Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard”

Will wonders never cease? A long article about Rojava in the New York Times Magazine.

Quote of the day – “what we call the moderate opposition”

Speaking of McFaul, he’s been one of the mouthpieces MSNBC has been turning to today for expertise on the downing of the Russian fighter. He’s repeated the same line (or they’ve repeated the video of him using the line – I haven’t been paying close attention) repeatedly that the Russian government has been targeting not ISIS but “what we call the moderate opposition, what they call terrorists enabled by Turkey.” None of the MSNBC journalists have seen fit to inquire about the reality – well, are they a moderate opposition or terrorists? – or about the strange use of “what we call.”

It sounds like a plain giveaway. If McFaul and those whose bidding he’s doing truly believed that these forces constituted a moderate opposition, he would simply refer to them as that. It seems evident that he doesn’t regard them as moderates (naturally, he’s not even asked what “moderate” means concretely in this context). Note that he doesn’t name the specific groups he’s talking about. Who, specifically, are these alleged moderates? What’s their moderate vision for Syria? What’s their relationship with ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham? Even if “moderates” opposed to the Islamists exist on the ground, how would they become a powerful political force? (I’ve just found a Twitter thread or whatever where these questions were put to McFaul in early October. I guess their only result was the change of wording from “the moderate opposition” to “what we call the moderate opposition.”)

The people of Rojava are open with the media and happy to describe their radically democratic, feminist, ecological movement.* But the US government and its media representatives aren’t publicizing that. They prefer to propagandize about this moderate ghost army that will lead Syria to peace and democracy.

* The article at that link, incidentally, was originally published by teleSUR. Venezuela is yet another country in which the US government’s and media’s hostility to democracy and to anyone who resists their imperialism is on full display. (I wonder what will happen to global oil prices after the legislative elections there on December 6th…)

So now they’ve shot down a Russian jet

Several days ago, Patrick Cockburn reported in the Independent, in a story which received virtually no attention elsewhere, that the US government would be allying with the Turkish government to take the stretch along the Syria-Turkey border controlled by ISIS: “‘Seventy five per cent of Syria’s northern border has so far been shut down [preventing Isis’s access to Turkey]’, said US Secretary of State John Kerry. ‘And we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the remaining 98km’.” (Who exactly would control this stretch on the ground, I wonder.) They weren’t interested in acknowledging previously stated Kurdish plans to take this area or the Turkish government’s attacks on those Kurds.

David Graeber provided context in an important article in the Guardian a few days ago:
In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris, we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it. In fact, as the world watched leaders making statements of implacable resolve at the G20 summit in Antalaya, these same leaders are hobnobbing with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man whose tacit political, economic, and even military support contributed to Isis’s ability to perpetrate the atrocities in Paris, not to mention an endless stream of atrocities inside the Middle East.

How could Isis be eliminated? In the region, everyone knows. All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria, and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) guer[r]illas in Iraq and Turkey. These are, currently, the main forces actually fighting Isis on the ground. They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and oppose every aspect of Isis’s reactionary ideology.

But instead, YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding Isis itself.

…And then there are Erdoğan’s actual, stated positions. Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.

Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection…. [links removed]
As I said last week, these actions and alliances would seem perfectly mad to anyone thinking the US government was genuinely determined to defeat ISIS and promote democracy and human rights. And now Obama is on television suggesting that the Russian government is at fault for supposedly focusing not on ISIS but on the moderate, democratic elements of the FSA (do they think the constant references to these mythical elements will somehow conjure them into existence?). Real democratic forces capable of taking on ISIS militarily are being marginalized and sacrificed in order to cooperate with an authoritarian government murderously hostile to them and long complicit with Islamists. And they’re still obsessed with overthrowing Assad. The fateful alliance with Erdoğan (not to mention Saudi Arabia, Israel,…) will continue; the Kurds will continue to be betrayed and abandoned.

We can of course expect the corporate media, with that dupe Richard Engel in the lead, to dutifully repeat their claims. (Last month, Rachel Maddow, evidently surprised and displeased that Tulsi Gabbard didn’t read from the government script,

the next week invited Michael McFaul,

who didn’t disappoint.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quote of the day - “If the Western powers leave the Kurds alone to face Turkey,…”

“If the Western powers leave the Kurds alone to face Turkey, they will only be infusing new blood into IS. Attacks by anti-Kurdish forces will leave the Middle East facing a bloody destiny.

But what we have learned from the Paris massacre is that the West will not be immune to such a bloody destiny.”
- Irfan Aktan, “Paris attacks spoil AKP’s G-20 game plan”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

AMA calls for ban on DTC drug ads

Better late than never, I suppose.

The Charlie Hebdo response

Here’s the newest cover:

Also, from cartoonist Joann Sfar on Instagram:


“A lawmaker who spent a decade in a Turkish prison after speaking in Kurdish in parliament, again began her oath in Kurdish during a swearing-in ceremony in Ankara on Tuesday.

Turkey’s parliament convened on Tuesday for the first time since the November 1 election, as newly-elected deputies were sworn in to the 550-seat assembly.

Leyla Zana could not be sworn in after she started to speak in Kurdish and changed the wording in the oath of office.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Zana began her oath by saying, ‘With the hope of an honorable and lasting peace’, in Kurdish and finished by changing the official wording of ‘Turkish people’ to ‘people of Turkey’.

The acting speaker of parliament, Deniz Baykal, asked Zana to return to the lectern for an exact recitation but she left the chamber, live footage on state broadcaster TRT showed….”

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quote of the day – a system of violence

“What’s missing is what happens in between and always, and that is the status quo of military occupation, which is itself a system of violence, a system that holds Palestinians, that holds human beings, in a condition that is contrary to the natural human condition of freedom, and uses force, uses violence, to keep them in that position. So this systematic violence, which Palestinians are essentially acting out against in these outbursts, which eventually get covered, does not get covered the way that it should. And so what we end up getting is a very skewed representation in our media of what the real dynamics of violence are.”
- Yousef Munayyer

Irish accent + “intifada” = beauty

“No US Tax Dollars for Israel’s Occupation” protest this Monday in DC, and AAA vote on boycott of Israeli academic institutions

Popular Resistance:
An unprecedented coalition of 29 faith-based Palestine solidarity groups as well as peace and justice organizations are planning a rally and protest from 5-8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 outside the National Building Museum, where the American Enterprise Institute will be honoring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The groups will be forwarding one main message: “No US tax dollars to Israel,” as a way to protest American financial, political and diplomatic support for Israel despite its continual violations of international and American laws. The coalition calls for an end to US military aid to Israel until it complies with international law and end[s] its occupation of Palestinian lands.

WHAT: Rally and protest

WHEN: 5-8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

WHERE: Outside National Building Museum, 600 Block of 401 F. St. NW, Washington DC,

INFO: http://tinyurl.com/NetanyahuDemo11-9
Also, on November 20th at its annual meeting in Denver, CO, the American Anthropological Association will vote on whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Behold the forehead:

She’s an extraordinary cat - brave, determined, vivacious, shockingly intelligent. It’s going to be so much fun watching her grow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quote of the day – Why the media blackout on Diagnosisgate?

“Brill goes to great lengths – in 15 chapters published one per day – to document a vast amount of the Risperdal story, so it is perplexing to try to imagine whether he might have missed those crucial pages near the beginning of the Rothman Report or whether something else happened. And if it is the latter, what could it possibly be?”
- Paula Caplan

When I read the otherwise excellent* Steven Brill series “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker,” I noticed and noted that Brill mentioned the actions associated with Diagnosisgate only very briefly and, even stranger, didn’t name the prominent individuals involved. I share Caplan’s interest in the reasons for this omission. (She notes in the comments at my first link above that she contacted Brill when his series was beginning, but didn’t even receive a reply. What’s going on here?)

* He does uncritically accept the claim that “the drug benefits many people,” presumably those alleged to be suffering from “schizophrenia,” which is unfortunate.