Links 8/12/10

Oldest signs of tool-making found BBC

New superbugs spreading from South Asia: study Raw Story. We need a new category, the dark grey swan, tail events everyone knows can happen but have nevertheless assign unduly low odds of happening. If I read the press correctly, epidemiologists regard a global pandemic as close to inevitable; the big question is timing, but citizens (and worse, I suspect a lot of government officials) don’t see it that way.

‘The Marcellus Gas Shale Play: Information for an Informed Citizenry’ – a talk by Professor Ingraffea NYRAD (hat tip reader Amnon Portugaly)

Now India threatens to shut down BlackBerry Independent

Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover New York Times

The Point of No Return Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic (hat tip Gonzalo Lira). Another dark grey swan, an Israeli air strike on Iran.

You, Too, Can and Should Be an “Intelligence Analyst” Power of Narrative (hat tip reader Sundog)

The AIG Bailout Scandal William Greider, The Nation (hat tip reader John M, via Jesse).

BP Is Hiding Dead Animals to Avoid Fine of $50,000 Per Dead Animal (and the Bad Publicity) George Washington

Grim Voter Mood Turns Grimmer Wall Street Journal

Cor blimey … Correlation Tracy Alloway, FTAlphaville. An algo side effect?

Rogoff and Reinhart Analysis Has Major Flaw Paul Hanly, Seeking Alpha

Student Loans Now Greater Than Credit Card Debt Bob Lawless, Credit Slips

Trade Deficit Explodes Tim Duy

Some Spanish Regional Governments Are Shut Out Of The Bond Market Clusterstock

Antidote du jour:

Picture 17

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  1. i on the ball patriot

    “We need a new category, the dark grey swan, tail events everyone knows can happen but have nevertheless assign unduly low odds of happening.”

    Super maybe swan. Like scamericans might wake the fuck up and revolt against their crooked government is a super maybe swan.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  2. Richard Kline

    I have significant problems with Goldberg’s piece in the Atlantic, and I don’t credit it as analysis, though as an example of one perspective on ‘Israel’s dilemma and therefor of its friends’ it is worth perusing. Not a single critic of Israel’s military or political policy is quoted; no one with a perspective on the the goals of Zionism is mentioned even obliquely. There is no historical context. Nothing substantive of Israel’s power balance with its immediate neighbors and near abroad is mentioned in any useful detail. We get several long interviews with the likes of Irving Kristol, Dennis Ross, and Rahm Imanuel who couldn’t serve Israeli interests better if they carried two passports, and a string of Israeli hardlines like Netanyahu and Gen. Eskeniot. There is a long discussion of ‘why Israel needs the Bomb’ starting from the position of a fear justified by the shoah. And not to diminish that relevant fear, but Israel having the Bomb has next to nothing to do with the shoah and absolutely everything about holding a satchel charge to the head of it’s neighboring nations.

    The entire thing reads more to me like a justification before the fact than a serious consideration of the whys or what of its form any putative Israeli attack on Iran. Which possibility for attack I’ve said before I see as remote in fact but massively hyped in the press for layered reasons of propaganda. An Israeli attack on any facility in Iran would be a strategic failure of the first order before the ordance left the airframe because it wouldn’t in any way impact Iran’s ability to build or do _anything_, and I’m sure that the Israelis understand this. So why do we hear endless, grating pieces in the press on this? Because Israel is far, far more likely to attack Lebanon and/or Syria again, in the near future, and both are effectively allied with Iran. The goal, to me, is to sufficiently intimidate Iran, or try to, that there will be no substantive aid directed to Lebanone/Syria when said attack is decided upon, a prospect which I would say is less than certain but more than faint. I’m reminded here of the kind of miscalculations in the alliances structures in fin de siecle Europe (not the parallels to a World War, mind you) whereby clumsy affiliations meant to forestal a threat to make space for a little ugly border warring simply blew up in the faces of their creators. Austria wanted to attack Serbia, and so ended up fighting Russia which it did not want. England wanted Germany out of the Rest of the World, and so ended up not even formally allied to France but even worse handing the French a blank check for X million men dead. And so on and so one. Israel threatening Iran by a steady bombardment of press puts and mouthpieces isn’t about actually attacking Iran in my view, but it is something likely to have catastrophically unstable outcomes: it’s bad policy made in arrogance and anxious ineptitude.

    I see Goldberg’s article as yet one more brick in this progaganda load, framed differently yes, but with the same end. Israel needs to recruit sympathy in view of the ongoing heinous acts of its policy actors, and the best way to get sympathy is to pretend to be the victim of another’s threats. Iran serves the purpose, regardless of any actual Iranian policy, friendly, hostile, or separate.

    1. Ignim Brites

      It may be that Israel wants to decisively defeat Hezbollah and more importantly the Alawite dictatorship in Damascus before Iran gets the bomb. If these entities no longer constitute a threat, then an Iranian nuclear umbrella for them is much less significant.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Ignim, you state ‘an Iranian nuclear umbrella’ as if if were a fact or even a policy pursued: it is neither, on any available evidence. Nor is there reason to think any such umbrella would be opened. If you’re not spreading progaganda, you’ve swallowed it whole.

        There is no viable nuclear scenario for Iran in the near future, because no arsenal that they could build, should they so chose (and all functional intelligence says they don’t even have a program), would never be sufficient to prevent an American counter-strike. _Non-nuclear_ defenses and alliances are far more relevant to Iran, and these are just what Israel fears. And because Israel fears them, the US of course laps the shoe of such fears, not that they are something we should so fear. An Iranian-Turkish-Egyptian alliance, now _that’s__ something to concern Israel—and it’s exactly what the Israelis are going to create by their ‘threaten them all’ policy program.

    2. mrmetrowest

      I’m assuming Yves did not link to this article as an endorsement of its views, but as a reminder that there are a group of propagandists operating in the US who are trying to foment war with Iran. They are frequently featured in op-eds in major US publications. One would think, given our recent history in Iraq, that drumming up a war based on rumors and dubious suppositions presented as fact would be too unlikely a proposition to ever become a black swan, but given most Americans have (directly) felt no ill effects for our current adventures, they might well have a go at another.
      I put the chance of US participation in an attack on Iran at about 50%, with the result being utter catastrophe at about 100%.
      See Greenwald today for an antidote to the Goldberg column.

      1. doom

        Now that the ICC statute defines the crime of aggression, the US is going to need an excuse for its next war like, those wacky Zionists dragged us into it.

        1. Richard Kline

          So curlydan, thanks for the perspective. I’ve actually rarely read him, not even enough to recall his perspective, so I wasn’t 100% certain he was putting out subtle propaganda; only 96% certain. Yeah, he makes himself _sound_ like he’s being objective, not an advocate but putatively a questioner of it all. But the framing clearly puts allllll the marbles in the ring of those who he’s ostensibly critiquing here. It’s high-craft propaganda, to me, but revealing in that, for that.

  3. MikeRG

    Student loan debt is a national scandal, but students don’t contribute enough to politicos to get the bailouts the banks do.

    As a faculty member of a New Orleans Law school candidly admitted a year or so ago in an ethics presentation, universities see professional schools as profit centers that subsidize other areas: they can stuff 50-100 law students in an auditorium at $30k/year apiece whereas they have to provide a lot more individual attention to undergrads. The sales pitch the professional students are given is that loans don’t matter because the students will make so much after getting a professional degree. Of course, this is fraud, but nothing will be done about it.
    This from knowledge of the situation of my daughter (who wouldn’t listen to me) and her classmates. Many cannot get jobs and those that do don’t make enough to be able to afford to live. One has to spend each month sleeping on a different friend’s sofa.

    1. Richard Kline

      So MikeRG, you haul the elephant’s corpse out from under the faculty room carpet: graduate education is done for university profit, not graduate’s education. We produce far more higher degrees than there is any market for in the economy, yet recruiters turn away hundreds if not thousands every year as they cheer on all comers for the brass diploma ring.

      And there was a time in this country when student’s could get affordable financial assistance; extensive grants, and quite low-cost loans. I know: I was amongst the last cadres of undergrads to benefit twenty years ago. But those low-cost loans were low profit, so the politicians beholden to rent seekers were gotten to gut effective financial assistance for college enrollees in this country, subsituting the debt slavery mills we have now. Progress, what?: for whom?

