Category Archives: Mideast

Conventional Wisdom: Humor & Weimar America


As the GOP convention winds to a close, a video take on the event and the election.

We begin with a brutally frank assessment of the Republican convention from Lewis Black, during a guest sport on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

And he’s got the best idea yet on what to do with the two November contenders:

Lewis Black On The Election: “It’s A Social Experiment”

Program notes:

The comedian and star of “Back in Black” on Broadway suggests that by choosing between two deeply unpopular presidential candidates, voters are participating in a grand social experiment.

The election as emerging fascism fueled by both parties

Next up, a Paul Jay interview with journalist and former Berkeleyan Robert Scheer on the emerging fascism of Weimar America, and the way both parties have worked to bring it about.

From The Real News Network:

Robert Scheer: Neofascist Trump or Corporate Hawk Clinton Are No Choice at All

From the transcript:

JAY: So let’s start with question one. Is this just a kind of eccentric right populist, and another variance of the Republican Party? Or is this something that’s gone further into what you can call a new authoritarianism, developing neofascism, or such?

SCHEER: Well, it’s precisely a neofascism, and I think we should explain, particularly to younger people, what we mean by this. Because it’s not just throwing around some frightening word. But we’ve had this phenomenon. We have it right now in Europe. We have it where you’re–basically what you’re, what you had under the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, in Italy and Germany.

And what you’re really talking about is scapegoating real problems, there are real problems, you don’t get fascist movements taking over, rising to power, without people being in pain. Hurting. The economy in shambles, their aspirations are limited, they’re worried about their future. And we have a situation now in the United States that is increasingly resembling a kind of post-Weimar Germany. It’s neofascism, it’s not fascism. But basically, people are perplexed: why is life not getting better? Why is income disparity more glaring? Why did my $38 an hour job in [inaud.] or mining disappear, and now I have to work for $7, $8, $9 an hour. What about the benefits I thought I had? What about my ability to send my kid to college?

So we have lowered expectations in America. We have a great sense of pain. And it’s not, you know, just one region and one group of people. And it’s in that atmosphere that you can basically have one of two narratives to respond. You had the Bernie Sanders narrative that said yeah, we got real problems, here. Income inequality is getting worse. The good jobs are not there. The benefits are not there. And we’re going to propose a progressive alternative. And that’s why Bernie Sanders, you know, almost knocked Hillary Clinton out of the box, because Hillary Clinton represented the establishment that had enabled this kind of pain out there.

On the Republican side, Trump did something amazing. He wiped out the whole Republican establishment. He did it up from Maine to Alabama. And he was able to do it across the country because people are hurting. They’re not fools, they’re not desperate to back a fool. What they are desperate about is having a good life for their kids, for themselves, and they’re worried. And so this demagogue of the right comes along with a neofascist message, and by that I mean precisely blaming the undocumented worker, you know, blaming people who don’t have your religion, or gay people, or minorities, or something of that sort. Blaming them for the problems that people with power have caused.

And that’s the key ingredient of neofascism, is to distract people from the real origin of the problems, and make them think it’s the undocumented Mexican worker, which is absurd. They’re not the people who have destroyed housing in America. They’re not the people who did the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and all the junk that Goldman Sachs and others did that brought the economy down. And to blame some guy who’s crossed the border, or some woman who’s crossed the border and is trying to clean a house or help raise a kid there for your problems. . .is absurd.

And Michael Moore declares Trump will be the winner

And he gives a plausible rationale for his analysis in this special convention of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Also featured in Tony Schwartz, the man who really wrote Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal and who has proclaimed that Trump’s victory in November would herald the end of civilization:

Bill Maher Live RNC Special Edition: July 20

Program notes:

Bill Maher and his guests – Michael Moore, Dan Savage, Joy Reid, and Tony Schwartz – discuss the 2016 Republican National Convention during this special edition of Real Time.

Headline of the day: Over almost before it began?


From the Washington Post:

Turkey’s president declares coup attempt foiled

  • Armed forces met resistance in streets from the president’s supporters
  • Branches of the police and army fought pitched battles for control of government buildings in the streets of the capital, Ankara, and protesters confronted tanks in Istanbul as Turkey, a major NATO member and key U.S. ally, spun out of control.
  • At least 90 people were killed in the violence in Ankara. More than 1,500 members of the armed forces have been arrested, and 29 colonels and five generals were removed.
  • Emerging in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the plotters: “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have to pay heavily for that.”

Map of the day: Iraq’s imperiled minorities


BLOG Iraq

As Britain braces for the imminent release of the 2.6-million-word Chilcot report on the impact of the U.K.’s role in the American-led, perto-seeking Iraq invasion and the ensuing and seemingly endless bloody chaos of civil war, another report has already laid out a stark picture of a nation whose minorities are vanishing, swept up in endless terror.

From Minority Rights Group:

After thirteen years of war minority communities in Iraq are now on the verge of disappearance, says a new report by Minority Rights Group International, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Institute for International Law and Human Rights and No Peace Without Justice.

‘The Chilcot report needs to reflect not just the immediate circumstances of the invasion, but the devastating long-term consequences of the conflict for Iraqi society. The impact on minorities has been catastrophic. Saddam was terrible; the situation since is worse. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and millions have fled for their lives,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance documents how tens of thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

According to the international rights organisations, the Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, is now under 250,000. Most of the Yezidi and Kaka’i have been forced from their traditional lands and are now internally displaced or have fled the country altogether, whilst Shi’a Turkmen and Shabak have been driven to the south.

There’s more. . . Continue reading

Empire on the brink: Corporate crime and war


In one of her best interviews yet for teleSUR English, Abby Martin talks with New York Times reporter James Risen, whose critique of American imperialism and its fruits is almost as radical as Martin’s

We are perplexed that none of the San Francisco Bay Area news media have profiled Martin and her rise to become a journalist of international standing, a Bay Area native who began her career on Berkeley’s community access cable channel, then moved on to RT America and then to teleSUR, where she hosts The Empire Files, a weekly investigative series.

In the latest episode she talks with New York Times reporter James Risen, whose reporting on the National Security Agency and other issues won him a Pulitzer Prize and threats of prosecution from both the Bush and the Obama administrations.

In their wide-ranging discussion, Martin and Risen talk about the national security state, American imperialism [yes, a New York Times reporter actually uses the I-word], the corporatization of war and the insidious power of military contractors, and the hypocrisy of an Obama administration that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous American presidencies combined.

Perhaps most telling is Risen’s observation of a critical fact un- or undereported by mainstream media: The fact that virtually all “lone wolf” terrorists have resorted to desperate measures in search of revenge for deaths of loved ones at the hands of the American military and its allies.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin with NYT’s James Risen on Fighting Censorship

Program notes:

Few journalists know the cruelty of government censorship as well as James Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times, targeted for several major stories implicating criminality by the US war machine and its national security state.

Cold War 2.0: The tensions continue to rise


As the Obama administration draws to a close, global tensions largely dormant since the end of the Cold War near three decades ago are smoldering again, and with renewed intensity.

It.s an ominous turn, given that both apparent presidential candidates are among the most bellicose since the Cold War ended.

We begin today’s account of the latest development with RT:

Russia will take adequate measures to counter NATO’s increasingly “aggressive rhetoric,” President Vladimir Putin told MPs at the closing session of the State Duma. He called to create an international security system open to all countries.

It’s necessary to create a collective security system void of “bloc-like thinking” and open to all countries, Putin said on Wednesday in Russia’s parliament.

“Russia is ready to discuss this extremely important issue,” he said, adding that such proposals have been so far left unanswered by Western countries.

“But again, as it was at the beginning of WWII, we don’t see any positive response,” he continued. “On the contrary, NATO ups its aggressive rhetoric and aggressive actions near our borders.”

“In this environment, we must pay special attention to strengthening our country’s defense capabilities,” he concluded.

Russia plans to public positions of America’s secret spay satellites

From RT again, another provocative move:

Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report.

Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

NORAD doesn’t only track Santa at Christmas – its database also provides details on thousands of satellites launched, destroyed or still functioning. While the catalog does not disclose data on America’s own military or dual-use satellites (or those of allies – Japan, France, Germany and Israel among them), as Izvestia says, it does feature Russia’s defense satellites.

At a Vienna meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in mid-June, Russia proposed to create a similar UN-run database “collecting, systemizing, sharing and analyzing information on objects and events in outer space.” Such an international database would be available to any country that has capabilities in the areas of human spaceflight, launches or satellites.

And the U.S. sends spy planes to the China Seas

Another move certain to up the ante in the hot zone where provocations by the U.S., China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam could easily tturn into armed conflict.

From the Diplomat:

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States Navy dispatched four U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and about 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base, an air force base located on Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet press release.

The four aircraft and 120 personnel arrived on June 15 for training with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) FA-50 aircraft pilots and to support U.S. and Philippine naval operations in the South China Sea, as the statement makes clear with a veiled reference to so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the disputed waters.

“In addition to bilateral training missions, Growler aircraft will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law,” the press release reads.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Israel ups the ante for East Bank settlements


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lurches even further to the right, and thanks to Washington, we presume he’ll get away with his latest land grab, and it makes no difference whether Clinton or Trump wins in November.

The big winners will be ISIS and others of their ilk.

From United Press International:

The Israeli government agreed Sunday to devote $20 million more in financing to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The move underscores the country’s more right-leaning orientation and has raised the ire of some politicians, as well as the Palestinians, the New York Times reported.

The money will be added to $87.9 million the Israeli government already has marked for allocation for the nation’s enclaves in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz.com reported.

Palestinian officials called the move a “slap on the face” for the international community.

Headline of the day: Zealotry runs amok, again


From the Washington Post:

Israeli minister wants to annex half of the West Bank and kick out the Palestinians

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, while traveling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a state visit to Russia, told the Times of Israel that the world should forget about a Palestinian state.