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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Daily Drift

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What Everyone Needs to Know About the Islamic State

In this book, Daniel Byman explores global jihadism from its beginnings in 1979 to today, from the mujaheddin to the menacing Islamic State… islamic-state
Daniel Byman’s Al Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know, is one of those rare books that qualifies as an essential book. I say essential, and not only to those with a special interest in jihadist movements, or even for those who follow world affairs with a more than passing interest, but for everyone who follows politics, which given the role of terrorism in our lives since 9/11 ought rightly to be every adult American.
In other words, take Byman’s use of “Everyone” literally. Jihad is so much a part of our vocabulary today that it is inexcusable for anyone to remain uninformed on the subject. Worse, there is so much misinformation flying around that it is nearly impossible to avoid it, even while attempting to remain diligent, and far too few people make that attempt. Many of the rest are actively seeking disinformation on places like Fox News, where talking points are substituted for hard fact.
This book is eminently accessible. You don’t need a doctorate to read it. Any jargon and acronyms used are explained. It can be easily read – and understood – by any “intelligent reader” as the author puts it. Byman uses a Q&A format, where he poses a question and then answers it. He uses all sources available, speculates, analyzes, and gives the best answer he can, admitting uncertainty where it exists.
This unusual format means the book can be read front cover to back cover, or used as a reference, looking only for that information which interests you. Many of the questions he poses are likely questions you have asked yourself since 9/11. Others are questions you perhaps should have asked, and would have, had only the mainstream media given you reliable information to go on in the first place.
byman-danielByman is an expert on the subject, which is one of the reasons his book is so important. This is a man who is not a journalist, but someone who has followed these jihadist movements professionally for the CIA, for Rand, for Brookings Institute, and for the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. If anyone is qualified to untangle to immense skein of false trails for the facts at its center, it is Daniel Byman.
Another reason this book is important is found in a question he asks at the outset: Where does Al Qaeda begin and end? Americans are so woefully ill-informed about the situation in the Middle East that a book like Byman’s can only be a corrective to more than a decade of conflicting accounts of what, exactly, has transpired in the Middle East. And not just since 2001, when America entered the picture, but going back to 1979, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the formation of the mujaheddin.
There is necessarily some overlap and repetition, as some questions cover the same ground, for example, “How did Al Qaeda become a suicide bombing factory?” “Why do other Jihadists criticize Al Qaeda?” and “How does Al Qaeda justify killing civilians?” Nevertheless, they are all important questions and the format enables readers to seek answers to only those questions about which they are curious.
bymanThe reader will discover what form of Islam Al Qaeda embraces (Salafism), and what differences exist between Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Contrary to Fox News, there are plentiful and significant differences, not only between Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, but between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups, like Hamas, which Byman says has repressed Al Qaeda-like groups in the Gaza Strip) and Hizballah (unlikely allies as they follow different forms of Islam).
Though the Islamic State is producing combat soldiers rather than terrorists along Al Qaeda lines, you will learn how your run-of-the-mill terrorists are trained (often very poorly), how they are radicalized into terrorism, and whether or not we should be worried about them – or simply laugh at their frequent ineptitude.
In a word, what Byman does here is de-mythologize Al Qaeda, stripping away by layers the mystique they have built up around themselves since 9/11, exposing them as porn addicts, hypocrites, ignorant of their own holy scriptures and armed with cherry-picked and misinterpreted verses instead. The reader will learn of opposition to Al Qaeda within Islam itself, and how their embrace of careless destruction has turned many of their own people against them.
It is significant in this regard that Byman dismisses the myth that moderate Muslims have not spoken out against Al Qaeda; he says they have “done so openly and repeatedly,” and not only in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. He points out that Muslim approval of Al Qaeda often drops in the wake of successful attacks. Of course, these facts are unlikely to discourage anti-Muslim ideologues in our own country, who, like Islamic radicals, do best when they ignore unwelcome facts.
For those most interested in the Islamic State, this terrorist organization is covered in depth in Chapter 8, though it receives mentions throughout the book where appropriate. Twenty-three pages are dedicated to discussions about what to call the group, who Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is, its origins, it’s opposition to Al Qaeda, it’s goals and its strength. Byman also looks at the Khorasan Group, which some readers may be familiar with, and asks whether the Islamic State is a threat to the American homeland, as some Republican politicians have contended.
The book concludes with a discussion of counterterrorism, that is, the national security instruments (e.g. military action, intelligence-gathering) used to fight these various terrorist organizations. This includes also the role of diplomacy (yes, diplomacy). We learn that other countries acquiesce to our activities, or even request them, then publicly condemn us to save face (even warning us they will do so).
Byman looks at legal systems both in the United States and abroad (and the possible consequences from the aggrieved terrorist cells), and military tribunals, including Gitmo, and rendition and resultant human rights abuses and their consequences. Byman discusses the use of drones (superior to air strikes, he says but still damaging to America’s claim to the moral high ground). Finally, he asks, how do we win the war of ideas? How do we counter radicalization? (A difficult task, he tells us).
Suggestions for further reading are found at the end of this tour de force. Some the reader might be familiar with, such as Peter Bergen (through his role at CNN). Others are more esoteric for the general reader. All such recommendations must be taken seriously, though if the reader takes his interest no further, he will still come away with a vastly improved understanding of global jihadism and therefore the situation in the Middle East as it exists today.
Al Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know, is published by Oxford University Press (2015). It can be found at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers and is also available in e-book format (e.g. Kindle, Nook), which is perfectly usable here as the book’s 304 pages contain no maps or diagrams.

