Friday, February 24, 2017

Short Takes

Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent.

Arms Race: Trump calls for U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Hang in there, RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’ll stay on SCOTUS as long as she can.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students.

Cheap Seats — Airlines’ no-frills flying taking off.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Correction

Via The Hill:

Donald Trump said Wednesday that President Obama “founded” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“ISIS is honoring President Obama,” he said during a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  “He’s the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS.”

“I would say the co-founder would be ‘Crooked’ Hillary Clinton,” Trump added of Obama’s former secretary of State and his Democratic rival.

Trump criticized Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from the Middle East and leaving behind a void ISIS could fill.

“We should never have gotten out the way we got out,” he said. “We unleashed terrible fury all over the Middle East.”

No, that would have been George W. Bush who sent our troops to war in the first place in 2003 based on misinformation and outright lies.  The fact that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and a number of Democrats voted to go along with it proves that the only thing the Bush administration got right about going to war in Iraq was lying about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Reading

History Lesson — Robert Bateman teaches the Oregon “militia” a few things about their rights and wrongs.

Massachusetts, April 1775.  Daniel Shays was 30 years old when things went all squirrelly. The son of Irish immigrants, he spent his early years working on a farm in the western part of the state. Agrarian labor was the lot of the overwhelming majority, especially those living away from the coast. Swept up in the emotions of the day, Shays walked to Boston and immediately enlisted in one of the newly raised militia regiments then surrounding Boston in the wake of Lexington and Concord.

By all accounts Shays was a solid man. A stalwart soldier. Because he already had a modicum of training, Shays was enlisted as a sergeant. In that rank he fought at some of the most pivotal battles of the Revolutionary War: first, Bunker Hill; then, after his regiment went from being “militia” to “regulars” in the Continental Army, Long Island, New York, Saratoga, and his last battle, Stony Point.

It is there that we really come to see what kind of soldier he was. By then, Shays had been promoted to lieutenant and then captain of a company in his regiment. And he was not just any captain: He was the commander of the elite “light” company. It was in that role that he participated in the storming of Stony Point, during which American troops made a midnight assault with unloaded weapons, just bayonets, and won a significant and lopsided victory against the British. Shays performed so heroically that the Marquis de LaFayette personally awarded him a ceremonial sword in recognition of his leadership. (There was no such thing as a ribbon or a medal yet, at least not institutionally.)

In 1780, due to wounds, he mustered out. He had been away from home for five years, without pay. Yea, nada. Food and uniforms, but no actual pay. When he got home he found that he was being called before court for failure to pay debts. What a kick in the nuts for a guy who just spent five years, and spilled blood, unpaid, on behalf of the new nation. Eventually he sold the sword from the Marquis for petty cash.

Things weren’t much better for the state. After the war ended in 1783, Massachusetts was trying hard to clear its debts. But their technique was somewhat lacking. Among other things, they pushed hard on the collection of debts and taxes, especially in the sparsely inhabited and relatively poor western parts of the state. The men living there felt cut out, particularly since it was the rich businessmen, mostly on the coast, who held political power.

A tax revolt ensued. Something of a natural leader, Shays unexpectedly found himself in the lead of armed men once again. This time, however, they were fighting against their own government. It was, by any definition, an insurrection against the United States of America: Armed men sought to take over federal property (the Armory in Springfield). They were confronted by organized militia, raised locally, and paid by private donors because there was no “official” money for such a contingency. Both sides had over 1000 men. But one side, the authorized militia, had cannon, and that made all the difference. The insurrection was busted, and their whole effort ended in chaos. Their rebellion against America ended in abject failure. The conflict, known commonly as Shays’ Rebellion (though Shays was just one of its leaders), shocked the nation and had enormous influence over what became the U.S. Constitution.


The men in Bend, Oregon identify themselves as “patriots.” Many self-describe themselves as members of an extremist group known as the “Three Percent” – harkening back to the alleged percentage of colonists who fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War. They make much ado about being true to the U.S. Constitution.

But their knowledge of the actual history, let alone the text, of the Constitution, appears to be, shall we say, a tad lacking. To begin with, they seem to skip over some of its words. To begin, let’s look at what it means to be a “militia,” as these men claim to be. Here are the powers granted to Congress, in the Constitution, as they relate to “militia:

“To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”

Bottom Line: There is no such thing as a “locally organized” militia that is not subject to the authority of a State or the Federal Government. Indeed, such is almost explicitly prohibited, in no small part because the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent something like Shays’ Rebellion from happening again.

Now let’s take a look at the definition of treason, as defined by the Constitution:

 “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

Does taking over federal property or fighting the US government constitute “levying war?” For that, we must decide whether or not a forcible occupation of federal property that obstructs the ability of U.S. citizens from enjoying its resources constitute “insurrection.” The Insurrection Act, written by the Founding Fathers in 1807, which these Oregon dudes profess to adore, says this:

“The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it—

(1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

(2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

In any situation covered by clause (1), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.”

In reality, these men in Oregon are following in the footsteps of Daniel Shays’ armed insurrection, not his military service. Shays’ later actions, which are the very basis for the use of the terms “militia” and “treason” and the authority given to Congress to raise troops from the militia in order to suppress “insurrection,” are their antecedents.

Damn those Founding Fathers and the documentation that they inconveniently left behind.

Sure They Would — Rebecca Gordon in The Nation tallies up the votes from presidential candidates in favor of committing war crimes.

They’re back!

From the look of the presidential campaign, war crimes are back on the American agenda. We really shouldn’t be surprised, because American officials got away with it last time—and, in the case of the drone wars, continue to get away with it today. Still, there’s nothing like the heady combination of a “populist” Republican race for the presidency and national hysteria over terrorism to make Americans want to reach for those “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That, as critics have long argued, is what usually happens if war crimes aren’t prosecuted.

In August 2014, when President Obama finally admitted that “we tortured some folks,” he added a warning. The recent history of US torture, he said, “needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that so hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.” By pinning the responsibility for torture on all of us “as a country,” Obama avoided holding any of the actual perpetrators to account.

Unfortunately, “hope” alone will not stymie a serial war criminal—and the president did not even heed his own warning. For seven years his administration has done everything except help the country “take responsibility” for torture and other war crimes. It looked the other way when it comes to holding accountable those who set up and ran the CIA’s large-scale torture operations at its “black sites” around the world. It never brought charges against those who ordered torture at Guantánamo. It prosecuted no one, above all not the top officials of the Bush administration.

Now, in the endless run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, we’ve been treated to some pretty strange gladiatorial extravaganzas, with more to come in 2016. In these peculiarly American spectacles, Republican candidates hurl themselves at one another in a frenzied effort to be seen as the candidate most likely to ignore the president’s wan hope and instead “do it again in the future.” As a result, they are promising to commit a whole range of crimes, from torture to the slaughter of civilians, for which the leaders of some nations would find themselves hauled into international court as war criminals. But “war criminal” is a label reserved purely for people we loathe, not for us. To paraphrase former President Richard Nixon, if the United States does it, it’s not a crime.

In the wake of the brutal attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the promises being openly made to commit future crimes have only grown more forthright. A few examples from the presidential campaign trail should suffice to make the point:

* Ted Cruz guarantees that “we” will “utterly destroy ISIS.” How will we do it? “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion”—that is, “we” will saturate an area with munitions in such a way that everything and everyone on the ground is obliterated. Of such a bombing campaign against the Islamic State, he told a cheering crowd at the Rising Tide Summit, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” (It’s hard not to take this as a reference to the use of nuclear weapons, though in the bravado atmosphere of the present Republican campaign a lot of detailed thought is undoubtedly not going into any such proposals.)

