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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Spooks! Drugs! Theft! War!

"The Syrian Civil War." That's what Wikipedia calls it, but is the title accurate? The jihadis are mostly foreign imports, and the so-called "Free Syrian Army" is a joke. I propose that we ask Wikipedia to change its terminology, to better reflect the fact that government of Bashar Assad has been besieged by outsiders.

Such a change would constitute a genuine triumph -- one which would force Americans to think of this conflict in a new way.

By the way: In an earlier post, I noted a poll (by a British polling organization known for getting accurate results in conflict zones) which stated that Bashar Assad had a 47% approval rating in Syria, a higher number than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump can claim in this country. It occurs to me that Assad's number would zoom well beyond the 50% mark if the Syrian refugees came home. Most of those who fled Syria are Alawites, Christians, and Sunnis who left because they face persecution or death under the jihadis.

Bethany Koval is a 16 year-old Jewish girl in New Jersey who faces suspension from her high school -- for "bullying"! -- because her Twitter feed has been pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.
She said she became interested in politics over the last few years after realizing "I've been fed all kinds of kinds of propaganda and I started to question a lot of it." She said she joined Twitter because "I really wanted an outlet to express my views and find people who had similar views." Koval posted wide-ranging discussions of abortion rights, Hillary Clinton's record, and the Syrian civil wear. She said she has family in Israel and grew outraged about the country's treatment of Palestinians in 2014 after seeing video of civilians bombed in Gaza.
I'm not a fan of Twitter, but I like this brave young lady. She deserves to be read, and she deserves our support.

Bethany, if you ever read these words, and if you ever you want to dip your toes into Blogworld, I would love to publish an essay by you on the Palestinian cause. I cannot claim that this blog is important and powerful, but Cannonfire has been around for more than a decade, and words published here do get read. Every so often, the audience swells to a sizable number.

(For more on Bethany Koval's story, see here and here.)

Sandra Bland: The cop who arrested her has been arrested for perjury. I don't know precisely what happened to Bland, but I doubt that anyone truly believes the official story in this case.

You gotta love Michael Oren. Whenever this guy speaks up for Israel, he insures that the rest of the world hates that country just a little bit more. Right now, he is calling for a "hasbara Iron Dome" against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

A very telling phrase, that: Iron Dome (the Israel missile defense system) was an utter failure, as Norman Finkelstein has pointed out on many occasions. Something similar can be said about the hasbara (explanation) program online. So far, that task has largely been left to a group of sneering young Israeli students who can't explain how to tie a shoe without spewing "Fuck you, Nazi!" Being young and filled with resentment, these kids invariably alienate the very people they hope to persuade. If I had money, I would pay them to do that kind of "hasbara."

(The cartoon to your right is explained here, if any further explanation is needed.)

Every time Oren speaks, he reminds me of that marvelous exchange in Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry:
Brother-in-law: I know, I know: You think I'm filled with Jewish paranoia.

Harry (Woody): I think you're the opposite of a paranoid. I think you go around with the insane delusion that people like you.
That's the quintessence of Oren's whole act, isn't it?

Economic samsara: Phil Ebersole has come to an important revelation...
We used to call this Reaganomics. Now we call it neoliberalism. Many people thought it was a plausible response to the economic stagnation and high inflation of the late 1970s. I myself thought it was worth a try (more fool I). I wouldn’t have objected to making rich people richer if everybody else had benefited in the long run.

But this isn’t how things worked out. Instead:

Wage increases stopped keeping pace with productivity.
The CEO-worker wage gap took off.
The financial sector grew at the expense of manufacturing.
Wall Street profits skyrocketed.
The income gap between the super-rich and the rest of us widened.
Corporate debt, consumer debt and government debt rose.

What went wrong?

I now realize I misunderstood how taxes and incentives work. I thought that if corporations and investors could retain more income, they would invest more. But instead the incentive was for executives and investors to draw out more.

If corporate profits and executive salaries are taxed at a high top rate, then the incentive is to shelter profits from taxation by re-investing them. A high marginal tax rate diminishes the value of profit, but also the impact of losses, which can be deducted from taxable income.

The Better Business Climate model instead created incentives for what Leopold called Financial Strip-Mining—that is to say, extracting wealth rather than creating value. Investing in debt became more profitable than investing in production.

One example is the leveraged buy-out.
He then goes on to talk about Bain Capital and smarmy tricks like stock buy-backs.

By the way, most of this stuff was fairly obvious back in the 1980s. Neoliberalism was never anything more than a scheme to strip-mine the American economy. This country was never more prosperous or productive than in the heyday of Keynesianism.

Bulgaria and ISIS. Thierry Meyssan became notorious when he invented one of the most idiotic 9/11 theories; as far as I know, he has yet to apologize. Still, many years have passed, and perhaps he has earned some measure of forgiveness. This piece is intriguing: "How Bulgaria supplied drugs and weapons to Al-Qaïda and Daesh."

(Being a creature of habit, I still prefer the term "ISIS" to "Daesh.")

