Hugh

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  • This is a standard list of A-List Establishment talking heads weighted to the neocon end of the spectrum. Thom Friedman and David Brooks??? I mean how more tired and “never met a war we didn’t like” can you get? As for supposedly the gravitas of Steve Coll and the Columbia School of Journalism, what humbug!

    First, the CSJ is hardly in the trenches fighting against our current status quo corporatist media complex. Nor has it done anything to train a new generation of sceptical, evidence based reporters. All we get from them is the occasional tepid criticism of this or that story with no systemic critique of the media.

    Second, Steve Coll is a heavily credentialed product of the current media. He isn’t just dean of the Columbia Grad School in Journalism. He is founder and CEO of the New America Foundation. The head of the NAF’s board is Eric Schmidt of Google. Funders include the Pritzkers and Bill and Melinda Gates. And what initiative was the NAF pushing this year? It was trying to pressure universities to accomodate their standards and teaching practices to accord with the Common Core. Ooh, is that radical or what?

    What Obama did was invite part of the Washington-New York echo chamber to the White House, with all the predictable results. He heard what he wanted to hear. Go figure.

  • Over the last 60 years, Congress has successively ceded and the Executive has effectively usurped all war making powers. Nowadays resolutions are window dressing. They are not meant as authorizations as such but rather instruments to blur (and erase) responsibility in a bipartisan haze. Even in their absence, the simple act of funding under the screen of “supporting the troops” serves the same purpose.

    For those interested, the 2001 AUMF is very short and its operative paragraphs read as follows:

    (a) That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

    (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

    (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers

    While this language would support those who say that this does not grant Obama the power to wage an undeclared war against ISIS, it is important to point out that in the act’s non-operative preamble it concedes

    Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States

    The execution of the two American journalists, the ISIS threats against the US, and even the hokey fantasy of ISIS blowing up the Mosul dam to flood the American embassy in Baghdad fall within the scope of this Congressional concession.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Uncivil Termination of Professor Steven Salaita

    2014-09-10 20:20:40View | Delete

    There is a great misconception that academia is about intellectual inquiry. This could not be further from the truth. Look at their top heavy corporatized administrations of which both Wise and UIUC’s Board of Trustees are a part, their research and funding ties to corporations, and the increasingly class-driven nature of who can afford them. Universities are, in fact, great engines of the status quo and some of the most anti-intellectual places on the face of the earth. They are not about challenging the system but perpetuating it. Our current system is one of class and kleptocracy. What Salaita had to say about Gaza was unexceptional outside of anything other than a propagandized echo chamber, –which, unfortunately, is exactly what UIUC and American universities in general are.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Obama Preparing To Launch War In Syria (Again)

    2014-09-10 15:08:37View | Delete

    Presidents long ago usurped Congress’ Constitutionally mandated power to declare war. It began at least with Teddy Roosevelt’s “gunboat diplomacy” but the modern form really dates to Truman’s entrance into the Korean War under UN auspices. The Cold War blurred the distinction between diplomacy and war. What after all, besides the semantics and the logistics, is the difference between invading a country and overthrowing its government? By of Pigs or assassinating Castro? which to choose, which to choose?

    Nevertheless, it was Vietnam which created the modern model of the Presidential war exactly 50 years and one month ago to the day. Congress passed he Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 10, 1964. It hardly seems possible that so much time has passed or that we learned so little since. The Vietnam “War” had all the hallmarks. Congress did not declare it but passed a vague open-ended resolution (based on a fictitious wobbly pretext that had nothing to do with the real reasons for the war: paranoia, the Cold War, and their crystallization in the Domino Theory). And on that basis, it became first Johnson’s War and then Nixon’s with its inevitable expansions into the not so secret bombing in Laos and culminating with the invasion of Cambodia. Vietnam also had other notable fixtures of the modern Orwellian “non-war” war: the use of the sobriquet “military advisers” for combat troops and the use of the one to introduce the other and the dependence on weak, corrupt, vacillating allies with vastly different agendas from our President and War Party’s.

    The 1973 War Powers Act was enacted to create a pragmatic balance between the Congress and Executive’s war making roles, but it proved less a check on Presidential war-making power than a tacit acceptance of it. It took 3 days after the 9/11 attacks for Congress to cede its warmaking responsibilities, without any Constitutionally required declaration, in the AUMF which launched both our 12 year and counting military adventure in Afghanistan and the even more open-ended (and vague) Global War on Terror.

    It is interesting that Bush and company went through the quaint charade of seeking another AUMF for their imperial project of invading Iraq in order to control its oil and establish permanent military bases in the face of an increasingly unreliable and unstable Saudi Arabia. But as with Vietnam, these real reasons were buried in an avalanche of lies and propaganda about phantom WMDs and ties to 9/11. This last was a coup worthy of a Goebbels since it directed attention away from the very real and close connections of the Saudis to 9/11 (15 of the 19 hijackers for a start) and lay it on a country, a party, and a dictator deeply opposed to the goals and existence of al Qaeda.

    Iraq was supposed to be the apotheosis of the neoliberal and neocon world views. But it proved to be a dreadful, costly shambles, precisely because of them. In the US, voters were allowed to vent their frustration by voting out the Republican Corporate War Party and voting in the Democratic Corporate War Party. In this sense, Democrats and Republicans should never be viewed as greater and lesser evils but as complementary ones. Obama did not reverse Bush’s policies. He followed and expanded upon them. Bush began the use of bombing, drone and special forces strikes, but it was Obama who institutionalized them into government policy, and used them to effectively void the already flimsy War Powers Act. We saw this first in 2011 in Libya. The rationale was no boots on the ground, no War Powers Act. At the same time, the original 9/11 AUMF could be extended to special forces strikes anywhere. And because of the way the War Powers Act was worded, it can be argued that special forces strikes fall through the cracks in it, that is such a strike is likely to be over before the reporting and approval seeking requirements of the Act kick in. Finally, the War Powers Act contains an explicit exception for “trainers”. Call combat troops “trainers” and again the provisions of the War Powers Act can be and, under Obama, are ignored.

    Say what you will the ramp up to this newest non-war war has been masterful. ISIS despite all the hoopla about its media savvy has directed this savvy to its jihadi audience. To the audience of the American public, it has played directly into the War Party’s hands: massacres, grisly executions. Obama and company could not ask for better. They have tuned their escalations to allow the American public to be suitably shocked, disgusted, and get on board. At the same time, the deeper goals of the return to Iraq and the connections of the Saudis and Gulf states to the ISIS jihadis have been beautifully obscured. As a propaganda exercise, it gets an “A”. But as policy and strategy, not so much. Iraq remains divided, semi-partitioned without any real political settlement between its three main groups. Obama may be committing the US to the ISIS War for the long haul, but how long will the Europeans stay in? The Saudis are notorious for not spilling their own blood and only being willing to fight to the last dead American. The Gulf states are no different. Indeed the Saudis are more comfortable with shipping their own jihadi elements off to join ISIS and hopefully get killed in Iraq and Syria(thereby lessening a jihadist challenge to their regime) than actually fighting ISIS or anyone else. Meanwhile in Iraq while Maliki is no longer Prime Minister, he is hardly gone from the political scene, and his cronies in the army and police remain in place. The Kurdish peshmerga was surprisingly ineffective against ISIS. So who exactly are our allies in this adventure? What precisely can they contribute and for how long? The ghosts of Vietnam are calling. This looks like another war that various actors are willing to see us wage, that will last only about as long as we are willing to fight it, and that we are destined to lose because it is, and should be, someone else’s fight.

  • Hugh commented on the diary post How To Read A Jobs Report by Hugh.

