The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

An Absence of Fairness

Good Monday, all, and I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.  In the spirit of that holiday, I’d like to thank my favorite Preznit, Ronnie Dearest, for making it possible for our politicos to attack other politicians and institutions with impunity. Yes, I’m talking about the Raygun Administration’s revocation of the Fairness Doctrine.

n 1985, under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the FCC released a report stating that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In August 1987, under FCC Chairman Dennis R. Patrick, the FCC abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote, in the Syracuse Peace Council decision, which was upheld by a panel of the Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit in February 1989, though the Court stated in their decision that they made “that determination without reaching the constitutional issue.”[16]


Fowler said in February 2009 that his work toward revoking the Fairness Doctrine under the Reagan Administration had been a matter of principle (his belief that the Doctrine impinged upon the First Amendment), not partisanship. Fowler described the White House staff raising concerns, at a time before the prominence of conservative talk radio and during the preeminence of the Big Three television networks and PBS in political discourse, that repealing the policy would be politically unwise. He described the staff’s position as saying to Reagan:

The only thing that really protects you from the savageness of the three networks—every day they would savage Ronald Reagan—is the Fairness Doctrine, and Fowler is proposing to repeal it![22]

Instead, Reagan supported the effort and later vetoed the Democratic-controlled Congress’s effort to make the doctrine law.

Since the Fairness Doctrine was revoked, we’ve seen the rise of infotainment, complete with “he-said/she-said” opinion journalism, and the empowerment of the right-wing noise machine, including “think tanks” whose sole purpose is to twist the public discourse away from reality (which as we know, has a liberal bias) to the skewed, black-is-white worldview of the top 1%.

I draw a bright line between this revocation and the rise of delusional movements like modern conservatism, whose members hold beliefs that, despite their unshakeability, lack any basis in reality. One of these beliefs, disgustingly promoted by some of the top Republican contenders for President, is the alleged propensity of Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts. There were videos, which were since proven to be deceptively edited, which were used to “prove” the accusation and sow outrage in the Republican base. As usual, none of these brainless f*cktards gave a thought to the way this would affect people who, by definition, are only loosely tethered to the world as we know it. Predictably, some RWNJ with a gun decided to avenge those alleged murdering psychos at Planned Parenthood by…becoming a murdering psycho at Planned Parenthood.

Robert Lewis Dear allegedly killed three people and injured 9 others yesterday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the hours after the shooting little was known about Dear or his motivations.

Saturday evening, those motivations began to come into focus. NBC News and the Washington Post reported that, after the shooting, Dear told law enforcement officials “no more baby parts.”

The phrase clearly references a series of videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion advocacy group. The videos alleged that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling body parts from fetuses for profit. These allegations were untrue and the videos relied on deceptive editing.

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Peace for Paris

As we all mourn the terrible attacks in Paris over the weekend, and the 129 victims who senselessly lost their lives, I know that I am wondering what we will do now. What is the answer to how to stop ISIS, aka “The Islamic State,” from doing this again? How can we stop the terrorist group from taking over Iraq and Syria, and extending its reach throughout the Middle East in the long-awaited radical Muslim “caliphate” called for by the group’s leaders? Can it happen here, again? Will New York, or some other American city, be the next target? Will it be Great Britain? ISIS has already spat in Putin’s face (I think they will come to regret that soon), and now Hollande’s. This can’t be allowed to stand.

And so far, the response of the US and France has been to counterattack. Twenty bombs were dropped on an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria yesterday.

The French defense ministry has said the “massive” airstrikes which hit Raqqa on Sunday night, was carried out in coordination with US forces. Twenty bombs were dropped, destroying a command center, jihadi recruitment center, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, the defense ministry said in a statement.

This approach does make sense. Unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS is trying to take over state governments and became a “state actor.”  While Al Qaeda’s strongholds and leadership were hidden for protection, ISIS shows its hand boldly and proudly. This leaves the terrorist group open to traditional-style warfare.

As an aspiring government authority, ISIS is also committed to providing public and social services to the population, activities in which it is already deeply engaged. These many public goods include power and water services, law enforcement, health care, dispute resolution, employment, education and public outreach. These responsibilities cost money, which in ISIS’ case comes from extortion (or taxation, as it were), control of energy and water resources, and plunder.

These sources are of course vulnerable to physical attack and disruption. Strategic assets such as oil facilities and utilities infrastructure are highly visible and vulnerable to air strikes. ISIS also makes little effort to disguise governing facilities, political headquarters and policy and security installations. As a self-appointed state, ISIS sees little reason to keep a low profile in its own territory. Remarkably, its rivals have made little to no effort to target these assets, which are essential pillars of ISIS’ political authority and governance. For those very reasons, however, destroying these facilities without empowering moderate Sunni groups to govern in ISIS’ place would only lead to state collapse in ISIS-held areas. International efforts continue to focus on foreign terrorist finances such as donations. ISIS – a self-funded organization – remains wealthy.

The question is, what else is going to happen? How will the governments of France, the United States and other sympathetic countries react?

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Good Monday, all! I hope you all had a great weekend, and that Chatblu is taking a well-deserved siesta after a very hard several weeks of wedding work.

Well, it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu (otherwise known as “Bibi”) is once again, Prime Minister of Israel. And an unwelcome victory it is for those of us who would like to hear some other voices on the topic of figuring out what the h*ll to do about the camps, Hamas and the unrelenting hatred of Israel’s neighbors. Exit polls seemed to suggest that the Zionist Union was close to, or slightly leading, Bibi’s right-wing Likud Party. But either the vote was tampered with, or Bibi’s last-minute fear-mongering won the day.

The Likud victory came after initial exit polls from three Israeli television stations on March 17 showed the top two parties in a virtual tie. That result would have itself represented a vast improvement for Likud, which had been polling in the 20 to 23-seat range as recently as last week.

But official returns that came in hours later showed Likud emerging as the clear victor. Netanyahu now has a relatively easy path to forming a coalition of his so-called “natural partners” on the right and the religious parties, along with the center-right Kulanu party.

In his acceptance speech on the night he was re-elected, Netanyahu stated that there would never be a Palestinian state while he is Prime Minister. Well! You can bet our Dear Leader was Not Amused, and he made sure everyone knew about it.

“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” the president said in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.

Though he pledged to keep working with the Israeli government on military and intelligence operations, Obama declined to say whether the United States would continue to block Palestinian efforts to secure statehood through the United Nations. In a phone conversation the two had on Thursday, he said he indicated to Netanyahu that “it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”

The idea of blocking the UN effort is to get all interested parties to the table and make them negotiate. Obama was essentially saying that Bibi’s statements made it seem like this will no longer happen…and in that case, the US may no longer block the UN efforts of the “Palestinians,” which could help ease their way into a bloodless (at least at first) coup.

The problem I have with this reaction is that I don’t believe the mythical “two-state solution,” a naive creation of those who believe facts not in evidence, will EVER happen. Certainly not while Hamas in in charge of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, angry Arabs camped in Gaza, claiming a right to the land that is dubious at best, and murderous at worst. In addition, I would hope that no Israeli politician, right, left or center, thinks that Hamas is a genuine partner for peace.

So Bibi simply told the truth, and shamed everyone. The world will not thank him for it.

This is an open thread.

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  September 11th is the 254th day of the year.  It is also the anniversary of one of the worst attacks on American soil.  This is one of those days, like Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy Assassination, that anyone alive at the time remembers where they were and what they were doing forever.  I also cannot forget the ensuing years that trapped us in a long and tortuous was that depleted our blood, our treasure, and our standing in the world.

Last night I listened to the President’s speech.  As usual, it was well-delivered, but this time relatively free of soaring rhetoric.  He has decided to authorize airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL, and hopes that Congress will see fit to back him in this venture.  He stated that he would hunt down terrorists, that there would be no safe havens.  We know that to be the case, as evidenced by Osama bin Laden. None can fault him there, and superficially, this sounds fine.

