Friday Mashup (9/13/13)

  • I give you the following recent column on the whole Syria thing, including this excerpt…

    Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Monday that Congress would not be debating the use of U.S. military force against Syria if President Obama hadn’t drawn a “red line.”

    “I have no doubt that if the president had not drawn his red line we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said on the Senate floor. “It is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass and it’s a credibility issue that is [Obama’s] own making.”

    Dan Coats has no room whatsoever to try and talk down to anyone on foreign policy issues (or most anything else when you get right down to it).

    As noted from here concerning the run-up to Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia (at which time Coats was our ambassador to Germany, giving that country the “old Europe” treatment a la Rummy I suppose)…

    “The German Government still says it will not support a war. But its leaders say that war may no longer be avoidable. And the US is twisting their arms hard. The US Ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, has made clear this is a crucial test of Germany’s loyalty to the NATO alliance. The government’s stance has raised “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliability, Mr. Coats said.

    (And on unrelated matters, I think it’s interesting to note that Dubya chose Coats to try and “shepherd,” more or less, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, which of course failed. Also, Coats was one of 46 Senators to oppose the expansion of background checks for gun buyers, both of which are noted here.)

    I also came across this article on Syria and its chemical weapons stockpiles, which of course are indefensible; that being said, it should be noted that, in addition to Syria, Israel and Egypt also didn’t sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (interesting background at the very least); only 8 out of 193 countries are not party to the convention.

    Also, in the matter of Syria, I was wondering what that Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) foreign affairs columnist at the Murdoch Street Journal, none other than Bret Stephens, had to say on the matter (here).

    There’s a lot I could respond to, but partly because I’ve covered this stuff repeatedly in the past along with many others, I’ll stick to a couple of items (and yes, this stuff is completely predictable)…

    In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The “dossier” consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as “we assess with high confidence” and “we have a body of information,” and “we have identified one hundred videos.”

    By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (here)…

    It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that “there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared,” that his inspectors had found “indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized,” and that Iraq had “circumvented the restrictions” on the import of missile parts.

    You mean the same Hans Blix who told CNN here that Bushco “chose to ignore” the fact that the case for the Iraq war was “rapidly falling apart”?

    The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn’t shock Democrats that the White House’s “trust us” approach isn’t winning converts. When you’ve spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don’t be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.

    That’s a truly hilarious comment to think about as you read this.

    I’ll tell you what – here is the Media Matters post where I got the CNN link; I’ll let them take a well-earned last shot at “foul sauce” Stephens on this issue.

    Update 1/2/14: A new year, but the same old Stephens wankery here (h/t Atrios)…

  • Next (and sticking with foreign policy), we also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, a tragedy that has been politicized beyond all possible reason; here is another example…

    Gregory Hicks is no stranger to regular readers. The State Department official, who was second-in-command to murdered Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya, was one of the star witnesses during the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this past spring. Visibly frustrated by the lack of accountability over last year’s deadly attacks, Hicks appeared on ABC News to share his story. America Rising collected the highlights of his interview with George Stephanopolous, including Hicks’ assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assigned Stevens to man the under-protected diplomatic post, despite documented security risks. He also reiterated that he personally and “immediately” informed State brass that the raid was an act of terrorism:

    And yet the White House deliberately trotted out and stuck to false talking points about the nature and cause of the attack for weeks. Internal emails have revealed that the counter-factual narrative was concocted by members of the State Department’s “building leadership,” who wanted to avoid political criticism for their security failures. Two of the players most responsible for perpetrating this fallacious storyline have been rewarded by President Obama with promotions. Hicks also says that he’s been “shunted aside” because of his truth-telling:

    O-kaaaayyyyy

    Meanwhile, from the world of reality, I give you this

    Hicks was not punished for speaking out. (Host of “This Week With George”) Stephanopoulos read from a State Department letter which explained that “The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and his departure from Libya “was entirely unrelated to any statements” he made about Benghazi.

