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

Travis Bickle

Showing comments 500 - 401

  • Paranoia Strikes Deep: A Cowering America still Haunted by Bin Laden's Ghost (Engelhardt)
    • You forgot how trillions of dollars a year enables government spending to stimulate the economy, including all those 12-15$/hr jobs with the TSA.

      "Their gripe" is a bit broader, specified a number of times in a number of places, but all fitting under the umbrella of regional meddling: things like propping up dictators to do our biding, fomenting coups against those who'd resist us, having a presence in the holy sites (Saudi Arabia), etc. They're all local gripes, and you can't bank on anything anybody just says about what'd satisfy them under any circumstances, but if you judge things by consistency, its pretty clear-cut.

  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Natural Gas Platform Sinks
    • More informed comment on methane may be needed. Seems like I heard the the net effect of its predictable release is substantially worse (?)

  • Syria: Rebels take Aleppo Airport Road; NYT: Obama Nixed Clinton/Petraeus Plan to Arm Rebels
    • There is a difference in the way Terrorism and Drones are/have been used to this point, but the underlying point is that they are just tools. But more importantly, they are words/concepts with special rhetorical weight that are being manipulated for psychological advantage.

      Thing about Terrorism, is that it has been used deliberately against civilians; Drones have so-far gone, with an arguable sincerity, against very discrete targets. But then you get to splitting hairs (to maintain your moral high ground) between the firebombing of Tokyo and a bus on the West Bank. Any weapon/tool might be used in a more or less socially acceptable way depending on the skill of rhetoric deployed.

    • Hmmm.

      A soldier with a gun in something like traditional combat would be engaged in War (declared or not), or politics by other means, and their targets typically are other functionaries. When a general happens to be involved, the target is just another center of gravity. Its no different whether its a sniper, a drone, or a squadron of P-38s in World War II: they're all just tools.

      Now drones are being used exclusively for assassination: their targets being political centers of gravity and put to death on that basis. But it's no different than if the circumstances where such that James Bond were ordered in for the Wet Work.

      It's all politics by other means. Same confusion comes from not recognizing Terrorism as just another tool. The US has high-tech drones; the poor of the world rely on low-tech terrorism.

      What's most important and interesting is how these symantics are manipulated for the cause of self-righteousness.

  • Chuck Hagel Mauled in Bizarro World of US Senate
    • The more I read the more I can see this as being mere theatre.... Still, in context and on balance, its hard to see Hagel passing through that easily: the stakes, all things considered, are too high. I don't think we've heard the last of Hagel's "suitability" by a long-shot.

      Again, not unrelated to this, see the fight shaping up between Glenn Greenwald and Alan Dershowitz over Brooklyn College. link to

      My general over-made point is that public perceptions are beginning to turn against those who could previously take them pretty much for granted. Whenever a person or group starts to loose their grip you will see some sort of push-back, and with these guys it is impossible to see it as half-hearted; perhaps tactically adroit, but not complacent. Elliott Abrams may have fired his shots prematurely on NPR, but there is plenty where that came from, the only question being how that clout stands to be exercised.

      Stay tuned.

    • So Bob....

      Do you really think the lobby is going to be satisfied by pushing Hagel around for an hour or two, then allowing the nomination to go through?

      Methinks they have to make an example of him, to re-establish their authority in the US and abroad, after the Obama win (against which Netanyahu worked) and the (modest) erosion of right-wing influence following the Israeli election.

      Think of it another way: where will they find their influence over Congress and US Middle East policy be if they allow it to be perceived an action not to their benefit was allowed to go through?

    • Another good, and generally accurate point. Sadly, when the silliness does recede and the Congress as a whole at least tacitly condones it, you have a problem. My fear is that this is what may here happen.

    • This really is the Point. As was alluded to in the posting, it is only by a nuance of the legalities that Congress isn't understood to be under the influence of foreign agents.

      AIPAC et al has a very explicit and designed focus, and a track record of success with the Congress. They begat WINEP to focus on the Executive Branch, and the success with which they have placed their people in the most critical policy making positions in the White House testifies to their power.

      The fight with Hagel is really over whether they are going to accept the perception that their power and influence has been diminished. The nomination has come to be seen in that way, and if successful the Congress might well start to think they don't have to tow the line. That's the sort of thinking that has to be stopped and why Hagel's approval is hardly a gimme.

    • The problem is that by being able to meaningfully influence 535 individual people (at most), in apparently inconsequential ways, US foreign policy can be essentially hijacked by an agenda that has nothing to do with its own best interests. And when the US sneezes the World catches cold.

      This influence was not the cause of Iraq, but there's a BIG question of whether that would every have happened without the added weight (this is making the generous stipulation that the Neocons are a completely different force.)

      It isn't just that there will never be any peace or resolution to the abuses associated with the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but rather that things could get far, far worse, and they might well have a direct and profound impact on the well-being of otherwise uninvolved Americans.

      Its actually kind of hard to overstate how this influence is not just pernicious, but down-right dangerous to the World

    • The problem is that this nomination has come to be seen as a test of The Lobby's influence, and its a fight they cannot afford to lose.

      At another moment it would not have been, but over the past few years obeisance to anything Israeli has been diluted, thanks to Mearsheimer/Walt and a variety of other commentators. It has now become possible to think the unthinkable, and the time has come for their power to be reasserted or lost.

      Judging from the intensity of posturing during this hearing, the focus of their attention must now have an incredible focus on the Congress, and stopping a nomination that at another moment would've been no big deal. Obama had to know he was going to get in a heck of a fight, and the stakes are huge.

  • Why the Senate should Confirm Chuck Hagel as SecDef
    • In answer to that first "Name one ....." challenge, Hagel could have simply gone left to right, naming the people facing him. I suspect his somewhat flummoxed performance came from trying to go through the necessary motions without rising to such low, pathetic bait.

  • Russia slams Israeli bombing of Syria as Violation of UN Charter
    • 1) FYI, Prof Cole: either your keyboard is sticking or your Dragon has indigestion....

      2) As for the various reactions: people and countries and countries do what they want to do, unless there is something objectively that limits them. Full Stop.

      The finery of diplomatic talk, or when folks in the military speak of being Officers & Gentleman, is putting lipstick on this pig. There are times when a country like the US can act more with the ostensible benevolence of a policeman, or engage in humanitarian acts after a tsunami, but this all about coercion and countries having their way, with or without the gloves.

      WHY Israel did this is the question, along with what it portends. I rather think they are sending a message to everybody, in a way that is crude and could blow back on them: Assad would love it if he could pull Syria together against a common foe.

      Aside from any legitimate tactical imperatives, Israel's motivation may well have been to put Iran on notice not to try to take advantage of the Syrian chaos, as well as to demonstrate to the US they intend to take the US up on the assurances Netanyahu rather pointedly extracted from Obama back in March. He seemed to want to confirm in front of the cameras during the following press conference that (to paraphrase only slightly) "Israel is a sovereign country and its prerogatives are totally its own." It's all part of maintaining a foundation of believability in its being willing and able to do whatever it takes.....and to-hell with whatever others may think.

  • Dead Children and Arrested Babies: Palestinian Life under Israeli Colonialism
    • Maybe if they nearly sank one of our naval vessels that was too close to their operations, killing 30-40 people, with no genuinely plausible excuse.

      Whoops! Silly me.

    • Not stupid, but bought, paid for, and cowed.

  • Obama's Inaugural and the Danger of an Iran War
    • Still, there is a geopolitical and psychological momentum that has been building toward "DOING something" with Iran. Against which you have an informed Obama and who appreciates how others have been bamboozeled into such foolishness, and the military bureaucracy, which knows better.

      This momentum exists as a force in its own right, and its relentlessness will, at least, outlast Obama's remaining years, and he's just one man; what about the Congress, and, as you point out, what is essentially the blockade we are now managing against Iran. Add to that the reality of how an un-neutered Iran, i.e. nuclear latent at a minimum, will hamstring Israel's freedom of action and the mindset that has become increasingly belligerent since 1948.

