I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
Well Newshoggers has closed it's doors so Middle Earth Journal is active once again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Second Amendment History and Other Assorted Links

It's not the weekend, but this is one of those mornings with a bunch of good reading in the net. Most of them are brief, so together they become a "long read."

"NOBODY WANTS TO DO WHAT'S IN THE COUNTRY'S INTEREST"Ursula Lindsey, writing at The Arabist, offers a quick, if not flattering snapshot of Egyptian politics.
At the end of this rather dispiriting talk, one economist pointed out that Egypt could be doing much better economically -- that it was recently classified among develping economies with significant potential. Why, then, the Egyptian journalists in attendance asked, aren't things better? Is it corruption? A lack of qualified cadres?
Galal Amin stepped in again, with a short history of Egypt's recent economic crises: In 1967, after the war with Israel (which was solved by help from the oil-rich Arab countries, in exchange for Nasser abandoning pan-Arabism); in 1975, under Sadat (wihch was solved by US aid and assistance after making peace with Israel); in the late 80s, under Mubarak (which was solved by the Western nations and in particular the US forgiving half of Egypt's debts after Mubark supported the invasion of Iraq and accepted IMF "structural adjustments"). Basically, Amin's arguments goes, Egypt runs on the knowledge that it's "too big to fail" and that someone will always step in to save the day -- and always at a significant political price. "What are we expecting now?" He said. "Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US to rescue us. I wonder what they'll ask from us this time?"
How a Government Report Spread a Questionable Claim About Iran
Pro Publica takes a closer look at how careless reporting from an official US Government source, became red meat for a media seeking yet another headline. 
We inquired with six Iran experts, and none knew of any evidence for the figure. Some said it might be in the ballpark while others questioned its plausibility.
“Whether the figures emanate from Iran or from western reporting, they are generally exaggerated and either meant as self-aggrandizing propaganda, if self-reported by Iran, or just approximations based on usually scant data or evidence,” said Afshon Ostovar, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses who writes frequently on Iran. The number “could be more or less accurate, but there's no way to know.”
Gary Sick, a longtime Iran specialist in and out of government, said the entire Federal Research Division study “has all the appearance of a very cheap piece of propaganda and should not be trusted."
Sick pointed to the study’s use of questionable Internet sources as well as flat-out errors. In one section, for example, the study lays out in detail how “Iran’s constitution defines” the intelligence ministry’s official functions. The problem, as Sick notes: Iran’sconstitution doesn’t mention an intelligence ministry, let alone define its functions.
Is AIPAC Waging A Shadow War On Hagel?
Hold your nose for this one. AlterNet describes how AIPAC employs a proxy for dirty work in order to preserve what diplomatic language calls plausible deniability
Another reason for AIPAC’s reluctance to publicly oppose Hagel is its complicated legal status. Though it functions as a virtual arm of the Israeli government, AIPAC is not regulated by the US Department of Justice as other foreign agents are. If it were ever exposed for directly coordinating with the Israeli government, AIPAC would be required to register with the DoJ under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Its staff members would then be allowed to carry the line of the Israeli government, but only under strict regulations that would severely hamper their effectiveness, and erode their image as a homegrown reflection of America’s supposedly pro-Israel sensibility.
The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery
Ordinary history lesson. But it won't make much difference in today's super-charged Second Amendment screaming match. Those of us who favor better gun safety guidelines will once again watch helplessly as a coalition of powerful interest groups (manufacturers, retailers, super-patriots, and political pin-heads) once again savage anyone who opposes them. And yes, in the spirit of that same history, white supremacists are no small part of that coalition.
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.
In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings. 
When oil comes to the surface, it often brings natural gas with it, and according to North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources, 36 percent of the natural gas now extracted in North Dakota isn't captured. Gas isn't as profitable as oil, and the energy companies don't always build the pipes or systems to carry it off. For a year (with extensions), North Dakota allows drillers to burn gas, just let it flare. There are now so many gas wells burning fires in the North Dakota night, the fracking fields can be seen from deep space.

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