Friday, September 5, 2014

Last Call For Growth In The Death Business

Reuters lets us know that in addition to territory in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State is now getting a foothold in Egypt as well.

Islamic State, fighting to redraw the map of the Middle East, has been coaching Egypt's most dangerous militant group, complicating efforts to stabilize the biggest Arab nation.

Confirmation that Islamic Sate, currently the most successful of the region's jihadi groups, is extending its influence to Egypt will sound alarm bells in Cairo, where the authorities are already facing a security challenge from home-grown militants.

A senior commander from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has killed hundreds of members of the Egyptian security forces over the last year, said Islamic State has provided instructions on how to operate more effectively.

"They teach us how to carry out operations. We communicate through the internet," the commander, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

"They don't give us weapons or fighters. But they teach us how to create secret cells, consisting of five people. Only one person has contact with other cells."

I'm not sure how much of the word of an anonymous Egyptian militant group commander we can trust, but you have to admit, Egypt is a pretty good breeding ground for the kind of conditions favorable to groups like Islamic State.  The government is neither stable, nor popular.  When combined with an outfit like IS, that captures and then governs areas in order to win over recruits and take resources, the recipe is for what would amount to an ugly third front in this conflict.

Hopefully this is just boasting.  I don't believe it is.

The Angus King Special In Kansas

Two years ago retiring Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe was replaced by Independent former Gov. Angus King after Democrat Cynthia Dill was all but driven out of a race that she couldn't win by her own party.  The logic was that since Dill didn't have a chance, the Democratic party backed King.  It paid off, he won and joined Harry Reid's caucus.

This week it looks like the same play is happening in Kansas.  This time, however, the Democrat is dropping out of the race entirely.  Nate Silver crunches the numbers:

Kansas, however, had become an under-the-radar opportunity for Democrats. The Republican incumbent there, Pat Roberts, barely survived his primary and has extremely low approval ratings. Several recent polls had put the race in single digits between Roberts and his Democratic opponent, Chad Taylor, with the independent candidate Greg Orman getting about 20 percent of the vote. As of Wednesday, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gave Roberts an 80 percent chance of winning. That’s not bad, but it’s not any better than McConnell, who also has about an 80 percent chance of holding on in a race that has gotten far more attention.

Late Wednesday afternoon, however, Taylor announced his withdrawal from the race, setting up a contest between Orman and Roberts. (There is also a Libertarian candidate, Randall Baston, on the ballot.)

Why would Taylor leave the race right when polls showed it tightening?

Perhaps because he and Orman share a lot in common philosophically. Based on the ideological ratings we track (more background on those here), both Taylor and Orman rate as the equivalent of moderate Democrats. Orman, in fact, ran as a Democratic candidate for the Senate in 2008, although he withdrew from the race during the primary.

But Orman had raised more money than Taylor — about $625,000 in individual contributions to Taylor’s $120,000 as of July 13 — and probably had more momentum, having recently received endorsements from a bipartisan group of legislators.

There was also a recent survey, from Public Policy Polling (PPP), which showed Orman ahead of Roberts 43-33 in a potential two-way race. The same poll had shown Taylor trailing Roberts by 4 percentage points in the event Orman dropped out.

If the PPP survey is accurate, this is a huge problem for Republicans. Suddenly, they’re behind in a race against a former Democrat who might caucus with the Democratic Party should he make it to the Senate.

Republicans meanwhile are scrambling to try to keep Roberts in the race, and they figure they can do it if they force ballots to still have Chad Taylor's name on them, confusing voters.  Because that's how Republicans win, you know.

But, if Kansas is now in play, control of the Senate may hinge on which side Orman and Angus King in Maine side with as independents.   The answer may not automatically be "siding with the Democrats" in either case.

Either way, we'll keep an eye on Kansas.

Everybody Do The Flop

Over at the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca details Sen. Rand Paul's epic flip-flop from "principled anti-war conservative" to "standard GOP warmonger" when it comes to dealing with Islamic State goons.

We’re all familiar with his attempt to outflank Hillary Clinton to her left by characterizing her as a hawk, both on Meet the Press, August 24, and in The Wall Street Journal, August 28
Back in June, Rand Paul had serious reservations about air-strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq. 
What would airstrikes accomplish? We know that Iran is aiding the Iraqi government against ISIS. Do we want to, in effect, become Iran’s air force? What’s in this for Iran? Why should we choose a side, and if we do, who are we really helping? 
But on Tuesday, after news broke about a second beheading of an American journalist by ISIS terrorists, Rand Paul said:
In an emailed comment… Paul elaborated by saying: “If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”  
That brings us to Wednesday when Paul said this to Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel:

So I also think that Turks really should be enjoined in this. And I do think that there can be a role for America. But I would rather see the president come to a joint session of Congress, [ask] for permission, and if he gets it, I still would like to see the ground troops and the battles being fought by those who live there. We can give both technological as well as air support. That could be the decisive factor in this.” 
Okay, sure, it’s not a complete reversal from Tuesday, but it’s a significant backpedal from seeking authorization for the U.S. to “destroy ISIS militarily.” Instead of doing all the destroying, Rand Paul would essentially hang back and let Iraq and Turkey do most of the ground fighting. That said, it’s a massive reversal from his opposition to air-strikes back in June. (I hasten to note that my criticism of Paul is based solely on his total lack of core values and increasingly hilarious roster of flip-flops. The U.S. strategy on ISIS is a separate conversation.)

Of course Cesca is correct on this, there's really no other way to characterize Paul's Superman-level leaps from the "hands off" camp to the "I could talk Iran into doing it for us!" camp.  It's also a deeply silly position to all of a sudden start pushing Iran as the solution to the Islamic State problem when Republicans screamed bloody murder at even using diplomacy with Iran in regards to enriching uranium.  Now all of a sudden Republicans want to trust Iran's military to bail us out so that we don't have to send in ground troops?  That's the big plan?

Who does he think he's fooling with this?  Republican primary voters who will flay him leading up to 2016? General election voters who will laugh him out of the room?  He knows he's in trouble, so he took to TIME Magazine Thursday to "clarify" his position.

This administration’s dereliction of duty has both sins of action and inaction, which is what happens when you are flailing around wildly, without careful strategic thinking. 
And while my predisposition is to less intervention, I do support intervention when our vital interests are threatened. 
If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS. I would have called Congress back into session—even during recess. 
This is what President Obama should have done. He should have been prepared with a strategic vision, a plan for victory and extricating ourselves. He should have asked for authorization for military action and would have, no doubt, received it.

So no, liberals who think Rand Paul is somehow "anti-war".  He's just another GOP warmonger.  And if you notice above, it means he's flip-flopped again just this week.

It would be hysterical if it weren't so frightening to consider him as President.


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