Saturday, February 28, 2015

the long reach of the sunniphilly beard


aljazeera |  Overseas the moustacheless, bushy beard is not so identifiably hip-hop and has caused considerable controversy, with security officials in Europe and the Middle East mistaking the Philly for a jihadi beard. In February 2014, for instance, Lebanese police arrested Hussein Sharaffedine (aka Double A the Preacherman), 32, a Shia rapper and frontman for a local funk band. Internal Security Forces mistook him for a Salafi militant and handcuffed and detained him for 24 hours. In Europe hip-hop heads such as French rapper Médine — a Black Powerite who wears a fierce beard that he calls “the Afro beneath my jaw” — complain of police harassment. French fashion magazines joke now crudely about "hipsterrorisme." European journalists are descending on Philadelphia to trace the roots of what they call la barbe sunnah and Salafi hipsterism.

But there is more to the story than these superficial inquiries. The synergy between Islam and black music in Philadelphia has a long history. As such, the global spread of the moustacheless beard cannot be understood in isolation from the rich blending that took place between various strands of Islam and music in black America.

City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia’s Muslim elders are quick to list the jazz greats who lived in or came out of the City of Brotherly Love since the 1930s — John Coltrane, Lynn Hope, Pharoah Saunders, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, George Jordan and the Heath Brothers. Many of these artists had an intimate relationship with Islam. Saxophonist Hope was featured prominently in Ebony magazine’s famous 1953 article on Muslim jazz artists, sitting on the floor of his Philadelphia home smoking hookah with his two young sons in fezzes.

“The history of Islam in Philadelphia is reflected in the music. Some artists were openly Muslim, others more private,” says Imam Nadim Ali, a celebrated jazz deejay and community leader who spent his youth in Philadelphia. “We knew Pharaoh Sanders as Abdulmufti. One of his first albums from 1966 was called “Tawhid.” Likewise, George Howard was a great funk/smooth-jazz artist. Kenny G co-opted his style. We knew Howard as Tahir — I grew up with him in West Philly. But when he died, his family buried him in a Christian cemetery. This sometimes happens when converts to Islam don’t leave a will.”

Jazz artists in the 1940s and ’50s came to Islam through the Ahmadiyya movement, a heterodox Islamic movement that emerged in 19th century India and developed a significant presence in Philadelphia. As the Nation of Islam gained followers, it cast its cultural influence on the music scene. Sun Ra, who lived in Germantown for 25 years, for instance, was not Muslim. But he claimed to be a distant cousin of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and was inspired by the movement’s teachings. Sun Ra traveled to Cairo and collaborated with Egyptian drummer Salah Ragab, recording numbers such as “Ramadan in Space Time.”

As members of soul and R&B groups such as the Delfonics, the Five Stairsteps, the Moments, Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire embraced Islam in the 1960s, the dialogue and tensions between Sunni Islam and the Nation of Islam found expression in music in various cities. In Philadelphia old heads recall Kool & the Gang’s visiting from New Jersey in the early 1970s to perform songs such as “Whiting H&G” (a reference to the frozen fish that the Nation of Islam was selling) and “Fruitman,” both tracks praising the Nation of Islam’s economic initiatives and dietary rules. Even non-Muslim artists paid homage to what they saw as a positive movement that taught self-reliance. Philly native and Grammy-winning crooner Billy Paul never embraced Islam, but he recorded an album called “Going East” in 1971 and gave a shout-out to Muhammad and Malcolm X in his 1976 track “Let ’Em In” — perhaps the first popular song to sample a speech by Malcolm X (“You’ve been misled/ You’ve been had/ You’ve been took …”), years before hip-hop artists began doing so.

Urban renewal
At the heart of these decades-old attempts to use faith and art for community building stands Luqman Abdul Haqq, a real-estate developer who has harnessed the energies of diverse Muslim groups to revitalize Philadelphia’s southeast area. Better known as Kenny Gamble, he is the founder of Philadelphia International Records and is considered one of the fathers of disco and R&B — specifically, a subgenre called the Philadelphia sound. In the 1970s, with longtime partner Leon Huff, he recorded dozens of hits for artists such as the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass and Patti Labelle, producing almost 200 gold and platinum records.