Bulgaria supplies the Captagon -- the drug fueling the Syrian war. We often forget that the monsters of ISIS are hyped up on crazy pills. In a sense, they are Sid Gottlieb's jihadis.

The first thing you have to know about modern Bulgaria is that the current prime minister is one Boïko Borissov. He likes to present himself as a corruption-fighting patriot -- but according to Meyssan, he's more like a James Bond villain.
In 2008, the German specialist in organised crime, Jürgen Roth, qualified Boïko Borissov as a « Bulgarian Al Capone » [4].

Having himself become Prime Minister, and while his country was already a member of NATO and the EU, he was solicited by the Agency to help in the secret war against Mouamar el-Kadhafi. Boïko Borissov supplied Captagon, manufactured by the SIC, to the al-Qaïda jihadists in Libya. The CIA rendered this synthetic drug more attractive and more powerful by mixing it with a natural drug, hashish, which made it easier to manipulate the fighters and make them more terrifying, in line with the work of Bernard Lewis [5]. Following that, Borissov extended this market to Syria.

But most importantly, the CIA, using the profile of an ex-Warsaw Pact member which had recently joined NATO, bought from him 500 million dollars’ worth of Soviet-type weaponry and transported it to Syria — mainly 18,800 portable anti-tank grenade launchers and 700 Konkurs anti-tank missile systems.
I'd feel better about pursuing this line of investigation if the information came from someone I trust more than I trust Meyssan. Still: Interesting stuff, and worth double-checking.

(Before you comment: Please re-read the rules in the upper left-hand corner.)

"I polished that handle so carefully..." Victoria Nuland, as you know, has been doing all sorts of mischief in the State Department on the Russian front. How did she get the gig? What are her qualifications?
...but Victoria Nuland? Are you kidding me? She basically took a course in Russian literature as an undergraduate and that is the level of her expertise in Russian affairs--not to mention her references to Europe with obscenities.
Wow. I took a course in Russian literature at UCLA -- and did rather well, actually. Can I have Vicky's job? Betcha I can do it a whole lot better...

In light of my recent health scare...
In recognition of the amazing generosity of my readers...
This one word, insufficient as it is...


I think you may be overly optimistic regarding Wikipedia's ability to process politically neutral facts. If it comes from NYT, Reuters or a similar venerable institution of journalistic integrity it is essentially word of God. Relying on the word of experts in the field or even hard facts generally won't pass muster unless they're supported by a recognizable and respected source. Just look at their opening statements on Syria:

"The unrest began in the early spring of 2011 within the context of Arab Spring protests, with nationwide protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government, whose forces responded with crackdowns."

Now, as far as I recall, the protests in Dara where as far from "nationwide" as you could possibly get and remain in the same state. Despite Damascus and Allepo having the vast majority of Syria's human rights and democratic reform groups, there were no major protests in Damascus at the time. In fact, efforts by online activists to rally 'pro-democracy' protestors drew only a small handful of people who soon dispersed. Instead it was the literal border town of Dara, home to a hardcore of militant extremists, many of them fresh from Libya, were protests began.

While Wikipedia mentions these, it tries to paint them as part of some national uprising against the government rather than an isolated regional, and religiously motivated, protest movement that was, from the very outset, manipulated by the Western press who inflated its size (boosting Dara's population more than threefold) and exaggerating government use of force while downplaying that of the 'protestors'. While Wikipedia now acknowledges that buildings were burnt and security personnel killed even during in the earliest stages, for the first years of the conflict this was ignored by the mainstream press (and even now it tries to downplay its relevance).

The problem with Wikipedia is that you may not even be dealing with hasbara-type government sponsored propagandists, the vast majority of its editors are people who feel educated about specific subjects because they follow the mainstream news or have taken college courses in related subjects. I've met journalists who've written editorials on Middle Eastern problems who know vastly less about the subject than what you have shared here, and many professors at respected universities who claim to be experts in areas of international security who are utterly unaware of the depth of information and insight that can be found at blogs such as Moon of Alabama. In both groups straying too far from 'accepted wisdom' is seen, rightly so, as being inimical to the development of one's career.

Rather than hoping to change Wikipedia it would be far better to create an alternate too it. Not so broad in scope, of course, but for subjects of import having a organised repository of the nuggets of data-gold that sites such as these regularly unearth, would be invaluable.
Civil wars are rarely civil wars. Look at the Spanish Civil War. Or the Russian Civil War. Or the Kurdish Civil War.

I don't know how popular Obama is in America but he seems to be quite popular here. Today I encountered a man, over ninety years old he said, who was very fond of him. Between talking about Cameron robbing the working class and what I think was intimations of the Muslims taking over, he let on that he thinks Barry is well intentioned, but isn't able to get things done because of the people around him. Also, he thought Barry wanted to take all of your guns, and he was very in favour of that. Also, he thought the best time in history was the thirties to the fifties. Buzzbombs, death, rickets, lovely, no doubt.

You may remember Bulgaria being involved with Gladio operations, the attempted Popicide and similar shenanigans back in the Cold War period.
no You can't have ms vickies job because you didn't marry into the family of rage.

May be next time;)
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