Friday, April 17, 2015

Please Nominate Scottie Walker

Courtesy of Charles Pierce comes this link.

A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, with 56 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job as governor. In the previous poll, in October 2014, Walker’s approval among registered voters was 49 percent, with 47 percent disapproving.

To look ahead to a possible 2016 presidential matchup, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads Walker in Wisconsin, 52 percent to 40 percent.

And how's our current prez looking these days, you may ask.

Obama's overall approval rating is now 47 percent to 46 percent, the first time more approved than disapproved since June 2013. 

More good news from the Marquette poll was that...

In a possible 2016 U.S. Senate race, former Sen. Russ Feingold has the support of 54 percent of registered voter, leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, who has 38 percent.

I'd forgotten that Feingold was coming back to the Senate, at least if that poll is any indication. He will be a welcome re-addition.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Big Problem With The Opposition To The Iran Deal

And I owe thanks to Senator Rubio for being the subject of an article pointing it out.

After Rubio reiterated that he’d abandon the Iran deal in favor of new sanctions, Inskeep pointed out that those sanctions wouldn’t really work without support from our allies. Here’s how Rubio responded:

RUBIO: Yes, it wouldn’t be as effective, obviously. We would, ultimately, I think, the Europeans are going to have a test anyway because the Iranians are going to violate the sanctions at some point. They’re going to evade it either by trying to take advantage of loopholes in the deal, or they’ll just flat out evade it because they’ve always had a secret component to their, to their program. And at that point, they’re going to have a huge test on their hands, which is, are they willing to live by the agreement that they even signed on to? But from the United States’ perspective, while we want our allies to join us in this endeavor, and certainly sanctions against Iran would be more effective were they in conjunction with our allies around the world, we have to look out for our own national security concerns.

That’s a departure from his previous position that the unilateral sanctions would be “crushing,” and in that way he’s at least showing a little deference to reality. 

Wouldn't be as effective? They would be non-existent. In addition the five countries joining us in these negotiations, what's to stop Japan, South Korea, India and whoever else that wishes to trade with the evil Persians from doing so. The main people being punished are American farmers and producers who will be restrained from trading with them. 

And here's a link to a WashPo piece pointing out that Scott Walker also over-estimates the power of the US.

SYKES: You have said that you would cancel any Iranian deal the Obama administration makes. Now would you cancel that even if our trading partners did not want to reimpose the sanctions?

WALKERAbsolutely. If I ultimately choose to run, and if I’m honored to be elected by the people of this country, I will pull back on that on January 20, 2017, because the last thing — not just for the region but for this world — we need is a nuclear-armed Iran. It leaves not only problems for Israel, because they want to annihilate Israel, it leaves the problems in the sense that the Saudis, the Jordanians and others are gonna want to have access to their own nuclear weapons…

These are the adults in the responsible party. Making that vote for Hillary look easier and easier. 

Lots O' Good Stuff In The Paper Of Record Today

It's so nice when the spirit of bi-partisanship reigns in the nation's capital. Particularly since the Iran deal is likely to go through anyway. Let's hope.

On Tuesday, senators succeeded in getting the White House to back down on its threat to veto a bill requiring congressional review of an Iran deal. They did it the way that most Americans want them to, by working out a compromise that was acceptable to both political parties and to the president.

More on supporting terrorism in the second link. Not the cock sauce one. 

(T)he bill was made more palatable by shortening the review period and by removing a requirement that the White House periodically certify that Iran is not supporting terrorism (though the administration must regularly certify to Congress that Iran is living up to the terms of an agreement).

I find cock sauce makes everything more palatable. I'll send a case to the House Republicans. And a bottle of bubbly to Senator Cardin who has replaced Senator Dino Menendez.

A key Democrat who’s more White House-friendly. That would be the new ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. He stepped into the position after Senator Menendez was indicted April 1 in connection with an alleged bribery scheme.

Menendez has been at odds with the White House over Iran negotiations and Cuba policy. Senator Cardin, by contrast, supports Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy and was not an original co-sponsor of the Corker-Menendez bill.

Here's the promised second link to a story on the GOP's actual agenda. Hint: they don't really care about women and gays in Iran. 

So why, with the prospect of a final deal (which still may not be reached) on the horizon, are so many inclined to shift the goal posts on Iran? It may be because, while fear of Iran's nuclear program is real, it's not the only agenda. Just as important for many players is to contain and weaken the Islamic Republic that has held power since 1979. And if sanctions are lifted, Iran has vast oil reserves, a large population, and a history of cross-border commerce that make it likely to become a stronger regional power. 

Shifting goal posts on this matter are nothing new, nor is the conflation with a desire for regime change with sanctions over the nuclear program. In March 2012 Netanyahu said sanctions weren't having an effect on Iran's nuclear program and complained "the regime strengthened its grip in recent elections, despite the sanctions." Now he says the sanctions have "proven effective" and should remain in place.

Bibi is a terrible flip-flopper. He's really just worried that we will leave him for the Iranians. We are a fickle people. 

The third link is to a good news story made even better by the sadness it seems to cause among the wingnutsia. 

There was no surprise in President Obama’s announcement Tuesday that he will remove Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Mr. Obama’s decision in December to seek a full normalization of relations with Cuba virtually guaranteed that he would move to rescind a designation that places a number of financial and diplomatic restrictions on US interaction with Cuba.

Biggest sad, maybe, goes to Senator Rubio who is rumored to be a foreign policy whiz kid.

Certainly a lively discussion will ensue, with Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, promising to move against Cuba's removal. 

I'm sure he can find a reason to leave a country which is not sponsoring terror on the list of state sponsors of terror. It's what Lewis Carroll would have written if he wrote about the US Congress. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

How Did Ron Reagan Deal With The Evil Persians?


I suppose a young pup like Rand Paul might not remember that.

In announcing his candidacy for president, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky said: “I believe in applying Reagan’s approach to foreign policy to the Iran issue.”

Huh?  In late 1986, we learned that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran and diverted the proceeds to Nicaraguan anticommunist rebels called the Contras. At one point, the national security adviser secretly brought the Iranians a key-shaped chocolate cake to mark the anticipated “opening.” The Iran-Contra affair was a fiasco that humiliated the United States and led to talk that the House might impeach Reagan.

Yeah, it was in all the papers at the time. After it was exposed, I mean. Other Republicans getting history wrong includes Tom "All Godwin All  The Time" Cotton.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) asserted that the United States could destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure in a several day bombing campaign.

Well, if that is true, then why should he get lathered over the Iran Nuclear Agreement Framework? 

With the agreement, we have inspectors on the ground, centrifuge limitations in place, and uranium enrichment capped. Without the agreement, we have none of those.
And, with or without the agreement, if Iran cheats, we can destroy their infrastructure with a few days of bombing, according to Cotton.

If Cotton is right, then the risks associated with the Iran Nuclear Deal have largely vanished.

He's not so good on risk assessment either.

Cotton needs to explain how, with the firepower he says we have, the Framework Agreement with Iran is a risk.

Just shut up and cower, that's why.

And yes, you can trust the evil Iranians when they're words fit your talking points.

But in a bizarre twist, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to endorse the Ayatollah’s credibility over the U.S. Secretary of State’s. “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had,” McCain said Friday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made similar remarks.

To put it mildly, it was an unexpected development. For months, Republicans insisted, “We can’t trust Iranian leaders.” And yet, on Friday, McCain and Graham suggested rhetoric from Ayatollah Khamenei should be accepted at face value – while arguments from the American White House should not.

The president's response:

“When I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran – that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries. And we’re seeing this again and again. We saw it with the letter by the 47 senators who communicated directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran – the person that they say can’t be trusted at all – warning him not to trust the United States government.

“We have Mitch McConnell trying to tell the world, ‘Oh, don’t have confidence in the U.S. government’s abilities to fulfill any climate change pledge that we might make.’ And now we have a senator suggesting that our Secretary of State is purposely misinterpreting the deal and giving the Supreme Leader of Iran the benefit of the doubt in the interpretations.” 

Dodged a bullet in 2008.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Yemen Strategy?

