An ode to International Women’s Day
Behind this glass
you look at us.
And we look at you.
Behind this glass
you look at us.
And we look at you.
I come for the soju,
I stay for the pictures.
It’s George Harrison’s birthday. Here’s something to remind us why we should miss him:
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia closed today, and if you set aside the homophobia and generally strong-armed approach to governance by the host, one Vladimir Putin, these games were remarkable in just about every way.
The images of the opening ceremonies have lingered with me for the past couple of weeks. If you watched, you know that the creative team built their narrative around the highwater marks in the nation’s glorious history, honoring their accomplishments in the arts, literature, science and technology. Given Russia’s considerable heritage, the little girl’s interaction with Cyrillic alphabet primer, associating a historical moment with each letter, couldn’t help being an impressive reminder to the world of the nation’s rich cultural legacy. Continue reading
In an article at Foreign Policy titled The Disappeared, James Traub reports on journalists who have been kidnapped in Syria, either by Islamist extremist rebels or by forces for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At one point he was introduced to (emphasis added):
… Hamza Ghadban, a Syrian journalist. … He was convinced, as many rebel sympathizers are, that the regime has subterranean connections with the foreign jihadists. Continue reading
In a piece titled The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal at the Guardian, Julian Borger writes about how Israel began its nuclear-weapons program.
The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft [more on that down-post ― RW], include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway. Continue reading
The Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Sochi may have been the grandest show in history. It may also have been the grandest propaganda spectacle in history. It’s easy to get caught up in an artistic endeavor of that magnitude – I sat here with my jaw hanging open for a couple of hours – and the fluency with which President Putin’s creative department embedded a boldly geo-political program within some of the most breathtaking artistry we’ve ever seen. Continue reading
The sources of enmity between Iran and the United States are legion. In 1953, when Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh (also spelled Mossadegh) sought to make Iran a democracy and nationalize the oil industry, which was owned by British corporations, the United States helped plan and execute a coup. Then, in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter allowed the just-deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment, Iranian revolutionaries took U.S. embassy staff hostage. But, after 9/11, in a gesture of good will, Iran collected hundreds of Arabs who crossed the border from Afghanistan, deported them, and supplied copies of their passports to the United States. Iran also provided assistance overthrowing the Taliban and establishing the Karzai government in Afghanistan. Continue reading
Rural villages in Africa are not just poor, their demography is hollowed out. Continue reading
In light of how much it has invested in uranium enrichment, it’s unrealistic to expect Iran to abandon the process. At the National Interest, Colin Kahl explains.
Given the significant financial investment—estimated to be at least $100 billion—and political capital the regime has expended to master uranium enrichment, the supreme leader will not agree to completely dismantle Iran’s program as many in Congress demand. … If Khamenei senses [President] Rouhani and [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Zarif are headed in that direction, he will likely pull the rug out from under continued negotiations, regardless of U.S. threats to escalate the pressure further. Continue reading
Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
Happy Birthday, Supreme Leader. Continue reading
There are many parallels between Hitler and Stalin. On the personal level, they both liked to conduct all-night meetings. On a more critical level, the purge of the Red Army command that Stalin carried out before World War II in order to consolidate his hold on power left the Red Army ill equipped to handle Hitler’s invasion.
While Hitler didn’t order his army command, aside from those who tried to assassinate him, executed, he regularly demoted generals (only later to often promote them again). Continue reading
Mandela is dead.
Sunday afternoon in 1990. 11 February in Port Elizabeth. The height of summer, just after schools have returned for the start of the year. The wind howls as the air tears down South Africa’s long coast.
That day was calm. The country held its breath.
Thousands gathered at Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, about an hour outside Cape Town. They were waiting for the unhoped-for release of one man: Nelson Mandela.
I, 16 years old, poised in front of the television with my camera on a tripod. I knew it was probably futile trying to catch an image, but I wanted somehow to hang on to this moment. Continue reading
Despite the lack of a world war since and the Nuremberg Trials, which sent the message that war criminals would be held accountable by a world body in the future, it’s debatable whether the lessons of World War II have been fully learned. By that point, of course, the Western world just wanted to put all the death and devastation behind it and rebuild. But, the speed with which the United States pivoted to the USSR as an enemy and were back on war footing, where we remain as if terrorism and China were threats equal to Germany and Japan, suggests we still haven’t digested World War II. In fact, it should be central to our daily discourse on a daily basis. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago Larison reminded us that the costs of Iraq are still with us. Citing a new report on a new study about Iraqi war deaths, Max Fisher of the Washington Post and Larison both come to the same conclusion—the war was worse for the Iraqis than we’ve been told. Rather than getting better as the war went on, things didn’t get that much better at all, at least in terms of mortality. And what other measure is there, really? Continue reading
Every once in a while, I like to check the Federal Register. This is a vice I should indulge more frequently, apparently. This evening I indulged, and discovered this:
Designation of Officers of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence To Act as Director of National Intelligence
A Presidential Document by the Executive Office of the President on 09/25/2013
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq. (the “Act”), it is hereby ordered that:
Section 1. Order of Succession. Subject to the provisions of sections 2 and 3 of this memorandum, and to the limitations set forth in the Act, the following officials of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in the order listed, shall act as and perform the functions and duties of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) during any period in which the DNI and the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence have died, resigned, or otherwise become unable to perform the functions and duties of the DNI:…
This couldn’t get much hotter off the press if it tried, and it strikes me as a very big deal, indeed. Surely someone in the media caught wind of this, right?
Not that I can find.
A variety of news searches using Google turned up nothing on today’s presidential memo on succession for the role of Director of National Intelligence. For that matter, nothing came up about the memo when I search my news sources and blog roll in InoReader (the tool I use now that Google’s Reader is caput). That, however, is not to say that there wasn’t anything relevant out there.
Marcy Wheeler’s emptywheel had this fresh, new content today:
So DiFi’s [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA] idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.
It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly.
I love it. For that matter, Ms. Wheeler starts the piece off strong with:
Pentagon Papers era NYT Counsel James Goodale has a piece in the Guardian attracting a lot of attention. In it, he says the first step to reform NSA is to fire the liars.
Excellent. Ms. Wheeler might not have mentioned today’s succession memo, but perhaps Mr. Goodale did over at the Guardian?
This article is also from today, and it’s an excellent bit of reportage. Mr. Goodale ends it on this note:
Obviously, if this culture seeps into popular culture, lies and deceits will be easily tolerated – and we will all be the worse for it. President Obama should focus on this issue before it is too late. But it is not at all clear that he cares about it any more than Congress or the Justice Department do.
Interestingly, he also makes no mention of the memo hot off President Obama’s desk.
If this were a reshuffling of succession rules for just about any other agency, it would probably be among the dullest things ever. With James “The Liar” Clapper at the center of so much controversy, however, should we see this as just a bit of housekeeping minutiae? Or should we expect to see an announcement of Clapper’s resignation soon?
I hope so. Part of me will cheer. The dominant, cynical side of me will just wonder who will be signing Clapper’s checks next. My gut says he’ll still be an intelligence insider, just on a private contractor’s payroll.
Image credit: Official portrait in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Cross-posted from Ars Skeptica
Remember how innocently the Syrian rebellion began? In March 2011, as part of the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia, Syrians engaged in mostly peaceful demonstrations, though they did demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Ironically, his heavy-handed response – shooting demonstrators – began a process that posed more of a threat to his regime than did the demonstrators. Especially when jihadists arrived from outside Syria to ostensibly help the armed Syrian resistance that rose up. In fact, they sought to capitalize on the crisis in Syria with their version of the shock doctrine – that is, exploiting a crisis for their own purposes.
Concerns about jihadist control – however unlikely an opposition victory seems lately – is one reason Syria is better off (or less poorly off) with the Assad regime remaining in place. For example, writes C.J. Chivers in the New York Times,
While the jihadis claim to be superior fighters, and have collaborated with secular Syrian rebels, some analysts and diplomats also note that they can appear less focused on toppling President Bashar al-Assad. Instead, they said, they focus more on establishing a zone of influence spanning Iraq’s Anbar Province and the desert eastern areas of Syria, and eventually establishing an Islamic territory under their administration.
Another reason that Assad’s continuing rule is preferable is because it keeps chemical weapons out of the hands of jihadists, either through theft during the civil war or if they inherit ownership if the opposition won. At Warscapes, John McCreary, the veteran intelligence analyst who composes NightWatch, explains.
American strategists must recognize that [the chemical-weapons accord] deal is only good so long as the Ba’athist government survives in Damascus. Thus, the US promise to not attack Assad would amount to a protection agreement because the Islamists and the moderate Islamists will not make a similar guarantee. … even so-called moderate rebel groups announced that they recognized Israel as their enemy and would attack it if they came to power.
The US protective umbrella would also apply to Israel for the same reason it applies to the US. If the Islamists win, Israel would be under a chemical warfare threat. That threat goes away only if the Ba’athist government remains in power.
On the unlikely grounds that if the jihadists won, they’d establish the fabled caliphate, to the more likely grounds that they might not have compunctions about using chemical weapons as an instrument of war – instead of for internal repression, as it seems more and more probably that the Syrian military did, according to a UN report issued Monday – the least worst case scenario is that President Assad, the lesser of two evils, remain in power.
Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.