Thursday, September 18, 2014

Feminist Limbaugh

Politico's Dylan Byers reports

On Tuesday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairperson Steve Israel sent a blast email asking supporters to sign a petition calling on Limbaugh's sponsors to pull their advertising from his program because of remarks he had made about rape. Israel characterized Limbaugh as saying, "…No" means "yes" if you know how to spot it…” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a similar email on Wednesday....

The email directed recipients to a form where they were required to fill out their email address and had the option of supplying their zip code. After giving their information to the DCCC, they are redirected to ActBlue and asked for a donation, preferably recurring weekly.

Limbaugh spokesperson Brian Glicklich told Politico "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails about Rush Limbaugh are an intentional lie, using 10 words carefully selected from his full comments to imply the opposite of what he actually said."  (An intentional lie? I hate those unintentional lies?) In response to Glicklich's response to Israel's response to Limbaugh's response to an apparently new policy at Ohio State University, the DCCC e-mailed Politico

The world according to Rush Limbaugh: women who use the birth control pill are ‘sluts,’ ‘no means yes if you know how to spot it,’ and anyone who dares question him is ‘reprehensible.’ There’s no context where no means yes, and that’s why thousands of Americans are responding to our petition demanding that his sponsors to pull their advertising.

Helpfully, Byers provided a transcript of the controversial statement (video, below):

Consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn at any time, and the absence of 'no' does not mean 'yes.'" How many of you guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that "no" means "yes" if you know how to spot it? Let me tell you something. In this modern world, that is simply not tolerated. People aren't even gonna try to understand that one. I mean, it used to be said it was a cliche. It used to be part of the advice young boys were given.   See, that's what we gotta change. We have got to reprogram the way we raise men. Why do you think permission every step of the way, clearly spelling out "why"... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen if even one of these steps is not taken?

Byers received this transcript.... from the Limbaugh camp. Yes, Glicklich- in defense- sent to Politico a statement including "Why do you think permission every step of the way, clearly spelling out 'why'... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen if even one of these steps is not taken?"  Further, Glinklich neglected to mention that Limbaugh, following a commercial break, added "I don't know how men can be held to that Ohio State agreement, policy, anyway, because everybody knows in sex men don't think with their brains. Not the one in their heads, anyway. It's just so silly."

It's just so silly.  Yet, the Limbaugh camp says the DCCC charged the talk-show host with implying the opposite of what he "actually said."  Actually, even the portion Glinklich quoted has the boss maintaining if men don't ask "permission every step of the way.... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen?"  Given that "lawsuits" is a four-letter word (until an individual has to file one), that would be a truly bizarre way of expressing concern about sexual assault on campus. As if to emphasize his point, Rush soon thereafter added (transcript of entire segment, here)

You ever notice that? I've never run across anybody who suggested that women need to be reprogrammed. I don't think I've even come across anybody who wanted to teach a girl how to throw right. They just accept it is what it is. But honestly, folks, it's always reprogramming men. It's always men who seem to provide or be at the root of all of these cultural problems. And if we could just make men less like men and more like, I guess, women, then we would be rid of all of these problems.

If he had any integrity, Limbaugh would own up to what he had inferred and defended it which, if his characterization of the Ohio State (or as they say there, "The Ohio State University") policy were accurate (a huge "if"), would be plausible for a humble guy who bills himself as "guaranteed to be right 99% of the time."

Limbaugh's audience, overwhelmingly conservative, knew exactly what he meant. But he's not supposed to be challenged because, in the conservative mind, merely questioning a statement is simply not to be done. It's all part of the sense of victimization carried around by the right and would be recognized  as a defining characteristic, were the media willing to notice it.

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The Elephant In The Room May Be Money.

Notwithstanding the obligatory slam of Israel, the flavor of C.J. Werleman's condemnation in Salon (and in Alternet, in which the piece originally appeared) of atheist Sam Harris, the West, and, above all, the U.S.A., probably is best captured when Werleman writes

We’ve spent the last half century waging and funding wars in the Middle East, playing one side off against the other, stoking ethnic rivalries, and arming regimes that inflict economic oppression upon their people. We’ve encircled the entire region with nearly 50 U.S. military bases and parked an aircraft carrier group permanently at their shores. The 17 Saudi 9/11 hijackers made their intent clear; they wanted the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia.

Yes, they did want the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia, though Riyadh begged to differ.  They also wanted to kill people, especially Americans, sort of a glaring omission in the author's analysis. Werleman spent eighteen paragraphs absolving not Islam but the entire Muslim world of any responsibility for terrorism in the Middle East.while finding space to condemn "Harris’ dehumanization of the Muslim world."    

Werleman does note "People don’t join violent gangs because it’s a wise career choice, they join because in some cities, gang life is the only career choice" but then, apparently convinced Syria is just south central L.A. with desert, contends "ISIS is a gang that profits from racketeering, prostitution, drug running, kidnap ransoms, and extortion." 

