Blackwater Threats

gunsight

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Before Shooting in Iraq, Warning on Blackwater,” contains shocking revelations about the infamous Iraq security firm, occurring prior to the 2007 shooting in Nasour Square that left 17 civilians dead.

… 17 civilians lay dead in the streets of Baghdad, killed by a Blackwater employee without any instigation.

The article reveals a State Department investigator of Blackwater was threatened with losing his life if he gave a negative report about the organization, and State Department employees were so terrified of Blackwater that they told the investigator to leave. Shortly afterwards, 17 civilians lay dead in the streets of Baghdad, killed by a Blackwater employee without any instigation.

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Afghanistan Deja Vu

battlefield

The lead article in today’s New York Times,”Taliban Mount Major Assault in Afghanistan,” must seem to many Americans like deja vu from what’s already happening in Iraq. And the moral must be, “You can interfere in complex societies, but their internal dynamics will be determinative in the end.”

You can interfere in complex societies, but their internal dynamics will be determinative in the end.

The United States must learn that there is a limit to what we can do, even with the strongest military on the face of the globe. Mending religious strife and making puritanical Islamists see the light of modern democracy has always lagged behind the need of tribal societies to avenge hatreds that have festered for hundreds of years.

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Recess Appointments

scale

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Justices Rebuke Obama on Right of Appointment,” describes a decision that will be used by the right wing to further their narrative of a Presidency run amok with executive overreaching and neglect of the prerogatives of the legislative branch.

… the Obama administration has issued fewer signing statements, made fewer recess appointments and been embroiled in fewer real scandals than previous executive branches.

In reality, President Obama’s use of executive power has, by almost any standard of measurement, been modest compared to Presidents before him. Looking at the sheer numbers, the Obama administration has issued fewer signing statements, made fewer recess appointments and been embroiled in fewer real scandals than previous executive branches. At the same time, he has been beset by an unprecedented degree of hostility and reflexive outrage by the other Party.

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Cellphone Protection

cellphone

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Justices, 9-0, Rule Cellphone Search Needs a Warrant,” is refreshing, if only because it is easily understood by the average person in the street. If the police arrest you, they cannot search your cellphone unless you give them consent to do so. If you don’t, they need a warrant.

Cellphones contain intimate details about our lives, and the court’s ruling brings privacy protections into the 21st century.

The unanimity is unusual on the Supreme Court, and it underlines the importance and power of their decision. Cellphones contain intimate details about our lives, and the court’s ruling brings privacy protections into the 21st century.

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Mississippi Tea Party

American flag

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Senator Defeats Tea Party in the Mississippi Primary,” shows why Tad Cochran is a Senator and Chris McDaniel is not. The Senator beat back the insurgent challenger by appealing to African-Americans and Democrats to help him continue bringing home the bacon in federal grants for the state.

…the Senator made the people of Mississippi understand the importance of seniority in continuing the stream of financial support for his otherwise poverty-stricken state.

In addition to the flexibility of this redirection of his campaign, the Senator made the people of Mississippi understand the importance of seniority in continuing the stream of financial support for his otherwise poverty-stricken state. Cochran is in line to be the head of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, a position that will give him even more power in promoting Mississippi’s interests.

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E.P.A. Green Light?

trees

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Justices Uphold Emission Limits on Big Industry,” gave the Environmental Protection Agency some good news and some bad news.The good news is that the E.P.A. will be able to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants as planned. The bad news is that the E.P.A.’s ability to reinterpret laws passed by Congress has been severely constricted.

… the speed of action in the Congress regarding environmental matters can best be described as a crawl and at worst, a roadblock.

While the E.P.A. was granted authority to regulate polluters who are already covered by clean air statutes, it will not be able to expand its oversight to new public or private polluters who are not already covered. The Court ruled that expanding laws was the purview of Congress, and the E.P.A. could not act proactively based on past legislation.

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ISIS Consolidation

military planes

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Iraq’s Military Seen as Unlikely to Turn the Tide,” does not offer an encouraging outlook on the future of the conflict. The sheer number of Shiite militias and new volunteers for the army will make little difference if they flee whenever the battle becomes intense.

And the new volunteers hastily called up by Iraqi clerics may get in the way at best or serve as cannon fodder at the worst …

U.S. experts now suggest that as much as one-quarter of the Iraqi Army may be combat ineffective, a surprisingly large number considering how much American effort and lives were spent in training them. And the new volunteers hastily called up by Iraqi clerics may get in the way at best or serve as cannon fodder at the worst for a far more dedicated enemy.

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Underestimating ISIS?

dollar bills

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Iraq Insurgents Reaping Wealth as They Advance,” shows how we can underestimate terrorists to our own peril.

The idea of nefarious people using Twitter and Facebook should not be earth-shattering, but how about terrorist organizations creating their own app?

If ISIS is any indication, all the tools of the modern world are open to terrorist organizations including social media platforms. The idea of nefarious people using Twitter and Facebook should not be earth-shattering, but how about terrorist organizations creating their own app?

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Back in Iraq

helicopter

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Obama Orders 300 Advisers to Iraq,” shows how easy it is to fall into the trap of military engagement. Buffeted on the right to do something, President Obama finally gave into the growing clamor to prop up the weak central government in Iraq or risk making moot the sacrifice of 4,000 American lives and $1 trillion.

President Obama finally gave into the growing clamor to prop up the weak central government in Iraq or risk making moot the sacrifice of 4,000 American lives and $1 trillion.

Of course, our engagement in Vietnam started with the sending of advisers, but one hopes this President has developed sufficient caution and wariness to limit the deployment. The question then becomes, “What happens if the insurgents march into Baghdad and take the city?”

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Insurgents Edge

tank

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Uneasy Alliance Gives Insurgents an Edge in Iraq,” confirms one of the most frustrating aspects of the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), their ability to create a coalition of Sunni fighters in opposition to the current President of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki.

By squandering any goodwill among the Sunni population, Mr. Maliki has, in effect, written his own epitaph …

By squandering any goodwill among the Sunni population, Mr. Maliki has, in effect, written his own epitaph by limiting his supporters to partisan Shiites and Iran. Sunni tribal leaders have watched this situation evolve and want no part of it. And even if they did, Mr. Maliki has consistently rejected them.

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