I see that Josh Earnest, the pretty man who is now press rep at the WH, said yesterday that Russia is a "regional power with an economy slightly larger than that of Spain." Earnest does not speak for himself. That is not in the nature of the job. This was clearly a declaration of imperial supremacy and a demand for subordination in all things. At the same time Ash Carter, SECDEF, re-stated the US doctrinal position that Assad himself must be a target of Russian military and diplomatic action as much as the jihadi enemies of us all, including Muslims. Such statements tell me that the United States is still hopelessly mired in a sink of hubris and imperial dreams. pl
There us a lot of drivel in the media today about Dr. Carson's statement that he did not think a Muslim (no Z in the word) should be elected president of the United States of America.
I have been at pains on SST to try to say clearly that the principal function of the constitution of the United States is to limit the power of the federal and state governments, not to enable them.
The framers assumed that government is naturally greedy for power from the citizens' point of view and that government will seek endlessly to expand its power if not checked from the beginning.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prevents all governments in the USA establishing governmentally empowered national or regional religion. The framers had many examples of such establishments at the time and were wise to block such an enactment. The early theocracies in New England were surely something they remembered as well as the established church in England and in so many other places abroad.
The constitution does not generally limit the actions of individuals. It limits the action of governments. The principal exception to that is the description of treason as a crime of individuals.
Ben Carson has a right to say that he does not think a Muslim should be president. I do not agree with his blanket opinion, but that does not invalidate his right to hold such an opinion or express it.
IMO the opinions of individuals have nothing to do with our treasured separation of church and state. Ben Carson is not a "state." pl
Yesterday, our very own Ishmael Zechariah provided a link to an "Ars Technica" article with the above title. The article focused on the heads of several IC agencies speaking at the Intelligence & National Security Summit, an event described as an industry event largely attended by beltway bandits and government toadies trying to stop “the poisoning of the public debate around their missions, and especially around the issue of encryption, by unreasonable haters.”
Wow. This unreasonable hater had to read on.
The opening statements from Comey and others were focused on that "venom," as the intelligence chiefs—many of whom had just testified that morning with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on cybersecurity threats before the House Select Intelligence Committee—sought to make it clear that they were speaking largely to help shift the direction of public discourse about the Intelligence Community. Specifically, they want to find ways to end what they perceive as irrational hostility against their agendas. (TTG note - Can't you just see him scowling as he claims, "And I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddlesome kids.")
"I have something on my mind that affects all the work we do as an intelligence community," Comey said in his opening remarks. "I think that citizens should be skeptical of government power. But I fear it's bled over to cynicism. It is something that is getting in the way of reasoned discussion, and I'm very concerned about how to change that trend of cynicism." He sees that cynicism directed toward everyone from law enforcement officers on the beat to the intelligence community at large.
In particular, Comey said, he feels that his push for some way to gain backdoor access to encryption was "met with venom and deep cynicism."
"How do we get to a healthier place in talking about authority?" he asked.
NSA head Rogers said that "we have got to engender a better dialogue" on security issues. "In the end, we serve the citizens of the nation... all the revelations [a reference to Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks] have made life more difficult for us." (Ars Technica)
Well bless their hearts. So they wonder how to cut through all the venom and deep cynicism engendered by the ungrateful rabble. For starters, Comey could reach over to that lying, Ming the Merciless looking POS Clapper and slap his mouth dry for lying so blatantly to Congress and the American people. Then he can slam his own head on the table, repeatedly, for insisting on having complete, unencrypted access to all our digital records and communications. Ubiquitous encryption is the answer, not the problem.
On a more serious note, they can embrace their complete and utter failure in defending our digital lives. I have yet to see an acknowledgement of the true seriousness of the most recent series of failures to protect databases at OPM. Comey lamented about someone now reading his SF-86 security questionnaire. That’s small stuff. With the depth and breath of the information collected by China, they can construct an accurate model of how our government works. For years China has been doing a lot of work in AI using geometric algebra and other things I don’t understand. I do know someone who not only understands but creates this stuff for a living. It’s present capabilities and future promise are science fiction scary. With the data China now has on our government (and associated contractors) and the right AI, a predictive model of frightening accuracy of our government’s innermost workings is not just possible, but probable. Think of the Mycroft supercomputer in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” on a far grander scale. I think this is going to bite us in the ass for decades to come. And the people responsible for letting this happen continue to sit on panels like this, revel in their bureaucratic power, collect their fat paychecks and waltz through the revolving doors with impunity. If they had any honor or sense of shame (which they clearly do not) they’d resign and move to the Everglades never to be heard from again. They'll feel right at home among the gators and pythons.
I keep hearing the Republican Gang of 17 talk about "building up the armed forces." What the hell do they mean? We already spend over 600 billion dollars a year on the armed forces and even more on overseas military operations. We have close to a million people in the US Army, the USMC and their reserve components. We have all manner of "goodies" in high tech equipment, aircraft and ships. What are they talking about?
We now live in a society that is so oriented toward the self-conscious welfare of the individual that therapists describe such antique concepts as "duty" to be mere obstacle to self-fulfillment. This not the kind of society from which our soldiers once emerged.
IMO the ground forces are at or near their limits in voluntary recruitment. There was a certain enthusiasm after 9/11. That eased recruiting problems for a while but it also brought us such sterling "sojers" as the former sergeant Bales, Chelsea Manning and Bergdahl. That fit of enthusiasm has passed.
Now recruits have to be actively sought, one person at a time. Standards are high. Recruits must be physically and mentally qualified and must be American citizens or legal residents of the US or its possessions and this is checked.
Where would they get a lot more people for the ground forces? Women? The LGBT "community?" Minorities? Blacks seem to prefer non-shooting occupations in the military. Foreign mercenaries under new law? (the Oaxaca Legion?)
What the hell are the elephants talking about? Do they have any idea at all? pl
I confess to finding the Trump phenomenon to be immensely entertaining. Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, a very conservative newspaper, has said that Trump's supporters are people who would have held season tickets for the Gladiatorial Games at the Coliseum. I think that is about right but, guess what, pilgrims, there are a lot of such folk.
"The people" are mighty tired of Washington's fumbling, Washington's inept warfighting, job flight under trade agreements, etc. The list is long. In my opinion, Trumpism and Sanderism are, in fact, two sides of the same coin, minted from the same metal of discontent. I really like Bernie, my fellow antique curmudgeon. I don't like a lot of his desired outcomes, but I like the way he voices them. But, I don't think he has a chance of obtaining the nomination so his policy positions don't matter a lot. The Democrats are likely to nominate Biden or even Webb as a black horse rather than Sanders.
The Donald is a different horse. Perhaps "hobby horse" would be a better term with which to describe him. There really are enough wildly unhappy people in flyover America to make the notion of a Trump Republican Party nomination plausible. Failing that, the idea that his ego might fuel an independent candidacy with three major candidates is also plausible. Something like that might end in the House of Representatives where the outcome is beyond reasonable speculation.
For the sake of argument, let us accept the notion that Trump might be president of the United States. IMO he has no solid comprehension of the limits of presidential power. He may vaguely perceive the idea but only that. As a "bidness" man and entrepreneur he has virtually absolute control over the actions of the corporations, partnerships, LLCs, etc., that are parts of his financial empire. Boards of directors, stockholders meetings and the like are just "speed bumps" for him to race across with the energy of which he boasts. He is accustomed to negotiations with business entities both at home and in foreign countries in which any kind of guile, deception, threats and bluff are fair game. He evidently thinks he can deal with American government branches in the same way
I do not think he fully grasps how different the US federal government is from what he is used to dealing with. The three branches of the federal government REALLY ARE separate and equal. The Framers divided power for the specific purpose of preventing someone like Trump achieving the kind of undiluted power that he says he will wield over Defense, Immigration, Foreign Trade, Lobbying, etc. To be blunt, the presidency lacks the independent power to do many of the things Trump wants to do. To achieve these policy goals ANY president would need the cooperation of Congress and the federal courts. Obama has been trying to close the detention camp at Gitmo for six and a half years and Congress has simply blocked him by passing laws against his program.
What would happen when Congress or the courts similarly blocked Trump? IMO he would try to ignore the constitutional limits of his power and that would be the end of him. Don't think for a moment that the US military would do anything to support him against the rest of the government. That would not happen. pl
Turkey - The Turkish foreign minister yesterday announced on Turkish TV that no Turkish soldiers will be sent into the "buffer zone" to defend it. Well, then who will defend it? "Turkmen Volunteers?" This would be a transparent ploy, something like the Chinese "volunteering" to fight the US in Korea. The first time a Turkish soldier or jandarm para-military bitches to the media about being "volunteered" Erdogan will have a lot of trouble. Perhaps the unicorn army of non-jihadi anti-Assad resistants? Their leading wave of conquest was just handed its hat, ass and overcoat by the Nusra Front. The effort to train such people is revealed to be totally ineffective. I ask again - Who and what is defending Incerlik Air Base in turkey? IS has demonstrated its ability to operate within Turkey. Air base defense is not an idle question.
HC - News on the jungle telegraph in Washington holds that contrary to any expectation of Clintonian sanity in the e-mailgate caper, HC's staff transmitted information over her non-government e-mail account that they knew had previously been judged to be classified. If that is true, she is in a lot of trouble both politically and legally as are people who were in her former staff. This behavior would be vastly different from transmitting information that had not yet been classified by State or some other government department.
IS chemical weapon use - There is some evidence that IS has repeatedly used chlorine gas or mustard gas against Kurdiah fighters. The Borg's immediate knee-jerk reaction is to suggest that perhaps IS obtained these munitions from the Assad government. Well, pilgrims, these chemical agents are not all that hard to make.
Ramadi - The US and Iraq tell us that Ramadi is about to fall to the forces of light. Well, we are waiting...
Odierno's parting shot - The departing US Army Chief of Staff, Ray Odierno, affectionately known as "The Desert Ox," announced at a final presser that it might be necessary to partition Iraq. Abadi's government reacted in fury to that, and why not. The Shia Arabs want to rule Iraq as it was and in one piece. It will be interesting to see what the new CoS is like. He is a Princeton grad rather than WP.
Political projection for 2016 - A Republican ticket made up of Kasich/Fiorino or Kasich/Rubio. pl
"In the war between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama that is being waged at the whim of a single compulsive Israeli leader who is endangering the country’s population of eight million – the voices of those in charge of intelligence assessment have fallen silent.
The head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevy, and the chief of his research division, Brig. Gen. Eli Ben-Meir, are lying low like carp who don’t relish a future on a plate as gefilte fish. They are hushing up the voices of those in the Intelligence Corps, whose opinions the populace whom they have sworn to serve – and not the prime minister – must hear.
