Back To The Bush Years … ?

Sep 18 2014 @ 1:03pm

Bush Asks Congress For $74.7 Billion In War Aid

My own dismay (even bewilderment) at the current mood in America may well be because I was largely off-grid in August. But it’s still a truly remarkable shift. In a month, the entire political landscape has reverted to Bush-Cheneyism again. I honestly thought that would never happen, that the grisly experience of two failed, endless wars had shifted Americans’ understanding of what is possible in the world, that the panic and terror that flooded our frontal cortexes from 9/12 onward would not be able to come back with such a vengeance. I was clearly wrong. Terrorism does not seem to have lost any of its capacity to promote total panic among Americans. The trauma bin Laden inflicted is still overwhelming rationality. It would be harder to imagine a more stunning success for such a foul mass murder.

The party that was primarily responsible for the years of grinding, bankrupting war, a descent into torture, and an evisceration of many core liberties is now regarded as superior to the man originally tasked with trying to recover from that experience. The political winds unleashed by a few disgusting videos and a blitzkrieg in the desert have swept all before them. And we now hear rhetoric from Democratic party leaders that sounds close to indistinguishable from Bush or Cheney.

Is it merely panic? I doubt it. I think what’s also coursing through the collective psyche is the thought that Obama told us we were finally out of Iraq – and events have shown that assurance to be shaky at best. A core part of his legacy has had the bottom fall out of it. I don’t think most people – outside the Tea Party – really believe that all would be well if we’d just kept more troops in country the last couple of years. But the resurgence of the Sunni insurgency – now tinged with the most fanatical of theocratic barbarisms – is nonetheless blamed on Obama. Maybe it could have been contained without the beheadings. But they touched so many visceral chords that the Jacksonian temperament, always twitching beneath the surface of American life, simply bulldozed away every conceivable objection and doubt.

But will this last? I have my doubts. The Republicans are actually ambivalent about this war – largely because Obama is the president. For a while, they’ll bash him for not being “tough” enough – as if toughness has been shown to be the critical virtue in the fight against Jihadist terrorism. But when and if it actually comes to ground troops, my guess is that they’ll get cold feet. Apart from the unhinged McCain and Butters, few of them are so delusional to think we should re-occupy the place indefinitely. Maybe ISIS can do the neocons a favor and engage in some domestic terrorism to ratchet up the global stakes once again – in which case, we will very much be back where we started, our collective memory erased like those lab rats we covered earlier today.

My point is this: when they actually have to choose to go back to Bush-Cheneyism, and an endless, global civilizational war, Americans will not be as gung-ho as they now appear to be, in the wake of ISIS’ propaganda coups and the Beltway’s hysteria.

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Email Of The Day

Sep 18 2014 @ 12:40pm

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The “newest member of Club Tripod in DC” will cheer you up:

The last few weeks have been so depressing news-wise, I thought I’d pass along something upbeat. Jack came back from Sierra Leone with me two years ago with a limp and arthritis due to an injury that had healed poorly (there’s only one vet in the entire country). When it got worse this summer, I visited an orthopedic surgeon who suggested a range of options, from physical therapy to arthroscopy. She didn’t mention amputation, but when I asked about it, she said that this was the best option, though pet owners tend to react poorly to the suggestion.

It’s been just three weeks since the surgery and she already moves as if her leg were never there. Dogs are amazingly resilient. On our walk this morning, a little boy pointed to her and told his mom to “look at how fast that dog is!”

When people see little Bowie charging like a bullet down the beach after her favorite yellow tennis ball (as seen below), they gawk in wonder:

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The View From Your Window

Sep 18 2014 @ 12:31pm

st-andrews-Scotland-4am

St. Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom, 4 am

Yesterday, the House voted 273-156 to let the president arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels to help fight ISIS:

The administration’s request was an amendment to a must-pass, stopgap measure to keep the government running through mid-December. Although the amendment had the early support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., a number of lawmakers in both parties began defecting, prompting a last-minute push by party leaders to build support.

New York’s Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said a range of top Democrats worked to the last minute to gather votes for the president’s plan, which would train some 5,000 Syrian rebels in the first year at facilities in Saudi Arabia. … Having secured approval in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where it may receive a skeptical reception. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry came under intense questioning about the White House’s plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

The idea is as doomed now as it long has been. The US trained the entire Iraqi army in country for years – and they still scarpered. The problem is political; almost certainly unsolvable except in the long run by the parties themselves; and made utterly solvable by US intervention. The Senate is set to vote on the measure today. Weigel notes who voted “aye”:

Everybody in competitive races. Georgia Rep. John Barrow, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, and West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall are among the very last Democrats in districts that voted for the Romney-Ryan ticket in 2012. They went “aye.” So did Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, both Senate candidates in tough races. On the Republican side, Senate candidates Tom Cotton and Steve Daines voted “aye,” as did Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and Florida Rep. Steve Southerland. They’re the only two Republicans in seats that appear now to be toss-ups, with strong Democratic challengers cutting through the headwind.

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Is Scottish Independence Irrational?

Sep 18 2014 @ 11:58am

People Of Scotland Take To The Polls To Decide Their Country's Fate In Historic Vote

Adam Gopnik addresses the question:

Irrationalities are as essential to dissolving unions as they are to maintaining them. Scotland, which is just now voting on independence, is also, we’re told, acting against its self-evident economic interests—or, at the very least, acting with huge, unfunded optimism. Once again, as is so often the case in the twentieth century, the atavistic thrill of nationalism is ballooned up by the blithe certainty that it will somehow magically lead to a progressive paradise. As Canadians alone remember, the province of Quebec, in two referendums, did, or came close to doing, the same thing with the same unfounded belief.

It is easy to say that such a move makes no sense, but nationalism is almost always a more powerful drug than is the promise of continued prosperity. The irony is that many Scottish nationalists see the larger European Union as their alternative to the apparently stifling British one, though E.U. membership for an independent Scotland would be far from guaranteed, and would affect everything from the politics of emigration to the price of scotch. Nationalists in Quebec believed something similar, holding out the dubious hope that the United States would be a welcoming market for and partner with a monolingual French Quebec in ways that Canada somehow was not.

Michael Brendan Dougherty blames the EU for the increasing nationalism across Europe:

By creating a federated superstate with its own defense policies, currency, and central bank, the EU takes off the table some of the hardest questions a separatist or secessionist movement has to answer. The EU does a lot of the work of a nation-state for them. To some degree, extant and aspiring nationalisms are free-riding on an official internationalism.

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The Fed Is Getting Back To Normal

Sep 18 2014 @ 11:39am

Ylan Mui has the details of yesterday’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, in which Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen laid out a plan to draw down the Fed’s massive stimulus program in light of the economic recovery and the upward trajectory of the job market:

The improving outlook means that the recovery no longer needs as much support from the nation’s central bank.

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West Africa’s 9/11?

Sep 18 2014 @ 11:17am

The West African country of Liberia is crippled by a recent outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Compiling coverage of the Ebola epidemic from around the region, Margaret Hartmann points to a reflection by Liberian journalist Makanfi Kamara on how the outbreak, whose death toll is approaching that of September 11, 2001, is impacting her society in a similarly extreme way:

The Ebola virus has not only caused tragedy and changed the lives of people affected, but it has also drastically affected our life style. Liberians are so used to greeting each other by touch – a hand shake here, an embrace there, even a kiss. Where we used to share cups, bowls and spoons; beds, clothes and shoes; we now think thrice about potential threats of infection from our closest friends and relatives. Instead, we wash hands religiously at every door post, keep a distance beyond arm’s length and sometimes bow to greet each other like the Chinese. Some women have even put their male partners “on dryer” – a moratorium on sexual activity until the Ebola Season is over. And many men have admitted that, fearing for their own lives, they have decided to “abide by the rules of the game” – fidelity.

There are also direct and indirect psychological effects:

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A Vote Against Inequality?

Sep 18 2014 @ 10:57am

Katie Engelhart views the Scottish vote as a manifestation “of the increasingly hot debate about rising global inequality and what we should do about it”:

Scotland’s pro-independence movement differs from similar movements in places like Catalonia, Kurdistan, and eastern Ukraine in that it does not revolve around hard identifiers like language, religion, and ethnicity (or Russian military backing). What divides Scotland and England is a vocal lilt and a legacy of 14th-century clan warfare—seemingly surmountable obstacles to keeping a country together. As a result, Scottish nationalists have taken to claiming that London is to blame for all of Scotland’s economic ills. They contend that, with independence, Scotland can strike a different kind of compromise with its citizens. They argue that a vote for independence is a vote against inequality.

Reporting from Scotland, Noah Caldwell heard over and over again “the belief that Scots are fairer, more caring and more egalitarian than the rest of the United Kingdom”:

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Scotland’s Day Of Reckoning

Sep 18 2014 @ 10:36am

The Guardian is live-blogging the Scottish vote. From their afternoon summary:

A final poll has put the no vote on 53% and yes on 47%, in line with other recent predictions. The poll, by Ipsos Mori for the London Evening Standard, also found that 90% of Scots said they intended to vote today, with 57% saying they based their votes on hope more than fear.

Ben Page, the chief executive of Ipsos Mori, unpacks that poll:

[T]here is the idea of “silent Nos” – that there is a spiral of silence making some intimidated “No” voters less likely to agree to take part in surveys at all, or to say they are undecided or refusing to say how they will vote and biasing the sample. The challenge for us is spotting them in the polling data and how to treat them. If “shy Nos” really don’t want to take part in even internet surveys, or completely private phone calls, then even with samples that are demographically matched to Scotland’s population, we will be understating the size of a No vote. We will see.

The Guardian is also keeping tabs on the voting process:

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Cool Ad Watch

Sep 18 2014 @ 10:00am

So perfectly understated: