Figures published by the interior ministry showed 61% of those whose ballots had been counted voting "No", against 39% voting "Yes".
This is the true beginning of the rebellion against neoliberalism: A large segment of the world no longer feels very charmed by the current economic system.
We need an alternative.
The IMF has known since 2010 that the bailout terms imposed on Greece would serve only to make the situation worse. The "no" vote cannot have come as a surprise. Why were they not prepared for this day?
While I sympathize with your frustration, the problem is the moral hazard created by the ECB and German government whereby private debt held by mostly German banks could be offloaded unto the backs of European taxpayers. Under those circumstances, why wouldn't banks lend money to an already heavily indebted country that had no hope of ever repaying it? Since the banks can unload their non-performing loans onto German citizens, while keeping profitable loans for themselves, that is what they did and what they will always do if you let them.
If you follow this argument to its ultimate conclusion, it seems possible that the another economic rebellion could begin to brew in Germany itself.
Greek governments — not the current, much maligned Syriza, but decades of its predecessors — treated the state like a teat from which clients and friends of electoral victors might suck. The Greek state has been a shady, opportunistic borrower, no doubt, the kind of character no one would lend money to with any great expectation of seeing it back.
And yet, that’s precisely what bankers in the relatively not-fucked-up Eurozone countries did! These people were not naïfs. They knew the Greek state was sketchy. But precisely because it was sketchy, prior to the financial crisis its debt paid slightly higher interest rates than that of safer Eurozone sovereigns. European banking regulations attached zero risk weights to all EU sovereigns, rendering it nearly costless for banks to simply manufacture deposits to purchase sovereign debt. Eurozone sovereigns were default-risk-free as a regulatory matter and currency-risk-free from the perspective of Eurozone banks. The European financial system was architected to make lending to Greece — and Spain and Portugal and Italy — a money machine for bankers with little career risk over a medium term. Sketchy credits tend to punch above their weight in terms of volume of issuance, so there was a lot of nice paper to buy.
You should read the rest of that essay; it's terrific.
Just before the vote, Paul Krugman proved (with charts and everything) that austerity cannot solve the Greek crisis. The measure that everyone considers virtuous, effective and necessary does not have the virtue of effectiveness and is therefore unnecessary.
And just to be clear, I’m basically doing textbook macroeconomics here, nothing exotic. It’s the austerians who are inventing new economic doctrines on the fly to justify their policies, which appear to imply not temporary sacrifice but permanent failure.
So now the search begins for a new system.
A long time ago, I proposed an alternative. Let us recognize that industrial capitalism (making shit) and financial capitalism (Goldman Sachs and environs) are two very different animals, requiring two different sets of rules. Laissez-faire is for the industrial capitalists. Go get 'em tigers: The leash is OFF. (Or at least is very elastic.) But socialism -- or, as some might call it, democracy -- should be the rule when it comes to finance capitalism. The Greek crisis would not have happened if the banks that made the loans were run by representatives accountable to an electorate.
The font conundrum. I'm designing a new font, one designed to mimic hand-printing. It's primarily meant to be used in comics, but I think it could also prove effective in other contexts.
Just for giggles, this font will include all sorts of rare and unusual glyphs -- including the symbols for many of the world's currencies. Mine will be the first lettering font that includes symbols for Bitcoin, Litecoin and the new rupee. (Why? Because you never know. Maybe the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin was Magneto.)
Here's the thing: The euro has replaced many currency symbols. But as of today, the euro is falling fast. And by fast, I mean fast. So now I'm wondering: Should I also design glyphs for the old currency symbols, the ones replaced by the euro, the ones we all thought we would never see again?
Hey Keynesians....quick....go tell the Greeks how much better it would be for them to get into more debt.
posted by Anonymous : 7:27 PM
There's a difference between debt and robbery. What the IMF does is a swindle, and it should not held against Keynesianism. The IMF makes sure that small countries are always mired in debt, through deals made with (usually) corrupt officials; the brunt is borne by the people, who did not vote for this debt and who must suffer from austerity measures. Keynesianism is about governmental willingness to incur deficit spending to fund JOBS. Very different.
The other point about Keynesianism that is always forgotten by its enemies (and even some of its friends): Deficits are to be run up only during times of crisis. When times are flush, THAT is when belts are supposed to tighten and debts repaid.
To quote that political and economic philosopher, Dick Cheney: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." And they didn't matter during Reagan's lifetime. Now that the US has more financial obligations that can ever possibly be paid, they're starting to matter. But as Dick pointed out, we now live under a system whereby debt is increased evermore yearly, until it can't be increased any more and the system collapses. The Greeks are there now; sometime in the future it will be our turn.
Hillary Clinton arrived in this liberal New England enclave with a message for anyone thinking about voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders of next-door Vermont: “I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values.”
She assailed Bernie Sanders (without directly mentioning him) on the question of background checks for gun owners.
She also signaled that she would have no problem defending President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.
The elephant in the room here -- and never was that metaphor more appropos -- is the Obama/Clinton foreign agenda.
Hillary is avoiding the question of peace and war. On domestic issues, she takes many stances worthy of our applause -- but, in a sense, those stances provide the spoonful of sugar that helps the cyanide go down.
I'm going to republish (yet again) a key excerpt from a should-be-notorious NYT interview with Robert Kagan, one of the architects of W's Iraq invasion. These words should be memorized, the way everyone has memorized Rove's "We're an empire now" and Cheney's "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."
Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.
“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
(Emphasis added.) Welcome to the backseat, Hillary. You're sharing this ride with your close neocon pals, Robert "PNAC" Kagan and his wife, Victoria "fuck the EU" Nuland.
But Webb also took great issue with Obama’s failed Middle East policy, and according to Webb, “Secretary Clinton, quite frankly, was a part of enunciating this strategy.” Further:
I can’t understand why people would have supported the notion of arming certain groups inside Syria a couple of years ago…I say that not only as someone who has spent a lot of time working on foreign policy, but as a journalist in Beirut in 1983 when the word I got from Marines on the ground was: ‘Never get involved in a five-sided argument.’
His criticism of Obama’s intervention in Libya, of which Mrs. Clinton was a vocal and visible proponent, has been scathing and well as prescient, writing, “Under the objectively undefinable rubric of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ President Obama has arguably established the authority of the president to intervene militarily virtually anywhere…” The contrast with the intervention-happy former Secretary could not be clearer.
The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for “a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad.” Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq’s regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself.
The connotations of “a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad” show how inapt the comparison is. Our occupation forces never set foot inside Japan until the emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for our arrival. Nor did MacArthur destroy the Japanese government when he took over as proconsul after World War II. Instead, he was careful to work his changes through it, and took pains to preserve the integrity of Japan’s imperial family. Nor is Japanese culture in any way similar to Iraq’s. The Japanese are a homogeneous people who place a high premium on respect, and they fully cooperated with MacArthur’s forces after having been ordered to do so by the emperor. The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.
As early as 2002, Webb understood that invasion would create the kind of "bitterness" that would swell the ranks of the jihadists. He had, in essence, predicted the rise of ISIS.
When it comes to the all-important issue of peace and war, compare Webb's record to Hillary's. Ask yourself: Which of the two candidates is likelier to pursue neocon policies? The answer will tell you who belongs in the front seat -- and who should be kicked out of the car altogether. Let's say it one more time: Yes, I think that America needs a female president. But we do not need more neoconservatism. The basis of your vote should be peace, not penises.
Hillary has had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate leadership over the 15 years since her election to the Senate in 2000.
She could have objected to the stolen election of 2000, to the Patriot Act of 2001, to the invasion of Iraq, to the wiretapping, to the torture, to the murder of American citizens on the orders of the president. She could have aided the effort to get George Bush impeached.
She knew the dangers of the electronic voting machines and so co-authored a bill in 2003 with Senator Boxer that would have outlawed them. Since that bill died in committee, she hasn't said a peep about the voting machines.
War-monger Hillary is the poster girl for a do-nothing happy-face congress that has allowed our nation to degenerate into lawless plutocracy. She is the problem, not the solution.
posted by Anonymous : 10:28 AM
Seems to me that her work with Boxer in 2003 speaks to Hillary's credit, and informs us that she will not be an impediment if there is a renewed movement against electronic voting.
On a lot of domestic issues, she IS part of the solution. And certainly she is much more to be trusted than any Republican when it comes to the Supreme Court.
Two terrors endanger the world: Neoconservatism and neoliberalism. The first means war and empire; the latter means economic misery and exploitation. Most of what we read in the news is really the chronicle of ordinary people doing battle against these two monsters.
The devil is not in the details. It’s in the entire conception of the Iran deal, animated by President Obama’s fantastical belief that he, uniquely, could achieve detente with a fanatical Islamist regime whose foundational purpose is to cleanse the Middle East of the poisonous corruption of American power and influence.
He goes on and on like that. It's all nonsense, of course. Krauthammer is a well-paid neocon propaganda lackey pushing a now-familiar line: "Shiite bad, Sunni good."
Notice that the Krautster expresses no distaste when it comes to the question of Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons, even though the Saudi regime is demonstrably worse than the Iranian government. (At least Iran has some democracy.) If memory serves, it was Joseph Trento who reported that Pakistan got the bomb largely with Saudi funding.
US funding of terror. Nevertheless, we still have to contend with America's sorry record in Syria. When you pay your taxes, think upon this:
According to the Pentagon, Syrian “rebels” being trained and “vetted” by the United States are receiving “compensation” to the tune of anywhere between $250 to $400 per month to act as America’s proxy forces in the Middle East.
As we have seen in previous posts, that word "vetted" has ceased to mean anything. There is no real distinction to be made between ISIS, Nusra and the so-called Free Syrian Army.
Neither has there been any concern over the presence of “moderate” rebels that have never actually existed in Syria. After all, it should be remembered that the United States own Defense Intelligence Agency was recently forced to release and declassify documents which admitted that not only did the US know that the “rebellion” was made up of al-Qaeda and Nusra forces but that these organizations and similar groups were attempting to create a “Salafist principality” in the east of Syria and West of Iraq. The DIA docs also show that the US was supporting all of these efforts.
For the Hillary connection to all of this, go here...
She obtained permission from President Obama and consent from congressional leaders in both houses of Congress and in both parties to arm rebels in Syria and Libya in an effort to overthrow the governments of those countries.