Halevy and Ben-Meir’s predecessors, Aviv Kochavi and Itai Brun, dared make their assessments public, but Halevy and Ben-Meir don’t want to get tripped up, don’t want to be proven wrong, making fools of themselves publicly or riling Benjamin Netanyahu.
The eternal catch phrase – about how Israel will never be caught unprepared as it was in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and how IDF personnel will no longer blindly follow their higher-ups – has suddenly fallen by the wayside.
These people are falling into line toward the right. Eating with their mouths closed, in unison. Hiding any disturbing thoughts.
They are emptying of any substance the pretensions of the Agranat Commission that investigated the failings of the Yom Kippur War, which put most of the responsibility on the shoulders of the intelligence services, to be redeemed by the top brass – as if they and not the people at the command and policy levels have been given the authority to decide and act — and then they disseminate the assessments and warnings so that in addition to the IDF, the Mossad espionage agency and the Foreign Ministry will also speak out." Haaretz
"... it is appropriate to suggest that America’s Jewish population and the organizations representing it look inward and do some serious reflection. Even if we attribute only the best of intentions to them, these intentions again lead to a well-known place.
It’s hard to overstate Netanyahu’s insolence. In a Web speech given from his office and with the Israeli flag behind him, he called on American Jews to unite against the accord, “regardless of your political affiliation.” It’s even harder to understand how the leaders representing these Jews didn’t recognize the trap Netanyahu was leading them into – regardless of their political affiliation. The apex was the surreal meeting between 20 U.S.-Jewish leaders and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. I can’t recall a meeting between a U.S. president and vice president with U.S.-German leaders in order to discuss American relations with Europe. Or a conversation with U.S.-Japanese businessmen prior to the signing of a trade agreement between the United States and Japan." Haaretz
IMO Natanyahu, in his rejection of a life for Jews outside Israel is actually fostering ant-Semitism in the world and most especially in the United States, a country that had freed itself of this historic incubus.
Bibi has created a situation in which those who oppose the Iran agreement are almost invariably referred to in the media as Jewish this or Jewish that. This is not unnoticed by the other 98% of Americans.
For this to occur is to signal to all the existence of a bloc of Jewish Americans who obey a foreign leader on the basis of their shared ethno-religious identity. I am Catholic. We remember well the cry throughout the 19th and into the 20th Centuries that Catholics were disloyal servants of the pope in Rome.
As for the muzzling of IDF Intelligence, it should be remembered that Aman (IDF intelligence) is the senior service in Israel and the national estimator, not Mossad. pl
Adam L. Silverman
The National Security Archive has just this past week posted the all of the recently/newly declassified Ford Administration documents pertaining to the Church Committee's inquiry into the behavior of the Central Intelligence Agency (h/t: Booman Tribune). It should surprise no one that the Ford Administration official at the heart of trying to hinder the Church Committee's inquiry was none other than a young Dick Cheney. Not only did the future Vice President have his fingers all over that administration's response, he made sure that everything was routed through him. So he was able to see and shape everything before it was ever presented to President Ford. This is very interesting because it has been reported that he did the same thing to promote his preferred policy preferences and to stymie those of other officials in the first term of the Bush 43 Administration. Basically, VP Cheney was a ruthlessly efficient gatekeeper in both the Ford and Bush 43 Administrations. This allowed him to advance his preferred policies and strategies and frustrate his rivals - a hallmark of a very effective bureaucratic infighter. His gatekeeping expertise, has, unfortunately, now done incalculable damage to the civilian intelligence community and US foreign and defense policy in two different administrations.
* Picture of President Ford meeting with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld was found here.
"... the American-aligned unit, known as Division 30, in fighting off the assault, according to an American military spokesman and combatants on both sides. The strikes were the first known use of coalition air power in direct battlefield support of fighters in Syria who were trained by the Pentagon.
The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islamic State training program.
In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure." NY Times
"a significant intelligence failure?" No! No! Based on my 34 years experience in government in the war-fighting, policy and intelligence fields I would bet you a month's pay that the intelligence community told the policy people (elected and appointed) that the Nusra Front are inherently and permanently enemies of the United States and the west in general.
What has happened in this is that the policy people, unable to find tools with which to bring down the Syrian government, (at Israel's behest) have been working for the last several months at the considerable task of convincing themselves that not all Nusra jihadis are "bad people." Some are now said to be "misguided" by policy people in the hope that the Nusra Front can be made into useful idiots willing to serve the interests of what they would call the Crusader and Zionist foe.
Well, pilgrims, if someone or some group of someones in the IC contradicted that idea I am quite sure that the response from the policy side would be to tell them to go play amongst themselves quietly whilst the grown-ups talk.
Contributing to this catastrophe visited upon the hapless 60 members of Division 30 (the Unicorn Army) is the willingness of Israel to support the rebels fighting the Syrian Government south of Damascus. Guess what! These rebels include Nusra Front elements. Israel is treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals and providing them close air support.
Well, pilgrims, if Israel thinks they are all right...
Hillary's "classified" e-mails
" To be properly classified, a classification authority (an individual charged by the U.S. government with the right and responsibility to properly determine the level of classification and the reason for classification) must determine the appropriate classification level, as well as the reason information is to be classified. A determination must be made as to how and when the document will be declassified, and the document marked accordingly. Executive Order 13526 describes the reasons and requirements for information to be classified and declassified (Part 1). Individual agencies within the government develop guidelines for what information is classified and at what level" Wiki on classification in the US.
God himself does not personally "classify" information, not even in the US Government. He leaves that task to mere mortals. People who have security clearances and who are given access to documents marked with some jumble of letters indicating a degree of secrecy usually assume that there is something inherent in the information or the document that made it "classified." That is not the case. Information does not become "classified" until a "classification authority" says it is classified. In each department of the Executive Branch of the federal government the ultimate "classification authority" is the cabinet officer who heads that department, i.e., the Secretary of --------.
In the case of the State Department, that "classification authority" was Hillary Clinton whilst (I been watchin;' Brit TV again) she was Secretary of State, Sooo, unless she ruled that something circulating within State was "classified," it was not.
In the case of something from another department that came to her already "classified" that would be a more complex "call," but not a simple "call." Normally, information coming to a departmental secretary has more than one source. Who can say what information came from where? Sooo, let up, people. pl
How well is "containing IS" doing?
The answer is--- not very well. Absent a US national desire to fight a major war in Iraq and Syria, the only way to get rid of IS is to wall it up in the territory it has managed to capture and keep it walled up until it evolves into something other than the monstrous version of Sunni Islam that it now is. That happens with revolutions. It ALWAYS happens. I challenge you to name a revolution in which it did not happen.
The needed cordon sanitaire is looking shaky.
On the north, IS inspired terrorism inside Turkey has apparently caused that country to suspend its flirtation with IS, but not evidently Nusra and other anti-Syrian government groups. At the same time Turkey has begun bombing PKK associated Kurdish groups that it hates for nationalist reasons. To what extent the other Kurdish fighters, YPG, Pesh Merga, etc. will accept this is not clear to me. After all, the US has been engaged in combat support of these groups with US air. We are their de facto allies.
On the east, Iraq, in spite of all the happy talk declarations from the Obama Administration is still looking mighty weak. The ISF and friends re-captured Ramadi, right? No? The ISF and friends re-captured Baiji, right? No? IS is newly and expansively active in Diyala Province? Yes. A greater alignment of the US with Iran in combating IS seems inevitable if Iraq is to be "saved."
On the west, the US, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the Saudis are still intent on destroying the present Syrian Government and armed forces as well as the Hizbullah allies of the Syrian Government. The common threads in this determination are; the childlike belief in the Borg that a secular, liberal government would arise from the rubble, Israeli desire to screw Hizbullah and Iran which are seen in Israel as "the main enemy," Saudi and Islamist Turk desire for absolute Sunni domination of, well, everything.
On the south, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are insignificant militarily. They have a lot of equipment but little ability to use it other than at the operator level. War is a social process in the service of political goals. If you want to include economics as a sub-set of politics, that is fine by me. The Saudis and Kuwaitis have no real understanding of the military social process. If you don't understand that statement, keep reading SST. Someone will eventually succeed in explaining it. IMO the only viable solution for building up the south flank of the containment zone would be for the Saudis/Kuwaitis to hire some other country's forces to do the job for them. They have done this before. Saudi/Pakistani agreements stationed large numbers of active duty Pakistan service people in Saudi Arabia for many years. These Pakistanis were situated in combat units as well as support and staff jobs. This kind of augmentation could free up Saudi security services for internal security, a job they are fit for. Failing this kind of strategy Saudi/Kuwait will remain very vulnerable to internal jihadi subversion.
A cordon sanitaire strategy will not, of course, obviate jihadi terrorism outside the contained zone. That would remain the field of competence of; police, intelligence work, SOF and the like. pl
Obama as worldwide community organizer
"Hope and Change" was the watchword of Obama's election in 2008. I voted for him twice for lack of someone acceptable to me on the other side, but there was no enthusiasm in my support. I thought there might be hope for this man when I watched him mock himself on late night TV as "the goat boy messiah," and "arrogant," but alas, he is revealed as someone who thinks there is value in wandering the world lecturing alien peoples with regard to their sometimes abhorrent folkways. Female genital mutilation is an abomination and is all too frequent in Black Africa and Egypt, but does he really think he can "jaw-bone" them out of this custom? Really? Perhaps that kind of delusion explains his fantasy policy in Syria. pl
The Sanders/Trump phenomenon
IMO both these men are expressing widespread discontent in the part of the electorate that I would describe as culturally White. This is the part of the electorate that identifies with the historic majority culture of the United States. Race has nothing to do with whether or not you are culturally White. Asian Americans, some Black Americans, Latino Americans and three toed sloth Americans all can be culturally White. These people feel deeply threatened by the "goat boy messiah," and his cultural brethren in the Borg and are looking for their own messiah. pl
Yesterday COL Lang requested that everyone in ear (and eye) shot write their member of Congress. While letters will get logged in and eventually read by someone, email is basically ignored. The quickest and most direct way to get your views registered with your member of Congress and Senator is to call. Congressional offices log the calls, the subjects of the calls, and the position/view of the caller regarding the subject of the call. The good folks at Balloon Juice regularly put up these instructions when someone mentions contacting their Congressperson or Senator, so I'm going to link and then adapt their instructions:
If you're not sure who your member of Congress is, click over to this page, put in your zip code, and push the red button.
The Congressional Switchboard's number is (202) 224-3121. Here are the links with the direct numbers to Senator's and Congressperson's offices. While every so often you might get to speak to your actual Senator or Congressperson, it is much more likely you're going to wind up speaking to a staffer in their office. When you call, please remember to:
1) Be polite!
2) Identify who you are and your zip code.
3) Politely state the issue you are calling about.
4) Politely tell them how strongly you feel about it.
5) Politely tell them that you and your fellow like minded constituents in your district or state will take their vote on this issue into consideration when they next come up for reelection.
6) Politely thank the staffer for his or her time.
7) Hang up and go about your normal daily routine.
"During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede." Walter Williams
I strongly support the agreement with Iran with regard to nuclear energy programs. I do not think it is a perfect agreement but I think it is good enough to be a prophylactic against yet another war in the ME. IMO the deal is in the best interest of; the United States, Israel and all others.
There is a major political project underway to exert pressure on members of the US Congress in both houses to vote against the deal.
I entreat all Americans within the sound of my voice to contact their two senators and member of the House to express support for the agreement. pl
"You seem ... to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.... Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves." Thomas Jefferson writing as president of the United States. Wiki on the US Constitution
"Roberts invokes the founders of the US, writing, "Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority's conception of the judicial role ... They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges."
Notably, though, when seeming to address people who would celebrate Friday's decision, Roberts is clear that he does not have a personal problem with the outcome, just the process of getting there:
Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration ...
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."
Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent in Business Insider
"Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court," Scalia said.
"This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."
The conservative justice railed against his fellow justices, calling the majority opinion "egotistical" and pointing out that the justices were a homogeneous group that didn't represent the people. As proof, Scalia pointed out that many went to the same law schools, and none were evangelical or protestant Christians." Scalia in his dissent in Business Insider
Jefferson wrote the first quotation above as an apology for his failure to act to stop Chief Justice John Marshall's successful grab for the power of judicial review for constitutionality of government actions or laws.
There is nothing in the constitution that grants the federal courts the power of judicial review, nothing. Jefferson's own view was that the three branches of the federal government were completely equal and that each was responsible for judging the constitutionality of its actions.
But, at the very end of the John Adams administration, Adams appointed a man named Marbury to be a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. This is a minor office. James Madison, Jefferson's new Secretary of state declined to carry out the appointment and Marbury sued before the Supreme Court on the basis that Madison lacked the constitutional power to negate Adams' appointment.
John Marshall ruled in favor of Marbury (a fellow member of the defeated Federalist Party) and Jefferson, distracted by the business of his initial days in office as President, let Marshall's ruling go unchallenged and Marbury got the job.
This is how the federal courts came to be the "oligarchy" of which Jefferson complains.
I should make it clear that I am completely indifferent to the outcome in the same sex marriage case.
What bothers me is the assumption of this much power by the "five unelected lawyers." pl
Outsourcing is the rage these days and the US businesses, chasing cheaper labour in perpetual pursuit of efficiency/savings/greater profits, are at the head of the field. US government agencies have followed suit, trying to make do with the limited budgets they have, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is no exception.
The OPM is a somewhat obscure US federal agency which, among other things, conducts 90+% of background checks for personnel applying for sensitive jobs in the military and security agencies. Just as with large corporations, the cost and staff requirements of maintaining their IT infrastructure led them to seek savings by hiring outside talent for the job. What OPM did was't any different than what many US corporations do.
As it goes, outsourcing functions one can easily end up outsourcing the related know-how and the judgement acquired by experience (all the stuff you can't put into an SLA). Which savings just were not worth it usually becomes apparent only in hindsight. Given that there are things that are irreversible, lack of foresight results in a self-inflicted wound.
Obviously, with outsourcing knowledge retention becomes a real problem. Staff tends to run away when they see the writing on the wall and the best leave quickly in pursuit of more rewarding employment and to escape the terminal boredom administering to Whatnot in Mumbai or worse, having to train their replacement before being given the boot. That is to say, those who remain are usually not the creme de la creme.
I'm guessing, but perhaps that was why the OPM hired the wrong people. That they did so is clear. I wonder whether the OPM will heed the sage advice Dr. Watson dispensed to the hapless pawn shop owner in the Jermey Brett adaptation of the The Red-Headed League: "Next time you engage an assistant, pay him the proper wage!" ... but I digress.
As it went, OPM came to hire apparently chinese hackers - and gave them root access. This would have been bad for a company, but became something else entirely when it came to government data. Here, the hackers were able to steal the senstitive personnel records of federal employees working in military and security agencies. Businessinsider reports (links below):
"Specifically, the hackers reportedly acquired SF86 forms, which detail sensitive background information."Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday.
"[The] OPM is responsible for administering the SF 86, which is one of the most extensive national security questionnaires that exists."
"Federal employees and contractors who want government-security clearance have to disclose virtually every aspect of their lives via an SF 86 questionnaire, which is then stored on OPM's largely unencrypted database. ..."
"In fact, the breach was unprecedented in its breadth and scope: "Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday."
The time the hackers had to sift through all that data likewise was unprecedented:
"The average time Chinese hackers have access to a compromised system is 356 days and the longest recorded was 4 years and 10 months"
This has a potential to severely compromise US personnel and more, and here I hand over to TTG who is better able to explain what it means:
"When I heard of this data breach, my first thought was that here was another reason to watch my credit card and bank accounts very closely. What more could I lose after the news of the Anthem Blue Cross data breach discovered back in February. Then when the loss of the security files of up to 14 million Federal employees, retirees and contractors was announced, I knew this was a lot worse than the temporary loss of a credit card or two.
I have seen opinions that the information lost in this data breach poses a danger to U.S. personnel operating overseas in sensitive and covered positions. Fortunately, most people operating in those kinds of positions do not have records stored at OPM. I didn’t have contact with OPM until I retired from DIA. However, a lot of people who work with those in sensitive positions do go through the OPM for their security clearances. That includes a slew of support personnel and contractors. Those working under cover could be discovered through their associations with those support personnel and contractors.
The loss of the information contained in the SF86s and background investigations of these people is a treasure trove to China or whoever has this information. Filling out an SF86 is a laborious and time consuming task for anyone. It can take weeks to gather the detailed information requested in the form. The information in the OPM’s database of SF86s represents decades of man-years of detective work.
With that information and a halfway decent data mining tool, one can easily construct an accurate and detailed model of the vast national security structure of the USG. This model would include all the myriad government and contractor offices, the leadership structure along with detailed contact information, what they think of each other, and everyone’s dirty laundry. This model would also show how this national security structure evolved over time, at least since 9/11. With additional inputs, this model may even be predictive. This is indeed a serious data breech."
The legal authority for U.S. spy agencies' collection of Americans' phone records and other data was set to expire at midnight on Sunday after the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation extending the controversial powers.
After debate pitting Americans' distrust of intrusive government against fears of terrorist attacks, the Senate voted to move ahead with reform legislation that would replace the bulk phone records program revealed two years ago by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
But final Senate passage of the bill was delayed until at least Tuesday morning by objections from Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican presidential hopeful who has fulminated against the NSA program as illegal and unconstitutional. As a result, the government's collection and search of phone records was set to terminate at midnight (0400 GMT on Monday) when provisions of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law known as the USA Patriot Act expire. (Reuters)
Well, Rand Paul did all he could short of whipping out a roscoe and lighting up the joint. Section 215 will expire tonight and will probably be replaced by the USA Freedom Act later this week. Rand realizes both this and the probability of getting some amendments passed to tighten up the Act is slim to none. He made some good speeches (and some political points). I’m hoping he further galvanized the political and public opposition to unwarranted government surveillance. Maybe it will become more of an issue between now and November 2016.
The Administration, including Obama in his weekly address, and every surveillance hawk in the country have been stirring up the fear all week. According to them we can expect the 3rd Osama Bin Laden Shock Army to roll across our amber waving plains in a few hours and, because the NSA and FBI can’t collect bulk metadata , we are defenseless to stop them. They all disgust me.
This ain’t over. I can hear the strains of “The Rising of the Moon” in the distance.
Death to every foe and traitor, forward strike the marching tune
And hurrah, me boys, for freedom, 'tis the rising of the moon
So began Senator Rand Paul early this afternoon as he began his filibuster against renewal of the Patriot Act. He has now been speaking on the Senate floor for over eight hours. The Senate has until this Friday to extend Section 215 of the Patriot Act, or pass the USA Freedom Act, which would end the bulk surveillance as it now stands, but leaves the door open for it to continue in some newly devised form. Without passing either of these options, Section 215 will expire at the end of the month and government mass surveillance programs must end. This last option is what Rand Paul is pushing. He is not alone tonight. Senator Wyden (D-Oregon) has already spoken as part of Paul’s filibuster. Senators Cris Coons (D-Delaware), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are on the Senate floor in support of Senator Paul. There are others. They are all patriots.
I strongly support Senator Paul in this effort. The unwarranted mass surveillance of the American people is unconstitutional, illegal, largely useless, a waste of scarce intelligence resources and a dangerous distraction from the performance of needed intelligence collection. End it now.
You can watch and listen to Senator Rand Paul as he speaks on the Senate floor at the first link below. You may be watching history as it is being made. I could well imagine our founding fathers would be proud of him. - TTG
I hear from competent reporters on the ground in Iraq that a great panic has set in within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Abadi, like his Shia co-religionist Maliki, has been engaged in a thorough effort to disadvantage all the Sunni populations of Iraq. This would include; the Kurds (90% Sunni), the Sunni Arabs, the Sunni Turkomans, etc. To accomplish this, Sunni majority areas have been systematically deprived of weaponry and funding for years. Alternatively, Shia manned army and police units were stationd in Sunni areas like Mosul for the purpose of keeping the Sunnis under control
Now, to quote that notable American of the '60s and 70s.. H. Rap Brown, "the chickens has come home to roost." Shia units have collapsed and fled wherever they have met IS on Sunni populated ground and under resourced Sunni units have been defeated in Sunni majority areas like Anbar Province. Is Tikrit an exception to that? No. The IS withdrawal from the city was, IMO, a calculated IS ploy successfully executed for the purpose of fixing government forces in place while IS mobile forces moved to Anbar.
The Shia government in Baghdad has run out of cards. Their "army" has lost so much US supplied equipment that the remaining units are an isolated remnant and the government is reduced to relying on former Shia murder squads in the militias. Not surprisingly the Shia bigwigs are thinking of exile.
At the same time, the US government is suffering the effects of a cognitive dissonance that has prevailed since the First Gulf War and which became all controlling with the accession to power of GW Bush and the Svengalis of the neocon cabal.
