Thursday, September 19, 2013

This is Not the Free America We Grew Up In.

This is not the free America we grew up in.


Lots of administrations lied like this. Some were disgraced; others escaped blame, but rarely was it so successfully covered up. If this succeeds, it'll repeat. Both parties will model their behavior after it, like children when one follows after the other is allowed to get away with something.

When our representatives don't fear lying to us, spying on us, stealing from us, politically targeting us and generally doing what's in their own interests instead of what we authorize them to do, it transforms the way we live. We end up changing our behavior out of concern over what they may do. It causes us to develop a second public face, become fake, conceal opinions, avoid economic risks and generally live defensive lives. It's not good for a people socially or economically, but it has happened at different times everywhere. So why should we be immune? After all, even our administration believes we're no different.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Evidence that Syrian Rebels Gassed 1,429 Syrians, 426 Children

We know that Syria has chemical weapons, but we don't know why President Bashar Assad would use nerve gas on civilians in a civil war he is winning. On the other hand, there are two likely scenarios in which the al Qaeda dominated rebels are responsible for the attack, and both are supported by evidence.
    Syrian Rebels move arms through tunnelsSyrian Rebels prepare chemical artillery
  1. Rebels admit gas attack result of mishandling of chemical weapons
  2. Rebels attacked civilians in order to provoke a US attack on President Assad's forces:
    - Evidence Syrian rebels used chemical weapons (victims' testimony, Free Syrian Army (FSA) threats to launch chemical attacks,  FSA chemical weapons seized by Syrian Army, previous FAS use of sarin gas) 
    - Video shows rebels launching chemical weapons attacks
    - Turkish police apprehend Syrian fighters with 2 kg of sarin gas.
Either way, progressive Western media supports the rebels, even to the extent that CNN was caught s staging news segments on Syria with actors. Therefore it's probably unlikely that word of this will spread widely and quickly enough to stop US cruise missile attacks on Assad's forces. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bloomberg News wakes up from an 18 month nap, discovers al-Qaeda now dominates Syrian rebels.

So "Radical Sunni Islamist" are just now dominating the Syrian rebels according to Bloomberg News. If only they had seen these headlines:

  • February 18, 2012 Syrian Rebels Release Video Showcasing al-Qaeda Connection… 
  • April 30, 2012 Bombings spread in Syria as Al Qaeda seizes control of rebel factions
  • July 15, 2002 Syrian rebels flying Al-Qaeda battle flags in parts of Aleppo and Idlib
  • July 31. 2012 Al-Qaeda Jihadists Are The Best Fighters Among The Syria Rebels
  • August 16, 2012 Syrian rebel commander warns the West: Give us more help or we will side with Al Qaeda – Rebel commander warns if Al Qaeda enters flash point city of Aleppo it will become their base ‘within three months’

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Illusion of NSA Restrictions

A little reported amendment by Rep. Pompeo to the Defense Appropriations Bill that claims to limit NSA surveillance of US citizens passed in the House 409-12 last Thursday. It is a scaled down alternative to the high profile amendment by Rep. Amash that failed 205-207 the day before. It appears to restrict the NSA, but closer examination reveals holes large enough to render it meaningless.

Here is the phrasing of Pompeo's amendment:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Security Agency to–
(1) conduct an acquisition pursuant to section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 for the purpose of targeting a United States person; or
(2) acquire, monitor, or store the contents (as such term is defined in section 2510(8) of title 18, United States Code) of any electronic communication of a United States person from a provider of electronic communication services to the public pursuant to section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Contrary to Part 1's appearance, it does not restrict the NSA from collecting and storing data on Americans or from targeting them. It only restricts one source of "funding" if it is both "for the purpose of targeting a US person" and being authorized under "section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978". The NSA may continue,
  1. using other funds to monitor and target Americans,
  2. using Defense funds to monitor and target Americans if other acts or secret executive orders authorize it,
  3. using Defense funds to target Americans with data collected by other agencies or by other nations (as is widely reported)
  4. using Defense funds to collect and store data on Americans for the purpose of targeting foreigners here then later targeting Americans with it,
  5. using Defense funds to target Americans with data that it has already collected and stored.
Similarly, Part 2 does not restrict the NSA from collecting and storing the content of Americans' electronic communications. It may continue,
  1. using other funds to collect American's electronic communications,
  2. using Defense funds to monitor Americans' communications if other acts or secret executive orders authorize it,
  3. using Defense funds to monitor Americans' communication "records", just not content,
  4. using Defense funds to monitor Americans' communications that are collected and stored by other agencies such as the FBI and IRS or by other nations.
Clearly this stop nothing. The Pompeo Amendment's only value is to sabotage momentum to reign in the NSA or to let Congress claim that they did.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Withdrawn From Reality

