Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Former Clinton Envoy in Syria Destroys Obama on Syrian Policy.

Frederic Hof was a State Department advisor to Hillary Clinton on political affairs in Syria and was Deputy Special Envoy to George Mitchell for Middle East affairs.  In a long overdue stinging rebuke of Obama and his policies in Syria,  and from someone within the Obama administration, Hof  pulls no punches about Obama's personal failures  in Syria and not just of policy but character.
In an article on Politico.com Hof gives a long overdue and honest assault on Obama and his Syrian policy,  this from someone part of a Democratic administration not Republicans, who saw everything he tried to work for in Syria unravel between Isis, the group Obama ignored as " the junior varsity",  the resulting  refugee crisis and Putin doing for his interests what Obama wouldn't do for U.S. interests.
In a harsh but accurate indictment of Obama, Hof states that back in 2012 when the dimensions of the catastrophe in Syria were becoming clear, Obama  had "little appetite for protecting civilians".  This almost dissassociative response from Obama, some might even call it callous but certainly indifferent, might explain Obama's easy reneging on his pledge and threat to punish Assad with a missile strike if he used chemical weapons. 

After Assad essentially put his thumb in Obama's eye and went ahead and used chemical weapons anyway killing 300 children and almost 1000 adult civilians with sarin gas, Obama, intead of delivering on the promised strike, backed down as soon as there seemed to be some opposition to his missile strike from some in congress , the Tea Party Left like MoveOn (who called it "war")   and pressure from Putin. Instead Obama opted to put his integrity to a vote. His integrity lost. Again. 
Hof also states that the Obama administration was actually "shocked" by Russian intervention in Syria, taken completely by surprise which Hof says should have been no surprise and that Obama had been essentially bamboozled by Putin  (the same complaint made about his capitulating and now fast unraveling nuclear deal with Iran) and that Obama didn't see what many did -- that Putin was intent on keeping Assad in power.
Remember it was Putin of all people who pressured Obama not to go ahead with the missile strike against Assad which led to Obama publicly deciding to put the missile strike to a vote in congress  to save face  -- a vote he knew he'd lose but would give him the cover he needed to back down. 
True to Obama's history of being only talk Hof as an insider revealed that the main concern at the White House as Syria began to descend into hell was, as  Hof  defines it, "a communications problem" for the White House. Their main concern wasn't what was happening in Syria or to the 200,000 who were dying, it was getting Obama "on the right side of history in terms of his public pronouncements".
Which explains why for 3 years all Obama would do is say "Assad must go" while at the 
same time doing absolutely nothing to help bring that about. 
In Hof's words, " What the United States would do never enjoyed the same policy priority as
to what the United States would say".  Which has always been the case with Obama on any issue. 
What makes it even worse for Obama in light of the weak nuclear deal with Iran is that, as  Hof points out, Iran is "fully complicit in Assad's war crimes and crimes against humanity", along with  partnering with Putin who is propping  up Assad with air strikes. This is the Iran who Tea Party Left groups like MoveOn, Democracy For America and ThinkProgress  said would soften its stance  as a result of the nuclear deal and who at the time accused those who wanted a tougher nuclear  deal with Iran as being war mongers.
Hof says that Iran and Russia could stop what he called  "the gratuitous mass murder" of
civilians but opt not to do so.
Hof also says that the United States could stop it without invading, without occupying and without ground forces in Syria and " without stretching the parameters of military science". But  according to Hof who is in a position to know, Obama "has adamantly refused to do so". Making him complicit in the mass civilian casualties in Syria and the refugee crisis it created. Also complicit are Tea Party Left groups like MoveOn who are now wringing their hands over the Syrian refugee crisis but who vocally opposed Obama making good on his threat of a missile strike against Assad which would have substantially degraded Assad's air power and ability to drop barrel bombs on civilian populations, hospitals and schools. 
Hof  believes that " the United States should neither seek nor shy away from a military confrontation with Russia in Syria." He correctly point out that if the United States -- i.e. Obama stood up to Putin and refused to allow Russian jets to have their way, Putin would be reluctant to allow Russian fighter jets to escort Assad's fighters on their missions of mass death. Instead Putin told Obama to get out of the way, to get U.S. aircraft out of Syrian skies and Obama did what he was told while muttering things like being "deeply concerned".
Hof says that if Putin seeks a military confrontation with the United States in Syria betting that Obama would back down, the U.S. needs to stand up to Putin otherwise Putin will not stop in Syria but keep going until " he hits steel".
Hof concludes by saying that in August of 2011, falsely believing Obama was more than just words, he testified before a congressional committee that the Assad regime was " a dead man walking" . He believed that when Obama delivered his ultimatum to Assad about being punished with a  missile strike if he used chemical weapons ,that if Assad did cross Obama's "red line"  he would be dealt " a debilitating body blow" which would have crippled Assad's ability to drop barrel bombs on civilians and use air power to cause mass casualties. 
On  Obama backing down on the missile strike Hof writes " I still do not understand how such a gap between (Obama's) word and deed could have been permitted. It is an error that transcends Syria".
It is an error that is who Obama is, and always has been.
Hof writes that if Obama actually did something now to stop the slaughter in Syria including standing up to Putin, it would be a "reclamation of American honor".  But based on Obama's 17 year history in elected office,his past judgements, character and decision making, or lack of, that is not likely to happen. If it were, Obama would have backed up his words with deeds a long time ago.  He never has. He never will. So it will be left to Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail to either defend or repudiate the words of her own Special Envoy to Syria and the disaster of the Obama policy he has so harshly exposed. And what she would do  differently. If anything. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CNN Strikes Out With Democratic Debate Up Against Mets-Dodgers.