The snake oil sold by the neocons contains the basic ingredients of disrespect for local cultures and a belief that the Muslims have no culture worth living by or respecting. This attitude has permeated the US government leading to an unjustified expectation that in the end the natives would be "reasonable" and would accept US tutelage in becoming "modern" and will remain attached to their former beliefs only so far as they are decorative.
We now see the result of this attitude and its resulting policy all over the Middle East and North Africa. The only US responses have been; more BS hurled at the governments, US military trainers exposed to unreasonable risks and bombing, lots of bombing.
I wrote earlier this week of the US policy collective or "Borg." That Borg is so densely structured and inflexible that it is incapable of adapting to the rejection that reality has visited on its dreams.
As a result the Borg is falling to bits internally, incapable of dealing with unfolding disaster. Names like Bataan and the Chosin Reservoir come increasingly to mind. pl
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian official, said Tehran was ready to help confront Islamic State, and he was certain the city would be "liberated".
Islamic State, which emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria in a self-proclaimed caliphate where it has carried out mass killings of members of religious minorities and beheaded hostages." Reuters
"Resistance is futile," proclaimed the Borg in an endless, mindless repetition of the ultimate in group-think. Today we have the policy Borg speaking with one voice. John Kerry in South Korea and USMC BG Weidly in Baghdad have the same talking points, exactly the same talking points.
Thought control became a priority for the US military after US policy (not the military) was defeated in VN. After much soul searching and rummaging about in the farther reaches of pseudo spirituality and science, the armed forces leadership stopped looking at such things as; spoon bending, fire walking and psycho-kinesis as expressions of non-material power and an explanation for defeat in VN and decided that we had simply been defeated at home in the media and because of that among the people. Clausewitz would have appreciated that thought.
An infamous essay called "Mind War" was authored in that time by Paul Vallely (Fox News consultant) and a strange fellow named Michael Aquino. Aquino was later notorious as the High Priest of the Temple of Set, a Satanist cult in California (where else?). This paper, written by this pair of half baked psychological operations reservists, somehow insinuated itself into the thinking of the US Army, then into all of the Defense Department until it came to be an article of faith that "Information Operations," (propaganda- IO) and "Kinetic Operations" (shooting people as necessary) were equally effective ways to wage war. This belief led to an exaggerated faith in the IO side of COIN (hearts and minds) and repeated attempts to change through persuasion the basic beliefs of the many different peoples of the earth who simply do not want to be changed by foreigners. As a result of this kind of thinking we have done all kinds of foolish things. Among them; we attempted to persuade the hard core Dawa Shia activist al-Maliki that he should be politically "inclusive" with Sunnis whom he regarded as the enemies of God and of his blood. We also situated outposts in totally hostile parts of Afghanistan next to villages from which our men would never be able to defend themselves. We were trying to be persuasively nice.
Worst of all it came to be consensual thought in the US government and among their co-opted media "friends" that it was normal to propagandize the American electorate in order to block political action intended to prevent or stop a war. This was an odd development for a country in which the United States Information Agency (USIA) was forbidden by law to direct its propaganda at US audiences.
That kind of approach took us into war in Iraq. The Republican Party is now trying to deal with the truth of that crime and their tribe of midget candidates is having a hard time justifying what their party did. Good! At the moment 76% of registered Republicans are shown by polling to think that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Good! Unfortunately it took a very long time for the Koolaid and BS to lose its potency.
We are still captives of the IO internal propaganda mindset and dogma. In Iraq, Syria and Yemen the US government in all its many parts continues to lie to us in order to control us. The government narrative is that all goes well. Defeat at Ramadi is nothing, "a momentary setback" is the theme propagated by the government while a minor raid in Syria is trumpeted as a distraction from the catastrophe that is now so clear to see in Iraq.
The most hurtful thing of all is to see an officer of the US Marine Corps, sworn to protect The Republic, stoop to lie to us from Baghdad in the service of WH talking points. Ah, but perhaps he believes the BS. When you are part of the Borg you eventually come to believe that the talking points are the only reality and that defeat is evidence of impending victory.
Locutas said that resistance is futile. Perhaps it is. pl
"So how on earth will this big tough guy execute the delicate kabuki dance of policy in Washington, DC? “General Smith comes to Washington” might make a good movie, pitting Pattonesque guts and glory against slimy politicos and greasy bureaucrats. But straight-shooting soldiers haven’t always served the Army well as chief of staff. Eric Shinseki’s honesty on how many troops were needed to occupy Iraq only brought him grief under Donald Rumsfeld, as did his politically tone-deaf push for wheeled vehicles and black berets. Peter Schoomaker, his successor, was a special operations soldier — much like Milley — who struggled to adjust to the “Big Army.”" Breaking Defense
So, how on earth did this happen? This not one of the "perfumed princes." All reports are favorable but he will need a lot of luck and a lot of help in the snake pit that is Washington these days.
"... the old pillars of the liberal unionist establishment: Church, law, education, have long ceased to have the power and status they once had.
Way beyond the appeal of the SNP, Scotland has grown increasingly impatient at the foibles of Westminster, more confident as a nation and society, and more assertive and calm in wanting more self-government.
The SNP wave carries with it the weight of high expectations. A powerful nationwide alliance of west and east coast, Highland and Lowland, town, city and rural areas has emerged and swung behind the SNP. This cannot be characterised as entirely centre-left or social democratic, but as a cross-class national alliance.
Irrespective of how Scotland voted, the UK was always going to get a Tory or Labour government. No-one imagined a majority Conservative government under David Cameron. This is now the reality that Scotland and the rest of the UK face – one that will face questions about its legitimacy and whether it does or doesn’t have a mandate north of the border. Irish Times
IMO there is a special irony that this article is in a leading Irish newspaper. I wonder what Michael Collins or De Valera would say if they were around.
Can anyone doubt that the Bloc Quebecois is looking at this result and considering the odds? Immigrant, essentially un-French, voters were the margin of defeat last time there was a referendum on "sovereignty." The thought must be that surely something clever could be done about that next time. The Anglo power establishment in Canada used to say that my French-Canadian ancestors were racists. This was largely because the French did not want to be Anglophones and Protestants. Perhaps the barons in Montreal were right.
I listened to all the usual Sunday morning news drivel today. There was very little discussion of Scotland. It was almost as though the Scots had already left. There was a lot of talk of the EU membership referendum in 2017, but no discussion of what the reaction of the Scots' would be if England votes itself out of the EU. Actually, what IS the point of UK membership in the EU? Without participation in a common currency, what is the point?
The most amusing of these discussion was a chat between Fareed Z. (the Great) and the woman who is now editor of The Economist on the subject of the election. They spoke with considerable chumminess for ten minutes and never mentioned Scotland once. pl
Adam L Silverman,
In a few weeks US Special Forces will conduct an exercise in the US southwest called Jade Helm. This is neither out of the ordinary for the US military or really even news. What is out of the ordinary and really news is that a vocal number of Texas citizens, fueled by far too much time on the Internet and listening to talk radio, are convinced that Jade Helm 15 is really cover for the President to declare martial law* by colluding with Wal-Mart to use secret tunnels under the five stores they have recently closed (for either a labor dispute or a plumbing problem depending on who you want to believe) - several of which aren't anywhere near the exercise areas - to move Special Forces around to round up Texans, place them in FEMA concentration camps, seize their private property, and import ISIS fighters across the Southern Border so that Muslims can conquer America. Someone even dispatched a Public Affairs Officer to go to town hall meetings to dispel the rumors. Click over to watch the video and see for yourself how far down the rabbit hole this whole thing has gone. If you like to play conspiracy theory bingo someone just won and won big! Also, if the allegations about Jade Helm turn out to be true, then our friend Tyler is going to be very, very busy down on the border this Summer - so be prepared to send care packages!
In response to this imminent threat to the Homeland, and Texas, and our precious bodily fluids (insert your preferred Dr. Strangelove reference here _______), Texas Governor Abbott has called out the Texas State Guard** to monitor the exercise, coordinate with the US military, and report back to him. This is either a smart move to diffuse unwarranted fears by engaging with those who have them and making them feel that their concerns are noted or a bad move as it will confirm the unfounded paranoia and reinforce these beliefs in those who have them because the governor is taking it seriously.
* The Gawker article includes the complete informational/briefing slide deck pertaining to Jade Helm. Its marked UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO, but I wanted to warn anyone with a clearance in case you click over there you'll find (a soft level of) spillage.
** The Texas State Guard is the descendant of the state militia set up by Steven Austin in the 19th Century. It does report to the Adjutant General. Twenty-two states have state level militias, either state guards or state defense forces, that are distinct from their National Guards. From the Texas State Guard website:
"The Texas Military Forces is composed of the three branches of the military in the state of Texas. These branches are the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas State Guard. All three branches are administered by the state Adjutant General, an appointee of the Governor of Texas, and fall under the command of the Governor.
The mission of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) is to provide mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities; and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required."
Adam L. Silverman
About three weeks ago Confused Ponder in his response to Walrus about the events in Ukraine excerpted a block quote that referred to the events in Ukraine as a "botched up color revolution". What I found interesting about that reference is that none of the color revolutions have led to significant consolidation. In fact many led to follow on revolutions. This is certainly the case in Ukraine - the 2004 Orange Revolution failed, leading to several follow on state and societal crises that eventually blew up - for internal and external reasons - in the 2014 Maidan events. What happens is that expectations for change get raised, the post revolutionary government cannot meet them, and the cycle that leads to revolution starts all over again. The US has seen this phenomena too. There were several small rebellions and uprisings between the first founding and the acceptance of the Articles of Confederation and the second founding and the ratification of the Constitution. Things didn't end there with regional rebellions in the 19th Century punctuated by the Civil War, which was originally called The Great Rebellion. These were interwoven with smaller riots and uprisings. While many of these were race riots or labor riots - as in either minorities or labor fighting back against institutionalized authority or institutionalized authority violently targeting minorities or labor - there have been over 200 rebellions and uprisings since the American Revolution! They also include several sports related riots - both because some community's team won or lost. In many of these cases, including some of the sports riots, the rebellion, uprising, and/or riot occurred because expectations were raised and not met. In many ways the events we are witnessing in Baltimore this week are the result of the frustration that arises and boils over when social, political, and economic expectations are not met. While the immediate driver may have been the death of a Baltimorean in police custody, the real drivers are much, much deeper.
