Political Animal


September 14, 2014 4:51 PM John McCain is a Dangerous Radical

It should be obvious by now that John McCain wants to attack everyone, everywhere. In September 2013, Mother Jones made a map of the world showing that McCain has advocated attacking roughly half the Eastern Hemisphere’s land mass. Now he wants to attack basically everyone in Syria. Even the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg thinks this is a bit much:

McCain’s second criticism: Obama is not attacking the root cause of the Syrian war, which is the behavior of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters in Iran. He said the U.S. should be bombing government targets at the same time it is bombing Assad’s Islamic State enemies. I, too, am dispositionally interventionist, but it seemed to me that McCain was outlining not only a formula for chaos, but also a program that could not possibly be sold to the American people.
I asked him this question: “Wouldn’t the generals say to you, ‘You want me to fight ISIS, and you want me to fight the guys who are fighting ISIS, at the same time? Why would we bomb guys who are bombing ISIS? That would turn this into a crazy standoff.’ ”
“Our ultimate job is not only to defeat ISIS but to give the Syrian people the opportunity to prevail as well,” McCain answered. “Remember, there are 192,000 dead Syrians thanks to Assad. If we do this right, if we do the right kind of training and equipping of the Free Syrian Army, plus air strikes, plus taking out Bashar Assad’s air assets, we could reverse the battlefield equation.”
The U.S. could conceivably wage war on two fronts against two vicious parties that are also warring against each other, on a battlefield in which another set of America’s enemies — Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — are also fighting. But this is a much too complicated mission for any post-Iraq War American president to prudently tackle, even a president not quite so reluctant as Obama.
For those Americans who are moving toward McCain and away from Paul on crucial questions concerning the U.S.’s role in the world, I can’t imagine that they would be able to stomach such a war, either.

If you think John McCain actually understands the complexity of trying to hold together an alliance to fight ISIS that includes Sunni governments in Amman, Riyadh, Cairo, and Ankara and Shiite governments in Baghdad and Teheran, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. The war in Syria is sectarian in nature, as are most of the problems within Iraq.

If you are trying to get Baghdad to govern inclusively, you can’t take the side of the Sunnis in Syria. If you can get consensus from the Sunni powers to eliminate the most radical and effective army on their side of the fight, then you’ve accomplished something. But, if you take it too far, everything will blow up in your face.

I wake up every day thanking fate that John McCain never got to order our armed forces around.

September 14, 2014 1:06 PM Goodbye, iPod

I never owned an iPod. I do not like to wear head phones. I think it’s less the discomfort of shoving something in my ears than it is a dislike of not being about to hear anything but the music. I want to have situational awareness, and dedicating my hearing 100% to music feels, to me, not all that different from wearing a blindfold. Even when blasting my stereo I can still hear the fire alarm.

So, i won’t miss the iPod, but it is significant that it only lasted thirteen years. And it totally transformed the music industry. No one buys CD’s anymore.

On the other hand, in my experience, an iTunes gift card is considered by teenagers to be one of the most impolite of gifts. Our sons have often asked for cash as compensation for an otherwise worthless gift. In fact, the only time I have ever purchased anything on iTunes was because I had been forced to fork over twenty bucks to compensate a disappointed stepson for getting a gift card for something he routinely steals via music pirating sites.

For a while, I tried to discourage this behavior because I considered the theft to be immoral, but it soon became clear to me that I was fighting a culture so normative and ubiquitous that I might as well have been fitting them for chastity belts.

September 14, 2014 11:45 AM Mark Sanford Announces Break-Up on Facebook

It used to be that it was bad form to break up with someone over the phone. Then it evolved to be bad form to break up with someone with post-it note. Now, it’s morphed again. Today, it’s bad form to break up with someone on Facebook.

The very public break-up between Rep. Mark Sanford and his fiancée came as a surprise to his fiancée, who told the New York Times on Saturday that she learned about it from the media.

