Sarah B.

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4 days, 7 hours ago
  • fiver:

    Allow me to say: BRAVO!

    I didn’t see your comment until now — too busy composing my own response to Jon Walker’s post — but it’s great to see that great minds think alike…yours, mine, and Jonathan Turley’s.

    Clearly, I am in very good company.


  • For what it’s worth:

    Jonathan Turley, distinguished legal scholar, law professor, and genuine expert on the U.S. Constitution, disagrees with the Obama administration and sides with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in this case, Halbig vs. Burwell.

    By Jonathan Turley — July 22, 2014

    “Congress is Supreme in Matters of Policy”: D.C. Circuit Rules Against Obama Administration In Halbig

    As I have written about in columns and testimony, the most significant challenge to Obamacare was never Hobby Lobby but Halbig vs. Burwell that has been pending in the D.C. Circuit. I described Halbig in my testimony as a live torpedo in the water for Obamacare. Well, that torpedo just hit. The D.C. Circuit has found that the Obama Administration effectively rewrote the law on a critical provision dealing with tax credits and state exchanges. It is another major blow against the Administration and more importantly another judicial finding that President Obama exceeded his authority in his effort to “go it alone” in ordering such changes to federal laws.
    (Emphasis added)

    Turley goes deeply into the weeds to examine the facts and the law in this case, and, for that reason, the piece is well worth the effort.

    Here is a link to the Halbig Opinion:

    Turley concludes:

    In any case, this will be fascinating to watch both legal and politically as the impact of this ruling takes hold.

    Indeed. That said, Turley also notes that United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has delivered an equally important victory for Team Obama on the very same issue in King vs. Burwell:

    This tale of two circuits only increases the likelihood of a Supreme Court review and perhaps the case for expedited appeals.

    In order words…stay tuned.

    PS — Is it really such a good thing that the en banc panel of 11 D.C. Circuit Court judges are “more Democratic leaning than this three judge panel” when we might like to imagine that the court could actually retain at least some vestige of impartiality when ruling on cases of such importance, especially, given the fact that the outcome will impact the lives of the entire population of the United States for better or for worse?

    When the nation’s courts become so nakedly political — causing one to question the integrity of our entire judicial system — the inference can be drawn that yet another branch of government, the Judicial Branch, has become as hopelessly corrupt and unreliable as the utterly corrupt, bought-and-paid-for, charlatans who comprise the Executive and Legislative Branches. This is a development that we really ought not to celebrate.

  • For what it’s worth….

    I understood exactly what you meant — you are not suggesting that low-cost birth control pills at zero copay is problematic in any way — but that it’s those “other” medications that cost way too much with increased cost-shifting onto the patients and their families through higher out-of-pocket copays with each passing year.

    Here is a great piece that appeared in the NYT last October, which exemplifies the travesty by focusing like a laser on the insane prices of asthma medications in the U.S. compared to other countries like Greece and France.

    It will make your blood boil when you see how many inhalers of QVAR, a commonly prescribed drug for chronic asthma, you can buy for $250 in the U.S. versus Greece — U.S. (2 inhalers); Greece (37 inhalers) — and Advair, another extremely popular asthma medication, in the U.S. versus France — U.S. (1 inhaler and France (7 inhalers).

    By Elizabeth Rosenthal — October 12, 2013

    Paying Till It Hurts — No Room to Negotiate

    The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath

    I am reminded of this price-gouging every time I pick up a prescription for QVAR at my local pharmacy. The other inhaler, Ventolin, which I use right before the onset of an asthma attack, is not included in the narrow and stingy prescription drug formulary offered by my drug plan, so I the retail price of $56.

    Ventolin is nothing more than albuterol sulfate, which was on the market for decades for between $20 and $25 (retail) per inhaler, but the anti-CFC legislation forced the drug companies to go to an air-pump housing versus an aerosol delivery system, and they took that opportunity to change the patent and rebrand and now charge top dollar for the identical medication in a new (and probably cheaper to manufacture) package. Go figure.