John Angelos, the COO of the Baltimore Orioles has made a statement about the real drivers of unrest in Baltimore this week (h/t John Cole at Balloon Juice) that provides a very easy to follow explanation of the effects of the dashed expectations that lead to revolutions, rebellions, and uprisings:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
The real question is how much longer things can continue on continuing on before this becomes more widespread than it is and moves from communities of color to the larger cross section of Americans that John Angelos references in his remarks. And perhaps the real question is whether we, as Americans, have the social, political, and economic will to make the changes necessary to bring about positive changes. And if we have leaders that can recognize opportunities for real, positive improvements rather than opportunistically exploiting the reality Angelos so clearly describes for their own and their patrons limited self interests.
Adam L Silverman
Lost amid all the sound and fury around The Cotton Letter are several really substantial issues that significantly impact American government and governance. Sure it is fun, to some extent, to focus on Senator Cotton and his forty-six colleagues inability to correctly describe Congress's actual constitutional role to the Iranians in a letter to the Iranian leadership that was written to explain Congress's actual constitutional role. It is also amusing to watch people speculate about Logan Act violations and the possibility for prosecution, though the actual political problems such a prosecution would create is largely left unexplored. Basically, the next time a Democrat did something that a Republican didn't like on foreign policy during a GOP administration the Logan Act would be utilized as a political weapon. And a recounting of then candidate Nixon working through Henry Kissinger, then on the LBJ Administration's payroll as a negotiator, and Anna Chennault to stymie the Paris Peace Talks in the service of the Nixon for President Campaign is always tons of fun and an actual example of treason.
While this is all amusing, including different members of the GOP distancing themselves or claiming that it was all just an attempt to inject a little levity into the serious negotiations with Iran, it ignores a major, and largely unspoken reality: no one really knows the details of what is being negotiated. Yes, there have been some strategic leaks, such as those about a potential, initial ten year time limit to the agreement. And it is definite that both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress - the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of both chambers and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees - have been briefed on some/all of the details. This information is to satisfy the Congressional oversight role, is highly classified, and not for disclosure. We also know that US allies have been briefed with the understanding that they will be discreet with the information and hold it closely. Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to use the information that he claims he was briefed on is part of the ongoing deterioration of his relationship with President Obama. No matter what leaks about the negotiations get published, there is simply no way for Americans to know if these are accurate or being finessed for political gain.
Adam L. Silverman
I've waited about a week to write up my reaction to Netanyahu's speech to Congress because every time I'd sit down to start writing I was worried it would turn into a rant. My initial response was a combination of disgust, anger, and embarrassment. I also knew that I didn't want to simply cover many points that have been covered here and elsewhere: that Netanyahu has been predicting that Iran is anywhere from 1 to 2 to 3 to 5 years away from achieving a nuclear weapon for going on twenty-five to thirty years; that much of what he said was an echo of what he stated about Iraq when he addressed Congress in the early 00s; that the Congressional GOP leadership had reached a new low (which the Senatorial GOP surpassed yesterday and I'll write about later today); as I covered before the speech - something similar was pulled on President Reagan by Menachem Begin, and the unmitigated gall of Netanyahu to claim to speak on behalf of all members of a religion.
Instead I want to focus on two distinct themes that Prime Minister Netanyahu kept hammering: fear and victimization. These themes in his remarks were really about the fear that Israel has of its neighbors, especially Iran. And the historic victimization of the Jews, which Israel will not allow to happen ever again. Despite the Israeli/Jewish wrapper of his remarks, Netanyahu was also hitting on two themes that play very well with Americans; especially after 9-11. When I was a college student one of my professors stated something that makes a lot of sense post 9-11: "there is nothing as dangerous as a democracy when its scared." In many ways I think this is a good way to understand a lot of American behavior post 9-11. Even more so many of our elected and appointed officials, as well as the professional pundits and commentators. We allowed al Qaeda, through our over reaction and the over reaction of politicians and pundits to an unusually and unexpectedly successful terrorist attack on three targets, to be transformed in our imaginations from a terrorist group to an existential and civilizational threat. This, by the way, was what bin Laden wanted.
Netanyahu's focus on fear and victimization was no accident. He understands how we've tuned our strings and simply plucked them accordingly. My disgust and embarrassment, however, went beyond his attempts to simply play America - or at least Congress and the punditocracy - to his remarks about Judaism, fear, and victimization. There is no doubt that Jews have repeatedly faced being the societal other, discriminated against, having the force of what we now call the state directed against them, and being victimized. However, this is not the totality of the Jewish experience. While it definitely accounts for the majority of Jewish life in Europe from the fall of Rome through to World War II and the Holocaust, it fails to account for other Jewish experiences. For instance, the Golden Age of Spain, which saw a high amount of societal and political integration between the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain. It ignores the completely different experiences of the Jewish communities of India and China, the latter of which was so successfully integrated into China that it essentially assimilated fully into Han Chinese culture. And it definitely doesn't account for the modern Jewish American experience.
There is no doubt that Jews in Europe were often and repeatedly attacked for being Jewish or for bizarre accusations of what Jews do ritually, such as the blood libel. This was, of course, topped off by the Holocaust. However, some Jews did try to fight back. For instance, during the Holocaust there were significant numbers of Jews who fled ahead of the NAZIs to join with the various partisan movements and fight back. There were others, like Moe Berg a Jewish American professional baseball player who undertook a number of clandestine operations against the NAZIs. Or Hannah Senesh who undertook paratrooper operations against the NAZIs until caught and eventually executed. This doesn't even account for the Jewish American and Jewish British Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who fought against the NAZIs in Europe or against their AXIS partners/the Japanese in the Pacific. While Jewish resistance, whether to the NAZIs or to the anti-Semitism of their Christian neighbors, was not uniform, Netanyahu's equating the Jewish experience with victimization obscures a number of overtly heroic actions to counter the victimization. But it does something even worse. It fails to recognize the even harder form of resistance, the attempt to remain free within one's self when there is no immediate opportunity for external/physical resistance. By focusing on victimization and fear, Netanyahu missed the more important flip side of the coin: the mental resilience and resistance that are the basis for survival. It was to the perceived lack of this resistance among Americans that Netanyahu was playing and it demonstrates how little he thinks of his Congressional hosts, America's elected and appointed officials, and Americans in general. The only outstanding question is if we are going to prove him wrong.
"... Syria is not just a civil war, but a propaganda war being fought for competing geopolitical interests. The end-result of this tug of war between pro-interventionist and anti-interventionist narratives has been the victory of neither, and thus, the entrenchment of violence amidst a Syrian stalemate.
Unfortunately, some parties see this stalemate as a strategic boon. Noting “the synergy between the Israeli and American positions”, the New York Times recently reported that: “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” In this context, the threat of “limited” military strikes is more about sending a message to Iran and Syria, rather than about decisively defeating Assad — which may be because “the West needs more time to prop up opposition forces it finds more palatable.” Le Monde
The government/academic/media/thinktank world decided several years back that the Syrian Government was altogether responsible for the death and destruction of the Syrian civil war. In pursuit of that view ALL casualties are said to be the SAG's responsibility because it did not surrender to the various kinds of rebels early on. There does not seem to be any possibility of withdrawal from that lofty consensus (group think) now prevalent among the "cognoscenti." At numerous meetings in the capital (Washington) swamp and the other capital swamp (New York) I have heard all the informational "players" sound off on the wisdom of their judgments about the viability of the SAG, its weakness, the opposition of the "Syrian People" to the SAG, etc. When interlocutors are asked why the Alawis, Shia, Christians, etc and many sophisticated, westernized Sunnis support the SAG, eyes roll upward in frustration. One young man actually told me that "he knew what he was doing." He had served three or four years in the army, had left as a captain and currently held a position as the Syria analyst at a major think tank.
I have made it a habit to challenge the epistemology of their data. "How do you know that?" This would be a typical challenge. This kind of question ALWAYS elicits the same kind of response. The response is hostility to the question followed by a grudging admission that the sources of data that are taken as probably true are all on the rebel sides,. The favorite is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK based rebel propaganda organ.The SAG's statements and reporting is simply dismissed as beneath contempt.
An example of that would be the interview that Bashar Assad gave to the BBC this week. The Beeb had pursued Assad for several years seeking this interview. He finally granted the interview and sat with Bowman, the ME editor of BBC, for an exclusive talk. BBC asked in advance if there were any areas of questioning that were "off limits." The answer was that there were none and Assad answered every question within the limits of expression of someone who does not speak English every day. The on-air reaction of Bowman reporting later from the safety of Beirut was completely dismissive. The attitude was that Assad's willingness to participate in the interview was an unaccountable irrelevance since he was obviously lying about every topic of discussion.
Bowman made a great deal of the subject of "barrel bombs," and their bestiality as evidence of a demonic Nazi-like hatred for the Syrian people. Assad asserted that the Syrian Air Force does not use barrel bombs. He said they had lots of ordinary bombs. Why use barrel bombs? This statement was taken as evidence of Assad's perfidy. "Barrel Bombs" are 55 gallon drums filled with explosives and fragmentation junk that are dropped as sling loads under helicopters. I have no idea if the SAG uses barrel bombs, but it seems to me that the difference in effect between that and common 250 or 500 lb. aerial fragmentation bombs cannot be very great. US air power uses large, destructive bombs all the time as do all air forces across the world. Would it not have been a normal reaction to Assad's position for Bowman to ask for access to Syrian Air Force operations in order to confirm or deny Assad's statements? It seems that Bowman did not do that. Why? Was it because he could not afford to learn something that would be outside the consensus? Actually, why not ask for "embedding" throughout the Syrian Armed Forces for the same purpose?
We should face the truth about the media's statements about the Syrian Civil War. They are something less than objective truth. Why is that? pl
"A sunset clause precommits Congress and the President to revisit the nature and scope of the very diffuse war against Islamic terrorists on a regular basis. It pressures the President on a regular basis to explain the nature of the conflict and the reasons why it must continue (and how), and it pressures Congress to exercise its constitutional and democratic responsibilities to deliberate about and vote on (or at least face) the issue. A sunset clause poses risks. The President could argue after three years that he can continue to fight the Islamic State under Article II without Congress’s imprimatur. But while this argument might be available, it is more of a legal stretch, and certainly politically riskier, for the president to justify the entire conflict on the basis of Article II than it is for him to use Article II to extend the war a bit beyond what Congress authorized (either geographically or in terms of ground troops). There is also the danger that Congress will not renew the authorization, or not renew it to the President’s liking, thus forcing the President into an awkward Article II posture or into narrowing the conflict further than he would like. I doubt any of these outcomes will occur, as it should not be hard for the next President to make the case for renewing authorizations for war if such authorizations are plausibly warranted. But in any event, as a nation we should not shy away from these possible consequences of democratic deliberation on a vital question like war.
