Friday, January 08, 2016

Newsy notes

Has the term "neocon" run its course? No, it has not. But the fact that Jonah Goldberg of Townhall.Com wants you to think that way tells us much. It tells us that the neocons are starting to get scared; it tells us that an increasingly large percentage of the population is on to the neocons and their warmongering ways. That's why they want you to think that the very phrase "neocon" is un-hip and, like, so five minutes ago.

You can't oppose a thing if you cannot name it. Thus, this attempt to take away the name.

Hillary's lie was indeed a lie. Politifact gave this statement by Hillary Clinton a "mostly true" rating:
The HillaryClinton.com webpage notes that Rubio "claimed that Hillary Clinton 'stood by' while the conflict in Syria devolved into a humanitarian crisis. The truth is that Hillary Clinton was an early supporter for arming the moderate opposition against Assad in 2012."

"And what’s even more amazing," according to the Clinton campaign, "is that Marco Rubio voted against authorizing President Obama to strike Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on his own people."
No serious person now accepts the fabrication that Bashar Assad gassed his own people. If he had, why does he remain so popular in Damascus? (See here and here and here.)

For the truth of that matter, go here:
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff.
The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’
Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial.
Nusra, as I always like to remind my readers, is the terror group that David Petraeus believes we should support. Also see the analysis here, which links to video of a rebel group actually launching chemical-laden rockets.

I give Politifact a "Pants on Fire" for this one.

Trump's lesson
is that an open appeal to racism can be a political winner. The governor of Maine has learned well from The Donald. Expect to see similar outbursts in the future.

Glenn Greenwald just published one of the bravest things I've seen in a while. Please note that I do not admire or approve of the cartoons appearing within the body of that post. (Neither, I am sure, does Greenwald.) But we must uphold the general principle of "good for the goose, good for the gander."

Republican Representative Tom Cotton may have taken a bribe of nearly one million bucks for his opposition to the Iran deal. (The link goes to an Iranian news site, which may worry some readers.) In my view, this incident proves that the NSA should be spying on congressfolk, at least when our representatives interact with foreign nationals and foreign governments.

On a very related note, Paul R. Pillar argues that our intel community must target Israel:
The impact of Israeli policies and actions on U.S. interests has included much that is damaging and destructive, which is the kind of impact that ought to be among the highest priorities for the collection of intelligence. Recently, in connection with negotiation of the multilateral agreement to restrict the Iranian nuclear program, the Israeli government did everything it could to sabotage and frustrate an important foreign policy initiative of the United States and its Western allies. The Journal story states that intelligence collection enabled U.S. policymakers to learn details of Israel's leaking of information about the negotiation—information Israel had obtained in confidential briefings by the United States or through what the Journal has reported as Israel's own spying on the negotiations. This is certainly the kind of information it would be very useful for any policymaker to have in determining how to manage both a negotiation and any briefings of outside countries about the negotiation.

One thing this whole story is not about is “domestic spying”—not even to the same degree as the controversial matter of bulk collection of telephone metadata. It is common for intelligence collection aimed at foreign actors to involve conversations or other interactions with U.S. actors. This pattern is a natural consequence of the foreign actor being an important intelligence target precisely because of the impact or potential impact on important U.S. interests. This is true of a foreign terrorist group seeking collaborators for an armed attack inside the United States. It is true of a foreign government searching for entry points for a cyberattack against U.S. infrastructure. And it is true of a foreign government endeavoring to sabotage U.S. foreign policy.
Conspiracy. There's a lot to savor in what we already have of the incomplete upcoming 71st issue of Lobster. (Editor Robin Ramsey still feels obligated to pretend that he's publishing a magazine rather than a website or a blog) Right now, I want to draw your attention to this story.

We come, once again, to the old, old question of conspiracy theories: When do these "forbidden" ideas become a dangerous psychological addiction, and when do they help us to establish truth?

Ramsey offers his piece as a riposte to a couple of those simplistic, smarmy "only dullards believe in conspiracy theories" articles that routinely appear in the mainstream press. Newspapers love to publish such pieces, even though they usually turn out to be drivel. I'm not saying that the writers of these pieces get everything wrong: The "conspiracy theory" underground is indeed a risible place inhabited by illogical, brutish, easily-manipulated people. But the mainstream writers who venture into that underground and try to map it out simply don't know the territory -- not the way I do, and not the way Ramsey does. Thus, mainstream writers invariably fail to make the distinction between baby and bath water.

(Have I mixed my metaphors again? Sue me.)
Neither piece considers that there might be ‘some powerful force[s] acting against the interests of ordinary people’ and both offer the canard – always a glowing indicator of ignorance of the subject – that conspiracy theories simplify. Some do: nonsense such as ‘the world’s ill are all caused by the Jews/Illuminati/whatever’, what have been called the mega theories, simplify. But much of what is dismissed as conspiracy theories – parapolitics or deep politics – does not. The work of William Blum, for example,3 in detailing the role of the CIA in the USA’s post-WW2 empire, complicates the study of American foreign policy (or would if academics and journalists could bring themselves to read it); and the work of the JFK researchers has produced almost unmanageable complexity. But then Blum and the better end of the Kennedy buffs aren’t offering conspiracy theories so much as theories about conspiracies.4 Mega conspiracy theories cannot be falsified because believers present an infinite regress of evasion strategies: ‘Yes, but....’. Theories about conspiracies – sometimes called event conspiracies – on the other hand are open to the same empirical investigation as any other proposition.

