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Peace for Paris

As we all mourn the terrible attacks in Paris over the weekend, and the 129 victims who senselessly lost their lives, I know that I am wondering what we will do now. What is the answer to how to stop ISIS, aka “The Islamic State,” from doing this again? How can we stop the terrorist group from taking over Iraq and Syria, and extending its reach throughout the Middle East in the long-awaited radical Muslim “caliphate” called for by the group’s leaders? Can it happen here, again? Will New York, or some other American city, be the next target? Will it be Great Britain? ISIS has already spat in Putin’s face (I think they will come to regret that soon), and now Hollande’s. This can’t be allowed to stand.

And so far, the response of the US and France has been to counterattack. Twenty bombs were dropped on an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria yesterday.

The French defense ministry has said the “massive” airstrikes which hit Raqqa on Sunday night, was carried out in coordination with US forces. Twenty bombs were dropped, destroying a command center, jihadi recruitment center, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, the defense ministry said in a statement.

This approach does make sense. Unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS is trying to take over state governments and became a “state actor.”  While Al Qaeda’s strongholds and leadership were hidden for protection, ISIS shows its hand boldly and proudly. This leaves the terrorist group open to traditional-style warfare.

As an aspiring government authority, ISIS is also committed to providing public and social services to the population, activities in which it is already deeply engaged. These many public goods include power and water services, law enforcement, health care, dispute resolution, employment, education and public outreach. These responsibilities cost money, which in ISIS’ case comes from extortion (or taxation, as it were), control of energy and water resources, and plunder.

These sources are of course vulnerable to physical attack and disruption. Strategic assets such as oil facilities and utilities infrastructure are highly visible and vulnerable to air strikes. ISIS also makes little effort to disguise governing facilities, political headquarters and policy and security installations. As a self-appointed state, ISIS sees little reason to keep a low profile in its own territory. Remarkably, its rivals have made little to no effort to target these assets, which are essential pillars of ISIS’ political authority and governance. For those very reasons, however, destroying these facilities without empowering moderate Sunni groups to govern in ISIS’ place would only lead to state collapse in ISIS-held areas. International efforts continue to focus on foreign terrorist finances such as donations. ISIS – a self-funded organization – remains wealthy.

The question is, what else is going to happen? How will the governments of France, the United States and other sympathetic countries react?

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The people to whom I’ve always been most attracted are the folks who understand, “To learn is to change.”  Five words representing a lifelong personal evolution through the constant accumulation of knowledge.  That understanding engenders a comfort in one’s own skin.  It breeds an abhorrence of expediency – political and otherwise.  It is the opposite of fear.To learn is to change

Well my friends, I’m disgusted and I mean miles beyond being a little put out.  I’m talking full-blown, no holes barred, bile encrusted D.I.S.G.U.S.T.!  The genesis of this disgust is the unmitigated revulsion I feel toward the porcine anal seepage passing for our political leadership over the Iranian nuclear containment agreement.

Here’s the way my simple mind processes this issue.  There are only four possible avenues with which to approach the Iranian issue:

  1. Let Iran have a nuclear weapon with a breakout period as soon as two months from now.
  2. Implement the Iranian containment agreement negotiated by the P5 + 1 and ratified by the U.N. Security Council by an unheard of vote 15 – 0.
  3. Attempt to strategically take out the Iranian nuclear facilities for a couple of years by bombing.
  4. Invade and occupy Iran indefinitely.

Those are the four scenarios. Nothing more.  The lip service of going back to the negotiation table after reimplementation of sanctions is nonsensical political pandering.  The defensive excuse of “objections of conscience” is meaningless unless the personal motivation is one of war based upon a commitment of intervention in some fashion.  This is the overwhelming expectation of the Arab world and quite frankly, it is an expectation that is deserved based upon our blind adventurism since 9/11.

Iran deal 2015Russia and China are straining at the reins to do business with Iran.  The billions in Iranian money will be released no matter what happens with this agreement.  Without the agreement, the breakout time for a nuclear device will be measured in months, not years.

With this non-proliferation agreement, a nuclear Iran is ten to fifteen years in the future with limitless possibilities for disarmament, regime change, or military intervention.

While the Republican Party is virtually unanimous in its weak-mindedness regarding the Iran deal, Democrats do not get a pass.  There are more than a few who have tested the political winds and decided to shirk both responsibility and reality.  Most notable of these is Sen. Chuck Schumer, who also just happened to vote for the Iraq War in 2003.Boehner and Netanyahu

It is curious how the Iranian deal is playing out in public with Netanyahu prancing to the “well of the House” to spread Republican sanctioned misinformation in order to influence American foreign policy.  Here’s my theory:

The run up to the Iraq War was played out in the secretive confines of the Bush Oval Office.  It was the perfect storm of war where the interests of the Israeli lobby and the Saudi royal family converged.  There are stories after stories of the influence the Israelis and the Saudis brought to bear as we blindly rushed into a decade of war.

