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Hillary, Diana and Journalists

article-2438612-186681b100000578-241_634x421Last week, in another unguarded moment, the Slate Political Gabfest trio revealed what the deal was with Hillary’s emails. Go to about the 21 minute mark of their latest episode “I Threw a Chair in Reno Just to Watch it Fly” where they start to discuss why it is that The Donald can get away with not revealing his tax returns but Hillary damaged herself seriously because she didn’t want journalists filing FOIA requests to go sifting through her emails to find stupid little things and turns of phrases that could be made into gigantic, distracting nothings.

They sound like whiny little children. They’re going to camp on these emails and the unreleased transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and they readily acknowledge that all they and their journalist droogs are going to do is make a mountain of something as trivial as “thank you all for allowing me to talk to you today”.

It reminds me of the papparazzi that regarded it as their right to follow Princess Diana around. Everything she did was documented to death. Literally. Oh sure, you could blame the chauffeur for driving while intoxicated but he wouldn’t have been speeding through a Paris Tunnel in the first place if there weren’t a posse of photographers hot on Diana’s tail. If reports from other bystanders are correct, they took pictures of her while she was dying in the backseat of the car.

It would be incorrect to assume that because Hillary Clinton is a former first lady, twice elected Senator and former Secretary of State that she has too much experience and gravitas to be permanently damaged by this. Somehow, the pundits think, she will pull herself out of this. She’ll take a hit in the polls, only weeks away from the biggest delegate prize in the primaries, and it will be a nail biter all the way to the convention, but she will still, somehow, emerge triumphant.

I’m not so sure. I’ve seen up close and personal how women in professional life are always more harshly criticized for stuff that their male counterparts can get away with. Men are allowed to be human. Women have to be Dianas, either chaste  or chased. They get away with nothing. And while it is encouraging that some men are starting to appreciate just how presidential she is compared to Mr. Can’t Pick a Right Shade of Self Tanner, they fail to acknowledge that in order for women to BE Presidents, they have to somehow transcend being mortal human beings.

At the moment, Donald Trump can do and say anything and get away with it. His persistent attacks on Hillary this week for everything she has ever done or said in her entire life illustrates why she might be motivated to put her email on a separate server that wouldn’t be subjected to FOIA requests by “journalists” on a fishing expedition for “gotcha” emails, and wouldn’t be the target of hacking because no one outside of her address list would know that it existed.

One tantalizing tidbit that came up last night when CNN was discussing it was why didn’t the President know she was using an unauthorized email server? Presumably, he knew she wasn’t contacting him from Hillary.Clinton@State.gov. Why didn’t HE insist she use a government email server?

In any case, there were no laws broken, she didn’t send email that she knew ahead of time was classified and the server was never hacked, unlike the other state department servers. This is simply a case of a woman who knows that everything she thinks, writes and says is has the potential to become twisted and misused for political purposes or just for fun, as Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson admit.

The timing is right, now that she is being attacked relentlessly by Trump who seemingly has spent a lot of money for opposition research portraying her in the worst possible light to his voters, for her to give her “ask forgiveness rather than permission speech”. And then, if the Democrats really want to win in November, it’s crucial that they close ranks behind her and defend her vigorously to give her the mantle of superhuman invincibility she needs to get elected.

But if history is any guide, they’ll be bystanders at the car wreck while the butterflies take selfies next to the corpse.

Update: OMG, the Gabfest trio are at it again, (the “Weiner” edition) blaming the victim and repeatedly asking for some unattainably high standard of humility from Clinton before they let it go. What would it take guys? A Cersei Lannister naked walk of repentance thru Georgetown?  Why isn’t an apology enough? You admit she had a good reason to do what she did because you also freely admit you can’t control yourselves. So what is this never ending pursuit about? When will it be enough?

Media people have a real problem and they sound a little defensive about it in this podcast. Good.  They are the ones who should be repenting.

I blame the Democrats. They are not saying that after 25 years and upending her underwear drawers, it is time for the “journalists” to move on.

This podcast was simply unlistenable. They are so out of touch and so brazen in their admissions that I can’t listen without wanting to smack someone. Listening discretion is advised.

 

Butt Clenching Truths

diversity-training-550x365Hmm, it’s hard to find the first paragraph this morning.

There are two curious instances of rare truth in the media in the last 24 hours. These will give you an uncomfortable feeling in your sphincter because instances where journalists observe and accurately analyze happen so infrequently that the events that are being reported must be significant.

The first recommendation is from Slate’s Political Gabfest. This episode is called the “Rough Them Up”. The panelists are John Dickerson, Ruth Marcus, Dahlia Lithwick and David Plotz. I’m beginning to really like John Dickerson. He seems to do his homework and he’s got a slightly irritable and impatient edge. This guy is barely masking his contempt for Third Wayer David Plotz. It’s fun to listen to.

In this edition, John Dickerson precisely lays out Trump’s path and math to the nomination. The panelists also discuss what I brought up a couple of days ago: The parties are private. They make the rules and they can break the rules to suit them. What is going to be important is the media narrative when the rules favor one candidate over another. We saw this happen in 2008 when the media immediately jumped on the “Why is Hillary harshing Obama’s mellow?” at the convention in Denver. Yeah, what made her think she was entitled to a legitimate roll call vote where delegates who were pledged to her on the first ballot thought they were allowed to, you know, vote for her? It seems like the Slate panelists either want to forget that 2008 happened or they aren’t aware of how close the delegate count really was in 2008.

But they are right about the parties’ prerogatives to change the rules at will, voters be damned. If you got burned in 2008 for supporting Hillary, go listen and you will start to sympathize with the Trump voter. I mean, it will pass because you are not a crazy person. But you will understand the frustration of millions of people who have finally had enough of establishment political groups forcing their preferred candidates on the rest of us after pretending that the primaries actually count or something.

They also talk about Trump rallies, the deeply unsettling and scary takeaway messages from Trump and his supporters, and the rhetoric of pathology that has permeated Trump’s campaign. This is a serious problem and we should take the candidate and his supporters at their words. They are not kidding. Then they discuss the safe, boring choice of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Dahlia Lithwick nails what it means and what Garland’s nomination says about Barack Obama. In short, Obama is about as boring, pedestrian and middle of the road as a guy can get. It is not in his nature to shake up anything.

Thank you, Dahlia. I’ve been waiting 8 long years for someone to finally say it.

The second piece is about what Obama told donors the other day about how it’s time for Bernie to drop out and everyone to get behind Hillary. The title of the piece is Obama quietly signals time to unite behind Clinton.

Let’s just examine the title here for a moment. First, what he’s doing is sneaky. He does this “quietly”, “privately”. Secondly, it’s with his donors. He’s got them, they’re his. There is a reciprocal agreement. Thirdly, he doesn’t care that the primaries are still in full swing. He’s more interested in shaping the outcome without all those pesky voters.

This is and has been his method for years.

If this report is accurate, it just confirms that Obama is the frenemy Hillary can do without. This is the upper middle class corporate ladder climbing president who could be living in some swank northern Jersey suburb, playing golf with other men of the same socio-economic group, telling them that, sure, Hillary doesn’t *seem* authentic and she’s not exciting, but she’s really talented, we should all get behind her now and it’s time to show Bernie, and all the people that Bernie attracts, the door. It’s like getting a glimpse of what that midlevel manager colleague of yours is really saying about you to the bosses behind closed doors.

See reference to what Dahlia Lithwick said about Obama’s personality above.

I’ll say it again after eight years of saying it: I’ve never been impressed or wowed! by Obama. He’s had a pretty good PR team but I found his campaign speeches to be endless run-on collections of prepositional phrases without a point. Maybe some people are impressed by that. It did nothing for me. His record was, what, spotty? Non-existent? He came out of almost nowhere. His favorite politicians were, um, Republicans. He wrote some self-indulgent biographies. Annnnnd that’s about it.  Lawyers, even ones from Harvard, are a dime a dozen these days. Yahhhhwwwn. It’s difficult to find a more establishment politician than Barack Obama.

