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Yemen: The War Nerd States What Most US Media Won’t

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 30, 2015

A handy rule to judge conflicts around the world: If the Saudis are on one side, common decency suggests you take the other.

So it is with Yemen. Most US media depicts Yemen as a typical and naturally Sunni state, which would mean that the Saudis are justified in coming to the aid of its Sunni rulers (who the Saudis helped achieve that rank) against the Shia Houthis, who are suspected of (eeeek!) getting aid from (cue the scary organ music) Iran.

The War Nerd is the only English-speaking person that I know of who is writing at length about the truth behind this – and the truth is that Yemen is, as was much of Saudi Arabia itself up until a few decades ago (and, clandestinely, even today), still heavily Shia despite the worst efforts of its imposed-from-without Sunni government, which the Houthis finally overthrew last year. Here’s a sample from the War Nerd’s latest on this topic, most notably the failure of yet another effort at Saudi-backed cultural imperialism in Yemen:

Dammaj is a little town right in the middle of Saada Province, the heartland of the Shia Houthi movement. And that’s what’s odd about this story, because Dammaj, until recently, was the site of Darul al Hadeeth, one of the biggest Sunni/Salafi religious schools in the Middle East.

“Until recently”—it’s one of those phrases that always means blood and disaster, like “Churchill’s plan for the campaign…” or “You have been accepted for graduate study in our Humanities Program.”

Darul al Hadeeth was always in danger as an outpost of Sunni Salafism planted right in the heart of Zaydi Shia territory. It was founded by a local man, Muqbil al Wadi, who migrated to Najran in Saudi Arabia and converted to Sunni Salafism at a school in Najran founded by Uthayman, one of the biggest 20th century Saudi conservative preachers.

After the Saudis threw him in prison for a few months for suspected involvement in the attack on the Grand Mosque, Wadi came home to Sa’ada in 1979 and started preaching Salafism in Dammaj, a sleepy stream-side village right in the heart of Saada Province. Yep, Saada Province, very heartland of Shi’ite Yemen. Not an easy place to preach Sunni doctrine, especially of the in-yer-face variety Wadi was pushing. This was a brave, if not foolhardy move at micro-level, but at macro-, where we’re all just molecules, it was part of a trend: The Sunni Revival, which might be the biggest historical trend you’re living through, right now.

In fact, the rise and fall of Darul al Hadeeth is really just a small skirmish in the long struggle between the Shia of the southwestern part of the peninsula and the Wahhabi of the Najd. It seems fitting that Wadi was converted from Shi’ism to Sunnah in Najran, because, as I’ve written before, that town has always been front-line for the Sauds’ attempt to change the religion of the Shia of the region.

[…]

Most of the kids who swarmed to Dammaj had no idea they were traveling right to the heart of Saada Province, home of the Shia heretics. They were stronger on faith than history. Thanks to a blog called Fear the Dunya, we know a lot about what the Sunni pilgrims who came to Dammaj thought. The blog was put together by a guy calling himself Hassan as Somali. You can hear him preaching on this YouTube video, if you want to get a sense of his voice and style. It’s best in small doses; the whole 36-minute sermon is torture by anybody’s standards, but a few seconds gives you a sense of accent and attitude. He speaks American English fluently, but with an accent; he sounds young, very righteous, very authoritarian, very ordinary. That’s not a bad profile of a Salafist, actually: Young, male, authoritarian, bi-cultural, ordinary in everything else.

And, like a lot of Salafists, good at media. Hassan’s blog, “Fear the Dunya” (“Dunya” means “the Physical World,” or “reality” as unbelievers call it) got a lot of hits, drew a lot of eager pilgrims to Saada Province. He published posts on how to get to Dammaj, what you could expect to pay in rent ($15-30 per month), and a lot of commentary on the Yemen conflict.

[…]

The pilgrims memorizing Quranic verses and eating beans in the basement didn’t know it, but Darulal Hadeeth was a sectarian provocation, intended as such from the start. The fact that it endured as long as it did was testimony to Sunni strength at the beginning of the 21st century, but it had to fall eventually.

You can’t say that war started in Yemen in 2004, because it had never really stopped. But “the fighting” definitely stepped it up a few notches that year, as the Houthi militias, recruited from Saada Province itself, started taking their home province back from the Yemeni government and its Saudi ally.

