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Washington Still Doesn’t Understand Iraq

May 20, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections confirm that U.S.
leaders and the American news media still don’t have a clue about
the complex political dynamics in that country. Experts and pundits
expected U.S.-backed incumbent Prime Minister
Haidar al-Abadi’s party to prevail. Instead the party headed by
radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won a plurality of the votes. Sadr is a
long-time U.S. nemesis who opposes Washington’s Middle East policy
agenda and especially the presence of American troops in Iraq.
Indeed, during the years immediately following Washington’s war to
depose Saddam Hussein, Sadr’s armed followers frequently clashed
with U.S. occupation forces.

His resurgent political prominence is more than a little
worrisome to Trump administration officials. But from their
standpoint, Sadr does have one virtue: he dislikes Iranian influence in his country
almost as much as he does U.S. influence. His stance is solid
evidence that Shiite solidarity goes only so far. Despite the
mutual religious identity, there still is a significant, historical
tension between Arabs and Persians that surfaces from time to time.
Sadr epitomizes that ethnic distrust.

A more worrisome aspect of the election results from
Washington’s perspective is that the party finishing second
in the balloting, the Fatah (Conquest) Coalition, does not share
Sadr’s wariness of Iran. Indeed, that Shiite bloc represents
the interests of pro-Iranian militias that Tehran has funded
generously, supplied with military hardware, and even provided
direct assistance with its own “volunteers” on
occasion. The bottom line is that the two strongest political
factions in Iraq are both vehemently anti-America, and one also is
strongly pro-Iran. One could scarcely envision a worse result in
terms of Washington’s policy goals.

To the surprise of Western observers, Abadi’s party
finished an anemic third. That disappointing performance is merely
the latest in Washington’s long record of choosing Iraqi
clients with weak public support. George W. Bush’s
administration and its neoconservative allies assumed that Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi
National Congress, would be Iraq’s new leader once Saddam was
overthrown. Indeed, the United States provided millions of dollars
to the INC in the years leading up to the 2003 invasion and
occupation. Yet when parliamentary elections occurred,
Chalabi’s party garnered a pathetic 0.5 percent of the vote.

Washington’s next client was Nouri al-Maliki. His tenure
in office was characterized by a relentless drive to marginalize
and alienate the country’s Sunni minority that had been the
political base for Saddam’s Baathist ruling party.
Maliki’s vengeful approach, combined with his
administration’s legendary corruption, paved the way for the
rise of ISIS and that extremist faction’s shocking initial
military victories in Iraq’s civil war.

Not …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'Bullsh*t Jobs' is the One Book Every Millennial and Generation Z New Graduate Should Read

May 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Erin Keane, Salon

Chances are, at some point in your life, you might end up in what’s known in anthropology as a 'Bullsh*t Job'


When I graduated college in the late ’90s, I carried forth into the cold wage-paying world the career wisdom of Lloyd Dobler on how to avoid losing my soul to undesirable work. Big-hearted slacker Lloyd (John Cusack), the hero of Cameron Crowe’s 1989 romantic comedy “Say Anything,” is asked by the father (the late, great John Mahoney) of his date, valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye, in a once-in-a-generation role), what he wants to do now that they have graduated from high school.

We already know Diane is going on to big things, and it is understood that Lloyd is, well, not.

“You mean like a career?” Lloyd asks earnestly. “Um, I don’t know. I’ve thought about this quite a bit, sir. And I would have to say, considering what’s waiting out there for me, I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed. Or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. So as a career, I don’t want to do any of that.”

Not buying anything sold or processed — or the inverse — seemed like good advice to my inexperienced ears at the time. After four years of university newspaper editing I had decided not to pursue a journalism career — too stressful, I decided — and slid into a nonprofit communications gig instead. Fast-forward through graduate school and getting a book published, then a few heartbreaking cycles of academic job applications just as the bottom fell out of that market seemingly for good, and I ended up back in journalism in the end, which was even more stressful than I had imagined at 21. But at least I wasn’t buying anything sold or processed, I told myself.

In other words, in the framework I had for it at the time — based solely on the half-baked wisdom of a fictional teenage kickboxing aficionado and hopeless romantic — at least I didn’t have to show up to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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HBO’s 'Fahrenheit 451': Bradbury’s Dystopian Nightmare Future is Now Peak Trump Era

May 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Melanie McFarland, Salon

Is it a great adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece? No. But Michael B. Jordan gives a stunning performance


Director Ramin Bahrani doesn’t have to do much to make Ray Bradbury's cautionary 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451” scream its familiar warning to 2018 audiences.

Indeed, what was nightmarish speculation for Bradbury 65 years ago is basically our reality now, specifically his idea of television screens the size of walls and a population that medicates its problems.

Many of us will watch Bahrani's cinematic adaptation “Fahrenheit 451,” making its TV debut Saturday at 8 p.m on HBO, on the small screens integrated into our mobile devices. They'll access his film via internet and data connections that make it possible to see it any time, and anywhere.

Technology has more or less made Bradbury’s nightmare all but a fait accompli. We should thank our stars that we're not heating our homes with the innards of public libraries at this point.

Among Bradbury’s best known stories, “Fahrenheit 451” seems well-suited for a high-end cinematic treatment by master of blockbusters, someone of Steven Spielberg’s or Ridley Scott’s caliber. 

