“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."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

“in the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi.”

Saudi Arabia and 9/11: The Kingdom May Be in for a Nasty Shock

Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realized that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable of carrying on a coherent conversation about important issues.

One visiting U.S. delegation meeting with King Salman recently observed a different method of convincing visitors—or at least television viewers watching the encounter—that he can deal with the escalating crises facing Saudi Arabia. The king did not look at the group but at a giant television screen hanging from the ceiling of the room on which was appearing prompts. Simon Henderson, the Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who tells the story, writes that off to one side in the room was an aide who “furiously hammered talking points into a keyboard.”

Of course, King Salman is not the only world leader past or present whose inability to cope has been artfully concealed by aides and courtiers. But eyewitness accounts of his incapacity does put in perspective the claim by the White House that President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and two-hour meeting with the king on April 20 was “cordial” and cleared the air after a troubled period in Saudi-U.S. relations.

It is hardly a secret that real authority is shifting to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. But the power vacuum does help explain the bizarre and self-destructive nature of present-day Saudi foreign policy that suddenly shifted from cautious use of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth to further its aims, while always keeping its options open, to a militarized and confrontational pursuit of foreign policy objectives.

It is not exactly that the Saudi’s priorities have changed, but that the means being used to achieve them are far riskier than in the past. Since King Salman succeeded to the throne, Saudi Arabia has escalated its involvement in the war in Syria and engaged directly in an air war in Yemen. Both ventures have failed: greater support for armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria early last year allowed the rebels to advance, but also provoked direct Russian military intervention, making Assad very difficult to displace. Bombing Yemen has not forced the Houthi opposition out of the capital Sanaa and, where the Houthis have retreated, there is chaos which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has used to set up their own mini-state on the south coast of Yemen.

The Saudi leaders are more or less openly saying that they are waiting for the departure of President Obama from the White House to resume their status of most favoured ally of the U.S. The permanently anti-Saudi bias of the present administration, though usually verbal rather than operational, came across clearly in the interviews with Mr Obama and his top officials in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg. He says that “in the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi.”

But the Saudis are making a mistake in imagining that hostility to them will dissipate once Mr Obama leaves office. There is renewed pressure for the release of the unpublished 28 pages in the official Congressional 9/11 report on possible Saudi official complicity in the attacks, with CBS’s influential and widely watched 60 Minutesdevoting a segment to it, thereby putting it back on the political agenda. “Saudi Arabia legitimises Islamic extremism and intolerance around the world,” states an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. “”If you want to stop bombings in Brussels or San Bernardino, then turn off the spigots of incitement from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.” Not only is there a growing anti-Saudi mood in the U.S., but it is one of the few political developments common to both parties.

In reality, the missing 28 pages in the 9/11 report on possible high level Saudi involvement may not be as categorical or as damaging to the Kingdom as the fact of their continued non-publication. The secrets that Saudi Arabia has most interest in hiding may be rather different, and relate to allegations that between 1995 and 2001, two senior Saudi princes spent hundreds of millions of state funds paying off Osama bin Laden not to make attacks within Saudi Arabia, but leaving him free to do whatever he wanted in the rest of the world.

Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East Correspondent for the Independent. He has written four books on Iraq’s recent history—The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the Sunni Revolution, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, The Occupation, and Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession (with Andrew Cockburn)—as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award. 


  1. As with the supposed 'challenges' in the US/Israeli relationship ...

    Obama has the US closer to the Israelis and Saudis than any previous President, in all reality, despite any rhetoric to the contrary.

    The arms and financial aid continues to flow to each of those repressive, dictatorial regimes.
    That's just a fact.

    Obama's animosity towards the Assad regime, just another indicator of that reality.

    1. Israel is NOT a “repressive, dictatorial regime” to Israelis. It most certainly is the in captive areas in Gaza where the Israeli government dictates a perpetual state of repression and restriction against almost two million indigenous people.


