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  • Aug 22, 2021 01:30 PM
    Last: 15d
    180

    Getting back to Michael Moore, Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada didn't have much positive to say about his Planet of the Humans film in 2020:

    Michael Moore’s dreadful, ill-informed, unhelpful film

    Quoting May:

    "The damage done by this film could be enormous. According to Michael Moore’s twitter feed, over three million people have seen the film already. Some Greens have contacted me in tears, so devastated by the idea – the lie – that renewable energy is a scam. As Neil Young wrote me Saturday morning (not something I can say every day):

    “The amount of damage this film tries to create (succeeding in the VERY short term) will ultimately bring light to the real facts, which are turning up everywhere in response to Michael Moore’s new erroneous and headline grabbing TV publicity tour of misinformation. A very damaging film to the human struggle for a better way of living, Moore’s film completely destroys whatever reputation he has earned so far.”

    ===========================================

    I haven't watched the film, so I'll just leave it at that. I have noticed that on his many TV appearances he embellishes facts.

  • Aug 22, 2021 01:30 PM
    Last: 15d
    180

    Several good good talking points here. However, just let me make one point on the two party system in America. Dutch and I have discussed this before.

    First, whether it is the USA or Europe or Australia or any other democracy, they all require an "informed electorate" for democracy to succeed. Ignorance and apathy are the friends of authoritarian bullies. They can appeal to one's emotions with lies and disinformation. An angry electorate cannot think intelligently. Despots know how to appeal to one's grievances.

    Secondly, the USA does not have a true two party system as the Green Party, Libertarian Party and several other minor parties syphon off votes from the main two parties. It is well recognized that without the Green Party activists (Ralph Nader in 2000 and Jill Stein in 2016) taking away votes from the Democratic Party candidates, we would have had Al Gore as President in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. That's a fact.

    On this point though I'll concede that having a parliamentary system with each political party represented has some merit. I note that the Netherlands has 20 political parties represented in their legislative body so everyone has a vote. Coalitions are necessary to govern, and the top four have aligned to form a government. With the US system with just two major parties, a vote for any party other than Democratic or Republican is a vote wasted.

    We discussed Jill Stein and the role she played in the Green Party in 2016. See: Is Jill Stein a Spoiler? - Jill Stein Forum (democratichub.com). Stein ran an anti-Hillary campaign in swing states saying Hillary was more dangerous than Donald Trump. Allen Clifton wrote about her at the time:

    "As a progressive, I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Green Party hero Jill Stein. While I don’t personally know her, she strikes me as an egotistical, petty, in-it-for-herself fraud who boosts herself, not by actually making a difference, but by pandering to people who are naive enough to think she knows what she’s talking about."

    In a parliamentary system like the Netherlands she would have been one vote out of 150. However in the USA she did more damage by campaigning directly against Hillary. She was indeed a spoiler.

    That's off the topic of Michael Moore, but just wanted to get that in.

  • Aug 28, 2021 03:01 PM
    Last: 29d
    48

    Sometimes I don't know if I should consider these people the perpetrators of this nonsense or just victims of a massive disinformation campaign by those seeking to control our lives. Most of us on this website have agreed that Donald Trump represents a cult -- his followers demonstrate little ability to think critically. Shannon Quinn in Listverse in 2017 listed 10 Psychological Reasons Why People Join Cults.

    Since most of the vaccine deniers (not all) are Trump supporters, I would suggest that many of them are struggling with life itself. Here are three from Quinn's list that seem to describe some Trump followers.

    No. 7, Finding Purpose in Life probably fits most of Trump's cult members: "Dr. Adrian Furnham wrote about the many reasons why people join cults for Psychology Today. He explains that year after year, the world becomes more a complex place to live. In times of confusion and uncertainty when people feel lost, extreme groups offer absolute answers to questions that people have. Many people find comfort in seeing the world in terms of good and evil, right and wrong. Cult leaders offer simple solutions in a way that makes sense, and they know how to motivate people to devote their life to the leader’s cause. Adolf Hitler was very good at this. He motivated Germans who felt as though they had little left to live for after World War I, and it was enough to convince them to join the Nazi Party." And along came Donald...

    No 2 also resonates: Fed up with Society. Finding "an exciting new way of life, compared to what society had to offer."

    No. 1: They have no idea it's a cult: "Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer devoted her life’s work to studying the psychology of brainwashing and cults. The majority of these people had no idea that the organization they were entering was, in fact, a cult. Most people do not realize that a cult does not necessarily have to be a religion. It could also be a political group, business, or lifestyle cult. Singer explains that brainwashing is something that often happens so gradually, that people have no idea what is going on. Dr. Singer explains, “The cult leader grows wealthier and more powerful while trying to convey to the followers that he is helping them. But the main goal is to create more power and wealth for the leader, rather than the benefit of the followers.”

    In effect they are victims of manipulation, and Donald Trump is a master at that...another modern version of Hitler.

  • Aug 28, 2021 10:09 AM
    Last: 22d
    71

    Jen Psaki's manner and willingness to answer questions truthfully is so refreshing after the four Trump press secretaries. Trump's secretaries had no problem in lying for him, and often treated the mainstream media (except Fox News) as a hostile enemy. They had no shame but were mostly putting on a show for Trump's base or Trump himself.

  • Aug 24, 2021 10:58 PM
    Last: 18d
    193

    Just a clarification. The madrassas are the Islamic schools which teach many different forms of Islam across the globe. The most extreme form is Wahhabism taught in the madrassas funded by Saudi Arabia. The Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS have all been students of Wahhabism taught in Saudi funded madrassas. But many of the Taliban are seemingly distancing themselves from the hard core Wahhabism.

    The Week: Is the Taliban rejecting Wahhabism

    "On Tuesday, a Taliban leader said, “We don’t want Wahhabism in Afghanistan.” It is a striking statement since the Taliban in the 90s was inspired by Wahhabism ideology, which led to the massacre of close to 15,000 Shia Muslims—the ideology is mostly practised by Sunni Muslims. Several laws that deny women several freedoms in Saudi Arabia have their origins in Wahhabism. However, if the Taliban was to truly reject Wahhabism, it would mean that Afghanistan could see peace after more than 40 years."

    It is difficult to understand all the nuances between the various factions of Islam. In 2015 I tried to define where ISIS fit in much the same as we are now trying to define how the Taliban fit in. Democratic Hub: Is ISIS Islamic?

    From the blog article:

    "As many Islamic scholars note, ISIS religious ideology has its roots in an extreme fundamentalist interpretation of selected verses in the Qur’an and Hadith. It could be characterized as an extremist form of Salafism (commonly termed Salafist Jihadism), which itself is an extremist form of Sunnism that is practiced under the banner of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. If one wants to look for only the religious roots of ISIS, then one needs to examine the teaching of Salafism and how Saudi Arabia has sought to export its religious ideology by funding madrassas that teach Wahhabism within the greater Islamic and Arab community of nations. The discrimination against women in Saudi society, the beheadings, and the public lashings are all components of Salafism/Wahhabism… but also ISIS ideology. The difference between mainstream Salafism and ISIS ideology is the barbaric ruthless brutality of the executions and torture that ISIS indiscriminately administers and records to invoke fear amongst the populace. As Islamic scholars note, support for those kind of actions cannot be found in the Qur’an."

  • Aug 12, 2021 11:41 AM
    Last: 19d
    671

    Yes HCR does an excellent job of summarizing the events up to now. Looking beyond the day America and its allies finally leave Afghanistan, the situation does not look good for a unified government. As Andrew Latham writes in a Hill opinion article, The coming collapse of the Taliban, that without the unifying presence of an occupying "enemy", the country is destined to return to the tribal faction rivalry that existed before foreigners occupied the country.

    Latham writes:

    "Since its inception, the Taliban has been more a constellation of different factions and tribes, drawn from different ethnic and linguistic groups, than the unitary rational actor it is often portrayed to be. In this, it is no different than either the coalition of warlords that governed Afghanistan directly from 1992 to 1996 or the one that governed Afghanistan through the "state" created by the U.S. in the aftermath of the 2001 invasion."

    "With the withdrawal of the American "occupier" and the defeat of its Afghan client state, some of the glue holding the Taliban together will soon dissolve."

    In other words, the Taliban have little skills in governing except by "Sharia Law" and even then the competing factions will put tribal loyalty first.

    This has enormous implications for another round of Afghan refugees seeking safety into the surrounding countries -- Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and perhaps China -- but the mountainous China border is not likely to be a place refugees will be traveling.

    But in the short term, the Taliban will be taking victory dances on the world stage and the media will be condemning Biden for the defeat.

  • Aug 19, 2021 01:34 AM
    Last: 1mo
    116
    If Trump is indicted for any of his past crimes, what are the chances of getting an eleven person jury with no Trump supporters? And if they cannot get a conviction, Trump will twist that lack of conviction into a narrative that he is totally innocent. Fox News pundits like Tucker Carlson will lead the outrage against the prosecutors. It will be another circus, something that Garland wants to avoid for now. Maybe it's easier to pick off his subordinates one by one.
  • Aug 12, 2021 11:41 AM
    Last: 19d
    671

    The USA Today article pretty much sums up our situation in Afghanistan.

    USA Today: US lacks leverage over Taliban amid chaotic Afghanistan exit: 'They have us in a corner'

    A few extracts from the article:

    “They (the Taliban) have us in a corner because we can’t risk our responsibility to get everybody out who really need to leave,” said Phil Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and the FBI’s National Security Branch."

    "I'm very much afraid that this is going to get worse," Crocker said. "The chaos may subside, but as it does, I am terribly worried you're going to see the Taliban start to methodically take care of those they consider their enemies. We will be in no position to help them."

    “All it takes is one violent confrontation between the U.S. and Taliban to alter the security situation at the airport,” said Cordesman, who is Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    “If we’re lucky, it will go relatively smoothly," Cordesman said. "If we’re not, it could turn into either chaos or a considerable crisis almost without warning because of an action that nobody really planned or called for.”

