Independence Day Reads

Middleton_Manigault_-_The_Rocket_(1909)

by Middleton Manigault – The Rocket (1909)

Happy Independence Day Team USA!

Here’s how the Kennedy family is spending their 4th of July! “Kennedy family BASHES Trump over Fourth of July weekend with a pinata of The Donald at their Cape Cod compound.”  That sounds like some nice harmless fun and very politically incorrect.  The Trumpster should approve but I doubt his thick skull or thin skin will be able to take it in that spirit.

The Kennedy clan gathered at their Hyannis Port compound on Cape Cod over the weekend for their annual Fourth of July festivities, and took some time to attack Donald Trump.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s daughter Kathleen, between known as Kick, posted a photos of a pinata of The Donald from a family party over the weekend.

‘It’s yuge party!,’ wrote Kick in the caption of the Instagram post, which also showed some of her family members milling about in the background.

She later deleted the Instagram post just before 11am on Monday.

Yes, some of us are still rocking in the free world while we can!

There’s a lot of sadness today as we stop to think about Baghdad, Istanbul, and Dhaka where ISIS attacks have killed hundreds of innocent people pis4who were simply going about their day. Our hearts go out to the places that have suffered these massive tragedies.  I’m also reminded today of Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule. 

Powell: What I was saying is, if you get yourself involved—if you break a government, if you cause it to come down, by invading or other means, remember that you are now the government. You have a responsibility to take care of the people of that country.

Isaacson: And it got labeled the Pottery Barn rule.

I, for one, care about these attacks.  I’ve not seen the graphics, the heartfelt “I’m with …” sloganeering, and the banal, jingoistic calls exclaiming that “it’s a war on the Western World.” That’s because it isn’t a war on the Western World.  It’s a war on modernity.

This is a fight we brought to the front door step of many countries–including Iraq–that were not to blame for anything when we invaded Iraq.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the bungled occupation that followed, Baghdad has been the site of numerous rounds of sectarian bloodletting, al-Qaeda attacks and now the ravages of the Islamic State. Despite suffering significant defeats at the hands of the Iraqi army, including the loss of the city of Fallujah, the militant group has shown its willingness and capacity to brutalize the country’s population.

Public anger in the Iraqi capital, as my colleague Loveday Morris reports, is not being directed at foreign conspirators or even — first and foremost — at the militants, but at a much-maligned government that is failing to keep the country safe.

“The street was full of life last night,” one Karrada resident told The Washington Post, “and now the smell of death is all over the place.”

Vintage-Fireworks-Posters-and-Labels-for-The-Fourth-of-July-1Iraq is being invaded once more and Baghdad is still a shadow of itself in a country with little ability to truly defend its borders and people.

By Monday afternoon the toll in Karrada stood at 151 killed and 200 wounded, according to police and medical sources. Rescuers and families were still looking for 35 missing people.

Islamic State claimed the bombing, its deadliest in Iraq, saying it was a suicide attack. Another explosion struck in the same night, when a roadside bomb blew up in popular market of al-Shaab, a Shi’ite district in north Baghdad, killing two people.

The attacks showed Islamic State can still strike in the heart of the Iraqi capital despite recent military losses, undermining Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory last month when Iraqi forces dislodged the hardline Sunni insurgents from the nearby city of Falluja.

Abadi’s Shi’ite-led government ordered the offensive on Falluja in May after a series of deadly bombings in Shi’ite areas of Baghdad that it said originated from the Sunni Muslim city, about 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital.

Falluja was the first Iraqi city captured by Islamic State in 2014, six months before it declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria. Since last year the insurgents have been losing ground to U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.

“Abadi has to have a meeting with the heads of national security, intelligence, the interior ministry and all sides responsible for security and ask them just one question: How can we infiltrate these groups?” said Abdul Kareem Khalaf, a former police Major General who advises the Netherlands-based European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies think tank.

He said Islamic State, or Daesh, “has supporters or members everywhere – in Baghdad, Basra and Kurdistan. All it takes is for one house to have at least one man and you have a planning base and launch site for attacks of this type.”

In a sign of public outrage at the failure of the security services, Abadi was given an angry reception on Sunday when he toured Karrada, the district where he grew up, with residents throwing stones, empty buckets and even slippers at his convoy in gestures of contempt.

He ordered new measures to protect Baghdad, starting with the withdrawal of fake bomb detectors that police have continued to use despite a scandal that broke out in 2011 about their sale to Iraq under his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki.

4001-fireworks_in_tondabayashiSo, today our skies will light up with fireworks that we will purposefully set off to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Hitts_promotional_postermoving forward with liberating our nation from British rule. It’s odd to think that the fall out from colonialism is still going on today and that the fireworks that light up many other places do not represent the symbolic act of a war of Independence but one of oppression and terror.

I’m not sure how many of you will stop by on this holiday to say hi so I’m going to just make this a brief greeting with the one bit of news.   However this is, as always, an open thread and there are other things going on including the election of the next President of the US. 

This is another thing that should give us pause as we continue to clean up the mess of the Bush Administration, and actually the mess left behind by others of his predecessors like Ronald Reagan whose adventures in South and Central American made every one in those countries a lot less safe.

If we’re unable to purse our own liberty and happiness then we can change that under our system of government.  But then, think again what it means when our actions prevent that dream for others.  My heart weeps for all of those who live in countries that we helped break.  We own it.  I think Hillary Clinton understands this.  I think Donald Trump would rather we walk away from our mess.  We broke it. We own it.  Let’s just hope the rest of the coalition of the willing hangs in there with us as we try to stop the carnage.

Have a great 4th!!!  May the fireworks near you be only the celebratory type and not the bullets from another crazed shooter or the ignition of a suicide vest!  May all beings be free from harm!!!

4627294295_283b68b83bTake a swing at a Trump pinata for me!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Friday Reads: Falling Leaves and Expectations

d2577cc184f46beab3adf201e1cc7865It’s a beautiful autumn day here in New Orleans.  Many of us are voting early to ensure David Vitter’s political career ends this month. There are some interesting dynamics this election cycle.  There’s only so much craziness allowed in the Republican Party by the moneyed interested before they start closing down the monkey house that’s become much of the local structure and grass roots.  The base and the establishment couldn’t be more at odds.  There is real concern that the Trump flame isn’t burning out. Last cycle, they were able to bring the insipid Mitt Romney through the process only to lose big time to the President.  They also managed to hoist Dubya Bush on us at a cost of blood and treasure.  Nixon really burned the house down. The Southern Strategy has really come back to haunt them.
There are some interesting articles up today analyzing various topics. The first is from WAPO and deals with establishment panic over Donald Trump.

Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them.

Party leaders and donors fear that nominating either man would have negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot, virtually ensuring a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency and increasing the odds that the Senate falls into Democratic hands.

The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them. Recent focus groups of Trump supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire commissioned by rival campaigns revealed no silver bullet.

In normal times, the way forward would be obvious. The wannabes would launch concerted campaigns, including television attack ads, against the ­front-runners. But even if the other candidates had a sense of what might work this year, it is unclear whether it would ultimately accrue to their benefit. Trump’s counterpunches have been withering, while Carson’s appeal to the base is spiritual, not merely political. If someone was able to do significant damage to them, there’s no telling to whom their supporters would turn, if anyone.

Trump gave an epic rant on Carson and dumb Iowans in Fort Dodge which has really sent the money crowd off the edge.  Carson’s response today is to pray for Trump.  What kind of people find either of these guys 4d02e75b7ff93e7b381bff7ce20c8b0feven attractive as human beings let alone potential presidents?

Ben Carson apparently had a simple response to rival Donald Trump after the real-estate mogul savaged Carson during a Thursday-night stump speech.

“Pray for him,” Carson said, according his business manager Armstrong Williams’ Friday account to CNN.

Williams, who often acts as a Carson surrogate, further lashed into Trump.

“It is so immature,” Williams said. “It is so embarrassing. I feel so sorry for him.”

The day before, Trump launched a no-holds-barred assault against Carson, his top rival in the GOP primary.

Those attacks included Trump doubling down on his comparison of what he has called Carson’s incurable “pathological temper” to child molesters, while at the same time questioning Carson’s account of his violent childhood incidents. This all occurred during a 95-minute speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?” Trump asked his supporters of Carson’s stories.

Trump characterized Carson’s lying as “pathological and akin to child molester’s who can’t be cured.  Can you believe this is the level of discourse we’ve come to?  Can any of them even talk about a policy that’s remotely good and realistic for the country?

