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Tuesday, January 22

We're living with governments designed to work in the 19th Century. Now what?

Residents converting city space to a food garden


Residents converting a typical city park into foraging gardens growing edible plants


The observation in the title of this post applies whether the government is liberal democratic or authoritarian. So, beyond all the political rhetoric about improving government, humanity has what's called a 'white elephant' on its hands; i.e., "a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of."  (The origin of the term is "from the story that the kings of Siam gave such animals as a gift to courtiers they disliked, in order to ruin the recipient by the great expense incurred in maintaining the animal.")

The simple truth is that our huge numbers, and the sheer number of problems in this era and how they intersect, can't be dealt with effectively by 19th Century of government, which depends on a system of bureaus administered in a top-down fashion. A big problem with these bureaus, as I pointed out in a 2014 essay The Devil and Departmentalization, is that they have a way of inexorably expanding while their chiefs jealously guard information in order to protect and increase their budgets.

In other words, bureaus lead to compartmentalization of knowledge and expertise -- one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing, so to speak.  

Result? Well, there's a theory that al Qaeda had such a free run at the United States back in the day because the CIA wouldn't share information with the FBI that if acted upon by the two agencies in a coordinated fashion might have averted 9/11.

In any case, we've continued with a hopelessly outdated form of government administration because -- what's the alternative? Of course, alternatives have always existed; one simply needs to read world history that goes back before the time of Frederick the Great to find them.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, even before the Germanic kingdoms, even before the Romans and the Ottomans, even before Egypt's pharaohs, villagers and nomadic tribes the world over were managing to deal with community issues without bureaus.

But peoples today want an alternative that reflects their particular problems, many of which are products of entire societies trying to hammer the square peg of the 20th Century into the round hole of the 19th Century.

The alternative for our era boils down to many ad-hoc Do it Yourself approaches, worked out by groups of people who get tired of waiting for their government to do something for them and find ways to do it themselves. Eventually, the best of these DIY approaches will be integrated and codified and form the basis for a more formal type of government that large numbers of people find acceptable.

Between now and then is, well, messy, as is all guess-and-by-golly innovation, especially when it runs afoul of Defenders of the Status Quo. 

As to the argument that the defenders won't let the DIY approaches get far enough to be a challenge -- that was largely true up until the turn of this century. But today the internet is allowing unprecedented numbers of people to learn in agonizing detail just how much the status quo screwed up during the past century, even in the wealthiest, most technologically advanced nations. 

Indeed, I could spend the next 48 hours plugging in links to reports about horrific mistakes made by governments that took even good ideas and turned them into disasters and used huge amounts of money to fob off terrible ideas on unsuspecting millions of citizens.

Such reports are depressing and even frightening reading, and their existence on the internet has created a kind of two-tier reality. Most of the reports never make it into the mainstream television news, which is still the bastion of the status quo. But within less than a generation a large and fast-growing number of people who get much of their news from the internet has read enough depressing reports to be clearly aware that government in its present form is a white elephant. Many of these same people are sharing knowledge around the world about DIY approaches they've used to solve problems affecting entire communities, and that have worked.  

And it's to be remembered that the status quo is still useful and will remain so. Both the DIY urban farming projects I highlighted above have received government assistance. So it's not either-or, and it has to be that way to avoid anarchy and outright chaos in societies.

Little by little, but eventually a critical mass of innovation builds up, and so the status quo itself evolves.

********

Monday, January 21

Weather for Martin Luther King Day in Washington: bitter cold, brilliant sun


After howling throughout the night the wind was still so fierce by late morning it turned the 20-degree temperature into a 4-degree wind chill event -- Arctic weather for the city. This Washingtonian spent the holiday hibernating. After waking from a long nap I viewed online photos of the hardy souls who participated in and lined up to watch the annual MLK Day parade in South East D.C. Better them than me, I shivered, after seeing one troupe of paraders in sneaker footgear. 