The President then announced that he was sending 475 troops over to ask as advisers.  This also sounds okay, until you realize that whether you are killed holding a clipboard or killed driving a tank, you are just as dead.  Further, “advisers” are likely making their umpteenth trip back, and leaving their families behind again.  Even worse, the VA system has been catastrophically messed up for forty years, so it is safe to assume that if these “advisers” are injured, things won’t have cleared up enough to help them either.

Further, Obama is again counting on a “coalition of nations” to help.  I still cringe when I remember the infamous “coalition of the willing”, some of whom had contributed fewer than 20 troops to the Iraq debacle.  Please, let them be a bit more willing with troops and treasure this time.  Said coalition will strike back at the terrorists and make the world a better place if they do, and I am in complete agreement with that premise at face value.  However, history suggests that the vacuum will promptly be filled with some entity that rapidly manages to become even more repugnant than its predecessor, and this time there is the real possibility that we could manage to help Assad return to power.  I am becoming more and more convinced that the more we try to fix this, the worse it becomes.

A number of Congress folk have been muttering about action against ISIS/ISIL.  Dick Cheyney and the neocons have been making the rounds to crank everybody up about the need for further warfare.  However, I have to wonder if Congress can be realistic about the cost of war and the necessity to raise the revenue necessary to finance said activity.  The President seems confident that the initial Authorization for Use of Military Forces (2001) would cover him, but I really do believe that it’s time for Congress to get off the sidelines and declare themselves.  Decrying his position and catcalling has worked beautifully for years, but the time has come to stand up and be counted.

I have never been fond of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).  However, as he is on his way out having run for and lost the Republican primary for Governor (Georgia is one of those states that prohibits you from running for two offices at once), he had a moment of abject truthfulness with the New York Times:

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

We’ll see how this goes, now that Congress needs to go on the record.  It will be interesting to see how all of the various Senators and Representatives vote, now that the bright light is shining on them six weeks prior to the midterms.  I just hope that we are not racing toward another debacle for fear of meeting ISIS at the supermarket.  Let’s just say that I am “shock and awe”-d that we find ourselves back at square one.

That said, today is a day of remembrance.  A lot of good people lost their lives on 09/11, and on many days thereafter.  If you think of it, say a prayer for them.  If you have one, light a candle for them.   Above all, think of those they left behind.

This is an open thread.


Our dear friend Prolix has made some very good points about moral outrage lately. I do heartily agree that it seems to be no longer the done thing to say, “It’s the right thing to do.” It’s just so square, so unironic; and at least for those of my generation (X), a day without irony is like a day without chocolate. It’s dull as George Bush’s thousand-yard stare.

My point of view about Syria is, however, that killing children is always wrong. If I am going to be outraged when Assad does it, then I am going to be twice as outraged when American war hawks do it. (Because let’s face it, Americans should be better than third-century Bronze Age buffoons like Assad.)

Remember our last attempt at “regime change” because a Middle Eastern dictator “gassed his own people”? (With our gas, I might add – thank you, Donald Rumsfeld.) How did that work out for Iraqi children?

Counting the Dead

A survey published in January 2008, conducted in August and September 2007 by Opinion Research Business, a British polling firm, in conjunction with Iraq’s Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies found that about 20% of households surveyed had lost at least one member, and estimated that 1.03 million people had died in the war with a 95% certainty for a number of deaths between 946,000 and 1.12 million.

The deaths of so many men, women and children have had an enormous impact on Iraqi society. According to the Iraqi government,around 4.5 million children have lost one or both parents (almost 1 in 3) and approximately 600 000 children are living on the streets. Child labour has increased with 15% of children under the age of 14 now working.  There are now between 1 and 3 million widows in Iraq, many struggling as heads of households and living in extreme poverty.

