2017-05-12

The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must Be Defended

2017-05-09

Jonathan Spyer on Syria


https://jonathanspyer.com/2017/05/09/assads-hollow-crown/

The old city was tense, behind a veneer of strained normality. There were checkpoints every hundred meters or so. These were maintained not by the army, but by the National Defense Force (NDF), an Iranian-sponsored paramilitary force created to fill the gap presented by the Assad regime’s lack of loyal manpower. Young men mostly, with a sprinkling of older types and a very few girls. Supervised by Mukhabarat officers with pistols in their belts. They were suspicious of foreigners. There had already been a number of suicide attacks by members of the jihadi organizations in regime-controlled areas.

For the most part, though, the atmosphere of strained normality held. Undoubtedly, fear of the regime played its part in the exaggerated professions of loyalty and love for Bashar that one would hear. But there was also justified fear of the Islamist rebels, and what their advance would mean. And, of course, there was mainly fatigue, and the desire of people to live in their own private circle, and willingness to cope with any governing authority which appeared able to provide for that. The Syrian pound had plummeted in value since the start of the war – from 48 pounds to the US dollar in March 2011 to 625 to the dollar now. There were long queues each morning to buy subsidized bread at the state bakeries. The traffic was on the roads, the shops were open, pictures of the dictator and his family were everywhere. But all was far flimsier and more brittle than it initially appeared.

I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus. I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade. I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011. My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces. This was a notable gap in my coverage. I wanted to remedy it. ...

Read the rest at the link. At JS's Facebook page, here is the 'Aleppo is in our eyes' billboard.

2017-05-08

Portland's Riot Problam

Bill Currier (Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party) at The Oregonian:

On Monday [May Day], protesters all over the world marched on behalf of world socialism, communism, and a bunch of other causes popular with the political left. In Portland, they rioted. To be fair, many protesters did not riot, but the ones who did showed that they rule the streets of Portland. The rioters were clad in black with scarves covering their faces, burning things, breaking windows, damaging property, and terrorizing afternoon commuters just trying to get home.

In other words, it was a Parade for Rioters. ...

Chadwick Moore at Portland State University

Via my friend and fellow Viking Andy Ngo, here is gay activist turned free speech activist Chadwick Moore at PSU:
https://www.facebook.com/AndyCuongNgo/videos/10106927703987496/


2017-04-09

US Airstrike on Syria

Stratfor:
The United States has opted to send a message to the Syrian government that it will not tolerate chemical weapons attacks. Washington launched approximately 50-70 precision-guided missiles April 6 at the Shayrat air base. The base, located southeast of Homs city, houses the two squadrons of Syria's Su-22 ground attack aircraft that carried out the April 4 attack in northern Syria — an attack that killed at least 88 civilians.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the targeted strikes were in the "vital national security interest" of the United States. He gave the statement at Mar-a-Lago, where he is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said in a statement that Russia failed in its 2013 promise to dispose of the Syrian government's chemical weapons, saying that Moscow was either incompetent or complicit. Syrian state media responded to the U.S. strikes, called them an act of aggression. ...
Lee Smith at the Standard:

...That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean. ...
Genevieve Casagrande at ISW:
The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.
Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike ...

2017-04-02

World Today: 2017-04-02 Sunday

Russia:  Navalny-inspired protests more widespread than expected.  Economist:
And yet on March 26th, 17 years to the day after Mr Putin was first elected, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nearly 100 cities to demonstrate against corruption, in the largest protests since 2012.The protests began in Vladivostok and rolled across the country to Moscow and St Petersburg, which saw the largest crowds. Riot police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone. ... The marches came in response to a call from Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner who wants to run for president next year. Despite the government’s crackdown on activism, Mr Navalny has doggedly continued publishing exposés of corruption on social networks and YouTube, and expanding his volunteer organisation. His latest target is Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister.
Stratfor

There will be more demonstrations this weekend in Russia, following protests last week that were the largest in five years. As details emerge about the demonstrations and their organizers, a new picture of Russian discontent is materializing. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin is choosing to respond with crackdowns rather than by addressing the underlying issues causing the dissent.  Last weekend's protests were organized by opposition heavyweight Alexei Navalny, who traveled through half a dozen Russian cities to promote his anti-corruption campaigns against Kremlin elites....

Both articles cite the broader geographic range of this year's protests as compared to previous years, the focus on corruption and economic issues, the role of social media, and the youth of the participants.

Africa / USA:  Security issues likely to dominate Africa relations under Trump.   Reed Kramer at AllAfrica:  'On 30 March, the Pentagon announced President Donald Trump's approval of revised combat rules for U.S. forces fighting the Al Queada-affiliated Al Shabaab in Somalia, reducing protections for civilians as the U.S. military launches an intensified assault in east Africa. Earlier this month, the White House announced a budget blueprint that includes a $54 billion rise in overall military spending, alongside deep cuts for the State Department and international assistance.'  Kramer also notes that White House National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has chosen Rudolph Atallah to be the National Security Council's Senior Director for Africa.