      1. curlydan

        When you say “graduate education is done for university profit, not graduate’s education”, I’d say that’s true for MBAs and law degrees, but for areas such as science and mathematics, it might be a fair or fairer trade. For example, I have a statistics masters degree that I needed to obtain the right amount of knowledge that I was unable to get as an undergrad. I also got paid to be a TA in both years and avoided any loans in grad school. Maybe by that 4th or 5th year of a PhD science/math program, the school starts to profit when they get a bigger return from a grad student who is doing more than the $15K (or whatever the general stipend is today) that he/she is getting. The law/MBA folks need to realize the risks and not buy into the bankers’/universities’ hype.

    2. charcad

      whereas they have to provide a lot more individual attention to undergrads.

      Say what?

      I’m finishing putting three kids through universities. Try 200 seat Chemistry course lectures, all questions must be emailed (24 hour turnaround from graduate assistant)…

      Add “professors” whose English as a fourth language sounds like Yosemite Sam talking through a gag. Example. #1 son is a Computer Sci senior at a fairly prestigious school. The Indian instructor he had for linear algebra was so incomprehensible he stopped going to class. He just showed up for the tests.

      I’m really clueless about what Vinny was so upset over r.e. Distance Learning. It’s all “distance learning” these daze, even if you’re on campus.

      American “Higher Education” has degenerated into one vast financial fraud. An 80% progressive Democrat run fraud if Gallup polls mean anything.

      To take one example, there is nothing going on in Calculus classes that can’t be replaced by Youtube and Sylvanus P. Thompson’s “Calculus Made Easy”.

      Patrick JMT there has 27,000 subscribers and 680+ tutorial uploads. This is where the kids go after having their time (and money) wasted by their mouth-full-of-gravel diversitycrat instructor. Maybe he’s not your cup of tea. Fine, get another one. About 20 top flight lecturers could serve 95% of the needs. And this is what the pedigreed academic rent-seekers fear.

      This list of available exams needs aggressive expansion.

      Rent-seeking institutional intransigence is the only thing blocking progress. But even that “progress” only applies to a “degree” or other “credential”. All the knowledge is already available on the ‘net and – slightly used – on

      MIT OpenCourseWare

      Many of MIT’s offerings feature video-recorded lectures.

      Yup, radical reform of higher education is long overdue. An across the board 25% budget cut and a 30% rollback on all tuition fees is reasonable starting point.

      Another useful point for “reform” is for state legislatures to establish rigid textbook price caps for all institutions subject to their authority. There is no defensible reason for a calculus text to cost $200 plus. This is shameless price-gouging by private equity owned “publishers” like Cenage.

      Fraud, waste and abuse are everywhere in American “higher education”. “For the children” has definitely replaced “patriotism” as the Dr. Johnson’s last refuge of scoundrels.

      1. MikeRG

        charcad: I don’t think he was referring to beginning science lectures. Although it’s been about 40 years for me, those beginning science and math courses were run the same. But, as students choose majors and take more specialized classes, the class sizes got significantly smaller. I was in math, and senior level courses had some very small class sizes. And then there is the one on one work with grad students.

        The speaker actually cited things like music performance and language classes as needing the most individual attention.

        What I found interesting was that the speaker is a big wheel in Louisiana legal ethics and wasn’t completely comfortable with the practice he described, but didn’t seem to have a problem continuing to participate in large scale bilking of students.

      2. i on the ball patriot

        Great comment! Especially about using the net for education! It is one of my personal favorites for dissing the system!

        The internet is also a great resource to simply follow your interests, opt out of the constraints of the present system, and work to repair the damage the present corrupt system has created by focusing on sustainability and decentralization. There are boundless opportunities available when one stops going against the granite of the system.

        One can also get involved in a lot of one on one learning through e-mail. It is actually amazing how most people are willing to share information and be helpful.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. charcad


          It’s time for Lower Education to graduate from the pre-Gutenberg era.

          This title originated in Ye Olde Days before the Gutenberg Press. Books were copied by hunchbacked scribes, one page at a time. The Learned Academician would read from the school’s single copy of a Book to students gathered on hard wooden benches. A well endowed library might have 500 to 1000 volumes. This was a premier reason for physically concentrating the students in one location.