In the early 1990s, Luqman moved back to Philly and established Universal Companies, a nonprofit that includes a housing-development initiative, a charter school and a social services agency. Universal has since refurbished more than 1,000 homes and created enclaves where Muslims own businesses and live near mosques. “We are continuing the cultural revolution that began among African-Americans in the 1960s, a cultural revolution based on Islam,” he says. “The Nation of Islam was a vehicle that came to the need of African-Americans, teaching do for self.”

rap and radicalism: does hip hop create extremists?


aljazeera |  On January 1, the French rapper Medine uploaded his latest track "Don't Laik". 

Surrounded by youth from the banlieues, he sounds off against secularism, taking swipes at Nietszche and the neo-conservative journalist Caroline Fouret, a former staffer at Charlie Hebdo. His harshest words are directed at the French system of laicite, which bans headscarves in public institutions and burqas in all public spaces.

About a week later - just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Medine was back in the news again, this time explaining his lyrics, noting that when he rapped about crucifying "les laicards" and chopping down the "tree of their secularism" - he was actually presenting a "caricature" of secularism; that version which looks down upon the religiously observant. His critique of laicite, he said, was very much in the spirit of Charlie Hebdo.

Hip hop in France - and in Western Europe more broadly - has come under scrutiny in the last few weeks. Prominent French artists - Youssoupha, Diam's, Kool Shen, Maitre Gims, Oxmo Puccino - have denounced the attacks in no uncertain terms, some even composing impromptu tracks in honour of the victims.

Called for explanations
But hip hop artists have also been called upon to explain the reasons for youth alienation, and the relationship between hip hop and extremism. The fact that Cherif Kouachi, the younger brother, was at one point an aspiring rapper, featured in a television documentary, where he is up on stage, cap backwards, rapping and dancing, has counterterrorism experts again asking if youth are radicalised through rap.

Friday, February 27, 2015

brooklyn isis sting: jes dayyum....,


Slate |  The two men arrested in New York this week for attempting to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS might at first seem to be a confirmation of the warnings often voiced by politicians and law enforcement that the group poses a threat not just in the Middle East but to the U.S. homeland. These were, after all, young men radicalized through the Internet who expressed a desire to either travel to Syria to wage war or carry out attacks at home. But a Times story this week under the wonderful headline “Eager to Join ISIS, if Only His Mother Would Return His Passport,” is pretty reassuring about the actual level of threat the group poses to the U.S.

The fact that this plot to wage holy war against the infidel depended on 19-year-old Akhror Saidakhmetov being able to sweet-talk his mom into giving him back his passport isn’t the only indication in the FBI’s case against the men, released just after their arrest, that we aren’t exactly dealing with future Bin Ladens here.

The men first popped onto the FBI’s radar when Abdurasul Juraboev wrote a post on an Uzbek-language website last August saying that he wanted to shoot Barack Obama and asking whether he could swear his loyalty to ISIS in absentia. When the FBI paid a visit to him, he not only acknowledged writing the post and acknowledged a desire to fight for ISIS and kill Obama, he put it in writing and identified Saidakhmetov as someone who shared his ambitions.

the newburgh sting: terrorists or targets?


wikipedia |  The Newburgh Sting (2014) is a documentary film about the Federal Bureau of Investigation's sting operation on four Muslim men involved in the 2009 Bronx terrorism plot. Beginning in 2008, an FBI informant, Shaheed Hussain, recorded hours of conversations with the men who were ultimately arrested and convicted of planting three non-functional bombs next to two synagogues in Riverdale, Bronx and for planning to use Stinger missiles to shoot down United States military cargo planes near Newburgh, New York. The point of view of the documentary is that it was later brought to light that the plot with the four men who were coaxed into participating was created by the FBI. The men argue that this was a case of entrapment. In April, 2014, the film was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.

i wonder if this applies to overseer unions too....,


HuffPo |  Spelling more trouble for organized labor in the U.S., Republican legislators in the Wisconsin state Senate approved a right-to-work bill here on Wednesday, sending the measure to a GOP-controlled Assembly where it's also expected to pass. Republican leaders chose to fast-track the bill in what's known as an extraordinary legislative session, allowing for less debate than usual.

Debate over the bill drew an estimated 2,000 protesters to the state Capitol on both Tuesday and Wednesday, reminiscent of the passionate labor demonstrations surrounding Act 10 in 2011, though vastly smaller in scope. As with that earlier legislation, which stripped most collective bargaining rights from public-sector employees, vocal opposition from the state's unions wasn't enough to stop the right-to-work bill in its tracks.