    2014-09-09 12:49:58View | Delete

    Joelmael, thanks and corrected. A silly typo on my part. Sharonsj, it is not enough to stop believing the government’s numbers. It is important to use what tools we have to get an idea of what the real situation is. Beyond this, I think we need to create a progressive economics. All current economic theories [...]

  • Hugh wrote a new diary post: How To Read A Jobs Report

    2014-09-08 13:31:07View | Delete

    The monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been out for a few days. Having analyzed these reports for several years, I thought it would be good to talk about what they do and don’t do and how they are put together. First, the BLS jobs reports are, with a few [...]

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Eric Cantor Goes To Wall Street

    2014-09-03 11:35:09View | Delete

    This is how institutional bribery works in our corrupted political system. Campaign contributions while in office and lucrative contracts after. Both parts of this system are about milking Cantor’s contacts and influence. But the second part, the post-office part, is really mostly a carrot held before the eyes of current officeholders. The message is “You play ball with us now, and we will see you are taken care of later.”

    This is “legal” bribery, but always important to note, what is legal can still be criminal.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Senator Mary Landrieu Under Scrutiny For Residency Claims

    2014-08-29 15:14:48View | Delete

    Mary Landrieu is a crook. She always makes the list of most corrupt members of Congress. In this case, I think we should take this as more emblematic of what our rich and elite (and corporations) have become. They have no state beyond their bank account and no allegiance beyond those who keep it plush.

  • Putin may be seeking leverage, control of energy reserves in the Sea of Azov, and/or trying to slow the collapse of East Ukraine to prevent Russia being swamped by a flood of refugees/immigrants it can not handle either monetarily or logistically. These actions are ensuring that not just Ukraine will be a Western-oriented state hostile to Russia, but essentially his whole Western periphery (minus Belarus). When even the Finns seek closer military integration with NATO, it gives you an idea of how badly Putin has misplayed his Ukraine/Crimea adventure.

  • Neocons Lindsey Graham and John McCain of the murderous clown car brigade would bomb and invade a ham sandwich if they could. And yes, they are foils for Obama and the Democrats’ own neoconservatism.

    Important to remember that Obama got out of Iraq on George Bush’s timeline and following his plan, something like 3 years when a US withdrawal could have been accomplished in less than one. And Obama tried to keep US troops in Iraq after the December 31, 2011 deadline under the guise of “advisers and trainers” but he could not negotiate an immunity agreement with Maliki for US troops after light verdicts of those US soldiers involved in the Haditha massacre. ISIS’ gains and Maliki’s incompetence opened the door to renewed US involvement in Iraq and Obama and the neocons took it. This is as usual about American empire. There are no concrete goals, clear strategies to achieve them, or exit strategy. To date, the Obama Administration and the Pentagon have been handling pretty well their propaganda program to justify their escalation of force. But doing a good song and dance going in won’t mean a thing if they don’t have a good way of getting out, and they don’t.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Roundup for August 25th, 2014

    2014-08-25 20:43:05View | Delete

    53% of economists? In other words, a coin toss, but over what? Important to remember that the Fed is the primary mechanism by which the rich loot the rest of us, and modern economics, merely propaganda to abet in that looting. So when 53% of economists approve of the way we are being screwed, it doesn’t mean that the other 47% are against us being screwed. It simply means they favor screwing us some other way.

  • Hannah Arendt observed in Origins of Totalitarianism that for totalitarians in power ideology always trumps what makes strategic commonsense. Much has been made of how tech and media savvy ISIS is, but this has been vastly overstated. Admittedly, the US was shopping for an excuse to re-enter Iraq, but it was ISIS that handed the Obama Administration not one but several reasons for doing so. On the one hand, you could say that ISIS was playing to a different audience. But consider how much more difficult it would have been for the US to get involved if ISIS had simply stayed away from the Kurdish areas for the time being and had let the Yazidis alone. But they didn’t. Indeed there ideology impelled them to provide the conditions the US could use against them. Even so the legal case for US airstrikes was vanishingly thin: protecting the American consulate in Erbil, not from assault but from a maybe possible assault sometime in the future. The genocide against the Yazidis gave Obama a humanitarian jus cogens argument that would play well with the American public since no direct legal reason could be applied. And it has gone on from there. Mosul dam? Weapon of mass destruction and the ridiculous argument that it was justified because it might damage the American embassy hundreds of miles away.

    Again it is important to see that the initial US strikes were tactical in nature so as to undermine Maliki but they have shifted into a strategic phase with his (apparent) ousting. And a strategic campaign always meant bombing in Syria. The grisly execution of Foster (and the accompanying ISIS threats against the US) provided the headlines to make it happen.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post The Weekend Roundup for August 23-24th, 2014

    2014-08-24 15:07:06View | Delete

    Re MH17, the Russian rebels shot down Ukrainian planes both before and after the destruction of MH17. Their command and control was always loosey goosey with or without direct Russian involvement, and lets be realistic Russian citizens held top positions in the rebel administration, Putin continues to directly insert Russia in the conflict via his “humanitarian” convoy (nobody does humanitarian anything anymore) and the use of Russian manned artillery.

    Re Israel, when we invoke apartheid, we need to understand the full import of the concept. What Israel is doing in Gaza is waging war against its own disenfranchized citizens, citzens which it has segregated there in a bantustan.

    Re Alperovitz, the conversation we all should be having, and the only one worth having, is what kind of a society do we want to have, not just for ourselves but for each other, that is not just for the people who are like us or believe what we do, but all those who don’t, a society that is fair, equitable, decent, and sustainable.

    Re Sanders, John Jay Chapman wrote (in 1900), “The quarrel that the world has with its agitators is that they do really agitate. … If an agitator is not reviled, he is a quack.” Sanders is a quack. He once famously filibustered in the Senate, but it was on a Friday after most of his colleagues had left DC for the weekend. The Senate normally does not follow its own rules in its operations, instead it adopts unanimous consent agreements between Reid and McConnell to do its business. Any Senator could torpedo these by objecting to them. A Senator can also raise points of order or suggest constantly an absence of a quorum throughout the day (because there is almost never a quorum on the floor to disrupt the Senate. A Senator can filibuster, not like Sanders going into a weekend but when the parties really feel pressed to act. And of course, rather than doing the occasional star turn among progressives, they could coordinate with them and use their position to build and strengthen progressive networks (something that sorely needs to be done).

    Hillary Clinton is just another corporatist, neocon Democrat. It goes to show how thin the Democratic bullpen is that Clinton is once again the heir presumptive. It also shows how threadbare Democratic branding has become that they do not even bother to pretend that they are progressive in any substantive way. Rather it has become about identity. They simply replace “Hey, African-American! must be progressive!” (Obama) with “Hey, female! must be progressive!” (Clinton). The contempt they have for us is endless. And why not? Up to now, it has worked for them, this selling of anti-progressive candidates. We progressives need to forget about the Democrats and strike out on our own.

  • There are many factors that led to rise of ISIS.

    1) Drought and repression in Syria.
    2) An Alawite, Shia-offshoot, ruling class in Syria dominating a Sunni majority.
    3) The destabilization of Iraq due to the US invasion and the ongoing lack of a settlement and modus vivendi among Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds in Iraq.
    4) Maliki and Dawa’s sectarianism, corruption, and incompetence.
    5) The devil’s deal the Saudi and Emirate monarchies have made with their citizens: You are free to support jihad abroad in exchange for not engaging in jihad at home.

    I don’t mean to harp on this last, but it has been a recurring theme back to 9/11 and before that the Saudis, and now the other Gulf dictatorships, have helped create these shitpiles to take pressure off themselves. They then dump them on us as hegemon to clean up.

    In the face of overpopulation, climate change, repressive governments, and general lack of opportunity, we are likely to see more movements like ISIS in the coming years in many parts of the world and with these, an increasing number of failing states and broken societies.

  • This is about dictates of empire. Empire’s do not have endgames. They have maintenance, and if possible, expansion. Imperialists, neoliberals, and neocons do not do humanitarian. Look at the more than a million who have died in Congo, quietly, out of sight and out of mind. So yes, of course, this is about oil but also a Middle East version of the Great Game.

    As I wrote recently, the US had limited itself to tactical strikes in support of the Kurds and the Yazidis. This gave them a military “in” back into Iraq and a “humanitarian” argument to counter opposition at home. These limitations while Maliki was still in power gave opponents to Maliki added incentive to press for his removal. Once Maliki was gone, the US has moved into phase two of its program, which is strategic bombing of ISIS. From a PR point of view, the strikes around the Mosul dam were a good choice. I even heard one of the nightly news programs selling the dam as a “weapon of mass destruction”. After a mere 12 1/2 years, we finally found one. Good news! and rather amazing how these same old pretexts arguments get re-cycled.

    The move to strategic bombing supports the new prime minister al-Abadi, but being a measured escalation puts pressure on him to come up with a deal with the Sunni mainstream politicians and the Sunni tribes in Anbar. He needs to move quickly and decisively, but I am not sure he is willing to or can. I don’t know if Maliki is so much gone as waiting in the wings. Certainly, there are factions in Dawa that still support him, and there are all the cronies he planted in the military, police, and elsewhere in government. A lot of these guys are a toxic combination of corrupt, incompetent, and hardline Shia. They don’t know how to run a force that could push ISIS out of Iraq, and it’s not real clear they would want to, if it meant them losing their jobs and power. Something to keep in mind in all this is that both Sunni and Kurdish political elites are equally inbred and corrupt. So can al-Abadi purge or sideline these Maliki holdovers, and does he want to?

    I should note that the US and Iran have a common interest in the survival of the current government in Iraq but that the return of a US military presence in Iraq also serves as a US counterweight to Iran. A chaotic breakup of Iraq would be a major security concern for the Iranians. At the same time, the Saudis and Emirates have created a monster in ISIS. A fragmentation of Iraq and victory of ISIS could blow back and threaten these conservative monarchical dictatorships. So the US enters in to stabilize the region, not to help the people who live there but to preserve its imperial system under threat from ISIS and Dawa extremists. But it has no endgame. For an endgame, A) it would need to have a much clearer, concrete, and specific idea of what its objectives were than it does and B) it would need to control the conditions to achieve them. Waiting on corrupt and ineffectual Sunni, Kurd, and Shia politicians with their wildly different agendas does not qualify as this.

  • There are no good guys in this. No democrats. We have freer and fairer elections in this country and no democracy. Iraq is even worse off. Elections stopped conferring legitimacy a long time ago.

    That Maliki is invoking the courts is a sign of his weakness. If he could stay in office by main force he would. I can only think that he would go to the courts if A) he has no other choice and B) he thinks he still owns some of the judges. There is also C. This could be a stalling action to see if he can win back enough support, through bribery and coercion, to keep himself in office. I keep coming back to this point that Maliki is a Dawa extremist. He was never going to leave quietly. He can only be removed. This was always in the cards regardless of election results or anything else. And as taikan notes, Prime Minister is not a directly elected post.

  • I seem to remember reading this a week or more ago. It simply quantified something I have been saying for a couple of years now. While the top 1% have been making out like bandits (because they are bandits), the top 20% have been doing fine. For them, the effects of the 2007-2009 recession were not felt or were quickly reversed. For the bottom 80%, the rest of us, the recession/depression hit us like a ton of bricks and never went away.

    What I have seen is repeated spin campaigns about how housing is recovering, manufacturing is coming back, employment is heating up, and wages are going to rise. There has also been spin to justify the contrary positions: why growth will be slow, why good jobs won’t be coming back, and how high levels of unemployment have become “structural”.