Germany:  Government probes suspected Turkish spy network.  Patrick Poole at PJM reports that investigations into the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) reveal Turkish intelligence activities through Turkish-controlled mosques in Germany.  German authorities have raided the homes of DTIB officials.

History:  US enters the Great War.  One hundred years ago, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

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2017-03-26

Socialism is a conspiracy of losers against achievers ...

... and so is anti-Semitism.

The fliers use Pew Research Center data in an attempt to validate the statement, including that while Jews make up 2 percent of the population in the United States that “44% of these Jewish Americans are in the top 1%.”

“Is the 1% straight, white men? Or is the 1% Jewish?” the flier questions.

2017-03-14

Obama's Legacy: Nuclear Iran

Emily Landau at Middle East Quarterly :
There is little doubt that Barack Obama deems the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015 to be his crowning foreign policy achievement and an important pillar of his presidential legacy. To his mind, the deal is a shining nonproliferation success story achieved via peaceful diplomacy and an important catalyst to improving decades-long, moribund U.S.-Iranian relations.
But, Obama's assessment is wrong....
Read the rest at the link.

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2017-03-12

US Attorney Preet Bharara

Jonathan Spyer on the post-Daesh ME

Jonathan Spyer:
The Islamic State is on its way to ceasing to exist as an entity controlling significant territory.  This process is set to continue many months.  But IS, having lost tens of thousands of fighters and with the flow of new recruits drying up, facing enemies with complete control of the skies and vast superiority in numbers and equipment, has no means of reversing the trend.

In Assad’s war further west, meanwhile, the rebellion is in retreat and its eventual eclipse seems a near certainty.  The regime, with its Iranian, Russian and Hizballah allies, is currently seeking to reduce and destroy isolated rebel held enclaves in the midst of regime-held territory in western Syria.  Hence the attacks on  eastern Ghouta, and on Wa’er in the Homs area.  Once this is done, the pro-regime forces may well turn their attention to south west Syria, and eventually also to rebel-held Idleb province in the north.

The regime is also now engaging in the war against Islamic State.  Government forces  reached the Euphrates River this week, after sweeping through IS-held territory in the east Aleppo countryside.
As the direction of events becomes clear, so the possibility emerges of the Iran-led alliance achieving an overall victory in the Syria and Iraq wars...
  For more on what such an outcome might look like - and how it might be prevented - go to the link.

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"'The twilight of Saudi oil dominance has arrived."

Belmont Club:
Just as the US won the Cold War not because federal government agencies outwitted the Reds but because American society out-competed the Soviets, the frackers may have bankrupted the Sunni Jihad.  But in doing so the oil men have created a potential power vacuum even bigger than which resulted from the Arab Spring.  Technology often creates new power relationships which officials only belatedly respond to.  The consequences of American oil power have not yet been fully assimilated by the political system. Turmoil in the Kingdom and the Gulf might trigger a tragedy that would make events in Syria and Libya seem trivial by comparison. ...

Sarah Hoyt: Conservatives and Libertarians Come Out

Sarah Hoyt posts life in the liberal-controlled media culture:

We did such a dance to test both the reliability and discretion of the other before revealing ourselves that we might as well have developed a hanky code. [Blue for true blue Conservative, white for pure Libertarian, red for the blood of our heroes, brown for OWL (older, wiser libertarian), purple for squishy conservative, powder blue for Brad Torgersen. (The powder blue care bare, with the bleeding heart… and the flame thrower.)]
Conventions were nerve wracking because I watched myself ALL the TIME.  And you never knew how much you had to watch yourself.  Suddenly, out of the blue, at a World Fantasy the speaker, a well known SF/F writer went on about Dean Howard, our next president. The room erupted in applause, some people stood to clap, and I sat there, frozen, unable to actually fake it to that point but too shocked to even put a complaisant expression on my face.
This is one of the instances where I think if I didn’t give myself away I gave them the impression I was not very bright and therefore untrustworthy.  Another would be the letter exchange with a gentleman who went after my first Analog story.  Another instance would be that I actually could not help myself and defended Heinlein at all possible occasions.
They were never sure enough that I was a – dropped voice – conservative, but they were sure enough that my books had the strangest issues with distribution and marketing....

All this was justified, you see, because in the minds of the establishment and establishment hangers on, conservatives are creatures shown as “right wing” on movies and tv (none of whose writers would know a true conservative, much less a libertarian if one bit them in the fleshy part of the *ss [and libertarians might.]  They give conservatives (which again is everyone to the right of Lenin) informed attributes never found in the real creature: conservatives, in their crazy little heads, are people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, ultra-religious in a medieval fashion or a crazy-evangelical (there are some, but not many) one.
 Go to the link for more on "informed attributes".  I think that's one of the key points here, where "everybody knows" that group X are attribute Y without having any basis for "knowing" this in real-life experience.