Sunday, August 23, 2015

On Gulf Cooperation Council's Understanding with ISIS

(Gulf Cooperation Council is imprecise shorthand for Saudi Arabia and aligned states such as Bahrain and Qatar)

I don't think there is GCC political will to fight ISIS. The anti-ISIS maneuvers have been anemic at best, where they have even existed. This was true before the Houthi coup which tried to change Yemen. Partially this is because GCC want to see Assad ousted, but they also want a resurgent Shia Iraq to be destabilized. Remember that Turkey has bought ISIS oil. And at least in the past, Gulf states helped fund ISIS.

ISIS is on some levels a continuation of the Iraqi regime that was trying to destroy Iran to solidify Saudi/Gulf dominance in the region (Iran/Iraq war). Remember there is some continuity from Baathist Iraqi elites and IS leadership today. The Houthi are a real threat to GCC states, but ISIS is at least composed partially of a GCC/Saudi ally - and remember the Saudis opposed the invasion of Iraq that toppled that ally.

I think quite a bit more is going on "behind the scenes" in the form of diplomacy (or at least calculation) by Gulf states toward ISIS. Even if there is no trust or communication line, there is an understanding - ISIS's existential threats are Shia Iraq and Assad in Syria - both allied with Iran. These are all Saudi enemies. Saudi Arabia is quite happy to have a Sunni thorn in their sides.

Moreover, ISIS is ruthlessly tactical (see leaked documents which show how ISIS used covert agents and power brokers to take over its cities). Tactical states in the region understand that there is a brutally rational core to ISIS which could possibly be negotiated with, or manipulated.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On the Founding Philosophy of Democratic Socialism

Democratic socialism means a democratic system with socialized (community/worker) ownership of production. Sweden is actually less socialist in terms of ownership as private firms are more prolific than corporations.* Of course, the decentralizing effect of shareholder systems is not useful if those shareholders are not workers (i.e. why US corps are frequently evil and undemocratic).

Democratic socialism can exist as a capitalist enterprise, I guess, but I don't think it has to. I support a more extreme view: socialism, that is democracy (not so liberal, but more communitarian) - democracy that manages production, which is owned by the people as a political asset, in the way that we share ownership over parks and government buildings.

So the distinction between state and worker/community ownership is based on how well that state represents the interests of its constituents. But this is why "state ownership" as shorthand is wrong for "socialism." Socialism relies on the premise that democracy cannot function properly alongside exploitative/.coercive capitalist systems, so that community/worker ownership needs to be represented as the foundation of the economic democracy.

This is just the same as the notion that local government should not be asking industry to ratify a convention to keep arsenic out of our drinking water. The industrial capitalists have no right to that veto. They also shouldn't be able to veto the right to basic living standards in an age of such incredible productive power.

*Sweden has robust labor institutions which are much more effective than corporate institutions at legitimizing policy based on consensus building, specifically by negotiation with private enterprise.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

67 of the largest Japanese cities were destroyed by the US before bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack on US materiel parked in the Hawaiian colony, B2 bombers were being produced for the US armada.  There was a national narrative in the US: they would be used to "burn Japanese paper cities to the ground."

And that is precisely what the US did.

Besides the historic imperial city Kyoto, all population centers in Japan larger than that of Hiroshima/Nagasaki had been destroyed in US bombings, bombings that themselves amounted to more destruction than the atomic weapons.

I don't use the term destruction lightly. Often, these were largely paper and wood cities, after all, and firebombs were specifically implemented in order to destroy as many civilian buildings and residents as possible.

If they had been American cities of the same size, it would look like this:

Cleveland Firebombed: 58% destroyed

New York Firebombed: 51% destroyed

Los Angeles Firebombed: 40% destroyed

Chicago Firebombed: 35.1% destroyed

San Diego Firebombed: 37.6% destroyed

Baltimore Firebombed: 55.7% destroyed

Miami Firebombed: 35.8% destroyed

Richmond Firebombed: 63.4% destroyed

Nashville Firebombed: 41.4% destroyed

...58 more cities, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


The tactic was mass human death. The same tactic was later used against Korea, Vietnam and Laos. The preeminent power in the region was Japan, and US policy for the region was to replace them with the US as hegemon, and Europe as secondary power. Japan was to be a subservient 3rd power to the US and Europe in the region, thereby securing US regional influence comprehensively.

In order to effect the level of desperation needed to control a new vassal, the US needed to teach the Japanese across their nation that they were under threat of death from US munitions at any time, and now that your cities are destroyed, let US capital expand to rebuild them. Japan was a fresh market, long the target of aggression from the US and Europe to open to US trade in an exploitable "free market" which would be dominated by the established, unfree markets in the US and Europe.

A Japan with deleted infrastructure, a decimated population and complete political capitulation was perfect for such market expansion.

The US had already wasted enormous productive capacity on destroying the cities. It was an investment impossible to neglect. It was also a sacrifice of human life meant to consummate the hegemonic, political and capital investment of the US.

The targeting of civilians was specific. These were political bombings meant to effect political change via the mass killings of civilians, meant to effect terror and acquiescence. In other words, the bombing of Hiroshima is the definitive form of "terrorism" as defined in official US doctrine.

It is a war crime to target civilians and civilian infrastructure; military targets are legitimate.

The US is the single most important potential target for International Criminal Court (ICC / Rome Statute) enforcement. It has the overwhelming power across the world, and it bears responsibility for terror far more than any other power today.

The principles used to bomb these and every other target of US aggression would result in punishment of insanely larger magnitude when applied to the US for its share of threats against the world. Quite literally, the entire US nation would be emptied if its foreign victims had equivalent revenge.

Revenge (for simply defying the US) is the very core of US justification for its corrective military engagements. Of course this hegemonic policy is illegitimate, criminal and incredibly destabilizing. Likewise, The WWII Bombings of Japan were illegal and immoral.

What We Should Have Done

Japan, a nation which was willing to negotiate (and thereby legitimize) a surrender, had the right to protect its citizens from an onerous occupation or any other stripping away of the human rights of its citizenry. If a criminal has rights under a just and legitimate legal system, a nation with millions of people with varying levels of responsibility have quite many more rights.

The right a nation or people has is to reason. Reason based on the capacity of our legal, moral and productive technology and advancement. Reasonable standards of culpability, resolution of conflict, restoration of rights and sustainable, legitimate institutions.

This is the only legitimate policy of democratic, pluralist systems. It is also highly sustainable, as it promotes the cooperation between populations based on legitimized authority, a shared standard with formal methods which can be audited, and the potential to eliminate political and economic relationships which provide exploitable populations for dominant powers.

Despite this, such comprehensive legitimacy and nuance was not needed to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese, and their cities. The US need simply to have agreed to a legitimate settlement negotiated with the rights of Japanese given rudimentary consideration at least.

The US could have stalled to enrich their position as they starved the Japanese economy and contained them. Loss of life is readily kept at minimum as actual threats to embargoes and occupations are dealt with piecemeal, as they usually are at the nadir of counterinsurgency style conflicts. The US only has to display a modicum of sanity to have protected human life quite comprehensively in its Japan strategy.

That is to say, the US need simply treat innocent human life as worthy of living. But the US chooses another form of policy: the legal doctrine that there is human life unworthy of life. It is this doctrine which precludes US deference to the ICC, or indeed any lawful activity impacting other sovereigns. Iraq somewhat recently requested this consideration - that US military eventually become responsible for acting within the law of the land in Iraq. This demand prompted Obama's pullout, as US sovereignty is considered the only legitimate sovereign in such a monopoly-power system.

The American State cannot be trusted with the power it possesses. That is true for the principles of legitimacy, democracy and stability, which are deeply undermined under a US hegemon. Much of US power should pass to international institutions, and much of the power over other states should never be accumulated in the first place. (city listing)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Presidential Promises

President's election promises are usually kept. It is true that elections are designed to mislead, but actual promises, and policy positions, are usually in line with what they do. The things progressive leftists care about, that is basic democratic objects of governance, are simply left out of media attention and/or the arena of acceptable discourse. The bulk of real, explicit promises are made to lobbyists and other groups that operate tactically to rout democratic state operations. As they are fulfilled, reporting is usually limited to professional and business magazines: "the only ones who care" according to our tightly-centralized media culture.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In Rout, Iran Agrees to Slash Domestic Energy Production

Under sanctions meant to foment unrest by causing humanitarian crisis in the state, Iran has given up key rights to its sovereign energy and technology development, reminiscent of its historical struggle to retain the value of its oil resources, a struggle primarily waged against many of the same Western powers who sought to maximize profit exports and provided far more profit-sharing to monarchist states in the region, which were treated by these powers as more legitimate than Iranian democratic representation.

The "sober" criticism is that Iran needs to "repent." Will US and UK repent on what they actually did to Iran? Jim Webb has repeated this obscenity. It's reported uncritically. So, too, are the "concerns" of gangsters like Netanyahu, who runs a vandal state which has undeclared nuclear arms and has NOT signed the NNPT (Iran has & follows the treaty, which is why it hasn't been invoked - they live up to their obligations).

Meanwhile, the US has shuttered its SMART obligations under Obama and has built newer, more ranged/accurate nuclear arms. Russia (much like in Ukraine, Georgia) has been late to the game - they recently announced plans to follow suit, and upgrade their arms. Perhaps we will be lucky enough to have a Kennedy brinkmanship 2.0 as our current and future administrations ratchet up the deadly game of arms races, arming monarchies and starving republics, and bankrolling ethnic cleansing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Chinese-Iranian Axis for Peace in Yemen

This is a pretty remarkable infographic released today by Al Jazeera outlining the forces for and against Saudi strikes on Yemen, which have been met with something akin to universal animosity in Yemen. NPR had a commentator describe Saudi Arabia as "the one thing that all Yemenis will agree on as being an evil for their country" this morning, and the report goes on to describe protests planned immediately after the strikes and speculation that the strikes may unite Yemenis against foreign intervention.

This is an excellent case study question any sane observer of geopolitics will have wondered: 'which states are working toward peace, and how?'. Saudi Arabia surprised the US government by carrying out tactical, self-interested strikes without US notification or approval. This flagrant violation of US international supremacy, coupled with a yet-undeveloped US media narrative on the situation in Yemen have produced a succinct image: the US-led international commitment to use force against the wishes of civil society in subjected states, for security / strategic interests foreign to the victim state:
-Al Jazeera

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Organizing a Free Society: Holons, Consumer Unions & Useful Language

This is partly a response to a post at Eos Horizons by Enrique Lescure, where he lays out some of the organizational doctrine for a liberated social society of production: On de-centralization and distribution: The arguments for a holonic system

In addition to eminent workers associations, a freely organized society needs consumer unions for creative input into the system as consumers not only for democratization, but also efficiency. My favorite moral/psychological philosopher Erich Fromm advocated for them as a revolutionary force and I think it is important as an element of any socialized society. Consumption is the other end of production and it is just as prone to exploitation if the consumer is disempowered - this can be especially true when consumers and producers are distinct, and when consumers are captive in any way (i.e. medical patients). 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Legal Responsibility to Maintain a State of Failure in Iraqi Institutions

National institutions have economic, political and security dimensions which all contribute to the legitimacy and stability of the nation. Liquidating or transferring any of these institutions will always have repercussions for all of those dimensions which reflect the changes put in place. The rebuilding regime was a corrupt transfer of wealth to US corporations hired to rebuild the sacked nation.

Foreign-imposed policies comprehensively limited the rights of Iraq and Iraqis from exercising legitimate influence over their own economy. This includes the limitation of rights that most Westerners would consider fundamental to capitalist economies, liberal democracies, and national states. Perhaps the most critical of these is the ability to regulate and manage the economic activity that occurs within your own borders.

It may be considered ironic that the most highly regulated market economies in the world (US etc) tend to impose the harshest free market economies on victimized peoples. These anti-Iraqi regulations might even be creating foreign-corporate command economies. Idealists like Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Alan Greenspan represent wholly distinct idealizations of a structure whose internal momentum will always find ways to create wealth and power transfers to a ruling class, destroying or delegitimizing everything from civil societies to nation states in the process.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Watch Al Jazeera English In the US - Step by Step Instructions

Al Jazeera English (AJE) has decided to cut off online streaming to the US rather gracelessly. This is an attempt to direct current US viewership to their new offering, Al Jazeera America (AJAM). But, like many people, I don't watch Al Jazeera on a television (if I do, I happily stream it from my netbook to TV) and I am not very excited about what is being blasted as "watered down" US coverage. I want to finish watching The French African Connection and I require the Empire episodes. I want the cautious political analysis of Marwan Bishara, not whatever CNN-inspired line the new advertiser elite who put together AJAM.

Ahead of the August 20th launch date for AJAM, AJE cut off all streaming to the US market. This was by no means a popular action - see Glenn Greenwald's excellent write-up on the issue (and while you're there, wish him luck with his recent battles with the UK/US over media free speech). Either way, here is how to access the AJE content from within the US:

  Edit 3-26-15: Tor has changed its structure - these are the new, easier steps to get Al Jazeera video streams in the US:

C. Click the orange "TorBrowser" button on the far top-left of the Tor window.
D. Click "Add-ons" (beside the blue puzzle piece icon)
E. Click "Plugins" (beside a blue 2x2 LEGO brick)
F. In the list, find "Shockwave Flash"* beside which is a drop-down menu. Choose "Always Activate" on that menu.
*(You may have to restart Tor if you don't see Shockwave Flash in the list - go back to step 'C' if that is the case).
G. Close the Add-ons Manager Tab (listed at the very top of the Tor window).
H. Navigate to and view your preferred content!*
*(You may find that Al Jazeera still thinks you are in the US and will not play video. Go to the next step to solve that problem)

Troubleshooting: sometimes Tor network uses an identity that is in the US, which will not allow streaming from AJE. Follow the next steps to fix this.

I. Click the small green onion on the top-left of the Tor window under the orange button.
J. Click New Identity; return to step 'H' to try streaming

If you are still having trouble with Flash Player, follow these steps:

K. Click the small green onion on the top-left of the Tor window under the orange button.
L. Choose  "Preferences..."
M. Choose the "Security Settings" tab
N. Uncheck "Disable browser plugins (such as flash)" and "Restrict third party cookies..."
O. Click OK
P. Return to step 'H' to try streaming
Q. If flash still doesn't work, return to step "C" to activate Flash Plugin. If AJE thinks you are in the US again, return to step "I" for a new identity.


Further Errata:

Revealed NSA involvement in the Tor project means that the security features we disable to activate Flash Player were weakening the "security" of a system heavily surveiled by the NSA anyways. I actually don't think that watching the channel variously endorsed by US presidents and State Dept officials will put you on any intelligence agency radar. But if you truly need your viewing habit protected and private, it is not likely that this (or any other online method) will accomplish that. Bulk data collection, that is mass surveilance in the form of internet "trunk" data copying means that our government has every means to collect every piece of data on certain routing lines, and enough time to decode anything it targets intensely enough.

Sensible measures should especially be in place should you be involved in practices targeted by the NSA (like whistleblowing of any sort) - keep your sensitive information on a disk that you don't access while online, and only access them from a computer you can certify is free of spyware/malware etc. etc. - preferably one that has its online connectivity totally deactivated.

(Below are listed the previous steps, in case they are still useful for anyone)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Into the Mind of the Commissar: Obama's JFK-Modeled Genocide; NPR's "Rogue Nations" Threatening US Impunity

Waterboarding: A rich US tradition of simulated drowning. Source: Time Mag.
Readers will be no stranger to the hypocrisy of the US national agenda: the disproportionate responses to the Arab Spring protests depending on the economic dependence of each client regime, the hysterical complaints about Syria's brutal crushing of its insurgency, when its neighbors in Turkey and Iraq received augmented military aid to offset spent capital in their wars against Kurdish peasants. Iraq was later criticized for using chemical weapons against the Kurds, namely White Phosphorus, supplied and replenished by the US military during their repression of the Kurds, and later used against civilian populations in Fallujah during US operations.

It was no surprise, then, that Obama endorsed the Kennedy doctrine during the Foreign Policy Debate:
"No, I don't, because I think that America has to stand with democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago."