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Thursday, April 28

Working Dog

Thanks Sputnik for scooping this one up from YouTube.  The video is amusing but the idea behind this working dog isn't funny because dogs as with humans really need to work. Dogs tend to become neurotic and depressed when they don't have responsibilities.

Wednesday, April 27

Breaking News: Blast Near Central Mosque in Turkey's Bursa Wounds at Least Three

Just posted as breaking news at Sputnik, no details at this time. 

Tuesday, April 26

Emboldened by Merkel's capitulation Erdogan sends large armed convoy to Syrian border

April 24, Euro News:

The Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu took German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council president Donald Tusk on a tour of a refugee camp on Saturday.

Nizip camp in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, close to the border with Syria, is home to some 5,000 Syrian refugees.

The visit came as both sides seek to bolster the EU-Turkey deal on migrants.

Germany is now backing Turkey’s idea of ‘safe zones’ for refugees in Syria along the Turkish border.

At a press conference, Merkel told reporters: “Such areas can easily be identified near the Turkish-Syrian border and we have advocated that a lot of effort be invested in this. The safer people feel, the less they need to leave their homeland. That’s why we believe this to be very important.”

The UN and aid agencies have previously warned against the so-called’ safe zones’ saying the safety of refugees could not be guaranteed.

Davutoglu also took the opportunity to remind the EU that visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens was a vital part of the migrant deal.


April 25, 8:40 PM -  AMN

Large Turkish Army convoy heads to Syrian border (Updated April 26)

A large convoy of Turkish Army reinforcements arrived to the border-city of Kilis on Monday morning after the recent increase in violence split over from the Syrian province of Aleppo. 

This increase in fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has prompted the Turkish Army to expand their presence along the Syrian-Turkish border to ensure the safety of civilians living in Kilis and its surrounding area. 

However, many observers in northern Aleppo believe that the Turkish Army is actually waiting for the predominately Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) to attack the Syrian border-city of Jarabulus.

If the YPG and their allies from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) make a push to Jarabulus; this will without a doubt result in an attack by the Turkish Army, despite the fact the Kurdish forces are fighting Islamic State of terrorists.

[END REPORT; two additional  photos of convoy in the report]


Monday, April 25

The Tale of Sathya Sai Baba and the Two Rascals

The incident was recounted to me by the person who was both an eyewitness and a participant, an Indian-American I'll call Ravi.  

Ravi was born and raised in the USA of Indian 'expat' parents who were devotees of Sathya Sai Baba. I can't recall exactly how old he said he was when they took him to meet Sai Baba but he was about 6 years of age. He had no interest in meeting Sai Baba; his interests were baseball and Spiderman. But Sai Baba managed to make a favorable impression by volunteering that he was a Spiderman fan then discussing Spiderman at some length with Ravi.

So in Ravi's mind if Sai Baba was God, as his parents believed, God was pretty cool.  And so a few years later he had no objection when his parents asked if he'd like to attend Sai Baba's summer school for boys. 

When the school ended he spent a short time at Sai Baba's large ashram, Puttaparthi, before returning to the USA. One day while there, he and other schoolboys were talking with Sai Baba in the temple. Then, realizing it was time for people at the ashram to attend darshan (seeing of a deity or holy person, which is considered a blessing) they paid their respects and left -- all but Ravi because Sai Baba kept talking to him and it would have been rude to cut him off.

Finally he sensed that Baba was talking just to talk. Ravi looked at his watch pointedly and interjected that he had to leave because it was time for Sai Baba to give darshan. 

Sai Baba replied that darshan could wait and kept chattering.

That struck Ravi as wrong; hundreds of people were sitting patiently on the hot sand waiting for darshan. He told Sai Baba that it was his duty to put in an appearance to those people and that he had to do his duty.

Sai Baba took him to the window and pointed to a man seated in the middle of the front row of the men's side of the darshan line. 

He said, "You see that man? He wants Swami to kill his wife for him. The man sitting next to him wants Swami to ruin his business partner. Swami can't go outside for darshan today."