    In fact, Hicks’ claim about being punished contradicts his previous testimony about not returning to his assignment in Libya. During his testimony at a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, Hicks explained that “my family really didn’t want me to go back. … So I voluntarily curtailed” returning to Libya.

    I think the real tragedy of BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!!! is the fact that we really should have an intelligent investigation into exactly what happened, as opposed to an exercise in trying to score political points. Maybe we could have done a better job of providing an adequate level of embassy security, but if the State Department is going to take a hit, then so should the wretched “leadership” in the U.S. House, which didn’t provide adequate funding for security to begin with, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I thought this was an interesting little historical item…

    A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

    Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.
    A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

    The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence.

    In a statement, the UN thanked the commission and said the UN secretariat would study its findings closely.

    And as noted here

    In Congo, one issue was who should control the southern province of Katanga, rich in copper, uranium and tin. Belgium, the ex-colonial power, backed a secessionist movement led by Moise Tshombe, as did the UK and US who had mining interests in the region.

    But Mr Hammarskjold from the start backed Congo’s elected central authorities – the Soviet-backed government of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and later, after Mr Lumumba was deposed and murdered, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula.

    Mr Hammarskjold wanted to pursue a negotiated solution between Mr Tshombe and the central government, a goal that became even more urgent after UN peacekeepers found themselves outgunned during an aggressive operation to drive foreign mercenaries from Katanga.

    Mr Tshombe was waiting to talk to him in Ndola on the night he died.

    Some 30 years after the crash, in 1992, two men who had served as UN representatives in Katanga just before and just after Hammarskjold’s death – Conor Cruise O’Brien and George Ivan Smith – wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to have evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally, by mercenaries. In their view, a warning shot intended to divert the plane to alternative talks with industrialists in Katanga, in fact hit the plane and caused it to crash.

    In 1998 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Desmond Tutu, published eight letters that suggested CIA, MI5 and South African intelligence were involved in sabotage of the aircraft. British officials responded that these were likely to be Soviet forgeries.

    In 2005, the head of UN military information in Congo in 1961, Bjorn Egge, told the Aftenposten newspaper he had noticed a round hole in Hammarskjold’s forehead when he saw the body in the mortuary. It could have been a bullet hole, he said, and it had been mysteriously airbrushed out of official photographs.

    Over the past four years, Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl has carried out extensive research and British academic Susan Williams published a book on Thursday – Who Killed Hammarskjold? Both conclude that it is likely the plane was brought down.

    So it’s possible that there was some kind of a conspiracy between the U.S. and the UK (and Belgium) to get their hands on the copper, uranium, and tin, and to keep it out of the hands of the then-Soviet Union, and Hammarskjold was in the way (though he had also planned to meet apparently with Tshombe, who was backed by the three countries not including the U.S.S.R. Curious, as is the Ace of Spades card supposedly found in Hammarskjold’s collar when you consider this).

  • Further, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand the right-wing attack on anything whatsoever related to clean or renewable energy, unless of course you just want to chalk it up to funding from oil-based energy interests and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s more than a bit of truth to that.

    I’m thinking of all of this, though, in response to this item

    After only about one month of production, the Obama-backed maker of batteries for the Chevy Volt will delay production again.

    Oh, of course, how stupid of me not to realize that an attack on anything whatsoever to do with clean energy is also an attack on that Kenyan Marxist Socialist pre-zee-dint of ours.

    Continuing…

    Autoblog rep0orts that the South Korea-based LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan that started making Chevy Volt batteries about one month ago — about a year behind schedule — will pause work for six weeks until the Environmental Protection Agency confirms the registration status of an “unspecified, low-volume ingredient” used in their battery production.

    “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved,” LG Chem said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately six weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

    The Daily Tucker also tells us the following…

    An Energy Department audit found that LG Chem’s workers were paid $842,000 to essentially do nothing, as some played video games, watched movies or played cards. Other workers even took the time to volunteer at charities.

