Thursday, July 14, 2016

Last Call For Putin On The Blitz

Cold, hard realpolitik in the Obama era is giving me a headache, and no migraine is larger than Syria right now. I'm not surprised at all that the new plan to cooperate with Russia over Syria to fight ISIS is on terms that are apparently very, very good for the existing Assad regime and for our good friend Vlad. Josh Rogin at WaPo:

The Obama administration’s new proposal to Russia on Syria is more extensive than previously known. It would open the way for deep cooperation between U.S. and Russian military and intelligence agencies and coordinated air attacks by American and Russian planes on Syrian rebels deemed to be terrorists,according to the text of the proposal I obtained
Secretary of State John F. Kerry plans to discuss the plan with top Russian officials in a visit to Moscow on Thursday. As I first reported last month, the administration is proposing joining with Russia in a ramped-up bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, which is also known as the Nusrah Front. What hasn’t been previously reported is that the United States is suggesting a new military command-and-control headquarters to coordinate the air campaign that would house U.S. and Russian military officers, intelligence officials and subject-matter experts
Overall, the proposal would dramatically shift the United States’ Syria policy by directing more American military power against Jabhat al-Nusra, which unlike the Islamic State is focused on fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While this would expand the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Syria, it would also be a boon for the Assad regime, which could see the forces it is fighting dramatically weakened. The plan also represents a big change in U.S.-Russia policy. It would give Russian President Vladi­mir Putin something he has long wanted: closer military relations with the United States and a thawing of his international isolation. That’s why the Pentagon was initially opposed to the plan
Yet for all this, it’s not at all clear that the plan will be accepted by Putin — or that Russia will fulfill its terms if he does. Administration officials caution that no final decisions have been made and that no formal agreement has been reached between the two countries. Negotiations over the text are ongoing ahead of Kerry’s arrival in Russia.

So what we'd really be doing is attacking the largest thorn in Assad's side and helping Russia with their favorite dictator in the Middle East, in exchange for...what, exactly?

In exchange for U.S. assistance against Jabhat al-Nusra, the Russian side would be required to limit airstrikes to targets both sides agreed on and also to ensure that the Syrian air force would stand down and not bomb targets in agreed-upon “designated areas.” 
The proposal provides some large exceptions for the constraints on the Russians and the Assad regime, however. The Russian air force would still be permitted to strike Jabhat al-Nusra unilaterally if there were an “imminent threat” to their personnel. The Syrian regime would be allowed to bomb Jabhat al-Nusra if the group tried to advance beyond “designated areas” in which they already operate. Also, if Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the regime, even from the “designated areas,” the Russians could come to the aid of the regime, according to the proposal. The details of the “designated areas” are not spelled out in the document. 
“All actions should be consistent with the terms of the cessation of hostilities,” the document states, referring the cease-fire. The State Department admits neither Russia nor the Assad regime are adhering to the cease-fire now.

In the second part of the proposal, called the “Approach for Practical Russian-American Cooperation against Daesh and Jabhat al Nusra and Strengthening the Cessation of Hostilities,” the administration spells out details about how it wants the United States and Russia to work together on the ground. 
Within five days of establishment of the JIG, the two sides are to come up with a common map of all Jabhat al-Nusra locations and begin sharing intelligence on leadership targets, training camps, logistical depots, supply lines and headquarters. They will then set about developing targets for strikes in the “designated areas.”

Right, so Assad would totally, seriously, super promise not to keep bombing the crap out of the smoking rubble of what's left in Syria, with six million people already displaced and hundreds of thousands more fleeing each month.   Except for you know the part where the exceptions to that promise allow him to do just that and gleefully continue to destroy one of the oldest civilizations on Earth because people made him feel bad about his dead father.

Sure, this seems like a great deal for the folks that are left in Syria, and something that totally isn't going to blow up and turn into an even worse problem in 2017 and beyond.

Good job, Obama foreign policy team.  I feel confident that this won't be a collosal garbage fire, because we can totally trust Assad and Putin completely.

I'm going to take some Aleve for this migraine, in the meantime.

Gotta Catch Em, Law!

I understand that legislation keeping up with technology is always a challenge in America, and lord knows Pokemon Go is causing me headaches at work as our company's mobility device administrator, but boy, this didn't take long, did it?

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, a Brooklyn Democrat and established nanny-stater, said he is "concerned” that people playing Pokemon Go, the viral augmented reality game, pose a risk to public safety.

"Like any new technology, it has its advantages and disadvantages, and like any new technology, it has to be looked at very, very carefully. Everything comes down to people’s responsibility as well as corporate responsibility,” Ortiz said Tuesday. "Every single one of us who might want to play this game have to be very cautious. Who’s sending what, and what is the follow up? Everyone should be cautious to make sure that no intruders will be able to tap into this and have people think they’re going to the park when in reality they’re going to a be targeted by some rapist. People could think they’re going to the bank, but in reality, someone is waiting to take their money.” 
Already, people in Baltimore and elsewhere have been mugged while glued to their phones, which display balls and digital avatars on videos of people's actual surroundings.
Ortiz said he was concerned people would play in busy streets, or while driving cars. The latter fear is shared by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, whose leader, Terri Egan, warned that it could have “tragic real-world consequences.” 
"Catching virtual creatures to get to the next level is not worth risking your life or the lives of others,” she stated. 
Ortiz has a reputation at the Capitol for being a noodge: he has proposed banning the use of salt in restaurants, taxes on alcohol and sugary drinks as well as admission to strip clubs. 
He said he’s not prepared to introduce legislation relating to Pokemon Go or other games, at least not yet, but hopes game companies recognize potential risks in their products and react accordingly. He pointed to a recall announced this week of hoverboards — which, yes, Ortiz also carries a bill to regulate. 
"My big call is to the company, to watch what is happening. They should be vigilant before they become liable,” he said. "If it’s an issue they can pull out and fix, they won’t be liable. Otherwise, I will introduce legislation.”

So my immediate question comes back to this topic: not only do I worry about police harassing people of color who are safely playing the game in their own neighborhoods and homes, but how long before actually playing Pokemon Go becomes yet another violation of the law that police selectively enforce against people of color?

Here's an idea, if you're worried about regulating people's safety, DO SOMETHING ABOUT GUN CONTROL AND UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS RATHER THAN POKEMON GO.


This is going to be another long, brutal summer I think.

Going To Town With President Obama

President Obama will host a nationally televised town hall meeting on race in America tonight at 8 PM, and the Disney networks will cover it in its entirety.

In an unprecedented move, all of the networks owned by Walt Disney Co. will air a town hall with President Obama on race relations in prime time on Thursday.

The town hall event, to begin at 8 p.m., will be commercial free.

ABC-TV, ESPN, ABC News Digital, Freeform Digital, the WATCH ABC app, the WatchESPN app, Yahoo, and ABC Radio will all air the town hall, titled "The President and The People: A National Conversation.” 
It will air live from Washington, D.C., and will be produced by ABC News.

World News Tonight anchor David Muir will co-moderate the event. His co-moderator will be ESPN commentator Jemele Hill, who normally hosts a sports banter program called "His & Hers," with Michael Smith, on ESPN 2.

The president is scheduled to discuss race relations, policing and gun violence.

The town hall comes on the heels of a series of separate highly publicized shootings of African-American men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the sniper ambush killings of five police officers during a protest in Dallas last week.

I'm 110% for this and will definitely be watching this evening.  Pay attention, folks.  This is the president using his bully pulpit to an unprecedented degree at a time when it is most sorely needed.

No doubt Republicans will go insane over this and will demand investigations of the FCC for allowing this "abuse of ececutive power" to happen.

Not even kidding about that.  Watch.


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