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Member since: Fri Nov 6, 2015, 07:20 AM
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The Coming Saudi Crack-up? By Daniel Lazare


President Obama, like generations of Western leaders, has coddled the oil-rich Saudi monarchy by tolerating its reactionary politics, its financing of radical Islam and its military support for Sunni jihadist terrorism. But the spoiled Saudi leaders may finally be going too far, as Daniel Lazare describes.

Is the Saudi monarchy coming apart at the seams? Scholars and journalists have long predicted the kingdom’s demise, but this time the forecasts may finally prove correct. The reason is an unprecedented avalanche of problems pouring down on Saudi Arabia since 79-year-old Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud assumed the throne last January. A hardliner in contrast to his vaguely reformist predecessor Abdullah, Salman lost no time in letting the world know that a new sheriff was in town. He upped the number of public executions, which, at 151, are now running at nearly double last year’s rate.

After meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he promised to intensify efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by increasing aid to Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate. A few weeks later, he assembled a coalition of nine Sunni Arab states to launch nightly bombing raids on Yemen, quickly reducing one of the poorest countries in the Middle East to ruin...People certainly took notice. But if Salman thought such actions would win him respect, he was wrong. Instead, the result has been a steady drum beat of negative publicity as the world awakes to the fact that, with its public beheadings and barbaric treatment of women, the Islamic state headed by the House of Saud is little different from the Islamic State headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northern Syria and Iraq.

  • Topping the kingdom’s list of woes is the economy. With its stubbornly high unemployment rate and growing wealth gap between the rich and poor, Saudi Arabia has long been the sick man of the Persian Gulf. Even though planners have been talking about economic diversification since the 1970s, the kingdom was actually more dependent on oil as of 2013 than 40 years earlier.

  • “Saudization” of the workforce is another mantra, yet the labor market remains polarized between a private sector dominated by foreign guest workers, mainly from South Asia, and a public sector filled with Saudi “sofa men” who spend their days lounging about in government offices. Riyadh wishes that young people would take jobs in hotels, oil refineries and the like, but most prefer to wait for a high-paid government sinecure to open up – which is one reason why the jobless rate among young people is as high as 29 percent.

    Oil Price Crash

    Given this combination of oil dependence and joblessness, a two-thirds drop in the price of crude since mid-2014 couldn’t be more painful. But what makes it even more frightening is the growing realization that, with softening demand due to the global slowdown and growing over-supply due to the fracking revolution, low prices will be a fact of life for years to come. This prospect does not bode well for a country dependent on oil for 91 percent of its foreign revenue, one that is currently burning through its foreign reserves at the rate of $10 billion a month...

  • Putin’s Progress in Syria Sends Kerry Scampering to the United Nations By Mike Whitney


    “It is remarkable that western leaders only remember the term ceasefire when their rebels on the ground are losing. Why didn’t they see the need for peace in Syria before the Russian operation started?”

    — Iyad Khuder, Damascus-based political analyst

    Imagine if the American people elected a president who was much worse than George W. Bush or Barack Obama. A real tyrant. Would that be sufficient justification for someone like Vladimir Putin to arm and train Mexican and Canadian mercenaries to invade America, kill US civilians, destroy cities and critical infrastructure, seize vital oil refineries and pipeline corridors, behead government officials and prisoners they’d captured, declare their own independent state, and do everything in their power to overthrow the elected-government in Washington?

    Of course not. The question is ridiculous. It wouldn’t matter if the US president was a tyrant or not, that doesn’t justify an invasion by armed proxies from another country. And yet, this is precisely the policy that US Secretary of State John Kerry defended at the United Nations on Friday. Behind all the political blabber about a “roadmap to peace”, Kerry was tacitly defending a policy which has led to the deaths of 250,000 Syrians and the destruction of the country.

    And, keep in mind, Kerry didn’t drag his case before the UN Security Council because he’s serious about a negotiated settlement or peace. That’s baloney. What Kerry wants is a resolution that will protect the groups of US-backed jihadis on the ground from the Russian-led offensive. That’s what’s really going on. The Obama administration sees the handwriting on the wall. They know that Russia is going to win the war, so they’ve settled on a plan for protecting their agents in the field. That’s why the emphasis is on a ceasefire; it’s because Kerry wants a “Timeout” so his Sunni militants can either regroup or retreat. Just take a look at this short excerpt from the UN’s summary of last Friday’s confab and you’ll see Kerry’s really up-to:

    “In its first resolution to focus on the politics of ending Syria’s five-year-long war, the Security Council today gave the United Nations an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, with a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices….

    (The Security Council) acknowledged the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, with the former to come into effect as soon as the sides have begun initial steps towards a political transition under UN auspices….

    The resolution asked Mr. Ban through the offices of his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to determine the modalities of a ceasefire and plan to support its implementation, while urging Member States, in particular members of the ISSG, to accelerate all efforts to achieve a ceasefire, including through pressing all relevant parties to adhere to one.

    Emphasizing the need for a ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism, the Council asked Mr. Ban to report back to it on options with a month, and called on Member States to provide “expertise and in-kind contributions” to support such a mechanism…”

    (“In first political resolution on war-torn Syria, Security Council gives UN major role in seeking peace”, UN News Centre)

    See what I mean: Ceasefire, ceasefire, ceasefire. It’s all about a ceasefire. Kerry wants a ceasefire. Obama wants a ceasefire. A big part of the ruling US establishment want a ceasefire. No, not the neocons, not the liberal interventionists, and not the diehard hawks like Ash Carter at the Pentagon, but a good portion of the ruling elites who’ve been following events on the ground and who know how this thing is going to end. The smart money has already moved on to Plan B, which is why they’re now focused on cutting their losses and saving as many of “their guys” as possible. Naturally, the people who funded, armed, trained and deployed these various Sunni fighters feel responsible for their safety, so they’re going to do whatever they can to get them out. That’s where Kerry comes in. Kerry’s job was to fly to Moscow, tell Putin that Obama had changed his mind about regime change, and get the Kremlin to back Kerry’s UN resolution. The primary objective of this farce is to garner international support for designating terrorist groups as “moderates” and to move in the direction of UN-mandated ceasefire that will stop the Russian-led offensive in its tracks.

    But isn’t that what everyone wants, an end to the hostilities?

    Not exactly.

    more at link

    The Grandmother Effect

    We poor don't have much to help us through this vale of tears.

    The lucky ones among us have family...a knowledge of where we came from, how we survived, who loved us unconditionally.

    And all of us poor folk have our pride (if it hasn't been beaten out of us): the knowledge that despite whatever disaster, injustice or tragedy the Masters have poured down upon us, we have managed to make it through another day, another crisis, another generation.

    In comes Hillary Clinton, abused child, social climber and economic exploiter, and tries to take our bitter experience of inadequate income, persecution and injustice through abuse of power to pump up the polls, so that she can be President. Hillary tries to pass as a member of your family...how condescending is that? Not only that, she tries to pass as a beloved and supportive wise woman of your family.

    Hillary, the $12/hour minimum wage bargain hunter.
    Hillary, the h-1b visa goddess.
    Hillary, the pay-your-own-way-through-college-like-I-didn't.

    I could go on, but what will be the point?

    Let Hillary be Hillary, and we will see Bernie Sanders (or Donald Trump) in the White House in a little over a year. Or a revolution. It's People's Choice. At least this time, we really HAVE a choice: an alternative to the handbasket to hell. We have Bernie, and we will have Bernie, or disaster.

    When it comes to insult, Hillary's the best, bar none. I think she's even managed to surpass the MCP Trump, who would "date" his own daughter, with that gambit.

    Top U.S. General Ignored Obama, Led Secret Plot to Protect Assad and Bring Russia Into Syrian War


    President Obama’s top military commander secretly orchestrated intelligence sharing with military leaders in Germany, Israel and Russia to thwart the president’s policy to remove Bashar Assad from power in Syria and lay the groundwork for Russia’s military entrance into the Syrian civil war, because he believed Obama’s anti-ISIS strategies were hopelessly misguided.

    That is just one of the astounding takeaways from a 6,800-word expose by venerated investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, that was just published in the London Review of Books. Hersh, whose sources include top senior aides to the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which commands all U.S. military forces, also described in great detail how Turkey’s president Recep Erdoğan has deceived the White House by siding and arming ISIS and other extremist Islamic militias in Syria, in a gambit for Turkey to emerge as a regional power akin to the Ottoman Empire.

    The broad contours of this cloak-and-dagger tale were confirmed by Saturday’s Democratic Party presidential debate. One of the key foreign policy questions was whether the Syrian dictator had to be removed to defeat ISIS. Bernie Sanders said no, voicing the same argument Hersh reported was put forth by recently retired Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey: removing Assad would create a vacuum that Islamic extremists would fill. Ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad had to go, but intriguingly noted that Turkey was not helping matters. This separation of Assad’s fate from fighting ISIS is now moving into the presidential race, but if Hersh’s account is correct it mirrors the thinking of the top Pentagon commander who felt he had to act on his own because Obama wouldn’t listen to the military's advice.

    According to Hersh, the president’s policy—that Assad must leave office, and that moderate rebels in Syria could be armed in order to defeat him—was built on major flaws. That was the conclusion Dempsey and the various intelligence teams that prepared reports for the Joint Chiefs made. There were no moderates in the Syrian civil war, as repeatedly proven by failed CIA attempts to arm and train forces that took American weapons and sold them to Assad’s fiercest opponents, either Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State. Moreover, removing Assad would likely lead to a situation similar to what has been seen in Libya and Iraq, where America's removal of those dictators created a vaccum that was filled by warring factions and fundamentalists. Hersh quotes Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to '14, who said of the White House, “They did not want to hear the truth.”


    EDITED TO ADD ORIGINAL SOURCE: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military

    Call this number 24/7 and a real person will sing you a holiday song — live!


    If you ever feel your Christmas spirit is lagging and could use a holiday song to brighten things up, a group of college students has you covered, no matter what time of day or night it is. Students in the Snyder Hall dorm at the University of Illinois are standing by to give you your holiday song fix with just a phone call. If you call 217-332-1882 any time day or night before 11:59 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 16 and request a Christmas song, a student will sing it live to you over the phone.

    The "Dial-a-Carol" program has been going on for 55 years at the University of Illinois, according to The Washington Post.
    It's a way for students to blow off steam between finals and Christmas break, and they fulfill all requests.

    The most popular one by far last year was Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

    The group started this year's Dial-a-Carol on Dec. 10 and had calls from all 50 states in less than 24 hours. By Sunday, they had already broken last year's record for the most phone calls.

    I found this too late for this year, but keep the number for 2016!

    I wonder if Dilbert's Colleague posts on DU

    The Devil pens a holiday letter By Charles Hugh Smith


    "To my fallen angels Beelzebub, Lucifer and Leviathan, princes of Hell's demons, and to my minions, lackeys, toadies and sycophants on Earth:

    Due to the high cost of postage, please accept this miserly digital version of my holiday missive.

    As you know, this time of year usually finds me quite despondent, as the Prince of Peace's influence waxes most atrociously around his birthday. But this year I am in fine spirits, nay, let me even declare myself absolutely giddy, for the destruction of the United States of America by its own citizenry and government draws ever nearer.

    Though my minions have long sown festering seeds of hate and disharmony in that now-benighted land, my favored weapons of destruction--leverage, debt, half-truths and endless, self-serving justifications for greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, anger and gluttony--have wormed their way into the stricken heart of that Republic and are now the default setting of American culture.

    My minions in the Federal Reserve--such loyal servants!--continue feeding an orgy of leverage and debt, spreading ruination under the false guise of prosperity. What a delicious irony, that the fools doomed to eternal damnation in my Empire believe themselves prosperous as they absorb the poison of exponentially rising leverage and debt.

    My lackeys in the Central State have made a mockery of the rule of law, letting financial crimes go not just unpunished but rewarded. The blatant injustice that roams the land like a foul, slobbering beast--there are two sets of laws and two sets of books now, one for the financial Elites and their political toadies, and another one for the tax donkeys beneath them--this will eventually ignite the firestorm I seek.


    The Logic of the Police State in America


    If you’ve been listening to various police agencies and their supporters, then you know what the future holds: anarchy is coming — and it’s all the fault of activists.

    In May, a Wall Street Journal op-ed warned of a “new nationwide crime wave” thanks to “intense agitation against American police departments” over the previous year. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went further. Talking recently with the host of CBS’s Face the Nation, the Republican presidential hopeful asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t about reform but something far more sinister. “They’ve been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers,” he insisted. Even the nation’s top cop, FBI Director James Comey, weighed in at the University of Chicago Law School, speaking of “a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year.”

    According to these figures and others like them, lawlessness has been sweeping the nation as the so-called Ferguson effect spreads. Criminals have been emboldened as police officers are forced to think twice about doing their jobs for fear of the infamy of starring in the next viral video. The police have supposedly become the targets of assassins intoxicated by “anti-cop rhetoric,” just as departments are being stripped of the kind of high-powered equipment they need to protect officers and communities. Even their funding streams have, it’s claimed, come under attack as anti-cop bias has infected Washington, D.C. Senator Ted Cruz caught the spirit of that critique by convening a Senate subcommittee hearing to which he gave the title, “The War on Police: How the Federal Government Undermines State and Local Law Enforcement.” According to him, the federal government, including the president and attorney general, has been vilifying the police, who are now being treated as if they, not the criminals, were the enemy.

    Beyond the storm of commentary and criticism, however, quite a different reality presents itself. In the simplest terms, there is no war on the police. Violent attacks against police officers remain at historic lows, even though approximately 1,000 people have been killed by the police this year nationwide. In just the past few weeks, videos have been released of problematic fatal police shootings in San Francisco and Chicago...


    Is Denmark as great as Bernie Sanders says?


    ...In 2013, long before he became a presidential candidate, Sanders was praising the Danish mindset toward government. In a paper he wrote then, he noted, “Danes pay high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would envy.”

    So does Sanders have a point? It is almost impossible to tell. Experts caution that the nations have vast differences that make comparisons difficult...

    “In Denmark, we don’t have political debate that is as, um, divisive as you have in the United States,” explained Kim Mannemar Sonderskov, a political scientist at Aarhus University. “We certainly disagree, but reaching agreement is a cultural necessity. Social trust, the trust in the unspecified other, even someone you just meet on the street, is very high here. Trust in our institutions, our elected officials, is very high.”

    Danish experts aren’t sure such a high level of trust in American government is possible. One cause, they believe, is that while Danes see a lot of good coming back to them, U.S. taxpayers can’t as easily see the benefits of their taxes. A strong military, which eats up 57 percentage of the federal budget’s $1.15 trillion in discretionary spending, doesn’t play a role in most daily lives, for instance. A comprehensive health care system does...

    Today's Homily

    We have just entered the third step in the path Gandhi described for populist uprisings, and have no doubt, Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Presidency is a POPULIST uprising.



    noun: populist; plural noun: populists

    1. a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people.

    adjective: populist

    1. of or relating to a populist or populists.

    because we have only a couple months to win the primaries for Bernie, every one of us must grab a potential voter, make sure he or she is registered and able to vote in the Democratic primary, and see that the trip to the polls (or the absentee ballot) is made in a timely fashion.

    It doesn't take much to "sell" Bernie to an ordinary person....the advantages are obvious.

    May fortune favor us! Whether we are considered foolish, or fearless, we are not allowed to give up.
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