    The greatest victory of neoliberal propaganda was the selling of Clinton’s assertion that “It’s the economy, stupid!” When we focus just on the economy, we are led into a wonderland of hookah smoke, looking glass inversions, and Cheshire numbers. The economy is just a means to an end. That end is the society we want, not just for ourselves but for each other, to live in, one that is fair, equitable, and decent, where work is honored and privacy, respected. It is the society, not stupid, not rube, but friend and fellow American. The moment we look at issues like wealth inequality, the almighty Corporation, or the privileges of the elites, from the societal perspective, they disappear away because they can not be defended or maintained, honestly, in any way, shape, or form. The rich and elites know this and so will do anything to keep us looking at our country, and their performance, in these terms.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Pentagon Says Airstrikes Will Not Stop ISIS

    2014-08-12 13:11:20View | Delete

    The US is currently engaged in tactical air strikes in support of the Kurds and the Yazidis. They could seriously degrade ISIS forces through strategic bombing, but I suspect that they have been holding off A) as a card to force Maliki from the scene and B) habituate the American people to the idea of bombing and then increased levels of it.

    ISIS is spread thin but is able to maintain control over large amounts of territory and large populations, like Mosul, through terror. I think the US game plan runs something like this.

    1) Remove Maliki
    2) Begin strategic bombing of ISIS
    3) Calibrate the bombing to keep pressure on the Shia to make a deal with the Sunnis
    4) Deal done, get the Sunni tribes to turn on ISIS.

    ISIS has two major bases in Iraq: Mosul and Fallujah, and a relative safe haven in Syria. The US can isolate these, disrupting transportation and communication to and from them, and with the backing of the Sunni tribes can effectively cut ISIS to pieces and/or force it underground.

    There are several weak points in this plan, but in so far as the US has a plan, I think this is it.

  • Just as a rule of thumb, the neocons who run US foreign policy don’t do humanitarian. I view US actions in Iraq mostly through the optic of dictates of empire. There are no white hats in this. There are no democrats. Maliki is a Dawa extremist. Baghdadi is a Sunni extremist. ISIS/ISIL was nurtured and funded by our good “friends” in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Maliki is friends with Iran. But the UAE and KSA do not control Baghdadi and Iran doesn’t control Maliki.

    There is a solution to all this, based on revenue sharing, limited autonomy, and the building of national structures, like an integrated military, but none of that is going to happen because corrupt rich and elites rule there just like they do here.

  • Hugh commented on the blog post Newspaper Industry Takes Potentially Lethal Blow With Spinoffs

    2014-08-11 14:18:15View | Delete

    The important point is that newspapers are still profitable, just not profitable enough for the mindless, insatiable greed of Wall Street. I agree completely with ThingsComeUndone. Media consolidation resulted in newspapers selling off their assets and taking on debt to finance their own purchases and the next purchase down the line. Most of these print companies the big media corps are now dumping will start relatively debt free but the damage has already been done. Their assets, as I said, have already been looted. They have all gone through repeated cycles of disinvestment, cutting their newsroom staffs, replacing permanent staff with cheaper freelancers, sticking it to their “independent contractor” paper deliverers at every turn, outsourcing basic payroll and circulation functions to companies whose employees don’t know the difference between Omaha and Ohio.

    International and national news comes now mostly from the news services or as at Gannett papers, a generic version from USAToday. All of them, neoliberal in their economic reporting, and neocon in their foreign coverage. Ditto, their editorial pages dominated by some mix of whacko conservatives and the occasional Establishment liberal. Political coverage never rises beyond the usual Democratic and Republican talking points. When you look for local or state-wide content, you may only find 3 or 4 stories a week worth reading. If it weren’t for the well formed habits of many of its readers, some liking the sports page, others the crossword, others still the coupons, I think newspapers would already be gone.

    And of course, they relentlessly raise their prices even as they deliver less and less to their readers. Put simply, they have destoyed their product and look intent on destroying their market as well, this despite the fact that even in the internet age, there are still plenty of people who would be willing to pay a fair amount for a real newspaper, if they could find one.

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