Monday, April 20, 2015

Backgrounder About Yemen and the Middle East Reset

Guest post by Blogger PZ, Plank hold Member of The Skiff...

Yemen lurks in the back corner of news bureaus in America due to the sheer discomfort that the subject brings up for the talking heads of D.C. What is it about this remote, yet strategic corner of land at the south east corner of the Arabian peninsula that should captivate the reader's attentions?

Information Bullet # 1

Geography.  Like most things, geography will explain a lot to the observant. 

Yemen's position is astride the Strait of Mandeb (Bab al Mandeb), which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Appropriately, this means “Gate of Tears” ( باب المندب) in Arabic .  A narrow passage about 20 miles wide, with small islands interspersed throughout, it hosts two internationally significant shipping channels.

Graphic courtesy of Iron Mike @ Rapid Republican Blog
Through this key and narrow choke point, trade flows to and from Europe. It is a major export route for petroleum to Europe, and finished value-added goods from Europe to all points in the East, as the primary shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian ocean.

The British, French, Ottomans and Portuguese all vied for control of this strategic trade route over time. The basis for that conflict and struggle for control remains the same, although the players may change.

The Houthis have sought to reassure Egypt, over concerns this will have on shipping transiting through the Suez Canal, which Egypt controls and brings it billions of dollars in revenue.  However, should the Houthis lose control of the region, all such "assurances" are moot.

Information Bullet # 2

The turmoil in Yemen is tied to control of potable water.

Public drinking fountains in Sanaa, Yemen
 Access to clean drinking water and rudimentary sanitation is a struggle for Yemenis at the best of times.  An report published by the Guardian newspaper in 2012 found that the average Yemeni uses 140 cubic meters of water per annum - in stark contrast to the average for Americans, who consume the highest per capita, at 2,842 cubic meters a year.
Even before the most recent turmoil, ongoing political instability in the country had already pushed down access to potable water and basic sanitation even further down the list of priorities.

The American consultancy consortium McKinsey stated that the S'anaa basin, where the majority of Yemenis reside, will most likely run out of water by the year 2020.  The water table has dropped to more than 1,200 metres below surface level in some areas.

The 1974 Kissinger report, NSSM 200, outlined the issue of food scarity and water allocation as source of destabilization, stating that "at present there are no solutions to these problems in sight".  The US Army has commissioned a number of White Papers that examine the potential for global conflict over access to fresh water.
Control of sustenance (water, food, shelter) has been used throughout history to effect defeat of enemies. The entity that can provide water, or, in the alternative, successfully use water denial as a weapon of war, will increase their chances of prevailing and securing control over the Bab al Mandeb.

The price of potable water in Yemen will skyrocket.  This singular event will bankrupt Yemenis, already the poorest of the poor.  People will not just be unable to afford water to live, water itself will be unavailable even from "free" government provided public taps. At that point, complete chaos will erupt even among today's marginal allies.

Evacuation of non-Arab skilled and technical expatriates working in Yemen is ongoing; India news agencies estimate that approximately 3,000 Indian ex-pats are waiting for egress to India, half of which are estimated to be nurses.  Loss of trained medical personnel will exacerbate the already deteriorating conditions.

Information Bullet # 3

The middle east is dominated by tribal systems of loyalty and power. 
This aspect is merely given a modern look by the draping of nation-state structures upon ancient and stable systems for ordering life itself. Consider the Sykes-Picot Treaty as an example of this superficiality.

The Yemeni conflict has several main players. The Houthis, a tribal group that is of the Zaidi sect of “Fiver” Islam are in control (for now). They are domestically opposed by Al Quaeda/Ansar Al Sunnah, the secessionist southern socialists and remaining Sunni politicians. The Houthi takeover changed the dynamics of the region, as Yemen went from Saudi influence to Iranian influence. Blood (tribe, religion) is thicker than water.

The Houthis control the main watersheds and ground water in Yemen, as evidenced in this map of Houthi/Zaidi/Shia (dark green) presence 

The external players in the conflict are many: the Saudis, erstwhile supporters of the ousted Saleh Regime, the Iranians- supporters of the Houthi, Egypt/Sudan/Eritrea/Djibouti all having local interest in control of the Bab al Mandeb (trade influence, easy pirate access). 