    I know an older adult who had cataract surgery, which requires an extensive post-operative protocol for eye drops, and two of the prescriptions — which contained 3 ml (3/5 of a teaspoon) — required a copay of $50 (with a Medicare Rx Plan), and the bottle was so tiny that it required two refills to get through the prescribed sequence of applications. Hence, she paid $100 for 1.5 teaspoons of medication. The same medication in Canada costs a tiny fraction of what it costs in the U.S.

    I have but one thing to say about Obamacare — We was robbed!

    PS — The passage of the Dorgan Amendment (2009) would have helped enormously to begin to lower the cost of prescription drugs through genuine competition and would have opened the door to negotiated drug prices for Medicare, but Obama and the Democrats made sure that it died on the floor vote in what was tantamount to a filibuster by the Democrats on a great piece of legislation — introduced and sponsored by a Democrat! — that resulted in a 51/48 (with 1 not voting) final outcome. To add insult to injury, an amazing number of very conservative GOPers crossed over and voted for the amendment.

    Here are the culprits by name:

    By their Senate Roll Call votes ye shall know them.

  • State Department Responds to Israel’s Bombing of Children Playing on Gaza Beach by Blaming Hamas

    Just for the record.

    This is what a real television journalist looks like when actually doing his job according to the highest stardards of the profession — to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable — without fear or favor.

    Veteraan award-winning journalist, Jon Snow, from the Britain’s Channel 4 News, grills Israeli spokesman and hasbara specialist Mark Regev within an inch of his life:

    GAZA 2014 | Jon Snow ’annihilates’ Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev [8:52]

    One can only imagine what might happen if one (or more) members of our own pusillanimous and sycophantic press corps decided to go after Jen Psaki with the same degree of pre-interview preparation, coupled with the same degree of dogged determination, to tear the mask from the smug, patronizing, evasive, lying liar’s face to demand the truth.

    To be fair to Matt Lee of the Associated Press and Rosalind Jordan of Al Jazeera English, they do a better job generally in questioning Jen Psaki — in the referenced clip and many other examples — than the vast majority of their colleagues in the State Department briefing room, but they would have to go a long way to rise to the level of Jon Snow. Of course, I recognize that these State Department briefings take place in a different type of setting and are rarely televised for the wider audience, but that’s still no excuse for allowing such evasions to occur repeatedly without a fight.

    Especially disappointing was the way in which Ros Jordan had Psaki on the hook regarding the sham “ceasefire” — actually, a diktat to Hamas to surrender on Israel’s terms — and then she neglected to drive home the fact that the Hamas leaders were never contacted or notified about the arrangement cooked up in Cairo by Bibi Natanyahu, war criminal Tony Blair, and military junta leader President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and that they learned about it in the media.

    Clearly, the calculation behind the phony “ceasefire” was the faint hope that Israel might gain a slight advantage in the public relations war, which backfired and Israel lost, except for the reflexive uncritical support from Barack Obama and his stable of tail-wagging toadies, in particular, David Cameron (spaniel), Angela Merkel (dachshund), and François Hollande (poodle).

    Perhaps the latest request by the U.N. to broker a five-hour cease-fire on Thursday — to which Israel and Hamas have agreed — might be a start, but then a senior Israeli military official has already muddied the water with a cynical mixed message emphasizing that the likelihood of a ground invasion of Gaza remains “very high” regardless of the temporary humanitarian pause in the violence.

    PS — Thursday, July 18, will be Day 10 of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza and its beleaguered population of almost two million people, and, apparently, the best effort the world community could muster was a fucking five-hour humanitarian pause in the bombing raids by on civilian targets by the IDF — pathetic!

  • Jane

    A questionnaire with 30 additional questions to answer would probably not have helped very much and might very well have hindered your decision by adding even more layers of obfuscation and confusion. You are, after all, dealing with the private for-profit health insurance cartel, and they are out to screw you, not to help you.

    The answer to everyone’s healthcare needs still remains H.R. 676, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers with 88 cosponsors in 2009 — health care that includes all medically necessary care, including primary care and prevention, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, and vision care — plus re-importation to lower drug costs and negotiated prices for Medicare via the Dorgan Amendment (2009).

