Monday, March 2, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Short Takes

The House is trying to come up with a plan to fund DHS without messing with immigration and pissing off the right wing.

The guy known as Jihad John, the English-speaking executioner of ISIS, has been identified as a Briton.

You’re welcome — Liberia’s president thanked the U.S. for helping them with the Ebola crisis.

The F.C.C. votes in favor of net neutrality.

The Klown Kar is in town.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Short Takes

Germany says nein to Greece’s proposal to resolve its debt crisis.

President Obama calls for expansion of human rights to fight extremism.

Wal-Mart to pay $10 an hour minimum wage.

Superbug — Nearly 180 people may have been exposed to a deadly virus at a hospital in Los Angeles.

A first for Texas: a same-sex couple were granted a one-time-only marriage license.

Brrrr — Cold wave strikes the Midwest and East Coast.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Know Your Enemy

If we are to prevail over ISIS, then we should understand them.  This article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood goes a long way towards that education.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

[…]

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

[…]

That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.

As Mr. Wood says, the closest comparison for Westerners is to the hardcore apocalyptic cults with a charismatic leader who takes a faith, perverts it to his own psychosis, gathers a group of followers, and proceeds to immolation.  It’s not limited to Christians; there are such examples in nearly every faith, and in some cases religion or the bastardization of it is merely a cover for a cult of personality centered around someone with a smooth tongue and refuge for the lost and hopeless.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Short Takes

Egypt strikes back at ISIS in Libya.

Danish officials say they have arrested two people in connection with an attack at a freedom-of-speech event over the weekend.

A train carrying crude oil derailed in West Virginia; several hundred people evacuated.

The government is intervening in the labor dispute that has slowed shipping at West Coast ports.

Now it’s ice — The Southeast and Northeast brace for more bad weather.

6.8 earthquake hits northern Japan.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama asked Congress for an AUMF against ISIS.

The U.S. and Britain abruptly closed their embassies in Yemen.

GOP Senator says it’s time to give up the fight on immigration.

Diplomats are trying to work out a peace agreement for Ukraine.

North Carolina man held in killing of three Muslim students.

CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, 73, killed in a car accident in New York City.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Short Takes

ISIS stirs up turmoil in the Middle East after the brutal murder of the Jordanian pilot.

At least 31 people were killed in a plane crash in Taiwan.

Authorities identified the dead in the NY train crash.

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter had his first day of confirmation hearings.

Michigan will not stand in the way of same-sex marriages that took place last year when the ban was briefly lifted.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Short Takes

Another big snow hits the Northeast.

ISIS claims to have killed another hostage.

U.S. looks at arming Ukraine forces.

Obama budget aims to reduce income inequality.

Mayor Collins of Toledo suffers heart attack; condition critical.

New England won the Super Bowl.

GOP candidates scramble after Romney’s donors.

Florida prisons chief knocks Gov. Scott over law enforcement scandal.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama laid out a big agenda in the SOTU.  Video.

ISIS released a video of two Japanese hostages and demanded ransom.

The presidential palace in Yemen is under rebel control.

Pipeline break leaks thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana.

Paris mayor plans to sue Fox News for “inaccurate” reporting.

Report: 11 footballs underinflated in Patriots’ game.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When John Yoo Says You’ve Gone Too Far…

…then you know you’re way over the line on torture.

The White House counsel who wrote memos for the Bush administration defending the “enhanced interrogation techniques” told CNN on Sunday that what’s in the Senate torture report crossed the line.

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo said the sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and other harsh treatment outlined in a U.S. Senate report last week could violate anti-torture laws.

“If these things happened as they’re described in the report … they were not supposed to be done. And the people who did those are at risk legally because they were acting outside their orders,” Yoo said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

It also sounds like Mr. Yoo is coming up with a legal defense strategy of his own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Legal v. Moral

Justice Antonin Scalia told a Swiss radio interviewer that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly prohibit torture.

The 78-year-old justice says he doesn’t “think it’s so clear at all,” especially if interrogators were trying to find a ticking nuclear bomb.

Scalia says nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists.

The Constitution doesn’t explicitly prohibit the mass murder of school children with assault rifles, either, yet I’m pretty sure that the people who wrote it were not in favor of it.  The Eighth Amendment does rule out “cruel and unusual punishment,” but to Justice Scalia, “rectal feeding” must be neither.  Okay….

Even if you accept his reasoning, just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.