Monthly Archives: February 2011

Psy-Ops on Iran

Tell me I need to take off my tinfoil hat, but, honestly, doesn’t this New York Times article strike you as a pretty transparent Neo-Con/AIPAC/Likud psyops piece?

Its only meaningful data point is the transit of Iranian ships through the Suez Canal.  All of the noise about Shi’a discontent is more or less deflated by this line: “Shiism is hardly monolithic, and Iran does not speak on behalf of all Shiites.”

Well, then we’re owed an explanation of how this increases Iranian influence and we get none. At least none in favor of that contention. Regarding the Bahraini opposition the article says, “But demonstrators have maintained their loyalty to Bahrain. The head of the largest Shiite party, Al Wefaq, said that the party rejected Iran’s type of Islamic government.”

And who are the main experts quoted? A RAND Corporation analyst and “former National Security Council staff members.” Turns out it was for the Bush administration, something the article does not point out.

I’m still not sure how the same class of experts who failed to predict this Pan-Arab revolt have any credibility on the subject for the moment. And, I thought we were worried about an increase in Turkish influence? or was that just during the “Flotilla” crisis?

Turks, Persians, and Arabs and Sunnis and Shiis on the other have a complicated history, and I strongly doubt that it’s so simple as a zero-sum game of influence between the U.S./Saudi axis on the one hand and Iran on the other. Is Egypt, a giant and proud nation, susceptible to a takeover by Iran? Doubtful.

This article is nonsense.

Why Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya?

To paraphrase from the Jewish festival of freedom:

Why are Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya different than all other Arab countries?

In other words, while protests have been present in almost every Arab country this year, so far the only ones that have deposed the current incumbent (Egypt, Tunisia) or have taken territory (Benghazi is in control of the Libyan revolutionaries) are these three. While the conspicuous absence of serious change in Morocco, Algeria, and Syria are more than mere exceptions, I believe that this has to have something to do with a look to the future.

In 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean was founded. It was originally the idea of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and it hasn’t amounted to much. Yet. But it provides a framework for the former Roman lake to integrate economically in a way that makes a terrible amount of sense.

Bahrain is stuck in between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with a giant U.S. military base located on it. Tunisia, on the other hand, is about 100 miles from Sicily. One day, a chunnel between Spain and Morocco might even be possible. Egypt too is positioned to trade with Europe more than the rest of the Middle East.

I don’t know anything about the state of affairs in Morocco or Algeria. I know there have been protests, but they appear to have petered out. Assad in Syria remains (assuming Qaddafi is about done) Arabia’s last asshole. And then there is the PLO and HAMAS in Palestine.

But, honestly. A new Mediterranean future is more than just a dream, the way, say, a free Persian Gulf might be.

It’s unfortunate that Iraq is in such a mess, or the Gulf might be more liable to change.

P.S. I think it’s interesting how the Qaddafi spokespeople have pointedly attacked Qatar and Al-Jazeera… just like the PLO, who sent security officers to sack the office in Ramallah.

The Egypt Credit Countdown

Que the Conservatrons saying that Egypt’s peaceful, internal revolution that resulted in regime change was a direct result of Generalissimo Bush’s invasion of Iraq in T minus five… four… three… two… one….

This is one of those times when it is gratifying to have a real President and not a nepotistic dunce like Dubya’. I’m not entirely sure how, but one just senses that Generalissimo Bush would have blown this somehow. It’s tempting to say that Obama’s outreach to the Arab world, as exemplified by his speech in Cairo early in his presidency, provided some of the spark for this and the regime change in Tunisia. More likely, those revolts  and the crushed uprising in Iran, are more the result of a demographic wave of young people that are aware of the freedoms that most people have simply demanding them for themselves and their countrymen. I cannot pretend to be any manner of expert on these matters. Today anyway, the joyous scene in Egypt gladdens even the most cynical heart. And it was all done without a single American military boot on the ground or drop of blood in the sand.

