Monday, January 25, 2016
By Matt Ferner
Noam Chomsky, the noted radical and MIT professor emeritus, said the Republican Party has become so extreme in its rhetoric and policies that it poses a “serious danger to human survival.”
“Today, the Republican Party has drifted off the rails,” Chomsky, a frequent critic of both parties, said in a interview Monday with The Huffington Post. “It’s become what the respected conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein call ‘a radical insurgency’ that has pretty much abandoned parliamentary politics.”
Chomsky cited a 2013 article by Mann and Ornstein published in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, analyzing the polarization of the parties. The authors write that the GOP has become “ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
Chomsky said the GOP and its presidential candidates are “literally a serious danger to decent human survival” and cited Republicans' rejection of measures to deal with climate change, which he called a “looming environmental catastrophe.” All of the top Republican presidential candidates are either outright deniers, doubt its seriousness or insist no action should be taken -- “dooming our grandchildren,” Chomsky said.
"I am not a believer," Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said recently. "Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather."
Trump isn’t alone. Although 97 percent of climate scientists insist climate change is real and caused by human actions, more than half of Republicans in Congress deny mankind anything to do with global warming.
"What they are saying is, let's destroy the world. Is that worth voting against? Yeah," Chomsky said in a recent interview with Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera English's "UpFront."
The policies that the GOP presidential candidates and its representatives in Congress support, Chomsky argued, are in “abject service to private wealth and power,” despite “rhetorical posturing” of some, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). GOP proposals would effectively raise taxes on lower-income Americans and reduce them for the wealthy.
Chomsky advised 2016 voters to cast their ballots strategically. He said the U.S. is essentially “one-party” system -- a business party with factions called Republicans and Democrats. But, he said, there are small differences between the factions that can make a “huge difference in systems of enormous power” -- like that afforded to the president.
“I’ve always counseled strategic voting, Chomsky said. "Meaning, in a swing state, or swing congressional district, or swing school board, if there is a significant enough difference to matter, vote for the better candidate -- or sometimes the least bad.”
Chomsky said if he lived in a swing state, he’d vote for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
By no means should this be viewed as an endorsement of Clinton. Chomsky has been a vocal Clinton critic, saying her presidency would resemble that of President Barack Obama, who Chomsky has condemned for using drone strikes to kill individuals the president deems worthy of execution.
In an ideal world, Chomsky might vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who Chomsky has called an "honest and committed New Dealer" who has “the best policies,” despite some criticisms.
Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, Chomsky told Al Jazeera he'd case his general election vote "against the Republican candidate” because there may be dire consequences to a GOP victory.
“The likely candidates are, in my opinion, extremely dangerous, at least if they mean anything like what they are saying,” Chomsky said. “I think it makes good sense to keep them far away from levers of power.”
In its fight against Daesh, also known as IS/Islamic State, the Syrian Army has liberated Sheikh Maskin, a strategic town in the Deraa province, along a major supply route.
A leftist Russian MP has said the Foreign Ministry should initiate a process to switch off the internet across any territory controlled by terrorist group Islamic State.
“I am asking you to consider the possibility to initiate on the international arena the issue of blocking internet access on the territory controlled by Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL],” State Duma deputy Oleg Nilov (Fair Russia) wrote in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The lawmaker added that in his opinion this would be an effective step in fighting the terrorist threat throughout the world.
Nilov also explained that in order to achieve the proposed ‘blockade,’ members of the international community must address the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is in charge of internet addresses all over the world.
“Today there is a possibility to switch off the internet in a particular region or in a whole country,” Nilov wrote.
The MP explained that the terrorist group continued to attract thousands of supporters all over the world, largely due to its effective propaganda campaigns on the internet. “By using internet, the terrorists not only get easier communications and an effective propaganda tool, they also gain the opportunity to conduct financial operations, in particular to make transfers via the SWIFT system,” he added.
Nilov wrote that in his opinion, the United States has already demonstrated that it is possible to “switch off the internet” in one particular country, citing the example of 2014, when US President Barack Obama promised North Korea reciprocal action in connection with hacker attacks on Sony Pictures. On that occasion, North Korea subsequently experienced trouble with its internet connection.
Nilov’s initiative has gained support from deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Information Policy, MP Vadim Dengin (LDPR). “It is a good idea that will draw the international community’s attention to the problem. This problem is important. But will the international community take such actions?” Dengin told RIA Novosti.
Since late 2014, Russia has officially designated Islamic State and the affiliated Al-Nusra Front as terrorist groups, banning all citizens from participating in these organizations and making those supporting them liable to criminal prosecution.
In addition, two major Russian Muslim groups – the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Russia and the Chechen Council for Fatwas – condemned Islamic State as enemies of the religion, and called for the trial and punishment of all its members as criminals. The groups also issued fatwas in which they stated that IS and its followers should not be described as ‘Islamists’ or ‘Muslims,’ because their activities contradict the main principles of Islam.
The Syrian Army has regained control of large territories in Latakia province with support from the Russian Air Force, with terrorists now redeploying forces to eastern parts of the country, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday, citing Syrian opposition sources.
Supported by Russian war planes, Syrian government troops have been successful in defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Latakia province. In the past 24 hours, more than 92 square kilometers (35 square miles) of territories were regained from terrorist groups. The Syrian Army has regained control over 28 towns, including the strategically important town of Rabia in Latakia.
Having lost their advantage in western parts of the country, IS command has now decided to concentrate its forces on trying to seize the city of Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in the eastern part of Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Up to 2,000 heavily armed militants have been redeployed by IS to the region, the ministry added, citing data received from Syrian opposition and the information center in Baghdad.
To counter the terrorists' offensive, a number of sorties have been carried out in Deir ez-Zor region, with all jihadist targets - which had been reconfirmed via a number of channels, as well as through drone surveillance and cooperation with the Syrian opposition - being successfully hit.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again pointed out that Russia's mission in Syria is only to help the country fight terrorists, and not to interfere with its politics.
"We are in no way going to interfere in [Syria's] state structure, or in solving [domestic] problems that Syria and other countries in the region are facing. Our only task is to help the Syrian people and the country's legitimate government fight terrorism," Putin said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
Nearly 500 terrorist targets in Syria have been hit by Russian airstrikes in Syria over the course of three days, starting from Friday, the Defense Ministry reported.
Russian military aviation conducted 169 sorties between January 22-24, supporting the ground offensive of the Syrian Army and patriotic opposition forces from the air, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff announced on Monday.
From 70 to 100 sorties to target terrorists in the country are carried out on a daily basis, the ministry added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has explained why he believes that Vladimir Lenin was the one who had planted a powerful bomb under the basement of the country’s statehood. Speaking at an inter-regional forum of the All-Russia People’s Front Putin recalled that Lenin had a fundamental discussion with Stalin over the principles a future state should rest upon. Stalin’s ideas were rejected and the country was built on ideas implying the possibility of secession of constituent territories. "That right [to secession] was the delayed action mine planted under our statehood. This is what caused the country’s eventual breakup," Putin said.
Earlier, Putin at a meeting of the presidential council on science and education dropped a rather caustic remark addressed to Lenin. He said Lenin had "planted an atom bomb under the building called Russia and that bomb went off a while later." Putin said that he himself had been a member of the Communist Party and an officer of the Soviet security service, the KGB, which some propagandists used to refer to as an armed outpost of the Communist Party. He said he had joined the Communist party not because it was a must. "I cannot say that I was a hardline advocate of the Communist ideology," he said. "Yet my attitude to all this was very delicate," Putin recalled, adding he had never been a career party functionary, but just a rank-and-file member. "In contrast to many functionaries I did not throw my membership card away or burn it in public. I still keep it at home." Putin acknowledged that he liked Communist and Socialist ideas "very much" and that he still liked them. What senior citizens still remember as the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism (a set of codified moral rules every Communist Party member in the Soviet Union was supposed to follow) looked very much like the Bible in terms of ideological content, but "the practical embodiment of these wonderful ideas in our country was very far from what the Utopian socialists had proclaimed." Putin recalled the murder of the royal family, priests and even servants of the royal family.
"Why did they kill Dr. Botkin, why did they kill the servants, people of proletarian origin by and large? What for? Just for the sake of concealing a crime," Putin said. He also recalled the role of the Communist Party in World War I, when Russia as a result of power struggle "lost to the loser country." Putin was critical of the Soviet Union’s economic policies. At the same time he recognized that the planned economy managed to mobilize resources and address problems in the health service, in education and in the defense industry. He called for studying history without painting it white or black. "It should be studied carefully and analyzed objectively so as to avoid mistakes that were made in the past," he said.
BY GINGER GIBSON
President Barack Obama has praised Hillary Clinton's political experience, a boost to her campaign as she battles an insurgent Bernie Sanders a week before the Democratic presidential nominating process kicks off.
Obama's kind words for his former secretary of state, in a Politico interview published on Monday, will help Clinton as she tries to link her campaign more closely with the president and so draw in more support from his backers.
While never explicitly criticizing Sanders, a senator from Vermont whose campaign is focused on pledges to redress social inequality and contain Wall Street excesses, Obama praised Clinton's experience and suggested several times that Clinton's messages are grounded in realism.
"(S)he’s extraordinarily experienced — and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out — (and) sometimes (that) could make her more cautious, and her campaign more prose than poetry," Obama said.
The interview was conducted on Friday and published a week before the Feb. 1 voting in Iowa, which launches the process to pick the parties' nominees for the November presidential election.
Clinton, who lost the Democratic primary to Obama in 2008, was for months the clear front-runner to be the party's nominee this time around, but opinion polls have showed a surge of support for Sanders in recent weeks.
She argues that while Sanders' goals on issues such as social inequality are laudable, some are unobtainable and he lacks the experience to tackle a wide range of issues.
"When you’re in the White House you cannot pick the issues you want to work on, you’ve got to be ready to take on every issue that comes your way, including those you cannot predict," Clinton told the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines on Monday.
In an echo of that point that will be gratifying to the Clinton campaign, Obama said in the Politico interview, "(The) one thing everybody understands is that this job right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing.”
"I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives," he said.
Obama, who remains very popular within the Democratic Party, has said he will not endorse a candidate in the primary but has admitted he is watching closely to see who will succeed him.
All three Democrats in the race - Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley - were set for a prime-time opportunity to make their closing arguments on Monday night in a nationally televised town hall meeting on CNN due to begin at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT).
The candidates were set to appear individually on stage, fielding questions from the moderators and trying to make their final pitches ahead of the Iowa voting.
In the interview, Obama took issue with comparisons being made by pundits between himself and Sanders. The Vermont senator is often described as an underdog candidate who excites young voters and draws larger crowds - as Obama did in his come-from-behind primary win in 2008.
"I don’t think that's true," Obama said when asked whether Sanders reminded him of himself. However, Obama did note that Sanders had the "luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose," while "Hillary came in with the both privilege — and burden — of being perceived as the front-runner."
Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, agreed they are not the same, but still pointed to a similar crowd response and said Sanders enjoys a similar momentum. "They're obviously very different people," Weaver told CNN.
REPUBLICANS GRAPPLE FOR BIG IOWA FINISH
On the Republican side of the nomination fight, the battle for endorsements and voters gathered pace.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa was set to campaign on Monday alongside presidential hopeful Marco Rubio - a move that the Ernst campaign insisted is not an endorsement of her Senate colleague from Florida.
Iowa's other senator, Chuck Grassley, raised eyebrows on Saturday when he appeared at a Donald Trump event. Grassley stressed he was not providing a formal endorsement.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas picked up the endorsement of former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the presidential campaign last year after failing to gain traction. This was a first endorsement by a former governor for Cruz, who has received no endorsements from sitting senators despite serving in the chamber.
Opinion polls show Trump, a real estate mogul, and Cruz locked in a tight battle to win the Iowa voting.
Trump launched a video on Facebook arguing that the "establishment" is trying to undermine his campaign - a direct response to recent attacks by Cruz that he is part of the establishment.
Being dubbed part of the establishment has taken on a strong negative connotation in the Republican campaign as candidates presenting themselves as outsiders have risen in the polls. The video got more than 370,000 views in the first three hours.