          Judging from Martin Luther’s account of his time at the University of Erfurt, drinking and wench chasing was as popular with the student body then as now. This is not however a sufficient reason for public policy to continue to subsidize the vast costs associated with the Bricks N Mortar Academy.

          We not only have books for everyone, we can also deliver the very best lecturers straight to everyone’s desktop. And they all come equipped with pause, back and forward buttons.

          Unfortunately the Modern Academy resembles the Iowa class battleships. Both are gold plated versions of long obsolete concepts. As for “varsity” sports, Major League Baseball has operated its own farm system profitably for many decades. It’s past time to end this subsidy to the owners of the NBA and NFL.

          Charles Murray is right. It’s time to junk virtually all undergraduate baccalaureate degrees. Objective subject matter specific competency testing is easily implemented.

          1. JTFaraday

            “we can also deliver the very best lecturers straight to everyone’s desktop. And they all come equipped with pause, back and forward buttons.”

            Good grief, no. There’s enough groupthink in academia as it is.

            Meanwhile, if you just don’t want to pay for your kid’s already piss poor certification, then… don’t.

    3. NOTaREALmerican

      Regarding college loans:

      It’s too bad Americans have lost the concept of the “average” people.

      Do average people need college educations?
      Do enough average jobs exist for average people?
      Does the concept of average people really exists, or is everybody really above average? (Remember when all the future American jobs were going to be “knowledge workers” because ALL Americans were above-average, of course. Did we really believe this bullshit – I did.)
      Does anybody know anybody else that is average?
      Does ANYBODY have any average kids?
      Does anybody think they are average? (Disclaimer: I do.)

      College is just another American society ponsi scheme built on American optimism and possible due to American believing bullshit.

    4. taunger

      students now have a number of ways in which the hedge/mitigate the burden of student loans; both of which came from the end of private lending(or at least the major forestalling of such) when the gov’t took over direct lending.

      first is college cost reduction act which outright forgives loans after 10 yrs public service, to be defined as a wide variety of professions (incl. nurse, school teacher, public defender)

      the second is income based repayment, which caps loan payments at 10% of AGI up to 100K; after 25 yrs the remainder is forgiven, which that amount taxed as income, i think

      both are very good options for graduate students given their level of indebtedness and their general focus on specific professional outcomes

  4. anonymous

    Appropos the excellent Jeffrey Goldberg article in the Atlantic, I just stopped by BBC Afrique where the headline isIraqi leader wants US troops to stay an additional ten years

    One reason invading Iraq was a big mistake, is coming into sharp focus, again. Getting out is going to be a lot more difficult and expensive than getting out.

    The perception that Afghanistan is lost has already taken root, and the extraction of US troops from Iraq is going to be pressed as a second defeat. I’m sympathetic to the challenges facing any US leader looking to win international support for an unpopular invasion. But that’s what this guy was supposed to be able to do, right? Bring America in from the cold, instead of staring right down the gun sights at a third war, with Iran.

    Bush to Obama, from bad to far worse.

  5. b

    Don’t know if you caught the latest in FL regarding the FL AG investigating three foreclosure “mills”, but here’s the article from the Daily Biz Review:

    Daily Business Review
    August 11,2010

    State Investigates 3 South Florida Foreclosure Firms

    August 10, 2010
    By: Julie Kay

    Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has launched investigations into three South Florida foreclosure law firms, and issued them all subpoenas seeking detailed financial, client and employee records.

    McCollum’s announcement Tuesday comes on the heels of an investigation launched in May into Tampa-based Florida Default Law Group.

    McCollum’s economic crimes division is investigating the Law Offices of David J. Stern of Plantation, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson of Fort Lauderdale and Shapiro & Fishman of Boca Raton and Tampa for possible unfair and deceptive actions in handling foreclosure cases.

    Investigators want to know whether bogus documentation was created and filed with Florida courts to speed up foreclosures, potentially without the knowledge or consent of homeowners.

    “On numerous occasions, allegedly fabricated documents have been presented to the courts in foreclosure actions to obtain final judgments against homeowners,” McCollum’s office said in a news release. “Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the allegedly improper actions of the law firms under investigation.”

    Information sought through the subpoenas is due Aug. 25.