Maria Belen Chapur told the Times that she had spent time with Sanford in Paris last week. Chapur had such a wonderful time during their time in France that she felt it was like a “honeymoon,” she said.

But then she learned Saturday that Sanford had written a 2,400-plus word post on Facebook announcing his intention to break up with her.

“I learned it from the press today,” she told the Times.

I guess I am going with a South Carolina theme today, but one does wonder how awful a Republican would have to behave to get kicked out of office in the Palmetto State.

So, no more hiking the Appalachian Trail?

September 14, 2014 11:02 AM Senator Lindsey Graham is a Bedwetter

Senator Lindsey Graham is a grown man who still wets his bed every night when he goes to sleep.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted President Barack Obama’s plan to defeat ISIS during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, calling the commander-in-chief “disingenuous and delusional” and warning that Americans will be “killed here at home” unless he sends ground troops into Iraq and Syria to defeat the terrorist threat.

Comparing the estimated 30,000 ISIS fighters to the Nazis, Graham warned that “this idea we’ll never had any boots to defeat them in Syria is fantasy.” He argued that given the growth of the “radical Islamic army” and its control of territory in northern Iraq and Syria, “it’s going to take an army to beat a army.” “This is ISIL versus mankind,” he said, using another acronym for the group.

“To destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take back their territory, cut off the finances and destroy the capability to regenerate. This is a war we’re fighting not a counter terrorism operation,” Graham continued. “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”

There really in no excuse for a 59 year old man to not be housebroken. The idea that we are all going to get killed if the president doesn’t immediately send ground troops to Iraq and Syria is the intellectual equivalent of having night terrors about monsters in your closet and under your bed.

It is unbecoming for a grown man to publicly display this degree of cowardice. I don’t normally associate myself with the prevailing political attitudes of South Carolinians, but if they vote Senator Graham out of office for being an embarrassment who reflects poorly on the bravery of their state, I will certainly understand.

September 14, 2014 5:54 AM Daylight Video

September 13, 2014 2:16 PM The Very Serious Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is a very serious person.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that if he became president he would repeal all previous executive orders.
“I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,” he said, according to Breitbart News.

Isn’t that a great idea?

Repealing all executive orders has the potential to undo a large amount of policy. Executive orders, for example, ban assassinations by the United States and organize intelligence agencies under the Director of National Intelligence.

Hmm. Maybe it’s not such a great idea.

“Senator Paul’s statement was meant to emphasize this president’s overt and unconstitutional executive orders, it was not meant to be taken literally,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor wrote in an email.

Alrighty then. Never mind.

I take it that this falls in the same category as serial plagiarism. It doesn’t matter if you said it or pretended to write it because it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously.

September 13, 2014 1:18 PM I’m Glad Bill Maher is Targeting John Kline

Aaron Blake thinks that Bill Maher’s audience made a mistake in targeting Rep. John Kline of Minnesota for defeat.

Comedian Bill Maher announced Friday night that he will personally target Republican Rep. John Kline (Minn.) for defeat in the November election — the culmination of his longstanding “Flip a District” contest in which the HBO host allowed his viewers to pick which Republican he would attempt to unseat.

If you look at it from the perspective of choosing a candidate who is ripe for defeat then John Kline was a poor choice. But, if you look at it from the perspective of choosing a candidate who is popular in his home district but really shouldn’t be, then Rep. John Kline was an outstanding choice. Kline faces state Rep. Mike Obermueller (DFL), who he defeated by eight points in 2012. Presumably Obermueller doesn’t oppose gay marriage, would support legislation to address climate change, and we know he hasn’t voted to repeal ObamaCare 54 times. John Kline has a reputation as a moderate but he votes with the teabaggers all the time. All the Democrats need is for his constituents to become aware of how radical his recent voting record really is and they toss him out in favor of Some Dude.

September 13, 2014 10:51 AM One of These Things is Not Like the Other

I just want to note that every member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who is complaining about stonewalling from CIA director John Brennan has a ‘D’ after their name.

