Thursday, August 28, 2014

Losing Dominion

The widely-condemned 2003 invasion of Iraq set a precedent for ignoring international law, said Chas Freeman, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and past president of the Middle East Policy Council. That has opened the door for regional powers to follow suit, regardless of American preferences. Washington’s foremost regional ally, Israel, has frequently resorted to military strikes in Gaza over the past decade, and has long warned that it reserves the right to unilaterally decide whether to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Gulf states and Egypt have seen many instances of Israel doing whatever it wants without us,” Freeman said. “They’re saying, ‘if Israel can use U.S. weapons to defy the U.S. and pursue its own foreign policy objectives, why can’t they?’ ”


If nothing else, Freeman added, “what this says is that the U.S. can no longer take followership [by its regional allies] for granted.”


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

US Military Officials a Bit Shocked by Israeli Attack on Gaza

“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.” A West Point graduate who is a veteran of two wars and is the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., he added that even if Israeli artillery units fired guided munitions, it would have made little difference.

Even the most sophisticated munitions have a circular area of probability, Gard explained, with a certain percentage of shells landing dozens or even hundreds of feet from intended targets. [...] So, if even 10 percent of the shells fired at combatants in Shujaiya landed close to but did not hit their targets — a higher than average rate of accuracy — that would have meant at least 700 lethal shells landing among the civilian population of Shujaiya during the night of July 20 into June 21.


Artillery pieces used during the operation included a mix of Soltam M71 guns and U.S.-manufactured Paladin M109s (a 155-mm howitzer), each of which can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said [a] senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”


Senior U.S. officers who are familiar with the battle and Israeli artillery operations, which are modeled on U.S. doctrine, assessed that, given that rate of artillery fire into Shujaiya, IDF commanders were not precisely targeting Palestinian military formations as much as laying down an indiscriminate barrage aimed at cratering the neighborhood. [...] Initially, said the senior Pentagon officer, Israel’s artillery used “suppressing fire to protect their forward units but then poured in everything they had, in a kind of walking barrage. Suppressing fire is perfectly defensible. A walking barrage isn’t.”

So why are we still supporting Israel?

Time for Another Cleansing Flood

Merely the news headlines on Democracy Now!'s August 27 show are enough to make you wonder whether mankind should be permitted to continue.  You may not want to watch.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

And Furthermore...

It's not bad enough police departments are using military weapons, they're LOSING them.
According to the media outlet Fusion, its independent investigation into the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” which equips state and local police departments across the US with excess military equipment, turned up an alarming trend: Not only did many law enforcement agencies fail to comply with the program’s guidelines, they routinely lost dangerous weaponry.

Already, the investigation has found that police departments in Arizona, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, and others have lost or cannot account for various types of weapons. This list includes M14 and M16 assault rifles, .45-caliber pistols, shotguns, and even vehicles.

So far, 184 state and local departments have reportedly been suspended in a program that involves the participation of more than 8,000 agencies. Since 1990, the 1033 program has administered more than $4.3 billion worth of equipment and weapons.


“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it's another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly," Lynch added. "We don't know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved."


Where's the Harm?

Bill Kristol [neoconservative political analyst and commentator] summed up the essence of his foreign policy platform in an interview with Laura Ingraham on Tuesday.


"Someone said, 'we can't just bomb,'" he said, speaking about an ABC panel he was on. "You know, why don't we just [bomb?] We know where ISIS is. What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there. We could kill a lot of very bad guys!"


An Inconvenient Idea

Vulnerable Democrats fighting for their political lives are frustrated that [Senator Tim] Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, is pressing for a debate on giving President Obama new war powers [to approve military strikes in Iraq and Syria]at a time when the commander-in-chief has become a political liability for them.

“Asking anybody to take that vote within two months of an election is just stupid. Why would you put people in that position?” said a Senate Democratic aide.

Really. Just stupid to be thinking about dealing with a current issue when there are elections on the horizon.
A vote to authorize Obama to strike at Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria beyond the 60-day window set out by the War Powers Resolution would be a de facto referendum on the president, according to another aide.