ISIS is more than a gang, and something quite different.  Though portraying ISIS as surviving only because of economic insecurity of its recruits, Werleman condemns the view of the Middle East as "endless violence and suicide bombers in waiting."  Sympathizers of ISIS can't be blamed, he implies, but we cannot criticize the region (except, of course, Israel).

Eighteen paragraphs and there is nothing about the stream of income which is undergirding the terrorism committed, and territorial gains made, by ISIS    Fortunately, Matt Stoller explains

ISIS, like Al Qaeda, is an armed and trained military group. Guns and training cost money, and this money came from somewhere. There are two Gulf states that finance Sunni militants — Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Both states use financial power derived from oil to build armed terrorist groups which then accomplish aims that their states cannot pursue openly. This occasionally slips out into the open. German Development Minister Gerd Mueller recently blamed Qatar, for instance, for financing ISIS. Qatar itself swiftly denied the charges and claimed it only funds Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is the other radical Al Qaeda offshoot militant group fighting in Syria.In other words, Qatar denied funding ISIS by saying it funds Al-Qaeda. It’s a sort of ‘we fund the bad guys who want to kill Americans but not the really bad guys who behead them on social media,’ a non-denial denial by geopolitical psychopaths.

Steve Clemons, one of the few members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment who sometimes speaks clearly about what is actually going on with the American empire, believes Qatar. According to his sources, while the Qataris funded the radical group Al-Nusra in Syria, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.” Clemons goes further, and discusses a very important American and Saudi figure, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States (as well as a Washington, DC socialite). Clemons writes, “ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria.”

In other words, ISIS got its start in Syria as part of the Arab Spring uprising, and it was financed by Saudi Arabia to go up against Assad. The Gulf states were using Syria to fight a proxy war against Iran, and the precursor of ISIS was one of their proxies in that war. It’s hard to imagine that today ISIS isn’t at least tacitly tolerated by a host of countries in the region, though its goodwill from neighboring countries may be running out. Today, ISIS may be self-sustaining, though it’s quite possible that money is still coming from conservative wealthy individuals in the Gulf states, money which originally comes from the West in the form of oil purchases.

In other words, Middle Eastern politics, and much of Western politics, is organized around oil money. In its economic consequences, the oil gusher of Saudi Arabia was similar to the Chinese trade in the 19th century that led to the opium wars. In the that episode, the British bought tea from China, but China didn’t want anything but precious metals from England, leading to a drain of what was then reserve currency to China. This wasn’t sustainable, so England attacked China in what was known as ‘the opium wars’ and forced the government to allow them to trade opium, which addicted large segments of the Chinese population (and eventually led to today’s drug war). Revenue from opium then balanced the cost of tea. The money that went from England to China was ‘recycled’ back to England by the opium trade. International monetary arrangements require such recycling, though it does not have to be so brutal.

In the 1970s, Saudi Arabia had something the West wanted — oil — but it didn’t want that much from the West. So we used a different kind of recycling arrangement (detailed by Tim Mitchell in his exquisite bookCarbon Democracy). Saudi Arabia got dollars, and those dollars piled up in Western banks like Citigroup, which started lending that money out to South American countries in the early 1980s. There were several other mechanisms to recycle what was called “petrodollars”. The arms trade really picked up in the 1970s, and continues today. Gulf states buy a lot of fancy weapons, which moves some of the dollars back to the West. They also have huge sovereign wealth funds, and buy Western corporations, banks, real estate, and assets, as well as the politicians that come with all of that. This ‘recycles’ dollars back out of the Middle East — Saudi Arabia returns some dollars, and in return it gets power and influence in the US.

Foreign policy in the Gulf states is also organized around petrodollars. The Saudis don’t have to fight externally, they can simply fund terrorism against those they dislike. The Saudi state, like all states, isn’t a coherent whole, but a set of elites that interact with each other. There are thousands of ‘princes’ who basically just get oil income, but any of them can act independently and many of them do. It’s a bit like the CIA doing things without the President’s explicit permission; there’s a reason it was the CIA, the Saudis, and the Israelis financing the Taliban jointly in the 1980s. This has benefits, because then the Saudi state can have constructive ambiguity around its own role in financing terrorism. It also risks blowback, in that groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda can decide to take on the Saudi establishment itself.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States is the most important diplomatic and military relationship that we have. The Saudis are the slush fund for whatever the US wants to do when it doesn’t want that activity on the books. It also fulfills an important role in the oil markets akin to that of the IMF in the international financial markets, by managing its oil surplus to ensure financial and economic stability. This means shifts in a mercurial theocratic kingdom where the Saudi monarch is in his 80s, and most of the population is young, poor, and extremely religious conservatives, can turn world politics on a dime.

