Saturday, October 31, 2015

New York's SAFE Act and Other Gun Stuff

I've been wanting to put a link to info on the SAFE Act. As a non-ammosexual, I don't see anything that bothers me. Some things I like a lot.

The maximum capacity for all magazines is 10 rounds. 

Ammunition dealers are required to do background checks, similar to those for gun buyers. Dealers are required to report all sales, including amounts, to the state. Internet sales of ammunition are allowed, but the ammunition will have to be shipped to a licensed dealer in New York state for pickup.

Requires creation of a registry of assault weapons.

Requires designated mental health professionals who believe a mental health patient made a credible threat of harming others to report the threat to a mental health director, who would then have to report serious threats to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. A patient's gun could be taken from him or her.

Stolen guns are required to be reported within 24 hours. Failure to report can result in a misdemeanor.

Requires background checks for all gun sales, including by private sellers - except for sales to members of the seller's immediate family. 

Guns must be "safely stored" from any household member who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, has been involuntarily committed, or is currently under an order of protection.

Mandates that all purchases of firearms go through a licensed firearm dealer(FFL), unless it is an exempted transfer between family members.

Requires pistol permit holders or owners of registered assault weapons to have them renewed at least every five years.

Allows law enforcement officials to seize regulated types of firearms from an individual, provided the individual has been certified by a medical professional to be too mentally unstable to safely possess "spray" firearms, shotguns, or rifles.

I'm not that excited about the "assault weapons." They're scary looking, but I believe (skimpy as my gun knowledge is) no more dangerous than a deer rifle. The rest of things the act does seem pretty reasonable. 

On this subject, I want to recommend a great book which is a very balanced look at gun laws. That is "Gun Fight" by Adam Winkler. He follows the DC gun law going to the Supreme Court and gives a lot of history on gun regulation in our country. It was amazing to hear that Dodge City, Tombstone, Virginia City and all these had strict gun laws. You had to turn in guns when entering the town. Concealed weapons of any kind was a serious violation. 

And good for Julianne Moore

We're acting now because, for too long, the gun debate in this country has focused on choosing a side: pro-gun or anti-gun. That is simply a false choice. We respect the Second Amendment but keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of convicted criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers, stalkers and dangerous people isn't anti-gun; it's pro-common sense.

The ways that we reduced auto fatalities can serve as a model for how we can reduce gun violence.
Many of us remember driving around without seatbelts or when driving drunk wasn't taboo. Mothers 
Against Drunk Driving and other groups teamed up with legislators and, together, they made it unacceptable and illegal to drive drunk or without buckling up.

As a result, countless lives have been saved.

While we have made dramatic progress in states and cities across the country, we still haven't done for gun safety what we've done for auto safety. The problem comes down to a powerful but calcified gun lobby that is out of step with its own constituents of gun owners and with the American people.
We know that more than 90 percent of Americans support common-sense reforms that are proven to save lives. What not enough people know and what the gun lobby doesn't want more of us to know is that a large majority of gun owners support these reforms too.

The Creative Council has already started our work and we need you to join us and help grow this movement. Please go to wecanendgunviolence.org, sign up, learn more about what you can do and take action.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cops Against Guns

I'm surprised that police agencies around the country haven't been more vocal in calling for sensible gun legislation.

Aware of the influence of the gun lobby, and inaction in Congress, police chiefs from across the United States are demanding universal background checks for firearms purchases, citing support from the majority of American people in opinion polls.

Senior law enforcement officials at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago link access to firearms to an uptick in homicide rates across urban areas in the US this year.

What? Isn't that enough?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dear God, Get Us the Fuck Out of Syria

No, that really is my prayer. Otherwise I end up saying shit like, "there's no difference between Dems and Reps." Andrew Bacevich has been busy lately. With neo-cons on the Right and Obama doing his best imitation that's all to the best.

First, the United States undoubtedly possesses the wherewithal to topple the regime of Bashar Assad. On this score, the hawks are surely right. Whether acting alone, with allies, or through proxies, Washington over the past decade or so has demonstrated an impressive capacity to overthrow governments. Skeptical? Consider the fate of various evil-doers on whom we trained our gun-sights in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

Second, once Washington has removed Assad as it did Saddam Hussein, the likelihood of the United States being able to put things right — creating a “new” Syria that is stable, humane, and grateful for American assistance — is approximately nil. Here the evidence supports the doves. Skeptical? Again, consider the course of events in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya once the evil-doers departed the scene.

