Friday roundup

by Grania

It’s been quite a day all around the world.

After the horrific and cruel chemical attack in Syria earlier this week, the American strike appears to have put a serious dent in Trump’s friendly overtures to Putin. The New York Times reports that the Kremlin has denounced the strike and continues to deny that Syria had any chemical weapons. There has been some noticeable dismay expressed by erstwhile Trump supporters at home as well.

This afternoon in Europe there has been what appears to be another terrorist attack—this one in Stockholm, Sweden, as confirmed by Swedish PM Stefan Löfven. An arrest has been made. A man driving a truck crashed it into a Åhléns Mall. The Local (English language Swedish news) has been updating the story here. One arrest has been made. So far four deaths and 15 injured are reported. For more detail you could follow Phillip O’Connor, journalist in Stockholm on Twitter as he continues to update his coverage.

In South Africa today there are fairly large nationwide public protests against President Zuma asking him to step down. It can be followed on Twitter on the #AntiZumaMarches hashtag.

[JAC: As if things aren’t bad enough, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the way for years of anti-progressive rulings.]

Finally, if you prefer something with nothing at all to do with politics, try this music video where a capella group Pentatonix perform the almost impossible to sing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.


  1. ajlowry
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Lip-syncing really brings me down. It would be fun to see the Pentas do the tune in a live setting.

    • Posted April 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      They have a world tour in a month or so


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Lip-syncing?! Hell, at least the drunk dudes in the car with Wayne and Garth actually sang along with the tape of Freddie and the guys. 🙂

      • Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Oh for godssakes the pair of you, even Queen lip-synched on their Bohemian Rhapsody video. It’s an impossible to sing live kind of song. Srsly.



        • stuartcoyle
          Posted April 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          If I recall correctly, Queen used to wheel a gramophone on and leave the stage during the middle part of Bohemian Rhapsody when performing it live so as to avoid doing fake lip synch.

          • Posted April 8, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            Yes, exactly. There are too many layers of vocals to perform it live.

  2. Christian
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “The Kremlin denies…”

    Oy, seriously!?
    Isn’t that some kind of internet meme by now?

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Please note that the North Vietnamese denied the accusations of agression during the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
      Not to mention Sadam’s desperate denials during 2003.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2017 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      Oh dear, all praise the glorious US of A, bastion of truth justice and the American way, eh?

  3. Eric Grobler
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Trump’s impulsive Syrian attack is very depressing and frightening. Many people did not vote for Hillary solely on her agressive foreign policy rhetoric while Trump ostensibly was against foreign adventures and regime change.
    As far as I can tell (or anyone else I believe because we lack independent journalists on the ground) it is not possible to be absolutely sure that the regime was responsible.
    (Note that it is now clear that the 2013 Ghouta attack might have been perpurated by the rebels)

    I think we have to give Obama credit for being measured and careful during the 2013 Syrian crisis but critical that he sanctioned the Libyan intervention.
    I am still convinced that Hillary and Trump were the worst presidential candidates in history.
    I was scared of Hillary’s hawkish credentials but now I am petrified with an idiot in the White House that can be manipulated by madmen in the Pentagon.

    • Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      It is almost certain that a nerve agent was dropped by the Assad régime. Here’s why.

      It’s possible that other agents apart from sarin were used. It could be tabun: VX and Soman are unlikely. The symptoms of the Idlib victims are consistent with exposure to a nerve agent: the technical term is acetylcholinesterase inhibition causing cholinergic crisis. The antidote for nerve agents, pralidoxime, caused some patients to improve.

      Turkey is conducting some autopsies and blood and environmental samples will reveal more as they did in the Ghouta nerve agent massacre of 2013. There are some inconsistencies in the reports of the attack, viz. that there was a smell after the attack. Sarin is odourless. But Assad does not appear to use 100% pure sarin, he uses compounds including sarin, with lots of leftover unreacted components. Any or all may have smells.

      The chemical agent was delivered by air. Neither the rebels, IS nor AQ have air support. This puts Assad, Iran and Russia right in the frame. The Russian story of the warehouse containing nerve agents makes no sense. The warehouse was hit after locals started showing symptoms. The impact crater which caused the symptoms is 59 metres away from the warehouse. The ‘warehouse’ is old grain silos.

      Thus far, sarin used by Assad in Syria has been short shelf-life: you mix it just prior to use. You don’t store the ingredients together because one of them – isopropyl alcohol – is extremely flammable. Where was the big fire caused by the bomb on the warehouse?

      All chemical info. from Dan Kaszeta, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear
      Defence expert.

      The further evidence that it was Assad is that it is consonant with Assad’s genocide of his own people over the last 6 years. Yes, you have to gather the evidence, but, as we know, you needn’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

      On a lighter note, as well as being unsingable, Bohemian Rhapsody is unlistenable.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Hi Dermot, thanks for the information and good summary.
        You make a strong argument.
        However, I do not think we can trust any analysis from Turkey.
        Secondly, are we 100% sure the agent was delivered by air? (If it was, I agree that the Assad regime is then most likely responsible)

        This however does not mean that the correct protocol should not be followed.
        a) there should be an investigation (UN)
        b) Trump should get congressional approval
        c) there should be an international discussion

        No person in his right mind should be comfortable with Trump having the power to wield instant justice.

        • Posted April 7, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          I see why you make the lack-of-trust-in-Turkey point, Eric. The fault lies in my grammar. Turkey is conducting some autopsies in the latest Idlib incident: the blood and environmental sample evidence refers to 2013 and does not depend on Turkish sources. Ghouta 2013 happened: there’s no doubt.

          Yes, it’s highly likely that the nerve agents were delivered from the air as bellingcat’s initial report shows.

          The UN has been bypassed and made a fool of by Assad and Syria for years: to watch the deliberations of the Security Council is to watch the paid liars of each autocracy sitting smug as they know they have the votes to ignore the righteous moral condemnation of the US Ambassador to the Un, Nikki Haley. There is a reason why Saudi Arabia, and earlier Gaddafi, sat on its Human Rights Council.

          As for Congressional approval, I am no expert on US legal policy as regards strikes abroad, so I won’t comment. The international discussion has gone on for years – see Geneva. The ex-US Ambassador Samantha Power had to sit and morally condemn as Assad and Russia broke every ceasefire and continued to kill Syrian civilians, while calumniating them as terrorists and claiming to be a bulwark against IS, a large proportion of whom both régimes had released from their prisons into the region.

          I saw a lot of what Trump said about Syria during the election. It was clear that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Yes, the US and the coalition forces should push back at Assad. If it has the intelligence to locate Assad’s stockpiles of nerve agent, it should seek their destruction. If it knows from where the planes fly which deliver the agent, it should destroy those airfields. This is the minimum that is required, alongside humanitarian support.

          We know that Damascus was terrified in 2013 when it thought that Obama was going to retaliate militarily for Ghouta. Obama was ‘proud’ to have stepped back from his red line: that was 2 years before Putin moved in to back the failing Assad. In this at least, Trump is more right than Obama.

          • Posted April 7, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            Very well said!

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            Hi Dermot,

            You make well argued points.
            However, this is such a complicated situation.
            One could argue that the removal of Sadam and Gadaffi made things worse for the citizens of those countries and the region/world as a whole. It is true that the current Assad regime (and Assad snr) is responsible for multiple war crimes. (and we know that is true of the rebels also)
            owever I do not think it is wise to overthrow the regime without an international occupation to stabilize the country.
            The rebels are mostly dominated by Salafists and multiple actors around the region are involved who do not care about the Syrian’s per se. (that includes the US and Russia of course)

            And like I mentioned, I am very uncomfortable with a US president taking instant unilateral action – especially Trump.
            Also do not underestimate how people emotions can be manipulated. If a country wants to take side in a conflict, it just needs to report the war crimes of one side while ignoring the other. Lies are not necessary just unbalanced reporting.

            • Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              The question of Iraq being worse off post-2003 is often assumed but I have never seen it proved. We do have some contrary indicators.

              The first is that the rates of violent deaths post-2003 are by order of magnitude 10 times less than under Saddam. Saddam taught IS a lot of techniques but they are nowhere near as efficient a killing machine.

              It is highly unlikely that Saddam could have rebuilt the state and country he failed. Here are some figures for Iraq from the World Bank.
              GDP: 2004 %37 billion; 2013 $235 billion. There are no stats for 1991 to 2003. In 1990 the GDP was $180 billion, which was a huge outlier as an end of war dividend. The normal figure was around $65 billion.
              Population: 2004 26 million; 2013 34 million.
              Population below poverty line: 2006 22.4%; 2012 18.9%.
              Global Economic Prospects Forecast: 2003 -41.3; 2013 7.6.
              Level of Statistical capacity (essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making): 2004 32; 2013 50.
              So, we have some indicators of improvements since 2003. Stats are very hard to find for Iraq from 1990 to 2002 because Saddam’s writ did not run in two-thirds of Iraq for large parts of it – the definition of a failed state.
              Yet the Stage IV planning and reconstruction have been characterised by corruption (government and foreign investor including US firms), embezzlement, lack of administrative and business openness, fraudulent and non-existent accounting, incompetence, lack of a strategic plan, Shi’a and Sunni sectarianism, gangster-jihadism and the premature withdrawal of US troops. US troops remain in Japan and Germany 72 years after WWII.

              The problem with ‘the awful ripple effects of the stigmatization of the Iraq war’ arises precisely from the difficulty of this Stage IV planning, the post-war reconstruction process: how to guarantee the stability of the new democracy and how to create a corruption-free and secure environment in which trade can expand. The UN is not up to the job and its reps, like Stefan de Mistura, are reduced to repeating the same, sad line about humanitarian crises, negotiating with petty Saddams like Assad and even with AQ who try to rebrand themselves as nationalists in Syria. So, who is up to the job?

              The number of Salafists in the Syrian rebels is vastly overstated and the story derives from the Assad narrative that he is the west’s best bulwark against Islamist terrorism – when his legal and education systems are shot through with sharia and theocracy respectively. It is true that AQ gained ground in Syria as the civil war dragged on, but to take Aleppo as an example, reliable sources estimated that only 11% of the rebels were associated with AQ when Assad ethnically cleansed it. There are and always have been democratic rebels fighting in Syria. They have been let down.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                “The question of Iraq being worse off post-2003 is often assumed but I have never seen it proved. We do have some contrary indicators.”
                I assume you agree that Libya is a disaster as you did not mentioned it.

                Regarding Iraq, you have to consider other alternatives. There was a good chance that Sadam could have been forced to abdicate if guaranteed immunity from prosecution or perhaps he could have been overthrown.
                Per capita income is not the only metric – you also ignore the fact that the resulting civil war fractured the society on sectarian lines – there were a lot of mixed Shia/Sunni/Christian neighbourhoods and relationships that has been destroyed, religious fundamentalism re-established, female participation in public and economic live destroyed, thousands of educated people fled etc.

                “how to guarantee the stability of the new democracy and how to create a corruption-free and secure environment in which trade can expand.”
                France could not even establish a stable democracy between 1789 until 1970!

                “The number of Salafists in the Syrian rebels is vastly overstated”
                I think it is both overstated and understated depening on which side of the argument or ulterior motive.
                I think we should all be a bit humble. Even experts with the best of intentions get it wrong. For example there was no way to predict in 1917 that the bolsheviks which were a small minority would have been able to dominate the revolution with the disastrous outcome that followed.
                I think I have less confidence in humans (and democracy) than you have. The “democratic rebels” can only gain power by being brutal in this environment – thus if they succeed they would have their own Sadams and Assads.

        • Zach
          Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          Secondly, are we 100% sure the agent was delivered by air?

          Yes, unless the various ground lookouts acting as an early warning system against air raids lied for some reason.

          This however does not mean that the correct protocol should not be followed.
          a) there should be an investigation (UN)
          b) Trump should get congressional approval
          c) there should be an international discussion

          As if there hasn’t already been extensive international discussion about Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

          I don’t know what can be done about the Syrian civil war (I don’t think anyone does), and I’m not sure what kind of legal precedent there is to declare a “red line” against chemical attacks in it (according to this article it seems like a pretty arbitrary concept).

          But I do know that if there is such a line, it has to be enforced with decisive military action. Key word there is “decisive.” At some point deliberation is indistinguishable from mere pacifism.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            “As if there hasn’t already been extensive international discussion about Assad’s use of chemical weapons”
            Valid point.

      • nicky
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        Assad is a nasty piece of work, but I do not think he’s carrying out a genocide. If so, he’s pretty bad at it. ‘Only’ half a million in 5 years, and half of those his own soldiers.
        War crimes ? Yes. Horrible civil war? Yes. Crimes against humanity? Yes. Genocide? No. It is not helpful to accuse Him of that, immo.
        The problem with Assad, despicable as he is, is that his opposition is not better (except for the Kurds that is, although no angels either). It is difficult to take sides in a war where all parties are about comparably evil. A lose-lose situation. And no, I do not have a ‘good’ solution at hand.

        • Posted April 8, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

          Nicky, I’m using the UN-sanctioned definition of ‘genocide’. Assad easily qualifies. The UN definition of genocide describes killing of a large group, but not its majority. Otherwise it would have no trigger to intervene: it would be too late by then.

          • nicky
            Posted April 8, 2017 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

            Well yes, ‘killing of a large group’ is a very vague definition. The ‘West’s’ invasion of Iraq would qualify, as would the Iran-Iraq war.
            I should think killing with the intention of exterminating a group would be a much clearer one.
            That would include the actions of the Kmehr Rouge, Interahamwe, Stalin, the Nazi’s, the Turks in Armenia and the Serbs in Bosnia, but not, say, the bombardement of Dresden.

            • Posted April 9, 2017 at 1:08 am | Permalink

              Nicky, here is the UN definition of genocide:

              “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part ; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

              There is your intent. We have ‘in part’. SNHR reckons on ca. 200,000 civilians killed: some observers put it as high as 500,000. The ‘conditions of life’ criterion easily matches Assad’s systematic destruction of various Syrian cities. And we have the forcible transfers in the form of the millions of refugees in different countries.

              That’s why Assad fits the definition of a genocidalist.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted April 8, 2017 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Over all, says who?

      • FiveGreenLeafs
        Posted April 8, 2017 at 5:52 am | Permalink

        I think it is prudent to be very cautions regarding any claims about what may (or may not) have happened in Khan Sheikhoun.

        Because, we simply do not have any (impartial) evidence or observations as of yet, since there are no independent journalist present, (they get their heads chopped off).

        What we do know, is that OPCW, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, is investigating the incident in Idlib on the 4th of April through its FFM mission mandate.

        OPCW has conducted several investigations since 2014, and, it is well worth to take the time to actually read through them.

        What is clear, is that the Syrian regime has been cooperating with OPCW, and the secretariat has verified as of March 2017, the destruction of 24 of the 27 chemical weapon production facilities declared by the Syrian Republic. (The security situation still prevents access to, and destroy the last remaining facility.)

        We also know that the Syrian government actively calls in OPCW to investigate incidents.

        We also know that all of Syria’s Chemical Weapons have been destroyed, except, and here is the important part, those weapons that might have fallen into the hands of the islamist groups.

        We also know that earlier claims of attacks have (in many instances) been proven false, or inconclusive.

        That islamist groups in Syria and Iraq have the capability to produce, and use chemical weapons.