Obama Shatters Republican Fantasies By Posting Lower Unemployment Numbers Than Reagan

Kasich Schools
Reality bites Republicans again, as the unemployment numbers under President Obama are lower than at any time during the Reagan presidency.

Before Republicans start scrambling for excuses, Yglesias pointed out that labor participation is lower now than when Reagan was in office, but that is due to the fact that the United States is an older country that has more retired people than when Reagan was in office. Labor participation rates have been dropping for decades so blaming Obama for decreasing labor participation rate is both false and disingenuous.
In 2011, President Obama became the biggest tax cutter in history, “Beneath all of the Republican and teabagger grumbling about taxes, one key fact continues to be ignored. According to the Tax Policy Center, Federal taxes are lower than at any time since 1955. Obama has now reduced taxes by more than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
President Obama’s 2009 stimulus was the single biggest tax cut in US history:
The Obama tax cut is $282 billion which is larger than the tax cuts of Ronald Reagan, JFK, and the shrub. Even worse, Republicans voted against it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the shrub’s first tax cut in 2001 was $174 billion. His second tax cut in 2004 and 2005 was $231 billion. As Steven Waldman of Beliefnet pointed out last week, Obama has kept a campaign promise to cut taxes that few Republicans thought he would keep.
Barack Obama has proven to be a more successful president than Ronald Reagan. President Obama brought the country back from a bigger economic crisis, has a lower unemployment rate, and reduced the deficit instead of shattering the finances of the nation like Ronald Reagan did with trickle down economics.
In the face of Republican obstruction, President Obama has built a lasting legacy of presidential accomplishments.
If you want to make a Republican explode, simply point out that even by their own metrics of success Barack Obama has been a far better president than Ronald Reagan ever dreamed of being.

Republican Welfare 'Reform' Pushed A Third Of America’s Children Into Extreme Poverty

The economy is growing for the extremely wealthy, but there were 3 million more children living in extreme poverty in 2013 than in 2008…
Destitute Sisters
Republicans have had a good run tormenting Americans who are not wealthy by actively seeking new and improved means of increasing the number of Americans living in poverty. It is irrelevant whether it is deliberately killing decent paying jobs, slashing anti-poverty programs, or passing legislation to eliminate what few pathetic worker protection programs still exist, Republicans are never at a loss for finding ways to increase the number of Americans in poverty, especially children. Where any decent human being would do everything in their power to protect children from living in dire poverty, Republicans appear to specifically target America’s young who had the misfortune of leaving their mother’s womb, breathing air, and become a living being.
It seems that every year there is another report by an international human rights organization ranking the richest nation on Earth, America, as an exceptional nation with an inordinately high percentage of children living in poverty. It is that time of year again and according to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in 2014 “1 in 3 children in the U.S. lives in poverty as measured by living in a household whose income is below 60% of the national median income.” That works out to annual earnings below $26,4000 for a family of four; what any humane person in America would consider as poverty.
One of the factors contributing to the number of children in poverty is, besides slave wages, the persistent social safety net cuts at the hands of Republican savages. Republicans desperately want to completely abolish safety net programs such as food stamps, TANF (welfare), and any program created to combat poverty. They often refer back to their featured legislation in the “Contract With America” (1996), the hideous welfare reform act as a good jumping off point to fight poverty. They regularly tout its raging success at helping Americans claw their way out of poverty and promise that more “reform” (cuts) will end poverty in America. Of course, they would want to “reform” welfare in a big way again because since the brutal TANF program replaced the AFDC, the number of Americans living on $2 a day, or less in most cases, has more than doubled. Subsequently, that so-called “success” has contributed greatly to the number of Americans, including their children, who live in what every organization on Earth considers “extreme poverty.”
The Republican “special plan” to combat poverty as promoted by Ayn Rand and Koch devotee Paul Ryan is slashing more anti-poverty programs to death. Apparently, even though only about one-quarter of families living in poverty receive TANF benefits, that is still far too many for Republicans who refuse to create decent-paying jobs or raise the minimum wage to a level families could survive on. Wingnuts believe that safety net funding belongs to the rich in the form of tax cuts and they bitterly resent the fact that families, and their children, living in poverty receive assistance for basic sustenance and shelter.
Republicans now claim that eliminating assistance entirely is necessary to teach lazy poor people the value and culture of work, but according to the Economic Policy Institute, the great majority of Americans living in poverty and receiving assistance do work; at poverty wage jobs Republicans still think are too generous. So generous, in fact, that they passed legislation eliminating overtime pay and pant to eliminate the minimum wage; two measures they and their Koch masters claim will instantly end income inequality, create millions of jobs and completely eliminate poverty in America. However, the statistics prove that keeping wages at poverty levels and cutting safety net funding is, and has been, sending more children into dire poverty with no end in sight.
Even though the economy is growing for the extremely wealthy, Wall Street, and corporations, according to the 2013 annual Kids Count Data Report that ranks states based on the well-being of their children, there were 3 million more children living in extreme poverty in 2013 than in 2008. In fact, in a report from two years ago, 8.3 million children in America were adversely affected by the economic crash; particularly from the financial industry’s deregulation that drove the foreclosure crisis since the Great Recession. Those figures, as horrible as they are, do not account for the total number of children from families that struggle day-to-day just to make ends meet. The National Center for Children in Poverty reported in January that 44 percent of children in the U.S. — about 31.8 million children — come from low-income poverty-level families. Those numbers of American children in the richest nation on Earth who live in poverty represent a 3 percent increase since the Recession, and all the while the economy was recovering and Americans were going back to work for poverty wages, all the wealth went directly to the rich. It is true job creation has been on a record-setting run over 5 years, but wages have remained stagnant while living expenses increased and safety nets were slashed.
It is interesting that while Republicans are attacking minority groups because their skin is not white, reporting from The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera show that poverty rates have nearly doubled among minority groups since the Republican recession. It should surprise no American that the hardship to children is most severe in the South and Southwest where the overwhelming majority of states are under Republican governors and legislatures. It is also noteworthy that those Republicans have worked tirelessly to increase, or at least maintain, the inordinately high poverty rates by passing right to work laws, refusing to raise the minimum wage, and cutting social programs created specifically to combat poverty; particularly among children.
Most Americans who are not barbaric teabaggers and Republicans, as well as evangelical fanatics, comprehend that none of the people, particularly the working class and children, had any part whatsoever in causing the Republican Great Recession. But they have been most seriously affected while the rich have increased their wealth substantially. The sad truth is that what has been occurring during the Obama Recovery, with all the wealth flowing to the top is exactly what Republicans have fought tooth and nail to keep in place.
Throughout this recovery, President Obama has promoted an agenda to raise the ever-increasing number of Americans suffering Republican economics out of poverty, and Republicans have opposed every single measure. There is a lot of attention, and praise, being heaped on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for his ‘populist’ appeal at calling for a reversal to the flow of money straight to the rich, and it is praiseworthy. However, it is not new and it is not anything President Obama has not called for throughout his tenure in the Oval Office. But it is encouraging that finally there is beginning to be real national exposure of the need for a monumental shift in how the American economy should work for the entire population and not just the uber-rich. Even though more Americans are aware that there are Democrats, and one popular socialist in name only, who are proposing real solutions to benefit all the people, there is precious little reporting that in the richest nation on the planet, about a third of children live below the poverty line and a solid 23.4 percent of that 33 percent live in dire extreme poverty.

Bernie Sanders hits an Iowa picket line

Bernie Sanders joins union picket in Iowa (Stephen Mally/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders did a little walking the talk on Friday night when he hit union picket lines in Iowa, joining about 100 workers picketing over stalled contract negotiations.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel Slams Media For Obsessive Trump Coverage While Marginalizing Sanders

Katrina Vanden Heuvel Slams Media For Obsessive Trump Coverage While Marginalizing Sanders
The Nation's Katrina Vanden Heuvel took a whack at our corporate media for propping up the likes of bully Donald Trump, while continually portraying Bernie Sanders as unelectable.

Is Hillary Clinton getting the ‘woman treatment’ from the national media?

The FBI has started investigating Hillary Clinton's controversial use of private email as Secretary of State and has contacted a firm that managed the setup, along with her attorney, The Washington Post reported (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)
It is a common female problem: Women in the public eye are much more likely to be asked to protect and project authenticity than men in comparable positions.

Imagine If Hillary Clinton's Security Detail Had Done This ...

Imagine If Hillary Clinton's Security Detail Had Done This
The story is already fading from the headlines. But can you imagine the consequences if a member of Hillary Clinton's security detail punched a white anti-immigration protester?

Tom Brokaw: If I had to cover Donald Trump every night as a newscaster, ‘I’d call in sick’

Retired NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw expressed great relief that he is out of the news business while appearing at the National Book Festival, telling the crowd he’s glad he doesn’t have to talk about Donald Trump on television every night.

Trump's flawed policies would threaten the global economy

Trump's flawed policies would threaten the global economy

Is the Trump campaign for real?

The laws of political gravity do not seem to apply to Trump. Remarks that would end most political careers have only helped the New York businessman in the polls as he has careened from controversy to controversy in the past few months.

When You’re Right, You’re Right

Trump introduces David Blaine stunt It’s amazing how far Trump has dragged the Republican primary campaign off the lunatic fringe. It was bad enough already, but Trump’s pronouncements...

Chris Wallace smacks down Cheney

Chris Wallace forced Cheney to admit that Iran’s centrifuges went from zero to 5,000 under his watch, not President Barack Obama’s.

From ‘welfare queens’ to ‘anchor babies’ ...

Recent paranoia over Black Lives Matter joins a long list of baseless racist outrage scaring the crap out of whites.

