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Total number of comments: 1048 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:39)

Travis Bickle

Showing comments 300 - 201

  • Faux News & Patriotism (Jamiol Cartoon)
    • This is worth thinking about in a cool, productive way. If only to understand what's happening. There must be a related X-Step recovery program...

      I've disciplined myself to sit and watch Fox for a couple hours, and then compare it to the (relatively accessible) alternative: You have to admire those guys, assuming you're from Mars and have the luxury.

      One thing Fox does is stay on message as the continuously repeat their points. In human psychology the "if there's smoke there must be fire" instinct is hard-wired. Considering the fall match-up, they have 6-8 points to erode Obama with, versus the Demo's 1 (or is it 2? eg, Romney's rich and out of touch). Their folks simple ignore the demo points, silently conceding Romney's rich and excuse him; the kenya thing, on the other hand, will never just never go away, even if only a reminder of having heard nothing new in X months. Why is that??? Not worth going into their campaign chapter and verse, but in terms a ruthless and professional execution, the Demo's look like amateurs.

      Now take at look at what opposes Fox. Colbert/Stewart/Maher are a bunch of comedians. They ridicule with no follow up; their points are clothed in laughter. Their producers simply repackage the raw ammo the republicans GIVE them. As they say (including Letterman), "you cannot make this stuff up!" Then you have the MSNBC commentators, who in a more indignant way dismantle the idiocy piecemeal. In their own way, both groups are satisfied to simply ridicule the transparent stupidity.

      What they apparently do not see is how Fox deliberately APPROPRIATES whatever themes might emerge against them. For example Class Warfare is something they now yell and scream about, but this began as soon as progressive media discerned how the middle-class was being hollowed-out. Thus, they gain the initiative and ownership of the heading, the phraseology, and the talking point. Identify and attack along the lines of your greatest weaknesses, which would be the same as your opponents greatest strength.

      In sum, however, what we see is a commitment to ideology, as opposed to knee-jerk reactions from those who think good secular thinking is so obviously the only rational way to proceed that it will, in due course, naturally carry the day. They are wrong.

  • The Panetta/ Pakistan War of Words
    • When you boil away the never-ending drama and spin, which is impossible given the domestic (US) political scene, it all comes down to your last sentence.

    • When there is something fundamentally wrong with something, you cannot do enough to make it otherwise. You might temporarily deflect or finesse it, but the needs of Reality are relentless and will eventually have satisfaction.

      Taking out AQ and the Taliban as it existed back in 02 was a case when lies and spin were not needed. Since then our actions in the area have become increasingly inappropriate and going contrary to what was appropriate. When messages from various senior officials become mixed its a sure sign of a lack of integrity that cannot be fixed by enforcing a "message." The US can resist the reality of things in AFPAK for a while, but the pressure will build ever stronger to bend to the truth and reality of things as the Lie-Seeking missile of nemesis looms nearer and nearer.

      In fairness, Obama appears to be trying to surf his way by this reality to somehow assuage the Right-Wing and otherwise govern by consensus. Its what politicians do, and if done well its a way of moving the herd forward. If one is going to say Obama has adopted the wrong strategy you have to squarely face and work through the ramifications of that proposition.

  • Top Ten Silver Linings for Democrats in Wisconsin Outcome
    • Of course, this is all about any group which gets some leverage and pushes to "capitalize" on it. We hope people won't get greedy, but they always do. The real hope is that the power never swings so far in one direction that it cannot be offset so as to swing back to a sane and viable equilibrium.

    • IF you boil off some of the polemics I think you really have a good point. I'd call it neo-feudalism instead, and to make a more persuasive case and way to see this as a true trend, point to specifics. Think of the slow and incremental hollowing-out of the middle-class, and the communities which for the moment only have a simple punch-code at the gate. Think of MC folks who went to college and whose children will not, unless they are uniquely capable, in which case they will be identified and co-opted...plucked, as it were, so they will not make trouble and the rich can get richer. The Red and The Black, redux.

      That stuff about a non-zero sum world is a con: you may have matches and I may have an ax to chop some wood, but what about the poor wolf goes hungry? I'm not going to sleep until I've used that ax to cover my exposed flank with matches....there's a wolf out there whose only getting hungrier.

    • There is a bit of looking for the silver-lining shown here. Reality is that it was a battle testing the ability of two entities to mobilize and apply their assets, and the GOP won. It presages an ability, if nothing changes, for them to run over traditional demo strengths in the fall. So, as you in effect say, one of the best things is how this might serve as a wake-up call.

      There's a great website for prognostication of the Nov horserace in the electoral college at link to

      Wisconsin will be pivotal to whomever's win.

  • CIA ‘revives attacks on rescuers’ in Pakistan (Woods)
    • Someone more knowledge can comment on how to stop drones, but I suspect a Cessna would be more effective than an F-16, since those things are so small and slow.

      Put unless I'm mistaken, the Paks tacitly allow drones to operate over their airspace and have even given them a degree of ground basing support. Its all part of the complex game they're playing with public opinion along with everything else. Nothing is simple here.

    • Traditional warfare required a telling and refreshing degree of commitment and integrity. Beyond the adrenalin, it calls for commitment to the idea of you or the other guy coming out on tip, and that your cause will carry the day. Since your extinction, often horribly, is what is at stake, righteousness carries a premium if you want to prevail against a hopefully inferior motivation.

      Anybody who has gotten into a schoolyard confrontation knows how the pressure builds to back down before the first blow falls, and then to collapse once you the swinging starts. Strangely enough, I think this sort of clarification of commitment accounts for some of the attraction of warfare, at least traditionally.

      Once it becomes an arms-length exercise you loose all that. Years ago I got into paintball, and it was enlightening how the premium on passion and commitment held when we were using first-generation single shot "weapons" where you had to charge and twist, and to get up close and personal to put the other guy away.

      So, we perhaps have a resentment against how these and other technologies have taken away the chance for passion and the right vision to stand a chance. If the side with the better vision and righteousness stands no chance, the universe becomes out of whack; if technology defines what is "right" then we are on thin ice, if that.

      Technologies are being developed to anticipate future acts and resistance, not unlike that future-crime Tom Cruise scifi movie whose name I forget, which could be put in the same reference set as the Terminator series (whose drones may have served as the model for what we now see. And don't think Star Trek didn't have anything to do with your cell phone). Note how MRI's can now be used to detect deception and even discern patterns being viewed: such things only stand to be improved and disseminated with increases in processing power and the dedication of engineering/programing energy.

      The conflict shaping up is between technology and humanity. Technology is not necessarily the same as modernity (that's another topic). What I'm thinking is the scifi vision of practically self-awareness, if not a self-perpetuating increase of power to technology as an end and power in itself.

  • Top Ten Reasons Romney Shouldn't Arm Syrian Rebels
    • Strange to say, that's the positive prospect we may well need to hope for.

    • Romney may say and do anything to be President, but he is not incapable of grasping the complexity and danger of the Syrian situation once he gets to be The Man.

      The question is how he will actually act, having said everything he's said, and how his freedom of action will have been compromised by everything he will have said and done (people appointed) to get the job.

  • Satellite Images Show Syrian Army Siege of Houla (BBC)
    • I agree. With the current momentum of apparent events this would be the sort of allegation you would anticipate hearing.

    • Israel intervene???? Israel is nothing if not opportunistic, but this would be bat-s**t crazy, even if it is something they'd cynically want to do at some level.

      Sourcing the JPost may explain this a bit. The report looks more like a spontaneous piece of sensationalism for reasons of readership.

  • The Great Landgrab (Oldroyd)
    • We need to put these sort of trends in their larger perspective.

      The US now consumes an enormous proportion of the World's resources, and China, India and others aspire to our model. Improved techology and new reserves (eg, tertiary recovery of gas and oil, solar/wind, etc) can help provide such progress, but economics tends to be a zero sum game, especially when driven by mindless consumption and growth.

      Entonces, you get the picture of neo-colonialism painted here. But within the US, the Have's need to keep up, if not improve their profitability. And the dicier the situation gets the more these guys feel they need to sock away for the future, and that means preying evermore blatantly on others. Sure, first you may want to go offshore to sheer the Third World, but don't forget those opportunities closer to home.

      Here's how governments are joining the for-profit world to feed on those who cannot defend themselves. link to

      This sort of behavior is only rational: who with half a brain is going to go after someone who can defend themselves? Slipping back into the foreign policy realm, think of how Iran might be motivated to seek a firmer sort of security against the jackals who are growing ever hungrier and more insecure at the threat their own corruption is generating.

  • How Obama changed definition of ‘civilian’ in secret drone wars (Woods)
    • But you are coming up next to the narrative being drafting against Obama, as being feckless. Objectlively, Carter did a good job on various fronts, but that nasty business with Iran is all that is remembered by anyone but critical academics.

      First job of President in FP, I'd think, is to not screw-up. And if the last guy screwed-up to clean-up his mess. Obama is doing these things reasonably well, especially given the politics. But the perceptions make it a sporting bet he'll join Carter as a one-term wonder.

    • With Assange it bears revisiting the precise nature of the charges made against him. The prosecution of Assange gets to the underlying issue of Rule of Law. Unless we are being too cynical, Assange will be summarily extradited to the US and go into the same Black Hole as Manning. Whooops, Manning is a US citizen, so Assange won't have the same protections....such as what???

      As Glen Greenwald has been going on about, the danger is what happens when someone inevitably not as benevolent as Obama gets his hands on the controls. And that is not an issue of if, but of when.

  • "All Wars are Follies" (Benjamin Franklin Poster)
    • Dear Ben,

      Whenever some entity figures it can take something from another, or otherwise enhance its power and prestige, on the cheap.

      You really are great. Don't ever change.

  • Is the Egyptian 2010s a Replay of the American 1960s?
    • Oh, and what a price Sadat paid...

      I think it was our our SOS George Ball who described CD as a huge real estate transaction, where the US paid the Israelis billions of dollars (in terms of immediate money, credits and ongoing aid), for a huge amount of desert, and then turned around and paid the Egyptians billions more to accept it. Money the US has paid due to CD has continued, and over the years has become truly breathtaking: hundreds of billions.

      Peace by checkbook, according to a tradition that has *somehow* established itself as the US contribution to middle eastern peace. Could also be seen as a shrewd example of a world class shake-down.

    • The challenge for The People is going to be getting the Military to reconcile their role to being defenders of The People, and otherwise to serving them, and not to just use the job to line their own pockets. By nature of the money and power involved this is a dicey proposition and prone to get ugly. It will simply be tough in the best case, given the traditions that have grown up over the years. It all gets back to intent: it the intent of the Military leadership really is to empower the people it'll meaning letting go of their own power, and such a scenario would necessarily need to unfold over the course of years.

      I've seen estimates of anywhere from 33-50+% of Egyptian GNP directly accounted for by military-run industries, meaning all those manufacturing jobs where any amount of value might be added (and add to this the indirect component of retired military folks working off their military relationships!). Value-added production is the great key to developing the export component of their economy, getting out of the clutches of the IMF and their bloodsucking minions, and becoming a viable, self-sustaining economy. Many of those in the military will be loathe to divest themselves of these interests, since that is the deal on which they have worked to become officers, develop career and relationships, and retire to harvest the same...

  • Egypt's Presidential Election: Between Revolution and Counter-Revolution
    • Great analysis! Looking past the horserace dimension, in its totality this race reflects an highly involved polity that is at least well-informed about what the various candidates stand for and what is now at stake.

      It also reminds me that the drama will not stop once the dust settles, smooth or rocky. Democracy is an ongoing process, the forces of darkness are forever looming and looking for an opportunity, and without full and ongoing participation the world can easily begin spinning in reverse.

  • Shell’s $4bn lobbying campaign cleared the way for Arctic oil drilling (Ross)
    • The lessons to draw here are that this is how corporate behavior, at its most competent, is defined: focused, amoral, and totally relentless.

  • Iran, UNSC talks have the effect of Averting War
    • I could be wrong about this, but, my understanding is that the biggest gripe that can LEGITIMATELY be made against Iran...other than them "not being like us" that they are not in full compliance with the NPT, in which case the various "inducements" they have been provided with for peaceful development of a nuclear program, would be withdrawn.

      Iran would then be no different than Pakistan, India, Israel, etal, and free to do whatever else any sovereign state is entitled to do within its own borders. However, with existing sanctions it isn't as tho their participation in the NPT is doing them any good anyway.

      So why all the falderol? Why indeed. If the intent is to change their general behavior and power in the region, the nuclear issue will be revealed to be more of a smokescreen. Iran is not going to forfeit their sovereignty, and that is what it appears is being demanded of them. Hence, you are unlikely to see anything substantive coming out of these talks: what is at stake is Iran's presence and power in the region, completely aside from the nuclear issue.

  • Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans
    • Guess that should be JFK rather than Jefferson. But the point now becomes quite clear: the US government (or who they actually represent), are now evidently afraid of the people.

    • The phrase "Straight Talk", is in itself a lot easier said than done. Things can be viewed honestly from different perspectives, and the interpretation of a single word can tilt an observation one way of the other, best intentions aside. But even that assumes good faith.

      Professional reporters are supposed to fill this need. Even if they have a bias, it becomes recognizable and readers can factor that in. But even these guys, when working in good faith, should cover the various perspectives before laying out their logic and judgement on what they see as The Truth. Again, such people are at least operating in good faith.

      But what we now see in MSM are not reporters, but stenographers. What you see on a lot of MSM is in fact very deliberately designed by a program's Producers, and the talking heads are nothing more than that. In the best case these Producers are aiming for ratings in a given demographic (or set thereof); in the worse case, don't ask, but view their output critically and the answer will be clear enough. Even Bill Maher is not immune from this sort of control

      What I get from a disciplined viewing of the Fox network (which is not easy) is nothing short of admiration for the "discipline of their messaging", as they say in circles that actually study manipulation along these lines. It's a well-paid trade, often practiced by those with a calling.

      It strikes me that this is all symptomatic of a rapid acceleration of our collective social evolution. The forces of autocratic consolidation, abetted by hard technology and advanced management practices, are gaining an ever-firmer control over the masses. But this trend is only sustainable if they don't press it too far, and if can keep people down forever. The trouble is that this is a matter of collective power hunger and greed amongst a certain set of people, and nothing will be enough for them but more and faster.

      This is not some long range policy of a bunch of oligarchs, but a simple reflection of greed, where those who acquire something find it feels good and want more. They then get antsy they're taking too much and they start wanting to consolidate their gains, meaning they need even more in the accounts and even bigger/stronger security systems. This is what Jeffersons was getting at in the prior post.

      We now have another episode in the ongoing conflict between one set of people (and in todays system, their many, prideful dupes), and those who still have a sense of smell and know they're getting shafted. Expect this trend to continue, but as a matter of physics, once pressure builds far enough (which may be a long time while in this "great" country), the worm will turn. It always has.

    • You're right. Alternative media that avoids the influence of the controlling monied interests needs to fill the credibility void, meaning it still needs to be big enough to have quality control and editorial consistency. EVen a well-run blog by one analyst leveraging a strong network of colleagues can do so, but it's vulnerable in a variety of ways. I don't know how this evolution will occur, but it has to, or we are we will continue our perceptual slide into the world of Orwell.

  • Top Ten Ways the US Military can Avoid Teaching Hatred of Muslims
    • Have you forgotten Lt Col Oliver North? L/C's are guys with just enough smarts and just enough knowledge and experience, to make a difference in a specific scenario while falling on their sword for the convenience of their betters.

      Not to say, however, that another career on Fox news wouldn't await them, as proven by North and his GS opposite number, G. Gordon Liddy.

    • Speaking of which, there was a tangentially related piece on 60 minutes last week about a couple Air Force officers who weren't going along with their organization's program when their very lives were at stake.

      That being the case, they became whistleblowers. Somewhere I saw a study about whistleblowers, where inevitably the world of formal organizations found such characters to be persona non grata. The best anyone has done, and I think it was that woman who blew the whistle on Enron (Sharon Watkins?), was to work through a speaker's bureau, giving presentations to corporations about ethics.

      Think about what this means.

    • Notwithstanding your observation about our officers, other than (perhaps) junior officers who are just passing through, these guys now have careers based on accepting and doing what they are told.

      Someone with the confidence of a pertinent masters level course at a reasonable university would certainly know better, but he'd keep his mouth shut. There'd be positively no upside in rocking the boat, and to do so for the sake of his/her integrity would be a mark against him as a team-player, however assinine the lecturer might later be proven to be.

      That bears repeating: unless their "lesser opinion" is invited (as in a staff meeting or seminar), their job is to not to question beyond clarification, and even if a whistleblower is right, and acknowledged as such, within the organization they will be tagged as an unreliable part. There are, in fact, special places for such units, but in general they would stand to be disgarded and these guys know it.

  • Romneynejad: We didn't have gays in the 1960s
    • PS------re-reading that post...NOBODY, especially a 16 y/o prep school kid in 1966, was OUT. Anyone with those inclinations would have probably been in denial, and scared to death of his ambivalence being recognized. More probably he was one of the supplicants hanging out with Mitt and trying to pass.

    • People are fundamentally the same and we all can recognize what was more likely going on at the time, getting past the temptation to think a 16 y/o in 1966 even knew what a "homo" really was.

      The more recognizable reality is that The Mitt, and his buddies, at the time, were simply a bunch of entitled rich kids looking to throw their weight around, and there...lo and behold...was someone "different."

      Their target may or not have been Out at the time, or perhaps they were just ambisexual in the sense o the early Warhol Art Fag scene. What I have no problem remembering is how guy's like Romney over at the jock table ganged up on whomever did buy into their preeminence or otherwise stood-out.

      Even today it takes no imagination to see him as the grown up version of what is practically the caricature of the bullying jock, swaggering his way through the High School cafeteria, quick to target anyone who didn't endorse him.

      Now, imagine what THAT guy would do with the domestic surveillance powers Obama is now endeavoring to aggravate.