‘Conspiracy theorist’ as a term of denigration was introduced by the CIA for use against critics of the Warren Commission in 1967 and proved so successful at scaring-off the career-minded and the conventional that its use spread to encompass almost any line of inquiry which strays beyond conventional narratives.5 In the major media the charge of ‘conspiracy theorising’ is being raised these days because the rabble – us – are beginning to think the wrong things and ‘democracy’ threatens to express that. The perception that is currently giving the American and European elites the vapours is precisely that there is ‘some powerful force [or forces] acting against the interests of ordinary people’.
There's much more at the other end of the link. Recommended.

*  *  *

As ever:
Thanks to everyone.
I love you all, though I'm usually too cynical and cantankerous to make that admission. 






Comments:
Conspiracy Know It Alls, or CONKNOWs as I like to call them, have been getting government funding in many Western Universities. The public is increasingly reluctant to accept government assurances -- on anything -- and psych departments have agreed (for a fee) to isolate the disease and find a cure. Fake moon landings, Elvis sightings and chem trails are lumped right in there with the assassination of JFK and Israeli attacks upon the USS Liberty. Providing the political establishment has passed judgement on an historical issue then it becomes incontrovertible truth and those who differ are a strange breed of psychologically stunted people who want to make sense of the world by inventing non-existent conspiracies of vast official cover ups. The few scholarly articles I've looked at on this are insulting; the most crude psychological assessments imaginable, absolutely without any credibility because the authors refuse to set a scientific standard for separating conspiracy from fact. It's as if early biologists had decided to classify species by some system and lumped zebras, penguins and magpies in the same class because they are all black and white! The whole exercise is ill-founded.

It's great to see you back, Joseph. Continue to put your health first, and best wishes..
 
If you feel unwell report to a doctor immediately.
 
I do a gree with you that Assad is an improvement over Isis, but to totally deny that he gassed his people is too much. I talked to syrian family who are living here in the state. Members from their family were gassed and they are 100% sure it was the Assasd side who did. His security forces what they did and still doing is no huge improvement over Isis. At least isis claim there is some ideology(false) behind the atrocities but the assad security they butcher a whole village because teen agers wrote anti assad grafiti. THIS blind defense of this monster is wrong.
 
A friend introduced me to your blog some five years ago. We discuss nearly every post to this day. I admit, we had a moment of silence on your behalf when we heard about the widowmaker. Glad you got through the woods alright, Joe. Coworker of ours was hit with a slough of health-related issues of late, mostly caused by a high blood pressure condition left untreated for years.

Make sure you get the rest of yourself taken care of, repeats are usually worse than the first.

Take care. Looking forward to more cantankerous Cannonfire.
 
I second (or third, fourth, fifth...) the sentiment that it's good to have you back on the beat writing solid posts again, and also that you ought to head in to see your doctor posthaste to make sure everything's okay.
 
I love the thought that the neo-conns no longer want to be called that so they're going all out on rebranding. Will the spin never end;)

Take care
 
Anonymous 10:04 AM.........did this "Syrian family" provide any proof to back their being "absolutely sure"? Because if they didn't, then they are merely speculating without any proof. Much like Hillary Clinton and everyone else who immediately blamed Assad without any proof. All the evidence points to the so called "rebels" carrying out these attacks, so you'll need to provide a lot more than hearsay. Also, if Assad is so terrible, how did he get elected in an election that all foreign observers say was fair and Democratic? How are his poll numbers in Syria (polls conducted by outside agencies, no less) so high? The guy is obviously far from being a saint or anything close, but he protected various minority groups which ISIS wants to see dead (or at least removed from Syria).
 
"No serious person now accepts the fabrication that Bashar Assad gassed his own people."

Unfortunately that's not true, Joseph. Zombie memes persist in certain quarters. Website larabiya.net is a good example and seems to have cornered the market on blatant, highbrow, Right wing propaganda. Brooklyn-Middleton tells us that not only did Assad commit the Ghouta sarin attack but that he's planning more of them. Meanwhile, Azeem Ibrahim (his CV is unbelievable) provides "Five reasons why we must NOT censor ISIS propaganda", explains "Assad's Commitment to Killing" and why the "West’s backing of Assad would only help ISIS."

These guys aren't going away any time soon. Expect more lies.
 
fred...wow. To be honest, Azeem was not on my radar until I saw your comment. So I looked at his Wiki page and...and...

WOW.

How the fuck does that HAPPEN?
 
There does not seem to be a wikipedia page for an Azzam Ibrahim.
 
Welcome back, Joe. May Haruhi-kami-sama preserve your health.

Minor technical point: I suffer the misfortune of having Tom "Niedermeyer" Cotton as one of my senators, not my congressman. The current representative from my district is a standard-issue GOP finance-sector drone named J. French Hill.

No, not "J. Fred Muggs".

Or even "J. Floyd Gluggs". Vootie! ;)
 
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