Crime to Criticize the Troops?

What happened to the Magna Carta? I support the troops when they overthrow their superiors!

STL Twitter Feed!

imagesThe staff here at Sparking The Left (STL) has just decided to move into the new century by establishing its own Twitter feed. You can find us at @sparkingthelef1, but please be patient for we have no experience with the technology and we’ll be making mistakes.We would also be very grateful for any feedback from anyone on how to improve it and so on.

Also, as reported in our first tweet, I will from here on refer to the STL staff and followers as “Sparkers.” I just made that up and if anyone has anything against it let us know.

Thank you from STL!

“The chickens have come home to roost”

AP_kenya_mall_attack_jt_130922_16x9_992I was watching CNN today and was lucky enough to catch an interview with a couple, with the wife carrying their baby daughter, who were trapped in a mall store in Nairobi, Kenya, when the Al Shabaab terrorist forces broke in. They stated that the gunmen were shooting indiscriminately. But after both of the interviewed couple were injured (the woman was shot and the husband had shards of glass in his left eye) they tried to reason with the gunman who had shot them, standing outside of the mall store entrance.

The husband/father began to relate to the terrorist through the teachings of the Koran, for he was a Muslim also, through it’s preachings of peace and love for one another, Muslim or not. But it was a failed attempt. What the gunman replied to the husband/father was, “We don’t usually try to kill women in children, but they kill our women and children.” The talk then broke off. The couple was then able to escape with both their daughter and a good lesson for the citizens of the United States.

The lesson for the U.S. is that, and I hate vaunting cliches but, violence breeds violence. For years now the “drone war” has been operating in the Horn of Africa. And when you send a Hellfire missile into the town square of a small village at a just “suspected” terrorists, there are going to be many civilian deaths. That was what the Al Shabaab gunman was trying to explain to the injured couple.

It was true in Vietnam, Chechnya, and now in all corners of the Middle East: The “collateral damage” of the War on Terror just creates so bitterly consumed people that they see terrorism as the only way to express their anger and feelings of injustice.

Now I do not support violence in this fashion, which is so random and pointless, but I think I understand a little bit more after hearing from that couple on CNN.


Syria, Iraq, and America’s Maturation

As what once looked like an inevitable march to war in Syria stays on hold longer, it seems the United States’ public has put to use the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq.  And one of the most important lessons was the reality that we can’t predict what the future will bring no matter how sure we think we are about it.22syria-cnd-articleInline

One of the biggest reasons for this unpredictability is the various groups found in these countries and the infighting that occurs after changes in power, a residual effect of their borders being created by colonialism.  Iraq is no exception and the violence there continues as we saw over the weekend.

And it’s possible the outcome of a power switch in Syria might be even more unpredictable than Iraq.  The CSM illustrated this in a recent article that attempted to estimate the number of fighters in various groups fighting against the Assad regime:

Jihadists – 10-12,000

Hardline Islamists – 30,000

Ikhwani Islamists – 30-40,000

Genuine moderates – 20-25,000

Kurds – 10,000

…statements that so-called “moderates” dominate the fight against Mr. Assad, as both US Secretary of State John Kerry and influential politicians like Senator John McCain have asserted, are not accurate.

The path ahead is very murky in Syria and that could very well be one of the reasons Americans are so reluctant to support military action against Assad, a clear change from the lead-up to the Iraq War as most polls illustrate.  A look at old data from Pew show 72% believed Iraq was the “right decision” in March of 2003 when the war began. A look at their data on Syria show 63% of Americans oppose airstrikes.

Obviously, we can’t say this is the only reason for the change as many factors will play a role in each situation.  But the reality that one of these groups would eventually take power and then be tasked with holding onto it peacefully in a post-Assad Syria should be a concern when judging this issue.  It would be foolish to think a magic wand could be waved and things would work out just perfectly, particularly when you consider the groups are already fighting each other at times instead of the Assad regime.

The situation in Syria is messy but Western intervention will likely only make matters worse in the long run.

Iran’s Rouhani: New Hope for Negotiations?

indexThe article I’m about to link focuses on Obama reaching out to Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, due to a NBC interview earlier this week where he made a shift in some of Iran’s political stances.