  • New Israeli government likely won't launch Iran attack
    • This is a optimistic read of the tea leaves, and it is reasonable enough as far as it goes.

      You may be right, and this is a more positive turn, but Israel's foreign policy re its neighbors has always been based on coercion, and its grip over the US to run interference or otherwise empower them will be slipping unless Romney is elected. Israel is quickly reaching a point of having to use its power (such as it is in the case of Iran), or loosing it. Being committed to a certain philosophy re "Peace," it will be needing to reinforce its regional dominance and reputation, or its position will begin to slip irreversibly.

      Israel is by their history evidently committed to a certain style of Peace, and its actions stand to be dictated by that premise, the passing political facade notwithstanding.

  • Power and Money in America (Noam Chomsky)
    • OK, but even as the writer concedes the precarious state of what used to be an effective proletariat, he has to also acknowledge their underlying effeteness in today's World. Nothing today is going to happen from the bottom-up. Gov Kasich (R-Ohio), was right in observing OWS is just a bunch of idealists venting.

      The current Little People with time on their hands will get over it, just as soon as they get into a good MBA and/or JD program, or move back in with the folks to rake leaves and twitter their frustrations away. If some Great Man starts effectively organizing he/she will be co-opted by an appropriate opportunity. Take note on how Obama is struggling, and ultimately proving ineffective. This approach is a whole lot more efficient than Nites of Long Knifes, and the occasional Bradley Manning can serve his purpose as well---to keep us all civilized.

      Think about it: The Neo-Plutocrats are not just a bunch of guys in togas, bemoaning the lack of good domestic help: I see no formal conspiracy here, but one of natural evolution. These are people who happen to profit through what seems to be a natural, evolutionary economic process, that normally leads to a consolidation of wealth following by a revolution, where the goods get redistributed before the whole process begins anew.

      That vision I'd buy into, but at this point in the world's development, hard technology and soft managerial practices have evolved to the point the 99.9% stand to be kept down and ground down far longer, harder and more professionally. In fact, the competence with which drones and the drones who drive them are being improved, makes me think the natural underlying tendency to enslave (in kinda, gentler way), is right around the corner. Isn't that what the observation of a Precariat is REALLY all about??? Whattya think that zillion sq ft NSA facility out in Utah is all about???

      The vision described in this essary is ultimately a nostalgic one. If you want a crude film metaphor for the future I see shaping-up, screen the Terminator series

  • He that would make his own liberty secure... (Tom Paine Poster)
    • I kinda like this blog because it engages with the shades of gray.

      That said, the assertions of some long dead guy with a wig isn't something to take to the bank. Thomas Paine was not some God handing down The Word, and even if someone wants to use his words that way, there are other Gods....

      You have only to go back on THIS VERY BLOG, and its last such opinion, cited on 4/28 from John Quincy Adams, that "American does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

      Afraid we're stuck in the role of being the Grown-Up at this party, and there's no Daddy there to tell us what to do.

  • Biden to Romney "Dude, you are so 1975" and "If you Plan war with Iran, tell us Now"
    • You want scarey?

      Those people "stuck in the cold war mindset" are the most alarmed and involved voters, pining for the good-old days of Ozzie and Harriet US pre-eminence and Midwestern Main Street White Man dominance that never existed in the first place. With the wavering enthusiasm of a bunch of young, disenchanted, first-time, and never again voters, Obama could be in deep trouble.

      While in Texas, I noticed a guy named Dewhurst running for the vacating Senate seat of Kay Bailey Hutchison. He is saturating the air with ads extolling the glory of his Father who flew bombers in WWII: Dewhurst is basing his legitimacy on his Father's glory. Nada Mas. Its like, these young-uns have screwed up everything the greatest generation build, now we gotta take it back from "those" people.

      Hey, I'm old, but I'm neither stupid or vain; at least not compared to the target market Dewhurst and Romney are clearly banking on.

  • Top Ten Reasons Israel tried to Censor Bob Simon's Report on Palestinian Christians
    • Israel gets treated with kid-gloves everywhere.

      On Bill Maher, in the week before Israel made its full court press on Obama about Iran in early March, Michael Oren just happened to gain the lead-in, warm-up interview with Bill. The guy was remarkably loose and particularly glib as he trotted out the usual lines, that sounded in that case extraordinarily trite.

      What astounded me was Oren's utter confidence and how cavalier he was. Bill was hunched over in chair, in a closed defensive posture, offering up softballs and accepting everything Oren asserted. I'd seen him in other shows throw some really uncomfortable zingers at other guests regarding Israeli behavior and attitudes, notably Richard Haass. But not here, and it struck me that as part of a organized nationwide campaign that week, the fix was in.

      In this case, Maher's deference was painful: it was as though he was on a leash.

  • Bahrain Protests ahead of Formula One Race
    • Ah JTM----

      You've obviously smoked out the real story here, namely the underlying Illuminati conspiracy. Be careful tho. We don't want anyone to start getting the idea it really is something more than a metaphor.

  • Iran's Forbidden Nukes and the Taqiya Lie
    • In addition to the other qualifications on situational lying, there is the psychological dimension underlying anythings believability.

      Namely, projection, when the analysts attribute their own lack of integrity and disposition to lie as a given with others. Not that you shouldn't assume them to be: that really would be naive if not downright suicidal. But it reminds me of a Shawn O'Hannity rant I caught back in 2002/3, when he said to get Osama Bin Laden turned in, all the US had to do is raise the price of the reward. His opinion said more about him being a whore, than the Taliban or those in AQ who operate on a more spiritual level.

      In fact money has been effective in getting information and encouraging betrayal, but there is an essential blind-side we see in the general population and even amongst specialists who should have the background and discipline to transcend their weaknesses.

      These things are more nuanced than even this post presents. How well-educated is any given Ayatollah, and how closely will he adhere to a tradition that I doubt is any more black and white than the New Testament? Even the best informed people, with the most self-knowledge and insight gained through maturity and costly mistakes, carry with them a blind-spot when it comes to seeing what they want/expect to see, and disregarding whatever evidence there is to the contrary.

  • China hopeful Iran will compromise with the UNSC
    • deB MILLS----

      Well put. But to make things even more gnarly, remember that one of Israel's "red lines" has been Iran fielding Russia's advanced (eg, effective) SAMS. Iran having an ability to protect themselves is unacceptable, they would say, because under that cover they could safely commence a truly virulent nuclear weapons program.

      The real underlying problem, as you know, is just a bit further west.

    • Objectively, when you keep in mind Iran's current lack of capability, and the long, long road to obtaining it without showing their hand, you have to revisit the underlying premises for US/Israel discomfort.

      Iran's real crime is their growing power and influence in the region. If they totally, absolutely and incontrovertibly forfeited any rights in nuclear regards in any which way, size or form, it would still not satisfy their antagonists.

      This business with nukes is a smoke screen. Putting aside ultimately childish complaints about hypocricy, and thinking practically (eg, selfishly) about US/Israeli self-interests (which are NOT one and the same), and you will find yourself thinking more constructively about how to resolve the situation.

    • Having said all that, whether or not the US/Israel/anyone else is hypocritical is not all that relevant: we all have our interests and day-to-day economics tends to be a zero-sum exercise. What's left is to put lipstick on that rather ugly pig. But in that spirit, the question above becomes starker: is the US acting in its own best interests here?

      Another quibble: Israel could have 400 weapons if (as I recall the best thinking) their reactor in Dimona had produced as much fissile material in the last 20 years as it had between 73 and 93. Pursuing its own interests, a country like Israel will not feel secure, or be secure, even if it has enough to destroy the world over several times. The reality of never, ever being secure is part and parcel of any "ownership" based on brute force, rather than a pursuit of acceptance.

    • Is it really the US national interest to spend so much real and diplomatic capital on sanctions that are essentially a quasi-war, when we know there must be substantial quid pro quos to get the EU to go along with them, and the costs to get China, India and Russia in line will be far higher?

      With that question in mind, consider the strength of the force that must be driving such a US policy.

      What is so important about Iran that the US will pay any cost and bear such a burden, and is the policy driver truly the US national interests? Given what is being expended in pursuit of this policy, is that driving force, to that extent we are expending so very much energy that is not in our interests, effectively acting against us?

  • Dear CNN: This is not News; *This* is News
    • There are better things for us to beat our breasts about, although there's plenty of room for rolling eyes.

      AJ has a far more cosmopolitan perspective, audience, and mission, hence you have something like 20 stories here, two of which are from the US (and even these carry real interest for people living in a larger world).

      CNN is on the ropes against FOX, as it competes for the broader provincial audiences you see public TVs in hospital waiting rooms and and airport lounges inevitably tuned. These are nothing more or less, or worth getting exercised about, than those tabloids you see at the supermarket checkout.

      There is something to be bothered about here, but I think it's the notion that an audience with such a limited worldview is responsible, somehow, for a democracy.

  • Text from Hillary to Santorum: The Front Line of Combat is Not the Best Place for You
    • There's an understandably ad hominem (sp?) disparaging of Young Rick's remarks, aggravated by quoting his remarkably inarticulate comments.

      There's something to be said for his points, although they could've been stated far better and with a nuance his targeted audience would be oblivious to.

      Fighting can be, but in modern days is not always, a extraordinarily and unforgivingly physical exercise. Even in a high-tech setting, when "war" becomes more than policing, it can quickly get down to the the cash-transaction Americans have forgotten is at its core, and the last thing you need around is a "typical" woman. Killing with a shovel to the neck is different than with a button. If a patriot missile battery's command trailer in Bahrain is overrun by some guys who "shouldn't" be their, that will be the reality and they'll be back to rocks and sticks, if that. Real war is not a place in which you want to be fair; being fair is stupid. The great attraction of certain people to the military is how objective it endeavors to be due to that reality.

      So, of the 16 pilots in a theoretical fighter squadron, there will be one who is the weakest, even tho he may be superbly well-qualified, competent, and a great team player who is well-liked by his colleagues. Due to the stakes involved and the power leveraged by one plane, which could be tasked to deliver (heaven forbid) a nuclear weapon, or to stop an enemy plane with one, if another pilot who is on the net considered a bit stronger is available, objectively you would insist on that guy, or gal. If not, you're an amateur.

      I once ran into a group of half-drunk career Army NCO's. They were serious guys who were about to deploy for Gulf I, who were a bit dumbfounded at a question I had about the role of gays in the military. One finally paraphrase....that if they had a guy who was detracting from the mission or their capabilities, their job was to take care of it and that the mission was all they were concerned about.

      This is a political question, and on a real battlefield it has no place.

  • The Afghanistan Syndrome (Engelhardt)
    • So, don't you think maybe our thinking and research might be better directed at understanding the pertinent psychological influences?

      I thinking about how human behavior and thinking is inherently limited by genetic biases and group processes, so that ultimately policy makers never really learn/implement/stick-by the lessons they should. Ultimately, they seem to always be more persuaded by wishful/magical thinking, or positive thinking (which combined with energy is always seen to represent leadership, at least to too many).

  • Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?
    • Have to say of all the scenarios we could dream up for just how this would eventually spill out of Syria, this may have always been the most likely.

      My question is how much residual animosity might still exist between the Turks and Syrians due to the old Ottoman empire? On the individual level I imagine it would no longer have any reason to exist, but how much conflict might be drummed up by al-Assad amongst those on the fence?

      The Yugoslavian model for intervention might be apt, but only to the extent it would be limited, perhaps to establishing safe zones adjacent to the Turkish border, or along the coast. Trouble is, that's not where most of the damage is being done. Enabling the insurgency with communications, signals intel, and things that would enhance their political freedom of action, would be a good way to empower Syrian's to do the job that ultimately they're going to have to do themselves: dispose of al-Assad directly, which is unlikely, or encourage the military to do it some form.

  • US Pentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada: Hersh
    • Really, the New Yorker has done a lot of good work with current affairs along these lines. More power to them.

      I kinda think Hersch has been manipulated by Israel/neocons/Bush43adm to some degree in the past, as when his sources promised action was imminent against Iran.... 6-8 yrs ago! These people are nothing if not clever, so hopefully Hersh and the others will not be misled by those who would would want to hijack their influence.

    • Hersch made an interesting observation in an interview in Austin last week that is also worth noting, about why Israel is ostensible beating the drums for an attack on Iran, when neither the US or Israel intelligence services think (much less have evidence) Iran has a nuclear weapons program: that it simply distracts Obama and the world from the ongoing colonization of the West Bank. This idea really does add-up.

      Still, Israel has been yelling and screaming so long about the existential Iranian threat (sic) that it strikes me they cannot let it go without their tough guy regional street cred being compromised. Add to that the reality, IMHO, that Obama isn't buying into all this hype and doesn't appreciate how they've been bullying him, and that Israel's political leverage over the US will decline in November (assuming Obama is re-elected).

      I'd think both things were true.

  • Tomgram: Bill McKibben, How You Subsidize the Energy Giants to Wreck the Planet
    • Very sensible. You ought to forward this to the speechwriter of the appropriate politician. Quite often, the biggest problem isn't being right, but being able to articulate an insight in such a way that those pre-disposed to resist you will neverless be educated...despite themselves.

  • Why Romney is Lying about the Causes of high Prices at the Pump
    • And none of this matters.

      There are many, many people desperately looking for any sort of excuse or rationalization to "Stop Obama." That is the beginning and the end of it.

      To be fair, on the other side there is a population that will support him, regardless. The question becomes which group is going to be better mobilized.

      Amongst Obama's 2008 supporters we can perceive an understandable disenchantment, liable to lead to nonchalance this fall (at best). Amongst Romney's supporters I perceive a simple hatred that is empowered primally. Assuming they would otherwise offset each other, which group is more liable to get out their vote?

      In 2008 there was huge energy for Obama, with the dream of change and the undeniable presence of a fresh burst of breathtaking competence, coming on the heels of Bush. That had to compete against an energetic old man with old and disproven ideas.

      Amongst the bigots down at the corner cafe there was a concern about Obama, but there was also a certain smugness...."he will never be elected (it's unimaginably), and if he is, just watch things him fail. After all, he just a..." This was, of course, all unspoken, since we are all so much more enlightened these days, and better educated on what is OK to say out loud, rather than with a eye-roll. (It will take a couple generations to get past the reality that segregation did not end (and even this is arguable) until the 1960's.)

      The etch-a-sketch gaff was as on-target as Obama's remark about the rural hardscrabble clinging to their guns and religion. Combine that with the electoral college and how the election will be decided by the electoral college in a relative handful of battleground states, and Obama has very real grounds for concern.

      ADD TO THIS, the idea that a second term is practically a referendum and I'd be very, very concerned. At this point you have supporters who have lost their enthusiasm and opponents who, as a matter of self-image, could now simply not STAND to see Obama's presidency essentially endorsed as adequate, (if not successful).

      Oh very afraid.

  • Arab revolutions Continue
    • It's finally occurred to me (duh...) that a revolution is a process, and if it isn't ongoing it was only an effete temper fit.

      There was a rather paternal, and to me condescending interview, with Gov. Kasich (sp?) of Ohio about Occupy Wall Street, where he sympathetically observed those activities as an opportunity for people "to just get things off their chests," and it was time to bag-it and go back to work.

      An action is not a movement, and if it is not a movement it's nothing. There is a point to gearing one's self with the commitment needed for the long haul, and that's the encouraging thing about what we may be seeing.

  • Top 5 Dangers that the Syria Conflict could Destabilize its Neighbors
    • There are so many ways this situation could spiral out into the region that it boggles the mind.

      The danger becomes palpable when you note the many opposing external powers/entities who are opportunistically trying to take advantage of the instability. There must be incredible intrigues underway, as they operate on the dozens (some say hundreds) of internal political/religious factions, not to mention a large military that was designed to operate as a series of fiefdoms.

      It is NOT the same as the prelude to the Spanish civil war, but in terms of the complexity and the pain that lies between the Syrians and some sort of peaceful equilibrium, I see many parallels. The best thing, or perhaps the only thing that might preclude such a scene, would be a competent coup by a junta of (relatively) enlightened generals. But getting back to my premise, some of the more powerful external players actually WANT anarchy, indefinately if at all possible.

      There was a discussion a few weeks ago on Fareed Zakarias show, between Elliott Abrams, Rami Khouri, and I think it was the editor of al-Arabeia (sp?). Khori is one of the original good and insightful guys you could hope to find, and I'd like to hear his current thinking. But in its subtlety and guile, Abrams was most enlightening, as he made the case for a particularly cunning variation of the neocon agenda. Wish I was on a real computer and could find the link, but its worth a listen.

  • Happy Palestine Land Day: Israel Earmarks 10% of West Bank for Settlements: White
    • Peter---
      Don't know what the quotations marks refer to, but...the situation runs a bit deeper, as the other commenters in their own way have alluded. The Iron Wall, noted in Prof Cole's bibliography, is a great history of the earlier period, and Israel's history really needs to be considered as a whole to appreciate the consistency of their process of expansion and consolidation, which is clear once you get past the smoke and mirrors. The author was one of Israel's "new historians" who drew on declassified IDF and govt records in a serious attempt to get at the truth in the best interests of Israel (even).

      Specicifically, The so-called "Peace Process" you alluded to in 1990, was Oslo, which never would have happened if Bush/Baker had not pressed Israel, dragging and screaming, to the immediately preceding Madrid conferences. This was in the wake of the US victory in the Gulf War, where they were trying to use that momentum to get Israel to cooperate in a fair peace with the Palestinians.

      Oslo came about as way for Israel to get out from under the PR debacle of Madrid, where a team of competent Palestinain negotiators were making them look very, very bad. With Oslo they were on firmer ground, negotiating with the infamously corrupt and far more manageable Yassar Arafat, who had lanquishing in exile in Tunisia. He can and did do whatever it took in Oslo to buy his way back into the West Bank, essentially as Israel's Tool in managing the local malcontents. Thus, Israel was given cover for its continuing colonization as Eastern European Jews from the old Soviet Union arrived during the 1990s, and Arafat was able to line his pockets until the whole sordid arrangement was formally written-off at Camp David. These were the so-called "final status talks," which really just served to lay the blame for the failure of the threadbare Oslo peace process at the feet of Arafat.

