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Beneath the Negotiating Endgame in Vienna: Hillary Mann Leverett and Seyed Mohammad Marandi


By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | July 12, 2015

As the world waits to see if the P5+1 and Iran can, in fact, conclude a comprehensive nuclear deal, it is important to step back from the not just day-by-day, but minute-by-minute coverage of comings and goings at the Palais Coburg in Vienna and think about what is really at stake in the negotiating endgame.  To this end, we post here a very good discussion of these issues by Hillary and the University of Tehran’s Seyed Mohammad Marandi on CCTV’s The Heat, see here or click on videos above.  (Like Mohammad, Flynt is currently in Vienna for the nuclear talks.)

The most critical of the remaining issues to be resolved by the parties relate to the terms of a new United Nations Security Council resolution that would negate previous Security Council resolutions dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, remove Security Council-authorized international sanctions against Iran, and formally start implementation of a comprehensive nuclear deal.  As both Hillary and Mohammad point out, underneath discussions about the modalities for removing international sanctions, whether and how to lift the conventional arms embargo against Iran, and related matters are more fundamental issues:

–Can the United States, for its own interests, abandon its increasingly self-damaging quest to dominate the Middle East and adopt a more reality-based strategy toward this critical part of the world?

–Can the United States, for its own interests, finally accept the Islamic Republic of Iran as a legitimate political order representing legitimate national interests, and genuinely come to terms with this already indispensable and still rising actor in the Middle East?

–In the process, can the United States, for its own interests, replace its longstanding reliance on Israel and Saudi Arabia as its key “partners” in the Middle East with a more balanced approach characterized by strategically-grounded diplomacy with all major regional players?

Let’s see what happens in Vienna.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Huckabee’s Use of “Daisy” Ad Totally Undermined by Original

By Sam Husseini | July 12, 2015

Mike Huckabee just released an ad that uses footage from the Johnson “Daisy” ad.

It states in text at the end: “A threat to Israel is a threat to America. Stand with Israel. Reject a nuclear Iran.”

What nobody (according to a Google News search I just did) is noting is that the original ad totally undermines Huckabee’s presumed case.

In the original ad, after zooming into the girl’s eye and showing the countdown and nuclear explosion, it features Johnson’s voice: “These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.”

See the original ad:

The new Huckabee deformed ad only seems to make sense to some because the entire political establishment — Democrats as well as Republicans — ignores the reality of Israel’s menacing yet unacknowledged nuclear threat to the planet.

The original ad’s subtext was that Goldwater could not be trusted to have his finger on the button. The Huckabee ad seems to poorly attempt to use the same logic on Iran, but it more obviously applies to Netanyahu — and now, Huckabee as they champion Israel’s nuclear domination of the region.

Indeed. These ARE the stakes: to make a world in which ALL of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We MUST either LOVE each other. Or we must DIE.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Yemeni Genocide Proceeds Apace, Enjoying World’s Silence

US and ISIS join efforts to kill Yemenis

By William Boardman | Reader Supported News | July 10, 2015

Turns out the United States and the Islamic State, ISIS, are de facto allies of Saudi Arabia and its alliance of dictator states, all bent on exterminating Yemeni Houthis and pretty much any other Yemeni in the neighborhood. This Yemenicide started in earnest in March 2015. After years of US drone strikes proved too slow and ineffective at wiping out people in the poorest country in the Arab world, it was time to expand the arsenal of war crimes. Rarely, in discussions of Yemen, does one hear much about the violations of international law that have reduced the country to its present war-torn and devastated condition.

Failing to acknowledge a foreign policy disaster in Yemen, the Obama administration has chosen instead to trash international law by supporting the criminal, aggressive war that Saudi Arabia’s coalition of police states launched on Yemen on March 26. Now, despite more than three months of Saudi-American terror bombing, the Houthis remain in control of northwest Yemen, their tribal homeland, as well as much of the southeast of Yemen, having overthrown the internationally-installed puppet government, later “elected” without any opponents, of President Abd Rhabbuh Mansur Hadi.