Many of the rebels Clinton armed, using the weapons lawfully sold to Qatar by Turi and others, were terrorist groups who are our sworn enemies. There was no congressional declaration of war, no congressional vote, no congressional knowledge beyond fewer than a dozen members, and no federal statute that authorized this.
That last bit comes from Fox Newser Andrew Napolitano, who then goes on to blather about Benghazi. Nevertheless, there is some truth in what he says.
Facebook: Orwellian hell-hole. Just when I thought I had heard it all, there's this...
In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google launched facial recognition to mine the photos on your phone, with both impressive and disturbing results. Facebook’s Moments app can recognize you even if you cover your face. Google Photos can identify grown adults from decades-old childhood pictures.
Some people might find it neat when it’s only restricted to photos on their phone. But advertisers, security companies and just plain creepy authority figures have also set up their own systems at music festivals, sporting events and even some churches to monitor attendees, which is bound to disturb even those who don’t give a second thought to issues like the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.
Countless advertisers will undoubtedly use these sophisticated snooping capabilities to rake in dollars in stores, at events and on public streets. But the bigger, more troubling question is how our own government, as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, will mine this data or create their own facial recognition databases to increase their already powerful surveillance apparatus.
We know they’ve already started. Last year, the FBI’s massive “next generation” facial recognition database went “fully operational.” But we’ve heard little about how it works and how it’s being used since; the FBI has, as is its modus operandi, attempted to keep it secret from the public.
My advice? Do not use any social networking sites. Do not allow photos of yourself to be placed on the internet. Allow only your friends and business associates to have your cell phone number. Do not use a smart phone. Press for laws which will allow smart phone users to turn off GPS.
Despite the Greek government's assertion that a "no" vote will not lead to a euro exit, most people agree it would open up more uncertain outcomes, especially if the ECB calls time on the life-support measures to Greece's banks.
A number of European politicians, including Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top eurozone official, have said a "no" vote would jeopardize Greece's place in the euro.
Others, such as the leaders of France and Italy, appear to be holding the door ajar for further talks. Even Wolfgang Schaeuble, the tough-talking German finance minister, has said the country could stay in the euro in the event of a "no" vote.
But investors are likely to be worried in case of a "no" vote amid fears it increases the chance of a Greek exit from the euro, or Grexit. Markets will open first in Asia.
Joseph Stiglitz, one of the few economists worth listening to, advises the Greeks to vote no, because Greece has already suffered enough:
Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.
We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.
But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.
It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.
By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.
After the failure of the Syriza-led government in creating even the slightest fissure in the European neoliberal hegemony, there is a growing awareness that, despite the great cost of a transition, a simple and self-sufficient life outside the Eurozone is preferable to perpetual debt bondage within it. However, for most people, their stance towards the euro is not related to their long-term material expectations, but to the fear of the unknown, to the fear of short-term economic destabilization or even to inculcated fears concerning the Greek national identity and their membership in Western civilization. This explains why recent demonstrations in favor of YES, organized by the pro-austerity right-wing elites and championed by wealthy families, were joined by people of the middle or lower classes, which have no material interest in the perpetuation of austerity.
Fear-mongering and propaganda have polarized Greek society and have made it impossible to predict the outcome of the referendum held on Sunday. The fact that the avalanche of criticism by international analysts over the European officials’ handling of the crisis falls on deaf ears proves that the real agenda of the powers-that-be is simply to isolate, demoralize and punish the Greek people, thereby ending any prospect of resistance to neoliberal domination on the continent. The Greek people are facing the major challenge of once again overcoming fear, the psychological basis of neoliberal governance, and of finding the integrity to vote NO in the referendum on July 5.
Surely, our task does not end with a NO vote; the formulation of a plan of action that is antagonistic to the neoliberal integration project is still pending, a plan based on the initiative of organized society and on solidarity between the peoples of Europe.
My take? Frankly, I don't think that the "no" forces will be allowed to prevail. If the vote is close -- and polls indicate that it will be -- then we are likely to see vote fraud in democracy's cradle. If Greece abandons the euro, then other countries will see little advantage to sticking with a corrupt system.
The collapse of the Troika may lead to the rise of BRICS power.
I recently read an article in which the writer claimed that the only beneficiaries of a Grexit would be British holiday-makers finding much cheaper holidays over there. The point seems to have been missed that this would constitute a revival of Greece's biggest industry and foreign-exchange generator, which has completely collapsed since Grentry.
ACD -- anthropogenic climate disruption -- is the new term for man-made climate change. Dahr Jamail, writing in Truthout, has the latest grim news:
NASA recently released its global temperature data for the month of May, and it was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. The agency's data also revealed that 2015 has had the hottest five months of any year ever recorded. As of right now, 2015 is already hotter than last year, according to NASA; in fact, if it stays on the same track, it will be the hottest year ever recorded for the planet.
Things are bad enough that President Obama's science adviser issued a warning that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is currently barreling forward so quickly that the entire state of California could be "overwhelmed": The state's efforts to adapt will be unable to keep pace with the rapidly intensifying developments on the ground. Essentially, this means the state does not have the financial nor physical resources to keep pace with rising seas, drought and wildfires that are all becoming the norm there.
It's not news that Arctic sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace and that the odds of there being summer ice-free periods by next year are high. But an interesting twist resulting from this development is that this thinning Arctic ice, along with a lack of air support, has officially forced an end to trekking expeditions to the North Pole this year ... and quite likely, forever.
However, the most important development this month is clearly a recently published study in Science that states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study showed that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warned ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species going extinct.
The end of the entire human experiment? Well! That idea cheers me up. (I'm in a captious mood today.) Please don't kill my buzz by challenging the science of that study.
More seriously: A few years ago, I proposed a novel method of replacing Arctic ice with a substance called pykrete. ("Novel" is my word; others might prefer terms like "bizarre" and "wacky.") Some of you may recall the Mythbusters episode which demonstrated that pykrete would not work (as originally proposed, during WWII) as a material in the construction of giant ships...
But who cares about ship-building? I'm more interested in the finding that pykrete proved 60 times more resistant to melting when compared to normal ice.
All of which leads me to offer this modest proposal: During the ice-formation season in the Arctic, why not drop tons of shredded newsprint/paper/wood pulp over the area?
As I understand it, the pykrete -- or "pseudo-pykrete" -- should make itself. The resultant ice cover should last longer, resulting in more blockage of that dreaded dark water -- which should, in turn, result in reduced global warming.
Even if the trick does not work, there should be no great environmental harm, since wood pulp and newsprint are biodegradable. Right now, tons of the stuff go into landfills all over the world, year after year. Why not use it to carpet the Arctic?
Believe it or not, this idea has attracted attention elsewhere. Take, for example, this paper (pdf), delivered in 2013 by John Nissen at (god help us) Davos...
There are physical methods which can also be used for strengthening the ice and preventing it breaking up in the spring. The melt rate increases dramatically once the sea ice is less than half a metre thick and subjected to breaking up from wave action, followed by wind dispersion. Much ice disappears each year through the Fram Strait and quickly melts away.
One technique which can be considered is to add wood chippings or similar material to ice to form what is known as pykrete from its inventor Pyke and its concretelike properties. For example, a long curved floating barrage of pykrete could be used to prevent flow of broken ice between islands. Pykrete could also be used to dampen wave action and allow sea ice formation more readily in the autumn and early winter. There could be many other applications.
Those are the words of an actual scientist. It's not just an idea tossed out by an eccentric blogger in Baltimore.
Artificially restoring or enhancing underwater subglacial ridges would slow the melting of glaciers. Pykrete is wood or newspaper mixed with ice that has a far higher melting point. Pykrete could be used to top up ridges that are no longer in contact with glaciers or to add an extra thickness to keep ridges and glaciers in contact.
The ensuing discussion in the comments is pretty interesting.
I’m leery of such plans, without having any specific objections beyond Murphy’s Law. the Law of Unintended Consequences and the Precautionary Principle.
But if global warming starts to accelerate, the world’s people will demand emergency action, whether such action is well thought out or not. So I agree with Joseph Cannon. It is time to research Plans B just in case.
In a post published last year, I discussed the big problem with exploring a Pykrete solution: Neither the right nor the left will embrace the idea. Rightwingers -- like Professor Fate in The Great Race -- won't admit that the ice is melting until it reaches the lower lip. Smug liberals will not consider any idea that involves geo-engineering, which, in their view, is not virtuous.
Here's a TED post about the feasibility of using Pykrete to "heal" a glacier. The writer notes that we already have a working model...
America’s fastest growing glacier, Crater glacier in Mount St. Helen’s crater, is well on its way to being the lower 48’s largest glacier, and even though none of the ice pre-dates 1980, at its thickest point its over 600 feet deep. It is advancing at a rate of 50 ft a year and thickening 15 feet per year. Most of the glacier is below the average height for glaciers in Washington State, so why is it growing? Rock slides and ash. They are acting just like sawdust in Pykrete, insulating the ice and keeping it from melting. Many rock glaciers can also form below the normal height of glaciers because of this property. So, could this work, does any one have better solutions or ideas?
As I noted in my earlier post, much of the resultant commentary was hilariously -- and infuriatingly -- off-topic.
Why are so many people desperate to talk about anything other than the scientific question of "Will it work"? What psychological malady compels these people to have such a phobic reaction to any idea that involves geoengineering?
I still believe that Pykrete, or some variant thereof, may help to impede the melting of Arctic ice. Lord knows we need to do something: The Arctic "melt-down" not only kills walruses, it reveals dark oceanic water, which absorbs sunlight and accelerates global warming.
Maybe my idea will turn out to be as off-the-wall as anything Pyke ever proposed. That's quite possible.
Still, there are other people -- genuine scientists, with degrees and thick glasses and D&D dice and all the other accoutrements -- who have come up with other plans which involve large-scale geoengineering. Some of those plans sound pretty interesting to me.
Guess what? You aren't allowed to talk about those ideas.
Above, I've embedded a TED talk by David Keith. Keith suggests that we may want to inject large clouds of ash into the atmosphere in order to decrease sunlight. Good idea or bad idea? We may never know, because Keith's proposal is not a permissible topic of discussion.
His suggestion annoys the Virtuecrats, who insist that we may debate only those ideas which increase misery.