Legislators are expected to take up the measure early next week in the state Assembly, where Republicans enjoy a comfortable majority. The office of Gov. Scott Walker (R) has already said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The fight in Madison is just the latest indication of how state Republican leaders, often controlling both the statehouse and the governor's mansion in their respective states, are managing to enact laws that weaken the clout of organized labor. If the Wisconsin measure is approved, the Badger State will become the 25th right-to-work state in the country, following two other Midwestern states, Michigan and Indiana, that passed such laws in 2012. 

"It is a symbolic tipping point, or an inflection point," Paul Secunda, a labor law professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, said of potentially half the states in the country being right-to-work. "For the longest time there were 22 right-to-work states. Now the right-to-work people have the momentum."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Technological progress in a market economy is therefore self-terminating, and ends in collapse


The Archdruid Report | Now of course there are plenty of arguments that could be deployed against this modest proposal. For example, it could be argued that progress doesn't have to generate a rising tide of externalities. The difficulty with this argument is that externalization of costs isn't an accidental side effect of technology but an essential aspect—it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Every technology is a means of externalizing some cost that would otherwise be borne by a human body. Even something as simple as a hammer takes the wear and tear that would otherwise affect the heel of your hand, let’s say, and transfers it to something else: directly, to the hammer; indirectly, to the biosphere, by way of the trees that had to be cut down to make the charcoal to smelt the iron, the plants that were shoveled aside to get the ore, and so on.

For reasons that are ultimately thermodynamic in nature, the more complex a technology becomes, the more costs it generates. In order to outcompete a simpler technology, each more complex technology has to externalize a significant proportion of its additional costs, in order to compete against the simpler technology. In the case of such contemporary hypercomplex technosystems as the internet, the process of externalizing costs has gone so far, through so many tangled interrelationships, that it’s remarkably difficult to figure out exactly who’s paying for how much of the gargantuan inputs needed to keep the thing running. This lack of transparency feeds the illusion that large systems are cheaper than small ones, by making externalities of scale look like economies of scale.

It might be argued instead that a sufficiently stringent regulatory environment, forcing economic actors to absorb all the costs of their activities instead of externalizing them onto others, would be able to stop the degradation of whole systems while still allowing technological progress to continue. The difficulty here is that increased externalization of costs is what makes progress profitable. As just noted, all other things being equal, a complex technology will on average be more expensive in real terms than a simpler technology, for the simple fact that each additional increment of complexity has to be paid for by an investment of energy and other forms of real capital.

Strip complex technologies of the subsidies that transfer some of their costs to the government, the perverse regulations that transfer some of their costs to the rest of the economy, the bad habits of environmental abuse and neglect that transfer some of their costs to the biosphere, and so on, and pretty soon you’re looking at hard economic limits to technological complexity, as people forced to pay the full sticker price for complex technologies maximize their benefits by choosing simpler, more affordable options instead. A regulatory environment sufficiently strict to keep technology from accelerating to collapse would thus bring technological progress to a halt by making it unprofitable.

it's natural, every country does it....,


Forbes |  Big Data and Big Data analytics have become hot topics in recent years. Unlike traditional methods of cause and effect deduction, Big Data analytics generate predictions based on such enormous volumes of data, that only the tools of association and inference are useful for finding relevance or meaning.

An interesting case study on the use of Big Data analytics was the prediction of a flu pandemic in the United States by Google GOOGL +1.6%. The Internet giant detected the spread of a flu virus before any medical organization or national agency based on search results data that showed people researching flu symptoms and remedies. Google’s findings were completely aligned with the health authority reports filed after the flu pandemic occurred.

Big Data analytics enables us to generate reliable analyses, even in the absence of clear links or causes.

So why so long before we could begin to leverage the value of Big Data? For one, the processing and analysis of large volumes of data required advanced computing and storage resources not yet available.

New types of database management systems have also needed to be devised. Traditional databases use data synchronization techniques to determine causality and, while Big Data analytics do not require the use of synchronization for the same purpose, it gives rise to other challenges in the areas of networking, storage, and computational architecture.

why WaPo call this a dangerous revolt?


WaPo |  By the time Heiney graduated in August 2014, she said she had racked up $18,810 in debt, with nearly 80 percent coming from federal loans. This month marks the end of the six-month grace period on her student loans, which means the government will starting asking Heiney for its money. But she won’t pay.

Heiney has landed a job as a home-health care attendant, but still feels trapped. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have my job, but my dream is to go back to Africa and start a medical clinic. Because I’m now a slave to these loans I can’t pursue my dreams,” she said.

Heiney and the other 14 protesters have been working with an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement known as the Debt Collective. The group organized a campaign last year, called Rolling Jubilee, to buy student loans from debt buyers for cents on the dollar and wipe out the debt. To date, the campaign has erased over $30 million in medical and education debt, including $13 million in private student loans for Everest students.

Organizers reached out to Corinthian students as the for-profit schools ran into trouble. After months of pleading with the Education Department to forgive the federal loans, the students and the organizers came up with the idea for the strike, said Ann Larson, a Debt Collective organizer.
More than 100 borrowers have contacted the group since the strike started this week. Before any of them can join, they must attend a financial literacy workshop on the consequences of not repaying their debt, Larson said, noting that most people are already in default.

An attorney working with the Collective is helping the Corinthian students file what’s known as a defense to repayment claim, an appeal to the Education Department to discharge the federal loans on the grounds that the for-profit school broke the law.

“Our attorneys say it’s a very untested law and no one has really done it because the process is unclear,” Larson said. “But rather than wait for the Department of Ed to clarify the process, we’re just going to dispute the legitimacy of the debt and see what happens.”

why don't lawful overseers check and correct awful overseers?



theatlantic |  What I found alarming was the fact that those other cops didn't stop or report the bad apples.

In fact, even after higher-ranking officers were alerted to Sampson's experience, that did not put an end to his repeated jailing. Neither a public defender nor a judge was able to spot or stop this miscarriage of justice either. No one inside the system successfully exposed or remedied the abusive situation. Things only changed for Sampson when the store owner got video evidence and took it to the media. And even then, the egregious misbehavior of the police officers went unpunished.

Most of the perpetrators are still on the job.

What do police officers make of this story? How do they explain the fact that such abusive behavior continued for so long? What do they regard as an appropriate punishment? What would they suggest to guard against similar abuses elsewhere? What would they do if they encountered fellow officers treating a man this way? I don't mean to suggest that police are of one mind about this or any other controversy, or that Miami Gardens reflects how police behave everywhere. But when the public reads or listens to stories that document egregious police abuses, it is rare to encounter any members of the police community who express alarm, or champion reforms, or denounce the bad apples, or articulate why they have a different view than the conventional wisdom.  

If you're a police officer, maybe no one asked for your opinion on a case like this before. I invite any of your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

homan square is definitely an unusual place...,


guardian |  The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

sim maker gemalto was hacked by ghcq and the nsa..,


bbcnews |  The Dutch Sim card maker at the centre of NSA-GCHQ hacking claims has said it believes that the US and UK cyberspy agencies did indeed launch attacks on its computer systems. 

However, Gemalto denied that billions of mobile device encryption keys could have been stolen as a result.
The Intercept alleged last week that spies had obtained the "potential to secretly monitor" voice and data transmissions after hacking the firm.
Gemalto operates in 85 countries.
Its clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint among more than 400 wireless network providers across the world.
GCHQ and the NSA have not commented directly on the allegations.
Fake emails
In a statement, Gemalto said it had carried out a "thorough investigation" following the claims, which were based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"The investigation into the intrusion methods described in the document and the sophisticated attacks that Gemalto detected in 2010 and 2011 give us reasonable grounds to believe that an operation by NSA and GCHQ probably happened," the company said.
It highlighted two "particularly sophisticated intrusions" that it suggested the agencies were responsible for.

“watching people when they move, it’s natural: every country does it. ”


WaPo |  Cellphones didn’t just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days. 

In one of the world’s largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don’t, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here.

Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan’s efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the 
attackers.

But the effort to match one person to each cellphone number involves a jaw-dropping amount of work. At the start of this year, there were 103 million SIM cards in Pakistan — roughly the number of the adult population — that officials were not sure were valid or properly registered. And mobile companies have until April 15 to verify the owners of all of the cards, which are tiny chips in cellphones that carry a subscriber’s personal security and identity information.