President Obama praised Hadi as his “successful” partner in attacking terrorists, by which Obama meant he was grateful to Hadi for not objecting to the US drone attacks against his own people. Hadi’s legitimacy always depended on foreign puppeteers, and it still does. Having resigned as president, fled the capital, and rescinded his resignation, Hadi fled again, to Saudi Arabia the day before the Saudi blitz began. The official story is that Hadi requested the undeclared Saudi attack on his own country. Hadi remains in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, free to go nowhere while he pretends to head a government-in-exile that is the presently desired fiction of his captor-protectors.

On July 8, from Riyadh, Hadi reportedly proposed a ceasefire in Yemen to start before the month of Ramadan ends July 17. On July 1, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called for a “humanitarian halt” in combat “until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.” So far, Hadi’s Saudi controllers have used the muslim holy month to rain increased terror on populated areas of Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians and Houthi fighters, with no accurate count available. July 7 saw the highest death toll in Yemen since the Saudi bombing campaign began. This bland-seeming coverage of the carnage by Reuters is riddled by propaganda deceits:

The United Nations has been pushing for a halt to air raids and intensified fighting that began on March 26. More than 3,000 people have been killed since then as the Arab coalition tries stop the Houthis spreading across the country from the north.

The Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthis say they are rebelling against a corrupt government, while local fighters say they are defending their homes from Houthi incursions. Sunni Saudi Arabia says it is bombing the Houthis to protect the Yemeni state.

The Reuters perspective represents the mainstream consensus, which also typically includes some of the same threads of deceit as these:

  • “The UN has been pushing …” No, it hasn’t. The UN as a body has done little to protect the Yemenis, but the Security Council has done less for a country in which civil war has spanned generations. Security Council resolutions are determinedly “evenhanded” in their equal treatment of aggressors and victims. In June 2015, after two months of Saudi bombing, the Security Council expressed its “full support” for an impossibility: “a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people.”
  • “pushing for a halt to air raids …” No, it hasn’t. The air raids are being carried out by the nine UN member states in the Saudi Coalition, including Security Council member Jordan. The US, a permanent Security Council member, has supported the aerial war crime campaign with logistics, in-flight refueling of bombers, intelligence, air-sea rescue, and naval support for the blockade (which is also an act of war).
  • “intensified fighting that began on March 26 …” Intensified fighting began long before March 26. Yemen’s civil war has waxed and waned over several decades. What began March 26 was the war crime nexus of bombing civilian targets by the nine-member Saudi Coalition that includes Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. The Houthi rebellion is more than a decade old and gained intensity in the fall of 2014. The Houthis drove out the Yemeni government and now control the western half of the country, where most of the population lived and most of the bombing takes place.
  • “the Arab coalition tries to stop the Houthis spreading across the country from the north …” Reuters is just wrong on this. The Houthi spread was a fact, and the “Arab coalition” failed in an ill-conceived campaign. Faced with an army advancing on the ground, the “Arab coalition” has not deployed ground troops. Without serious objection from the international community, the “Arab coalition” attacks military forces in another country with which they are not at war, as well as terror-bombing that country’s civilians with US-made cluster bombs.
  • As for spreading “from the north,” that is at best wrong, if not duplicitous. Saudi Arabia has declared the northernmost province of Yemen, Saada, a military zone in which every civilian is a presumed combatant. This is the same bloodthirsty policy that leads the US to count every drone victim as a combatant until proven otherwise. This is the same moral numbness that led the US to establish free fire zones in Viet-Nam, where every living thing was deemed an enemy. This is total war as waged by the powerful, at a distance, against the weak and almost defenseless. This is as bad as any Nazi onslaught of World War II.
  • The absurdity of the Reuters characterization is illustrated by another UN Security Council position in support of a political solution to Yemen’s crisis in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative.” The Gulf Cooperation Council is an oxymoron, in that it includes six of the seven Arab states (not Iraq) on the Persian Gulf who allied determinedly NOT to cooperate with the other Persian Gulf state, Iran. Further, the Security Council absurdly supports the “Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative” when five of the six Gulf Council members (not Oman) are busily bombing Yemen in violation of international law.
  • “The Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthis …” There is no evidence of an alliance between Iran and the Houthis, certainly not in any sense equivalent to the overt alliances waging undeclared war on Yemen. The Houthis are Shi’ite muslims, and Iran has almost surely supported them to some extent, but most claims of Iranian involvement in the current fighting are patently over-stated and lack supporting evidence. Reuters here is parroting Arab, American, and Israeli propaganda about the “threat” from Iran.
  • “say they are rebelling against a corrupt government …” Who says? Reuters doesn’t say. This is specious journalism. Yemen has a long history of corrupt government, but perhaps the Hadi government allowing US troops to wage war on Yemeni territory, killing Yemenis at will, raised the corruption bar to a new level.
  • “local fighters say they are defending their homes …” is worse than specious journalism, it’s pretty much a lie since the main opposition to the Houthis comprises forces loyal to Hadi, as well as cohorts of both Al Qaeda and ISIS.
  • “Sunni Saudi Arabia says it is bombing the Houthis to protect the Yemeni state” would be a laugh line were it not such a dark lie. Saudi bombing is destroying the Yemeni state in order to “save” it. The Saudis may be “protecting” the Hadi government, but only in the sense that the Mafia provides protection in a protection racket. The Saudis have longstanding territorial conflicts with the Houthis along the northwest Saudi-Yemeni border. And the Saudis are acting as if they believe their own demonizing propaganda about Iran. Saudi Arabia is more likely bombing the Houthis because they are defenseless and Saudi Arabia doesn’t dare bomb Iran.

Nobody seems to care about Yemen, not even The New Yorker

The widespread, bland disinterest in the unending victimization of Yemenis facing unrelenting, daily crimes against humanity is hardly unique to obtuse observers like Reuters. The New Yorker, which eventually distinguished itself in opposition to the horrors of Vietnam, last published a piece on Yemen on May 1 (according to a site search). That piece conveys the American denial of its own terrorism with a tone of mild distaste suitable to Eustace Tilley, whose monocled default opinion is to blame the victim, as Robin Wright wrote little more than a month after the Saudi-American bombardment began:

The current Houthi rebellion – the seventh – is only the latest. The Houthi clan are Zaydi Muslims, who make up about a third of Yemen’s twenty-six million people. A once powerful people from the rugged northern highlands, they ruled an imamate for a millennium and deeply resented their reduced influence under [former President] Saleh [now a Houthi ally]. Between 2004 and 2010, they fought six other wars against his government….

The quarter-century experiment in uniting Yemen has definitively failed. There is no military solution, and there are unlikely to be any winners out of such a multilayered conflict, whatever the territorial gains….

Last week, the United States dispatched the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt to supplement seven American warships off the Yemen coast. Washington strongly supports a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, but without interested players the risks of unintended consequences increase.

Rhetorically the US may support a “political solution” (to its own liking) and gullible reporters may accept that as some sort of reality. The reality on the ground (and on the water) is that the US supports and participates in endless terror bombing and a naval blockade. That is to say, the US supports and participates in the war crimes that are leading toward mass starvation and human devastation, what the discreet Ban Ki-moon refers to as a humanitarian crisis” or a “catastrophe,” as if there were no agency causing it.

An editorial July 7 in The New York Times takes the same concerned-but-oblivious-to-the-genocidal-actors tone that reinforces the general pretense that no one is responsible:

Yemen has now been added to the United Nations’ list of most severe humanitarian emergencies, along with South Sudan, Syria and Iraq. It is a tragic distinction, highlighting the peril to 80 percent of the country’s 25 million citizens. The international community, including the United States, is not doing enough to push for an immediate cease-fire in the war that is ravaging the country to make it possible to deliver aid.