Interestingly, American forces of CJTF-HOA are heavily ensconced in Djibouti at Camp Lemonier. Where they use the base for a variety of functions and to base drones from. The distance between Djibouti and Sanaa is a mere 230 miles, which gives drones a stunning loiter time

Information Bullet # 4 - A point to ponder

The dynamic where Saudi Arabia was replaced as the main foreign influence in Yemen is puzzling. The House of Saud has been staunchly linked to America for decades. It is the home to both Mecca and Medina, the focus of the Ummah. 

Saudia Arabia has the cheapest production costs for crude oil in the world, listed as 1-2$ a barrel in 2009  The Saudis have defiantly rebuked any suggestion by professional petroleum engineers that they have reached "Peak Oil" and what they are conducting now is an elaborate shell game with an ugly ending.

The Saudi oil fields are not randomly distributed. Saudi oil fields are mostly in the eastern section. Let the following sink in: 

It is apparent that the oil resources in Saudi Arabia sit under the sandals of Shia. Shia are clumped together above oil fields and at strategic junctions. 

Consider the implications to geopolitics if one were to suppose that Iran were to be on the rise with America, and that the House of Saud had outlived its usefulness. Maybe, maybe not. In any event, the future will be pretty sporty, though.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rub Raw The Sores of Discontent ....

This is the first article written by The Skiff - a group of "analytical" professionals, who want to provide short, easily digestible wave tops of key geopolitical events for readers.

"The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy....We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on. Saul Alinsky

Summer is looming for Baghdad, providing ample opportunity to "rub raw the sores of discontent" of the many factions fighting for control in the spreading mideast conflict.

Recent unverified news reports filed by the english speaking Arab press that Dae'sh (ISIS)  had taken control of the Baiji refinery and co-located power plant speaks to the nature of the asymmetrical battle being waged in a region Americans were assured by Obama had been pacified when he "declared victory" at a speech at Andrews Air Force base in 2010 and announced his decision to withdraw stabilization and occupation forces from Iraq.

The majority of the reports are focusing on the news that Baiji is the site of a refinery; however, those in the West are most likely not aware it is also the co-location of a major 600 megawatt thermal power plant which supplies a significant portion of Baghdad's fragile power grid.

Temperatures in Baghdad soar in the summer months; as does the demand for electrical power to drive air conditioners and the water pumps necessary for irrigation and drinking water.  There is very little relief for Baghdadis - the physical elements of the city are unrelenting - few trees to provide "natural" cooling and cover, as well as the use of masonry construction makes the entire city an unrelenting heat sink.

The Dae'sh took, but unsuccessfully held, the Baiji refinery/power plant in the spring of 2014 before being routed by the Iraqi army.  It is no surprise to analysts who follow the region that this season the Dae'sh have shifted their strategy from attempting to secure and hold Baiji - to a play to simply disrupt and vandalize, which yields the same outcome:  to make life as miserable as possible for the people of Baghdad and "rub raw the sores" of their discontent.
It is a balancing act - Dae'sh recognizes it is necessary to act before the weather gets too hot to make large scale military operations challenging, but close enough to the peak of summer heat to make the repairs as difficult as possible to get online quickly enough before the true measure of the misery is felt.  In the eyes of asymmetrical warriors, a secondary goal is to transfer people's ire from the disrupters (Dae'sh) to the government for its failure to protect them and maintain essential services.

Another Archimedean point in the strategy will be the Musayyib plant south of Baghdad.  This region is known as the "Throat of Baghdad" and is a majority Shia area.  Creating ongoing disruptions to the power grid in this region will go a long way in furthering the "rubbing raw" of the already existing ruptures of the multiethnic social fabric, barely kept intact in the past only by the brutal oppression of the US-removed Sunni majority Hussein regime.

As the entire Iraqi power grid is already fragile and given to overt piracy by citizens desperate for access to western comforts, it doesn't take much to overwhelm a system already under duress.  A take down of any plant triggering a loss in generating capacity within the network immediately shifts demand to the rest of the already overburdened grid, with the predictable brown and blackouts as other plants are forced into peak load in a cascading failure.

It is not just that misery is created because access to water driven by electric pumps (irrigation, any municipal systems) is curtailed, it will be the load imposed by relentless demand for air conditioning. They will at best have to go to rolling blackouts and rationing of electric power to various areas (opening up another political can of worms which will rub raw other sores), as there is just not enough capacity in the system even operating undisrupted and optimally for anything else.  Iraq is grossly under resourced to meet all of their nation's demand - some estimates put the existing infrastructure as fulfilling only 50% of the true thirst for power.

