Sunday, August 23, 2015

Last Call For A Missed Birthday


Zandar Versus The Stupid turned seven this month, and I kinda forgot about it.

Time does fly, I guess. Thanks for sticking with us, brave readers.

Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades

Israel being rocked this weekend by revelations from former Defense Minister Ehud Barak that yes, Israel came extremely close to attacking Iran several times during President Obama's first term in office. 

Mr. Barak, who also previously served as Israel’s prime minister, said that he and Mr. Netanyahu were ready to attack Iran each year but that in 2010, the military chief of staff said Israel lacked the “operational capability”; in 2011, two key ministers waffled at the last minute; and in 2012, the timing did not work out because of a joint United States-Israel military exercise and visit by the American defense secretary. He noted that the two ministers who balked in 2011, Moshe Yaalon and Yuval Steinitz, “are the most militant about attacking Iran” today.

The interview excerpts were aired by Israel’s Channel 2, which stressed that Mr. Barak had sought to prevent them from being broadcast, but that they had been approved by Israel’s military censor. Reached late Friday by telephone, Mr. Barak confirmed that the recordings were authentic but said he had provided the information on background to the authors, Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor, whose book, “Barak: The Wars of My Life,” came out this week in Hebrew.

It was not supposed to be published,” Mr. Barak said. “I don’t want to comment on it. I tried to convince them not to broadcast it. But it’s true, it’s my voice. I don’t deny my voice, it can be recognized.”

Mr. Barak was known at the time to be a prime advocate for a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, something Washington strongly opposed.

In the weeks since the Obama administration and five other world powers signed a deal with Iran to restrict its nuclear program, Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Yaalon — now defense minister — and Mr. Steinitz have all stressed that Israel retains a military option to stop Iran from making a bomb. But most Israeli experts say a strike would be all but impossible now because of the continuing diplomatic process, and likely far more technically challenging than when it was most seriously considered, in 2012.

In the interviews broadcast Friday, Mr. Barak said “we’d planned to do it” that year. He recalled “demanding” of Leon E. Panetta, then the secretary of defense, to postpone the joint military exercise, and succeeding, but still being unable to find the right moment.

“You ask, you demand that America respect your sovereignty to make a decision that you want to do that, even if America is opposed to that and it is against its interests,” Mr. Barak said. “So you can’t, you yourself, in the opposite direction, try to force America — precisely when it is here carrying out an exercise that’s been scheduled in advance. That’s how it got tied up in 2012.”

In 2011, Mr. Barak said, Mr. Netanyahu told him and Avigdor Lieberman, then the foreign minister, that Mr. Yaalon and Mr. Steinitz were on board with a planned strike. But when military leaders briefed them as part of so-called Forum of Eight top ministers on how complex it would be, both demurred. “You can see, in front of our very eyes, them melting,” he recounted. “You see it in their reactions, their questions, their faces.”

“Had they not changed their minds, that would have created a majority,” Mr. Barak noted, “and then we might have convened the cabinet.”

Each time, cooler heads prevailed, but barely.

I'm not sure why Israel's military censor allowed these conversations to be published other than Israel's military really, really wants to show the world that the ministers running the show are pretty much bonkers, and that Israel's generals don't want anything to do with them.  This would be the equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff leaking Defense Department discussions during the Dubya years or something.  It's "save us before this happens."

Will Israel's voters do so? 

I have no reason to believe they will, not until 2017 at the earliest and Obama is gone.

It's one thing to not be surprised that Israel wanted to bomb Iran once Bibi was voted into office, but it's another thing entirely to have that stance confirmed multiple times.

Rand Buys An Election, Con't

Kentucky Republicans have given Rand Paul what he wanted, the ability to compete for the state as 2016 GOP nominee in a caucus and then remain on the ballot as Senator when he loses the presidential nomination.

The Kentucky GOP’s central committee voted Saturday to adopt a presidential caucus system next year, clearing the way Republican Sen. Rand Paul to run for president and reelection at the same time.

Paul, who is in his first term, had pushed Kentucky Republicans to move from a primary to a caucus system as a way to get around a state law forbidding candidates from appearing twice on the same ballot. He has pledged to pick up the tab for holding the caucuses, which could run $500,000 or more.