“I think it’s dumb,” said the second Democratic aide. “The less the president is in the news with anything right now, the better.”
We can deal with crises later. We’re talking elections here.
Kaine believes granting the president the power to wage war is the most solemn responsibility Congress has. It certainly should not be casually handed off to the executive branch, he asserts.

He also argues that it is important to achieve public consensus behind military action so that American troops know they have the support of their country.


Kaine pressed his case on Monday, arguing that Obama may not have constitutional authority to attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because it is uncertain whether the group poses an imminent threat to the United States.

“I am calling for the mission and objectives for this current significant military action against ISIL to be made clear to Congress, the American people, and our men and women in uniform. And Congress should vote up or down on it,” he said in a statement.

Seriously, dude. Elections! Where do you think you are?
[A Democratic aide] said the political danger posed to vulnerable Democrats is slight because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the head of messaging and floor strategy, are unlikely to schedule a tough political vote in September.
They’ve got it covered. No worries.

Joint Statement on Libya

The governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States strongly condemn the escalation of fighting and violence in and around Tripoli, Benghazi, and across Libya, especially against residential areas, public facilities, and critical infrastructure, by both land attacks and air strikes.


We call on Libya’s interim government and the elected House of Representatives to adopt inclusive policies that benefit all Libyans and to build a government that meets the Libyan peoples’ needs for security, reconciliation, and prosperity. We encourage the Constitutional Drafting Assembly to immediately pursue the drafting of a document that enshrines and protects the rights of all Libyans. Further, we encourage the international community to support Libya's elected institutions.

We believe outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.

  State Dept via Glenn Greenwald
Because France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States are neither outside or interfering, I suppose.

Did they strongly condemn the same thing in Gaza and I just missed it?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Black in Beverly Hills: Extremely Unfortunate

Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was "extremely unfortunate" that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.


Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.


Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.

  LA Times
While they did what?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An All-American Vacation

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

  Review Journal
Hey kids! Wanna shoot an uzi? Me first, Daddy!

A nine-year-old girl accidentally killed the instructor.
Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe [...] said the girl safely and successfully fired the 9 mm weapon several times when it was set in the “single-shot” mode.

He said the weapon was put into the “fully-automatic” mode before the girl fired again with the instructor standing off to her left. The weapon recoiled and drifted left as the girl squeezed off an undetermined number of rounds as she maintained possession but lost control of the Uzi as it raised up above her head.

“The guy just dropped,” McCabe said of shooting instructor Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, who suffered at least one gunshot to the head.

And speaking of guns…
First, there was the law passed earlier this year that expands Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law and allows firearms in airports, libraries, churches and nightclubs. Now, there’s Dennis Krauss.

Providing a new example of the [Georgia’s] notoriously permissive gun measures, Ian Millhiser at Think Progress explains how Krauss, an ex-cop who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in 1999, regained his gun rights — despite the fact that he initially attempted to rape the woman with his gun.

Oh, it's worse than that. The woman had called the police for protection from her husband.

And it's worse than that.
Krauss was also charged with several other instances of harassment or disturbing physical violence, including beating a prisoner “so severely the man’s brain bled” and threatening to file false charges against another man in order to have sex with his wife, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But neither those allegations nor his sexual assault conviction have permanently prevented Krauss from owning firearms; he regained that right in 2013.

The Quantum Mitt

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has repeatedly said he is not planning to run for president in 2016 but acknowledged Tuesday “circumstances can change.”

As quickly as Mitt Romney’s position. Read this wonderful essay on Mitt Romney from his last attempt: A QuantumTheory of Mitt Romney by David Javerbaum.

Under these Newtonian principles, a candidate’s position on an issue tends to stay at rest until an outside force — the Tea Party, say, or a six-figure credit line at Tiffany — compels him to alter his stance, at a speed commensurate with the size of the force (usually large) and in inverse proportion to the depth of his beliefs (invariably negligible).


[T]he “Mitt Romney” who seems poised to be the Republican nominee is but one of countless Mitt Romneys, each occupying his own cosmos, each supporting a different platform, each being compared to a different beloved children’s toy but all of them equally real, all of them equally valid and all of them running for president at the same time, in their own alternative Romnealities, somewhere in the vast Romniverse.

But the Romney candidacy represents literally a quantum leap forward.