Friday, February 27, 2015

Pro Bono Only Lawyering and a Dueling Revival

Those white supremacists sure do know how to write a constitution.

Iranian nuclear hardliners' best friend

I'm not surprised that Netanyahu is willing to damage Israeli interests for short-term electoral gain, but the last paragraph of the Goldberg piece is what I have been wondering for a while about Bibi's opposition to the nuclear negotiations with Iran:
"What happens if the president succeeds in doing a deal despite the speech of the prime minister?" he asks. "Instead of the United States and Israel talking about ways to provide strategic reassurance to Israel, there’s going to be an ongoing fight over this deal. And what if the prime minister then succeeds in killing the deal? How will the president relate to the destruction of one of his signature policy initiatives? And if the sanctions then collapse, as seems likely, and Iran continues moving towards a nuclear weapon, how does the prime minister propose to stop Iran? He will certainly manage in the process to create the impression that he wants the United States to go to war with Iran. I don’t think the American people, in their war-weary state, will appreciate that."
The bottom line is the only realistic way to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear bomb is getting them to agree not to build a nuclear bomb, which means some kind of negotiated deal. Bombing Iran is not going to deal the country anything more than a minor setback to the nuclear program. Plus, it would also serve as a pretty compelling case for the Iranian government to devote more resources to quickly getting a nuclear weapon so give Iran a deterrent to future attacks.

While a bigger regime-changing war with Iran might stop the program, there is no real chance that the U.S. will do anything like that. And frankly, Israel has no ability to manage that kind of war on its own (Israel isn't even capable of effectively bombing the Iranian nuclear program, which is why Netanyahu keeps trying to get the U.S. to kill Persians for him).

What is Netanyahu's plan to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? He doesn't really have one. Instead, he is focusing all his efforts on sinking the only plausible chance for stopping the Iranian nuclear program: putting the program under international supervision in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. It is mind-boggling because if you buy Netanyahu's premise that a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat to Israel, than that is all the more reason you would want a deal with Iran.

What does Netanyahu think the endgame on the Iran issue should be?

Will anything change between now and March 21?

It looks like John Boehner will escape his current predicament by passing a resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security for just three more weeks.

I'm not sure how that really gets him out of his predicament though. I mean, doesn't it just create another predicament three weeks from now? Why does he keep setting himself up for difficult situations? I realize he has a rough conference and does not want to face the consequences when he gets branded an ideological heretic. But in a situation like this, it is better to just yank the band-aid off.

Maybe they will find a pretext to add Venezuela to the list?

As my longtime readers will remember (yes, both of you), I have an ongoing beef with the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The list has always been more about politics than any objective assessment of how much support a government gives to terrorist groups. In fairness, coming up with an objective list would be hard, and a fairer list would probably end up imposing some serious sanctions on close allies, if not ourselves.

So instead we have a list of countries that the U.S. has serious issues with that can (and has) been used as a bargaining chip with when the U.S. deals with countries it has had difficulties with in the past. Which is what seems to be happening with Cuba. But there is a problem. For much of its existence, Cuba has been the one non-Muslim country on the SSoT list. Having a token non-Muslim country is important, because it means that the list isn't just slapping the "supporting terrorism" label on Muslims for activities that many more countries do. I can imagine Cuba coming off, but I think they need a new token first.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Renaming "Nineveh" would not have gotten them any attention

People aren't paying enough attention to the Islamic State, so they smashed a bunch of statues and uploaded the videos to get the world to look at them again. That's my interpretation. The people on the video claim they were smashing statues to wipe out remnants of paganism.

The video was uploaded by the media office of Nineveh state, which is "the Islamic State's name for the Mosul region." But Nineveh was also the name of the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and the word "Nineveh" possibly means "seat of Ishtar"* Ishtar, of course, was a pagan goddess. I guess that's one remnant of paganism they're giving a pass.

