Hugh commented on the blog post Senator Mary Landrieu Under Scrutiny For Residency Claims
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Ukraine Seeks NATO Membership As Putin Addresses Separatists As ‘New Russia’
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Obama’s Open-Ended War On ISIS Brings Neoconservatives Back To Stage
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.
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post ISIS Labeled ‘Imminent Threat’ As US Strikes Set To Expand Into Syria
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.
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post ISIS Executes American Journalist For US Airstrikes In Iraq, Holds Another
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Podcast: As US Airstrikes in Iraq Continue, There Doesn’t Appear to Be Any Endgame
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
pretextsarguments 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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Maliki Refusing To Step Down, Predicts Trouble For Iraq If Forced Out
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Jobs Lost Due To Financial Crisis Replaced With Ones That Pay 23% Less
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.
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.
Hugh commented on the blog post Maliki Locks Down Green Zone Fearing Coup As US Expands Bombing Campaign In Iraq
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
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.
The failure of the Bush/Petraeus “surge” to effect a political settlement between Iraq’s ethnic and religious factions meant Iraq’s civil war was only postponed. Events in Syria and the actions of a Dawa extremist like Maliki simply set the civil war in motion. It is important to understand that while this conflict is disastrous for Iraq, it is by no means so from Maliki’s point of view. Even though he has done so much to provoke the Sunni uprising and open the door to ISIS, it confirms in his mind his original decision to purge Sunnis from Iraq’s government and exclude them form any place in its future. If the Kurds and ISIS go at it in the north, so much the better for him since he hopes this will weaken both of his factional opponents. He sees civil war as a way to mobilize the Shia South, and of course, he sees himself as their natural leader. So while the rest of the Shia power structure may view his actions with a mixture of horror and contempt, he sees civil war and the mobilization of the Shia as cementing and increasing his base of power. And by simply staying in place he has gotten the US as imperial hegemon (despite its distaste for him) to enter into the conflict and do his fighting for him. In other words, so far there has been no downside for Maliki, and importantly, even if there were, being an extremist, he would not change course anyway.
In the larger perspective, Iraq can be seen as another in the increasingly large category of permanently failing state. These are states where overpopulation, resource demands, climate change, and the lack of civil institutions exacerbate whatever historic tensions and hatreds happen to be around. The result is a state which doesn’t work but doesn’t quite collapse either. You can argue that we are all headed that way, but some countries, like Iraq, are already there.
Richard Wolff is mistaken. Obama did not miss an opportunity to enact a new New Deal. He never wanted or sought such a thing. Obama is a pure corporatist as is the Democratic Party for that matter. As for his declining popularity, why should he care? He is approaching the sixth year of his Presidency. He is never running again. And he is looking forward to collecting millions in corporate
bribeswelfare when he leaves office. Why should he care what a bunch of rubes like us think about him?
Hugh commented on the blog post Israeli Deputy Speaker Calls For Concentration Camps In Gaza, Sending Palestinians To Other Countries
I used to think that the two-state solution died with Rabin’s assassination nearly twenty years ago in 1995, but now I think it was always a non-starter right back to 1948. There is only enough room in Israel/Palestine for one viable state. The fair and equitable solution would be a state comprised of all current inhabitants. And if its Jewish inhabitants want to keep a right of return for Jews, there should also be a right of return for Palestinians.
States defined by religion and/or ethnicity are inherently racist and anti-democratic. As Israel illustrates, they tend to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We should see the current conflict there not as a struggle between two different peoples but as one segment of Israel’s population seeking to suppress and deny the rights of citizenship to another.
Hugh commented on the blog post Even More Military Equipment Being Sent To Local Police Forces
I agree the militarization of the police is not aimed against terrorists or drug lords but against us. It needs to be seen in conjunction with the massive spying apparatus of the NSA, the widespread use of warrantless searches by the FBI, federally sponsored fusion centers sharing information on us, TSA security theater at airports training us to be accepting of routine intrusive searches, and the Roberts Court’s ongoing attack on Miranda and other rights. When you arm police like they were an occupying army, they start acting like one. When you make them unaccountable, they become abusive and their police work becomes sloppy. They work to the standard they are held to, and right now that’s not saying much.
Hugh commented on the blog post Times Of Israel Publishes Op-Eds Calling For Genocide Of Palestinians
From time to time the mask slips. Gaza is the contemporary version of the Warsaw ghetto. The Likud party which Netanyahu heads was founded by Menachem Begin in 1973. Begin was decried as a fascist and terrorist by among others Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein all the way back in 1948.
(This second link also contains anti-Arab quotes from various Israeli leaders.)
Just because there are Israeli politicians who are even more batshit crazy than Netanyahu does not mean that Netanyahu isn’t fascist, terrorist, or extremist. The whole Israeli political spectrum is toxicly fascist, and as the Einstein letter shows that fascism has been around since the beginning of the state of Israel and Netanyahu is its heir. And Netanyahu has been at this a while. It was he after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a Jewish extremist in 1995 who successfully destroyed the peace process based on the Oslo Accords.
As Hannah Arendt wrote in her Origins of Totalitarianism, the “normal world” keeps trying to treat extremists or totalitarians as if they were normal because they can never really grasp the fact that totalitarians are not interested in the normal world, its values or its goals. They may invoke the rhetoric of normalcy from time to time but totalitarians are inherently at war with it.
“The reason why the totalitarian regimes can get so far toward realizing a fictitious, topsy-turvy world is that the outside nontotalitarian world, which always comprises a great part of the population of the totalitarian country itself, indulges also in wishful thinking and shirks reality in the face of real insanity.”
Israel both its political establishment and its electorate has been on a course, for decades, that can only end in apartheid and ultimately genocide. Occasionally the mask slips and a Yochanan Gordon states the this fact. Most of the time though, they pretend this isn’t their goal, and because we can’t handle the truth, we and our leaders pretend to believe them.
Re Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s defense of false balances, it is important to remember that the Court throughout its history with the brief exception of the Warren years is and has been an offense to justice. Its current membership is made up of nine corporatists, of which five radical conservatives and four conservatives.
Botched executions are par for the course. This all stems from the 2008 Supreme Court case Baze v. Rees which declared constitutional these chemical cocktails administered by non-physicians and controlled by prison officials. I wrote at the time that it was a disaster waiting to happen. It was a contradiction. To be administered correctly, you would need an MD present, but ethically no physician in good conscience could be part of such an affair. Baze said that using less trained personnel was OK.
The Supreme Court’s history with the death penalty has been horrendous. In the 1878 Wilkerson v. Utah, the Court said death by firing squad was OK. Wilkerson the executee was shot, in the arm, and took about a half hour to expire, not the quick end he envisioned but a cruel and unusual punishment. This was followed up by Kemmler in 1890 allowing for execution by electric chair. They jolted him with electricity for 17 seconds but did not kill him. So they upped the amperage for a second go. The smell was so bad that several of the witnesses had to leave. You might have thought that a record like this would teach the justices a little humility, except of course that humility is not a word in their vocabulary.
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