Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bye Bye Benghazi

Does Anyone Want This Job?

Kevin Mac doesn't.

In a stunning move, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has withdrawn his candidacy for House Speaker.

GOP lawmakers said McCarthy told colleagues at the start of the conference Thursday that he was not the right person for the job. He recommended that the election be postponed and Speaker John Boehner delayed it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Syria Won't Go Away

They didn't learn from Afghanistan. But, what am I saying, we haven't learned anything from Afghanistan either.

If we're backing al-Qaeda, we shouldn't be there.

Putting up a link to this monograph from the Army War College that I haven't read yet. Don't want to lose it, tho.

My understanding before I do is that on one side is Assad, Russians, Iran and Hezbollah. On another side is ISIS, al-Qaeda and some rebel groups. PKK Kurds are also against ISIS. Turkey is against Assad, but also ISIS and the PKK. At this point, I have no idea who we are aligned with or whom I would want to see us aligned with.

At the moment, the Assad government seems to be making some gains, and the rebel forces are split into three broad groups of the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front (backed by the Gulf States), and two al-Qaeda groups (Al Nusrah and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS]). ISIS has alienated all the other factions and is likely to retreat to Iraq, but the Al Nusrah Front is operating in a loose alliance with the Islamic Front.


This resurgence may be a temporary phenomenon, with al-Qaeda taking advantage of the chaos in Syria, the weak government response in Iraq, and the simmering discontent in other Muslim countries that has followed the Arab Spring. Their recent gains are substantial, but there are reasons to doubt if al-Qaeda’s power and appeal within the wider salafi-jihadist movement, especially in Syria, can be sustained. Here, different coalitions have recently disavowed al-Qaeda and, in some cases, are in open conflict with its militias. There is a case to argue that al-Qaeda has managed to exploit an opportunity but lacks the ability to broaden its appeal sufficiently to make long-term gains.


Despite the attention paid to the resurgence of alQaeda, the bigger problem dominating the Middle East scene is the escalation of the Sunni-Shia divide. This split is reflected in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and, in turn, has an international aspect as Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy Muslim civil war, particularly in Syria.

Do we want to be in the middle of a Muslim civil war that's been going for 1500 years? I can't imagine why. 

If the apparent resurgence is to be understood, then paying careful attention to what is, sometimes lazily, labeled al-Qaeda is important.

It's not your father's al-Qaeda. 

Every religious terrorist is not necessarily a member of al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda does not represent all groups within the global salafijihadist movement. These differences are becoming increasingly apparent in Syria as the civil war rages on and fluid alliances are continually being made and broken within the opposition to the Assad regime. Jihadism in Syria is revealing the fault lines between al-Qaeda and other Sunni freedom fighters and may give us a better indication of whether al-Qaeda is surviving, transforming, or slowly dying.

The reason they're able to operate in Syria, Libya and Iraq is because of the anarchy there. Solve the anarchy and deprive them of a safe base of operations. Easier said than done, of course.

Juan Cole has dissuaded me from the idea that leaving Assad in power is any kind of solution either.

I should explain that with Syria, I”m just trying to analyze. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I despise the al-Assad regime, which is genocidal and has engaged in mass torture. But I absolutely refuse to support any group allied with Ayman al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda or which envisions Syria as a hardline 

Salafi emirate where Christians, Alawites, Druze and Kurds (altogether maybe 40% of the population) as well as secular Sunni Arabs (another 45%) are second class citizens ruled by a self-appointed morals police with machine guns.

I have a sinking suspicion that my position on al-Qaeda as a red line is not shared by some high US officials. If I am right about this, they should be ashamed of themselves and go back and read about the origins of al-Qaeda in 1980s Afghanistan. US-supported jihads have a way of biting us on the ass.

Good and bad in today’s Syria is also contextual. Having the Baath Party or its goons, the Shabiha, rule religious Sunnis is bound to cause inequities. But for the fundamentalists to conquer Alawite Latakia or the Druze regions would result in an enormous tragedy.
Ultimately Syria can only be healed by democracy and the separation of religion and state. Neither the regime nor the rebels get this, and there is no guarantee they ever will.

I suppose it makes me feel better that Juan Cole has found no one to get behind either. 

One More on the End of Empire

There's a lot to this article by Tom Englehardt. Want to mostly bookmark it, as that's what all my posts are anyway. I'll clip a few pieces to post, though.

His exceptional fact number 1 that failure is success:

In the post-9/11 years, American power in various highly militarized forms has been let loose repeatedly across a vast swath of the planet from the Chinese border to deep in Africa -- and nowhere in those 14 years, despite dreams of glory and global dominion, has the U.S. succeeded in any of its strategic goals. That should qualify as exceptional in itself. After all, what are the odds that, in all that time, nothing should turn out as planned or positively by Washington's standards? It could not win its war in Afghanistan; nor its two wars, one ongoing, in Iraq; nor has it had success in its present one in Syria; it failed to cow Iran; its intervention in Libya proved catastrophic; its various special ops and drone campaigns in Yemen have led to chaos in that country; and so, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say, it goes.

Leaving out Korea and Vietnam in the pre-9/11 years for brevity. 

His exceptional fact number 2 that Americans are actually safe and secure. Yeah, that's the one that gets me. There are people that seem to be truly unhappy when they don't have something to hide under the bed from. ISIS, Ebola, devil worshippers, immigrants raping and selling them drugs, God knows what else. 

Americans are in next to no danger. If you're living in Baghdad, the possibility of terror attacks couldn't be more real or horrific. If you're living in Irving, Texas, Toledo, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or even New York City, they are close to nil. A country bounded by two oceans and friendly neighbors remains a formula for security, with no credit whatsoever to the national security state. In few places on the planet is anyone likelier to be safer when it comes to Islamic terror attacks than this one. It is, of course, quite true that the U.S. has helped spread insecurity and fear in significant areas of the world. It is also true that even Europe is no longer untouched by that insecurity and by violence. In this way, too, it could be said that the United States stands alone (not that you would know it living inside the American terrordome).

Let me, then, offer anyone reading this a practical guarantee. You will not be killed in the continental United States by an Islamic terrorist or someone in sympathy with the Islamic State -- or rather your chances of that happening are infinitesimally small. The odds of almost anything else disastrous happening to you, no matter how obscure, is at least as great, and in almost every case staggeringly greater, including being crushed beneath falling furniture, shot by a tot who has found a stray loaded weapon, murdered in a mass killing incident (not by a terrorist), struck by lightning (or done in by weather events of almost any sort), knocked off by food poisoning, or killed in your own car.

Number 3 is the whole victim thing that amazes me, too.

Given exceptional facts one and two, what could be more exceptional than significant numbers of Americans living in a fear-based culture of victimhood laced with paranoia and extremism that seems to have captured one of the two major political parties?

In it, Americans are always at the mercy of the evil doers everywhere, including those distinctly in our midst with mayhem in mind. Our military is an underfinanced wreck, our Navy practically a set of dinghies, a Muslim is even in the White House, a malign climate-change movement is eager to destroy capitalism as we know it, women's bodies are enough of a danger to shut the government down, immigrants are potential terrorists or rapists, and so on and so forth through a litany of strangely woven fantasies and factoids.

Dems Vs Reps on Guns

First up is action star, presidential candidate Ben Carson.

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson joined a chorus of Republicans in calling for more guns on college campuses when he sat down with USA Today’s Capital Download hosts this week to celebrate today’s launch of his new book, "A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties."

Legal guns, Dr. Carson says, are one of those liberties. He suggested that keeping schools from pre-K to college campuses gun-free leads to danger, rather than preventing it. Gunmen “aren’t likely to go into a place where they are likely to get shot,” he told Susan Page and Derek McGinty.

Carson, a gun owner himself – like roughly one in three Americans – also objects to bans on assault weapons, saying that they set the country up for possible “tyranny” if private citizens could not fight back, whether against an aggressive government, or each other. 

Oh yeah, the action star.

Of all the curious motivations on the modern American Right, the Imaginary Superhero Delusion is one of the most interesting. "'Fi were only there, with my trusty shootin' 'arn, there'd be dead crazy person all over the walls." This condition is usually manifest only among outlaw TV pundits and the comment sections of certain websites.

And Hillary, who's trying to get to Bernie's left on the subject. 

Clinton’s proposal includes expanding background checks for sellers at gun shows, cracking down on online gun sales and banning domestic abusers from purchasing guns. She also supports Congress closing a loophole that allows a gun sale to proceed without a complete background check. That loophole, dubbed the “Charleston Loophole,” allowed Dylan Roof to legally buy a firearm despite his federal criminal record. Roof shot and killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in June.

You're in good company with Dr. Carson there, Matt.  Maybe Ben can run as a Green if he doesn't make the GOP cut. 

"If you don't feel we need guns to defend ourselves against tyranny, then you're not paying attention."

Ummmm, wingnuttery mixed with condescension. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Kevin Mac's Amateur Hour

Just want to express my appreciation to the Tea Party for getting The John Boehner show cancelled and replacing it with KM's Amateur Hour. He hasn't even gotten the job yet and he's already admitted the Benghazi investigation was a sham. Kudos to Sean Hannity for eliciting the confession. Good work. Mike Wallace would be proud. That's the disadvantage of having your own pet media outlet. You get to talking to your pal Sean and let your guard down. Oops!

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the likely successor to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), told Fox News’s Sean Hannity explicitly on Tuesday night that the Clinton investigation was part of a “strategy to fight and win.”

He explained: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

That sound you hear is the air leaking out of the Benghazi balloon.

Couple of What'd I Say so I don't have to look too hard:


Kirsten Gillibrand

Friday, October 2, 2015

Some Good News to Temper the Insanity

I can't think of anything to say about the shooting in Oregon. These just go on and on. Maybe there'll come a point where enough people will have been affected by them and they will rise up in righteous anger. It worked for James and Sarah Brady. I suppose that's not something to wish for, though. Until then, try to avoid crowds and live in an area where shootings are rare. My only advice and I only half follow it myself having just come from the maddening crowds of the Crandall book sale.

I will share the NRA's mouthpiece of the month, Jon Hanlin.


Yes, the county sheriff is a sovereign citizen. Is it really the sheriff who is supposed to determine if laws are constitutional? That idea sounds a little unconstitutional to me. Thought it was courts that did that. Think I learned that on Schoolhouse Rock. 


Let's go on to the good news courtesy of Josh Marshall.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, was booed by the audience at the Washington Ideas Forum Thursday while defending the GOP's congressional investigations into the Benghazi attack, The Huffington Post reported.

According to The Huffington Post, the audience booed, hissed and yelled "You're lying!" while McMorris Rodgers attempted to deny that the Benghazi committee was politically-motivated. 

Benghazi has lost its magic.

"I do believe that the work that we're doing in the Benghazi committee is very important," McMorris Rodgers said, during which, according to the Huffington Post, the audience's disapproval only grew louder.

"We've not yet had important questions answered," she continued.

Like Matt Funiciello, they are merely asking questions. Like Matt Funiciello they have no interest in listening to the answers.