* Kindly retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson evidently has similar thoughts. When pressed by CNN co-moderator Hugh Hewitt in the most recent Republican debate on whether he was “tough” enough to be “okay with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian[s],” Carson replied, “You got it. You got it.” He even presented a future campaign against the Islamic State in which “thousands” of children might die as an example of the same kind of tough love a surgeon sometimes exhibits when facing a difficult case. It’s like telling a child, he assured Hewitt, that “we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.” So, presumably, will those “dead innocent children” in Syria—once they get over the shock of being dead.

* Jeb Bush’s approach brought what, in Republican circles, passes for nuance to the discussion of future war-crimes policy. What Washington needs, he argued, is “a strategy,” and what stands in the way of the Obama administration’s developing one is an excessive concern with the niceties of international law. As he put it, “We need to get the lawyers off the back of the warfighters. Right now under President Obama, we’ve created…this standard that is so high that it’s impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS.” Meanwhile, Jeb has surrounded himself with a familiar clique of neocon “advisers”—people like George W. Bush’s former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and his former deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley, who planned for and advocated the illegal US war against Iraq, which touched off a regional war with devastating human consequences.

* And then there is Donald Trump. Where to start? As a simple baseline for his future commander-in-chiefdom, he stated without a blink that he would bring back torture. “Would I approve waterboarding?” he told a cheering crowd at a November rally in Columbus, Ohio. “You bet your ass I would—in a heartbeat.” And for Trump, that would only be the beginning. He assured his listeners, vaguely but emphatically, that he “would approve more than that,” leaving to their imaginations whether he was thinking of excruciating “stress positions,” relentless exposure to loud noise, sleep deprivation, the straightforward killing of prisoners, or what the CIA used to delicately refer to as “rectal rehydration.” Meanwhile, he just hammers on when it comes to torture. “Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

Only a stupid person—like, perhaps, one of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who carefully studied the CIA’s grim torture documents for years, despite the Agency’s foot-dragging, opposition, and outright interference (including computer hacking)—would say that. But why even bother to argue about whether torture works? The point, Trump claimed, was that the very existence of the Islamic State means that someone needs to be tortured. “If it doesn’t work,” he told that Ohio crowd, “they deserve it anyway.”

Only a few days later, he triumphantly sallied even further into war criminal territory. He declared himself ready to truly hit the Islamic State where it hurts. “The other thing with the terrorists,” he told Fox News, “is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” Because it’s a well-known fact—in Trumpland at least—that nothing makes people less likely to behave violently than murdering their parents and children. And it certainly doesn’t matter, when Trump advocates it, that murder is a crime.

The Second Amendment: Original Intent — John Quintance at The New Yorker uncovers some correspondence that should clear it up.

December 5, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

How is it almost 1792?! Quick question on the right to bear arms thing in your “Bill of Rights”—the wording and punctuation are slightly confusing. Did you mean that the right of the people serving in the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, or people in general? I’m assuming the former, but don’t want to make an ass of you and me! (Franklin made that up, but I’m using it everywhere!) Could you please send me a quick note whenever to clarify?

TJ

P.S. To be honest, I’m still meh about “Bill of Rights” as a name.

* * *

December 7, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

I know, it’s so crazy how fast this year has gone—I just got used to writing 1791 on my deeds of purchase (of slaves)!

As far as the amendment, of course it’s the former. If every private citizen had the right to carry a musket, a thousand people would’ve shot Patrick Henry by now, am I right? Don’t worry about it. Everyone will know what it means.

JM

P.S. You’re not back on “The Ten Amendments” are you? It’s trying way too hard to sound Biblical.

* * *

December 9, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

Hahaha re: Patrick Henry. And I agree it should be obvious. It’s just, why not make it so clear that even the biggest Anti-Federalist looney tune can’t misinterpret the meaning? I’d add “while serving in the militia” to line three. Also, not to be a grammar redcoat here, but the use and placement of the comma isn’t helping. Can we change it? It will take two seconds.

I know I’m being annoying!

TJ

P.S. How about “Constitution, Part Two?” (Not a serious pitch, unless you like it!)