Mr. Rouhani, unlike his predecessor, Ahmed Ahmadinejad, has a more liberal view on Iran’s political troubles, such as the crippling sanctions by the West in response to Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Also, he even stepped back from Iran’s long term stance regarding wiping Israel off the map moving to a more moderate position of pursuing peace in the region. So in light of this shift in posture the White House has opened communications with Tehran hoping to start a dialogue focusing on lifting the sanctions in return for Iran abandoning it’s nuclear program.

But what the article really focuses on though are the criminals in Israel and Jerusalem’s views on this whole matter. Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu says this is all farce and an attempt by Rouhani to lighten the sanctions upon Iran’s economy while the nuclear program secretly continues.

Now, let’s get back into the same old argument here that I have addressed many times before. Even though the NYT article states that the Israeli nuclear arsenal is kept foggy regarding how many bombs they have if they even have any at all. But outside sources places the number at 250 nuclear weapons. And this does not include the American arsenal that would surely be fired upon Iran if they lobbed their single bomb into Tel Aviv or somewhere else not holy to Muslims.

Now Iran, unlike other Middle Eastern nations, is not filled with extremists that are known for suicide attacks. The reason why, amongst others, is that they are a Shia nation and 90% of suicide bombers are Sunni Muslims, e.g., Osama bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and every 9/11 hijacker. Also on this point you never here of Iranian suicide bombers. Iran prefers to financially and materially support these groups. Suicide bombers are all from Arab states too, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Palestinians. Iran isn’t even Arab, they’re Persian.

So what I am trying to get to here is this: Iran is not full of extremists in the violent/terrorist sense of the word. So why would they take the risk of being wiped off the map by Israel/U.S. by starting a nuclear war with their single bomb or a few more thereafter? It’s a simple argument of M.A.D., i.e., Mutually Assured Destruction. Iran is smart and calculating. They put politics above extremism. They are a rational nation that prefers political action rather than martyrdom.

So why is Israel so nervous?

If the West has any bravery or fortitude in them the real answer for a safe and anti-nuclear Middle Eastern region is to make it a Weapons of Mass Destruction-free zone. Collect all the nuclear bombs with the IAEA and collect all the sarin gas warheads and anthrax from nations like Syria.

But, unfortunately, the U.S. will never allow that to happen due our outdated interests in Israel, which is way out of view now that the Cold War is over. We need to rethink our policies in that region.

Read Here.









Some Very Informative Charts on Growing Income Inequality

The Census Bureau released data on income inequality recently and Mother Jones put together some charts showing the results of the research (linking one here but more good ones in the article).  It’s very clear how this is continuing to shrink the middle class and, if not for the social safety nets we have had in place since the 1960s and before, the poverty rate would be tremendously higher.

The Atlantic also added a chart to this data that should be noted and I’ll include here.What should be pointed out in this chart is that the S&P was doing just fine in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s when inequality was nowhere near the levels it is at today.  This is important since the typical argument from the right as to why we can’t have higher taxes on the wealthy that would lessen income inequality is because of its crushing impact on investment which, in turn, would cut economic growth.  Clearly, not true.

They saw the crash coming –

They saw the crash coming –

A good, short op-ed as the five year anniversary of the financial crash of ’08 rolls around.  One paragraph does a nice summary of what happened:

The pre-2008 warning was clear. How could we have missed it? “Everybody missed it,” Greenspan observed in 2010, “academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators.” Which was not quite accurate. Everybody who could have done something missed it. (Emphasis by author)

The moral of what happened is that no one wants to listen to a Debbie Downer when things are good but, clearly, it must be done.  The crash could have been either completely avoided or heavily subdued with better regulation of the financial sector and, until we realize that fact, we will have more of these crashes to deal with in the future.

A Critical Look at Some of the Rhetoric of Obama’s Syria Speech

President Obama made his case for possible/eventual intervention in Syria last night.  Let’s jump right into some of the language with a critical eye.

Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country.

Clearly, the first 99,000 people that died rather horribly didn’t matter as much as the 1,000 that died rather horribly.  Now is the time for the world to show its morals and intervene more heavily!  The logic speaks for itself.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory, but these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.

And when elected leaders commit atrocities, like drone striking loosely defined “imminent threats” on foreign soil that violates international laws, they also depend on the world to look the other way.  The facts cannot be denied.22syria-cnd-articleInline

It’s also a danger to our security…I believed it was right in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security to take this debate to Congress…the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military….Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria.

…What?  Good luck following that logic.

Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.