Ravi retorted, "You're God. You should be able to figure out how to deal with this problem."

Sai Baba frowned in concentration then exclaimed, "I know! Watch!" He began moving his right hand slowly in a small circle that got wider and wider. As he did this the sand in front of the two men erupted in a 'dust devil' -- a mini-cyclone -- forcing them to squeeze their eyes shut.

Then Sai Baba ran outside and while the men were choking on swirling sand he sprinted along the darshan line, blessing babies in record time and grabbing letters of request offered him. Then he ran back into the temple without the two rascals ever having darshan, whereas everyone else in the gathering did.   

*  *  *
(So I was wrong, when I assumed at the time I was bitten by a poisonous snake, which was before I met Ravi, that Sathya Sai Baba never ran.)

Now here we arrive at the part in my tales about Sai Baba where I ponder whether I should provide you with my analysis of the incident's social, religious and spiritual implications, or just tell the story. [tossing a coin] Ah. I see you were lucky this time.


Sunday, April 24

The more females in U.S. politics, the more Americans view politicians as corrupt

On April 16 John Batchelor interviewed Ellen R. Malcolm, co-author of When Women Win: EMILY's List and the Rise of Women in American Politics. EMILY is an acronym for the sentence "Early money [for political candidates] is like yeast." John's questions for Malcolm gave no hint of the downsides of the amazing success that financially well-off feminists achieved at bringing gender equality to U.S. politics. But then the downsides are evident to any American who's been paying attention.

One downside is evident even to those who pay little attention:  As the decades have rolled on Congress increasingly became America's most disliked institution, until things reached this desperate state last year:
Majority of Americans See Congress as Out of Touch, Corrupt
September 28, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- However the likely drama over how to fund the government past Sept. 30 unfolds, most Americans appear to have little faith in most lawmakers to do the right thing. 
Majorities believe that most members of Congress are "out of touch with average Americans" (79%), "focused on the needs of special interests" rather than the needs of their constituents (69%) and corrupt (52%). Americans are less critical of their own representatives, but substantial percentages say their own member of Congress is out of touch (48%), focused on special interests (47%) and corrupt (32%).
These results come from Gallup's annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 9-13. By any measure, Congress is not a popular or trusted institution among Americans. The body's current approval rating, 14%, is typical of its ratings over the past several years. Earlier this year, Gallup found that fewer than one in 10 Americans (8%) have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.
Traditionally, Americans have been less critical of their own members of Congress, but last year the percentage of U.S. adults saying their own representative deserved re-election dropped to a record low.

Bottom Line
Majorities of Americans view most members of Congress as corrupt, beholden to special interests and out of touch. This is not new and perhaps not even surprising, given the low esteem in which Americans hold the institution. But this cynicism is beginning to influence Americans' views of their own federal representatives, not just the national legislature. Record or near-record numbers of U.S. adults say their local representative is out of touch and focused on serving special interests rather than their constituents.
Now there are different ways female politicians can spin the Gallup findings:
  • They can say they never promised to be more capable or less corrupt than male politicians, just that there should be an equal number of corrupt and incompetent males and females holding political office.
  • Female politicians could demand that they gain the majority of political offices in the country as the only way to counter bad male politicians. They could even ratchet this demand to 100 percent, with the problem being what they'll do if corruption and incompetence stay the same or worsen when no males hold political office in the USA.
There is also the rational approach: trying to understand how a democratically-elected government in a republic got to be as corrupt and incompetent as one run by a tyranny. I don't think it takes much digging to see how this came about.  

You see these weren't only feminists who started EMILY's List; they were largely "Liberal" Democratic feminists -- many outright Socialists. So their idea of bringing gender equality to political elections included backing female politicians who'd carry forward what could be called nurturing government. Its detractors called it the Nanny State; in answer, supporters pointed to West European countries that had successfully created all-encompassing nurturing programs.

The supporters didn't mention that European governments could to some extent afford the programs because American taxpayers were shouldering the lion's share of Europe's defense-spending burden. Such discussion was verboten in public in the USA in those days because it implied criticism of NATO.