      There has never been good faith negotiations by Israel on the Palestinian issue, just tactical adjustments as it pursed its long term, ongoing and relentless colonization, modulated by what they could get away with at the moment. To the extent Oslo may have been in good faith (most arguable episode), the Israeli PM who negotiated it was assassinated. Enough Said.

    • It important to get past the superficiality that yesterday's villains used to so conveniently potray themselves. The first thing modern predators do is avail themselves of world class PR and political cover: they're like those Mafioso thugs wearing their overly-tailord clothes and forever boring you by their talk about class.

  • The US Congress's UNESCO Problem: Daily Show
    • This ENTIRE episode was priceless, as the earlier segments set-up this one. Done in this way, nowhere does Oliver ever have to say/ask Why? I think he even used the phrase of "cutting off your nose to spite your face," which is what the US has essentially done. A classic example of how the US has forsaken its own best interests for that of another country.

      I suspect Wexler's constituents directly support this policy, so he's essentially doing what he's told independant of AIPAC, but you can see he still knows better...."just remember, we're the good guys." A think reed to cling to.

  • Fayyad: Stop Exploiting Palestinian Children for Terror
    • Was this statement intended to be so ambiguous? It could be appropriated by either side. The rhetoric of terrorism and the narrative of victimhood have been so powerful and central to managing public perceptions, it makes me wonder what his intention here really is.

  • Obama, GOP won't Tell Americans that Iran Sanctions drive Gas Prices
    • OK, its clear the power being wielded over the US congress and its executive, as well as big 3rd parties. And that the People in the US are oblivious enough not to connect the dots is understood: but what about the EU? When sanctions don't make much of a difference to them personally, EU support is a chip to be bargained, but when they have to suffer for US policies I'd expect resistance or less than the support I do see. I'm still curious.

    • PS: I've never been clear on precisely how the US has "dragooned" Europe into backing sanctions on Iran. It is clear how the ball got rolling, but where did it get the momentum to steamroll Europe to this extent?

      Sure, sanctions and pressure can be justified somewhat due to insecurity and provocative games/statements from Iran, but to be taken to this extent doesn't square with their interests as far as I've been (perhaps poorly) informed. "Authorities" on one of the in-depth public affairs shows opined that Chinese and Russian failure to cooperate was due to a blend of stupidity, economic selfishness and spitefulness (taking the opportunity to just stick it to the US). Whatever else may be going on, these guys are not stupid.

      I must be missing something here, since the obvious drivers in the US don't account for everything we're seeing.

    • So, thinking a bit deeper, how does this bode for the ability of the People to responsibly govern themselves (eg, democracy)?

      Second point is how the longer a lie goes on, the tougher and more painful it is to get back in-line with reality; the bigger the consequences of the lie as it begins to compound on itself, leading you (or a country) into ever and greater feats of irrationality and sometimes outright stupidity. Think Iraq, which is now ever bit as likely to be repeated with Iran if you follow this logic, and it strikes me that cutting off ones nose to spite their face is consistent with recent history, all rationality aside, and notwithstanding the sanity of Obama (versus the shallowness of Bush). More insanity seems inevitable due to how our system can be and is being manipulated by the relentlessness of a certain group of patient and influential people. How things will come to be is unknown and unknowable, but we are past what is rational.

  • Damascus sees first signs of Guerrilla War
    • Nothing but questions here. Due to the complexity, the range and number or factions, as well as powerful outside parties, there seems doomed to be a very ugly and drawn out process.

      Is there, I wonder, a possibility of some effective coalition of the military coming together as a relatively benevolent junta, dispatching al-Asad and chaperoning a transition to stability/progress? Not something I'd bet on given their Baathist history and how the military was apparently structured by the Old Man, but it seems to be the one thin reed of relative hope I can imagine.

  • Israel to Demolish Solar Energy panels for Palestinians
    • You must have seen the same Daily Show episode I did. In case anyone missed their trashing of Israeli-inspired withholding of US money from UNESCO, this is priceless:

      link to

      What is left unsaid here, is WHO was behind things and WHY? It is strongly implied, tho left unsaid, and goes right along with this tread. The US cutting off it's noise to spite its face, indeed. And Why, oh Why?

    • Hey, looking back over the years, it seems to me they're getting away with it.....

      A cynical attitude seem be underlying things: the world won't notice because they're distracted by the "Iranian Crises," they'll forget because it doesn't directly affect them, or they won't hear about it in the first place.

      The truth-tellers themselves can be drowned-out by the PR machine (a bit different than spin management), or they can be intimated/neutralized through more active means (eg, Campus Watch).

    • This, along with many, many other pieces of evidence, gets at Israel's intentions to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians. This sort of evidence has been abundant and consistent since the 1967 war. It's beyond me how smart and sincere people, who are apparently considered authorities in this area, simply cannot bring themselves to see or acknowledge what's going on, and it is telling when you notice how tortuous their language becomes when they begin to rationalize/apologize for Israel.

  • Omar Khayyam (61)
    • Too true...just deny us our coffee and we see plainly how there's only a weak and thin veneer of civilization covering the primordial lizard brain and all its glories.

  • Syria Revolt Enters Second Year as World Stands Feckless
    • Careful there JT, you're about to become a Person Of Interest.

    • The practicalities of doing much of anything, other than hand-wringing, are genuinely daunting and could make the debacle in Iraq look mild if anyone actually wants to consider the martial options.

      "Doing Something," might best be to empower the people most motivated to do what it takes, and it really is their fight. There are already enough guns, and with defections an increasing amount of ability to use them coherently, to end the regime that is not going to respond positively to the people or otherwise go quietly.

      For the neocon take to defend against, listen to the smoothness of Elliot Abrams on Fareed Zakaria a few weeks ago:

      link to

      The policy he/they would advocate encourages total and complete anarchy by destroying Syria's infrastructure, essentially as was done in Iraq. This would be in Israel's best interests, in that even a friendly government/country can change its attitude overnite. With a failed state, however, you only have to defend against nuisance attacks.

      Creating limited no-fly zones might actually be possible for all the good they'd really do, if they were nuzzled up against the Turkey or the Mediterranean, where SAMs could provide cover. But then you'd have to worry about historical relations between Turkey/Syria, and the active intriguing of everyone from Saudi Arabia to Qatar to Iran, as well as Israel.

      Compounding the problem of safe-zones, you've got the artillery of a large and competent military that can lob shells 20+ miles. In the end, the Syrian military is the force is in a position to resolve this thing with any satisfaction, and at some point might, not unlike what happened in Egypt , although most probably with even less grace.

      As I understand it, their military is actually organized as a series of fiefdoms, and it'd take them coming together as a junta to put al-Assad out. And the Old Man created this structure specifically to prevent this happening. Then you get to the question of what next? The key is to empower the people's political influence over the military, and ultimately let it be their problem to solve in their own way, as ugly and as drawn-out as that may be.

      The only thing "we" might practically do is empower the Syrian people, through safe havens adjacent to or outside the country, OR perhaps through active assistance in organizing, along with defensive tradecraft they could use to defend against what I'm assuming is a very competent mukhabarat. What might well be useful would be communications gear, along with other technical methods and resources, to keep the individuals alive and effective who might be able to work with the Syrian military to resolve things.

  • Israel's Atom Bomb Factory in 3D
    • Got into a discussion with DoD guy who argues Israel only has, I think it was, 20 weapons, because that'e the number of good targets they could come up with. Great logic, that's typical from a certain type of analyst.

      Using known rates of production thrown-off from Dimona is how that 400 figure was arrived at.

      When Vanunu made his splash to the Sunday Times of London, some of his pictures were assessed by experts to be advanced thermonuclear (multistage) designs (ie, Hydrogen, or "supers", the true civilization killers). Garden variety tactical nukes tend to get a bad/overblown rape, such as those used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I could be wrong, but I believe a number of those fielded by US military for tactical use are even smaller, because with size they quickly become to big to "handle" in a battlefield setting: too much of big, crude, sledgehammer.

      But these things Israel has been building goes to another respondent's underlying question: Just WHAT are these guys really up to???? (and my question: who is the REAL national security threat to the US???)

  • US Public to Israel's Likud: On Iran, Negotiate or you are on Your Own
    • The Silverstein link was quite a good read: insightful and putting events in their larger context. It raised a couple important points, the big one being Why, or Why, all this drama on nukes when the Likud leadership must know better.

      Big reason being, IMHO, to distract attention from the ongoing construction and general abuse of the Palestinian question. There really is a consistent pattern of increasing settlement construction and other aggressive colonization moves when the media is distracted by more pressing issues.

  • Changing Iran's Nuclear Calculation with Green Energy: Buonomo
    • Good post/idea that should go under the negotiation file for "expanding the pie." And not to detract from it, but there are a number of ideas that are already in that file and still more that could be added, drawing from the established history of interstate negotiation.

      Looking at the various responses, you get get a distillation of what stands between the current situation and two (three or however many) teams of negotiators getting together and cutting a deal that would be in everybodies best interests.

      What is missing, as others have said in their own way, is a serious commitment to resolve the situation, and I see no one who is blameless. In fact, looked at critically, neither Israel, Iran, or the US, wants to see this issue settled (however we define the "issue", it wouldn't be just that of potential nuclear weapons). Iran has been the existential threat used by the Likud to keep in power and finesse any progress by the Palestinians since at least the nineties; the US uses it as a national security bogeyman in a similar, but less directly applied way, and has been doing so since the 1979, and Khomani has said in as many words that US military posturing has been key to giving the Iranian people a sense of shared danger and cohesion (hard to imagine, with the enormity of our military footprint around them [sic]).

      So, until the proper motivations come into alignment, nothing good is every gong to happen. The situation is liable to bubble along for many years. The only way things may change, and that very well might, is as an unintentional byproduct of political posturing for the domestic consumption of the three becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy through some set of events nobody thought of, or which somehow got out of control (ie, by some fluke Sanctorum is elected President). Or whatever: the most probable course of future events here is itself depressingly improbable.

  • Poll: Majority of Republicans Expect War with Iran in 2012 (Infographic)
    • I'm not sure what "research" you're referring to. Wish I was better at keeping cites on such things when I've seen them.

      I do believe I've seen where there's an relationship between little/no education and propensity to buy into religion, and the same holding true for wealth. Hence we have the Scandinavians: good things come to those who are properly educated (stress on "properly"). This means working things with the best thinking/results/options you can find, wherever they may be: a more progressive approach.

      Meanwhile, the poor and ignorant cling to whatever they may have. Logic seems that neediness would also correlate with bad/magical thinking and not learning from your mistakes....what the GOP offers. Amongst any number of bright conservatives I run into, I don't hit a lack of gray-matter: its more that they've been socialized with one perspective, and its been so very long since they were in school that they've forgotten (or just got tired) of thinking critically and going against their local, small town mindset. That said, with the time and the proper mood to develop a thoughtful conversation/argument, they come around to rationality. How long that would last in the face of the guys down at the coffee shop they see every day is another question. We are social animals, after all.

  • Obama slams GOP for casual war talk re Iran, stresses Costs
    • Agreed. The elections are key, after which the pressure on him abates: the precise reason Israel is pushing things. Open question about whether Obama is dumb or oblivious: either way its not a bad tactic.

    • And what this all really leads one to conclude is that Israel's evident influence over US policy itself represents a national security threat, at least more than Iran.

    • Obama was indeed, impressive, and all that stands between us and getting into (another) bad, bad deal. But I wouldn't be too optimistic about matters: Israel has entirely too much power. Obama clearly is leaning to the US best interests, and good for him, but there is a very fine game he must play to do so in the months leading up to the election, when Israeli power will diminish somewhat. What bothers me now is how the dogs have stopped barking.

      Going into these latest meetings with Barak and Netanyahu, pressure and events seemed to be building to some sort of climax, but things seemingly relaxed with assurances that the US “had Israel’s back,” and that “a nuclear armed Iran will not be tolerated.” What is interesting is how the two parties glossed over the distinction between Israel’s intolerance of Iran with a nuclear capacity that could be implemented, and the US waiting for evidence of an actual weapon or intention to build one. It would take months or years of visible and distinctive weapons construction activities before there could be a first successful explosion, and months or years more before Iran had a deliverable warhead, so that’s not really what is at stake for Israel.

      Charlie Rose had a great segment with Goldberg and Ross, link to
      which is illuminating if you listen carefully, especially as it developed the distinction between nuclear weapons possession and capability. There was also the outright acknowledgement of Israel’s strategy of making Iran out to be a threat to the World and not just Israel. Perhaps most important, however, was simply how satisfied these guys were, as two of the strongest pro-Israel advocates around. Ross is especially slick and subtle, and it is interesting how he works to back-peddle from that distinction between US and Israeli redlines, allowing for a scenario where Israel had to do what they had to do, with Obama “having their back” (perhaps just diplomatically, unless Iran is dumb enough to take a shot at the 5th fleet).

      Israel has already backed themselves into a corner with Iran, and its ability to “do something” with the backing of Obama will dissipate after the elections, so they are in a use it or loose it situation. What Israel cannot tolerate is having its regional hegemony and freedom of action constrained, and in this regard a nuclear capable Iran would be the same as an already armed one, aside from how it would empower Iran's power regionally. A neighbor having an effective air defense system is also a stated Israeli redline, evidently since it would similarly constrain their ability to intimate and threaten the way of doing business that has always defined them.

      Sure, an attack would only give Iranian ambitions validity in terms of self-defense, but Israel's way of doing business has never been anything other than coercive. Their attack now would serve as evidence of willingnesses to do whatever it takes if they need to in the future. And that should be enough said, if they say it loudly enough, at least for awhile. Hey, security with the biggest stick will always be more reliable than soft good-feelings and treatiess that can be withdrawn within a matter of months (think Egypt).

      Accepting the conventional wisdom that Israel cannot do an "adequate job" conventionally, I'd point out they've had plenty of time to study the problem, and the reality their neighbors will need to be slapped down from time-to-time is implicit in Israel's historic way of doing business.

      Here's a scenario for some more informed commentators to comment on:

      Israel apparently has long-range ballistic missiles (developed ostensibly for satellites) that might be used on intermediate range targets. Carrying a big (biggish?) conventional warhead, the additional kinetic energy of traveling at a much higher speed would hugely magnify their power, delivered within minutes of launch and with great precision. Any radiation could be blamed on Iran and the drama involved would illustrate forcefully Israel’s commitment do whatever it takes to maintain its regional power---and THAT is all its ever been about for Israel.

  • Top Ten Dangers for Obama of Iran Sanctions on behalf of Israel
    • Hey RBTL, if you've got a copy of Ross' book, compare his ostensible fair and evenhanded maps to those you'll find, for example, on this website

      Ross presents an interesting case. If you had him next to you for a x-contry flight, I have no doubt you've find him the most sincere of peace seekers, and I doubt any disingenuousness in his comments about Bibi. Still, what sort of fair intermediary would've gone on vacation with Israeli leaders in the lead up to Camp David?

      Swisher's coverage of him at CD is priceless, as is his own we you see the amount of disembling he does, despite himself. I think his book a snow job; the type is tiny, part to get it all into that tomb, but it serves to distract readers from think critically about what happened there. I think Ross the classic case of the smart and committed all-American who has persuaded himself the best interests of the US and Israel are one and the same, and everything else has followed from that.

    • Over the years, taking and pushing the position that the best interests of Israel and the US are one and the same, has been central to their management of US policy.

      This translates, in more practical day-to-day terms that people with different opinions can disagree with, while still managing to advance the cause, as the concept of Israel being the 51rst state. I first heard this line about being the 51st state come verbatum from Israel's current Minister of Defense, and former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

    • Ah, Dennis Ross.

      You only spoke the half of it. He, along with Martin Imdyk (sp?) were the single two administration officials at Camp David in 2000, that YASSAR ARAFAT, of all people, did not trust! And aside from Clinton, Gore, and (we are told at the time) Albright, ALL of that team was Jewish (see Clayton Swisher's excellent book, The Truth About Camp David).

      Ross has always been Israel's top agent, er, supporter, in the US, and how he got the lead job on Iran was, I'm willing to bet, due to Israeli pressure, even as I bet was Imdyk's appointment to be US ambassador to Israel when he was still a citizen of Australia (his citizenship got rushed through by Clinton's exec order, or at least so it seems).

      The closer you look the more sordid this all appears.

  • Limbaugh and the best argument for Birth Control
    • Think this would be more true of some of his pals. Glenn Beck said so in as many words in one struck me, in context, that one of his tearful episodes was actually his squelching back his own laughter.

      Thing about RL is that I think he really believes this sort of thing. Over the last 50-odd years, bigots have learned to hold their tongues for the most part. But the election of Obama has spawned a cadre of people who have provided ways to give vent that which they previously were prevented from thinking or saying, through the dog-whistle racism, hidden between the lines.

      The same mechanism has been used for those who have problems with women, as with those who are under/unemployed, or find themselves having to answer to one and have lost a sense of personal power. Only thing they've been able to do until recently is to buy a gun and go shoot off a box; now a nominally acceptable political response is being provided to them.

      The tip-off is where they no longer even bother to make up substantive arguments against whatever, but make it a matter of just "stopping Obama," the translation and subtext being, "stop the n-----." Karl Rove, astute as he is, has been a terrific enabler, as when he provided that line, that Obama..."thinks he's smarter than you...arugula eating.....leaning up on the wall at the country club laughing at you." Would all of that have been trotted out, or been effective, against Clinton? Against Obama it has resonated.

  • A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East: Fathollah-Nejad
    • Forgot to address that "declining in power" phase. That would be the interesting question here, as my read is that Israel is declining in relative power.

      It'd make sense for them to want to reach a LASTING, and ENDURING peace while they still held some strong cards and there was some degree of motivation on the other side.

      However, time is on the other side, and the prior state of regional equilibrium did not include Israel at all (lets forget, for a moment, that 3000+ year old title they like to wave around).

      Given the sordid history of the last 60+ years I'm not optimistic they can back-peddle far enough to reach a long term and enduring peace locally. My read is that if they really get with the program their odds are slim, versus zero with their current attitude.

    • My corporeal experience is limited. HOWEVER, countries that are secure would have the option, whether or not they use it fairly. Hence, our problem.

      In the matter of brute, realpolitic, what I gather is powerful people/s do what they want to do and can get away with (rationalizing all the way: nobody thinks of themselves as a bad guy. And the poor smucks on the short end of the stick pretty much have to go along with it.

      It was the wisdom of Thucydides, (5.84-5.11, this was the Athenians pointing out the facts of life to the Melians, who they were proposing to colonize peacefully, and how they needed to just get over their little problem with independence), “…you know as well as I do that [what is] right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do as they can and the weak suffer as they must.”

    • Good column. Along these lines I've heard floated the idea of a US security umbrella, as a intermediate step. But the only way to do such a deal is to do it as a single deal between everyone in the putting off the messy details to later.

      And Israel would have to give up its military (ultimate meaning nuclear) hegemony. And given how their state was acquired and maintained, they'd be right in seeing that as a non-starter.

      We're on nature's course as it is. Israel cannot stop someone local with animus toward them eventually gaining a nuclear capability precluding their current freedom of action. At that point, the balance of power will get closer to an equilibrium and there's a glimmer of hope in reaching a fair and lasting modus vivendi with the Pals and their neighbors. The only thing they can do to disrupt the momentum of events is to start major wars with whomever's up next, which will only speed their decline.

  • Top 5 Stratfor Revelations
    • I wouldn't believe anything along these lines. Too much in the way of disinformation and agendas by people that are too smart for their own good.

    • Thing about Stratfor is that it has a perspective/bias that can be read and compensated for, providing a sort of contextual insight. Same can be said for Juan Cole. The two perspectives provide a sort of binocular vision.

      There is a bias to their pieces, which is to be expected by the people they hire, who seem to have largely and prideful military/DOD backgrounds. Doesn't make them stupid, it just suggests a predisposition to being narrow and closed-minded, which does show itself. But if they didn't have a bias, their pieces would be too nuanced to absorb. Combine them with a more academic/idealistic read from elsewhere and you stand a better chance of reading the realities appropriately.

      Big George also has his Big Picture geopolitical POV, which is awfully helpful to avoid being blown around by the more humanistic observations of IC. Egypt is a good example, where I took their bottom line assessment as being the revolution was more of a coup, where nothing really happened but that the Old Man got sent to The Home. So, IC makes the case it was a people driven deal, but that still doesn't mean it wasn't effectively just a coup. The power of the people has yet to be proven, and the trend of recent events shows who has the power is not shy of using it.

      Stratfor does occasionally whiff on the details, and for clients wanting accuracy or buying tactical situational awareness that's a shame. For more strategic corp planning, clients would probably be better having their execs keep up with briefings from people like IHS. I gather they get a lot of $ from retail/consumer Walter Mitties.

  • Israel - Iran Military Comparison
    • 1) With all due respect, a little deeper reading, using some of the credible historians cited in Prof Cole's bibliography might be in order here. But maybe this sort of flailing supports next point, that

      2) The realities don't matter as much as I think most of us would like. Take the most current post from Glenn Greenwald
      link to
      blowing the whistle on ret. Gen McCaffrey's warmongering to NBC executives. Between such presentations and all the "news" people get on these slow news days (is there anything other than morbid curiosity in the GOP primary?), a conflict with Iran is being built up to be inevitable. The realities have nothing to do with that, and only the clear head of Obama ultimately stands in the way....

      I'm watching closely for whatever comes out of the visits of Barak and Netanyahu over the next few days. The reality is that the demonstrated history of the Israeli Way of Political Life wants and needs the US to go to war with Iran, it must happen in the next few months, and they'll do anything to see it happen. And I do mean ANYTHING.

  • Top Ten Differences Between Rick Santorum and JFK
    • It can be a pain, but reference points like this deserve a link citing the source.

      It is, in fact, common knowledge the Israel Defense minister is now in DC doing groundwork for 3/5 mtg between Obama and Netanyahu, and this is clearly going to be a red letter day.

      Anything else "said," formally or informally, will stand to be parsed very carefully from originally sources, given such statements will (guaranteed) be carefully spun, and designed for dissimulation (statements could be precisely the opposite of their intent).

  • Qur'an-burning Protests Spread, Santorum calls Obama Weak for Apologizing
    • Restrepo was about common "troopies". How many of those jokers finished high school, much less had a working knowledge of the language, history, or culture. Such is at least was the conception of SF, although I'm sure they're recruiting has been biased more toward knuckle-draggin' in the last few years.

    • Getting a bit off-topic here, or maybe not. This incident, and your observation, buttress what seems to be the obviousness of the inconsistencies of Western (esp. sanctimonius US) moralizing.

      Equilibrium can be swayed temporarily out of kilter, but the weight of the universe is against it. I see increasingly little difference between the underlying mindset of activist Jews and Christians, and the Taliban. Largely a matter of style, PR sophistication, and clout in a given economic environment.

    • Thanks for clearing that up; Now it all makes sense (sic).

  • Omar Khayyam (19)
    • Somewhere, somehow, someone needs to give a brief and coherent explanation of the problems and challenges involved with translating---much less when you get into poetry!

      "Getting Drunk" is practically slang, versus getting tipsy, intoxicated, high or what have you. Understanding the intent and nuance of the original, and then to then hit on just the one perfect word/phrase/idiom becomes horribly tedious.

      I'm not bad in Spanish, and in the first few words of a TV interpretation before the translator ran over the original, the subject said, "Para mantaner me casa...". Doesn't take much Spanish to understand, in context of the report "To keep my house (ie, keep up)". Interpretor then say's, "To put beans on the table." I about gagged, but then, idiomatically she may have been a bit closer than what I immediately heard.

      But Poetry???? Good luck.

  • Logical Errors and Propaganda in Republican Debate on the Middle East
    • Dear Prof Cole,

      Whatever small temptation you may have to use your time on other things than dismantling such horribly evil and pernicious assertions, please resist them:

      The multiplier effect of the skilled work you do to put refutations like this together is bound to have a real impact on a number of relatively influential people out there who find great value in a more honest perspective.

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu attacks Gen. Dempsey as Servant of Iran
    • Guys like Dempsey don't speak off the cuff. That was a public message by the US, and Obama is all that's standing between us attacking Iran on the behalf of Israel, for the reasons noted. Not a happy situation, but we all know what's going on here and faced with the CURRENT power of the Lobgy, not alot we can do. However, things will inevitably change.

      There was a clarification of that mistranslated "wipe israel off the face of the map " comment by Iran, to something like "to see the current regime go the way of the Soviet Union." Its an apt analogy. The USSR was riddled with what political scientists call "internal contradictions" that made the regime's continued existence a matter of time. Israel is in that same quandry.

      Israel has to fundamentally restructure its attitude and way of doing business, with the Palestinians and the world, if it wants to have peace, or in the long run, survive. It doesn't seem correct to totally lay this all at the feet of the Likud, since the rest of their polity gives a degree of implicit endorsement to their behavior, even if they voted against Bibi etal in a given election. (I will similarly accept complicity in the Iraq debacle, despite having voted against Dubya. Fair is fair, and that's the nature of assuming responsibility).

      So. Israel has backed itself into a corner. Its clout in the US is peaking pre-election; afterwards Iran will acquire a degree of latency and Israeli hegemonic prerogatives will be compromised, which is what this is impending conflict is really all about. If they cannot buffalo the US into neutering Iran for them (if for only a few years), they'll have to do it themselves to keep up their jailbird street-cred, however half-a**ed or catastrophic the consequences.

      Those infamous "internal contradictions", which exist along a number of different dimensions in Israel, are not going to just go away. A resolution through regime change is a matter of time and how many people are going to have to die first.

  • Santorum Hypes Iran 'Threat'
    • What NK has been getting from the US over the years is food shipments, in what amounts to a shake-down for negotiating with us re their nukes, which they have managed to crawlfish on artfully over the years.

      There could be a more correct/nuanced summary, but its essentially correct. What I'm hoping is that Iran is rational, canny, and led ably enough, for all this posturing to be preparation for substantive negotiations with the West (well, the US) along the same lines. At least with NK we didn't have Israel running its own agenda, but that's another topic.

      We might not like how NK has been manipulating the US, but no one can say they haven't been rationale in a low and cunning sort of way. When it gets down to it, much of the relatively sane apprehensions about Iran come from our not knowing that much (with any confidence) about who is running things or how they make decisions/policy. With that sort of knowledge, we don't worry so much about Canada, but in lieu of some degree of confidence of their intentions, the position any responsible policy-maker has to take ends up being the worse-case scenario.

    • Glen Greenwald's website is showing how the MSM has developed a drumbeat for war against Iran. I suppose one driving factor is Producers fear-mongering for the sake of ratings, but that would be charitable and totally naive.

      Its a useful exercise to think what would be happening now if it weren't for Israel. We'd be increasing Saudi arms, as we now are, but there'd be sane, quiet negotiations going on behind the scene and no reason for the perception of a nuke crisis with Iran itself. I suppose US elections need a bogeyman, as does the media: It isn't as tho Hugo Chavez and Castro are doing much for their causes...

      In looking at the sum of Glen Greenwald's link to recent distillation of MSM presentations it appears a non-existent case for war against Iran is "spontaneously" managing to take on a life of its own.

    • I'd put the crowd's response in the same category as that which we saw at a number of GOP debates.

    • And someone like SOS Hillary, if you you said this to her face in the form of a pointed question, would with a straight face, and the force to put you in your place say, "We do not know that, and it has never been confirmed by anyone."

      In all these matters we are making a big mistake when we think that we should stick to the realities. Sure, the more we do work with reality the stronger we'll be situated when the objective facts assert themselves (ie, Iraq), but policy choices are clearly being made subjectively.

  • Greek Lessons for the Arab Spring: Majid
    • All you guys are on the wrong tact: historical antecedents have little if anything to do with how history actually evolves. Santillana was right, in terms of patterns, but thats as far as it goes, especially with modern mass communication when (RELATIVELY) conventional wisdom could give the patina of managed progress some arguable validity. The Truth about how politics unfold appears to me far more complex and chaotic, and totally beyond this academic stuff. ,

      To the original post: is North African culture any more monolithic than that of Southern Europe? Maybe so, but when you look closer, even the common Arabic spoken isn’t all that consistent between Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.

      Mass communications are bound to influence cultural evolution more than academic memories of past glory. This is not to say traditional Islamic culture won’t have an influence, but the weight of cultural influences seems to be tilted toward modernity (secular or not), due to worldwide media which is continuously being dripped on the youth, who are by human nature receptive to all things new and hip.

      To expect any elite academic understanding or establishment to exert effective control over the youth, who are by nature looking for their own identity, strikes me as futile, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Chinese Communist Party, with the pathetic attempts at the repression of culture progress we now see. In the past, paternalism worked because it was a world defined by the speed of a horse and the clan/family could dominate the youth, who could not support each other or effectively resist, but the genie of mass communication is now out of the bottle.

      Simplistic, paternalistic, and command-based fundamentalism within the various traditions will always exist to support the poor, desperate, and socially isolated. But, unless the youth as a whole chooses to steer itself toward the fourteenth century as the next new thing, it seems to me they stand to be increasingly marginalized.

      Its getting to be a bottom up world, and that doesn't mean any allegiance to history. Maybe not the End Of History, but in another way, just maybe. We all need to get used to it.

  • Indian Investigators do not Suspect Iran in Israel Embassy Blast
    • Viewed their actions from a little distance, Israel clearly needs Iran to do something to make the US do the job it cannot do, at least not conventionally.

      Watch/Expect a false-flag operation. Stuff like this "terrorist" attack, or that Iranian plot by some nutty used-car salesman to kill the Saudi ambassador, is prep work, to prepare the MSM and the Little People, for a larger Blow Which Must Be Answered.

      Everything is not going totally Iran's way, in terms of edging out US/Likud power (ie, Syria), but they are doing well enough. The one thing Iran CANNOT do is give these guys an excuse...even if provoked, which the sanctions are. Even to the point of absorbing a (not unexpected at some point) sucker punch from Israel, and not retaliating is such a way as to draw the US in.

      But, Israel (or at least the Likud), ultimately, will be cashing-in on all this media prep-work.

  • The Dilemma over Syria
    • The correct premise, that we on the outside pretty much need to take, is to follow whatever crooked path international law offers. That it is unsatisfying should remind us this is not our fight. As human beings watching the abuse and suffering of others it is, but a commitment to the Rule of Law leaves us where it does.

      So, that leaves Syria to the Syrians. The regime strategy is to modulate their use of force, clearly planning to grind down the malcontents over time so as to never stoke a more broad-based (effective) resistance.

      Whatever the legalities may be, the situation might be finessed by other than the frontal and unsatisfying UN route. One way might to avoid a more widespread small arms proliferation is to train and equip cadres, including communications and intelligence support (the signals stuff would downright vital defensively). In this way the balance between regime and resistance power could be rectified, and modulated in the other direction.

      If you assume Assad's commitment to stick it out and do whatever's necessary, this is either going to go down as a police action to be mopped-up over time, or a protracted de facto civil war that will only be resolved by capitulation of the regime or the people accepting their fate. I suspect things have gone too far for acceptance to be in the cards, so the need for Syrian resistors to commit themselves to working their way through extended ugly times seems inevitable.

      Of course, we in the US could save a lot of time and energy and just ask Israel what we are to do.

  • How an Israeli Strike on Iran could radically weaken Israel
    • Being a neocon means never saying you're sorry.

    • PS: We now hear on the news Netanyahoo is coming to DC next month for high level discussions. These things are always going on, but at this moment there is clearly some sort of dramatic narrative being played out, and Israel leverage/control over domestic US politics will be peaking in the next few months.

    • Hey! The Good News!!!

      Obama holds firm, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, and Israel goes it alone. Iran takes its licks, but somehow constrains itself from striking back. Radiation and big black holes dot their landscape.

      The myth of Israel righteousness is put to the lie. It becomes an outright Pariah. The US is put in the position of having to at least offer aid to Iran, or otherwise help it recover. Could it do any less, given its true worldwide constituency? Perhaps transferring all that Israeli aid to Iran. The Lobby would yell and scream, but the Likud would have shot themselves in the head and the outrageousness of our relationship with them would be finally brought fully out in the open.

      In this climate, and with reelection secured, if Obama pressed for true/fair negotiations, he will have a reasonable chance of success. Israel's fundamental character will have to change, but it would be at a moment like this, when the cards are fundamentally reshuffled, that positive change would actually be possible.

      Too bad about the tens of thousands of Iranians that'd have to die, and the worldwide economic dislocation, but it would take something like this to make people in general wake up, smell the coffee, and address the situation effectively.

    • What are the odds Iran will just go ahead and capitulate on its right to develop a nuclear capability, or any number of other Israeli "redlines" that really define its very sovereignty?

      What are the odds Israel will bring itself to accept Iran's sovereign right to develop its regional power in a way that would effectively limit their freedom of action? (This being the real issue).

      What are the odds the US, or someone else (who I'd give better odds), can broker a fair and enduring accommodation between the needs/positions of these two?

      If the knot is not cut, something has to give and Iranian actions will force something to happen at some point, and most probably before a US presidential election, when their power over the US congress is strongest. What if Israel came to the US and TOLD them, in no uncertain words, that if the US does not help, one way or the other, to neuter Iran, they'll be "forced" to do it themselves?

      Israel cannot do the full job conventionally and it would have to be done with "special weapons." Would this threat serve to coerce the US into a conventional attack, despite the ramifications? Israel does not lack chutzpah, and the law of the jungle is to never, ever make empty threats, such as those they've issued to Iran for years now.

      I don't think they could bully Obama into shooting the US/world economy in the head. But they would be able to get the precise posturing we now see from the US, including O'bamas comment on the Today Show this morning that "the US/Israel are in lockstep" on this issue. Israel could pull the trigger on some day when it's least suspected and the winds are most forgiving, slightly before the US election, when congressional blowback could be best contained. Twenty minutes later, it'd be an accomplished fact. All the World/Obama could do is stamp their feet in outrage, but they'd soon get over it (they always do). For evidence of the plausibility of this scenario, look to the history of oil futures being sold at this time in 2008, which spiked shortly before the conventions: the consensus of the the smart inside-money (is there any other type?) saw the probability of this scenario then, and the situation is more acute now.

      Objectively, the damage will be limited and whatever photo-ops to emerge would be delayed, delivering little dramatic impact. The practical impact, done properly, would be largely an abstraction. Israel really has no other option anyway, short of a total change in their political character. To them, doing anything less would mean appeasement and forsaking control of their security as they have always conceived it. It's a dirty job that's better done now than later, and if done right it won't need to be repeated. The real bottom line is that Israel won't be hearing about any more neighboring nuclear programs. They like to talk about living in a "very rough neighborhood," and they cannot let anyone think they are NOT comfortable doing whatever it takes, without hesitation. It isn't as though Iran was not warned; In fact, we'll all be reminded, "those people were just asking for it." It will not be without cost, but its the lesser of a set of far more unforgiving options.

      There is that awkward business about Pakistani reactions, but people generally get around to doing what they really want to do, and at a primal level the Likud seems to be made up of the sort of people who would want/need to make an example out of iran. And at this point, short of re-inventing the fundamental nature of Israel or being saved by some incredibly effective (Scandinavian?) negotiators, its hard to see any other scenario.

  • Omar Khayyam 13

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