An odd statement since, as previously noted here, U.S. intelligence has confirmed Iran has “decided” already not to pursue nuclear weapons.  He may want to check his sources before throwing out those accusations.

I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. (Which came after he said the following):
Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield.

If you are confirming you aren’t putting “American boots on the ground”, why would our troops “face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield”?  It’s kind of either one or the other.

Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise.

Which begs the question: why would he have ordered the use of chemical weapons in the first place since he knew it would up the chance of international intervention which would lead to escalation possibly leading to his demise?  This suggests he is somehow logical and rational while being very sadistic.  And if he is just sadistic, why did it take so long to order this type of strike and why hasn’t he ordered more since?  Or maybe he never gave the order at all, as has been suggested.

But al Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.

Note to world: please ignore the undeniable fact Al Qaeda has drawn strength in a more chaotic Iraq because people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being killed.  And the strength they drew there is why they are now so strong in Syria.  Our bad on that one.

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.

See sentences immediately preceding that quote, then pretend that didn’t happen.  That’s how you are able to believe that as an accurate statement.

Also ignore the slew of actions by the American government over the past seven decades that haven’t made the world a better place (e.g. Vietnam, Iran-Contra, helping to overthrow democratically elected leaders around the world such as in Iran, supporting and propping up dictators like Mubarak in Egypt, etc., etc.).

What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?

If we chose to look the other way, I suppose we would live in a world where the U.S. helps a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, like we did with Hussein in Iraq, as was recently revealed.

…along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

Please ignore the U.S. use of depleted uranium in the Iraq War.  Thank you for looking the other way world.

Maybe one day we will live in a grownup world where this type of ridiculous rhetoric that completely ignores history and is rife with hypocrisy will be replaced with a more realistic view of the planet and the things that occur on its surface.  We can only hope…

How Bad Can The NSA Spying Controversy Get!?

06nsa-articleInlineThe NSA spying controversy hit an all time high alert today with new published revelations in The Guardian and ProPublica. According to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the NSA has cracked most of the encryption systems that guard our important private information here in the United States rather the target be individual or institutional. You must read the three links below:

New York Times

The Guardian



Ridiculous U.S. Rhetoric to Justify Syria Intervention

As we edge closer to what is a virtually unstoppable march toward bombing Syria, the United States continues to throw out whatever rhetoric it can to justify a military strike on the Assad regime and look like the world’s good guy.  More of this happened today:

America “recognizes that if the international community fails to maintain certain norms, standards, laws, governing how countries interact and how people are treated, that over time this world becomes less safe,” Obama said. “It becomes more dangerous not only for those people who are subjected to these horrible crimes, but to all of humanity.” (Emphasis added.)

Here we come Syria!

So, the U.S. is interested in adhering to international norms and laws?  I’m guessing this is one of those “do as I say and not as I do” situations.

I’ll ignore the fact that the impending strike on Syria will almost assuredly be a violation of international law and simply focus on other actions that have already occurred and were conducted by the U.S. government.

Is it an internationally accepted norm to spy on the democratically elected heads of state, including their text messages, of countries that you call allies, such as Mexico and Brazil?  Didn’t think so.

There is the continued use of drones to kill whoever the U.S. government deems a loosely defined “imminent threat” on foreign soil, including U.S. citizens, a certain violation of international law.

Are the recent confirmations that the U.S. helped overthrow the Iranian prime minister in 1953 or helped Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons against Iran in the late 1980s part of international norms that the world readily approves?  Not really.

Is the use of torture when interrogating people a lawful “standard” the world accepts?  Negative.

What about the United States use of chemical weapons, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam?  Who did the world punish for that?  Or, more recently, who was prosecuted for the use of depleted uranium by U.S. forces in Iraq?  Should there be a military strike on U.S. military installations for the horrific conditions in the hardest hit areas like Fallujah?

Or maybe the U.S. isn’t concerned about the norms and is more concerned with the fact so many people are dying.  Because when so many are dying, the U.S. intervenes.  Just like we didn’t when 250,000 people recently starved to death in Somalia over a three year period, half of which were children under the age of five.  Or like we didn’t in Mexico where likely over 100,000 people have been killed, some very brutally, since 2006 largely because of U.S. drug and gun policies.

Let’s face it.  This list could go on for quite a while.

In short, the U.S. wants to bomb Syria in the interest of maintaining international norms and enforcing international law because America is an example of following the most rigorous of these standards accepted by the world community.  My question is: since when?