The John Batchelor Show

Thursday 20 February 2014

Air Date: 
February 20, 2014

Photo, above:  The 1916 Sykes-Picot lines cease to exist as Syria becomes a failed state, Iraq becomes a vassal of Iran, Jordan is all but overwhelmed by refugees – Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian – and Lebanon is gnawed into pieces by Hezbollah/Iran.


Co hosts:  Mary Kissel, Wall Street Journal editorial board.  Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents.

Hour One

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 1, Block A: Stephen Moore, chief economist, Heritage Foundation, in re:  the Tea Party - is it perceived as a threat by the leadership of the Republican Party?  . . .    . . .  You're the founder of the Club for Growth; why do GOPers like McConnell and  - call 'em traditional conservatives – go to Tea Party for funding?    . . .  Demand for total ideological purity.  Tea Party and GOP fighting each other.   Georgia: Paul Broun says. "All that stuff I was taught about [evolution] is directly from the pit of Hades."  A yahoo. This is the stuff of a Democratic victory. GOP circular firing squad.  Meanwhile, our president says that global warming is a settled science.  . ..

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 1, Block B:  Edward W Hayes, criminal defense attorney par excellence, in re: Forty-eight million Americans have a serious felony record.  Need best possible policies anent drug users. Long prison sentences are expensive don't help; cheaper to teach them to function in society – esp federal prisons.   Feds have mandatory minimum prison sentences – a user can go to jail for decades.    Need much more rigorous programs: when he first reaches jail, analyze the source of his problems - mental illness? Family of drug users?  Also, find a way so that when they emerge, their lives are not hopeless.  After the sentence is read, no one much takes responsibility, Courts can change heir sentencing structure.  States do this better than fed. NYS legislature s open to improvement; Congress is not.   Prisons are a business: unions. contractors who sell food, do laundry, et al.  Solitary confinement is a hideous torture, A tiny number of prisoners are so dangerous that you have to isolate them; otherwise, solitary is not good.

New York State in Deal to Limit Solitary Confinement  The state agreed to sweeping reforms intended to curtail the use of solitary confinement, including barring its use in disciplining prisoners under 18.

Port Authority Official ‘Deeply Sorry’ for Closed Lanes  Months after lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey offered an apology to commuters.

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 1, Block C: Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover & National Review Online, in re: Lessons of World War I    Ukraine.  Yanukovitch.  Competing powers crashing together in Kiev.   Distinction between real and perceived military power. In WWI, the superb German army couldn't take on Austria, France, Britain, and others.  Putin's economy is moribund, but he believes that Russia is relatively powerful, he can prevail even without military power.  We need not to have one of our ambassadors cursing the EU.

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 1, Block D: Melik Kaylan,, in re: In Ukraine, the West Must Decide What It Stands For - or Putin Wins   The great battle for Ukraine is being played out in Euromaidan as I write, not just for Ukraine but for Europe’s future and in many ways for the world’s future – which perhaps sounds a little too Churchillian at first blush, but consider: of all the democratic protests roiling the world from Thailand to Turkey, Ukraine’s is closest to home for the West. Closest to the epicenters of democracy in the modern era. If the West can’t extend its circle of light such a little way across its borders, then we may as well admit that it’s over, the great moral and existential example of values for everyone to emulate. The precedents of WW2 and the Cold War. Goodbye to all that.

We can get too easily drowned under by the litany of our own failures. From the end of the Cold War onwards, bumbling the Color Revolutions, Iraq, the Arab Spring, the Afghan war, our own economies – it’s been a sorry record. And autocratic regimes like Russia and China have actually prospered in the same period. We haven’t even begun to ask ourselves fundamental questions about what it all means. There are still people calling for interventions in Syria, while Libya smoulders apace. Overreach, subsequent timorousness, confusion at home, whatever the reason we’ve lost our compass.