As such, all generating plants become strategic objectives.  Control or destroy, same effect.  Dae'sh is keenly aware of this.

It will be a long, hot and miserable summer for many in the mideast this year.  Who shoulders the blame for that may decide the "victor" in this loser-take-all struggle.


You can follow the Stop Shouting blog on Twitter at:  @StopShoutBlog

Thursday, April 9, 2015

GREXIT watch: Greece establishes "Public Debt Truth Commission"

Greece's parliament voted to establish a "Public Debt Truth Committee" and conduct an examination and audit of the public debt, and the circumstances under which the former Greek government entered into the agreement.

Two short video clips, with the tag line "Check it, Erase it" were already in the can and ready for mass distribution by Zoi Konstantopoulou, the head of the Greek parliament as soon as the vote had wrapped up in Athens.

Following on the heels of tiny Iceland's successful repudiation of their international debt in 2012, complete with indictments against the bankers involved in the fraud, Greece now elects to give serious consideration to the legal concept of "Odious Debt", which would determine how much, if any, of the outstanding debt was illegal and unenforceable.

As financial markets blog ZeroHedge notes:  

If the Greek "Debt Truth Committee" indeed persists with determining how much of its debt is legal and enforceable, and ultimately decides to rescind some (or all) of it, the only question is how long until other countries around the world, all of which are burdened with massive, untenable debt loads across the government, financial and household sectors, decide it is time to do the same and declare a fresh start. 

With a growing belief in the rights of states to unilaterally repudiate their debts, will this give momentum to the domestic US "Audit the Fed" movement?

When the head of JP Morgan takes to the talk show circuit to reassure markets that his bank has pre-emptively "stressed tested" a GREXIT scenario, anything is possible.

You can follow Stop Shouting Blog on Twitter: @StopShoutBlog

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

5 Myths about Greece the Banksters need you to believe

Follow Stop Shouting Blog on Twitter:  @StopShoutBlog

Greece's Prime Minister Alex Tsipras will be heading to Moscow tomorow, and the legacy media that is the de facto public relations wing of the IMF and World Bank are in overdrive to continue to advance the narrative that Greeks are irresponsible, indolent, the visit is an amateurish attempt to blackmail Germany, and further evidence that the Syriza government is out of its depth.

Those who continue to buy into the IMF propaganda without pause should consider these points, before they decide whether or not they want to continue to do the legacy media's work for them by reporting their key talking points almost verbatim in the comments section of every blog or media account of the current contretemps.

This should not be relied upon as a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point for your own investigation and research:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rumblings in Greece: A tectonic shift that could set off shockwaves that will smash the unity lie

  • Greece has signaled its willingness to default on its upcoming IMF payment
  • Sets in place a plan to shift from Euros to a new issue of Greek controlled Drachmas
  • Tspiras boards a plane for Moscow
  • Seeks alternative creditors in Russia and China
  • A "Grexit" would be the de facto end of NATO and shift alliances in the Aegean from Europe to Russia
  • IMF formally withdraws staff from Athens....
Greece arrives at an existential fork in the road:  which way to turn? Continue to go West or strike out for an unknown path heading East 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cultural Marxism: "Any Race but Caucasian" ...

Cultural Marxism: “Any race but Caucasian”

Cultural marxism is predicated on destroying the concepts of family, faith, stability, individual effort and personal responsibility.  It works by the politics of division and envy, and by the assignment of indulgences and patronage to favored groups to ensure loyalty.  Meritocracy and true equality based on effort is anathema to cultural marxists.
Take a look at a recent CraigsList employment posting for a new children’s show host posted by “Kids CBC” (Canadian Broadcasting Corp – a government sponsored, public entity)

The requirements are listed as:

1.   Male between the ages of 25 and 35 years.
2.   Any race except Caucasian.

Can you imagine an ad that would be tolerated if it listed ~

Any race except African – American
Any race except Latino
Any race except Asian

So why is “any race except Caucasian” perfectly acceptable in 2013?

“It would be wonderful to pretend that this sort of thing only happens in Canada, and not south of the border. It would also be wonderful to pretend that a thumb is not on the scale against Caucasians in this (and many other) job offerings. This is a sign of the times, the era of state-sponsored racism.”

h/t Newsbusters
Cross-posted at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Year Later: The Trayvon Martin story is on Legacy Media provided Life Support

The hints were there.  Online articles about the Zimmerman case elicit comments that support Zimmerman's contention that he acted in self-defense by over a margin of 6 to 1; the Martin family attorney who spearheaded the agitation for the Capias suddenly lawyers up himself and seeks to avoid being "put on the record"; and the ongoing failure of the various iterations of the "Trayvon Martin Foundation aka "Justice for TM" " to raise any meaningful or significant funds.

The Trayvon Martin "cause" however, continues to live on, with life breathed into its metaphorical corpse by a corrupt legacy media desperate to maintain the fiction that institutional racism is alive and well in Obama's America.  On life support, the manufactured faux rage of the chattering class continues to be splashed across the pages of online editions of print newspapers and monthlies; and on "specials" by the cable news cabal regurgitating the same tired tropes first put forth by Ryan Julison.

Tonight marked the anniversary of the night of that fateful - and fatal - encounter.  February 26th, 2012 was the night that changed the lives of the Zimmerman and Martin families forever - the night that Trayvon Martin decided that he would respond with fists and fury, and die from the close range shot of man terrified and bloodied by the brutal assault.

Most people in Sanford, FL seek to move on.  The requisite retribution has been made to the local Black Grievance Industry (BGI).  The politically inconvenient White Chief of Police, who did not see any merit for a Probable Cause affidavit was relieved of his duties in a tortured vote of non-confidence, replaced by a reliable black steward from a gang infested and crime plagued dark corner of Illinois.  Local newspapers in Sanford reported that "dozens" were expected at a hastily arranged "Memorial Vigil".  It was clear that interest had waned.  People had other, more pressing concerns, and as more distressing details about the true Trayvon Martin - not the sweet child of Ryan Julison's imagination - became public, the sympathy that the Martin family was first able to evoke melted away as well.

New York, however, would be different.  Crump, Martin and Fulton were flown in, and at the center of the media world, would be fêted and fetishized.  There would be a "Vigil" in New York, and it would be a homage to all that is good and true in the artificial artifice that is liberal, progressive New York.

As I exited the subway station at Union Square, at first I was concerned that I had misread the date and time.  There were large numbers of young black men in hoodies, but they were hurrying down the stairs to the subway, away from Union Square. 

As I mounted the steps, there was no din, no roar, no pent up emotion pulsing down the gangway as is typical of large public gatherings.  Only the wind, and the swirling scraps of paper tossed by inattentive tourists provided background noise.

When I finally arrived at Union Square, what I saw was less a "Vigil" / "Memorial Service" / "Protest", and more like a media scrum for a Presser.  There were no major network trucks parked like scarabs at the curbs, their satellite dishes blooming like mushrooms after a rainstorm, but a mere collection of second and third tier media with boom microphones and one man crews.

Circling the event thrice, I put the crowd at 200 - maybe if one is generous, 300 souls at most.  I've been to Bat Mitzvahs with a larger attendance.  The "oppressive" police presence toted up another 30 - 40 warm bodies, with the assorted media bringing up the rear with between 25 - 30, depending on what you categorize as "media". 

The first thing that struck me was the dearth of angry black men in hoodies.  In fact, there seemed to be an overly large representation of fresh faced blonde co-eds holding up professionally produced placards declaring "Revolution or Nothing Less" and "Dignity for All".  Speaking to one of them later, it became obvious that they had been recruited as temp help/sign twirlers, and most had forgotten the basic instructions to ditch their college sweatshirts and wear hoodies.  Oh well.


         Trayvon Martin in effigy at the Union Square Vigil                           Manhattan, NYC ~  Feb 26th, 2013

Aside from the paid sign twirlers/media props, the largest contingent seemed to be clad all in black with sweatshirts declaring them as members of the "National Action Network" (Al Sharpton's professional grievance group). 

Following that, greatly outnumbering the young black males in hoodies were earnest wealthy white Liberal women from the Upper West Side and Tribeca sporting smart $40 blowouts who wanted desperately for anyone in the black media to acknowledge their "anti-racism" stance and "concern for gun violence".

Rounding out the cast of the forlorn were a group staffing a large table from "BA" feverishly trying to hawk the wares of Bob Avakian**. ("Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America", "What Humanity Needs - Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism", etc.)  A small group of Bob Avakian acolytes tried to sell "commemorative" newspapers with the iconography of the hoodie-wearing, air-brushed, lighter, less threatening Trayvon for a "donation" of $1.00, but during my time at Union Square, I did not see a single sale.

The event, aside from being marginally attended, seemed to be one gigantic prop put in place for the black media to conduct "interviews" in order to keep the withering Trayvon Martin story alive.  This was met with limited success.  At one point, the organizers asked, "TV guys - are you okay?", and when the response was, "NO" - the organizers then instructed the compliant NYU students to "move in close and kneel down so they can get their shots".  When NBC's the Grio was conducting interviews about the "New Jim Crow" and the "Stop the Mass Incarceration Network" and "Stop Stop and Frisk", the paid help dutifully moved into view, provided a tight shot two to three deep, marginally sign twirling, giving the illusion of a "crowd".  All shots were carefully stage managed and set up for maximum value.  All that was missing was a green screen.  I am sure NBC and the Grio back at the studio can helpfully photoshop in some additional warm bodies to plus up the non-existent "Protest".

As I wandered around, taking notes and talking to participants, something struck me:  the "Vigil" was a motley collection of the delusional, the permanently embittered and the emotionally adrift.

The event was poorly planned, and even more poorly managed - if that was possible.  Confusion reigned.  The few people who had candles began to light them at about 6:45 p.m. just as the gloom was descending (both physical and spiritual).  The organizers had forgotten to request a working sound system in their permit request, so the speakers could not be heard.  At first, the managers attempted a "Mike Check" group megaphone first test marketed in the "Occcupy" movement, but the cold and damp crowd refused to muster the enthusiasm to keep it going.  Then they tried to get a "Call and Response" going - "We are Trayvon",  "Hoodies Up",  "Take to the Streets"... but that also quickly fizzled as well.  Seeing a sense of malaise, someone within the organizational management helpfully spread the rumor that the police had "cut" the power to the (non existent) Public Address system, causing the few hoodie wearing black males to cast a baleful look in the general direction of "New York's Finest" while muttering about the need for "Constitutional Attorneys" to solve the problem.  (What exactly did that mean?  Were they expecting a station wagon of "Constitutional Attorneys" to roll up with a Public Address system and generator in tow and solve the logistical nightmare?  I was confused.)

At about 7 p.m., the event began to turn into an anti-police rally.  Rhetoric was brandished about that the police at the "Academy" are "taught" to hate and distrust all black men, and Zimmerman had the "same attitude" because he was "taught" by the police.  (Try and keep up).

Benjamin Crump then began to speak.  The organizers did not keep the marginal crowd back, so those in the third ring could not see Crump, Martin or Fulton - and because of the lack of the PA system (again - due to a lack of planning and foresight, not some vast police conspiracy), hearing his whole address was difficult.  He repeated many of the same tired talking points he has test marketed within the sympathetic cable market - that a "black mother in Mississippi should have the same expectations as a wealthy white mother in Massachusetts",  "America needs to live up to its creed", and putting up hoodies is to "tell the world that it's not what we wear on the outside, it's what's on the inside".   Next, he raised his voice and tried to evoke a response from the crowd by declaring, "We need to end Stand Your Ground and Move to Share the Ground that God gave us" to limited effect.  He again revisited his "chased, profiled and pursued" verbiage and unsuccessfully tried to sustain another Call and Response of "I am Trayvon Martin".

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton spoke, but I could not hear them, nor could the majority of the crowd.  At this point, it was 7:10 p.m., and most began muttering in frustration as the crowd began to dissipate, before the designated 7:15 p.m. official "Candlelight Vigil" time.

I remain,
Your faithful correspondent,

** Bob Avakian is apparently the current Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

His acolytes seemed to be the most bitterly disappointed by tonight's proceedings, one declaring to me that "We were supposed to have a Revolution, and it was supposed to start tonight.  The parents came all the way from Florida and were not allowed to speak."  (technically not true.  They did speak, but because of there was no PA system, no one could hear them.  Not quite the same thing).

NB:  I asked several police officers on the scene for a crowd estimate.  None were willing to go on record, although one did laugh and tell me, "I think you can count them all yourself".  ;-)