        And, there are also (still) many unresolved questions regarding the attack in 2013.

        It is well worth, (I think) to read Seymour Hersh (of Pulitzer and My Lai Massacre fame) Whose sarin?

        And, for all of us who remembers our military training, if Sarin was indeed used, and the first responders comes walking in with basically flip flops and water hoses and start handling the victims the way they apparently did, they aught to be dropping dead like flies.

        Sarin is a liquid at NTP, with a boiling point of around 150 degrees C and is weaponized as an aerosol. The vapor is heavier than air, and both vapor and liquid absorbs rapidly through skin and eyes (not just inhalation).

        CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, via The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has an extensive information page on this.

        • FiveGreenLeafs
          Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:03 am | Permalink

          The link to CDC…

          SARIN (GB) : Nerve Agent

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 8, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink


          It would not be beyond ISIS (for example) to stage the incident for propaganda purposes. Specially if they had any stock of captured chemicals.

          One has to ask – why would Assad use chemical weapons at this stage? What’s in it for him? Would they have given him any great military advantage in that situation? Compared with the obvious risks of international disapproval and pushback (which were predictable even before Trump launched his attack).

          Is Assad capable of it? Yes. Is ISIS? Yes. Would I take Trump’s word for anything? No.

          Saddam’s non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’ come to mind.


          • FiveGreenLeafs
            Posted April 8, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            My pleasure 🙂

            One has to ask – why would Assad use chemical weapons at this stage?

            Yes, it truly beggars belief, which is one significant reason to question that he actually did.

            He is now winning, big time, on all fronts and are pushing back both Daesh (ISIS) in the east and the “moderates”, that is al-Qaeda, (aka al-Nusra front, aka Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), in the west.

            There is also a (seemingly) highly successful peace and reconciliation process under Russian supervision that now has (I think) more than 1000 active signatories or running processes with local resistance forces, tribes and villages, and (if I understand correctly) 100s of villages have laid down their weapons over the past 1,5 years.

            And, as one former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford said in a BBC interview yesterday morning, “Assad may be cruel and brutal, but he is not mad”.

            “Trump has just given jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake flag operations” BBC News

            We need cool heads and careful investigations of the evidence, and, as Peter Ford also noted the islamists have previously tried to pin attacks they themselves staged with chemical agents, on Assad…

            • rickflick
              Posted April 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

              It’s possible Assad uses chemicals to terrorize the opposition and to drive populations out of areas he wants to control. He’s gotten away with it several times in the past so it’s likely he finds it’s effective.

              • FiveGreenLeafs
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink


                I think it is critical that we are as skeptical in this (if not more), than when we discuss the latest antics of anti-vaxxers, global warming deniers or the claims of religious lunatics of every denomination.

                That we require evidence, and scrutinize it rigorously and don’t satisfy ourselves with claims from authority. And, certainly not that from an American President, leaders of closely allied countries or any of its intelligence agencies…

                “It’s possible Assad uses chemicals to terrorize the opposition and to drive populations out of areas he wants to control”

                The question is (to my mind) not whether it is possible, everything is possible, but whether it is probable in light of previous knowledge, experience, the situation and available evidence.

                As of now we know (as far as I understand) next to nothing.

                I don’t claim it isn’t a chemical attack, or that Assad did not do it, it could be, it is not impossible, but, it is to me not the most probable explanation at the moment. We need (I think) more and better (impartial) evidence and careful investigations.

              • Posted April 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                Well, FiveGreenLeafs, you really need to make your mind up and make yourself absolutely clear about what you think.

                This is you: “I don’t claim it isn’t a chemical attack, or that Assad did not do it, it could be, it is not impossible, but, it is to me not the most probable explanation at the moment.

                One has to ask – why would Assad use chemical weapons at this stage?
                Yes, it truly beggars belief, which is one significant reason to question that he actually did.”

                And you’re following the Syria Hoax line. Where does this meme come from? The idea which the alt-right like Mike Cernovich and the well-known fruit-cake Alex Jones of Infowars also piled in with?

                The story was picked up by the website al-Masdar News, supporters of Assad. They argued on Twitter that the attack could not have been carried out with sarin as the first responders were not wearing gloves. That is exactly the point you made, FiveGreenLeafs. Are you getting your talking points from the actual Islamists and murderers in this episode, the Assadists?

                The writer on which the tweet was based is Paul Antonopoulos who frequently contributes to RT. Al-Masdar is edited by Leith Abou Fadel who has close ties to the Assad regime. AM’s MO is to attack the White Helmets, just like you did, FGL. Their tactic is to call them Islamists. Just like you accused me of believing Islamists. (In parentheses, none of my sources are Islamists). You made that bit up.

                Which pro-Kremlin and anti-western sites picked up the al-Masdar piece over the next 2 days? Global, Russia News Now, InfoWars and many more conspiracist sites littered with the guanoid bonkers. When Infowars and Alex Jones – the man who finished an interview with Andrew Neil with the latter circling his index finger at his temple as AJ ranted and raved about the Bilderberg Group – ran the story, it went viral. Yup, AJ said it had “all the hallmarks of a false flag”. And that’s the story you are running with, while alleging, with no evidence, that your interlocutor is a tool of AQ or IS (a group which has sold 40% of its oil to the great innocent in all this, Bashar al-Assad).

                The SyriaHoax trend comes from the alt-right goon Mike Cernovich: you may have seen his essay in which he admits to be literally a fucking wanker. And it was spread by suspiciously hyperactive accounts as well as what appear to be sleeper bots.

                We have an Assadist response to the initial claims. We have the rapid spread of the Syria Hoax meme. And we have you, FGL, repeating those same points even down to the detail of accusing people who oppose your POV of relying on Islamists. It doesn’t look good, does it?

        • Posted April 8, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          FiveGreenLeafs, the Idlib chemical attack did really happen.

          If you are referring to journalists getting their heads chopped off, yes IS does that and so have Assad’s troops. I recall one instance of an FSA soldier doing that and the FSA said they were appalled and would deal with that character.

          The Syrian regime has been mandated to cooperate with the OPCW, but let’s not kid ourselves that the serial liar and genocidalist Assad does so willingly. Just as in Blix’s ‘verification’ procedure in 80s Iraq, this is not a verification procedure. Assad declares what he has in the way of CW and the OPCW checks they have been destroyed: that’s not verification, that’s an audit. And we know that in the 90s in Iraq the UN verification procedure was far more rigorous, partially because the gullible Blix wasn’t leading it and partly because the inspector Ekéus could interview high-up régime operatives outside the borders of Iraq, where they did not fear reprisals from Saddam. The same applies for Syria today.

          Yes, IS has tried to develop CW. But in February 2016, the US arrested IS’s technical expert on CW, Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar, who incidentally was ‘an industrial engineer for the Military Industrialization Authority under the fallen Saddam Hussein regime, specializing in chemical and biological WMD, and joined IS in its earliest incarnation.’ (Kyle W. Orton) It is not unreasonable to expect IS as it is militarily defeated around Mosul to attempt CW attacks, if it retains the capability. But its stockpiles, if it has any, will be in Iraq in the Caliphate, far to the east of Idlib. IS does not control territory near rebel-controlled Idlib and therefore the difficulty of transporting the materials to Idlib renders highly unlikely the possibility that IS conducted the attack.

          Seymour Hersh has gone from a great journalist to a shadow of his former self: rather like Pilger who came to support al-Zarqawi in the Iraq insurgency, a man whom even AQ’s current leader al-Zawahiri could not stomach. Even by Hersh’s own interpretation there would be no reason for IS to gas the rebels. In 2015 he wrote, “[The Islamic State] don’t take [the FSA-branded rebels] for serious. … They take for serious Assad.”

          Hersh is the source of the US-funded-IS story: that is just untrue. He conflated Jabhat-al-Nusra with IS back in 2015 – that is just nonsense. Hersh quoted – or was duped by – a Kremlin source saying that Putin wanted a ‘jihadist-free corridor’. A glance at the SNHR casualty figures shows that Putin overwhelmingly went after ordinary civilians, not IS nor even AQ. And Hersh was an early promoter of the gruesome Tulsi Gabbard, whose recent trip to Syria to spout the Assad talking points on her return, was sponsored by the same group which tried to beat up and kidnap Christopher Hitchens in Beirut in 2009.

          Many have wondered what Assad had to gain from the gas attack. Wrong question. It’s what he does. He’s a mass murderer. It’s that simple.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            “Many have wondered what Assad had to gain from the gas attack. Wrong question. It’s what he does. He’s a mass murderer. It’s that simple.”

            Oh now that is really convincing. So convincing one could have used the exact same reasoning to convict Saddam, who of course on investigation had – how many chemical weapons? Was that a ‘none’ that I hear? How embarrassingly inconvenient.

            Assad would have to be, not only a mass murderer, but a very stupid one to use chemical weapons right now. Yet somehow, he’s still in power. That suggests to me that he’s cunning, not stupid.


            • Posted April 9, 2017 at 1:03 am | Permalink

              CR, you know as well as I do, the figures for Assad’s murders of his own people, because I have told you before.

              Let’s run though it again. Figures from SNHR and their conservative methodology.
              From March 2011 until March 2017 number of civilians killed: 206,923
              By Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias: 92%
              By Russian forces: 2%
              By armed opposition factions: 2%
              By extremist Islamic groups: 2%
              ‘Other parties’: 1.5%
              International coalition forces: 0.5%
              Kurdish forces: 0.25%

              Yes, Assad has a pattern of behaviour as a mass murderer.

              And yes, Saddam too was a mass murderer. Have you forgotten that he committed 2 genocides? You write that Saddam had no CW: that is untrue. He delivered them on the Iranians and Kurds from French and Russian jets. On investigation Saddam had a chemical weapons programme which he constantly tried to hide from the international community and the reason why Iraq was liberated was because of his decade-long lack of compliance with those resolutions. And yes, chemical weapons actually were found in Iraq post-2003.

              It takes an astonishing degree of gullibility and credulity to take these people at their word but there is a long and regretful history on the left both of believing ‘the strong man’ – in reality Assad is incredibly weak, without Russia and Iran his rule would collapse in a minute – and at least since the end of WWI of saying we must be circumspect in attributing blame for atrocities while enabling the killers to kill and kill and kill: only this morning Assad has resumed bombing and Syrian officials claim that the planes took off from the airfield which the US bombed. That’s an up yours: and that’s the type of regime Assad runs. Yet it sometimes seems that there is no length that Assad’s apologists will not go in exculpating the inexcusable.

              Assad does all this regardless of whether Trump is a fool or not. That is what needs addressing.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:21 am | Permalink

              I’m sorry, as I recall Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were an invention of Dubya’s to justify his invasion. By that time Saddam didn’t have any left and they didn’t find any afterwards.

              “It takes an astonishing degree of gullibility and credulity to take these people at their word” – people like Saddam and Assad or people like Dubya and Trump?

              In the first case I’d sooner take the word of the UN weapons inspectors than Saddam *or* Dubya. It was only too obvious to the entire world that Dubya was going to have his invasion and finish what Daddy left uncompleted regardless of anything Saddam did.

              And in this most recent case, same applies. I’m not saying Assad didn’t do it, but I’m sure as hell not going to take Trump’s word for it. And looky, Trump now gets to demonstrate that he has the balls to bomb Syria when Obama didn’t (never mind that it was the Republicans who were dead against it when Obama threatened it).


              • Posted April 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                CR, your memory is wrong. The NYT reported in October 2003 that CW had been found in Iraq. US forces reported them in 2007. No, Dubya did not invent CW: he was going on the most reliable intelligence: which happened to be true, yet Saddam’s CW programme was nowhere near as current nor as widespread as had been thought. And that was Saddam’s fault because of his serial failure to comply with the 16 UN resolutions over 12 years.

                On taking the word of UN weapons inspectors, the first UN inspector into Iraq was Blix in the 80s. He was duped by Saddam. He did not find Saddam’s CW materials. Only Ekéus did in the 90s. Who was the UN weapons inspector in 2002-03? Blix: Saddam’s useful idiot. Who vetoed the nomination of Ekéus for the 2002-03 inspection job? France and Russia. The appointment of Blix in 2002-03 was a signal to Saddam that he would be OK. In 2003, you would have needed Olympian levels of naivety to believe the serial liar Saddam, who by then in his upper medium level income country, was running it like a sub-optimal suspect who expected the coppers to believe him when he alleged that the finger-prints weren’t his and, anyway, he wouldn’t give a sample.

                We see again the awful ripple effects of the stigmatization of the Iraq War in the assumption that Dubya finished the Iraq War for some oedipal reason: because e his dad had not finished it. How can one possibly know that? Even after Saddam had tried to assassinate Bush père, Dubya still stood on an isolationist ticket in 2000. Apart from being historically untrue, the allegation of Dubya’s revenge is inherently trivial.

                You do not need to take Trump’s word for it that Assad delivered the CW attack: it was all over reputable sources for 24 hours before Trump even referred to it. All you have to do is follow sources in the area for a period of months, learn to judge who is honest and who not, and draw reasonable conclusions. That’s why I wrote in my original post that it is highly likely that Assad gave the go-ahead for the Idlib CW bombing.

                On the question of Reps and Dems changing their minds on whether to no, not ‘bomb Syria’, but to destroy 20 Syrian aircraft – let’s get our facts straight – so what? When up to a 100 Syrians are bombed with CW one of the least important aspects to the story is whether someone in the US changed their mind: to be reduced to pointing out a US President’s hypocrisy carries with it the implied corollary that he might tacitly approve of chemical warfare on one’s own civilians. It is more apposite to point out that this looks to be moral progress on the part of Trump.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

                Yeah yeah Dermot so Assad & Saddam = evil, Dubya and Trump = wise kind and good?

                Possibly a better indication that Assad did it, I guess, is that Angela Merkel and Francois Holland both blamed Assad for it and I’m assuming that they probably checked with their intelligence sources before issuing statements. (The opposite of, I might add, the Iraq fiasco which everyone except Dubya’s poodle Bliar resolutely apposed).

                It is *not* moral progress on the part of Trump when – as Hillary Clinton had to point out – he still blanket-discriminates against those same precious children ever being admitted to the US as refugees. It’s blatant hypocrisy – “I can bash them but baddies aren’t allowed to”.

                The guy’s a loose cannon. Whether the results are good or bad just depends which direction he’s pointing in when he goes off.

                Enough of this.


              • Posted April 11, 2017 at 3:20 am | Permalink

                CR, I am in Stromness in the Orkneys where the internet has been down for 24 hours, hence the delay in replying. The cottage is at the end of the harbour 3 metres from the Sound. To the south are the baps of the Isle of Hoy and south-east is the channel which debouches into Scapa Flow, the other natural harbour in the world which Britain says is the second biggest in the world (Poole also makes the claim). Scapa Flow is where the German Navy of 74 ships was scuttled by its Admiral after WWI. Now 8 of the fleet remain at the bottom of the sea.

                There is a song called Sunshine on a Rainy day about the euphoria incited by the contemplation of nature: one line refers to ‘the moon on the sea’. I never got that lyric until last night when from the blackish, scudding northern skies I saw the full moon emerge to the south-east and lamp-light the mill-pond waters of Stromness’ Hamnavoe channel. The waters turned silver, lit, undulating along a line that led to me and that lifted to the moon, dribbling out at the edges of the sea into the black of the soft billow. A rapture, indeed.