    With H.R. 676 and the Dorgan Amendment, you would require no special help or consultation or lengthy questionnaires — indeed, the application would be so simple that it would require no more than 15 or 20 minutes for you alone, or for you and your spouse and family members, to sign up and to become established in the system. Basic personal information and a Social Security number should be sufficient as the port of entry.

    Moreover, there would be no gate-keeping and access-denying structures like high premiums and copays and insane deductibles and narrow networks of providers to limit your care and to make your life miserable. Whether a person is seeking routine prevention, chronic care management, or is facing illness and possible surgery and rehab, a health care system should help to ease the burden and facilitate the healing process, not exacerbate fear, confusion, anxiety, and pain.

    Alas, Conyers’ bill was never even debated, let alone allowed to come to the floor for a vote, and the Dorgan Amendment was defeated by the Democrats on orders from Barack Obama, who didn’t want anything to fuck up his secret backroom deals AHIP, PhRMA, and the private for-profit Big Hospital Cartel.

    Obamacare is the Democrats’ Greatest Betrayal (thus far) — and there ain’t no fixin’ that mess…no way, no how! The cynically-named “ACA” and its fucked up exchanges need to die.

    The answer to Jon Walker’s question is a resounding “No!” — Wait! — Make that “Fuck no!”

  • ceasefire=surrender on Israel’s terms.

    As I said, that surrender diktat disguised as a “ceasefire” was simply Netanyahu taking a piss!

    But what was German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier doing standing next to Bibi Netanyahu in Israel in yesterday — at side-by-side lecterns no less — in a show of solidarity?

    PM Netanyahu’s Statement at the Start of his Meeting with German Foreign Minister [6:26]

    Natanyahu starts out speaking in Hebrew but then switches to English to introduce Steinmeier, who then delivers his remarks in German. You have to see it to believe it!

    A few media reports, which provided some translation, demonstrated that Steinmeier had his boilerplate talking points ready, blathering that “Hamas’ rocket terror against Israeli cities and villages has to finally stop” and that “the region now needs a coalition of sanity to find ways out of the escalation.”

    Steinmeier warned that “the violence is leading to more and innocent victims on both sides. The fear of rocket attacks is horrible; the number of deaths unbearable, the suffering of the injured civilians (…) is heartbreaking.” Blah, blah, blah.

    Barack Obama couldn’t have said it better himself. In fact, Steinmeier actually sounded as if he had received his talking points directly from the White House.

    The false equivalence is classic — violence and innocent victims on both sides! — with more than 200 Palestinians killed thus far (and counting), nearly 80% of the dead are civilians, and over 20% of them are children. One Israeli has died, a twenty-something male volunteer, who was hit by shrapnel while delivering food to Israeli soldiers.

    If a twenty-something Palestinian volunteer was caught delivering food to Hamas resistance fighters, the Israelis would call him a legitimate target — a terrorist giving aid and comfort to the terrorists — and then blast him into a collection of human fragments.

    You might think that Merkel and Steinmeier would have their hands full these days giving their unqualified support to the neo-Nazi coup government in Kiev, but now they decided to throw their support behind Israel’s Fascist government, which has maintained the world’s largest outdoor concentration camp, also known as Gaza, for the past 47 years and a draconian land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip (with the willing collaboration of Egypt’s dictators) since 2007.

    The irony almost bites itself.

  • Israel offers ceasefire to Hamas, which is unacceptable….

    That was no ceasefire — that was Bibi Netanyahu taking a piss!

    The Israeli press now confirms the conspiracy and reveals the collaborators who concocted that phony hasbara ceasefire designed strictly for the public relations war, which Israel has already lost:

    Secret call between Netanyahu, al-Sissi led to abortive cease-fire

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Saturday in a telephone call that has been kept secret until now, after Quartet special envoy Tony Blair urged the Egyptian leader to become more actively involved in promoting a cease-fire, diplomatic sources told Haaretz.

    So, it was war criminal Tony Blair and Egypt’s junta leader Sisi who conspired with Netanyahu to arrange the scam ceasefire, which Hamas rejected when they learned about it in the media, in accordance with the co-conspirators’ plan.