Reporter Mike Murillo for WTOP (all-news radio for D.C.), which posted the photo and others from the parade, interviewed one parade-watcher:
“It’s really, really, cold,” said Ben Ado, of Ward 8. But coming to the event had become an annual tradition for him for many years, he added.

Though the cold may have kept some people away this year, Ado said over the past few years, the parade has diminished in size. “It’s kind of sad to see the parade getting smaller and smaller. They used to go all the way like, I think, about a 3 or 4-mile radius,” Ado said.
I think Ben should take heart. If the plan was to tamp down the importance of a federal holiday honoring Dr. King by placing its date in the dead of winter, it backfired. Martin Luther King Day is becoming an important American national holiday; one reason is that falling as does on a Monday, it makes a three-day break in an otherwise dreary month. 

And because the holiday is remarkably free of commercialization Dr King's lessons and hopes for Americans can be heard above the din of consumerism. This was signified this year by the cloudless sky that arched over the parade route and gorgeous sun shining down all who attended the parade, no matter their race or creed. This, after months of mostly cloudy skies and rain in the District followed by a snowstorm.

********

Osama was wrong

Osama bin Laden believed people prefer the strong horse.  No, people prefer the steady horse. What use is a strong horse if without warning it keeps bucking and throwing you to the ground, or for no seeming reason decides to run around the race course the wrong way?

The political system of the United States, as it's worked in the modern era, makes steadiness of purpose impossible when it comes to foreign relations. The peoples of the Middle East have discovered this bottom line about America the hard way. 

Americans of misplaced faith theorize the U.S. government is unpredictable on purpose -- a clever stratagem.to keep everyone else off balance. The problem with the theory is that people on the receiving end of such behavior don't tend to make a distinction between unpredictability and unsteadiness. For this reason alone the United States needs to leave the Middle East, before Americans are treated with open contempt throughout that part of the world.   

 *********

Attn. Israeli Defense Force! Losing face is NOT a sign of End Times.

Well. What to say when the defense force in a nuclear-armed country goes completely off the rails? I think by now Bibi has recovered from Trump only giving him a five-minute warning that he was going to announce to the world his intention to remove U.S. troops from Syria. But I'm afraid the IDF chiefs interpreted the short warning as a slap in the face to the entire state of Israel.     

An unnamed spokesperson for the Israeli military hurriedly tried to rationalize the IDF's latest assault on Syria, or maybe he was just being sarcastic; either way, DEBKAfile's straight-faced report on the IDF's bizarre narrative would be funny if this wasn't a nuclear-armed fortress state under discussion -- and if the assault hadn't killed four Syrian servicemen, damaged the Damascus International Airport, and directly challenged Putin.        

Most extensive Israeli attack ever on Soleimani’s military resources in Syria
Jan 21, 2019 @ 5:12
DEBKAfile

"The IDF decided it could afford to let Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi’s first operation as IDF chief of staff be a flop."
Early Monday, Jan 21, the IDF struck Iranian Al Qods forces, command centers and ammo dumps in Syria for 50 minutes in volleys of guided missiles from the air and the ground. Syrian and Russian sources reported that Syrian air defenses intercepted at least 29 Israeli missiles, coming from three directions – Lebanon and two northern Israeli regions of Galilee and the Kineret (Sea of Galilee). 

The IDF called this its most extensive operation ever against Iranian Al Qods chief Qassem Soleimani’s forces in Syria and issued a statement warning the Syrian army not to retaliate against Israeli territory, citizens or military forces. The Mt Hermon area and ski sites were placed off-limits to civilians as of Monday. Before midnight, a series of explosions were heard across Damascus.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The earlier attack by four Israeli Air Force fighter jets on a target south of Damascus international airport during the day on Sunday was clearly the signal for a broader Israeli clash with Russia and Syria over the continued IDF offensive for evicting the Iranian military presence from Syria.