      There really is no telling precisely how "something" will happen with Iran, but happen it will, and the pace of likud needs is such that its hard to imagine things going another 4 years before they "find" a way to "do something." There does to appear to be a good chance it will not happen in the legalist way they these things are usually managed by the US to unfold, but happen it will.

  • Algeria's Botched Rescue Leaves Dozens of Hostages Dead, Angers West
    • It took me a second reading, and with some focus, to get a reasonable handle on this post. Not that it was badly presented, but rather that it did not fit into the handy template of Another Terrorism Outbreak.

      The usual talking heads have been pontificating about the Usual Suspects, rather than going to the trouble of taking the a fresh look and making a more nuanced appraisal. It isn't as though AQ or other events aren't having an impact, but these things are often far more subtle than people seem to have the patience to appreciate. Until its too late.

      The French are no more exceptional than anyone else when it comes to the wisdom of their actions and policies. But I do get the sense they have more respect for the need for doing ones homework and that they have a clearer idea of what they're dealing with. Not quite the same thing as humility, but they do seem to be operating on more than a comic-book understanding.

  • Ansar Dine and How Climate Change Contributed to the Algeria-Mali Crisis
    • Everything has to be taken in context, and here the impact of weather has been no small factor.

      Looking at the trends more broadly it's apparent how population increases predictably lagging increases in rainfall/production can set a region up for problems, manifesting themselves very possibly as we now see.

      link to

      On one hand, these changes appear to be cyclical, but if they are and production can somehow accommodate this most recent wave of population growth, then it would be setting the region up for an even more painful famine on the next downturn turn in rainfall. Of course, this assumes things, like the cycle and other factors remaining reasonably consistent.

      The larger point how the context of climate change drives other things, remains. Toward the bottom of this page you can see how this regional climate change impacts the US hurricane season, and the ramifications of any one big storm on the US is becoming increasingly dramatic (It's interesting how the location landfalls seem to be relatively predictable as well).

  • How Torture Misled the US into an Illegal War: What Zero Dark Thirty Really Leaves Out
    • Having rationalized the need to actually go out and see the movie, I'd like to nominate ZDT for the first Leni Riefenstahl Award, a refresher link provided below for her precedent:

      link to

      Cannot say this sort of thing isn't what we often get from movies that by nature tend to be comic-book versions of any substantial story. But there is a political dimension to this particular tale, and I wonder how much Bigelow may have been trying to steer into it with an agenda....or whether she was managed. May as well have been one as the other.

      At best, the end result was her effectively being co-opted. IMO this was a well-produced movie that will serve to reinforce a certain perspective, and develop/propagate a certain reality (regardless of the facts), and I think she deserves a prize.

    • As stated above, the real purpose of torture is torture.

      A few years after 911, when this issue came out, I was at a public discussion/debate on the issue, and was struck by the crying pain, vulnerability, and sheer psychological NEED with which people argued to somehow strike back.

      When you have an invisible, slippery enemy who has gotten the better of you, and you cannot see them, much less an effective way of payback/retribution, you MUST have something. And I felt that from those people in their bones.

      You cannot say that, at some level, this is not a legitimate need that has to be reconciled in some way, at least by the finesse of wiser leaders. The real problem with torture is that, in practice, on the net it is stupid and counterproductive.

    • Why not? Maybe in the book: ZDT runs something like 158 minutes!

    • What you suspect about the intelligence milieu I think you would find is not that far off. As in the military, from which many are drawn, black/white thinking goes far to keep them motivated and to make their work palatable. When you read Michael Scheuer's books or hear him speak, for example, there is this Boy Scout foundation beneath what is a sophisticated and nuanced worldview.

      Its a bit of a paradoxical, and I cannot help but think it must account for a lot of cognitive dissonance amongst the smarter people in that community. At a certain level every manager/leader reconciles reality with the BS they must spread/tolerate to keep the tribe together, but its got to be more of challenge in their case.

  • France, ECOWAS intervene in Mali to Halt Advance of Radical Fundamentalists
    • Corroboration for Bobs from NYT

      link to;

      PLUS, the point of how much American military aid/training is now being turning against "Western interests,", whatever that might mean.

      What this all really does mean is that actions have consequences and its awfully hard, in the best of circumstances when monkeying around with geopolitics, to "manage" events. Much less in a place like Mali.

  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know about US Drone Strikes *but Were Afraid to Ask (Currier)
    • Nailing down "terrorism", as you may know, is like tacking jello to the wall. It's really just a self-serving piece of rhetoric used for purposes of propaganda, nothing more. Ignore its usage (like a pile of poop on the sidewalk) and its purpose will be defeated.

  • Krugman: Only a Big-Spending Government can Get us out of our Depression (Moyers)
    • Nathanael. Actually I think this is flaw in such a progressive perspective. My experience is of a significant part of the population that is just too thick to take-on very much in the way of training, let alone the education that is the foundation of deeper judgment, taste and development. The culture of apprenticing in Germany argues against this opinion, but I rather stand-by it: some people just need to be trained with a stick and will always be limited. Used to be some guy at GM could screw-on a wheel, but it takes a little more upstairs to run the robot now doing the job.

      More directly to your point, most employers are relatively small, and while one firm easily can train some guy to run a Ditch-Witch, another will be hard-put to train someone up to design the semi-conductors or do the highly-skilled machine tooling at the factory making said Ditch-Witch. They may well be able to train someone coming in the door with a sufficient foundation, but from what I understand programs that develop this sort of foundation are expensive and far between.

      A great case CAN be made that private industry can fill such a gap, as certainly as it represents a need and might present a capitalistic opportunity. What I'm troubled by, is why these big proprietary schools are designed NOT to provide needed skills, but more to fleece students via poor training and non-valuable skills, and taxpayers via guaranteed student loans, which are the basis of their business model. Current career training programs are largely ineffective in terms of providing jobs and skills that industry really needs (defined by where they'll quickly and happily hire new graduates).

    • About half-way through he gets to the core of our economic problems, saying..."once again....we're not in the realm of rational discourse..."

      It strikes me this is due to the compelling attractiveness of simplistic solutions and ideology when faced with increasing complex rational alternatives. Lacking the patience, education, and dedication it takes to do one's homework and somehow institute policies considerate of the various constituencies, it seems quite futile. Even ostensibly responsible people now throw up their hands and go for the panacea of the invisible hand. To argue against this is to implicitly call these folks stupid.

      At least a couple of times Krugman used the late 1930's and WW II govt spending to illustrate the level of spending needed. I'm sure he'd make adjustments for the dumb-labor shovel-ready jobs of those days and the high-technology workers of today. But done half-heartedly even this approach would flounder when current employers already have a very hard time finding workers with such skills.

      I suppose this could be resolved, assuming sufficient political commitment, by govt empowered schools/training programs combined with basic research grants. This approach could lead to the creation and development of new technologies, such as the breakout of semiconductor technologies under Reagan, which we are still harvesting today. Talk about something that might meaningfully address the global warming/energy picture, when you consider the many small breakthroughs being made even in its absence

      But, as he also as much as says, to get past the current political intransigence we'd need the equivalent of invaders from space to bring people together and behind such an agenda. K makes a great argument, but its hard to see a way forward when the political commitment depends on an absent rationalism and where our proven capacity for progress is so evidently glacial.

      Let's hope for those space aliens.

  • How Zero Dark Thirty Taught us to Stop Worrying and Love Torture (Greenberg)
    • You may be right. If what you're saying is that ZDT is essentially a coming-out movie, where the US has decided that its going to put aside its pretenses at being a bit more evolved/advanced (dare I say exceptional, even in terms of aspirations?), and just say, only with pride, that we're as low/base as any nation state animal ever has been.