    Again, neither Hamas nor anyone else in Gaza was ever consulted about the phony “ceasefire” — they learned of it only through the media — and Twitter is no way to handle a serious ceasefire between the parties to a conflict.

    Any genuine ceasefire between two parties — let alone negotiations for a longer peace settlement — cannot be achieved by only talking to one party, and, in particular, the party conducting the illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the illegal and diabolical blockade of Gaza.

    Clearly, Netanyahu hasn’t yet reached his quota of Palestinian death and destruction and needs a little more time to drive up the numbers. Plus, popcorn sales are brisk in Israel these days as some Israelis set up deck chairs on the hillsides at night to watch the “fireworks” and cheer at the sight and sound of large explosions.

  • Sarah B. commented on the blog post Report Finds There Are 9.5 Million Fewer Uninsured Adults

    2014-07-12 12:29:26View | Delete


    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with Obamacare — I believe such anecdotes are extremely important contributions to the discourse and to document the atrocities caused by this costly and wholly inadequate bait-and-switch monstrosity.

    I wish you and your wife the best.

  • Sarah B. commented on the blog post Report Finds There Are 9.5 Million Fewer Uninsured Adults

    2014-07-12 12:22:54View | Delete

    Before the comments close on this thread:

    Thank you so much for the link to that great piece by Emily Dalton, M.D., of PNHP, because I probably would have missed it entirely but for your timely heads-up.

    Like all of the wonderful work done by PNHP to advance the cause of single-payer health care for every American without fear or favor, it really is very good stuff.


  • Sarah B. commented on the blog post Report Finds There Are 9.5 Million Fewer Uninsured Adults

    2014-07-11 00:30:13View | Delete

    Now that many of the major provisions have been implemented for several months, a new Commonwealth Fund report looks at the impact.

    Be skeptical…be very skeptical!

    The Commonwealth Fund has a distinctly corporatist agenda and uses its nonprofit status to act as cheerleader and advocate for a healthcare system predicated on the private for-profit health insurance model, which is the signature failure of Obamacare and the sinister public/private partnerships which it represents — check out the Mission Statement, Board of Directors, Press Releases, etc., on the website:

    The Commonwealth Fund played a direct and critical role in the research and development and framing of the debate leading up to the passage of Obamacare and subsequently in selling the market-based “reform” via continued public relations projects in the form of research and polling designed to influence the public toward adopting a positive view of the legislation with positive spin.

    For that reason any research and polling published by The Commonwealth Fund on Obamacare should be approached with skepticism given the positive selective bias inherent in the research.

    Foundation History

    The foundation underwrote a considerable part of the research underlying the development of the reforms in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, and reports of its Commission on a High Performance Health System (1995–2013) helped inform the debate leading up to this landmark legislation.
    (Emphasis added)

    Since 1995, the Fund also has been a leading philanthropic voice promoting modernization of Medicare, developing new payment methods encouraging better and more efficient health care delivery, and delivery models featuring better primary care and care coordination. In all of this work, the foundation has placed a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of vulnerable populations.

    Familiar neoliberal buzz phrases like “modernization of Medicare” and “developing new payment methods to encourage more efficient heath care delivery” and “delivery models featuring better primary care and care coordination” are code for privatization and herding vulnerable populations into limited HMOs with increased cost-shifting onto the patients and their families.

    For example, here is an excerpt from a recent Press Release:

    Kathleen Regan to Join The Commonwealth Fund as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer — Bringing 30 Years of Investment Banking and Private Equity Experience in Health Care, New Executive Succeeds John E. Craig, Jr.

    Kathleen Regan will become The Commonwealth Fund’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer on January 1, 2015, succeeding John E. Craig, Jr. She will join the foundation on November 3, 2014, in order to facilitate a smooth transition.

