It’s the two-facedness that’s really pissing me off

EU officials have “warned” the Russian government w.r.t. the air strikes their forces are flying:

EU foreign ministers meeting on October 12 warned Moscow to focus its military actions in Syria on Islamic State extremists and not target moderate opposition fighters.

Let this sink in for a second! Governments of states that fly air strikes within Syria without having been invited by the Syrian government to do so tell an independent government, not a NATO member, which has been invited by the Syrian government which targets to attack. And that after staying largely silent when Turkish forces, technically those of a NATO member country, flew uninvited attacks against Kurdish forces – opponents of IS – in Syria.

I am under no illusions about Russian interests in Syria – those attacks do nothing to improve the situation in Syria, and I doubt that the Russian government has any scruples when it comes to the means used to back the Syrian government. But the hypocrisy of European governments is always breath-taking!

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Jacobin both good and bad

I guess that I should really get a subscription, given how often I read JacobinMag nowadays. This morning, for instance, I read a piece where they point towards the role of the Netherlands as vanguard of everything that’s wrong in the Eurozone (and much of the industrialized world), as a tax haven:

Many corporations (including Google and Starbucks) and celebrities (like Bono and Mick Jagger) dodge taxes through the Netherlands. Last year, 48 percent of Fortune 500 companies had a shell company in the Netherlands.

Royalties, in particular, are not taxed. Corporations pay fabricated royalty costs to mailbox companies in the Netherlands, artificially lowering their profits. The royalties are untouched in the Netherlands and, after returning to the mother company, are untaxed in the home country because they were already taxed before (albeit at a zero percent rate).

So while the supposed social democrat Jeroen Dijsselbloem — Dutch minister of finance and head of the Eurogroup — routinely denounces Greece’s “unwillingness” to reform its tax system, the Canadian mining company Gold Eldorado uses the Netherlands to avoid paying taxes in Greece.

In 2013 and 2014, Ukrainian oligarchs were invited to the Dutch embassy by private Dutch law firms for a seminar about how to avoid taxes using the Netherlands. The Dutch Ministry of Finance and multinationals make so-called fiscal deals, the contents of which aren’t even disclosed to members of parliament.

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“Pro Life” explained in 6 panels

At Cyanide and Happiness:

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No left on the media

Watching “Real Humans” currently – very timely with the misguided immigration discussions in Europe. (They’re also trying to tie non-heterosexuality and anti-terrorism laws into this.)
What’s depressing to me, however, is that there are only two sides presented: racists (that blame them for taking away jobs etc.) and “tolerant people” who want equal rights for them. Not one person in the entire show even mentions that maybe something is fucked up when there are intelligent exploited machines on the one hand, and jobless or overworked humans at the same on the other hand.

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Patriot Fanboy Conspiracy Theory

The stuff of parity: NFL punishes quarterback for winning too much

writes John Teti about “Deflate-gate”. His claim:

The outlandish punishment leveled against Brady and his team isn’t just an overreaction to an inconsequential offense. It’s also an implicit admission that all along, Deflategate has been about the NFL taking one of its most successful teams down a notch, and not about the “integrity of the game.”
[…]
For the NFL’s owners, a big selling point of the modern league is its parity. When every team has a fighting chance, the theory goes, fans are more likely to stay interested, enlarging the captive audience.
[…]
There are billions of dollars tied up in the idea of parity, and the Patriots are defying it. They aren’t in because they tinkered with some footballs.

This is not a very convincing claim, when you think about it: Tom Brady has been an awesome story for the NFL – a sixth-round pick that made it into the spotlight, (supposedly) good-looking, with a model wife, never in any trouble with the law. If the NFL were to design a poster boy, it couldn’t do much better.
Also, yes, New England has won four Superbowls…over the course of 13 years! That’s certainly successful and given that it’s always been the Brady/Belichick duo, one could talk of a dynasty. But apart from 2003/2004 (ten years between Superbowl wins three and four, btw), this is not dominant and therefore not a problem for parity.
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Borgen is (relatively) realistic political TV

I’ve written my piece about “The West Wingbefore but to recap:

  • Everybody in the show is idealistic and has only the people’s best interest at heart – even the right-wing (Republican) opposition
  • Realistic politics in the show are always center-right: having to “fix” social security, balance the budget etc.

By now, I’ve been subjected to several episodes of “House of Cards“. Six, to be specific, so I might have missed some aspects:

  • (Almost) everybody in the show is extremely cynical, and has only their own interest at heart. The few exceptions get steam-rolled.
  • Center-right politics, e.g. standardized testing for teachers, are pushed through to hurt the Democrat president, the unions (also cynical bastards) are flattened in the process. Nothing left of these policies is mentioned.

I’ve also run into “Scandal“, watched the first season:

  • The Republican president is remarkably reasonable, even willing to pass legislation allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens, being gay is almost fully accepted, when people fuck up, they mostly made honest mistakes.
  • Clinton and Bush the youngest get name-dropped positively.
  • The US are the beacon of democracy in South America while their left-wing opponents are ruthless dictators.
  • The far right in the Republican party is so deranged that they’ll have a young Christian fanatic fake having conceived the president’s baby, kill her when things might come to light, and kill the reporter who has found out about it.

So all of those are very much black-and-white, and incidentally leave no space for left-wing alternatives to the shit that’s currently passing for government politics in the industrialized world.

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Taking sides…once again

It is frankly disgusting how the same shitty playbook plays out again: the current “official” government of Yemen came into power when protests in 2011 turned into something approaching a civil war, with shelling of the presidential palace and fighting in the streets.

Saudi Arabia and a bunch of other actors took sides with the opposition against the government then in power. (and of course the US gave their agreement)
This is the same approach that those actors chose in Libya, btw, taking sides in a civil war against the government, just with more active involvement of European powers. And that they were too nervous to fully follow in Syria even though they want that government gone.

The resulting agreement was not exactly to the liking of all protesters and most importantly the Houthi minority in North Yemen, in part because the structure of the state itself didn’t really change much. Those Houthis had been opposed to the prior government and had been bombed by Saudi Arabia for it because the Saudis are nervous about Shiite rebels at their southern border. That same Saudi Arabia which eventually pushed out the government the Houthis were opposed to.

Over the last half year or so the Houthi have been winning a new civil war in Yemen. A few days ago, Sunni suicide bombers blew themselves up in Shiite mosques. The same kind of Sunni radicals that the US (and its “allies”) is currently supposedly so worried about in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia etc. – opposed to the Shiite militia winning the civil war in Yemen.
And yesterday Saudi Arabia and a bunch of other North African states (and apparently Pakistan) decided to intervene in the civil war in Yemen – on the side of the government (with logistical and intelligence support from the US). One of those states is Egypt, which pushed their own democratically elected government out by military force not too long ago without having been sanctioned for it in any way. Others include states that have flown air strikes against Sunni militias in Libya – not during the civil war against Gaddafi but during the current civil war, the one that followed Gaddafi’s ouster and death.

So armed rebellions against existing governments are wrong, unless they aren’t – as so often before. Or in the words of the US state department

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