Of course, they don't actually use the word "misery." They prefer code-phrases -- usually something about "altering our lifestyles." But what they really want is misery.
The thing about misery is this: It may seem attractive in the abstract (at least to a certain type of liberal), but when you really bite into the stuff, you suddenly realize you awful it is.
So let's belay this talk about forcing billions of people to change their lifestyles. We're not going to solve the climate crisis by riding more bicycles and eating more tofu and banning cars. That scenario just isn't going to happen. People are the way they are, unto the very end of the world.
So geo-engineering is the only possible solution. Perhaps pykrete can be part of such a scheme; perhaps not. But geo-engineering is the only possible solution.
thanks joesph.. nice post with thought provoking ideas.. james
posted by Anonymous : 2:10 PM
Regarding Keith's idea of injecting ash into the atmosphere to reduce sunlight, perhaps you haven't heard of global dimming. You remember that big famine in the 80s in Ethiopia and its environs? Particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions from Europe and North America caused a lack of direct sunlight on the Atlantic, which caused a decrease in evapouration and a resulting failure in the monsoon. Of course in Ethiopia there was actually plenty of food anyway, but the politics of the civil war and the requisitioning of transport meant it couldn't reach the people who needed it.
You definitely haven't had an idea more off the wall than any Pyke had. He's the one who wanted to set up a commando base in Nazi-occupied Norway and keep away the Nazis by putting a sign on the fence saying "SS Special Weapons Department - Death Ray Division".
Regarding pykrete, the arctic is fucking huge. How many trees would have to die for the project to work? You need a thick layer to stop ice melting. You can't just put it in the water in advance, either, because it will float away.
Of course you could grow trees by microwaving the seeds, which is meant to promote speedy growth, and using ultrasonics on the saplings which would probably rather more than double the speed of growth.
Stephen......or you could just use hemp pulp. Since that is highly renewable, can be harvested twice in a season (or more, not sure) and would work just the same as newsprint or sawdust from trees.
posted by Gus : 3:20 PM
The human bean has already overstayed the Welcome. Geo Carlin had the prescription correct when he said that Humans act more like a virus than a beneficial organism. Yes we have contributed great art and lit but it's not enough to justify our presence.
posted by Anonymous : 4:33 PM
Humans have created great art and lit? Says who, Ben? Other humans?
You call it rain But the human name Doesn't mean shit to a tree
posted by Anonymous : 8:51 PM
Geo Carlin, heh. :)
::Raises hand for HEMP:: Hemp will save us all, let's go!
posted by prowlerzee : 9:21 PM
You call them "Virtuecrats"; I call them "The Soylent Green Caucus". ^_^
Geo engineering, what about bio-engineering. How about females don't start ovulating until they are 25 instead of at age 13? Isn't the south pole ice growing at a fast rate? Would help explain the extended amount of humidity Southern California is experiencing, the colder water is moving northward and reacting to the additional suns rays getting through by creating humidity.
So Joseph, do ou concur that the planet is not necessarily warming up as much as the temperature highs and lows are becoming greater which is still a significant threat to life on the planet, and that the cause of the increased temperature volatility is related to the destruction of the ozone layer?
The Antarctic ice isn't "growing". The Antarctic continental ice sheets are thinning, breaking off, and falling into the sea - which leads to a temporary increase in the area covered by sea ice (as shown in satellite photographs) but less ice overall. It's actually a very bad sign, not a good one. All the Arctic ice is sea ice (there's no continent up there, after all).
A report from the United Nations found that the average Israeli settler consumes 300 liters of water per day — a figure surpassing even the average Californian’s 290. But thanks to Israeli military action and legal restrictions on access, the average Palestinian in the occupied West Bank only gets about 70. And for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live off the water grid altogether, daily consumption hovers at around 30. That’s just 10 percent of the Israeli figure.
Both figures are well below the minimum 100 liters per day recommended by the World Health Organization. While Israelis are watering their lawns and swimming in Olympic-sized pools, Palestinians a few kilometers away are literally dying of thirst.
Their new home. The intent, I now believe, is to push the Palestinians into making a "reverse exodus" across the Red Sea. In an earlier post, I discussed the insane plan of Tarek Bin Laden (Osama's brother) to build two huge cities in Yemen and Djibouti, bound together by the world's longest suspension bridge, which would span the Red Sea.
Not long ago, the Bin Laden Group confidently predicted that Noor City would have 2.5 million residents by 2025 -- and that its Yemeni counterpart would have 4.5 million.
(Right now, the entire population of Djibouti is somewhere around half a million people.)
These cities are meant to provide low-tax (or no-tax) havens for mega-corporations and the filthy rich. As for the workers...well, I doubt that labor will have many rights. The developers have announced that they want Noor City to be "the Dubai of Africa." Since Dubai was built on slave labor (and many of the slaves were Palestinians), we can hazard a guess as to how Tarek Bin Laden's megaproject will proceed.
A mega-project needs workers, and those millions of inhabitants will have to come from somewhere. Meanwhile, Israel desperately wants to expel millions of Arabs. It's a match made in hell.
You should take a look at the official Al Noor City website, which is a testament to megalomania. If you sift through the site, you'll find that this seemingly-bizarre project has attracted an impressive list of partners, including SAIC, Lockheed (or a division thereof called PAE), the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton (the people who gave us the "baby incubator" fib), and the once-ultra-powerful law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf (whose partners were recently indicted for fraud: How hath the mighty fallen!)
Those are just a few of the noteworthy names that popped out at me. I invite further research.
Why Christie must never be allowed anywhere near the presidency. Republicans do not see a sorry record as an impediment to their dreams of glory. Bobby Jindal, for example, cannot comprehend why being one the least-liked governors in the nation should disqualify him from the presidency. As for Chris Christie...
His tax cuts for corporations, totaling $2.1 billion, have crippled the economy in New Jersey. In the decade before Christie, those tax breaks totaled only $1.2 billion. All of this while New Jersey suffered NINE credit downgrades, more than under any other NJ governor. The state has the second lowest credit rating in the country. In fact, New Jersey is very often ranked as one of the worst states for doing business (pdf). Economic growth has been slow; NJ ranked 46th for growth last year.
New Jersey, under Chris Christie, has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Add to that his budget mess, under-estimating revenues by $1.5 billion in 2014. To try to fix it, he slashed pensions for public employees to help pay for the shortfall. This, after he’d agreed in 2011 to increase state contributions to the pension fund in exchange for workers giving up some of their pension funds. Then, he had the gall to try to declare that very law unconstitutional when he couldn’t honor it. Now it will go to the Supreme Court.
Consider: If Jerry Brown were to attempt another run at the presidency, the Republicans would scream about his record, even though he is the guy who cleaned up a seemingly-impossible financial mess left by his GOP predecessors. But Christie's pension fund burglary is considered forgivable.
A tale of two headlines.The NYT: "New Trove of Hillary Clinton’s Emails Highlights Workaday Tasks at the State Department." The Daily Mail: "Email bombshells from Hillary's secret account show she didn't know when cabinet meetings were held, was dumbfounded by a fax machine and emailed aides to fetch her iced tea."
Both stories are guilty of trying to make mountains out of anthills. But the tone of the New York Times piece is uncharacteristically reasonable -- this time around. Whoever wrote that hyperbolic headline for the Daily Mail ought to consider the advantages of a meth-free lifestyle.
You want a real Hillary scandal? While the mainstream journals push fluff, the indefatigable Robert Parry has the goods. His topic is the chaos wrought by Hillary's policies in Libya.
One could argue that those who devised and implemented the disastrous Libyan “regime change” – the likes of Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power – should be almost disqualified from playing any future role in U.S. foreign policy. Instead, Clinton is the Democratic frontrunner to succeed Barack Obama as President and Power was promoted from Obama’s White House staff to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations — where she is at the center of other dangerous U.S. initiatives in seeking “regime change” in Syria and pulling off “regime change” in Ukraine.
In fairness, however, it should be noted that it has been the pattern in Official Washington over the past few decades for hawkish “regime change” advocates to fail upwards.
Presumably, the “Clinton Doctrine” would have been a policy of “liberal interventionism” to achieve “regime change” in countries where there is some crisis in which the leader seeks to put down an internal security threat and where the United States objects to the action.
Of course, the Clinton Doctrine would be selective. It would not apply to brutal security crackdowns by U.S.-favored governments, say, Israel attacking Gaza or the Kiev regime in Ukraine slaughtering ethnic Russians in the east. But it’s likely, given the continuing bloodshed in Libya, that Hillary Clinton won’t be touting the “Clinton Doctrine” in her presidential campaign.
When are this nation's newspapers going to start giving us actual news?Permalink
Palestinians are not literally dying of thirst. 30 litres of water a day is more than enough to live on. 100 is recommended because that's what you are likely to need if you want to, say, wash or cook with water. But 30 is enough to drink and not die.
Similarly, in the unlikely event this Noor place ever gets built there are already plenty of potential slaves available from Pakistan, the same place Dubai get theirs.
Libya is currently a shit-hole. The BBC recently did a documentary about immigrants being rescued from sinking boats trying to get from there to Europe, and when asked if they had advice for other Eritreans trying to do the same thing, they said not to go to Libya. It would seem the whole place is full of cut-throats and psychopaths. Of course under Gaddaffi it had the largest number of asylum seekers per capita in the world, with Libya being a haven of sanity. Now they just get on the first leaking hulk to sea and wait to be rescued by the Royal Navy and all the other ships down there fishing them out of the drink.
I must confess to having emailed a direct report to have her bring me food and drink. It's what you do when you're on a never-ending conference call and the cafeteria closes in 10 minutes. Of course, this was in a different day and age, when assumptions and expectations were different; nowadays, I'd never email an employee with such a request.
I'd text, instead.
posted by maz : 2:54 PM
I don't want to discount the US (Hillary?) role in Lybia. But from what I remember Us came very late to the party. Nato ships were in the shores and all. Actually some were afraid the US will be left out of the bounty if they don't hurry up and go there.
posted by Anonymous : 3:31 PM
"When are this nation's newspapers going to start giving us actual news?"
As soon as the owners/publishers stop viewing themselves as elites.
As per your mention of Jerry Brown. Last I heard he was discouraging any Dem from challenging Hillary in the primary. If so he has indelibly stained his record.
posted by Ken Hoop : 6:46 PM
Hillary was a secretary of state not a secretary. Why would she she bother with office equipment in the first place and her staff should keep taps of meetings...etc. as for picking lunch I don't know anyone who worked in office who didn't pick lunch for someone,or have one pick lunch for him
To paraphrase the old song: "I read no news today, oh boy..."
Apologies, but I ran into a series of computer problems which kept me busy for ten or twelve hours. (It all started when I tried to download a freeware font creation program...) Since I have not had time to catch up on the news today, let's take this opportunity to direct your attention to this rare interview (conducted by John Titus) with David Slawson, an attorney for the Warren Commission. He's 85 years old, very sharp-witted, and one of the few people left who can offer first-hand observations as to what went on.
Even if you have no particular interest in the assassination, you will find some fascinating nuggets in this interview. One of these days, I'll write at some length about that Mexico business, because I've found out some surprising new information on that score.
In the meantime, you'll be particularly intrigued by the finale of the Titus/Slawson interview, which I will take the liberty of reproducing here...
So what are we to make of all this? On one hand David Slawson is a very genuine, sweet old guy. But there is a huge disconnect with the facts about the Kennedy Assassination as we know it now. This isn’t 1964 anymore, there is just too much new information out there and more to come in 2017.
One last item may explain this disconnect. After the conclusion of the Warren Commission a researcher had discovered a memo that states that someone was using Oswald’s name and identification while he was in Russia. Howard Willens took a poll of the investigators as to how many of them thought this aspect should be re-investigated. Slawson said he was the only one that said yes, we should look into it.
On a Sunday morning Slawson received a phone call at his house. It was none other than James Angleton, the creepy head of CIA counterintelligence. Angleton began with a pleasant greeting and asked Slawson to please say hello for him to the President of USC, where Slawson taught law. That man had been CIA station chief in India, and Angleton knew him. Then Angleton got to the point; He said “Are you still loyal to us”? I asked Slawson what he thought Angleton meant by “us”. Slawson said “The CIA. Am I still loyal to the CIA”.
He told Angleton – Yes. It scared Slawson’s wife to death. Slawson said he was too cocky to think they would try and kill him, but he knew that if he had crossed them they would destroy his reputation and career.
I should mention that, by this point, Angleton had taken over the role of CIA liaison to the Warren Commission, which is a classic fox-guarding-henhouse situation. Previously, that job was done by a guy named John Whitten -- not part of Angleton's stable -- who was canned because he actually tried to do an honest job. Disgruntled, Whitten left the CIA, moved to Austria, and became involved with the world of classical music.
(I promise not to run much JFK material, because I know that the people who come here are interested in current events. But every so often, a backward glance is helpful.)
I recall when Ross (the sucking sound) Perrot bailed out of running. There were rumors and I think statements by Ross saying he felt to threatened to run. this post of yours suddenly slammed that into my lobes. I've only followed you for a few years So you may have covered that. What was/is your take on that?
posted by Shirt : 10:15 PM
Please continue posting these JFK articles. They are so informative and I learn something new with each article. I look forward to 2017 and I hope this country will do the honorable thing and help us understand what happened to this "brief and promising moment in our lives when so much seemed possible. I was 14 at the time but I understood that a part of my innocence was lost.
posted by Anonymous : 11:32 PM
Old stuff is news if we don't know it. I remember hearing Perot's claim that the FBI was harassing him (something to do with his daughter's wedding?) and recognizing that this was the "killer rabbit" moment for his political credibility. I too would appreciate some insight into that.
Upcoming in 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of MLK's Riverside speech attacking the three evils of poverty, militarism, and racism. And then in 2018 the anniversaries of the murders of MLK and RFK.
There have been many recent entries in the Vileness Sweepstakes, but this article tops 'em all. Ahmed Rashid, a writer for the increasingly neo-connish New York Review of Books (a rag which I once actually bought and recommended to others, back when I still harbored dreams of being middle class), thinks that we should buddy up with those lovable funsters in Al Qaeda.
Why? Because Al Qaeda (rebranded as the Nusra Front) is helping ISIS take over Syria. Rashid thinks that this is a good thing. He thinks that we should help ISIS and Al Qaeda attain power because Bashar Assad is just soooooooo evil.
What about 9/11, you ask? Pfft. That was like, so 2001. Forgive and forget, dude.
Since NYRB articles tend to disappear behind a paywall, and since this particular exercise in vileness deserves to be remembered and referenced for decades to come, I'm going to give you the whole text. It's my way of preserving it in internet amber. I will add some commentary at the end.
Why We Need al-Qaeda
Could the group long considered the most lethal terrorist organization in the world be the best option left in the Middle East for the US and its allies?
In Washington and other Western capitals there is rampant confusion about the status and future of al-Qaeda. Some Western diplomats and commentators claim that al-Qaeda has been largely surpassed by the much more popular and brutal ISIS. Others insist that it is expanding in Syria and Yemen, remains strong in Pakistan and Afghanistan where its present leadership is based, and continues to pose the most significant terrorist threat to the West.
Meanwhile, events in the Middle East suggest growing contradictions in Western policy. In Syria, the United States has been bombing Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, alongside ISIS. But members of the US-led coalition against ISIS, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are actively supporting al-Nusra with arms and money. In Yemen, the US has pursued a years-long drone campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a campaign that has included, most recently, the reported killing on Friday of AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi. But much of the Arab world is now essentially siding with AQAP in a Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in that country. And while ISIS commands overwhelming attention for its ability to gain and hold territory and draw thousands of Western recruits, there has been little scrutiny of the dramatic effect it has had on al-Qaeda itself.
The truth is that al-Qaeda has evolved in profound ways since the death of Osama bin Laden and the emergence of ISIS. Despite a concerted campaign against it by the US and its coalition of more than sixty countries, ISIS can now claim to have ground forces in more than a dozen countries stretching from Tunisia to Central Asia and Pakistan, and it is implementing a state-building project—the Caliphate—that al-Qaeda could only dream of. The most dangerous long-term consequence of ISIS’s growth is the unleashing of a general war between Sunni and Shia that could divide the Muslim world for decades.
Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is much depleted. However, it still has a major presence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen through its affiliates, and it continues to inspire Afghan, Central Asian, and Pakistani militants, who provide the group with sanctuaries and manpower in order to keep its leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri alive. It also has increasingly set itself apart from ISIS in strategy and aims on battlefields in both Syria and Yemen. So the question has become urgent: if al-Qaeda is changing, what is it changing to? Is it for the better or the worse? And what part might it have in the crucial confrontation with ISIS?
Partly as a result of al-Qaeda’s ambiguous presence in the Middle East’s expanding conflicts, there is now a dramatic divergence between the US and the Arab states about how the war against ISIS should be conducted. In fact, amid the chaos of simultaneous conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, two quite separate super-wars are now being fought. The first war is being fought by the US and its Western allies, who are seeking to defeat Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and AQAP in Yemen alongside the campaign against ISIS. Significantly, however, the Arab states are taking no part in the war against al-Qaeda and are providing no intelligence support to the American forces leading it.
The second war, by contrast, is being fought by Turkey and the regional Arab states—primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt—against Assad and other Iranian-backed forces in the region, as well as ISIS. In this war the Arab states openly avoid bombing or attacking al-Nusra and AQAP, and in fact now provide both with financial support and weapons. This is because both groups have now declared aims that are shared by the Arab states. Al-Nusra has set as its primary objectives toppling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, defeating the pro-Iran Hezbollah militia, and eliminating Iranian support for Assad. AQAP, meanwhile, is resisting the Houthi uprising and also wants to eliminate Iranian influence in Yemen. So al-Nusra and AQAP have become allies and not enemies of the Arab states, despite the fact that al-Qaeda itself once sought to overthrow these same regimes.
All of this is completely at odds with longstanding US aims and purposes. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to insist that there is no difference between ISIS and the two al-Qaeda groups. It also remains true that both groups are lethal; AQAP in particular has in past years shown its ability to plan ambitious attacks against Western targets. Yet the Arabs are justified in concluding that al-Qaeda may be evolving. Both groups have now taken over cities and towns in their respective states, marking the first time that al-Qaeda has sought to control territory. And both have set out policies of local control that differ markedly from those of ISIS.
Consider al-Nusra, ISIS’s primary rival in Syria. Unlike ISIS, which demands absolute subjugation of the inhabitants of any territory it conquers (surrender or be executed), al-Nusra is cooperating with other anti-Assad groups and recently joined the “Army of Conquest” alliance of rebel militias in northern Syria. Moreover, in contrast to ISIS’s largely international and non-Syrian fighting force, al-Nusra’s fighters are almost wholly Syrian, making them both more reliable and more committed to Syria’s future. Meanwhile, in interviews with Al Jazeera, al-Nusra leaders have vowed not to attack targets in the West, promoting an ideology that might be called “nationalist jihadism” rather than global jihad. In recent months, al-Nusra’s leaders have toned down the implementation of their own brutal version of Islamic law, while putting on hold their own plans of building a caliphate.
Many of these same changes have been evident with AQAP in Yemen. The al-Qaeda affiliate’s takeover of the southeastern Yemeni province of Hadramut this spring was a remarkably tame affair. The group seized the capital Mukallah, robbed the bank, and then retreated, declining to run the government themselves or impose sharia law and installing a council of elders instead. They have urged the council to focus on governance and providing services to the people.
For Arab leaders, determining whether al-Qaeda has really changed will depend on the group’s long-term attitude toward Shias. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda detest Shias, but al-Qaeda has tried in the past to moderate its views and stave off the kind of large-scale sectarian war that ISIS is now advocating. As long ago as 1998, Osama bin Laden warned his Arab fighters and the Taliban to stop excessive killing of Shias in Afghanistan, and during the height of the war in Iraq, when the leader of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch Abu Musab al-Zarqawi launched an exceptionally brutal campaign against Shias, both Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri warned him to desist. For the moment, al-Nusra and AQAP seem to be avoiding anti-Shia fanaticism, viewing it as an impediment to gaining more territory. What is unknown is whether this moderation toward minority groups such as the Alawites in Syria or the Yazidis in Iraq will continue if they gain total control. Also unknown is their attitude to an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq.
