Friday, May 29, 2015

What's a Surge, Anyway? Oh Yeah, It's a Battle You Lose Eventually.

...and after you spend a gazillion dollars you supposedly couldn't possibly give to the poor because, you know, they're so irresponsible.

Troops on the move during Iraq "surge." Sources say we won the "surge." What's
winning? I don't know, ask ISIS. Their answer would be I got your "surge" right here.

Daily Kos flagged a Politico story on a potential new "surge" in Iraq against ISIS.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a 2016 candidate for president, recently called for sending 10,000 troops to Iraq. Fellow GOP presidential hopefuls Rick Perry, Scott Walker and George Pataki say they’re open to the idea. Last week, two key architects of George W. Bush’s 2007 troop surge told the Senate that up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops are needed to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. They’ve found an ally in Sen. John McCain, a longtime Republican hawk.
And even though President Barack Obama has ruled out the idea of a ground combat force — which is also a nonstarter for congressional Democrats — polls show growing public support for the idea.
Aside from the fact that the usual suspects are calling for war, war, war as the only way to deal with the ISIS threat, the real question, other than WTF?, is what in hell do you expect to accomplish by sending 10,000 or even 20,000 troops to fight ISIS on the ground?

I suggest one possible accomplishment: the biggest ISIS recruitment video in the history of ISIS recruitment videos. Sending 10,000 Americans to Iraq is one way of getting 50,000 new volunteers for ISIS.

Mind you, we'd blew people and stuff up really well for a while. And maybe, as we did in the last surge, we'd pay off some Sunnis to act all un-ISIS-like. Then we'd leave and the Middle East would go back to being the Middle East, with the Sunnis and Shia hating each other and both of them hating the Jews while chanting Death to America.

Or -- and that's a big OR -- we could let them sort it out and tell them that, when the smoke clears, we're going to be buying even less oil from them because we've decided the best way to win this war was through diplomacy, when feasible, and innovation in new energy sources and methods, where possible.

I've driven across Germany in the past year or so, and this is what it looks like.

We can look like Germany, too, a country that began producing 74% of its energy needs from renewable resources over a year ago.

Or -- and that's a really predictable OR -- we could go back to preferring SUVs to Priuses and war to peace. Which do you think it will be?

We are so fucked.

What's in this pic? 43 Toyota trucks we gave to Syrian rebels. Now they're
in the hands of ISIS. Didn't work out like we planned. Rarely does.

What's in this pic? Some of the $15 billion in cash sent to Iraq -- on pallets! --
but now generally listed as unaccounted for or "improperly" accounted for.

We're really good at nation building. We should do more of it! Maybe Lindsey Graham and John McCain can pass the hat. (The real way our wars were paid for is called "off the books.")

Thank God fiscal conservatives are against this sort of thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This Is Huge. FIFA Comeuppance at Hand?

FIFA sticks it to countries hosting World Cups. Is the exploitation over??

In the past, I've read with horror the exploitative ways of FIFA, which has lorded over international soccer since forever. Countries that vie for a chance to host the World Cup, for example, found themselves boxed out of most of the profit-making opportunities. To see the executives of FIFA swept up in corruption charges by the U.S. Department of Justice is satisfying on so many levels.

But it begs the question: Why did it take the U.S. DOJ to do this? Where was the EU? Latin America? I don't know enough about international soccer -- despite being a huge fan -- to know.

But CNN does. Whoa:
When FIFA cleared itself of wrongdoing, the FBI wasn't ready to do the same.
It wanted to know whether any of the allegations of bribe-taking and kickbacks by FIFA officials took place on American soil.
And it knew it was on the right track, especially after it secured the cooperation of a former top FIFA official -- and an American -- named Chuck Blazer.
Blazer had found himself in a bind. He hadn't paid his taxes for many, many years and was looking at serious prison time. So he became an informant, who provided documents and recordings of meetings with FIFA colleagues that hinted at not-so-kosher dealings, law enforcement officials said.
Shit works that way. Read the CNN story. It's like a crime novel.