      A report of an “unprecedented profiling exercise” of internally displaced Palestinian families in Gaza outlined that 80% of families borrowed money to get by in 2015 while more than 85% had most of their food on credit and more than 40% were obliged to decrease their food consumption.
      The figures were disclosed by a survey of more than 16,000 families conducted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA.)
      The report signals that the situation is being worsened by the blockade imposed by Israel.
      Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Robert Piper said “funding is needed more than ever” to reconstruct houses in Gaza because almost 63% of the population continues to be displaced. He stressed that the financial support “must go hand in hand with significant changes at the policy level, including a lifting of the blockade and progress towards Palestinian reconciliation” to make the process successful.
      A month-long hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014 left most of Gaza’s infrastructures destroyed. The Jewish state has also been criticized by the international community for its demolition exercises of Palestinians homes in the West Bank before annexing them.


      4 April 2016 – The United Nations Middle East envoy today the UN is working closely with Palestinian and Israeli authorities following Israel’s suspension of cement deliveries to private companies in the Gaza Strip “following allegations that a substantial amount had been diverted from its intended legitimate beneficiaries.”

      “We are working closely with our Palestinian and Israeli government counterparts to assist in resolving the situation in order to prevent incidents that could lead to any future suspension of imports,” said UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov in a statement urging “a rapid resolution of this matter.”

      He said the people of Gaza depend on the entry of construction material to repair and reconstruct their damaged and destroyed houses following the 2014 conflict and to enable much needed infrastructure and development projects.

      “Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” stressed Mr. Mladenov, adding that reconstruction of Gaza remains critical to ensuring its stability.


      Some 75,000 Palestinians in Gaza, half of them children, remain displaced after their homes were destroyed during Israel’s assault in July and August 2014, according to a new United Nations study.

      Nearly 500,000 people – more than one in four of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents – were displaced during the onslaught that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children.

      Approximately 100,000 remained without shelter by the time a ceasefire was declared on 26 August 2014.

      An estimated 18,000 homes were rendered uninhabitable as a result of the 51-day onslaught and only 3,000 have been rebuilt.


      As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by United Nations Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006

      The Council had resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined. The 45 resolutions comprised almost half (45.9%) of all country-specific resolutions passed by the Council, not counting those under Agenda Item 10 (countries requiring technical assistance).

    5. When it comes to the captivity of Palestinian Gaza, Israel is every bit a repressive, dictatorial regime.

  2. Highlights

    Unemployment claims continue to point to very strong demand for labor. Initial claims did rise 9,000 in the April 23 week but the 257,000 level is still below expectations and among the very lowest on record. The 4-week average, at 256,000, is the lowest in 42 years, down 4,750 in the week and about 10,000 lower than the month-ago trend.

    Continuing claims, in lagging data for the April 16 week, fell 5,000 to 2.130 million which is the lowest in 16 years. The 4-week average is down 10,000 to 2.158 million with the unemployment rate for insured workers unchanged at a very low 1.6 percent. The April 16 week was the sample week for the April monthly employment report and a comparison with the sample week for the March report, like a similar comparison with initial claims, shows further improvement and hints at increased strength in April. There are no special factors in today's report.
    Recent History Of This Indicator
    Initial jobless claims moved lower in the first two weeks of April, to 247,000 in the April 16 week for an historic low and a positive indication on April employment. Initial claims for the April 23 week are expected to bounce higher, up 13,000 to 260,000. Data for continuing claims in this report will track the April 16 week and offer their own sample-week comparison with the coming April employment report.

    New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing (decreasing) trend suggests a deteriorating (improving) labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smooths out weekly volatility. Why Investors Care

  3. Household Income Trends: March 2016

    Median Household Income at $57,263 in March

    Summary of Key Findings

    According to new data derived from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS),
    median annual household income in March 2016 was $57,263, not significantly different
    from the February 2016 median of $57,180.

    As previously noted median household
    income now exceeds the pre-recession median of December 2007 ($56,669). The Sentier
    Household Income Index for March 2016 was 99.9 (January 2000 = 100). Thus, we are
    getting very close to the real level of median annual household income that existed in
    January 2000 ($57,342), the beginning of this statistical series.

