Despite regulations that make weaponized drones illegal for private citizens, videos are popping up on YouTube showing that individuals can fire guns strapped to private drones by remote control. Lovely, isn’t it?
The nuclear deal with Iran is a good thing. President Obama deserves credit for initiating the dialogue and for negotiations that led to terms to which both sides can agree. As Winston Churchill said but too few Americans believe:
“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
So why are there still so many high-profile opponents to this agreement, which provides for an inspections regime to enforce Iran’s promise not to develop a nuclear weapons program in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic?
According to the vast majority of writers and broadcasters working for corporate media, the opposition is ideological.
Saudi Arabia, they say, is afraid that Shiite Iran will violate the agreement in order to become the second nuclear state in the Middle East, after Israel, and might threaten to use it against them or one of their Sunni allies. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel, by this way of thinking, are also worried that Iran might increase its support of terrorist organizations as its economy improves.
Since President Obama has promised to veto any attempt by the Republican-led Congress to derail the agreement, and it would be difficult for the GOP to muster the two thirds majority necessary to override the president’s veto, resistance is pretty much pro forma.
According to the Republicans, they’re not afraid of peace or jonesing for war against Iran – they just don’t think there’s any way to prevent the Iranians from cheating the inspectors, and in an echo of the classic complaint that a restaurant has terrible food and such small portions, the inspections don’t go far enough into the future.
The media has been playing his usual role as government transcriber, taking GOP officials at their word.
Even Obama has paid lipservice to these concerns, expressing his own complaints about Iran’s “threats” against Israel in his speech announcing the deal.
In fact, the much-ballyhooed statement by former Iranian President Ahmadinejad about wanting to “wipe Israel off the map” has been debunked. He never said that.)
The truth is, opposition to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has a lot more to do with business than ideology.
Iran has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world. After all the sanctions are lifted, energy analysts believe that there will be a significant price drop for a barrel of crude worldwide. “The thinks Iran can get back to producing 4 million barrels of oil per day — the level it was at in 2008 — by the end of this decade. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh wants Iran to resume its spot as the world’s No. 2 oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia (a spot currently occupied by Russia). But that’s far from assured, and there could easily be hiccups on the way,” reports Vox.
Oil prices have already been declining. This is been terrible news for Saudi Arabia, the world number-one oil producer, currently responsible for about 10 million barrels per day of production. “A potential return of Iranian oil to the market could not have come at a worse time,” Barclays commodities analyst Michael Cohen says. “An increase in Iranian exports beyond 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day would be difficult for the market to absorb.” Goldman Sachs agrees. So do commodities markets, which pushed oil futures lower when news of the Iran deal broke.
The only terrorism that the Saudi royal family cares about is a 9/11-style attack on their numbered Swiss bank accounts, which they fear might be the effect of all that new Iranian oil coming online. (Anyway, Saudi Arabia is probably in a better position than just about any other country to put a dent in terrorism if it ever felt like it, since it funds radical Wahhabi-inspired madrasahs and insurgent groups throughout Asia and Africa.)
Here in the United States, opposition to allowing Iran to enjoy full trading relations and diplomatic links with the global community is centered around right-wing Republicans in the House and Senate. As with the Saudis, the real reason that they’re against this deal is that it represents a clear and present danger to big oil.
So the next time you watch talking heads go on and on about the fear that the crazy mullahs of Tehran want to fire an ICBM into Tel Aviv, remember that this rhetoric has a lot less to do with worrying about terrorism or the safety of Israel, and everything to do with oil company profits.
Want to know when political correctness crosses the line from noble social justice war to unfair censorship? When someone gets fired for saying something unrelated to their job.
That is clearly the case with Tim Hunt, a 72-year-old Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who was forced to resign from his post as an honorary professor at University College London after he brainfarted some sexist comments at a scientific conference in South Korea.
“Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”
Social media went crazy, and that’s fine: a Two Minutes Hate is exactly what Twitter is for.
And, to be charitable, what Hunt said was stupid. You don’t have to fall in love with your female colleagues. It is, or it should be possible, to note silently and with a pokerface said colleague’s hotness, and then get back to work. But, really. Can’t we open our minds a little?
In context, Hunt’s words, though archaic, are harmless. And Hunt was an honorary professor. He didn’t run a lab. And he was in no position to hire or fire anyone — specifically, he wasn’t in a position to hire or fire any women.
If free speech means anything, it guarantees the right to mouth off about whatever, without having to worry about having your career trashed — especially when what you mouthed off about isn’t even related to the job you stand to lose.
I feel this stuff personally. After 9/11, when my political cartoons were controversial because they opposed Bush and his wars, I didn’t fault the newspapers, like The Washington Post and New York Times, that dropped me. The editors were cowards, yes, but they had that right.
But when Men’s Health, which didn’t run my political work, got rid of my cartoons about men, sex and relationships, now that pissed me off.
On the other side of the coin from the Tim Hunt case are those of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and ex-Harvard president Lawrence Summers.
Sterling and Summers’ remarks were far more offensive than Hunt’s comments.
Summers, the ex Harvard honcho, said women don’t have the “intrinsic aptitude” for science and engineering.
And former LA Clippers owner Sterling told his girlfriend that her other (black) boyfriends weren’t welcome at his (supposedly public) games: “You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want …the little I ask you is … not to bring them to my games.”
Summers was forced down and Sterling was pushed out, and that’s fine. As president of the most prestigious university in the United States, Summers held power over thousands of women faculty, staff and students. How could they work for him, knowing that he thought they were stupid?
And, more importantly, how can Summers, the now-former president of Harvard, be so stupid as to think that women are dumb at math? On the grounds of low intellect alone, he deserved to get canned.
As for Sterling, he owned a professional NBA team. Many professional basketball players are black, as are many of its fans. It would have been an abomination to continue to allow a racist to own a team whose stars included many African-Americans — all of whom would have to wonder if they were being discriminated against by their boss.
This is neither the first time nor the last time we will see this, but it must be said: The sacking of Tim Hunt is something that politically correct Internet “warriors” ought to be ashamed of.
President Obama is deploying 450 troops, trainers of Iraqi soldiers, back to Iraq. To fight ISIS this time. The media says this sort of half-measure, neither big enough to make a difference but not nothing, either, reflects the wisdom of compromise. Because “both sides” will criticize.
Both sides are right. It’s a stupid move doomed to failure.
Used to be “Al Qaeda’s number two” man was constantly getting killed, or reportedly getting killed, by the United States. Now the same pattern is repeating itself, but with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the crosshairs. How will this affect the internal office politics of ISIS?
Reddit, the “id” of the Internet, announces a new policy against the harassment that made it what it is today. There’s an irony behind the Reddit harrassment policy that won’t be lost on anyone who has ever had to deal with the service.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, an Amtrak commuter train that derailed at a sharp curve in Philadelphia was traveling 107 mph when it derailed. That’s twice the local speed limit. It must have seemed great before the disaster, especially to Northeasterners accustomed to frequent long delays on the Washington to New York corridor. The crash injured 200 and left seven dead Tuesday. There were 240 people on the train at the time of the crash.
“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” Hersh writes in the London Review of Books.
Here are the seven things Hersh’s piece makes one wonder about:
One: According to Hersh, the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency kept bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad between 2006 and 2011, kind of the way the Burmese junta did to hot dissident lady Aung San Suu Kyi. So when the SEALs came to kill him, it was less like bad-ass, well, SEALs, than shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway, they hid America’s most wanted man ever from us. Why are we paying the Pakistanis $1.6 billion a year? If we paid them $2.6 billion, would they be nicer to us?
Two: According to Hersh, careful intelligence gathering, torture, tracking that courier guy, none of that stuff led to bin Laden.
It was greed: ISI agent Amir Aziz walked into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with evidence bin Laden was in ISI custody. “Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up,” Hersh says. He adds: “The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.” If you came into what we must assume is a significant share of $25 million — even if it’s just $5 million — wouldn’t you retire? Are all Pakistanis workaholics?
Three: Hersh says there was no firefight, that bin Laden never resisted, much less got off a shot. “The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme,” he says.
What about when the assassinations are executed with drones? Does the Obama Administration pretend drone victims first have to point a gun at the drone before the Hellfire missiles are loosed?
Four: After the raid, the SEALs were ordered to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so the public wouldn’t learn that the rubout was a cowardly act of, one might say terrorism. “On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private,” Hersh wrote.
But two SEALs did talk, including Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the book “No Easy Day” (which was actually a walk in the park for all involved, excepting UBL and his family). Is it a violation of your NDA if you squawk, but it’s a lie, and it’s the same lie as the government’s?
Five: “Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers.” Hersh says there was never a “trove of terrorist information” because bin Laden was a prisoner, no longer the tactical head of Al Qaeda.
If the tapes weren’t terror stuff, what were they? Where are the videos now? Note to Langley: if there’s a VHS version of the 1988 cult movie “Tapeheads” in the bin Laden trove, do get in touch — I’ve been looking for that one.
Six: Remember the Pakistani doctor, still in prison, accused of using his vaccination program as a ruse to collect UBL’s DNA? Hersh says he did nothing of the kind — that the CIA threw him under the bus to cover for Aziz. “A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’” What did Afridi do to get picked as a scapegoat? Is this what happens when you refuse to contribute to the Abbottabad Fraternal Order of Police fundraiser?
Seven: Hersh says “the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place… there had been ‘no burial at sea.’ added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials.’” There was also what Hersh terms “a complication”: “some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed.”
Do terrorist body parts often rain from the sky in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Were any goatherds, or goats, bonked on the head by bin Laden bits?
Seymour Hersh has published a blockbuster expose that asserts that most of the narrative of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was wrong. Bin Laden was a prisoner of the ISI since 2006. He never resisted. Seal Team Six was never in danger. The body was never buried at sea, nor were there Muslim rites. Will Kathryn Bigelow remake her film?
Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at ANewDomain.net, editor-in-chief of SkewedNews.net, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.