They also forgot to mention that the populations of individual West European countries were tiny next to America's. This meant the Europeans didn't have to go hundreds of billions into debt to sustain nurturing government, whereas Americans did.

It also meant that the United States began getting away with the impossible -- carrying Europe's defense burden while at the same time vastly expanding its own nurturing government programs. There was only one way to keep doing the impossible: kite checks, in effect, in larger and larger amounts at a faster and faster pace. 

In other words the American federal government began greatly abusing the U.S. dollar's reserve status and in the process becoming dependent on governments that actually aren't U.S. friendlies -- Al Saud and China's, notably.        

Something else was going on as EMILY's List got more and more Democratic women elected to seats at the state and federal levels: corruption and waste skyrocketed as nurturing government programs that female electives pushed through got unmanageably large. As consequence American government, and indeed American society itself, was taking on the behavior of a banana republic.

By the turn of this century Americans -- both men and women -- were recognizing that the U.S. Congress had turned into a juggernaut. The systems set in place to monitor the Congress were overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. The electorate's trust in elected officials plummeted. The Tea Party movement, created in a part in the backlash against government corruption, was chewed up by the system it was supposed to fight once it got to Washington.

If it had ended there, one could wring a simple moral from the story:  What EMILY's List proved beyond a shadow of doubt is that when it comes to the quest for worldly power there is absolutely no difference between the male and female psyche. Both are equally capable of treachery and betrayal of the public trust; both are equally adept at keeping silent to protect a corrupt system that keeps them in power.  

But the story didn't end there. Check kiting wasn't enough to sustain the nurturing society in America. A giant defense industry had to be created to reliably bring in large amounts of tax revenue. This wasn't terribly hard during the Cold War but once the Soviet Union dissolved a long-running conflict had to be scared up to justify the continued existence of the industry -- and from the European side, to make sure the U.S. continued to fund NATO.

And so for me, at least, it came down to a day in August 2008 when I typed with shaking hands, To any and all U.S. forces in Georgia: STAND DOWN before publishing the post at my blog and babbling a prayer to God to save us all.

I still remember then-SecDef Bob Gates saying to a reporter a short time later that the U.S. wasn't going to start World War Three with Russia over the issue. But you do not want to think about how close we came to a nuclear confrontation with Russia over South Ossetia -- a place most Americans had never heard of before and couldn't find on a map.

Meanwhile nurturing government in Western European nations had evolved a dependency society that couldn't even be bothered to procreate enough to sustain itself. This led to massive influxes of foreign work forces that formed an angry permanent underclass which resisted assimilation. On top of these external migrations came massive, rapid internal migrations as the European Union became borderless. All this migration was encouraged and supported by cradle-to-grave state benefits. 

By the start of this decade it was clear that despite arguments to the contrary from American Liberals and self-termed Conservatives, U.S. society was following Western Europe's trajectory. 

It's a trajectory that so greatly overwhelms resources, honest and capable government becomes impossible. So American female politicians and the EMILY's List donors can easily defend themselves against the charge that U.S. politics has become more corrupt because women joined the political ranks. But the women who propelled other women into political power in the USA should acknowledge that they got away with expanding an incredibly destructive social agenda just because they were using female politicians to do this. 


From book review at Amazon site:

When Women Win: EMILY's List and the Rise of Women in American Politics by Ellen R. Malcolm and Craig Unger

Malcolm, the founder of EMILY’s List, delivers a lively, fast-paced history of the influential political action committee that helps elect pro-choice, Democratic women. Drawing on interviews with Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and others, she highlights the organization’s impact on elections over the past 30 years, most notably by giving selected candidates donations early in their campaigns (EMILY is an acronym for “early money is like yeast”). 

The book covers EMILY’s List’s evolution, since its 1985 founding, from a fund-raising organization to a “multi-pronged, full-service political operation” with three million members that has helped elect 110 Democratic women to the House and 19 to the Senate, including Warren. 