I am not surprised that there are a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who feel burned by his two terms in office. They really believed the hype about hope and change, even though the guy they picked doesn’t have a single cell of change in his body. This is the guy who is talking about Hillary’s authenticity. I hope the former Obama supporters who are feeling the Bern this year have learned something but they probably haven’t. I keep thinking I can’t get more disgusted by Obama but he always manages to do it one more time.

In any case, this politically tone deaf president (whoops! totally forgot the latest episode of Serial, season 2, called Thorny Politics, where Obama screwed up the return of Bowe Bergdahl. Yeah, go listen to that.), has succeeded in pissing off just about everyone by going to this single donor event. Nevermind that these vulture capitalists have to be stroked so they see the value in supporting the best presidential candidate the country has had for 26 years. No, he’s got to be an arrogant douchebag and insult her and Bernie Sanders’ voters at the same time.

So, Sanders people out there, I really do feel your pain. I might be a Clintonista but I am not going to invalidate your vision or tell you to give up having your vote counted. That’s the Obama way, he and his buddies have been doing it for 8 years now, or maybe even longer, if the stuff I’ve read about his Chicago years are accurate. He’s all about eliminating opponents by forcing them to drop out and depriving their voters of an opportunity to vote. The quicker we can get Hillary to stop having to fluff Obama and his friends for money, the better off we are all going to be. In a way, it’s all going to come down to you.

Your choice. And you DO have a choice.

 

 

Wonderful Wednesday after Tremendous Tuesday: Short Notes

I’m awake now. Here are some thots in no particular order, feel free to add yours to the comments:

1.) Obama is supposed to pick a supreme court replacement today. I’m guessing that whoever it is will not really upset the stranglehold that conservatives have on the court especially with respect to the wealthy and well connected. I mean, he’s got to make a living after his term is over. Can’t upset his patrons too much. Besides, the Republicans would be stupid to turn him down on this even if they have to give up on overturning Roe v Wade. They’ve gotten pretty much all they wanted on abortion and they can always cynically fire up their base about it for the upcoming general election. They know how this works.

And so do we.

Here’s a blurb about Obama’s potential picks and strategy:

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Mr. Obama must decide whether to pick a “grand-slam” candidate — one like Judge Srinivasan, who is young, moderate and could have a profound effect on the court — or a “sacrifice fly,” like Judge Watford, an impressive judge whose positions on the death penalty and immigration would draw criticism from conservatives but whose nomination could exact a political price from Republicans who oppose him.

“The Obama White House are the ultimate practitioners of realpolitik — they have to be making a careful calculus, but the real question is not how do they win, it’s what game are they playing?” Mr. Turley said.

The choice depends in large part, they said, on whether Mr. Obama believes his nominee ultimately has a chance at being confirmed: “At best, the White House is looking at a highly contested nomination, and in those circumstances, the president generally will look for someone who is thoroughly moderate or a blind date.”

Judge Srinivasan, who would be the court’s first Indian-American, has the shortest judicial record of the three, which could limit the potential for conservative attacks, but also makes him a bit of an ideological cipher. Judge Watford, an African-American, could be the most liberal of the nominees, and did not get the kind of universal support that Judge Srinivasan did during his previous confirmation battle.

Um, from what I can recall, Srinivasan represented Enron at some point.

In any case, it ain’t going to be a liberal. As long as the court was 5-4 in favor of the conservatives, Obama could potentially nominate a more liberal-ish justice. We still have no idea how liberal Kagan and Sotomayor are because the other 5 justices are so far to the right. Yes, even Kennedy.

But as soon as one of the 5 died, it became important to restore the “balance”.

Just wait.

Toldja.

2.) Bernie people are welcome here. Except for the Butthurt guys (they are almost always guys).

3.) At this time in 2008, Hillary was crushing Barack Obama. Yep, go back and look. If you had added Florida and Michigan delegates to her totals, something the party deliberately withheld and the media never questioned, she would have appeared unstoppable. But stop her the party did, in favor of a guy who kept winning places like Idaho instead of the woman who won CA, MA, NY, NJ, PA, OH, TX, etc, etc. ( I’m always amused by the media people who insist that it would be *inconceivable* for a party to ignore the majority of their voters who want a particular candidate. We’ve seen that it can happen very easily and the party just muzzles the majority of its voters. That may come back to bite it eight years later when they find that some of their “old coalition” has defected to Donald Trump. You tried to warn them but did they listen?)  All I’m saying is that Hillary can never, ever let her guard down with her own party. There is an element in the party that is not ever going to accept her. But the Democrats are much more tolerant of sexism than racism. Let’s just admit that. And that means they rejected her in 2008, made her wait eight painful years, and will persist in withholding full acceptance because for these guys (and they are almost always guys) there is always another guy out there who is more profound, a genius, underappreciated, wise, younger than he looks blah-blah-blah. They will believe absolutely everything negative that is said about Hillary. It’s confirmation bias. So, for her, it will always be an uphill climb.

4.) That being said, she could make it a bit easier on herself if she stopped fluffing Obama and sang her own praises. Any guy from the party who runs next time will make damn sure to distance himself from her accomplishments. And in this case, Obama doesn’t really have significant accomplishments. There aren’t a lot of Obamacare fans out here, Hillary. Plus, no president in his right mind would pass up the chance to take out Bin Laden. It’s expected. So, you know, time to think of yourself. That’s what the sincere Bernie supporter is telling you. They’re desperate for a real change agent.

5.)  I was listening to CNN and their “journalists” really are clueless. It turns out that Trump supporters are “very concerned” with the economy. But the “journalists” say that these same people report that they are holding their own. My guess is that those people know people who have fallen through the big gaping holes in what used to be known as the safety net and they are worried sick that it will happen to them. Count me among the well known horror stories in my family. A college education and career in a STEM profession didn’t help me- at. all. It has been truly awful in ways I can’t even describe. THAT’S what could happen to any one of them.

And so what if gas prices have fallen. Have you seen the price of beef?? Just about a month ago, a single broccolli crown in one of the nicer grocery stores here cost $3.99. When did broccolli become an endangered species? So, you know, it’s still rough out here for those of us who had to go back to entry level jobs to make a living. If you’re living in Atlanta and you are a “journalist” making a couple hundred thousand working for CNN, maybe this is not obvious to you. Try to acknowledge that.

6.) Another episode of “The People vs OJ Simpson” dropped last night. One of the things I didn’t know about this case was how strenuously OJ objected to be seen as a black man. Johnny Cochran had to unwhiten his estate before the jury took a walk through, and brought african american art and personal photos from his own house to stage Simpson’s house. Oj Simpson’s peers were his neighbors in Brentwood, the people he golfed with, the wealthy white sports team owners, hot white women, and other people with privilege and power. Cochran had to erase all of that when the trial was moved from Santa Monica courthouse to downtown LA and he was phenomenally successful in changing Simpson from a man of privilege who hadn’t known hardship in twenty years, to a black man who was oppressed by the system.

But those of us who watched the evidence from the distance of two thousand miles away knew he was guilty. We also knew that his dream team cynically screamed racism for a guy who didn’t give two fucks for the people who acquitted him and would never be seen in their company. If they only knew what contempt he had for them and how helping them was the absolutely last thing on his agenda, would they have still voted to acquit? I wonder…

7.) Renegade female biologists strike the first blow on the science journal racket and post their preprints to the web in advance of publishing. Sweeet!

Post Michigan: Cassandra Speaks

12cfc2b1c122190e08dcb1336097240dI’m going to step out of my “let’s all be friends” mode for a minute to talk about what happened in Michigan last night.

Clinton won that debate in Michigan. She reached out to the African American community. She fluffed Obama til it hurt. She still lost. Now, I would still vote for Bernie in a heartbeat over whoever the Republican challenger turns out to be and I’m not even going to say that this would turn out to be a McGovernesque mistake. But something else is going on this election year that Hillary’s campaign staff is not catching on to.

Also note that if anything, the winner in Michigan has a much more awkward and less nuanced attitude towards race and gender. It’s not that he’s a racist. It’s that he looks very uncomfortable talking about it. And we can’t rule out the relentless attacks on Hillary’s character from almost everyone. Someday, we might have to address the scapegoat mechanism and why Americans are so determined to resolve a conflict by making the woman take the fall. But that’s for another post.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this comment from tdraicer from about a week ago. He summed up this election season and Hillary’s plight pretty well. Unlike the Republican party, the Democratic party has mechanisms to shape the outcome, as we saw in 2008. I’m not advocating cheating and rewriting the rules like it did for Obama. But Democrats have proportional delegation instead of “winner take all” and the superdelegates can throw their weight to their preferred candidate.

The Democratic nominee might not have a chance in November if the feeling of impotence among the electorate forces it to vote for drastic and dangerous change in order to make a point: They will not be ignored.

Here’s tdraicer’s comment (hope he doesn’t mind):

I confess to both enjoying and being appalled by the ironies of this campaign season.

In 2008, despite winning a majority of primary voters, Hillary was kept from the nomination by an alliance of mostly young white Democratic activists and black voters who chose symbolism over substance (an alliance backed by Wall Street money who knew exactly which Democrat was friendliest to their interests). At the same time I warned that an anti-liberal Democrat like Obama in the WH would push the GOP even more to the extreme right.

Now, 8 years later, after Obama disappointed those who saw him wrongly as a liberal, Hillary is again opposed by mostly young white Democratic activists, forcing her to embrace Obama and rely on the exact black symbolic attachment to Obama that cost her their votes 8 years ago. And minus those voters, (and to be fair, the Wall Street money), Bernie demonstrates the limits of the Obama coalition of 2008.

Meanwhile, having failed to elect two Right-wing candidates to the WH in 2008 and 2012, the GOP has finally gone off the cliff, apparently intent on nominating someone so far to the right it scares even many Republicans (which won’t stop them backing him in the end).

Which doesn’t, alas, mean Trump is doomed to lose. Apart from black voters, Obama isn’t that popular, and Hillary’s being forced into his arms could cost her, especially if the economy collapses between now and November. If there is a Revolutionary mood in the country, it lies among Trump supporters, not Bernie’s.

In 2000 when W. “won” I said, Better hope nothing like a major terrorist attack happens in the next four years. In 2004, after listening to Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention, I said, Better hope he never becomes President. In 2008 and 2012 I warned there was much worse than McCain or Romney waiting in the wings. In sum, I’m gaining a lot of sympathy for Cassandra: seeing the future and having no influence over it is not as much fun as one might wish.

Megadittos

Give Democrats a piece of your mind

The mid-term election is only weeks away and despite the lack of recovery for the vast majority of us, life is about to get a whole lot harder as the Senate is predicted to fall into the Republicans’ hands.

That leaves us with Barack Obama to guard the door from the lunatics.  In other words, we’re totally screwed.

But why sink into despair?  If you’re disappointed and angry at the way the last six years (and two to go) have turned out, you probably have good reason to be in spite of what Paul Krugman says.  The Democrats are not the Chicago Cubs.  We do not have to feel all sentimental about having a losing team all the time.

So, vent.  Get it all out.  What pisses you off the most about how the Democrats have let us down?  Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is.  Civility is for cotillions.

These student body president types may be perfectly content to ignore you or they may have absolutely no idea why you’re about to allow them to be voted out of office.  Put them on notice in the comments below.

Registered Democrats only please.  If you’re a Republican, Tea Party troublemaker or independent, please sit on your hands.

I’ll go first.  Unemployment is still high for those of us 45-65.  Wages are pathetic.  But the thing that ticks me off the most is how Obamacare 1.) created two classes of American workers, 2.) did nothing to control costs, and 3.) forced the second class Americans without employer based health care into high deductible, tiny network, expensive insurance plans.  Even with the subsidies, which many of us don’t get because we make too *little* money (like that’s supposed to make any damn sense), the plans are unaffordable.  Krugman can go jump in a lake for all I care.  Obamacare is awful.

Ok, your turn.

Harumph and bother: a post about Obama and ISIS

Looted museum in Baghdad circa 2003. We were the superglue.

One thing the Democratic activists love to crow about is how they’re not like conservatives who think that conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.

And then there is the mess that is ISIS, the collapse of Iraq and Obama’s negligence of the country that lead us back to war.

Disclaimer: I am not a conservative, not a Republican and actually align myself with the left.  But for some peculiar reason that I can’t quite figure out, I have been the vocal outlier on this tiny asteroid in the blogosphereic Oort Belt.  There are a few like minded dust specks out here but the left seems to be dominated by people who screwed up in the most spectacular fashion in 2008 and yet still insist that they are the smartest, most peace loving, accomplished citizens ever.  Let’s just call them the left’s very serious people.

So, the left’s very serious people, LVSP for short, are wringing their hands about ISIS because when push came to shove, Obama did what most American presidents have done in the past.  He turned the FUD up to 11.  I’m glad I don’t have cable so I can safely ignore all of the hysterical arguments for war in Iraq again.  And let me make this clear, I was against the war in Iraq in 2003 because none of it sounded plausible to me.  Al Qaeda had the ability to strike the US in 45 minutes?  As if.  There was clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction?  Please.  What do you take me for?  I think we entered the hall of shame with Freedom Fries, though.  It was about that time that the US put the screws to raw milk cheeses from France, which was really uncalled for.

Smart people knew that there was no reason to go blow up Iraq.  It was just Dick Cheney’s wet dream.  He and his buddies wanted to cash in big on government military contracts and private oil contracts.  They raced into Baghdad, allowed the ruin of some of the most important archaeological sites in human history, destroyed the government and then set about playing some kind of right wing version of Monopoly.  Mission Accomplished indeed.

It’s no wonder that so many of us hated the Iraq War and all the damage it did to real human beings.  It was greedy, careless, ruthless, selfish, expensive and stupid.

OUR side would do it differently.  WE would get out of Iraq.  That was THE most important thing.  Because OUR side was for peace and prosperity and turning the other cheek and not making war or spending lots of money to blow things up.  And THAT’S why so many young, ideologically pure, left wing doves voted for Obama over the candidate with the lady parts.  Heck, it’s why Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize before he had even done anything.  (I’d still like to know what nefarious group nominated him.  They were clearly up to something.)

In any case, peace would rein, oops, sorry, was doin’ a Bush there, reign in Iraq and the people would cheer our exit and get back to their shawarma and all would be hunky dory.  Because that is what the left is all about, getting out of stupid wars because they are stupid.  And so it was.

And that’s where the left made it’s mistake.  As Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker has said in two Fresh Air interviews, here and here, Iraq is an artificial state.  The only way it stayed together after the fall of Saddam Hussein was by having an American presence there acting as an intermediary between all of the disparate groups.  The Sunnis have a persecution complex, the Shias are being helped by Iran and the Kurds, currently the only group in Iraq that has its sh&* together, just wants out.  Bummer about that whole landlocked Kurdistan thing.

In his interview on Fresh Air in June this year, Filkins reported that Obama lost interest in Iraq early and just wanted to pull Americans out.  The timing of the pull out, before the 2012 election year, seems to me to have been a way of pacifying the lefties and keeping them quiet, but I’m only making a guess based on past performance.  al-Maliki was getting pressure from Iran to get the US out of Iraq but he was hoping to negotiate some kind of deal with Obama for a residual presence.  But the White House wasn’t giving any guidance to the State Department. So, when the last troops pulled out, the American superglue that held the whole place together fell apart.

Now, I’m really sorry if the left’s very serious people, like Digby, didn’t see this coming.  Certainly, she’s smart enough to figure out what the fall out of the troop withdrawal would likely be.  But the left seems to be of the opinion that peace can never fail, it can only be failed.  All those Iraqis should have gotten along when we left.  It was in their own best interests.

More likely, peace needed to be a long term investment whether we liked it or not.  It’s not surprising that Obama had way too much on his plate to think this through properly.  But as I have observed before, Obama governs in campaign mode and his policies rarely have the deep thought and execution that is required from the most powerful man in the world.  Experience probably would have helped here but we didn’t elect the guy for his experience, did we?  No, we hired him because he was not like a powerful politician.

Too bad for us.  Believe me, it doesn’t give me any pleasure to keep pointing out what a disaster 2008 was.  No, indeed, the suffering here and abroad just never seems to end and we will come to regret our choices for generations to come.  You can make excuses for him and throw accusations around that the CIA is out to get him but it won’t change the fact that he’s directly responsible for the urgency of the situation in Iraq because he neglected this problem and the United States’ role in keeping the country together.

If you don’t take the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

We’re about to find out.

One more thing: Could it be that the left’s very serious people are really upset by the fact that the right wing has gotten smart about Obama and has given up pushing the ridiculous right wing memes, like birtherism, for an accurate assessment of Obama’s performance?  Because if they’re latching on to accuracy, the Democrats better have a better defense than just whining about how unfair it is to blame Obama for everything he does.  It’s not a winning formula.

WWII: The Sequel

I haven’t been following the reboot of the Iraq War brought on by the ISIS atrocities.  For one thing, I don’t watch cable or network news so I missed the beheading videos.  Is it just me or should there be a law against showing that kind of thing on TV?  It feels like gratuitous snuff film porn for the purpose of horrifying people and stirring up strong emotional reactions.  I’m agin it.

I’m also against war in general but I’m not a pacifist or an isolationist.  I sat through a bajillion hours of The Last Lion, the biography of Winston Churchill and realize how dangerous pacifism and isolationism can be.  The peaceniks “at all costs” crowd are as unsettling to me as the Cheney types.  My attitude towards war is a Tolkienish one.  I don’t like it, don’t crave it, wouldn’t seek it out except for the protection of friends and innocents.

But there is a really good reason why the US can never be an isolationist country.  Going back to WWII, Churchill repeatedly threw the British Army (or what was left of it after Dunkirk) at different places in the Mediterranean and southeast asia for a purpose.  It was more than just a case of pestering Hitler like a biting sand fly.  And it did have something to do with the British Empire.  But more than that, he had to do it to maintain open sea lanes.  Take a look at the map below of the world’s chokepoints today:

If you follow the thickest blue line, you’ll notice that the most significant battles of WWII happened along it.  You can also see why the Axis came to be.  The countries that controlled the north Atlantic, Mediterranean and South China Seas pretty much ruled the world.  That big blue line represents the quickest route from East Asia to North America.  A vital choke point is right about where the Suez Canal is and what countries surround the entry and exit to the Suez Canal?  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia.  If we follow the Red Sea southward, we see Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. Then we swing around the Arabian Pennisula and into the Persian Gulf to Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and all that oil.

Like it or not, we are dependent on keeping those chokepoints open for international trade, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world. It helps if the country in charge of patrolling the hot spots is above reproach.  Bush and Cheney kinda ruined our global reputation in that respect.  The rest of the world has to trust us to not act completely in our own best interests.

What Bush and Cheney did was take a giant dump in a very sensitive place.  And then they left a very naive but extremely cocky novice president to keep the place in order.  The naivety, coupled with an upcoming second term, caused a series of very bad decisions.  Pair that up with local instability in the region around the Suez Canal and you have our present situation.

There probably was a better time to intervene in Syria but in general, the region is always going to be a sensitive spot.  It’s geographically important, and you can bet the people who live there know it.  The Arab Spring might have been prompted by that realization.  We are probably never going to be able to completely reduce our presence there.  Our economy depends on keeping this chokepoint open.  Until we get rid of our dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to have to be there.  And even after we move on from sucking the mideast dry, that area is still the quickest way from point A to point B for many countries other than our own.

So, there’s my take on it.  We’re still fighting the world wars of the previous century and will be for the foreseeable future.  Obama was not thinking past his re-election and anyone who made their decision of presidential candidate in 2008 based on a war vote or promises to get out of Iraq wasn’t thinking it through to its logical conclusions.  It has always been clear to me that the president who took over from Bush/Cheney was going to have to make peace with the isolationists before he or she would ever make peace with the Iraqis and their neighbors.  It was never going to be simple or easy.  The best we could hope for was an uneasy status quo for a long time.

But somebody blew it and here we are.

Next time we elect a president, we might want to choose one who is explicit about these things.

One more thing: Considering what a sensitive area the Mediterranean is, you have to wonder why the ECB is being such a dick to Spain, Italy and Greece.