The tortured history of the US-Kurd relationship

The decision by Donald Trump to essentially wash his hands of the region that spans the Syria-Turkey border and is claimed by them as part of their proposed homeland has created a firestorm of protest from the political-military establishment and even from Republicans who up until now have been willing to support Trump in everything he has done, however outrageous. After a phone call with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who views the Kurds as terrorists), Trump reportedly decided to remove the 50-100 US special forces in the region. There have been strenuous White House denials that that he gave the Turks the green light to enter the region and go after the Kurds.
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Two interesting Rugby World Cup games

The Rugby World Cup group stage is nearing the end and the top two teams from the four groups who will qualify to become the eight quarterfinalists are almost determined. There were two games where the highlights are worth watching for a few things that distinguish rugby from American football.

One is the game between Japan and Samoa, which was not close (Japan won 38-19) but has certain features of interest. The game was a little ugly with many penalties but you get to see some excellent goal kicks where the skill of the kickers in drilling the ball between the uprights from acute angles is displayed at the 3:00, 3.25, 6:45, 9:06, 11:15, and 13:25 marks.
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This is a bit much, even for Trump

I thought I had long given up being surprised by Donald Trump’s tweets, that stream of nonsense that flows constantly from his account. But this one today, in response to the criticisms he is getting for giving the Turkish government control over the regions in Syria that are disputed by the Kurds and whom the US had been allied with up to now, took me by surprise.


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The enduring allure of near-death experiences

One of the most common arguments that are presented for the existence of the afterlife are the reported near-death experiences, where people say that they died, entered the afterlife, and then for some reason returned to life again and were able to report what they saw. I can’t count the number of times religious people have told me that such experiences are real and prove that their god and heaven exist.

There seems to be an inexhaustible desire for such stories and are eagerly lapped up by religious believers, even though no real evidence has been produced to substantiate them. This article by Arthur E. Farnsley II describes the case of one person who said he actually died (not merely that he was near death) and returned from the dead, not once but twice. Of course he wrote a book about his experience. The article explores how rationalists might respond to such claims.
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The private-public exploitation of the British colonies

Those who come from former colonies of the British empire will remember from their history lessons the way that the British government worked with private entities such as the East India Company (“an empire within an empire”) in exploiting those colonies. Historian William Dalrymple has written a book The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire about its role in what was the “military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia… almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history.”
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What do you get when two bad systems combine?

There are two terrible systems in the US that I have been highlighting: health care and criminal justice. The first is more focused on squeezing money out of people to provide profits for the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital industries, and for high salaries to executives and health care professionals than in serving the needs of people. The second is more focused on squeezing money out of taxpayers and the people caught in its web in order to provide revenue for the private prison industry and local police forces and government than in treating prisoners humanely in order to rehabilitate them. The investigative journalism outfit ProPublica reports on what happens when these two systems come together. As you might expect, the outcomes are not good.

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The awful coverage of Bernie Sanders by the ‘liberal’ media

I can understand why the conservative media hates Bernie Sanders. He is a democratic socialist who has scathingly castigated the oligarchy and their supporters for creating vast inequality in wealth and incomes in the US and called for a radical restructuring of the government and the economy that will serve ordinary people rather that further enriching the already wealthy. And he has been fighting for the rights of the marginalized all his life.

What his candidacy has revealed is how the so-called ‘liberal’ elements in the media also hate him, using all manner of false claims and trivialities to discredit his candidacy. They talk more about the optics than the facts of where he stands with issues. It reminds me of how in 2000, the liberal media ran with the idea that George W. Bush was a better companion to share a beer with than Al Gore, as if that were an important factor in voting for a president.

This clip, that supposedly was created by a Sanders supporter and is being distributed by the campaign, juxtaposes the ‘liberal’ false characterizations of Sanders with what he is really like.

I am fed up with these private expressions of misgivings

As Donald Trump continues to act like a deranged king, issuing orders and statements that reveal a dangerously lawless mindset, some of those around him are trying to have it both ways. They continue to serve him and are thus accomplices, while seeking absolution for their complicity by whispering to sympathetic reporters that they disapprove of what he is doing. They are no different from the enablers of celebrity sexual predators.

The media write these stories to suggest that the Trump administration is in disarray. That may well be true but at some point they have to realize that by writing such stories, they are also part of Trump’s enablers, since they are salving the consciences of those who continue to serve him and enable him to continue the actions they say they deplore. These people who do not have the courage of their convictions to publicly rebuke Trump and resign (or even be anonymous whistleblowers) are the kinds of people who, when they do leave the administration, end up using their sympathetic reporter contacts to find jobs in the media. This revolving door between anonymous sources and media punditry is a well-oiled one.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right to call out these crocodile tears and the reporters who provide the crocodiles with handkerchiefs.