Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Because we’re the good guys

Posted by Charles II on September 17, 2014

James Bamford, NYT (via Atrios):

IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. …

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications….

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications.
….
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.

The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.

But of course it’s ok, because we’re the good guys. Jodi Rudoren, NYT:

For a 29-year-old captain whose eight years in the unit ended in 2011, the transformational moment came in watching “The Lives of Others,” a 2006 film about the operations of the East German secret police.

“I felt a lot of sympathy for the victims in the film of the intelligence,” the captain said. “But I did feel a weird, confusing sense of similarity, I identified myself with the intelligence workers. That we were similar to the kind of oppressive intelligence in oppressive regimes really was a deep realization that makes us all feel that we have to take responsibility.”

Posted in abuse of power, israel, NSA eavesdropping | Leave a Comment »

Tony Auth dies

Posted by Charles II on September 14, 2014

One of America’s best political cartoonists has died. We will miss him very much.

Image from here.

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A Few Remarks On ISIS

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 13, 2014

A few points regarding ISIS:

1) The Kurds and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army have been begging for months for some help against ISIS. Even many Sunnis are souring on them, as ISIS likes to kill even Sunnis who don’t meet their purity standards.

2) For those who think that ISIS’ beheadings are all about luring the US into a quagmire: Not every terror attack, not even those by Al Qaeda, is about tricking people into invading Iraq. The Madrid and London bombings were done to make Spain and the UK stand down, not double down, on their involvement. Furthermore, the latest beheadee isn’t an American, but a British aid worker. Does anyone think this was meant to get the Brits to invade Iraq?

3) ISIS is not Al Qaeda. They’re just one of many Sunni groups working the armchair-jihadi grift in the Middle East. They got kicked out of Jordan because the Jordanian security apparatus was a lot tougher than they were, so they fled to the jihadi-filled area just east of the Golan Heights (an area that for some reason never gets attacked by the IDF that rains bombs down upon Gaza, even though it’s well within IDF missile range) and to the largely empty wastelands in western Iraq. They hit the jackpot two years ago when the Saudis and Kuwaitis started their efforts to topple Syria’s Assad Baathist government, but even with boatloads of Saudi money they still couldn’t topple Assad, so they contented themselves with nabbing a few undefended oil towns on the Syria-Iraq and Kurdish frontiers so they could keep the money rolling in. (Trouble is, they killed too many engineers and the oil production machinery is starting to fall apart: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/03/business/defterios-oil-isis/ )

4) If anyone thinks that US bombing is going to increase ISIS’ numbers, I suggest they think again. From http://pando.com/2014/09/03/the-war-nerd-the-long-twisted-history-of-beheadings-as-propaganda/ :

IS was on a roll, overrunning lightly armed Peshmerga and village militias, before the US ruined everything by authorizing drones and airstrikes. It must have been damned annoying, being an IS fighter, bouncing over the plains in your Toyota Hilux, as the terrified Iraqi Army forces vanished ahead of you in a cloud of panicky dust. Quite a rush for the mix of AQI survivors and European-Muslim war tourists who fill IS’s ranks.

And then all of a sudden, you go from the dashing light-armor knights of the Iraqi plain to the biggest, most vulnerable targets imaginable—thin-skinned vehicles crawling over a completely flat, treeless plain while the drones buzz overhead, armed with Hellfire missiles, just waiting for authorization from a desk jockey in suburban Virginia before they release a weapon designed to destroy much bigger, tougher, Soviet tanks. Suddenly, you, with your Sunni Lawrence of Arabia war-tourist dreams, are nothing but a bug getting zapped by an automated pest-control device.

It’s insulting. And the kind of young men who join IS are romantics, of a sort. They might not mind dying in the abstract—most guys don’t, at that age, until they find out what it feels like to get shot in the stomach—but they hate the idea of dying in such an unchivalrous way.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 12, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

Kiev’s neo-Nazis

Posted by Charles II on September 10, 2014

Shaun Walker of The Guardian had an interesting story:

But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.

Dmitry claimed not to be a Nazi, but waxed lyrical about Adolf Hitler as a military leader, and believes the Holocaust never happened. Not everyone in the Azov battalion thinks like Dmitry, but after speaking with dozens of its fighters and embedding on several missions during the past week in and around the strategic port city of Mariupol, the Guardian found many of them to have disturbing political views, and almost all to be intent on “bringing the fight to Kiev” when the war in the east is over.

The battalion’s symbol is reminiscent of the Nazi Wolfsangel, though the battalion claims it is in fact meant to be the letters N and I crossed over each other, standing for “national idea”. Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.