Yemen, a poor country, was deeply unstable even before a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States, started bombing the Houthi rebel movement in late March. Last week, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, declared the situation a “catastrophe.”

Is it possible to commit a long string of war crimes in self-defense?

Having tiptoed up to the edge of US war crimes, the Times retreated. The rest of the editorial comprises little more than helpless hand-wringing, without even hinting at the most effective way to save Yemeni lives: stop the bombing. That means you, “Saudi Arabia … backed by the United States.” Like most of the rest of the world, the Times settled for asking for a reasonable-sounding impossibility, which it then undercut with another wisp of Saudi reality:

What is needed is a permanent political solution that will ensure the Houthis, who have some legitimate grievances and are unlikely to give up, get a significant role in any new government. Negotiations should be started without preconditions. But Saudi Arabia and its allies have appeared intent on forcing the Houthis to surrender, no matter what the cost to civilians and Yemen’s cities and villages.

Well, “Saudi Arabia and its allies” includes the US and others. The Times needs to look in the mirror without flinching. Saudi Arabia and its allies need to stop their bombing.

Ironically, they are not bombing Al Qaeda or ISIS forces in Yemen with anything like the same intensity they’re bombing Yemenis. In fact, Al Qaeda and ISIS are supplementing Saudi-American bombing with their own terror-bombing of Yemenis. For whatever reason, if there is one, the Saudi-American aerial genocide against Yeminis is making most of Yemen a much safer haven for terrorists. Yet this lunatic policy continues without serious opposition apparent anywhere. Who decided that Yemen should be treated as if it were the Haiti of the Arab world?

If any of the umpteen candidates for president of the United States has said anything humane, useful, or even dimly relevant about Yemen, it is hard to find (and I have found nothing). And nowhere have I found any call to establish the appropriate International War Crimes Tribunal to judge the illegality of the multiple, heinous predations of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and their sundry allies, all members in good standing of the world peacekeeping authority.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

UNSC Resolution on MH17 Tribunal is Untimely, Irrational – German Lawmaker

By Alexander Mosesov – Sputnik – 11.07.2015

On Friday, a source in the UN Security Council told RIA Novosti that a Malaysian proposal to create a tribunal into the crash eastern Ukraine in 2014 will be discussed next week.

The draft UN Security Council resolution on establishing an international tribunal for those who downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last year in Ukraine is ill-timed, since the Netherlands has not completed its official investigation, a member of the German Bundestag Defense Committee told Sputnik.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said earlier this week that the draft resolution fails to correctly classify the crash, adding that international tribunals have never been created following civilian aircraft crashes.

“I think it makes sense to wait with the tribunal until the investigation is done,” Alexander Neu, the member of the German parliament from the left-wing Die Linke party said.

He stressed that “a parallel process [to the investigation] does not make any sense.”

On July 17, 2014, flight MH17 was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it crashed in southeastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board the aircraft died.

Independence supporters in southeastern Ukraine and Kiev forces, engaged in fighting in the region, accused each other of causing the tragedy.

According to a September 2014 preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, MH17 broke up in the air after being hit by multiple “high-energy” objects from outside the airframe. The final report is due in October.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD)

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | November 5, 2013

Groupthink: A pattern of thought charaterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.

Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets, by Roland Benabou, published in the Review of Economic Studies.  Benabou also has a talk (ppt slides) on this subject.

First, a definition of groupthink (from the ppt slides):

Janis (1972)’s eight symptoms [of groupthink]:

  • illusion of invulnerability
  • collective rationalization
  • belief in inherent morality
  • stereotyped views of out-groups
  • direct pressure on dissenters
  • self-censorship
  • illusion of unanimity
  • self-appointed mind guards

Sound like any groups that we know?  If you are on different ‘sides’ of the AGW debate, you may be evaluating the IPCC and anthropowarmists  against these criteria, or you may be evaluating the opposition against these criteria.  While both groups seem to be subject to the first 4 symptoms, I would say that the IPCC and anthropowarmists have a lock on the last 4 symptoms.