The Israeli military had five incentives to go forward:


  1. This first IAF air raid failed to connect to target [sic].
  2. Syrian aid defense responses to the Israeli raid were closely synchronized with the Russian Khmeimim Airbase in Latakia and the Russian national air defense coordination center at Air Force HQ n Moscow.
  3. Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister and newly-appointed IDF Chief of Staff were faced with a tough decision over whether to climb down on its campaign against Iran after being warned off by Russia against attacking Damascus or its airport.
  4. The IDF decided it could afford to let Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi’s first operation as IDF chief of staff be a flop.
  5. The Syrian ground missile fired into Israel and intercepted by its Iron Dome defense battery over northern Golan could not go unanswered, especially when it was not the first. A Syrian missile flew over central Israel on Dec. 26. The assumption at the time was that an Israeli posture of non-response would result in expanding Syrian ground missile volleys with Russian backing for every Israeli air strike over Syria.
    Therefore, Sunday night, Israel took up the challenge, threw the gauntlet down for Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, and turned its back on Moscow’s warning to stay out of Damascus’ skies. Urgent conferences are no doubt taking place in and between the three capitals on their next steps.
[END REPORT]

*******

Sunday, January 20

Something a little strange happened to me

One day back in summer while washing my hands I noticed what looked to be 'age spots' on the back of my left hand. Light brown circular unraised pigmentation scattered like freckles, largish freckles. I don't know about you but generally, I don't pay attention to the backs of my hands so I didn't know if the spots had just appeared or been there for several days. I then glanced at the back of my right hand. No spots.

I thought without interest, 'Huh.'  

Age spots aren't unusual for someone my age. So, beyond checking, whenever I remembered, to see if the right back of the hand was sprouting any spots, I paid no mind to my discovery. Nor did I ponder why age spots would appear on one hand but not the other.

Sometime later -- I can't remember exactly how long, maybe a month or two -- the battery in my wristwatch died. I removed the watch from my left wrist and made a mental note to take the watch to a jeweler to have the battery changed; I prefer to go to a particular store all the way out in Virginia for these battery changes so this is how I have ruined more than one watch because the dead battery sat in there for so long it leaked. 

Sometime later -- I can't remember exactly, maybe a week later -- I happened to look down at my hands while I was washing them.

All the age spots on the back of my left hand had vanished.

From the time I first noticed the spots until they were gone there had been no change in my routine, no change in the soap I used, and I don't use hand lotion unless it's the dead of winter and my hands start feeling like sandpaper, but this hadn't been the case during the period in question. 

The spirit of scientific inquiry be darned; no way am I going to put a wristwatch with a working battery back on my wrist to see if age spots reappear on the back of my hand. I am already doing a stint as a human lab rat. Blood pressure medication nearly put me in the hospital so then I said, 'I'll do it myself,' not having any idea at the time how much research and experimentation the DIY approach to lowering blood pressure would entail.  

Nor do I have the time or interest in looking into whether wearable digital technology can have unusual effects on the body.  

Could it have been a coincidence? Maybe. Then again it could've been God's way of saying, 'Do not wear a machine you know nothing about for hours every day for years on end, fool.'

Take your pick. I've made my choice. Whenever I get to the jewelry store in Virginia, I'll be shopping for a watch that needs to be wound once a day to work. And I think I'll be carrying the watch in my purse rather than wearing it when I go out, which was the only time I wore a watch anyhow.

But I will venture that if there is a connection between the battery and the spots, this showed up only during my Golden Years, and obviously, they weren't exactly age spots even though they looked just like age spots.         

********

Sunday, January 13

TRUMP: US TROOP EXIT FROM SYRIA IS NOW UNDERWAY

Trump Tweet posted 45 minutes ago
Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it re-forms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone ...

35 minutes ago:
... Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!