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Good Monday, all! I hope you all had a great weekend, and that Chatblu is taking a well-deserved siesta after a very hard several weeks of wedding work.

Well, it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu (otherwise known as “Bibi”) is once again, Prime Minister of Israel. And an unwelcome victory it is for those of us who would like to hear some other voices on the topic of figuring out what the h*ll to do about the camps, Hamas and the unrelenting hatred of Israel’s neighbors. Exit polls seemed to suggest that the Zionist Union was close to, or slightly leading, Bibi’s right-wing Likud Party. But either the vote was tampered with, or Bibi’s last-minute fear-mongering won the day.

The Likud victory came after initial exit polls from three Israeli television stations on March 17 showed the top two parties in a virtual tie. That result would have itself represented a vast improvement for Likud, which had been polling in the 20 to 23-seat range as recently as last week.

But official returns that came in hours later showed Likud emerging as the clear victor. Netanyahu now has a relatively easy path to forming a coalition of his so-called “natural partners” on the right and the religious parties, along with the center-right Kulanu party.

In his acceptance speech on the night he was re-elected, Netanyahu stated that there would never be a Palestinian state while he is Prime Minister. Well! You can bet our Dear Leader was Not Amused, and he made sure everyone knew about it.

“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” the president said in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.

Though he pledged to keep working with the Israeli government on military and intelligence operations, Obama declined to say whether the United States would continue to block Palestinian efforts to secure statehood through the United Nations. In a phone conversation the two had on Thursday, he said he indicated to Netanyahu that “it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”

The idea of blocking the UN effort is to get all interested parties to the table and make them negotiate. Obama was essentially saying that Bibi’s statements made it seem like this will no longer happen…and in that case, the US may no longer block the UN efforts of the “Palestinians,” which could help ease their way into a bloodless (at least at first) coup.

The problem I have with this reaction is that I don’t believe the mythical “two-state solution,” a naive creation of those who believe facts not in evidence, will EVER happen. Certainly not while Hamas in in charge of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, angry Arabs camped in Gaza, claiming a right to the land that is dubious at best, and murderous at worst. In addition, I would hope that no Israeli politician, right, left or center, thinks that Hamas is a genuine partner for peace.

So Bibi simply told the truth, and shamed everyone. The world will not thank him for it.

This is an open thread.

Good afternoon Widdershins. The “Elderly Testosterone-inhibited Personage of the December Solstice” — a prolixous way of saying, “Old Man Winter” just will not give it up. We are expecting perhaps a foot of snow this evening after four to six inches of rain plus all-time record low temperatures — floods, they are a’comin’ and yesterday was the anniversary of the tornado that completely chewed-up and destroyed our little town. Perhaps if Sen. Jim Inhofe were hog-tied to the newly replaced flagpole in our town square, as the leading Koch-head climate change denier, he might exhibit Jethro Bodine’s acumen for science or at least Jed Clampett’s commonsense.

Yesterday was a big day. Speaker John Boehner decided it was moderately unseemly to put the nation at risk based upon nothing more than a robust loathing of the President. He called up the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, 167 members of his Republican caucus felt no such embarrassment or no such concern for our safety by voting against the matter. It’s just plain hard to overcome a good case of the Obama “hates”. If not for Nancy Pelosi once again riding to the rescue, Boehner would have found himself corseted and astraddle of the railroad tracks.

There was another thing happening in Washington yesterday. Something no one, not a single solitary soul, can recall ever netanyahu shifty eyeshappening before. John Boehner, the same one doing his best Nell Fenwick on the railroad tracks, cheekily welcomed Bibi Netanyahu to the well of the People’s House to challenge the foreign policy of this country.

All I could think about was the Eagles’ song Lyin’ Eyes and its refrain:

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise.
I thought by now you’d realize there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.

As a way to explain yesterday’s breach of protocol and seditious assault on our national sovereignty, I’ll use some of the words of Lyin’ Eyes to elaborate.  That is if you will suffer the not-so-poetic license I’ll employ.

You see, Bibi “just seemed to find out early how to open doors with just a smile.” His invitation to speak before a joint session was conjured between Boehner and Ron Dermer, the new Israeli U.S. Ambassador. Dermer is a graduate of the Frank Luntz Finishing School of Sewer Politics where the proud motto is “the biggest turd always travels the fastest“.

