Stories to Watch: 9/30/11
Went out and saw a show last night, which was fun. But man, was it ever windy. And cold. Outside sucked. Inside with beer was great. Now here’s the news…
US-born al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki is killed by a drone strike in Yemen. Both Glenn Greenwald and Ron Paul aren’t fans of the move, while the rightwing blogosphere seems split. At least one wingnut makes an ill-advised parallel that suggests they aren’t aware that Hitler committed suicide.
Steve Benen uses al-Awlaki’s death to point out that President Obama has had a substantial winning streak when it comes to foreign policy.
Why I hate pundits, example 3,462,091,483-A: Michael Kinsley argues that Chris Christie can’t be president because “he is just too fat.” And Michael Kinsley is just too shallow.
Contrary to lazy reporting, Warren Buffett did not oppose the Buffet Rule.
Alabama is enjoying success in their efforts to produce some of the nation’s stupidest kids.
Finally, Sarah Palin’s coquettishness continues. Sooner or later, the media will wise up and stop taking her calls.
Stories to Watch: 7/9/11
Didn’t get to the roundup or the headlines yesterday because I’ve been having a bout of insomnia. I hit the wall. Managed to sleep last night though. Hoping it’s over. Now here’s the news…
RIP Betty Ford.
President Obama says that a “balanced approach" is needed to get a debt deal and basically puts cuts to Medicare on the table.
Eric Cantor’s take on jobs and the economy becomes wildly incoherent.
Under fire for a First Amendment-busting pledge to ban pornography being circulated among GOP presidential hopefuls, religious right group THE FAMiLY LEADER (yeah, that’s the way they want it spelled) says people are misunderstanding what the pledge calls for. “We are not calling for a nationwide band [sic] on pornography,” says TFL head Bob Vander Plaats. The pledge is meant “to imply opposition to women being forced into pornography or prostitution.”
Really? You think you need to get Republican candidates to sign a pledge to be against literal sexual slavery? Just how awful and conscienceless do you believe GOP presidential hopefuls are?
Of course, Vander Plaats’ bigger problem is that the pledge also states that African-American children were better off under the institution of slavery. So not all slavery is a bad thing, I guess. BothBachmann and Santorum have signed it, demonstrating just how stupid both those candidates are.
Former CIA chief and current SecDef Leon Panetta says we’re “within reach" of defeating al Qaeda.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is said to be personally calling GOP activists in Iowa. Beware all the speculation that Perry would change everything in the race. You know who the last big “gonna change everything” GOP late-starter was? That powerhouse named Fred Thompson.
Finally, Welfare state success story Paul Ryan loves him someinsanely expensive wine.
Bin Laden Photos Probably Less Consequential Than Most Believe
If the White House decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s body splits pundits, talking heads, and other media types, there isn’t a lot of controversy among the general public. An NBC poll finds a solid majority — 64% — agreeing with the decision. Of that percentage, 52% reportedly “strongly” agree. And with even al Qaeda admitting that bin Laden is dead, it’s difficult to see what purpose the photos would serve.
Still, the Associated Press is on the case:
President Obama’s decision to withhold the visual evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death has created a fundamental disagreement between the White House and one of the largest journalism organizations in the world. “This information is important for the historical record,” said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at The Associated Press. “That’s our view.”
Last Monday, the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photographic and video evidence taken during the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The organization’s FOIA request included a reminder of the president’s campaign pledge and a plea to be more transparent than his predecessor. “The Obama White House ‘pledged to be the most transparent government in U.S. history,” wrote the AP, “and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.’”
“It’s our job as journalists to seek this material… We’re not deciding in advance to publish this material,” said Oreskes. “We would like our journalists, who are working very hard, to see this material and then we’ll decide what’s publishable and what’s not publishable based on the possibly that it’s inflammatory.”
While some believe that the keeping the photos under wraps is a matter of national security — denying bin Laden followers and sympathizers a “martyr photo” to wave around like a bloody shirt — the president himself put the argument in terms of decency and security.
“It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” the president told 60 Minutes’ Steve Croft. “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”
For the record, I’m with the NBC poll’s majority here. I am persuadable — I wouldn’t put myself among the “strongly” agreeing — but the arguments against release seem more compelling. I’m not going to begrudge the AP’s pursuit of their perceived legal rights (especially since I believe the dangers of their release are most likely overstated) but there’s also a more common sense argument to the contrary; if something’s working, don’t pick at it.
While Usamah Bin Laden’s passing will not destroy al-Qaeda altogether, it is a horrible blow to their morale, despite the bravado in al-Qaeda’s message acknowledging Bin Laden’s death at American hands.
(By the way, for those who insisted that President Obama had to release the photos of Bin Laden’s corpse for the reality of his death to be accepted: well, not so much.)
Some have suggested that the Taliban may sever their ties with al-Qaeda in the wake of the latter’s clear vulnerability and leadership vacuum.
If the Taliban swears off al Qaeda, then withdrawing from Afghanistan becomes much, much more likely and much, much easier to defend to the “war forever!” crowd. After all, it was the Taliban’s ties to the terrorist organization that got this whole thing started in the first place. If this is a serious possibility, then maybe we shouldn’t change the game board too much.
On the other hand, there is the question of rights. The security argument seems to be a weak one in this case, with the term “national security” being nothing more than a synonym for “good foreign policy.” We’ve given up way too many rights since 9/11 to let that go lightly. If AP wants to fight a First Amendment press freedom fight, then more power to them.
I guess in the end I’m still going with the administration on this one, but wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep if they lost their case in court. If Cole is right and al Qaeda is demoralized by bin Laden’s death, then release of the photos wouldn’t do much to change that. In fact, it may just serve as a reminder of the blow.
Fighting Terrorism the Right Way, Not the Easy Way
I often say that there are two ways of doing anything; the easy way and the right way. Sometimes, the easy way is good enough. In others, the details are as important as the central job. The more important the job, the more important it is to do it the right way — zip through mowing the lawn, but take your time seeding it.
In taking down Osama bin Laden, President Obama avoided doing things the easy way.
At first, a drone attack was considered, but President Obama decided against it, partly to avoid civilian casualties and partly because: “He wanted proof. He didn’t want to just leave a pile of rubble.” Between March 14 and April 28 Mr. Obama chaired five National Security Council meetings to discuss the raid.
An exact replica of the compound was built at a secret location in the US and a 24-strong team of Navy Seals (an acronymn of Sea, Air, Land) carried out dummy runs on April 7 and April 13.
Blow the hell out of everything with drones or train a team for a week to carry out a complex land operation? Turns out the president made the right call.
The assault force of Navy SEALs snatched a trove of computer drives and disks during their weekend raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, yielding what a U.S. official called “the mother lode of intelligence.”
The special operations forces grabbed personal computers, thumb drives and electronic equipment during the lightning raid that killed bin Laden, officials told POLITICO.
"They cleaned it out," one official said. "Can you imagine what’s on Osama bin Laden’s hard drive?"
Porn, I’ll bet. And financial records. Beside the computer data, there would be handwritten notes, photos, personal letters, maybe false IDs with aliases, etc — all of which would be smoke right now if we’d gone about this the easy way. As a result of doing this the right way, White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan believes that it’s possible to be “able to destroy that organization [al Qaeda].”
One note of caution here: there are basically two al Qaedas. There’s a centrally-directed organization and there are what are basically al Qaeda sympathizers who pick up the banner and join the fight, but are otherwise on their own — al Qaeda in Iraq, for example. We may be able to break the institutional al Qaeda, but the guerrilla al Qaeda will continue — how long it continues may be another question. It’s not like al Qaeda is the only terrorist organization in the world. It may be that the individuals who normally would be guerrillas will find more support in other organizations. Clearly, this isn’t the end of terrorism.
But that’s the way you fight terrorism. In the big picture, there isn’t an easy way. You run around putting out fires. Huge, grand nationscaping wars are pointless here and, in the end, are counterproductive. Want to increase recruitment among terrorist organizations? Then give them lots and lots of targets to shoot at. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t bring down Osama bin Laden, it was two bullets fired by a Navy SEAL. It may seem easier to kill a whole bunch of people at once with huge fireballs, but our experience since 2003 shows that this doesn’t work nearly as well as we’d thought. Better to fight them the way we fight drug runners — with detective work and SWAT teams. You know, treat them like criminals.
Better to go about this the right way.
News Roundup for 3/29/11
Al Qaeda operative
-Headline of the day-
"Trump fails to produce birth certificate."
Donald Trump simply doesn’t trust Barack Obama, because he hasn’t come out with a “long form” birth certificate from Hawaii. Not the one he has produced, which is legal and binding and all sorts of other stuff, but the magic one.
And to prove that producing a magic BC is no big deal, The Donald produced his own. Ha! Take that, you secret Muslim terr’ist!
Except there was a little hitch: the document Trump produced was not a legal document. Oops! According to the report, “an actual birth certificate, which is issued by the Department of Health, would have the agency’s seal and also a signature of the city registrar - neither of which the Trump document has.”
So we can only assume that, like that Obama character, Donald Trump is a secret Muslim terr’ist!
Well, Team Trump fixed that right pronto. Trump produced another BC and this one appears to be legal — emphasis on “appears to be.” I’m saying it’s a forgery. And it’s not up to me to prove it. It’s up to Donald Trump to disprove it, because that’s the burden of proof that birthers like Trump demand.
So far, Trump has not addressed the fact that the document he produced may be a forgery, which can only mean that’s exactly what it is. I say we take Trump to gitmo and waterboard him until he tells us what he’s up to and why he’s working with al Qaeda.
Seriously, what’s he trying to hide? (Politico)
-Worth a shot-
Political cartoonist Bruce Plante proposes a bloodless solution to the Libyan situation.
It wouldn’t even cost more. I mean, it’s not like bombs are free… (AAEC)
"CRUISE SHIP CONFESSION: Top Fox News Executive Admits Lying On-Air About Obama."
Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon says that calling Obama a socialist is “mischievous speculation” that’s “rather far-fetched.” Which, of course, is why he did just that during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Fox News: because the truth doesn’t help Republicans. (Media Matters, with video)
Stories to Watch: 3/22/11
Got a short thunderstorm last night, then it rained like hell today. Remind me again why I was supposed to be looking forward to spring? Come on summer.. or, at least, late spring. Now here’s the news…
Deeper analysis of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s emails show that they were initially “running roughly 2-to-1 against his plans” to bust unions. Then the Wisco 14 took off, the story went national and he started getting a lot of out-of-state support. But, most importantly, the analysis shows Walker lied when he said most emails were supporting him, because “for several preceding days, the emails of support Walker received had been vastly outnumbered by those opposed to his plan.”
The wingnutosphere is going (even more) insane over a plan by a former SEIU member to destroy the economy in order to bring unions back. One thing they’re all missing though is that the guy “was ousted from SEIU last November, reportedly for spending millions of the union’s dollars trying to pursue a plan like the one he details here,” according to one report. “It is not clear what, if any, power and influence he currently wields.” Remember, facts are elitist. Pay them no mind while you FREAK THE FUCK OUT!!
Also remember, there’s always plenty of money for war. Although, we may not need to spend money on Libya much longer. Secretary of State Clinton told ABC News Gadhafi may be looking for an out.
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown — formerly a Tea Party darling — continues to disappoint the ‘baggers by saying that cutting funding for Planned Parenthood “goes too far.”
The headline says it all: “Mike Pence, Chief Sponsor Of Bill To Defund Title X, Says ‘I’ve Never Advocated Reducing Funding For Title X’.” Lying comes so easily to Republicans.
The GOP House majority may be short-lived.
Like most Republican governors with grand visions for their states, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is experiencing a huge drop in his polling. Here’s a crazy idea: tell us your plans when you campaign for office — don’t spring them on us afterwards like it’s some seriously demented surprise party.
"President Paul?" No, not Ron, the other guy.
Finally, the religious right and al Qaeda sure do agree on a whole bunch of stuff, don’t they?