    “They will be selling the country’s minerals to China, and there is no way to sanction opium sales,” he said. “The informal economy is going to be huge for them.”

    “The nature of Taliban – they are not the Pentagon – runs the risk that a 17-year-old with an AK-47 can throw this effort into more chaos,” Mudd said. “The risk is incredibly high. They have learned how to speak, but not how to act. You have to be incredibly mission-focused.”

    You can read more at the link above. The Taliban have Biden and America between a rock and a hard place. And certain members of the Republican party love it.

  • Aug 12, 2021 11:41 AM
    Last: 19d
    671

    Here's another point. As a former overseas traveler and expatriate, my family played very close attention to travel advisories issued by the State Department. At one location we were evacuated by my company to ensure that we would be safe. So what kind of travel advisories did the State Department issue for Afghanistan? I looked them up:

    April 27, 2021:

    Do not travel to Afghanistan due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict.

    U.S. citizens wishing to depart Afghanistan should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.

    Travel to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe because of critical levels of kidnappings, hostage taking, suicide bombings, widespread military combat operations, landmines, and terrorist and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne, magnetic, or other improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide vests, and grenades.

    Terrorist and insurgent groups continue planning and executing attacks in Afghanistan. These attacks occur with little or no warning, and have targeted official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and facilities, local government buildings, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, non-governmental organization (NGO) offices, hospitals, residential compounds, tourist locations, transportation hubs, public gatherings, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, restaurants, hotels, universities, airports, schools, gymnasiums, and other locations frequented by U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals.

    The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited, particularly outside of Kabul. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and the volatile security situation.

    ====================================

    That was April 27th. Following that advisory there were a multitude of advisories and security alerts issued to US travelers and residents in Afghanistan in May, June, July and August, but somehow those advisories seemed to be dismissed or ignored. We have one Colorado family stuck in Afghanistan who traveled there for a wedding in August and now cannot get out.

    Blame Biden...

  • Aug 12, 2021 11:41 AM
    Last: 19d
    671
    A couple of more points. First on the Taliban's money resources. As Arizona pointed out, they get a lot of money from extortion and "fees" in addition to opium sales. This Fox Business article points that out:

    Where does the Taliban get its money and who's funding the militant group in Afghanistan?

    From the article: "But it's unclear how effective the Treasury's restrictions will ultimately be: The Taliban operates largely outside the confines of the global financial system."

    "They're awash with cash," Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, told NPR. "The Taliban has been earning far more from trafficking drugs and other illicit activity, ranging from extortion rackets to timber trafficking, artisanal mining, kidnapping schemes, for almost two decades now."

    A United Nations report says: "While it's difficult to know precisely how much money the Taliban brings in each year, a recent United Nations report estimated that it's somewhere between $300 million and $1.6 billion."

    "The primary sources of Taliban financing remain criminal activities, including drug trafficking and opium poppy production, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, mineral exploitation and revenues from tax collection in areas under Taliban control or influence," the report said.

    Okay so my earlier point that freezing the Afghan financial assets might give Biden leverage, is probably not true, at least not in the short term. The Taliban have tons of money. But will those sources of cash last forever? They will have a country to run and it takes more than what you can get from an extortion racket and opium sales.

    A second point is bothering me more. From the Washington Post article: Afghanistan is under Taliban control. Here’s who leads the organization.

    The Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, that Trump had sprung from jail to make a "deal with" is in Kabul now. That deal was with Donald Trump and had an end date of May 1st. There are other leaders that might interject their power, but for the time being, Baradar seems to be calling the shots. However, he may have competition from other Taliban leaders that may want to capitalize more on the tough situation Biden is now in..."between a rock and a hard place."

    "Haibatullah Akhundzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban...Since becoming the de facto leader of the Taliban, he has worked to bolster the group’s finances, in part through the narcotics trade, while also attempting to unify the group’s factions and consolidate power... Mohammad Yaqoob is the oldest son of Taliban founder Mohammad Omar and heads the organization’s military. Less moderate-minded may be Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who founded the Haqqani network, an offshoot of the Taliban designated a terrorist group by the United States.

    So which Taliban leader does Biden have the pleasure of dealing with? And a deal with one doesn't mean a deal with another Taliban leader exerting his power.

    So a possible power struggle between these Taliban leaders could find the remaining American citizens stuck in Kabul and elsewhere in the country as hostages. Maybe they will even make a spectacle of a few public executions of the "infidels". Some of these religious crazies want real retribution and that means American blood.

    And who else would benefit: The Republican Trump supporters who are already using it to bash Biden. They are led by Taliban Tucker. I saw a Rasmussen poll that if the election were held today, Trump would beat Biden in a landslide. The media have not been kind to Biden.

    That's my worst nightmare scenario that seems to be unfolding before our eyes as the Taliban is in complete control.

    Trump supporters are quietly cheering the Taliban to take down Biden.