It gets better as seven of the indicted were arrested in a Swiss hotel.

FIFA bosses arrested in surprise raid on a Zurich hotel. Who's got the movie rights?

Here's the Justice report on the indictments. Who knows where it goes from here, but it seems four have already pleaded guilty and rats are ratting and all that. FIFA certainly had this coming, and I hope the sport will be the better for it.

Slate offers a good report of the festivities, pointing out the Swiss involvement in capturing the seven at the FIFA annual meeting, and that Swiss officials have grabbed documents at FIFA headquarters. It also seems that the Swiss -- who must have been in close touch with both the DOJ and the FBI -- are starting their own investigation, focusing on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, won, incomprehensibly, by Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Of note is the fact that FIFA president Sepp Blatter -- sounds like a name out of Blade Runner -- wasn't included in the indictments. He must be sweating bullets now, wondering which rat will act ratly.

A final thought: Loretta Lynch has only recently been confirmed and installed as Attorney General. James Comey has not been in charge of the FBI all that long. Both had worked on this case in their previous roles as U.S. attorneys. But just as a recent case against the banks in the exchange-rate scandal led to fines with an admission of guilt, a rarity before now, it appears that the Obama administration is building a legacy for justice after squandering opportunities in past years. Better late than never.

Here's to a reformed -- or remade -- FIFA in the very near future, sans corruption.

Keeping Up with the Duggars: Wacky and Women-Hating but Beloved of the Republican Right

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: closer to God or creepy as all get out?

(updated below)

I never watched "19 Kids and Counting," but the concept of both the family and the show -- and the apparent devotion of the Christian fans of the show and the political hard right -- is, for a humanist like me, decidedly creepy.

Yet politicians flock to defend them, with Mike Huckabee soiling his brand in pursuit of what?

Amanda Marcotte of Slate offers an eye-opening look at the Duggar tribe and their cult-like lives, along with a savage takedown of their near-total (what am I saying? Total.) control over the lives of their women. Ouch, but oh so true.

I am reminded of this famous passage in the Bible telling how unclean women are compared to men. Leviticus 12-5 speaks of a women who gives birth. She is unclean twice as long if she gives birth to a girl child than if she gives birth to a boy child. Hard to spin that, don't you think?

I suspect I don't need to mention that what blew this TLC show up was the revelation that Josh Duggar -- an executive director with the Christian evangelical group, the Family Research Council -- had in his teenage years molested girls, among them his sisters. It was covered up until now. CNN shares the status of the scandal and its impact on the TV show.

Gawker speaks to the cult-like homeschooling program called Advanced Training Institute to which the Duggar family adhered.

At the heart of this brand of fundamentalism is Biblical, or Christian, patriarchy, where men have complete dominance over women. How this leads to molestation of women, I wouldn't know (just kidding). This authoritarian patriachal model is favored by the religious right, about which George Lakoff has often written. Lakoff contrasts this with the nurturing parent model favored by liberals (and me).

I guess makin' babies is real Christian-like. Onward Demographic Soldiers?

As for the Duggars and the fate of the show, let's leave that up to the great whatever. But let's remember that we've seen this movie before, countless times, as religious zealot after religious zealot is outed as the hypocrite they often are. Fundamentalist Christians love to lean on the "we're all sinners" defense at times like this, while I like to quote favorite blogger Atrios at Eschaton with his celebrated line "shit is fucked up and bullshit." Gets to the heart of it.

For fun and games, check out the Duggar family Facebook and the bitch-slapping they're taking in the comments threads (holy shit!). How long they can leave that up is anyone's guess. Check out this devoted fan blog. Check out how the Family Research Council and FRC Action -- which Josh Duggar headed until last week -- are supporting poor Josh. Lastly, check out this WaPo rundown of the position the Republican clown-car occupants find themselves in after the Duggar family molestation flap. Yikes! (See sample tweets below.)


Uh-oh uh-oh.

Creepy is the right word here.

