Saturday, November 28, 2015

Erdogan muddies the waters in Syria

So President Erdogan of Turkey has shot down a Russian jet over Turkey.

Russia was helping Syria to fight ISIS and was flying over Turkish airspace to do so. At the same time, Turkey has been accused, most recently with the Ankara bombings of October 10th, of turning a blind eye to ISIS.

Erdogan has been unsympathetic to the Kurds because of their power in northern Syria and southern Turkey. Even though (or perhaps because) the Kurdish Turks did yeoman work in the summer in preventing ISIS from advancing in western Syria, Erdogan has been hostile to the Kurds.

He has insisted that in return for helping the US fight ISIS in a "60-mile bombardment zone", that that zone also be free of Kurds.

Erdogan has always been hostile to the Kurds and by bombing a Russian jet, Erdogan is trying to press Obama to choose between Turkey and the Kurds.

Currently the US is in a tenuous position with regard to Syria. In dealing with the butcher Basher Assad, the US has resisted siding with him because of his slaughtering of protesters during the Arab Spring while also avoiding siding with ISIS.

Consequently the US tried to square the circle by bombing ISIS but not siding with Assad. Erdogan has tried to seize on this fragile status by shooting down a jet belonging to a country which is allied with an American enemy. In so doing, I think he wants to test American support for Turkey.

Will Obama stand with NATO ally Turkey or will he condemn the Turks for shooting down the jet? Obama cannot afford to alienate Turkey too much because of Incirlik air base in eastern Turkey which allows it access to the Middle East. In allying with Turkey too openly, the US would be alienating the Kurds. This would be harmful because the Kurds have been helpful in taking on ISIS. Obama is in a tough spot.

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Never mind the facts, here's the Republicans

So Republicans, as well as more than a few Democrats, have taken their fear-mongering to another level after the Paris attacks. Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan claims that because of the terrible situation in Paris he wouldn't accept applications by Syrians for asylum in Michigan.

Gov. Richard Bentley of Alabama also claimed he wouldn't accept refugees because of safety concerns.

Pat McCrory of North Carolina the same.

Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas the same.

And so it goes for 26 of these bigoted Republican governors. Their supposed concern is that a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers. Never mind that there's a massive market for fake Syrian passports or that it's been determined that the passport was stolen or a fake. These Republican crybabies have seized on the passport found near one of suicide bomber's bodies to ratchet up the anti-Islamic hysteria.

Never mind that many smaller countries have accepted more asylum applications than the US.

Never mind that have killed more people in the US than Muslim terrorists have.

Never mind that policemen cited domestic terror as a much greater threat than the threat of extreme Islamic terrorists.

Never mind that refugees wishing to come to the US must be vetted first by the UN before also being vetted by the US, a process that takes 18-24 months.

No, never mind all that.

These Republican fuckwits have seen fit to try to outhate one another in pandering to the only sort of people too stupid to vote for anyone else.

The good thing, of course, is that Republican governors in states cited above can't prevent the settlement of Syrian refugees. The bad thing is all the publicity that their effort has garnered and the racial animus that they have stirred up. Because the waters have been muddied, the hatred will continue to fester and boil. Those waters will remain dark and murky and will ensure that regardless of the legality of the issue, President Obama and Democrats and Republicans of good faith will be pilloried for daring to stand up to the hatred and ignorance of Republican hate.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

How much airtime do Syrian deaths get?

So yesterday Paris was hit by a horrible terror attack. Once again, multiple simultaneous, co-ordinated attacks have taken the lives of many and have shocked westerners. Once again, terror has been visited on a cosmopolitan, idyllic, home of arts and culture. People can't believe that it happened and the images of distraught, traumatized victims and witnesses on the TV are jarring and horrifying. There is no justification for this slaughter and the perpetrators should rightly be condemned. There is no justifying what was done and the acts are those of cowards and hateful people.

All that said, the attackers apparently mentioned Iraq and Syria in negotiations at the Bataclan theater. Bin Laden, in his 2002 "Letter to America" stated that the September 11 attacks happened because of anger at the West for privileging the West over Islam and Islamic countries. The sense that Muslims and Muslim countries were the victims of racism and religious bigotry drove Bin Laden to engineer those horrific attacks.

However, the scale of the attack on Paris pales in comparison to the death toll in Syria. Estimates of the death toll in Syria range from 143,000 to 340,000. The low estimate (I hate to use the term "low estimate" with an estimate of over 143,000 deaths) means 83 people have died every day for 4.5 years. The higher estimate means 199 every single day for that same time period. More than a Paris massacre every single day for 4.5 years while the people of Paris or any other western town have gone about their lives, eating, drinking and being merry, in relative peace.

But yet how many people changed their Facebook profile to a Syrian flag? Where's the CNN wall-to-wall coverage of Syria? Where is the Saturday Night Live opening expressing sympathy for Syria?

Westerners hate to see deaths in their own streets, but those deaths Over There have been happening in much greater numbers and without proportionate attention, for a long time. Clearly as long as the victims are Muslim, the deaths are more tolerable.

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

When coaches attack

So I happened to see Brian Kelly of Notre Dame losing his shit toward one of his assistant coaches who was complaining about a call. Kelly's explanation for his physical attack (I don't know what else to call it) on assistant strength and conditioning coach David Grimes was that Grimes was going to get the team a 15 yard penalty and Kelly wasn't having that. This claim doesn't hold water because another coach was already intervening between Grimes and the official. While that coach is intervening, Kelly runs in, grabs Grimes by his jacket and then bunches up the jacket under Grimes' chin, and pushes it up, like he's about to hit him. It's a really ugly scene. If the US wasn't so authoritarian, this wouldn't be tolerated, but sadly, that is America today. College football head coaches are lionized and their knowledge of football gives them high status in the United States. I doubt there will be legal ramifications for Kelly but in a perfect world, there would be. Truly disgusting.