What are their names? Chairwomen Diane Feinstein, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan (also the Armed Services chairman), Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado (who renewed his call for Brennan’s resignation), and Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. None of the Republican senators gives a crap that a Democratic president’s Director of Central Intelligence is refusing to tell them who ordered their staff’s computers to be hacked. None of them seem to care that their staffers were wrongly accused of a crime by the CIA. They don’t stick up for their staff. They wanted to deny them health benefits.

Meanwhile, the Democrats (at least, some of them) are fighting their own administration tooth and nail over both this issue and over how much to redact their report on torture. When did Republicans ever do anything like that during the Bush administration?

September 13, 2014 9:47 AM Daylight Video

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Lam Van Phat and Duong Van Duc coup attempt in Vietnam. let’s have some music about Saigon. Remember Saigon?

September 12, 2014 6:39 PM Another Giant Headache for the NFL

Minnesota Viking, and star NFL running back, Adrian Peterson has been arrested in Texas for whooping his then 4 year old son with a switch. When questioned about it, Peterson admitted what he had done and even showed the police what kind of switch he had used, but he asserted that it was a normal spanking and not abusive.

Peterson’s personal life reads like a laundry list of tragedy.

Peterson has a half-brother named Jaylon Brown who currently plays football at Klein Oak High School in Texas as its running back. Another half-brother was murdered the night before Peterson participated in the NFL Combine. Additionally, when Peterson was a teenager, his father was sentenced to ten years in prison for laundering drug money…
…Peterson’s two-year-old son died on October 11, 2013 at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hospital due to injuries sustained during an alleged assault by Joseph Robert Patterson, the boyfriend of the child’s mother. Peterson had only learned about his son a few weeks prior to his death, and had never met him.
Peterson is a Christian. Peterson has spoken about his faith in his life saying, “Jesus Christ means the world to me. I’ve been through so many different situations through my childhood and now my adulthood…God just helped me get through them and made me stronger at a young age. [Through] all the adversity and hard times I’ve been through, God has always been present. I’ve always prayed to Him and asked Him to give me the strength to endure and to help others and to better understand whatever situation I deal with in my personal life. And He has always showed up! It brings hope and peace of mind knowing that God gave His only begotten Son for us.” Peterson also spoke of his faith in relation to his injury of a torn ACL and MCL by saying “…‘This is a blessing in disguise. I’ll come back stronger and better than I was before.’ What flashed in my mind was, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’…”
Peterson was indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child on September 12, 2014.

In light of the NFL’s present image problems stemming from the Ray Rice controversy, I don’t think you can expect to see Peterson back on a football field very soon, if ever. I wish he had more common sense than to beat his four year old with a stick. He’s overcome a lot in his life and accomplished a lot. But what he did is just not acceptable.

September 12, 2014 3:25 PM Occupation More Controversial in Israel Than Here

It has often struck me as odd and fascinating that there seems to be more tolerance of dissent and debate over Israel’s policies in Israel than there is in the U.S. Congress. It’s especially striking that this is the case even in wartime, or in the immediate aftermath of war.

Unit 8200 is the Israeli military’s central intelligence gathering body and is often likened to the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The protest letter signed by the [forty-three past and present reservists]…of the unit was sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and armed forces chiefs.
The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the letter as saying that unlike in other countries there was “no oversight on methods of intelligence or tracking, and the use of intelligence information against the Palestinians, regardless of whether they are connected to violence or not”.
“We refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as a tool for deepening military rule in the Occupied Territories,” the letter added.
“Intelligence allows ongoing control over millions of people, thorough and intrusive monitoring and invasion into most aspects of life. All of this does not allow for normal living, fuels more violence and puts off any end to the conflict.”

Here at home, it’s hard to imagine that degree of dissent coming from our intelligence community. Although I do have to give credit to those officials who threatened to resign when the NSA warrantless surveillance scandal first broke. And we certainly don’t see our elected officials agreeing with Israelis who refuse to participate in military rule in the Occupied Territories.

Here, we just don’t debate these things.

September 12, 2014 2:02 PM Rob Ford Out, Doug Ford In

Here’s a Q & A from the Toronto Star that was written after it was known that Mayor Rob Ford has some kind of abdominal tumor and before it was announced that he is dropping his bid for reelection. If you’re curious, you can use that Q & A to figure what it means that Rob Ford has quit and his brother Doug has replaced him on the ballot.

It seems that Doug has never been as popular as his brother, so he is no lock to take over for his brother when he leaves office in December.

Regardless of what happens, hopefully there be less drunken use of crack cocaine involved.

September 12, 2014 12:27 PM Lunch Buffet

At Bloomberg View, Kavitha Davidson has little faith in the NFL’s plan to investigate their own incompetence.

At Breitbart Unmasked, Matt Osborne wonders if the Kansas GOP is headed for disaster.

At National Review Online, Ramesh Ponnuru bends over backwards to defend his pal Ted Cruz from accusations of insensitivity towards Arab Christians. Republican congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania disagrees.

At the Denver Post, Lisa Wirthman covers the GOP’s underhanded push for over the counter birth control pills.

Jonathan Chait is still trying to nail down Ayn Rand’s influence on Paul Ryan’s political philosophy.

Rep. Jim Clyburn recommends sexting, which is kind of funny.

Let’s have some more Peter Tosh:

What’s on your mind?

September 12, 2014 11:19 AM Polls Show Conflicting Trend Lines

Steve Singiser of Daily Kos points out something interesting. While the Democrats have been doing worse lately on generic preference polls (e.g., “Do you prefer a Republican or Democratic House/Senate?”), many of the most hotly contested Senate races have been moving modestly in their direction.

AK-Sen: Last five avg—Begich +0.8; Previous five avg—Begich +0.4
AR-Sen: Last five avg—Cotton +1.6; Previous five avg—Cotton +0.2
CO-Sen: Last five avg—Udall +2.8; Previous five avg—Udall +0.6
IA-Sen: Last five avg—Braley +1.0; Previous five avg—Braley +0.8
LA-Sen: Last five avg—Landrieu +0.2; Previous five avg—Cassidy +1.0
MI-Sen: Last five avg—Peters +5.0; Previous five avg—Peters +4.0
NC-Sen: Last five avg—Hagan +2.2; Previous five avg—Hagan +1.2

It’s hard to be certain what explains these contradictory trends. A shift from registered voter polls to likely voter polls should shift races in the Republicans’ direction, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in the polls of actual races, which could mask even greater recent gains for Team Blue. One possibility is that the DSCC and the individual candidates are doing a great job, while areas of the country without competitive Senate races are seeing the Dems slip. In this scenario, the generic polls really have little bearing on the Senate races.

I don’t know the answers but I will say that the recent dump of YouGov polls is shockingly negative for the Democrats and includes many outliers that are driving down the polling averages for Democratic candidates. I’d like to see someone take a crack at explaining the methodology that is producing those results.

September 12, 2014 8:18 AM When Did the Myth of AQI Become the Reality of ISIS?

Last night I stumbled upon an old piece I wrote in July of 2007 called When Psy-Ops Go Bad. The key Los Angeles Times source in that piece is now a dead link, but you can find the article here. It details the Pentagon’s claims that the notorious al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist Abu Omar Baghdadi was an entirely fictional character.

In March, he was declared captured. In May, he was declared killed, and his purported corpse was displayed on state-run TV. But on Wednesday, Abu Omar Baghdadi, the supposed leader of an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraq, was declared nonexistent by U.S. military officials, who said he was a fictional character created to give an Iraqi face to a foreign-run terrorist organization.

An Iraqi actor has been used to read statements attributed to Baghdadi, who since October has been identified as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq group, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner.

Bergner said the new information came from a man captured July 4, described as the highest-ranking Iraqi within the Islamic State of Iraq.

He said the detainee, identified as Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmoud Mashadani, has served as a propaganda chief in the organization, a Sunni Muslim insurgent group that swears allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.

According to Bergner, Mashadani helped create Islamic State of Iraq as a “virtual organization” that exists in cyberspace and is essentially a pseudonym for Al Qaeda in Iraq, another group that claims ties to Bin Laden. The front organization was aimed at making Iraqis believe that Al Qaeda in Iraq is a nationalistic group, even though it is led by an Egyptian and has few Iraqis among its leaders, Bergner said at a news conference.

“The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest effort by Al Qaeda to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people,” Bergner said.

Islamic State of Iraq has been widely described as an umbrella organization of several insurgent groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq.

There was no way to confirm the military’s claim, which comes at a time of heightened pressure on the White House to justify keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Critics of the Bush administration say the president has been trying to do so by linking Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network to the conflict in Iraq, even though the organization had no substantial presence here until after the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003.

“The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is the crowd that is now bombing people” in Iraq, Bush said Tuesday.

The U.S. military’s announcement Wednesday was the latest bizarre twist surrounding the figure known as Baghdadi. If the Iraqi government’s reaction was anything to go by, it won’t be the last.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari rejected the U.S. assertion, insisting that Baghdadi is real. “Al-Baghdadi is wanted and pursued. We know many things about him, and we even have his picture,” Askari said. However, he said he could not release a photograph or additional information because it could jeopardize attempts to capture Baghdadi.

The man known as Baghdadi emerged last year when Islamic State of Iraq was formed after the slaying of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

At first, I mistook the name Abu Omar Baghdadi for the name of his successor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and I was quite confused, indeed. It would be quite a story if the leader of the Islamic State (aka, ISIL and ISIS) were someone that the Pentagon had declared a fictional being back in 2007.

But, then, I went back into my archives, and I found something else interesting that has now largely gone down the rabbit hole. And that is that U.S. military used a propaganda campaign to exaggerate the influence of Abu Musab Zarqawi. The purpose of this campaign was twofold. For the Iraqi audience it was to give them the impression that all the car bombs that were going off were to doings of foreigners, not a legitimate indigenous opposition to the occupation. For American audiences, the purpose was to link al-Qaeda to the war in Iraq in order to repair the damage done to the legitimacy of the cause once it was determined that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

THE US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program.

The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush Administration tie the war to the organisation responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The documents say that the US campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. US authorities claim some success with the effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

For the past two years US military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicise Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the “US home audience” as a target of a broader propaganda campaign.

Lest you think I am dabbling in conspiratorial thinking, it was the Pentagon that argued that Abu Omar Baghdadi was a fictional character before celebrating his demise, and it was leaked military papers and transcripts that confirmed that the hype around Zarqawi was part of an organized psychological warfare campaign aimed, in part, at American audiences.

So, these two predecessors to the current head of the Islamic State were not quite what we were led to believe they were. It would seem wise, then, for the press to follow Peter Beinert’s suggestion that they use a greater degree of skepticism this time around than they demonstrated when we were first introduced to the Islamic State of Iraq. Whether that is happening or not is doubtful. For example, how many of the facts in Bobby Ghosh’s recent piece on Zarqawi for The Atlantic can we believe are free from the taint of the Pentagon’s psychological warfare program from back in 2005-2007 period? Personally, I don’t feel that I can believe any of it at face value.

Back when Al-Qaeda in Iraq was as much fiction as reality, I basically wrote off whatever the Bush administration had to say about them. But ISIS is definitely real now. They are definitely decimating communities and committing atrocities everywhere they go. But, if we are to understand them properly, we must remember their murky roots in lies and hype.

For the media to do its job today it must sift through the propaganda they served up to build a legend that was not accurate.

If a myth gave birth to this horrible reality, the media have to take a degree of responsibility for the role they played.

Political Animal Archive