* * *

December 11, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

There is literally zero chance that anyone will misconstrue this, and the great news is that if someone actually does, the Supreme Court will set them straight. I don’t want to change it. It won’t take two seconds, because the addition would push a page and I’d have to do the whole rest of it over again and W. is breathing down my neck about it. Plus, I like the way my signature looks on the version I sent you, and you know I always hate the way it looks on important stuff.

Not trying to be snippy, but you’re worrying about nothing.

JM

* * *

December 13, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

I know, I know—I’m the worst. Just hear me out. Imagine it’s some two hundred years from now. Musket makers have made new and more powerful muskets—ones that are capable of firing two or even three shots per minute—and, in an effort to sell more, they claim that every homeowner should have the right to own one, or two, or twenty. They bribe politicians to advance their cause, they stoke public fears of crime and federal tyranny, and they manage to exploit this slightly confusing language and comma placement to claim that we originally intended to give every private citizen the right to own as many muskets (and for that manner, cannons!) as they can get their hands on. And because in this version of the future (just bear with me here) we’ve had such a run of Anti-Federalist Presidents, the Court is packed with men who might agree. Isn’t there the slightest chance that this could happen?

TJ

* * *

December 15, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

You know I love you, but we seriously need to get this ratified, like, today, or W. will have my ass. There is no way that what you’re talking about could come to pass. It’s too ridiculous. The amendment goes before Congress as written.

Besides, if anyone ever needs to confirm our intention two hundred years from now, they need only consult any decent spiritualist to communicate with our ghosts. If muskets can fire three shots per minute in your future, I’m sure mediums will have become even better at their jobs, too.

JM

Doonesbury — Can’t get here from there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

He Gave Us ISIS

Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who helped the Bush administration lie us into invading Iraq, is dead.  Aram Roston at Buzzfeed tells us about his legacy.

If not for the man named Ahmad Chalabi, the United States probably would not have invaded Iraq in 2003. If not for the Iraq War, as a senior CIA official flatly told BuzzFeed News earlier this year, there would be no ISIS. Indeed, the life of the charismatic and obsessive Chalabi, who died Tuesday of heart failure at 71, led to devastating and unpredicted results that will reverberate for decades.

Before he changed American and Middle East history, Chalabi was a failed Iraqi banker accused of massive international financial fraud in the 1980s. But through guile and grit, he managed to transform himself into Saddam Hussein’s most implacable and effective foe. The CIA, in cable traffic, called him Pulsar 1. His followers called him “the Boss” or “the Doctor.”

[…]

Because of Chalabi’s own diligent work, America’s elite were primed to believe him. More than anyone else in the late 1990s and the early part of the Bush administration, Chalabi had planted the seed in influential American thinkers, chiefly neoconservatives, that removing Saddam Hussein from power was a strategic imperative. But he did far more. Funded by the U.S., he fed bogus information and propaganda to the American press and to intelligence agencies.

In spring 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq and, as Chalabi boasted, toppled Saddam, because of him and the Iraqi National Congress. He dressed in a black Hugo Boss T-shirt, and he was flown by the American Air Force to the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya with a small army of ill-trained and chaotic “Free Iraqi Forces.”

Chalabi thought the U.S. would help install him as Saddam’s replacement, and he envisioned riding through Baghdad to cheering crowds of Iraqis, like de Gaulle returning triumphant to France. But that never happened. He had lost his influence in Washington, D.C., and he had too many enemies in the U.S. and Iraq.

It was after the invasion he’d pushed so hard for that his true weakness was exposed. He tried again and again to become the ruler of Iraq, convinced he was entitled to it. But he never scored more than 1% of the vote, and instead he survived by building blocks of coalitions and by allying himself with powerful Shiite politicians.

He tried one more time, last summer, to lead Iraq. He convinced his supporters, Americans and a handful of Iraqis, that it was a done deal, that he’d arranged a partnership by which he would become prime minister. In the end, that didn’t happen, and he was left, associates told BuzzFeed News, furious but impotent, convinced that he had been betrayed.

Is he really to blame for the current catastrophes of the region? Certainly, soon after the invasion, he pushed hard to maintain and even deepen Iraq’s sectarian divides, especially for policies that empowered Shiites while ripping the rug from under the Sunnis. Disenfranchising the Sunnis led to the rise of ISIS, which is what the senior CIA official mentioned earlier was referring to.

Still, the truth is that while Chalabi convinced the U.S. to go to war, it was George W. Bush and other American leaders in Congress and the White House who believed him and made the ultimate decision that caused so much damage. He never really had the power to invade, to change history. He just had an astonishing ability to influence and finagle others, and that was enough.

It sounds like he was the perfect partner for Bush/Cheney and the neocons who thought only of their own personal ambitions and vengeance.  It had nothing to do with anything more than that.  Thousands of lives have been lost for it, and we will be paying for it ourselves for generations to come.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Whose Side Are You On?

That’s the question for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, part of his weeklong trip to Israel.

[…]

“Today’s meeting only reaffirms my opposition to this deal,” Cotton said in a statement after the meeting. “I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and work with my colleagues in Congress to stop this deal and to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself against Iran and its terrorist surrogates.”

I’m just imagining the shitstorm that would have come raining down if a Democratic senator had gone to France in 2002 and pronounced that he stood with the opponents of invading Iraq.  The Republicans would have tried to arrest him for treason.  This guy gets a selfie with Bibi.

Thanks, Dick

There are now enough votes in the Senate to sustain any veto of the Iran nuclear deal rejection by Senate Republicans.

I think we have Dick Cheney to thank for this.  If he hadn’t reminded us just what a colossal warmonger he was and how wrong he and his minions were about the Middle East, some Democrats might have listened to his warnings.  But since it was really hard for him to hide his apparent glee — or in his case, his maniacal snarl — at the prospect of nuclear war, they decided to err on the side of sanity.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

War On Day 1

So you thought Lindsey Graham was the only unreconstructed war monger in the clown car.  Wrong.

A dispute has erupted between Scott Walker and Jeb Bush over how to handle the task of undoing Obama’s Iran deal as president, with Bush hinting that Walker is approaching the issue with a lack of maturity, and Walker suggesting that Bush is not zealous enough about confronting the enemy.

Walker is also saying that it’s “very possible” the next president will have to take military action on Day One of his presidency — though it’s unclear whether he means against Iran in particular, or more generally.

Well, he’s an Eagle Scout so he is ready to go, right?  “Be prepared!”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It’s A Big Deal

If the reaction by the GOP is any guide, the deal between Iran and six nations to control their nuclear arms is a very big deal and will change the way we deal with both that country and the rest of the Middle East.

Before Congress had even begun its official review, Republican leaders vowed Tuesday to kill President Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran, setting up a fierce fight to save the president’s signature diplomatic achievement.

Congress will have 60 days to review the deal, once all documents have been sent to the Capitol, after which it can pass a resolution of approval, pass one of disapproval or do nothing. Mr. Obama would veto a resolution of disapproval, and the opponents could derail the agreement only if they could rally the required two-thirds vote of Congress to override his action.

Republican leaders were denouncing it as a sell-out, a betrayal of Israel, “appeasement,” and in the words of House Speaker John Boehner, “unacceptable.”  The fact that none of them had read the document in its entirety or even if they did, had the cognitive skills to know what was in it, made no matter; they were too busy rushing to get on camera at Morning Joe or Fox News to get their sound bites in and doing very little to restrain their anger and frustration at the fact that once again, Barack Obama had pulled off something against the odds, and, more importantly, had undercut one of the major planks of the party platform, which is, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, “Please, sir, I want some war.”

Regardless of what it means for diplomacy, peace, and the fact that we will not be sending yet another army in to invade yet another sovereign nation over yet more made-up lies and leaving our nation wounded yet again, politics drives this response and Congress’s actions on it.  Not unlike the response to Obamacare, the stimulus, the automobile industry bailout, or even the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the degree of GOP vitriol tells you how important this agreement is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Et Tu, Rummy?

What’s that scurrying sound?  Why, it sounds like someone desperately trying to save themselves and their legacy from the dumpster fire of history and throwing Bush and Cheney under the bus.

President George W. Bush was wrong to try to build democracy in Iraq, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a recent interview, marking a striking admission from a key player behind the 2003 U.S. invasion.

In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Rumsfeld said that efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and replace his tyrannical regime with democracy were unworkable, and that he had concerns about the plan from the beginning.

“I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories,” Rumsfeld told The Times. “The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”

Rumsfeld, who served under Bush from 2001 to 2006, has previously defended the administration’s actions in the run-up to the war, which dragged on for years before formally ending in 2011.

Sorry, fella, it’s too damn late, you loathsome bottom-dwelling slug.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jeb Finally Gets It Right

After four tries:

Those comments strongly contrast ones he made on Monday to Fox’s Megyn Kelly when he said he would have authorized an invasion. A day later, he backtracked, saying he misheard the question and did not know what he would have done. On Wednesday, Bush said he refused to answer as it would be a disservice to American troops.

But at an event in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday, Bush gave yet another answer.

“I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq,” Bush said.

What was he doing, waiting to clear it with his big brother?

As Josh Marshall notes, now all the other Republican candidates think invading Iraq is a bad idea and they wouldn’t have done it.  Not because it was a bad idea then — even though it was — but because they want to inflict as much damage on Jeb Bush as they can.  It also gives us the chance to ask them about the whole war: how we got there, why they supported it, and what should we do with the aftermath.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Lovely Little War

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) thinks we could knock over Iran in less than a week.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox,” he continued. “Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”

We’d be greeted as liberators, right?

But American military leaders — who worked for lawmakers of both parties — strongly disagree with Cotton’s assessment, arguing that an attack could actually prove a regional war and further push Iran towards the bomb.

[…]

General Anthony Zinni, former CENTCOM commander, put it more clearly, “I think anybody that believes that it would be a clean strike and it would be over and there would be no reaction is foolish,” he said in 2009. And former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that “such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.” “The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world,” he said.

Well, he’s not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What’s The Deal With Iran

The consensus among people that know about the deal say it’s a good one.

It wouldn’t have mattered if the framework agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons made them turn over every piece of high-tech nuclear development equipment that they’ve acquired since 1970 and launched it into the sun, then foreswore Islam and turned Tehran into one huge shopping mall and Burning Man celebration field.  The right-wing war-mongers would still accuse President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of selling us out to the mullahs because they’re secretly holding back the biggest, baddest nuke ever envisioned and Obama is secretly in league with them to cement his world domination BWAHAHAHA.

The nutsery think that a country crippled by sanctions to the point that it can’t get parts for a 1979 Chevy Impala is somehow going to magically come up with a nuclear bomb and steal our lunch money, too.  In other words, they give our enemies a lot more credit than they do to their own country and its allies.

So you have to wonder whose side they’re on.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Reading

Shut Up, John Bolton — Peter Beinart in The Atlantic on the warmonger’s reckless case for war with Iran.

According to a 2013 study by the Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost the United States more than $4 trillion. Over the coming decades, that number will likely rise by trillions more. If you include America’s military operations in Pakistan, these wars have taken the lives of roughly 300,000 people. And almost 15 years later, both Iraq and Afghanistan are virtually failed states.

This does not mean The New York Times should never publish op-eds proposing new wars. Although always tragic, war can sometimes be less horrible than the alternative. And it does not mean The New York Times should never publish op-eds by people who have supported disastrous wars. Even commentators who have made huge errors in the past may still contribute useful arguments in the present. At least I hope so, given that I supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq myself.

But what The New York Times should not do is let people who have supported disastrous wars in the past propose new wars casually. If you want to advocate for a new war in the most prestigious newspaper in the United States, you should have to grapple, at least briefly, with the potential dangers. Given the costs, both financial and human, of America’s post-9/11 conflicts, that’s not too much to ask.

