Daily Archives: July 20, 2013

Ramblings in May

This is more of the same type of all-over-the-place stuff I posted earlier.

Wed., May 1


Yesterday I scanned through the newest items at Josh Landis’ Syria Comment.  With McCain and Grassley and their ilk shouting for war, reading through it made me realize how stupid that pressure is (as usual).  I got a picture of splintered groups of fighters, some true Freedom Fighters, some Salafi al-Nusra types, and some just thugs out to make money stripping factories and offices of equipment and other things to sell in Turkey.  There was even a video of people who have learned to “refine” Syrian oil for resale inside the country – gasoline, kerosene for cooking etc.  It sounds more like Somalia and Iraq than anything else, and it is certainly not a place for the US military.

(I’m sitting in the computer lab, baby-sitting kids who aren’t being tested, or who are late getting to school as well as those who finish before the rest of their class is done.  There are 2 “velcro” IA’s in the room plus the gym teacher, me and 6 kids.  Overkill.)

Richard Falk from his blog of April 19 on the Boston bombing and America’s place in  the world- the last paragraph:


     “Aside from the tensions of the moment, self-scrutiny and mid-course reflections on America’s global role is long overdue. Such a process is crucial both for the sake of the country’s own future security and also in consideration of the wellbeing of others. Such adjustments will eventually come about either as a result of a voluntary process of self-reflection or through the force of unpleasant events. How and when this process of reassessment occurs remains a mystery. Until it does, America’s military prowess and the abiding confidence of its leaders in hard power diplomacy makes the United States a menace to the world and to itself. Such an observation is as true if the more avowedly belligerent Mitt Romney rather than the seemingly dovish Barack Obama was in the White House. Such bipartisan support for maintaining the globe-girdling geopolitics runs deep in the body politic, and is accompanied by the refusal to admit the evidence of national decline. The signature irony is that the more American decline is met by a politics of denial, the more rapid and steep will be the decline, and the more abrupt and risky will be the necessary shrinking of the global leadership role so long played by the United States. We should be asking ourselves at this moment, “how many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?” “


Ok.  Ok.  So the hawks finally drag Obama into arming rebels, a no-fly zone and bombing raids.  Then what?  The FSA is not a coherent group, and doesn’t seem to have the capacity for governing.  It has set up no councils in its areas, nor has it seemed to hand out much in the way of relief to battered civilians.  Al-Nusra seems to be better at all that, and it is allied with Al-Qaeda.  Even if our help would bring down Assad, there is nothing but a vacuum to replace him, and there won’t be any Occupation as in Iraq to force unappetizing solutions down the throats of the locals.  What then?  And why is McCain so determined to get us into another war?  What’s in it for him?

Our own government seems to be falling apart.  1. The IRS over does going after TeaParty claims for 501(c)(4) status.  Really?  It’s too bad they weren’t smart enough to pepper “progressive” groups the same way, if only to cover themselves. (Only, as it turned out later, they did)

2.  The Justice department has gone after the phone records and other data of AP reporters who reported on an operation in Yemen that was supposed to be secret.  Part of the drone assassination plans?

3.  Then there’s the hoopla in Congress about the supposed cover up of the real “facts” about the tragedy in Bangazi.


On the first two.  The trend began in the Bush administration driven by Cheney’s fear of the “enemy”, but the administration under Obama seems to have taken it to a huge extreme charging people with violating the “Espionage” Act which has been used over time since 1917 as a government tool to punish people it didn’t like – “reds”, “Communists”, government employed leakers of information, reporters, and others.  Few of these seem to have posed any real dire threat to the US. Much of the time, the government simply wants to avoid being embarrassed as in the WikiLeaks affair.  If private Manning remains in jail for years, or gets the death penalty because he had a moral perception of right and wrong would be a gross miscarriage of justice.  Embarrassment musn’t produce that kind of an ending.


The President doesn’t have a magic wand.  He sits atop of the government, but he doesn’t have control over all of it.  These days, he can’t even put his own nominees in charge of the various departments.  Looking in from the outside, some of us Americans seem naively to think that the President personally directs every department of government.  He’d never get anything done if that were true.  His appointees must carry out the policies he lays down, and when such people turn out to be less than adequate managers, disagreements and scandals can happen.  Obama does not have a machiavellian prince like Cheney with hands on all the threads to make people push the same policies.  Congress also has itself to blame for stalling even the most mundane appointments, and basically crippling the State Department by denying it funds.  All the “leadership” in the world is not going to change that.  Bush sent  the military on diplomatic missions for this reason, but generals, no matter how intelligent and well trained, are not diplomats and that caused other problems, mostly in places like Pakistan where they don’t take kindly to being ordered around by America.  Lastly, we as voters need to take responsibility for our own government.  We put these people in office so we must share the blame for whatever goes wrong, and we have elected some pretty stupid people over the past 12 years.


May 22: Wonderful quote:

“You want another great president, pray for another great crisis. Only nation-encumbering calamity tames our political system, making elites and the public receptive to allowing a president to lead America the Unruly.”  Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy

(Maureen Dowd should read this article.  Maybe then she wouldn’t keep harping on the lack of presidential “leadership”.  The office of the President doesn’t give the man a magic wand to make to world perfect in her eyes.)

Reflecting on the impossibilities of the job, Mr. Miller sums it up this way:

“What to do? Just get over it. Lower expectations. Don’t give up the search for quality leaders, but be honest about what a president can and cannot do. Don’t wait around to be rescued by The One — that’s not the American way. Maybe by controlling our presidential fantasies, we can stop expecting our presidents to be great, and allow them to start being good.”

Seriously, one of the most thoughtful pieces I’ve read in a long, long time.


Stephen Walt has a wonderful blog post in the same issue of FP titled “Top 10 warning signs of ‘liberal imperialism'”


As cure, he recommends the following:


…reading Alexander Downes and Jonathan Monten’s “Forced to Be Free?: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Rarely Leads to Democratization” (International Security, 2013), along with Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan and Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.


I’ll have to look for the first 2.


May 28:


McCain has turned up in Syria for an obviously well-planned meeting with leaders of the Opposition.  They undoubtedly have told him exactly what he’s been wanting to hear, so he will come back to the Senate and demand that the US provide a no-fly zone, heavy arms and ammunition, and more to the rebels.  Trouble is that McCain’s credibility on these trips reeks of all the mistakes he made in Iraq, including the fraudulent walk in the market without a flak vest to prove how “safe” it was, ignoring all the hundreds of soldiers who had been detailed to protect him.  He wants to support the rebels in Syria hoping that “democracy” will emerge if they win, but there’s no guarantee of that, and it’s far more likely that the country will fall apart into fighting factions of warlords, spreading even more unrest in that part of the world than there is already.  He’s also undermining Obama’s efforts to gather a peace meeting between all the parties, which might have a chance of starting some negotiations between Assad and those fighting against him.   Some rebels have refused to meet with the dictator which may make that angle fruitless.

Ramblings in April

It’s been several months since I’ve had time to post anything here, but I kept jotting things down as they occurred to me.  I thought I’d divide them up in monthly chunks so the pages wouldn’t be so long to slog through.  This is copy and paste stuff, so we’ll see what happens.

Tues. 4.16.13

Maybe after all the ugliness and horror of yesterday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon it’s time to look at something very beautiful to balance the soul.

There was a link to a video of Sasha Cohen doing the rite of Spring, which doesn’t seem to be there anymore.

Found it!

Thurs 4.18.13

It’s time for voters to take control from Republicans who only listen to special interests with lies and gobs of cash!  The woman who shouted “Shame!” in the Senate yesterday was right.  Many Republicans say they support a “right to life”, but yet they also support those who promote the use of firearms that take that right away.  Are they setting up their targets for the future?  How many of those unwanted babies whom they say they want to protect will end up as victims of shootings as an adult?

Controversy over gory photos published after the Boston bombing leaves me a bit stunned.  Americans have been inflicting that kind of mayhem in various places around the world for 12 years.  (And on many other occasions as well)  We should know what the consequences are; see it in all its gory detail.  Then maybe we’ll think more carefully the next time the rabble rousers urge us on to a lethal assault somewhere in the world.  Maybe if we live it and see it and realize that it’s not a game or a far away thing from which we’re excepted, safe, cocooned in our continental vastness, we’ll be less hasty to inflict on others that which we’re not prepared to suffer ourselves.  The photos I’ve seen from Baghdad have been far worse than worse has been shown so far about Boston.

Tues. 4.23 13

I read the transcript in the Globe of Tsarnayev’s hearing in the prison hospital.  (Unfortunately, I no longer have the link to the Globe, but you can read it here.)  It gave me a weird feeling.  I imagine him lying there, tubes coming out of all sorts of places, perhaps a bit groggy from pain medicine, with the doctor, agents, lawyers, judge and clerk crowding around , yet being adjudged lucid, alert and able to answer questions.  “I find that the defendant is alert, mentally competent and lucid. He is aware of the nature of the proceedings.” The description doesn’t seem to fit what they have said about his wounds to the face, neck, legs and hand.  I don’t see how this can be a fair hearing.  At least he was Mirandized.

The accounts of the brothers in the Globe seem to mix the brothers up sometimes, and now they want to tie them to another horrible murder in 2011?  They seem to lose track of who was radicalized, the older Tamerlan or the younger Dzhokhar.  Most accounts indicate that it was Temerlan who became devout, grew a beard, and became more radicalized, but sometimes in the writing it’s not clear at all which brother is being talked about.

A question I saw posted in the Twitter feed on Sunday that perhaps Tamerlan had been hit in the head too many times in boxing which could have caused a personality change.  I went to look for it yesterday, but came up empty.  It was a comment from one of the women reporters in the Globe Twitter feed.  No one else seems to have picked it up, and I have not seen it mentioned anywhere I’ve looked.  It could make some sense though.