Daily Archive: 09/29/2014

Sep 29 2014

Dispatches from the New! Improved! War

Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario.

Transcript

The U.S. has begun its bombing campaign in Syria, ostensibly against the Islamic State, only a year after a failed effort by President Obama to initiate a bombing campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fighting between IS and various armed groups has brought about 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees across the border into Turkey. A member of NATO, Turkey has been playing a major role for the past couple of years in facilitating aid, armaments, transportation to Syrian rebel groups that had been fighting Assad. Though the Turkish government has said it will not be joining the broad coalition in the war against the Islamic State, being on the border with Syria, it is without question a major player here.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College.

Transcript

Funny thing for the American president to talk about adhering to international laws. Also, Mr. Obama at the UN said that the large nations should not trample small ones in pursuit of what he called “territorial ambition”. These are curious statements coming from the American president at this time. There’s no UN resolution that allows the United States to carry out operations in Syria. You’ll remember that in Libya in 2011 there was a great hoopla made about the importance of getting a UN resolution. Here there was no attempt to get any resolution. They simply bombed in Syria. The question of international norms or international resolutions, you know, coming from Mr. Obama is not really about whether there are international norms or resolutions to uphold.

But why is Mr. Obama saying this? What is his audience? It’s plain that the American right wing, the Republicans and some sections of the Democratic Party, don’t really care about international norms. They believe in the executive authority of the president. They don’t even believe the United Nations or international law should play any role vis-à-vis American policymaking.

And then you have the world community. You know, when they hear things like big countries shouldn’t trample small countries, people keep thinking of Iraq. I mean, from 1991 till the present, Iraq sovereignty has been trampled by the United States. However you define territorial ambitions, it need not be a country that’s right next to the U.S. for it to exercise its extraterritorial or territorial ambitions. So most people around the world would not see the credibility of that statement.

I think this particular gesture comes towards the liberal wing of the American population that’s maybe a little anxious about this escalation into warfare. You know, there are people who are saying that they voted twice for Mr. Obama and they are now feeling a great sense of regret, not only over Guantanamo, etc., but now perhaps the entry into a new war in West Asia.

Liberal base sours on Obama

By Justin Sink, The Hill

09/26/14 06:00 AM EDT

Obama has taken a number of steps in recent months that put him out of step with the coalition of young adults, women and minorities that helped him win the White House.

The problems began last year with revelations about the National Security Agency’s top-secret surveillance programs – the same kind of programs that were condemned on the left during the George W. Bush years.

A Pew poll this summer found that, despite Obama’s efforts to explain and reform the surveillance programs, 58 percent of so-called “solid liberals” continued to oppose the NSA efforts.

Concerns about the president’s use of military force, meanwhile, have intensified with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Liberals largely elected President Obama in 2008 on the promise he would extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts, and the prospect of a new military campaign is not sitting well with many of them.



Since announcing that he would delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections, Obama’s numbers have plummeted with Hispanic voters. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Latino voters approved of the president’s performance, down 15 points over the past 20 months.

Sep 29 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: A Group Shout on Climate Change

The marchers and mayors, the ministers and presidents, have come and gone. So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?

The meeting was not intended to reach a global agreement or to extract tangible commitments from individual nations to reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing the world’s ecosystems and could well spin out of control. Its purpose was to build momentum for a new global deal to be completed in December 2015, in Paris.

In that respect, it clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action.

PAul Krugman: Our Invisible Rich

Half a century ago, a classic essay in The New Yorker titled “Our Invisible Poor” took on the then-prevalent myth that America was an affluent society with only a few “pockets of poverty.” For many, the facts about poverty came as a revelation, and Dwight Macdonald’s article arguably did more than any other piece of advocacy to prepare the ground for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think the poor are invisible today, even though you sometimes hear assertions that they aren’t really living in poverty – hey, some of them have Xboxes! Instead, these days it’s the rich who are invisible.

But wait – isn’t half our TV programming devoted to breathless portrayal of the real or imagined lifestyles of the rich and fatuous? Yes, but that’s celebrity culture, and it doesn’t mean that the public has a good sense either of who the rich are or of how much money they make. In fact, most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.

Trevor Timm: Mr President, will you tell us the truth? 8 questions we must ask Obama about secret war

Because the air strikes in Iraq didn’t work, but the US is bombing Syria now. Because the model is a failure. Because he hasn’t had to answer for anything yet

In case you missed it, the US military expanded its war on Isis into a second country this week. And, no, you didn’t miss President Obama giving an interview or taking any questions about the air strikes – because he didn’t, and he hasn’t. Since all acts of war deserve questioning, here is what every reporter and citizen might ask the American president about a military campaign that has been conducted, thus far, by way of misleading euphemisms and possibly illegal rationale.

Robert Kuttner: Bridging the Chasm

For half a century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, there was a direct connection between the problems that afflicted American society and the remedies on offer from our democratic system.

High unemployment? The New Deal, the World War II mobilization, and the postwar boom took care of that.

Stagnant wages? With unions, growing productivity, minimum wage laws, and other regulation of labor standards — American real wages tripled.

Education? The G.I. bill, massive investment in public universities, community colleges, and later in public elementary and secondary education produced a better educated and more productive population. And until the 1980s, public higher education was basically free.

Robert Reich: Raising Most People’s Wages

I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country.

Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example.

Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs.

Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite.

Jason Edward Harrington: Take it from an airport security agent: it’s OK to laugh at toothpaste terror threats

You know what’s not funny? Government officials who use shoe, underwear and even cupcake bomb scares as an excuse to drop bombs of their own

The other day in Syria, the US conducted air strikes on a relatively unknown and possibly non-existent entity called the Khorasan group, which sounds more like a job-killing consulting firm than a people-killing al-Qaida spinoff. It was a surprise plot point in the campaign against Isis that left the kind of Strangelovian headlines that have become par for the course in the War on Terror. Take this one, from the Independent: “Syria air strikes: Khorasan Group ‘were working to make toothpaste bombs and explosives that could pass through airport security'”. Or this one: “Khorasan Group plotted attack against US with explosive clothes”.

This isn’t the first time the plane-flying public has gotten word of cavity-fighting and/or sartorial threats to international airliners: the concept of the toothpaste bomb first surfaced during the Sochi Olympics earlier this year, and the clothes-dipped-in-liquid-explosives menace came to attention back in August 2013. And of course, just a few months ago, there was speculation about the need for airline passengers to fear an iBomb. The only thing that changed between then and now is that anonymous officials slapped a name on the alleged masterminds behind these absurd plots, and then dropped bombs on them.

Sep 29 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 9.29.14

So, I posted this short rant on my Facebook wall yesterday and I thought it might be a decent discussion piece:

only humans could be arrogant enough to think that we could destroy or damage large parts of earth’s ecosystems and natural defenses and not manage to change the earth detrimentally. we have paved over, removed, and added things to the land, air, and water, which, even when naturally occurring, do not occur at the rates and levels we have contributed to them.

the earth may have had natural rhythms and periods of warming and cooling, but that’s when left alone with what earth had on its own. what we’ve done to it over the past couple centuries in the name of making our lives easier and some of us richer, cannot – absolutely cannot – have not had any effect. i don’t need any friggin graphs, charts, or studies to tell me that. i just need to not be stupid to know it.

only humans could be arrogant and stupid enough to believe that all we’ve done to it would not make a detrimental difference in the earth’s well being. arrogant and stupid, that about sums us up.

Jump!

Sep 29 2014

On This Day In History September 29

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 29 is the 272nd day of the year (273rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 93 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is born this day near Madrid.

Cervantes led an adventurous life and achieved much popular success, but he nevertheless struggled financially throughout his life. Little is know about his childhood, except that he was a favorite student of Madrid humanist Juan Lopez, and that his father was an apothecary.

In 1569, Cervantes was living in Rome and working for a future cardinal. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the Spanish fleet to fight against the Turks. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he took three bullets and suffered permanent damage to his left hand. Later, he was stationed at Palermo and Naples. On the way home to Madrid in 1575, he and his brother Roderigo were captured by Barbary pirates and held captive in Algiers. Cervantes was ransomed after five years of captivity and returned to Madrid, where he began writing. Although his records indicate he wrote 20 to 30 plays, only two survive. In 1585, he published a romance. During this time, he married a woman 18 years younger than he was and had an illegitimate daughter, whom he raised in his household. He worked as a tax collector and as a requisitioner of supplies for the navy, but was jailed for irregularities in his accounting. Some historians believe he formulated the idea for Don Quixote while in jail.

In 1604, he received the license to publish Don Quixote. Although the book began as a satire of chivalric epics, it was far more complex than a simple satire. The book blended traditional genres to create a sad portrait of a penniless man striving to live by the ideals of the past. The book was a huge success and brought Cervantes literary respect and position, but did not generate much money. He wrote dramas and short stories until a phony sequel, penned by another writer, prompted him to write Don Quixote, Part II in 1615.

Cervantes died in Madrid on April 23, 1616. In honor of the date on which both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died, UNESCO established April 23 as the International Day of the Book. (Shakespeare and Cervantes, however, did not actually die on the same day, as the April 23 date for Shakespeare is Julian calendar (Old Style) and the April 23 date for Cervantes is Gregorian calendar (New Style) as those were the calendars in effect in England and in Spain, respectively, at that time. The Gregorian calendar was then ten days ahead of the Julian.)