Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Sep 25 2015

Going Nordo.

Published by under Politics,Travel

Walking up the brow this weekend and going haze gray and underway. No wait a minute, the ship is white.

How about , "Bright white and out of sight!"surprise?

Either way posting will be non-existent for a bit. ( again).

But I could not let the good news / bad news of the day pass unnoticed.  Because the Pope has to be a powerful guy.




I admit, I did not see that coming. I mean wow-I never would have thought that would happen.

But here is the problem-there are any numbers of blatantly deranged psychopaths that are waiting in the wings to take his place.

And in news pretty much guaranteed to fuck up my world-I think it pretty much guarantees a government shut down.

Just one more reason to buy that unlimited drinks package , I guess.

See you on the other side!


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Sep 13 2015

Recent Reading

Besides the volume of recent work, I have been deeply involved in several books recently. Not really an excuse for my lack of steady posting, but it did provide a different sort of diversion. Below are my reviews of three of the best of the group. ( I have finished 7 in all since mid-July).

The first book was an oldie,  but goody. It is from the 1970's and it is Saul Bellow's, To Jerusalem and Back, A Personal Account. Published in 1976, the book is a fascinating series of anecdotes and stories about all aspects of the experience of Israel during that decade and the decades before. Bellow writes of a discussion with Jean Paul Sartre published many years earlier. He has a brief view of the power ( or lack thereof) of the United States Sixth fleet, back during the time that the US Navy actually put ships in the Mediterranean ( of which I was a part in the late 1970's). The book is a report of the authors personal experiences but it is much, much more than that-it is a series of vignettes that show the complexity of modern Israeli life. What is amazing to me is just how forward looking Bellow was. He was writing in 1976, but his observations still hold true today.  As one critic said, " Forty years later, it's like reading last week's news analysis from the Middle East. If he hadn't been one of the great novelists of the 20th century, Bellow might have been one of its greatest journalists." That's a pretty good summation of the book.



Along the same lines, and as an adjunct to my job, I try to read a lot of background material on Israel. I had stumbled on Bellow's book in the library and I am glad I did. Interestingly enough, I tried to add it to my Kindle library and Amazon said it is not available to readers in the US, due to copyright restrictions. I found that interesting, if not a trifle disappointing. 

For the reason I listed above, I also completed reading a newer book that does the same thing as Bellows book-provide unique insights into the complex puzzle that is Israel.  The book is by Ari Shavit, who is a writer for Haaretz newspaper, and it is called, My Promised Land. The book is a series of interviews and retelling of specific pieces of Israel's history staring with the first waves of Aliyah ( emigration to Israel) that began in the 1890's and moving up to present day ( 2012).

We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.

As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, My Promised Land asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, My Promised Land uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today’s global political landscape.


In reading the book I was struck by two of the main points that he raised. First, he points out that both the Israeli right and the Israeli left have yet to come to grips with a central fact that lies at the heart of Zionism-namely that whether they realized it or not, the movement was built on the foundational idea of dispossessing the current occupants of Palestine, in favor of a group of people who had no modern historical ties to that particular chunk of real estate. They only have a thousands year old religious mystery to cling on to that underpinned the reason why Palestine and only Palestine could be the Jewish State. Shavit very skillfully points out that one cannot duck that particular fact, and it is at odds with the narrative of Israel as a benign civilizing force in the region.

The second issue, and its one I had not given much thought to before, is the idea that the Holocaust changed the demographics of the Zionist movement dramatically. It is important to remember that Herzl's vision of Zionism was essentially a European one. The Jewish State he envisioned was to be a a modern, sophisticated and technologically advanced and Europeanized society. Herzl was aware of the Sephardic Jews ( Oriental or non-European Jews) but he tended to discount that.

Herzl completely rejected the race theories of Israel Zangwill. He became increasingly aware of the existence of Sephardic Jewry, but he envisioned the Jewish State as a state of Europeans, who might speak German. In his diaries he wrote:

"I believe German will be our principal language…I draw this conclusion from our most widespread jargon, 'Judeo-German.' But over there we shall wean ourselves from this ghetto language, too, which used to be the stealthy tongue of prisoners. Our teachers will see to that." (June 15, 1895, Diaries, 1: 171)

In The Jewish State, Herzl envisioned the government of the new state to be an "Aristocratic Republic," apparently modeled on contemporary Austria or Germany. In 1902, Herzl published a utopian novel about the Jewish state,  Altneuland (old-new land) a vision complete with monorails and modern industry.  Altneuland envisioned a multipluralistic democracy in which Arabs and Jews had equal rights. The novel concludes, "If you will, it is no legend."

Der Judenstaat and  Altneuland were visions of a Jewish state to be populated by European Jewry, who in 1900 were far more numerous than the tiny remnant of oriental and Sephardic Jews in Muslim lands and the Balkans. Herzl himself was no doubt aware of Zionist yearnings among Sephardic Jews. His grandfather was a friend of RabbiYehudah Alkalai, a Zionist precursor. But Herzl addressed his vision to the Jews of Europe.

Shavit points out that the Holocaust destroyed that vision and changed the planned demographics of the new state of Israel. A lot of the initial immigration to Israel came from the Sephradi population, especially as the Arabs turned away from toleration to outright hostility. Those population numbers had a distinct impact on Israel's politics and societal views and Shavit points out that those effects are still present.

Shavit is a great writer and the book is very readable and fascinating to immerse yourself into. For non-Israelis, and Americans in particular I would recommend this book as a must read. It shatters a lot of myths-and that is a good thing. Americans need to understand Israel as it really is, not as they think it it is.




The final book I have been reading off and on is a return to one of my favorite writers and historians, Arthur Schlesinger. A while back I read his collection of letters and posted a review.  Subsequently his journals have been published. They are much more candid than his letters and his insights into many of today's political figures when they were younger are amazing to read.Schelsinger is a great writer and I particularly got some great satisfaction out of his description of Charles Krauthammer. It is simply priceless as it points out what a slug Krauthammer really is, long before the rest of us really knew about him:

Last night I appeared on ABC's Nightline (Ted Koppel), leaving an entertaining dinner party given by Ahmed and Mica Ertegun for Irving Lazar. My combatant on the show was a fellow named Charles Krauthammer who writes particularly obnoxious neo-conservative trash for the New Republic and other right wing journals. His special line is that a mature power must understand the vital need for an imperial policy and for unfettered executive secrecy in the conduct of foreign affairs. He argues this line with boundless self-righteousness and sublime ignorance of American history. He is also, alas, a paraplegic, having dived into a waterless swimming pool. The joy of dealing with Krauthammer perhaps tempted me into undue vehemence. I have been trying to establish a new and more benign television personality. His performance was surprisingly feeble, and I was unnecessarily testy. Still, it gave me much satisfaction. [Political cartoonist] Jules Feiffer called this morning and said, "If Krauthammer were not already in a wheelchair, he certainly would be now after the pounding you gave him last night.

The puzzle is that there are people who take Krauthammer seriously as a deep thinker.

Those lines were written in 1986, long before Krauthammer sold his soul to the devil that is Fox News.  They remain as true today as they were then. Schlesinger saw his mediocrity long before the rest of us. 

Its a fantastic insight into a half century of history and well worth the time to read. The best part is, that because it is a journal, you can leave it and come back to it. That is what I have done for the last month. Whenever I have extra time, my old friend Arthur Schlesinger is there-thanks to the modern innovation that is Kindle.


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Jul 18 2015

The wrong people are winning

Well, now that really bad things are going on, its probably time for me to get back to work. I have a lot to say about a lot of things-but just can't seem to either find the time or the volition to address them. But I just wanted to point out a fact that most educated readers of the remaining sane blogs on the internet already knew:



My 10 years of blogging have proven that point back to me time and time again. Its been especially disheartening to watch the decline of so called "front running" milblogs become the kind of conservative cesspool that the Breitbart enterprise is known for. Ellen Pao is right to be jumping ship over at Reddit:

The Internet started as a bastion for free expression. It encouraged broad engagement and a diversity of ideas. Over time, however, that openness has enabled the harassment of people for their views, experiences, appearances or demographic backgrounds. Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet. But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning.

My own experience validates that , I can assure you. I like to think its been reasonably ok over here at my little place but we have had our run ins with moron set. It's been nothing to compare with some of the displays of lunacy that we have seen elsewhere though.