[END]

Who's going to create and maintain the 20-mile safe zone? From RT's translation of the Tweets, it seems Trump intends Turkey to do it. As to the location of the nearby existing base -- RT thinks it means Iraq. We'll see. 

********

Saturday, January 12

I'll return January 20

Until then, best regards to all,
Pundita 

The Tweet

On December 14, in a report headlined America's Hidden War in SyriaLiz Sly, the Washington Post's Beirut bureau chief, passed a claim that the U.S. had considerably more troops in northeast Syria than was known to the public:
Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000. Most are Special Operations forces, and their footprint is light. Their vehicles and convoys rumble by from time to time along the empty desert roads, but it is rare to see U.S. soldiers in towns and cities.
Five days after the report's publication, in the early morning of December 19, President Donald Trump made a cryptic, confounding statement on his Twitter page:
We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.
Within moments of the Tweet, chaos ensued as national leaders put frantic calls to the White House asking for clarification while their defense and intelligence agencies and journalists at top newspapers around the world tried to make sense out of the Tweet. After all, by the Pentagon's own reckoning, there were still an estimated 14,500 Islamic State fighters in Syria. What on earth was Trump implying in the Tweet? 

By the afternoon of the 19th, after White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders had done a masterful job of putting lipstick on a pig for a passel of completely confused reporters, it was dawning on U.S. congressional leaders that James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, had been as surprised as everyone else when Trump had given him a head's up on the night of the 18th that he'd decided to remove all U.S. troops from Syria.

Bob Corker, outgoing Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was so confounded by Trump's decision and so alarmed by the chaos it touched off that he told reporters“I’ve never seen a decision like this since I’ve been here in 12 years. It is hard to imagine that any President would wake up and make this kind of decision, with little communication, with this little preparation.”

I'd say it's even harder to imagine a President having to learn from the Washington Post that the Pentagon was running its own war in the Middle East.

Does that solve the mystery of Trump's December 19 Tweet? I'll put it this way: I wasn't in the room, although I wouldn't have wanted to be in the room if an aide read out to Donald Trump choice passages from Liz Sly's report -- and I don't think James Mattis would've wanted to be in the room in that circumstance, either.

It could explain many things, but then that would mean Trump actually had four days to prepare his December 19 Tweet.

America's Hidden War in Syria
By Liz Sly
December 14, 2018
The Washington Post


[Please don't miss the photos accompanying the report.]

RAQQA, Syria — This ruined, fearful city was once the Islamic State’s capital, the showcase of its caliphate and a magnet for foreign fighters from around the globe.

Now it lies at the heart of the United States’ newest commitment to a Middle East war.

The commitment is small, a few thousand troops who were first sent to Syria three years ago to help the Syrian Kurds fight the Islamic State. President Trump indicated in March that the troops would be brought home once the battle is won, and the latest military push to eject the group from its final pocket of territory recently got underway.

In September, however, the administration switched course, saying the troops will stay in Syria pending an overall settlement to the Syrian war and with a new mission: to act as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000. Most are Special Operations forces, and their footprint is light. Their vehicles and convoys rumble by from time to time along the empty desert roads, but it is rare to see U.S. soldiers in towns and cities.

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.

A Turkish threat to invade the area last month forced the United States to scramble patrols along the border with Turkey, which has massed troops and tanks along the frontier. Turkey regards the main Kurdish militia, the YPG, which is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization and fears the consequences for its own security if the group consolidates power in Syria.

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar al-Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control. The government and Iran have been cultivating ties with local tribes, and the U.S. announcement of its intent to counter the Iranian presence in Syria may, in response, further encourage such ties.


Tribal loyalties

Away from the front lines, the calm that followed the ejection of the Islamic State from Raqqa and the surrounding territory is starting to fray. A series of mysterious bombings and assassinations in some of the areas retaken from the militants up to three years ago has set nerves on edge. Most of the attacks are claimed by the Islamic State, and a U.S. military spokesman, Col. Sean Ryan, said there is no reason to believe the Islamic State is not responsible. “We know they’re regrouping in those areas,” he said.

