Daily Archive: 06/18/2014

Jun 18 2014

On War, Crime, and Accountability

Every now and then, Politico has a story of substance, one that does not glorify politicos or obsess over meaningless political nonsense. Today, I read Saving Private Bergdahl, a story about a failed mission to rescue Bowe Bergdahl, the sole anonymous source of which claimed to have been injured on the mission.

This paragraph on the second page really jumped out at me.

“I don’t hate Bergdahl,” says C. “But he needs to be held accountable for his bad decision to leave his crew during war. When people say Bergdahl served his country with honor, that’s an incorrect summary of his service. There are families whose loved ones went deep into harm’s way because of Bergdahl’s choice.”

Jun 18 2014

Will Iraq Fall Apart? The Death of Sykes Picot

Ninety-eight years ago on May 20, 1916, the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British Sir Mark Sykes with Russian agreement concluded negotiations that would define each country’s spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Sykes-Picot agreement, combined with the Balfour Declaration that proposed separate Jewish and Palestinian states, has shaped the region and its politics for nearly 100 years.

With the current Iraqi government under siege from Sunni militants angered at their exclusion from the government and the maltreatment of the Sunni population, Sykes-Picot may now be in its death throws.

In the north the Kurds seized the oil rich city of Kirkuk which paves the way for them to break away from the Shia dominated government in Baghdad. In an surprise statement from an official member of the Turkey’s ruking party, Huseyin Celik said that the Kurds in Iraq have the right to self-determination.

The AKP 9Justice and Development Party) is the party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan under whom Ankara and Erbil have built strong economic and diplomatic relations.

In case Iraq gets partitioned, said Celik, “the Kurds, like any other nation, will have the right to decide their fate.”

Celik believes that Iraq is already headed towards partition thanks to “Maliki’s sectarian policies.” [..]

“Turkey has been supporting the Kurdistan Region till now and will continue this support,” said Celik.

Turkey and Kurdistan have signed a 50-year energy deal and Kurdish oil is exported via a pipeline that connects the autonomous region to the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.

Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sophia Jones further report

The Kurds have been effectively autonomous since 1991, when the U.S. established a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Turkey, a strong U.S. ally, has long opposed the creation of an independent Kurdistan so that its own eastern region would not be swallowed into it. But Celik’s statement indicates that the country may be starting to view an autonomous Kurdistan as a viable option — a sort of bulwark against spreading extremism within a deeply unstable country. [..]

Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have recently forged a strong bond over oil, much to the chagrin of Iraq, which claims that Baghdad has sole authority over oil in Kurdistan. Turkey recently signed a 50-year energy deal with Iraqi Kurdistan’s semi-autonomous government to export Kurdish oil to the north, and Kurdistan has increased its exports this week despite the insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. [..]

Considering the Turkish past opposition to an independent Kurdish state, this is an interesting reversal.

I suspect that Iraq’s creator, Gertrude Bell, is rolling over in her Baghdad grave.

Jun 18 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: How Many Times Do the Neocons Get to Be Wrong Before We Stop Asking Them What to Do in Iraq?

an someone explain to me why the media still solicit advice about the crisis in Iraq from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? Or Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)? How many times does the Beltway hawk caucus get to be wrong before we recognize that maybe, just maybe, its members don’t know what they’re talking about?

Certainly Politico could have found someone with more credibility than Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration and one of the architects of the Iraq war, to comment on how the White House might react to the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Iraq today. Certainly New York Times columnist David Brooks knows what folly it is to equate President Obama’s 2011 troop removal with Bush’s 2003 invasion, as he did during a discussion with me last Friday on NPR? [..]

In the current cacophony of Washington, we must remember that there is no equivalence to be drawn between Bush’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq and Obama’s 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. troops. Bush’s invasion, after all, was not just a mistake. At best a fool’s errand, at worst a criminal act, this great blunder helped set the stage for Iraq’s chaos today. The increased sectarian violence stems not from the 2011 withdrawal; rather, it is the fruit of the 2003 invasion, subsequent occupation and much-vaunted “surge” of 2007-08.

Nadya Tolokonnikova: Putin is afraid of any real opposition – just like he was afraid of Pussy Riot

He just conquered Crimea. He has proclaimed himself a unifier. But Vladimir Putin’s meddling in elections is another sign that his power is not as unconditional as he would have you believe

Late last month, Nikolai Lyaskin and Konstantine Yankauskas announced the launch of their candidacies for the Moscow City Duma. They are some of the strongest opposition candidates, and I’ve known them for years. They know how to put up a good fight.

But two days later, their homes were searched and authorities promptly charged the two men with fraud in connection to opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s 2013 mayoral campaign. If convicted, the two may face up to 10 years in prison – but, until then, they can still be elected. Yankauskas, like Navalny, remains under house arrest and is denied communication with the outside world: he’s not allowed any phone calls or even an internet connection. Lyaskin was released pending trial on the condition that he does not leave Russia.

Why would Putin – who just conquered Crimea, who proclaimed himself the unifier of the former land of Russia under the USSR, and who maintains (according to state opinion polls) the support of more than 80% of Russian citizens – be unable to tolerate a little trivial competition (a pair of independent opposition politicians) in even a local election? The answer is simple, and Lyaskin and Yankauskas know it: Putin is afraid of them, just like Putin was afraid of Pussy Riot.

Ana Marie Cox: Obama’s Iraq ‘nap’ represents who we are: sick of being the world’s policeman

Critics of a foreign policy of ‘neglect’ are still living in George W Bush’s fever dream of rage and fear. The public is fickle, but we’re willing to be patient about war again

Conservative critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy are right: it’s vague when articulated and contradictory when enacted. He refuses to act decisively and tunes out the rhetorical bravado of foreign leaders. And if the United States is to avoid another round of pointless bloodshed in the Middle East, that’s the kind of foreign policy our country needs right now. Indeed, it’s the one we want. [..]

The terror that has gripped Iraq over the past week is, no doubt, horrific. When militants claim they’ve massacred 1,700 soldiers, it would be foolish not to give yourself options by moving an aircraft carrier here and toughening up an embassy there – which Obama has done, actively, not through “neglect” or “a nap”, as still more critics claimed over the weekend.

But let’s remember the way we got in too deep: it wasn’t by underestimating the threat Iraq posed to US interests, it was by overestimating it.The terror that has gripped Iraq over the past week is, no doubt, horrific. When militants claim they’ve massacred 1,700 soldiers, it would be foolish not to give yourself options by moving an aircraft carrier here and toughening up an embassy there – which Obama has done, actively, not through “neglect” or “a nap”, as still more critics claimed over the weekend.

But let’s remember the way we got in too deep: it wasn’t by underestimating the threat Iraq posed to US interests, it was by overestimating it.

Jessica Valenti: Free speech is a bad excuse for online creeps to threaten rape and murder

Everybody knows about ‘cyberbullying’ and ‘slut-shaming’ by now, but we need modern laws for social-media harassment

Last weekend, a friend of mine was sitting on a park bench when she felt a presence sneaking up from behind – and noticed an older man taking pictures of her exposed back. When she told him to stop, he yelled back at her that it was his “First Amendment right to be a creep”. Little did either of them know that he was articulating the foundation of new legal battle about the internet and, well, the right to be a creep.

The US supreme court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in a case – Elonis v United States – about whether threats made on social media are protected by free speech. It is a watershed moment for anyone like me who believes that online harassment is often scarier than in-life harassment. When someone catcalls you on the street or says something threatening, you can use your best judgment to ascertain how dangerous he is. When you’re threatened online, you have no way of knowing – and that lack of context is terrifying.Last weekend, a friend of mine was sitting on a park bench when she felt a presence sneaking up from behind – and noticed an older man taking pictures of her exposed back. When she told him to stop, he yelled back at her that it was his “First Amendment right to be a creep”. Little did either of them know that he was articulating the foundation of new legal battle about the internet and, well, the right to be a creep.

The US supreme court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in a case – Elonis v United States – about whether threats made on social media are protected by free speech. It is a watershed moment for anyone like me who believes that online harassment is often scarier than in-life harassment. When someone catcalls you on the street or says something threatening, you can use your best judgment to ascertain how dangerous he is. When you’re threatened online, you have no way of knowing – and that lack of context is terrifying.

Asta Taylor: Google and Yahoo want to ‘reset the net’. But can it work?

Tech giants are joining forces to attack NSA snooping, but what of the vast data collection that underpins their business model?

Earlier this month non-profit organisations and companies including Google, Mozilla, Yahoo, and Reddit united to organise a day of action called Reset the Net. The event marked the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Administration’s extensive and illegal dragnet surveillance apparatus.

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same,” Snowden wrote in a statement endorsing the campaign. The NSA is not going to stop snooping, but adopting encryption can make the mass collection of personal data more difficult and expensive. Why not put a little sand in the gears of their massive spying machine?

Jun 18 2014

The Breakfast Club: 6-18-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jun 18 2014

On This Day In History June 18

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 18 is the 169th day of the year (170th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 196 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1812, War of 1812 begins

The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire, including those of present-day Canada. The Americans declared war in 1812 for a number of reasons, including a desire for expansion into the Northwest Territory, trade restrictions because of Britain’s ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, and the humiliation of American honour. Until 1814, the British Empire adopted a defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and destroyed Tecumseh’s dream of an Indian confederacy. In the Southwest General Andrew Jackson humbled the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend but with the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large armies along with more patrols. British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed the British to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed British invasions of New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The war was fought in three theaters: At sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. Both land and naval battles were fought on the frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The South and the Gulf coast saw major land battles in which the American forces destroyed Britain’s Indian allies and defeated the main British invasion force at New Orleans. Both sides invaded each other’s territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other’s territory, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.

In the U.S., battles such as the Battle of New Orleans and the earlier successful defense of Baltimore (which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”) produced a sense of euphoria over a “second war of independence” against Britain. It ushered in an “Era of Good Feelings” in which the partisan animosity that had once verged on treason practically vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity. Britain regarded the war as a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe; it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States.

Jun 18 2014

TDS/TCR (Better Without Koch)

TDS TCR

Wet Start

Umayyad Dynasty (yes, just as easy to understand as Duck Dynasty)

The real news below.

Jun 18 2014

Hillary Clinton: Tax the Rich…Kinda

I wonder if this was one of Hillary’s “hard choices”

Bill and Hillary Clinton have long supported an estate tax to prevent the U.S. from being dominated by inherited wealth. That doesn’t mean they want to pay it.

To reduce the tax pinch, the Clintons are using financial planning strategies befitting the top 1 percent of U.S. households in wealth. These moves, common among multimillionaires, will help shield some of their estate from the tax that now tops out at 40 percent of assets upon death.

SNIP

Among the tax advantages of such trusts is that any appreciation in the house’s value can happen outside their taxable estate. The move could save the Clintons hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes, said David Scott Sloan, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP in Boston.