This post will be my latest attempt to figure out what the hell is happening there, courtesy of the fine reporters at Christian Science Monitor. Right now things don't seem so bad in exile for Mr. Hadi.

From the gilded suites and granite lobby of a luxurious five-star hotel here, the remnants of Yemen’s embattled government sees a daily lineup of Yemeni tribal leaders, Western diplomats, and Saudi military commanders.

Over countless cups of bittersweet coffee and dates, and lobster and seafood dinners, Yemeni ministers calmly toss out phrases like “national dialogue” and “institution building” as they talk up their postwar political plans.

I'm thinking "postwar political plans" might be jumping the gun a bit. The hopes for Hadi seem to rest on putting together a coalition of tribal fighters from Central and Southern Yemen to rise up against the Houthi. There is also the offer of amnesty to those loyal to Saleh who will defect and join the effort to defeat the Houthi. That seems to be less strategy than wishful thinking.

The Houthi-Saleh fighters boast superior firepower due to the fact that Saleh’s supporters include entire military units with fierce allegiances to their political and financial backer. Some of this equipment is a legacy of US military aid to Yemen during Saleh’s rule, which continued under Hadi’s government.

The Houthis control vital military installations outside Sanaa and warehouses of RPGs, tanks, and armor-piercing grenade and rocket launchers.

Given this superior firepower, the Hadi government’s strategy is to overcome the militias with greater manpower and urge tribal and political factions to rise up town by town, village by village against what many Yemenis view as Houthi “invaders”.

Meanwhile, the Saudis, Egyptians, US, Western powers and pretty much everyone else are sending nothing but their best wishes for a good outcome.

However, weary of being dragged into a protracted fight, Riyadh and Cairo have stopped short of committing ground troops to a wider war across Yemen.

The Hadi government has also received little commitment from the US and its Western allies; officials say they left recent talks sessions with Western diplomats “frustrated” and “dismayed.”

In a rewrite of the Aiken Rule, I believe we should probably back the winner (or stay out of it altogether) and declare victory. 

Exiled officials concur that by arming and militarizing Sunni tribes across the country, they may create a “second Libya” where tribal militias roam unchallenged and refuse to answer to a weak central government.

“We do not want to place heavy arms into the hands of tribes and have them act outside the army,” says Transport Minister Badr Mubarak Ba-Salma, who has led talks with tribal representatives.

Yes, we seriously do not want that. 

Into The Looking-Glass

With Charles Pierce as our intrepid guide:

The issue, of course, is Jen's terror of an Iranian nuclear weapon. So what better strategy than to exonerate a guy convicted of lying about a campaign to ruin the career of a CIA operative whose whole job it was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to places like Iran. And to do so on the basis of the suddenly razor-sharp memory of Princess Clustering Aspens, now peddling her book.

And I gotta say, I don't like seeing groups of heavily armed folks,  no matter their hue. Or Huey.

On a warm fall day in South Dallas, ten revolutionaries dressed in kaffiyehs and ski masks jog the perimeter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park bellowing "No more pigs in our community!" Military discipline is in full effect as the joggers respond to two former Army Rangers in desert-camo brimmed hats with cries of "Sir, yes, sir!" The Huey P. Newton Gun Club is holding its regular Saturday fitness-training and self-defense class. Men in Che fatigues run with weight bags and roll around on the grass, knife-fighting one another with dull machetes.

Good fuck, I wish those Texans would just hurry up and secede. I'll help 'em pack and even lend them the pickup.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Yemen Bookmark

I'm just linking to this. I can't figure out who we're for or against in Yemen. It varies by the hour.

In June 2006 Gen. John Abizaid, who headed the US Central Command, sat down for a series of meetings with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his interior minister. What happened in that meeting – Saleh urging the US to help him assassinate a political rival – is useful background to assessing US support today for a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.  

Yeah, Saleh is on the side of the Houthis now.

May as well throw this bookmark on, too.

I have read that another reason for the Iraq War was to send a message to other Middle Eastern countries that America has the military might to overthrow their countries and reshape the region.

The opposite occurred. [The Bush administration] demonstrated we were incompetent.