But there are widespread suspicions that any one of the regional powers opposed to the U.S. presence and the Kurds’ pursuit of self-governance may be seeking to destabilize the area, finding allies among disgruntled Arabs uncomfortable with the prospect of being governed long term by the Kurds.

The Kurdish forces have sought to include Arabs in their self-governance experiment but retain dominance over its structures at every level, Arabs complain.

This is a part of Syria where tribal loyalties often trump politics, and the tribes are being courted by all the regional players with an interest in ultimately controlling the area, according to Sheikh Humaidi al-Shammar, the head of the influential Shammar tribe.

At Shammar’s outsize mansion, which rises improbably from the empty desert near the Iraqi border, dozens of tribal leaders gathered one recent Friday for his customary weekly divan, sweeping into his cavernous reception room dressed in gold-trimmed robes and flanked by pistol-wielding guards.

The guests ranged, Shammar confided, from sheikhs affiliated with the Assad regime and his ruling Baath Party to representatives of the Islamic State, the Free Syrian Army rebels and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces — a spectrum of those competing for control in northeastern Syria.

Shammar has allied his tribe with the United States and the Kurds, and he has contributed fighters from his small Sanadid militia to battles against the Islamic State. But, he said, he has many concerns: namely, that the U.S. talk of countering Iran will suck the region into a new conflict and that the area’s Arabs will be cut out of any deal that is eventually reached with the Kurds.

“Everything is uncertain. We are part of a global game now, and it is out of our hands,” he said.

His son Bandar, who leads the Shammar militia, said the tribe supports some form of new arrangement for the Kurds in Syria “because they are our brothers and they sacrificed a lot,” he said.

“The main concern of the Arab population is that one ethnicity, the Kurds, is going to build a state for Kurds and impose their authority on the others,” he said. “The coalition created the SDF to be multi­ethnic, but really people see it is not like this. It is a solo actor which authorizes everything and controls everything.”

‘It’s a matter of time’

Kurdish leaders say they are working hard to convince the Arab community that their plan for governing will include it. Education sessions are being held in Arab areas to try to bring Arabs around to the views of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed Turkish Kurdish leader who inspired the YPG’s ideology, said Saleh Muslim, a senior official with the Democratic Union Party, the political wing of the YPG.

“We are very sincere about living together,” he said. “It’s a matter of time. Maybe we need three or four years to make it stable.”

Whether the Kurds have three or four years is unclear. U.S. officials hope the American presence will bring leverage in negotiations over an eventual settlement to end the Syrian war, with the aim of securing some form of autonomy for their Kurdish allies as well as rolling back Iranian influence.

But there is no such settlement in sight, and there may not be one. Assad has prevailed against the rebellion elsewhere in Syria and has shown no inclination to make concessions. The expectation among many residents, Kurds and Arabs alike, is that the government will eventually restore its authority over the area.

After Trump said the troops would soon be withdrawn, many here began planning for that eventuality, including the Kurds, who launched talks with Damascus for a direct, bilateral settlement. The talks went nowhere, and now the Americans are staying — but Kurdish officials say they are keeping open channels of communication in case Trump changes his mind again.

“Everything is very complicated and no one knows which way to turn. We don’t know who is against whom and who is with whom,” said Amjad Othman, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Council.

All the challenges and complexities of northeastern Syria seemed to be concentrated in the small, strategic town of Manbij. Located beside the Euphrates River, it was liberated from the Islamic State by Kurdish forces over three years ago. Now, to the north, lies territory controlled by Turkish troops and their Free Syrian Army allies, and to the south by the Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran.

