Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The Maidan killings

Posted by Charles II on April 11, 2015

A great unresolved question is who killed the protesters in Kiev as part of the run-up to the coup against the elected President, Yanukovych. Via the Kyiv Post, film maker Evelina Nefertari has compiled the existing video into Altitude October Palace (in Ukrainian, alas).

The Kyiv Post states:

The videos show protesters being shot and killed on Instytutska Street by snipers behind police lines at 9:01 – 9:16 , and 9:20 – 10:38. The timeline also incorporates an ntercepted [sic] radio communication between snipers of the Security Service of Ukraine’s Alfa special unit unit starting on the 11th minute.

I really can’t see that, partly because I don’t know the geography or the players. And the story that the snipers were pro-Yanukovych makes very little sense to me; nor would the overthrow of a government be legitimate even if the snipers were pro-government; otherwise the U.S. government should have been overthrown after Kent State. But this is a start for understanding how the protests went down and perhaps finding the perpetrators.

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | 3 Comments »

Alexander the Great, 1998-2015

Posted by MEC on April 10, 2015

When I decided to get a kitten all those years ago, I kind of had an orange kitten in mind. But when I reached into the kitten cage at the shelter to pet the one orange kitten, it backed up and hissed at me. Then a scrap of an 8-week-old black-and-white kitten climbed up my arm, sat down on my shoulder, stuck his nose in my ear, and purred like a chainsaw. I was chosen.

I named him Alexander the Great because it took him about a week to conquer the Known World, i.e. my house and everything in it, including the senior cat.

He’s been my sweet boykitty for 17 years, which is a good long life for a cat. But old age is inexorable, and I wouldn’t want him to live longer if it meant being in pain.

Ave atque vale, Alexander. You were a CAT.

Alexander the Great

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 14 Comments »

What I love about America

Posted by Charles II on April 6, 2015

Image from HuffPo

Alan Yuhas, The Guardian:

The New York parks department on Monday removed a large bust of Edward Snowden that was installed in a Brooklyn park, shortly after covering it up with a tarp and thwarting the artists’ stated intent “to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies”.

The Snowden bust still stood at Fort Greene Park’s Prison Ship Martyrs monument, atop a single Doric column. But it was wrapped in a blue tarpaulin, as city workers debated what to do with it.

The monument stands to the memory of 11,000 prisoners who died in British captivity during the Revolutionary war.

The bust, about 4ft tall and resembling both Snowden and former White House spokesman Jay Carney, was wrapped up by two park employees before noon, hiding the face and column but not the eagle statue that stands at its foot. A park ranger removed a plexiglass stand with Snowden’s name that had been placed at the base of the column.

The Brooklyn-based artists also wrote that they hoped passersby would “ponder the sacrifices made for their freedoms”.

“We hope this inspires them to reflect upon the responsibility we all bear to ensure our liberties exist long into the future,” they said.

What a beautiful protest.

Posted in Good Things, NSA eavesdropping | 1 Comment »

Lisa Myers, Glass Houses, And False Accusations

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 6, 2015

So Lisa Myers wants to get all outraged that nobody was fired over the Rolling Stone article where a false rape accusation was allowed to be lodged.

Does the name “Juanita Broaddrick” ring a bell, Ms. Myers?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on April 3, 2015

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on March 27, 2015

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Cry, the Beloved Country

Posted by Charles II on March 20, 2015

Outsourced to Brother John.

War is Peace in our Brave New Dystopia.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »