions. Any 'good' (functional) religion will include the self-serving justifications and empowerment needed for survival.

      Modernity appears to be the real threat to those everywhere who are unequipped to adapt or unwilling to do so. There has been a enormous rural to urban shift around the world over recent years, including in the US, and people with the mental capital, in terms of brains and/or the disposition to adapt, are leaving their cousins in the provinces behind to starve.

      As the man said, they are left with only their guns and religion.

  • Exodus of Climate Scientists to France only the Beginning if GOP Guts Grad Education
    • Thinking in terms of a second enlightenment is a little over the top, or maybe not....

      France should perhaps extend this idea to scholarship more broadly. It would certainly be consistent with their cultural tradition, and the leverage point of brains, when it comes to progress (or just maintaining what we have) is relatively very, very low.

      The way that endowed chairs now attract top people can be developed and extended, if it has not already. There are plenty of enlightened organizations and individuals who could easily give the needed level of support.

      I am curious about Trump funding of DARPA, which has funded a great deal of basic research historically, including in the social sciences.

      There is no better investment. And the government doesn't necessarily even need to be involved, unless it comes to labs and larger scale physical implementation.

  • The Difference between Israeli Policy and Turkish: Calling Each other Terrorist State
    • Not to say you're wrong, but as of a couple years ago the above summary was accurate.

      If there has been a turn toward a targeted repression of Kurds in general, extending beyond a wide-ranging political, academic and administrative purge, I'd like to learn more.

    • You're nibbling around a good point.

      Whatever else might be said about Erdogan and his megalomania, Turkey has to play an awfully delicate game because of its geopolitical circumstances, and Erdogan has been playing his hand rather well.

      Of course, the same could be said of Israel and Netanyahu.

      The difference is that Turkey will have to continue its balancing act while Israel's problems are largely self-inflicted. Not to say the threats against it aren't real, but the last 50 years could've been spent a lot more wisely than they were. And there's no real sign they intend to change their pattern of behavior.

  • Why Aren't Americans Celebrating fall of ISIL State? It is a bogeyman
    • I agree, but to put a finer point on it, Iran has by and large avoided playing into their hands. The meddling they do do, like in Yemen, is probably by what, a few dozen advisors, if that? So, a more accommodating foe was needed.

      But this is a deep game being played in the ME, evidenced by the dance we now see between Iran and KSA, and KSA and Israel. In this mix the US is only managing to play the role of a rich, clueless sap.

    • Of course you're right, speaking of the role of ISIL. But, IRAN is the true boogeyman de jour we can expect to hear more of, in terms of an enemy toward which people can be manipulated into action and politicians can consolidate power. The obvious evidence being the frequent and willful mis-translation of Iranian political leadership.

      But, this is all just politics, and reflects the relative skill with which perceptions can be managed to manipulate the masses. For example, whenever Netanyahu pops up on the news, if he cannot be muted fast enough, one is torn between nausea and admiration for the boldness of his duplicity and chutzpah.

      What I've come to appreciate over time is how profoundly contemptuous he is the US (the same could be said of other Israel political leaders you can easily observe, notably Michael Oren), and how accurate this assumption evidently is. This appreciation has finally found its way into domestic US politics, thanks to the pioneering insights and successes of D. J. Trump.

      Trump has now provided the GOP an object lesson for domestic US politics the Israelis learned long ago. I suspect it was fully internalized by Israel with the US response to the rather rash attack they made on the US Liberty during the 6-day war.

      I was about to end with a link to the wikipedia article of the Liberty incident, but was greeted by a revised page now slanted toward Israel's "just a terrible misunderstanding" narrative. The points here now being the power of persistence of vision as well as the strategy of NOT giving people credit for doing their homework.

      This is becoming a bit OT, but an important point that stands to be made is that it is not that tough to take the minimal effort needed to review multiple biased perspectives on any event or issue that can be interpreted on that basis, making it then quite possible to triangulate on the often slimy, underlying truth.

      So, to offset the now corrupted wikipedia article, check out this Al Jazeera documentary:

      link to

  • How Trump's Jerusalem Move Just Helped Iran Win the Mideast
    • Huh??????

      Force them to accept more unconditional US aid is more likely.

    • 1--- They'll somehow stick the US for this expense. Look to the example of history.

      2---Israeli officials have for some time pointed-out the existence of a Palestinian homeland, and its called Jordan. As for the expense and disruption to Jordan, see #1.

      3/4---Marginal pertinence. Tactics to support #1 & 2. Remember, this doesn't need to be accomplished next week, especially when the US has "got your back."

      An apparently Israeli commenter here a few years ago, in all sincerity (eg, no hasbara polish), said peace would come, "once they (the Pals) understand we're not going anywhere."

      The core of the problem is the free pass Israelies think they have by thinking they're God's Chosen People, making the rest of us...fill in the blank.

    • Strange indeed?

      One can make a fine case, based on the lack of evidence, that Trump has not and is not colluding with anyone to diminish US interests and influence.