    These findings come from a report issued today by Sentier Research, titled “Household
    Income Trends: March 2016,” which presents monthly trends in household income from
    January 2000 to March 2016.

    There has been a general upward trend in median household income since the postrecession
    low point reached in August 2011. This upward trend was initially marked by
    monthly movements, both up and down. Many monthly changes were not statistically

    By the summer of 2014 however, that uneven trend became dominated by a
    series of significant monthly increases. (See Figure 1 at the back of this report.)
    Median income in March 2016 ($57,263) was 4.5 percent higher than in March 2015
    ($54,788), and 10.3 percent higher than in August 2011 ($51,904). This general upward
    trend reflects, in part, the low level of inflation as measured by the CPI for all items (used
    in this series). For example, the 4.5 percent increase in median household income
    between March 2015 and March 2016 derived using the CPI for all items becomes 3.2
    percent when the CPI less food and energy is employed to adjust for the change in
    purchasing power.

    According to Gordon Green of Sentier Research, “We continue to see an upward trend in
    income that has been evident since the low point in August 2011. Relatively low energy
    prices have contributed significantly to increases in real median household income. We . . . .

    1. . . . . have recaptured all of the income losses that have occurred since the beginning of the last
      recession in December 2007. The March 2016 median is now only 0.1 percent lower than
      the median of $57,342 in January 2000, the beginning of this statistical series.”

       The March reading on the labor market from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
      is slightly worse than in February:
      o The official unemployment rate in March 2016 was 5.0 percent, about the
      same as the February 2016 rate (4.9 percent).
      o The median duration of unemployment increased slightly, from 11.2
      weeks in February 2016 to 11.4 weeks in March 2016.
      o The broader measure of employment hardship, which includes the
      unemployed, marginally attached workers (of which discouraged workers
      are a subset), and persons working part-time for economic reasons, was
      9.8 percent in March 2016, about the same level as in February 2016 (9.7

       Real median annual household income in March 2016 can be put into broader
      perspective by comparisons with previous levels of household income since the
      last recession began and dating back to the start of the last decade:
      o The March 2016 median income of $57,263 is 2.9 percent higher than the
      median of $55,632 in June 2009, the end of the recent recession and
      beginning of the “economic recovery.”

      o The March 2016 median is 1.0 percent higher than the median of $56,669
      in December 2007, the beginning month of the recession that occurred
      more than eight years ago.

      o And the March 2016 median is now only 0.1 percent lower than the
      median of $57,342 in January 2000, the beginning of this statistical series.

       The Sentier Household Income Index (HII) shows the value of real median annual
      household income in any given month as a percent of the base value at the
      beginning of the last decade (January 2000 = 100.0 percent):

      o The Sentier HII stood at 99.9 in March 2016, higher than December 2007
      (98.8) when the “great recession” began, and higher than June 2009
      (97.0), when the “economic recovery” subsequently began.

      o The Sentier HII was 90.5 in August 2011, the low point in our household
      income series, compared to 99.9 in March 2016.

      Sentier Press Release

  4. Uh Oh Donald: Latino Voter Registration Skyrockets

    Univision Poll

    The Hill has really bad news for Donald Trump and the Republican party at large.

    Registration among Latino voters is skyrocketing in an election cycle dominated by Donald Trump and loud GOP cries to close the border.

    Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), projects 13.1 million Latinos will vote nationwide in 2016, compared to 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008.

    Registration is a game-changer with Latino voters.

    Only about 48 percent of eligible Hispanics vote, but nearly 80 percent of registered Hispanics go to the ballot box.

    And not only are they motivated to vote against the bigoted Donald Trump. This is really bad news for John McCain.

    And there's more. The Houston Chronicle reports this week that for the first time in three decades, Harris County, Texas, home of Houston, is now leaning Democratic, largely due to Hispanic and Latino voters.

    More Harris County residents have leaned Democratic than Republican since 2006, but until this year, no party could claim the support of more than half of residents in the more than three decades the survey has been conducted.

    Stephen Klineberg, co-director of the institute and author of the report, said the county had been pretty evenly divided among those who said they aligned more with Democrats and those leaning Republican.

    1. Though the survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, the increase in Democratic support from 2012 to this year is "really remarkable," he said. "The big change is among Latinos."

      Well, duh. Turns out labelling a whole ethnicity as rapists and job thieves doesn't win them over. The problem is they get mad enough to register and turn out against you. And it couldn't happen to a more White Supremacist political party.

      Uh Oh

  5. Strikes in Syria

    Attack and ground attack aircraft conducted seven strikes in Syria:

    -- Near Ayn Isa, a strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

    -- Near Mara, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting position and four ISIL vehicles.

    -- Near Washiyah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL command and control node and five ISIL vehicles.

    Strikes in Iraq

    Bomber, fighter and ground attack aircraft conducted 15 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL bunker and two ISIL vehicle bombs.

    -- Near Huwayjah, a strike struck an ISIL logistics facility.

    -- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit; destroyed four ISIL rocket rails, four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL staging area; and suppressed an ISIL rocket position.

    -- Near Hit, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units; destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL-used bridge; and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Mosul, a strike struck a weapons facility.

    -- Near Qayyarah, five strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL mortar positions, four ISIL assembly areas, two ISIL vehicle bombs, and denied ISIL access to terrain and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.

  6. Exchange the Gazans for Hindus and the Arabstinians for Nez Perce and you got not problem.

    1. My tears for the Gazans and the Arabstinians done dried out long long ago.

      Go ahead and cry if you wish but you are crying for people who are themselves their own problem.

  7. Man, I tell ya, this 'Far Bright Star' by Robert Olmstead is tough to take. I'm 2/3 of the way through and I've never read some much agony in all my life.

    Never let yourself get captured by some Yaqui, Mex, and a woman with a parasol who smokes cigars and loves torture.

    He's gonna make it though, cause I looked towards the end and there is some dialogue.

    No real discernable plot, just a long paean to pain...hallucinations through pain....

  8. White House struggles to explain weak economy as O boasts of job growth...
    First President Not to See Single Year of 3% Growth...
    GDP: 0.5%...
    Business investment weakest since Great Recession...
    Lackluster. Uneven. Pain...
    Homeownership rate falls to third lowest on record...DRUDGE

    1. 'chicken bones in every pot'

      What this country needs is a good business man to get the economy crackling....

      Nothing but failure at home and failure abroad under O'bozo....

    2. Blacks are worse off, racial relations are worse, more Mexicans than ever are stealing our jobs, drug use through the roof, national debt through the roof, all we care about is who uses what restroom, and we are a laughing stock on the world stage.

      Wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful...

    3. Q1 GDP Growth Slows to 0.5%, Weakest in 2 Years;

      Michelle Jamrisko, Bloomberg

      And we are, so I have read recently, the highest taxed country in the world.


  9. Surprise! Trump demolished Hillary with Millennials in Pennsylvania

    Apr 28, 2016 4:41 PM by Larry O'Connor

  10. I'm sure that the 75% of Democratic Millenials that voted for Bernie will vote for the Donald over Hillary in the General Election.

  11. India is using laser beams to detect and stop muzz infiltration from Pakistan.

    Meanwhile, on our home front:

    ICE releases 19,723 criminal illegals, arrests cut in half.....DRUDGE

    And the muzz keep coming, too.

    Are we dumb fucks, or what ??

    Saw dust for brains is what we are....

  12. California

    Trump 45.7
    Cruz 28.3
    Kasich 18

    Real Clear Politics

    Indiana may not matter so much now, but Trump is up 6 in Indiana.

  13. I don't understand why all these lefties that are pledging to move to Canada if The Donald is elected aren't pledging to move to Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba or Zimbabwe.

    Or Gaza.

    Or the 'west bank'.

    Or Iran or Iraq or Syria or Libya or Pakistan or the Sudan or Nigeria....