[map]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/syria/us-troops-in-syria/img/1800/SYRIAstatusDEC10_18.jpg

In the middle are the Americans. It is one of the few places where the U.S. military has a conspicuous presence. There are three small U.S. bases in and around the town, supporting an American effort to keep apart Turkey and the Kurdish-affiliated Manbij Military Council, according to officials with the council. So far, diplomacy has worked to tamp down the tensions, and the U.S. and Turkish militaries recently began conducting joint patrols along the front line.

But attacks, carried out by assassins riding motorcycles and planting roadside bombs, are occurring with increasing frequency behind the front lines. Local officials believe groups affiliated with the Syrian government and Iran are behind some of these, according to Mohammed Mustafa Ali, who goes by the name Abu Adil and is the head of the Manbij Military Council. “We are surrounded by enemies, and they all want to come here,” he said.

A city still in ruins

Frustrations are building, meanwhile, with the acute lack of funding for reconstruction, impeding the effort to win hearts and minds in Arab non-Kurdish areas, Kurdish officials say. Earlier this year, Trump cut the $200 million that had been earmarked for essential repairs to the worst damaged areas. Though that sum has been replaced by donations from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it is a fraction of the billions of dollars required.

It is in Raqqa, the biggest city in the part of Syria where U.S. troops are based, that the frustration is most keenly felt. The city was devastated by the U.S.-led airstrikes that accompanied the SDF’s four-month offensive to drive out the Islamic State, and a year later the city is still in ruins.

Signs of life are returning, with shops and markets reopening in some neighborhoods. About half the population has returned, squeezing into the least damaged buildings, sometimes living without walls and windows. Most roads have been cleared of piles of rubble that were left by the bombardments, but blocks on end are wrecked and uninhabitable. The water was restored in September, but there is still no electricity.

Without more financial support, there is a risk that Raqqa will “devolve into the same vulnerability ISIS found when it first arrived, a ‘fractured city ripe for extremist takeover and exploitation,’ ” a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general said last month, quoting a State Department official.

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

He spoke wistfully of life under the Islamic State, when, he said, the streets were safe. His business was good because foreign fighters flocked to him to get themselves decked out in the Afghan-style outfits of baggy pants and tunics that were favored by the Islamic State.

Now the city is half empty and customers are few.

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

And there is graffiti, often appearing overnight, a sinister reminder that the Islamic State is trying to stage a comeback.

“Remaining in spite of you,” said the writing scrawled in black paint on the collapsed wall of a destroyed building on one recent morning, a reference to the Islamic State’s slogan, “Remaining and Expanding.”

The paint was fresh. 


[END REPORT]

********

Friday, January 11

Plague of locusts descends on Mecca

It's been going on for a few days now and it's a big enough story to have gotten RT's attention. The report includes video and photos from various Twitterites. The caption, in Arabic, for the following photo is:
In the name of God the Merciful, we sent them flood, locusts, lice, frogs and blood verses of the hinges Vstkbroa and were criminals people

Google's Arabic might leave something to be desired, but I think there were floods in Saudi Arabia just a few days ago, so with the locusts, all that's missing is the frogs, lice, and blood. 

From the RT report, kudos to the Mecca sanitation department, which has been working overtime to clean up the locusts, but I do question the spraying of massive amounts of insecticides down water drains.   

********

Syrian State News Agency: Air defense intercepted most Israeli missiles fired toward Damascus

SANA has confirmed the breaking news that Sputnik reported a short time ago:

Syrian Air defenses intercept hostile missiles launched by Israeli warplanes, down most of them
January 12, 2019SANA 

(DAMASCUS) A military source affirmed that the Syrian Air defenses intercepted on Friday night hostile missiles launched by the Israeli warplanes and downed most of them.

The source said that “ at 11:15 before midnight Israeli warplanes coming from Al-Jalil area launched many missiles towards Damascus area and our air defenses intercepted them and downed most of them.”

He added that damages of the aggression were limited to an ammunition warehouse in Damascus airport.