Malcolm also emphasizes the dramatic effect of Anita Hill’s testimony on the female electorate and the importance of women voters to the Democratic Party. The book shows that EMILY’s List’s biggest contribution may be to make women in Congress seem so familiar that voters are now far more likely to judge women on their records and character than on their gender.
—Publishers Weekly

SecState John Kerry should quit lying about Syria

Today, on Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Christian calendar, Saudi-backed "militants" shelled the predominately Christian city of As-Suqaylabiyah in Syria as large numbers of Christians gathered to celebrate. AMN's breaking news report has video of the Mass inside Peter and Paul Church while explosions occur outside, during which one person was killed and four were wounded, so far. 

AMN CEO Leith Fadel noted at his Twitter page:
On Palm Sunday, the terrorists decided to bomb churches in the Christian cities of Mhardeh and Suqaylabiyah
All this talk about "saving Christians of the Middle East" -- you arm the people killing them! They're being killed by US weapons
They're being killed not only by U.S. weapons but also with weapons made in other countries that the U.S. government arranges to ship to Syrian 'rebels' -- who then outright sell them to Islamic State, Al Qaeda groups, etc., or 'lose' them to such groups during clashes. From an April 8 IHS Jane's 360 report filed by Jeremy Binnie and Neil Gibson in London at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly; emphasis mine:
US arms shipment to Syrian rebels detailed
Documents released by the US government's Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website have provided an indication of the types and numbers of Eastern European weapons and ammunition the United States is providing to Syrian rebel groups as part of a programme that continues despite the widely respected ceasefire in that country.
The FBO has released two solicitations in recent months looking for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Eastern Europe to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on behalf of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.
Released on 3 November 2015, the first solicitation sought a contractor to ship 81 containers of cargo that included explosive material from Constanta in Romania to Aqaba.
The solicitation was subsequently updated with a detailed packing list that showed the cargo had a total weight of 994 tonnes, a little under half of which was to be unloaded at Agalar, a military pier near the Turkish town of Tasucu, the other half at Aqaba.
The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems.
The Faktoria is an improved version of the 9K111 Fagot ATGW, the primary difference being that its missile has a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA) fitted to some tanks.
The rest of the report is behind a subscription wall at Jane's but one of the authors understandably considered the information so important that he published the entire report at his Twitter page. 

Since the report the ceasefire has been badly frayed under the onslaught of well-armed 'moderate' groups, a situation that the U.S. somehow blames on the Russian and Syrian governments.  

What the United States and its allies are doing in Syria is a war crime. Arguably the crime includes ethnic cleansing and possibly also genocide against the nation's Christians. But just because such arguments can be made, the U.S. civilian government and its military engage in subterfuges that would make it hard for a tribunal modeled on the 1942 International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg to prosecute them for crimes against humanity. 

Yet one would think that after the Janes report the U.S. government would at least be more careful in its language about Syria. From Peter S. Goodman's April 22 report for The New York Times, Russian Military Buildup Near Aleppo, Syria, Threatens Truce, Kerry Warns, clearly this is not the case:
The United States has so far resisted giving increased lethal military aid to nonextremist opposition fighters, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons that would render Russian aircraft vulnerable, but could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The Times didn't pull that sentence from thin air; while it isn't a specific quote Goodman's entire report is based on Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting last week with the Times Editorial Board. The Board had surely seen the Janes report and wanted answers before they carried any more water for the Obama Administration on the matter of  Syria. The Times has mutinied before against President Obama's prosecution of the War on Terror -- notably regarding Afghanistan -- and could do it again.   

The gist of Kerry's response to the Board's grilling was to double down on misrepresenting U.S. actions in Syria and the entire situation there. Yet I don't know what he thinks he's asking the Times to accomplish given that this is not 1990. Everyone who's actually following the Syrian War is using a variety of sources, including AMN, which are outside the reach of the American propaganda machine.

Short of blocking a long list of websites the U.S. government will have to keep coasting on the hope that the majority of Americans aren't paying close attention to Syria. Or Iraq. Or Turkey. Or Jordan. Or Lebanon. Or Libya, and the list goes on and on.