In the past six weeks, 53 million SIMs belonging to 38 million residents have been verified through biometric screening, officials said. 

“Once the verification of each and every SIM is done, coupled with blocking unverified SIMs, the terrorists will no longer have this tool,” said a senior Interior Ministry official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the government’s security policy. “The government knows that it’s an arduous job, both for the cellular companies and their customers, but this has to be done as a national duty.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

the saudi project


theeconomist |  STAGE one of Saudi Arabia’s plan—or perhaps hope—to restructure the oil market is taking longer than expected. By refusing to rein in production while prices fell, the Saudis permitted a big surplus to grow and served notice on higher-cost rivals (Russia, Venezuela, American shale-oil producers) that they would not prop up other people’s profit margins at the expense of their own market share.

That signal has been weakened by the growing amount of oil in storage, which is absorbing most of the glut. World oil stocks rose by about 265m barrels last year and Société Générale, a French bank, reckons they will increase by a further 1.6m-1.8m barrels a day (b/d) in the first six months of this year, adding roughly 300m barrels to the total. Oil is being stored in the hope that demand and prices will pick up later. Such restocking, plus renewed political worries (flows from Libya’s largest oilfield were disrupted again this week by apparent sabotage), have pushed the price of oil back up. After having fallen by more than 60% since June, the price of a barrel of Brent crude closed at $59.96 on February 18th.

The restocking cannot continue for long. Storage facilities in Europe and Asia are already 80-85% full. Much more and they will overflow. As it is, companies are renting tankers to keep oil in. If storage space runs out, prices could tumble again.

Whether that happens depends on how quickly phase two of the Saudi plan gets under way. This is to force high-cost producers out to increase the influence of Gulf countries. At the moment, this is happening only slowly. Oil types have recently become obsessed with the so-called “rig count”—the number of drilling rigs operating in America and elsewhere. Analysts think that as the rig count declines, shale-oil output will fall, hurting profits and investment. That seems dubious.

Figures from Baker Hughes, an oil-services company, showed that the rig count in America in mid-February fell to its lowest since 2011, and was 35% below its peak in October 2014. That is a big fall. But most of the idled rigs are in marginal areas; the fall has been only 9% in the main shale-oil basins, in North Dakota and Texas, which accounted for four-fifths of the increase in American oil output in the past two years. Moreover, productivity is rising in the remaining wells. Citibank reckons that even a 50% fall in the rig count would allow output to rise this year and turn the average shale firm’s cashflow positive, encouraging investment.

the battle for libya's oil


aljazeera |  Oil is the lifeblood of the Libyan economy. Prior to the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, Libya produced some 1.6 million barrels a day, exported mostly to Italy, Germany, Spain, and France. Natural gas and oil revenues made up nearly 96% of government revenue, propping up a vast public sector and providing millions of Libyans with their main source of income.

When a revolution backed by NATO air strikes brought Gaddafi’s regime to a bloody end in the summer of 2011, output plummeted to zero. To the surprise of many analysts, it quickly recovered, reaching 1.4 million barrels per day, almost hitting pre-revolution levels. But that figure belied growing political divides that would soon bring the oil industry - and Libya’s economy - to its knees.

As the coalition that brought down Gaddafi started to fragment, local grievances over the distribution of oil revenues led to protests, closing down oil fields, pipelines and loading ports. In the east, a rebel leader charged with protecting the oil infrastructure seized control of several ports, demanding greater autonomy and a bigger share of oil revenues for his region.

His attempts to sell oil internationally without the government’s consent were only thwarted when US navy commandos stormed a tanker trying to take oil out of the country. Meanwhile, a militia in the west shut down two of the country’s most important oil fields, and insecurity grew. International oil companies fled as security deteriorated.

pay very close attention to the man behind the curtain...,


democracynow |  NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza just after he personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He is a longtime reporter in the region. In his coverage, he reports on the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Back in 2008 and 2009, when he worked for Al Jazeera, Mohyeldin and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza as Israel killed 1,400 people in what it called "Operation Cast Lead." We speak to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who has revealed that the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. Greenwald also comments on the broader picture of the coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the U.S. media.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull its veteran news correspondent out of Gaza. Ayman Mohyeldin personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach Wednesday. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He’s a veteran reporter who has placed the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept has revealed the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation, it came from NBC executive David Verdi.

AMY GOODMAN: NBC executives have reportedly claimed the decision was motivated by "security concerns" ahead of Israel’s ground invasion, but late Wednesday NBC sent correspondent Richard Engel to Gaza. During the 2008-2009 war on Gaza, Ayman Mohyeldin, who then worked for Al Jazeera, was one of the only foreign journalists reporting from Gaza.

NBC News did not respond to Democracy Now!’s repeated requests for comment on its decision.
For more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His piece for The Intercept at First Look Media is "NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children."

Monday, February 23, 2015

hon.bro.preznit bullseyes bibi's bullshit


guardian |  Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.

It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times.

Brandishing a cartoon of a bomb with a red line to illustrate his point, the Israeli prime minister warned the UN in New York that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons the following year and called for action to halt the process.

But in a secret report shared with South Africa a few weeks later, Israel’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.

dershowitz says preznit has no rights that the right-wing is bound to acknowledge...,


WSJ |  As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama , I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress. At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics—it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers. 

Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation. 

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people. 

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

the hon.bro.preznit's rhetoric precise cause he don't love you..,


theatlantic |  Why does this matter? Because the U.S. government has finite resources. If you assume, as conservatives tend to, that the only significant terrorist threat America faces comes from people with names like Mohammed and Ibrahim, then that’s where you’ll devote your time and money. If, on the other hand, you recognize that environmental lunatics and right-wing militia types kill Americans for political reasons too, you’ll spread the money around.
 
We’ve already seen the consequences of a disproportionate focus on jihadist terrorism. After 9/11, the Bush administration so dramatically shifted homeland-security resources toward stopping al-Qaeda that it left FEMA hideously unprepared to deal with an attack from Mother Nature, in the form of Hurricane Katrina. The Obama administration is wise to avoid that kind of overly narrow focus today. Of course it’s important to stop the next Nidal Malik Hasan or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But it’s also important to stop the next Timothy McVeigh or Wade Michael Page. And by calling the threat “violent extremism” rather than “radical Islam,” Obama tells the bureaucracy to work on that too. 

Obama, after all, faces two overlapping but distinct challenges. One is an ideology: the totalitarian, even genocidal, vision espoused by ISIS. The second is a tactic: terrorism, which is available to people of all ideological stripes and which grows more dangerous as technology empowers individuals or groups to kill far more people far more quickly than they could have in ages past. 

Instead of assuming that these threats are the same, we should be debating the relative danger of each. By using “violent extremism” rather than “radical Islam,” Obama is staking out a position in that argument. It’s a position with which reasonable people can disagree. But cowardice has nothing to do with it.

so-called existential fears really just the apex of psychological projection


theatlantic |  After the jump I have a reader's note marveling at the way we've agreed to discuss Iran as a bottomless evil, rather than as a state with whom we should look for diplomatic ways to manage conflicts, as we have with China and the old Soviet Union—and as Begin did with Sadat.

A reader writes:
This whole thing has become so utterly surreal it's hard to talk about anymore. The entire kerfuffle is premised on an Iranian nuclear weapons program - a program we KNOW with certainty they do not have in operation. NO fissile materials have been diverted, IAEA inspectors routinely tell us that. Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his Likudnik colleagues have been telling us since the 1980s that Iran is SIX MONTHS away from having a nuclear weapon.
I understand that Netanyahu is using fear of a nuclear-armed Iran for domestic political purposes - primarily to frighten his citizens into keeping him in office. The use of a ginned-up external existential threat is a time-honored method for cowing and manipulating a domestic constituency, and clearly at some point the fear of the Palestinians had lost its punch.
But why do the US, UK, France, China and other nations go along with this charade? Why do the media always write the stories in such a manner as to indicate that Iran has an active weapons R&D program? Why did we pile sanctions on and make daily threats of offensive war against a signatory of the NPT is good standing, particularly in support of an illegal proliferator? How can we continue this ridiculous sham?
Over the last couple years, you wrote repeatedly about how the press covered Republican filibusters - and you were right. This is the same thing - we're going through all these massive machinations to address a problem WE KNOW DOES NOT EXIST. If I wrote this in a novel it would be rejected as "utterly implausible"...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

situation report on WW-III


World War III (which we are currently in) is being fought with very different tactics than World War I and II. However, in my opinion the mass-motivational strategy is the same: different breeding population males trying to extend the territories on which they are able to impose their respective socio-political systems.  The tactics in WW III involve small groups of (mostly) highly trained and skilled (mostly) men killing primarily civilians in lands yet to be conquered. Because the group of (mostly) men is not concentrated in one country, large nation states with large and powerful traditional armies are rendered rather helpless in trying to defeat them.