Update. For a trip down the rabbit hole of Christian hypocrisy, read this blog post by Josh Duggar's younger sister's father-in-law. Not only is in eye-opening -- as a look at "modern" Christianity -- but it essentially says Josh repented and he's okay, and his parents' handling of it was okay because he was a teenager. And the judge was right in ordering the police report destroyed because victims. And do, please do, read the comments. Jeebus.

Also, please note that a strain in this blog post -- as pointed out by Talking Points Memo -- is that we should not be surprised that this molestation took place in a Christian household because we are all sinners. In other words, hey, shit happens. Double jeebus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There Never Was Authorization for the NSA Data Grab, and Yet... gets weird from there. A court has declared a portion of the Patriot Act as never legally capable of authorizing NSA's huge data grab. Yet that isn't stopping the Congress from attempting to renew the Patriot Act so that the illegal data grab can continue. Only in America? Probably not, but we do look a bit like a banana republic:
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate played host to a moment that took mass surveillance on the phone records of Americans from outrage to farce.
The NSA’s phone dragnet had already been declared illegal.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that while the surveillance agency has long claimed to be acting in accordance with Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the text of that law in fact authorizes no such program. The Obama Administration has been executing a policy that the legislature never passed into being.
But the law that doesn’t even authorize the program is set to expire at the end of the month. And so the court reasoned that Congress could let it expire or vote to change it. For this reason, the court declined to issue an order shutting the program down.
Read the whole send-up from Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf. Will the Obama administration press Congress to re-authorize the act that never allowed them to do what they never stopped doing? Will the Senate take on the House, which has renewed the bill without the offensive portion that never allowed the surveillance in the first place? Will the American people even notice, or even care?

Because to keep us free, it's important to take away our freedom. Or something. Also, will the NSA just keep doing it anyway?

Fun fact: We'd never even know about this without Edward Snowden...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tea-Party Effect: Jeb Bush Has to Deny Climate Change

An "intellectually arrogant" polar bear.

We knew this was coming, and Jeb Bush didn't disappoint.
"I don't think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted," the former Florida governor said at an event in Bedford, New Hampshire.
"For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you," he said, according to CNN. "It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."
What the hell does that even mean? We do know what the result will be: no action on global warming, pure and simple. That's the Republican Party line, full stop.

Tea Partiers will not let a single candidate budge on this issue, again, full stop. So vote for Republicans if you want NO ACTION on climate change or reduction of fossil-fuel use or increase in support for alternative energy sources. Vote Democratic if you want a chance that we can stop our headlong rush over the cliff to oblivion.

Also, thanks Koch brothers! You have signaled that anyone who acknowledges the legitimacy of the science concerning global warming will not get a damned dime of your money. Thanks a lot.

This isn't a Jeb Bush thing. This is a GOP thing exacerbated by Koch money.

Bottom line is if Jeb Bush -- the "reasonable" GOP candidate -- can't risk supporting the science of climate change, then no GOP candidate this cycle can risk it, especially during the primary. And, of course, it calls into question just how "reasonable" Jeb Bush ever was.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marijuana a Gateway Drug? Pah!

Offered without comment:

David Brooks Roundly Condemned for Blatantly False "Lessons Learned" Iraq Column

Hey Brooks: This is what the Iraq War looked like,
just on our side. Thanks for cheerleading it.

David Brooks, failed philosopher and serial apologist for the Iraq War, opened his yap yet again and got a mouthful or five of condemnation but quick. Why? The Iraq War was based on lies, and Brooks offers up more lies to make it look like a "Who could have known?" affair rather than the fiasco that it was.

This is what a Bush lapdog looks like.
Here's a rundown of articles and blog posts condemning Brooks and the Republican attempts to
whitewash the war:
It goes on and on. If Brooks thinks rewriting history is easy, he should think again. There is an army of critics -- rightfully so! -- out there ready to call him on it when he leaves facts behind.

The reason it matters is that no one with access to a microphone like Brooks has should be allowed to write and push false narratives, something that is Brooks stock-in-trade.

Hey Brooks: These are the war criminals you enabled.
Accessory before the fact.