But just as important in the Arab rapprochement with al-Qaeda is the reality that US policies have failed. Both the US effort to build up a so-called moderate front in Syria and to bring Sunni and Shia together in Iraq through the auspices of a failed Iraqi Shia elite have become doomed strategies. And as the US enters the final stages of a nuclear deal with Iran, many Arab leaders view Washington as abandoning them.
With Arab money and persuasion, both al-Nusra and AQAP are gaining capacity for local governance and state building. However distasteful the jihadist ideology behind both groups, these efforts suggest an outcome that may be considerably less threatening than that of the Islamic State. According to some reports, al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri has issued advice that attacks on the US should stop for the time being in order to allow al-Qaeda and its affiliates to concentrate on the Middle East. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the AQAP leader who was reportedly killed in a drone strike last week, took orders directly from al-Zawahiri; so does Abu Mohammed al-Julani, the leader of al-Nusra, who recently told Al Jazeera, “the instructions that we have are not to use al-Sham [Syria] as a base to launch attacks on the West or Europe so as not to muddy the current war.”
With 230,000 killed and 7.6 million people uprooted in Syria alone, the Arab states want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria. They know that solution will never come from the weak moderate opposition, and that any lasting peace will require support by the strong and ruthless Islamist groups fighting there. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, since he came to the throne in January 2015, has pursued a far more aggressive policy toward both Iran and Syria, and is prepared to sup with the devil, including al-Qaeda itself, to achieve his aims. Turkey too has been humiliated by its loss of dominance in the region and has now set up a command and control center for al-Nusra on its own soil.
The West must recognize that the ground is shifting quickly across the region and the Arab Spring is now on the verge of turning into an Islamic fundamentalist winter, whether we like it or not. The US has paid a bitter price for declining to back the Arab states in removing Assad four years ago when there was a viable moderate opposition. In the months ahead, we should not be surprised if formal talks between al-Qaeda and these Arab states begin. The only one not at the table could be the United States.
June 15, 2015, 3:45 p.m.
There is vileness upon vileness here. Let's take a closer look at a few bits and pieces...
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to insist that there is no difference between ISIS and the two al-Qaeda groups.
Obama and Kerry have been wrong about much, but not that. ISIS and Nusra have pretty much joined forces: See here and here and here. Everyone agrees that, if Assad goes, ISIS will assume power in Damascus. Thus, any aid or legitimacy we grant to Nusra (otherwise known as Al Qaeda) will help make that day dawn sooner.
Aid to Nusra and aid to ISIS are the same thing. In essence, Rashid is telling us to help ISIS in its diabolical quest to subjugate millions.
With Arab money and persuasion, both al-Nusra and AQAP are gaining capacity for local governance and state building.
Gosh. I seem to recall that the BBC was telling us just days ago that the Syrian rebels were not getting "Arab" (i.e., Saudi) money. Get your propaganda stories straight, people...!
With 230,000 killed and 7.6 million people uprooted in Syria alone...
Whose fault is that? Certainly not Assad's. Rashid's argument is like saying that we should hold JFK responsible for increasing the homicide rate in Dallas.
...the Arab states want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria.
By "the Arab states", Rashid means Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Why they hell should we take sides in a Sunni-Shiite conflict which has nothing to do with our culture, history or beliefs? Would it not make more sense to condemn the Saudis for funding a war of sectarian violence?
They know that solution will never come from the weak moderate opposition...
Remember when we constantly being told that the moderates were in control of the Syrian rebellion? We had "vetted" them. That's the word used constantly by the Obama administration: vetted.
Fat lot of good all of that vetting did.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, since he came to the throne in January 2015, has pursued a far more aggressive policy toward both Iran and Syria, and is prepared to sup with the devil, including al-Qaeda itself, to achieve his aims.
Then why isn't our argument with Salman, rather than Assad? Assad is no angel, but Salman is, by any rational measure, much worse. He is, by Rashid's own admission, the devil's date.
Turkey too has been humiliated by its loss of dominance in the region and has now set up a command and control center for al-Nusra on its own soil.
Thank you, Mr. Rashid, for adding to the evidence that Turkey (not the Assad government) was responsible for the 2013 sarin attacks. For more on that topic, see here.
The evidence of Turkey's involvement in that crime is overwhelming. If we were willing to bomb Syria over the use of chemical weapons, why are we now unwilling to bomb Turkey?
And why should I give a damn as to whether the fascists of Turkey feel "humiliated"? Any humble pie eaten by the Turks is what they deserve.
The West must recognize that the ground is shifting quickly across the region and the Arab Spring is now on the verge of turning into an Islamic fundamentalist winter, whether we like it or not.
Winter is coming. And we are responsible. I told you that human-caused climate change is real.
The US has paid a bitter price for declining to back the Arab states in removing Assad four years ago when there was a viable moderate opposition.
Viable? Nonsense. In one of his few completely honest statements on the topic, Obama himself once admitted that this was a "fantasy."
In the months ahead, we should not be surprised if formal talks between al-Qaeda and these Arab states begin.
Remember what Bush said about treating the state allies of Al Qaeda as if they were Al Qaeda itself? If such was our attitude toward Afghanistan, why is it not our attitude toward Saudi Arabia?
The only one not at the table could be the United States.
Rashid is seriously arguing that we should suck up to Al Qaeda -- to freakin' Al Qaeda -- because all the cool kids are doing it.
Tell me: As you read Rashid's text, at what moment did the vomit start to back up in your throat? The NYRB used to be the journal of "safe" bourgeois liberalism. When did they decide to publish the kind of outlandish, extremist horseshit that even Glenn Beck would have rejected as too radical?
"back when I still harbored dreams of being middle class"
There comes a time when self-respect and a care for honesty and decency leave only one route open: to say a resounding "fuck that!"
Good on you! :-)
posted by b : 4:25 AM
b, there was indeed a brief time in my life when my big concern was choosing the right silverware to go with the Mikasa dishes -- or "dishware," as we middle-class types were supposed to call it back then.
It all went to hell when I decided to study parapolitics. It all went away: The car, the income, the gigs, the meals out at sit-down restaurants. That's why I'm particularly pissed off at the paranoid fuckfaces who have accused me of writing what I write "for the money." WHAT money?
Those paranoid fuckfaces have no concept of what my life was like before. I lived a much more comfortable life in the days before I started to read books written by guys like Peter Dale Scott. Now, I'm on a slo-mo course to disaster, and I know that I will inevitably end up dying in a homeless shelter. And STILL there are idiots out there who say: "Cannon says he doesn't believe in the controlled demolition theory? Obviously, he must be getting a fat paycheck from the CIA..."
I saw a bit on CNN --home of US military psy-ops-- about a month ago in which it was reported that Al Qaeda was doing a really marvelous job of administering the cities it had captured, much better than that devil Assad. For illustration they used Al Qaeda propaganda videos of happy crowds cheering while bread was handed out. I expect this propaganda theme to become increasingly prevalent.
posted by Gareth : 8:39 AM
You do a great job lampooning the article. But there are moments when even gallows humor falls short. This article is so massively disturbing that I wanna forget it. Ahmed Rashid is clearly a bloodless and reprehensible person, and let us never call him a "thinker." But he is a "thought leader." He's merely proposing that we do what we're already doing. Don't lose sight of that fact. We're not just at the table with Al Qaeda; we're slipping them cash (and ammo, and guns, and rockets) under it.
It's always trite to say the world has gone mad, but it really has, and it's taking a mental toll on me.
posted by Anonymous : 9:48 AM
"We've always been at war with Eastasia."
posted by Anonymous : 9:50 AM
About the decline of the NYRB.
A few months ago, my morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I read an entire article in the review about Ukraine, by George Soros. The old codger actually scolded the U.S. for refusing to put the war option on the table. (I can only assume Soros is long "war options," or, at the very least, "short" humanity.) The cover of the latest issue announces a new contribution by Soros - something about averting World War III (which he's stoking) by forging an alliance with China. Always working the angles, that Soros.
This will cheer you up, if you have the ears to hear it.
You probably came here expected to read something about politics, but I'm too depressed, too surly, too...
...is there a French term that means "easily annoyed by everything"? Well, there ought to be.
The point is, I'm just not in a mood to study the news today. Time for some Prokofiev!
Originally, I had hoped to embed the final movement of the Fifth Symphony. That's the one where the Great Robot Factory goes completely out of control. But the only YouTube performance I really like is in a video of the entire symphony, and I had hoped to draw your attention to the last ten minutes.
That's why I've embedded, above, the final movement of the Sergei Prokofiev's First Symphony, the "Classical" -- so nicknamed because it uses a small orchestra of the sort that Mozart or Haydn might have recognized. You are supposed to dance to this music -- an extremely rapid and strenuous dance of your own invention. This will kill you (if you do it right). But you'll die happy.
Your conductor is Valery Gergiev. In Prokofiev, you're not likely to find better.
As for the wicked, wicked world -- well, I'd tell it to go to hell, but it seems to be finding its way there without my help.
But if someone out there is new to classical music and open to giving it a try, the last movement of the First Symphony really is a good place to start. Please understand, though, that you do have to play this music loud, and you have to try to dance to it. The first heart attack should kick in about when the development section starts.
Prokofiev's 5th should be beamed to outer space to communicate with higher intelligence. Many of the recordings are murky, mushy, and moribund. Don't be fooled. Indeed, Joseph, the sense at the end of a runaway machine resonant with the Sorcerer's Apprentice is inescapable.
posted by Anonymous : 12:53 PM
Gergiev is the bee's knees! His Rite of Spring is orgasmic. It's like punk rock!
'...is there a French term that means "easily annoyed by everything"?'
You mean besides 'French'?
posted by maz : 2:22 PM
Here's something cheering and musical. Kiev-born pianist and Ukrainian patriot, Valentina Lisitsa, recently banned in Toronto for her opposition to the Canadian supported Ukraine Nazi regime, playing liberated Donetsk on June 22, the 74th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Russia.
How ironic that the brave-hearted people of Donbass are still fighting Nazis, this time from Western-backed Ukraine.
I think you'll agree this is something special and inspiring. https://youtu.be/1eJXty3AIIY
posted by Anonymous : 3:18 PM
Yes, Mr. C., now that’s class – with sweet savoir-faire! ;) j
posted by Anonymous : 3:55 PM
Here's an example of jumping to a particular section of a video - note the minute and second specs.
