“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Iran is the least of the problems in the Middle East

Posted on 12/01/2012 by Juan
1. In response to the sting of defeat at the UN, Israel announced it is building a further 3,000 Israel squatter housing units on Palestinian land around Jerusalem. The Israelis had said that the Palestinians should come to the negotiating table instead of going to the UN, but they would be negotiating over this land that Israelis keep stealing. The US State Department deplored the Israeli move. But when Washington deplores the Palestinians’ actions, it cuts off funding, or designates people or parties ‘terrorist.’ When it condemns something Israel has done, nothing happens beyond a toothless tch tch.
2. Egypt’s Constituent Assembly abruptly passed the text of its proposed new constitution for the country on Friday, and likely President Muhammad Morsi will sign off on it Saturday. It then must be voted on in a nationwide referendum. The text of the constitution provoked anger among leftist youth, liberals and secularists, since it was crafted by the Muslim Brotherhood and incorporates religious strictures, nor does it provide firm protection for basic human rights. The Egyptian judiciary, which has been playing a major role in overseeing elections, says it will decline to administer the constitutional referendum. Egypt’s judges are angry at the president because of his high-handed decree putting himself, his senate and the constituent assembly above judicial review.
3. The opposition launched another major demonstration in Tahrir Square, demanding a new Constituent Assembly and a new text. But likely their only hope of derailing this one would be to campaign against its victory in the referendum. The Muslim Brotherhood is much better at campaigning.
Aljazeera has a video report on the protests in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood draft constitution. (SEE Video ABOVE)
4. All hell is breaking loose in Syria. Revolutionaries have captured at least 7 bases from the Syrian army in just the past two weeks, and they have been mining their depots for arms. They have gotten hold of SA-7 shoulderheld missile launchers and deployed them against the Syrian air force. The regime seems to have lost control of most of the north of the country, and roads north have been cut. The revolutionaries are now attempting to take the Damascus airport, to prevent the regime from being resupplied by Russia and other allies. The fighting near the airport has caused most international passenger airlines to cease flying into it, though it is technically still open and the regime may still be able to use it for resupply. The regime, desperate to disrupt the revolutionaries’ command and control, pulled the plug on the internet and also turned off the telephone service. Muammar Qaddafi turned off the internet during the uprising in Libya, but it did not help him in the end. It is hard to see how this regime can survive, given the kinds of advances that the opposition has been making in recent weeks.
5. Some twenty Lebanese young fundamentalist Sunni men from the northern city of Tripoli were killed on Friday in an ambush as they sneaked into Syria to fight the Syrian government. Tripoli is tense, and has seen faction-fighting between Alawite Shiites and Sunnis in recent months. The Alawites tend to sympathize with the present government of Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite Shiite.
6. Violence continued for the fourth straight day in the town of Siliana southeast of Tunis, as locals protested the lack of jobs, lack of infrastructure, and lack of development, and demanded that their provincial government be dismissed. President Moncef Marzouqi, himself a secular liberal, fearing that the protests could spread, called for a national unity government and a cabinet reshuffle. But so far the prime minister, Hamad Jebali of the fundamentalist al-Nahda Party, has declined to dismiss the governor, shuffle his cabinet or meet any of the protesters’ demands. The al-Nahda is running a minority government, with less than 40% of the seats in parliament, and new elections are scheduled for June, 2013 after the new Tunisian constitution is finished this spring.
7. The US State Department took the unusual step this week of warning the Bahrain government that the country could break apart if the monarchy went on with its heavy-handed repression of protesters. The Shiite majority in Bahrain wants constitutional reform and a greater say in governing, whereas the Sunni monarchy insists on something close to absolute monarchy and Sunni dominance. (There is a show parliament, but the king can overrule it and the Shiites have never had a majority even in the elected lower house, because of regime gerrymandering).
8. In south Yemen, thousands of protesters rallied to demand autonomy from the Sanaa-based government in the north of the country. South Yemen had been an independent Marxist state 1967 to 1990, but was united with the North then, though often uneasily, and the central government has used force to assert itself in the south.
9. The Zawiya refinery in the west of Libya reopened on Friday, after a protest by vets that they weren’t getting paid a pension had closed it. Government mediation with the former fighters succeeded in mollifying them for now. Meanwhile, Libya’s new prime minister succeeded in having his proposed foreign minister pass the integrity commission’s inquiry, so that the new, elected government is gradually being formed. Libya’s government was overthrown and the new one has not succeeded in asserting itself, facing hundreds of armed militias around the country (most of which, however appear to function as neighborhood watch organizations, and militia violence in the big cities is relatively rare).
10. Thousands of Muslim fundamentalist and leftist protesters gathered in downtown Amman, Jordan, on Friday to demand the sacking of the prime minister. The protests have swelled in Jordan because the government has allowed natural gas prices to rise, reducing the subsidy as an austerity measure. Muslim Brotherhood dissidents warned King Abdullah II that if their demands were not met, all possibilities were open (i.e. including overthrowing the king and making Jordan a republic).


  1. Egypt has about 1/8th the petroleum available to them, on a per capita basis, as we do, and they have to import about half of their food.

    On top of that, they produce virtually no manufactured products that anyone, anywhere wants to buy, and tourism has to be in the shitter. The only other way they have of getting a little bit of hard currency is selling some natural gas, and the "rebels" keep blowing up the pipelines.

    Having "power" in Egypt is going to be one long headache.

    1. I guess they are in better shape than Jordan, or Syria. They do, at least, have the Canal.

  2. The sooner we get out of the Middle East the better. We have wasted trillions there propping up Israeli racists and criminal Arab kleptocrats. It is has all been wasted. The whole Middle east isn’t worth one drop of American blood or one American dollar.

    We spend so much time and focus over there - and what do we accomplish? Our foreign policy has been one of "Israel can do no wrong". This has led us into defending a rogue nation and offending its neighbors in the region.

    1. .

      This has led us into defending a rogue nation and offending its neighbors in the region.

      You had me with the staying out of the ME. You lost me with this tripe.

      Offend its neighbors?

      Who gives a shit? It's neighbors are in a constant state of being offended. If Israel didn't exist they would invent Israel just so they could be offended. They are offended by the culture of the west, by the music, by the dress, by anything you want to mention. Hell, they are offended by themselves, Sunni, Shia, all the other smaller groups. If they didn't have the west, they would have enough internecine hate to go around for centuries.


  3. he U.S. Military Academy's Cadet Chapel at West Point hosted its first same-sex marriage Saturday

    Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, exchanged vows in the regal church in a ceremony conducted by a senior Army chaplain. ...

    Fulton, a veteran and the communications director of an organization called Outserve — which represents actively serving gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel — confirmed in an e-mail to USA TODAY Friday night: "We will be the first same sex couple to wed at the Cadet Chapel at West Point."

    Read more:

  4. The Supreme Court said states can turn down the Medicaid expansion. But if a state does so, many of its poorest residents would have no other way to get health insurance. The subsidized private coverage also available under Obama's law is only for people making more than the poverty level, $11,170 for an individual. For the poor, Medicaid is the only option.

    Although the health care law fully funded the Medicaid expansion and Obama has protected the program from cuts, the federal government's unresolved budget struggles don't give states much confidence.

    Most states, including Republican-led Virginia, are considering their options.

    A recent economic analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute found that states will receive more than $9 from Washington for every $1 they spend to expand Medicaid, and a few will actually come out ahead, partly by spending less on charity care. States are commissioning their own studies.

    So far, eight states have said they will turn down the expansion, while 13 states plus the District of Columbia have indicated they will accept it. The eight declining are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Nearly 2.8 million people would remain uninsured in those states, according to Urban Institute estimates, with Texas alone accounting for close to half the total.

    Hospitals aren't taking "no" for an answer in the states that have turned down the expansion. Although South Carolina's Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has had her say, the Legislature has yet to be heard from, said Thornton Kirby, president of the South Carolina Hospital Association.

    Hospitals agreed to Medicare cuts in the health care law, banking on the Medicaid expansion to compensate them.

    "We've got a significant debate coming in January," said Kirby. "There are a lot of people tuning in to this issue."

    In Maine, Democrats who gained control of the Legislature in the election are pushing to . . . . . . . . .

    Stupid Is as Stupid Does

  5. .

    Under new Obamacare rules most states will be picking up additional Medicaid costs regardless of whether they accept the expansion or not since eligibility rules have been modified.

    The cost to Florida of the proposed expansion over the next ten years is projected to be $8.9 billion. If you back out the costs they will incure regardless due to the eligibility changes, the net cost to the state would be $5.4 billion over 10 years, $4.1 billion if you add in other projected savings from shifting costs to hospitals under Medicaid.

    Medicaid Expansion


    1. .

      Back in Washington, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says states can take all the time they need to decide. They can even get a free trial, signing up for the first three years of the expansion and dropping out later.

      But she hasn't answered the one question that many states have: Would the Obama administration allow them to expand Medicaid just part way, taking in only people below the poverty line? That means other low-income people currently eligible would be covered entirely on the federal government's dime, and they would be getting private coverage, which is costlier than Medicaid.

      It appears the states would be, as Rufus pointed out, stupid not to take the deal for at least the first three years.

      After that, it would be interesting to see what the Obama administration would say about the second question asked here. It would determine who is really concerned about the "poor".

      Regardless, it is evident that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone will pay.



  6. Iran is building a big nuclear bomb, confirm inspectors
    Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Ryan Jones

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    For the handful of people who might still believe Iran's nuclear program is benign, an Associated Press report confirmed by inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that not only is Iran building a nuclear bomb, it is building a big one.

    Earlier this week, the AP reported on diagrams it had obtained showing calculations for "nuclear explosive yield." The desired payload was 50 kilotons.

    IAEA officials who spoke to the news agency confirmed that the diagram was the same as the one discovered by inspectors recently at an Iranian nuclear facility.

    The IAEA included the diagram in a report on Iran's nuclear program, but some in the international community continued to downplay the possibility that Iran was seeking atomic weapons.

    According to the AP report, more than a few IAEA officials are frustrated by the way the Western powers are handling what is clearly a very dangerous and urgent situation.

    One of the inspectors noted that the diagram could not possibly be construed as anything other than plans for a weapon, debunking all Iranian claims that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

    It should also be pointed out that if all Iran wanted to achieve was a demonstration that it had nuclear capabilities, it could do so with a much smaller bomb. Fifty kilotons is three times the explosive yield of the bombs that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

    A bomb that large in likely intended for use against an enemy

    from Israel Today

    Almost sounds as if Iran wants to be able to erase The Entity with a single bomb. I find this 'offensive' even if others don't.

  7. Flow of Arms to Syria Through Iraq Persists, to U.S. Dismay

    Published: December 1, 2012

    WASHINGTON — The American effort to stem the flow of Iranian arms to Syria has faltered because of Iraq’s reluctance to inspect aircraft carrying the weapons through its airspace, American officials say.

    Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines.

    The shipments have persisted at a critical time for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has come under increasing military pressure from rebel fighters. The air corridor over Iraq has emerged as a main supply route for weapons, including rockets, antitank missiles, rocket-propelled grenade and mortars.

    Iran has an enormous stake in Syria, which is its staunchest Arab ally and has also provided a channel for Iran’s support to the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah.

    To the disappointment of the Obama administration, American efforts to persuade the Iraqis to randomly inspect the flights have been largely unsuccessful.

    Adding to American concerns, Western intelligence officials say they are picking up new signs of activity at sites in Syria that are used to store chemical weapons. The officials are uncertain whether Syrian forces might be preparing to use the weapons in a last-ditch effort to save the government, or simply sending a warning to the West about the implications of providing more help to the Syrian rebels.

    “It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior American official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities.”

    The official said, however, that the Syrians had not carried out the most blatant steps toward using the chemical weapons, such as preparing them to be fired by artillery batteries or loaded in bombs to be dropped from warplanes.

    Shia helping Shia, Sunni helping Sunni, Barky helping anyone but the United States.

    Up next: chemical weapons

    Soon to appear: nukes