* It might also mean "house of fish."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Net neutrality for dummies

Somehow net neutrality has turned into a partisan issue (I realize that Republicans tend to favor "business interests" but there are powerful business interests on both sides). And with the FCC poised to issue rules to protect net neutrality, I was curious what rightwing bloggers were saying about it. Via Memorandum I found this post and, not surprisingly, the author does not understand what the net neutrality rules will do, at least not if he thinks this is an illustrative example:
I pay for a slightly faster Internet speed that the usual Time Warner package, but I see no need for the fastest of the fast. People and private entities can pay for multiple different speeds at different prices. Not to be ageist, but many seniors feel no need for anything but the slowest speed (typically 768kbs), as they are not cruising around and downloading videos and such. People choose the speed that works for them.
Net neutrality rules will not affect people's ability to buy (or not buy) faster connections to the internet from ISPs. Net neutrality forbids ISPs from discriminating among the content they provide to subscribers. Mr. Teach will still be allowed to choose his "slightly faster" internet speed and his hypothetical old farts will still be able to choose the slowest speeds. What it will prevent is Time Warner from selling Mr. Teach a specific download speed but then throttling the actual speed that Mr. Teach can watch Netflix because Time Warner and Netflix get into some kind of dispute. In a sense, this will really just guarantee that Mr. Teach gets what he pays for. If Time Warner promises to provide 20 Mbps and Mr. Teach pays for that speed, the rule would prevent Time Warner from deciding to only give him speeds of 3Mbps for accessing particular web sites that fall out of Time Warner's favor.

(Teach also doesn't seem to know that net neutrality is what governed the internet from its creation until a few years ago when the court struck down the prior net neutrality rule. Most of the innovations in the internet grew under a net neutrality regime)

With so many Democrats planning to skip, Bibi is getting creative in filling those empty seats

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, the Arab ambassadors have declined because they are "are too smart to involve themselves in the partisan mess that this Netanyahu speech has become."

Fight the real enemy

It is amusing to see that the pet cause of a dipshit rightwinger has prompted actual legislation. The most amusing part is this:
According to the Houston Chronicle, Campbell has admitted that making the Alamo a UNESCO site would not actually involve selling it to the UN. She said in warning, however, that "UNESCO starts with UN.
If that's the real issue maybe her legislative efforts should be more focused. A lot of words begin with UN! She should outlaw universities, unemployment and underwear next.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I guess planning ahead isn't their forte

Now that we are days away from the funding deadline, Congressional Republicans are learning that the unwinnable fight they picked with the President over DHS funding is unwinnable. The great mystery is why they keep manufacturing crises without an endgame.

My theory is because their bases refusal to ever acknowledge that they made a mistake. That means that past mistakes, like the 2013 government shutdown, get spun into successes when the story gets retold to the true believers or reported on partisan news outlets. But if the base believes those things were successes, they will pressure members of Congress to do it again. Which puts people like Mitch McConnell in a difficult situation. He can refuse to bring the government to the brink of another shutdown crisis, which his voters will see as throwing away an effective tool they have against the president, or he can go along with what his voters want, even though he knows the tool is not effective. So he chooses the latter, except eventually it will get to the point where the ineffectiveness of his tool is evident, he has to give up on the plan and at that point (which is to say, this point), his base will see him throwing away what they believe is an effective tool for no reason.

Why McConnell et al didn't use last week's District Court decision against the president's executive action as a way out is the mystery within the mystery. It really could have been the perfect escape hatch.


Lots of people are piling on the Idaho lawmaker who is apparently unfamiliar with basic human anatomy. In times like these it is worth reviewing David Wong's "5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds". Specifically #2.

Sure, it's a funny story. But aside from his stupid remarks there is no reason that national news would be talking about that member of the Idaho state legislature. There is really no larger political truth to be learned other than the fact that there are really ignorant people in state legislatures. But didn't we know that already?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shiites have no agency unless they are Persian

I wonder if it is possible for any Shia group to seek political power anywhere in the world without the Saudis seeing the group as a bunch of pawns for the Iranians.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We're gonna party like it's 1992

I guess there is now a fair chance that the 2016 presidential election will be Bush vs. Clinton.

The one silver lining to Jeb Bush being the republican nominee is that it would resolve any misgivings I have about voting for Hillary Clinton because of my intense dislikes for political legacies. Not that there's any real chance that I would vote for the Republican, but if they are both legacies I could at least reassure myself that factor is a wash.

Giuliani knows what people secretly believe and it happens to correspond to what their political opponents want to hear

I really don't get why Rudy Giuliani says stuff like this in public. Is he trying to make himself into nothing more than a political clown? Sure, there are people who will agree with him. But I think for most Americans it just comes across as unhinged.

There was actually a time when Rudy was widely viewed as a viable political figure. That's not true anymore and it is mostly due to remarks just like these.

Not the right stuff to cringe at

I'm no fan of Jeb Bush, or his foreign policy, but this is ridiculous. None of those six gaffes matter, nor do they reveal anything about what a third Bush presidency would mean for American foreign policy. Specifically:

#1 "He Mixed up Iran and Iraq."