[END REPORT]

********

"Syrian Air Defences Respond to Enemy Attack, Down Several Targets - Reports" BREAKING NEWS - UPDATED 6:20 PM ET

Sputnik breaking news  00:48 - 12.01.2019 . Details to follow

[END REPORT]
*****

6:15 PM ET

Sputnik has updated their initial report, as follows. Note the file photo of an S-300 firing, and the caption (scroll across the photo) accompanying the update, which suggests, at least, that Syrian air defense deployed the Russian S-300 in the shootdowns. We'll learn more details later. For now:.     


(updated 01:28 - 12.01.2019)

Syrian air defenses have responded to an Israeli airstrike over Damascus and managed to shoot down several targets, local media reported.

According to Ikhbariya broadcaster, several targets have been shot down during an enemy attack over Damascus, Syria.

A military source told Syrian SANA news agency later that Israeli jets fired several missiles towards the vicinity of Damascus, most of the missiles were downed.

According to the source, the airstrikes caused damage to a warehouse at Damascus International Airport.

A source in Syrian Ministry of Transport confirmed to SANA later that the Damascus International Airport traffic was not affected by the strikes.

Previously, a Sputnik correspondent reported that Sounds of explosions were heard in Syria's capital of Damascus, noting that it was yet unclear what caused them.

The sounds of blasts were first heard at 11:30 p.m. (21:30 GMT) on Friday and they continued into Saturday.

[END REPORT]

Thursday, January 10

A little more attention to human ecology

After thinking about my January 6 post (The Revolution Is Not Being Televised) a Pundita reader told me that the U.S. isn't the only country in this era that's had more college graduates than jobs, so why didn't this cause a crisis in those countries? Because one way to describe the modern era is "Exporting Unemployed College Graduates."

It's not only college graduates that were exported in large numbers to work in other countries. Around the world, impossibly corrupt regimes staved off reforms by 'encouraging' large numbers of the poorest nationals to work in other countries, from whence those immigrants or 'guest workers' sent huge amounts of money to relatives back home. The amounts skyrocketed when (with government encouragement) the expat workers started using electronic money transfers -- EFTs -- to send the money.

A fair number of Americans work abroad but I used the examples of pre-revolutionary Iran and the Germanic kingdoms in the early 1800s because as with America in the Great Recession, large numbers of jobless college graduates couldn't find work in other countries. 

The need to provide decent-paying jobs for graduates and in professions that befit their education level is a large problem in this era; allowing it go unaddressed in any country invites at best social unrest as we have in the United States and at worst armed revolutions that topple governments.

However, more Americans need to acknowledge that many good professions require only technical training and not a college degree.  

College education in America was transformed into a major industry when white-collar businesses demanded that job applicants for anything above menial tasks possess a college degree. The stipulation was a cost-saving way of pre-determining whether the applicant had the baseline literacy and numeracy to understand instructions and fit into a corporate work environment. 

Yet the stipulation has been very hard on human nature. The best time for higher learning is after a person has acquired considerable life experience outside his parental home and primary schooling. To reverse this natural order of things is to invite the kind of horror described by an American professor of history emerita and human rights activist, Dana Frank, when she first met with Washington, D.C.'s foreign policy establishment.

From Jacobin's review of Frank's book,  The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup:
She is disturbed to learn that “much of the foreign policy of the United States Congress is developed by twenty-six-year olds who, however well-trained or well-meaning, is each responsible for U.S. relations with the entire world.”
Actually, the situation is even worse than Professor Frank realized from her encounters. Moving along, the point is that American colleges are turning out graduates whose intellects can be quite developed but who possess not one jot of common sense.

Much attention has been given to Earth's ecology, but the modern era has run roughshod over human ecology. Here I recall that King Bhumibol Aduljyadej once told the Thai people that it was time to take a careful step backward. 

A careful step back is infinitely preferable to a society stepping forward over a cliff, which is what happens when large numbers of people are pushed to ignore their own nature.  

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