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Saudi Arabia Issues Impossible Ultimatum to Qatar


You probably haven’t been following the crisis in the Middle East because US newspapers and TV haven’t been covering the incidents closely, but you should be aware that Saudi Arabia (KSA–the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) has made a large step towards war with its neighbor Qatar.  KSA and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued an ultimatum to Qatar containing some thirteen points, many of which are impossible to meet, and setting a ten-day deadline which expires on July 3.   KSA claims that Qatar is supporting terrorism by financing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the country of Iran.  Qatar claims that it is taking precautions to prevent money flowing to terrorist groups, and that it is trying to maintain an independent foreign policy.

The demands include shutting down Al Jazeera, a news network carried on US cable channels.  The network is relatively independent although it is financed by the emirs of Qatar, and it produces high quality programs.  The problem is that KSA thinks its coverage is slanted to the advantage of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists in general.  Whether or not this is the case, KSA has no right to suppress the free speech of a separate country.

Another demand is that all Turkish troops leave Qatar– within ten days– a physically impossible and psychologically outrageous demand that amounts to interference with the foreign policy of a sovereign nation.

Most of the other demands amount to the same type of interference that are impossible to meet and arrogant in the extreme.  Notably absent is any demand that Qatar shut down its huge American airbase and center of operations for the drone war in the region.  It is bizarre that KSA would take actions that are essentially a prelude to a declaration of war against a country which hosts a very large American military presence.

What is worse, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are taking an equally hard line on the issue.  According to the Guardian, “The UAE has also banned its citizens from using social media to express views sympathetic to Qatar.”  This is an action that would be contrary to the US Constitution if it were to be attempted by our government, and it is intolerable to American thinking.

The Guardian story tells of a frightening and confusing sequence of events: Russian hackers, probably not government but free-lance, planted fake news stories claiming that the emir of Qatar made statements supportive of Iran and critical of Don the Con (the US President, unfortunately)– stories which were immediately picked up by media in KSA and have still not been discredited there.  At the same time, Don the Con visited KSA and made friends with its aged king, participating in a traditional sword dance and offering up to $100 billion in arms sales ( actual sales are likely to be less than half that. )  After returning to the US, Don tweeted his support for KSA and accused Qatar of supporting terrorism.  KSA and the GCC declared a blockade of Qatar, disrupting travel and economic ties.  The blockade is entirely ineffective because Qatar can be readily resupplied by air or sea even though its entire land border is with KSA.  Nonetheless, the blockade has had a profound psychological effect.

Despite the blockade and harsh words from the Saudi king, it took his government two weeks to come up with the ultimatum.  Even more confusing, the American State Department seems to be supporting Qatar in this dispute and undermining Don the Con’s position.

To an ordinary American, there is little reason to support either KSA or Qatar in this dispute.  Both countries are essentially wealthy monarchies with retrogressive social policies, oppressive of women and exploitative of Palestinians ( who make up most of both countries lower-class migrant labor forces and receive token support in their struggles with Israel ); both countries export vast quantities of oil (KSA) and natural gas (Qatar).  Both countries are Arabic societies, although KSA originates in the radical conservative Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, while Qatar, though Sunni, is more liberal and tolerates interactions with Shia Iran.  Neither country tolerates much freedom of speech, although Qatar is more tolerant in this regard and supports Al Jazeera ( which claims to be objective although it presents the Arab side of most issues. )

The problem here is that the blockade and ultimatum are a prelude to war, not a logical step in the direction of cutting off funding for terrorism.  Don the Con may have gotten the impression from his Saudi hosts that Qatar is a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian terrorists, but the truth is that Qatar tries not to take sides and allows Arabs of most persuasions to live and operate on its territory.

War in the Middle East between Qatar and KSA/UAE is hard to imagine, but there is a lot to be fearful of.  The US would inevitably be caught up in such a war and forced, most likely, to defend Qatar from Saudi attacks– even though there are American military assets in both countries.  There is nothing for the US to gain, and a great deal to be lost, in military conflict here.  This is typical behavior for Don the Con– provocation by fake news from hackers ( possibly even paid for by allies of Don’s ) abetted by promises made in private to the king and who knows what kind of lies.  It is even unclear whether Don knew that there was an American airbase in Qatar when he claimed that they were supporting terrorism.

There have been very few terror attacks inside Qatar– the last civilian killed was in a bombing in 2005– and some claim that this is because Qatar has paid off al Qaeda and other groups to leave it alone.  An article in Doha News says, “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”   The American airbase is a high value target because it controls drones which strike at terrorists all over the Mideast, but it is also well secured.  Qatar has a very effective internal security apparatus and it is a small, wealthy, and technologically sophisticated country, so even if such an attack were contemplated, it would be hard to carry off.