Netanyahu knows that “every form of refuge has it price” since a joint session of Congress was the way to cushion his falling popularity in the upcoming Israeli election, but Bibi knew he was “headed for the cheatin’ side of town”. What Netanyahu needed to convey back home was simple — he has so badly handled the relationship with the Obama Administration, he had to show he could go over the head of Obama and appeal directly to Congress. Trouble is — there are Generals, the Mossad, former officials, other candidates, Cabinet secretaries, and a majority of Israeli voters who lay the blame squarely on Netanyahu’s shoulders and have publicly stated his decision to speak was a mistake.

netanyahu bombBibi “wonders how it ever got this crazy? Did he get tired or did he just get lazy? He’s so far gone he feels just like a fool.” The premise of Netanyahu’s speech is incredibly inane. Inane is too urbane a word — his whole premise is something just short of a Three Stooges retrospective. Here’s Netanyahu’s logic: Although no deal has yet been negotiated, Netanyahu says whatever the deal might be, it must be rejected.

This leaves two prongs on the Lyin’ Eyes decision tree. Prong One is the incredibly asinine Bibi theory that proceeds like this: Iran is run by crazy, suicidal, apocalyptic mullahs who will suddenly awake under economic pressures of greater sanctions and suddenly, afore-noted craziness aside, come to the realization that electricity for the majority of their country is not such a big deal after all.

Prong Two will ring familiar. It is the military, occupation, regime change option. Since Iran starts with an “I” just like Iraq — all we have to do is dust off those plans since they worked so well last time. Just bombing the sites will delay the enrichment program two to three years at the most. The only long-term solution is forcibly ousting the theocratic Irani leadership and replacing them with something more suitable to Netanyahu’s preferences. Maybe Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld could be on the pledge rush committee? What can go wrong? The last time we installed a Shah everyone seemed to think it was a great idea.

Bibi “gets up and pours himself a strong one and stares out at the stars up in the sky. Another night, it’s gonna be a long one. He draws the shade and hangs his head to cry.” Netanyahu’s ability to forecast the future is as audacious as a slug’s pole vaulting ability. In 1992, as a member of the Knesset, Bibi said, “Iran will have an atomic weapon in three to five years.” In a 1995 book, Bibi wrote, “Iran will have an atomic weapon in three to five years.” That was twenty years ago.

Something more Cheney-esque and cogent to this review is Bibi’s strategic analysis in 2002. One year and one day after Cheney and Netanyahu9/11, September 12, 2002, Bibi, occupying an all important pivot position during a Cheney/Rumsfeld congressional circle jerk, declared Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was actively pursuing a nuclear arsenal. Thirteen years later Bibi made no mention of his 2002 Congressional testimony and his rush to war.

My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things. You set it up so well, so carefully. Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things. You’re still the same old person you used to be.” Yesterday was Netanyahu’s declaration of war. He made it clear he will act alone knowing full well the U.S., as a doting big brother, will come to the rescue.

But here’s the thing — these negotiations are not between the U.S. and Iran. These negotiations are among the P5 + 1 — U.K., France, Russia, China, U.S., plus Germany. Netanyahu didn’t just call Obama an incompetent fool yesterday. He didn’t just call the State Department a bunch of pikers. What he did was to arrogantly call out all the countries participating in these talks. He also offered not one whit of advice on how we negotiate around the five other powers if we go it alone. Forget a coalition. Forget funding. Forget U.N. participation. The Iranian war and occupation will be on our blood and our dime.

Bibi, “you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes”.

If there is shame in all of this and shame had a color, it should be orange. John Boehner wears it so well.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

A good day Widdershin friends. I hope your day is a good one.

There’s the breaking news of the American Sniper killer, Eddie Ray Routh, being found guilty.  Routh was pronounced guilty in a mere three hours of jury deliberation that included a dinner break and was then promptly sentenced to life in prison. From a legal perspective, Routh being found guilty under Texas law is as about as remarkable as the sun appearing in the East this morning. There will be an unsuccessful appeal of the guilty verdict and this just in: The sun will set in the West this evening.

A couple of months back, I read an article in the NYT Magazine about the need to infuse robots with ethics in their Robot Thinkeroperating algorithms. The article was entitled Death by Robot. This need to technologically propagate a puritan guilt is a direct outgrowth of asking robots to do more.

While there are few ethical dilemmas associated with a Roomba sucking up kitty hair, there are some pretty significant dilemmas when a driverless Google car culls through its decision tree. In an emergency, does the driverless car plow over a pedestrian, hit an S.U.V., a safer Volvo, or a low passenger total Mini Cooper? This is the “moral math” that must be embedded within the operating algorithm of robots.

It’s the same concept as Isaac Asimov’s three rules in I, Robot, making sure the robot machine does its job without hurting the human for whom it works. All of these scenarios evoke the classic Ethics 101 situation known as the “trolley problem” — deciding whether a conductor should flip a switch that will kill one person to avoid a crash in which five would otherwise die.

The pearl of wisdom in this article is delivered via a quote at a U.N. conference on weapons by a Peter Asaro, a Stanford Law School scholar. He said:

A machine is not capable of considering the value of those human lives that it is about to end. And if they’re not capable of that and we allow them to kill people under the law, then we all lose dignity, in the way that if we permit slavery, it’s not just the suffering of those who are slaves but all of humanity that suffers the indignity that there are any slaves at all.

Immediately upon reading that quote my never-too-focused attention was diverted to thoughts about the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” (AUMF) concerning ISIL as opposed to the existing AUMF passed before our ill-advised thirteen year walk-about in Iraq. The thought — forget the robots, how did our leaders do on the moral math of waltzing on a dance card that came to suck the life from perhaps a half a million humans and cost $3.0 Trillion?

These days the Googling machine makes looking back easier and more accurate than trying to remember. Here’s what we were talking about back in 2001 and 2002:

Ann Coulter was belching the indiscriminate carpet bombing of random Muslim countries without much regard for who actually planned 9/11 followed up by slaughtering Muslim leaders and forcibly converting any survivors to Christianity.

Bill Kristol called the failure to overthrow Hussein in 1991, “the biggest mistake we have made.”

We knew the fabricated news stories were baseless lies sourced from motivated defectors, but we ignored them with a collective “meh” since media sources were reigning in critical reporting of the Bush Administration due to viewer pressure and patriotic fervor.

We suffered through 4,500 press appearance from Pentagon officers and analysts to drum up support through op eds, leaked sourced stories, and innuendo.

George Will indelicately compared Democratic war critics to Nazi collaborators, Bolsheviks, Nixon, Jane Fonda, and Leninist “useful idiots”.

We knew there was an orchestrated campaign to manipulate public opinion through a PR office run by Cheney and Rumsfeld where the overriding objectives were “we don’t speak of Iraq exit strategies” and “Iraqi occupation will be a financial bonanza”.

The Iraq AUMF passed Congress on October 10, 2002.

I robotTake a look at this list here even though your memory might be robust. Time has a tendency to shave away the edges of inconvenient truths, bolster shreds of motivated reasoning, and drain any doubt from conformational bias. I had forgotten the rawness of this period and how unfocused vengeance had replaced any semblance of considered reflection.

So herein lies the rub: If no countenance of criticism was allowed from 2001 through the run-up and conduct of the Iraq War, where any and all criticism was treated as treasonous unpatriotic acts bordering on sedition, did we learn anything from taking up residence in the discomfort of the “uncanny valley” where morality never mixes with the known reality of facts?

Was the indignity of the atrocities so pungent and acrid that we have chosen to yet again forget the guilt to ease our conscience? Remarkably, if driverless robots were making these decisions, they wouldn’t have the luxury of “unlearning” factual reality — only humans are blessed with the ability to consciously ignore the guilt oozing from our compromised sense of morality.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

Folks, there is so much to say and so little time to say it today. I am pretty sure when the aliens dropped me on this rock to live amongst the good earthlings, they left a good bit of alien DNA in this quickly deteriorating meat suit of mine. “How do I know?” you say. During the past week recuperating from whatever it is I have, the antibiotics have stirred up and unleashed stuff I know can’t be of this world.

The good news is that I’m on the mend. The other good news is that I’m not feeling strong enough to do one of my interminably long and loquacious posts. Given the steroids and inhalers and the litany of selections from columns A, B, and C of the pharmacopeia menu, I could easily fire off 26,000 words and never would any two ideas come within the same zip code of one another.

But there are some things that need to be said today. I’ll try and be brief.

Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller was the best of what humankind has to offer. She was exceptional. Although Kayla’s journey was short, it was a path built upon remarkable goodness, traveled with purity of spirit, and remembered without a hint of regret. Her family and friends will miss her the rest of their days. We need to remember them and especially her.

Jon Stewart and Brian Williams are about the best New Jersey has to offer. Add Bruce Springsteen and you have what is easily the holy New Jersey Trinity and undoubtedly the three wisest men from the Garden State. I know this is true because they would have never nicknamed New Jersey the Garden State.

Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show. I will miss him for more than his brilliant satirical wit and his insightfully acidic tongue. During the years of being my mother’s caregiver, she insisted on watching “her boyfriend” each evening. Jon brought her much happiness. For that I will always be grateful.