Which brings me to John Bolton’s Thursday New York Times op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton was both a booster, and a minor architect, of the war in Iraq. As George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state in late 2002, he told the BBC that, “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq.” He added that, “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime,” and that although building a democracy would prove a “difficult task,” the people of Iraq “are fully competent to do it.” So competent, in fact, that “the American role [in post-war Iraq] actually will be fairly minimal.”

That’s what Bolton said publicly. Privately, according to a 2005 report by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee, he distributed classified information about Joe Wilson in an attempt to smear the former ambassador, who was then questioning President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Bolton also played a key role in forcing out Jose Bustani, director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, because he feared Bustani’s inspectors in Iraq would undermine the case for war. It was behavior like this that led Washington Post columnist David Ignatius to observe that Bolton “epitomizes the politicization of intelligence that helped produce the fiasco over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

Should this disqualify Bolton from penning a New York Times op-ed urging America to bomb Iran? No. But it should have disqualified him from penning the op-ed he published on Thursday.

Replacing Andrew Jackson — Jaime Fuller in New York magazine in getting a woman on the $20 bill.

On paper, it doesn’t look like it would be difficult to change the faces that greet us on dollar bills whenever we pull out our wallets. The Treasury Secretary has unilateral authority to banish Franklin from the $100 or Lincoln from the five spot whenever he wants; Congress also has the power to change the portraits used on U.S. currency. The possibilities for new monetary muses are nearly limitless — the only requirement is that they be dead, just like the luminaries chosen for stamps. There’s also an expectation that the portraits will be familiar faces from history.

However, the process must be harder than it looks, because the Treasury hasn’t retired a portrait since 1929, when Andrew Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland — which has everyone wondering what will happen with a new campaign to get a woman on the $20.

Plenty of people have tried to change a portrait. Most of these attempts involved Ronald Reagan. In 2004, Grover Norquist tried to boot Alexander Hamilton from the $10 and replace him with the conservative icon; Senator Mitch McConnell thought the idea was a great one. “Hamilton was a nice guy and everything, but he wasn’t president,” Norquist told USA Today. At the same time, a few House Republicans were trying to get Reagan put on the $20. Six years after those efforts failed, Representative Patrick McHenry sponsored legislation to get Reagan on the $50.

“There’s an inherent conservatism when it comes to money here,” notes Matthew Wittmann, assistant curator of American coins and currency at the American Numismatic Society.

A new group has decided to try a different tack by advancing a new portrait that is not Ronald Reagan. Women on 20s has started a campaign to get a woman on money that Americans use (unlike $1 coins) — something that even President Obama has said is a “pretty good idea.” They’ve even picked the perfect guy to kick off currency — Andrew Jackson, once best known for military prowess, and now remembered for causing the Trail of Tears.

“Andrew Jackson folks would complain,” says Daniel Feller, an expert on our seventh president at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, “but there aren’t many Andrew Jackson folks left. I don’t know who in government would be against it.”

However, the problem was never going to be complaints about keeping Jackson on the $20; it was always going to be about narrowing the entire universe of eligible women to put on the bill to one in a town where agreeing is often a laughable dream, and everyone has different reasons for wanting to try something new with currency — or keep it the same.

When the Treasury thinks about redesigning money, it isn’t about the politics. The department — along with the Federal Reserve, the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing — is always thinking about how to best stop people from counterfeiting it. (Everyone forgets, but the Secret Service was created to protect money, not the president.) That’s why dollar bills have slowly morphed over time, with stripes and nearly unnoticed whizbangs continually cluttering the currency, and the important men in them shifting in their invisible seats and switching up their stare. A Treasury official, who stressed the department’s aim to prevent unauthorized production of money, was unable to talk about any specific campaigns to change currency design “or about anything political.”

Making Stupid Official — Andy Borowitz on the new law in Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—In a history-making decision, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana has signed into law a bill that officially recognizes stupidity as a religion.