Bottom line: this is bad and Don the Con has had a hand in making it worse.

Comment of the Day: Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone Not Endangered


This comment comes from an article in the NYT about the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s proposal to take the Yellowstone grizzly bear off the endangered species list:



This administration seems to wake up every morning asking how they can in some new comically villainous way, destroy all that is good in this world. So far, so good. I have grown over the past 6 months to hate this country I call home.

Our Fake Democracy by Timothy Egan


This op-ed in the NYT tells it all:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live, as Joan Didion said. We do this as a nation, as individuals, as families — even when that construct is demonstrably false. For the United States, the biggest institutional lie of the moment is that we have a government of the people, responding to majority will.

Mr. Egan goes on to point out that the “health care” bill currently in the Senate, and the one already passed by the House, represent deeply unpopular policies that will gut Medicaid and push over 20 million people off of “health insurance.”  As we have pointed out repeatedly in the past, the United States is the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t have single-payer health care.  At the risk of boring you, I will again point out that the US consumer pays almost twice as much for health care as in any other advanced country.  A reasonable person would rather pay for their health care in taxes– a predictable, constant amount– than take the risk of being bankrupted by medical expenses.  What is more, the tax burden would be significantly less than the average per capita cost of medical care.  Rather than choosing the reasonable option, our government is trying to eliminate the small tax that is currently being paid by higher-income persons and trying to take it away from Medicaid.

We do not have a democracy because the poorer you are, the less likely you are to vote.  The barriers to voting for poor people can be extreme.  First, there is transportation to the polls.  One would think that the Democrats would have an organized system for taking poor voters to the polls on Election Day, but they do not.  There are a few scattered programs here and there, but nothing organized and country-wide.  This is absurd and so elementary that it makes me just scratch my head.  For all the money spent on everything involved in trying to win an election, this would probably be the most cost-efficient.

The other problems that constitute barriers to voting are harder to deal with: lack of desire to vote, barriers to registration, lack of “time”, gerrymandering, and so on.  Just solving the transportation problem would increase motivation to vote, especially if the transportation effort is advertised.

Many other countries have solutions for those barriers to voting that have made it possible for poor people to vote, and they have more representative democracies as a result.  There are also countries with systems that are much worse than that in the United States, but it seems silly to point out that we are better off than the people of North Korea, for example.  No rational person would accept our system because it is better than the worst possible system.

The bottom line is that our democracy is compromised, and the consequences could be fatal.  A few wealthy people may survive, but they will have blood on their hands.

Comments of the Day: Don the Con Colludes and He’s an Ethical Black Hole



Comments from a NYT article urging “Let’s Not Get Carried Away” investigating Don the Con:

Gibert Kennedy

Aiken, South Carolina

I agree that made up scandals such a Benghazi corrode our political discourse. However, I don’t think we should minimize the possibility that the Trump campaign worked with the Russians in swinging the election. There are s a lot of serious circumstantial that indicate collusion:
– Trump looks into the camera and asks Putin to find and release more Clinton emails.
– Kushner meets Russians in secret on islands off the SE coast of Africa
– Trump’s close campaign stand-ins Flynn and Sessions lie about their contacts with the Russians
– The transition team (if I remember the sequence correctly) seeks to set up a secret communication channel to the Russians that can’t be heard by other American agencies.
– The strongly pro-Putin characters in the campaign team like Manafort and Flynn, and Page
– Trump won’t release his tax returns.
– Trump is actively hindering the investigation.
– The only person Trump is loyal to is Flynn.

These aren’t silly Tweets. These are significant activities that appear to link the campaign to Russia in deceptive ways. Nobody would be investigating if Trump had simply held transparent meetings with the Russians with an agenda to improve relations. This looks for all the world like the Trump campaign worked with a country hostile to the US to get help in winning a campaign. We need to run this to ground.


New Hampshire

Trump or his people may have colluded with the Russians or they may not have (the hacking into and disclosure of emails was egregious enough). Trump’s ethics would not have been offended by that type of assistance, nor even by colluding, had that option been perceived as being available.

What is truly astonishing is how absolutely vacant Trump is, in respect to ethics, integrity, intellectual curiosity, depth of knowledge, honesty, and diplomatic (or even interpersonal) skills. The truest tragedy is not treason, although that may also have been involved. It is that, as president, we have a disturbed, lonely, aggressive, hostile, maladjusted, deceitful 7-year old, who could care less what happens to the country as long as his immediate impulses are gratified.

Comment of the Day: Don the Con Colluded with Russia During His Campaign



Florida 36 minutes ago

Proof of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign already exists. Roger Stone of the Trump campaign met with the Russian hacker known as gussifer. Rudy Gulliani of the Trump campaign predicted a “surprize” just before the Democratic Convention started which occurred when the Podesta e-mails were released to the media by the Russian hacker through Wikileaks. A Russian billionaire, who is a Putin loyalist, and his private jet plane were at three separate campaign stops of Trump at exactly the same time as Trump and his plane were in the respective cities. This is hardly a coincidence. The collusion was so evident that when the Convention’s Republican Platform Committee voted to insert a very tough plank on Russia getting out of Crimea, Paul Manaford, Trump’s campaign manager and his staff, interceded with the committee and the tough plank was removed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many other Trump campaign staffers met w/ Russian intelligence or Russian nationals as they admitted only after it was reported in the press. Finally, the “why” on Trump’s indifference and denial of Russian interference and collusion can only be fully answered when we learn the degree and extent to which Trump has been financially compromised by loans and bailouts from Russian billionaires. As one of Trump’s sons said, Trump doesn’t need loans from American banks because Russian loans and financing is available.

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Sessions Invited American Lobbyist for Russia to Dinner Twice During Campaign


A piece in the Guardian reports that a man named Richard Burt, who is a known lobbyist for Russian interests, was invited to dinner twice by Jeff Sessions (“Redneck Jeff”) during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Mr. Burt, who has represented Russian oil and banking interests in Washington for several years, attended two dinners that Sessions held to discuss foreign policy strategy.  Mr. Burt also helped write a speech for Don the Con in which he appealed for “easing in tensions” between Russia and America.  That speech, given in April 2016, was attended by Soviet Ambassador Kislyak as well as Mr. Sessions.

Unfortunately, when Senator McCain asked Jeff Sessions last week whether he had any contacts with lobbyists for Russian interests, he denied any such meetings.  So it seems that either Mr. Sessions has amnesia or he doesn’t care to let people know how extensive his contacts with Russian lobbyists have been.  The Russians are extremely subtle, and any American who registers as a Russian lobbyist should be considered a potential spy– or at least, someone who is pushing for Russian strategic interests and at the same time, gathering information that might be useful to his Russian handlers.

Let us be clear.  All Americans– both right- and left-wing– are under attack by Russian agents who intend to sow dissension and disunity, confuse us, lower our standard of living, subvert our way of life, and generally interfere with the functioning of American institutions.  We are virtually at war with Russia, and the war is being prosecuted with vigor and intelligence by Vlad “the Impaler” Putin, a former KGB agent who pines for the former Soviet empire.  The sooner we get rid of the extreme right-wing leadership in our Congress, White House, and state houses that is impairing our government and offering aid and comfort to our Russian enemies, the better.  The soonest this can happen in a “smooth”, institutionally sanctioned fashion is November 2018.  Until then, the Democratic minority must agitate vigorously, exercise our First Amendment rights, and scream as loudly as we can that we are under attack and Don the Con is an agent of our enemy.

Lie of the Day: Don the Con Claims Obama Organizing Protests, Leaks Against Him


This was located in a web site called “PollHype”– “The Red, White, and Blue Review”– which contains nothing but unabashedly pro-Donald stories, bashing everyone who criticizes the Don:

During an exclusive interview with “Fox & Friends,” Trump blasted the former president and his aides for the organized marches since his victory in the November 2016 election, and for the troublesome leaks that have impeded on his messaging.

“I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump said. “And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, you know, some of the leaks – which are very serious leaks, because they’re very bad in terms of national security.”

While the president doesn’t have concrete evidence proving that Obama is to blame, he’s not the only one who believes that his administration could be the culprit behind these acts.

A former senior intelligence official disclosed to Fox News that he suspects ex-CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper – among other top officials – could be connected to the leaks.

However, the president isn’t too distressed by his shocking revelation, although he doesn’t see an end to these protests in sight.

But I also understand that’s politics,” Trump explained. “And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

The only reason I clicked on it is because it was included in a list of “sponsored” (paid advertising) sites that claimed “These 24 pictures of Donald Trump will change your mind”, illustrated with a photo of the Don standing close behind a blonde, well-endowed young woman– cropped to cut off the area below his chest, suggesting that his hands  might be somewhere they should not.  Clearly, the photo was intended to lure Donald-haters into clicking on it, hoping to see him groping some young victim.  However, the twenty-four photos are all anodyne pictures of Don, including childhood photos, of his family, and of a few business associates.  The web site consists entirely of puff pieces plugging Don’s virtues and bashing anyone who dares to criticize him.

So, here’s a web site probably paid for with campaign contributions that came from anonymous sources in large amounts… in service of Don’s re-election campaign, which was declared active on the day he was inaugurated this January last, seemingly ages ago but not even quite five months now.  That’s right.  Don the Con is accepting contributions to his campaign for re-election.   Democrats need to gird their loins and get organized… and above all, get out the vote.  And for G-d’s sake, stop clicking on that clickbait!