Jon Stewart and Brian WilliamsBrian Williams was and will continue to be the guy I want to give me 22 minutes of news headlines. He was a volunteer fireman at one time and I respect and relate to that. He is also wickedly funny. These days the requirements of building one’s personal brand required him to climb out from behind the desk and be a “personality”. He did that and was good at it. In this age of personality driven everything, perhaps he jumped a little too far beyond the desk. Perhaps the “drive to please” drove his misremembering, but pleasing others is never a good enough reason to tarnish your credibility when it is your stock-in-trade. I, for one, will forgive him that foible.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before Congress is so wrong on so many levels, it would put to shame an ant farm cranked up on blue ice meth. I won’t begin to list them other than to say this: Never before has any Israeli Prime Minister allowed an Israeli issue to become partisan and politicized.

It seems this John Boehner invite was scored by Ron Dermer, the new Israeli Ambassador. He’s same guy who was an acolyte of Frank Luntz and a full-blown Republican operative until he gave up his American citizenship to take up residence in Bibi’s bum.

This speech is a political speech. This is a speech plotted to alter American foreign policy. This is a speech designed to weaken a President trying to walk a tightrope of negotiation between Iranian nuclear policy and Irani generals advising the Iraqi troops fighting ISIL. This is a speech designed to make the Middle East, unfathomably complex on a good day in terms of policy, a never-ending quagmire of blood and treasure for generations.

Here’s what the politicians are afraid to say: When anyone says Netanyahu is Israel, they are willfully ignorant or just plainNetanyahu and Dermer stupid. Netanyahu’s party currently has only 18 seats in the Knesset. His coalition is best described as a “wink, a hope, and a prayer”. His policies are not popular. Former advisers call him dangerous. His approval is on a well-oiled banana peel. Yet he continues to subscribe to that harebrained testosterone trait exemplified by Cheney and Rumsfeld, “If you admit wrong, you are weak.”

Something that has been absolutely nonexistent in any discussion of Netanyahu’s tantrum to come is this: Are we willing to participate in causing the world to live a real life Groundhog’s Day? I’ll explain.

Netanyahu’s position is no Iranian nuclear power — period. Not just ending enrichment — nothing even conceivably reaching enrichment by years of refinement even with on-site inspection and verification can be considered. Translation: No nuclear power for a country starving for an electrical grid. In addition, he wants increased sanctions while the Iranians are still at the negotiating table. And most of all, Netanyahu wants to bomb the existing processing facilities in Iran. Facilities that were built and operational during Dubya’s administration.

Netanyahu Job RatingAs always, he wants us to either participate in the bombing or like the ever watchful big brother, wants us to stand guard as he acts in contravention of virtually every treaty, convention, and U.N. mandate to the contrary. And then he wants us to veto any sure-to-follow United Nations’ sanctions.

Now here’s the thing: What do we do then? Iran will reconstitute its nuclear program within two to three years. They will be loath to negotiate because negotiating got them blown to smithereens three years previous. Do we Groundhog’s Day it again, and again, and again? That guarantees at least two things: (1) A permanent Middle East preoccupation premised upon just about the most unpopular policy possible; and (2) A constant state of U.S. war footing with increased hostility that does nothing but make the world, and our part of it, infinitely more dangerous. It is this second point that serves as Netanyahu’s guiding credo: If all your neighbors’ houses are burning, they will never commit arson against you.

We just spent 13 years learning the idiocy of that policy by eradicating a top line predator from the Iraqi political ecosystem. Are we again that unimaginably stupid?

I have dozens of Israeli friends — all with beautiful families. They deserve better than Netanyahu and Dermer, his political incubus, trading on their safety and gambling with the future of Israel.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

Well, Widdershins, it’s just a dog-eat-dog world out there. Apparently everyone is whipping out their rockets for the summer. (Yes, that metaphor was intentional.) Whether it’s Hamas bombing Israel and Israel fighting back, or Pooty-Poot’s adventures in Early Czarism, or America’s own potential re-entry in Iraq, the color of summer is green – Army green, that is.

Time Cover May 2014

Here are some recent updates about how all these wars are going. Are we war-weary? Are we weary of men, men and more men seeing war as the only answer to the world’s problems?

Good Goddess, yes we are.

Americans Wary of Iraq Involvement

Israel Targets Secret Tunnels in Gaza Ground War

Will Pooty-Poot Lose His Billionaire Backing?

This is an open thread.

 

 


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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

So similar

Take the kids to work? NO!

3 turds control fate of healthcare for millions

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

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Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

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