The motion to adopt a caucus system required a vote of at least two-thirds of the committee vote to pass. It was approved with 76 percent of the vote, according to a video of the announcement posted online, on the condition that Paul transfer $250,000 to a state GOP account next month. POLITICO reported this week that Paul told the member in a letter on Monday that he had transferred $250,000 into a state party account, but Paul had not actually done so.

Paul applauded the committee’s decision — which still must be approved by the Republican National Committee — after the vote.

“The people of Kentucky deserve a voice as the GOP chooses their next nominee, and holding a caucus will ensure that Kentucky is relevant and participates early in the process,” he said in a statement. “I am also grateful for the Republican Party’s trust in me, allowing me to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate and seek the nomination for the presidency of the United States.”

The vote was also a victory for House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had endorsed the switch to caucuses.

“Look, all we cared about is giving Rand a chance in his presidential race,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “Because of the peculiarities of Kentucky law, all I asked of him was to defray the cost and he’s indicated he’s going to do that and so I think we’ll go ahead and do the nomination for president by caucus.”

You know what they say in situations like this: now that we've established that the Kentucky GOP is willing to take money, it was just a question of price.  A pretty good deal for Rand at the low, low price of a quarter-million, too.

Over at Outside The Beltway, Doug Mataconis calls it what it is.

It’s hard not to walk away from this with anything other than the impression that Paul is buying a method to get himself around a law that would otherwise bar him from running for President while also running for what most every observer believes would be a safe bid for his party’s nominate for Senate. Other than the purpose of allowing Paul to get round the law, there doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason for the Kentucky Republican Party to agree to a caucus rather than a primary. For one thing, as I’ve noted before, caucuses are an inherently flawed way to pick nomineeswhen compared primaries. Because they often take place in the evenings, the number of people who are even able to show up is dramatically smaller than the number of people able to show up to vote in a primary. Caucus schedules are also difficult for people who have to work in the evenings, and families with children who can’t find a babysitter. Additionally, there is no absentee voting in a caucus so anyone who is out of state on caucus day will be unable toa vote, as will residents of Kentucky who are in the military and stationed out of state. Beyond these concerns, switching from a primary to a caucus arguably dilutes Kentucky’s importance in the Presidential race. Add into this the fact that holding a caucus deprives the Kentucky GOP of voter data that they could use in the General Election, and it’s hard to see exactly why they would have agreed to do this.

They did it because Rand is paying them, and Mitch McConnell told them to do it, and that's that.  Since when was this about anything other than the aggrandizement of my two embarrassments of senators that "represent" me as a constituent?

Clowns.  But clowns with money and power.

Sunday Long Read: Tools Of The System

Bernie Sanders supporters do not come off looking very credible in this Buzzfeed News article from Evan McMorris-Santoro about the conspiracy theories some of them have involving Black Lives Matter activists, when the reality is a lot more easily explained.

At a recent Bernie Sanders event, Dave, a white fiftysomething in a Grateful Dead hat, offered an explanation for Black Lives Matter, the activist group that had interrupted Sanders just hours earlier in Seattle.

They weren’t activists. They were “agent provocateurs,” Dave said, sent by the Democratic establishment to quash the Vermont socialist’s message.

His mother, who was standing next to him across the temporary fence separating the press from the crowd at a large Sanders rally on the University of Washington campus, interrupted. “He’s a conspiracy theorist,” she said.

He’s not the only one. The conspiracy theories are hiding in plain sight at Sanders’ giant rallies. The crowds are mostly white and mostly frustrated by the confrontations with black activists some Sanders supporters say are doing nothing but tearing down the only candidate who truly believes in the Black Lives Matter cause. But some of Sanders’ backers even take it a step further. Online and in person, this set of white Sanders fans wonder aloud if there’s some outside force causing the protest movement to target the senator. 
The basic mythology is that someone — maybe frontrunner Hillary Clinton, maybe the Republicans, maybe her billionaire backers, maybe even the FBI — is using Black Lives Matter to tear Sanders down, to diminish an insurgent candidacy that, the supporters say, is viewed as a real threat by the establishment.

It's a ridiculous notion, but there you have it.  And the great thing is that the conspiracy itself is tailor-made to split the Obama coalition and help the GOP win in 2016.  It's amazing how obvious that is to any objective observer, but hey, it's not like this kind of nonsense didn't happen before.
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