Right now, the Saudi government is still attempting to manage fallout from the war in Iraq and the Arab Spring uprisings, as well as the vacuum of power left when the United States withdrew from Iraq. It’s likely that at certain points it funded ISIS as one part of that strategy. Now you might think that the Saudi government financing a terrorist group with stated aims to attack the United States is a one-off, an accident. I mean the United States funded the Taliban in Afghanistan in the USSR in the 1980s. But you would be wrong.

For some reason, attacking the United States seems to be a goal of certain elements of the Saudi Arabian government and financial establishment....

Even the U.S. government recently has turned its attention- sort of- to cutting off the financing of ISIS. The New York Times reports that the group reaps $1 million to $2 million a day from the oil fields and refineries in Iraq and Syria on territory it has controlled.   Long-term, the Obama Administration 

appears focused on persuading Turkey to crack down on the smuggling networks — some of which, one Western diplomat noted, “benefit a powerful Turkish elite” — and aiming at the refiners who would ultimately have to turn the crude oil into petrochemical products.  But gathering the intelligence is a slow process, analysts say.

And there are limits to which any American government is willing to uncover the money trail. Stoller reminds us

For some reason, attacking the United States seems to be a goal of certain elements of the Saudi Arabian government and financial establishment. Parts of the Saudi government helped organize the attacks on the United States on 9/11 (or least that’s what Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker alleges). That, at least, was apparently one conclusion of the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001", better known as the 9/11 Commission Report. Why wasn’t this front-page news? Because this particularly portion of the report, these 28 pages, were classified. Periodically members of Congress gripe about this. As early as 2003, Senators were demanding the Bush administration declassify this section of the report — Chuck Schumer, who has a security clearance and can read the report, pretty much said outright that Saudi Arabia was behind the attacks.

We can, as the Bush Administration did (and Stoller summarizes), enable and protect the Saudis (photo below from Eric Drapper/The White House via Getty of President Bush with the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.A. on 8/27/02 ).  We might, as the Obama Administration is doing, turn a blind eye to the Kingdom. We could, as prefers Werleman, cast the USA as the Great Satan (and Israel as a lesser demon) and pretend Middle East terrorists are no more than street thugs and hardly Muslim at all.  Or we could actually follow the money. That's a lot more difficult, but in the alternative, the region will remain unstable and a haven for terrorists and those who would bankroll them.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One Source Appears Reliable. The Other Is In The U.S. Senate.

Is there a mole inside the U.S. intelligence agency slipping information to Steve M. of nomoremisterniceguyblog?   On September 3 he quoted from a news outlet in the Twin Cities area which had reported

He was the second known American killed while fighting for ISIS in Syria, and the second from Minnesota -- and a Fox 9 exclusive uncovering his employment history is raising a few eyebrows.

An airport is probably the last place anyone would want a suspected terrorist to work, but before he died overseas, that's exactly what Abdirahmaan Muhumed did in the Twin Cities. In fact, he may have cleaned your plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

... Multiple sources tell Fox 9 News that, for a time, he worked at a job that gave him security clearance at the airport, access to the tarmac and unfettered access to planes.

Two former employees confirmed working with Muhumed at Delta Global Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines. Earlier this year, the cleaning contract was taken over by another company, Airserv....

SM responded

Think about it for one second: You're the leadership of ISIS. You make a big effort to recruit foreign fighters, and one of those fighters turns out to have access to secure areas at a major U.S. airport. What do you do? 

Well, if you're serious about conducting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, you don't put this guy on the front lines as cannon fodder. You send him to a training camp far away from the field of battle. Then you send him back to Minnesota in one piece. You don't squander an asset like this by getting him killed like any random soldier -- unless you don't give a crap about launching attacks in America.

Ten days later, the Huffington Post noted

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.

The Obama administration has said that the Islamic State group, the target of more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, does not pose an imminent threat to the continental U.S. The Khorasan group, which has not been subject to American military action, is considered the more immediate threat.

It's unlikely, then, that the group which wants to establish a caliphate in the Middle East and is willing to kill innumerable Muslims (and others) to do it is coming to get us, though other terrorist groups may have that in mind.   All the more irresponsible and reprehensible, then, that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would declare

[T]hey’re intending to come here. So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate...

This is a war we’re fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation! This is not Somalia; this is not Yemen; this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.

"They're" (probably) not "intending to come here." The President hasn't suggested "we can outsource our security."  It is "a counterterrorism operation,"   though if the Senator has his way, it will turn into a full-scale war.  The President has risen to the occasion, proposing an ambitious strategy which may or may not prove successful.  And no one will be killing 300 million-plus Americans.

Other than that, Senator Graham has it nailed. Or thinks he does.  But then he also "think(s) of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq" (video, below). And a few short months ago, was adamant that the USA overthrow Bashir Assad, whose primary enemy is ISIL. And in 2003 was adamant that Sadaam Hussein be overthrown because of those biological and chemical weapons Graham just knew the Iraqi strongman had.

Lindsey Graham could be called "hysterical." But that would be offensive.  So let's just call him "uncontrollably divorced from objective reality."

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