Meanwhile, we’re finally getting some good old fashion press attention to the behavior of the Bush administration prior to the 9/11 attacks.  They were all on vacation when a series of warnings crossed their desks. When can we actually get some justice on what they did to this country?  This is even from Tiger Beat on the Potomac so will it get enough attention to start the main stream media to focus on the lies to the Iraq War and the intelligence that was ignored or made up at that time?

1920s France La Vie Parisienne Magazine Plate

Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The CIA’s famous Presidential Daily Brief, presented to George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, has always been Exhibit A in the case that his administration shrugged off warnings of an Al Qaeda attack. But months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.

By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.” The crisis came to a head on July 10. The critical meeting that took place that day was first reported by Bob Woodward in 2006. Tenet also wrote about it in general terms in his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm.

But neither he nor Black has spoken about it publicly in such detail until now—or been so emphatic about how specific and pressing their warnings really were. Over the past eight months, in more than a hundred hours of interviews, my partners Jules and Gedeon Naudet and I talked with Tenet and the 11 other living former CIA directors for The Spymasters, a documentary set to air this month on Showtime.

The drama of failed warnings began when Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—“getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” “And the word back,” says Tenet, “‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’” (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.) Black, a charismatic ex-operative who had helped the French arrest the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, says the Bush team just didn’t get the new threat: “I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties—they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”

That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.” Black and his deputy rushed to the director’s office to brief Tenet. All agreed an urgent meeting at the White House was needed. Tenet picked up the white phone to Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I said, ‘Condi, I have to come see you,’” Tenet remembers. “It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, ‘I have to come see you. We’re comin’ right now. We have to get there.’”

Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.” Remarkably, in her memoir, Condi Rice writes of the July 10 warnings: “My recollection of the meeting is not very crisp because we were discussing the threat every day.” Having raised threat levels for U.S. personnel overseas, she adds: “I thought we were doing what needed to be done.” (When I asked whether she had any further response to the comments that Tenet, Black and others made to me, her chief of staff said she stands by the account in her memoir.) Inexplicably, although Tenet brought up this meeting in his closed-door testimony before the 9/11 Commission, it was never mentioned in the committee’s final report.

And there was one more chilling warning to come. At the end of July, Tenet and his deputies gathered in the director’s conference room at CIA headquarters. “We were just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur,” he recalls. “And I’ll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They’re coming here.’ And the silence that followed was deafening. You could feel the oxygen come out of the room. ‘They’re coming here.’”

il_340x270.833008074_p3k8It’s amazing to me that major failures of policy by Republican administrations never seem to matter to any one as long as the money keeps funneling its way up to the rich and they can keep their base stupid and angry.  The deal is that I truly believe that behavior is backfiring on them finally during this election cycle.  It’s bad enough that we suffered through the Reagan years and they were characterized quite differently and that so many people believe the hype and not the reality apparent in the facts.  My hope is that entangling the neocon policy will bring about a higher realization since so many Americans died as a result. However, look at the Republican Field.  We have folks that are either totally clueless on the entire foreign area.  For example, Ben Carson actually stated in the last debate that China was active in the Middle East which is not the least bit true.  The other side is Jeb and the like who come with the same advisers as Dubya.  How can any of this be representative of one of the two parties seeking leadership of the world’s only superpower?

The Blog “The Progressive Professor” discusses how we’ve gone from a place where the Republicans were perceived as the party most knowledgeable and able when it comes to foreign policy to the party that is completely clueless and inept.  This should be worrisome to both the American Electorate and the world.

 

It used to be that the Republican Party had candidates who had a reputation for foreign policy expertise, including Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush.

Now, we have Rand Paul, representing the isolationist viewpoint; and the viewpoint of the neoconservatives, which includes just about everyone else, all who have apparently learned nothing from the disastrous policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  They want to commit US military forces to another war, but of course give not a care to veterans once they come home from war, often wounded physically and mentally by their experience.

And some have not a clue as to what is going on in foreign policy, demonstrating unbelievable ignorance, particularly Dr. Benjamin Carson and Donald Trump.

As this blogger has stated many times in the past few years, in the 2012 election cycle, ONLY Jon Huntsman had any legitimate background in foreign policy; and in the 2016 election cycle, only John Kasich demonstrates any experience in foreign policy, although inferior to that of Huntsman.

One may criticize Barack Obama in some areas of foreign policy, but his top aides and advisers on this have included Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry.  Many would criticize all of them, but in comparison to the Republican camp, they are people of experience and awareness of the complex world we live in!

Donald Trump went as far as to state that Russia was going after ISIL when in fact, Russia has been attacking the anti-Assad Forces supported by the US and allies  This article is from the Times of London and2a2f9922407896a03e9b3874a74a4731 clearly illustrates that the Russians are not on our side no matter how much The Donald and The Carly want to brag about their green room romps with Putin.

Iran was on Thursday night moving up its ground forces in Syria in preparation for an attack to reclaim rebel-held territory under the cover of Russian air strikes, according to sources close to Damascus. Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia which has come to the Assad regime’s rescue in battle-fronts across the country in the past two years, is being prepared to capitalise on the strikes, a Syrian figure close to the regime told The Telegraph

• Sources in Lebanon told Reuters that Iran, which is the main sponsor and tactical adviser to Hizbollah, was sending in hundreds of its own troops to reinforce them. Iran made no comment on the claims but Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said the move would be an “apt and powerful illustration” that Russia’s military actions had worsened the conflict.

• A Hizbollah-backed advance would fit the pattern of Russian air-strikes, which have predominantly targeted those rebels not aligned to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who currently present the gravest threat on the ground to core regime territory.

• The long-term aim would be to defeat or demoralise the non-Isil opposition, so that Isil became the regime’s only enemy. That would force the West to back President Bashar al-Assad against it. “They want to clean the country of non-Isil rebels, and then the US will work with them as Isil will be the only enemy,” the Damascus source said.

Ben Carson appears to point to the voices in his head has his sources for his ridiculous claims on China and Russia.

But the most amusing category belongs to politicians who defend bogus claims by citing secret evidence that only they have access to. As Rachel noted on the show last night, this comes up more often than it should.

Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.), for example, claimed last year to have secret information about ISIS fighters getting caught entering the United States through Mexico, which never happened in reality. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) claimed to have secret evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which is the exact opposite of the truth.

And then there’s Ben Carson, who claimed this week that China has deployed troops to Syria, despite the fact that China has not deployed troops to Syria. Yesterday, Armstrong Williams, a top Carson campaign aide, defended the claim by pointing to – you guessed it – secret intelligence. Here was the exchange between Williams and MSNBC’s Tamron Hall:

WILLIAMS:  Well, Tamron, from your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is inaccurate, but from my intelligence and what Dr. Carson`s been told by people on the ground involved in that area of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over that the Chinese are there.  But as far as our intelligence and the briefings that Dr. Carson`s been in, and I`ve certainly been in with him, he`s certainly been told that the Chinese are there.

Last month, the retired right-wing neurosurgeon claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas all went to college together. When told that didn’t make any sense, Carson insisted he’s talked to “various people” who’ve provided him with unique insights.

200_sYou can follow the link to a snippet from Maddow’s show that discusses some absolute bizarre comments from Carson.  This includes a really bizarre CBN interview about ties between those three leaders as some kind of dormmates at the same university and that he has secret sources.

So, the question being discussed across coffee at my house is who the hell is supporting these guys and wtf is wrong with them?  I’m no psychologist, but what causes a person to go gaga over a pathological liar and a malignant narcissist to the point of thinking they should be president?  Why do so many Republicans want Ben Carson in office?   (I need to add that this discussion is held between two former Republicans.  My friend is a very recent addition to my reformed republican club which I formed 20 years ago having decided that the absolute craziness over gay marriage and adoption was the most bigoted and hateful thing she’d ever seen.)

Here’s some analysis of a poll done by ABC.

Respondents saw Carson’s lack of experience in politics as a strength, not a weakness. Like other Carson supporters we interviewed, Karen Mihalic, 61, loves that the neurosurgeon’s “not like your typical politician.”

“I don’t think politicians are really in tune with the rest of America and what we need,” Mihalic said. “We need someone to shake things up down there.”

Don, 30, who declined to give his last name, said he doesn’t see a difference between Carson’s experience in politics and that of President Obama.

Jeanne Blando, 71, agreed.

“I think Carson will be much more effective than the president we have now,” Blando said.

Carson’s values are important.

But why not support fellow outsider Donald Trump instead? For Blando, it’s all about Carson’s values.

“I love Trump because he says what he thinks, but that won’t work for governing,” Blando said.

Jesse Varoz, 28, called Carson an “upstanding guy.” Richard Medina, 69, said Carson was “truly honest and someone I can depend on.”

“If you listen to [Carson] speak, he thinks about what he’s gonna say, while other candidates do not,” Medina said.

Ignorance is not only bliss, it’s evidently a very attractive and powerful opiate of a good portion of the masses.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: You People are so Ridiculous! Edition

Morning Coffee in the City, by Michele Byrne

Morning Coffee in the City, by Michele Byrne

Good Day!!

 

Hillary and Bill Clinton are grandparents!

From the AP via The Boston Globe:

The couple’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, has given birth to her first child, a daughter named Charlotte.

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the former president and ex-secretary of state, announced the baby’s birth on Twitter and Facebook early Saturday, saying she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are ‘‘full of love, awe and gratitude as we celebrate the birth of our daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.’’

Clinton spokesman Kamyl Bazbaz said the child was born on Friday but did not immediately provide additional details. The couple lives in New York City. The Clintons quickly retweeted their daughter’s message on Twitter but did not immediately comment on the baby’s arrival.

Now that the announcement is out of the way, the media demands to know if Hillary will now announce she’s running for president.

The baby has been eagerly anticipated as Hillary Clinton considers her political future — she has called the prospect of becoming a grandmother her ‘‘most exciting title yet.’’ She even has picked out the first book she intends to read to her grandchild, the classic ‘‘Goodnight Moon.’’

She has said she didn’t want to make any decisions about another campaign until the baby’s arrival, pointing to her interest in enjoying becoming a grandmother for the first time. If Clinton decides to run for president, her campaign would coincide with the baby’s first two years.

Former-US-President-Bill-Clinton-Become-Grandfather

The Christian Science Monitor even put the demand in their headline to the AP story: Chelsea Clinton now a mom. Will Grandma Hillary announce run for president?

Sigh . . . Yes, I’m sure Hillary is planning to ruin their daughter’s and son-in-law’s celebration by rushing out and the media’s wish come true. Why don’t they hound Mitt Romney instead? He already has so many grandkids he probably can’t keep their names straight; and Ann Romney has been out and about in the past week.

Ann told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that if only Mitt had been elected in 2012, there wouldn’t have been so many problems in Iraq and Syria. According to Ann,

I think he would have had a status of forces agreement on — in Iraq. I don`t believe ISIS would have had the invasion that they have — they’ve had. They wouldn’t have had the ability to — I think he would have tried to arm the moderates in Syria. I think there`s other things that would have happened that would have made the equation a little bit tilted in our favor.

Those people are not going to go away. This is a generational problem. And the sooner we realize, I think, as Americans, that it`s not an easy solution and it`s not going to go away, but to be really aware of how dangerous the situation is — I think Mitt was very aware how — how precarious it was.

As for Mitt giving running for president a third try, Ann hinted that it will depend on what Jeb Bush decides to do.

One scenario out there, Mrs. Romney, is that Jeb Bush doesn`t run after all, and your husband has sized up the landscape and that a lot of his supporters, past and present, said, you have the name recognition, you have the Reagan example of the third time was the charm for him, and that it`s been done before.

[ANN] ROMNEY: Mm-hmm.

CAVUTO: And — and that would be appealing.

ROMNEY: Well, we will see, won`t we, Neil?

I think Jeb probably will end up running, myself. I think, you know, he — people probably are looking at it, that he`s probably looking at it very carefully right now.

CAVUTO: But why would his entrance in the race matter to — to your supporters or not?

ROMNEY: Well, I think, you know, he would draw on a very similar base that we would draw on.

Andrew Prokop at Vox thinks another Romney run could happen: It’s not crazy for Mitt Romney to run for president again. Prokop, reports that according to conservative columnist Bryan York, Jeb is unlikely to run in 2016.

“Romney is said to believe that, other than himself, [Jeb] Bush is the only one of the current Republican field who could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election,” York writes. So there seems to be at least one candidate who would definitively win Romney’s support.

But while there have been several trial balloons for a Jeb Bush candidacy floated recently, there are reasons to be skeptical he’ll actually pull the trigger. First of all, he’s been out of politics for years and focused on making money. For now, Bush has every reason to encourage speculation that he’s running. It gives him increased media attention, perceived clout, and it makes him more valuable as a speaker and rainmaker. But he’s at odds with the GOP base on issues like immigration and Common Core, and he’s suggested that concerns from his family could be an issue. So Bush might well opt against a run, and Romney could feel that he’s the party’s only hope.

After all, writes Prokop, Romney is a known quantity and he’s popular with GOP donors. On top of that, Chris Christie has lost his luster as a candidate.

Read more details at Vox.

AnnRomney2

But what about Mitt’s problems with women? Ann says that’s nonsense, according to Politico.

Ann Romney on Tuesday skewered Democrats’ claim that there’s a GOP “war on women,” calling the accusation “offensive” and saying it won’t work as a campaign tactic.

“It’s ridiculous, honestly, I mean I don’t think they’re getting very far with that, by the way. It’s not going to work. I think women are a lot smarter than that, and that’s kind of offensive to me, to tell you the truth,” Romney said in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News in response to a question about both the so-called “war on women” and DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s recent comments about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“Scott Walker’s a good guy, and he’s got a wonderful wife, and he values women and that just doesn’t fly,” Romney added.

She was responding to Wasserman Schultz’s remarks earlier this month, when the Florida Democrat said Walker “has given women the back of his hand.”

Well that’s the end of that then. Scott Walker’s wife (does she have a name) is “wonderful,” so women should just shut up and deal with having limited access to birth control, abortion, and child care, and lower pay than their male colleagues.

Wonkette responds to the Politico story with appropriate sarcasm: Ladies, Stop Offending Ann Romney With How Stupid You Are.

How many times does Her Royal Horse-Riding Majesty Ann Romney have to explain this to YOU PEOPLE? Sheesh! This so-called “war on women” claptrap Democrats can’t stop blah blahing about is so dumb and so 2012 and so not even real anyway, so why are women — who are so much smarter than Democrats think they are — so stupid as to keep falling for it?

Obviously, talking non-stop about the Republican Party’s non-stop assault on women will never work. Ann knows. She’s an elections expert. That’s why the gender gap in 2012 was only 18 points. Practically a draw! No wonder the whole Romney clan was so very shocked and awed that Ann’s 2012 pitch failed to sway the lady voters:

“Women, you need to wake up,” she urged them. “Women have to ask themselves who’s going to have and be there for you. I can promise you, I know, that Mitt will be there for you. He will stand up for you, he will hear your voices.”

Maybe it had something to do with how some of the things that spilled out of her face hole were kind of … oh, what’s the word? Offensive? Like when she said, “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” Those hard-working women out there were such an inspiration to her because she also had suffered and struggled and worked really hard at never having a job, scraping by on nothing but her husband’s daddy’s stock portfolio.

How the heck did that not work with voters?!? Especially after she told YOU PEOPLE to stop being so dumb already, jeez, and vote for her hubby. And some of YOU PEOPLE even whispered in her ear that you totally agreed with her (and yet did not vote for Mitt anyway, weird!), and even ladies who usually don’t worry their pretty little heads about important issues — that’s Man’s Work, after all — were finally, for the first time ever, thinking about really important stuff, like the economy and “their husbands’ jobs.”

AnnRomney1

For heaven’s sake, ladies. Mitt had all those binders full of women, remember? Now get over it and go vote Republican!

Of course Mitt wasn’t included in the Values Voters Summit this weekend. That could mean he’s not running or maybe that he thinks the Tea Party vote won’t matter. The usual suspects were there though.

Despite Ann’s claims that the Democrats are getting nowhere with the “war on women” talk, the “values voters” speakers appeared to tone down the anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage rhetoric, according to ABC News: Republicans Rallying Behind Religious Liberty.

Fighting to improve their brand, leading Republicans rallied behind religious liberty at a Friday gathering of evangelical conservatives, rebuking an unpopular President Barack Obama while skirting divisive social issues.

Speakers did not ignore abortion and gay marriage altogether on the opening day of the annual Values Voter Summit, but a slate of prospective presidential candidates focused on the persecution of Christians and their values at home and abroad — a message GOP officials hope will help unify a divided party and appeal to new voters ahead of November’s midterm elections and the 2016 presidential contest.

“Oh, the vacuum of American leadership we see in the world,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz declared Friday in a Washington hotel ballroom packed with religious conservatives. “We need a president who will speak out for people of faith, prisoners of conscience.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul echoed the theme in a speech describing America as a nation in “spiritual crisis.”

“Not a penny should go to any nation that persecutes or kills Christians,” said Paul, who like Cruz is openly considering a 2016 presidential bid.

The speaking program included such potential 2016 candidates as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Several possible Republican candidates — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among them — did not attend. The group has positions on social issues across the spectrum — from the libertarian-leaning Paul, who favors less emphasis on abortion and gay marriage, to Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor whose conservative social values define his brand.

Jindal1

Here’s a lovely little homily from Bobby Jindal:

Jindal, who is also weighing a White House bid, seized on what he called Obama’s “silent war” on religious freedom.

“The United States of America did not create religious liberty,” Jindal said. “Religious liberty created the United States of America.”

Anyone know what he means by a “silent war?” I have no clue. What a charlatan Jindal is!

The ABC article didn’t mention Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, but they were there too.

From Mediaite on crazy Michele’s speech:  Bachmann Rouses Values Voters Crowd with Calls to ‘Kill’ ISIS Until They Surrender. See video at the link.

Talking Points Memo notes that Sarah Palin doesn’t know the address of the White House. I wonder who lives at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Palin Goofs: Truth Is Endangered At ‘1400’ Penn Avenue. Watch it:

I wonder if the “values voters” liked Palin’s biker chick get-up?

And, of course, Ted Cruz was his usual loony self. Salon: 5 craziest things Ted Cruz just said at the Values Voters Summit (including the full video of his “deranged” speech.

Morning Coffee, by Carol Bolt

Morning Coffee, by Carol Bolt

Quick News Headlines:

The Boston Globe, 7 Questions We’d Ask Ferguson’s Chief of Police.

A man set a fire at an air traffic control facility at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, but it’s not being called terrorism–maybe because the guy isn’t an Arab American?

KTLA Channel 5, FBI: Chicago Controller Sent Facebook Message: ‘I Am About to Take Out’ FAA Facility.

NY Daily News, Illinois man charged in fire at Chicago air traffic control center

The Texas State Board of Education is at it again. Now they want teachers to tell kids that Moses is an inspiration for the U.S. Constitution (very interesting and detailed article at The Daily Beast).

AP, via Yahoo News, Police: Woman beheaded at Oklahoma workplace.

 Fox News, Four College Sophomores dead in Oklahoma bus-truck crash.

Discovery News, Japanese Volcano Erupts: Hikers Missing.

The New Yorker on the newest social media entry, Ello’s Anti-Facebook Moment.

LA Times, Water on Earth predates the solar system, and even the sun.

Raw Story, Complex life on Earth may have appeared 60 million years earlier than previously thought.

National Geographic, Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap? A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse.

M.I.T. News, Battling superbugs: Two new technologies could enable novel strategies for combating drug-resistant bacteria.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in comment thread. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Wednesday Reads: Yummy Socks and Boots on the Ground

441a484b939f2e917158efa1f07eb190Good Morning

It has been crazy the last couple of days here in Banjoville. So today’s post will be a quick round-up of the headlines making news this morning, with a few odd bits thrown in for fun.

First up, this disturbing article from the New York Times: U.S. General Open to Ground Forces in Fight Against ISIS in Iraq

President Obama’s top military adviser said Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States forces in ground operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq if airstrikes proved insufficient, opening the door to a riskier, more expansive American combat role than the president has publicly outlined.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while he was confident that an American-led coalition would defeat the Islamic State, he would not foreclose the possibility of asking Mr. Obama to send American troops to fight the militants on the ground — something Mr. Obama has ruled out.

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” General Dempsey said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

I don’t know about y’all, but all this makes me nauseous.

More from McClatchy’s WASHINGTON: War on Islamic State will be long and difficult, top defense officials tell Senate

Indeed, the chances of success are far less in Syria than in Iraq, Dempsey said, as Hagel nodded agreement. “Five thousand alone is not going to be able to turn the tide,” Hagel said, referring to the number of Syrian rebels likely to be trained under a proposed U.S. program.

Even the pledge that no American soldiers would engage in ground combat operations seemed tenuous. Dempsey said he could foresee circumstances where American advisers would join Iraqi troops, for example, if the Iraqis tried to recapture Mosul, in what he called “close combat advising.”

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey told the committee.

The appearance by Dempsey and Hagel came as the U.S. Central Command announced for the second day in a row that U.S. aircraft had conducted offensive strikes under Obama’s new authorization against Islamic State targets southwest of Baghdad. The aircraft conducted three strikes against a truck, an anti-aircraft artillery piece, “a small ISIL ground unit” and “two small boats on the Euphrates River that were resupplying ISIL forces in the area,” the statement said, using the acronym for the group that the government prefers.

The article points out this key point…

In their testimony, Hagel and Dempsey sought to brace the nation for a long war with an uncertain duration and outcome, repeatedly telling senators that they would make adjustments to the strategy as necessary.

Both struggled to define what degrading and destroying the Islamic State would look like. At one point, Dempsey suggested that it might be as simple as depriving the Islamic State forces of their current ability to move back and forth across the Syrian and Iraqi dividing line. “Restore the border and then they are defeated,” he said.

They also were at pains to explain whether the Islamic State presented an imminent threat to the United States. “Although the intelligence community has not yet detected specific plotting against the U.S. homeland, ISIL has global aspirations,” Hagel said. “If left unchecked, ISIL will directly threaten our homeland and our allies.”

Ugh, I’m past nausea. I think the dry heaves are coming next…Robert Fisk. Take it for what it is, okay? My mind is really too fried to make sense of anything now, but I got to say, any “arrangement” or “collaboration” made with Assad is bad news…IMHO. Assad’s letter to the US: How Syria is luring President Obama into its web – Middle East – World – The Independent

Syria has asked Washington to engage in military and intelligence collaboration to defeat their mutual enemy Isis, inviting US congressmen and senators to visit Damascus to discuss joint action against the jihadis who threaten both America and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

It’s an offer that President Barack Obama will have to refuse – but not without some embarrassment. After deciding to bomb the forces of Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, in Syria as well as Iraq, Mr Obama was confronted by Vladimir Putin’s warning that any such unilateral action in Syria would be “an act of aggression”.

The US President will now have to explain yet again why he cannot collaborate against America’s “apocalyptic” enemies with a Syrian regime which he has also sworn to overthrow – even though this regime is fighting exactly the same enemies.

 

And as if all this was not enough to get you happy morning, ISIS Releases New Video Threatening to Kill U.S. Forces in Iraq

In a bizarre new video reportedly released by ISIS late Tuesday that resembles a Hollywood movie trailer, the Sunni militant group appears to threaten to kill American troops in Iraq. The short clip, apparently a preview of a longer video called “Flames of War,” ends with the message, “fighting has just begun” and that more is “coming soon.”

The video was released hours after Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that ground troops might be necessary in the military campaign against ISIS in Iraq. In the clip, audio of Obama saying, “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” can be heard. The video also comes after a televised address from Obama last week, where he vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.

The House is set to vote today to allow the U.S. to train and arm Syrian rebels in the country, where ISIS has taken sanctuary. “If we want to open a front against (Islamic State forces) in Syria, we have to open a front. And I don’t see any other way to do it than try to build an alternative force,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, lead Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press. “No one’s excited about it but, you know, it’s the best from a series of bad options.”

Video that was at the link has been removed, but from what few still images I saw….all I can say is…damn. As the author of the Gawker article so aptly states:

This looks like a Michael Bay movie?

Enough of this shit. On to another vomit inducing topic. Still Playing: 12 NFL Players Have Domestic Violence Arrests – NBC News.com

Ray Rice may never again play in the NFL, but a dozen other players with domestic violence arrests are still suiting up on Sundays.

Ray McDonald and Chris Cook of the San Francsico 49ers, Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams of the Seattle Seahawks, Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes of the Chicago Bears, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, Erik Walden of the Indianapolis Colts, Donte Whitner of the Cleveland Browns, Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins and Frostee Rucker of the Arizona Cardinals have all been arrested for domestic violence or related charges since 2005, according to a USA Today database that tracks players’ arrests since 2000.

Some fought the charges and won. Others accepted blame, served short suspensions and returned to the game. The rest are still waiting for their day in court, the focus of intense new scrutiny as America’s most powerful sports league faces growing criticism over its handling of players’ off-the-field conduct.

 […]

Domestic violence and related incidents rank among the NFL’s biggest off-the-field problems, with 87 arrests involving 80 players over the last 14 years. The only other crime category with a larger number of arrests involving NFL players is DUI. But while the arrests are troubling, the rate is lower than the national average for men of similar age, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

The team with the most arrests of players for domestic violence and related charges is the Denver Broncos, with 12. But it hasn’t had one since 2010, when linebacker Kevin Alexander was cut a day after he was accused of hitting his girlfriend (the charges were later dropped). The team prides itself on its battery of professional-development resources. “While this is a very important issue, our team hasn’t had such an incident in nearly four years,” spokesman Patrick Smyth said. “It has zero such incidents under our current football leadership structure, which has been in place since 2011.”