The Houthi out-fought the Government troops easily. By 2009, they had retaken all of Saada Province except the little Sunni outpost of Dammaj, guarded by armed Salafi. The Yemen government, noting that they had a source of eager young Sunni fighters up there, started recruiting students from Darul al Hadeeth. After all, “Taliban” means “students.” And Salafi students are oriented, by their creed, toward action rather than mere bookish solitude.

So when the government needed new soldiers for “Operation Scorched Earth” in 2009, they persuaded hundreds of young students from Darul al Hadeeth to join up. Sixty nine of them died, many more were wounded, and the worst fears of the local Shia were confirmed: They were nursing a nest of Sunni vipers in their Shia bosom.

[…]

By 2014, the Houthi were pushing out from Saada, and finally felt strong enough to order all the foreign Salafis out of Dammaj. They were tired of being sniped at, not just literally but verbally, all the time. And it does get tiring, being subjected to that grandiose, repetitious Salafi scolding all the time. So, on January 13, 2014, the soon-to-be-ex government of Mansur Hadi made a deal handing over Saada Province to the Houthi. And for the first time, that included Darul al Hadeeth. Every Salafi inside had to leave, on short notice.

As the Nerd says:

It was as if the sheer power (and money, and guns, of course) of the Sunni revival held Darul al Hadeeth in place against all logic for a third of a century, until the start of the Shia pushback we’re seeing now. And it does give a nice touch of irony to the name that Somali-American gave his blog: “Fear the Dunya.” They were right to fear reality; it caught up with them after all.

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MN GOP Hates Bees And Anything Else That Can’t Sign Checks

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 26, 2015

It’s a pity that bees don’t have appendages capable of holding pens or clicking keyboards, much less have big bank accounts from which they can use the pens or keyboards to draw out money to hand to Minnesota Republican state legislators like senator Gary Dahms (R-Poisoned Bees). Then they might be able to hold their own against the chemical companies that have captured his interest and his loyalties, causing him to roll back polllinator protections that were created by a more sensible legislature last year:

Unfortunately, the insecticide industry is fighting back, and it won another battle in the war against bees today in the Minnesota Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee when Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) moved to amend SF1459 so that existing language would be deleted from statute.

“This is loosely drawn language, it’s very vague,” Dahms said. “. . . This was passed in the House last year, and the concern I have is that we’re going to start asking people when they apply for money through Legacy or LCCMR, we’re going to insist they meet this and it’s really going to be hard to do that because the terms and the facts just aren’t there. . . ” (We post the section of statute below).

But it’s not just wildlife habitat will be affected. As a consequence of removing the language, greenhouses and garden stores could market bee-lethal, neonic-treated plants and seeds as “pollinator friendly” to the home gardener.

Go to Bluestem Prairie for the full story, as well as for ways to contact the members of the relevant committee.

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Sequestration’s Last Gasp?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 22, 2015

I suspect it’s coming soon:

President Barack Obama on Friday drew a sharp line in the sand before the next big battle over funding the government, pledging his opposition to any bill that does not alleviate the spending cuts scheduled to become law this fall.

“I will not,” the president said in an interview with The Huffington Post, when asked if he would put his signature to legislation that allowed for sequestration to come back in October this year.

“And I’ve been very clear. We are not going to have a situation where, for example, our education spending goes back to its lowest level since the year 2000 — since 15 years ago — despite a larger population and more kids to educate. … We can’t do that to our kids, and I’m not going to sign it,” Obama said.

We’ll soon see.

(By the way: A good way to save money would be to avoid going to war with Iran. Tell your congresscritters that.)

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Cry, the Beloved Country

Posted by Charles II on March 20, 2015

Outsourced to Brother John.

War is Peace in our Brave New Dystopia.

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Ask not for whom the bell tolls

Posted by Charles II on March 15, 2015

Richard Lea and Caroline Davies, The Guardian:

The writer Terry Pratchett, who took millions of readers on a madcap journey to the universe of Discworld, has died aged 66.

The announcement came in typically irreverent manner on the author’s Twitter feed, with a series of tweets beginning in the voice of his character, Death: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

“Terry took Death’s arm,” the following tweet read, “and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

“I rage at the imminent loss of my friend,” [Neil] Gaiman continued, “And I think, ‘What would Terry do with this anger?’ Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.””