This would be a problem if Jeb mixed them up in a way that demonstrated that he did not understand the difference between the two. But instead what happened is he said this that the Obama Administration's "approach to Iraq...excuse me, Iran." That's just a slip of the tongue. It can happen to anyone. All it reveals about Jeb is that he is a human being.

#2  "He accidentally multiplied ISIS's military strength by 10 times, saying that the group had 200,000 fighters when CIA estimates say they've got between 20,000 and 31,500. (A spokesperson later emailed reporters to say he misspoke.)"

In a prepared speech where he cites specific facts, he should get those facts right. On the other hand, even Zack Beauchamp characterizes it as an "accident" and the mistake was later corrected by a spokesperson. Once again we are left with the shocking revelation that Jeb Bush can make a mistake.

#3 "He called Ukraine 'the Ukraine,' which Ukrainians object to because it implies that they're a territory and not a rightfully independent country."

Yes, some Ukrainians have objected to the "the" before the name of their country and officially there is no definite article there. But Ukraine was known as "the Ukraine" prior to 1991 and it wasn't universally dropped by English language news publications until the Ukrainian government asked them to in 1993. It is very easy to make a mistake and accidentally say "the Ukraine" if that is what you were used to saying for years.

Also, while I respect the Ukrainian's right to have their country called whatever they want, the claim that "the Ukraine" implies that it is not an independent country is simply wrong. There are several countries whose name in English is preceded with a definite article, countries such as "the Netherlands" to the lesser known "the Gambia," or even this place you may have heard of called "the United States of America" (also known as "the United States"). No one ever questions American independence because of the "the."

#4 "He called ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi 'the guy that's the supreme leader or whatever his new title is — head of the caliphate.'"

The title that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claims for himself is Caliph (Caliphates are ruled by caliphs, just as kingdoms are ruled by kings, empires are ruled by emperors, and emirates are ruled by emirs). But U.S. government officials have avoided using that title for al-Baghdadi because they do not recognize him as a legitimate ruler deserving of any title. I would argue it would be worse if Jeb had referred to al-Baghdadi as "the Caliph." But without an official title that someone like Jeb Bush can use, it is not clear what he should be called. Jeb's struggle with the proper title for the guy seems entirely appropriate to me.

#5 "He mispronounced Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, sounding more like 'bow-coo haram.'"

Americans mispronounce foreign words all the time. For whatever reason, some mispronunciations no one makes a big deal about and others are viewed as a major gaffe. I don't speak Hausa. I don't know how a native speaker of that language would say "Boko." I do know that no one in the English media pronounces "haram" like it sounds in the original Arabic (the first letter (ح) makes a sound that does not exist in English, but is kinda similar to an "h" so it usually gets transliterated using that letter despite the fact that there is a completely different Arabic letter (ه) that makes a sound that is more like the English "h"). As far as I am concerned, as long as we can tell what Jeb is referring to when he says "'bow-coo haram" that is fine. Otherwise, I get to yell any anyone who ever says "Eye-rak" instead of "al-3iraaq" for العراق (and yes, "Iraq" has a definite article in Arabic but no one claims that means it is not an independent country)

#6 "He weirdly talked about how he 'forced myself to go visit Asia four times a year' as if it were a hardship."

Okay, that is pretty weird. But it doesn't tell me much about whether he would make a good president.

There is plenty of real things to criticize in Jeb Bush's speech. His use of passive voice, for example, shows that he clearly is unwilling to talk about who is responsible for the disaster that was the Iraq War, which is particularly important since a lot of Jeb's foreign policy advisers were the architects of that war. That's a good point. How he pronounces things or momentary slips of the tongue are not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What's next, a Jeb Bush "Mission Accomplished" banner?

Why does anyone use the term "shock and awe" unironically?

The term entered the American political lexicon in the 2003 Iraq War, when the Bush Administration launched a massive bombing attack on Baghdad in the initial days of the war. The idea was that the Iraqi leadership would be so shocked and awed by America's destructive power, they would quickly surrender or turn on Saddam Hussein, which would bring the war to a quick end.

Needless to say, that is not what happened. In other words, "shock and awe" was a failed strategy, the first of many in that particular war. So now are the Bushies, in their current incarnation as the Jeb Bushies, embracing the phrase now? Are they so unwilling to admit the last Bush administration had any faults that they don't remember that the events they evoke with "shock and awe" were a failure?