    Regan has three decades of experience in health care–related investment banking, private equity, and finance. Since 2010, she has been a venture partner at Radius Ventures, a health care–focused venture capital firm. [...] (Emphasis added)

    Earlier, she developed and directed the health care investment banking group at Robinson-Humphrey, a division of Citigroup, and led the health care practice at Tucker Anthony (1992–99), where she was involved in more than 30 merger-and-acquisition transactions and substantial public and private capital raising in the small-to-mid-cap health care market for innovative medical technology and biopharma companies. She began her finance career in Chase Manhattan Bank’s international division. (Emphasis added)

    The Commonwealth Fund is a powerful and influential Anti-Single Payer advocacy group which uses its tax-exempt nonprofit status to better serve the corporate agenda by manipulating public opinion to encourage uncritical acceptance of the status quo and to believe that a better, more genuinely affordable, and equitable health care system is not possible.

    Consequently, the publication of research and polling from The Commonwealth Fund to produce Happy-Talk public relations data about Obamacare for public consumption is about as reliable as research and spin coming directly from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

    PS — When reviewing this report, applying some large grains of salt would be advisable.

  • Obama is now actually drafting language of his long-promised (since 2008) executive orders protecting federal jobs from LGBTQ discrimination…

    Honestly, I just don’t think I can withstand the suspense.

    Alas, ENDA was always classic Obama campaign legerdemain, not unlike closing the Guantánamo concentration camp and the public option and the Dorgan Amendment and DACA and the restoration of habeas corpus — excluded by design from the neofascist NDAA — and being the most transparent administration in history.

    ENDA = Dead-ENDA

  • Sarah B. commented on the diary post Industry Data: Oil-By-Rail in North America Moving at Record Levels by Steve Horn.

    2014-07-08 16:40:36View | Delete

    “Bomb trains”

    That term caught my eye, too, and for an instant caused me to wonder if it might not be an imperative:

    Bomb trains!

    PS — I’m not advocating anything of the sort, you understand, just reflecting on the syntax.

  • Fuck Rahm Emanuel and the Trojan Horse he rode to the Major’s Office.

    Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, has announced that she is exploring a serious challenge to Emanuel for his job in the next mayoral election in 2015.

    Lewis made her decision to explore a run for mayor in the wake of the latest round of teacher layoffs and school closures by “Layoff King” Emanuel as part of a well-orchestrated scheme to decimate Chicago’s public schools to pave the way for union-busting charter schools.

    Run, Karen, Run!

  • Sarah B. commented on the blog post Late Night: Sympathy for the Devil(s)

    2014-07-04 09:29:53View | Delete

    It’s difficult to imagine what, if anything, would this Administration consider a sufficient outrage to warrant at least a little condemnation. Oh yeah, a resurgence of Occupy. That’d do it.

    Actually, it’s easy to imagine — cut-and-gut entitlements!

    Obama would relish the chance to redirect his outrage toward those profligate, greedy, extravagant, irresponsible seniors on Social Security — those double-dippers who suck up Medicare benefits, too! — and he would eagerly show his condemnation by imposing a Chained-CPI to decrease their already meager Cost of Living Allowances both now and in the coming decades.

    Obama could herald the resurgence of the Catfood Commission — Catfood 2.0! — and make one last push for the Grand Bargain as his greatest legacy before leaving the White House to cash in even bigger and better than the Clintons.

    Obama regarded Occupy as a nuisance after trying unsuccessfully to co-opt the movement for his re-election campaign and ordered his Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with local police departments to crush the last vestiges of political activity before the arrival of the Christmas holidays.

    Obama regards ageing seniors — especially the retiring baby-boomers — as an existential threat to national security and the solvency of the U.S. Treasury; hence, they must be stopped before they are allowed to destroy the country and rob our children and grandchildren of a future!

  • In the past, US military involvement in the ME has gone hand in hand with national disintegration, so either chaos is a desirable outcome for policy makers or US is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    I don’t see the issue as an either/or proposition — I think it’s a bit of both — and the ambiguity serves the USG and the Deep State by creating uncertainty and confusion and obfuscation tailored for the domestic audience, specifically, for the purpose of keeping people in the dark while remaining laser-focused on foaming the runway for massive funding of the MIC in perpetuity without much backlash. So far, so good.

    If the goal of military involvement, and other sinister forms of covert action in the Middle East, by the USG and its allies is to generate regime change and the disintegration of nation states in the region — in particular, those countries that make up the dreaded Shia Crescent — then that is indeed the goal and the consensus of the various policy makers and factions, from the White House to the NGOs and the think tanks (AIPAC), despite the full-throated bleating about the need for unity governments and political solutions and elections and democracy blah, blah, blah. It is the one issue upon which they can all agree, although some want more “kinetic action” sooner rather than later.

    The Shia Crescent, viewed as an existential threat by Sunnis in the Middle East, is the term first coined by Little King Playstation in 2004, at a time when Iran was reportedly interfering in Iraq in the run-up to the January 2005 parliamentary elections, and similar paranoia regarding the alleged threat posed by Iran is expressed ad nauseum by Israel:

    The Shia Crescent

    The prospect of the dreaded geographic (and religious) Shia Crescent has been exploited by the USG, CIA, and Israel to further divide and conquer in the Middle East and to garner regional support for toppling the Shiite-led governments (Iran and Syria) — and ridding Lebanon of Hezbollah — and undermining and/or replacing those leaders with Sunni takfiri leaders, or otherwise compliant and obedient satraps (Iyad Allawi), who will take orders from the USG and multinational corporations and will use harsh forms of Islamic law and death squads to keep their populations intimidated and in fear of draconian punishments or worse. No more Arab or Persian Springs, thank you very much.

    The entire model is so insane, costly, violent, deadly, destructive, and counter productive in every way for the people of the United States and the stability of the Middle East that it seems to be a no-brainer. Yet, it is clear that the USG and the Deep State continue to keep doing the same thing over and over, but not because they are expecting different results.

    The USG and its allies, led by Israel, continue to rinse and repeat these policies and practices because they are hoping for the same results — because they believe the chaotic results and outcomes will serve their interests, however perverse, and those of the elites who ultimately call the shots regarding foreign policy and the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual weapons sales.

    On the bright side, I noticed a number of news venues reporting today that the Saudis have just deployed 30,000 troops to the border of Iraq and thought how absolutely delicious!

    It would be so great if, after funding al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front and ISIS and the many proxy wars that have gone from bad to worse over the past decade and then some, that the Saudi troops might finally have to get wet and fight their own battles for a change. Call it schadenfreud or poetic justice — either or both concepts would work just fine for me.

  • Edit — The last line in the final paragraph should read “making that point for me.”

    The time limit on that severely time-limited Edit feature should be more generous.

    Obvious, perhaps, but still.

  • Is there any empirical evidence beyond official USG statements that a catastrophic and destructive regional conflict isn’t the goal for the US?

    First, I would argue that “official USG statements” would be the last place I would look for empirical evidence of any kind about anything, let alone go there in search of candid and honest statements regarding the goals and objectives for any present and future involvements and interventions of the USG and its allies in the Middle East, or Ukraine, either, for that matter.

    I would have thought that fact would have been clear from the referenced comment and every comment I have ever posted on this or any other blog since the advent of blogs on the internets — but, perhaps not.

    Second, the question was rhetorical and not offered for its literal value, and it was intended to set up the succeeding paragraph in which I deal with the issue that if the recent past serves as prologue, the likelihood is significant that “a catastrophic and destructive regional conflict” is precisely the goal for the USG and its ghastly cohort of allies in this latest edition of the GWOT in Syria and Iraand

    The question was rhetorical and not offered for its literal value in the context of the past serving prologue, and it was intended to suggest that indeed a catastrophic and destructive regional conflict might be precisely the goal for the U.S. and its creepy cohort of allies in this latest iteration of the GWOT now playing out in Syria and Iraq with the potential to spread into Jordan and maybe even the Kingdom

    where they convict women (usually migrant workers from Bangladesh and Indonesia) of sorcery and have them beheaded in the town square.

  • All this Caliphate stuff is, frankly, nonsense ramblings meant to distract.

    I’m not saying that ISIS is, or is not, backed by some U.S. faction — I’m saying that I don’t know if that is the case at this point. I have yet to see the evidence, and I have no idea which particular U.S. faction is providing the backing and controlling the levers and pulling the puppet strings.

    Is it the neocons or the liberal internationalists or the neoliberal interventionists, interchangeable with the R2Pers, or the realpolikers or the realists and/or a combination of this ghastly array of foreign policy wonks inside the White House and ensconced at one or more of the surrounding NGOs and think tanks that populate Washington, D.C.? You tell me.

    Certainly, there is no shortage of hypotheticals and speculation about ISIS and its origins and backers and controllers. The CIA and Saudia Arabia, with Qatar providing the slick PR, the made-for-television YouTube videos, and the professional production values (great fake blood and bodies), are among the favorite theories thus far — but where is the evidence and the critical analysis to support those assertions?

    As for the USG and its legendary omnivalent “overhead surveillance” and the ability to destroy ISIS on the launch pad as a matter of choice, you have more faith in that narrative than I can muster at this point. I’m not suggesting that it’s not the case, only that I remain skeptical for want of more convincing evidence before buying into the narrative, and even then I would continue to have questions.

    For the past 13 years we have seen the USG conduct its omnipresent and omnivalent “overhead surveillance” — presumably accompanied by commensurate levels of electronic data collection — in conjunction with the almost omnipotent ability to destroy anything or anyone on the launch pad and the propensity to shoot or blow up anything that moves or anyone in the crosshairs on the ground whether stationary or moving targets.

    The USG has engaed in nonstop “overhead surveillance” and electronic data collection on “Core al-Qaeda” (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen), and “JV al-Qaeda” (Obama’s unfortunate term) for the al-Nusra Front and ISIS (Syria and Iraq and Jordan), and Ansar al-Sharia (Libya), and the Taliban (Pakistan and Afghanistan), and al-Shabaab (Somalia), and Boko Haram (Nigeria), to name but a few groups of GWOT warriors whose members have been targeted and droned into vapor.

    And the only way that the USG can define “success” is by the creation of one major clusterfuck and failed state after another on the ground, in which the so-called terrorists continue morphing and multiplying and sprouting up across the landscape of the Middle East and the Levant and the Magreb and Africa like mushrooms. If that was and continues to be the desired outcome, then Mission Accomplished!

    Whether ISIS, or the Islamic State, or the Caliphate, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, is backed by some U.S. faction — perhaps in collaboration with the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, and Turkey, with Israel playing a sinister covert role — is that any guarantee that there won’t be a catastrophic and explosive and destructive regional conflict that the U.S. can’t control despite its best efforts?

    If the recent past is prologue, the outlook for the latest intervention by the USG in the Middle East does not look very promising for any of the players and principals involved, or very promising for humanity for that matter, regardless of the objective and/or which factions are calling the tune or demanding “regime change” or ordering the next round of drone strikes.

    You state that, “All this Caliphate stuff is, frankly, nonsense ramblings meant to distract” — a dismissive statement to be sure given that it’s based on speculation — but you offer nothing substantial in the way of fact-based evidence to support that assertion other than to insist that the USG can engage in “overhead surveillance” 24/7 and shoot fish in a barrel from the skies.

    PS — I feel compelled to ask from what, exactly, is it “meant to distract” us? Please explain.

  • Sarah B. commented on the blog post A Lack of Alternatives Makes Choices Easy

    2014-07-02 23:51:47View | Delete

    About Taft:

    Yes, I am well-aware that William Howard Taft and his weight and his enormous bathtub still have great currency as the standard default fat-joke regarding politicians — but despite his struggles with weight, he did manage to accomplish a great deal in his political career whether you agree with his politics or not, and I certainly do not:

    Taft (1857–1930) was the 27th President of the United States (1909–1913) and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States (1921–1930). He is the only person to have served in both of those offices. Upon leaving the White House in 1913, Taft was appointed the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School and was elected president of the American Bar Association.

    Moreover, like Chris Christie, who has lost between 80 and 100 pounds since his weight-loss surgery, Taft gets no credit for losing a similar amount of weight:

    Within a year of leaving the presidency, Taft lost approximately 80 to 100 pounds. His chronic somnolence problem — which has been identified in recent years as severe sleep apnea — was resolved and, less obviously, his systolic blood pressure dropped significantly. Soon after his weight loss, Taft experienced a revival of interest in the outdoors which led him to explore Alaska.

    Clearly, Taft’s legendary weight issues did not prevent him from living to age 73, which is not bad given that the average life expectancy for males in 1930 was 58.1 years.

    Serious Taft scholars have debunked the apocryphal tale that Taft got stuck in his bathtub and required help to extricate himself from its watery depths, and they have reached that conclusion based on the lack of any credible evidence in the historical record to support such claims.

    For what its worth, we have had a few bald presidents — John Adams, John Quincy Adams (baldness ran in the family), Martin Van Buren, James Garfield, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford (not elected but president nonetheless) — but I agree that in today’s hyper-visual culture that demands telegenic politicians, most especially in the POTUS race, we have in all likelihood seen the last bald president. No doubt such thoughts crossed Biden’s mind when he opted for those hair plugs.

    I would kill to have Taft’s bathtub — 7 feet long and 41 inches wide! — which was crafted especially for the White House by J.L. Mott Iron Works in New York City, made of cast iron and covered with many layers of gleaming creamy-white porcelain enamel.

    Since that magnificent specimen of craftsmanship had no faucet or taps, it was probably filled by the servants hauling large containers of hot water up flights of stairs to fill it to the proper levels for bathing without the need of a life jacket. From the photos online and in design books, the bathtub appears to be quite deep, but I was unable to find the exact measurement for its depth.

    PS — Mott Street in Little Italy is named after Jordan L. Mott, and, although the iron works business remained located in the Flatiron District (5th Avenue and 17th Street), Mott moved the factory to Trenton, NJ, in 1902.

    (h/t Wiki for most of the Taft stuff)

  • If it’s true that great minds think alike, you appear to be in good company:

    By Pepe Escobar — July 2, 2014

    Arab Spring, Jihad Summer

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy before he metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer, blowing up Shi’ite kids at ice-cream shops. Now declared the Caliph of Islamic State, a catchier militant moniker than formerly used by the Men in Black, al-Baghdadi is the new Osama bin Laden, leading a group with sights set on conquering lands that include large swathes of Asia.

    Welcome to IS. No typo; the final goal may be (indiscriminate) regime change, but for the moment name change will do. With PR flair, at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or ISIL – the Islamic State of the Levant – to some) solemnly declared, from now on, it will be known as Islamic State (IS).

    By Glen Ford — July 2, 2014

    The Superpower and the Caliphate

    Don’t believe the hype that the CIA is behind ISIS’s declaration of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. “The Caliphate threatens, not only its immediate adversaries, but the potentates of the Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and the Mother of All Monarchist Corruption in the Arab Sunni heartland, the Saudi royal family.” It also signals the collapse of U.S. strategy in the region.

    “The game plan that was hatched in 2011 for Libya, Syria, Iraq – for the whole region – is kaput.”

    ISIS has proclaimed its caliphate, and the world will never be the same again. Although the territorial scope of the jihadist political entity will shift with the fortunes of battle, or maybe even vanish, the emergence of the “Islamic State” signals the final collapse of U.S. imperial strategy in the Muslim world – certainly, in the Arab regions of Islam.

    I’m not prepared to say at this point that the USG — and the alphabet agencies and JSOC — and its satraps and allies in the Middle East, including Israel, and North Africa and Turkey are in full control of this made-for-television movie, with its slick special effects, great stage props, and catwalk-conscious wardrobe, or not, but it would not be the first time that CIA-created puppets decided to go rogue and bite the hand that feeds them and to take matters into their own hands for better or for worse…usually for worse.

    Or, maybe this latest extravaganza in Syria and Iraq is just the latest manifestation of Chaos Theory — brought to the world stage this summer by the Empire — featuring endless proxy wars and violence and mayhem in the endless perpetuation of the GWOT, and the control of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, and the preservation of the petrodollar, and the entrenchment of full-spectrum dominance global hegemony.

    PS — That new and very ambitious map of the prototype for the Islamic State has literally wiped Israel off the face of the Earth — nobody could have predicted — least of all the Jewish State!

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