I thought I'd give it a chance. Based on the title, I knew its entire premise was flawed but I don't mind reading an opposing viewpoint as long as it's based on reasonable logic and sticks to known facts. I should have known better.
I've attached below a piece written by Monica Duffy Toft and published in the 2 June Christian Science Monitor. Ms Toft is "a professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government." After reading her piece, I can also say very comfortably, that she is not only a discredit to that fine school's reputation, but also a discredit to women, professors and just about anyone else she can be associated with. In fact, by simply drawing attention to her Christian Science Monitor piece, I am reducing my own credibility a few notches and I don't have a lot of extra notches to play with.
But like a train wreck, her piece and the thinking it represents cannot be ignored. Instead, it should be studied like a pathologist examines a corpse, to determine what the root cause of its death and subsequent putrefaction might be. Mind you, this author is currently a professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. That is a pretty stellar credential. She could easily be considered an "expert" in her field. Which makes the disaster we are about to examine even more appalling. My notes on this corpse will be in red italics. Without further ado, I pull back the sheet and reveal....

Why Islam lies at the heart of Iraq's civil war
Because it does, US withdrawal may be the surest path to peace

We veer off course at the title. Iraq is not engaged in a civil war. Bad assumption leading to a bad proposed solution.

Cambridge, Mass. - It matters what we call things. It took too long for the Bush administration to admit that its intended liberation of Iraq had become an occupation, that US forces faced a home-grown insurgency there, and that a transition to Iraqi democracy might not result in a nation that supports US interests.

Where to begin. Yes it does matter what we call things. Including..."Civil War". But to determine that an intended liberation cannot happen without a period of occupation is to ignore the FACT that our "occupation" is specifically allowing Iraq to build the government, military and infrastructure that previously did not exist, to allow it to be "liberated".

Finally, not until 2007 did the Pentagon acknowledge that Iraqi sectarian violence had crossed a threshold to become a civil war.

Actually, it is 2008 and the Pentagon has still not acknowledged that Iraqi sectarian violence has crossed a "threshold" and become a civil war. The Pentagon has not done so, because even if such a threshold could be defined, it is not the Pentagon's role or concern to apply such titles to areas in which it operates.

But policymakers still haven't come to terms with the implications of that fact. If they did, they'd see that a wisely executed withdrawal of US-led forces could well be the surest path to peace. That's because withdrawal is likely to transform the fighting in Iraq into a defensive struggle for power in a nation-state, as opposed to an offensive battle rooted in religion.

So the professor has concluded Iraq has devolved into civil war, and the surest means of bringing peace in a conflict involving sectarian violence is to withdraw the most effective law enforcement capability that can actually keep the two sides apart. Brilliant. And after defining the conflict there as "sectarian violence" in a piece titled "Why Islam lie's at the Heart of the Iraq's Civil War", she presents the notion that if we'd simply withdraw, this sectarian, religion driven violence will evolve into a desire to build a nation-state. Again...brilliant.

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the war in Iraq is a religious civil war and that – even putting aside Al Qaeda in Iraq – Islam is at the heart of it for three reasons.

Poor assumptions leading to three irrelevant reasons....

First, Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites themselves see the war in these terms. They identify first and foremost as Shiites and Sunnis. Second, they use religious identity both to target opponents and define threats. Finally, they have appealed beyond the borders of Iraq for aid – fighters, arms, cash – in religious terms.

First, Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites are currently fighting side by side in Iraq's new army, repelling criminal forces and terrorist groups in the few enclaves they still remain. Second, starting from Iraq's elected government on down to neighborhood militia's, the number one goal for Iraqi's has become to drive all religious fundamentalists into a grave, or worse yet, back where they came from. Third, the only religious group to appeal beyond the borders of Iraq is a Shiite sect which is currently having its hat handed to it by a Shiite Prime Minister. So much for "sectarian civil war".

Islam is not based in a specific territory; it is a transnational faith that unites its community, or umma, in the minds of men.

Says the professor who has written a piece called "Why Islam lies at the heart of Iraq's civil war." And presumably unites its community?

Further, Islam does not have one leader who can dictate what is right or who is wrong. The absence of an ultimate authority figure means that Shiites – who, unlike Sunnis, believe that religious scholars are needed to help interpret the will of God – often latch on to charismatic imams.

The first paragraph that isn't complete garbage.

This helps explain why the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has recently committed himself to further religious study in Iran. It also helps to explain why Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will fail to gain acceptance as a leader among the vast majority of Iraq's Shiite population.

Completely wrong on both counts. al-Sadr is in Iran because his army and his credibility are in the process of being liquidated in Iraq. Meanwhile, not only is Prime Minister Maliki accepted as a leader among the vast majority of Iraq's Shiite population...he is also accepted as a leader among the vast majority of Iraq's Sunni, Kurdish and Christian populations.

Not only does Mr. Maliki not have support in the street – his government's failure to deliver even basic security and life's needs is apparent to most Iraqis – but he has no religious credentials of his own to fall back on.

Completely wrong again. But at least Professor Toft is remarkably consistent. Even such liberal institutions as the New York Times and the Washington Post now admit that Maliki enjoys widespread support and confidence among the Iraqi people.

By contrast, Mr. Sadr's ability to deliver security and services through his Mahdi Army, and his authority as cleric and the son of the martyred Grand Ayatollah Mohammed al-Sadr, has assured him a devoted following.

I can only imagine Toft wrote this piece more than 2 years ago. Perhaps it took her that long to find a publication desperate enough to publish it. Regardless, "Mr." Sadr's latest attempts to provoke widespread demonstrations resulted in something resembling a camel fart. That is due in part to the fact that a large percentage of his Mahdi Army has become recently deceased. Courtesy of the US and Iraqi armies.

Sectarian conflict in Iraq was previously limited to fighting between Sunnis and Shiites. But today, the conflict has grown to include Shiites against fellow Shiites. Despite signs that security has improved, the religious civil wars in Iraq may have only just begun.

Hmmm. That whole sectarian thing isn't working too well for her. Now its just everyone fighting everyone. But hey, at least it is still religious.

My research on civil wars from 1940 to 2000 highlights three important facts about such wars, all of which apply to Iraq. First, nearly half of all ongoing civil wars (46 percent) involve religion in some form. Second, Islam has been involved in more than 80 percent of all religious civil wars. Third, religious civil wars are less likely to end in negotiated settlement. Instead, combatants tend to duke it out until one side achieves victory.

"Duke it out"? No wonder it took her two years to shop this piece of garbage. And she did research on a whole 60 years worth of civil wars! That must be the caliber of research they expect at Harvard these days. Goodness, the whole civil war thing is a relatively new phenomenon, certainly not dating much before World War II. 60 years worth of data in the history of human civilization is more than enough to build all kinds of solid conclusions. Right?

In Iraq, a negotiated settlement is going to be very difficult for two reasons. First, the Shiites will want to remain in almost complete control due to two entirely legitimate concerns: (1) fears of Sunni repression as experienced in the past, and (2) a sense of majority-rule justice. Second, the Shiites themselves are divided on how Iraq should be ruled, so it's difficult to know whom to bargain with on the Shiite side, and therefore who can credibly commit to abide by the terms of any settlement.

OK. That is a reasonable assessment. Except that the Iraqi Parliament is currently making great strides in negotiating national agreements and unity. But again, the good Professor must be working from a very old set of data.

What then can the United States and its allies do to bring about a negotiated settlement? Ironically, the best way to support a negotiated settlement would be to leave Iraq.

Orrr, we could help them conduct nationwide, democratic elections in which over 75% of the country participates despite the threats of real violence by terrorist organizations.

The withdrawal of US forces would allow Iraq's predominantly Arab Shiites and Sunnis to find common interest in opposing their two more classical historical adversaries: Kurds and Persians. The longer the US and Britain stay, the more they facilitate a shift away from the identity that long unified Iraq to the religious identity that is tearing it apart and facilitating its manipulation by Iran.

This is getting more ridiculous with every line. Toft's theory is that we can end a supposed civil war in Iraq by allowing the Sunni's and the Shiites to unite in a fight against the Kurds and "the Persians"?!?!? Obviously, Toft doesn't know Iraqi Kurds make up a significant percentage of the population of Iraq and would certainly consider it a civil war if the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq decided to fight against them. And equally obviously, Toft is unaware that both the US and Iraqi army are very heavily engaged against "the Persians", and that leaving a fledgling army to fight the Persian hoard is probably not a recipe for long term Iraqi tranquility. John F. Kennedy is vomiting in his grave as I type this and demanding that brother Teddy insist Harvard remove the Kennedy name from their campus.

There are three obvious downsides to this approach.

Ha! No kidding. But why limit yourself to three? I could probably come up with a hundred.

First, the end of violence in Iraq following a US withdrawal would lead to the emergence of a nonsecular, nondemocratic government in Iraq. It would be more friendly toward Iran (though not Iran's puppet, as currently feared), but less friendly toward Israel, although a democratic Iraq would be no improvement in this regard.

Why would sectarian civil war with Islam at its heart end with a US withdrawal? And why would the democratically elected government of Iraq magically transform into a nonsecular, nondemocratic government? Why would I presume for even one second that this blithering idiot could answer any of the myriad of questions that rise from this stinking corpse of a piece of writing?

Second, since US withdrawal has been conditioned on a de-escalation of violence in Iraq, the Bush and Brown governments would be left the unenviable task of explaining to their countries that "withdrawal is the best way to create the conditions for, withdrawal."

More proof that this piece is OLD. The Brown government no longer has a noticeable presence to withdraw from Iraq. In fact, the Brown government already followed her advice. And left behind a city so ridden with terror and crime from her highly regard Mahdi Army that when the Iraqi Army swept in to do the job the Brown government wouldn't do, thousands of Iraqi citizens clamored to join an army composed of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. All of whom are supposedly engaged in a civil war against each other.

Third, withdrawal before violence has fully ceased will look like failure to most Americans and Britons.

Because it would be.

The idea of victory versus failure is really a false dichotomy, however. The real choice for US and British policymakers is between the more costly failure that will obtain from current policy and the less costly failure that might obtain from a well- thought-out and well-executed withdrawal.

Typical liberal academic. There can be no victory. All is failure. The only real decision is which failure you'd prefer to call your very own.

Well Professor Monica Duffy Toft, I am failing you for one of the most poorly thought out, one of the least rational, one of the most poorly informed pieces of writing I think I've ever read in a syndicated publication. This isn't even good enough to be embarrassing. It is simply a disgrace. Fortunately, there is some indication that Harvard may agree with me. I note on their website that your course ISP-409 Civil Wars: Theory and Policy is no longer being offered. Perhaps they too, were not impressed with your research on the subject. Or maybe they also read the ridiculous piece of trash you just had published in the Christian Science Monitor. I will accept either answer.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

President McCain Promoting or Obstructing Conservatism (a Decision Making Tool)

With John McCain as the inevitable Republican nominee, conservatives are now deciding if their values would be best furthered by supporting his representation of their interests as president. His assortment of very liberal, moderate and conservative policies bring doubt. The alternative is to withhold support and use a Democrat presidency to clarify, reinforce and promote distinctions between conservatism and liberalism, between Republicans and Democrats. There is no shortage of editorials and tirades from both sides, but they present only half the picture at best, intending to persuade rather than to fully support an independent rational decision.

Perhaps presenting the political considerations in an organized bullet pointed list would help resolve the decision for some. Of course, supporting McCain will eventually be a personal decision, with the values of each individual determining how the many considerations are weighed against one another.

Reasons to Ignore McCain in November

Exposing Democrats

  • If Democrats are elected, they would have to govern through controversy, passing divisive legislation rather than just claim ownership of lofty ideals and demigod conservatives.
  • Since authority brings responsibility, conservatives would be better positioned to fully hold Democrats responsible for the damage done by their leadership, corruption, pork and incompetence.
  • If McCain were president, he would arguably implement a large percentage of Democrat initiatives, giving Democrats bipartisan cover from responsibility.
  • Under a Democrat administration, impending tax hikes from the expiring tax cuts would be a Democrat responsibility.
  • Without McCain as president, conservatives would not be responsible for the failure to pass popular but unrealistic Democrat campaign promises, made even less realistic if tax hikes fail to increased revenue needed for them.
  • Any reform or lack of reform of Medicare and Medicaid would be a Democrat responsibility, especially after President Bush's bold attempt at a balanced reform.
  • Passage of McCain’s amnesty bill would become a Democrat responsibility.
  • Passage of McCain’s 50 cents/gallon gas tax would become a Democrat responsibility.
  • Passage of proposals to combat man made global warming (that McCain promotes) would become a Democrat responsibility.
  • Any further McCain-like regulation of the media, such as the fairness doctrine, would become a Democrat responsibility.
  • Nationalized healthcare would be a Democrat responsibility rather than a bipartisan compromise with McCain’s version.

Strengthening Conservatism

  • Without the need to defend the compromises required to lead, conservatives would be much freer to promote conservative ideals.
  • Under a Democrat presidency, the conservative leaning media would have a tsunami of guests straining to distinguish conservative policies from those of Democrats regarding courts, healthcare, regulation, energy, taxes, social security, foreign affairs (renamed from the war on terror), global warming, etc…
  • Four years of President McCain (who Bush called “a true conservative”) may confuse both Republicans and Conservative friendly media as to the nature of conservatism.
  • The conservative base would be strained and largely ignored both during and after a McCain presidency.
  • McCain's loss would thwart many of the establishment’s attempts to decouple conservatives from Republicans, and to promote them as an irrelevant fringe.
  • Many prominent conservatives are withholding McCain support.
  • A liberal McCain presidency could leave Republicans vulnerable to Democrat flanking maneuvers to their right, losing many moderates and some conservatives.
  • McCain eagerly compromising with Democrat initiatives, while calling himself a conservative for 8 years would leave those who still understand conservatism unable to convince young people that the Republican Party promotes it.

Disempowering Republican Liberals

  • Such a liberal Republican's loss would make Republicans reluctant to nominate another.
  • Obama appears likely to win some election cycle, but McCain’s coalition of left-leaning media and establishment moderates would be the focus of what is defeated this cycle.

Little Effect on the War on Terror

  • Democrats are not anxious to validate their soft on terror reputation by rapidly dismantling our achievements, and they have several outs regarding their reluctant promises to rapidly remove troops from Iraq.
  • By 2009, remaining al-Qaeda strongholds in Northern Iraq may be eliminated, and Iraqi Security Forces will be more capable of accepting responsibility.
  • A free Iraq would likely survive even the most hurried attempts to “redeploy” US combat troops because the best professionals from the Pentagon on down are now aware of which strategies and efforts are successful, and those efforts have momentum.
  • Even conservatives disagree on effective Iranian and Pakistani policies, and both Obama and Hillary have vaguely criticized Bush's limited approach.
  • Leading Democrats opposition to WOT campaigns is politically motivated, more a product of opposing anything that promotes Republicans than wanting a US defeat.
  • Leading Democrats would be anxious for their turn to lead an overwhelming military response to the next WOT crisis in order to claim national security as their strength.

Reasons to Support McCain in November

Political Realism

  • During these times of great economic success, social stability and safety, McCain may be the most right of center of a candidate that is electable despite being the most liberal Republican ever nominated (irrespective of the American Conservative Union’s critically flawed standard rating methodology).


  • President McCain would nominate moderate to conservative judges as opposed to Democrats’ moderate to liberal picks.

Republican Party Promotion

  • President McCain would enable Republicans (including some supporting conservatives) to claim a win in the general election and enjoy all of the momentum that goes with it.
  • Political donations go to the party with power.
  • Republicans would have a popular “straight talking” media-friendly face.
  • The Republican Party may gain a softer image that appeals to more moderates (unless it is shouldered with blame for compromises with disastrous Democrat initiatives.)
  • Our economy may strengthen despite the passage of liberal initiatives, and Republicans would share credit.
  • Tens of millions of (predominately leftist) illegal aliens may be a little more likely to vote Republican in a few years, but not necessarily vote conservative.
  • Submitting one's personal choice to a party and speaking with one voice generally strengthens a party.

War on Terror

  • President McCain would likely be a good if not excellent WOT commander (except when aggressive interrogation or offshore detention of terrorists are needed).


  • Some elements of conservatism would be present in many of President McCain's policies, arguably more than in the policies of a Democrat executive concerned with alienating the electorate.
  • Further government corruption by Clinton appointments would be blocked.
  • Full implementation of Obama’s liberal policies would at least be delayed.
  • McCain’s executive appointments may further the entrenchment of Republican leaning federal bureaucrats.
  • President Bush and some conservatives will support McCain.

People will of course disagree with the importance or the validity of some of these considerations. Some people will even place one or two as more important than all the rest. Nevertheless, I believe this list is fair and inclusive enough to help in decision making by collecting the many complex and dynamic considerations in one place for a better prospective.

If something should be edited or added, please post it.

Also, If anyone knows of an online quiz tool that would allow respondents to assign both a likelihood and an importance rating to each of these points (perhaps on a percentage and a 1-20 scale respectively), please let me know and I’ll get it up. The tools I found just allow a correct and incorrect value to be assigned to answers. This list needs software that would accept different values for each answer, ideally two sets of answers for each bullet point - one for its likelihood (0% - 100%) and another for its importance (on a 1-20 scale) that could be multiplied for each point and then summed at the end to measure one's support for a McCain presidency as a positive or negative value.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Who's on which side of the War on Terror

What more could reflect the media and legal dimensions of modern warfare than The Hill's report of a Pelosi threat to sue Bush over Iraq bill on the same day that the Iraqi parliament agrees to sue al-Jazeera TV. But it begs the question of who's acting for which side.