      His actions, on the other hand, are clear and unmistakable. In fact, if a smart handler or committee were pulling his strings, events would be unfolding pretty much at this pace and along these lines.

      Note how his first year, as though planned, has been devoted to weakening policies and institutions. It has been focused on very precise centers of gravity, as it were. It has exhibited a pacing that appears very conscious.

      Now, he or they, begin to make more substantive moves, modulated to the extent they can get away with whatever at any given moment.

      For more color on what is to be expected, review how Israel times its aggressions, and Naomi Klein's observation of a Shock Doctrine.

    • Not having anything directly to do with ME politics, the rise of Trump has emboldened the forces of darkness immensely, and whatever hesitancy they may have once felt for pressing their full agenda is gone. Previously, there seemed to have been limits to how far, fast, or blatant they could be about things. No longer.

      No longer, at least in domestic US politics, does the GOP appear to feel any apprehensions about just taking what they want. The tax plan you mentioned being a case in point. What is most telling is how transparently self-serving that 'plan' happens to be. Previously they wouldn't have had the stones to have dished-up something like this, despite controlling the congress. Now, it is as though they feel that with total victory is in sight there's no longer any need to hide their mien and the time has come to just GO FOR IT.

      There is a slim hope that they have overplayed their hand, and the backlash in 2018/20 will be so severe that we might yet rebound to a relatively balanced domestic agenda. Until those elections, however, they are working hard on judicial appointments, legislation, and direct action to consolidate an active and determined program of voter suppression and disenfranchisement.

      With the looming end of net neutrality, and the potential widening of material support of terrorism legislation (or whatever enforcement tool they might pick; the menu is large), the next few years stand to be pivotal.

  • Another way Trump will get us Killed: to move US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
    • De acuerdo. That is precisely how this games out, and it fits the limited range of Trump's vision (sic) perfectly.

    • It seems like that in the fundamentalist following to which Pence belongs, the Apocalypse via Battle of Armageddon (an actual place in Syria?), followed by the Rapture and/or a Second Coming, is what these people are pining for. And, the potential of Pence's misty-eyed vision of his own central role in the End Times is what motivates him.

      If this is true, we might want to rethink the alternatives to Trump's itchy finger on the nuclear trigger.

  • Nasrullah: Saudi has declared war on Lebanon
    • This whole business seems absolutely feudal. In the good ole days there were hostage exchanges to prevent this sort of thing (if that is what is happening). We were supposed to be beyond such stuff.

      Even if there is a bankruptcy issue, its transparently a trumped-up issue. Which goes to the point that progress is hardly something you can assume or take for granted. Its the jungle.

    • It may be more useful to see if there is an evident goal for all this maneuvering, which is the case here. That way you don't get overly dazzled by all the footwork.

      The objective of both Israel and KSA is to get the US to pay the price for turning Iran into another Iraq. That is the Goal. With the thinness of legitimacy, internally and externally, enjoyed by both the Israeli and Saudi regimes, the existence of Iran's relative legitimacy and naturally growing influence is indeed an existential threat.

      Moreover, the lynchpin for MBS's Vision 2030, without which KSA is totally sunk, is the Aramco IPO. It's success relies on the price of oil rebounding, if only long enough to to unload a sufficient amount of their goop on the world Banksters. They in-turn, will be able to cook this crap into derivatives which can later be unloaded onto you and me (e.g., Too Big To Fail 2.0).

      The geopolitical pressures and historical patterns of behavior here are quite clear.

    • As Nicolas says, there's far more going on here than we're able to discern or guess at given conventional media input and the complexity of dynamics involved. Every time I read something new it exposes yet another misunderstanding.

      As far at Prince Kushner goes, of course the Boy is in WAY over his head, as is Trump, obviously. These people appear to be nothing but pieces, being pushed around the board by Netanyahu, MBS and Putin. People like Tillerson and the NSC staff I would presume to at least have a clue, having devoted their careers to the navigation of relatively complex and open systems.

      A year ago we had to wake up and think about how things would unfold with Trump at the helm. Although he has somehow not blown the world up at this point, what he has been able to do is set-up the US, and by extension the world, for failure, through a thousand small cuts. Actively or inadvertently he has empowered the ambitions of these local players, but his real contribution has come through dismantling the foreign policy machinery with which such situations might at least hope to be managed.

      So, while none of what we now seen might have been foreseen with any great confidence, what we can reasonably expect is for the situation not to resolve itself spontaneously or due to deft handling by the US.

      These people (with the exception of Trump I'm guessing) all fancy themselves chess players. Which is the exact wrong perspective to bring to international geopolitics: there are no edges to the board, the pieces do not abide by limited rules or act predictably. In fact, it's chaos theory. What can we expect next? Nothing, with any confidence.

  • Saudi Saturday Night Massacre: Billionaire Bin Talal, dozens of others Arrested
    • More focus emerging on this move, which at the moment has nabbed nearly 50 people. Short of an Erdogan scale purge. But then, maybe MbS really is just ripping out corruption, without the need to patiently work his way through the swamp like Mueller.

    • Removing Tall-Poppies is more a mark of insecurity, in contrast with what someone like Lincoln decided to engage with his Team of Rivals. That's not to say these particular poppies weren't anything but looters. Nor is it as though KbS has demonstrated any of the personal strength and legitimacy of vision to do more than his Kingdom ever has, internally or regionally.

      It always becomes a relative thing, given the character and wherewithal of the various internal actors and regional players. For all its problems and internal contradictions (as they say), I see Iran having more of the resources really needed to prevail over the long term. As far as underlying moral and intellectual and political integrity go, it isn't as though Israel, nor its lackey the US, are showing us very much of that stuff. In fact, the moves of these three lame pretenders have at every step only served to make Iran's position stronger, in terms of developing their own resources and consolidation of its people's will. And that was before Trump.

      There is a lot of truth in all that stuff about nemesis and things working out in the end for those most in-tune with what is appropriate behavior. Again, not to say Iran is any paragon of virtue, but you know what they say about who becomes King in the land of the blind....

  • Top Six Trump Admin. Crimes that ought to bring Indictments
    • On the one hand, its futile to try to guess how the Trump show will unfold, and ultimately is destined to end (other than very badly). This breaking business with Manafort may or may not mean anything significant to Trump.

      On the other hand, if Manafort or any other legal threat to Trump emerges, he simply pardons those culpable pre-emptively, per Nixon. The Arpaio pardon showed him what he could get away with, and he could use it freely to cut short any momentum Mueller's work may yet gain.

      Unless the GOP dominated congress does sometime truly extraordinary in response, which is unthinkable, he's got things totally under control. Sure, he could fire Mueller, but what's the point?

  • Tillerson tells Iraqi Shiite Militias to "go home." Sad.
    • Could you expand on that, or provide a link that does?

    • Tillerson's problem, perhaps aggravated by ignorance, is his obligation to buy into Trump's proclivity toward Magic Thinking, and being a team-player. He may just be giving lip-service here.

  • No, Trump, British Crime isn't going up because of Muslims
    • You're right to question the methodology as well as the interpretation.

      But what's perhaps more important to grapple with is that it is the management of perceptions that really matters. So, we have the Trump v. Cole narratives competing.

      At this point the issue becomes a psychological one: the appeal of the simplistic and self-serving v. critically honest. The former becomes stronger as complexity increases and the frustrations of reaching critical closer increase.

      What this means is that to have a meaningful impact on those who cannot handle ambiguity you must simplify and provide closer with declaratives. Save the Truth for those willing and able to engage it.

      Successful participatory Democracy, with the masses empowered by technology, is hopeless.

      Training, as students receive in schools of business and engineering, shouldn't be confused with a critical education based on self-awareness. The fact is, in my experience, most people don't have the mental wiring necessary for the latter, intelligence aside.

      Entonces, the current paradigm of democracy needs to be redefined. Otherwise this society is on a collision course with negative time and space.

  • George W. Bush & GOP lack standing to bash Trump for Racism
    • This was indeed a good an eloquent post, but looking inside ourselves, since we are all (presumably) just people, a more likely explanation is simple rationalization, given the economic investment in the system many people have to some extent.

      This manifests itself in the proprietary attitude people naturally develop, even absent a direct personal investment. A good example, reflecting your observation, is how middle managers come to refer to their employees as 'theirs'. Its more than a matter of grammar. It's a con they perpetuate on themselves as a reflection of their status and power, managers being chosen for their capacity to align with the values of true owners, even as they themselves are simply better-paid peasants.

      Marx, for all the obtuseness of his prose, had it nailed in many of these regards: people [of capacity and ambition] become co-opted by the system.

    • What's really motivating Bush etal is Trump's failure to serve the Republican establishment, even as he ultimately does seem to be serving their unduly agenda.

      There is the matter of Trump's style, embarrassing as it is, but its more a matter of how he fails to supplicate himself.

      This failure to take a knee, notwithstanding his incompetence, is what stands to stop him before his term is up. Its the ultimate sin in any scenario where Power for its own sake motivates everything else.

  • Germany: Immediate Danger of Mideast War if Trump dumps Iran Deal
    • Chancery Gardner, despite being a moron, kept his mouth shut and let other people project. It was a testament to the lack of an individuals importance.

      Here we have the bull in a China shoppe, overworked as that cliché has become.

    • Since Israel would also have to see US withdrawal from the JCPOA as encouraging Iran to become a nuclear state, its a puzzle why they have been working so hard to destroy the deal.

      Of course, Israel's real problem with Iran has more to do with its existence as a big, viable, regional state, whose government is by and large empowered by its people.

      Like Saudi Arabia in its own way, Israel lacks any real legitimacy with its neighbors that isn't coerced, and as such will remain extraordinarily vulnerable. Especially to a country like Iran, which at this point is pretty well inoculated to economic sanctions or conventional military intimidation.