In short, a sunset clause is the one provision that a Congress seeking to reassert its constitutional prerogatives should insist on in a new AUMF." Goldsmith in Lawfare
The great danger that we face in the US is that of an unending war against any or all forces that a president can describe as being of hostile intent and capable of carrying out kinetic attacks on the US or powers friendly to the US.
The AUMFs have become the functional equivalents of declarations of war. Under their authority the president and commander in chief can wage war with little restriction on his Second Amendment powers as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.
Unless these powers are limited in some meaningful way we are watching a transformation from Republic to Principate. pl
ACLU, Cuccinelli oppose unwarranted searches and seizures by Victoria Zawitkowski / Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli, the head of the Virginia ACLU and others across the political spectrum called Thursday for an amendment to the state Constitution to protect citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. They supported a provision similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. Advocates of the idea want to extend that protection to electronic devices and information given to a third party, such as a cellphone company or a website.
Two resolutions before the General Assembly would start the process of amending the Constitution: HJ 578, sponsored by Del. Richard Anderson, R–Woodbridge, and SJ 302, introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford. The resolutions’ sponsors and supporters held a press conference to discuss the issue. Anderson called attention to the diverse groups working together on it. “Just think, the Virginia ACLU and the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots,” Anderson said. “This knows support across theological lines simply because it’s the right thing. It returns us to what our founders intended.” Stuart said the amendment would modernize protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. “I think it goes a long way in helping us to ensure those protections into the 21st century,” Stuart said. “Obviously, there are things that our Founding Fathers couldn’t contemplate at the time that this was done.”
Cuccinelli and Anderson said the amendment would protect Virginians against surveillance by organizations such as the National Security Agency and the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Share Network, a database of personal telephone data compiled by police in southeast Virginia. The proposed state amendment would go beyond the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens only in or immediately outside of their home, said Cuccinelli, a former state attorney general. “This would take it to your property line,” he said. (Read the full article at the Free Lance-Star.)
I'm no fan of Cuccinelli, but I'll stand right by his side on this one. Good on him! The entire federal government, including the Supreme Court, has been eroding our fourth amendment rights for the last fifteen years. I've written about this before... many times. Others have fought this fight in their own ways, from Senator Ron Wyden's and Representative Justin Amash's legislative proposals, to the technical evangelism of Bruce Schneier and Jacob Appelbaum, the whistleblowing of Thomas Drake and others, and the shocking revelations of Edward Snowden.
This effort is different. If successful, this legislation will pit the people and Constitution of Virginia against the federal acolytes of the national security state. This will be a frontal assault on on the weasel words concocted by NSA lawyers to justify mass surveillance and retention of all our personal information. It will be a punch in the gut of any federal official trying to serve a national security letter on a Virginian. It will tell the rest of the nation that Virginians would rather stand for our freedom than cower for our safety.
Is the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest legislative body in the New World, up to this? Will Governor McAuliffe embrace this in the face of the inevitable backlash of the Obama Administration? Are we up for this fight? I intend to do what I can to support this legislation. Writing a few letters is the least I can do if I want to claim the title of Virginian like Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Jackson.
"Studies have shown that up to a quarter of the river’s brown bullheads, a type of catfish that feeds on the toxin-clogged sediment at the bottom of the Anacostia, have skin tumors, and as many as half have liver tumors.
A lot of waste has been dumped into the waterway. The Navy Yard, once the world’s largest producer of naval ordnance, sits on the Anacostia and has been accused of leaking carcinogenic PCBs into the water for decades. The riverbanks have hosted a coal gasification plant, a rail yard, power and gas facilities and other heavy industry, all of which used chemicals that could pollute the water." Washpost
"S--t Creek" is the local nickname for this stream. The Anacostia River should have been cleaned up long ago. Inaction in this matter is a monument to the collossal ineptitude of the autonomous District of Columbia government, a government plagued by federal graft investigations and an obvious inability to govern effectively.
The high end estimated cost for cleaning up this welter of sewage and industrial pollution is $500 million. Let's think about that number in the context of what we have been throwing away in the Forever Wars.
The Potomac River into which the Anacostia flows has been greatly improved in water quality in the last fifty years. Fishing in the Potomac is now a normal activity as is the presence of a lot of waterfowl.
The City of Alexandria, Virginia, ten miles from Washington, DC has a population of 140,000. I am an Alexandrian. We recently finished construction of a new version of TC Williams High School. That cost the city around $150 million. There are numerous other projects recently done or underway around town; the African American cultural center, etc. When you add them all together the numbers involved will closely resemble the estimated costs of an Anacostia River clean up. We meet our obligations in Alexandria.
Maryland, the District of Columbia government and the US Navy should "pony up" and clean up the filth in the river. pl
"If I were writing such a history now, I would call it Chickenhawk Nation, based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened to our military. Outsiders treat it 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." James Fallows
I have had little regard for the character of the American “people" since VN. Their spiritual abandonment of the US armed forces in Vietnam in a war to which they had been sent by the elected US government was a powerful lesson with regard to the fecklessness of "the people." My opinion was confirmed after 9/11 when the cowardice of most American civilians was evident to all, except perhaps to them. The blind fear observable in their faces and behavior was disgusting. This pervasive and pathetic fear led them to accept, indeed to revel in, such abominations as the torture regime in foreign prisons, the TV series, "24" with its moden Torquemada, and The Patriot Act which stripped free men of many of their liberties. And let us not forget how lustily most of "the people"cheered at first for a mindless war in Iraq, a war that has wrecked stability in the ME and which has brought forth such fruits as IS.
Our people, the military's people, have fought well in these endless wars. (Irony Alert) They must represent a different genetic inheritance from that of the sheeple. pl
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God's
When mercy seasons justice.
"Jennifer McDonnell Zubowsky wrote a letter of support for her father that was one of 440 submitted by his attorneys to a federal judge ahead of his Jan. 6 sentencing. Bob and Maureen McDonnell were convicted in September of a range of corruption charges in connection with gifts and loans they accepted from a wealthy businessman. Each faces up to 30 years in prison.
The letter from Zubowsky supports the attempt by McDonnell's lawyers to portray the former governor as a man ethically betrayed by his wife in a crumbling marriage. Among the defense's contentions was that the couple could not have conspired in the alleged corruption because they were barely speaking.
"My mom ... has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees [sic]," Zubowsky write, according to the Post. "She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services and she didn’t communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve. ... The testimony about my mom ... unfortunately, was the reality."
Zubowsky also wrote that she believed that her mother had suffered from mental illness for years, with the governor saying that he planned to address the matter after leaving office. McDonnell served as Virginia's governor from 2010 until January of this year, and he was indicted days after leaving office. " foxnews
IMO Judge Spencer is going to "throw the book" at McDonnell. I have no connection whatever with the case or trial but I have deep belief that this will be seen as a chance to make an example of a politician.
I think Maureen McDonnell's personality defects and mental condition caused the former governor to do things that good judgment should have caused him to refuse, but at the same time most of us have had relatives whose spouses have been so outrageous in their behavior that they distorted the lives of those they should have supported.
McDonnell is finished in politics. Is that and the humiliation of the trial not punishment enough?
"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven..."
IMO opinion President Obama should pardon the two of them after sentencing, insisting instead on a lengthy program of volunteer community service.
Obama wants and needs cooperation from the Republicans. IMO this show of mercy would help him get that help. pl
According to Democratic Party orthodoxy, Virginia is rapidly evolving into something like New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. McCauliffe's capture of the governor's mansion (after several attempts to win commonwealth wide office) was supposed to be a milestone in our progress toward becoming a society in which a man and a woman are addressed as "you guys."
Somehow... That has not happened. In spite of the best schmoozing, good booze and a keg in the governor's house, the "rubes" in the General Assembly have been remarkably unimpressed. The guv has fallen on his face in his attempts to expand Medicaid. I, personally, think that is a tragedy for armies of poor Virginians, but I understand the impulse to put Terry (master of the political game) in his place.
He "da man," and his agenda now includes such fodder for the national Democratic base as proposing gun control legislation to a legislature that loves guns. So do most Virginians. This fact is obscured by the propagandists in citing polls claiming that most of us favor background checks. That is probably true in the broadest sense if details are not given, but the pollsters and their media pals don't mention that what is really desired are universal pre-sale checks on ALL gun transfers including those among family members and other private citizens who happen to own a gun. The "gun show loophole" is always cited as evidence of something that should be done... Well, pilgrims, there is no gun show loophole in Virginia. NONE! All registered vendors at licensed gun shows are equipped for on-line federal and state checks before sales and these are executed. What is referred to as the "gun show loophole" are PRIVATE sales out in the parking lot. McCauliffe now proposes that the State Police will begin to "hang out" out there to "assist" people in making on-line checks using state police equipment. I wonder how well that will "go over."
In Today's Washington Post it was explained that Terry M. wants to create a "neutral" commission to re-district the General Assembly. Well, since the Republicans already, massively control the legislature, why on earth would they agree to that? The citizenry will think they are not "playing nice?" I will tell you a secret. Most Virginians do not care about "playing nice" in politics. They care about winning and in securing what they see as their interests. My father used to say that I should remember that the US is not a popular democracy. He stressed that it really is a federal republic with limited democracy. Remember that Wyoming and California each have two US Senators. The system was designed that way and the example is not lost on Virginians. There is no possibility that Terry M. will be able to change the system of districting the General Assembly. He is just grandstanding for the Clintons and the rest of that crew.
Mark Warner is a good senator but he almost lost his seat to Ed Gillepsie, someone not greatly admired in the Old Dominion. Warner won by 17,000 votes. That was a surprise. Perhaps McCauliffe should think about that. pl
In the comments to both my post and Walrus's original post on HR 758, Brigadier Ali raised an interesting and important point about another bill that recently passed: House Resolution 5859. Brigadier Ali and several other commenters expressed concern that this bill, which has passed both chambers and is awaiting the President's signature, would require the Administration to provide various forms of defense support to Ukraine. The concern is that this could lead to a further deterioration of relations with Russia. The link to the Congressional information on HR 5859 is here. I've attached the pdf of the bill at the bottom of this post. The first several sections define terms and basically legislative authorize what the Administration has already been doing with sanctions, visa denials, prohibitions on investments, etc.