I'm of two minds concerning the current debate over display of the Confederate battle flag. On one hand, I feel angry that we have coddled southern arrogance for the past 150 years. The south must finally accept that their cause was defeated, and that this defeat was quite deserved. I am unswayed by the argument that the Stars and Bars represents a "cultural" heritage, because I refuse to honor a culture based on racism and superstition. Thus, I'm glad to see stories like this one.
On the other hand: The flag debate is really just a diversion. Once again, we are focusing our attention on a symbol rather than the thing-in-itself. Mary Frances Berry has it just right:
By every concrete measure, ordinary African Americans have suffered during the Obama years. They have experienced double-digit unemployment rates even when overall unemployment rates subsided. Jobs in the public sector and in manufacturing, a historical haven for black workers, have been reduced; jobs in growing economic sectors have not materialized. Blacks are told they don’t have the skills even for jobs that don’t require skills, just on the job training. The Voting Rights Act and other measures to end education and employment discrimination have been undermined by the Supreme Court with no congressional relief in sight. Most significantly, the killings of unarmed African Americans by white civilians and law enforcement officers have become an almost common occurrence.
In 2008, we were repeatedly told by "progressives" (who, we now know, were whipped into a frenzy by David Axelrod's brigade of internet trolls) that Bill Clinton represented racism. A nonsensical charge. Under Clinton, the median income of African Americans rose by a third, and the poverty rates for black people fell to its lowest point ever.
For years, I've asked progressives to name a single black person not named Obama who has been made more prosperous by Obama. Well, there have been a few: Eric Holder, for example. But the hard fact is that African Americans have fared poorly under this administration -- and instead of rectifying that situation, we are focusing on symbols.
A symbol is nothing more than a bit of graphic design that stands for something else, something real. A symbol is a placeholder. It is not the actual thing.
Symbols do have a certain importance, but isn't it more important to have some spending money in your wallet? Isn't it more important to be able to walk down the street without being hassled by the cops?
The flag in question is not the stars and bars, but the southern cross. The confederate battle flag is square. The stars and bars is characterised by the presence of both stars and bars, not stars and a cross.
Because if you're not, you probably shouldn't be lecturing black folks about the meaning and [non-]importance of symbols.
I'm sure you wouldn't be telling a black family to just ignore that noose someone nailed to the tree in their front yard. You wouldn't be suggesting they turn the other cheek when someone calls them niggers.
Those are symbols, too, but no longer deemed acceptable for use in polite company.
Since the 1950s, the confederate flag has been their replacement, the socially-acceptable substitute that means exactly the same thing as the noose and the n-word, while hiding behind the cover of respect for Southern heritage.
A black person I used to respect told me even if I end up sleeping under a bridge as long as black sleeps in the white house I am happy. Before Obama they used to call Clinton the first black president.so
posted by Anonymous : 3:00 PM
Flags of the Confederate States of America - WikipediaA The Confederate States had three flags: 1. "Stars and Bars" (3 Mar 1861 to 30 Apr 1863). The first flag consisted of a blue square with (7-13) stars aranged in a circle in the upper left, and three horizontal bars of red, white and red. 2. "The Stainless Banner" (1 May 1963 to 3 Mar 1865). The second flag was all white (to symbolize supremacy of the white man) with "the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag" in the upper left. 3. "The Blood-Stained Banner" of 1865. The third flag added a verticle read strip on the right side.
Most, but not all, of the flags flown today are the "Army of Northern Virginia battle flag" aka "The Confederate Flag" first flown in 1961 and now flown at the statehouse in SC. The three Confederate state flags plus the Battle Flag were removed by the governor of Alabama.
Joe, You have a valid point about the symbolic value of the flag. My fear is that once it comes down, the twitter rage of some upper middle-class white progressives will dissipate and the same pressure won't be applied to solving the actual problems of institutional racism which leads to those miserable economic issues and the out of control policing. I especially worry about the dissipation if it appears that solutions to those problems could lead to their own taxes increasing or the dilution of some of our own innate privilege.
Michael, you have no right to speak for black people. I never claimed to do so.
One American exercising his right to speak his mind does not constitute "lecturing."
And I do feel that people -- not just black people: All people -- pay too much attention to symbols. I'll say it again: A symbol is not the thing-in-itself.
We make this mistake constantly.
Consider, for example, the rather insane debate we have had about burning the American flag. That flag, too is just a symbol. In the end, ALL symbols are nothing more than arbitrary pieces of graphic design; they are not really real. A Christian may think that the cross around his neck is important, but it isn't. It is not THE cross. The symbol is not the actual thing; no symbol ever devised in this history of mankind has ever had true importance.
If you want to make changes in this world, you have to address reality, not the insubstantial bits of graphic design that represent reality.
Just when the United States government started to do something about giving Blacks an opportunity to get an entry level manufacturing job the Willards of Wall street started moving them to Communist China. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will only make it worse which is why real Democrats don't support it.
The "stars and bars" is the real Confederate Flag, and looks different. The issue, if I recall, was that battle troops confused the flag of the South with that of the North, so the aforementioned flag is actually the 'battle flag' produced to replace it on the field, such that further organizational conundrums could be avoided.
(This post contains original research. Please spread this one around.)
Last month, the BBC World Service broadcast a radio documentary in which Peter Taylor investigates the origins and funding of the Islamic State -- ISIS. (Go here.) According to Taylor, the group gets money from taxation, from (literal) bank robbery, from oil, and from selling antiquities.
(The last-mentioned source may reward further study. You can't make money selling artifacts unless you have a buyer. Who are these buyers? How did a bunch of universally-detested Islamic radicals contact the people who control the antiquities market?)
Taylor's tale is noteworthy for what it omits: He does not mention the many, many reports that ISIS received funding from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Many mainstream news sources have made this claim: See here and here and here and here -- and that's just for starters.
If you click on that last link, you'll find this quote:
Günter Meyer is Director of the Center for Research into the Arabic World at the University of Mainz. Meyer says he has no doubt about where ISIS gets its funding. "The most important source of ISIS financing to date has been support coming out of the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia but also Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates," Meyer told Deutsche Welle. The Gulf states' motivation in financing groups like ISIS was to support their fight against the regime of President Bashar al Assad in Syria, according to Meyer.
Many respected experts have said the same thing. Yet the BBC is having none of it.
The BBC World Service refuses even to mention the idea that the Saudis have funded ISIS -- not even to debunk the oft-heard allegation.
The absurdity of this BBC report becomes apparent when you give the matter a little thought. ISIS had to conquer one hell of a lot of territory before they got into a position to sell oil. Conquest takes an army, and armies require money. Where did the initial investment come from?
The BBC leaves that question dangling.
Peter Taylor traveled far to compile this report, but who were his sources? First, we heard from a man named Abu Hajar, a captured ISIS "finance minister" (who actually seems to have been little more than a bag man). He is now being held by the Iraqi government.
A prisoner who has been subjected to torture cannot be expected to speak freely. He will say only what he feels is safe to say.
The BBC's other main source is Daniel Glaser, who works for the Treasury Department: He's the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing. Is this man likely to speak with complete candor on any topic that might endanger US/Saudi relations?
Along the way, Taylor also speaks to that remarkable British spy -- or former spy -- Alastair Crooke, whose name I stupidly misspelled in an earlier post. (Apologies.) As it turns out, that earlier post has some bearing on our current discussion -- even though the topic, on that occasion, was how to make the Russians dance to our tune:
Crooke says that a chief architect of these schemes was a fellow named David S. Cohen, of the Treasury Department. As Moon of Alabama notes, Cohen has moved on the CIA, where he is The New Number Two. That extraordinary piece of job-hopping tells you a lot about the world we are in.
You don't just jump right into the Number Two position at CIA; you get a job like that only if you've spent a good portion of your life working for the intelligence community. For decades, the Agency has seeded its personnel throughout the government and military. (Cohen's job at Treasure was really an intelligence position, since he focused on the financing of terror.)
If you Google the names of Cohen and Glaser, you will see that the two are as close as Batman and Robin. If Batman was CIA, the same is probably true of Robin.
In this light, you should take a look at Glaser's Wikipedia entry. In its current incarnation, this bio is genuinely startling:
Daniel L. Glaser is the Assistant Secretary for the Department of the Treasury of the United States. He serves under David S. Cohen, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Intelligence in the Obama Administration. His work came into prominence as the result of the WikiLeaks progressives spying for Putin's KGB.
"WikiLeaks progressives spying for Putin's KGB..." Good lord. Who wrote this bilge?
After trying to track the author -- and a merry chase it was! -- I suspect that these words were written by either Glaser himself or by an associate, although I cannot prove the point. The many progressives who voted for Obama may be interested to learn whether or not a member of the Obama administration believes that progressives are Putin spies.
Needless to say, there is zero evidence for the assertion that Putin controls the Assange operation.
So what do we have here? Simply this: The BBC World Service purports to give the world the straight skinny on how ISIS gets its money, but they ignore the many experts who have spoken of Saudi backers. Instead, the BBC relies on testimony from a torture victim -- who, obviously, will say whatever his captors want him to say -- and from an Obama administration official who seems spookier than the Haunted Mansion. The BBC also talked to David Petraeus, who ran the CIA.
As noted above, Taylor also talked to Alastair Crooke of MI6. He avers that ISIS is committing atrocities precisely because they want the "crusaders" to send "boots on the ground" -- a claim that does much to explain the events of this day in France and Tunisia.
But on the topic of exterior support for ISIS, the BBC does not allow Crooke to say the kinds of things he says here, in an article titled "Ex-intel officials: Pentagon report proves US complicity in ISIS."
Alastair Crooke, a former senior MI6 officer who spent three decades at the agency, said yesterday that the DIA document provides clear corroboration that the US was covertly pursuing a strategy to drive an extremist Salafi “wedge” between Iran and its Arab allies.
The strategy was, Crooke confirms, standard thinking in the Western intelligence establishment for about a decade.
“The idea of breaking up the large Arab states into ethnic or sectarian enclaves is an old Ben Gurion ‘canard,’ and splitting Iraq along sectarian lines has been Vice President Biden’s recipe since the Iraq war,” wrote Crooke, who had coordinated British assistance to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s.
Gee. You'd think that the BBC would be interested in this material.