Pence said that he hoped the law would protect millions of state residents “who, like me, have been practicing this religion passionately for years.”

The bill would grant politicians like Pence the right to observe their faith freely, even if their practice of stupidity costs the state billions of dollars.

While Pence’s action drew the praise of stupid people across America, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was not among them. “Even I wasn’t dumb enough to sign a bill like that,” she said.

Doonesbury — Without notice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Short Takes

SWAT teams moved on a house in Ferguson to detain suspects for questioning in the shooting Wednesday night.

Iraqi forces captured most of Tikrit from ISIS.

South African mercenaries are in Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

Putin is fine, according to the Kremlin, putting the kibosh on rumors of illness.

American and British aid workers infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On The Defensive

As I said yesterday:

I’m pretty sure the Iranians fully understand our constitutional system; they used it to full advantage in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, and they know full well that if the Stupid Party takes over in 2017, the hard-liners in their country will be rattling their sabres just as much as Senator Cotton and the rest of the Huckleberry Dumbbell brigade.  But hey, what does it matter when you can teach that uppity Ni-CLANG a lesson and score a couple of primary wins and defense contracts?

Speaking of defense contracts:

Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

Cotton strongly advocates higher defense spending and a more aggressive foreign policy. As The New Republic’s David Ramsey noted, “Pick a topic — Syria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snooping — and Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate…During his senate campaign, he told a tele-townhall that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas was an ‘urgent problem.’”

On Iran, Cotton has issued specific calls for military intervention. In December he said Congress should consider supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs — both items manufactured by NDIA member Boeing — to be used for a possible strike against Iran.

To paraphrase Oscar Hammerstein II, “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, grifters gotta grift until we all die… can’t help lovin’ those bombs of mine.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Military Force

President Obama wants the authority to take us to war against ISIS, and he’s asking Congress for it.

The proposed legislation Mr. Obama sent to Capitol Hill would impose a three-year limit on American action that has been conducted largely from the air and, while allowing Special Operations commandos and other limited missions, would rule out sustained, large-scale ground combat. It would also finally repeal the expansive 2002 congressional measure that authorized President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.

But even as Mr. Obama proposed some handcuffs on his power, he left behind the key to those shackles should he or his successor decide they are too confining. While his draft resolution would rescind the 2002 authority, it would leave in place a separate measure passed by Congress in 2001 authorizing the president to conduct a global war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. With that still the law of the land, Mr. Obama and the next president would retain wide latitude to order military operations in the name of fighting terrorism.

This is where we say “well, at least it’s not an all-out declaration with boots on the ground and ‘either you’re with us or against us’ painted on the sides of the tanks,” but still, no thanks for small favors.

This is the “lessons learned” AUMF to replace the one we shouldn’t have had in the first place because it led to this one.  There’s no doubt that without the one in 2001 there wouldn’t be an ISIS today, or if there was, they would be as powerful as the Brownie troop down the block.

I appreciate Mr. Obama’s ambivalence about taking us to war; would that more presidents and yappers in Congress felt that way throughout history.  I also appreciate that fact that he has put an expiration date on it, but we all know full well that those are often seen just as suggestions.  The next president — whoever she is — will tell us they have plenty of reasons to ask for yet more war.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chicken Hawks

Not that I’m in favor of going to war, but at least you would expect the Senate to take a vote on it when asked.  Via Greg Sargent:

Today, the Senate is expected to authorize the funding and arming of the Syrian rebels, and then leave town without holding any vote on the broader American escalation — a striking abdication of Congressional responsibility.

In other words, the only war vote we’re getting is on the narrow question of funding the Syrian rebels. Yet even here, that vote will be stuffed in with a vote on funding the government — there won’t be any stand-alone vote on the war piece.

And then they ran for the exits like someone popped the top on a can of Ebola.

So all those butch Republicans like Lindsay Graham were all gung-ho for full scale Armageddon war on ISIS as long as they’re not the ones who actually have to vote on it.