It also could be exciting in the hands of a director skilled in delivering unapologetic bombast. Imagine it rendered with the level of bluster dreamt up by the likes of ‘90s-era Paul Verhoeven. Do you recoil at that idea? Go ahead. But then consider how well “Starship Troopers” holds up even now. Scratch that — especially right now.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with middling, B-grade sci-fi. I’m a big fan of it, actually. Even the weirdest, most baffling shreds of “what if” concepts can be reasoned into some version of legitimacy, if you choose to engage in such mental gymnastics. We have to believe they’re telling us something worthwhile.

This designation — middling — does not apply to Bradbury’s story, mind you. His masterful distillation of post-World War II, McCarthy-era paranoia mixed with a fear of intrusive technology spoke to its time with such clarity and force that it became a work for the ages.

Bahrani’s “Fahrenheit 451,” which he co-wrote with Amir Naderi, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How the NRA Sabotaged the BackGround Checks System — and 3 Fresh Ideas That Actually Could Reduce Gun Violence

May 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Ladd Everett, Salon

Gun control advocates hope to expand the background-check system. But it’s a fake solution crafted by the NRA.


Since America’s instant check system for gun buyers went online in November 1998, the gun control movement and its allies in Congress have made the expansion of the system their  primary focus. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)  was designed to be fast and easy. Licensed dealers call in a prospective gun buyer’s information to an FBI call center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where checkers run the name through three separate computer databases of past criminal offenders and those adjudicated for mental illness. The process takes only a few minutes.


But the efficiency comes with a price. NICS has failed spectacularly in one high-profile shooting after another, allowing individuals with a history of violence and/or severe mental illness to legally purchase weapons later used in a slaughter.


By ignoring this problem with NICS, gun control advocates seem to be forgetting the history of the Brady Bill and the method by which computer background checks came into being. The NRA, not the gun control movement, was the creator of the FBI call-in system. The system was designed to fail from the start.

*  *  *

The deliberate mediocrity of our background checks has its roots in an era when stopping violent gun buyers was a hopeless exercise.


President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Persuader, lobbied hard for the Gun Control Act of 1968, which he said should prevent “hardened criminals, or alcoholics, or drug addicts or mentally unstable” citizens from buying guns. But Congress sent him a weak bill, which he reluctantly signed on Oct. 22, 1968, with an accompanying statement:

This bill — as big as this bill is — still falls short, because we just could not get the Congress to carry out the requests we made of them. I asked for the national registration of all guns and the licensing of those who carry those guns. For the fact of life is that there are over 160 million guns in this country — more firearms than families. If guns are to be kept out of the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Meghan and Harry’s Royal Wedding Gave Windsor Some Much-Needed Soul

May 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Melanie McFarland, Salon

From a gospel sermon to “Stand By Me,” the royal wedding was a powerful inclusive statement


The bride was 15 minutes late leaving the hotel where she and her mother were sequestered prior to the ceremony, but somehow made it to the church right on time.

Her dress, simple and unadorned by crystals, seed pearls or any other frippery, is a Givenchy designed by Clare Waight Keller. A long lace veil flows behind her in place of a lengthy train. Upon it, subtly embroidered, are the 53 flowers representing each territory of the British Commonwealth.

At a distance, on what looks like a clear day borne by the softest of breezes, the veil looks impossibly like light. But as she is accompanied down the aisle by her father-in-law and the future king Charles, Prince of Wales, one imagines that the unseen load of expectations the bride bears with her even now is heavy. One suspects that at times in the coming months and years, it will feel like the weight of the world.

But for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, on May 19, 2018, the loving television coverage of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales’ wedding to American actress Meghan Markle, hereafter to be formally known the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, allowed viewers around the world to hold it with them, to feel its transformative significance more than its burden.

The happiness of the occasion, the affection the bride and groom have for one another, is demonstrable. The event was star-studded but not entirely stiff — a merger of old pomp, new glamour and real joy.

It didn’t matter what your local time was when they exchanged their vows; it didn’t matter if you were in your pajamas drinking coffee or somewhere fancier sipping champagne. Cameras put millions of us close enough to the heart of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle to witness Harry drop any pretense of reserve as he first took in the sight of Meghan, to read his lips as he told her, “You look amazing.”

They giggled at the swell of cheers rising from the crowd of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Mother of Santa Fe School Shooting Victim Has a Theory About the Killer's Possible Motive

May 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Martin Cizmar, Raw Story

Sadie Rodriguez is the mother of Shana Fisher, who was killed in the attack.


Police do not yet know why Dimitrios Pagourtzis committed a massacre at his Texas high school.

While Pagourtzis has admitted to the shooting, which started in an art class, and police have found a note detailing his anger before killing 10 people, the motive has not yet been revealed.

His parents—whose gun he took to commit the attack and who didn't stop him from posting pictures of firearms on social media prior to the attack—have said they don't know why he killed.

But now the mother of one of the victims is stepping forward with a possible motive.

Sadie Rodriguez is the mother of Shana Fisher, who was killed in the attack. The Dallas News is reporting that Rodriguez said her daughter had spurned Pagourtzis' romantic advances a week before he walked into her art class and killed her and others.

“He continued to get more aggressive,” Rodriguez said in an interview conducted with the paper via Facebook. “She finally stood up to him and embarrassed him.”

Rodriquez is raising money in her daughter's memory.

“My daughter was the most sweet and shy young lady,” Rodriguez wrote on Facebook. “She never hurt anyone. This boy. I can't even do this. I cant even finish this. It isn't even fair.”

 

…read more

Source: ALTERNET