Take the tragic events of this weekend. Charles Pierce over at Esquire magazine, a real magazine with real editors and management, (something Tom Johnson has probably never had to deal with-more on that later), published a pretty reasoned piece on the shootings in Chattanooga. Pierce pointed out quite correctly that whatever the motive of the shooter, the insanely easy effort required to get guns in the United States did not help matters much.

Because he wrote eloquently and did not immediately jump in the cesspool of hatred, all the demons came swarming out of hell. 

As a regular reader at his place, I can assure you that the comments you see-especially in the last day are not typical of the kind of discussion that normally goes on at his place. There is a reason for that. In the general atmosphere of insanity that is prevailing in America after the horrific events in Chattanooga, it seems a certain percentage of our citizenry takes offense if you say anything but, "Kill Muslims! Kill more Muslims! Arms for every citizen"

And that is where a stellar specimen of humanity such as Tom Johnson comes in. 

Don't stay too long over there-just reading the comments will make you despair of humanity, or the fact that so many of my fellow citizens of the land of my birth are really tha f*cking stupid. 

He did accomplish his goal though. If you follow the link over to the Esquire piece you will see the hoards of really useless and stupid people commenting in a variety of useless and stupid ways. As Charles Pierce would say, "These people really are mole people".  For a minute there, I thought I had clicked the wrong link and had actually stumbled onto the useless idiots who write at The Federalist.

(When it comes to an overall level of douchbaggery, the folks at The Federalist are hard to beat. They take the conservative culture of victimhood to a whole new level. They, support Scott Walker after all-which is essentially the same as supporting Satan himself).

But the simple truth is that it gets worse. One cannot have a dissenting viewpoint anymore-and you can be certain that no one , even if they disagree with you will talk about the specifics of an issue. If there is one legacy of Fox News and its tenure during the 21st Century, that is it.  You are not even allowed to get angry at them any more-although the President did try:




The President had the correct response to Major Garrett. "That's nonsense and you should know better!"

One reason I have not been writing as much as I used to, is my overall level of disgust at my fellow citizens who should know better, but throw themselves willy nilly into the lanes of stupidity. It's barely been 48 hours since the horrific events in Chattanooga, and the swill that passes for commentary on the internet is , to put it honestly, appalling. I lalready showed you some from the Town Hall Harlot, but actually if you peruse either Facebook or Twitter, its even worse. The level of ignorance and stupidity in the land of my birth is appalling. Digby provides some really bad examples for all the rest of us to see.




As Digby points out, "Sadly, that thinking represents a majority of the Republican Party."

And indeed it does. She then goes on to point out an annoying little fact that bears repeating just like Pierce did:

If we were to compare our most recent mass murders (we have so many) and the reactions to them, ask yourself whether or not anyone was clamoring to punish Dylan Roof's family. Or round up all the white supremacists and put them in jail. No, there was a clamoring among some Americans to pull down the confederate flag from official buildings. And it's astonishing, when you think about it, that such a flag was even flying or that people were defending it — the same people, no doubt, who are clamoring for this family to be deported (or worse.) 

I noticed that while we don't know at this point the motives of the Chattanooga shooter, it's crystal clear what Dylan Roof's were — to start a race war. And yet the media is having no trouble calling Chattanooga suspected terrorism. The head of the FBI says he's just not sure about Dylan Roof. It seems too obvious now, if it didn't before, that the term is only applied to Muslims. 

Charlie Pierce has it right — this is about America and our love affair with violence.   I had been under the impression that the right had made its peace with that as the price we pay for the freedom to be armed to the teeth at all times.  But that's not true.  They are very philosophical about the consequence of violence when it's perpetrated by white people, to be sure. It's just a fact of life like summer storms and earthquakes.  But they get very, very angry when a racial or ethnic minority does it. There's some sick white privilege for you.



This is your democracy America. Enjoy it while you still can.

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Jun 19 2015

With clockwork precision

A mass shooting happens in America every three to four months or so. Charleston, home of my beloved alma-mater, took its turn in the barrel yesterday.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, S.C., killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.

At a news conference with Charleston’s mayor early Thursday, the police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

“It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church while they are having a prayer meeting and take their lives,” he said.

The police said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 9 p.m. and began shooting.

Eight people died at the scene, Chief Mullen said. Two people were taken to the Medical University of South Carolina, and one of them died on the way.

“Obviously, this is the worst night of my career,” Chief Mullen said. “This is clearly a tragedy in the city of Charleston.”

And with equal predictability will be the cycle of excuses, recriminations and most disturbingly the Fox News deflection of the real blame for these events. Tired old shibboleths about the intent of the Founding Fathers in writing the 2nd Amendment will be trotted out out for the 989th time. Real change however? Just     NOT    GOING   TO   HAPPEN. This is the mediocrity America accepts as the cost of "freedom".

Freedom? Really?  How about the freedom for the rest of us to be able to conduct the daily transactions of society without fear of being shot by some lunatic?

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible. Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire. What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization. Which is what you see above. And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

Nope, No, No sirree Bob. Because, "Murica!". Second Amendment. Protect against tyranny in government. Pick you own sick and twisted metaphor.

Nothing ever changes.

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one–really no one–anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life….

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country–Canada, Norway, Britain–has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do–as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.


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Apr 29 2015

Never placing the blame where it belongs……..

Published by under Bush Buffoonery,Iraq

Over at another blog, there is yet another tired old rendition of the refrain, "The surge worked-and Obama pissed it all away."  Its a tiresome song that gets played over and over again, and the usual suspects will shout, "hear, hear". Now I do understand it, I do recognize that a lot of people believe it. There is just one big problem-they are completely wrong:

We fought in a war with no discernible outcome. If one were forced to label what we see, it would have to be called a failure because the job was half done. We won in Iraq before we lost. We fought to win, but the gains we made were abandoned for one man's vision of a superpower-less world. All gave some, sure, but some gave a hell of a lot more. Yet, after the blood has dried and the wounds are scarred-over, what was earned? What was saved? What was gained or lost? We are right to ask, "Why?" 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I wonder. Perhaps some can see it merely as a temporary job in a longer career, but I can't. People died because of what I did. Real human beings who no longer live and breathe. This wasn't some drunk driving accident; it was for a purpose … and now, it wasn't. 

"I support the troops, but not the war," is an equivocation that led to the asinine withdrawal and squandering of the gains … and therefore the lives and health of those who were hit.

This supposed ambivalence wasn't support at all. It was a socially correct door, left ajar so that those sacrifices could be made to mean nothing in the end… for convenience sake.

This country can retroactively reduce the value of your effort, your pain and even your life to zero without batting an eye. Our own countrymen do it, and they do it selfishly. They want safety, security, but they are unwilling to pay for it. Certainly not with their blood, sweat and tears; not even with their wallets.

Three points:

1) It is perfectly possible to support the troops and not the war-especially when you recognize that from day 1, as I did, the war was a huge mistake. The fact that one is powerless to stop the madness, does not prevent one from wanting it to be all over-and voting for someone who promises to do that. We didn't "squander" success in Iraq-we allowed the real enemies many years to advance past us. Which BTW, is not the same as wanting a "superpowerless world". It is, however recognizing, that a stupid decision made in 2002 had disastrous consequences. The multi-polar world was willed into existence on March 19, 2003 and all the post hoc whining about what you think Obama gave away is not going to change that. George Bush wasted 4,439 American lives for nothing. Stating it any other way is avoiding the truth.  And here is another news flash- the United States is powerless to stop the rise of the multi-polar world. Need to know why? Go ask George Bush.

2) Not once, not once,(and this is a big point)  does the author EVER put the blame for failure where it belongs-on the worthless Arabs of Iraq themselves, who have had 12 years to make something of their worthless country and have failed miserably at every turn. They were worthless Arab scum in 2003 and they remain so now. Certainly they were never worth the sacrifices made on their behalf. We tried, that is to be sure, but the "seed corn" we were working with was never up to the task of making a democracy.  We got empire with all of the burdens and none of the perks. The surge did not succeed-it failed miserably, at great cost, because it never achieved the political breathing room and conciliation that was envisioned. A whole lot of people told Bush at the time it would fail-and thus he deserves all of the blame.  Invading Iraq was the fundamental mistake-the rest were just attempts to put a bandage on a bad idea.

3) By wasting a trillion dollars on Iraq, the US set it self up for failure on a whole bunch of other fronts-including its own economy. If you supported the war, but did not support raising the revenue to pay for it, then you have NO RIGHT to complain about deficits, ever.  Its a hypocritical position and its truly maddening to hear this logic over and over again, even when the facts tell us otherwise.

The simple truth is that the folks who want to place the failure in Iraq solely on Obama, are not really concerned about stating the facts. The American people acted correctly in 2006 and 2008 by showing their disgust with the stupidity of a worthless war for worthless people. Leaving a residual force behind might have delayed by the current crisis by temporarily restraining Iraqis’ sectarian impulses. However, given political realities in Iraq and the U.S.., Americans couldn’t have stayed there indefinitely.

4,439 Americans dying for nothing bothers me too. But at least have the decency to place blame for that waste of life where it belongs. On the Iraqi people themselves. 


And because of those realities, the surge ultimately failed because the goal of true political reconciliation was unrealistic. In most of the world, sectarian, ethnic, linguistic and/or tribal allegiances run deep, which is why most of the world’s most stable democracies are found in relatively homogeneous societies. That being said, sectarian identities become pathological when a brutal dictator from the minority faction spends decades ruling over and terrorizing the majority population. No foreign power invaded Syria, and it is in worse shape than Iraq.

No residual force could rewire the Iraqis, and thus leaving one behind would just have delayed the inevitable.

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Apr 14 2015

Stateside things.

Well its day 2 on the other side of the Atlantic. Waking up in a hotel upper floor and having to make myself ready to go work and not having the usual things around. In an acknowledgement to advancing years, I went to bed last night at 10:40pm. My younger self would have me beaten with an empty Yingling bottle.

But then again, I am waking up at about 6 each morning-which means its about 8 hours sleep for the night. Which hopefully will keep me from falling asleep in boring meetings.

I am enjoying getting to listen to NPR at its "real" time. Instead of having to down load Podcasts and replay the following day.

Marco Rubio joined the growing crowd on the clown car that is the ranks of GOP hopefuls who want to become President. I found his rationale for running interesting-and it was appalling to see the softball questions he was thrown this morning on the morning shows. For example when asked why he was running he went into his usual spiel about how he was running to restore the American dream. He was asked a question, about his reasons for running and his response went along the lines of, "blah blah blah, American Dream, and American has rich people and anyone can achieve what these people have done. 'America is great because non rich people can own houses and build a life her'".   

Which was fine, except as with all the GOP nominees the details are in the fine print of what they say they believe. Take Mr. Rubio. He wants Americans to be able have a home, a car, and life. But what the interviewer failed to ask him was the important follow up question: " How do you propose to help Americans to do this when, for example, you say you want to strip millions of those Americans of health insurance, by repealing the ACA and allowing insurance companies to go back to screwing them."  They did not ask him the all important question of what was his alternative? Then in a segue, they should have asked this follow up: Senator, "how would address the fact that increasing numbers of them are not allowed to enter the housing market because their wages are stagnant and their buying power is less than it was last year?"

This is what galls me about most of the media, they don't sake hard nosed questions-primarily because they are slaves to their corporate masters. And corporate masters don't like their ability to screw average Americans out of millions of dollars to be effectively challenged.

And then there is the weird history Rubio would prefer you ignore:

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine asked Rubio about this; here was the exchange:

After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.

From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.

But it's not a Jeb Bush creation. It's a Poppy Bush creation — it's a preppy in-joke of his. As Timothy Noah explained in 2012, Bush the Elder used to say "unleash Chiang" while playing tennis, as "partly an expression of sincere competitive spirit and partly a self-mocking acknowledgment that he had what his daughter Doro Bush Koch, in a memoir, lovingly describes as 'a bit of a weak serve.'"

And note that the proper spelling of the name isn't Chang — it's Chiang,as in Chiang Kai-shek, who was the exiled leader of the anti communist Chinese in the Mao era. Poppy was mocking anti-communists in America who wanted to "unleash Chiang" in order to topple the mainland Chinese government. As Noah wrote:


Unleashing Chiang would not have been a good idea because Chiang could not win (he'd already been whupped once by Mao's army) without the U.S. dropping a few atom bombs on mainland China, and perhaps not even then. (You'll recall we had a hard enough time with the Chinese in Korea.)

When Rubio discussed "Chang" with the Times interviewer, Noah chided him for not understanding the history behind the reference:

This blog gives Rubio an F in post-World War II history….

Since Doro knows its real provenance, I assume Jeb must, too. Rubio clearly does not.

But I'm with Brad DeLong, who thinks Jeb didn't get it:

… George H. W. Bush’s sons — even the smart one, Jeb — never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”

Precisely — Jeb took a joke about conservative zealotry and turned into a celebration of conservative zealotry.

It is going to be a long 18 months.



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Apr 03 2015

Coming full circle

Back in 2008, I wrote two posts about the subject of gay marriage, coming down rather firmly against the idea. The recent events in Indiana, coupled with the rather disturbing efforts of people like David Green to enforce their screwed up views of right and wrong have now convinced me that I was wrong and need to change my mind. Now mind you, I am really not a fan of any marriage, gay or straight-so completely useless is the institution in my humble opinion-but if we do have this screwed institution than who am I to care about sleeps with who and who marries who.  Watching the actions of that bag of hammers,  Mike Pence, made me a believer that I was on the wrong path.

Its especially a sweet revelation because it places me in firm opposition to others who should know better.

(By the way, prior to putting up that post-there was a Diversity Thursday post up taking the Secretary of the Air Force to task for something she should be taken to task for. But interestingly, in the comments, the supposedly egalitarian and oh so welcoming (sic) "front porch" got well and truly trolled by a commenter who brought up more than a few unpleasant truths, that caused them to have a collective fit. Kind of makes me wonder what the real reason for taking the post down was. A change of heart or not liking someone not backing down to the collective bullying that can go on in the comments section? Alas the post is down so we will never know).

But back to Indiana. 

I question the need to pass a law entitled "Religious Freedom Restoration". What, exactly, are they trying to restore? Is there something preventing the citizens of Indiana from going to church where they want? Are people not being allowed to voice their opinions? The answer to both questions is no-especially if one reads the garbage that passes for commentary over at say: The Federalist, Red State, or the Town Hall Harlot. Regrettably free speech, such as it were, is alive and well in those cesspools of humanity. "What problem are they really trying to resolve here?". Certainly its not about fixing gay marriage-its already legal in the state. 

As we saw in the Hobby Lobby case this is about one particular area, the outrage that a certain percentage of America feels when they can't dictate to others what they can and cannot do in life, by using the leverage of economics to hit them over the head. Hobby Lobby was trying to avoid his lawful responsibility as an employer. Indiana was trying to pass a feel good piece of legislation in order to allow discrimination, legal discrimination,  by zealots who were not content to leave a firewall in place between one's personal beliefs and one's public obligations.

The Indiana law was and is particularly egregious because as originally written it was designed to empower that type of discrimination. While not a license to discriminate-it does set the boundaries of the legal recourse against it:

These laws are instructions to courts on how to assess claims for religious exemptions to a wide variety of law. In general terms, they lay out (1) who can use the law; (2) what kinds of cases it will apply to; and (3) what standard the court will use to decide whether the claimant has a right to an exemption.

In two of these areas, the Indiana law as enacted and signed is broader than the federal RFRA or most other state laws. It provides religious protection to more businesses than the federal statute does, even after the Hobby Lobby case; and it explicitly provides a defense in actions between private parties, such as, let’s say, discrimination suits (the federal statute is silent on this issue, and federal courts are split). Beyond that, it allows businesses or individuals to challenge legal actions even before they happen—if they are “likely” to happen.

So when the “fix” is finally unveiled, read it carefully. And for a crash course in what shouldn't be there, look at the Arkansas religious-freedom bill that Gov. Hutchinson refused to sign on Wednesday. This bill makes the Indiana law look like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It begins with this reassuring finding: “It is a compelling governmental interest to comply with federal civil-rights law." But consider that federal civil-rights laws currently do not protect against discrimination by sexual orientation; the “finding” is not part of the actual statute; and, most importantly, the Arkansas legislature does not have and never has had the slightest power to set aside or reduce the scope of any federal law. It’s as generous as a “finding” that “in Arkansas, light is given permission to travel at 186,000 miles per second.”

I've seen a lot of writers argue that by requiring people to deal evenly with all people in the market place it somehow makes them "accomplices" in sin they disapprove of. That's complete and utter crap. When you enter the commercial arena you enter a legal world where you must live by your corporate responsibilities. Unlike what Mitt Romney said- corporations are not "people too my friend"-and thus don't have "free exercise" rights.  As Charles Blow wrote in the NYT, "I would argue that when you enter the sphere of commerce in America — regardless of your “deeply held religious beliefs” — you have entered a nondiscriminatory zone in which your personal beliefs are checked at the register, and each customer is treated equally."

I mean really, if you as a hotel clerk rent a room to a couple wanting to revel in some adulterous sexual delights, does that make you a participant in the act? Certainly not. All you care about is whether their credit card transaction was approved and that they don't damage anything in the room. What they do inside that room is their business-not yours. 

It is refreshing to me to see certain corporations recognize that they cannot sit idly by on the sidelines while this type of things goes on. When Tim Cook, CEO of arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet speaks out publicly, may be it is time for the worthless idiots like Allahpundit and Erik Erikson to stop and listen. (By the way,  just being on the same side as these guys should make you examine your own positions carefully. ).

This is where we are coming to what really offends the conservative side. They hate seeing their own tactics being effectively used  against them. Indiana is being justifiably made to suffer consequences for its own stupidity-and people like Tim Cook are hitting these people in the one area that really matters to them and their beliefs-their money. I hope it continues and I hope it really comes to hurt Indiana. When you find yourself to the right of NASCAR, maybe, just maybe, you have gone a bit too far.


And, for those of you keeping score at home, the following is a partial list of the institutions that are more progressive and that make more sense on this issue than Mike Pence does.


Dan Quayle's Old Family Newspaper



The state of Arkansas

Which gets to the point I wrote 7 years ago, "-marriage, like it or not, s evolving. And it should evolve because its current construct, as well as the demographics of those who practice it,  are changing dramatically. And if there are people who “want to be childless and partner less”- well they have their place too……..But in the end, short of a radical return to the 50′s, its coming. How we really live with it will be another story. If it makes marriage and divorce laws evolve to ones based on fairness and not entitlement-well then I guess I’ll have to welcome that change."

And so I have. Keep up the pressure, you Godless heathens! You are always winning if Mike Pence is losing.

2 responses so far

Mar 22 2015

The Israeli election

I wanted to provide some commentary on the Israeli election. I think it's needed-especially when you read the trash that passes for informed commentary in American outlets. Right wing outlets are crowing about the election as a "rebuke" for President Obama and they are calling it a "landslide" election for Likud. None of these things are true.

It does prove yet again one of my key beliefs, however-when it comes to Israel, most Americans are completely clueless as to what the country is really like.

Let's dispel a few things right now, shall we?

First, it was not a "landslide"-the term has no meaning in Israeli politics. No party ever wins an out right majority of 61 seats, ever. Their system is not set up that way. It is designed to ensure proportional representation and to that extent, it succeeds, albeit at a tremendous cost.

To really understand the facts of the election, one needs to look very closely at three things: the distribution of seats in the Knesset, the make up of the smaller parties, and the demographics of each of the major Israeli cities.

With all the votes tallied here are the final results of the election (click to see correctly):


(Picture courtesy of Haaretz).

Definitely a definitive victory-but hardly a "landslide". Americans can be such idiots sometimes.

How did Netanyahu win and were the pre-election polls wrong?

The answer to the first question is that he won stealing votes from the other right wing parties and by indulging in what can only be described as crass race baiting.

Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed everyone’s worst fears about him when he launched a last-minute fear campaign on Tuesday, warning that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” — and proving that he is perfectly happy to win an election using racism. Depressingly, predictably, Bibi’s “the-Arabs-are-coming” bugaboo worked like a dream on the Israeli public, shoring up his base by swinging the right-wing vote toward him.

The answer to the second question is, no the polls were not wrong. ( despite what the commentary may believe-they weren't).

Go back and look at the graphic again. Bibi was very successful in convincing people that a vote for any other right wing party was a vote for the Left. And it worked. The Zionist Union, which is really just the Labor party by a new name, was not able to do the same thing on its side of the aisle, in part because of the back story of many of the smaller center left parties, but also in part because the Zionist Union misplayed that strategy-they assumed that the voters on the right would do the same. They didn't.

And that is where the race baiting comes in at the last minute. Its important to remember that Netanyahu veered sharply to the right in the last week, renouncing a stated Israeli position on peace and catering to the worst fears of many Israelis.


This reminds me of a chilling comparison to the United States during World War II. At the end of its prolonged fighting with Japan, the United States saw no way of ending the war other than by using its doomsday weapon, and proceeded to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which decided the outcome of the war. Can such a comparison be made? Then it was a weapon of mass destruction and here it was a surprising electoral victory by the incumbent prime minister. Though Netanyahu did not threaten Israelis with a bomb, he did not hesitate to use his own “doomsday weapon.”

First Netanyahu removed the safety pin from the doomsday weapon by disturbing the fragile equilibrium of Israeli society while inciting against half the population. In Netanyahu’s eyes, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni belong to the extreme left, working with Arabs to topple the Likud government. Voters for Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and especially Meretz were painted as potential conspirators with Arabs, the enemies of the state’s existence. We were supposed to believe that anyone voting for them would strengthen the link between the terrible left and the Arabs seeking Israel’s destruction.

On Election Day the weapon itself was trotted out. It wasn’t politicians to the right of Likud, like Lieberman or Baruch Marzel, but Netanyahu himself who began warning voters of massive Arab participation. His assistants talked of a three-fold increase in the number of Arab voters in comparison to previous elections. Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens were depicted by the prime minister as illegitimate, as a force from whom the right needs to be saved. Herzog, a Zionist with moderate positions, was portrayed as an extreme leftist who is collaborating with the Arabs to disrupt the Jewish-Zionist character of this country.

This weapon vanquished the enemy, but left the country bleeding and riven.


You have to remember that 4 smaller Arab parties banded together to form The Joint List. This was in direct response to an initiative of Avigdor Lieberman's, which raised the threshold for getting into the Knesset from 2 to 3.25% of the vote. It backfired on Lieberman-but it forced the Arab parties to make a choice: unite or be crushed individually. It worked for them-they are now the third largest party in the Knesset, but it also allowed Likud to target them as a group.

By taking to Facebook and the airwaves and stating that "the Arabs are coming out in droves-driven by NGO's", it swayed about 200,000 undecided voters. ( left unsaid was the implication that those NGO's were filthy leftists or worse).

It worked spectacularly.

Not everything is about you Americans.

American commentators, especially our buffoons on the conservative side of the aisle, are jumping up and down about how it "shows up Obama". It really does not. The opinion of the United States had nothing; let me repeat that,  NOTHING to do with the results of the election. Conservative buffoons tend to overestimate their influence anyway, but more importantly, the results of the election are not related to an invitation the Speaker of the House had no right to issue.

Americans would do well to remember, that when it comes to Israel-it is all about Israel. When you have been shot at, it tends to shape your perspective:

Despite the extensive media attention to Israel’s economic woes and social gaps, the security situation — mainly its implications for Israelis’ personal safety — remains the major consideration on Election Day.

It has been this way since the first intifada and the Oslo Accords. Here Netanyahu leads by a wide margin — the same Netanyahu responsible for the housing crisis and whose problematic personal conduct became a media mainstay in recent months.

It seems that the occupation’s moral and political implications, despite the myriad of articles published in Haaretz, aren’t the Israeli voter’s main concern. Security risks concern him much more, and this angst is well founded.

The cumulative impression is that most voters adopt the right’s conclusions on the security front — the responsibility for the negotiations freeze lies with the Palestinians too, not just with Israel — and the chances of resolving the conflict are slim at the moment. Plus the Palestinians are no longer the most burning issue in the Middle East. Even if a divine miracle quickly resolved the conflict, it wouldn’t erase the other threats.

After four years of turmoil in the Arab world, with collapsing states and deranged terror groups spitting distance of Israel’s borders, voters are concerned. Most of them, despite Netanyahu’s drawbacks, think he knows better how to deal with those threats.

"Twas always thus, and Twas always ever shall be"  . Which leads into the second major point of the election: The Zionist Union may have had a good and logical message, it can't sell it outside of Tel Aviv and Haifa:

Zionist Union got the highest number of votes in 28 of the country's 33 wealthiest towns, while Likud enjoyed a decisive majority among Jewish local authorities in the middle- to lower-middle-class range; in 64 of these 77 towns, Likud came in first.

The Central Bureau of Statistics divides Israeli communities into 10 deciles based on variables like per capita income, the number of new cars, the percentage of students, the ratio of residents to unemployment, and more.

Segmenting the voting by socioeconomic levels reveals a major and probably decisive difference between Likud and Zionist Union; the former got lots of votes in wealthier communities, but the latter did very well almost solely in those richer areas.

There is probably some truth that secular center-left oriented Israelis are deluding themselves that their message is getting equal time when you have a country that is split into progressive Zionists and the living, ruling heirs of Meir Kahane. For the long term that is probably the most disturbing thing about the election, is the implications of what it means for the democratic Zionist vision of Israel's founders.

The threats to Israeli democracy are not crude or obvious: the media is free, voting is clean, there is vibrant debate. But there are more subtle issues that should cause real concern. Four problems, in particular, need watching. First, the continued settlement of occupied Palestinian land. Second, proposed laws to enshrine Israel as a Jewish state. Third, Israel’s increasing estrangement from western democracies. Finally, the intolerance and intimidation of those who question the national consensus on security and terrorism.


One of the main arguments for embracing a two-state solution to the Palestinian question has always been that formal annexation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank, as well as being illegal, would threaten Israel’s Jewish identity. The demographics of a “one-state solution” would mean Jews would make up only a narrow majority in such an expanded “Greater Israel”.


Despite this, an increasing number of voices on the Israeli right are open about their desire formally to annex parts of the West Bank. Faced with a choice between land and democracy, they seem inclined to choose land.

You can see this in the rhetoric that is present in some Israeli news outlets. Sheldon Adelson's abomination of a news paper, Israel Hayom ( Israel today) is pretty blatant about its right wing sympathies and support for people like Nafatali Bennett who combine expansionist aspirations with religious rhetoric ("There is no room in our small but wonderful God-given tract for another state,” Bennett said in a speech that stressed Israel’s Jewish religious heritage as a cornerstone of its society. “It won’t happen. Friends, before every discussion on the territories, we need to declare: ‘The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.’ Only then can we start the debate.”)

Israelis hate comparisons to apartheid South Africa, but more and more the similarities are hard to ignore-at least with respect to the rights of Arabs inside the occupied territories.  The rhetoric of Israelis and Afrikaners is starting to be a mirror image of each other. That in the long term threatens the egalitarian ideal envisioned by Ben Gurion and others.

So very well then, what should the US do about the results of the election?

First of all, it has to accept it. And then make an honest assessment of what fights are really worth picking. This is where I have to sadly conclude that the President is being sorely led astray by whoever is advising him to "pressure" Israel at this particular juncture. Its a mistake and will blow up in his face.

I am an Obama supporter, but this is really stupid. The President is being poorly advised here. When the results were announced he should have sucked it up, called Netanyahu and congratulated him, then made a public statement that whatever our private disagreements,  support for Israel is going to continue. It would help with politics at home-and recognize that like it or not,  this is the government of Israel. Obama is blowing it.

No one has to tell me what a pain in the ass the Israelis are to deal with-I live that dream every month. And truth be told-a big part of that comes from the fact that we have enablers, like the misguided freaks of the evangelical community who give the Israelis a free pass on activities they shouldn't. And we have enablers in Congress who can't tell any Israeli "no"-even when that is the correct answer. 

But that's exactly the problem Obama faces. To openly pick a fight with Netanyahu now, is to poison his efforts at winning what ever domestic victories he can with this current Congress full of nut cases. And in the end-it won't accomplish anything for the Palestinians , for not the least of reasons their problems are actually back burner now compared to those of Syria and Iraq and the mess our foolish invasion of Iraq created.

A lower public profile and more subtle methods would do both sides a big favor. Not to mention that picking a fight on behalf of the Palestinians simply puts rhetoric in the minds of the mouth breathers who still think Obama is a secret Muslim. The last thing the US needs is more teabaggers on the front page in the election year next year.

Not to mention that the Palestinians themselves have made some really boneheaded mistakes. Especially the radicalized loons living in Gaza with their rockets. This is not time to be climbing up on the moral high ground now.

In summary I will remind you what I think most Americans, and conservative Americans in particular forget-Israel is not like the United States.  It is a land of an eastern tradition, more similar to its Arab neighbors than it realizes-and in the aggregate, is not really as nice a place as they would have you believe it is. Imagine a United States where Mennonites actually constituted a powerful political block. They use language differently than we Americans do-and they don't view the world in a rational sense at all. And that is what got Bibi re-elected.

"The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center. When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses? Is Aipac, the Israel lobby, now going to push for a one-state solution on Capitol Hill? How many Democrats and Republicans would endorse that?






One response so far

Dec 30 2014

The tragedy of the American Military

James Fallow's of The Atlantic magazine has written a must read, thought provoking article, on the current state of civil-military relations. It is a long read, but it is well worth your time. In it, he highlights the real hypocrisy of a country that fawns over its military to the point of idolatry, yet allows its elected leadership to condemn them to unending and repetitive deployments and wars that accomplish nothing in the national interest, get a lot of fine young men killed and wounded for nothing, and insulates itself from understanding the true cost of the wars they so cavalierly cheerlead.

Outsiders treat [the US military] both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.

In the body of the article he highlights what many in the military will private admit, and is a subject I have written about many times here; the fact that a lot of the military's problems are not caused by its political leadership-its self induced pain that comes from some very flawed policies by the perfumed princes that now inhabit the 3 and 4 star ranks of the services. This is especially true in the area of acquisition, which can't seem to buy anything efficiently and where warfighters are treated as persona non grata. Instead we see people who have been the acquisition community their entire careers ( like a certain director of a major DOD agency a couple of years ago) who could not lead or for that matter purchase anything either.

America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat. We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. This leaves us with expensive and delicate high-tech white elephants, while unglamorous but essential tools, from infantry rifles to armored personnel carriers, too often fail our troops.

At this point the letters, LCS, should be coming into your mind. Fallows picks on the F-35 which is a fine target, but in reality all of the services have their own boneheaded procurement decisions and the Navy is no exception. The American people no longer look at their military in an objective vein, recognizing both its successes and flaws-and even worse, personnel within the military seem all too willing to buy into their own hype holding themselves out as supermen who are above the level of the civilians they so ably serve. One has only to go some of the major military blogs and read the swill that passes for a comment section. Besides making you despair about the mental ability of a certain segment of the human race, it proves the incongruity that one of Fallows' readers quite accurately pointed out. They rail with fervor about issues they know nothing about.

I am an [post-Vietnam era] West Point grad. Resigned after 5 years.

Your article is spot on. I often wonder what the rest of the world thinks of us when at each major sporting event, we have fly overs of fighter planes, B-52s, Apache helicopters and legions of troops getting awards at halftime.

I see in my classmates a total divorce from civilian reality. They live in a rarefied world where they are the only ones who are honest, law abiding, and religious.

They totally disdain social welfare programs as they receive health benefits to death, commissary privileges, and pensions. In their view, civilians are not worthy of these programs.

It is a dangerous slope we are on where we worship the troops, have no clue what they do, or why, and as along as we don't need to know, we are happy.

I hope your article stirs discussion. I fear it won't. The coup may in fact be coming.

 The incongruity, and to put it bluntly, hypocrisy,  of those who are vocally speaking out against other people having benefits that improve their lives, while at the same time enjoying some of the best benefits available from any employer is indeed rich. But don't try telling them that-they are special people. Don't you know that? So long as you agree with them, that is. Others of us, who served longer and equally as well but have arrived at different conclusions-get cast out into the outer darkness.

It's a dangerous phenomenon, and the ideas of people like John Nagl who defend the idea of a "Praetorian Guard" are troubling to me. Nagl thinks that because the troops "know what they are signing up for……..They are proud to do it, and in exchange they expect a reasonable living, and pensions and health care if they are hurt or fall sick. The American public is completely willing to let this professional class of volunteers serve where they should, for wise purpose. This gives the president much greater freedom of action to make decisions in the national interest, with troops who will salute sharply and do what needs to be done.”

You should be very afraid when you hear that-at least if you believe in the concept of a democracy that serves the citizens of the country. Too much history shows us where this can lead if we are not careful. Cue Fallows again:

I like and respect Nagl, but I completely disagree. As we’ve seen, public inattention to the military, born of having no direct interest in what happens to it, has allowed both strategic and institutional problems to fester.

“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”

Shall I remind you of the things that "have needed to be done" that have been done in your name, like torture and warrantless wiretapping? Just a couple in a long list of abuses aided and abetted by the members of that "Praetorian Guard". The problem of the civil- military disconnect is real and dangerous.

In the end of the article, Fallows turns to the recommendations in a never before published memo from Gary Hart which is also worth your time to read.  I will comment on those in a post after the first of the new year.

Many of you will not like Fallows term "chicken hawk"-but he's right on the mark in my humble opinion. The United States wasted the first 15 years of the new century going down foreign policy ratholes. And big part of that is because the American people are insulated from the sacrifices and the true costs of the policies they casually cheerlead. Fallows is doing a national service in pointing that out and I applaud him for it.

For the first time in the nation’s history, America has a permanent military establishment large enough to shape our dealings in the world and seriously influence our economy. Yet the Americans in that military, during what Dunlap calls the “maturing years of the volunteer force,” are few enough in number not to seem representative of the country they defend.

“It’s becoming increasingly tribal,” Dunlap says of the at-war force in our chickenhawk nation, “in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.”

4 responses so far

Dec 24 2014

Jim Webb for President?

Published by under Politics

One could only hope. I have been a Webb fan for a long time in both political parties. Not just because he was on the right side of the "women at the Academy" debate in 1979-but because he has criticized well, the rather boneheaded decisions we have made in recent years.

The Washington Post speculates how Webb could make Hillary Clinton's life difficult:

WASHINGTON — THE conventional wisdom is that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be almost impossible to dislodge from the Democratic presidential nomination and that even if she does encounter some hiccups, they will come from her left flank on economic policy. But if Mrs. Clinton runs, she may face a serious and very different threat: her own foreign policy record. While she can pretty much split the difference with any primary opponents on economic policy, the divisions over foreign affairs could be a lot harder to paper over for Mrs. Clinton, who has been tacking to the right on Iran, Syria and Russia in anticipation of Republican assaults during the general election.

This is why it isn’t really the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren who should worry the Clinton camp. It’s the former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam War hero, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, novelist and opponent of endless wars in the Middle East. Late last month, Mr. Webb formed an exploratory committee. “He’s a very long shot,” Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “He has to become a serious candidate. At that point she would find him much more complex than dealing with liberals. He’s not a liberal, but a lot of what he says might appeal to liberals. He does not get carried away by humanitarian intervention.”

One response so far

Dec 23 2014

It is time for the airing of the grievances.

It is the 23rd of December and we all know what that means. It's time to break out the Festivus pole.

And it is time to break out the airing of the grievances.




And let me tell you, this year I have lots of them. With a lot of people. One reason I am not able to blog much anymore, besides the hectic schedule I am now keeping is that underneath it all, emotionally, I am tired. I am tired of what passes for knowledge in the blogosphere-such as it is-these days.

Take this complete bit of mental stupidity from the Phibian. He is referring to Barak Obama and a completely flawed push poll done by Navy Times

He threw away what we won in IRQ, it slowly back filling that mistake and is doing the same in AFG after a half decade of advertising retreat … so yea.

It is a tired old trope, and worse yet, there is no truth to it whatsoever. Phibian continues to defend our misadventures in these two particular hell holes-and this is spite of the rather significant shift in opinion by the folks who were charged with executing both of these mistaken foreign policy adventures. Let's be clear, the war in Iraq was a huge mistake and the only people who "threw any thing away" was the Iraqi people themselves. As I said, any other viewpoint is just plain wrong and should be meet by a cheery, "fuck you". Same is true in Afghanistan.  "Ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," [President Obama] said, "We can't do it for them."

Now that does not excuse us from the horrendous mistakes we made-most important of which was starting the damn war in the first place.

The view of the Iraq hawks – from liberal interventionists, such as his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to neo-conservatives, such as his former Republican presidential opponent John McCain – is that the US and its principal allies Britain and Australia bear little or no responsibility for the disaster unfolding across Iraq.

In their eyes, it is Obama's fault for either failing to intervene in the Syrian civil war in 2011-13 or withdrawing US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

It is argued that by failing to authorize air strikes on Damascus and arm the rebellion against Assad's regime during the early stages of Syria's civil war, the administration created a strategic void for the extremist Islamists to exploit ruthlessly. Meanwhile, the "premature" decision to pull US forces out of Baghdad helped scuttle the semblance of sectarian peace that the Americans had brokered following the president Bush's surge of US troops in Baghdad in 2007.

Both accounts are wrong.

Start with the latter. It is true that the end of the American presence in Iraq nearly three years ago helped remove all that was keeping the sectarian rivals in check. But it is also true that the Bush administration in October 2008 pledged to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.

Remember, too, that during lengthy negotiations on keeping US forces engaged in Baghdad, the Iraqi government – representing a clear majority of Iraqis (not to mention its sponsors in Tehran) – demanded all remaining Americans would be subject to Iraqi law. This refusal to provide the same kind of guarantees that every nation offers to residual US forces was a condition to which no US government would agree.  

Moreover, the president's withdrawal of US troops from a widely unpopular war by the end of 2011 fulfilled an election mandate. To this day, a clear majority of Americans don't think the original decision to invade was worth it, nor do they support a major intervention today.

Phib, being a surgeaholic, wants desperately to cling to the myth that decision to invade Iraq actually achieved anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, the body of evidence-and,  regrettably the loss of 4, 486 American lives for nothing-tells us otherwise.

Which leads us to his snarky analysis of the poll. It is probably true that by and large the military would prefer a more conservative President. But his summation that the troops loved Bush and hate Obama, is not supported by the facts-or the details of the Navy Times poll. By and large many troops ( and there is a big difference by age and time in service) support his policies , even if they don't support the man. Furthermore, Bush may have talked a good game about how much he loved the troops-but in truth his decisions were bad for the military and no amount of rose colored thinking can change that.  Certainly it is not loving the troops when you squander a lot of lives. The most accurate data we have are on U.S. military casualties: 6,648 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, a large majority of the deaths occurring under Bush's presidency. So spare me the "Bush cared, Obama doesn't" nonsense. When you send people to die for nothing, you are an uncaring, unfeeling,  son of a bitch. And that's what Bush did overall. He squandered the first 8 years of the 21st century.

What Phibian's post and more importantly the Navy Times poll does do is allow the service members to avoid blaming the real source of most of their problems, the uniformed leadership itself, from the consequences of some pretty bad decisions. If you read the comments on the post-for the most part they back up what I am saying ( as well as make you despair of the humanity of these people)-they can't bring themselves to talk in facts and numbers, just tired old tropes that were proven false a long time ago.

Furthermore, the military tends to grade itself on a curve as LTG Bolger pointed out, holding a higher opinion of it self than is probably warranted. Its a special kind of conceit and stupidity to think that simply, had a Republican been in office, things would be better for the military. Given the current state of the economy and the currently stated economic policies of the current front runners in the GOP it would have been equally as bad. But they would have certainly been deployed more and more of them would be dead. For nothing.

For me, that's the only thing that matters. Obama has brought our senseless participation in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. That's what I elected him to do and that's what he did. Too fucking bad if Navy Times readers don't like it. And trust me-a lot of people still don't love George Bush either. Thus endeth the rant for today.

One response so far

Dec 17 2014

Turns out I was right all along……

I have been saving my comment on the revelations of last week for a while. I wanted to think through my thoughts and also to read other peoples take on them. Probably what is most disturbing out of all the reactions are the statements from the really callous people who actual support the practice of torturing people. Of course Dick Cheney is unrepentant, that’s to be expected. As Jon Stewart quipped: “Dick Cheney is so mean, his own heart ran away from him.”  What’s truly depressing for me though, is to hear the ringing endorsements of the practice from the same people who will lecture me again and again on how the United States of America is “exceptional”.

I went back and looked through some of my old posts and I found one I wrote in June of 2008 right after the Supreme Court ruled that the US had to bring charges against GTMO detainees. At the time, the denizens of the zoo known as Lex’s commenting section went positively berserk at the notion that the United States should somehow have to abide by its own laws, if it is to have any credibility in the world.  I wrote this paragraph.

The contention that the prisoners in GTMO have no rights because they are persons without status, so called “unlawful combatants” is weak. If they have no rights why bother to bring them to GTMO? Shoot them on sight. We don’t do that because we want to show ourselves to the world as being above that type of brute force justice and in so doing prove ourselves better than those we fight-and who attacked the US in 2001. The people coming unglued because the Supreme Court agreed with that premise hang that whole thread on the fact that they are not worthy of legal considerations because they are not fighting on behalf of a state.

And they call me naive? GTMO as currently set up makes for bad law and for bad PR. Given that we claim we have extracted lots of intel from these guys-then we have probably more than enough evidence to convict-the argument that it will expose intelligence is just flawed from the start, we have ways to get that out with selling the farm. The situation at GTMO makes a hell of a publicity problem even with our allies. Even if people are not being tortured there, a significant portion of the world believes they are-and so our moral authority is undermined, even with those who agree with us. Furthermore when exposed to deep scrutiny-most of the claims that valuable intel has been compromised in terrorist trials has later been proven to be a false claim.

I wrote that back in June of 2008. Now, six and one half years later it has become readily apparent how right I was then. And it convinces me even more that I was right to condemn the reactionary positions then and take the side of those who criticize our actions now.

Consider how much damage we have done to ourselves and our arguments that we are of a higher “moral authority”.

In a civilized society, there really would be no debate over this. And before 9/11, there wasn’t. Ever since, this country has slid and then fallen out of the civilized world and out of the core American traditions of humanity and legal warfare. Krauthammer can be seen as emblematic of that slide – someone whose early abhorrence at torture and defense of it only in its mildest and rarest forms has slowly succumbed to a full-fledged defense of a program that violated every rule he said should be in place to protect us from the abyss. This is not surprising. When you start to torture, the sheer evil of what you are doing requires that you believe ever more in its value. You can never admit error, because it would mean you have committed crimes against humanity without even the defense of acquiring any useful intelligence. You are revealed as monsters – and you cannot accept that of yourself or of those you know. And so you insist – with ever-rising certainty – that the torture worked – even though that’s irrelevant as a matter of morality and of law, and even though your own internal documents prove that it didn’t.

And so you become the monster you were supposed to be fighting. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

One final point too. The people who have seized upon the idea that Diane Feinstein was some sort of renegade who had no business publishing the report is itself, a flawed conclusion. The report need to be published for one reason-the US needs to start the process of recognizing its complicity and guilt in the shameful episode in our history.

The torture report is simply the latest and most graphic incarnation of an existential leadership crisis that has eaten through Washington’s moral authority and ability to govern, in the way road salt and rust eat through car mufflers in a Buffalo winter. “America is great because she is good,” wrote Tocqueville back in the day. “If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” We’ve got a lot of explaining to do, not just to the rest of the world but to ourselves. How much longer will we countenance the post-9/11 national security state, which Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations remind us are constantly mutating into new forms and outrages?


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Nov 26 2014

The Hagel mess……

Listen up boys and girls, because contrary to the opinion of some ( and you know you are), I can , in fact, be critical of the President of the United States. And today is a good day to be critical of Mr. Obama, since just two days ago-he made a rather large blunder:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure on Monday after President Obama determined that he had to shake up his national security team in the face of escalating conflicts overseas and hawkish Republicans reasserting themselves on Capitol Hill.

It was a striking reversal for a president who chose Mr. Hagel two years ago in part to limit the power of Pentagon officials who had repeatedly pushed for more troops in Afghanistan and a slower drawdown of American forces from Iraq. But in the end, Mr. Hagel’s passivity and lack of support in Mr. Obama’s inner circle proved too much for an administration that found itself back on a war footing.

Aides said Mr. Obama made the decision to remove his defense secretary on Friday after weeks of rising tension over a variety of issues, including what administration officials said were Mr. Hagel’s delays in transferring detainees from the military prison in Guantánamo Bay and a dispute with Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, over Syria policy.

This is to put it as nicely as I can and to paraphrase Joe Biden, is "a big fucking mistake".

Lets start with the fact that, after the mid-terms where your party took a thumping in the mid-terms, it is a huge proclamation of weakness to chuck your SECDEF overboard and head into a new Congress spoiling for now 2, not 1 nasty confirmation fights. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Hagel could not seem to win. He has been both condemned as being too hawkish and not hawkish enough. Which is it? Plus how about acknowledging that protracted wars in the Middle East are an express ticket to nowhere.

 He was never a good fit as defense secretary, a fact that White House officials have belatedly discovered.But if those White House aides really want to know who to blame for recent stumbles in national security, they should look in the mirror. This administration's problems begin with its packing the White House staff with Hill rats and political hacks-one of the least intellectually diverse groups ever to lead the executive branch. They think the problem is what they say, not what they do. They are wrong. 

Meantime, there is going also to be a new head of the House Armed Services Committee. This doesn't matter. Congress has failed to ask serious questions about defense for the last 15 years or so. So reporters writing about the two Armed Services committees, please feel free to use your time more wisely. Here is a link for that.


Firing Hagel is not a solution, it is a symptom of a bigger problem-namely an inability to :1) communicate a strategy and get people behind it and 2) understand that the biggest threats to the US are not in the Middle East or from ISIS, they are from the guys who spent the last years sitting out the conflicts in the Middle East and getting stronger in the meantime. That's right. The Bear and the Dragon are still not our friends. The Grey Hair did not recognize it, and I am afraid the current White House does not either. And its just not smart not to have a relief lined up right away. Even when Rumsfeld went away-they already had Gates on tap. Doubly stupid.  Not that I am a fan of Flournoy because I am not. Mainly because she never served in uniform and that is an automatic disqualification as far as I am concerned.  It is troubling that the President has some good former flags that could be tapped. ( Stavirdis or Mattis come to mind)-but then we get back to that problem of too much stuff not being delegated down to Cabinet heads.

And thus we get this:


I have already pointed out how President Barack Obama's decision to replace Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel differs from the superficially similar decision by President George W. Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2006: Bush coupled the personnel shift with a thoroughgoing self-assessment and a resulting strategic shift. Bush's move was not just a change in personalities but a change in direction. (Bush also made other crucial personnel changes, most notably selecting General David Petraeus to lead the Iraq war effort, whereas the Obama administration has gone to some lengths to emphasize that there will be no other personnel changes on the national security team.)

Yet Obama's current personnel shuffle is different in another way that could prove almost as consequential: evidently President Obama fired Hagel without having a replacement lined up. When President Bush announced Rumsfeld's departure, he announced the nomination of Bob Gates at the same time. Obama has not yet named the replacement, and two of the most obvious front-runners, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and Sen. Jack Reed, have already pulled their names out of contention. The failure to nominate someone is not necessarily proof that the talent pool is shallow, but it is proof that the removal of Hagel was poorly planned and not well coordinated.


This a self created mess and it is a bad way to start 2015. GRRRRR!

One response so far

Nov 03 2014

Again it comes down to how many bother to show up

Published by under Hypocrites,Politics

Tomorrow is election day in the United States. Since I will be on my 5 year pilgrimage to the sacred soil in Charleston, I have already submitted my ballot via absentee. Fat lot of good it will do me, since my Senator is running unopposed ( thank you Citizens United and the inability of the state to have a two party system anymore). My worthless excuse for a Congressman is going to win in a walk thanks to his continuous sucking up to the demented folks in the tea party and and the governor has ensured that only he will be the guy to vote for in the election. This is what passes for constitutional governance in parts of the South today.  ( Meanwhile in New York, the GOP incumbent is under indictment, but is expected to win anyway).

Regardless,  be sure to vote. If nothing else it gives you a right to bitch.

By all odds the GOP will take control of the Senate which means the prediction I made way back in April of this year will start coming true. it ought to be a fun time to be one of the 10-15% of American citizenry that actually is sane and understands that the world we live in is changing. Sadly most of us understood too that the country was killing itself slowly a long time ago and began exploring other options.

But, for those of you stuck in the whining states of America next year ( as I may in fact be as well-at least for a couple of years) here is preview of the fun and games ahead:

In Kansas recently, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who’s in a tough race for reelection, made a statement that left me puzzled. “A vote for me is a vote to change the Senate back to a Republican majority, and we’ll get things done,” he said. “And it means a stop to the Obama agenda.”

Wait a minute, I thought. Which is it—ending the status quo of Washington gridlock? Or ratcheting up the gridlock by obstructing President Obama? You can't "get things done" in Washington without the president's signature, and no matter what happens in this year's elections, he's not going anywhere for another two years.