                Yes, Assad and Saddam are evil. Why should this be any sort of controversy? No, I did not say write, or think, that Dubya and Trump are good. I have no idea why you would impute that idea to me. On this atrocity, Trump happens to be correct: yes, it did happen and of course it is highly likely that Assad did it: for several highly cogent reasons. FiveGreenLeafs, I see, who is trying to play people with the Assadist narrative, has now wandered into a whole line of speculation about what could have happened, involving wind-machines, CW snipers, and lots of sentences beginning with ‘could have’. He looks like he is pitching for a 5-minute slot on Alex Jones channel or maybe for a book deal with the publishers of ‘The Bermuda Triangle’.

                No, Blair was not ‘Bush’s poodle’. This is a common ‘Stop the War’ piece of name-calling which does not remotely bear the most rudimentary scrutiny. Blair was the ideologist of humanitarian intervention, delivering the speech in Chicago, no less, in 1999 when Bush the isolationist (just like Trump was up to last week) was Governor of Texas. The similarity between Dubya and Trump is that they were both pretty sharply mugged by reality. And yes, it is pleasing for a socialist to observe that of two men whom one could broadly describe as conservative.

                The problem with the age is that so many on the left view their horror at the atrocities of genuine evil through the lens of their horror at the character deficiencies of western conservatives: and the latter trump the former. This is not a serious mind-set.

          • FiveGreenLeafs
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

            @Dermot O’Sullivan,

            …the Idlib chemical attack did really happen.”

            Because some islamist in Idlib said so? Because you have watched a video on youtube? Because an American President or intelligence agency said so?

            Experience and knowledge tells us, that you simply can not (rationally) base a conclusion on that.

            Many have wondered what Assad had to gain from the gas attack. Wrong question. It’s what he does. He’s a mass murderer. It’s that simple.

            I think one of the greatest dangers this world face, are those who see and categorize people and the world as black and white, good or evil, either you are with us or against us.

            Who trust blindly in authority, without any demand for evidence, be it in a white haired old man living in the sky, or the man who lives in a white house.

            History should teach anyone the utter stupidity of doing either.

            And you don’t realize the enormous contradiction in calling Blix “gullible”, when he lead UNMOVIC in the run up to the second Iraq war in 2003, and had the guts and tenacity to openly stand up and challenge the full combined might of George W Bush and Tony Blair?

            I think you have a serious problem with confirmation bias and perspective here, which might also help explain your view of Seymour Hersh. It is not pleasant, to find yourself on the receiving sharp end of his pen.

            I don’t think it is the old investigative journalists with proven integrity like Hersh, Pilger or Fiske, or civil rights and freedom of speech fighters like Daniel Ellsberg or James Goodale, who have have changed personalities, but rather the society and it values who has changed to the worse.

            Inspections might not be perfect (few things are), but they are not ineffective either, and, they have to be compared to the alternatives, which are…?

            And please tell, who was ultimately right about Iraqs WMD, Hans Blix or George W Bush?

            • Posted April 15, 2017 at 1:52 am | Permalink

              Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:59 am

              In answer to your questions, or rather, snark:
              “Because some islamist in Idlib said so? Because you have watched a video on youtube? Because an American President or intelligence agency said so?”

              No. As you are fully aware I mentioned the reports from several sources, local and press, on the ground at the time of the attack. There is the geo-location work of bellingcat, whom no doubt you will calumniate just like Russia does when it is caught red-handed downing MH17. There are the reports from the plane spotters from the airport. And there is the expertise on the transportability and deliverability of sarin which I mentioned. Further, there is the fact that the IS CW expert is in US custody. There is the incoherence and mutual contradiction of the Syrian and Russian responses to the attack. You will note that I actually pointed out that I had seen all this before Trump said a word about it. You know that I am not following Trump: so why come out with all the nonsense about confirmation bias and faulty cognition – stupidity, in other words?

              You wrote: “I think one of the greatest dangers this world face (sic), are those who see and categorize people and the world as black and white, good or evil, either you are with us or against us.”

              This, about Assad, ‘beggars belief’ to use your term about the human toothbrush. Perhaps you would like to explain how we can gain a nuanced understanding of a mass murderer, who has rained barrel bombs on Syrians for years, runs rape-and-murder squads called the Shabiha, ethnically cleanses his own cities, trades with IS in oil and gas, released jihadists into Iraq in 2003 to support al-Zarqawi, runs a broken economy in which the Damascus Stock Market did $22,700 worth of business in December 2015, produces the greatest refugee crisis for years, slips his own Shabiha into those refugees and sends them to Europe, requires militias from 9 different countries to shore up his failed state. Precisely what is so different, so appealing about today’s Assad?

              There is no contradiction in calling Blix ‘gullible’. Saddam tricked him in the 80s. Ekéus cleared up the mess. Blix is the template of gullibility.

              On Hersh, yes I am biased. When a man confuses AQ and IS that raises a bias in me against his expertise. When he says that the US funded IS that confirms it. The man talks nonsense about the Syria. As for his idea that Putin is anti-jihadist that’s laughable. In 2014 Putin deliberately released his imprisoned jihadists into the region, just like Assad did. Robert Fisk’s career is a genuine enigma. How a man who declared OBL a philanthropic construction engineer back in 1993 can have any credibility in the field is beyond me. Hell, he didn’t even know where Aleppo province was a few months back.

              Who was right about WMD in Iraq? Well, Dubya was: as I said, some were found. Proper inspections would entail the absolute right of the UN to move and interview freely and confidentially without threats to the families of witnesses.

              Your posts manage the hat-trick of being insufferably patronising, apologetics for mass murderers and mind-reading simultaneously. Perhaps it’s time you sought an alternative career to defending a man who impounds the tapes of his own live interview and whose kleptocratic sponsors veto a UN inspection into an atrocity that every sane person on the planet thinks he committed. Where is your ‘let’s-see-what-the-inspection-shows’?

              • Posted April 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

                Well done!

              • Posted April 28, 2017 at 7:05 am | Permalink

                Thank you, Doc Atheist. Here’s the postscript.

                The source of FiveGreenLeafs’ posts, Paul Antonopoulos, has been ‘suspended on full pay’ while the evidence of his Nazism is investigated.

                FiveGreenLeafs’ alleges that AQ – or really anyone as long as it wasn’t Assad – delivered the chemical weapons. This ultimately derives from a piece written by PA of Al-Masdar news site, an Assadist outlet.

                Antonopoulos is an ex-Nazi who ran a site 10 years ago followed by David Duke, ex-Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. PA denies Stalin’s purges and supports North Korea. PA also tweeted this:

                “Moderate rebels in #Hama massacre civilians including children. Remind me why we cant (sic) use chemical weapons on them?”

                As I wrote, Al-Masdar has suspended Antonopoulos. He is the well-spring of FGL’s whitewashing of Assad. And it partially worked on infiniteimprobablit and others.

                This is how the ‘awful ripple effects of the stigmatization of the Iraq War’ works. Western leftists and liberals are primed not to believe reports of atrocities in the Middle East: even to the extent of giving credence to characters like Antonopoulos.

                It is now, due to twitter and the internet, far easier to find out what is actually happening in conflicts. One can follow ordinary people, and citizen, investigative and geo-location journalists in real time. Over a period one gets a handle on their reliability, fairness and honesty. So that one can determine the likelihood of an event and the probability of who was responsible before official spokespeople refer to it.

                That is what happened here. Nobody in their right mind would take the word of Al-Masdar news site on trust.

              • Posted April 30, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Good food for thought. I’m not nearly as up on these things as you are, so I thank you for sharing such details. I hope to look into such relatively direct sources of on-site facts soon. Meanwhile, whatever you reflect this way from them will also be appreciated.

      • Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:26 am | Permalink

        For those who question whether the chemical agent was delivered by air, consider that chemical weapons delivered by ground forces wiil equally kill those ground forces. Sure, they can wear masks and protective clothing, but not for long enough to carry the poison in, deliver it, and get out. Their appearance will alert civilians, and someone is likely to shoot them before they release their poisons into the air. The Nazis used large gas chambers on weakened and psychologically shocked prisoners. They made a business of developing chemical warfare, and even they dared not deliver it directly into the Warsaw Ghetto or other centers of Jewish isolation.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:31 am | Permalink

          “chemical weapons delivered by ground forces wiil equally kill those ground forces.”

          Unless they’re sneaky enough to use gas shells.


          • BJ
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            Or fans, as the germans did when they first deployed gas in WWI.

            • FiveGreenLeafs
              Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

              Or, walk up onto the roof of a house and hang the canisters over the edge and let gravity do its work… since many (real) chemical weapons are heavier than air.

              Then stay on the roof for an hour or two until it is safe to go down.

              It would of course probably work as well to place canisters halfway up a slope and then continue to walk upwards… if there is no wind that is, which (in its way) would make it even easier.

          • Posted April 14, 2017 at 5:38 am | Permalink

            Remote controlled?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              No, as in ‘fired out of a gun’. So the shells go off somewhere the launchers aren’t.


              • Posted April 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

                What kind of range are you suggesting? What sort of weapon would fire it, and how would it wait to release the gas when it reaches its destination?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 15, 2017 at 2:30 am | Permalink

                Just google ‘gas shells’.

                Any large-calibre gun, mortar or howitzer.

                All this was worked out in World War 1.

                Or check the Wikipedia page
       (none of which were dropped from aircraft)


        • FiveGreenLeafs
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink


          This might be a good place to link back to the great talk by Carol Tavris at TAM 2014, TAM2014 – Carol Tavris – Who’s Lying Who’s Self-Justifying

          I think you might already have fallen down the pyramid of self-justification, which might have narrowed your cognitive perspective.

          I think you have to back up to the point of the pyramid, we really don’t know if there have been an attack with chemical weapons yet.

          What everyone seem to agree about is that there was indeed an attack conducted against this village by the Syrian air force. An attack that was declared in advance, including the intended target (if I understand correctly).

          If one, for the sake of argument accept the claim that people where effected by a chemical agent after the attack, that does not, in itself, provide a causal link between the events. It is important not to trip on the post hoc fallacy here.

          And, even if the events are casually related, it does not follow, that the attack was made by a chemical weapon, but that the agent effecting people was in turn a secondary consequence of the attack.

          For example, normal fires can create many dangerous chemicals, and even real “chemical weapons”, depending on what is burning, and under what conditions, one example is phosgene, which was one of the primary chemical weapons used in WWI.

          There is a real reason firefighters have gas-masks, and it is not only for oxygen and carbon monoxide, and anyone who have lived a couple of decades have probably been ordered by the authorities at one time or the other to stay indoors, close windows and ventilation, because there is an industrial fire going on that is releasing toxic fumes.

          Another explanation could be that the attack hit gastubes or containers of any number common industrial gases or chemicals, like hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid (old batteries), ammonia, chlorine to just name a few.

          Then we have the possibility that the islamist themselves stored chemical weapons, or precursors to chemical weapons there. We know that they have used such weapons in the past.

          Or, it could be staged, in part, or a planned (cynical) release upon unsuspecting villagers. We know that these islamist have little regard for the safety of civilians, and readily use them as shields and do not hesitate to sacrifice them if need be.

          We really need to know the truth, otherwise this might just turn out to be another Reichtags fire, or Gulf of Tonkin event.

          Regarding release from the ground, I would advice you to read up on WWI, for example, at the battle at Ypres 22 April 1915, the German Army released chlorine gas from containers and let the resulting gas cloud slowly drift in over the French lines.

          • Posted April 14, 2017 at 5:40 am | Permalink

            The antidone for nerve agent type chemical weapsons worked for some of those affected, saving their lives. The treatment and cure proved their diagnoses.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The Stockholm incident looks like a prototypical IS inspired heavy vehicle attack, a delivery van being stolen by a masked man close to the crash site. The press tried to claim a scare. But most people seem to have calmly pitched in, from helping at the site over housing people when the trains were stopped to not overly complaining about the temporary traffic stop. (Traffic is resuming since there were no followup deeds as has been all too common.)

    So far 4 dead. But we had a similarly rare school bus accident earlier this week with about as many killed and hospitalized though children, where the rescue people cried when going home. The difference seems to have been sloppiness – caused by lack of maintenance despite several warnings – versus planning – caused by indoctrination – but of course the latter seems even more senseless.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      An update is the arrest and volunteering of guilt by the man that was sought after the incident based on various photos. First reports is of arrest in a boutique due to odd behavior. It is claimed to be an Uzbek-Swedish father of four children with a history of terrorism fascination going back to the Boston Marathon bombings.

      Potentially a spontaneous non compos mentis act with little IS – or Breivik – connection.

  5. Eric Grobler
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Zuma, when Trump was elected I told some american friends “Now you have your own Zuma”
    (I was born in South Africa)

    At this point in seems unlikely that Zuma will resign – the ANC is fractured and it has been a while since it abandoned it’s founding principles of non-racism and non-tribalism.

    I saw a debate on TV about the current crisis where a black ANC politician accused an indian lawyer and coloured academic (both anc members) of being part of a privileged group and should rather shut up.
    Not even during the apartheid years would anyone in the ANC have addressed fellow white members like that.

  6. BJ
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I still blame Sandra Day O’Connor for the tilt of the SCOTUS today. She retired to spend more time with her family. She was in her mid-70’s, in perfect health, and made her decision to step down during the Bush administration. She knew she would replaced by an ideological opposite and thus tilt the Court right instead of left, and she did it anyway.

    Normally, I don’t begrudge a politician a decision to retire for any reason; however, when you accept the job of a SCOTUS Justice, you accept that you will be shaping law for the most powerful nation on earth possibly for decades to come. You accept that your decisions will affect the shaping of the law. You accept a lifetime appointment and all the responsibilities that go with it. You accept that, during the years to come, tragedies might strike your family, you may wish to do something else, or many other things may pull you away from wanting to be in the position of SCOTUS Justice. You do NOT accept the role unless you are positively sure you can resist such pressures, at least until such time as you can be replaced with an ideological equivalent.

    At the end of the day, the fact that the Court will now tilt toward the right has its roots in Sandra Day O’Connor’s selfish decision. I still have not forgiven her, and I never will.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      ? You cannot blame individuals for circumstances or demand reciprocity. Did she not show responsibility for years?

      The problem seems to be with the US political two party system which makes a dynamical majority of a healthy society problematic. I note that US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in the Economist expert survey – with arguable empirical support, of course – due to a slump going back to the 30s or so if memory serves [ ].

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        “The problem seems to be with the US political two party system”
        Perhaps a two party system is only slightly better than a one party dictatorship.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          I have lately been wishing for a strong third party, given that our two party system has become so entrenched.

          • Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:33 am | Permalink

            Please see blog posts and videos by the likes of CGP Grey to understand why the system devolves into two parties, time after time, and cannot do otherwise, here. To gain more parties, the United States would have to completely overhaul its political system.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:26 am | Permalink

              In any ‘first-past-the-post’ system, with one successful candidate per constituency/district, a third-party candidate can only ever steal votes from the major-party candidate *whose political leanings they are closest to*, thus favouring the opposing candidate. Known as ‘splitting the vote’ – but it can result in a party in power with a clear minority of votes cast.

              So the system tends to stabilise on two parties since the minority third party will gain hardly any seats (and its supporters may feel obliged to vote for the major-party candidate they really don’t want just to try to block the other side).