Offenders on the field

Of the 12 active players with domestic violence-related arrests, the one with the most is Brandon Marshall, who has three. He’s never been convicted, but he served a three-game suspension in 2008 for personal conduct violations. But from there his story changes. He’s sought treatment, become an outspoken voice against domestic violence and is now considered a success, on and off the field.

Marshall has been offering commentary on the NFL’s unfolding crisis as an analyst for Showtime’s Inside the NFL. He said in a recent episode that he wasn’t sure whether a stricter disciplinary policy would have deterred him from violent behavior back then. The difference, he said, was deciding that he needed help.

Another player who has turned his career around is Bryant, a wide receiver for the Cowboys. In 2012, he was accused of hitting his mother, and agreed to anger counseling in exchange for having the charge dismissed. The NFL didn’t suspend him, but imposed a strict set of conduct guidelines that included counseling and a curfew. Last year, he showed up at a rally against domestic violence.

Then there’s Walden, a linebacker who was suspended by the Green Bay Packers for one game in 2011 after being jailed for an alleged assault against his live-in girlfriend. In court, he submitted to a deferred judgment agreement that allowed him to avoid pleading guilty while receiving counseling. He’s since landed with the Colts.

Cook, a cornerback, was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in October 2011. He sat out most of the season for the Minnesota Vikings, but was later acquitted of all charges. The Vikings reinstated him, and he now is a teammate of McDonald’s in San Francisco.

McDaniel, a defensive tackle, was on the Miami Dolphins in 2010 when he was arrested for shoving his girlfriend, whose head hit the pavement. He pleaded no contest, was put on probation, and the league suspended him one game. He is now playing in Seattle.

Whitner, a safety then with the Buffalo Bills, was accused of harassment in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend in 2006. The charges were later dropped, and the NFL imposed no punishment. He’s now playing in his native Cleveland.

Starks, a defensive tackle, was charged with domestic assault on his fiancée in 2006, while he was playing for the Tennessee Titans. He was ordered to receive counseling as part of a diversion program and was suspended for one preseason game. He now plays in Miami.

Rucker, a defensive end, was arrested after a fight with his girlfriend at a party in Los Angeles in 2006, when he was a Cincinnati Bengals draft pick. He pleaded no contest, and was suspended for a game, but successfully appealed the punishment because he’d been in college at the time of the incident. Rucker now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

Holmes, a wide receiver, has a long list of run-ins with the law. His domestic violence arrest came in 2006, when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the mother of his children accused him of choking her and slamming her into a door. But she later was reluctant to testify, and the charges were dropped. Holmes’ lawyers promised he’d participate in counseling through the NFL. He now plays with Marshall in Chicago.

Williams, a defensive tackle with a lengthy history of legal troubles, was on the Vikings in 2005 when he was accused of domestic assault for a fight with his wife at home. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was put on probation, but the NFL didn’t suspended him. In 2011, however, Williams was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. He now plays in Seattle.

The Joan Rivers case gets more disturbing as the weeks go by. Did y’all know her doctor had been sued for malpractice for taking a biopsy on someone without permission several years ago? Now this new information…Source: Joan Rivers’ doc did biopsy, selfie at clinic – CNN.com

The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers’ death happened as the comedian’s personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN.

A staff member at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy clinic told investigators that the doctor, who has not been publicly identified, took a selfie photo in the procedure room while Rivers was under anesthesia, the source said.

Rivers, 81, was at the clinic for a scheduled endoscopy by another doctor, gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Cohen. That procedure, intended to help diagnose her hoarse voice and sore throat, involved the insertion of a camera down her throat.

After Cohen, the clinic’s medical director, finished his work, a biopsy was done on Rivers without her prior consent, according to the source.

Yuk! All these selfies and cell phone apps! The world is really becoming a slave to those things: Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane – Yahoo News

Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going.

But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.

“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, the marketing official with Meixin Group, which manages the area in the city’s entertainment zone.

Meixin has marked a 50-meter (165-foot) stretch of pavement with two lanes: one that prohibits cellphone use next to one that allows pedestrians to use them — at their “own risk.”

Nong said the idea came from a similar stretch of pavement in Washington D.C. created by National Geographic Television in July as part of a behavior experiment.

I don’t think it is too much of a jump from “joke” to “for serious.”

My family just got new iPhones. I don’t have any clue what to do with these things. They are not the new 6s…they’re 5s and so intimidating, how can people stare at those things so damn long and not get sick.

Just a few more quick links.

PA State police name ‘survivalist’ as gunman who killed trooper

A man described as a “survivalist,” a trained marksman with antigovernment leanings, was the gunman who killed one state police officer and injured a second in an ambush outside the barracks here last week, investigators said Tuesday.

At an afternoon news conference, police said they identified 31-year-old Eric Matthew Frein from documents he left in a Jeep he abandoned about two miles from the barracks, where he ambushed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglass on Friday. Dickson was killed and Douglass critically injured.

Frein, who lived with his parents in Monroe County, was at large and considered extremely dangerous, possibly armed with a high-powered rifle that looks like an AK-47, police said.

Richard III killed in battle while horseless | Al Jazeera America

England’s King Richard III might well have lost his kingdom for a horse.

The reviled king suffered nearly a dozen injuries on the battlefield, but the fatal blows were probably only sustained after he had to abandon his horse, according to a new paper in medical journal the Lancet.

[…]

“Richard was probably in quite a lot of pain at the end,” said Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Leicester and one of the study’s authors. She said the king was most likely attacked by numerous assailants after dismounting from his horse, which got stuck in a marsh.

Richard’s skeleton showed evidence of 11 injuries from weapons including daggers, swords and a long metal pole with an ax and hook that was used to pull knights off their horses. “Medieval battle was bloody and brutal,” she said, noting one of the injuries showed a sword had pierced his skull.

The nine injuries Richard suffered to his head suggest the king somehow lost or took off his helmet during the battle at Bosworth Field, against his rival and successor, Henry Tudor, on Aug. 22, 1485. He was the last English monarch to die in battle.

So…perhaps Black Adder, I mean, Shakespeare had it right?

Richard III: [looking for a horse] A horse!

[whistles]

Richard III: A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

[sees a horse]

Richard III: Ah! Horsey.

For our final link, a story about a dog…a Great Dane…those dogs are as big as a horse: Great Dane dined on 43 socks; all were removed in successful surgery – LA Times

A veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in a Great Dane's stomach during surgery in Portland, Ore. The animal hospital that removed the socks submitted the dog's X-ray, shown above, for a tongue-in-cheek industry award. (DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital)

A veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in a Great Dane’s stomach during surgery in Portland, Ore. The animal hospital that removed the socks submitted the dog’s X-ray, shown above, for a tongue-in-cheek industry award. (DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital)

140-pound Great Dane in Portland, Ore., is making headlines after a veterinarian found 43 1/2 socks in the dog’s stomach during surgery.

The incident happened in February but only recently became public after the animal hospital where the socks were removed submitted the dog’s X-ray for a tongue-in-cheek industry award, said Shawna Harch, spokeswoman for DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.

DoveLewis is where the 3-year-old dog went for the operation when the owners noticed the animal was growing increasingly ill but did not know why, Harch said.

The surgery took nearly three hours, but the dog has fully recovered, Harch said.

Ailing Great Dane in Oregon packed his belly with 43.5 socks – Yahoo News

The 3-year-old canine, who had an affinity for chewing on socks but was not known to swallow them whole, was rushed to Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in February, hospital spokeswoman Shawna Harch said.

“We see some very strange things, but this is by far the most socks we’ve ever pulled out of an animal,” Harch said after X-ray images of the dog’s belly won a tongue-in-cheek veterinary industry prize called “They ate WHAT?”

DoveLewis will use the prize money to fund emergency care for pets of low-income animal owners, Harch said.

The Great Dane appeared to favor lush, colored socks in smaller sizes, images of the retrieved items showed. The sock-devouring pooch’s owners are keeping the hungry dog’s name private, Harch said.

“His owners wish to remain anonymous,” she said. “But they are getting a kick out of the award.”

And on that note…I will pass it on to you.

Have a brilliant day!


Live Blog: President Obama’s Speech on Dealing with Islamic State Militants

In this image made through a window of the Oval Office, President Obama speaks on the phone to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday (NPR)

In this image made through a window of the Oval Office, President Obama speaks on the phone to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Wednesday (NPR)

President Obama will give a prime-time speech at 9:00 tonight in which he will lay out a strategy to deal with the Islamic State Militants in Iraq and Syria. Let’s watch the speech together and discuss on what the President says in real time. I’ve gathered some links to articles that report on and react to the leaked content of the speech.

According to The Washington Post, Obama will announce a ‘broad coalition’ to fight the Islamic State terror group.

The United States will lead a “broad coalition” to defeat the Islamic State through air strikes and support for military partners on the ground, President Obama will announce Wednesday night….Obama will tell the country that the offensive against the militant group will not involve combat troops, but rather a “steady, relentless effort” that involves air power and backing for partner forces, according to early excerpts provided by the White House.

“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Obama will make clear to a war-weary public that the offensive will not resemble the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but rather other, more covert, missions against terrorists.

“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” Obama will tell the nation.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

Frankly, I’m very worried about this. I really don’t see how this is going to end well. I hope I’m wrong.

Richard Engel writes at NBC News, What Happens After the U.S. Bombs ISIS?

On one level, bombing ISIS is easy. The U.S. knows where the group operates. There’s no need for a ten-year hunt like the one for Osama bin Laden. The terror group has two capital cities, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Al-Qaeda never had such an obvious home address.

Finding a justification to attack ISIS is also simple. It has threatened to carry out another 9/11, beheaded two American journalists, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis and Syrians and is a danger to U.S. allies in the region. Many in the U.S. military believe ISIS needs to be immediately, and repeatedly, smashed by American drones and warplanes.

But what then happens to the Middle East – this seething cauldron of competing interests, religious passions, ethnic tensions, long memories and oil? The key question now, as before the Iraq invasion, is what happens after the U.S. starts bombing.

ISIS controls a territory roughly the size of Maryland where 8 million people live. If it’s attacked and toppled, who will fill the void? In Iraq, it will be the Kurdish fighters or the Iraqi army. The two don’t trust each other and have different objectives for the territory they control. The Kurds are laying the foundation for a future independent state. The Iraqi army is increasingly an Iranian-guided, Shiite force.

The U.S. spent billions of dollars to build a secular, professional national Iraqi army but failed because, despite all the U.S.-supplied guns, tanks and planes, the Iraqi military fell apart when challenged by a band of terrorists. President Obama wants to reconstitute it now as part of his ISIS strategy. Why would it work this time when it didn’t before, even as U.S. troops were standing next to Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, shoulder to shoulder?

Good questions. Read more at the link.

From the LA Times, Obama to call for ‘steady, relentless’ effort against Islamic State.

Nearly six years after he was elected on the promise to end America’s decade of wars, Obama planned to detail a military campaign that is broader and more complex than any he has launched during his tenure.

Obama is expected to expand U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq to include targets throughout the country as well as across the rapidly disintegrating border with Syria, where the group harbors its weapons, camps and fighters.

White House officials say Obama also plans to further train and arm Iraqi and Kurdish troops as well as opposition forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. He’ll tout beefed-up partnerships with governments in the Middle East and Western allies, who have been asked to assist in the training, gather intelligence and counter the Islamic State’s appeal in the broader Muslim world.

In his televised remarks, Obama was to describe the effort as a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”

“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” according to prepared remarks released by the White House, referring to the Islamic State by a commonly used abbreviation.

Those article spell out the gist of what the President will say. Here are a few more links to peruse if you want more.

Reuters, Bill to fund U.S. government ensnared in debate about Islamic State.

LA Times, Cheney urges Obama to launch ‘immediate’ assault on Islamic State (Sigh . . . why won’t he go away?)

Foreign Policy, There are already troops in Iraq. Problem is, they’re Iranian.

The New York Times, What Obama Faces in a Campaign Against ISIS.

Please us know what you think of the speech in the comment thread. Watch the live stream at CNN here and at the LA Times with live updating here.

 


Tuesday Reads: Art as Therapy to Help Deal With Depressing News

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Good Morning!!

 

I decided I needed to look at some Matisse paintings this morning, and I’m going to include a few in this post to provide contrast to the news of the day, which is filled with violence, hate, and despair. According to the WebMuseum, Matisse was “a man of anxious temperament.”

Matisse’s art has an astonishing force and lives by innate right in a paradise world into which Matisse draws all his viewers. He gravitated to the beautiful and produced some of the most powerful beauty ever painted. He was a man of anxious temperament, just as Picasso, who saw him as his only rival, was a man of peasant fears, well concealed. Both artists, in their own fashion, dealt with these disturbances through the sublimation of painting: Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. He spoke of his art as being like “a good armchair”– a ludicrously inept comparison for such a brilliant man– but his art was a respite, a reprieve, a comfort to him.

Can art be therapy? I think so. So can reading literature or listening to music. From a review of Art as Therapy at Brain Pickings, 

The question of what art is has occupied humanity since the dawn of recorded history. For Tolstoy, the purpose of art was to providea bridge of empathy between us and others, and for Anaïs Nin, a way to exorcise our emotional excess. But the highest achievement of art might be something that reconciles the two: a channel of empathy into our own psychology that lets us both exorcise and better understand our emotions — in other words, a form of therapy.

In Art as Therapy, philosopher Alain de Botton — who has previously examined such diverse and provocative subjects as why work doesn’t work,what education and the arts can learn from religion, and how to think more about sex — teams up with art historian John Armstrong to examine art’s most intimate purpose: its ability to mediate our psychological shortcomings and assuage our anxieties about imperfection. Their basic proposition is that, far more than mere aesthetic indulgence, art is a tool — a tool that serves a rather complex yet straightforwardly important purpose in our existence:

Like other tools, art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with. Art compensates us for certain inborn weaknesses, in this case of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses that we can refer to as psychological frailties.

Read about “the seven core functions of art” at the Brain Pickings link. And now, regrettably, I must turn to today’s news.

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Ray Rice Domestic Violence News.

Yesterday’s news was dominated by reactions to gossip site TMZ’s release of the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then fiance–now wife–Janay Palmer and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic city casino elevator in February.

Suddenly, the Ravens went into ass-covering mode. The Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. But why did it take so long? At the time, a video had been released showing Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes.

Here’s a timeline of the Rice case from SB Nation. On Feb. 15th, after the beating, Rice and Palmer were both arrested and charged with simple assault (the charges against Palmer were later dropped). On the 19th a video was released that showed Rice coldly dragging an unconscious Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes–her dress pulled up, her legs spread open to the camera. Rice makes shows no apparent concern for her well-being.

Those of us with any experience with domestic violence could easily surmise what had taken place inside the elevator. But the men of the NFL somehow assumed (or wanted to believe) that Palmer had viciously attacked Rice, and that he had only defended himself by knocking her unconscious!

On March 27 Rice was indicted for aggravated assault, and the next day the couple married. Did Rice marry her to shut her up? Rice ended up getting a slap on the wrist from Prosecutor James McClain (who, like Rice graduated from Rutgers). Rice was allowed to enter a one-year diversion program with counseling instead of getting jail time. And btw, McClain is still defending his decision.

On May 23, Ray Rice game a non-apology “apology” for his disgusting actions in which he apologized to everyone under the sun except his wife Janay. Rice acted as if the two were equally responsible for “the incident.”

From SB Nation, May 23: Ray Rice is an asshole and the Ravens couldn’t care less.

Ray Rice is sorry. He wants you to know how sorry he is for knocking out his fiancée Janay, who is now his wife. He would like to sincerely apologize for dragging her out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. We know this because Rice told us so. He told the world in a televised public apology broadcast Friday afternoon from Baltimore.

“I apologize for the situation my wife and I were in,” the Baltimore Ravens running back said….

Rice’s apology is special because he really believes it; a shocking portion of Rice’s press conference was devoted to Successories-style affirmations about how he will recover from and get past this … situation that … occurred. Stranger still, Rice somehow managed to get his wife Janay — whom he married right before he was supposed to go to trial for a more serious version of domestic assault — to accept an equal share of blame for the incident. She apologized, too.

Those of us familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence know that Palmer’s behavior was typical of victims–blaming themselves and trying to protect their emotional and economic security.

Finally, in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games. NFL and Ravens officials implied to journalists that there was some kind of mitigating evidence that showed Palmer to be at fault. Public outrage was immediate.  I recall JJ posting about it at that time. On Aug. 28, realizing he had made a terrible public relations blunder, Goodell announced a new NFL policy on “domestic violence.” 

Finally, on Sept. 8, TMZ released video of what actually transpired inside the elevator: Rice spitting in Palmer’s face, and decking her with a “crushing” left hook. Not long afterward, the Ravens and the NFL finally too action, claiming they had never seen this video footage that they could have gotten easily from the casino or law enforcement.

But guess what? Rice will still receive $25 million from his contract with the Ravens. If Roger Goodell keeps his job after this, the NFL will be permanently damaged. After all, half of the people who follow football are women? Why do you think the NFL make their players wear pink (ugh!) once a year in honor of breast cancer awareness?

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

Here are some links to other stories on this horrible and shameful debacle:

Dan Shaughnessy at The Boston Globe: In Ray Rice case, one failure after another.

Mike Wise at The Washington Post: Ray Rice finally must answer for his actions; when will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Baltimore Sun: Janay Rice breaks her silence, describes situation as ‘horrible nightmare’ (She blames the media, not her husband).

SB Nation: White House on Ray Rice: ‘Hitting a woman is not something a real man does’.

TMZ: NFL Commish in the Dark by Choice?

President Obama to Lay out Case for Stepping Up Campaign Against Islamic State

From The Washington Post, As Obama Makes Case, Congress Is Divided on Campaign Against Militants.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday in the Oval Office will be the first of several between White House officials and lawmakers as the administration tries to persuade Congress to embrace the president’s plan to halt the momentum of the Sunni militant group known as ISIS.

A year after opposition in Congress thwarted plans for missile strikes in Syria, the White House is again putting the issue of military force in the Middle East before a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public.

But what about Congress?

Democratic leaders in the Senate and Republican leaders in the House want to avoid a public vote to authorize force, fearing the unknown political consequences eight weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 4.

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Other lawmakers, especially some Democrats, are arguing that as long as the president keeps the operation limited to airstrikes, he does not need to get congressional approval.

Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC: The Politics of ISIS

Ahead of a Wednesday public address from President Obama where he’s set to lay out a “game plan” for military action in Iraq and as the right mocks Democrats as weak-willed appeasers, former Vice President Dick Cheney is heading to Capitol Hill to deliver a pep talk to House Republicans.

Is it the 2002 election all over again? Not exactly. But the escalating conflict against ISIS is starting to show up on the trail as Republican candidates seem eager to put major past differences on foreign policy aside and join together in criticizing the White House’s response to the Islamic State.

A number of candidates and GOP officials have gone out of their way to attack Obama over his remark at a press conference that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting ISIS. Republican Senate nominees including Scott Brown in New Hampshire, David Perdue in Georgia, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, among others, have highlighted the quote while demanding action to turn back the Islamist group’s gains. Joni Ernst in Iowa and Tom Cotton in Arkansas, both of whom served in the Middle East during the Iraq War, have also called for a clearer plan to tackle ISIS.

Read the rest at the link.

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Ferguson Updates

St. Louis Business Journal: Ferguson to reform municipal courts, add police review board.

As national attention mounts on the way St. Louis municipalities use court fine revenuefor city operations and on police use of force in the area, the Ferguson City Council has announced the proposal of three major reforms.

The city will hold ward meetings for public input on the reforms, with some of the proposals on the agenda for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Greater Grace Church, 3690 Pershall Road.

Here’s the breakdown of the proposed reforms:

  1. Establishing a Citizen Review Board to work with the police department to review their actions.
  2. I ntroducing an ordinance that will keep court fine revenues at or below 15 percent of Ferguson’s revenue. Any excess will be earmarked for special community projects, not general revenue.
  3. Reforming the way Ferguson’s municipal court works by repealing the “failure to appear” offense, abolishing some administrative fees which may impact low-income persons to a greater extent and the creation of a special docket for defendants having trouble making monthly payments.

Likewise, the council announced, the municipal judge has called for a warrant recall to run from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Those who have outstanding warrants are encouraged to call the municipal court cler k for information on the recall.

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Truthout: St. Louis Police Shot 16 Before Michael Brown in 2014

By the time of Michael Brown’s murder, St. Louis area police had already shot at least 16 people in 2014, the vast majority of whom were black.

Truthout obtained this figure by examining news reports from January 1 to August 6 of 2014. On August 10, protests opposing the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown began.

Read the list of victims at the link.

In the vast majority of incidents where the race of an individual shot by police was known, the individuals were black. Truthout was not able to determine how many (if any) of these police shootings were “justified” because data concerning police shootings is so limited.

Police shootings, along with other uses of force by the St. Louis area police, are not a new development. In Ferguson, seven active or former officers have now been named in civil lawsuits for excessive use of force; and in March 2014, two officers with the St. Louis Police Department severely beat a man with disabilities. In another recentcivil case, an amount of over $800,000 was awarded to a victim of excessive force by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Force.

In 2012, US District Judge Carol Jackson stated that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners may be “deliberately indifferent” or even tacitly approving of a “widespread persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct.” In a separate 2010 federal civil lawsuit, which accused the St. Louis police of excessive force, the victim’s lawyer cited statistics showing that the St. Louis internal affairs investigators sustained only one of 322 citizens’ physical abuse complaints against police from 1997 to 2002.

Read the rest at Truthout. It’s a good article.

Matthew Keys at The Blot: Ferguson Police Chief Lied About Michael Brown Surveillance Tape.

The chief of police for the Ferguson Police Department misled members of the media and the public when he asserted that his hand was forced in releasing surveillance footage that purported to show 18-year-old resident Michael Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store minutes before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Chief Thomas Jackson distributed copies of the surveillance tape at a press conference on Aug. 15 in tandem with the public release of the identity of the officer who was responsible for shooting Brown.

When questioned by members of the press about the tape — which apparently had nothing to do with the fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager — Jackson told reporters that he was legally obligated to release the tape because members of the media had submitted an open records requests for it.

“We’ve had this tape for a while, and we had to diligently review the information that was in the tape, determine if there was any other reason to keep it,” Jackson said at the press event. “We got a lot of Freedom of Information requests for this tape, and at some point it was just determined we had to release it. We didn’t have good cause, any other reason not to release it under FOI.”

Except there were no specific FOIA requests for the tape. Keys and The Blot got all media requests for information through an open records request. Read all about it at the Blot.

Dance "What hope might look like" -- Henri Mattisse

Dance “What hope might look like” — Henri Mattisse

Shootdown of Malaysia Flight 17 in Ukraine

From the LA Times: Dutch report: Malaysia jet downed in Ukraine by ‘high-energy objects’

A preliminary report on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 appears to confirm initial assertions that the passenger plane was hit by a surface-to-air-missile in mid-flight July 17 before crashing in Ukraine.

“The pattern of damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft,” concluded a report issued Tuesday by the Netherlands’ air safety board.

The Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, was flying at about 33,000 feet over separatist-held territory in southeastern Ukraine when it broke apart in midair and crashed, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board.

The report says that fragments of the aircraft reveal numerous puncture holes and indentations on the plane’s skin that would be consistent with damage from missile shrapnel and, investigators say, rule out pilot error or any mechanical fault as the cause of the disaster.

Although investigators have not been able to recover these pieces for forensic examination, the report states that “the pattern of damage observed … was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems.”

I’ll end there, as this post is far too long already. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread. 


Tuesday Reads

The Dog Days of Summer, Janet Hill

The Dog Days of Summer, Janet Hill

Good Morning!!

It’s the last week of August, and the dog days of summer have supposedly passed; but the Boston area is supposed to hit ninety degrees today and tomorrow. I’m actually looking forward to it, because it has been so cool here lately–in the sixites and low seventies in the daytime and the fifties at night. Yesterday it got into the high eighties, and it felt wonderful.

The Boston Globe has a story today about Peter Theo Curtis, the writer who was just released from captivity in Syria. His mother lives in Cambridge. I had never heard of Curtis before; apparently his kidnapping was kept secret. The Globe reports: Militants free US writer with Mass. ties who was held in Syria.

Peter Theo Curtis, a writer and scholar with ties to the Boston area who was held captive for nearly two years by one of the Islamic militant groups operating in Syria, was released Sunday after emissaries from the government of Qatar won his freedom on humanitarian grounds, in a stark contrast to the brutal murder of fellow war correspondent James W. Foley .

Curtis’s 22 months in captivity were kept from the public at his family’s request since he was nabbed near the Syrian border in October 2012 by Al Nusra Front, one of the groups seeking to topple President Bashir Assad of Syria. Al Nusra Front has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Curtis, 45, who wrote dispatches under the name Theo Padnos and previously chronicled disaffected young Muslims in Yemen in a book titled “Undercover Muslim,” had studied Arabic in Syria.

He was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday evening, a UN spokesman in New York said. After it was determined he was in good medical condition, he was transferred to representatives of the US government, according to the UN.

“We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal,” his mother, Nancy Curtis, who lives in Cambridge, said in a statement, “but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS.”

Foley was from New Hampshire, and the two families have gotten to know each other well, according to Curtis.

Garden Shed - Late Summer, KK Marais

Garden Shed – Late Summer, KK Marais

Syria and Iraq

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, according to BBC News.

Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.

The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighbouring Iraq.

On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.

Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS….

On Monday evening, US officials said Mr Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.

The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.

From The Boston Globe, citing “AP sources,” U.S. planes have already begun flying over Syria.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Jim Michaels of USA Today spoke to Gen. Dempsey on Sunday about what is being done to deal with ISIS in Iraq.

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — U.S. airstrikes on Islamic militants in Iraq have blunted their momentum, but defeating them will require a broad regional approach that draws support from Iraq’s neighbors and includes political and diplomatic efforts, the top U.S. military officer said.

The long-term strategy for defeating the militants includes having the United States and its allies reach out to Iraq’s neighbors, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday….

Dempsey is working with Central Command to prepare “options to address [the Islamic State] both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including airstrikes,” said Col. Ed Thomas, Dempsey’s spokesman, in a statement.

The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has shown itself to be so brutal that Iraq and the U.S. should be able to find “willing partners” to join efforts to defeat the militants, Dempsey said.

But military power won’t be enough, Dempsey said. The strategy must take a comprehensive approach that includes political and diplomatic efforts to address the grievances of millions of Sunnis who have felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, he said.

Late Summer Garden, John Gordon

Late Summer Garden, John Gordon

I get the feeling that we’re never going to escape involvement in the endless Middle East conflicts, thanks to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the neocon gang. What a horrible mess! We have our own messes to deal with here, but foreign wars always seem to trump the needs of the American people.

John Cassidy speculates at The New Yorker: What’s Next in Iraq and Syria?

On his first full day back from vacation, President Barack Obama could be forgiven for wishing he were still on Martha’s Vineyard. With confirmation that ISIS fighters have just captured another military base from the government forces of President Assad, and that Qatar has engineered the release of an American freelance journalist who was being held by a non-ISIS jihadist group, Obama has two formidable challenges to deal with.

The immediate task for Obama is deciding whether to launch American bombing raids on ISIS positions inside Syria, while simultaneously preparing his Administration, and the country at large, for the possibility of another video showing an American hostage being butchered. The ISIS militants, having carefully orchestrated the beheading of James Foley following the launch of U.S. strikes inside Iraq, will surely seek to exploit the fate of its remaining American hostages for maximum effect. Any U.S. decision to expand its air campaign is almost certain to be met with the release of more snuff films.

No President—no American—could take such a prospect lightly. At the same time, Obama has to guard against allowing emotion and wishful thinking to take over U.S. policy. That’s what happened after 9/11, and some of the chaos that we now see in the Middle East can be traced back to that historic blunder. What’s needed is calm cost-benefit analysis of the options open to the United States, taking account of its strategic interests, its values, and its capabilities. In short, we need what Danny Kahneman, the Princeton psychologist who pioneered behavioral economics, would refer to as some Type 2 thinking: a disciplined weighing of the likely consequences of our actions. If we give into our Type 1 reaction—horror, outrage, anger—we will be playing into the hands of the jihadists.

One place to start is by acknowledging two errors in thinking that have blighted U.S. policy in the past decade: the conservative delusion that the United States could, more or less single-handedly, use its military power to reinvent the Middle East, and the liberal illusion that we could simply walk away from the mess that Bush, Cheney & Co. created. Without the political willingness and the financial capability to garrison the region in the manner of postwar Germany and Japan, U.S. influence has to be exercised through air power, political proxies, economic inducements, and regional alliances. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that the United States and other Western countries have vital interests at stake, one of which is preventing the emergence of a rogue Islamic state that would provide a rallying point, and a safe haven, for anti-Western jihadists the world over.

Read the whole thing at the link.

A Garden in a Sea of Flowers, Ross Turner

A Garden in a Sea of Flowers, Ross Turner

The Economies of the U.S. and Europe

There has been so much breaking news for the past couple of months that we haven’t talked much about the economies of the U.S. and Europe. But today the European Central Bank is topping the headlines, and last week Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen spoke at Jackson Hole, so I thought I’d post a few economics stories.

Here’s CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Yellen called attention to what Americans in the job market already know–though the employment numbers look better, many people have stopped looking for work, and most of the new jobs are part-time and pay low wages.

A few more U.S. economy stories to check out:

The Wall Street Journal: Fed’s Yellen Remains Mum on Timing of Rate Change.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Job-Slack View Muddied by Pent-Up Wage Deflation.

Slate: The Fed Is Not As Powerful As We Think.

If you think the economy is struggling here, you should take a look at Europe, where austerity thinking has ruled since the economic crisis hit. Yesterday the French government collapsed. From The New York Times, French Cabinet Is Dissolved, a Victim of Austerity Battles.

PARIS — The collapse of the French government on Monday exposed widening divisions both within France’s leadership, and Europe more broadly, over austerity policies that many now fault for threatening to tip the eurozone back into recession.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that he would dissolve his government after a rancorous battle in his cabinet over whether the belt-tightening measures taken by President François Hollande — at the urging of Germany and European Union officials in Brussels — were impeding France’s recovery.

The dispute broke into the open when Mr. Vall’s outspoken economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, insisted in an interview over the weekend that austerity had gone too far. “The priority must be exiting the crisis, and the dogmatic reduction of deficits should come after,” he told the newspaper Le Monde.

He also took direct aim at the policies of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. “Germany is caught in a trap of austerity that it is imposing across Europe,” he said.

Even the formerly strong German economy is struggling now, according to Reuters (via NYT), Crisis in Ukraine Drags Economy in Germany.

The eurozone’s flatlining economy took another hit on Monday when data showed German business sentiment sagging for the fourth consecutive month. Chancellor Angela Merkel attributed some of her own country’s decline in the second quarter to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, over which tit-for-tat sanctions threaten trade. The Munich-based Ifo, a research firm, echoed some of those sentiments as it reported its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 companies, fell to a worse-than-expected 106.3 from 108, the lowest level in more than a year. The findings agreed with data earlier in the month on the second-quarter contraction in Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy. Klaus Wohlrabe, an Ifo economist, said his institute expected growth in Germany to be “close to zero” in the third quarter.

A few more headlines on the European economic situation:

The Guardian: An austerity revolt has broken the French government. Will the EU follow?

Bloomberg Businessweek on the European Central Bank, Draghi May Again Find Bazooka Words Beat Action With QE, and an editorial from The Financial Times, Central banks at the crossroads.

Wisteria Flowers in Bloom at Pergola at Portland Japanese Garden Stone Path

Wisteria Flowers in Bloom at Pergola at Portland Japanese Garden Stone Path

Ferguson Stories

Yesterday, on the day of Michael Brown’s funeral, The New York Times published a story that got a great deal of attention because of its insensitive characterization of the dead teenager. Here the paragraph that attracted the angry reaction:

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

Would the authors have written a similar paragraph about a white homicide victim? From Vox, The New York Times called Michael Brown “no angel.” Here’s how it described serial killers.

The New York Times’s description of Michael Brown as “no angel” has prompted a swift, critical reaction from other media outlets, including Vox, and various people on social media.

Alison Mitchell, national editor for the Times, defended the term in conversations with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple:

“It comes out of the opening scene,” says Mitchell, who notes that “like many teenagers,” Brown was indeed “no angel.” Okay, but would the New York Times have chosen this term — which is commonly used to describe miscreants and thugs — if the victim had been white? Mitchell: “I think, actually, we have a nuanced story about the young man and if it had been a white young man in the same exact situation, if that’s where our reporting took us, we would have written it in the same way.” When asked whether she thought that “no angel” was a loaded term in this context, Mitchell said she didn’t believe it was. “The story … talks about both problems and promise,” she notes.

The Times’s response has done little to calm the storm. Sean McElwee, research assistant at Demos, dug into the archives to compare the Times’s description of Brown to the newspaper’s previous descriptions of serial killers and terrorists. Of course, comparing articles produced decades apart by different writers and editors isn’t an exact science. But it does lend context to the widespread frustration over how young black men are portrayed in the media.

A series of McElwee’s tweets are posted at the link, and are well worth reading.

One more from Salon by Joan Walsh, Ferguson’s booming white grievance industry: Fox News, Darren Wilson and friends. Check it out at Salon.

How did this post get so long?! I’d better wrap it up. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!