Indeed, much of what Azov members say about race and nationalism is strikingly similar to the views of the more radical Russian nationalists fighting with the separatist side.

The Ukrainian armed forces are “an army of lions led by a sheep”, said Dmitry, and there is only so long that dynamic can continue. With so many armed, battle-hardened and angry young men coming back from the front, there is a danger that the rolling of heads could be more than a metaphor. Dmitry said he believes that Ukraine needs “a strong dictator to come to power who could shed plenty of blood but unite the nation in the process”.

Many in the Azov battalion [and other batallions] with whom the Guardian spoke shared this view

Anti-Semitism and strongman worship are so common in parts of the world that one hesitates to call them abnormal. They are part of the air that people breathe. But the part about the Azov fighters and others like them might turn on the Poroshenko government should give Washington pause. It’s crazy that the US has sided with Kiev given its use of neo-Nazi elements.

Posted in Russia, totalitarianism, Ukraine | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Our ally in Asia…

Posted by Charles II on September 9, 2014

Justin McCurry, The Guardian:

Barely a week after Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, overhauled his administration amid flagging popularity, two of his senior colleagues have been forced to distance themselves from rightwing extremism after photographs emerged of them posing with the country’s leading neo-Nazi.

Sanae Takaichi, the internal affairs minister, was among a record-equalling five women selected by Abe as he attempts to make his cabinet more female voter-friendly and to increase women’s presence in the workplace.

Takaichi, an Abe ally on the right of the governing Liberal Democratic party (LDP), was pictured posing alongside Kazunari Yamada, the 52-year-old leader of the National Socialist Japanese Workers party, on the neo-Nazi party’s website.

Yamada has voiced praise for Adolf Hitler and the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. In a YouTube video Yamada’s supporters are seen wearing swastika armbands, while he denies the Holocaust took place and criticises postwar Germany’s ban on the Nazi salute, accusing the country of being “no different from North Korea”.

I can see why the Chinese might be itchy.

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Speaking of Avi Schlaim…

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2014

Speaking of Avi Schlaim, he has a new column in The Guardian:

Five days after reaching a ceasefire with Hamas to end the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the Israeli cabinet decided to appropriate 988 acres of land on the West Bank, near the place where three Israeli teenagers were recently abducted and murdered, to make way for another illegal Jewish city. This is the biggest land grab in three decades. As the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, pointed out: “It was a decision that weakens Israel and damages its security.” What it proves, if further proof is needed, is that Israel’s leaders are determined to prevent a two-state solution to the conflict.

What did Israel gain by unleashing the deadly firepower of the IDF against the caged population of this tiny coastal enclave? Virtually nothing. Israel had in fact provoked this crisis by its violent crackdown against Hamas activists on the West Bank following the murder of the three teenagers. Hamas rocket attacks – the ostensible reason for the war – were a response to Israel’s aggressive security measures.

Hamas had more solid reasons for rejoicing…. Despite the intense military pressure, Hamas’s spirit did not break and its popularity skyrocketed.

it is time to remove from Hamas the terrorist tag. This is a powerful weapon in the propaganda war but useless in the quest for peace. Hamas is indeed guilty of terrorism but it is also a legitimate political actor, having won a fair and free election in 2006.

Israel’s policy towards Gaza since the unilateral disengagement in 2005 has consisted of the systematic violations of international humanitarian law, duplicitous diplomacy and large doses of brute military force. With chilling cynicism, Israeli generals speak of their periodic incursions into Gaza as “mowing the lawn”. This policy has manifestly failed to procure the security that Israel’s citizens deserve. The writing is on the wall. A new and more constructive policy is desperately needed.

Realistically, there are only two roads before Israel. The first, the one it is on, is to commit genocide and remove the Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank, hurling them into one of the unstable states in the region (like Syria) that is unable to protect its borders. The second, the one that most of Israel’s friends have been imploring it to take, is to stop trying to solve political problems with military hardware: negotiate a real and just settlement with the Palestinians that will end the hardship in the Occupied Territories and put the Palestinians on the road to prosperity and self-determination. When the average Palestinian says, Israel behaves justly and with concern for us as human beings, would-be terrorists will have no purchase on Palestinian society.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, terrorism | 2 Comments »

The “Healthcare.gov Hack” That Wasn’t

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 6, 2014

The conservative lie funnel has been going berserk lately over the alleged hacking of healthcare.gov. Per “respectable” conservative site Politico:

The HealthCare.gov insurance portal succumbed to a cyberattack this summer, the government said Thursday, prompting an eruption of GOP finger-pointing and demands for hearings into the administration’s security policies for the site, where millions of Americas have registered to purchase insurance.

Ahem. Here’s what actually happened:

Was healthcare.gov hacked? Not really. A test server was uploaded with “denial of service” malware – a practice “so common that it’s attempted 28 different times every hour.” The healthcare.gov site itself was unharmed.

 
Was healthcare.gov specifically targeted? No. Was any consumer information compromised? No. Was any data transmitted? No. Was there an attempt to steal data? No. Was the website knocked offline? No.

And that is that.

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Trouble in Paradise

Posted by Charles II on September 5, 2014

My earlier blog post suggesting that the Kiev government has met devastating military setbacks has been confirmed by a post in the NY Review of Books. Tim Judah:

The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week has to be seen to be believed. It amounts to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history.

A week ago a major rebel offensive began. On September 3 on a sixteen-mile stretch of road from the village of Novokaterinivka to the town of Ilovaysk, I counted the remains of sixty-eight military vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, pick-ups, buses, and trucks in which a large but as yet unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers died as they tried to flee the area between August 28 and September 1. They had been ambushed by rebel forces and, according to survivors, soldiers from the army of the Russian Federation.

These destroyed vehicles were of course only the ones I could see—those that were not destroyed are now in the hands of rebels.

The fortunes of war have changed dramatically in the past two weeks. In spring, anti-Kiev rebels, taking the new and revolutionary Ukrainian government by surprise, seized towns and cities across the two predominantly industrial and mining regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At first, Ukrainian forces either fell apart, were captured, or defected to the rebel side. By summer, however, the Ukrainians were better organized and went on the offensive driving the rebels back.

…The Ukrainians said that regular Russian troops were crossing the border, a contention supported by western intelligence reports. More and more stories are being written in the Russian press too about soldiers killed in action in Ukraine, though the Russian government flatly denies that any regular soldiers—as opposed to volunteers who have come on their own—have crossed the frontier. However not only is there mounting evidence of the presence of regular Russian soldiers but the fact that the military situation has changed so rapidly also suggests the rebels have acquired new strength.

From Neil MacFarquar at the NYT:

Timothy Ash, a market analyst at Standard Bank in London who closely monitors developments in Ukraine and Russia, said the agreement signed in Minsk on Friday meant the conflict would probably be frozen in a political stalemate similar to those in other Russian-dominated, quasi-independent “gray zones” like Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia in Georgia.

“Russian regular and irregular forces are not going to withdraw unless Poroshenko delivers on Putin’s agenda for a federal solution for Ukraine, which is really a nonstarter for any Ukrainian politician and political suicide, in effect,” Mr. Ash wrote on Friday in a note to clients.

Without a cease-fire now, Mr. Ash wrote, Mr. Poroshenko risked losing Mariupol, which remained under heavy attack by pro-Russian forces on Friday. “Any delay would probably have seen the loss of Mariupol, and then a land corridor secured by Russia to Crimea,” he wrote, which would have been “likely terminal” for Ukraine’s already struggling economy.

Judah was there. He saw troops he believes are Russian, though not in large numbers. Cameron’s call to assemble a rapid-reaction force and the plan to have NATO troops train in western Ukraine therefore puts us on the brink of a full-fledged hot war between the US and Russia. Certainly there are forces in Ukraine that would be happy to light the match.

This blog has been warning about this for a very long time. For example. And for example. (And half a dozen more).

One does not need to support the Russians–I don’t–to realize that Ukraine is a vital interest for them and not for us. So, they are quite willing to go to war over it, and we aren’t. So, we should shut up and try to accomplish change through more constructive means than overthrowing the government, sending their soldiers off on a fool’s mission, and then using our own troops in as a tripwire on an active battlefield.

Also, we should stop trying to silence the people who know what the f–k they’re talking about. As an aside, I called the attempt to silence those of us urging caution as a kind of neo-McCarthyism on July 22, several weeks before Stephen Cohen said the same thing.

And, as a final interesting aside, you may notice we have heard nothing new about the Malaysian airliner? There has been an agreement between the western powers who are conducting the investigation not to talk about it:

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean there seems to be an agreement between the major countries?

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, in addition to the insurance company for the airplane, which technically has legal responsibility, the major countries that are doing it, Britain has the black boxes, the Netherlands are involved. There was a report the other day that these parties, these states, have agreed that they would not divulge individually what they have discovered. Now, they’ve had plenty of time to interpret the black boxes. There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down. They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not?

So… maybe somebody other than the Russians or the pro-Russian rebels shot down the airliner?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 5, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

 
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