              Proportional representation is the cure for that (though it can result in a plethora of minor parties and consequent coalitions). Personally, I love PR, since it means I can vote for the party I really prefer and don’t have to consider strategic voting – my vote is worth exactly as much as anyone else’s anywhere.

              Of course, for the president, winner-takes-all is unavoidable since you can’t have a proportional result.


              • BJ
                Posted April 10, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

                Not just proportional representation, but also completely public funding of campaigns (and no other money allowed to be used), with campaigns lasting only a certain number of weeks. You need all those things for what we want to work.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                I do agree that severely limiting campaign spending would be an excellent measure, since throwing unlimited money at it can subvert any electoral process.

                But even with that, IMO, the FPP system will inevitably result in a two-party system eventually. Occasionally, if the system becomes dysfunctional enough, a third party will arise, and if successful it will overtake one of the other parties, which will then fade into obscurity and the system will settle back to two-party again.


              • BJ
                Posted April 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

                Well I think it’s acceptable to have a two party system wherein there’s a mechanism that allows a third party through when the other two become too dysfunctional for the democracy or republic to function properly.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 11, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                I agree a de facto two-party system is better than none. If it becomes dysfunctional enough (and it has to be pretty bad) a third party can arise and in time replace one of the two main parties, which then fades so the two-party system restores itself.

                Any system of first-past-the-post constituencies will, I think, inevitably settle to a two-party system. At its worst, any system can become ‘dictatorship of the 51%’ (or an even lower percentage) and no system of voting can prevent that, though proportional representation can mitigate it. (Believers in ‘strong government’ hate PR precisely because it breeds compromise and coalitions).

                Democracy has serious flaws whatever the implementation, it’s just (as someone said) better than the alternatives.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

          I call it ‘alternating dictatorship’. One side gets to be dictator for x years, then the other side takes a turn.

          They do it the same way in South America, except they call their elections ‘revolutions’. 😉


      • BJ
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        She was in the system she was in. She knew it when she took the job, knew what it entailed, and knew what would happen when she left. I find her actions unforgivable. All she had to do was wait until 2009.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the Court by Ronald Reagan. She’s life-long Republican and an Arizona-style conservative cut from the cloth of Barry Goldwater. She was intent on having a Republican president name her successor. For that reason, she expressed deep dismay on election night 2000 when Al Gore was initially announced as the winner. She voted with the majority to make Dubya the president in Bush v. Gore.

      Under those circumstances, to have expected her to stay on the bench through the administration of George W. Bush in the hope of having his possible Democratic successor nominate her replacement is … well, unrealistic in the extreme.

      O’Connor was a solid conservative vote during her tenure on the bench, with moderate, compromising views on abortion. John Roberts was initially nominated to replace her but, after William Rehnquist died suddenly, Roberts was named to replace him as Chief Justice, and Samuel Alito was nominated for her seat. I doubt there’re more than a handful of cases over the last 10 years in which her votes would have differed from those of Roberts, or from Alito’s for that matter (since Roberts and Alito vote in tandem 93% of the time).

      O’Connor served on the Court for 25 years, and for several more years before that on the Arizona appellate bench. At the time of her retirement, her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, from which he died a couple years later. The woman deserved her retirement; I see no reason to begrudge it to her.

      • BJ
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Saying she was a solid conservative voted is absolutely not true. Go back and look at who she sided with on all the big decisions of her time. Nearly every single one of them, it was the liberals. Hell, she wasn’t even a “swing vote” like Kennedy, she had become reliably on the liberal side of the big cases long before she retired.

        • Historian
          Posted April 7, 2017 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

          BJ’s comment inspired me to do a little research on Sandra Day O’Connor. To my surprise, he is apparently right. The ACLU has a post that lists several major decisions in which O’Connor voted on the liberal side.

          • BJ
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

            And start with about 1994

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

          Of the 43 justices who sat on the Court between 1937 and 2006, Sandra Day O’Connor ranks as the seventh most conservative. (See here, Table 3.) She was the swing vote on the Court in her later years, and is remembered as a centrist, only because she shared the bench with the three most conservative Justices from this cohort — Thomas, Rehnquist, and Scalia. She certainly cannot be considered to be left-of-center.

          If Trump were to get to appoint a replacement for one of the Court’s four extant liberals, or even for the current swing justice (Anthony Kennedy), it would be much more momentous than was the retirement of Justice O’Connor.

          • BJ
            Posted April 8, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

            Se Historian’s comment above yours. I went to law school (not that such should privilege my comment above yours on legal or any other matter — universe knows I’ve been wrong in such things many a time — but it’s relevant to my knowledge of her history and decisions here).

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 8, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

              Look, in the back half of her tenure on the Court, SDO cast a handful or two of votes siding with the liberals against the hardcore justices to her right (albeit, where she wrote opinions, in careful, halting, case-specific prose), particularly in reproductive-rights and affirmative-action cases. But over the course of her career, the vast majority of her votes, including the majority in 5-4 decisions, were cast with the conservatives.

              It is completely fanciful to think she ever would have stayed on the Court so that a Democrat could name her successor — especially given the evidence we have of her reaction to the networks’ initially calling the election for Gore, and the deciding vote she cast in Bush v. Gore awarding the presidency to Dubya.

              O’Connor’s retirement moved the Court incrementally to the right, and I was sorry to see her go. But it did not bring about a momentous shift — not nearly as momentous as Garland’s replacing Scalia would’ve been, or as Trump’s naming a successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Anthony Kennedy would be.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

                All the big votes she cast since the 1995 abortion case were with the liberal side, I believe (but don’t feel like looking up).

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted April 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                Jeez, BJ, Bush v. Gore (2000)?

                How ’bout Roper v. Simmons (application of death penalty to minors)? Or Zelman v. Simmons-Harris(upholding school vouchers)?

                That’s off the top of my head; I don’t want to look ’em up either. O’Connor had a straight-down-the-line conservative record in criminal-justice, states’-rights, and freedom-of-religion cases (among the issues I tend to follow).

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

                First, I don’t think school vouchers are a conservative/liberal thing, even if discussed by the media as such; I believe it’s a question of economics and, in her case, law.

                Second, what about all the other decisions? Especially the abortion and speech decisions? You picked through out of a decade and a half.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

                Also, Ken, believing in freedom of religion is believing in liberalism, in my opinion.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 1:58 am | Permalink

                The point isn’t whether you think these are liberal or conservative issues; the point is that in each of these cases (and many others) O’Connor voted with the Rehnquist/Scalia/Thomas wing of the Court (and against the Ginsburg/Breyer/Stevens wing).

                And the point of my initial response to your comment was that there’s absolutely no basis for believing O’Connor ever would have given the slightest consideration to remaining on the Court so that a Democrat could name her replacement, since she was a conservative Republican who expressly set forth her desire to have George W. Bush make that appointment, and since she cast the deciding vote that made him president.

                I hope you’ve been disabused of that notion.

              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                Please look all the really big decisions up. Like Historian said when he did, he realized she usually sided with the liberals on them.

              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

                And start with about 1994-5

      • Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink


  7. rickflick
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    On Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, every Friday was round up day. The Mouseketeers would roundup outside performers, nearly always kids, to be that week’s talent winners.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Wednesday was anything-can-happen day for Annette and the other Mouseketeers.

      Maybe Jerry and Grania can give us a shot at that one, too. 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        It’s inevitable. In the real (non-Disney) world, every day is anything-can-happen day. That’s what makes life so interesting.

        But, I think you’re right. Jerry and Grania can handle just about anything. 😎

  8. aljones909
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    A fine version of Queen’s classic.
    Here’s a spine tingling choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep” –
    Youtube at watch?v=XdJFePxeF-M

    It’s a great song but a copyright settlement gave Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood writing credits. There are distinct similarities to “The Air That I Breathe”.

