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Member since: Wed May 5, 2004, 09:44 AM
Number of posts: 33,388

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Business values tech, quants and lawyers, but society is better off with more teachers and artists.

Capitalism turns everything upside down, including the natural order of things. The highest flowering of human development is not this:

It is this:

The inverted measure of value leads to a world that looks like this:

There were few lethal casualties in Syria for the first 6 weeks of the "Arab Spring" phase of the

rebellion. There were no massacres until after the April 8, 2011 violent demonstrations and gun battles in Dara'a, on the Jordanian border, that left more police dead than demonstrators. That series of events leading up to the first large scale violence is shown in the timeline here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Syrian_civil_war_%28January%E2%80%93April_2011%29

The Arab Spring was not originally met with much enthusiasm inside Syria. In fact, in the first five or six weeks it was largely ignored by both the opposition and the regime until foreign exile groups called for "Days of Rage" and armed insurrection broke out in Dara'a, which is acknowledged to be the place where the Syrian civil war started.

On April 8, snipers opened up on the crowds and on police in Dara'a. More Syrian policemen died that day than did demonstrators. An AP video of the gunmen can be viewed here: As for the the standard media framing of the civil war as an entirely unprovoked slaughter of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators by the military, that is a myth. The mob in Dara'ia was not unarmed and not peaceful. The tanks didn't roll in the streets of that city until the 13th, after some components of Syrian Army units defected and heavy fighting broke out.

I am afraid that what follows the Assad hereditary dictatorship will be worse for most Syrians than the regime that is being swept away by a larger religious war. Our involvement in that spreading war threatens further blowback for ourselves that will make 9/11 look trivial.

This is how most people feel when they are confronted by open carry demonstrators:

If it isn't blunt intimidation, I don't know what is.

Wow. I didn't even think they still made chips in this country. And, get this, it isn't a scam.

There's already a $13 billion fab facility run in the Mohawk Valley of NY by a consortia of large global companies that first started operating there in 1997, according to the Wiki for the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE.) I had to do a double-take and some Googling. That name just reads too much like science fiction from the early 1980s.

I've long been a skeptic of Silicon Valley hype (and a fan of Cyberpunk). In the early 1980s, I was living in Santa Cruz, CA, a little hippie surfer town just over the hill from San Jose, the epicenter of the then rocketing American computer software sector. But, I sensed all was not well and sustainable in this new industry and the cybernetic society it was shaping. I foresaw the dot.com crash of 2000 coming at the beginning of the personal computer age and described life in America after the Big Bust in a 1982 series of ten articles for a little weekly newspaper, The Santa Cruz Express. In the first installment, Santa Cruz in the Year 2002,I wrote:

Early in the year 2000, the microelectronics industry went bust because of market saturation and declining consumer income . . ."

Well, I got the timing of the crash spot-on, anyway. Here is one of several of the installments I've posted at Photobucket, part of the series: "Santa Cruz in the Years 2002-2012" (1982). This NY tech campus sounds eerily like one of the "Jack Junior" installations I imagined would be built, and largely abandoned after the bubble burst in the 2000s. Imagine that:

RESPONSE TO POST: "New York Plans $45 Billion Fab Campus," http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319557&

Did anyone else watch the Charlie Rose interview w/Ehud Barak? He urged Obama to bomb Iran without

seeking any Congressional or UN authorization, and has been talking to some in Congress and the Admin. to make sure the "same mistake" that delayed the bombing of Syria isn't repeated.

The former Israeli PM talked about his meetings in DC about goading the US into a "sledgehammer attack" on Iran's nuclear installations with some secret new weapons he alluded to toward the end of the Rose Interview. Also, earlier in the talk he seems to say that Israel was involved in the western interventions in Libya and Syria.

Barak discusses his strategy for an unannounced, preemptive attack by the US on Iran about 30 minutes into the interview first aired Friday night, here: http://www.bloomberg.com/video/israeli-prime-minister-barak-charlie-rose-09-20-blc81QjLSWGC3eZiu1Kyiw.html

Here are some additional materials on the Church/Pike Committee Reports:

Full Church Commitee reports: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports.htm

Full Pike Commitee reports: http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/docset/getList.do?docSetId=1918

CIA Historical Study of the background to the Church and Pike Committee reports: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter98_99/art07.html

We opened a pandora's box with serial regime change across MENA. Religious war was the inevitable

result in Syria given its particular history of Sunni-Shi'ia conflict and its proximity, strategic and symbolic importance to the major antagonists within the region: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. The breakup of Libya sent tens of thousands of hardened fighters newly armed with sophisticated weapons into the other conflict zones, particularly Syria. Once ignited, civil war in Syria was bound to spread.

The Sunni-Shi'ia Jihad is a cancer that was once contained and stable. The Clinton-Petraeus serial regime change doctrine destabilized the region, and sectarian violence and terrorism is now metasticizing. Now, it will make the whole world violently ill.

Life is not better now in eastern and central Libya.

Eastern coastal Libya is a hodgepodge of feuding war lords and mini caliphates. It is from this area that most of the Jihadis and looted arms that went to Iraq and Syria (and are back in Iraq again now). Large parts of the central coastal city of Sirte, which was the tribal homeland of Ghadaffi, were reduced to ruins and have not been rebuilt:

As for democratization, here is 15 minutes of public administration of justice by the local Islamic Court. Sirte, March, 2013:

The American Citizens' Guide to Seeking Asylum Abroad

The American Citizens' Guide to Seeking Asylum Abroad
By JDzubow
09-17-2013 at 09:02 AM

This piece was originally published by http://www.wherevermag.com/ wherever magazine, an out of place journal of travel literature, travel culture, and travel politics. I will periodically be blogging for the new magazine, which seems like a very cool publication (probably too cool for the likes of me, but for now, I'm still in).

I wrote this piece because I am contacted pretty regularly by U.S. citizens who are seeking asylum abroad, or who are thinking about it. Some of these asylum seekers are not so legitimate in my estimation--criminals who hope to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Others represent sad situations that involve people who have been frustrated by their inability to receive help from the government. Victims of domestic abuse are one example in this category. Also, there are those who are engaged in political activity (or what they consider political activity) that could result in criminal penalties here. Edward Snowden falls into this category. So do certain cannabis activists and others in favor of drug legalization (people who consider drug use a political act).

Some people need to flee the U.S.; others just need to leave already.

OK, without further ado, the original piece is here (where you can also check out some interesting articles and photos), and a slightly shortened version is below:

Let’s say you’ve decided to flee the United State of America. You’re not some high-profile asylum seeker like Edward Snowden, who can count on help from a rival government (Russia). Instead, you’re just an ordinary asylum seeker, who will have to demonstrate that you qualify for protection under international law. How would you go about it?


(Not quite Latest Breaking News, but I thought I would share it while it's still fresh, anyway. Who hasn't had this thought, at some time?

FYI - Jason is a real immigration lawyer, and only half kidding.)

Human Rights Watch: Vast Majority Killed with Non-Military Ordinance on 8/21

On September 10, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its 22-page report on the chemical attacks in suburban Damascus. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0 That paper follows similar reports by the U.S. State Department, the Government of France, but offers a wealth of information and details missing in the governmental assessments.

HRW: Doubts Raised About Number of Areas Targeted, All Rockets Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory

Details of the HRW report have caused this writer to reassess some earlier conclusions, but it has also reinforced some other doubts raised about the accuracy and completeness of the U.S. and French reports. The HRW study does not back up the U.S. report that the deadliest attacks on eastern Damascus were launched from a "regime controlled" area, the number of neighborhoods attacked, or the number of rockets launched. Most fundamentally, it casts doubt on the conclusions drawn that the deadliest of these attacks had to be carried out by regime forces using military weapons.

One issue which HRW has helped to correct previous confusion regards the types of ordinance used. It had been previously thought that large numbers of rockets, each carrying a relatively small amount of Sarin were required to produce fatalities that number upwards of hundreds killed to 1426 claimed by the Kerry Report. Earlier assessments that many dozens of rockets had to used were predicated upon information that each rocket held only 1-2 liters of Sarin each. This report now makes it clear that there were in fact two types of chemical rockets used on separate neighborhoods, and that by far the deadlier attacks were carried out with a small number -- as few as eight -- crude but deadly improvised rockets of the type that have been previously used by militias inside Syria and by insurgent groups in several Mideast countries.

In contrast, the neighborhood in western Damascus targeted with standard Syrian Army munitions suffered relatively light casualties, and HRW finds there is no evidence of the type of military ordinance used there ever having been employed before in the civil war. The neighborhood closest to the military airbase and headquarters of the 4th Armored Brigade was attacked by seven or eight 140mm artillery rockets, a standard type of Soviet-era munition. Each of these rounds is relatively accurate but capable of carrying only 2 liters of Sarin over a range of up to about six miles. According to HRW, fewer than one-in-six of the fatalities occurred in that area where these military munitions were used.

However, according to the HRW Report, at least 8 larger improvised gas rockets (333mm in diameter) impacted in the eastern part of the city. Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), these bigger, deadlier, but clumsier devices are not standard military ordinance. During the same night, these improvised rockets were fired into the eastern Damascus suburbs in the area of Zamalka, and this type is estimated by HRW’s experts to have a capacity to carry upwards of 50 liters of Sarin in each warhead. While it carries a far larger amount of poisonous agent, and are proportionately more deadly over a larger area, these improvised devices are described as having poor flight characteristics with a more limited range and poor accuracy, except very close to the target:

The rocket is of a non-aerodynamic design . . . indicat(ing) that the rocket would be relatively short ranged and not capable of accurate targeting.

Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munition (IRAM)of Same Type Used in 8/21 Damascus Attack:

HRW Report Silent About State Dept. Allegation that All Attacks Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory

1) HRW Map of Targeted Damascus Neighborhoods (highlighted in Red)

One interesting aspect of the HRW report is that while the authors cite witnesses as stating that the smaller, more accurate rockets were observed to have come from the direction of Syrian military bases, the report is silent as to where the larger, deadlier improvised rockets were launched.* Nonetheless, the HRW paper specifies that the improvised devices killed far more people:

Human Rights Watch has collected the names of 80 individuals believed to have been killed in the August 21 strikes in Moadamiya in Western Ghouta. Two sources told Human Rights Watch that 103 people were killed in the Moadamiya attack.28 Because the attack on Eastern Ghouta involved a much larger affected area, and several small clinics where victims were brought, a total death toll is more difficult to establish. A member of the Zamalka media center, stated during an interview with Human Rights Watch on September 4, and in a separate interview with local journalists on the same day, that the local council in Zamalka had registered the full names of 734 persons who were killed during the attack in Zamalka neighborhood.

HRW states that witnesses counted some seven or eight of the smaller but more accurate 140mm rockets launched into the southwestern neighborhoods of Moadamiya near the military airfield at Mezzeh. The report states:

Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the August 21 rocket attack on their area came from the direction of the Mezzeh Military Airport and the nearby Syrian 4th Armored Division base, which are located respectively four kilometers and five to seven kilometers from the site of the attack, and thus within the range of possible launching sites.

The other Sarin gas strikes were in a distant neighborhood identified as Zamalka, 16 kilometers to the East on the other side of Damascus. It becomes clear that these improvised rockets could not have been launched from the same site, as they simply do not have the range to reach any of the eastern targets, particularly the easternmost neighborhood of Duma that is 20 kilometers away from the Mezzah airfield and army base:

Human Rights Watch confirm(s) at least four strike sites in Zamalka where at least eight 330mm rockets struck on August 21. This is unlikely to be a complete account of the number of rockets used in the attack . . . The 330mm surface-to-surface rocket that appears to be associated with the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta is of a type not listed in standard, specialized, international or declassified reference materials. It is a rocket type that has not been documented before the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict . . .

< . . .>

Our analysis does not exclude the possibility that additional weapons delivery systems were used in the Eastern and Western Ghouta attacks that have not yet been identified and analyzed. However, the two analyzed by Human Rights Watch are the only known rocket systems identified as associated with the attacks, according to local activists who have closely inspected both the affected areas.

I therefore must revise my earlier assessment, and now acknowledge that in the Eastern suburbs it is entirely possible for just a handful of these larger rockets to have killed several hundreds of people by area saturation with large amounts of poison gas. Please, see, http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023576617

Something else that HRW tells us is that the large improvised rockets had to have been launched from relatively close range only a few kilometers away. Here, my earlier thinking appears to be confirmed. The State Dept. report alleges that all the rockets fired that night were from “regime-controlled territory”. However, when we look at the State Department map, below, and compare it with the HRW map, a couple things become clear. First, the area in the pink (regime-controlled) is at least six or seven miles from Duma, which the State Dept. identified as the easternmost target. Therefore, either the map or the State Department’s statement that it located the launching site for the larger rockets in western Damascus appears to be incorrect. Furthermore, HRW casts doubt on the conclusion drawn by the State Dept. that all the gas rockets were launched from inside the indicated government-controlled area. Finally, HRW was unable to confirm most of alleged target areas identified by the Kerry report, of which the State Department shows 12 (see 2nd map, at bottom of article) and the HRW could only confirm two.

2) State Department Report Map:

That brings us to the final question raised here. Why would the Syrian Army use crude, improvised munitions when as the French Report points out, it has large numbers of other types of modern chemical munitions and rockets, some of them with ranges that reach out to 75 kilometers and further with greater accuracy.

Indeed, this just reinforces persistent doubts that the Syrian Army units under the control of the Assad regime used these improvised munitions that killed most of the victims on 8/21. As Brown Moses Blog pointed out in June, these things were introduced into Syria last year and have previously been used there with conventional high explosive warheads by Hezbollah militias. Below, we see an IRAM that was previously identified by that source as having been used by a militia, not the Syrian military. One can see that it is closely related to the type, shown above, used in the Damascus gas attack. http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/06/diy-weapons-in-syria-hezbollah-deploys.html

IRAM Used Inside Syria by Militia Prior to 8/21

The HRW report and other new evidence do not support the conclusion drawn that the Syrian regime controlled all the gas rockets launched that night. While video has been presented that the military has tested or had demonstrated this type of rocket, by no means is it established beyond a reasonable doubt that it was units under orders of the civilian authorities that actually carried out the attack on Zamalka using improvised rockets.

It appears, contrary to the assertions made, that a lot of people in the Mideast besides the Syrian military have cobbled together their own IRAMs and could have both the means and motive to have used them in Eastern Damascus that terrible night. Details of the HRW report raise additional questions about the accuracy of key parts of the State Department report, including the location and number of targets, and that the Syrian military, alone, had the means to carry out the 8/21 attacks.

Al-Qaeda IRAM:

Similar IRAMs have been manufactured and used by a variety of groups, including al-Qaeda, across the region as we see here:

* Note that the Sept. 10 HRW study does not repeat initial reports from opposition activists that located the possible launch point of the rockets that struck Zamalka as the October War Museum, which is a mere 1.25 miles northwest of Zamalka, where most of the casualties occurred: "Activists in the area told him that 18 missiles, carrying what they said was a chemical agent, fired from the direction of the October War Panorama, a military museum in Damascus city, and of Mezzeh military airport, hit Zamalka, Ayn Tarma, Douma, and Moadamiya." http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/08/21/syria-witnesses-describe-alleged-chemical-attacks
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