None of the prospective combatants are interested in making peace because each of the combatant bands of killer-apes believe themselves in possession of the winning set of tactics to eventually win the war. It is a war that will last for decades or until the socio-economic and political conditions in the enemy combatant nations of the world change.  Only those who are losing wars want to end wars, as cynical as that might sound.

What if all Western nation states with large and powerful traditional armies joined together to send military forces (ground troops) into Syria and Iraq to defeat and capture and/or kill ISIS?  A misguided start as it won't work and will probably make things worse. Western military intervention is merely a guarantee of inflaming and widening the scope of violence and death. Western military intervention would be as effective as stepping on ants in one's house as a way of eliminating the ant problem.

Neither Judeo-Christian extremists or Muslim extremists are interested in making peace.  Each extremist pole is deeply embedded in majority moderate/secular populations and each believes itself in possession of an effective set of tactics to eventually win the war.

If "we" in the West send soldiers to kill ISIS won't that be something of a winning set of tactics?  What is called "ISIS" today is just a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of potential and actual Muslim extremists in the world. If every Muslim extremist who is a part of ISIS is killed in 2015, by 2020 there will be twice as many Muslim extremists in the world, as those watching the unfolding spectacle will be motivated to get even with the western capitalist republics that killed their Muslim brothers in ISIS.

Can the West (and the rest of the world) afford to wait until its own extremist male sub-populations quiet down, are assimilated by the secular moderate majorities in which they're embedded, or until Muslim extremist sub-populations calm down?  No. A better strategy for the west would be to increase the factors that lead to secularization in the Muslim countries: better education, access to information, democratic forms of government, civil rights for women, homosexuals, etc. The western industrial democracies have been secularizing since the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th to mid 17th century. It takes time. Islam is as much a political system as it is a religion.

The United States had a winning strategy to win the Cold War, which was a war between capitalism and communism. We need a similar political strategy to wage war between capitalism and Sharia, the political arm of Islam.  The U.S. has been at war in the middle east since 1991 and things are worse, not better, then when we first went there. A better strategy does not involve sending soldiers to kill individual Muslim extremists or their leaders. One has to be patient. Under the best of circumstances the needed change would take decades. In the global economic contraction we're currently all experiencing, there's no guarantee that the sources of extremism will abate or can be assimilated.

The Arab Spring unfortunately didn't lead to what the protesters wanted and led to violence in many cases. The Arab Spring demonstrated that the Arab masses were tired of the post-colonial dictatorships installed by the west in their respective societies. Most of the Muslim countries of the world were not democracies and are not now democracies. They were, however, national socialist autocracies with Islam as the state religion and Sharia Law influencing national law. The primary dictatorial strategies in Iraq, Libya and Syria were to facilitate secularization. Destruction of the dictatorships brought the western processes - progressively in effect in these countries for decades - to a screeching and catastrophic halt. There has never been a greater policy blunder in the modern era than overthrowing the dictatorships in Iraq and Libya. Continuing this failed policy in Syria has only served to make the already intolerable situation still worse.

Tribalism and extremism under the rubric of cultural Islam have become the prevailing order of the day in the western-created and western destroyed former states of the Middle-East and Northeast Africa.  In order to successfully progress away from this situation, the west must turn to the centralized, hierarchical theocracy of Iran and consolidate power in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard (who are probably quite tired of Mullahs, Mullah nonsense, and Mullah theft and graft). As a good friend of mine is fond of noting, the Shah and his cronies were awful thieves and despots, but you can't steal and pack as much into a uniform or a suit as you can in the bottomless pockets of a Mullah-robe.

Because of neocon stupidity, eggregious cultural miscalculation, and abject military misapplication and failure, we are now faced with the inevitable fact of having to assist with the restoration of Persian empire, actually working with and assisting Iran to become the preeminent power in the entire middle east.