  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    ISIS thanks President Trump for the support. 😉


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      I’d better explain that. Unfortunately in this mess, you can’t strike at one side without indirectly aiding the other. Insofar as hitting the airfield reduces Assad’s military capability, it can’t help but ease the pressure on ISIS.

      (In no way am I arguing that Assad isn’t a nasty piece of work).

      What bothers me in this is that Drumpf apparently flip-flopped on his repeatedly stated position and ordered the strike *on the basis of footage he saw on the news*. If the dead and injured had not been filmed, the US attack presumably wouldn’t have been carried out.

      So now we have US policy being made on the basis of what the Drumpf happened to watch on TV – which is alarming.

      The situation in the Middle East is a mess and demands very careful handling not to make it worse (and in many ways it’s a no-win) but can anybody see Trump carefully negotiating his way through a tricky situation?


      • Eric Grobler
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        “The situation in the Middle East is a mess and demands very careful handling not to make it worse”
        Yes, and there is no intelligent and impartial body we can delegate the task too.

      • Kevin
        Posted April 8, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        A necessary condition to undo the mess is to remove religion, and not just Islam, but all religions from the planet. It would be the only condition, but it is a necessary one.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 8, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

          I think you mean ‘it would NOT be the only condition…’ ?

          I’m not sure it would help, actually. If we got rid of the existing religions someone would just invent new ones. There seems to be some human instinct to want to believe in something, whether a religion or a Cause. And for too many people, a desire to make everyone else believe in the same.

          If I could magically destroy authoritarianism I think it would do more good than destroying religion as such. Though I don’t disagree that the more authoritarian versions of Islam are particularly objectionable.


  10. Posted April 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    If pressed to name one, I always say the human voice is my favorite instrument.

    Thanks for this!


  11. nicky
    Posted April 7, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    The protests in South Africa were kinda huge and -important in SA- across all races. I do not think it will force the ANC to recall Zuma, but one never knows. Despite a lot of misgivings -to put it mildly- about Zuma within the ANC, being seen to go with the opposition appears to be a greater fear.
    He fired -without consultation- finance minister Nene in November 2015 and now -again without consultation- Ghordan (I actually first thought it was an April fool’s). Anything that causes South Africa deeper in the financial pit. As expected Standard & Poors quickly downgraded SA to junk status for foreign loans (and Fitch followed).
    We may laugh at the US being stuck with Trump, but our Zuma is worse, if anything. But at least he doesn’t grab pussies (he only scr*ws them). A venal, vain, corrupt, ignorant and egotistic, but very shrewed, man.

    • Simon
      Posted April 8, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      The problem goes deeper than Zuma. The ANC has consistently defended him no matter how seemingly indefensible his conduct. I’m afraid I am now so cynical about the ANC that I assume that corruption is only tackled when enough of them are frozen out of the gravy train.

      My biggest fear is that Zoom Zoom is selfish enough to cling to power past the point when things turn violent and to turn the mob on scapegoats (whitey).

      • nicky
        Posted April 8, 2017 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I mostly agree with you. However, I do not think he will try to cling to power if the ANC recalls him, or parliament votes a no confidence (the latter being much more unlikely than the first, because of the fear mentioned).

    • BJ
      Posted April 8, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Zuma and the ANC have really screwed things up. They knew when they took power that they would essentially have a guarantee of political majority for decades to come, due to their role in the resistance to Apartheid. Unfortunately, that mandate from the people has brought nothing but corruption and cronyism, rather than a sense of duty.

      It’s really a shame what they allowed themselves to become.

      • nicky
        Posted April 8, 2017 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

        I can second that too. Such a ‘guarantee’ to win elections is a good recipe for corruption and sleaze.

        • BJ
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          Exactly. And while Mandela himself may have eventually ended up a peaceful man, nobody wants to talk about the fact that the ANC did a lot of terrible things in the name of ending Apartheid (e.g. the tire necklace). Torture was a regular activity. What happens when people like that end up as politicians running a country unopposed?

  12. RPGNo1
    Posted April 8, 2017 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    The Pentatonix are not bad, but his version of Bohemian Rhapsody is funnier. 🙂

    • BJ
      Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      I love you.

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted April 8, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I shopped at that Åhléns many times. You can reach it from the central transportation hub (T-Centralen, that I passed going from the lab to the apartment) without going above-gound and there’s a grocery on the bottom level. In the ’80s, anyway, they had a great selection of eclectic albums at great prices, too.

  14. Mobius
    Posted April 8, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I am reminded of Bohemian Gravity by A Capella Science

    a parody of string theory based on Bohemian Rhapsody.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:29 am | Permalink

      Brilliant! At last I understand.

      (Always interesting to see the differing ways of coping with Brian May’s section.)

    • Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      OMG, that’s awesome! Plus a real sock puppet in the middle — too funny!

  15. Posted April 10, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Galileo! Galileo!

    I’m in the camp of doubting that bombing will do anything other than ratchet up conflicts. I am also skeptical of my government (and the Trump administration)’s claim that Assad is responsible. He certainly is the sort to do this sort of thing, but he’s not stupid – I still can’t find out the motivation here. Even the worst monsters in history had a motivation: even if a depraved and evil one.

    Ultimately though I think it doesn’t matter; since it is unlikely that bombing will do anything good.

  16. Zetopan
    Posted April 13, 2017 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    “The American strike appears to have put a serious dent in Trump’s friendly overtures to Putin.”

    Not really, that attack on Syria appears to actually be no more than political theatre.

    Trump and several in his administration are under investigation by multiple US law enforcement organizations for collusion with the Russians. Trump has previously said many glowing statements about Putin on multiple occasions.

    Trump steadfastly refuses to show any of his recent tax returns, which might show ties with Russia and/or they might show that he isn’t a 10 billionaire, or something else that is totally embarrassing for him.

    Trump buys a property that no one wanted, and then “sells” it to a Russian billionaire for a really “bigly” profit.

    Obama asked congress for permission to attack Syria (as required by US law) after Assad had killed about 1,400 Syrian civilians in Ghouta, but Obama is largely ignored and congress does not grant permission. In contrast Trump apparently does not need the approval from congress when he orders an attack.

    Of course now Trump blames Obama policy for the resulting Syrian military attacks on their own civilians, despite being continually against such action up to and including just a few days earlier.

    So what better way to change the topic (as the Trump administration always does when it is cornered) and to dispel concerns about any collusion with Russia than to attack a Syrian airfield, after first conveniently alerting the Russians (and thus Syria) before the actual US missile attack. And now Trump is suddenly being viewed as being “presidential” (again).

    This US missile attack conveniently lets Putin declare anger about the US attack on Syria, and Trump gets to act like he is suddenly anti-Putin and for the attack that he previously was against dozens of times when Obama was in office. So why is Putin so outraged? No Russian planes or helicopter gunships were damaged (that Syrian airbase was also being used for Russian helicopter gunships). And this missile attack happens to do absolutely minimal damage to that Syrian airfield and the resident aircraft, despite the “severe damage” that Mattis has claimed.

    What do I mean by “minimal damage”? Syria was reusing that airfield to launch bombing runs shortly after the US missile attack! Mattis claims 20% of the Syrian military aircraft were destroyed, while other reports from the Whitehouse make contradictory claims using that same “magic” integer.

    Fortunately the BBC had posted photos of the “damaged” Syrian airfield. Neither of the two 2 mile long runways were even touched by the missiles. That should have been a large part of the missile targeting. The only planes that were bombed were in hardened shelters (protected by very thick concrete) and those planes were there because they were not even flyable to begin with. None of the military planes sitting out in the open were touched by the US missiles! Of the 59 missiles launched, less than 30 hit the Syrian airfield, and 9 Syrian civilians were killed, including 4 children – all were located in neighboring villages.

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