    The investigations were welcomed by foreclosure defense lawyers, who have been filing civil lawsuits against the foreclosure law firms. The critics, who dub them as “mills,” claim the firms are rushing through large volumes of foreclosures on behalf of lenders, often improperly serving notice on homeowners and in some cases fabricating documents.

    As the economy has faltered, hundreds of thousands of homes have been foreclosed upon in the last two years with Florida absorbing the title of ground zero for the foreclosure meltdown. A growing chorus of lawyers and consumer groups around the country has been urging judges to put the brakes on foreclosures and examine documents more closely.

    Late last month, Fort Lauderdale solo practitioner Kenneth Trent filed a proposed federal class action against Stern alleging his firm filed fraudulent court pleadings and concealed lenders’ lack of standing to foreclose on properties. The firm denied the allegations.

    The Florida Bar has acknowledged it is investigating complaints filed by homeowners about the Stern firm.

    McCollum’s office is also looking into companies both Stern’s firm and the Florida Default Law group may own outside the United States, said office spokeswoman Shannon Knowles.

    The AG wants to know if “the law firms have created affiliated companies outside the United States where the allegedly false documents are being prepared and then submitted to the law firms for use,” according to the news release.

    “I think this is outstanding,” Trent said. “It shows the tide is really turning against these foreclosure mills and the massive fraud that has been perpetrated against innocent Americans over the last five years or even last decade.”

    Trent said an assistant attorney general requested a copy of his complaint last week.

    But Miami attorney Jeffrey Tew, who represents Stern, insisted the firm has committed no wrongdoing and said most of the foreclosures are run through government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and ultimately approved by judges.

    “There are three levels of government supervision,” Tew of Tew Cardenas said. “I don’t know why the attorney general thinks he should spend his limited resources on this case. But we will cooperate with the subpoena as best we can.”

    The subpoenas seek information on the firms’ business interests, employees, independent contractors, process servers, servicing companies and notaries. The state also seeks information about companies that drafted affidavits for the law firms, lawyers who worked at the firms over the last five years, lender clients, nondisclosure agreements with employees, checks received from lenders, employee bonuses and payments going back to 2008.

    West Palm beach attorney Gerald Richman, who represents Shapiro & Fishman, acknowledged “inadvertent mistakes” may have been made by the law firm due to the large volume of foreclosures processed.

    “There is no evidence of impropriety,” he said.

    “As far as we know there is no basis to believe that Shapiro & Fishman has done anything other than properly represent its clients despite the allegations in blogs by a lot of defense lawyers that make a living out of delaying foreclosure proceedings,” said Richman of Richman & Greer.

    Shapiro & Fishman has a staff of 400 and has handled thousands of foreclosure cases for 20 years, according to its website.

    The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson did not return calls for comment by deadline. Its website states the firm represents such clients as Bank of America, Chase, Citi and most of the country’s largest mortgage lenders.

    Richman and others questioned the timing of the investigation, alleging it was politically motivated by McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor.

    “I think there may be some politics,” Richman said. “It’s a hell of a coincidence that he does this now at election time to look like he’s pro-consumer.”

    Foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim of Oppenheim Pilelsky in Weston, while welcoming the investigation, also questioned McCollum’s timing.

    “Why didn’t he do this two years ago?” Oppenheim asked. “He knows the allegations have been out there. He knows complaints have been made. I think the timing is a little off. I’m thrilled he’s doing this, but I would have preferred he do this one-and-a-half years ago. Many people who didn’t have attorneys didn’t have the support of his office.”

    Oppenheim also wishes McCollum would extend his investigation to lenders and mortgage holders for filing faulty foreclosures.

    “He’s investigating the law firms, but he should be investigating the banks,” Oppenheim said. “He should also be looking into banks trespassing onto peoples’ properties. The law firms are the scapegoats. I see them as pawns.”

    Sandi Copes, also a McCollum spokeswoman, denied the investigations are politically motivated.

    “We like to be thorough, and some investigations take longer than others,” she said. “We certainly don’t want to take any actions before we thoroughly review complaints. It’s disappointing that political motivations would even be questioned here when we are talking about people’s homes.”

    April Charney, a nationally recognized foreclosure defense attorney with Jacksonville Legal Aid, said the attorney general’s office was not motivated by politics but has been hamstrung by lack of funding and staff “and has done the best they could with the resources they have.”

    Charney blamed lenders and judges for contributing to the foreclosure crisis.

    “Judges have abdicated their responsibility and allowed anarchy to occur in their courts,” she said.

    Charney said she was asked to meet with Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux in Jacksonville and an FBI agent several months ago regarding a possible investigation into improprieties with lender processing services in foreclosures.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Regarding the need for ‘a new category, the dark grey swan, tail events everyone knows can happen but have nevertheless assign unduly low odds of happening,’ we also have, on the ohter hand, the saying that ‘a watched pot never boils,’ which I read somewhere.

    Then there is the phenomenon where everyone knows there is an economic slowdown coming and in trying to make the best out of it makes it happen sooner and perhaps even deeper. This maybe be a case where ignorance is bliss.

  7. BondsOfSteel

    The student loan article deserves more coverage.

    Student loans are nigh impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. There are real debt slaves in America because of student loans and the inability to discharge these debts. With bank/recovery fees ($10000-20000 for a default) tacked on to the total, it’s way too easy for people to fall into debt bondage. I suspect these for profit schools may exist for that primary purpose.

    Here’s an example where they garnished a 67yr old disabled man’s social security to pay decades old student loans:

    While the government guarantees these loans, the ultimate beneficiary is the holds of the debt, including many big banks.

    The real way to solve the problem is to allow student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy. After the 2005 bankruptcy changes, I can’t see any compelling reason to exclude these debts from discharge. (Unless of course the banks are running the government.)

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: Unless of course the banks are running the government

      Another case of the lenders having no risk. I’ve worked in the Student Lending INDUSTREEEE (how I hate the word, makes it sound like we make something) for 15 years. The scam just ended with the Federal Guaranteed loans. We’re still trying to pimp the private loans to the unemployed, but are volumes are way down.

      Should get interesting here in the next few months. I have no idea why they haven’t shut the place down yet.

  8. kredits

    Hi, i love the kitten, its so cute :)
    in fact i’m pretty sure that BP hides the animals in order to avoid the finines, and i’m pretty sure that there is more things that are hidden from journalists..

  9. Benedict@Large

    Glad to see your link to Arthur Silber’s work (Power of Narrative). His insights on “intelligence” are nothing short of brilliant.

    Arthur is also currently running a series on WikiLeaks (6 posts thus far), which is certain to please anyone with even a hint of anarchism in them.

  10. Kevin de Bruxelles

    In the run-up to a possible US/French/British attack on Iran, there really is not much need for a propaganda barrage. The Left (except a few professionals and retards) are totally co-opted by either Obama or AIPAC – after all even that uber-progressive Alan Grayson supports attacking Iran. I guess that’s just how the Left in America rolls. The Right of course were down with this from the get-go, although they will criticize details around the edges. But despite the lack of neccessity for propaganda, nevertheless Goldberg does do a bit of tepid, fact-free opinion shaping in support of any eventual US-led attack for his haute bourgeois Atlantic readership. Of course he couches it in the fantasy of Israel actually launching the attack (which will never happen). And he emphasizes the nuclear issue which is only ancillary to the main negotiations.

    The real issue is the US-led global system and the goal is for Iran to submit to this system. The nuclear issue only arrives in the fact that a nuclear-armed Iran would be that much harder to forcefully integrate into the global system. Obviously the most a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear installations would do is MAYBE set the programs back a few years. Worse these attacks would give Iran the moral justification to become a nuclear power. No, there is a much more obvious target for any attack on Iran; despite the media concentration will be on the nuclear issue.

    Obviously Iran would never be able to launch a nuclear missile from her own territory since that would bring about an automatic annihilation from either the US or Israel. And simply “fingerprinting” Iran’s uranium would help assure the same results for a suitcase bomb. If the world can live with a nuclear Pakistan the world can live with a nuclear Iran.

    But what the US cannot live with is an independent and hostile Iran living outside of the US-led global system. Worse still Iran has Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon as allies. This is the only other “bloc” that exists in the world that is hostile to the US.

    What is really going on is a negotiation between the US and Iran. The one non-negotiable element in this discussion is that Iran must submit to US global hegemony and stands down its aggressive foreign policy (and start accepting dollars for oil). But what can the US can offer an Iran which finds itself in the midst of a liberal urban / reactionary rural conflict in which it seems the pendulum is swinging towards the liberals? One thing is integration into the global economy, which basically means Iranian elites opening their country’s legs wide open for multi-national corporations who in return will leave nice fat tips for both the urban liberal elite and the mullahs. Another thing would be to let Iran achieve a form of nuclear ambiguity where they will be allowed to possess weapons but not test them. The other item to be negotiated is the end game in Iraq and whether the Shia there will be allowed to maintain control over a small area that includes the important Shia shrines (it is out of the question that the Shia continue to control the central government in Iraq for much longer).

    But despite good signs last year of a change in the political elite, these negotiations are stalling and the US wants to bring another player into the equation, the Iranian military. Hence the real target of any month-long bombing campaign, despite any media hypes about the few “nuclear” targets attacked, will be Iranian conventional military installations. While Iranian missiles certainly do pose a serious threat to US naval operations in the Gulf, for the most part the US (and her allies) will destroy Iran’s air defense system and then proceed to destroying her conventional military capabilities. There will certainly be no land invasion, only a Serbia-type air campaign will be envisioned. The threat of airstrikes and their eventual launching is meant to provoke the Iranian military to intervene in the urban/rural power struggle on the urban side, and to help convince the political elite to submit to US global hegemony.

    Cut off from the Iranian vine, Syria would soon make peace with Israel / US and Hezbollah would most likely start concentrating on civil affairs. At that point only North Korea and a few minor Latin American countries will be outside the US global system.

    And while there will be a few grumbles on the Left, the vast majority, led by Alan Grayson, will be cheering this slaughter. The Right on the other hand will find it all emotionally unsatisfying and demand even more violence. And Obama will justify any overkill by stating he just didn’t want to repeat Jimmy Carter’s failures in Iran.

    1. EmilianoZ

      Are you sure they can do a limited air strike without provoking a full-out war? The Iranian clerics have clearly said that in case of such an event they would launch an attack on Israel. See for instance:

      The prelude to the 1st gulf war was an air strike such as the one you describe. That didn’t prevent quite a few scuds landing on Israeli territory. Surely the Iranian military has studied that war next door. Can’t we imagine they will hide their missiles better? In addition they can rely on Hezbollah launching a few rockets of their own.

      1. aet

        That makes sense: the only reason the US is militarily involved in the Mid-east is to protect their Israeli allies.

    2. aet

      Pure fantasy, Kev.
      Plan won’t survive contact with the enemy: and the IS economy is still hurt badly from the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    3. aet

      I mean, during the Shah’s thirty years in power, time, why did not the Syrians make peace, being “cut off from the Iranian vine” as they were then?

  11. scraping_by

    The bizarre thing about student loans is that the same company that’s been caught scamming students, universities, and the federal government, is still running the program. The “rescue” performed by Team Obama seemed to rescue another financial company, not the customers it was supposed to serve. Last paragraph.

    As a general thing, higher education has gone to a profit-centered model from a mission-centered one. The profiteers are local contractors, financial service companies, and the college administrators. The flood of oil money foreign students in the 1970’s turned a slightly dotty exercise in creating professionals into a chance to score big. The Greed is Good decade only gave them the methods.

  12. Hal

    Re the Point of No Return piece: nukes, if Iran is after them, something yet to be clearly proven, are defensive weapons. No nation has ever used them offensively since two were dropped by the USA. They are suicidal if used offensively, but can prevent others from attacking you. That is why Iran wants them, if it does. Israel doesn’t want Iran to have them because Israel or its US patsy want to be able to do an “Iraq” on Iran if and when it suits them. So the issue is completely misrepresented by the US and Israel. Intentionally of course.

  13. EmilianoZ

    RE: “You, Too, Can and Should Be an “Intelligence Analyst”

    One of the main ideas of this piece is that “intelligence analysts” do not know much more than us. They do not have access to some secret sources denied to us. The blogger cites Ray McGovern:

    “Here I must reveal a trade secret and risk puncturing the mystique of intelligence analysis. Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media.”

    I can believe that. But what if those remaining 20% are the most important? I think the theory can be put to test. After a certain amount of time classified information can be declassified. Have we learned anything interesting from declassified info? Something that was unknown to the general public but crucial to the decision making?

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