As ISIS pursues its genocidal dreams in Syria and Iraq, Bruce Levine asks, "whether we as human beings living in the most powerful nation in the world can stand by yet again and do nothing -- as thousands or tens of thousands of innocent human beings are slaughtered."
The question conceals a heavy premise: that we have the power to stop the slaughter if we choose to exercise it.
I do not deny the premise, at least in principle. If we unleash our full military and economic might, we can surely defeat ISIS forces and build stable, peaceful states in Iraq and Syria. But full mobilization and massive nation-building projects are not realistic options in the current political environment. We may muster the will for limited military operations in Iraq, but we're unwilling to do what it takes to succeed. Consequently, our efforts to stop the slaughter are doomed to fail and may make the situation even worse.
It is not only hard to write about the bloodshed in Israel and Palestine without taking sides. It is impossible for most people to read about the violence in Israel and Palestine without taking sides. So the debate bogs down into questions of justification and self-defense and proportionality: that is, into the utterly useless question of whether Israel or Hamas is more in the wrong. It may well be that one side or the other is more justified, or more culpable. But since the answering that question will not prevent even a single death, the question is meaningless.
The single most important thing Barack Obama needs to do about Ukraine is not to panic. The single most important thing anyone else in the United States can do about Ukraine is not to panic Barack Obama. Developments in the Crimea are extremely dangerous, and that's exactly why everybody needs to calm down.
It was a long weekend and I was devilishly busy and exhausted to the point of just plain weary, so you'll have to forgive me if I didn't get this right:
I read today that on September 27, 2010--almost three years ago--Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame checked a bag at an airport in Sweden containing three laptops filled with Wikileaks stuff, including some top secret "war crimes" information that, if it hadn't been stolen by some shady government dudes, would have knocked our socks off with revelations of dirty deeds so devastating, if they had ever, ever been revealed, the world as we know it might just stop spinning. Or heads would roll. Or Assange would be hailed as the hero he fancied he already was. Whatever. Something BIG would happen if ever those revelations saw the light of day. So, of course, they were stolen by one or more shadowy government dudes who were not about to let that happen.
One of the most startling things about the terrible events in Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the great-granddaddy of all Islamist movements, has blown its shot at governing the country, a chance the Brotherhood spent decades waiting and planning for. That does not excuse the military coup, and the Brotherhood isn't the only party to blame. But there's no point in pretending that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been defenders of constitutional democracy either, and their refusal to share power or respect civil process helped create the mess their country is in tonight.
Five weeks after a terrorist attack on Boston, President Obama has declared that the War on Terror, "like all wars, must end." If I had told you a year ago that he would make such a speech a month and a half after a high-profile terrorist attack on a major American city, neither you nor I would have believed me. But the lessons of Boston drive home the wisdom of the President's decision. It showed us that a terrorist attack is meant to be lived through and that Americans are ready to live through one.
The decision to bring "democracy" to Iraq displayed a deep and obvious contempt for democracy itself. George W. Bush considered the decision to begin a war his personal prerogative, and both the political establishment and the media establishment treated it that way. The war was inevitable; the decision had already been made. Not supporting the war was treated as foolish (because futile) and unpatriotic (because patriotism was defined as supporting the President's decisions).
When Justin Sisely announced that he planned to film a “Virgin Sells Virginity” porn, the media went wild, endlessly repeating a story based on nothing.
Now, that’s not a big surprise. What is a surprise is that after the announcement – heck, even before it – random dudes with lots of walking-around money started hurling incredible bids at Sisely, asking to be the male lead in said porno.
One of the latest growing crimes in Brazil is to rig explosives to ATMs, blow them up and get away with the loot. Here’s an ATM from my bank here in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil. This happened last week:
Forget about Benghazi. The whole imbroglio was little more than an election gambit gone sour. Republican leaders, frustrated that their charges failed to wound Obama in November, have vented their fury on his choice for Secretary of State.
But Susan Rice's record as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. raises other more serious concerns. The New York Times published two articles today, a news story and an op-ed, which question Rice's judgment concerning several African dictators.
"We must be vigilant," proclaimed Xi Jinping, China's new paramount leader. In his inaugural speech to the 25-person Politburo, he warned that rampant graft and corruption would "doom the party and the state" if it continued unchecked.
He has a point. From petty graft in far-flung villages to the regime-shaking Bo Xilai scandal, rampant corruption has fueled the social unrest that the long-toothed oligarchs fear so much. Payoffs have bumped China's vaunted high-speed trains off their shoddy tracks. Graft has nibbled away the roots of its famously fertile economy.
So tonight Mitt Romney is going to try to outflank President Obama on foreign policy. Romney doesn't know much about foreign policy, but both Romney and Obama represent long-standing traditions of American thought on international security. The President represents the practical tradition designed to guide policy by the party in office, whichever party that is. Romney speaks for the strand that is designed only for opposition figures.
PBS is running a BBC show centered around an English town called Kibworth. History of England's host narrator Michael Woods flits between an archeological dig, nearby fields and local archives to illustrate stories about British history. It's informative, but also funny to watch, because when an archivist or archaeologist pulls out some old parchment or bit of bone, Woods' enthusiastic gushing sounds much like the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. "That's a really nice tibia, dear." It is also clear that Brit reenactors have a lot more history, and costumes, to work with than Americans.
In Episode Four, Woods talked about Henry V putting down an insurrection of Lollards — heretic peasants led by Henry's old friend Sir John Oldcastle (a probable model for Falstaff). Henry's forces were alerted, dispersed and executed the insurgents forthwith, and years later Oldcastle was slowly burned at stake, but Woods blithely reassures the audience that the government eventually granted the religious freedoms they and their predecessors who followed Wat Tyler had wanted. So it was all good.
I've come back from a month overseas in time for the Glorious Fourth. I'm happy to have spent it back in my native land, in my own back yard, grilling a holiday meal. It would have felt a bit odd to extend my European adventure past Independence Day, or to celebrate it outside America. There's only one day a year when cooking a burger feels like an act of national solidarity, and only one day when listening to John Philip Sousa feels like a pleasure. I like spending that day in the States. And spending it anywhere else feels slightly unpatriotic.
I've spent the last month or so in Rome; our last night in the city happily coincides with the 2012 Euro Cup final, with the hometown Italia Azzuri taking on defending champion Spain. (And that's a happy coincidence, too: a rematch of each team's first game of the tournament.) Naturally, we're going out to watch the match. And just as naturally, I bought a game jersey (from a pile at my neighborhood supermarket).
I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning:
One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.
He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
A year ago, the very idea of someone printing a working, plastic gun on a home computer was considered futuristic. Today, schematics for several models are easily available on-line, and you can snag a printer at Home Depot. Currently these guns are capable of firing from one to four bullets. They cannot be detected, since the only metal parts are small springs and screws.
[....] In its short history as a state, Alaska has earned an unnerving epithet: It is the rape capital of the U.S. At nearly 80 rapes per 100,000, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Alaska’s rape rate is almost three times the national average; for child sexual assault, it’s nearly six times. And, according to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, the most comprehensive data to date, 59 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both.
By Peter Pomerantsev, The Atlantic.com, Sept.9, 2014
[....] “If previous authoritarian regimes were three parts violence and one part propaganda,” argues Igor Yakovenko, a professor of journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, “this one is virtually all propaganda and relatively little violence. Putin only needs to make a few arrests—and then amplify the message through his total control of television.” [....]
Now Russia is exporting its reality-reinventing model through the hundreds of millions of dollars that it spends on international broadcasters like the rolling, multilingual news channel RT (Russia Today) [....]