Sunday, December 27, 2015

What To Do With Garbage

Martin BooMan Longman reminds us exactly what we should do with all the excremental existential whining from the "I won't support Hillary if she's the nominee" dudebro crowd thinkpieces, which is ignore them and the people who write them looking for attention.

I’m not sure whether it’s more accurate to call it clickbait or troll bait, but there’s a genre of political writing that’s good at getting everyone’s blood pressure up despite being almost completely worthless. Basically, these pieces are debates on take-my-ball-and-go-homism. The latest is by Ben Spielberg and can be read at theHuffington Post.

Mr. Spielberg assures us that he is well aware that any Democratic president would be preferable to any Republican president, but he wants us to know that he will not be voting for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. If you care, you can go check out his reasoning, but I’m not interested in his reasoning.

I’m only interested in the timing.

And Spielberg isn't alone,  Salon's Walker Bragman is as bad or worse.  They have two things in common: one, only Bernie can save the country, and two, if he's not the nominee, they will stay home.  Martin points out the idiocy in that logic in December, 11 months before the election:

In his mind, at least, Mr. Spielberg’s solitary vote is something candidates will bargain for. If he threatens to withhold his vote, it will increase his influence.

This is absurd, of course. Literally no one gives a crap whether Ben Spielberg votes or doesn’t vote. For his decision to have any meaning at all, he must persuade people of the merits of his case. He must universalize it. If everyone used his logic, then progressives would have more leverage over the Democratic nominees. In this way, he can satisfy himself that his threat of non-participation satisfies the Golden Rule.

But, here’s the key, only if he’s being dishonest about not voting. If everyone threatens to not vote, they increase their power and can get some positive change (maybe), but if people actually follow through, stay home, and enable the Republicans to win, they’ll have done real damage to their cause.

That’s why Spielberg pays lip service to the idea that losing in 2016 is worth it so that the left doesn’t lose in 2020. But that’s a throw-away line. No one intelligent actually believes that you can do better by losing the presidency than by winning it. That may sometimes be the result, but it’s too speculative and low-percentage to ever be a rational strategy.

So, when you read these take-my-ball-and-go-homism pieces, remember, they’re so stupid and dishonest that you don’t need to respond to them.

If this were October 2016, that kind of rhetoric might merit a rebuttal. In December of 2015, it’s not worth worrying about.


The Return Of The Wicked Webb

Silly me.  I've been grousing that maybe Bernie would do something colossally stupid and pull a 3rd party Ralph Nader stunt, when all this time I should have been keeping an eye on former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb as the agent of rodent fornication.

When Jim Webb quit the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 20 amid low poll numbers and a minimal debate presence, the former Virginia senator left open the possibility he'd return for a White House run in a different political guise. Now he appears to be edging closer to making good on it.

On Saturday morning, Webb used Twitter and his Facebook page to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her handling of Libya during her time as secretary of state.

The lengthy condemnation on Facebook, which said, among other things that "Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya," came just days before the end of the year, which his team had previously told CNN would be reasonable time for them to make a decision about an independent bid.

Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his Webb2016 website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a #WebbNation hashtag.

A run by Webb, who often manages his own social media accounts and has also used them recently to promote a petition in favor of his run and to deliver kudos to Bernie Sanders in his battles with the Democratic National Committee ("nothing more than an arm for the Clinton campaign," Webb tweeted), could further complicate the already unpredictable 2016 election.

While observers typically have analyzed the prospect of a third-party or independent run by Republican front-runner Donald Trump — or even one from Sanders — Webb could still alter the dynamics of the race even with his smaller profile.

A recent CNN poll, for instance, forecast tight races between Clinton and several Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Webb's campaign has told Bloomberg it would concentrate on mobilizing voters in the ideological middle, along with people who have become dissatisfied with politics.

In a tight race, even a small base of support could make him a factor. Ralph Nader, for instance, famously won only small percentages of the vote in many states in the 2000 presidential election, yet that arguably helped tip the Electoral College vote to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, denying Democratic Vice President Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote, the presidency.

Unlike Trump's whining about going third party, Webb is already out of the race.  For him to start attacking Clinton like this after departing the field is bad from, but to do so while using assaults lifted from the GOP playbook makes it clear he's trying to hand the country over to the Republicans and that he expects something in return.

No, this is truly odious, and it's too bad Jim Webb is ending his career like this.

Sunday Long Read: Tom Clancy's The Syrian Connection

Sy Hersh is at it again in this week's Sunday Long Read, where after "exposing" the Obama administration's "coverup" of supposedly knowing exactly where Osama Bin Laden was for years and having that debunked at light speed, he's back for another helping of garbage, this time claiming the same Pentagon that supposedly helped Obama cover for Pakistan at the cost of thousands of US troops recently engineered a coup to keep Bashar al-Assad in power by giving Turkey all our intel on Syria.

Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists. 
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’

In other words, instead of saying "Hey, we don't have a solution to who would follow Assad if he was deposed", the Pentagon's reaction was then to commit the largest and most egregious example of military espionage-based treason in recent world history and give our intelligence on Syria's rebels and ISIS to Assad so he could fight both, stay in power, and hopefully hurt the Islamic State.

This is what Sy Hersh is claiming.

It gets worse.

In July 2013, the Joint Chiefs found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey, had been underway for more than a year (it started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011).​* The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on 10 September Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which, the JCS adviser said, was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments. 
By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdo─čan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’ 
The flow of US intelligence to the Syrian army, and the downgrading of the quality of the arms being supplied to the rebels, came at a critical juncture. The Syrian army had suffered heavy losses in the spring of 2013 in fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups as it failed to hold the provincial capital of Raqqa. Sporadic Syrian army and air-force raids continued in the area for months, with little success, until it was decided to withdraw from Raqqa and other hard to defend, lightly populated areas in the north and west and focus instead on consolidating the government’s hold on Damascus and the heavily populated areas linking the capital to Latakia in the north-east. But as the army gained in strength with the Joint Chiefs’ support, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey escalated their financing and arming of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State, which by the end of 2013 had made enormous gains on both sides of the Syria/Iraq border. The remaining non-fundamentalist rebels found themselves fighting – and losing – pitched battles against the extremists. In January 2014, IS took complete control of Raqqa and the tribal areas around it from al-Nusra and established the city as its base. Assad still controlled 80 per cent of the Syrian population, but he had lost a vast amount of territory.

And we did this all because apparently President Obama was too stupid to realize he was being played in Syria by the Saudis and Erdogan, and that our generals had no choice but to save him from himself.

It's amazing stuff, Hersh has three-quarters of a Tom Clancy novel here, and I don't believe a word of it. Understand that Hersh is flat out saying that the Joint Chiefs knowingly went behind President Obama's back and worked with a foreign power in direct contravention of the Commander-in-Chief.

Again, this is treason, actual, literal and legal treason and not the screamy figurative stuff here.

It's insane and if true, it's a massive military scandal and people need to go to prison for a very, very long time.

But again, only if true, and Hersh's recent track record leaves much to be desired in the realm of credibility.  I'm sorry.

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