But the people who want to be like us have not. Caracas, Euromaidan, Gezi Park, Tahrir, and around the world they know what they prefer. They’re dying in droves for their aspirations. Our confidence may be faltering, we may have fumbled repeatedly, but those who have endured the alternatives have no doubts. Just look at the resolve of Euromaidanists not to be dragged back into the murk of Moscow’s historical abyss. Their faith in our faltering values should shame us into recouping our senses.  Now, it’s true that not all protesters against state power are always protesting for universal freedoms. Witness Tahrir, which unleased a quasi-majority Muslim Brotherhood. It’s also true that protesters don’t necessarily represent a country’s majority. In Ukraine, we’re told repeatedly, the ethnically Russian dominated zones don’t . . .  [more]

Hour Two

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 2, Block A:  Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: As talks drag on an on, Iran creates facts on the ground. Russia helps. So many factors at once: Iran not backing off fro terrorism support anywhere because they feel they can last this out. Iran constantly reiterates its determination not to dismantle any part of its nuclear program.  IAEA has never had access to al the nuclear sites  - many of them are off limits to inspectors All this [balderdash] of negotiations is about hope, not facts.  Note that in Nigeria, 1500 bldgs afire, many killed; also people killed in India, Ukraine. London establishes dip relations with Teheran.   . . .  Order will be re-established in Ukraine. If Russia acts decisively, no matter how repugnantly, it'll be seen as a firm hand.  [and more]

The companies with stakes in Israel's Tamar natural gas field have signed an agreement to sell at least $500 million of natural gas over 15 years to two Jordanian companies, Reuters reported Feb. 19. According to the agreement, Tamar will supply 1.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Arab Potash and its subsidiary Jordan Bromine at their facilities close to the Dead Sea. Jordan has had difficulties in securing energy supplies, and Israel has decided to set aside some of its natural gas production for export to the kingdom

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 2, Block B: David Schenker, Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute; in re: King Abdullah met with Pres Obama in California; got large loan guarantees, but not much else – and even this amount of money won’t sustain Jordan through its enormous refugee  (Syria) crisis. Islamists have been growing stronger; even had tribal protests for a while.  For the moment, only, the king has triumphed.  Jordan's western and northern borders have largely been erased; border with Iraq has long been difficult although Jordanian patrols secure it as well as possible.   In fact, all national borders with Syria have all but disappeared.  Jordan Not Out of the Woods Yet,; Syria Cheats,

·         Despite 400,000 Syrians' registering as refugees in Jordan in the past year (1 million total; 16% increase in Jordan's population), Jordan is stabler now than it was when Obama and King Abdullah II met a year ago.

·         Last year: 30% budget deficit, developing coalition of Islamists and tribal-origin opposition; political opposition has faced setbacks. Coup in Egypt reverberated in Jordan's Brotherhood. Protest fatigue, intelligence infiltration and incarcerations, and political opposition atrophy led to economic improvement.

·         Jordanians continue to complain about corruption. Spillover from Syria is a threat to stability; increase in Salafism, strain on infrastructure, Jordanian resentment, rising crime; will aggravate tensions in society - tribal Jordanians, Palestinian refugees, and Syrian refugees.

·         Obama and King Abdullah met last week. Obama will seek an additional $1 billion in loans to Jordan and renew $600 million in economic and military support

·         Syria is projected to cheat and renege on promises anent the chemical weapons deal. Assad will likely retain a residual supply of chemical weapons, violating the agreement with the UN. Kerry and Obama praise diplomacy and Syrian "compliance"

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 2, Block C: Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, FDD, in re: Stand Up to Turkey's Crackdowns. Erdogan is centralizing control over Turkey and sinking its democracy; government assaulting independence of judiciary, police, freedom of press, right to demonstrate peacefully, ability of Central Bank to act autonomously.  Iran's penetration of Turkish economy makes the country a zone of proliferation concern. Scandals and corruption make Romania, Bulgaria, Venezuela look good.  Elections upcoming, AKP still in control, so urge West to step in. Review NATO membership access to armaments and technology; Make US-Turkey friendship conditional on transparent government.

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 2, Block D: David Barnett, FDD, in re: Tourist bus in Taba near Israeli border was struck by explosion, killing at least two S. Korean tourists, Egyptian bus driver, injuring 33 passengers, 12 seriously.  Cause of explosion TBD.  Seems to be first attack directly targeting tourists since overthrow of Morsi.  Since July 3, there have been more than 305 reported attacks in Sinai, most against Egyptian security forces and assets.  Sinai-based jihadist groups taking responsibility, Ansar Jerusalem specifically.  This attack represents a "new phase" in Egypts battle against Terrorist attacks. If attack were to be claimed by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, Sinai-Based militant group responsible for most of attacks since Morsi's oust, signify shift in target selection. The group has previously warned Egyptian Muslims to stay away from installations and headquarters at Min of Defense and Interior, stresses commitment to avoid civilian casualties. ABM reinforces jihadist notion of success through violence, not democracy.  Total militants' killed since January 24: nearly 60. Authorities search for those responsible for attacks. Difficult independently to confirm results of operations; Sinai residents say claims are false. Reports emerge of false military claims.  Rise of al-Sisi fuels Islamist militant campaign. Ansar might be linked to al-Qaeda; little evidence to suggest Brotherhood involvement in bombings and assassinations.

Hour Three

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 3, Block A: Ilan Berman is Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, in re: Obama's Foreign Policy Failure. High Stakes at the Olympic. Russia Is Losing Against Radical Islam.Winter Games in Sochi   Criticism of State of Union address re: US diplomacy in Syria, US-Israel divergence of opinion, Iranian nuclear program, building democracies, Ukraine protests, Asia-Pacific interests; foreign policy failures.

Cost of Sochi Olympics is an exhibit of corruption - should have been $24 billion, was $55 billion. DPM says remainder consists of embezzlement and kickbacks.  Troubling domestic policies - laws and discriminations against homosexuals, resistance to "nontraditional values".  Under Putin, Russia back to international prominence with foreign policy victories - Syria chemical weapons, Ukrainian politics away from Europe.  Security clampdown in Moscow.

Suicide bombings in December killed 34. Islamist insurgency is remarkably resilient. 182 terrorist attacks, 659 casualties in 2012 alone, mostly in North Caucasus. Persists despite military force, and major attacks have transpired in past few years - subway, airport, suicide bombings. Wahhabism alive and kicking and adapting - December's attacks by ethnic-Russian convert to Islam. Need for more sophisticated counterterrorism policy.

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 3, Block B: Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, head of the Intl Media & Communications Branch of the Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit, in re: Digital Media Battlefront: challenges in today's social media world concerning Israel, Syria, Gaza, Sinai, etc.

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 3, Block C: Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave  by David A. Fiske  and Clifford W Brown,  Jr (1 of 2)

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 3, Block D: Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave  by David A. Fiske  and Clifford W Brown,  Jr (2 of 2)

Hour Four

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 4, Block A:  Matt Wald, NYT, in re: salt mines and nuclear waste

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 4, Block B:  Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek, in re: Making the Economic Case for More than the Minimum Wage

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 4, Block C: Andrew C Revkin, NYT, in re:  Seeking the Strategy Behind Kerry’s Climate Speech in Indonesia  I’m hoping that someone can identify some smart strategic angle behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s climate speech in Jakarta on Sunday pressing Indonesia, in essence, to forsake its ample reserves of fossil fuels in its push to develop its economy. I can’t.

You might say the aim was to push the tropical country to curb deforestation, but that issue was barely mentioned. The speech focused mainly on coal and oil. There was an unsubtle dig at the World Bank’s stance on coal there: “[G]overnments and international financial institutions need to stop providing incentives for the use of energy sources like coal and oil.”  But the long speech was mainly focused on Indonesia itself and had a chiding tone that I can’t see doing anything to further Kerry’s goal of leading efforts to craft a new international climate agreement by late 2015.  Here’s a slightly expanded version of a Tumblr item  . . . [more]

Thursday  20 February 2014 / Hour 4, Block D:   Sid Perkins, Science magazine, in re:  Icelandic volcanic eruptions.   Scientists Find a Way to Predict Heights of Volcanic Ash Clouds. Data gathered on peaks can help scientists estimate and track plume heights

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