The Best Of The Dish Today

Sep 17 2014 @ 9:00pm

The Final Day Of Campaigning For The Scottish Referendum Ahead Of Tomorrow's Historic Vote

There’s a kind of hush all over Britain tonight, as Herman’s Hermits once had it. That bitter old lion, Gordon Brown, delivered a barn-burner for the union:

Tell them this is our Scotland. Tell them that Scotland does not belong to the Scottish Nationalist Party. Scotland does not belong to the Yes campaign. Scotland does not belong to any politician – Mr Salmond, Mr Swinney, me or any other politician. Scotland belongs to all of us. This is not their flag, their country, their culture, their streets. This is everyone’s flag, everyone’s country, everyone’s culture and everyone’s streets. Let us tell the people of Scotland that we who vote No love Scotland and love our Scotland.

It was arguably the strongest speech in the campaign – and even revived calls for Brown to get back into politics. Watch it all here. And isn’t it marvelous the way this referendum has really brought out a huge outpouring of democracy, of debate in every venue, and a staggering 97 percent registration rate? At a time when politics seems increasingly distant from most voters’ lives, in which political elites become as despised as economic elites, the simple ballot and the simple question have brought real democracy back to life. The Guardian introduced a new point:

A decision of such gravity – to break away from a 300-year-old union – should be the settled will of a nation. The very fact that Scottish opinion is so closely divided is itself a weakness in the case for independence. Moves of such import should command enduring and overwhelming support, as the creation of the Holyrood parliament did in 1997.

But what if the vote isn’t as close as it now seems to be? The referendum has achieved a 97 percent registration rate, as Tim Stanley has noted. You think all those new voters want to keep the status quo? But, as usual, the Onion FTW:

A tragedy is unfolding in Scotland. One glance at this week’s headlines reveals that the region’s fractious political situation is intensifying, with separatist activists gaining more and more support every day. Barring something drastic, Scotland seems bound inexorably for a cataclysm. Can the United States stand idly by as Scotland descends into civil war? …

How many Scots need to die before Obama says “Enough is enough” and steps in? The United States has a moral imperative to intervene, starting immediately with air raids to break the militant separatists before they gain a stranglehold on power. But that will not be enough. We need boots on the ground as soon and in as great numbers as possible.

Where is John McCain when you need him?

Full Dish coverage of Scotland in one place here. Elsewhere on the blog today, I tried to add some historical perspective to the growing hysteria over Russia and Iraq and Syria. Readers revealed their own personal eggcorns – after my epic embarrassment. We noted that Obama has not just given ISIS the mother of all propaganda coups, but has actually brought Al Qaeda and the Caliphate into an alliance. Pretty great start, no? Instead of letting these fanatics fight each other, we’ve gone and made them all want to fight us. I hope Lindsey Graham is satisfied.

As for the midterms, the Democrats seem to be holding weirdly steady. Could it be a function of general loathing of the GOP?

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 20 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here if you’d like to introduce the Dish to others. A reader gets what we’re trying to do here:

[Dish editor] Chris, thank you so much for posting [my email on husband beaters]. You have no idea how much it brightened my day/week/month and probably my year. It’s also interesting to me which part you cut out of my email. I don’t know if it was just to keep it snappy or not to attract the pure shitstorm that comes with even mentioning men’s rights activists? Either way I wouldn’t blame you.

I’ve been reading Andrew since this 2006 article on the rise of fundamentalism. At the time I was wrestling with a lot of questions about faith and his words in this felt like a revelation to me. I’ve been reading ever since. When I have strong opinions about politics or other things that go on in the world, I usually talk with friends and family, but I can never be sure I’m not just in an echo chamber. I can look for conversation online, but, well … you know how bad the comments section can be. It’s full of people yelling half-formed opinions into an abyss of pure noise and never really listening to what others have to say.

But even getting a passing mention on the Dish is special to me. It’s actually having a seat in a full conversation. I’m sure some readers will disagree with what I say, and I welcome that, but even being one voice on the Dish tells me at least I’m asking the right questions.

See you when the conversation resumes in the morning.

(Photo: Unionist supporters gather near George Square, where Yes activists had been holding a pre-referendum event in Glasgow, Scotland on September 17, 2014. By Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Great “Unraveling”?

Sep 17 2014 @ 8:42pm

[Re-posted from earlier today.]

I’m a huge admirer of Roger Cohen’s writing – and can appreciate many of the thoughts percolating in his latest column on what he sees as a disintegration of the world order. He manages to cite Scottish independence, the rise of ISIS, and the devolved powers to Eastern Ukraine – and even Ebola! – as part of a trend toward dissolution and anarchy.

But when I look at all the developments he is citing, I don’t really see anything that new. Take Iraq – please. What we are witnessing is the second major Sunni revolt since they were summarily deposed from power by the United States in 2003. How is this new? The Sunnis have long since believed in their bones that Iraq is theirs by right to govern. They despise the Shiites now running the show. The entire construct Syria_and_Iraq_2014-onward_War_mapof Iraq in the first place was designed on the premise of permanent Sunni rule over the majority. That rule necessarily had to be despotic – as all attempts to permanently deny rights to a majority in the country must be.

So we removed the despot – as we did in Libya – and we have an ongoing power-struggle that is a continuation of the same power struggle Iraq has been hosting since time immemorial. I mean look at that map on the right, from Wiki on the current division of power and land in Iraq. Does it look familiar? It looks like every map of Iraq’s sectarian divide since time immemorial. And we think we will change that by air-strikes?

My fear is that the catastrophic error of 2003 will never lead to a stable state, because the Sunnis will never tolerate or trust majority Shiite rule. Yes, we bribed them enough to switch sides temporarily in the “surge”. But they knew we’d leave; and they knew what they had to do when we did. The only conceivable way to avoid such a scenario would be to stay in Iraq indefinitely – but that too is untenable, for both the Iraqis and for us.

The Beltway nonetheless decided – against all the evidence – that the surge had worked, that sectarian passions had subsided, and that a multi-sectarian government would be able to overcome the profound rifts in Iraqi society that have always been embedded in its DNA. We were sold a bill of goods – by Petraeus and McCain and the other benign imperialists. They have spun a narrative that Iraq was “solved” in 2009 – and that the absence of US troops led to subsequent failure. But they flatter themselves. We never had any real reason to believe these sectarian divides had been overcome – and after a decade of brutal and traumatizing mutual slaughter, why on earth would they be?

Iraq was unraveled in 2003; in my view, it has thereby become the battle-ground for the simmering, wider Sunni-Shiite civil conflict that has also been a long-running strain in the region. Our own solipsistic focus on ISIS as another al Qaeda against us – again the narrative of the utterly unreconstructed neocon right and the pious interventionist left – misses this simple fact. We cannot see the forest for our own narcissistic tree.

When you look at Russia and Ukraine from the same historical perspective, the unraveling meme also seems unpersuasive. Russia is a proud and ornery and mysterious country. It has gone from global super-power to regional neo-fascist state in a matter of decades. Its sphere of influence has retreated from the edge of Berlin to the boundaries of Ukraine, which it simply controlled for an extremely long time.

Read On


That’s how one reader puts it:

I am an American and I love Scotland and Scottish culture. My father is from Scotland, my grandfather served as an officer in a famous Scottish regiment, The Black Watch, and he was given an award for bravery posthumously by the King of England in WWII. I am involved with Scottish charities in the US and have been a Trustee representing one of the largest Scottish charities here in the U.S.

Sometimes when dealing with the home country, I’ve heard my fellow Scottish-Americans mutter, “The smart ones left”. I can’t help but feel this may be true, as the “Yes” vote seems an increasing possibility.

Who rules who? The last three prime ministers are Scottish or of Scottish descent. The Scots have historically been a force at the Bank of England. Scotland is subsidized by the rest of the U.K. and, unlike the English, they have their own separate parliament. In fact, it makes (barely) more sense that England would tell Scotland to leave at this point, rather than the other way around.

This isn’t the thirteenth century or even the seventeenth century. There’s 300 years of cooperation and prosperity with the English. Where was Scotland before the Union in 1707? It was broke! That’s why they agreed to join. The U.K. assumed their debt and gave Scotland access to their markets to trade. I hope they like independence, because they’re coming out the same way they went in.

Oh and by the way, the only people the Scots like to fight with more than the English are with each other. You can see it now with the violence and intimidation (mostly by the SNP it seems) as the vote gets closer. And if there’s a “Yes” vote in Scotland tomorrow, get ready for a Shetland Independence vote as well. Huge economic incentive for these folks with a big slice of what’s left of the North Sea oil. We reap what we sow …

Another is also worried:

While we wait for the Scots to decide what they want to do, it might be worthwhile to consider the ramifications beyond Britain.

Read On

Who Would Replace Cameron?

Sep 17 2014 @ 8:06pm

Daniel Berman predicts a Yes vote would be bad news not only for David Cameron, but also for other prominent Conservatives:

Cameron’s successor will be chosen for a very specific task; leading the Conservative party into the elections due next spring, not for the next two, three, five, or ten years. As such there are a number of considerations that may well lead the leading factions to settled on someone less prominent.

The first will be the nature of their ascension. Cameron’s fall will be interpreted as a judgement on Cameron’s tenure as leader, and the entire policy of his government. At the very least it will be seen as a repudiation of his handling of Scotland. The Chancellor, George Osborne is associated with both, and his recent entry into the Scottish campaign, the only senior Tory to do so, will reinforce that impression. This does not mean that Osborne or the Cameron faction will be without resources or prospects. Just because they cannot win a leadership contest in 2014, does not mean they would necessarily be unable to in 2015 or 2016. As such they have every interest to delay the issue of a permanent leader as long as possible, while also preserving as many existing MPs as possible in next year’s elections. The current MP intake is far friendlier to Cameron than any of their potential replacements will be. Both goals can be accomplished by backing a lesser-known right-winger as leader.

Is Britain Doomed Regardless?

Sep 17 2014 @ 7:32pm

Gordon Brown’s stirring speech against Scottish independence:

But, even if Scotland votes no tomorrow, Cassidy wonders if the union can survive:

For, although the unionist side seems likely to win this round, in the longer term the impact of the referendum could well be disastrous for those who want to maintain the status quo. About the best they can hope for is a federalized Great Britain that retains the word “United” in its name but is, for most intents and purposes, two separate countries. And even that outcome may prove to be unsustainable. Indeed, the English, who today are lamenting the possible dissolution of their beloved union, may well end up kicking the Scots out of it. …

Imagine what will happen if there’s a “no” vote, and, over the next few years, “devo-max” is enacted. “At that point,” Janan Ganesh, a columnist for the Financial Times, notes, “MPs representing Scottish seats at Westminster, who are overwhelmingly Labour, will be voting on legislation that scarcely affects their constituents. Anybody who thinks this will be allowed to stand does not talk to enough Tory MPs, many of whose private views on Scottish independence already range from insouciance to glee.”

Nora Biette-Timmons suggests that, either way the vote goes, it will strain the union:

Read On

Face Of The Day

Sep 17 2014 @ 7:11pm


A Kashmiri flood victim sits at a bonfire outside a tent in Srinagar on September 17, 2014. Army and other emergency officials have battled to rescue tens of thousands of people stranded by the floods, triggered by heavy monsoon rains, that hit the northern Himalayan region and neighbouring Pakistan. By Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images.

Contradicting a report issued last month by the intelligence firm Recorded Future (and subsequently dismissed as state-sponsored agitprop by Greenwald), Murtaza Hussain highlights a new report from Flashpoint Global Partners that concludes that Snowden’s leaks about NSA surveillance were not to blame for improvements in jihadist groups’ cyber security:

The report itself goes on to make the point that, “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.” This point would seem obvious in light of the fact that terrorist groups have been employing tactics to evade digital surveillance for years. Indeed, such concerns about their use of sophisticated encryption technology predate even 9/11. Contrary to claims that such groups have fundamentally altered their practices due to information gleaned from these revelations, the report concludes. “The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”

These findings are notable both for empirical rigor through which they ascertained, as well as their contradiction of apparently baseless statements made by high-ranking U.S. officials regarding the impact of the leaks on U.S. national security. This is particularly important as it pertains to the ongoing public debate over the alleged threat of ISIS.

In Joseph Cox’s reading, the report actually questions whether al Qaeda’s counter-surveillance methods have improved dramatically in the first place:

Read On

Passions Running High In Scotland

Sep 17 2014 @ 6:19pm

So what else is new? But Brenda Kutchinsky, a Scottish No voter, argues that the independence referendum has unleashed a “collective madness”:

I am as passionately Scottish as anyone who is planning to vote Yes, but I am being made to feel as if I don’t deserve to belong in my own country. … One of the region’s wealthiest businessmen, Charles Ritchie, has dared to speak out against both independence and the alleged bullying behavior of the Yes campaign. In the past two months, his company has reportedly received two hoax bombs in the post and one live bullet in a box of matches. I have heard that the police are now investigating this terrible matter. Two weeks ago, I summoned up my courage and put a No Thanks poster in my window, against the advice of friends who said it would open me up to abuse and possibly even a brick through my window. How ridiculous that I should be worried about the consequences of expressing my opinion to people among whom I have lived happily for 15 years, but this is the climate of fear in which I am currently residing.

But Leonid Bershidsky emphasizes that in a global context, “both the secession and anti-secession campaigns have been courteous, nonviolent and affable”:

“Within the set of civil wars, secessionist wars are not only the most common, but are additionally among the longest and bloodiest types of warfare,” Bridget Coggins, now at the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote in her 2006 doctoral thesis, based on a database of the secession attempts from 1931 to 2002. Of these 275 attempts, 195 were characterized by violence on at least one of the sides.

Read On

The Senate Is A Coin Flip, Ctd

Sep 17 2014 @ 5:51pm

Senate Control

Aaron Blake ran simulations with the WaPo’s election model. The result:

The battle for control of the Senate is a pure toss-up. Not just like a this-is-very-close toss-up, but like a 50-50-odds toss-up. Our team ran 10,000 simulations using our most recent ratings of the 36 seats up for grabs on Nov. 4. It showed Republicans with a 50.03 percent chance of winning the Senate and Democrats with a 49.97 percent chance of holding the Senate. Again: pure toss-up.

Ben Highton asks, “What explains this over-performance by Democrats, or under-performance by Republicans?”

One possibility is that the “midterm penalty” — the loss in vote share suffered by the president’s party in the midterm — is shaping up to be smaller than in the past. That penalty is estimated by comparing midterm and presidential election years from 1980-2012. For 2014, we have applied the average penalty, taking into account uncertainty due to variation in past midterm penalties along with the uncertainty that arises simply because 2014 is a new election year. But it is plausible that the size of the midterm penalty in 2014 may end up being smaller than in the past. This could be the consequence of voter discontent with the Republican Party, as Nate Cohn has noted.

Read On

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Sep 17 2014 @ 5:32pm

A flood of emails came in following my bleg for examples of eggcorns. The most commonly cited one:

An eggcorn I am guilty of is “for all intents and purposes”. I guess I thought it was an extreme statement, therefore I was guilty of stating the phrase as for all INTENSIVE purposes.


A former employer always said “let’s nip this in the butt” instead of bud, and I always had to stifle a laugh picturing what it would accomplish.


My favorite example dates back to the early ’90s, when an abstract for a presentation at a computer conference talked about the need to “integrate desperate mail systems”. Why yes, I’ve seen quite a few of those.

That’s actually a malapropism, which many readers are confusing for an eggcorn. Wikipedia helps with the distinction:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn.

But we can’t pass up this malapropism:

My all-time favorite, culled from the annals of Freshman Literature classes everywhere, is Honoré de Ballsac.

Back to the eggcorns:

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