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Thu May 28, 2015 at 03:54 PM PDT

The GOP's Iraq Problem

by gjohnsit

 In recent days we've been entertained by the desperate flip-flopping of Republican candidates on the issue of the Iraq War.
  Beyond the humor factor there is a deadly seriousness to the discussion for those candidates that can best be summed up in one chart. This chart.
 photo iraqwar_zpsqwgu7vc9.jpg

 The dilemma is simple: If you want to win the Republican nomination then then you must embrace the Iraq War.
  But if you want to win the general election you must distance yourself from the Iraq War.
  Hence, the flip-flopping.

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With great fanfare, Baghdad is launching a military offensive to take back Ramadi, and Anbar province in general, from ISIS.
  The many problems that this offensive symbolizes can best be summed up in the name that Baghdad gave it - Labaik ya Hussein

 A spokesman for the Shi'ite militias, known as Hashid Shaabi, said the code name for the new operation would be "Labaik ya Hussein," a slogan in honor of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed killed in the 7th Century battle that led to the schism between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
   Asked about the openly sectarian codename, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said: "I think it's unhelpful."
"Unhelpful" is the wrong word.
President Bush describing our bombing muslim countries as a "crusade" was unhelpful.
   This is downright alarming.
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Sat May 23, 2015 at 12:57 PM PDT

An update on the Patriot Act debate

by gjohnsit

The debate in the Senate about extending the Patriot Act has gotten so bizarre that I suspect it is all kabuki.
  Mitch McConnell's inability to muster a fillibuster-proof 60 votes for a straight extension of the controversial act has gotten most of the headlines, but there is a lot more happening underneath that we need to be aware of.

 By the time senators broke for the holiday, they had blocked a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the key provisions in the Patriot Act.
   The main stumbling block was a House-passed provision to end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.
Even the White House backs these extremely modest reforms, yet McConnell, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and a majority of Senators want no reforms at all despite a federal appeals court ruling the domestic spying illegal earlier this month.
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Fri May 22, 2015 at 11:30 AM PDT

So what is the GOP strategy for Iraq?

by gjohnsit

 Republican candidates have decided to use the recent setbacks against ISIS as a winning issue in the 2016 election, and it seems to be working. A poll from October shows a majority of people believe that Republicans can handle the threat of ISIS better than Democrats.
   But what exactly is the GOP strategy for Iraq?
 photo isispoll_zpsle1warlu.png

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 Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback promised to be able to balance the state budget by cutting taxes for the wealthy. That didn't work out.
   So to help cover the budget gap he has decided to punish the poor.

 Yet legislators in Kansas, not trusting the poor to use their money wisely, have voted to limit how much cash that welfare beneficiaries can receive, effectively reducing their overall benefits, as well.
   The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits.
   Since there's a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.
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 Right-wing articles are very entertaining. Did you know that we won the Iraq War?
  I didn't.
 At least Bush won Iraq before Obama lost Iraq.
  I've discovered from reading right-wing sources that Iraq was perfectly fine until President Obummer fouled it up.

    Let's forget for a moment that there is a difference between "winning" and "won". As a fan of Sunday football, my team is often winning the game, but unfortunately they play four quarters.
  It also just so happens that Obama managed to retroactively go back in time and lose the Iraq War, two years after we pulled our troops out. Which means we "lost" the war after the fans had already gone home.

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 Even before the Fall of Ramadi the GOP presidential candidates were foaming-at-the-mouth war hawks. It'll only get worse.

  The message itself is coming through clearly—at the “summit” of presidential hopefuls last month in Nashua, N.H., where Ted Cruz roused the audience with his vow to “destroy” ISIS, and last week in Greenville, S.C., where Marco Rubio demanded that “the strongest military power in the world” resume its cocky posture and put its enemies on notice (“We will find you and we will kill you,”) and Scott Walker lamented the lack, in Obama, of “a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.”
   If it all sounded familiar, so does the revived fervor for “moral clarity” and “the American idea,” not to mention promises of a (tax-free) military buildup and an attitude of indifference bordering on contempt for every ally but Israel.
  It is the language—need it be said?—of George W. Bush, who is suddenly relevant again.
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Sun May 17, 2015 at 12:08 PM PDT

Our Approaching Tet Moment

by gjohnsit

Leading up to the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Pentagon tried to convince the American public that it was winning the war.
  General Bruce Palmer, Jr., one of Westmoreland's three Field Force commanders, claimed that "the Viet Cong has been defeated" and that "He can't get food and he can't recruit. He has been forced to change his strategy from trying to control the people on the coast to trying to survive in the mountains."
  Just two months before Tet, Westmoreland said the North Vietnamese were "unable to mount a major offensive...I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing...We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view." During an interview with Time magazine, Westmoreland mocked the North Vietnamese: "I hope they try something, because we are looking for a fight."

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Sun May 10, 2015 at 09:50 PM PDT

A Breathtakingly Immoral Plan

by gjohnsit

 One of the largest humanitarian dramas on the planet is playing out in the waters off the coast of Libya. Thousands upon thousands of desperate refugees are risking their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, and many of them aren't making it.
   The European Union has drawn up plans to respond to this crisis...with force.

 The European Union has drawn up plans for military attacks in Libya to try to curb the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean by targeting the trafficking networks. It is to launch a bid on Monday to secure a UN mandate for armed action in Libya’s territorial waters.
 It seems incredible that someone would think the proper way to respond to the suffering and dying of hungry refugees is to bomb them, and yet that may not even be the worst part.
 Britain is drafting the UN security council resolution that would authorise the mission, said senior officials in Brussels. It would come under Italian command, have the participation of around 10 EU countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and Italy, and could also drag in Nato although there are no plans for initial alliance involvement.
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Thu May 07, 2015 at 09:17 AM PDT

Court rules NSA spying is illegal

by gjohnsit

 This is HUGE!

 (CNN)A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency's controversial collection of Americans' phone records, the subject of documents leaked by Edward Snowden, is not legal under the Patriot Act.
   The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held in the case, which was brought by the ACLU, that the telephone metadata collection program "exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized." The court did not rule on a larger Constitutional issue and sent the case back down to a lower court for further proceedings.
  A three-judge panel held that the text of the Patriot Act "cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program."
  "If Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, unambiguously," the court said. "Until such times as it does so, however, we decline to deviate from widely accepted interpretations of well-established legal standards. "
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  The American news media is waking up to the fact that the tide of war has turned against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
   The instrument of this change has been the Nusra Front -- al Qaeda's franchise in Syria.

  In just the last few days articles have appeared in the Washington Post, CNN, and CBS News just to name a few.

"What you have now is what appears to be the Syrian government's inability to control -- not just [Idlib] -- but to hold territory and to defend and fight back," Zarate said. "You're seeing a real gap in capability."
 Indeed, the striking fact isn't the recent losses, but the Syrian government's lack of response to those losses. It's as if they are incapable of responding.
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Fri May 01, 2015 at 08:11 AM PDT

Why Syria needs an earthquake

by gjohnsit

 The earthquake that struck Nepal killed around 6,000 people and displaced nearly half a million. It was a horrible humanitarian crisis that justifiably got the world's attention.

  If only Syria could be so lucky.

 The scale of this crisis dwarfs any other recent humanitarian event. Syria’s 12 million people in need of assistance is a number more than twice as large as the 5 million affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, 3.5 million affected by the Haiti earthquake, and 1.7 million affected by Hurricane Katrina.
   American responded to each of these other disasters with hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. World Vision raised $36 million in the year following the Haiti earthquake—$5.9 million of it in the first week alone! In comparison, after four years World Vision U.S. has been able to raise just $2.7 million for our response in Syria.
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