Old news to my co-bloggers, I suppose. I’m always last to know. But I wanted to say goodbye to one of my favorite writers.

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If A Homeopathic Drug Works, Look At Its “Inert” Ingredients

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 12, 2015

<font size=”2″>I’ve noted elsewhere that Nelsons Acne Gel, which is surprisingly effective for a homeopathic treatment, has alcohol and tea tree oil among its “inert” ingredients:

Here’s the list of “active” ingredients, making up 9% of the total product: Extracts of organically grown Arnica montana tincture 2.5%, Calendula officinalis tincture 2.5%, Hypericum perforatum tincture 2.5%, Sulfur 6x 1.5%

Now here’s the list of “inactive” ingredients, making up the other 91% of the product: Alcohol, Carbomer [of what?], Methylparaben, Purified Water, Tea tree oil, Trolamine.

You tell me which ingredients are more likely to do a number on acne.

It is true that sulfur would normally be considered a pretty potent anti-acne medicine, but at a 6x dilution — meaning that it’s literally a millionth of what it once was — it’s practically nonexistent in this gel.

Now, I think I’ve found another example of this phenomenon: Traumeel. Once again, alcohol is one of the few ingredients with a possible pharmacological effect to be present in meaningful doses, yet it is listed as an “inert” ingredient:

…Traumeel ointment is 13.8% alcohol. Rubbing an alcohol-based ointment into the skin is likely to produce a cooling effect — exactly what you might be looking for if you’ve got a bruise, injury or swelling.

Want to duplicate the cooling effect of Traumeel ointment? Use pretty much any ointment with a similar percentage of alcohol in its makeup.

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Did AIPAC Write The GOP’s Treason Letter?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 10, 2015

Signs point to yes:

http://mjrosenberg.net/2015/03/09/how-we-know-aipac-wrote-the-treason-letter-to-iran/

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Google Strikes Blow For Truth, Lie-Peddlers Horrified

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 4, 2015

The biggest problem with the internet is that most well-heeled and/or well-organized purveyors of garbage can game search engines so that their sites are the first ones found in most internet searches on a topic.

It looks like Google has a solution — and if so, this is the best news I’ve heard so far this year:

Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team (arxiv.org/abs/1502.03519v1). The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.

The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings.

In other words, no longer will well-funded denialist websites be the first things one sees when Googling for information on topics like climate change or vaccines.

This of course is a particularly powerful blow to conservative crapmeisters, which is of course why they are screaming over it like vampires in a holy-water shower:

Google: Custodians of Truth (TPC: Custodians of Craptastic Site Design)

Google and Obama to Decide All Truth Online (Because of course Google and Obama walk hand in hand, according to these mokes.)

Google Gives New Meaning to “Orwellian” (These guys give new meaning to “stupid”.)

Google: New Self-Righteous Source of Truth (This site really pushes the weird relativism conservatives have towards reality, which is hilarious considering how much they love to attack ‘moral relativism’.)

And just to be fair, a wacko libertarian-lefty commenter whining because he knows what a blow this is to the anti-vaccine grift.

Awwww. Dipwads won’t be able to pull the old trick of setting up websites that link to other crapmeister sites just to game the site rankings of most search engines.

Whine away, grifters. Your tears taste so sweet.

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Rolling Jubilee Well Into Third Year, Sky Hasn’t Fallen Yet

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 22, 2015

One of the more interesting things about the critics of Occupy offshoot Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee program is that they keep warning of Big Problems Lurking Just Around The Corner.

Well, it’s been over two years now since the Rolling Jubilee was started, and the insinuative warnings are still coming, even as there is no evidence that any of the Big Problems have ever come to pass.

And, yes, we would know very, very quickly if any Big Problem did come to pass, because all of the members of the right-wing, Occupy-hating corporate puke funnels that dictate America’s news diet (as well as creating the right-wing email smears that your nutty uncle sends to everyone in his mail contacts list and his Facebook friends list) would be all over this before you could say “gold bug”.

One thing the critics of the Rolling Jubilee like to do is to complain that the program doesn’t strike at the root of the debt crisis. One finds it surprising that all these super-smart and super-honest critics (well, maybe, um, not so much) are for some strange reason ignoring what the Rolling Jubilee’s creators have been saying about it all along, as in this November 27, 2012 article in The Nation (an article that’s linked to on the Rolling Jubilee homepage, by the way):

The Rolling Jubilee was not designed to be a feasible, long-term solution to the debt crisis in and of itself. Instead, it is a “bailout by the people, for the people,” a chance to offer others support and solidarity where the government has failed them. While critics like Yves Smith and Doug Henwood have focused on the limits of this tactic, what interests us are the possibilities this experiment opens up, the good will that is fostered, the conversations that it sparks and the new ideas and action plans that are percolating. Who knows where the jubilee will roll next or what its impact will be? Regardless, organizers are well aware that the result of debt cancellation, even on a mass scale, would be negligible unless it was coupled with a far deeper restructuring of our economic system. That is the prize our eyes are on, and that’s why Strike Debt chapters are now springing up in cities all across the country.

And in fact, the Rolling Jubilee stopped accepting donations as of December 31, 2013, so the program is being wound down in any event, having served its main purpose of bringing attention to America’s true debt crisis.

But even as Phase One (the Rolling Jubilee) is being wound down, Phase Two is about to be initiated:

Strike Debt is wrapping up the Rolling Jubilee project. [Strike Debt spokesman Thomas] Gokey estimates it has enough money left to buy two or three more debt portfolios before it exhausts its funds.

And then ….. the debt fairy morphs into a debt demon.

In what should make veins in the blue blood community run even colder, the group plans to move on to organizing “debt strikes” in which selected groups of debtors who share a common debt or creditor strategically stop payment in an effort to force creditors to renegotiate a yet-to-be defined “unjust” debt by, for example, reducing the principal or interest.

“It’s a waste of time to work through a political system bought and paid for by industries,” Gokey said. “We need to organize mass resistance.”

Whether trying to destablize the credit system is a good idea is debatable. And whether enough consumers would buy into the idea of a strike to make it effective, considering the huge risks involved to them personally, remains to be seen.

But it certainly should get people talking.

And getting people talking is indeed the whole point. Changing the terms of debate paves the way for eventual and long-lasting success; in fact, success — especially enduring success — is not possible unless the terms of debate are changed.

When Occupy first started in the fall of 2011, the debt being talked about the most was the debt or deficit the Federal government was running up, and the people doing the talking were all right-wingers and corporatist types who wanted to keep doing the main thing that created the debt, which was to cut taxes on rich people and big businesses. Occupy abruptly stopped that in its tracks, and the “deficit hawks” have never been able to regain control of the national dialogue since.

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Rudy Giuliani: My Thug Felon Daddy Made Me Love America

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 21, 2015

Rudolph Giuliani, of course, knows no shame, or the man known as “Noun Verb 9/11” would have died of it long ago.

That being said, I am circulating this Wayne Barrett piece from the New York Daily News, in the hope that enough people see it to put paid to any further fantasies Giuliani might have about reviving his political career, not to mention his White House dreams:

Rudy Giuliani knows a lot about love.

Ask Regina Peruggi, the second cousin he grew up with and married, who was “offended” when Rudy later engineered an annulment from the priest who was his best man on the grounds, strangely enough, that she was his cousin. Or ask Donna Hanover, the mother of his two children, who found out he wanted a separation when he left Gracie Mansion one morning and announced it at a televised press conference.

Or ask Judi Nathan, his third wife, whom he started dating while still married to Hanover and New York mayor. In two SUVs, he and an entourage of six or seven cops traveled 11 times to Judi’s Hamptons getaway at a taxpayer cost of $3,000 a trip. That’s love.

Rudy knows so much about love that he declared the other day that President Obama “doesn’t love you” and “doesn’t love me” at a private party of GOP fat cats.

There’s more:

Giuliani went so far as to rebuke the President for not being “brought up the way you were and the way I was brought up through love of this country,” a bow no doubt to the parenting prowess of Harold Giuliani, who did time in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and was the bat-wielding enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by Rudy’s uncle.

Though Rudy cited Harold throughout his public life as his model (without revealing any of his history), he and five Rudy uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. Harold, whose robbery conviction was in the name of an alias, made sure the draft board knew he was a felon. On the other hand, Obama’s grandfather and uncle served. His uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, which apparently affected him so deeply he stayed in the family attic for six months when he returned home.

Again, if only Rudy Giuliani could feel shame.

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