But no: Auntie Beeb doesn't want to say anything about the US using ISIS as a proxy army against Assad. Instead, the BBC prefers to give us the world according to David Glaser.
One other thing. The BBC also claims that ISIS is getting money from -- get this -- Bashar Assad, the very man that ISIS is determined to destroy. Predictably, we are not favored with even the slightest whisper of proof for this nonsense. (The source is unmentioned. I'm guessing it was Glaser.)
The BBC does many marvelous things, but on this occasion, they have misled the public with a load of codswallop. And the citizens of the UK are paying for this propaganda.
Neither the BBC nor any other part of the British mainstream media knowingly does anything to upset the Saudi princes, and that has been the case for as long as I can remember. If it ever happens by accident, they back down and grovel. The princes spend a huge amount on British-made weapons each year. The British weapons industry might even collapse without Saudi contracts.
There is also a lot of Saudi money in British universities, and it was Saudi money that bailed out Barclays Bank, one of Britain's largest high-street banking concerns.
Countries (or is it companies?) such as Saudi, the Emirates and Qatar were all British creations and retain 'special economic relations' with Britain. Dubai is especially important in the British corruption system. Most British medics, for example, enjoy frequent luxury holidays in Dubai paid for by Big Pharma. (All that these stupid arrogant lying fuckers care about is 'luxury' - yachts and bracelets, yachts and bracelets. They wouldn't have the intelligence to go somewhere that's interesting to the active mind, such as Venice or Carcassone.)
There's another angle to this: the BBC is doing a lot of the Islamic State's propaganda for it. During WW2, the British authorities didn't assist with the circulation of German propaganda in Britain. But I have heard 'experts' on the BBC convey the IS message in the most obvious way, telling British Muslims that they will be warmly treated if they join IS, spelling out the message for different parts of the British Muslim market. It is surely taught in PR and Advertising 101 that you shouldn't do that: don't make the other side's case for it. Do we think the IS does the same service for Britain?
The obvious suspicion for the critical mind is that perhaps the "enemy" is not such an "enemy" after all.
There is massive propaganda for a major war, a war that would be extremely lucrative for some.
Meanwhile, young people in the West are being encouraged to become desensitised to headchopping videos, to enjoy the feelings they get from watching them. This is not of minor concern. Watching snuff videos affects people psychologically a lot. It's not 'wussy' to recognise that.
The BBC and the rest of the mainstream media are ramping up a vile prurient interest, especially among young males. Schizo culture - passivity sold as activity - is highly beneficial for some and clearly deliberately enabled and encouraged.
You should try fishing for views about the Amazon Echo etc. where young people hang out. I've done that - and in connection with other bits of technology too - and the results are scary.
To improve our understanding of British state-corporate propaganda on the current 'clash of civilisations', or whatever we wish to call it, meaning The West versus Militant Islam, we should consider the results of the propaganda so far. One useful place is the British army's rumour service, an 'unofficial' but highly influential website - a typical example of today's participatory PR (a much more accurate term than 'social media').
It is clear from that site that a large proportion of British service personnel view the war against militant headchopping liver-eating Muslims as part of the same conflict as the antagonisms between white people and brown-skinned Muslims (whom they designate using the racist term "Pakis") in cities such as Bradford in England. Soldiers are not known for being encouraged to think for themselves, and this widely held view is the result of propaganda.
My own contacts report tinderbox conditions in parts of several British cities. It strongly seems to me that the state-corporate outfits are pushing on the home front for ethnic war on the streets - not just in Britain but throughout much of western Europe - and that we can expect some explosive points of departure.
posted by b : 6:51 AM
"Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing."
posted by maz : 8:46 AM
"WikiLeaks progressives spying for Putin's KGB". Good lord. Who wrote this bilge?"
I'd strongly caution keeping an open mind on this.
The KGB - a good enough term for FSR+FSB - is a very formidable player in both the Western and Muslim worlds.
I don't doubt that there were and are many genuine people with admirable motivations involved with Wikileaks, but "Hey whistleblowers! Send your stuff to a central secure point and we'll help you" was always the wrong way about it.
Whatever happened to fuck the mainstream media? For that matter, what happened to the critique of professional radicals who control the use of certain tools, whether physical violence or hacker knowhow?
FWIW I don't think the KGB own Wikileaks but I think they have a sizeable share in it. Even those who disagree should welcome it that someone is playing devil's advocate.
The CPSU crumbled in '89-91; the KGB didn't. No mainstream western analyst will say that. The KGB is kicking the arse of the west in various areas.
As I write, I am just now learning about the terrorist attack -- immediately attributed to ISIS -- in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, a town near Lyon, in the southeastern part of France. (See here and here. The Wikipedia page sprang up so rapidly, it seemed almost to precede the event itself.) ) There was an attack on a factory involving bombs. There was also a severed head found at the scene, plus a message in Arabic.
The reports available at this time differ as to how many attackers were responsible. There seems to have been at least two jihadis invovled, one of whom is under arrest.
At the same time, in Tunisia, there was an attack on two resort hotels catering to the tourist trade. There was gunfire on the beach and the sound of explosions. There is also a report that a hot air balloon (!) was brought down.
To top it off, an offshoot of ISIS called Najd Province has claimed responsibility for the destruction of a Shiite mosque in Kuwait.
By the time you read these words, you will probably know many more details than I do right at this time. Reports that are sketchy now will, I presume, solidify as the day progresses.
Yet I doubt that we will have an answer to the first question that popped into my head: Why?
No, I'm not posing that question in any philosophical sense. The practical value of these attacks escapes me.
Until now, ISIS has been engaged in the business of conquering territory and establishing a state. They want to establish an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq, and then move on to Iran. They have never before shown any willingness to engage western interests outside of the region they claim as their own.
Al Qaeda, not ISIS, was the group that wanted to bring the fight to the west. That difference in strategy -- in worldview -- is the reason why the two groups were at loggerheads for a while last year.
Anyone with any sense can see that, by attacking a target in France, ISIS has simply increased support for western intervention in that part of the world.
As of last night, most Americans did not want to see any proverbial "boots on the ground" in Iraq. How will they feel tonight? I feel certain that the notion of intervention will suddenly become more popular. The neocons are probably smirking right now.
It's as if ISIS wants to face the Marines. Why? How could such a confrontation possibly help them?
Why would they commit actions designed to validate those who claim that ISIS poses more than a regional threat?
Maybe we'll have answers to these questions as the day wears on. But right now, the only explanation that makes any sense to me is that these events were not directed or encouraged by ISIS proper (meaning, the group headed by Al-Baghdadi). Perhaps they were independent actions by local "wannabes."
But...is this possible? Three independent attacks in three separate nations, nearly simultaneously? It all seems quite coordinated.
It's almost as if ISIS' entire raison d'etre is to provide inflammatory actions designed specifically to justify Western military action in the Middle East. I mean, if I were a cynical person I'd almost believe ISIS is taking orders from someone who wants another war, possibly against Syria and then Iran.
posted by Anonymous : 10:12 AM
" How could such a confrontation possibly help them?"
Western hegemony depends on ISIS, to legitimize its being in that part of the globe. Simplistic answer, to be sure, but accurate, I think. Thanks, for what you do Joe.
posted by Anonymous : 11:06 AM
Another attack no doubt to lure the U.S. into more mideast war.
posted by Anonymous : 2:38 PM
"The Wikipedia page sprang up so rapidly, it seemed almost to precede the event itself."
Perhaps that is a clue to answer your questions. ISIS reeks of a pay-op, particularly the execution videos which keep coming through the spooky SITE. There is no way ISIS could sustain itself in the field without significant outside assistance, but shutting down the financing and closing off the supply lines - all of which originate from allies in the region - has never been seriously considered. Instead, there is a steady drumbeat insisting on the need for a large NATO presence coupled with the insistence that the "struggle" will take decades. ISIS is the vessel which takes the West to a full military occupation of the Shia allied Middle East. It will be a bait-and-switch, as of course the Shia are not carrying out these atrocities.
posted by Anonymous : 2:50 PM
You're looking for for some sort of rationality for what ISIS is doing but you have to realize that they actually believe what they say they believe. As far as they're concerned a great battle against the West is exactly what they want and Allah will make sure they prevail as their theological prophecy dictates.
"It's as if ISIS wants to face the Marines. Why? How could such a confrontation possibly help them?"
Because they've learnt from Vietnam and Afghanistan. The US would get dragged in across a wide area, bogged down, and would eventually lose the region and ISIS would gain it.
"Why would they commit actions designed to validate those who claim that ISIS poses more than a regional threat?"
In what market? They're not fighting for non-Muslims' hearts and minds in the West. And in any case, chuck logic out of the window when considering political debates.
The trouble with these answers isn't glibness but that they don't question the premise that ISIS is the enemy of the West. The headchoppers in Riyadh aren't.
I try to use the term Spreaders of Saudi Culture when the western media reports the latest liver-eating, headchopping, or other murder of innocents by Muslim fanatics. Young people are like fucking zombies nowadays, so you've got to keep the number of words down or you won't get past the shield. Unfortunately I can't report much success! :-)
Why is the media going after Sidney Blumenthal? Of all the "Friends of Hillary" we've heard about, he's the only one who doesn't give me the heebie-jeebies.
Here's one who really is creepy: Robert Kagan, sometimes known as Mr. Victoria Nuland. Yes, this is the guy that "Toria" fucks when she's not fucking the EU.
(Did I cross some kind of boundary of good taste just now? I don't care. When Toria apologizes for staging a coup in Ukraine, I'll start worrying about whether my words offend her.)
The above link goes to a NYT story published a year ago. The following excerpt should frighten you more than a visit from Slenderman:
But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.
“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
If you want more shivers -- along with some morbid laffs -- read the rest of that story. Kagan seems genuinely peeved at Obama because the current occupant of the White House has been insufficiently bellicose.
Instead, he believes that the widespread frustration over Mr. Obama’s disengagement despite the resurgence of organized terrorist groups in the region has created the climate to again make the case for interventionism.
What he won't tell you is that "the west" and its regional allies -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey -- are the ones who created ISIS and the Nusra Front (the "organized terrorist groups" referenced above).
So our first question is: Did the creation of ISIS happen without Obama's knowledge? I'm really starting to wonder. There have been precedents for this sort of thing -- occasions when our intelligence agencies created "facts on the ground" designed to force a President into taking certain actions. Is Obama the mastermind of recent events, or is he simply reacting to events? I know that some of you despise Obama passionately and want to assign all blame to him, but take a good look at what Kagan has to say about the guy. The acrimony seems real. To us, Obama looks like the great enabler of the neocons -- yet to the neocons, Obama is the guy who has kept them leashed and caged. How, I wonder, will he look to history?
Second question: How the hell can neocons like Kagan continue to get away with using ISIS as a justification for intervention when ISIS itself was the result of a neocon conspiracy to topple Syria?
Third (and this is the tough one): At what point does Hillary's neoconservatism become a deal-breaker? If the election is a matchup between Jeb and Hillary, both parties will be controlled by Friends of Kagan. Best, I would say, to hold your nose and vote for the Friend of Kagan who is less likely to replace Scalia with Even-Worse-Than-Scalia.
That said, the situation we're in is infuriating. If we want a completely de-Kaganized and un-neoconned foreign policy, what the hell are we gonna do?
The Blumenthal factor has me wondering if there isn't some reason to find a faint, shimmering hint of hope in the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Maybe she has some secret plan to go the "Putney Swope" route. In other words, maybe she is doing whatever she has to do and saying whatever she has to say in order to get elected, but once she attains power -- WHAM-BOM! We see the Hillary that no-one ever expected.
A thin hope? Oh yes. Gossamer thin. But it may be our only hope.
Did my little tale of Hillary and her friend scare you? Heh heh heh. Sweet dreams!
Chomsky doesn't believe a conspiracy killed JFK, because why would They want to kill someone as right-wing and reactionary as him? Obviously it's because, while he might be right-wing compared to me, he wasn't far enough out for the mad bastards who killed him. Obama is in a similar position, although considerably further to the right.
I was tempted to include that very point in my post, Stephen. But I decided to keep it uncharacteristically simple.
Chomsky is a great man, but he has a blind spot when it comes to JFK. A lot of lefties back in his day thought of Kennedy as right-wing cold-warrior Democrat. But, as Michael Parenti once said (during a lecture I once attended), the real question is: Did THEY see it that way? When Parenti said 'THEY,' he meant the people who killed JFK.
The work of John Newman, David Talbot, Jim DiEugenio, Jim Douglass and others has revised the way we see the Kennedy presidency. But Chomsky will never go along with it.
I wonder if we will ever have to revise the way we see Obama or Hillary?
Amazon is really pushing their new Echo device, a voice-controlled computer that -- I kid you not -- stays permanently connected to the internet as it recognizes your voice and makes a record of everything you say.
Echo was born from a simple idea: create a computer, controlled entirely by your voice. This idea required some incredible invention. It had to understand natural language requests, from many voices, from across a room, even when music is playing. It also needed to be informative, entertaining, and useful—while always getting smarter.
With seven microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo achieved this goal by enabling far-field voice recognition.
Why should we worry about this? Well, last year we learned that Amazon was in bed with -- do I even need to tell you? -- the CIA.
This summer, a $600 million computing cloud developed by Amazon Web Services for the Central Intelligence Agency over the past year will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.
This computing cloud, which allows the CIA and the NSA to share information instantly, is the same cloud that Echo will be connected to 24/7. This article spells it out...
All 17 agencies that comprise the U.S. intelligence community will be making use of Amazon's cloud, including, selected at random, the NSA, the DEA, the Department of the Treasury, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and Coast Guard Intelligence—which you'd think you would have heard of by now.
There's almost assuredly a long view with Amazon's CIA data center, too terrible to contemplate, ideas pinging around, brainstorming sessions on how best to leverage a dense mass of black op debriefs and decrypting moments of human intimacy; whole communities reduced to metadata-hyperlinked dossiers; transcripts of interrogations that decent people would call torture; dark truths and useless junk all hanging shapeless in a steady breeze of electrons behind Langley's firewall. (It will certainly be an advantage in Amazon's Cloud War against Google.)
To imagine Amazon's dark black breathing machine communicating regularly with the NSA's yottabyte data center outside Bluffdale, extracting and calcifying this vast containment facility of our past lives, is to cry out in anguish over a grim new understanding of what it truly means to be governed.
But there's more. Look at what we learn from the first comment (written by someone who seems to know what he is talking about)...
The $600M covers way way more than storage - it's a full build-out of the complete Amazon Web Services stack in a facility that can be used by the intelligence community. Any press-release excreting "cloud company" can do virtual servers and block storage. Most of them are just rebranding VMWare or doing other lame things. The CIA/AWS contract states that all current and future AWS services will all get deployed into the special CIA cloud as well.
Amazon expects you to pay $180 dollars for the privilege of installing a super-acute eavesdropping device in your home, one which will be able to make out what you are saying even if you are listening to music or watching TV. Your words -- all of your words, uttered in the privacy of your own home -- will be translated "on the fly" into digital-ese, sent to the NSA, and stored forever in the Bluffdale facility, available for keyword searches.
Put a microphone in your product, and someone is going to assume you're listening to them. That's one of the challenges Amazon Echo - the online retailer's "Siri in a totem pole" - faces, with suspicion about just how much Jeff Bezos & Co. (or his algorithms, at least) are actually eavesdropping on. Given the power of Amazon's recommendation engines and the amount of data it gathers just from casual browsing, you can certainly see where some of the paranoia might come from, too. A microphone-mute button takes pride of place on top of Echo, but will it be enough to persuade potential users that the virtual assistant is working for them and not for Amazon itself?
Of course the mics will still operate when the "mute" button is pushed. That button is a placebo.
What kind of mental defective would buy this thing?
The same mental defectives who made Facebook an inescapable part of American life -- even though everyone knows that Facebook is the CIA. You can't get onto Facebook without giving them your cell phone number, which means that they can -- and do -- track you everywhere you go.
By the way, we could change all of that. We could insist on a law which would mandate that every cell phone sold in this country come equipped with a genuine "off" switch.
Why isn't such a law on the books right now? Because most Americans are cattle.
I don't have a cell phone, and never have. I do have a Facebook account. They have asked me for a cell number once or twice (not when I signed up though, just email address), but I don't have one so I just ignore it. I do wonder though, if they will ever make it a requirement. Yahoo mail asks me for one occasionally, just in case I need to reset my password and don't have another email address on file with them (which I do, another throwaway I almost never use). I also pass on those, since I couldn't enter a number I don't have anyway.
I also never post anything on Facebook anymore, ever. I just comment on and like friends posts. Of course, they can still tell where I am just by who my closest friends are (not to mention my internet connection and usage at home and at work), though I don't have any of my work, address, or past schools info on Facebook at all and never enter it when they ask (which they do periodically, saying my profile is not yet complete........trust me, it's as complete as I want it to be).
To answer your question though, there are plenty of people in my workplace who are proud to be "early adopters" of the latest and greatest technology and who will likely want to get this abomination as soon as they can. These people are actually quite technical, intelligent people who should know better, but they are also largely of the "I'm not doing anything wrong, so I don't have anything to worry about" variety. People, even very smart people, seem to have simply given up on the idea of privacy as if it was inevitable that we would loose it and not that big of a deal anyway.
I despair over the state of our "Democracy".
posted by Gus : 11:36 AM
Funny you should ask...
posted by igd : 1:00 PM
Thanks for this article. Amazon is a wonderful service with their recommendation system for reading an acceptable price to pay for buying books from them. Plus Bezos laugh is honking awesome. But... their unprincipled treatment of Wikileaks (they gave a senator a conceptual BJ) a few years ago caused me to cancel my membership and I won't deal with them now. Wikileaks might have been wrong but AWS ejected Wikileaks early. With the purchase of the Post I hope Jeff is more tolerant of his new Bridge cohorts.
posted by Arbutos205 : 4:36 PM
The Amazon Echo is 9 inches tall, and most of its size seems to be accounted for by speakers and the enhancement of the sound that's sent to the speakers. The listening bit must be tiny.
Are they going to fit it onto Kindles and tablets and laptops next?
Look at how many retards use Facebook, organising their 'social' lives so as best to help advertisers and the secret police, thinking they're being 'free'. Richard Stallman has it right: it's best to call these idiots Facebook 'useds, not 'users'.
How long before you can't have a conversation on a train without other passengers holding up microphones to catch your words for the NSA and CIA?
How long before millions of people voluntarily audio-bug their living rooms for the NSA and CIA? Who'd actually want to go and visit such an arsehole? But what happens when there's hardly anyone else to visit?
Where else is this technology already used? My hunch is that audio surveillance is far more widespread than many people think.
posted by b : 7:48 PM
Some of the comments at Amazon's page selling the Echo:
"1,689 of 1,756 people found the following review helpful" "Already very practical for overcoming disability issues"
"We have been using Echo since April. Prior to that time, my husband had been hospitalized for several weeks. He is currently wheelchair bound. We immediately installed the Hue bridge and lights as well as the WEMO outlet. With these, and dear, dear, Alexa, he has a great deal of control of his environment in ways that make him much more independent. Others might enjoy Echo for fun and convenience, but for him it is a lifeline! He has even had her turn the lights on in my bedroom when I didn't hear him call."
"We use the shopping list feature a lot, and my husband has added things to the list that he remembered, while I was already at the store. Should I mention he adds things like chocolate bars when I'm not looking? No more paper lists! I just look at the app on my phone and things disappear as I check them off."
"The Echo has become the most used appliance in our home."
"592 of 631 people found the following review helpful" "Alexa, my love. Thy name is inflexible, but thou art otherwise a nearly perfect spouse."
"Most Recent Customer Reviews" "Good start, hoping for more!"
"A useful tool, especially if you don't have any bluetooth speakers. I use it a lot for making to-do and grocery lists; something I struggled with before getting my Echo."
"We love our Echo!!"
"When we hooked up Echo my 7 year old son said, "This is going to change our lives" and it has. We love it! The number one feature we use is music."
I wonder how many of these excuses for intelligent human beings would voluntarily kill themselves, or each other, if advertisers asked them to?
Where are you, Stanley Milgram?
posted by b : 7:59 PM
"Given the power of Amazon's recommendation engines"
Amazon often scares the crap out of me when it advertises book titles at me that are spot-on for my tastes and interests - titles I haven't heard of before and am tempted to try to get hold of.