    Well, poor Canada, but at least we'll be done with them.

  14. Finished the book 'Far Bright Star'.

    Good read.

    But no feeling sorry for those two brothers.

    After all that they went through in Mexico it's off to WWI.

    The far bright star they are following is the urge to fight.

    They like it.

  15. Good Lord, I put down a repugnant death loving book, and go to Drudge -

    Satanists Furious Cruz Compared to Dark Lord...
    BOEHNER: He's 'Lucifer in the flesh'...
    Exorcist explains how would cleanse of demonic possession....DRUDGE

    and wonder if there's any good sense left anywhere on earth....

    1. A necrophilous repugnant death loving book, pretty well written though, but with no meaning whatsoever.

    2. And that's my book report, all of it, on 'Far Bright Star'.

  16. Yup, madness everywhere, except once in a while in the courts -

    April 28, 2016

    Judge tosses part of ordinance requiring inspection of garbage cans for food waste

    By Rick Moran

    In the People's Republic of Seattle, throwing away food is a crime, as is mixing recyclables with ordinary garbage. But the city came up with a unique way to enforce the ordinance: have garbage collectors rummaging through people's trash cans to find violators.

    A state judge found that empowering garbage collectors in such a way violates the Constitution, so the city is going to have to find another way to hassle people about their garbage.....

  17. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is "outraged" by the air strikes on a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo that killed dozens and injured many others.


    Syria's army on April 28 denied that it intentionally targetted the hospital.

    1. .

      Close but no cigar, Assad.

      The US currently holds the record (set just a few months ago) for people killed by bombing a hospital, 30 dead in Afghanistan.

      John Kerry says the US is "outraged", outraged I tell you regarding the Syrian hospital.

      John's outrage is a little funny given that he didn't seem to want to talk about the Afghanistan hospital.

      uring a speech on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry lauded U.S. efforts to improve Afghanistan’s health care system as he defended the Obama administration’s plans to keep thousands of American troops in the country beyond a previous 2016 deadline.

      But the timing wasn’t ideal.

      Kerry’s comments came just days after a botched U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital killed 22 people and prompted outrage around the world. President Barack Obama issued a personal apology to the organization last week, but the group has condemned the strike as a possible war crime...



    2. .

      It's hard to take any of these people seriously. But it is serious.

      It's reported there have been about 200 hundred people killed around Aleppo in the last couple weeks and the last pediatrician in Aleppo was killed in the hospital bombing.


  18. Abadi announces pursuing reforms, Biden renews his country’s support for Baghdad

    ( Baghdad – On Thursday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi affirmed pursuing the reforms, while the US Vice President Joe Biden renewed his country’s support for Iraq in its war against ISIS.

    The information office of the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement received by “Today, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi received the US Vice President Joe Biden and his entourage in his office.”

    The statement added, “The meeting discussed strengthening the relations between the two countries in various fields and developing the security and economic conditions, as well as supporting the reforms and the war against ISIS terrorist gangs,” pointing out that, “They also discussed the preparations of the “Seven Major Industrialized Nations Conference” that will be held in Japan and the support it will provide to Iraq.”

    The statement quoted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as saying, “Iraq is achieving great victories against the terrorist gangs, and we have the determination to liberate the entire territory of Iraq, as well pursuing reforms and moving the country to the right path.”

    The statement continued, “Biden also praised the significant progress of the Iraqi forces in the liberation of Iraqi lands from ISIS grip,” indicating that, “The United States is completely supporting Iraq in its war against the terrorist gangs.”

    “Biden affirmed his country’s support for Iraq to face the current challenges, especially in the financial and economic field, and reconstruct the areas that have been recently liberated,” the statement stated.


    1. .

      Happy talk.

      Once ISIS is contained in Iraq, the real fun will begin as the various sides fight each other for power, the Kurds, Baghdad, the Sunnis, the Shia militias being funded by Iran, the Shia militias that reject Iran's influence, Turkey, and no doubt others.