So far this year (July 2012) 49 children have been killed and 169 injured in the violence.

I am not AT ALL suggesting that our Prolix is for war. However, I do think that advocating for regime change in the Middle East never helps the children we may rightfully want to rescue.

On a slightly more ironic note, we should never allow a maniac like Assad to make us look like the bad guys. John Kerry, you are just inept. Thank goodness Hillary got out before this mountain of cr*p erupted.

“The words of the Syrian regime in our judgement are simply not enough, which is why we’ve come here in order to work with the Russians,” John Kerry told reporters in Geneva ahead of high-stakes talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the thorny issue of Syria‘s chemical weapons.

He warned it was also up to the Russians to show that they could “deliver on the promise of the moment” after Moscow proposed a plan earlier this week to eliminate Syria’s deadly weapons stock.

But Mr Kerry highlighted that the US and Russia still disagreed on who carried out a suspected sarin gas attack near Damascus last month, which Washington says killed 1,400 people.

“The Russian delegation has put some ideas forward and we’re grateful for that. We respect it. And we have prepared our own principles that any plan to accomplish this needs to encompass [emphasis mine],” Mr Kerry stressed, before a room packed with reporters from around the world.

Okay, first of all, nice syntax, John. I wouldn’t say it was Dubya-worthy, but I think HW Bush might have said something similar at some point.

Second of all, we are now looking like the aggressors because we practically declared war on yet another country that didn’t attack us, for the most contrived and inconsistent of reasons. We have Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo taunting us as we attempt to preach against attacking and killing civilians, so “It’s only bad when someone else does it” is not really a stance I’m comfortable embracing.

I’m not sure what else to say on this topic, except that I am really, really tired of the MIC being in charge of our country.  I feel like I’m in a Dustin Hoffman movie, only this film isn’t clever, funny or even ironic.

It’s just a d*mn tragedy.

This is an open thread.

I have watched with a growing sense of deja vu as the Military Industrial Complex gears itself up to sell yet another quagmire in the Middle East to the bleary-eyed American public. Look, there’s John Kerry on the TeeVee saying there’s proof of chemical weapons use in Syria!

Unveiling a U.S. intelligence report on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday the evidence shows President Bashar Assad’s government killed at least 1,429 of its own citizens in a “crime against humanity” that demands an international response.

Kerry, trying to overcome doubts about the Obama’s administration’s anticipated military strike on Syria, said the intelligence community has documented with “high confidence,” from “thousands of sources,” that Syrian forces prepared for days to attack entrenched rebel forces and then, on Aug. 21, fired gas-filled shells that killed at least 426 children, as well as adults.

“This is evidence,” Kerry said in an appearance at the State Department. “These are facts. The primary question is what are we … going to do about it?”

Wow. Dare I say that this evidence appears…indisputable?

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass  destruction.” – Dick Cheney, August 26 2002

Six days before the  U.S. sent troops to Iraq, Cheney said “We believe Iraq has, in fact,  reconstituted nuclear weapons” [Meet the Press, 3/7/03]. This echoed his June,  2002 speech in which he said the same thing. He made these claims while offering  no evidence, and despite the fact that “the CIA sent two memos to the White  House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three  months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy  nuclear material in Africa” [Washington Post, 7/23/03]. As ex Cia  analyst Ray McGovern has asserted , falsified documents which were meant to show  that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime had been trying to procure yellowcake uranium  from Niger can be traced straight back to Cheney’s office.

According to  McGovern, former CIA Director George Tenet told his “coterie of malleable  managers” at the CIA to create a National Intelligence Estimate “to the terms of  reference of Dick Cheney’s speech of August 26, 2002, where Dick Cheney said for  the first time Saddam Hussein could have a nuclear weapon in a year, he’s got  all kinds of chemical, he’s got all kinds of biological weapons.”

Here’s how widespread this reaction must be: When I searched for the Dick Cheney quote, I clicked on a link to CNN from 2002. The link re-directed me to the home page of CNN, which had this headline: “Kerry on Syria: This isn’t Iraq, we’ve got the proof.” The comparisons are that obvious.

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Good Thursday, Widdershins.

Most of this week was devoted to the memory of Martin Luther King. the prophet of non-violence.  Now that we have dutifully paid homage to The Dream, we can turn our attention to the other American pastime – war.

The drums have been beating for some time, lead by Senatorial percussionists Graham and McCain.   The Senators issued a joint statement, reported here by The Washington Times:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground,” Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham said in a joint statement. “In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against Assad’s forces.”

“Vetted elements of the Syrian opposition”?  So who vets them?  I seem to remember not so very long ago, a President Reagan decided that the very best way to stifle the Soviet Union was to arm some dude named Bin Laden to the teeth and turn him loose.  How did that work out?  The good news is that the Soviets went home, the bad news is that we ended up in Afghanistan cleaning up the mess.  That’s the ticket, “vet” the Syrian rebels.  What could go wrong?

Thirty-five years ago, I considered Damascus to be a one-stop shopping center.  We were living in Saudi Arabia, and the souks in Damascus were a whole lot better than the local equivalent, so whenever we could wrangle the time off and an exit visa simultaneously we were off.  Syria was edgy back then as well, but not really dangerous.  The people were gracious, and in customs lay somewhere between the ultra-religious Saudis and the much more secular Jordanians.  Watching what has happened to them of late is almost painful.  As a nurse, I am on board with the notion that some form of neurotoxin was deployed against these people.  The only thing that stops me just short of full commitment is that their caretakers are not wearing any sort of protective gear, yet exhibit none of the symptoms.  Neurotoxic agents, particularly ricin, linger on skin, hair and clothing, and are acquired by anyone who touches the victims.

The UN has investigated the matter, and plans to release a report any day now.  In the meantime, naval vessels are positioning themselves off the Syrian coast.  The President must now figure out his next step.  The “chemical weapons” line in the sand has likely been crossed, and the time for leadership is here.  There is really no point in approaching the UN, as Russia and China would gleefully veto anything more punitive than sending Assad a birthday card, so that’s out.

Congressional Republicans are now in full swing.   Speaker John Boehner is loudly demanding “answers” from the President.  The Sunday talk shows were laden with Repubs discussing the War Powers Act of 1976, and whether or not this gives the Prez carte blanche to go clean some Middle Eastern clocks.  Some say yes, some say no, and I’ll post the salient portion of the aforementioned Act  so that you might decide for yourself.  Here it is:

(a) Congressional declaration

It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.

(b) Congressional legislative power under necessary and proper clause

Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer hereof/
The ultra salient portion is here:

(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces
Past practice dictates that the President may take direct action and seek authorization retroactively, but only under section (c) (3), as I see it.  Try as I might, I see no portion of the act that gives the American President unlimited powers to wage any sort of war without Congressional approbation, despite the fact that the terms have been almost universally ignored/misinterpreted.  I submit that it is time for this particular President tp stick to the letter of the act itself.
Make Congress vote on this.  The British PM has called Parliament back for an emergency session, and I think that Obama should follow suit,  Especially since it’s Labor Day weekend, and this particular group of Congressmen are some of the most anti-labor yet,  Oh, they will come kicking and screaming, because they likely don;t want to be on the record when it’s much more politically expedient (and a hell of a lot more fun) to simply stand on the sidelines and snipe.  Further, I believe that this will magnify and possible crater the growing division in the Republican party, with the hawks belting out their full-throated war cries and the libertarians screaming to the contrary.  Also, Congress needs to specifically authorize the expenditures for this excursion, less they forget that they have done so and attempt to blame everything on the blood-sucking 47% again.  Congress should be vested up to their eyeballs in the “Arab Spring” that they appear to have clean forgotten about.  So, bring them back, and bring it on.
This is an open thread.

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March 2019
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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

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Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
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