Egypt

I was disturbed to get up and read Mubarak hasn’t left office yet. I mean, hasn’t Twitter conquered the entire Middle East yet? I keep hearing on the news that people are now getting tired of the whole thing and want to go back to work.

I’d love to see a democratic government there and everything, but, again, color me skeptical. And “Islamist” doesn’t equal democratic.

Quick Points on PPACA In The Courts

No, there is no subtle redeeming quality to the Florida opinion. It is hackery, pure and simple. While I think the PPACA is basically a huge handout to the very industry that claims to hate it, and it is disgustingly expensive to not even cover everyone, I still think that the effect of getting almost everyone covered with health care outweighs all of the problems with it. Not by a lot. Whatever. Those are political questions. Legally, there’s no doubt in my mind that even the Conservative Supreme Court will sustain it, probably not even 5-4. I think there’s a chance it’s 8-1. But until then, we will have a bunch of judicial hackery like this to go along with the political hackery in Congress. And it probably won’t go away for another 5 years, when the program starts to kick in and get popular, like Medicare. So, here…

Fight back against concern trolls, Tea Baggers, Constitutional originalist nincompoops, and legal frauds with these quick points:

• It isn’t a tax, because they call it a penalty!

This is a fatuous, silly argument. Supreme Court precedent clearly states that anything that “raises revenue” is a tax, and, therefore subject to Congress’s broad powers under the taxing and spending clause. Numerous laws that might have not been sustainable under the Commerce Clause, such as requiring states to enact 21-year-old drinking age laws, were sustained when they were coupled with taxing or spending, in the case of the drinking laws, with highway spending instead of being simple fiats.

The Florida judge’s recent opinion simply dismisses this argument in a footnote. Yet 100 law professors have signed an article affirming this point. It is the most deadly to the opposition to PPACA, which is why they talk about it the least.

• The commerce clause regulates activity, not inactivity.

This isn’t even law school cute. This distinction has never been used before the series of cases over PPACA. It’s simply made up. Whether or not you believe this should be the law, it isn’t. Without getting too deep into it, the current test is whether the law has “substantial effects on commerce.” Action (purchasing marijuana) or inaction (possessing it) are both necessary. That’s not to say the Supreme Court couldn’t one day create this test. But for a district judge to do so leads to anarchy. They are bound by precedent.

• Does this mean the government can make me buy guns? or a GM car?

This is a silly question, but the answer is probably yes. It has done so in an old militia law. Moreover, state governments are not restricted by the commerce clause; their power is unlimited unless an exception is specified; federal power is limited to the specific grants in the Constitution. So, asking this question about a state is mostly irrelevant. Could the federal government require everyone driving between states to drive a GM? Sure, under the commerce clause. This might, however, have due process implications. But conservatives hate due process and it isn’t even discussed in either the Florida or the Virginia cases, so they must not think much of that.

• Striking the mandate means striking the whole law!

Some liberals have been susceptible to conservative concern trolling over this because of the bills lack of a severability clause. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that Constitutional challenges must be on the narrowest grounds possible, severability clause or not. Conservatives are disingenuously using big words used in contract law to Constitutional law. Sometimes these clauses matter, sometimes they don’t. The Florida judge’s claim that somehow the lack of a mandate means that, say, the ban on discrimination of preexisting conditions, already partially in effect, is unworkable is probably stupidly only reinforcing the point that the failure to buy health insurance substantially affects commerce.

• But what about the gay marriage case! That was just a district judge!

True. District judges are still allowed to interpret the Constitution, but they are not allowed to substitute their own judgment for the opinion of the Supreme Court just because they disagree. In contrast to the PPACA cases, where there are direct contradictions (not to mention 70 years of Social Security, etc.), there is no case saying that a state can pass discriminatory laws that serve no rational purpose; in fact, there are cases saying they can’t. Whether the gay marriage case’s facts satisfy that law has yet to be seen by higher courts, but the law wasn’t being invented as it is here.