It's all too good to pick and choose from. If you've stumbled in here from wherever, go and read it. If Barack Obama comes by: leave it to the Russians! If they're stupid enough to get involved: let them have it. 

Charles Pierce on the same subject, being equally vulgar. 

I am getting ominous 1965 flashbacks again. Robert McNamara and Creighton Abrams are starting to appear in my mind's eye, pointing down a long, dark tunnel at the lights of an oncoming train.​

Thank God I'm a Methodist

And a country boy. I didn't realize that Presbyterians were batshit insane. Seventh Day Adventists maybe. Just kidding to both just in case your brand of religion is the True One. I generally haven't put much up on the campaign because there are still 373 or so shopping days until the election.

“I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about,” said Trump.

That sounds like an attempt to define Carson’s religion as occupying one of the road’s edges.

But, of course, the real reason I put this up is because The Donald continues to remind me of The Matt.

On CBS's “Face the Nation” on Sunday, he agreed with interviewer John Dickerson’s formulation that his words were an expression of ignorance, not a raising of questions.

“Well, it’s a harsh way of putting it, but perhaps I could say it that way, yes,” said Trump.

If Trump would like to educate himself on the history and practices of Adventists, The Washington Post has a pretty good summary. It’s a Christian religion founded in America that holds services on Saturday and generally interprets the Bible literally.  

Both conspiracy theorists who don't try very hard to come up with Answers to their Questions.

But lack of education is probably not Trump’s problem here. That could be solved with 30 seconds, a smartphone, and a Chrome search in the car on the way to a private jet. 

That's right. It's an ad hom attack. Another thing the conspiracy boys have in common.

Trump used the same “raising questions” approach to his past discussions of the discredited notion that President Obama was born in Kenya. It’s a tool in his political kit bag.

Yes, just raising questions. Nothing wrong with that. In Matt's conversation with Robert Schulz he seemed Birther friendly. I believe that he just saw it as a convenient way to get the "corporate puppet" out of the White House. On 9/11 Truth, he's all in, though.

So by questioning Carson’s religion, Trump may be trying to goad Carson into a response. That might work. Or Trump might discover that Carson takes seriously the Bible’s words about turning the other cheek.

Sweet Jesus, don't make me get all sympathetic toward Ben Carson. 

Link to Post Star piece where MF is concern trolling the Democrats. Stow the advice. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stop the Presses:Trump is Right

Not often, but you have to give credit where it's due.

There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close.


When the Bush administration took office in January 2001, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Council counterterrorism “czar” Richard Clarke both warned its incoming officials that al-Qaeda represented a grave threat. During a transition briefing early that month at Blair House, according to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, Tenet and his deputy James Pavitt listed Osama bin Laden as one of America’s three most serious national-security challenges. That same month, Clarke presented National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with a plan he had been working on since al-Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole the previous October. It called for freezing the network’s assets, closing affiliated charities, funneling money to the governments of Uzbekistan, the Philippines and Yemen to fight al-Qaeda cells in their country, initiating air strikes and covert operations against al-Qaeda sites in Afghanistan, and dramatically increasing aid to the Northern Alliance, which was battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban there.

And is Condi Rice as dumb as George Bush. It boggles the mind. 

But both Clarke and Tenet grew deeply frustrated by the way top Bush officials responded. Clarke recounts that when he briefed Rice about al-Qaeda, “her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before.” 

The Devil  you say! Well, you've covered your ass

Matthews also pointed out the hypocrisy of absolving Bush of any responsibility for 9/11, yet laying the blame for Benghazi squarely on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton. “[T]he Bushes and their partisans can charge Hillary Clinton for what happened in a remote building in war-torn North Africa, miles – 400 miles – from the capital of that country.”


As NBC correspondent Katie Tur points out, 17 of Jeb Bush’s 21 foreign policy advisors were also advisors to his brother, George. This, coupled with Bush’s inability to rely on the narrative of a no-fault 9/11—or Bush as America’s protector for eight years—makes it difficult to see how his campaign can make necessary gains using the pat lines it’s come to rely on. (If an interview today in which Jeb Bush essentially faults Bill Clinton for 9/11 is any indication, the flailing has already begun.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fake History and Real History

It irritates me to no end that my local library stocks history according to Bill O'Reilly. I saw a woman picking one up to check out recently and had to bite holes in my tongue. So, you have made up history.

Bill O'Reilly has taken to styling himself as something of an expert on historical murders. This has not been an easy process. For example, his book on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was so flawed thatthe museum bookstore at Ford's Theater refused to sell it. His book on the assassination of John F. Kennedy contained self-aggrandizing fabulism of how O'Reilly, hot on the trail of the killers, arrived atthe home of George de Mohrenschildt just as that old friend of Lee Harvey Oswald killed himself. And, as for Killing Jesus, let's just say O'Reilly's gifts for scripture history are on a par with his gifts for romantic small talk. As I said, it's hard out there for a hard-boiled historian. But in his latest, Killing Reagan—which obviously didn't happen, but go with it—O'Reilly inadvertently (and without proper attribution, as we shall see) stumbled into that shadowland that lies between the history that we believe, and the history that we'd rather not know.

Why not? His network makes up the news. Then there's real history. I hadn't seen any of this and am grateful to Charles Pierce for enlightenment.

A bombshell White House memo has revealed for the first time details of the ‘deal in blood’ forged by Tony Blair and George Bush over the Iraq War. The sensational leak shows that Blair had given an unqualified pledge to sign up to the conflict a year before the invasion started. It flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis. He told voters: ‘We’re not proposing military action’ – in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals.

It's incredible how much damage those two empty suits were able to inflict on the world. The banality of evil, indeed. 

Former Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: ‘The memos prove in explicit terms what many of us have believed all along: Tony Blair effectively agreed to act as a frontman for American foreign policy in advance of any decision by the House of Commons or the British Cabinet. ‘He was happy to launder George Bush’s policy on Iraq and sub-contract British foreign policy to another country without having the remotest ability to have any real influence over it. And in return for what? 'For George Bush pretending Blair was a player on the world stage to impress voters in the UK when the Americans didn’t even believe it themselves’.

I'd settle for seeing Blair at the Hague. It would be a start anyway. 

Things Go Better With Guns

Leonard Pitts has a great column in today's Post Star. It covers a lot of the Republican stupidity over guns.

 I’ve taken the liberty of composing a new campaign song for Carson, to the tune of “If I Only Had a Heart” from “The Wizard of Oz”:
When a man’s an empty holster, no courage does he bolster
No confidence is won
What a difference he’d be makin’, he could finally stop his quakin’
If he only had a gun
He could stand a little straighter with that ultimate persuader
And wouldn’t that be fun?
He could put an end to static with a semiautomatic
If he only had a gun
Can’t you see, how it would be?
Woe would avoid his door
The crazy guy would pass him by
Or else he’d shoot — and shoot some more
Oh, the shootin’ he’d be doin’, and all the ballyhooin’
The way the folks would run
His life would be so merry in a world of open carry
If he only had a gun
Now if I could only stop singing it. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shit! Now I Don't Know What I Am

Am I a liberal, a progressive or a faux liberal (thanks Matt)?

The "progressive" quote and its implications set the parameters for the next presidential election. Folks who want to define themselves as being further to the left than orthodox liberals now use the term "progressive."

Have I mentioned how much I hate labels? Except when I use them, of course.

Good News Tuesday:Extreme Poverty

I'm sure it's just a start, but a start is still a start.

The number of people living in extreme poverty will dip below 10 percent of the global population before the year is over, according to the World Bank, marking one step closer to the goal of ending poverty by 2030 – an objective adopted among 193 countries at the United Nations last month.

Bacevich on the Iran Deal

This is kinda long so I'll probably just link to it mostly.

The nuclear deal that the United States and five other world powers signed with Iran is a means to an end, not the end in itself. In that regard, the pact, scheduled for formal adoption on Oct. 19, necessarily rates as a high-risk proposition. If the agreement succeeds, it may mark a first step toward restoring some semblance of stability to the Greater Middle East, thereby allowing the US to lower its profile there. If it fails, the current disorder may in retrospect seem tame.

I try to think positive. 

US military involvement in the Greater Middle East, dating as far back as the abortive peacekeeping mission in Lebanon during the early 1980s, has been counterproductive. Whether in Iraq or Libya, Somalia or Afghanistan, it has never produced the results promised or expected.

Obama’s acceptance of the risks inherent in the JCPOA constitutes a de facto admission that the attempt to impose order on this region through the application of hard power has failed. Period. Full stop.

Simply trying harder – more bombs or more boots on the ground – won’t produce a more favorable outcome. In effect, the verdict is in: The militarization of US policy in the Islamic world has reached a dead end.

Amen.

There are certain tasks that exceed the capabilities of even the world’s sole superpower and that should therefore be left to others. Managing the Greater Middle East is one of those things.

Prominent among those “others” who share an interest in preventing further regional disintegration are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq (if it ever manages to get its act together). While the regimes controlling these several nations disagree about many things, they are all fundamentally committed to the status quo. That is, unlike Islamic State, Al Qaeda, or any of their offshoots, they are committed to preserving rather than destroying the existing system of nation-states within (more or less) their existing borders.

Obama is betting that Iran also qualifies as a status quo nation – or, if it is not presently, that it can be coaxed into becoming one. The impetus behind the bet is quite clear. Only by restoring Iran to its rightful place among regional heavyweights – as a player, not simply as a spoiler – will it be possible for a stable equilibrium of power to emerge. 

In other words, making lemonade out the big pile of rotten lemons left by his predecessor. 

SAFE Win in NY

Congrats to Andrew Cuomo and New Yorkers with common sense on guns.

A federal appeals court has upheld key provisions of New York and Connecticut laws banning possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday, finding that core parts of the laws do not violate the Second Amendment.

Be assured the whine will flow. 

Now that they're banned, like heroin and meth, I'm sure they'll soon be off the streets!

It's truly amazing how the liberal mind works!


And there's good news to the north of us as well. Congrats to the Canadians. They got a new Trudeau

Mr. Trudeau, a charismatic politician who captivated many voters here with his youth and optimism – not to mention his boxing skills – is set to be Canada's new prime minister after his party won a majority of Parliament's 338 seats in a sweeping, come-from-behind victory.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Interview With a Llama from Mars

OK, I couldn't even read all of this. I'd have needed Carson's services as a brain surgeon because I was losing brain cells so fast trying to.

At this point, the Clinton Guy looked as though he were conversing with a llama from Mars. Dr. Carson did not appear to notice. 

Ben Carson is not only a brain surgeon, but number 2 in the Republican field. Go. Read Charles Pierce on this interview. Be forewarned. Bring aspirin.

Stay for the Noonan.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hat Tip to Mark Frost for this GunWingNuttery

Thanks Mark. Even though I can't link to the Chronicle, I can link to Congressman Gibson's Facebook page. I hope.

Mary Jo and I grieve for the families in Oregon. We are very saddened by this senseless and horrific violence. As laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the first function of government is to secure the rights of its citizens, natural rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that come from God. A direct quote from the Declaration of Independence, "...and to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

WTF? How did the Declaration of Independence get involved?

When shootings like these have happened, politicians like Governor Cuomo call for stricter "gun control," most recently even threatening to shut down the government until that happens.

Cuomo is wrong, at least on the shutting down the government part. I'll give him that one. 

However, their "gun control" approach to reducing violence is utterly flawed and has not made us safer. Indeed, the areas with the strictest gun control policies are rife with the highest incidences of gun violence.

Absolutely wrong! Apparently I can't say that enough, though. 

Law abiding citizens, the target of gun control legislation, already follow the law.

Nice tautology.

Fundamentally there are two types of threats to safe and secure - irrational actors (those with psychosis and severe mental illness) and rational actors (those with criminal intent).

Having a criminal intent is rational. 

And to be clear, my wife and I care deeply about the safety of our children, our communities, and our fellow citizens.

Why would you feel a need to tell us that? We don't suspect you of being irrational. Yet.

(C)onsequent to the exposes of the late 1970s that revealed serious abuse in our mental institutions, our country closed most of our hospitals for those with psychosis and other very severe mental health diseases. That response was understandable, but our government did not replace that with any significant new approach to assist and deal with those desperately need mental health treatment. 

Who was in the presidency during the 80's again? 

I have helped author and support H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, that significantly overhauls federal policy to support those who need mental health treatment for severe mental health diseases, including psychosis.

Because the NRA won't allow him to actually address the problem of guns. 

(please note, here we are not talking about veterans or others with depression or anxiety, that's a whole different category that absolutely requires mental health treatment and support, just different kinds of support. Generally speaking, these individuals are NOT a threat to community "safe and secure" that the severely mentally ill may pose without treatment).

Going back to WTF? on that one. 

The second way we strengthen deterrence is to support the 2nd Amendment and recognize the reality we are in. Even Pope Francis, whose central message of love, service to others, and leadership by example, had security in the US armed with guns to protect him.

No, really. He actually wrote this. It's Wingnuttery Supreme. But lest you think he's calling the Pope Frank a hypocrite:

That didn't mean for a moment that Pope Francis was hypocritical or inconsistent - his dedication to the transformation of society through the power of love is unquestioned, but we live in the real world where there are irrational and rational actors who pose a risk to safe and secure and society needs to act accordingly. The Pope's security operation was successful and Pope Francis' message of love and service to others was communicated, effectively in my view.

I may have been unfair. The ultimate in wingnuttery would have been if he had pointed out the pope's position on climate change and his use of cars and airplanes to get around. 

Tragically, in Oregon, a state with "strict" gun control laws (including universal background checks and "gun-free" zones) we witnessed this latest devastating attack. We simply must recognize that policies such as "gun-free zones" have failed us. 

They don't look that strict to me.

Link to Doolittle piece.

Link to Oregon gun law rating.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Keeping Godwin Alive

First, I want to implore Mark Frost to put the Chronicle online so I can just copy and paste from it. Mark, it will be so good for you to receive all of the zero readers from my blog hitting your site. At least consider it.

OK, so here's Susan Balfour whom I'd like to give a big thanks to. Every now and then when I write a letter to the editor, I feel like a crank. That's actually every time that I do. There's a fine line between crank and gadfly you know. So here's Susan today:

I graduated form Glens Falls High in 1970 with 245 students. Having lived here may entire life. I have witnessed tremendous growth in Glens Falls. So many more houses have been built and many families have moved here.

One would think the number of graduates would be close to the same or more. It is shocking that in 2014 only 130 students graduated. 

So, a web search of US birth rates gives me 25 per 1000 people in 1952 when Susan Balfour was presumably born and 15 per 1000 in 1995 when 2013 graduates were born.

Yes, families are having fewer children, but I wonder how many of those that would have graduated were aborted babies?

So, you're writing this letter based on pure speculation. Could it be that, among many other things, this had something to do with it? Then, I'm pretty certain she considers that to be some form of murder against sperm.

I wonder what talents and gifts were killed with those aborted.

You know, one of them might have been the next Hitler, too.

If we don't think abortion has an impact on every hometown, think again, the evidence is right before your eyes!

Uh, no it really isn't

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

North Country Guns

Mostly just want to put this post up to give me an excuse to link to the WashPo piece. Hitler and extremists in Australia took away guns. Second amendment. Yeeha!

As he prepares for upcoming gun shows in Saratoga Springs and Lake George, the outspoken organizer of those events has raised the issue of gun confiscation and connected it to the Nazi takeover in Poland and the confiscation of guns in Australia.

And what was the result of the ooga booga gun "confiscation" in Oz? 

So what have the Australian laws actually done for homicide and suicide rates? Howard cites a study (pdf) by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law's effectiveness.

The paper also estimated that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people results in a 35 to 50 percent decline in the homicide rate, but because of the low number of homicides in Australia normally, this finding isn't statistically significant.

What is significant is the decline the laws caused in the firearm suicide rate, which Leigh and Neill estimate at a 74 percent reduction for a buyback of that size. 



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I Love Difference-Makers

Probably my favorite part of the weekly CSM is this section.

Orion Kriegman wants to fill Boston with hundreds of places where people grow food together.  And not just grow food, but reconnect with nature, while cultivating neighborhood friendships that knit together the city’s diverse cultures.

Can he do it?

So far Mr. Kriegman and an enthusiastic group of like-minded activists called the Boston Food Forest Coalition (BFFC) are moving forward with a half-dozen “forest gardens.”  Each garden will host a panorama of food-producing plants, including trees and shrubs to mimic woodlands. The BFFC also aims to “revive and conserve” old, neglected city apple orchards.

I had two plots in my local community garden for $10 a piece and harvested probably $100 worth of veggies or more. Love a good deal. 

Another Crank Letter to the Post Star

    I want to join the Post Star in commending Congresswoman Stefanik for cosponsoring legislation to reform our mental health system. I'll mention Congressman Gibson for his efforts, as well. I also wanted to comment on a story that ran in Monday's paper on funding for gun violence research. The article mentioned how the Republican-led Congress, at the behest of the NRA, killed this funding. What funding the CDC has received is only on account of the White House.
    
     In a report they managed to put together for 2013, the statistics showed 33,636 firearm deaths in the U.S. Of these, 63% were suicides and 33% were homicides. Under 2% were from mass shooting events. So that's fewer than 700 from incidents like Roseburg and over 21,000 that are self-inflicted. The solution suggested by the NRA after every massacre is to arm more people. Looking at the stats above makes that sound like less than a good idea.
     
     I'd also like to point out that there have been 3,380 deaths from terrorists since 2001, mostly on 9/11, of course. There have been 406,456 deaths from firearms. How much has been spent on the War on Terror? God knows, but we do know that Congress is spending as little on research into deaths from firearms as they can get away with. Zero.

     I believe most NRA members are as concerned about this as any of us. Wayne LaPierre and its leadership are in the business of selling guns and ammunition, though. My campaign advice is probably worth what I'm charging, but I'd urge Mike Derrick to reject Big Gun. Having rational ideas about overcoming this scourge will absolutely put him ahead of his two rivals in our district.

As always, Fuck the Guns!

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:

Stefanik?McCarthy

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.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

As Always This Blog Does Not Condone Violence

But if it did. Here's 13 of the people most deserving of a knuckle sandwich, courtesy of Tbogg.

If  you are an honest person — and I trust that you are — you will admit that at some time in your life you have wanted to haul off and smack somebody right in the mouth. Just plant your fist right in the middle of their smug smirky stupid face, swinging from out of nowhere with no warning given.

Boom.

Some of these guys I've never heard, but I don't get out much. And it actually makes me feel better about myself that I'm unaware of them. 

Saudi Arabia's Vietnam

I don't recall the Saudis going out looking for wars to get involved in. They really should have taken a look at our history and that of the Russans in Afghanistan. As we frquently seemed to do in Afghanistan, the Saudis managed to bomb a wedding recently.

The death toll from Saudi-led airstrikes that hit a wedding party in Yemen has risen to 131, making it the deadliest single incident since the start of the country's civil war, medical officials said Tuesday.

The U.N. says at least 2,355 civilians have been killed in fighting since March, when the coalition began launching airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels and allied army units, who control the capital and are at war with the internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists.

Bombing didn't work in Vietnam despite our best efforts. Yeah, I know. It's yahoo answers. We dropped a shitload on them, though, and we still had to get 58,000 of our countrymen killed. I believe that once the countrie that make up the coalition realize they are going to have to sacrifice lives they will end this effort. Then again, one would have expected Vietnam and some of the other mistakes to have ended sooner. It doesn't help that the guy they're fighting for is holed up in Saudi Arabia waiting to be put back in power. Not too inspirational. 

Here is the Saudi misinformation on the strike. 

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri tells The Associated Press Wednesday that "we did not conduct any operations in that area two days ago," referring to Monday's incident, in which more than 130 people were killed in the deadliest single event of Yemen's civil war.

Asiri says there is no evidence of what caused the deaths, and that ordinary civilians cannot distinguish between airstrikes, missiles, cannon fire or local explosions.

It could have been asteroids, UFOs, act of God. Who knows?

Bernie the Warhawk?

This is a post concerning Funiciello that's why the Lookingglasland post title.

Outside of foreign policy (where his voting record says "warhawk" and where I am clearly an "Only Congress Shall Declare War" kind of guy), Bernie and I are in MUCH agreement.

I'll try to at least give some of it a listen. Personally, I think he's still just pissed because Bernie wouldn't come and campaign with him and because Sanders dissed Ralph Nader by not returning Ralph's calls. Here's the warhawk on going to war in Iraq. 

There is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.

Much more at the link.