The pertinent section to Brigadier Ali's concerns is section 6. Section 6, subsection a explicitly states: "The President is authorized (my emphasis) to provide defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, crew weapons and ammunition, counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries, fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment, tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment, pursuant to the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.), the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), and other relevant provisions of law."
The remainder of this section includes a lot of "shalls" and "shoulds". While HR 5859 is not a "sense of the House" bill like 758 is, my reading of its impact on US action vis a vis Ukraine similar to that of 758. It does not require the President to do anything, but it does give him permission to both continue doing what he's been doing and to take additional actions if so desired. All of that said, perhaps it might be good to remember that sanctions are themselves often considered an act of war... That, sobering thought, is, however, a discussion for another day.
"In late July 2002 the CIA turned to the psychologists, according to both former intelligence officials and congressional investigators. Jessen was then a senior psychologist at the Defense Department agency that taught special operations forces how to resist and endure torture via so called "SERE" training, or Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape training, at a special "SERE" school. Jessen was sent to the CIA "for several days" to discuss the techniques, according to congressional investigators. Jessen immediately resigned from the Air Force and, along with Mitchell, another recently retired colleague, founded Mitchell, Jessen & Associates.
The Senate report states the contractor "developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques and personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA's most significant detainees using those techniques. The contractors also evaluated whether the detainees' psychological state allowed for continued use of the techniques, even for some detainees they themselves were interrogating or had interrogated."" NBC News
As is reflected in the two cited SST posts below I deduced in 2007 and 2008 that the CIA run interrogation torture program had its roots in the "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape" (SERE) training program that the USAF ran during the Cold War. This program existed for the purpose of preparing air crews for what they might experience if shot down and/or captured by a communist enemy.
Several theater air force commands ran such training courses. The civilian psychologists who are mentioned in the NBC News story were the technical experts for all these schools.
USAF South ran such a school in the Panama Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama in the '60s. 8th US Army Special Forces Group was home based in the Canal Zone. The air force asked 8th SF to send a few men to each class in the belief that the "Greenies" would keep the air force students alive out in the jungle during the course. Accordingly, I was a student in one of these course. The survival training in the jungle near Columbia was routine business for the SF people. That was much like our usual environment. We ate a lot of wild turkey, monkey and palm heart. We showed the air force people how to find their way around in the wilderness. It was much like a picnic. Then, at the end of the course, we were all seized and put in a "practise" PW camp where we were held naked for days without shelter during the monsoon, subjected to many of the "techniques" described in the senate report and then at the end, waterboarded. I am here to tell you that anyone who thinks waterboarding is not torture has not been waterboarded. I thought then and think now that the psychologists and air force people who ran the camp were dangerous sadists.
When the question of waterboarding and torture arose after 9/11 I decided that such abuse must have its roots in the SERE schools since, in spite of leftist fantasies, the USG had not tortured people since the Phillipine Insurrection. There was no basis in dictrine for such behavior. In VN there were occasional vilations of US military law in this area but when discovered they were punished.
Bush 43 said that the people who ran this program were American patriots because they sacrificed their own sensibilities for the greater good. Himmler said much the same thing to a gathering of SS leaders in 1942. The torturers and their Mengele clone advisers are probably safe from prosecution but they should be shunned by all decent people. pl
So, it looks like Carter will be nominated to be SECDEF. The Obamanites would have preferred Flournoy as part of their effort to achieve a grand-slam in the field of "Hope and Change" but the lady decided she was "not for burning." Smart.
Carter is filled with wonderfulness as an academic prodigy, physicist, budgeteer, procurer (in a nice way), etc., but he "don't know s--t from Shinola" about actual war or foreign policy. That last was a quote from one of my old NCO friends.
The industrial part of the fabled military-industrial complex is said to be rejoicing about the prospect of this man handing out contracts. Yes, I am sure it is.
IMO, the prospect of Carter as SECDEF means that McCain is right when he says that Carter simply will not be a player in strategic decision making. That, in turn means that Dempsey's role as chief strategist at the Pentagon will grow to be even larger.
CJCS is not in the chain of command under Goldwater-Nichols but in this situation that seems irrelevant. I think it unlikely that General Austen (CENTCOM) would choose to get crosswise with Dempsey on anything important.
IMO the struggle between the JCS and the Girls Club at the WH will continue with Dempsey being the chief protagonist on the DoD side of the conflict.
There are all kinds of serious matters to be dealt with in the next two years. Presumably the money fight will be ably led by SECDEF. This is the kind of thing that he is well qualified to do, but there are real wars to fight:
So, Hagel is out. He is evidently the loser in a struggle between the military leadership and the Children's Crusaders at the White House and State Department. The military want more clearly defined goals across the Islamic culture continent and "the kids" want to run foreign affairs on the basis of the crap they write in magic marker on white boards in their seminars.
The armed forces are being asked to assume larger and larger missions in the Middle East, Afghanistan and West Africa. At the same time the money needed to maintain DoD operations and perform such functions as Strategic Triad modernization has largely disappeared in the welter of sequestration and general reductions in budget.
Understandably the generals and admirals are pushing back and the constitutional way for them to do that is through the civilian head of the Department of Defense.
The back pressure was probably displayed last week in a loosening of ROE in Afghanistan.
Obama, true to his nature, will, IMO, choose someone to replace Hagel who will not challenge him and who will "play nice" with the other boys and girls without regard to the realities of life.
That woman is likely to be Michele Flournoy. This woman is just another member of the Washington/New York playcircle of academics who think they understand war. pl
"President Obama’s expected action lifting the threat of deportation from millions of undocumented immigrants, which could come as early as this week, will expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted territory.
The path is built on the long-accepted principle, going at least as far back as the 1970s, that any administration should have wide discretion over how it deals with those who are in this country illegally. Obama, however, is poised to take that leeway significantly farther than before.
The move is certain to bring criticism that Obama has gone too far — ignoring the intent of Congress in passing the nation’s immigration statutes and violating the constitutional requirement that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”" Washpost
Obama said the other day that he is not an emperor, but he acts as though he wishes that he were such. We are often reminded that he was a constitutional law teacher of some sort but did he specialize in constitutional law because he likes the US system of government or because he sought ways to overcome it?
IMO the Republican congress will have little choice but to seek to stop him if he extends what amounts to amnesty to five million alien parents of US citizen offspring, who are themselves US citizens because of the generosity of the birthright grant of citizenship provisions of the US Constitution.
What form would congressional resistance take? IMO someone will sue Obama in the federal courts for usurpation of power and neglect of the duties of his oath in that he is sworn to "take care that the Laws be faithfully executed." There is existing law that applies.
The key question then would be if the parties making the suit have "standing" to bring the matter to the courts, that is, would they be the agrieved party?
If the plaintiffs are thought to have standing then the process will begin to drive a massive crisis of a kind not seen since Watergate. pl
"Yemeni Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters backed by government forces drove the local wing of al Qaeda from one of its last strongholds in central Yemen on Friday in intense fighting that killed at least 35 people, tribal sources said.
The Houthis' Ansarullah movement has become the main political force in Western-allied Yemen since capturing Sanaa in September and then pushing south and west into the Sunni Muslim heartland of al-Bayda province, where Ansar al-Sharia has allied itself with local tribes.
Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011, to the dismay of neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and of the Western powers who want to prevent instability in the Arabian peninsula threatening their crude supplies or giving al Qaeda a base for overseas attacks.
Tribal sources said the Houthis had met stiff resistance as they pushed towards the village of Khobza district using Katuysha rockets and heavy artillery.
They said at least 25 Houthis and 10 Ansar al-Sharia and tribal fighters had died in the fighting, which began on Thursday afternoon. Ansar al-Sharia and its allies withdrew to Yakla district, on the border with Maarib province." Reuters
Full disclosure - I was once DEFATT in Yemen at Sanaa.
A primer on some aspects of Yemen:
- Zeidi (fiver) Shia Muslims are so conservative (restrained) religiously that they are sometimes thought of as a fifth Sunni mathab. Their theology and general view of the religious sciences follow the mu'tazilite tradition. They are quite distinct from and have little allegiance to the 12er Shia in Iran, Lebanon and other scattered places.
- From a few miles south of Sanaa to the northern reaches of the country where it "borders" Saudi Arabia the country is almost altogether Zeidi Shia in population. Those people are tough little mountaineers, who are extremely tribal in their lives and who are generally aligned in two major tribal confederations, the Baqil and the Hashid. These tribal confederations are the real power in Yemen north of Sanaa. they possess a lot of military equipment that was mainly stolen from the government when officers who are members of these confederations defected back to their true allegiance taking their gear and often soldiers with them.
- The former president, Ali Abdullah Salih, is a Zeidi tribesman of the Sanhan minor tribe of the Hashid confederation.
- From Sanaa south, Yemen is primarily inhabited by much less tribal villagers who are Sunni and usually of the shafa'i mathab. These folks are the recruiting ground for AQAP, Ansar al-Sharia and similar Sunni salafi jihadi groups for whom the Zaidi tribesmen of the north are just another kind of murtadoon (heretics) to be fought to the death.
- Further complicating the mozaic of groups that is Yemen is the lingering effect of British possession of the Aden crown colony for many years. In the course of that period a lot of Yemenis from Aden attended such schools as the London School of Economics where they became both atheistical and left wing politically. Such people are still on the scene in the cities and continue to be active in the government of a united Yemen.
- The Houthis are a Zeidi Shia reformist movement that draws solely on the Zeidi population of the north. It does not have and cannot have any friendly relations with the Sunni jihadi groups of the south. The movement started in the al-houthi clan and has since spread to the two major confederations of Zeidi tribesmen. The Houthis as a cult prefer not to fight if it can be avoided and captured the capital, Sanaa, with very little violence. Salih, a Zeidi tribesman understandably sides with the Houthis as opposed to the Sunni, left oriented people now running the government of the United Yemen.
- A government of national unity has been formed among; the Houthis and their army, the national army and the nationalist/left dominated functionaries now in office in Sanaa. This coalition is actively and successfully fighting the Sunni jihadis.
The US government response to all this is to denounce the Houthis and Salih as interfering with stability and the integrity of the Yemeni state. This reflects the ignorant, obsessive, insistance of the American foreign policy establishment that "one size fits all" in terms of the norms of governance across the world with the implication that the US embassies in such countries as Yemen are actually pro-consular outposts from which the ambassador/governor guides and controls the province/country in which he/she is located. When this attitude, derived from notions of "exceptionalism," is accompanied by the IR/Poly Sci paradigm of foreign relations now so evident in the US government, the result is the noxious self-defeating environment in which US decisions are now made. pl
Translation of the Houthi logo:
"God is Great
Death to America
Death to Israel
Rejection by God of the Jews
Victory for Islam."
You should not take the words in this too seriously. This is standard populist cant in the Muslim World. pl
"The two most brutal terror groups in Syria reportedly have struck an alliance, in a deal that poses serious problems for the Obama administration’s efforts to prop up “moderate” rebel factions in the country.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that militant leaders from the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, the Nusra Front, agreed during a meeting in northern Syria last week to stop fighting each other.
Such an accord could present new difficulties for Washington's strategy against the Islamic State. While warplanes from a U.S.-led coalition strike militants from the air, the Obama administration has counted on arming "moderate" rebels to push them back on the ground.
Those rebels, already considered relatively weak and disorganized, would face far stronger opposition if the two heavy-hitting militant groups now are working together. One official claimed the Islamic State and Nusra already have agreed to work toward destroying one prominent, U.S.-backed rebel group." foxnews
Well, pilgrims, looks like a bad day for the unicorn army and the kids in the WH and State Department. pl
“I want the committee to be very active,” Mr. McCain said in an interview after the midterm elections set up Republican control of both houses of Congress. “That’s the beauty of the majority, as you know. Of course we can allocate and authorize certain programs, and we can cut others. The president proposes, and Congress disposes.”
Mr. Obama, as commander in chief, still has the final say in whether American ground troops will be committed to Iraq and Syria; whether the United States will do more to arm moderate rebels in Syria opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad; or even whether the United States will take a more muscular posture against Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, over Ukraine." NY Times
Actually, Obama still has the only say about what existing forces will do. The House of representatives initiates all funding for the armed forces. The Congress determines the structure of the armed forces by law, but it has no power to order the armed forces to do anything.
Senator McCain has said he has no conficence in Martin Dempsey, the CJCS. That is unfortunate but McCain cannot fire Dempsey. He can't fire anyone except the poor devils who work for him in congressional staffs.
He will cut defense funding to "discipline" Obama? Ha! Ha!
"While former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all responded to midterm election losses with high-profile firings, Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said there would be no shake-up.
“I don’t see anything like that on the horizon,” McDonough said in an interview with Al Hunt on the “Charlie Rose” show, which airs on PBS and Bloomberg Television.
Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the president wouldn’t scale back his immigration plans, which may result in millions of people getting a reprieve from deportation. Pfeiffer said Obama also wouldn’t shrink from using his unilateral authority to move his agenda ahead during his remaining two years in office.
By now everyone’s eyes are half blind from the endless glare of the electoral aurora borealis, and our ears deafened by the roar and rattle of the artillery of candidates seeking our vote. The call, ordinary vision that sees ordinary life as something urbane, dispassionate and good humored has been buried by tons of sludge composed mainly of falsehood, exaggeration and unsound hyperbole. It is a vile time.
Most everyone knows the plain facts of life, but groups drastically vary in understanding their political importance of such facts. Both groups have but a limited understanding of the other. One party looks at the ideals of the other with skeptical distaste. Both can scarcely believe that the other can be of the same race and history. The result is that both are easily attracted by the flashy but unsound.
For the past week, top Pentagon officials have been busy engaging in something that they rarely relish: Domestic politics. In a series of leaks, beginning on Oct. 26 in the New York Times, "unnamed" Pentagon officials have disclosed a deep and growing rift between the military and the Obama White House and National Security Council over the managing of the war against the Islamic State. The original New York Times story reported on a memo written by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to National Security Advisor Susan Rice in early October, spelling out deep flaws in the White House managing of the Iraq and Syria operations against IS. Hagel demanded, among other things, a clarification from the President on how to pursue the anti-IS campaign in Syria, where the only viable fighting force on the ground is the Syrian Army. The Pentagon has made clear from the outset of the US air operations against the Islamic State that there is no possibility of defeating the jihadists by air war alone. Boots on the ground--preferably non-American boots--are going to be required to actually defeat the IS. In the case of Syria, there is no UN authorization or Congressional approval for the American actions, which means that the US must be very careful not to take any actions aimed against the Assad government.
"Asked at an event in Washington on Wednesday about reports that Chief Jackson might be leaving, Mr. Holder said: “It’s pretty clear that the need for wholesale change in that department is appropriate. The exact form of that change, I think we’ll wait until we complete our inquiry.”
Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, said the attorney general was not arguing for replacing the chief, but was referring to fixing structural problems he had identified when the investigation was announced earlier this year.
In Ferguson, firing a police chief requires a two-thirds majority vote at a hearing of the City Council. The chief could be fired only if he was guilty of certain violations described in state law, including committing a felony or endangering public safety.
Mark J. Byrne, a member of the Ferguson City Council, said there had been “no discussion whatsoever” of Chief Jackson’s resignation among council members. He also said that dissolving the police force had never been considered as an option among council members and that he would be strongly opposed to such a move." NY Times
Someone explain to me by what legal authority Eric Holder proposes to re-organize the government of Ferguson, Misouri. pl
"... But it’s clear the finger-pointing between the White House and Pentagon reflects no mere technicality. Both examples cited to me by well-placed sources close to the Defense Department offer new evidence of a criticism that has dogged this administration for most of its six and a half years: that Barack Obama’s White House is so insular and tightly controlled it often avoids “outside” consultation—including with its own cabinet secretaries and agencies. That’s especially true when the issue is one of this president’s least favorite things: opening up new hostilities in foreign lands. To his critics—and I spoke with several for this article inside Obama’s administration as well as recent veterans of it—it’s all a reflection of the slapdash way a president so vested in “ending wars” has embraced his new one.
Indeed, the Syrian-rebel incident recalled a more famous instance of White House surprise tactics a year earlier, when after a stroll on the White House lawn with chief of staff Denis McDonough, Obama embarrassed Kerry by abruptly deciding to ask for congressional approval for bombing the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad—only hours after Kerry had publicly declared that Assad was facing imminent action. Ironically, Congress quickly balked at approval, humiliating Obama," Politico
These two articles encapsulate the criticism circulating in Washington with regard to the ineptitude of Obama's government in the foreign policy field. Examples of the childish naivete of this administration are many and quite a few are recorded in these articles.
As I have written many times, this is a foreign policy team dominated by inexperience and/or an obsession with academic thinking derived from too much time spent in college and not enough real world time on the ground in the places they theorize about.
Martin Dempsey is the one shining exception in this government. God help us when he leaves.
"Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Post’s sources said.
The St. Louis County Police Department and the FBI are investigating the shooting, and evidence gathered by both agencies is being presented to the grand jury, which started meeting in mid-August and is expected to conclude its work early next month.
The evidence the grand jury is reviewing is voluminous. From the beginning, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch decided jurors would hear and review all credible and reliable evidence, including testimony from each eyewitness." Washpost
"Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist not involved in the autopsy, told the newspaper that the finding “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.” Melinek also told the newspaper that the autopsy did not support witness accounts that the fatal shot, later, was fired while Brown was running away from the officer or had his hands up.
The Post-Dispatch also reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the matter, that Wilson has told investigators that Brown pressed the barrel of the gun against Wilson’s hip during a struggle inside the officer’s SUV." nbcnews
I am not a lwayer but have served on two grand juries, one state and the other federal. IMO, no grand jury will indict Wilson. Based on the above, there is not "probable cause" to believe that Wilson's killing of Brown was unjustified.. There is now witness testimony from several people that Brown tried to seize Wilson's sidearm and was shot in the process. He then fled and Wilson shot him as was his duty in the case of a fleeing probable felon. (attempted murder).
The demonstrators want Wilson lynched.
There will be intense and widespread violence after the jury does not act. This will be accompanied by the usual cheerleading of; the media, the Reverend Al, and the Jesse man. What the Obama Administration will do is impossible to predict.
Get ready Missouri. pl
"Jim, you were selected as DNI because of your reputation as the kind of leader people instinctively trust. More than anyone else, you also understand that the president is responsible for the nation’s intelligence system, his decisions and preferences inevitably determining the quality of intelligence he receives. If the chief executive deliberately averts his eyes from the real world, then the fault rests neither with you nor the intelligence community. Presidents are accountable for the advice they take as well as what they choose to ignore, including ISIS. But if he won’t listen, then why should you stay?
My friendly suggestion is that you and the nation’s other top generals step away from this president, letting history decide his fate. A generation ago, your predecessors failed to confront their president over his leadership of the Vietnam War, thus sharing full responsibility with LBJ for every subsequent tragedy in that long debacle. The vital lesson from their example: Far better to resign with honor rather than to let down the American people who pay your salary." Allard
I don't believe I know Allard.
""The point is that Afghanistan has got to figure out how to get along as a nation, and there have been a lot of steps toward nation building," he said. "A lot of local warlord-type leaders have been marginalized - not all of them completely."
Mr. Boucher, who is assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, also attributed some of the chatter to political jockeying ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan late next year.
"That's bringing out a little more these days - resentments and alliances between groups and talk about ethnic politics, but I think there is a stronger movement toward creating a sense of nation."
The Northern Alliance was founded by mostly Uzbek and Tajik warlords and took power after the Soviet pullout in 1989. The Taliban was formed later as a Pashtun resistance to the alliance and seized control of most of Afghanistan in 1996. The Bush administration relied on the Northern Alliance to capture northern Afghanistan in 2002. Washtimes
This kind of policy formulation is derived from an excessive exposure to political science (PS) professors at an impressionable age.
PS sells the idea that human society is evolving towards higher forms. The creed in this secular religion holds that human behavior is universal in nature in all important aspects and that apparent differences are fated to disappear as mankind and its societies develop toward higher and more general forms. The form sought by the more practical is that of national states. Some of the more visionary seek the emergence of a globalized world culture and state. PS is an idea system, that originated in the age of cultural, literary and scholarly romanticism of the 19th Century. European scholars like Durkheim and Weber reflected the same set of ideas that created romantic nationalism, marxism (a very romantic idea), belief in the "Golden Ages" of various peoples, Germans, Italians, Jews, etc. For minority group scholars like Durkheim and Weber, the notion of redefining societies within a new paradigm is always attractive. The Arab World was late to the European "Romantic Age" so the creation of paradigms like Baathism, Phalangism or the Syrian Social Party came along a bit later than the European copies of this phenomenon. For the minority member, a new paradigm that does not recognize the old one that considered you to be marginal is clearly a good thing.
These State Department types are soaked in PS. It permeates their thinking as much as it does that of the Jacobins. The Defense Department is also infested with this kind of thinking since so many military area specialists and civilian policy people have been sent to graduate school in PS and/or International Relations, a related disorder and delusion.