Yet these two seemingly contradictory messages are at the heart of Republican Senate campaigns across the country. I’ve heard them from candidate after candidate. And the paradox behind them gets to the question political watchers are increasingly pondering: If, as seems likely, Republicans take the Senate, what then? Will the GOP see its takeover as a mandate for ever more extreme partisanship? Or will the party suddenly turn conciliatory, ushering in a new age of progress? A new Republican Senate majority will put the party at a crossroads as it tries to reconcile these two competing promises.



I'm a total pessimist-I expect a war of vetoes and override battles to ensue and nothing will get done in 2015. I fully expect to be victimized by another government shut down, and my stocks to take a beating when we default on bond obligations.  There are those who think things may be different, I think they are fools:

But with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would be on the hook for Congress’s actions. They alone would get the blame if Congress remained dysfunctional—and they alone could claim credit if Congress actually passed bills with popular support. If Republicans passed such moderate, constructive legislation, Obama would be hard pressed to simply veto everything they put on his desk.

And of course we can never underestimate the desire to go "legacy shopping" on the part of Obama. " What scares me also is what Obama will agree to".

At least in the abstract, however, there are a number of bills a Republican majority could pass that Obama would agree to sign. Obama—the real Obama, not the left-wing warrior of conservative fever dreams—loves the idea of bipartisanship and has been frustrated by a GOP he sees as unwilling to come to the table. He has agreed in principle, in the past, to ideas like the grand bargain, which his base loathes. Liberals also suspect Obama is willing to allow the Keystone pipeline, a decision on which he has delayed in the face of intense pressure from environmentalists. Most liberals contemplating a GOP Senate majority have focused their preemptive ire on the image of a vengeful McConnell threatening more brinksmanship and shutdowns. But perhaps it’s the dealmaking McConnell they should fear more.

Some, in fact, are already worried about this. I recently asked a top Democratic strategist why he worried about a Republican Senate takeover when, after all, McConnell would still need Democratic votes to pass legislation and Obama could still block bills with a veto. “What scares me the most,” he said, “is what Obama will agree to."

In the meantime, your country will fall further and further behind in global competition that the rising multi-polar world will create.

This is your democracy America, the one your own stupidity created.

3 responses so far

Jun 12 2014

The real winner on Tuesday night.

Apathy, hypocrisy, laziness, sloth, selfishness, and greed. They are all still hung over from celebrating their victory on Tuesday night.

 Another election season in the United States has come and gone. This previous Tuesday, a series of primaries in the most reactionary,   southern states produced a variety of results. It is my purpose today, to set the rest some of the most ridiculous commentary from the thugs of the blogosphere. They of the “Tut tut-I am so superior” set, think they can take the opportunity to lecture the rest of us on how we don’t get it, along with the usual notes about limited government is better, and power should be returned to the states. There will be a cite of James Madison to prove this-even though when you actually research it, Mr. Madison had no use for any of their philosophy.

Let us start with the expected result. Lindsey Graham trounced 6 Teabag loons all of whom thought that it somehow made sense for South Carolina to jettison a Senator with a great deal of seniority, because they don’t think he is crazy enough. Of course this is South Carolina, a state that has not been in the mainstream of American thought since before 1861. The GOP voters there actually showed some sense by voting for Graham-and against my fellow wearer of the ring sending her packing as she so richly deserved.

Of course Nancy Mace was never in it to win-rather it was build a campaign organization, test the waters to see how many Citadel alumni really remember the true circumstances of her being the “first” woman to graduate the Citadel, and build contacts for a her real ambition:  to run for a Congressional seat in some back water district in Georgia or South Carolina where the deluded Teabag folks she so casually allied herself with reside.

Moving on, the shocker of the night was, of course, the loss of Eric Cantor in the Virginia 7th district. Now some of the usual hacks are out proclaiming how this proves the public is fed up with Washington ways somehow this shows that Cantor was out of touch with the American people. If so, then its hard to see how the guy that beat him is much of an improvement. David Brat is hardly a worthy person to be elected to a school board-much less to the United States Congress.  Despite his assertions that his victory was a “gift from God”, trust me I can assure that God had nothing to do with it. ( And if he did, it just shows how much God really hates the United States.).

I mean really, its not like Eric Cantor was some sort of beacon of moderation in American politics. By tossing him out the voters in Virginia basically said that, “we don’t really care about being able to accomplish anything, we just want someone who will reaffirm our intrinsic selfishness and stupidity. Phib says it is because Cantor became to aligned with “Washington”. I say, that is utter and complete nonsense.

You know why Cantor lost? Dollars and lazy, stupid, American voting habits. Let’s start with the latter first.

The 7th district in Virginia has 758,000 people in it. In 2012 about 381,000 of them voted, 223,000 of them voting for Cantor. (And probably for the Mittster too, who after all represents the same kind of elitism that both Cantor and Brat are examples of). Now fast forward to 2014. Only about 65000 people, out of a population over 10 times that number voted. And only 36000 voted for this religious , Ayn Rand loving whack job. That is barely 5% of the district’s population and certainly less than 10% of the districts total GOP registered population.

Now in today’s America, where 27% percent of the voting age population would vote for Satan if he were to actively campaign against Obama-aided and abetted by a set of media organizations that prey on the weak minded. (Glenn Beck supported Brat after all) it probably is not that hard to get 36000 motivated idiots    voters to get out and vote for a certified whack job.

The second set of numbers is the dollars that media rabble rousers spent to make sure the faithful voted against their own self interest. Worthless people like Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and the ever hate able Mark Levin. Drudge of course was right there-egging on its completely clueless readership.  The Teabag front group , Americans for Prosperity gave Mark Levin ( he really needs to be run over by a bus) 800,000 dollars to get the word out. And Brat himself appears to to owe his job to Cato Institute president John Allison.

Dave Brat, the guy who won yesterday, may have had a lower profile than Cantor, but as Salon's Jim Newell pointed out, prominent members of the right-wing demagogue community pulled out all the stops for Brat:

… it was hard not to notice this morning that Drudge, in the prime upper-left real estate of his site, had listed a full 14 links regarding immigration and a supposed impending push for "amnesty" among the House Republican leadership….

What gives on this sleepy Tuesday? …

Hmmm … maybe something about Tuesday … primary season … it's a Tuesday during primary season … Ohhhhhhhh, we get it: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary is today!

… The [Cantor-Brat] race hasn't gotten that much national media coverage, but it’s sure grabbed the attention of the prominent right-wingers who devote their entire lives to stopping comprehensive immigration reform. There's Drudge, of course. And Ann Coulter. And radio/TV personality Laura Ingraham, who recently suggested that the United States should have traded Eric Cantor to the Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl. And the writings and tweets of Mickey Kaus, now of the Daily Caller, have been indistinguishable from those of a Brat staffer in recent months.

Glenn Beck also backed Brat.

Taken together it paints a much different set of reasons for Cantors defeat. Lazy Americans, most of whom are too stupid to understand the seriousness of the issues at play, who can’t be bothered to get out and fulfill their one and only civic duty, combined with a relentless , agenda driven propaganda machine epitomized by my least favorite Canadian , Mark Steyn, and conspired to create a set of circumstances that have foisted this rancid sack of human excrement, David Brat,  on the government of the United States.

This is how low your democracy has fallen America.  This is what passes for “principles”  in the brave new world of our Gaultian overlords.

A note of clarification: This is not to debate, by the way, Phib's assertion that there are people who spend too many tours in DC. He's clearly right about that. But that's a simplistic explanation at its heart.  We have to ask ourselves why that is-a Navy gets what it rewards. And a Congress gets what it legislates. The Congress, your Congress,  has essentially been useless for the last 6 years, primarily, "[because] the primary bona fides for Republican members of the House of Representatives is how thoroughly you can refuse to do the job of governing, especially in the area of immigration, but also as regards the critical elements of the national economy. " The Navy can fix its DC problem anytime it wants to by setting board precepts that reward operational excellence. Congress could fix a lot of the Navy's problems by voting for straightforward revenue increases and supporting the effort to leave the wars behind us.

However, its not DC-or the fact that there are a lot of foreigners who want to live the American dream working there-that are at the heart of the American problem of today, nor is it a reason Cantor lost. The real problem dear Brutus is our American selves-and how lazy and stupid our populace chooses to be. Aided and abetted by some really evil people ( yes that's you Messer's Steyn and Hanson) who prey on that selfishness, that laziness and overall lack of comprehension-the results are not surprising.

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