Category Archives: The World

Young Icelanders seem confused about God and science

Sistine

Yet another story from The Washington Post that I meant to post about over the weekend…

I was intrigued by this headline:

In this country, literally no young Christians believe that God created the Earth

The story reports that “Exactly zero percent of respondents in a recent survey said they believe that God created the Earth.”

That apparently includes the 40 percent or so of younger people in the increasingly secular country who still consider themselves to be Christian.

I tried to find out how that could be, and the explanation was confusing:

Despite the trend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is still the country’s declared state church. Solveig Anna Boasdottir, a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, agreed that scientific progress had changed religious attitudes in the country. But she said that about 40 percent of the country’s younger generation still consider themselves Christian — but none of them believe that God created the Earth. “Theories of science are broadly accepted among both young and old. That does not necessarily affect people’s faith in God,” she said….

Yeah. Got that. I don’t see any reason why acceptance of science would diminish faith in God — I’ve always found that simplistic dichotomy (God on one side, science on the other) — to be rather absurd, with the battle over evolution being one of the more ridiculous manifestations.

But I don’t see how it would affect people’s belief that God made the world, either.

I’ve always thought evolution is exactly the way God would create people and other species — a majestically slow, dignified, enormously complex process, rather than some Cecil B. DeMille, abracadabra “poof!”

Same with the geological eons to create the world on which all these species live.

Yeah, I get it that some people are very literal-minded, and they think that if it didn’t happen in the six days set out in the Genesis allegory, then God must have had nothing to do with it.

So if this survey is right, every single person who lives in Iceland is that literal-minded.

Which surprises me…

So basically, these folks are the opposite of deists, who believed God did create the world, but then left it alone…

The story even acknowledges what seems obvious to me, which is that “some Christians believe both in the Big Bang theory and God’s role.” So… how does that lead to no one believing God created the world?

Maybe the story’s just not well-written…

Will the U.S. never disentangle itself from WWII?

Here are the two top stories in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs:

  • The Bundeswehr Backs Away From the Brink — Since the end of the Cold War, NATO members’ defense expenditures, which include arms as well as personnel and facilities, have dropped dramatically. Now, Germany plans to increase its military spending, in large part to repair and maintain the Bundeswehr’s deteriorating equipment.
  • The Battle for Okinawa — Growing discontent in Okinawa has the potential to reverberate beyond Japan’s borders. If Washington and Tokyo wish to maintain the bases there, they must be prepared to address the historical and political issues that have led Okinawans to reject them.

By modern standards, we should all be wringing our hands that we are still not rid of the challenges arising from that mess we got involved in back in 1941.

At the moment, I’m reading a fairly new book about the battle in the Ardennes in December 1944 (a.k.a., Battle of the Bulge), and I’m reminded of how Hitler hoped it might give him a chance to fight to a stalemate in the West, so he could concentrate on his main enemy, Russia.

If some modern American leaders had been in charge back then, he might have succeeded. The nation would be in political shock from the disasters of Market Garden and the Hurtgen Forest, that a modern president might have seized upon the Ardennes as an excuse to quit and seek a negotiated settlement.

Then, he could have bragged about having “ended the war in Europe.” Of course, that would have been totally bogus, but not by our standards today…

Putin probably LIKES being accused in Litvinenko death

Russia is issuing denials, but it occurs to me that on a certain level, Vladimir Putin relishes the British report that concludes he “probably” ordered the death of Alexander Litvinenko in London 10 years ago.

All his old pals from KGB days are bound to be jealous. Or scared. Or both...

All his old pals from KGB days are bound to be jealous. Or scared. Or both…

He’s likely to be congratulating himself that the whole world — and especially the part of it that consists of critics of his regime — thinks he gave the order. And having his old KGB cronies believe he did it in such a Dr. Evil kind of way, with polonium-210 slipped into the victim’s green tea, should be enough to have him hugging himself with delight. That impatient Obama can blow people up with drones, but this was real artistry by comparison. What a way for one spy to do in another!

Such reports would be embarrassing to most world leaders, but not to Putin. Really, what penalty is he ever likely to have to pay for this?

At this moment, he’s probably fighting the urge to strip his shirt off and go running through the countryside, holding a rifle. Or not. Fighting it, I mean.

Yeah, Parliament’s vote about Trump IS embarrassing

I got this release from the DNC today:

Today, the governing body of one of the United States’ closest allies will debate whether to bar the Republican Party’s frontrunner from their country for “Hate Speech.” Setting aside the serious diplomatic implications of the United Kingdom barring a potential U.S. president from their shores, this shameful and embarrassing spectacle shines a light on the Republican candidates’ vitriolic rhetoric and discriminatory policies that undermine our values, alienate partners we need to prosecute the war on terror, and make our country and our people less safe. Today’s debate underscores just how far Republicans have moved to the extreme right and how out-of-touch they are….

Of course, I could do my usual thing and deconstruct that piece as typical overblown rhetoric from one side making generalizations about the other (as though all Republicans were Trump).

But you know what? They do have a point here: This really is embarrassing, and not just for Republicans. It’s embarrassing to America that someone who would attract this kind of attention is doing so well in the run-up to our presidential election.

All of our faces should be red. Because Trump’s supporters are unlikely to feel the embarrassment. We have to do it for them…

This was the only picture of Parliament I could find in my files. That's me in late 2010.

This was the only picture of Parliament I could find in my files. That’s me in late 2010.

Iranians take two U.S. Navy vessels; U.S. sailors in custody

U.S. Navy Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC)

U.S. Navy Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC)

This is not a promising situation:

Two small U.S. Navy vessels appear to be in Iranian custody but their crews will be released promptly, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

Two U.S. naval craft were en route from Kuwait to Bahrain when they disappeared from the Navy’s scopes. The incident marks the latest run-in between Iranian and U.S. crews. In late December, Iranian gunboats fired unguided missiles almost a 1,000 yards away from the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.

A U.S. official said that the boats were small riverine variants and may have ran out of gas or had mechanical issues and were believed to have been within 12 nautical miles of Iran when they broke down….

This prompts a number of questions, such as:

  • Two boats broke down at the same time in the same place? Or did Iran do something to cause them to “break down?” Or did one break down and the other was rendering aid? What happened?
  • What kind of boats were these? What’s a “small riverine variant”? Are they like P.B.R.s? Swift boats? P.T. boats? How are they configured and crewed? What are they designed to do? What’s the mission? (UPDATE: Apparently, these were Small Unit Riverine Craft. A picture is posted above.)
  • If our sailors are not released promptly, then what?
  • I missed the news about the Truman incident. What was our response? That is, what did we do after we sank the gunboats? (No, I know we didn’t, or I would have heard about it.)

 

Obama acknowledges War on Terror

Obama speech

Most of the commentary I’ve seen since last night has emphasized that POTUS didn’t unveil anything new in his speech last night, that he mainly just tried to justify what he’s doing (or what he’s not doing, if you prefer), and that his real purpose was apparently to lecture us about tolerance.

Well, I heard something that sounded new to me. He said:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11. In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe. Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership…

Did you catch it? Tell you what; let’s just zero right in on what I’m talking about:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

 

You catch that? We are “at war with terrorists.” Not “We’ve been prosecuting incidents of terror as discrete crimes,” or “I’ve been shutting down multiple wars started by my predecessor,” or “the so-called War on Terror.”

He said we are at war with terrorists. Maybe he’s said it multiple times before, but this time it jumped out at me.

Did it strike anyone else?

We didn’t have people in Syria ALREADY?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dang, y’all, I wrote this Friday and thought I posted it. But I didn’t. So here it is…

Lindsey Graham, in his role as the hawk on the campaign trail, isn’t about to give POTUS credit for anything these days:

GRAHAM ON PRESIDENT OBAMA SENDING 50 SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES TO SYRIA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the news President Obama is willing to send up to fifty Special Operations Forces to Syria.

“President Obama is putting fifty brave Americans at risk without a clear strategy of how to degrade and destroy ISIL.

“ISIL is not going to be intimidated by this move.  In fact, ISIL will see this as yet another sign of President Obama’s weakness.

“ISIL is all-in for their horrific agenda and demented view of the world.  Unfortunately, President Obama is not all in when it comes to degrading and destroying ISIL.  Today’s announcement again reinforces that view.”

#####

If Obama doesn’t send troops, he’s soft on terror. If he does, then he’s doing it without thinking it through. POTUS can’t win.

But the senator does have kind of a point. Even though these are some of our toughest troops, 50 of them aren’t going to tip the balance. So, what is the plan? What’s it gonna be then, eh? Are we in or are we out.

Frankly, I would have hoped that we had at least that many snake-eaters here and there in the country already, on the QT — maintaining contacts with friendlies, advising, and most of all collecting intel for if and when we go in officially. We’re supposedly already doing some training and providing weapons — well, who’s doing that? OK, the CIA. But still — do they not wear boots? Do they not go armed? Perhaps not.

But I guess this represents some sort of departure from what we’ve been doing. Otherwise, there’d be no point in making an announcement about a troop movement this small. What would amount to half a company were they conventional troops. Which of course they’re not.

Bottom line, what’s the plan? What is the difference we intend for these 50 men to make?

Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia attacking by air, land and sea

Perhaps it’s just as well that we our hands full with immediate problems here in South Carolina. Otherwise, I’d really be stressing about Putin’s new adventure in Syria.

  • Day after day, his air assets are attacking our allies — the Syrian rebels to whom we have been providing aid as a balance against both Assad and ISIS. And lying about it. The one silver lining in this is that they are presumably attacking the forces Assad, their buddy, sees as the most immediate threats. Which indicates that maybe our aid to these rebels is actually having an effect.
  • Now they have a battalion-sized ground force in place, including their most advance tanks. Sure, a battalion isn’t all that huge, but it’s a start.
  • Russian ships have entered the fray. For once, the BBC’s practice of putting everything any nation says in quotes is justified (“Russia ‘hits IS in Syria from Caspian’“), there being such a gap between what Putin is doing and what he says he’s doing.

This is a serious problem, people. I’m having trouble remembering any time in the Cold War that the Soviets moved this boldly, outside of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which they considered their own turf. Sure, they advised the North Vietnamese, but how many Russians actually went into combat there?

That’s because the Soviets weren’t nearly as reckless as Putin.

He’s playing with both matches and gasoline, and doing so right next to some of our people…

 

Graham’s speech today opposing the Iran deal

Since he sent it to me, and I’m too busy this afternoon to digest it, I’ll just share the whole thing with y’all. Here’s the transcript:

Mr. Graham:

Thank you, Senator Corker. Well, I just want to make sure people understand what we’re trying to do here at this point. Our Democratic colleagues are filibustering an attempt to have a debate, an up-or-down vote on the most consequential foreign policy decision in modern history. That’s what you’re doing. And Senator Corker in good faith got us here in a bipartisan manner and Senator Reid has come out of nowhere to change what was the common understanding of how we would proceed, get 60 votes, a simple majority, let the president act as he wishes. But no, we couldn’t do that.  We’re more worried about protecting Barack Obama from having to veto this than you are about having a debate on the floor of the Senate.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about who you’re dealing with here, folks. And if I hear one more comment from my Democratic friends about how much they love Israel……with friends like this, you don’t need an enemy.

Here’s who you are dealing with. This was yesterday. The Iran Supreme Leader predicted Wednesday that Israel would not exist in 25 years and ruled out any new negotiations with a Satan, the United States, beyond the recently concluded nuclear accord. In remarks published Wednesday on his personal web site — at least the Ayatollah has gotten in modern times and post on Twitter — the Supreme Leader — do you know what they call him Supreme Leader? Because he is. Ayatollah Khamenei responding to what he said were claims that Israel would be safe for that period. Where do those claims come from?

It came from this Administration, my colleagues on the other side. You’re telling everybody in the world that this is the best deal for Israel. Guess what? Nobody in Israel agrees with you, who is in the current government.  It’s just not Bibi [Netanyahu]. Everybody who is in the current coalition government understands this is not a good deal for Israel. Why don’t you listen to them? You want it to be a good deal for Israel. Well, it’s not. And you wanting it doesn’t change it.

So let’s finish to what he said.   The Ayatollah responded to claims he would be safe for that period under the nuclear agreement reached in July. After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years.  After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years. Israel didn’t say that. People over here said that. The Ayatollah wrote I am telling you first you will not be around in 25 years, and god willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years.

Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting heroism and jihad will keep you worried at every moment. Clearly, somebody who is on the course of change, somebody we should give $100 billion to, create a pathway to a nuclear bomb in 15 years, let him buy more weapons in five years and build an intercontinental ballistic missile in eight years. Clearly, this is the man that has changed course and you have empowered.

At least, at least [Neville] Chamberlain can say Hitler lied. At least Chamberlain can say I negotiated with the Fuhrer, he told me to my face if you give me this I’m done. We all know that Chamberlain was a chump and Hitler actually meant what he said when he wrote a book. The question is does this man mean what he says when he tweets yesterday?

The ink is not dry on the deal. One thing you can say about the old Ayatollah, who is crazy, who is a religious Nazi, at least he’s honest. He doesn’t want you to be confused as you vote as to what he wants to do to your friend Israel.

See, he doesn’t want you to mistake what this deal means to him. You obviously are writing him off. You obviously believe he doesn’t mean it. I guess he has a polling problem in Iran. He’s got to get his numbers up. He needs to say these things because he doesn’t mean it but he has to keep his people happy because they like hearing this stuff. All I can tell you, his people tried to rise up against him in 2009 and our president sat on the sidelines and didn’t do a damn thing.

The biggest moment for change in Iran came in 2009 when young people and women took to the streets demanding a fair election that was stolen from them by the Ayatollah and his response was to beat them, shoot them, put them in jail and torture them. This is the guy that you’re going to give $100 billion to. A clear pathway to a bomb. He doesn’t even have to cheat to get there. And buy more weapons to attack us. At least Chamberlain lied. This man is telling you what he’s going to do as of yesterday.

And between the time the negotiations have started to now, has he given us — shown us a little leg about real change? During the negotiations he has toppled four Arab capitals. During the negotiations, he supported the Houthis in Yemen who destroyed a pro-American government, and we’ve lost eyes and ears on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Sunni-extremist group who attacked Paris and will attack us. During the negotiation they have done anything but be modest. I cannot believe that you don’t believe him. I cannot believe that you made the biggest miscalculation in modern history by empowering a religious fanatic with the ability to attack our nation, destroy our friends in Israel and keep the Mideast on fire for 15 years. What are y’all thinking over there?

All I can say is that the last 9/11, 3,000 of us died because they couldn’t get weapons to kill three million of us. If you let this deal go forward, before too long the most radical regime on the planet will have the most lethal weapons available to mankind. They will share that technology with terrorists and it will come here. And why do they need an ICBM folks? What are they going to do with it? They’re not going to send people to space. What are you thinking? What are y’all thinking over there? You’re taking the most radical regime on the planet, a theocracy. This is not a democracy. The moderates were shot down in the streets. They were begging ‘are you with us or with you with him, President Obama?’

President Obama is absolutely the most poor champion of freedom and the weakest opponent of evil in history. Evil is flourishing on his watch. President Obama said you’d have to be crazy not to support this deal. Let’s walk through whether or not we should follow his advice about radical Islam.

This is the president who was told to leave troops in Iraq to make sure our gains would be maintained, and he pulled everybody out because he wanted to get to zero. He turned down every commander’s advice to get to zero because he made a campaign promise. This is the president that was told by his entire national security team three years ago establish a no-fly zone and help the Free Syrian Army because Assad was on the rope. At the time when it would have mattered when there was a Free Syrian Army to help. Obama said no thanks.

This is the president who drew a red line against Assad after he backed off and said if you use chemical weapons and cross that red line, you’ll pay a price. Here’s the facts: Assad is going to be in power and Obama is going to be gone. The last guy standing is going to be Assad. This is the man who said don’t worry about ISIL. They are the J.V. Team.  I killed Bin Laden.  Al-Qaeda is decimated.  At what point do you realize that President Obama has no idea what he’s talking about? At what point in time is it obvious to anybody in the world who’s paying attention when it comes to radical Islam, he has no clue? So this is the guy we’re going to send in to negotiate with a radical Ayatollah, a guy who in the eyes of the world is a complete weak defender of freedom and a very poor adversary of evil?

And if that’s not enough, the Iranians are rubbing this in John Kerry and Barack Obama’s face by tweeting this out hours before you vote on this deal, just to remind you that no matter what you say on this floor about Israel, nothing’s changed in his mind about Israel. And when you claim Israel’s safe, he’s telling you no, they’re not.

But you’re not listening because you — you’re not listening because you don’t think he really means it. I can tell you right now, you better be right. And how about this idea, when it comes to the Ayatollah, assume the worst, not the best. And to our friends in Russia, John Kerry said one of the big benefits of this deal is that we’ll bring Russia in and Iran will be a better partner in the Mideast. And we’ll have a major breakthrough where Iran begins to help us with problems like Syria. Well, here’s Russia’s response before you vote.

They’re sending Russian troops, maybe fighter planes into Syria to prop up Assad before you vote. Taking everything John Kerry said about what would happen if you do this deal and rubbing it in his face. Tell me how you fix Syria with Assad in power? What the Russians are doing are ensuring he will stay in power longer. The longer he stays in power the more refugees the world will have to deal with and the more hell on earth will occur in Syria. The Syrian people want two things. They want to destroy ISIL and want Assad gone because he destroyed their families. Secretary Kerry, how well is this working with this new engagement with Iran and Russia? Things are really changing. Look at the tweet yesterday. What are you going to tell the American people this means? Interpret the Ayatollah for me. This is just all talk? He has to say these things?

He doesn’t get elected. He doesn’t have to worry about the next election. He says these things because he believes it. He’s a religious fanatic compelled by his version of Islam to destroy everything in his religion that he doesn’t agree with, to destroy the one and only Jewish state and attack democracies like ours. And you’re giving him more to do that with.  This is over time a death sentence for Israel if it’s not changed. And if I had $100 billion to negotiate with, for God’s sake, could I get four people out of jail? I could get people out of jail here with $100 billion. Who’s negotiating with Iran? This idea we’re going to separate all of their bad behavior from the nuclear program was the biggest miscalculation in modern foreign policy history. To suggest that we don’t need to look at Iran as a whole unit, that we’re going to ignore the fact that they have four hostages, U.S. personnel held in sham trials, a “Washington Post” reporter, that they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism, they destabilize the region, driven our friends out of Yemen. They are supporting Hezbollah, a mortal enemy of Israel, taken over the Lebanese government. We’re not going to worry about that. What do you think they’re going to do with the $100 billion? Do you think they’re going to build roads and bridges? The best indication of the next 15 years is the last 35. When you separated their nuclear ambitions from their destructive behavior, giving them access to more weapons and $100 billion, you made a huge mistake because you’re damning the Middle East to holy hell for the next 15 years and giving the largest state sponsor of terrorism more money and more weapons to attack us. And you couldn’t get four people out of jail.

The Iranians must — the only reason they’re not dancing in Iran, the Ayatollah, he doesn’t believe in dancing. I’ve got friends over there who I respect and admire. I have no idea what you’re thinking here. I have no idea why you believe the Ayatollah doesn’t mean what he says given the way he’s behaved. If they will shoot their own children down in the streets to keep power, what do you think they’ll do to ours? And the only reason 3,000 people died on 9/11 is they couldn’t get the weapons to kill three million of us, and they’re on course to do it now. I’ve never been more disappointed in the body than I am today. A body known to be the most deliberative body in democracy in the history of the world, and you won’t let us have a vote. You won’t let us have a debate. And please stop saying this deal makes Israel safer.

That’s cruel. And your response to this deal is to give them more weapons because you know they’re not safer. I find it a bit odd that in response to this deal we’re selling the Arabs every kind of weapon known to man. If you really thought this was such a good deal, why do you have to arm everybody who is in the cross hairs of the Ayatollah? When they write the history of these times, they’re going to look back and say that President Obama was a weak opponent of evil and a poor champion of freedom. They’re going to look and say that the United States Senate refused to debate the most consequential foreign policy agreement in modern times. And people in Israel are going to wonder where did America go?

Has it ever crossed your mind that everybody in Israel who is in power, who is running the government today objects to this agreement?

The Presiding Officer:

The senator’s time has expired.

Mr. Graham:

Senator Corker, thank you for trying to have the debate we need. To my Democratic friends, you own this. You own every “I” and every “T” and every bullet and you own everything that is to follow, and it’s going to be holy hell.

#####

graham speech

Obviously, the failure to welcome refugees is NOT just a European problem

Samuel Tenenbaum (who led our community’s admirable operation to welcome refugees from Katrina 10 years ago) shared this piece from the NYT with me and others over the weekend:

The Refugee Crisis Isn’t a ‘European Problem’

THOSE of us outside Europe are watching the unbelievable images of the Keleti train station in Budapest, the corpse of a toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, the desperate Syrian families chancing their lives on the night trip to the Greek islands — and we keep being told this is a European problem….

It’s not just the United States that keeps pretending the refugee catastrophe is a European problem. Look at countries that pride themselves on being havens for the homeless. Canada, where I come from? As few as 1,074 Syrians, as of August. Australia? No more than 2,200. Brazil? Fewer than 2,000, as of May….

The brunt of the crisis has fallen on the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese. Funding appeals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have failed to meet their targets. The squalor in the refugee camps has become unendurable. Now the refugees have decided, en masse, that if the international community won’t help them, if neither Russia nor the United States is going to force the war to an end, they won’t wait any longer. They are coming our way. And we are surprised?

Blaming the Europeans is an alibi and the rest of our excuses — like the refugees don’t have the right papers — are sickening….

But I didn’t need to read that to bring the problem home, because by the time I saw his email, I had already read this in The State:

A Duncan resident is seeking a court order to stop refugees from resettling in Spartanburg County.

The action comes about a week after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard visited Spartanburg to answer questions about the refugee resettlement program. Lauren Martel, a Hilton Head-based attorney, sent Richard a letter demanding a halt to the program in its entirety.

Martel is representing Michelle Wiles, of Duncan, who has “already suffered potential damages as a result of this unilateral premature action,” Martel states in the letter.

Wiles said the refugee program is an unnecessary burden on the Spartanburg County taxpayers and believes the refugees who are resettling in Spartanburg have not been properly vetted.

“People are being brought here and we have no database to know even who they are,” Wiles said. “We’re supposed to just trust that their story checks out.”…

From the terrible moment years ago when Cayce said “no” to the Somali Bantu to this, we have plenty of evidence that whatever it is in people that causes them to turn refugees away, we are afflicted with it here in South Carolina.

OK, there’s ONE reason I might prefer Hillary to Joe Biden

vp_clinton_being_biden_2013

Generally, I’ve been happy, even a little excited, to hear that Joe Biden might challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Part of it is the unsavory side of the presumed front-runner that her email mess reveals, day after day. Actually, not so much “reveals” as “reminds us of.” We are reminded of the control freak, the Nixonian figure who can’t see legitimate criticism as anything other than another attempt by her enemies in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” to trump up a way to do her in.

Whereas I’ve always liked Joe. He was my fave on the Democratic side in the 2008 campaign until he dropped out. It’s hard not to like Biden; he’s just so chock-full of the best kind of Joe-ness. (What is Joe-ness? Oh, it’s many things. One example: Earlier this morning I was talking to Samuel Tenenbaum, and told him to say hi to Inez and tell her I want to talk with her about Biden. That caused Samuel to tell me about Biden calling him to wish him a happy birthday a couple of weeks back. They got to talking about books they had read recently. Samuel, who loves to share books with friends, mentioned he had wanted to send a book to the veep but couldn’t get past his staff. According to Samuel, Biden said, “My staff and the Secret Service can be a pain in the ass.” That’s one type of Joe-ness.)

However it turns out, I’ll be happy to see him get into it, if he does.

But… all of that said, I read a column this morning in The State that reminds me of at least one reason I might prefer Hillary as a commander-in-chief.

It was by Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. In part, it said:

Biden and Clinton aren’t far apart when it comes to domestic issues, but that’s decidedly not true when it comes to international affairs.

Clinton was on the hawkish side of Obama’s team. She supported a big surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009; Obama opted for a smaller surge, with a time limit. In 2011, she called for U.S. military intervention in Libya; Obama went along. In 2012, she urged him to send military aid to Syrian rebels; Obama resisted (after Clinton left office, he changed his mind).

Biden was on the opposite end of all three debates. He didn’t think adding U.S. military force in Afghanistan would solve the country’s problems. He didn’t think Libya was central enough to U.S. interests to justify airstrikes. And he was skeptical about the idea of arming Syrian rebels.

The two even disagreed over whether the president should launch the secret 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton “concluded that this was a rare opportunity and believed we should seize it,” then-CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir. “Biden argued that we still did not have enough confidence that Bin Laden was in the compound [where the CIA believed he was living], and he came out firmly in favor of waiting for more information.”

There’s a clear pattern here. Each time, Clinton argued in favor of U.S. intervention. Each time, Biden was a skeptic, warning Obama that the risks outweighed the potential gains….

This piece reminds me that one of the thing I’ve always liked about Hillary is that she is on “the hawkish side of Obama’s team.” It’s not that I’m such a hawk, as many of you believe. It’s just that I’m definitely, without question, to the hawkish side of the current POTUS. More than that, she understands America’s role in the world, that the United States is, as Madeleine Albright used to say, “the indispensable nation.”

And Joe even tried to put the brakes on the Abbottabad operation? OK, it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be more certain about Osama bin Laden being in that compound. Anyone would. Certainty is a nice thing to have. But as it turned out, Obama made the right call in going ahead, and it stands as one of the wisest decisions of his presidency.

So where do we stand here? Definitely, I prefer Joe on a personal level — he passes the “would you want to have a beer with him” test with flying colors. But there’s a lot to be said for Hillary’s approach to national and collective security — which is, you know, kinda important when picking a POTUS.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

Charlie Hebdo grows up, just a little bit — maybe

Bryan brings this to my attention:

The top editor and publisher of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French newspaper that suffered a deadly terrorist attack in January, said the publication would no longer draw the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have garnered it worldwide notoriety.

“We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever one wants,” said Laurent Sourisseau, in an interview this week with Stern, a German magazine.

But Sourisseau, who goes by the cartoonist nickname “Riss,” said that it was not Charlie Hebdo’s intent to be “possessed” by its critique of Islam. “The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions,” he said….

Interesting. I’d like to say that Charlie Hebdo has grown up, and is no longer interested in offending just for the sake of offending. But that crack about “other religions” suggests we’ll still see trashy scribbles about the Pope, et al.

Or maybe not. Or maybe — and this would be wonderful — Charlie will satirize Islam and Christianity only when they have a point to make, rather than just being offensive for the hell of it.

As you know, I have never been Charlie. I would be happy to say that now Charlie is trying to be me, but that remains to be seen. I see no particular indication that they’re making this move for the right reasons.

Does ANYONE have informed thoughts on the deal with Iran?

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? "President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)"

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? “President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)”

This is rightly the dominant news story of the day, but it’s one that I hesitate to comment on:

A historic agreement Tuesday to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief will ensure Iran has no possibility to achieve rapid nuclear weapons “breakout” capabilities for at least the next decade, U.S. leaders said.

“We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region,” said President Obama as he listed some of the pillars of the deal including international inspections, reductions in Iran’s centrifuges used to make nuclear fuel and a sharp cut in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material.

“We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic solution, and that is what we have done. . . . This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it,” said Obama, noting a potentially tough review ahead in Congress.

I hesitate because I don’t know enough to be able to judge the agreement.

Will it really limit, hinder or at least delay a nuclear Iran? How can I tell? Even if I had carefully studied the agreement, which I haven’t, I would not have the expertise to know whether the agreement will succeed on those critical points.

And neither does anyone else. The outcries from various Republicans criticizing the agreement are based on a simple variable — their lack of trust of the Obama administration.

If I’m going to listen to any objections, it would be the ones coming from Israel and Saudi Arabia — they at least have a life-and-death motivation to know what they are talking about.

It gets down to whom do you trust? And while I see the administration’s motives as pure, I worry that Iran always had an advantage in the negotiations, arising from the fact that POTUS really, really wanted an agreement.

As I say, that worries me. But do I know enough to judge this agreement? No, I do not. And that’s unsettling, because the question of whether Iran is more or less likely to develop and deploy nuclear weapons is one of the most important issues on this planet.

It’s disturbing, and embarrassing, that I have better-informed opinions on the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” than I do about this.

There’s a good REASON why she’s not with you on trade, Bernie

Bernie Sanders is frustrated, or at least he’s letting on to be frustrated, that Hillary Clinton won’t join him and House Democrats in opposing free trade:

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to say exactly where she stands on President Barack Obama’s trade agenda now that Congress is considering it.

“I think our trade policies have been disastrous,” Sanders said during a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “Secretary Clinton, if she’s against this, we need her to speak out right now. Right now. And I don’t understand how any candidate, Democrat or Republican, is not speaking out on this issue right now.”…

See, there’s a reason Hillary is fudging on the issue, Bernie — she actually has a realistic chance of becoming president, and no president would want to be hobbled with positions such as yours.

And yet, since a lot of people in her party are opposed to free trade, she’s not crazy about taking a bold stance that would make her as nonviable as you are.

Wanting to be president, and seeing the real possibility in front of you, can be a constricting thing…

Now THIS is courage in the cause of free speech

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A lot of people have had trouble understanding my point that there is nothing noble about holding contests to see who can mock Mohammed the most, It’s just stupid, immature and offensive.

Many imagine that those who participate in such pointless insults to Islam are courageous defenders of freedom of expression.

No. In case you’re still having trouble telling the difference, this is the kind of cartoonist that we have a First Amendment to protect:

Iran’s thin-skinned mullahs have jailed an artist who drew a cartoon disparaging members of parliament over their decision to restrict birth control for women.

Atena Farghadani, 28, had what Iran considers a trial in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on May 19 and is now awaiting a verdict. She was charged with “insulting members of parliament through paintings” for drawing  the officials as animals, according to Amnesty International. It is not clear what kind of maximum sentence she could face.

“She’s truly an angel,” a relative of Farghadani told FoxNews.com on condition of anonymity. “She just loves people and animals, and besides for all her artistic talent, she is such a strong supporter of human rights.”…

See the difference? Standing up and criticizing the powers that be in your own oppressive country is courageous, and has a point. We have a First Amendment to protect people who do that in this country. That is essential to being a free country.

Being intentionally offensive to millions of innocent Muslims who have done you no harm is just being a jerk, not a hero. You’re free to do it, but don’t expect me to pat you on the back for it.

Maybe Obama should try LISTENING to one of his Defense secretaries sometime…

… instead of his staff scrambling to “clarify” what the SecDef said.

This is in the WashPost today:

President Obama has not had an easy time with his secretaries of defense.

Two of his defense secretaries wrote books critical of his administration after they left office, and his third was essentially fired. On Tuesday, the White House scrambled to clarify remarks by Obama’s fourth defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, who said over the weekend that Iraqi forces who collapsed in their defense of Ramadi lacked the “will to fight” Islamic State militants.

Carter’s pronouncement, unusual for its bluntness, angered senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad and seemed to suggest that the president’s strategy, built around supporting Iraqi forces with training and airstrikes, was failing. “Airstrikes are effective, but neither they nor really anything we do can substitute for the Iraqi forces’ will to fight,” Carter said in an interview with CNN. He added that the Iraqi government force, which “vastly outnumbered” the Islamic State attackers, simply refused to fight in Ramadi.

Asked about Carter’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest pointed to some of the successes Iraqi forces had earlier this year in retaking the cities of Tikrit and Baghdadi from the Islamic State. In both battles, a multi-sectarian force of Iraqi fighters backed by U.S. air power and under the central command of the Iraqi government won relatively quick victories. And he praised the leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“It’s very clear what our strategy is, and it’s clear that strategy is one that has succeeded in the past,” Earnest said….

Yeah… right… (imagine me saying that as Dr. Evil would). What seems “very clear” is that the facts of the situation fit the Defense secretary’s version, rather than Mr. Earnest’s…

You’ve Got Mail: ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!’

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Well, some of her emails have been released:

The State Department on Friday released nearly 900 pages of e-mails on Libya and the Benghazi attacks from the private account Hillary Rodham Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The messages have been turned over to a select House committee investigating the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, in which the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed.

Few of the e-mails deal directly with events leading up to the attacks or their aftermath, according to those who have seen them. Many contain administrative details, press accounts, speech drafts and other information exchanged between Clinton and her senior aides.

But the messages, some of which were published this week by the New York Times, capture the concerns of Clinton and other officials about the political chaos that engulfed Libya during and following the 2011 NATO air attacks that facilitated the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi later that year….

If you want to read them instead of just read about them, click here.

A nice, readable primer on the upcoming British election

A penchant for awkwardness: Labour leader Ed Miliband having a spot of bother with a bacon butty.

A penchant for awkwardness: Labour leader Ed Miliband having a spot of bother with a bacon butty.

In case you’ve been vaguely aware that there’s to be an election in the United Kingdom but don’t know a thing about it and would like to, you might enjoy reading this piece from the WSJ over the weekend.

It’s a sort of dummy’s guide — I mean, Yank’s guide — that catches you up, and makes the acquisition of that information fun. You learn, for instance, that one of the main problems facing Labour is that their leader has an uncanny knack for being caught in photographs looking very awkward.

The bottom line? Neither the Tories nor Labour are likely to win a majority, thereby giving us yet another uneasy coalition government. But the fun in the piece isn’t the conclusion; it’s the trip itself. A sample:

A British election is looming on May 7, and you might be wondering how it will all work. In a word: sensibly.

Here in the U.K., things are far simpler than in the U.S. We select local representatives we know almost nothing about, in the vague hope that everybody else will select lots of other local representatives from the same party. Then one party either has enough representatives to form a government on its own, or it has to cook up some sort of power-sharing arrangement, without bothering to ask the electorate about it. See? Easy. Like cricket….

George Will on Graham’s ‘fun factor’

I enjoyed George Will’s column about Lindsey Graham’s presidential bid over the weekend.

Others had written in recent days stories that made Graham’s motive for running more and more clear — to have someone vocally rebutting Rand Paul’s quirky (for a Republican) views on foreign affairs.

But Will summed it up nicely:

He has the normal senatorial tendency to see a president in the mirror and an ebullient enjoyment of campaigning’s rhetorical calisthenics. Another reason for him to run resembles one of Dwight Eisenhower’s reasons. Graham detects a revival of the Republicans’ isolationist temptation that has waned since Eisenhower defeated Ohio’s Sen. Robert Taft for the 1952 nomination.

Graham insists he is not running to stop a colleague: “The Republican Party will stop Rand Paul.” But Graham relishes disputation and brims with confidence. “I’m a lawyer. He’s a doctor. I argue for a living.” If Paul is nominated and elected, Graham will support him and then pester President Paul to wield a big stick.

Graham believes that events abroad are buttressing the case for his own candidacy. He says national security is the foremost concern of Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He sees the 17,000 members of the Iowa National Guard who were deployed overseas as the foundation of a Graham plurality among the 120,000 Iowans expected to participate in the caucuses.

He wants voters to ask each candidate: Are you ready to be commander in chief? Do you think America is merely “one nation among many”? Are you committed to putting radical Islam “back in the box” (whatever that means)? Do you understand that any Iranian nuclear capability “ will be shared with terrorists”? Do you realize that, if that had happened before 9/11, millions, not thousands, might have died?…

Will then went on to imply that Graham’s style of conservatism is “the no-country-left-unbombed style,” something of which Will, of course, would not approve. (When Will calls himself a conservative, there’s no “neo” in front of it.)

That admonition dutifully voiced, Will acknowledged that, at the least, a Graham candidacy should be fun:

“I’m somewhere between a policy geek and Shecky Greene,” the comedian. Campaigning, he says, “brings out the entertainer in you,” so his town hall meetings involve “15 minutes of standup, 15 minutes of how to save the world from doom, and then some questions.” He at least will enlarge the public stock of fun, which few, if any, of the other candidates will do.

Western hostages killed in drone strike

I don’t have time to say much about this now, but thought some of y’all might, so I’m posting it:

A U.S. drone strike in January targeting a suspected al Qaeda compound in Pakistan inadvertently killed an American and Italian being held hostage by the group.

The killing of American development expert Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto is the first known instance in which the U.S. has accidentally killed a hostage in a drone strike.

The mishap represents a major blow to the Central Intelligence Agency and its covert drone program in Pakistan, which President Barack Obama embraced and expanded after coming to office in 2009….

My first thought — other than a very brief pondering of the WSJ’s choice of the word “mishap” — is to think, Why are we hearing this now? It happened in January. Why now? Why not earlier — or, if there was a good reason bearing on security to hold off, why not even later? Why this moment?

I’ll admit to some suspicion on that point when I read this part of the story:

In addition to the hostages, U.S. intelligence agencies believe American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn was killed in January in a separate incident. U.S. intelligence analysts believe he was likely killed in a CIA drone strike that took place after the one that killed Messrs. Weinstein and Lo Porto….

Remember in the past when an American was deliberately killed in a strike, and it generated a good deal of discussion and controversy? Well, this one will be less noticed, tucked in with the admission of inadvertently killing hostages.

Anyway, have at it…