What does CNN and the '62 Mets have in common? The '62 Mets were the worst team in the history of baseball leading Casey Stengel their manager to say, "can't anyone here play this game"?

The same could be said about CNN and their often shoddy and dishonest journalism but the powers that be at CNN hit new levels of stupidity by assuring a smaller than expected audience by deciding not to change the date of the first Democratic presidential debate which is going to air opposite a crucial game 4 playoff game between the Mets and the Dodgers.

CNN knew two weeks ago when Major League Baseball released the television schedule for the playoffs that a game 4 between the Mets and Dodgers would be played in New York in prime time on October 13 (game time 8:07).

In case the geniuses at CNN forgot,  New York and Los Angeles are the two biggest markets in the country, the two most populous cities in the two most populous states in the country with the most Democratic voters in the country and only a small fraction will be watching the debate.

The fan base for the Mets and Dodgers in New York and California combined probably exceeds 20 million to be conservative given that the populations of the two states combined is about 50 million, and one can be sure that none of those 20 million will be watching the debate over the Mets-Dodgers playoff game. And that doesn't include the interest the game has for the rest of the country or casual viewers whose interest might be limited to the playoffs.

Knowing two weeks ago this was going to be the case it remains for CNN and the Democratic party, to explain why they didnt move the date so as not to conflict with the playoff game. Yes people can DVR it if they choose and maybe some will but it still doesnt explain the idiocy of not changing the date when the two most populous Democratic states in the country will be watching the Mets -Dodgers and not the Democratic presidential debate. It's also incomprehensible as to why Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Chair of the DNC didnt ask CNN to change the date by a day. Which reenforces Casey's line, "can't anyone here play this game"?

CNN did something similar in 2012 when it scheduled the first Republican presidential debate against a long awaited NFL game on a Thursday night, a game that ended up as the highest rated  Thursday night game of the year.

At the time, Wolf Blitzer, ignoring facts as he usually does to shill for the network introduced the debates by saying " the whole world is watching".They werent. And he knew it. Most were watching the football game. And the same will be true tonight in the two biggest Democratic states with the most Democratic voters most of whom will be watching the only debate tonight that will matter to at least 20 million of them, the one between Kershaw,Matz, the Mets and the Dodgers.

NOTE: The day after the debate every news organization in the country was featuring the story that the Democratic debate set records for viewership according to Nielsen ratings, bringing in 15 million viewers. But that story which was published by every news organization in the country from the New York Times, USA Today, Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post to Variety and everyone in between were only republishing the story put out not by Neilsen but by CNN.  Not one of these organizations actually did their own reporting because as the Neilsen client, only CNN  received the actual data. So all the numbers trace back to what CNN reported. And with CNN having the reputation as being the Most Rusted Name in News, from dishonest polling numbers to biased incompetent reporting they ought not be taken at face value since they did not release the raw data from Neilsen which should come today.

The number of viewers claimed by CNN which weren't actual viewers but guesses, werent ratings at all. Neilsen puts out what are called "overnights" the day after.  Those are overnight ratings based on three cities: New York, Chicago and L.A. which are considered preliminary indications. The "Nationals" which are the actual ratings come out the following day.

CNN extrapolated the overnights to a national audience without having the real figures. Further, the number of "viewers" is always a guess. A single ratings point equals 900,000 homes. A rating of 8 means approximately 7.2 million homes with television sets were tuned into the debate. How many viewers is a guess . The 15 million number comes by  averaging 2 viewers per set but it is still a guess.

The real numbers should be out sometime today.

ADDENDUM: For the record CNN never released the final numbers for the debate making their initial claims suspect. As usual. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pentagon Admits Obama Policy Failure in Syria; Obama to Do What He Rejected 3 Years Ago.

In what is the foreign policy Too Little Too Late award of the last 10 years considering the 200,000 civilians already killed in Syria and the millions of refugees created by both Isis and Assad, (George W. Bush will always be the all time leader for his ignoring the actionable intelligence that would have stopped the 911 attacks) Obama has now agreed to do what he rejected three years ago when it would have done the most good -- arm moderate Syrian rebel forces already fighting in Syria.

Ashton Carter in a press conference admitted that the Obama policy of trying to train new rebels as long as they agreed  not to fight against Assad was a failure. That was taking political correctness to new lows since it was not just a failure but a joke. And stupid.

The Obama administration allocated $500,000,000 to vette, train and arm  new Syrian rebels but only if they were willing to fight against Isis alone and not Assad,  a condition so absurd and a policy so inept it's hard to imagine anyone actually thinking that was a good idea.

Since most Syrian fighters want to fight against Assad and to overthrow his dictatorial regime as well as Isis,  that policy resulted in hardly anybody showing up for work which in turn, out of a hoped for number of 5400 fighters produced a grand total of 5, yes five, rebels trained and ready to fight Isis. Which would be a premise for a pretty funny movie if it  wasn't such a horror show as real White House policy.

Having no choice now but to admit a complete policy failure, with even Democrats calling it a joke and with Putin launching the kind of missile strikes against the rebels that Obama promised against Assad if he used chemical weapons before eventually backing down, Obama has now finally agreed to arm moderate Syrian rebels including the Kurds and other groups already fighting in Syria, something Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, three Secretaries of Defense (Gates, Panetta and Hagel) and a CIA Director all advised Obama to do three years ago to fight against both Assad and the rise of Isis.  Recommendations Obama rejected at the time with his now famous line about Isis being the "junior varsity" dismissing them as a threat worth his attention. This,lest anyone forget,  from the president Nancy Pelosi said was ready to be president from day one. 

The AP reported that " The U.S. is abandoning its goal of training a new force and will focus on equipping, arming and supporting established rebel groups already fighting inside Syria."

Carter referred to it as "a more strategic approach" and in a perhaps unintended but honest slap at Obama's original policy said, " I wasn't satisfied with the early efforts in that regard". Welcome to the club. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In Syria, Putin Does What Obama Wouldn't. And is Winning

It was only a year ago that Obama pledged that if Assad used chemical weapons he would launch a retaliatory missile strike from US missile cruisers in the gulf. Assad, having seen Obama fail to stand up, back up, or fulfill his word on anything in his entire 17 year political career including 6 years as president, laughed and then launched a sarin gas attack on Aleppo killing more than 300 children and more than a thousand adults.

MoveOn and other Tea Party Left groups launched an immediate campaign to convince Obama not to live up to his word, which is like trying to convince a ten year old not to eat brussel sprouts. For the Tea Party Left , launching a missile strike from a cruiser in the Gulf was "WAR!". That's what they called it. They circulated a petition rejected by 98% of their membership who refused to sign it,  calling for Obama to back down, another unnecessary waste of keystrokes.

Obama, instead of making good on his pledge decided to put his integrity to a vote. And his integrity lost. Again.

Most in congress refused to vote to give him the authority to launch the missile attack against Assad, an authority Obama didn't need in the first place but it was the cover he wanted and thought he needed to justify backing down. And so he did.

Ironically MoveOn has been circulating emails and petitions over the plight of the Syrian refugees. The irony is its a crisis they can take credit for helping to create since at the time they crowed in emails that it was their petition that influenced Obama to back off the missile  strike ( a preposterous assertion but if they want to pat themselves on the back for that they can do the same for the Syrian refugee crisis which might not have happened had the missile strike Obama promised taken place which would have severely damaged Assad's air power.)

Now Putin has bamboozled Obama again, like he did in Crimea and eastern Ukraine since Putin is now doing in Syria exactly what he persuaded Obama not to do after the Sarin gas attack. 

While it was Obama who backed down on the missile strike and also refused to arm the moderate Syrian rebels, it is Putin who is using his military to prop up the Assad regime by launching air and missile strikes against the rebels in rebel strongholds under the guise of attacking Isis.

Both Obama and new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have both said they are " concerned" ( why they left out the word " deeply" is anyone's guess) that there are no Isis fighters in any of the areas Putin is attacking and bombing. Which had to make Putin laugh. You can almost hear him saying, "okay go be concerned".

The upshot is, while Obama and those around him were under some kind of self delusion that all he had to do was say " Assad must go", and that would be enough,( maybe he should have said it ten times fast), while refusing to support the Syrian rebels fighting on the ground, the people actually trying to make that a reality, Putin is now doing for Assad and his side, what Obama wouldn't do for his ( a recurring theme for Obama from health care reform to Wall Street to Crimea and eastern Ukraine).

As a result Putin is winning. And air strikes are taking a heavy toll. The latest news out of Syria is that Assad, emboldened by Russian air strikes, has started a new ground offensive against the rebels, while Obama, Kerry and Carter are still figuring out that when Putin said he was going to help Assad in his "lawful fight against the terrorists", to Assad the people terrorizing him are the moderate Syrian rebels fighting to get rid of him, not Isis.

Which means that while Putin and Assad are winning they are also successfully pulling the glass over Obama's eyes. And once more, like in Crimea, like in eastern Ukraine, like with Obamacare like calling Isis " the junior varsity" all Obama decisions that not only failed but made things worse,  if Obama does nothing different or too little too late or another half baked ineffective policy decision, he will preside over yet  another policy failure in a failed presidency marked mostly by what he could have accomplished and didn't. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

With Guns We Do Have a Mental Health Crisis in America: In Congress.

Republican Rep  Michael McCaul , Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in responding to the mass casualty shooting at a community college in Roseburg Oregon,said the problem with this and other mass shootings is not a gun problem but a mental health problem in America.
He's right.  It is a mental health problem. And the mental health problem is with him and conservative members of congress who have seen over 300,000 Americans killed in gun violence since 2004 (compared to 36 killed in the U.S. by terrorism)  and have blocked every piece of meaningful gun control and safety legislation that would reduce the risk of this kind of gun violence. Including blocking all the tepid, lukewarm legislation proposed by the Obama administration  who wrongly thought that if the legislation was weak enough conservatives would go along.
The mental health problem with guns in America  is with conservatives in congress, in state
legislatures around the country, the leadership of the NRA and fringe lunatic gun owners who see guns as some kind of symbolic extension of themselves instead of what they really are, implements of self defense, sport and hunting. This isn't to say all gun owners see guns as some kind of symbolic  extension of their manhood or sexual appendage  (when was the last time there was a female mass murderer?) But it is to say that too many with mental problems do. And that includes gun owners with those kinds of mental problems who haven't committed any  crimes  but who can influence legislators  like Mike McCaul. 
When speaking of the NRA it has to be stated as "leadership" of the NRA  and not rank and file members because there is no indication that the NRA and their positions, represents or is embraced by any but the most radical, lunatic  fanatical NRA members, people who also fall in the category of America's mental health problem with guns and not the bulk of their membership.
 McCaul  who has been in the pocket of the NRA, displayed his mental health problems with guns some time ago when he blocked legislation that would have denied guns to people who were put on no fly lists by the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe you'd like to read that again, then go for a walk, think about it,  discuss it with your friends, and then ask where the real mental health problems are when it comes to guns.
People deemed dangerous enough by Homeland Security  to be in a data base  that would keep them off airplanes because they might blow it up were deemed okay by McCaul to buy guns.
If that's not enough to declare someone like McCaul mentally unfit for office then that's where the discussion has to start.
An even bigger indication of the mental health problems with conservatives in congress is that more than 87,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence since the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school.

So by all means lets deal with the mental health problems in America with regards to guns. And all the other problems that need to be addressed. But it can start with congress,  the leadership of the NRA  And what to do about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Putin Tells Obama,Get Out of Syrian Airspace and Obama Says Okay.

Yesterday  Vladmir Putin sent a message to Obama and the U.S. blind siding Obama by giving only one hour's notice that Russia was going to begin air strikes in Syria and that the U.S. needed to get out of Syrian air space now to avoid any risk of confrontation. Obama said okay.
The Russian cover story is that they are going to fight terrorists on behalf of Assad.  And John Kerry, living in his unicorn fantasy world said, "We welcome all genuine efforts to fight Isis but we must not and will not be confused between the fight against Isis and supporting Assad".
That was John Kerry not General Buck Turdgison in Dr. Strangelove  who said it as Russian air strikes were targeting Syrian rebels in the city of Homs where there are no Isis fighters but is an anti-Assad rebel stronghold.
Kerry said that if Putin bombs targets unrelated to Isis he and Obama would be "gravely concerned". That is Obama's idea of laying down the law. You can almost hear Putin laughing and saying , okay we'll drop bombs and you be concerned.
Russia is in fact bombing targets unrelated to Isis and if Obama and Kerry have concerns that are grave that is nothing compared to the civilians in Homs who are now digging theirs.
Its clear to everyone but Kerry and Obama that Putin is doing for Assad what Obama wouldn't do for the Syrian rebels  when he ignored  the recommendations three years ago  of 3 Secretaries of Defense, one Secretary of State and one Director of the CIA to arm the moderate Syrian rebels against both Isis and Assad and now it's Putin taking control of the situation, coming to the aid of Assad who Obama has said repeatedly said must go. Which as everyone knows by now carries the weight and moral force of a Telebrands commercial.
Even on the usual pandering CNN, anchors were asking correspondents, " did Obama get played by Putin"?  It wasn't all that long ago that CNN did a segment on Ukraine that asked " did Obama get bullied by Putin"? It's gotten embarrassing. 
And Putin knows there will be no real consequences. Obama's  warning to Assad that if he used chemical weapons he would launch a missile strike against Assad's military was a toothless tiger.  As an aside,  this threat of a U.S. missile strike against Assad on behalf of Syrian civilians who were killed in a chemical weapons strike so horrified the people at MoveOn, ThinkProgress  and DFA who called a single retaliatory missile strike " war" , (just like it was "war" if the congress didn't go along with Obama's capitulation on the Uran nuclear deal)  that they circulated a petition begging Obama not to live up to his word and back down on the missile strike.  Which was a big waste of time because, to paraphrase a Geico commercial, Obama  not living up to his word is what he does.
Adding to the farce is the $500,000,000 the Obama administration finally decided to spend to train Syrian rebels.It belongs in the Guiness Book of World Records winning the Too Little Too Late award.  It has resulted in a grand total of five (5) , yes, 5 Syrian fighters now in the field. Five. That's $100,000,000 per fighter. A B1 bomber doesn't cost that much.
One reason the number of fighters is so small is because the Obama administration making, incredulously, another farcical decision,  refused to train or arm any Syrian fighter who wanted to fight against Assad as well as Isis,and would  only train those only willing to fight Isis. Which effectively drove away 99% of Syrian fighters who wanted to fight both. So while Putin bombs rebels on behalf of Assad, Obama refused to arm rebels fighting against Assad. Though he did say Assad had to go. 
Putin has  made clear his intentions. Its just taking Obama and Kerry a bit longer to come out of their unicorn fantasy world and figure it out when Kerry said, "we will not be confused". Sounds like they are confused. 
Putin said, "Russia will conduct air strikes on behalf of the Assad regime only in it's lawful fight against terrorist groups".  Obviously Obama and Kerry haven't figured out yet that to Assad the terrorist groups are the rebels. 
Kerry said "we will not be confused between the fight against Isis and supporting Assad". It sounds like they still are.
The final bit of farce came from Josh Ernst, Obama's press secretary when the reality of Russia conducting air strikes against the rebels not Isis was clear. Ernst tried to spin it by saying Russian air strikes on behalf of Assad was a sign of Assad's weakness. No it wasn't. It was a sign of Obama's.