    Of course, far be it for Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to tell us that we’re talking about 400 workers here, according to this linked story.

    Sooo, while I’m no math whiz, I should point out that $842,000 divided by about 400 workers comes out to about $2,100. And while I’m not a fan of sloth on the job or not doing what you’re paid to do, I should note that that amount probably reflects a small portion of their actual salaries (like to see comparable figures for businesses that actually don’t take government funds).

    Meanwhile, it looks now that the Chevy Volt has set a monthly sales record (here), so I’m sure there’ll be a need for more batteries (as I said, though, attacking hybrids like this is something the wingnutosphere is inclined to do anyway, as noted here).

  • Finally, I didn’t want the week to end without some commentary on the elections in Colorado recently, where state senate head John Morse and state senator Angela Giron were ousted.

    Michael Sargent, Exec. Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, put it this way…

    There’s a reason why Republicans chose recalls instead of waiting for next year’s election: Hand-picked targets, odd timing, and extremely low turnout – made lower by 100-year-old recall rules that gutted early voting – created ideal conditions for the GOP, and because of it, they won two seats they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Right wing groups also ran hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of attack ads, but with help from thousands of grassroots Democrats…we fought back hard. You left it all on the field; so did Sens. Morse and Giron, and so did we.

    I think that’s largely true, particularly in the case of Morse, who lost by only 343 votes. You can’t tell me he would’ve lost a similar campaign in a regular election cycle with early voting (not so sure about Giron, but I probably have to do more research on that).

    For more on this, a Daily Kos post is here, a Media Matters post is here, and an article from The Hill is here. I think these are the following “takeaways”:

  • As Media Matters points out, even though Morse and Giron both lost, their positions on common-sense gun laws remain hugely popular in this country.
  • As the article from The Hill tells us, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blamed the Republican wins on “voter suppression, pure and simple” (I think that’s most of the argument, but not all of it).
  • As the Daily Kos post tells us, it’s going to be awfully hard for any Democrat to win any election where the turnout rate is 21 percent (and yes, the suppression tactics had a lot to do with that, I’ll admit; the post also tells us that, maybe next time, our side should take some money spent on TV ads and put it into a stronger “ground game” instead).
  • We know that, as the Republican Party gets pulled more and more to the right, their chances of winning the White House get exponentially harder also, a problem totally of their own making (though we can never assume anything – I thought Dubya had no chance against Al Gore in 2000, and he mostly didn’t, but we know what happened). However, the other side of that coin, as it were, is that, in perpetually energizing their base, they remain revved up for the off-year and special elections (even though Dems have won their share of the latter).

    I see a bit of that in the results from Colorado. And I definitely see that in the campaigns in my locality, including Kevin Strouse running for the U.S. House against Mikey the Beloved (here), Allyson Schwartz (assuming she’s the Dem nominee) running against Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett for PA guv (here), and John Lewis and Mark Moffa running for Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County supervisors (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, I have a request for the Strouse campaign; try writing a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed of some type for the Bucks County Courier Times introducing yourself. That rag published that editorial weeks ago saying that they didn’t trust you, or something, and I never saw a response from the campaign. And stop sending me so many Emails about John Boehner – he isn’t the PA-08 rep!).

    We know that all elections are ultimately local, and the Repugs do too. And we need more involvement in the off-year contests if we’re going to effect change for real in this country, whether it’s on any of the vital issues we face.

    I don’t want to hear anyone else ask the question “why can’t we have common-sense gun laws?,” or “why can’t we have more of a commitment in this country to clean energy?,” or “why can’t we have serious infrastructure investment and job creation.” We saw the reason why earlier this week.

    We have to have an answer for the off-year election base energy of the other side, and it doesn’t matter what election we’re talking about. Unless we do, nothing will substantially change.

    That being said, I should note that I think this is pretty cool – this, from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is a map of everyone in this country who donated on behalf of Morse and Giron.

    There’s still much to do, but that’s a good start.

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