Daily Archive: 09/18/2014

Sep 18 2014

President Obama’s high-mileage, “new” stupid war

3_presidents
Would you purchase a used war from one of these men?    —>

Three previous American presidents, Bush the elder, Bill Clinton and Bush the younger have all bombed Iraq, declared victory and moved on to lucrative post-presidencies.

President Obama, who called it a “dumb war” long before he developed the foreign policy doctrine, “Don’t do stupid shit,” has now purchased the stupid Iraq war.

Sep 18 2014

US Middle East Presence Just Making Things Worse

While Congress is holding hearings on whether or not President Barack Obama’s current plan to contain ISIS and assist so-called moderates of the rebel Syrian army, the CIA expressed its doubts on what the agency most likely perceives as an encroachment on their not so covert operations to train these un-vetted rebels that has been going on for a year in Jordan. That was reported earlier this week by Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein:

One Democratic member of Congress said that the CIA has made it clear that it doubts the possibility that the administration’s strategy could succeed.

“I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,” the congressman said in an email. “Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.”

He added that, as the CIA sees it, the ramped-up backing of rebels is an expansion of a strategy that is already not working. “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands,” the congressman said, echoing intelligence sources.

Probably for all the wrong reasons, the CIA is right. President Obama’s plan is not just doomed to failure but may well make matters worse.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Ann Cury, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his doubts about the strategy and condemned ISIS

           

“Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?” Rouhani said.

“If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.

“Maybe it is necessary for airstrikes in some conditions and some circumstances,” he added. “However, air strikes should take place with the permission of the people of that country and the government of that country.”  [..]

Asked about the extremists’ beheading of American James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Rouhani said ISIS’ actions are at odds with Islamic tenets.

“They want to kill humanity,” he said. “And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it’s the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind.”

But he also took issue with the American-led coalition, saying members include nations that helped ISIS with weapons and training.

At emptywheel, Jim White, noticed what the MSNBC article failed to mention

Rouhani told the NBC that the US-led coalition against the ISIL group was not a serious movement and added that US had been present in the region since 2001 to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan but it not only did not solved the terrorism problem but exacerbated the crisis.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has emphatically stated that foreign ground troops are not needed or wanted

Al-Abadi praised the U.S. aerial campaign targeting the militants who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq and carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border, saying it has helped efforts to roll back the Sunni extremists.

But he stressed that he sees no need for the U.S. or other nations to send troops into Iraq to help fight the Islamic State.

“Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.” [..]

The comments provided a sharp rebuttal to remarks a day earlier by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if President Barack Obama’s current strategy fails.

And the insanity will continue

Sep 18 2014

Pöpcørn

Sweden shifts to left in parliamentary election

Associated Press

September 14

The result marks the end of an eight-year era of tax cuts and pro-market policies under Reinfeldt, who said he would also resign as leader of the conservative party. Many Swedes worried that his tax cuts have undermined the country’s famed welfare system.



His center-right Alliance has cut income and corporate taxes, abolished a tax on wealth and trimmed welfare benefits. It has also eased labor laws and privatized state-owned companies, including the maker of Absolut vodka.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has grown faster in Sweden than in most developed countries, though it remains among the world’s most egalitarian, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Sweden Looks to Exclude Far Right From Coalition

By DAVID CROUCH, The New York Times

SEPT. 16, 2014

The left-leaning Social Democrats, with 31 percent, barely exceeded their total from the previous election four years ago, a result seen as a disaster for the party and setting off a leadership fight. The Green party, the Social Democrats’ most likely coalition partner, scored less than 7 percent, and conceded its dreams of being Sweden’s third political force dashed to the far right.

Together with the Left party of former communists, the so-called red-green bloc mustered only 43.8 percent of the vote, compared with 39.3 percent for the center-right bloc – a wafer-thin margin unforeseen in opinion polls.



But inequality in Sweden has grown, and with it a fear that the free market is failing to deliver the standard of welfare services that Swedes expect. The left attracted voters by promising a sharp break with the Reinfeldt government’s economic austerity policies, pledging to tax banks and the well-off to fund schools and infrastructure, and to create jobs.



“It is too early to predict if we could support a government with bourgeois ministers,” the Left party leader, Jonas Sjostedt said. “But we are not willing to be in a government with the Liberals,” a reference to a center-right party that won 5.4 percent of the vote. He also said, “we are too far away from the Center party to be in government with them.”

Mr. Lofven said later Monday that he would not have Left party members in his government, and in response, Mr. Sjostedt said that the Left would become an opposition party.

Sweden’s Election Deadlock Sets Stage for Budget Failure

By Johan Carlstrom and Niklas Magnusson, Bloomberg News

Sep 16, 2014 9:26 AM ET

Social Democratic leader Stefan Loefven said yesterday he won’t bring pre-election ally the Left Party into government, and instead opened the door to Reinfeldt’s former allies, the Center and Liberal parties. The two have already said they’re not interested in joining the Social Democrats.

“To close the door on the Left Party this quickly and in this rather brusque way will make it much harder for him to get his budget through,” Mikael Gilljam, a professor at Gothenburg University, said by phone.



“Stefan Loefven didn’t take the hand we extended and now we will become an opposition party,” Left Party leader Jonas Sjoestedt said after meeting Loefven yesterday. “That’s bad because it will result in a weaker government.”

While the Left won’t seek to block the parliamentary approval of any government formed by the Social Democrats and the Green Party, it will only offer support to Loefven’s budget proposal if certain demands are met, Sjoestedt said.



Swedish law was designed to make it easy for minority-governments to pass budgets by allowing the bill that gets the most votes pass. That’s provided political stability as the Social Democrats ruled without majority backing for most of the period since World War II.

That law was circumvented last year when the opposition broke with tradition and blocked parts of Reinfeldt’s budget. His party has said it won’t hesitate to do the same.

Sep 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.

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

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Eliot Ross: The referendum that reinvented Scotland

Even if Scots vote no,™ their politics have been transformed

Things move very quickly in politics, and old certainties can die suddenly. As a high school student in Edinburgh in the early 2000s, I was taught that the devolution of major government powers to a new Scottish parliament in 1999 was Tony Blair’s masterstroke. Scottish nationalism, I learned, no longer made sense. With devolution, the Scots got meaningful self-governance, while Blair’s “new” Labour Party could look forward to long periods of rule in Edinburgh and London.

This week’s independence referendum and the great surge of support for the yes campaign over the past year are exactly what Blair thought he had made impossible. [..]

An independent Scotland would be faced with great uncertainties, but the idea that continued union in the U.K. ensures a clear political future is hardly borne out by the U.K.’s volatile and uneven experience of postimperial statehood over the past 70 years. Just ask Blair. At one time he was certain he had settled the question of Scottish independence once and for all with devolution. Instead he turned out to have laid out the basis for a political earthquake.

David Cay Johnson: Tax cuts can do more harm than good

Their design is crucially important for predicting their effects

Tax cuts are the one guaranteed path to prosperity. Or so politicians have told Americans for so long that the claim has become a secular dogma.

But tax cuts can do more harm than good, a new report shows. It draws on decades of empirical evidence analyzed with standard economic principles used in business, academia and government.

What ultimately matters is the way a tax cut is structured and how it affects behavior. A well-designed tax cut can help increase future prosperity, but a poorly structured one can result in a meaner future with fewer jobs, less compensation and higher costs to society.

William G. Gale of the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit Washington policy research house, and Andrew Samwick, a Dartmouth College professor, last week issued the report, “Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth.”

Gale said he expects emailed brickbats from those who have incorporated the tax cut dogma into their views without really understanding the issue.

“The idea that tax cuts raise growth is repeated so often it is taken like a form of gospel,” Gale told me. “We are not buying into that gospel” because it fails to consider their total effects.

Michael Eric Dyson: Punishment or Child Abuse?

While 70 percent of Americans approve of corporal punishment, black Americans have a distinct history with the subject. Beating children has been a depressingly familiar habit in black families since our arrival in the New World. As the black psychiatrists William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs wrote in “Black Rage,” their 1968 examination of psychological black life: “Beating in child-rearing actually has its psychological roots in slavery and even yet black parents will feel that, just as they have suffered beatings as children, so it is right that their children be so treated.”

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit. Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense. Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop. They would rather beat their offspring than bury them. [..]

Equally tragic is that those who are beaten become beaters too. And many black folks are reluctant to seek therapy for their troubles because they may be seen as spiritually or mentally weak. The pathology of beatings festers in the psychic wounds of black people that often go untreated in silence.

Rebecca Solnit: The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises

There have undoubtedly been stable periods in human history, but you and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never lived through one, and neither will any children or grandchildren you may have or come to have. Everything has been changing continuously, profoundly — from the role of women to the nature of agriculture. For the past couple of hundred years, change has been accelerating in both magnificent and nightmarish ways.

Yet when we argue for change, notably changing our ways in response to climate change, we’re arguing against people who claim we’re disrupting a stable system.  They insist that we’re rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing. Those who think they’re hanging onto a stable order are actually clinging to the wreckage of the old order, a ship already sinking, that we need to leave behind.

Oliver Burkeman: Corporations are not people, so don’t let them guilt you into tipping the maid

Gratitude is a very good thing. It makes us happy. But this is what happens when Marriott and the corporate do-gooder police co-opt your feelings

If I still somehow retained any capacity to be surprised by the tone-deafness of corporate America, I imagine I’d be pretty taken aback by the news that Marriott International has joined forces with a nonprofit called A Woman’s Nation to launch The Envelope Please, a campaign to encourage hotel guests to leave “tips and notes of thanks for hotel room attendants” in envelopes that Marriott will graciously provide. (You can contribute to Marriott’s marketing budget – sorry, I meant “donate to A Woman’s Nation”! – here.)

As New York magazine’s Annie Lowery and others have pointed out, tipping is a terrible way to try to improve the lot of hotel housekeepers, whose work is stressful, debilitating, unseen and badly paid. On the one hand, tipping is basically useless as a way of encouraging good work; on the other hand, it’s incredibly useful as an excuse for employers to avoid raising wages. In the words of the National Review – and how often does one quote the National Review approvingly when not under the influence of massive quantities of hallucinogenic drugs? – how about just paying them more?”

Emma Brockes: There is nothing more American than unlimited breadsticks

Forget those classist hedge-funders and their 300-page report on pasta water. What could be more authentically itself than Olive Garden?

I have been thinking about Olive Garden more than usual the past few days – specifically its breadsticks, which were singled out for abuse in a 300-page report written by one of the restaurant chain’s investors, a hedge-fund up in arms at the perceived waste of food (and trying to gain greater control of the parent company’s board).

It’s the breadsticks, along with the bottomless salad bowl, that have of course made the franchise famous, both for its generosity and as a symbol of the gluttony and excess laying waste to America. Olive Garden is the sort of restaurant that one loves as a child and should supposedly outgrow – but that kind of snobbery overlooks a fundamental fact about human nature: no one ever, ever outgrows a good salad bar (or hot breadsticks, for that matter). It would be like outgrowing the need for a hug.

So while debate this week has ostensibly surrounded the restaurant’s commercial efficiency, all anyone has really been wondering is this: is Olive Garden – and by extension a big slice of American restaurant culture in general – gross or not gross?

Sep 18 2014

On This Day In History September 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.

September 18 is the 261st day of the year (262nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 104 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

Sep 18 2014

The Breakfast Club (Science and Tech Thursday)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIf I may be forgiven a little meta, be careful what you wish for.

I had opined to that group of us who put these together I found it easier with a theme and suggested some including Science and Technology to which the universal response was- “What an excellent idea, why don’t you do that?”

They kind of missed my point but being a ‘follow me’ type of leader I’m prepared to show how it can be done.

As always I don’t feel constrained by any particular format other than my own so I’ll start out with your quote

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

-Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science Oriented Video!

Science/Tech News

Busy Days Precede a March Focusing on Climate Change

By LISA W. FODERARO, The New York Times

SEPT. 17, 2014

The run-up to what organizers say will be the largest protest about climate change in the history of the United States has transformed New York City into a beehive of planning and creativity, drawing graying local activists and young artists from as far away as Germany.

“This is the final crunch, the product of six months of work to make the People’s March a big, beautiful expression of the climate movement,” said Rachel Schragis, a Brooklyn-based artist and activist who is coordinating the production of floats, banners and signs.

The march, organized by more than a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups, is planned to wend its way through Midtown Manhattan along a two-mile route approved by the city’s Police Department last month. It will start at 11:30 a.m. at Columbus Circle, then move east along 59th Street, south on Avenue of the Americas and west on 42nd Street, finishing at 11th Avenue and West 34th Street.



Organizers say it is impossible to predict how many people could show up. But 1,400 “partner organizations” have signed on, ranging from small groups to international coalitions. In addition, students have mobilized marchers at more than 300 college campuses, and more than 2,700 climate events in 158 countries are planned to coincide with the New York march, including rallies in Delhi, Jakarta, London, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro.

In New York, organizers are expecting 496 buses from as far away as Minnesota and Kansas to bring marchers.

“The most useful gallon of gasoline anyone will ever burn is the one that gets them to the march,” Mr. McKibben said. (By contrast, all floats will be pulled by biodeisel-powered cars and trucks or by hand, organizers said.)

Science/Tech Blogs

The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.

Sep 18 2014

TDS/TCR (Democrats of Convenience)

TDS TCR

I’m your Pusherman

Our moderate anti-Assad Syrian allies and Arab coallition members times the square root of negative 1, raised by the power of our real Canadian girlfriend, equals 200 hours of extraordinary rendition.

I assure you TMC gets that one because she doesn’t have the problem with trig identities I do and I watched all 6 seasons of Northern Exposure even the sucky ones without Dr. Joel.

The real news, as well as this week’s guests below.

Sep 18 2014

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Hey, I earned these lines.

I’ve waited years and years to for the Botox migraine. First for the FDA to approve it, and then to have some insurance that would cover it for me. So when I finally got that call last week I almost cried. When they first approved it’s use, it wasn’t covered at all, and even after some insurers starting covering it, mine sure didn’t. I finally got a doctor who got my insurance to cover it. OMG.