Excerpts from the paper:

To analyze these issues, I develop a model of (individually rational) collective denial and willful blindness. Agents are engaged in a joint enterprise where their final payoff will be determined by their own action and those of others, all affected by a common productivity shock. To distinguish groupthink from standard mechanisms, there are no complementarities in payoffs, nor any private signals that could give rise to herding or social learning. Each agent derives anticipatory utility from his future prospects, and consequently faces a tradeoff: he can accept the grim implications of negative public signals about the project’s value (realism) and act accordingly, or maintain hopeful beliefs by discounting, ignoring or forgetting such data (denial), at the risk of making overoptimistic decisions.

The key observation is that this tradeoff is shaped by how others deal with bad news, creating cognitive linkages. When an agent benefits from others’ over optimism, his improved prospects make him more accepting of the bad news which they ignore. Conversely, when he is made worse off by others’ blindness to adverse signals, the increased loss attached to such news pushes him toward denial, which is then contagious. Thinking styles thus become strategic substitutes or complements, depending on the sign of externalities (not cross-partials) in the interaction payoffs. When interdependence among participants is high enough, this Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle can give rise to multiple equilibria with different ‘social cognitions’ of the same reality. The same principle also implies that, in organizations where some agents have a greater impact on others’ welfare than the reverse (e.g., managers on workers), strategies of realism or denial will ‘trickle down’ the hierarchy, so that subordinates will in effect take their beliefs from the leader.

JC note: This last sentence highlights one of the problems of AGW advocacy statements by professional societies in terms of amplifying groupthink.


The intuition for what I shall term the ‘Mutually Assured Delusion’ (MAD) principle is simple. If others’ blindness to bad news leads them to act in a way that is better for an agent than if they were well informed; it makes the news not as bad, thus reducing his own incentive to engage in denial. But if their avoidance of reality makes things worse than if they reacted appropriately to the true state of affairs; future prospects become even more ominous, increasing the incentive to look the other way and take refuge in wishful thinking. In the first case, individual’s ways of thinking are strategic substitutes, in the latter they are strategic complements. It is worth emphasizing that this ‘psychological multiplier’, less than 1 in the first case and greater in the second, arises even though agents’ payoffs are separable and there is no scope for social learning.

Proposition 1 shows that the scope for contagion hinges on whether over-optimism has positive or negative spillovers. Examples of both types of interaction are provided below, using financial institutions as the main illustration.

Limited-stakes projects, public goods: The first scenario characterizes activities with limited downside risk, in the sense that pursuing them remains socially desirable for the organization even in the low state where the private return falls short of the cost.

High-stakes projects: The second scenario corresponds to ventures in which the downside is severe enough that persisting has negative social value for the organization. In such contexts, the greater is other players ‘tendency to ignore danger signals about ‘tail risk’ and forge ahead with the strategy — accumulating yet more subprime loans and CDO’s on the balance sheet, increasing leverage, setting up new off-the-books partnerships– the deeper and more widespread the losses will be if the scheme was flawed, the assets ‘toxic’, or the accounting fraudulent. Therefore, when red flags start mounting, the greater is the temptation for everyone whose future is tied to the firm’s fate to also look the other way, engage in rationalization, and ‘not think about it’.

The proposition’s second result shows how cognitive interdependencies (of both types) are amplified, the more closely tied an individual’s welfare is to the actions of others.

Groupthink is thus most important for closed, cohesive groups whose members perceive that they largely share a common fate and have few exit options. This is in line with Janis’ (1972) findings, but with a more operational notion of ‘cohesiveness’. Such vesting can be exogenous or arise from a prior choice to join the group, in which case wishful beliefs about its future prospects also correspond to ex-post rationalizations of a sunk decision.

A first alternative source of group error is social pressure to conform.  For instance, if agents are heard or seen by both a powerful principal (boss, group leader, government) and third parties whom he wants to influence, they may just toe the line for fear of retaliation.

Self-censorship should also not occur when agents can communicate separately with the boss, who should then want to hear both good and bad news. There are nonetheless many instances where deliberately confidential and highly credible warnings were flatly ignored, with disastrous consequences for the decision-maker.

A second important source of conformity is signaling or career concerns. Thus, when the quality of their information is unknown, agents whose opinion is at odds with most already expressed may keep it to themselves, for fear of appearing incompetent or lazy. Significant mistakes in group decisions can result in contexts where differential information is important, if anonymous communication or voting is not feasible.

This paper developed a model of how wishful thinking and reality denial spread through organizations and markets. In settings where others ignorance of bad news imposes negative externalities (lower expected payoffs, increased risk), it makes such news even worse and thus harder to accept, resulting in a contagion of willful blindness. Conversely, where over-optimism has beneficial spillovers (thus dampening the impact of adverse signals), ex-ante avoidance and ex-post distortion of information tend to be self-limiting. This mechanism of social cognition does not rely on complementarities in technology or preferences, agents herding on a subset of private signals, or exogenous biases in inference; it is also quite robust. The Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle is thus broadly applicable, helping to explain corporate cultures characterized by dysfunctional groupthink or valuable group morale, why willful ignorance and delusions flow down hierarchies, and the emergence of market manias sustained by new-era thinking, followed by deep crashes.

Patterns of Denial

The paper has an Appendix D: Patterns of Denial, listing 7 patterns of denial and illustrating with examples from Space Shuttle disasters and financial crises. Here I discuss these in context of the IPCC:

1. Preposterous probabilities.  The 95% confidence level is arguably an example of this, although it is not exactly clear how to interpret the 95% in context of probabilities.

2. New paradigms: this time is different, we are smarter and have better tools. Every case also displays the typical pattern of hubris, based on claims of superior talent or human capital.   The ‘we are smarter and have better tools’ is reflected in the extensive reliance on climate models, and labeling of anyone who disagrees as a ‘denier.’

3. Escalation, failure to diversify, divest or hedge. Wishful beliefs show up not only in words but also in deeds. The most vivid current example seems to be President Obama’s ramping up of a climate program in the U.S.

4. Information avoidance, repainting red flags green and overriding alarms.  The ‘pause’, and its dismissal in the AR5 is a prime example of this one.

5. Normalization of deviance, changing standards and rationales. How do organizations react when what was not supposed to happen does, with increasing frequency and severity? An example of this is the changing goal posts for the pause.  A few years ago, periods of pause/cooling longer than 10-15 yrs were not expected, which was recently bumped to 17 years by Santer et al.  The start date for the pause seems to be moving towards 2001 – away from the big El Nino of 1998.

6. Reversing the burden of proof.  See my essay on Reversing the Null Hypothesis for a discussion of this issue.

7. Malleable memories: forgetting the lessons of history.  This one is particularly true re arguments linking AGW and extreme weather.  Often ‘remembering’ back to the 1950’s or the 1930’s is all that is required.

JC comments: I find Benabou’s analysis to be very insightful.  Awareness of these symptoms and patterns is the first stop towards inoculating against groupthink.  Encouraging dissent is key to not falling into the groupthink trap.

While the examples provided are markets and public and private sector disasters, these ideas are broadly applicable to the different social ‘realities’ surrounding anthropogenic climate change.  I’ve tried to find an analogous set of examples for the ‘denial’ of say U.S. Republicans and some oil companies, but could only come up with  examples for 3, 4, 5 of the ‘patterns of denial’.  Sort of changes which foot the ‘denier’ shoe fits best.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment