Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SCORCHED EARTH: IMAGES OF KOBANI, SYRIA

by Ronald T. Fox


In my previous post on Islamophobia Plays Into the Hands of Islamist, I criticized our "scorched-earth" strategy, which embraces the idea that liberating towns from ISIS control requires their near total destruction. Below are four images that illustrate my point.  To be sure, the vast destruction of Kobani shown below was not solely a product of allied bombing, but it is reportedly the major factor. Many are complicit in scorching Syria's earth; this is the saddest part of the unfolding human tragedy..

Monday, November 23, 2015

ISLAMOPHOBIA IS PLAYING INTO THE HANDS OF ISLAMIST EXTREMISTS

by Ronald T. Fox

Islamophobia IV

Hostility to immigrants and refugees has become a defining characteristic of American politics. While Republicans have almost unanimously embraced it, particularly against people from the Middle East, many Democrats have also jumped on the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee bandwagon. I thought Donald Trump established a new low when he characterizes immigrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists and called for a wall to be built along the Mexican border, but using the Paris attacks to scapegoat some of the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people to score political points is demagoguery at its worst. By adding Islamophobia to their repertoire of bigotry, Republicans are playing into the hands of Islamist extremists.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CONNECTING THE DOTS BETWEEN FOOTBALL AND TERRORISM

          by Charles Snow


Penn State University will increase security at Beaver Stadium for this Saturday's football game with Michigan as well as at a three-band concert in the Bryce Jordan Center the night before. Enhanced security measures are being taken because of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. It appears that terrorists can claim another (micro) victory in the U.S. because Penn State has decided to increase security and because many football and music fans have been forced to calculate how risky their attendance at these events will be.

I believe the vast majority of Americans, myself included, would like to see terrorism in the world reduced if not eliminated. Wouldn't it be nice to go to a football game or a music concert without wondering if somebody is planning an attack that will create fear and mayhem -- regardless of how small that probability is? The difficult overall question, of course, is how the U.S. should go about fighting terrorism around the world.


Friday, November 6, 2015

RESPONSE TO ANONYMOUS ON MY AFTER IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ESSAY

 
By Ronald Fox



NOTE:  This essay, originally posted in November of 2013, was inadvertently re-sent out in error. My apologies.


An anonymous Phronesis reader commented on my essay on “After Iraq and Afghanistan,” saying that I didn’t provide evidence for my prediction that the U.S. will continue to unilaterally project military might abroad in its future approach to security. He noted that Phronesis supposedly prides itself on considering the evidence regarding a particular topic and then offering reasoned thoughts and opinions. He didn’t believe this philosophy applied to my essay.

I’d like to thank anonymous for the critical response. This is what Charles and I hoped who occur when we started the blog. Frankly, we’ve been a bit disappointed we haven’t received more comments on our postings. Now let me respond to anonymous. My apologies for repeating some points I made previously.

With all due respect to anonymous, I thought I did offer factual evidence and use reasoning to back my assertions. I contended that despite numerous Obama rhetorical flourishes to the contrary, and the incidence of strong public opposition to military strikes against Syria, the Obama administration shows no signs of being chastened about using force in future conflicts where he, and a small handful of his security advisers, consider it necessary (only a few are “in the loop”). The lesson he took from Iraq and Afghanistan was to not get involved in costly, troops-on-the-ground, land wars. He appears to have no problem, however, authorizing massive bombing, drone attacks, special force operations, bad guy assassinations, and cyber warfare, all of which have been increased under his watch. It is reasonable to expect his successors will follow his precedent; a foolish, future land war is even not out of the question. So what is my evidence for this gloomy prediction?

SEPTEMBER 2015 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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1. Sean Spicer (Spokesman for the Republican National Committee). Spicer is outraged that Democrats have accused Republicans of engaging in a “war on women.” In his words:

“I find it offensive that the Democratic National Committee is using a term like that to describe policy differences. It’s not only bad, but it’s downright pathetic they would use a term like ‘war’ when there are millions of Americans who actually have engaged in a real war. To use a term like that borders on unpatriotic.
 
Well, at least Republicans still remember we're still in Dubya's wars, a fact they seem to forget every time they push for a new tax break for millionaires. Wars don't need to be paid for; they just need to be remembered in political rhetoric. Spicer's concern for the troops is truly touching. Too bad his party wasn’t equally bothered by the shortage of body armor for our troops and the inadequate care at vet hospitals when they returned home.

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM IN AMERICA: REST IN PEACE

Serious investigative journalism in America has long been on a death watch; deplorable coverage of the war in Syria by the major media networks has hammered in the last nail.

This conclusion applies mainly to broadcast media, though it should be noted that good journalism in print media, which has been eviscerated by downsizing (tens of thousands of reporters have lost their jobs), is also gasping for breath.  In both print and broadcast media, an aversion of their corporate owners to story lines that might incur disfavor with people in high places (lest they might lose the light tax and loose regulation privileges they enjoy) has scuttled many hard-hitting investigative stories. Reporters today understand where not to tread. An enterprising journalist may still go for it, but he knows his job may be on the line, as Mary Mapes and Dan Rather of CBS found out.
 
I recently returned from a vacation in Sweden and Switzerland where my source for nightly news was mainly CNN, though I was often also able to watch Al Jazeera English. The contrast in coverage of world events by a major American and a foreign network couldn’t have been sharper. Only Al Jazeera practiced what I consider good journalism. Its reporters stood out in asking tough questions and substantive follow-up questions in interviews with leading figures in the stories they were reporting. They were clearly highly informed on their topics, which allowed them to push further when interviewees evaded questions, offered obfuscating answers, or said things that weren't true. Event coverage on Al Jazeera included historical background, which enabled me to see the event in its historical context. CNN treated events as episodic.
 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

OCTOBER 2015 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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1. Pat Sajak (TV Celebrity). The popular right-wing moron offered this valuable observation to the dialogue on climate change:

“I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night.”

No comment necessary.
 
2. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Walker, who is currently suing the federal government to enable Wisconsin to drug test food stamp applicants, is trying to package this as a way to help low-income people:

"For us, it's not a punitive thing, it's a progressive thing," Walker told The Huffington Post. "We're trying to help people who are in need of our assistance to get jobs . . . .because the best thing we can do with them is to make sure they get the skills and education they need, and make sure they are drug free if they have an addiction, to get back in the workforce."
 
Apparently it escaped Walker’s knowledge register that the majority of adults living receiving food stamps are either working or are not considered eligible to work because they're retired, disabled or students. To say nothing of the children Walker wants to deny nutritional assistance because their parent smoked a joint.  Walker claims that many employers have told him that they'd hire more people if only they could find drug-free applicants. Ask to name the employers who say this, he responded:
 
"Well, I've talked to them for years. I'd have to go back and look through my schedule over the years, but we've had employer after employer say that consistently that they want employees that are drug free and they want employees that can pass basic employability skills."
 
Don’t hold your breath for his list of employers. The austerity-minded governor also has no problem spending for drug testing, despite the fact that drug testing government aid applicants has been shown to be a waste of money in states that tried this before Walker got to it. The cost of testing a lot of applicants turns out to outweigh the savings from rejecting benefits the tiny percentage of applicants who fail their tests. Walker’s effort is just one more example of right-wing disdain for low-income people whom they blame for being poor. Why don’t they just come out and say it?