      It doesn't matter what Iran's history of non-aggression or declared intentions are, as Israel is quick to point out. In fact, their policies could change on a dime—which will also forever be a problem for Israel with the rest of the world, as a matter of fact. There's a chronic pathology at work here, largely self-inflicted as it is.

      The only solution for Israel, with all its neighbors, is to see them either emasculated or destroyed as viable states. Hence, they need to maneuver the US into doing to Iran what they did to Iraq. That would be success, and beneath all the other talk this is what they are really angling toward.

      That would leave KSA and Egypt intact. But Egypt has been neutered by its reliance on the US aid, and the KSA's legitimacy is also such that they have to buy their security from the US. They can be tolerated as such.

      What remains is to be seen is if the rest of the world, since the US is already lost, will stand up to Israel.

  • As Trump & Pruitt unleash Climate Demons, Scientists dream of Atlantic Wind Farm
    • Wish I could take credit for this thinking, but Trump's behavior is absolutely consistent and predictable, based simply on respudiating everything Obama thought, said or did:

      link to

      Drawing on this hypothesis your question is answered. It is true that Obama was a (relatively) progressive public servant rather than a self-serving corporate tool, so there will naturally be a conflict of perspective on many issues. But in terms of understanding what actually animates Trump, making it easy for his to tend to his constituency, this seems to explain things nicely.

  • Trump and the Faustian Bargain of Corker and the GOP
    • The rationale and momentum of the scenario you describe leads directly to getting rid of Trump, opting for the more reliable execution of his essential vision by Pence.

      What any autocrat really wants is control and predictability, after all.

  • Former US Allies peeling off under Trump: Turkey halts US Visas
    • Seems to me the UK and Israel have committed themselves to the management of the US as the strategic lynchpin of their foreign policies. All countries tend to that relationship, since in terms of economics (aside from any other issues), when the US sneezes the World catches cold.

      Israel has succeeded at this better than the UK, since it has done so well financially through the exercise of its power. The UK, at least historically, has at least been listened to sympathetically, but it comes off more as a supplicant. Never a good posture to assume.

      As for Erdogan shooting himselve in the foot with American tourists and trade, has there ever been that much compared to what Turkey does with Russia? Erdogan has the experience of cutting them off from a couple years ago, so he should know. What's more interesting is how, in his egomania, the guy may begin to stray into the irrational. He's always struck me as pretty shrewd, but evidence of that is more consistent in his past. I wonder at what point Erdogan's current cunning becomes terminal hubris.

      ALSO, most embassies have dozens, if not hundreds of locals working for them, in service and support roles. Is it really true that the the host country, or international law, grants the gardeners and janitors some special status?

  • Was Ayatollah Khamenei right about Washington? Trump Reneges
    • You and another poster make the point of the hollowness of these agreements.

      The real point of them would then be to build PR legitimacy amongst those who don't know better.

      And selling oneself is the first step to creating such an alternative reality.

      The real agenda is to secure obedience.

    • Right. The US military is in many ways now depleted. It'd get eaten alive in an ouright invasion, short of a national mobilization and long build-up.

      On the other hand, a couple thousand cruise missiles would make Raytheon etal very happy and at least satisfy Israel (for the moment).

    • In this Al-Jazeera interview Iranian FM Javad Zarif makes a remarkably clear and succinct presentation of the situation, not just from the Iranian perspective, but from that of the realities.

      link to

      The mechanics of how the JCPOA is written will make it difficult for the EU to maintain it if the US withdrawals. However, there are mechanisms already in-place that can be activated to offset sanctions against companies that buck them. Perhaps more importantly, Zarif makes the point of their simply being on the right side of the issue, which ultimately should go far to carry the day for Iran, and the World in many ways.

      There is another article on this blog, about the influence of what some (at their own peril) dare to call the Israel Lobby: link to

      The current Girardi controversy goes along with the Chas Freedman denunciation when he dared to speak Truth to (the real) Power driving things here a few years ago. Nobody in power in the US really gives a fig about the Palestinians, and its nothing to leave them twisting in the wind, but screwing up the JCPOA in this way is another thing altogether.

      What people of the US need to deal with is just HOW another country has somehow managed to hijack the foreign policy of the US, manifestly against its own best interests.

  • Top 5 signs Donald Trump might be an effing moron
    • Everyone seems to be echoing the same thought in their own way. But, here's something else to chew on:

      Is it possible that The Donald reasonably reflects the engaged American polity, for better or worse? And, what drives his bluster is a reasonable reading of one part of the national mood?

      Sure, it's not a black and white thing, and he lost in numeric terms, but if America looks in the mirror, it does look somewhat like Trump. So that's the first thing to come to terms with.

      After recognizing that POTUS really only is the salesman in Chief, rather than the Daddy so many people are so desperately seeking, you get to a second point: how much of a difference can THIS guy really make?

      He has proven to be incompetent, but his judicial appointments stand to recast the courts profoundly. So, there is that. But, I read where there are (theoretically) strong checks on his ability to use nukes offensively. And the generals, and the bureaucracy in general, stand to hold things together, other than a strong rightward drift.

      So, I'm not sure he's doing any worse than any other common Moe who just fell into a job for which he was unprepared, that will largely self-execute.

      Sure, the guy is dangerous, and heaven help the world if any real challenges emerge (which consistently do in every administration). But let's get beyond this business of expecting the president to be some sorta Big-Daddy.

  • Saudi King seeks Recognition for letting Women Drive, a basic right
    • One cannot help but think this is all disingenuous.

      Seems to me their ONLY motivation is one of optics in the US. The KSA has undoubtedly been told by the good folk at Hill & Knolton (or whomever), that the repression of women compromises their control over US policy, which is the linchpin for the regimes survival.

      On the other hand, you have the deal the Saudi's essentially made with the religious conservatives for power in the first place.

      Seems a rather transparent ploy to reap a PR gain, which they anticipate reneging on later, one way or the other.

  • Failing dam in Puerto Rico, endangering 70,000, a reminder that Climate Denialism Kills
    • I wonder how much of this is the natural order, historically speaking.

      Outright slavery has been the natural order until very recently. And indentured slavery, or the status you describe, is a hairsbreadth away. In fact, those tricks were standard in Latin America until quite recently.

      Non-competeagreement for fast food workers? It's happening. I could go on, chapter and verse.

      What you're describing is underway right now, only it's being done incrementally and with appropriate nods to the "free market".

    • The GOP agenda & platform: We've got ours, so screw you.

  • Iranian Leader: Trump is "Disturbed," speaks like a Cowboy or Mobster
    • In this and other of your posts I see you hitting all around a rather profound vision, and the only explanation that accounts for the trends in any sort of determistic sense: that this is all part of a plan.

      That plan, or vision, being driven by an terminal us versus them mindset. And at this point, many of those who strive so hard to gain power, will read this and laugh, saying, "that's the way it is."

      So, those who have dug the hole Israel now finds itself in have infected their mindset upon on the US, who with their neocolonial imperatives of consumption couldn't be more primmed for their wisdom.

      In other words, what you're observing is a slow-motion sucking of the worlds physical and intellectual assets into the US, with Europe slated as the last to go. Increasingly robust walls will be constructed to keep out the barbarians, even as the reigning oligarchy increasingly feeds on those within the walls from it's gated communities.

      At some later stage we can now see looming into view, there will only be the 51 (!) States hunkering down behind their walls, sending out roving mercenaries (the invisible hand in action), to maintain the external chaos, and co-opt those with talent for service within the walls.

  • Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, Praises Saudis
    • I suspect Trump is barely aware of the embassy standoff or Iran's involvement with blowing up the US marines barracks in Beirut back in the day.

      Mattis, the neocons, and the neocolonial establishment certainly didn't forget, along with Iran's most egregious crime of all: failure to submit. And if Iran is allowed not to pay a price FULLY commensurate with that last offense, it emboldens others, and the whole edifice of US economic existence is imperiled.

      Trump's ignorance is irrelevant: he exists to be managed.

      Notice that wapo account, of how he was brought about by The Generals to double down on Afghanistan? It involved showing Trump pictures of Afghan women in miniskirts during happier times.

      With that in mind, absolutely anything can happen, and probably will.

    • Having now read the speech and thought about it, I think it's far more important than most here realize. This speech represents Trump having totally boxed himself into a guarantying the worst sort of failure, with Iran, NK, and for US interests in the World.

      Unless he soon repudiates strongly everything he just said, here is how it games out:

      He will abrogate the agreement. The rest of the World (apart from Israel, KSA and Samoa) will continue with the agreement, despite desperate efforts to coerce new sanctions the US and Trump no longer have the political capital to insist on. Merkel etal have anticipated this change in any number of statements.

      The US and then must attack Iran, given how he has no other choice at this point but to look like a toothless sap.

      The US military doesn't have the means to invade Iran successfully, so there would have to be a lot of stand-off missle strikes, along with whatever Israel and KSA might do. The US will become the World's great pariah, as Iran just absorbs it all, now fully and thoroughly supported by the rest of the World.

      NK and SK ,noting how any agreement they might reach with the US would be worthless, cut a deal directly between themselves. It would see all US forces kicked out of SK, which is quite strong enough to defend themselves.

      Maybe this is Trump's intention, crafty as he is: the US becomes ostrasized and irrelevant, while Iran and NK become more stable with their new relationships.

      NKwill keep a few nukes for protection, and the rest of the world would finally get past the US, leaving it and Israel isolated and irrelevant.

  • Russia rebuffs Israeli demand for 40 mi. Buffer with Iran in Syria (Haaretz)
    • This post may answer the question you asked (implied?) A few weeks ago, about Netanyahu's agenda for complaining about Syria. Many of us then speculated a new round of settlements he wanted to distract the world from noticing.

      It seems Israel will be able to get away with that particular bad behavior, but out-migration could become a real existential threat.

  • Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here's How
    • People, and governments even more, invest hugely in their personal stories and legitimacy-enhancing mythes. That investment is even more critical when the substance of their histories are so painfully thin on any real, sustaining legitimacy. Saudi Arabia and Israel are great cases in point.

      On the one hand, Saudi Arabia has read the writing on the wall and would be the first to agree to the need to adapt economically, and they now have any number of initiatives underway to do so. But expecting them to give up some of their more deep-seated biases and counterproductive premises, that go to the heart of their self-image, is expecting a lot.

      Along this same line of thinking, Naomi Klein just did an excellent piece at the intercept. It insightfully chalks up the underlying denialism of Climate Change (and a number of other intransigent problems) by the Usual Suspects, to their brain-free investment in free-market ideology.

      link to

      It's a great piece, along with much of her more recent writing, because she transcends her earlier polemics and here puts her finger on one of of the true drivers behind the backwardness that so frustrates the rational world in the face of a very real problem that can only be addressed by objective science.

      In the case of CC denialists and the KSA, there is another factor, however, that may be more critical. That would be sheer, rank, short-sighted, animalistic greed. In my salad days I spent untold hours with smart, aggressive characters on the make, whose ideology was the dollar and whose MO was legal manipulation to set-up no-risk killings.

      It's important to recognize what few distinctions there really are between impulsive thievery and the more patient and well-educated variety. Relying on good PR may seem shallow, and it is, but it can also be damned powerful if well handled. Michael Corleone made the transition he promised and is now personified by the likes of Jamie Diamond, obviously pulling the strings of people like Hillary Clinton, as well as those of folks like Paul Ryan, with their childish adoration of Ayn Rand's half-baked "philosophy".

      It's this whole, glib, easy-to-swallow line about the Invisible Hand and a "free" market that never was and never will be, that has had such a pernicious impact on the world, particularly in the last 30-odd years.

      True Believers like Paul Ryan really are just children, carrying water for the agenda of the above opportunists. My point is that those with real power know better, as demonstrated by their manipulation of putative "free market" forces.

      Nothing short of a revolution will result in any real change, and the transparency of Trump's corruptness may inadvertently be setting the stage for it. Aside from more active measures, one can only hope; and do their best to see things for what they really are.

  • What will Iran do if Trump tears up the Nuclear Agreement?
    • And why is it that every time I think of Israel and the US I think of George and Lennie, in Of Mice and Men?

      It Isn't as though Israel cares about the US, other than as a place to fleece and otherwise do business.

    • It seems the obvious Iranian move would be to align more strongly with the rest of the world, sans Israel and the US. Who needs them, really?

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is really all about Israel and it's power to influence US policy against it's own self-interest. That is, all the lost trade opportunities, nevermind lessening the possibility of armed conflict.

      What I don't get is how the US has been able to coerce the EU to participate in sanctions. While one can understand why they were able to do so in the past, at this point the landscape has totally changed.

  • Gov. Rick Scott enabled Irma's Fury through Climate Denialism & Should Resign
    • Shame seems to be unknown to such characters. I suppose it was always so.

      That doesn't mean they cannot be called out loudly in public.

      All they would be motivated to do is initiate legislation against the malcontents, but action would add to the momentum of the resistance and be a net positive.

      These issues need to brought into the open and the Truth shown for what it is.

      People will at some point come to understand the depths of their duplicity and change become possible.

  • Bannon & Trump lost Long ago: White Christians not a Majority in US
    • That's really it. Obama couldn't have been purer in terms of being uncompromised upon election, but look at how long that lasted.

      Trump offered the same promise, really. HRC, on the other hand, was and remains the pridefully entitled Queen of Business As Usual (with yet another self-serving book being released), whose self-righteousness, along with that of the DNC, has not been diminished one whit.

      There was NEVER any dispute about how inappropriate Trump was: his election was a matter of desperation.

      Assuming something like a fascist consolidatation of power under Pence isn't pulled off, the US will be primmed for yet another Grifter 3 years from now.

      This desperation to buy anything from anybody who will squarely speak to peoples frustrations is going to be repeated.

      The situation here is too obvious, the structural problems too intractable, and the opportunists too numerous for the story not to repeat: Until either the fascists succeed in consolidation of power or we hit bottom and there is a systemic change from the bottom-up.

    • Old thinking settles in and ossifies, and it never goes without a fight. Progress has always been a two-steps forward one-step back proposition, but don't consider a ratio so benign in the face of an actively backward vision.

      Recent court decisions in the US have been repudiating GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression schemes transparently designed (in the words of the courts) to make some pigs more equal than others. Similar ploys have recently been extending into other areas, including laws against anyone that criticizes certain governmental programs (Texas). With Trump, these initiatives have been ramping-up.

      The courts have been stopping many of these moves, as well as Trump's immigrant bans, but don't expect the front to hold. The one area of appointments in which Trump has been getting things done when it comes to making judicial appointments.

      My question is, when has there ever been a time of widespread emancipation (or whatever you call it when there is NO slavery), when minority didn't call the shots, or wasn't working hard to make it so? I'd say some version of that old, traditional order of subjugation—or a kinder and gentler neoliberal variation—is what these guys are really pining for.

      This mindset has gone away; its just been underground, and barely at that.

  • As Trump probes move against Iran, IAEA certifies its Compliance with Nuclear Deal
    • Unlike Iran, NK is basically holding SK hostage, with all that artillery zeroed in on Seoul with 25 million citizens and many of the 100,000 Americans in SK. This is as opposed to whatever few significant offensive options Iran may have (and wisely choose not to use).

      The US, as usual, acts with the predictable thoughtlessness empowered by unmanned weapons, leading to a misunderstanding how weak it makes them to rely so heavily on these tools. With its Navy safely out of the Persian Gulf (forever?), the US could easily send 10-20+ billion of cruise missiles—whatever their masters in Israel/KSA finally decide on and shortly manipulate the US into launching.

      As long as there are no downed US pilots paraded on TV, its all good. This is all showbiz as far as our Fearless Leader is concerned, like his "attack" on the Syrian airfield.

      More knowledgeable people than me can gauge when Israeli posturing for internal political reasons, or shaking down the US for more $, becomes a need to start a actual fight. And of course, the KSA has a different set of needs. But the inability of the US to resist their imperatives, and put them behind its own needs, is clear.

  • Is Israel's Netanyahu preparing for War on Iranian Special Ops in Syria?
    • I wouldn't argue with much of this, except for the fact this line continues to work objectively, in terms of US dollars and a free pass for Israeli malfeasance.

      Everybody knows the game here, but it is bought and paid for. Still, not to say how long any one salesman will last once past his good PR expiration date is past.

    • Of course, your final paragraph sums it up. In fact, Netanyahu has a rather limited range of BS.

      From all this sudden talk I'd presume either a looming election, or plans to tighten the screws on the Palestinians. With no elections, I'd expect some sort of impending action. More land grabs would be the most obvious thing.

  • Trump Exploits Harvey Victims in Stealth Pardon of Arpaio
    • There's enough in the way of greed, evil, and stupidity to go around.

      To the extent Trump inadverdently inspires countries like Germany out of their complacency, for lack of a better word, maybe some lemonade will come from this lemon.

    • Just when you thought the Trump had reached the depth of his creativity in inappropriate behaviour, there you go giving the guy ideas....

      I can see him now, Leaning on Kelly as he did Comey. "Hey, he's a good guy..."

  • Germany's Merkel: A Selfish & Isolationist America isn't "Great Again"
    • You know, this observation goes to the heart of what passes for public diplomacy.

      All theses enormously expensive gestures would at first appear to be nothing more than self righteousness based on nothing, really.

      They do, however, amount to something when you consider the metaphysics of creating our own realities, which I've come to understand really is crucial to better managing our fate. This is especially true when faced with the reality that others will be able to create their own vision a whole lot easier if we just sit back and effetely intellectualize about things, putting forth no alternative vision.

      If they succed in nothing more than convincing themselves the US does not stand alone (for practical purposes), this BS is gold when it comes to motivating themselves and the many, many minds out there who hunger for easy answers and the low, authoritative tone of someone tall and loud.

      The trick for those in the opposition is to hew closer to the truth, and certainly to know better when selling their own easy answers to The Masses, who in no case will want to drink a whole glass of Reality straight, with no leavening chaser.

  • Trump, the Magical WASP, Deepens Racial Divide again in Phoenix
    • Maybe I've been watching too much House Of Cards, and attribute too much competence to the GOP. But, one needs to recognize the demonstrably low, animal-like cunning of Mitch McConnell.

      What you envision may just be a matter of timing. Remember how Underwood's initial plan was to let Russo blow-up 'spontaneously', due to his fundamental charachter, later in his campaign for governor. Russo proved unmanagable, hence he was flushed earlier than originally planned.

      Ergo, as you noted, it makes too much sense not to flush Trump, especially for the GOP. And how many friends has Trump still got in Congress of any stripe?

      The answer to your question may be that it's simply a matter of timing, with the mechanics now being attended to apace.

    • There's this dimension to Trump which really is magical: that he can go back on everything he's promised, in the process totally screwing over his truly downtrodden constituency, and still keep their support.

      Methinks they're too psychologically invested, desperate, or maybe just too dense to get it.

      A little different than Stockholm Syndrome, which could be seen as the often wise inclination to go with the flow and adapt when facing great danger.

      No, Trump is tapping into something far more troubling about human nature.

  • Trump Pledged to Carpet Bomb ISIL, but Little Lebanon is Taking them On
    • Plenty of more knowledgable people than me have written about the idea that in the battle of ideas for souls, technology will never substitute for boots on the ground. Motivated individuals will be needed to be genuinely effective against other motivated individuals.