Oh heck, SouthFront is broke again

They have to get themselves straightened out -- and they know it -- but please send them more money to tide them over for the rest of this month.  

April 22, 2016

Dear friends!
In just 8 days, SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence will be forced to reduce broadcasting significantly.
We are searching for a solution to avoid this, but its clear that if the situation does not change, there will be no more daily video production.
For a long time, SouthFront Team has been able to produce exclusive video, design and analytical content on a daily basis only due to your constant support. Thank you for this!
As donations grew to the desired level in December through March, the SouthFront team was able to produce high quality content on a daily basis. Your invaluable support and encouragement allowed SouthFront to hold the content production and increase its quality.  During these 4 months we collected about 90% of the needed monthly budget.
However, the amount of donations received so far in April are not enough to keep the project alive with as high a number of original content that we have become accustomed to. By April 22, we’ve collected only about 45% (2466 USD) of the monthly budget (5000 USD). The SouthFront Video-Design Team isn’t able to make ends meet on such a limited budget, because producing videos for the project on a daily basis is demanding work which doesn’t allow any time to concentrate on other projects or another job successfully.
In light of current constraints, we will make all possible efforts to keep producing high quality content.
If you’re able, and if you like our content and approach, please support the project. Our work wouldn’t be possible without your help:
PayPal: southfront@list.ru

OR via: http://southfront.org/donate/
OR via: https://www.patreon.com/southfront
Sincerely yours,
SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence Team
[There's also a "donate" button at their site]

I just love it when an Englishman loses his temper

Hat tip to Leith Fadel's dad, who's too old to be fighting so he has to content himself with cheering on the Syrian Army and hurling invectives at the bad guys from the pages of his blog, Syrian Perspective

Story about Leith: he was cautioned some time back by well-wishers that now that he had a right proper news site (Al Masdar News), he had clean up his language -- no yelling like his dad, e.g., 'Hooray more of the rats blown to bits' and in general be more professional in his reporting. He took the advice. So he saves his uncensored opinions for Twitter; e.g., his comment on a news report that the Syrian Army was dropping leaflets urging some group or other of 'rebels' to surrender: Stop dropping leaflets and just bomb them. 

Or maybe he wrote "the goddamn leaflets" but you get the picture. It's a wonderful Twitter page, a cure for Syrian War Blues, as well as a great source for breaking war news.
Oh well, as long as I'm filching from Ziad Fadel I might as well toss in the photoshopped perp walk a reader sent him: 

Can't figure out how Trump got in the act, though, because I can't see at this point how he'll make it to the White House.


Sunday, April 17

Stop complaining about Americans or we'll save your nation next

Aleppo, one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, before Americans strove to help save Syrians from their government

Aleppo, after Americans helped

Afghan women in Kabul before Americans helped save them from Soviet Russia

Afghan women in Kabul after Americans helped

Sirte before Americans helped save Libyans from their government

Sirte, after Americans helped

Clearly Mr Abdul-Rahman doesn't understand American benevolence.
Residents of Muammar Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte are struggling to come to terms with the destruction and humiliation of their city, a former fishing village which once had aspirations to be the “capital of Africa”. During an eight-week siege, much of Sirte was reduced to rubble by NATO and US-backed rebels. ... “We never expected such destruction,” said a resident who gave his name as Abu Abdul-Rahman, pointing to his bullet-riddled television and broken furniture. “Is this what they call a revolution? We chose to flee instead of fighting and still they destroyed our homes.” He added: “They treated us like animals who didn’t deserve to be protected.” ... “We lived with Gaddafi for 42 years. He never attacked our houses with his army,” said another Sirte resident, sitting in his damaged house.
Composite photo of  historic Maidan Square before and after Americans began
to save Ukrainians from Vladimir Putin

Tender-hearted Huffpo was distraught about the photos: Incredible Before And After Pictures Of Kiev's Devastated Independence Square (February 2014):
Three months ago, Independence Square, know locally as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, was the peaceful centrepiece of the ancient capital of Kiev, with an architectural history dating back hundreds of years.
Since the revolution in 1990, the square has become a focal point for political rallies, however Maidan has seen little compared to the violence and bloodshed that has engulfed Kiev since November, with the stunning landmark turned into a charred warzone of barricades, burned tents and makeshift weapons.
These incredible pictures show the world-famous square before and after the violence, and with Wednesday’s truce proving all to brief, Maidan is likely to see more bloodshed before it once again returns to the splendour of its former self.
As to how much longer you'll have to wait before Americans finish saving Ukraine -- it's pretty much saved now. Here's the latest John Batchelor Show update from Stephen F. Cohen on what's left of the nation, most of which is now more-or-less officially an American colony.

As to Iraq, I got tired of fooling around at Google Images but after all we did to save Iraqis from their government, those ingrates are now saying Americans are their enemy: One Third of Iraqis Think US Supports Terrorism, ISIS and "more than 90 percent of young people in Iraq consider the United States to be an enemy of their country, according to a new poll."

Then there was Egypt, which we almost saved until someone in the Obama White House realized that leaving the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of the Suez Canal probably wasn't a good idea.

Here some readers might note that Americans actually did a good job of saving Kuwait in 1991 and without reducing the country to rubble. We certainly did; there are different rules for American benevolence if a nation is a rich Persian Gulf monarchy.

To all other peoples: say your prayers daily and be nice to everyone because you just never know when Americans will decide they have a responsibility to save you.


Friday, April 15

Diversity for me but not for thee: American Atlanticism vs European Continentalism

The following conversation at RT's CrossTalk (moderated by Peter Lavelle), featuring Michael Vlahos, George Szamuley and Richard Sakwa, can be a little hard for non-European readers to follow unless they're a close student of NATO-European affairs -- or faithful listeners to John Batchelor's Tuesday night talks with Stephen F. Cohen during the past three years. But if you stick with the 24 minute discussion, you'll be able to look back a year from now and realize you were in on the ground floor of the defining geopolitical-philosophical development of the present era.

I have one quibble with Vlahos's observations. He terms the American geopolitical view as the application of "American exceptionalism" and claims that this exceptionalism has meant America demands that other countries submit to its viewpoint.  I wouldn't call that exceptionalism; I think "totalitarianism" is a bit closer.  

But whatever one wants to term it, the defense/foreign relations of the U.S. government has been to promote a mixture of economic policy (often called neoliberalism or the Washington Consensus) and a 'freedom agenda' that while hailing 'human rights' actually steamrolls diversity. Eastern Europe, as Vlahos (and Sakwa) explains, is a case in point. The region has been reduced by the American defense policy mindset from a place of incredible geopolitical and cultural diversity to "free" or "relatively unfree" and "economically developed" or "underdeveloped."  

The big news starting to emerge in Europe, as Richard Sakwa's part of the CrossTalk discussion makes clear, is that Europeans are now looking hard at how America policymakers look at them and starting to realize that being part of NATO has meant supporting "American Atlanticism" at the increasing expense of "European Continentalism." 

It was the Ukraine crisis, NATO and specifically America's very large part in creating it, that finally prompted the rest of Europe to confront a situation they'd staved off dealing with since the end of the Soviet Union.    

That's enough introduction beyond noting that I haven't seen the specific Guardian article by Sakwa that Vlahos credits but this one, published at the Guardian in March, serves as an introduction to Sakwa's book, which seems to be getting a great deal of attention in Europe and Russia. Vlahos's interest in it suggests it's also getting attention from deep thinkers in defense circles on this side of the Atlantic. (Vlahos is American.) So you might want to read the article before watching the Crosstalk discussion.  

Finally, I think the CrossTalk discussion has disturbing implications for America's approach to Syria -- for America's approach to problem-solving, period, when it comes to other countries. Diversity is fine for Americans, but if countries don't want to do things the American way, then diversity translates for them into U.S.-instigated balkanization.         

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