    • With apologies to the notion of manufactured consent, if we sit back and consider the last 10+ years its easy to see how the current zeitgeist has grown organically, apart from any focused propaganda.

      This all appears to be a more informal propagation based on how people find a way to believe what they want to believe. It might be seen as a reality that appeals to their/our most base instincts, which are never more than just beneath the surface.

      As much as take away our coffee and see how fast our cultivated sense of rationality and civilization drains away.

  • Alex Jones, Gun control, and White Terrorism
    • If you don't know, say it loud....

      What I heard from Alex Jones was a guy desperately afraid of having to engage the underlying issues, and not only pathetic in his own special way, but simply too insecure to let Piers get a word in edgewise.

      I expect he would be the epitome of the neurotic needs and inadequacies that characterize many of these people.

  • Top Ten Reasons Chuck Hagel Should be Secretary of Defense
    • In all the hullabalew, let's not forget the nomination of John Brennan for CIA. As a matter of spectator politics, Obama has to be submitting these two with each other in-mind, on the heels of using Susan Rice to finesse some of the knee-jerk opposition (never-mind what a lame nomination she'd have been, strictly on her merits).

      The consideration with Hagel is how to get a reasonably positive guy in, but this guy Brennan is downright scary and he stands to be put in a position of doing far more harm than Hagel. All these people, especially coming out of the IC, are accomplished liars. But it was Brennan who with a straight face spoke about there being NO civilian casualties from drone strikes: the sheer, blatant disrespect with which he views his fellow citizens is breathtaking. What might a guy like this accomplish with 4 years to work their magic, already knowing their way around as he does, plus having Obama's ear?

    • Heard a great interview with Elliott Abrams on NPR,ap parently point man of The Lobby in the attack now being mounted. No link now available on their website, but instructive to listen to.


      1-The interviewer cornered him into admitting several of Hagel's most "questionable" statements were being quoted second-hand.

      2-The underlying complaint, which is indeed hard to deny, is that
      Hagel's public statements, like not being "the Israeli Senator," is that if he isn't "for" Israel he's "against" it. Abrams makes the point of Hagel's "unresponsiveness" to his Jewish constituents in Nebraska....which is an interesting when those constituents get to give him his grade...and if he isn't sufficiently responsive he is de-facto an anti-semite. See how this works?

      3-The use of the word "Jew" and "Jewish", gets into perceived slights, again circling back to point #2, where its become a preparative (how did that happen? The fact that it has become so means something, and it's not that reacting negatively to negative behavior makes the observer an anti-semite).

      Still, this business with semantics goes deeper, into making sure there is no slippage toward Jews (whoops: Israelis) losing nation status and being relegated to being simply the believers in just another religion. It is a legitimate point that "the Jews" are no more monolithic than "the Israelis." But when someone refers to the entity of Israel, its policies and history, it is a single entity and its citizens have to own to being responsible for it, as American Jews, and other US citizens have to own up to what this country has been up to.

      Obama, it strikes me, has picked a whale of a fight, and a pivotal one to US foreign policy. If "the Lobby" cannot take down Hagel, with the lines drawn as they clearly are, it bodes badly for their power to intimidate and manage US policy going forward. Losing this fight their power and relevance will be eviscerated. On the other hand, Obama is going to have to expend considerable political capital to see this nomination through, and in the interests of the US this becomes a battle of enormous importance when you consider the implications of its failure.

    • Tell me this blast from Jean wasn't locked and loaded for this moment.....

  • Israel's Turn to the Far Right: The Point of No Return? (Beattie)
    • Really, I think with enough space/time you could make a stronger, better documented and less anecdotal case....not that I'm criticizing what you have done here.

      On a more positive note, to have gotten to this point has taken Israel at 40+ years of more or less consistent abuse. The situation and trend is unsustainable, so in the longer view there's nothing wrong with it taking 50 years of recovery to get back to a relatively stable situation, aside from peace.

      The issue becomes what will it take to reverse the mindset that is driving Israeli actions, formal and informal. A cadre, let along an ideologically empowered constituency, can have a profoundly disproportionate influence, but once the stakes get high enough an offset will emerge.

      Whether it emerges before modern technologies force the issues. In the past these sort of conflict were localized and could play out over the course of centuries. No longer.

  • The World in 1013 AD: China Rising, Militant Islam in Kabul, & Sunni-Shiite Struggles in Mideast
    • These misc deeper history postings would go well in a separate, easily referenced file/category.

  • Semi-Automatic firearms are Military Weapons: Lets at least Limit the Magazines
    • Following the money.....

      You're describing a substantial industry once you fairly incorporate all the associated interest-group paraphernalia and economic multipliers. Quite apart from the NRA, if any dent in the psychological draw/potency of this group's central object would cause an economic relocation...and I wonder just how big.

      It becomes like tax simplification at some point: reform might bear with it a huge and politically unbearable economic cost if it is going to be substantial enough to make a difference.

    • I don't know about specific production decisions, but the strategy for market penetration used by Glock is a great case study.

      It was the more impressive because Glock was an engineer with little/no formal business training, and he ran the company on a very tight lease. The guile he showed throughout development of the company, quite aside from the tactic of providing guns at a deep discount for law enforcement, for the credibility it'll establish with civilians in the Mother of all gun markets.

      Below is a very brief summary, but the full business story of what the man pulled off is considered by professionals a classic.

      link to

  • Egypt: Crowds at Presidential Palace Break through Barbed Wire, President offers Dialogue
    • Once again Stephen Walt puts it in perspective at his blog

      link to

      In short, entirely too much is at stake for some people not to try to grab everything they can while others will have the imperative to resist it and push for their own vision. There's a power vacuum in which everyone has an enormous stake. And if that weren't the case, then it wouldn't be a real revolution.

  • Senate Wraps up Investigation of CIA Rights Abuses but You'll Likely Never See it (Currier)
    • The deal is that the first step to recovery and progress is acknowledgement, which the US govt and its agents have never done. What you've heard is transparent assertions that "enhanced interrogation" saved lies, ad nauseum. We haven't even gotten these people to the point of honestly reflecting on whether the premise driving these practices were either effective or wise. This report struck me as the last best, albeit vain hope, of engaging in that process.

      No honest person of any real experience believes in the exceptionalism of any country or race, so that word may have belonged in quotes. And since there is no exceptionalism we know what to expect in this case. Judging from how the US govt has hedged a number of times without coming out and conceded error in the Korematsu Japanese internment case of WW II, I don't see that happening here.

      Unless, of course, some brave soul with access and a jump-drive does the right thing and at least starts the ball rolling, knowing what is going to happen to them.

    • This is precisely the sort of report that NEEDS to be leaked. Keeping our dirty laundry hidden from the US public, and the world, is not going to keep our interests any safer. Everybody already assumes the worst, however inflammatory the details.

      Better yet, making it public without a leak would go far to show the US really does have a capacity for exceptionalism, at the very least in terms of being responsible for its actions.

  • NSA Whistleblower: Everyone in US under digital surveillance, Trillions of Messages Stored
    • Think of this as an automated and highly efficient Stasi, where every move by everybody can be logged, creating a full history of every keystroke and move they make (cellphone tracking records). At whatever point an individual becomes of interest there will a polished program that can pull their "file" and produce it in a form tailored to the needs of the investigator.

      Any one person can become a threat to the system or person/party in power at some point, in some way, so there needs to be this ultimate flexibility. Indeed, A Brave New World, but unlike in the nasty old days, it can all be done without anyone noticing, if not oblivious to be monitored (Petraeus apparently didn't know better, although at CIA he was only an administrator).

      The only potential weak link in this system is people link Binney, or Bradley Manning wannabes, so pay close attention to what happens to them.

  • Egyptians to Decide on Fundamentalist-influenced Constitution via Referendum
    • Oh....implied but not explicit in the above....translated into colloquial Arabic.

    • This is the sort of post that needs to be edited a little bit, and then to go viral. If the much-vaunted social media is going to save the day this is its chance.

      Otherwise, and someone has to say it (although its usually a neocon cliché), Egypt's first election may be its last.....for a long, long, while.

  • Top Ten Upheavals in the Arab World Today
    • Taken together these observations remind me of how futile/counterproductive it is to lie about reality. We might have an argument on the margins about the reality of things, but whomever has the most accurate read is going to have a far better chance of responding appropriately to their own best interests. There is a drift you can see when you connect these ten dots that is anything but "manageable."

      Not to go overlong about Israeli actions, but they are a big glaring case in point. They can go on with business as usual, but their Iron Wall strategy is unsustainable in the longer run. More and better lies, and too-clever-by-half tactics like increasing settlement construction at this point, will only make it tougher for them to negotiate their way out of the hole they are digging for themselves.

  • In Rebuke to Obama, Netanyahu-- Much of Western Europe to Support Palestine as UN Observer State
    • I too want to know. There are few if any neocons more slippery than Abrams, and that's saying a lot. Barak has always shown relatively moderate tendencies, as in his remark (essentially) that if he were a Palestinian he'd have ben the first to pick up a gun. Still, at this point to talk of a 2-state solution has got to be a ploy of some sort, or simply a distraction, or perhaps a way to come back and say it was the Palestinians who have given-up on the "Peace Process."

    • Speaking of the Palestinians never getting their case made in the MSM by people capable of doing so effectively, not to mention the total domination of The Lobby in drowning them out, Walt did a great column last week:

      link to

      It is astounding how the Big Four: Indyk, Ross, Malley and Miller, dominate "discourse" in the US. I was amazed last week on NPR to hear Rami Khouri (sp?) included, and even though outnumbered 3:1 by "even-handed" Israel backers, he did wonderfully.

    • The map is too clever. It leaves (somehow...) the impression of some idealistic archipelago, set in some peaceful sea with the ferry lanes shown. I don't know how they would put it in proper context, but this misses the mark.

  • AP Punked on Iran by Junk Science Graph (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
    • This "news" was, as could be predicted, trumpeted loudly by Fox, and was followed up by an interview with John Bolton, with his big honking "I-told-you-so". Even discredited I'd rate this piece a success in term of it's intent as dis-information.

  • Machowski: We're already at War with Iran, though Ayatollahs have not decided to Weaponize Nukes (Video)
    • The sanctions are little different than an outright blockade. The distinction is more than a little important because this can be done without guns and the impact is little different. Its a kinder and gentler way of waging war, and one that can be backed-off of without losing...since it never was never technically waged in the first place.

  • Tom Ricks finally Tells Fox News ("GOP TV") off on the Phony Benghazi "Issue"
    • I wouldn't call his remarks exactly telling Fox off. Rick's tone was very calm and matter of fact, as was the smoothness with which the talking head changed the subject. All very civilized.

      No, to put a dent in those guys it'd take more, although I don't know what. Discipline yourself to watch Fox for any length of time (an hour?), and its hard to imagine them having a more blatant agenda. Still, if you didn't have the benefit of knowing a bit more, to put their half-truths in perspective, don't they appear pretty reasonable (excepting angry ranters like O'Reilly, of course)?

  • Top Ten Steps that are Necessary for Lasting Gaza-Israel Peace (or, Good Luck!)
    • Interesting linguistic distinction here the Israeli's could never bring themselves to back off of, if history is any judge. "Granting" mean it was theirs alone to give this favor, while to "recognize" clearly indicates that status was there all along.

      Its a power thing, but more. It'd be a slippery slope: they might "give" the palestinians some land, possibly, maybe, at some point, if they land were totally worthless and they had wrung every cent out of the US they could. But they will never "return" something, with the implication the palestinians every had any right to it.

  • Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker in Gaza Conflict
    • Just a thought.

      For Israel to initiate this business, particularly now, doesn't make sense. Internally with Israeli decision-makers, the current conflict might be an unforeseen reaction to exercising a scheduled reminder to the Palestinians as to who's their boss, but even that doesn't make sense.

      What DOES make sense, when you consider how Israel has behaved over time, is that this is the opening move in a shake-down of the US. It'd play into Israeli "forbearance," in regard to "exercising their sovereign rights," with regards to Iran, which Netanyahu was so careful to get during his visit in March. Reviewing the youtube remarks between He and Obama, it was clear this was the single item he wanted to reiterate in front of the cameras.

      link to

      The object of the current hullabalew might very well be to:

      1) Confirm Israel's ability to call the US when they whistle. This is kinda like the insecure girlfriend (insecure with good reason, given the underlying health of the relationship), who calls up all the time, all whiney and needy, manufacturing endless dramas to confirm and consolidate her status.

      2) Shake-down the US for goodies, not only in-line with the above, but for substantive reasons. Israel has grown used to the very substantial US teat. Camp David I was, to paraphrase one of our diplomates, a giant real estate deal, where the US paid Israel to return the land and Egypt a huge sum to accept it (huge payments, that continue and as far as I know have no conceived ending). In this case, the pay-off they might very well be angling toward, could be outright cash, but more likely would come in more sub rosa forms, diplomatic and monetary.

  • Gaza's Health Crisis and Israel's Crimes Against Humanity
    • Words are important, and to refer to Israel's use of merely "disproportionate force," doesn't square with the circumstances any better than it did in 2009.

      At that time as I recall, 14 Israeli soldiers were killed, 4 by friendly fire. Roughly 1400 Palestinians died, half of them women and children. Is "disproportionate" really the right word? This time things are only nominally different.

      The threat of the Palestinian rockets is very real when you consider their increasing sophistication. Still, if you assume them as the standard of provocation, they have been little more than dangerous nuisances. I recall one fell on a road, causing a motorist to wreck his car. With all those sirens going off, they have undoubtedly provoked a number of cardiac incidents.

      Putting things in perspective, I heard some "responsible" Israeli being interviewed about how their country has suffered, from losing sleep due to the sirens, the cost of mobilizing troops, etc. The Palestinians who have been killed and maimed simply have not counted.

      The first point in the Israeli attitude this all belies, the second is how all of the above has been massaged by Western media to avoid the stark and rather ugly reality that is evident if they had the courage to report it.

  • Could a Gaza Land War lose the Middle East for America?
    • This is an interesting point, but it joins many, many others that might be gamed, that all go to the underlying unsustainability of the Israeli mindset exhibited in various related colors since 1967.

  • Candidate for CIA Chief Jane Harman Advocated Ethnic Breakup of Iran
    • I really don't want to...incite matters...but, if this vision actually progresses, I wanted to saw I told you so in some way....

      When Israel decided it wanted Michael Oren to be ambassador to the US it ran up against the fact he was a dual-national. So he simply renounced his US citizenship: no big deal, problem solved. The underlying point lost was how effortless it was to do so and how he REALLY never had any loyalty other than to Israel.....unless, of course, one wants to make the predictable quibble that the interests of the US and Israel are one and the same.

      Would the powers that be in the US accept the same glib assurances of loyalty if Harman simply renounced her Israel citizenship (I'm assuming you're right here, beyond her having the simple "right of return" all Jews enjoy).

      Anyway you cut it, such an appointment wouldn't be much worse than putting Dennis Ross in the the chair. But don't think at some level making such a penetration isn't something AIPAC and its sponsors aren't angling for, in whatever way they can get away with.

    • OK....Just did a refresher Google. Here's a link to Greenwald on Salon a couple yrs ago that lays out the basics:

      link to

      The story actually unfolded over time, but speaks eloquently to the absurdity of such a candidacy.

      In sum, what happened was that AIPAC cut a deal with Harman to help get her on the Senate Intelligence committee if she'd play ball with them/Israel afterwards. Alberto Gonzales got wind of this relationship through an NSA wiretap, but cut a deal with her to let things slide as long as she played ball with the Bush administration policy and needs.

    • Not having the time to listen to CNN, they must be baiting blogs like this. The thought of Harman being seriously considered is ludicrous: remember how she got caught routing secret intel to AIPAC a few years ago? The closer you look at her behavior and "qualifications," the more absurd the thought.

  • Wagging the Dog in Gaza: Netanyahu's Skirmish of Fear (Sternfeld)
    • People and nations do what's in their best interests. Notwithstanding the reality (?) that the US is not capable of standing up to Israel for (*ahem*) domestic political reasons, if it COULD simply deal with the involved parties in an even-handed way it'd make all the difference. OR, failing that, just bow out and let Israel fend for itself.

      IN either scenario, Israel would feel the heat rise progressively as their current military hegemony erodes. They'd be increasingly inclined to cut fair and enduring deals with the Pals and neighboring countries (versus the current deal with Egypt, bought and paid for by the US).

      The downside is that the Arab parties would sense the erosion of Israeli strength and they'd be on increasingly strong negotiating footing. Well, this is a bed Israel has made for itselves, and they've still got plenty of posture (with patience and commitment) to reach an enduring peace.

      The problem is that Israel is not motivated, and something serious has to change before peace has any chance.

    • .....AND, even if you put the 67 war, or pretty much any other actions they've initiated under the microscope, the pattern becomes quite clear. I would say that your case becomes a whole lot stronger when you cite source documents and facts, rather than analyses which might be seen to have any sort of agenda.

  • The Arab Reading of the Petraeus/Allen Affair: Jill Kelley is Gilberte Khawam, a Lebanese
    • This whole soap opera could have a silver-lining in terms of tempering development of the total awareness, national security state. It was/is being designed to monitor and manage all the Little People, but what happens when Big People are impacted?

      The problem is that any one of us can go rogue at any moment, buy some over-the-counter stuff (not to mention a computer), and make a lot of trouble, entirely out personal choice, so we need to me monitored (sic). But here you have several people Larger People whose personal drama was sucked into the maw of The System.

      Once Elites find themselves at the tender mercies of the system they have creating they'll either have to dial it down or find a way to put themselves outside it, as we now see with the "Special People" lines emerging for airport check-in.

  • Bradley Manning would Cop to Wikileaks if Spying, Aiding Enemy charges are Dropped (DemocracyNow!)
    • Without making any value judgements whatsoever, especially under these circumstances isn't any such coerced confession/cop going to produce the modern, All-American version of a show try? To a degree far more than with more common prosecutions, the real purpose here really is to send a message...

  • Why Bill O'Reilly is Wrong about Minorities 'Wanting Things" & the Election
    • With nothing better to do for the moment....this post takes 800+ efficiently-written words to analyze and explain what happened, while (aside from the rant) O'Reilly's explanation boils down to maybe 30.

      If someone is not going invest the mental bandwidth to understand a truer reality, they will just check-out, even as democracy is premised on showing-up.

      O'Reilly is a demagogue, and needs to be responded to as such.

  • Top Ten Wish List Progressives should Press on President Obama
    • Little of what you've noted couldn't be accommodated under a reasonable definition of moderation. How to get the general population back to such a balance is the underlying problem we face. In fact, a traditional don't-screw-things-up sort of conservatism, driven by prudent objectivity would also serve the sort of agenda you laid out.

      What does NOT work is giving-up on consensus. Given what there is to work with in out system, any centrist faces a horribly rocky road, but its the least worst option. You could well argue that our current mode of governance needs to be "tweaked," and by that I mean a lot more than an amendment to dump the electoral college. But you said you'd like to make a case AGAINST moderation, and for a benign command society (for as long as that benevolence can last, which really is at best playing Russian Roulette).

      If for nothing more than the practicalities of keeping some self-styled patriot from taking a serious shot at him, or an even larger group taking "action," he has to serve the entire country. We have gotten to the point this has to figure into his calculations. Really, and this you must know, and frustrated as many of us are about an inability of any sensible administration to do the many pressing things that MUST be done with purely secular competence to insure the general welfare.

  • Top Ten Coming Disasters: Romney's America 2016
    • Its only natural to think The Mitt is only saying what he needs to say. Although less transparently than Mitt the etch-a-sketcher, its a big part of being a politician afterall.

      Still, its hard to reconcile what his tenure (if it its limited to 8 yrs) portends when you review closely those guiding him. I know halloween is over, but this link is to a group who tracks these people in detail:

      link to

  • Romney: "Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of Iran War" (Goulka)
    • Not to put too fine a point on what you said, but in your Google searches, equivalent laziness makes an apple:apples comparison between Iran's civilian nuclear program and Iran's nuclear weapons program most revealing. Here there is a 27:1 ratio which speaks with shocking eloquence of the People's overall state of mind.

      Framing biases have a compelling strength, as they set the stage for everything that follows. A mere dozen NAMEABLE and cynical people, with insight and an agenda, made Iraq happen, and I would not have included Bush in that group. This link I put in the post on what to expect from Mitt, given the people who are set to frame his options, but it's more pertinent here:

      link to

      The thing to consider, not that I wouldn't welcome something more actionable, is how to offset the psychological levers that are being pulled. The neocons did not go away after Iraq, and if they loose in this attempt to put another puppet in office, they will be back plotting the morning of Nov 13.

      Where serious thinking needs to be done is how to offset the various powers "they" have marshaled so effectively. If one listens to Fox TV objectively (in the way a doctor examines an open-wound), it is breath-taking how focused they are about what is an obvious objective They are thoroughly modern, well-educated about the science of political/psychological manipulation, and nothing if not professionally focused on what they are trying to achieve. MSNBC is a trivial offset that is totally amateurish on every dimension, especially when you consider the stakes Fox clearly recognizes and is organized around. Taking a couple hours to listen to Fox analytically, it is hard to see how they could be so consistent in their messaging and have such a sharp focus without it having been developed by a strategic political agenda.

      War, or at least a major attack on Iran, is inevitable with Romney; it is only theoretically something that can be forestalled if Obama wins.

  • Top Five Signs of Capitalist Dictatorship in the Romney Campaign
    • There is often a problem with analyses that reach these sort of conclusions, in that they overstate their case and present a useless caricature of reality. In this country there has been a history of cheques and balances that have tended to keep the US on a relatively even course, which is consistent with what the Founders had to work with in a New World. Viewing our current situation and recent years very coldly, however, I do not think this assessment an overstatement.


      An argument can be and is being made for a Unitary Executive, supported by the thinking of some on the Supreme Court and a number of other GOP elites, DRIVEN by the evolving competitive imperatives of the country in today's world. What a country will eventually do is what it must do to endure and prevail, and the pressures on the US to dominate its environment is stronger than with any other country. What can/will it do?

      Consider the strength of the PRC when it comes to making economic/strategic decisions, apart from the demonstrate wisdom of the Party. Even with Iran, you have more of an Active Board of Directors structure, with a CEO/COO kinda person to execute policy. In lieu of such streamlined/final decision-making, the US is hamstrung with doing what needs to be done for climate change, amongst any number of other things. Consent of the People in some form or the other has always been needed for civilization to endure, as is done with the good management you see in a successful modern company. People become adequate socialized, sent to War as cannon fodder, or are caged (as we see with the US having, I believe, the world's highest incarceration rate). Of course, with BUSINESS effectively running things, and abiding by nothing but a quarterly return perspective, things for the People, including the rich, must go into the toilet, since maximizing shareholder wealth is everything.

      So a Benevolent Dictatorship can begin to make sense, if your Fearless Leader is a smart guy who takes his overall responsibilities seriously. Consider Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore:

      link to

      As worldwide economic and ecological tolerances become increasingly thin, any pretense of the traditional freedom to use the world as a garbage dump evaporates. One way or the other, people will need to cooperate and do the smart things, with the finesse of a strong, benign, more centralized and empowered leadership.

      Ironically, Romney may represent a step along this road. Its pretty obvious he means absolutely nothing of what he says. If this practice extends to the ongoing process of playing off his various courtiers/advisors, and there is an underlying devotion to civilization (even as he knows it), there is hope of a sort. You do have to hope his God is the right one, since its a pretty safe bet he really is a True Believer. And if he "works out," you have to worry about the next, enter an Idealogical Guiding Board.

      At some point we may need to smell the coffee and entertain the idea that the traditional centrist/consensus approach of a guy like Obama will be ineffective for the road ahead. We may need to consider the world for its evolving needs, and that this way of governance will become increasingly ineffective and inappropriate.

  • Lesley Gore to Todd Akin, Joe Walsh and Richard Mourdock: "You Don't Own Me" (Video)
    • Whenever I hear these "slips," where GOP's say what they really think about women and their place, I think of the Grand-Daddy of them, when Clayton Williams, the darling of the GOP to replace Anne Richards as Texas Gov in 1990, was caught on tape saying what he really though, saved here for posterity here:

      link to

      In the fall-out from his gaff...which Anne quickly took to the Bank...all Clayton could say was that it was a joke. The only lesson these guys ever really take away from these episodes is to not get caught next time. Of course, there are some, like this guy Mourdock, who may come to say thing again as a point of pride, belief, or as a way to tap into a constituency.

      But Williams, years later, never could understand why people got so upset with him.

  • Mourdock, Rape as a Gift of God, and Islamic Sharia
    • What's a parallel to this sort of thinking, and maybe even implicit in it, is the "traditional" view of women as "vessels." That is, the issue of where life begins might be argued, but what is not up for discussion is the choice of a women to continue with a pregnancy: her role being understood.

  • Top Ten Republican Myths about Obama and Iran
    • Am reading an interesting history, The Twilight War, tracking the parry & thrust of US/Iranian relations since 79. The author, David Crist, is enamored with the narrative of political/military tactics executed, which is certainly interesting, but the Big Point is the fundamental geopolitic conflict between the US and Iran.

      Iran is shown as striving for regional hegemony, or at least security through dominance. Surrounded as it is by very real competitors and outright enemies, nuclear and conventional, not to mention the US, with its need to secure the Gulf for its own purposes, Iran's motivations are clear.

      The US might theoretically achieve a modus vivendi (sp?) with them, but for US domestic politics. As I write this, NPR is having an "even-handed analysis" of the situations with the guest experts being Aaron David Miller and Dennis Ross. So much for hearing a discussion of potential US policy based on US national interests.

      Israel wants to maintain its own implicit regional hegemony, and by successfully confusing Israel's wants/needs with those of the US, its hard to see this working out as it rationally might.

      All that said, Crist's book is very carefully and thoroughly researched, and goes far to illuminate the complexity of the situation, and how a peaceful resolution should be forthcoming. He doesn't incorporate so much the influence of US domestic politics, but the way he documents the duplicity with which the US has dealt with Iran over the last 30 years, is quite sobering.

  • Big Brother is looking for a Cyber-Attack Pretext to Crack Down (Greenberg)
    • Hey MyComment..I think you may do better not drawing attention to yourself. Something tells me that using an encrypted satellite phone, for example, would get you flagged in two nanoseconds. All this other stuff will only draw attention to you, and once flagged I wouldn't rely on it a bit.

      In the general ecosystem, you have a choice of to fight the predators, evade them, or develop some blend of the two. I'd submit that given the resources of "them" you might cross keystrokes with, a straight-up fight wouldn't be too smart. As certain as there is a identifiable "threat" (VPN, TOR, etc), tools can and will be developed to pierce these veils, and they've got more money than you and I combined.

      The key thing to notice is how all their activities are based on standardized procedures and automation. What you need to do is evade anything that draws attention to yourself, which is a definition bound to evolve and which you need to keep a step ahead of.

      In general, do nothing of any sensitivity on a connected computer. Keep your eyes lowered and mumble with appropriate humility when you fork over your throw-away laptop while passing through customs. Pay cash, but know that it in many cases (airline tickets, etc) that in itself will flag you. Remember, YOU are a latent/potential terrorist, as is everyone else. Blend in with the herd. THEIR problem is tracking you efficiently, so as to stop you before you get to the point of effectively threatening the System. Be small. Become very small.

  • Were TSA Scanners Dangerous? Ionizing X-Ray Machines Removed from Airports (Grabell)
    • There's more than just reinforcing cockpit doors that may serve some purpose, since someone might bring on a pound of C-4 or whatever. But this all really does go deeper.

      Obviously, the true non-trivial drivers are the importance of generating legislative eye-wash for the 24-hour news cycle, as well as profiteering in a industry worth some (classified) trillions of dollars a year.

      NOT QUITE SO obviously, is how much intellectual bandwidth is being invested in an industry developing and producing new technologies with the single highly focused purpose of managing large groups of people. From the NSA storage of all (that's ALL) your email in their new facility in Utah to face-recognition and retinal scanners to screen large crowds without their knowledge, the pieces are all coming into place for managing the True Terrorism Threat, which is YOU. The algorithms and processing power to effective mine all this, and stuff yet to be imagined, is a simple matter of time. It takes little effort to confidently connect the dots and extend them to a rather natural outcome.

      The People are the underlying problem, when any one person with a cheap laptop stands to go rogue, or otherwise become a problem (think Julian Assange). The point at which any one person becomes a threat will only lower as the tolerances within which the system operates become increasingly thin. Any one person out there, and this means YOU, is a potential "Terrorist," given that what Terrorism really means for the purposes of the System is "any person or group of people who might (important word) effectively resist the prerogatives of System or encourage others to do so."

      As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the initial threats have naturally come from abroad as the US sucks the rest of the world dry, but it's a matter of time before the Invisible Hand turns to more local opportunities for wealth transfer and "The Base" of resistance to it grows. Its all only natural.

  • Walsh (Republican): No Pregnancy Ever threatens a Mother's Life (Young Turks Video)
    • Whew....I'm relieved. He's not so much stupid or delusion, merely a self-serving jerk.

    • At the risk of raising what may be obvious, is it possible that under pressure a certain portion of a given population must naturally revert to a worldview of "fantasy"?

      The Taliban provides a simple, all-emcompassing worldview vaguely based on Islam. Right Wing/Orthodox Jews have a view of manifest destiny based on the fantasy history of Zion.

      On the one hand you may have a group of cynical sociopaths who recognize the levers for manipulating the poor, stupid and desperate. On the other hand, there is the simple tendency amongst people not under direct pressure to grasp at simple answers to find a sense of meaning, the lack of which would leave them so very, very empty.

  • Romney Binder full of Top Ten Mistakes and Falsehoods
    • I took a closer look at Bain's website, and of the 3 women out of 37 people I just counted that Juan charitably attributed to their hiring, it appears 2 are outright support staff. The remainder is a recruiter, which would be a go-getter assignment, but in this case she would typically leave it to The Men to take over once a basic screening is done.

      link to

    • "Human Resources," in the business parlance. People are A Cost of Doing Business. You (he) would, as a pro, do a cost-benefit on any hiring, versus other investments, machine alternatives, out-sourcing, etc. Whatever is most cost effective in terms of enhancing shareholder wealth (for them in the gated communities/castles).

      NOWHERE in those calculations is responsibility for people involved, only to the owners ("People ARE corporations, My Friend!"). A more nuanced read would include the self-serving extent of the cost of replacing labor-units with another course of action if they are overly abused, so I guess he really would care. Walking this fine line being the definition of Good Management.

  • Colbert on Romney (Meet the Press, Video)
    • The money line, really, is at the tale end, when C opines, that if there isn't any real difference between the governance of O or R, then the election is all "part of a huge, cruel, joke."

      Bush proved that a modern President really can make a difference. And as a note of optimism that would be supported Romney's apparent (?) insincerity with serving his Right Wing base.

  • The Shameful Politicization of the Benghazi Consulate Attack
    • I agree. Something about the dog not barking, coupled with troop movements.

      Stratfor reports heavy Special Forces deployments from US and France, and there is also the rushed deployment of a third carrier task force (the Stennis), now off the West coast of Thailand.

    • The substance of Romney's actions and assertions are making it increasingly and blazingly apparent how he is both desperate and incompetent.

      HOWEVER. That's rather not the reality of things. Romney is saying whatever he is told to say to inflame the Yahoo vote. And the WAY he says it washes away whatever he said factually: he looked and sounded like a guy who knew the Truth and the right Course, versus Obama, who visibly wavered and equivocated in his presence. Romney got away with looking like a Winner and the man with the winning Plan, appropriating the expectation of that reality.

      Romney's not dumb, just cynical, and as the Quintessential Company Man, he knows how to administer through staff. When (?!) he inherits the federal bureaucracy he'll be provided the same options Obama would have been given. At which point his courtiers (appointees) will with varying degrees of success work to mound his thinking. To The Manor Born, he may very well be able to play these people off against each other.

      As with Bush, only in foreign policy will the crazies be in a position to do any real damage. Then there are court appointees he's bound to get. And the chance of gaining more power in the congress.

      We can be hoped for is that the King will do whatever he wants, regardless of his GOP allegiances.

  • Romney and the Gish Gallop or How Fact Checking doesn't Work (Young Turks)
    • The simple-minded, "always two sides to an argument," and "balanced coverage" are the untenable tenets responsible. But how do you get past them, and the commitment it takes to genuinely appreciate an issue enough to know when you're being manipulated?

      Consider the global warming "controversy." How much of a controversy is it when 99X members of the National Academy of Scientists, from a diverse range of disciplines to get the proper perspective, agree we have a problem. Well, come up with a half-dozen contrarian crackpots to dispute them and you can contrive a controversy in need of "balanced coverage," to drive your network ratings.

      Lets be practical.

      Step One: Outlaw television.

  • Israel Lobbyist suggests False Flag attack to start war with Iran
    • This is very much my point.

      Looking at the actual experience of Israeli behavior toward the US and its neighbors, its consistency has been absolute. And we (the US) need to extend the timeline on that behavior out a bit.

      In terms of anticipation, Israel would in-turn look to US behavior, which has been consistently obsequious (I've been looking for a chance to use that word: meaning in my mind permeating, and broader than simple subservience).

      Exhibit A of what Israel could and did get away with was the Liberty incident. Looking more closely at the circumstances, I do not think it was planned, at least not by the Israeli government. But it was no mistake on the part of the local IDF, and the lesson's to be learned would have been absorbed by their leadership, along with countless other pieces of feckless US behavior.

      No. If Israel did just such a provocation in the Gulf and the US knew it in real time, it'd be easier for the US, politically, to go with flow. Give the Captain of the sunk Enterprise (scheduled for decommission anyway) the Medal of Honor in a "private" ceremony on the dock at a naval base as they did to shut up the commander of the Liberty.

      Clawson's blatancy may turn the collective stomach, but this is how the people he has supplicated his career to happen to think: that's what has embolden this grandstanding little performance. THAT is why he has done as well as he had in his career. For his manager, Clawson stands to be reigned in for purposes of PR, but don't think he doesn't reflect the thinking of his peers and supervisors.

    • I think this is a more literal/correct example of a "False Flag." What Clawson seemed to suggest was tricking/provoking something/anything the US could use as an excuse to go ballistic.

      It seems like I recall the Israelis regularly deployed their diesel subs, complete with big nasty (US made) anti-ship missiles (Harpoons) to the Gulf. I'd also heard its relatively shallow littoral waters were considered a nearly perfect operational environment for the new breed of sub they have.

      All sorts of people read this blog, and I wouldn't be surprised if the insight of Brian went deep. Still, in terms of a military operation, once assigned this sort of project would become just another operational problem to be solved.

      You have to come back to the underlying Israeli intentions and strength. Do they as a people, reflected by the Likud regime, really feel themselves at the existential risk being portrayed? Have they boxed themselves into such a corner with all their talk that they'll feel absolutely compelled to do something genuinely risky? In all matters of human behavior you have to give the most weight to demonstrated patterns of behavior.

      All things considered, at some level, this is something I'd think the US needs to be actively prepared for.

    • Clawson has been a long-standing Piece Of Work (POS?). He's got at least a couple "scholarly" books out, due to his expertise on those wild-eyed Iranians, based on nothing more than his client focus. The epitome of a Flaming Shill.

      And in looking at US policy in the Middle East, you have to appreciate how the top back-benchers who develop the policy arguements are not just affiliated with WINEP, but represent its backbone: I'm thinking of Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. The clout of the The Lobby is such that SoS Clinton felt compelled to make Ross her Top Guy on Iran for at least the beginning of the Obama adm, after which he burrowed his way over to be the Lead person on Iran at the NSC.

      These people, and a number of others whose names aren't so well-known, do a lot to frame the argument for Clinton and others, who at some level, and despite the domestic political consequences, want to put the best interests of the US first.

      Then there are the balance of the people involved with developing options, Aaron David Miller comes to mind, who are compromised without realizing it. I'm thinking of a piece Miller wrote for FP this summer, where he set-out to boil away the BS and get to the heart of what US interests (and hence actions) in the ME really should be, "Politically Incorrect," being part of his piece's title. He then immediately premised his analysis by saying, essentially, that Israel was the 51 state and US actions needed to be to it's best interest, and proceeded from that point.

      link to

      And this guy is one of the MORE sincere guys I see influencing policy development! No, I kinda like Clawson: with him there's no question who you're listening to.

  • Big Bird and the Romney Games (Cartoon)
    • Sure there is. Bring a gun, and before he says anything scream really loud about how he's not fighting fair. Stick with your story and don't let him get a word in edgewise.

  • Top Seven Errors President Obama has made on the Middle East
    • It really does get to be a matter of how Obama has worked with the trade-offs of really difficult situations. Its what being a (good) politician is about. He might've somehow done better, but it is far easier to see how he could've done far, far worse. Think Bush II.

      #1 and #2 I'd chalk up to his inexperience. #3 is the nasty price he's playing to keep Israel, and more importantly The Lobby, sufficiently off his back for the time being. We could wish he would've done something different, but domestic politics are in play. Should he win, it won't be any landslide; but then, who knows what'll happen as The Mitt comes down the stretch and senses he might loose. The guy scares me more and more.

      What's more disturbing about Obama is his use of "Executive Authority" to have people, including US citizens, killed. It's a reach motivated by the apparent needs of ME politics, and its a especially pernicious development more troubling in its ongoing ramifications than this other stuff.

  • Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Gets Wrong about US Middle East Policy
    • Not to put too fine a point on it, but your read on the evolving social dynamic as it pivots toward the good old feudal days, rings too true.

      In this Brave New GOP vision there would be a wholesale return to castles and moats in the form of gated communities, as wealth transfer from the "parasites" to the worthy wealth creators proceeds apace. The peasants will "earn what the really deserve," grubbing about in their master's fields. Especially gifted units will be given scholarships and otherwise co-opted (eg, Alberto Gonzales, to the extend he may have been that gifted).

      Surrounding the castles, however, there is a need for the new class of Compromised Loser you describe, to enforce their new (old) order, and keep their cousins in line. All leveraged by drones, domestic "terrorism" fusion centers, and an industry that has been going gangbusters over the last 10 yrs.

      Its actually hard not to see this scenario shaping-up.

    • "Integrity," is maybe too slippery a word. Let's say a relative capability of staying the wiser course or in pursuit of his goals. For example, Obama has done relatively well in finessing Bibi re Iran, even as an apparent sincere commitment to address the Israeli/Palestinian situation (ie, his Cairo speech), has been blown onto the rocks.

      Whatever good anyone may find in Romney or the GOP in general (they're not Socialists!), the guy is hopelessly compromised. In its own special way, a Romney administration would be as bad as Bush the Younger.

    • The Japanese were like a 145-lb guy who knew Karate, going up against a 240-lb guy who was in good shape but at the moment unprepared for a fight. They had one good groin shot to intimidate the US. As Yamamoto essentially said, when he learned the Pearl Harbor had missed the US carriers, their utter defeat was just a matter of time.......

    • Bingo. Its all about perceptions, and facts and rationality are going to take the backseat, if that.

      The hope is the professional, established military and FP bureaucracies are entrenched enough and competent enough not to, well, let happen what happened before. Given how it really was less than a dozen easily named individuals who managed to get us into Iraq in 03, I'm not that hopeful.

      What we can hope to do is delay or defect them. But these guy, as I'm perpetually reminded, are nothing if not relentless: they've been at their game a long time and they just keep after it...

    • Even if one buys into Romney having a sane underlying conservatism, saying whatever silly things he needs to say, expecting to make a quick etch a sketch following the election.....

      And even if you further understand Romney is a smart guy, and an excellent executive who'd manage his administration better than he's now managing his campaign.....

      Then what you cannot help but see is a guy who has lost whatever integrity he might once have had. Romney has made so many compromises and cut so many moral/political corners to get to where he now stands, that the potential of his election would be that of an empty-suit presidency.

  • It's Psychological Warfare, Stupid: Why Netanyahu Really wants to Destroy Iran
    • Hence we hear the Likudniks develop the idea of Iranian "irrationality," citing that well-known and objective (sic) expert bernard lewis, opining how Iran would "welcome" Israel retaliation that turned their country into a sheet of glass.

    • Rather than refer to The Wall as an abstraction, a few pictures of what Israel refers to as a "fence" would seem to be worthwhile:

      link to

    • The Israeli/Likud case really is bogus, and not to split hairs, but the more you look at it the more transparent it becomes. A few quibbles:

      1-The map shows what it shows. But draw-in where Israel is constructing its wall, which looks to be made of 40-50' tall concrete slabs, and you have the outline for a future Palestinian reservation that is starkly barren are far smaller. This is the future vision being objectively demonstrated by Israel.

      2-Consolidation of a greater Zion along these lines is their evident agenda. But maintaining regional hegemony is also critical to Israeli security, relying on force rather than peace as it always has been. Iran's economic development, aside from whatever it may develop militarily, becomes an threat (is there any other kind?), because it could be turned to a military capability at any point. Add that to Iran's geographic positioning and the energy needs of the US/World really do become involved.

      3-So, Israel must convince the US/World that its problems are shared by the US/World. A tough sell, but the energy vulnerability of the West is real and does stand to be hijacked for their purposes. And after 15-20 years of crying Wolf, eventually the inevitability of action becomes something people are used used to. Its propaganda through insistence. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

  • Cartoon: Netanyahu Iran Bomb Warnings fall Flat at UN
    • See things for what they are. Cartoons are the appropriate way to communicate with children.

  • President Obama's Speech to the UN General Assembly
    • This is posturing to shine his presidential lustre to American voters in contrast to Romney's. Nothing else: no plans, no policies, no declarations or new news. But his rhetoric is always pretty, and this could also be accorded some inspirational worth by The Kids.

      Substantively, what's more interesting is Ehud Barak's idea for breaking the logjam in the Israel/Palestinian negotiations.

      link to

      Not that anybody'd take it at face-value, given his ambitions and the political timing. But, the US elections give Israel special leverage on Iran that Netanyahu wants to exploit before it passes, and this is an interesting piece of posturing that might have an effect on whatever Dark Plans he may have in mind.

  • Muslims are no Different, or why Bill Maher's blood libel is Bigotry
    • Good point. The "two state solution," to be taken at its word, would have meant a genuinely viable Palestinian state. Any way you cut it that is certainly not going to happen now. One way or the other, sooner or later, Israel stands to be "fixed," and it'll only have itself to blame for that fate.

  • Top Ten ways Corporate Food is Making us Fat and threatening our Food Supplies
    • Within the last few weeks McDonald's has begun to publicly post nutrition data. Seems like they had been doing it in a limited way for some time. I've wondered how much of what they're doing has been forced on them, directly or indirectly, or whether at some level they see it in their enlightened best interest.

      McDonald's is nothing if not professional and predictable, and there are a handful of things they serve which will suffice in a pinch, at least to my standards. As far as corporate behavior, It comes down to a matter of market positioning, such as maybe deciding to focus on serving people who care what they eat.

      But the poor and ignorant also need to be fed, and stand to be fed on, and that's where the better margins will remain. So don't expect the Invisible Hand to change its overall behavior anytime soon.

    • Not to get into hair-splitting when the far-left and far-right tend to meet up on the far side of the moon, but.....

      Facism, as described by wikipedia link to

      would tend toward state-worship. Such as The 1000 Year Reich, whereas Communism would be, at least ostensible, the exact opposite, where the people own the means of production and its all about them. link to

      Point made by some (good) teacher back in fifth grade was that the Soviet Union was not truly communistic, and that the theory was that after a period of consolidation, the structure would fall off, yielding the Real Deal.

      But until then, not much difference between one top-down Command Society and another, except for the deftness with which it's administered, or the relative crudeness thereof.

    • Am I the only it has occurred to, that corporate power and values (sic), in their various manifestations, are behind pretty much everything that threatens the world.

    • My own beef is with those Nutrition Facts boxes, whose integrity is clearly being eroded by the lawyers/lobbyists of food mfgs. The most obvious is when they lie (fudge?) on what constitutes a serving. What is certain is that some of our best and brightest law school grades are now engaging in getting rid of those boxes, which infringe on your "freedom of choice."

      How the program ever got implemented is beyond me, but whatever its administrative costs this is one of the best things that (I suppose) the FDA has done in terms of something tangible consumers can see and use effectively.

  • Fury Unbound: the Muslim Dilemma (Majid)
    • This reminds me of another guest piece, where the author was criticized for generalizations of prideful cultural backwardness and close-mindedness that effectively stymie Arab progress. In speaking with people who have taught English in the MENA, and others involved directly with education and ideas there, I consistently hear this sort of thing, and its impossible to discount.

      Still, it is not genetics at the heart of the problem, but rather the memetics. It seems new ideas will inevitably soak in over time, unless some curtain is drawn, as a function of a smaller world and better communications. And nothing opens minds more than significant exposure to others. The trouble is that people with mind-opening opportunities tend to squander them by hanging out other expats or cannot make the social/linguistic connections necessary. Then there are those for whom a potentially enlightening experience motivates them in another direction entirely, such as Qutb or any number of nameless disenchanted who would find such an exposure a frustration, and an invalidation of their sense of self-worth.

      The right sort of exposure, however, can do wonders, and they might be more carefully conceived and offered. On the net, over time I sense the potential of cultural enlightenment to be strong and positive, but it'll take time. We will have to expect a lot or rough patches along the way, and there are other manifestations of progress than what the West now has to offer.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. in Arabic Translation
    • The greatest power and points of leverage in effecting events are great ideas.

      Ideas such as those of Jefferson and King, properly translated and presented, may be some of the most powerful elements that might be introduced into societies in the process of developing and asserting themselves.

      No better use of a dollar.

  • Tax Deadbeat Romney Calls Working People Leeches
    • But that means the "rich" will pay more than the poor, unfairly punishing them for their success and using it to support the lazy shiftless n------, black and white. The 47% who Romney describes with such elegance, and if you listen closely, from the bottom of his heart.

      Per Brian Murray, whose comments are above, 86% of federal income tax is paid by the top 25%. Is that fair? It's the fundamental choice being faced. Do you really want to drift toward a socialist state, which they'd argue is Communism-Lite, or the fantasy world of rugged individualism---a myth modeled and sold by Hollywood, socializing a generation and given a face by the likes of Clint Eastwood.

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