      Bullets ultimately fall to ideas if the bullets aren't backed up by something more compelling in terms of vision. The attraction of drones and raining bombs from 40,000 ft is such an easy mistake because its so easy to buy, and unless used with great care and balance these sorts of things are liable to do more harm than good.

      This becomes another one of the ideas that brushes up against the limitations of uninformed/misinformed, simple-minded, black & white thinking. Nothing is simple and these tools do have a place, but the US has such a mercantile mindset that technology has been successfully sold by the Usual Suspects as a panacea. Still, it isn't as though US efforts would be more legitimate and effective if they only went mano a mano after "the bad guys" (the overused phrase of choice amongst the above mentioned simpletons).

  • Trump fires Bannon: Who are the Winners & Losers Globally?
    • There are layers within layers when prognosticating along these lines. Within some of the HRC links there was a candid presentation she made to The Bankers really running things, where in realpolitikal terms she explained why the existed armed status quo in Korea was to everyone's benefit. An enlightened criticism of her remarks, I recall, would have been that she was being short-sighted, but it was a disturbingly sound argument nonetheless.

      No, I'm afraid your ideas may serve to draw out better ones, but we have to avoid overly simplistic end of the bar thinking, such as what has been coming out of the White House recently and is regularly falling flat on its face.

  • Top 5 Ways White Terrorism means never having to Say you're Sorry
    • I just heard McMaster do the same thing.

    • With ALL the posting you've done beating around this particular bush—over the course of years—you are failing to call out that while individual manifestations of this propaganda (because that is precisely what it is) may be spontaneous, its overall occurrence is hardly accidental.

      In fact, I think you know exactly how this has all come about, and I admire and respect your forbearance in broaching this phenomena in the careful, deliberate and measured way you have. Still, I'd suggest you rethink whether the forbearance you have shown to this point needs to be re-calibrated. Certainly, you have to make an actual difference rather than merely vent in a way that only marginalizes or discredits you, but the impact of this influence is entirely too powerful and the stakes too high not to call a spade a spade and continue on in this tepid a manner.

  • If an Iranian president talked like Trump we'd think them all nut cases
    • Don't know what provoked this invective against a guy whose really just another neocon. Give Frum the discount he's due and move on.

      My comment is that its not only worthwhile but important to read those who at least pass for "conservative thinkers" on the right (as they certainly abuse the idea of people who do their homework and plan for doing the smart thing over the long haul). Brooks, Wills, Frum, etal: the better ones are at least good writers and (other) people follow do their lead.

      This is as opposed to the congress, who are simply bought off. For all their lack of values and judgement, as a group these pundits are as appalled by T as anyone else. The hope is that the right will join the left in limiting the damage Trump seems determined to inflict on the US and the World. And that may be what we should all hope and aim for.

      A even more dangerous future might just be Pence, unencumbered by Trump's fundamental incompetence and empowered by a genuinely terrifying sense of his personal God-Given destiny.

  • Kissinger pushes Iranophobia, fear of 'radical empire' as ISIL declines
    • That "belt" you're referring to is the infamous "Shia Crescent". It's been sold to us for years now, and is what this article is attempting to debunk with facts. Somehow, however, the realities be damned.

      I'm reminded more and more of the old "creating your own reality" mindset. While reality can and will bite you on the ass if you ignore it, there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy and the power of positive (or negative) thinking to impact an inherently malleable world. A particular vision becomes real when the circumstances as perceived by people in the region and around the world are successfully conned. Ultimately it all becomes a matter of salesmanship, and this is clearly what the Usual Suspects are up to here.

      This information about the local religious make-up is doubtlessly sound. And how religions are absorbed by their adherents over time, and how they are interpreted and evolve in response to circumstances, is beyond anyones direct control, as is evident in their histories. Still, evil politicians and misc power-grubbers have always done their best to harness religion's power to make their own realities. Playing with fire, as it were.

      Who is to say their attitude is any worse than throwing up your hands and saying our futures are a matter of fate? It becomes a rather basic philosophical question of ones mindset re free will and destiny, eh?

  • "Fire & Fury" or "Shock and Awe": it is always the start of a Quagmire
    • We shouldn't discount the body language when its this unmistakable. Yes, a cigar is often just a cigar, and the room may have just been drafty, but what I sense is seriously sweaty palms.

      The US military has been studying the NK problem for a long time, and I'm confident they have a non-nuke option ready to neuter them. Remember that demo of the MOAB a little while back in Afghanistan? Dozens of those things could have the impact required.

      Not saying the poor saps in SK and Seoul in particular wouldn't get their hair mussed, but...

      NK has either got this whole business (correctly) gamed out, and will pull off the Mother of all diplomatic shake-downs, which is very possibly their intention, or Trump will feel compelled to pull the trigger one Friday afternoon when everyone's taking a nap.

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