Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The political cost of a Democrat ordering another stupid war

I think this letter to Josh Marshall is exactly right. There is nothing more dispiriting than watching the Democrats back a new stupid war in the middle east with vague goals and a seemingly endless timetable.

It seemed like the President was pushed into this war because of the general sense among the Washington bobbleheads that if he did not "go after ISIS" he would look weak and it would hurt his party politically. But no one ever considers how politically weakened he would be if he takes an action that will clearly alienate his base. It seems to me that hurts him even more.

Swiss Lambert

If only Switzerland had elected Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama this never would have happened! [/Lambert]

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chocolution 39: Blanxart, Dark Chocolate with Nibs

At 87%, this one has the highest cacao percentage so far. While my sweet spot seems to be around the low-70, this one was really great. Can't get enough of nibs! Also, the slogan at the top of the packaging is perfect.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another nail in Governor Deadmanwalking's coffin

Secret mission

When we were in Kazakhstan in 2010, we had a driver who drove us to and from the orphanage that we visited for two hours each day. Our driver did not speak English, but we always rode with our translator (we needed her at the orphanage) so we would sometimes chat with him through her.

Anyway, one day our driver mentioned that when he served in the Red Army, he was sent on a secret mission to Vietnam during what is called the Vietnam War in the U.S. (in Vietnam they call it "The American War"). I had visited Vietnam, and as part of that visit, I went through a period where I read a lot about the history of that country. From what I read, throughout the war between the U.S. and Vietnam the U.S. government was convinced that Soviet soldiers were fighting along side the North Vietnamese, but could never prove it. And there I was, sitting in a car in a small city in Southern Kazakhstan with a Red Army veteran telling me he was there.

Anyway, I thought of that story when I read this post, from a popular Kazakhstani blog. (Note: if the annoying full page ad comes up just click through to get to the story)

Moral equivalence

Thesis: No charge of "moral equivalence" has ever been anything other than complete nonsense.

I can think of no counter examples.

If you're against this lame duck, be against all lame ducks

Why shouldn't he? I mean, other than because the people who are determined to oppose whoever he nominates wouldn't like it.

I get the idea that a lame duck Congress is not as accountable as a Congress that is not lame. But that is a problem with everything that a lame duck Congress does. It is not particular to Senate confirmation votes on attorney general nominees. In other words, that is not an argument against holding a confirmation vote for Eric Holder's successor during the upcoming lame duck session. It is an argument for Congress to not hold a lame duck session at all.

If the lame duck's lack of accountability bothers Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz, then they should press for a new Congressional calendar that cuts out lame duck sessions entirely. That is something they could do. They could keep Congress in recess for the entire period between election day and swearing in day, and/or they can make swearing in day come sooner (the latter would require a constitutional amendment). But as long as there is a lame duck session, Congress should do something during those sessions. Why is a cabinet confirmation vote different than anything else they might do?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Neat trick

Instead of letting members of Congress go on record as being either for or against Obama's military campaign against ISIS before it happened, John Boehner let everyone go on recess. And now he is saying that he won't schedule the debate until after the campaign has progressed for several months so all the Congress critters can all see how this turns out first. Then they will tell the American people whether this was a good idea all along.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Murdering America with a Cup


I guess I have just gotten used to the fact that the U.S. never follows its own constitution anymore when it goes to war. The Constitution seems pretty clear to me, Congress has the power to declare war, not the President. Every president in my lifetime has ignored that clear language and has sent U.S. forces into conflict without any declaration of Congress.

Actually, I'm not sure why a formal declaration of war has fallen out of favor. It is the only way to initiate hostilities under the Constitution, but the last time Congress passed a formal declaration of war was in the 1940s. Why didn't they do that with the Gulf War or the Iraq War? Why would they prefer to pass the constitutionally dubious (although now pretty well established by decades of precedent) "authorization for use of military force" over a formal declaration?

Anyway, back to my main point, it seems pretty clear to me that Obama's military campaign against ISIS is blatantly illegal under U.S. law. The administration's legal justifications for the attacks are pretty flimsy:
Administration officials have said that as a matter of domestic law, they believe that the United States has statutory authority to attack the Islamic State under Congress’s 2001 authorization to fight Al Qaeda. They also believe that Congress’s 2002 authorization of the Iraq war could provide an alternate source of such authority. The United States has been bombing Islamic State forces in Iraq since August.
ISIS is not al Qaeda. In fact, the two groups had a rather public break-up and al Qaeda disavowed ISIS earlier this year. Plus, the text of the 2001 AUMF does not give "authorization to fight Al Qaeda". Rather, it says:
[T]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
 ISIS did not plan, authorize, commit or aid the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The group did not exist in 2001. While ISIS grew out of Jama'at at-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which did exist in 2001, that group was not affiliated with al Qaeda and had no role in the September 11th attack. In 2001 its goal was to overthrow the government of Jordan. ISIS is not, to the best of my knowledge, "harboring" anyone who was involved in the 9-11 attack. The 2001 AUMF simply doesn't apply to them.

Likewise, the 2002 authorization for use of force in Iraq, while a little broader in scope (the language says (pdf): "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to... defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq"), the President has already declared the war in Iraq to be over and removed all U.S. forces from the country. Which means the "threat posed by Iraq", if there ever was any, had ended. I don't think you can reasonably interpret it to authorize American military force in Iraq at any point from 2002 until the end of time.

This is also Congress' fault. Obama announced his plans to bomb ISIS on September 10th. Congress was still in session then. It could have brought to a vote a new authorization for the use of military force (or even a formal declaration of war) before it left for recess. Congress then could have either accepted or rejected the campaign by its vote. But it didn't because politically members of Congress do not want to be accountable for this new war. As much as the President is grabbing the authority to effectively declare war from Congress, Congress seems to be happy to let him do it. Neither branch wants to follow what the Constitution says. So all we have left are a whole bunch of illegal wars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For now, at least, it is finally legal to have the same sex as someone else in Louisiana

Before this ruling, I wonder how the State of Louisiana ever had more than two people at the same time.


Actually, Khorasan is a place. Back when Persia was not confined to the borders of modern Iran, but rather stretched North and East through Afghanistan and Turkmenistan into Central Asia, "Khorasan" was that NW swath of Persian territory, running from the NW corner of modern Iran all the way through Uzbekistan to what is now Tajikistan. In Central Asia there are still a ton of references to "Khorasan" or variations on that word. I saw it all over the place when I visited Uzbekistan ( Like, for example, the name of the province where Khiva is), and to a lesser extent in Southern Kazakhstan.

I have no idea why a group in Syria has suddenly adopted that name. Syria is not part of historic Khorasan. Actually, the group "Khorasan" hasn't done all that much except for issue statements about its intentions to attack the West, which have been dutifully picked up and amplified by the Western media.

ADDING: This Vox piece mentions that Khorasan "is simply a collection of al-Qaeda veterans from Afghanistan." Afghanistan was once part of Khorasan. so I guess that is all the name refers to.

Ten years ago at Ten Stone

I actually missed the first Philadelphia Drinking Liberally. I can't remember why I couldn't make it. But I remember I couldn't. I showed up for the second one and then was a regular almost every week for the next five years. That was followed by a year in which I was a regular attendee for the four months in 2010 that I wasn't in Kazakhstan. Since 2010, I have only gone once or twice a year.

ANYWAY, the archives tell me that the second DL--the first one I attended--was was on September 28, 2004. Which means that the first Philly DL was on September 21, 2014, two days ago. [Note: confirmed by Eschaton archives] Two days go wasn't a Tuesday. Today is. So tonight is the Official Tenth Anniversary SpectacularTM of Philadelphia (Center City) Drinking Liberally!!! Everyone is invited and this week, for the first time in Idon'tknowhowlong, I am actually going to show up.
Jose Pistola's
263 S. 15th St. (Upstairs bar)
7:00 when we leave.
Whoever can name every official location of DL-Philly over the past decade (not including special one-off events, but including every place that we thought was to be the group's regular home even if it didn't necessarily work out that way), gets 50 Noz points and maybe a free drink.

See you there!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Styling Saakashvili

I read the NYT's uber-fluffy profile of Mikheil Saakashvili yesterday and just assumed it was due to the newspaper's home city bias. That is, I thought the Times is more likely to be interested in running a almost content-less piece about what neighborhood and trendy restaurants a controversial former national leader likes to hang out in, if those neighborhoods and restaurants happen to be in New York. But Amanda Taub had a more provocative theory1:
Newspapers are often criticized for running profiles of female leaders in the style section rather than the business or politics sections. If a recent profile of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili's adventures in Williamsburg is anything to go on, the New York Times has heard those critiques, and decided to address the issue by giving all leaders the full "style section" treatment.
I doubt she is right. I mean, first off, the piece ran in the International News portion of Section A (i.e. real news, not the Style Section). And second, I would need a few more examples before I conclude that the NYT was going to go style section on male leaders from now on. But it is still a funny idea.

1-At least it seems more provocative to me. I realize in the broad scheme of things it isn't tremendously thought-provoking.

Chocolution 38: The Grenada Chocolate Co, Organic Dark 71%

The label says the bar has soy lecithin, so it's not quite so simple as most simplicity bars. But it had that distinctive single origin/simplicity taste I complained about last week, particularly the lingering bitterness. But for some reason, this bar really worked for me more than most of the others. Maybe that "some reason" is my otherwise chocolate-free existence in this caffeine free month. Or maybe soy lecithin is the one additive you should put in your simplicity bar to make me happy.