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A Modest Proposal for Dealing with ISIS or ISIL or Whatever

By: Ohio Barbarian Monday September 15, 2014 2:46 pm
The last sultan saluted by soldiers as he leaves his role after the end of the sultanate.

The last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire abolished his role in 1922. If we revived the Empire to fight ISIS, nothing could possibly go wrong.

Well, you’ve probably heard a lot lately about all of the proposals being put forth to deal with the Brand New and Improved Terrorist Threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria(ISIS), or as the current Fascist President of the United States calls it, the Islamic State in the Levant(ISIL), or whatever you want to call that genocidal pack of Wahhabist(I think) Sunni Muslim religious fanatics who’ve made a fair amount of progress in establishing their very own Islamic Caliphate in portions of Syria and Iraq in recent months.

Obama, chastened from the American public’s rejection a year ago of a Brand New Shiny War in Syria and by his grossly stupid underestimation of Russian resolve where it comes to Ukraine,  driven by corporate concerns about the safety of Iraqi oil fields (which he never mentions, BTW), and the constant beating of the war drums from everyone from Hillary Clinton to Lindsay Graham to (again, never mentioned) American weapons manufacturers, is for an air campaign against ISIS supported by various Arab “boots on the ground.”

The war hawks, like Graham and John McCain, want to send in the American Army and Marines. It doesn’t matter that that approach turned out so well in Iraq and Afghanistan, but hey, send in the troops often enough and sooner or later it’s bound to work out, right?

Yeah. Right.

Don’t these fools know their history? There’s a simple solution. When was the last time what we call Syria and Iraq were more or less peaceful and stable for centuries?

I’m waiting. Bueller? Bueller?

Yes! When they were both ruled by the Ottoman Empire!

The Turks controlled that whole area for at least 500 years. There wasn’t much war in the region, the imperial government in Constantinople(er, Istanbul) pretty much let the locals run their own affairs so long as everybody mostly paid their taxes, saluted the red flag with the Crescent and Star, and didn’t harass or kill imperial Turkish officials or anything like that.

And the great thing is that the Turks are still around! Why not arm the Turks with those A-10 Warthogs that are being decommissioned,  give them a bunch of Patton and Abrams tanks, helicopter gunships, and old F-16′s and tell them to go forth and re-establish their Empire as it existed in, say, 1914? That would include Palestine, I mean Israel, I mean both, but they could be autonomous provinces subject to the heel of the Turkish boot. Arab-Israeli conflict solved! That would include Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, too. Assad could become a Turkish bashar or be executed, his choice. ISIS? Well, the Turks could just genocide their ass. I’ve heard Armenians say they have some experience in that department, and who cares about a bunch of fanatical ragheads, anyway?

Yeah, Kuwait, Yemen, and the east and west coasts of Saudi Arabia would go to the Turks, too, but it was Saudis who carried out 9/11 anyway, so screw ‘em. I’m sure the Turks would make very reasonable oil deals with the West, too, so long as they got a reasonable cut for themselves to help solve their own domestic problems. The House of Saud could retreat to the inner desert where Lawrence of Arabia found them back in World War I. They’d still be rich and, if they fought, well, the Turks could deal with them, too.

We can revisit the situation in a few centuries and see whether or not it needs any tweaking. Who knows? The Turks might even rediscover their inner Mustafa Kemal and just secularize everything. Wouldn’t that be a shame? Hell, they might even let women dress as they please and let them vote!

Why not? Well, I’m sure there’s a whole host of good reasons why not, but is my modest proposal really any sillier than what is being floated about by our so-called leaders?

 

Standard and Poor’s Says Inequality Suppresses Economic Growth and State Revenue

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 16, 2014 6:56 am
Standard & Poor's HQ in NY

Even Wall Street rating agency Standard & Poor’s sounds the alarm on income inequality.

Concerns about increases in income inequality were voiced from a surprising perspective today, when Standard and Poor’s (the bond rating agency) issued a lengthy report titled “Income Inequality Weighs On State Tax Revenues.” The report concludes that “disparity is contributing to weaker tax revenue growth by weakening the rate of overall economic expansion.”

The authors offer this explanation for the correlation between income disparities and economic growth:

…rising income inequality is a macroeconomic factor that acts as a drag on growth. There is evidence, although not conclusive at this point, that the higher savings rates of those with high incomes causes aggregate consumer spending to suffer. And since one person’s spending is another person’s income, the result is slower overall personal income growth despite continued strong income gains at the top.

An article in today’s Washington Post sums up the findings in clearer terms:

Even as income has accelerated for the affluent, it has barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue.

The new report provides an argument against relying solely or primarily on sales tax revenue. It concludes that the correlation between income inequality and slower revenue growth “was stronger in the sales tax-reliant states than it was for the income tax-dependent states.” Keep that in mind if Wisconsin lawmakers dust off the idea the Governor floated last year of possibly eliminating the state income tax and replacing that revenue with a huge boost in sales tax revenue.

The Standard and Poor’s report says that its analysis “suggests that through a progressive tax structure, it’s possible to counteract much of the depressing effect inequality has on tax revenue growth rates.” It adds a caution that more progressive tax structures can also increase revenue volatility. Although that’s a relevant consideration, I don’t think it’s an argument against progressive income taxes. Instead it’s a reason for relying on a balanced mix of tax sources, including a progressive income tax, and for setting aside budget reserves during periods of strong revenue growth.

Independence Yea or Nay?

By: Elliott Saturday July 7, 2012 5:15 pm

England really has been a bit of dick towards Scotland (as John Oliver puts it) — going all the way back to “The Hammer of the Scots,” King Edward I, who apparently made it his life’s mission, his Great Cause, to conquer Scotland. After he whipped Wales’s ass, that is.

I wouldn’t dare insert myself in the upcoming “Yea or Nay” on the referendum for Scotland’s independence, but here’s Groundskeeper Willie to explain the vote:

Now both sides of this argument have valid points…

 
But John Oliver, the British ex-pat, wants Scotland to stay. He’s begging. You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting a rump shot though (I was).

 

Obligatory Sean Connery pic:

Sean Connery with members of the United States Air Force Reserve’s Pipe and Drum Band, Tartan Day, 2004. That’s a Clan Maclean hunting tartan btw

 

Bautista, Crisp-Sauray, and McKibben: A Future to March For

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday July 26, 2011 6:09 pm

 

It was June 12, 1982. My daughter was still in her stroller, my son as yet unborn, when my wife and I, six friends, and another child in a stroller joined an estimated million people in New York City at the largest antinuclear protest in history. All of the adults in our party had grown up in a world unsettled in a unique way: Armageddon had, for the first time, potentially become a secular event. End times were no longer God’s choice for us, but ours for ourselves. It seemed no mistake that, three decades into the Cold War, the nuclear readiness of the two superpowers was referred to as “mutual assured destruction,” about as graphic a phrase as you could find for the end of civilization; and, of course, it had its own acronym which, to us at least, seemed less like an abbreviation than sardonic commentary: MAD.

In 1979, a near-catastrophe at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania helped launch a new iteration of the antinuclear movement. Initially, it was focused on “peaceful” nuclear power, and then, amid a renewed superpower arms race, on the potential destruction of the planet in a MAD conflagration; in the atmosphere of that moment, that is, we found ourselves living with a renewed sense that the world might not be ours or anyone else’s for long.

The first nuclear weapon had been detonated at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, just four days before I turned one, which meant world-ending fears and dreams would be woven into my life. So, with a child of my own, it felt right to be in that giant crowd of protestors, marching near a contingent of hibakusha, or survivors, from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts that had, thanks to America’s “victory weapon,” ushered in the nuclear age.

In 1991, only nine years later, the Soviet Union, that other superpower, would disappear. If you had told me then, with the Berlin Wall down and not an enemy in sight, that almost a quarter of a century later — with two of our 1982 marchers dead — most of the rest of us would be planning to meet and march again, lest our children’s children have no world worth living in, I would have been surprised indeed. And I would have been no less surprised to learn that the U.S. and Russia still preserve, update, and upgrade monstrous nuclear arsenals that contain enough weapons to destroy a number of Earth-sized planets, or that those weapons continue to proliferate globally, or that, as we now know (given the “nuclear winter” phenomenon), even a “modest” regional nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could result in an event of unimaginable horror for humanity. Told all this, I would undoubtedly have wondered where the then-much-talked-about post-Cold War “peace dividend” had gone.

Had you also told me that, on September 21, 2014, I would be planning to be out with my wife, my old friends, my son, my daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandson marching in New York City, but this time against a second human-produced potential apocalypse, and that it was already happening in something like slow motion, I would have been stunned.

And yet so it is, and there I will be at the People’s Climate March, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else that day. At some future moment, wouldn’t it be sad to say that humanity’s greatest achievement was to exploit to the fullest two energy sources — the atom and fossil fuels — capable of destroying the basis for our lives on this planet, and potentially much other life as well? What a strange possible epitaph for humanity: what we burned burned us.

At 70, this world won’t be mine for that much longer, so it’s not a matter of my life or my planet, but I only have to look at my grandson to know what’s at stake, to know that this is not the world he or his peers deserve. To make global warming his inheritance could represent the greatest crime in history, which means that those who run the giant energy companies (and the oil states that go with them) and who know better will be the ultimate criminals.

No single march, of course, will alter the tide — or perhaps I mean the greenhouse gases — of history, but you have to begin somewhere (and then not stop). And to do so, you have to believe that the human ability to destroy isn’t the best we have to offer and to remind yourself of our ability to protest, to hope, to dream, to act, and to say no to the criminals of history and yes to the children to come. Tom

Why We March
Stepping Forth for a Planet in Peril
By Eddie Bautista, La Tonya Crisp-Sauray, and Bill McKibben

On Sunday, September 21st, a huge crowd will march through the middle of Manhattan. It will almost certainly be the largest rally about climate change in human history, and one of the largest political protests in many years in New York. More than 1,000 groups are coordinating the march — environmental justice groups, faith groups, labor groups — which means there’s no one policy ask. Instead, it’s designed to serve as a loud and pointed reminder to our leaders, gathering that week at the United Nations to discuss global warming, that the next great movement of the planet’s citizens centers on our survival and their pathetic inaction.

As a few of the march’s organizers, though, we can give some sense of why we, at least, are marching, words we think represent many of those who will gather at Columbus Circle for the walk through midtown Manhattan.

Over Easy: Radio as Art

By: cmaukonen Tuesday September 16, 2014 4:50 am

1937 Airline Miracle – flickr creative commons

Good Morning All

With all the insanity in the world today I thought I would go back when life was considerably more sane and calm and comforting. When Art Deco reached its peak and Radio was king.

The Art Deco movement influenced nearly everything, from auto-mobile design to skyscrapers. And of course radios, large and small. The internals of these radios did not vary much from model to model or even from manufacturer to manufacturer but the cabinetry was quite elegant. Like this high-end Philco or the crème de la crème, the Zenith 1000 Stratosphere – Zenith’s top of the line model for 1935. Manufacturers wanted their radios to look good as well as sound good.

There were classic table models and cathedral designs and the so called tombstone models as well. Or this chair side radio by Zenith.

The wood cabinets were handmade in a lot of cases and had inlays and very fine finishing. For someone with the bucks to spend they still can be had but for a price. Some going for in excess of a thousand dollars restored. They are very, very collectible and people will go to extremes to restore and refinish the cabinets. I even found a web site that documented one person taking the radio chassis inside completely apart down to the last nut and bolt and cleaning and rebuilding it. OY!

Here are a few of the more unusual ones.

RCA Worlds Fair

RCA San Francisco

Zenith Louis XV

Stewart Warner

 

And many others, including Bakelite cabinets and plastic. But by the late 1960s fancy cabinetry was all but gone.  Replaced by simple, mostly plastic shells. Functionality and cost-conscious consumers ruled the day. Even the large console televisions were on the way out.

So if you will remove your ear buds for a minute, here is what radio use to be like.

Off topic is on topic here. What’s on every one’s mind?

Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday September 15, 2014 8:23 pm

 

Tsuumi Sound System in concert

Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System performed Saturday at the Arneson River Theater at La Villita, San Antonio, Texas.

Tonight’s music video is “Altitude” from Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System, from their album Floating Letters.

Tsuumi Sound System is one of Finland’s internationally most notable modern folk music bands. Rooted in Nordic folk traditions, classical idioms and innovative modern ideas, this eight-piece band draws their strength from a huge mixture of influences. Besides the recording work and the award-winning compositions, their energetic show has enthused a public of all ages from Scandinavia to Sicily.

I went to the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas last Saturday, where I saw an amazing, global selection of talented musicians at a completely free outdoor event. This festival was a gift to everyone that attended and the musicians as well. It’s publicly funded and has suffered from budget cuts in recent years, so if you’re listening San Antonio city council: keep this music going. And if you’re anywhere near San Antonio next September I hope I’ll see you there.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and MIT have used light to teach mice to suppress a fearful memory in favor of a more pleasurable one, according to Psypost.

‘There is some evidence from pyschotherapy that positive memory can suppress memories of negative experience,’ [Lead inveatigator Susumu] Tonegawa says, referring to treatments that reduce clinical depression by helping patients recall positive memories. ‘We have shown how the emotional valence of memories can be switched on the cellular level.’ [...] Tonegawa explains that the contextual information about these events – where and when they happened – is recorded in the brain’s hippocampus, whereas the emotional component of the memory is stored separately, in a brain region called the amygdala. “The amygdala can store information with either a positive or negative valence, and associate it with a memory,” Tonegawa explains.

Last year, Tonegawa and his colleagues reported that by artificially activating the small set of cells that stored a specific memory in a mouse, they could create a new, false memory. In that study, the team made the cells that stored a memory of a safe environment sensitive to light, so that they could be manipulated by the researchers. Switching on those cells while subjecting the animal to a mild shock in a new environment caused the mouse to fear the original environment, even though it had had no unpleasant experiences there.

In those experiments, the scientists had caused the mice to associate a neutral setting with fear. Now Tonegawa and his colleagues wanted to see if he could alter a memory that was already associated with emotion. Once an animal had developed fear of a place, could the memory of that place be made pleasurable instead?

To find out, the scientists began by placing male mice in a chamber that delivered a mild shock. As the mouse formed of memory of this dangerous place, Tonegawa’s team used a method it had previously developed to introduce a light-sensitive protein into the cells that stored the information. By linking the production of the light-sensitive protein to the activation of a gene that is switched on as memories are encoded, they targeted light-sensitivity to the cells that stored the newly formed memory.

The mice were removed from the chamber and a few days later, the scientists artificially reactivated the memory by shining a light into the cells holding the memory of the original place. The animals responded by stopping their explorations and freezing in place, indicating they were afraid.

Now the scientists wanted to see if they could overwrite the fear and give the mice positive associations to the chamber, despite their negative experience there. So they placed the mice in a new environment, where instead of a shock they had the opportunity to interact with female mice. As they did so, the researchers activated their fear memory-storing neurons with light. The scientists activated only one subset of memory-storing neurons at a time – either those in the context-storing hippocampus or those in the emotion-storing amygdala. They then tested the emotional association of the memory of the original chamber by giving mice the opportunity to move away from an environment in which the memory was artificially triggered.

[...] ‘So the animal acquired a pleasure memory,’ Tonegawa says. ‘But what happened to the original fear memory? Is it still there or is it gone?’ When they put the animals back in the original chamber, where they had experienced the unpleasant shock, the animals showed less fear and more exploratory and reward-seeking behaviors. ‘The original fear memory is significantly changed,’ Tonegawa concludes.

[...] In an accompanying News & Views article in Nature, Tomonori Takeuchi and Richard G.M. Morris of the University of Edinburgh, state, ‘What is so intriguing about this study is that the memory representations associated with a place are dissected into their network components and, rather than re-exposing the animals to the training situation to achieve a change, light is used to selectively reactivate the representation of the “where” component of a memory and then change its “what” association.’

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Once There Was a Way to Get Back Home

By: Isaiah 88 Monday September 15, 2014 10:47 am

Harlan Ellison . . .

I have no mouth, and I must scream.

Nature . Solitude (Eclipse ... )

William Rivers Pitt . . .

It has been thirteen years since the attacks of September 11, and this nation has spent every one of the 4,745 days between that morning and today in the grips of a media and politics and money-driven high panic. Millions upon millions have been killed, maimed, displaced or bankrupted in the process. ISIS are bad guys, and no mistake, but there are a pile of nations on this planet besides us with standing armies, many of them with a far more vested personal interest in eradicating these lunatics than us. Their militaries are not exhausted like ours is.

‘Our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden,’ said President Obama on Wednesday night, ‘but as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.’ I can only imagine the comforts that come with living in the White House, but for an enormous swath of the country you lead, the ‘blessings’ you speak of turned to ashes in our mouths a long time ago.

This nation is lost. It got lost 50 years ago and it’s still lost. We’ve taken so many wrong turns so many times there isn’t even a map for where we are now.

Once there was a way to get back homeward.

Once there was a way to get back home.

We won’t find our way back, we won’t be going home, not if the masters of America’s permanent war economy have anything to say about it. And they always have plenty to say about it. So do their bought-and-paid-for-politicians, they never stop talking, their two-party tongues are always wagging. We’ve had to listen to their lectures about foreign threats and national security every damn day for more than half a century.

The identity of the apocalyptic threat is the only thing that ever changes. It was the Kremlin, it was the Red Chinese, it was Castro, it was Al Qaeda, it was Saddam, it was Iran, now it’s ISIS! ISIS! ISIS! The frantic hype and hysteria of the politicians and the corporate media have once again had the intended effect. Tens of millions of Americans are now supporting a new military intervention in the Middle East.
They never listen, but I’m going to tell them anyway . . .

Boy, you’re going to carry that weight.

Carry that weight a long time.

Michael Stipe . . .

Blind, unquestioning, warlike. Is that who we are now? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending “American interests”, whatever “American interests” means? Are we that racist, that terrified, that protective of an idea that we don’t even question what the idea has come to represent?”

I think everyone here knows the answer.

Digby . . .

There Is No Future in War: Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

By: codepink

By Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez, Sara Al Harbi, Sophia Arman

A smiling young woman places flowers in the riot shields of police

“We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.”

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq and Syria.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts–declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people–are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.

War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective.

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.

Imagine what we could have done with this money:

With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt.

With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire.

With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.

With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sources–something that our generation cares passionately about.

Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war–– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all.

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective.

The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do.

War does not work from an environmental perspective.

War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.