Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last Call For Another Notable Miss For Brennan

Not only is John Brennan a terrible CIA chief, he was a terrible Counterterrorism Adviser to the President, as evidenced by this speech in 2011:

Our strategy is also shaped by a deeper understanding of al-Qa’ida’s goals, strategy, and tactics. I’m not talking about al-Qa’ida’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate. That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counterterrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.

Yeah, about that whole "absurd" and "never going to happen" thing there, John...

Perhaps it sounds glib to talk about the branding of an extremist Islamist group responsible for the deaths and oppression of thousands. But the branding or, perhaps more accurately, the idea of the Islamic State is exactly what attracts recruits and funding to the group. And even if its techniques have sometimes been crude, the Islamic State has clearly gone out of its way to promote its brand. 
What's really worrying is that despite all the confusion over its name, the Islamic State "brand" actually seems pretty solid — and worryingly global. It's distinctive black-and-white flag was flown in London last week, and leaflets supporting it were handed out in the city's Oxford Street on Tuesday. An American was arrested at a New York City airport this month after authorities were tipped off by his pro-Islamic State Twitter rants. The group has began publishing videos in Hindi, Urdu and Tamil in a bid to reach Indian Muslims. There are credible reports that the group is hoping to target Asian countries — and Indonesia is so worried that it banned all support for the Islamic State
The list goes on and on. Whatever you call it — the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, or something else — its brand is potent.

They're taking over big chunks of land in Iraq and Syria as well.

Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria have taken control of several towns in the northern province of Aleppo, according to reports from activists. 
The group seized the town of Akhtarin, 50km (30 miles) northeast of Aleppo city, where Syrian rebels are holed up. 
The BBC's Rami Ruhayem says that if confirmed, it would be a significant expansion for IS fighters. 
The group holds large swathes of Syria and Iraq, declaring the creation of a caliphate, or Islamic state.

Now, let's be clear here:  this mess can all be laid at the foot of Bush and Cheney.  But Brennan is terrible and while he's not going anywhere because of politics, the guy really does deserve to be shitcanned.

The Really Silent Majority

Welcome to post Citizens United America, which is nowhere near a republic, or even a democratic government, but one ruled by corporations and the billionaires who profit from them.

The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected. 
The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level." The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups

For the corporate elite, by the corporate elite.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose

We're just inconveniences to the richest people on earth.  If you want to know why billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson are so callow and dismissive of Americans, it's that they really do see us as vermin to be exterminated.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.
Ultimately, Gilens and Page conclude from their work, "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

The best Congress money can buy.  Even when we do get a decent person in the Oval Office once in a while, the laws that make it through Congress are so awful that the rich always win.  But there's this:

Rich individuals and business interests have the capacity to hire the lobbyists that shadow legislators in Washington and to fill the campaign coffers of political candidates. Ordinary citizens are themselves partly to blame, however, because they do not choose to vote.

A thousand, million times this.  When we don't vote, the machine wins.

Every time.

The War In Our Backyard

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri is heartbreaking.  Michael Brown was shot and killed by police and left for dead in the street for hours.  When the black community protested his senseless murder, the cops used military grade hardware and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Wednesday, the fourth night of protests, got visibly ugly.  Jelani Cobb was on the scene and posted this recount in the New Yorker this morning:

Nothing that happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on the fourth night since Michael Brown died at the hands of a police officer there, dispelled the notion that this is a place where law enforcement is capable of gross overreaction. Just after sundown on Wednesday, local and state officers filled West Florissant Avenue, the main thoroughfare, with massive clouds of tear gas. They lobbed flash grenades at protesters who were gathered there to demand answers, and, at times, just propelled them down the street. That they ordered the crowd to disperse was not noteworthy. That the order was followed by successive waves of gas, hours after the protests ended, became an object lesson in the issues that brought people into the streets in the first place. Two journalists, Wesley Lowery, of the Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, of the Huffington Post, and a St. Louis Alderman, Antonio French, were arrested. (The journalists were let go without charges; the alderman, as his wife told reporters, was released after being charged with unlawful assembly.) What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind a municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation.

Which was the point.  You give a police department military hardware and the authorization to use it, and American citizens, in this case the black population of Ferguson, looks like an insurgency that requires "counter-terrorist" measures to "contain".  The language the police have been using sounds like the kind of strategy deployed in Afghanistan:  "reaching out" to the population, working with "leaders" in order to identify "unethical actors in the theater" that may require a "rapid response".

The theater is suburban Missouri, not Anbar province or Fallujah or Balochistan.  The people there are not Kurds or Sunni or former Ba'athists.  They're Americans.

And this is war being waged upon us.


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