Fox Allows Elaine Chao To Omit The Damage Her Husband Has Done To The U.S. Economy

Fox Allows Elaine Chao To Omit The Damage Her Husband Has Done To The U.S. Economy
Fox's Maria Bartiromo and former shrub Sec. of Labor Elaine Chao, conveniently forgot to mention Chao's husband, Mitch McConnell when talking about the slow economic recovery we've had since her former boss almost put us into a depression.

Christie Bullies Young Constituent On Climate Change Remarks

Chris Christie Bullies Young Constituent On Climate Change Remarks

No, it's not from the Onion ...

Sarah Palin speaks to CNN (screen grab)

Westboro Baptist Cult Now Has Kim Davis In Their Hate-Fueled Sights

Image of Kim Davis via Carter County Detention Center. Text via Westboro Baptist Church Twitter feed. Images merged by Rika Christensen/Liberalistics
It’s a tale of two hates.
Hate on Hate.
You gotta love it when two Hates are fighting each other.

Erick Erickson Predicts Civil War if Fake Christians Can’t Persecute Gays

How many strikes does the Republican cabal get till its thoroughly discredited? Red State’s Erick Erickson wrote in the Independent Journal Review to ask, After Kim Davis, How Much Longer Until We Have Another Civil War? Nothing like a tendentious reading of current events predicting a civil war. After all, implicit in the question is that there will be a civil war.
When Kim Davis, the Rowan County, KY, clerk was hauled off to jail for refusing to give marriage licenses, a White House spokesman said no official is above the law. Hillary Clinton cheered on Twitter. The left went wild. “Where is your god now?” one person tweeted.
At least he is clear about the why: Our refusal to let the Kim Davises of the world impose their religion on the rest of us.
This isn’t a question of states rights any more than was slavery, unless it is the right of states to impose a particular religion on everyone in the state. In this case, a bizarre, inbred abortion posing as christianity minus all the…well, christian stuff. (Like love, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, giving away your money, lifting up the poor and condemning the rich who have sold their souls to Satan.)
Here, though posing as an outraged 'christian', instead of turning the other cheek and suffering a quiet and self-satisfied martyrdom, Erickson dredges up a bunch of examples he says prove left-wing hypocrisy. He throws in Hillary Clinton’s emails for good measure and even pulls up the old faked IRS scandal:
Hillary Clinton using a private email server is no big deal to the left. Every changing story is met with acceptance. The Democrats’ immigration plans have included trying to pull a fast one on a judge in Texas and the left applauded. The IRS can leak confidential donor lists of conservative groups and harass the same groups. Political opponents get awfully convenient “random” audits. Again and again, the left gets to ignore the laws it wishes to ignore while the right must comply.
He does everything, in fact, but argue against Marriage Equality.
He says in lieu of an argument, “Well, fine! If that’s the way you want it, you’ll have war instead!” You can almost hear him stomping his feet.
He makes a show of pulling up facts, but pointedly ignores Dick Cheney telling Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg, “It’s the law of the land and as a general proposition, it seems to me you’ve got to go forward with it.”
Instead, childishly, Erickson sounds like the brother who points to another kid and says “Well, he did it!”
As Liz Cheney then pointed out, “As my dad said, it is the law of the land. The court has ruled. And she’s not an employee of a cult or synagogue, she’s a government employee. So, she has an obligation to uphold the law.”
What Erickson gives us is a swipe at the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and a defense of special rights for one particular delusion by way of an attack, ironically, on “preferential treatment”:
On top of that, five Justices of the United States Supreme Court, who are some of the least representative of Americans, can invalidate the laws of a majority of states on a whim without actual legal reasoning. Because people want to be happy, the laws can be overturned.
When all these things happen, we have moved beyond a nation of laws to a nation of men. When we have a nation of men, power is everything, policy is fleeting, and laws are meaningless. People with enough money can get preferential treatment. The more powerful a person is, the more he can escape punishment. Eventually, some men can decide to grab power by any means necessary and, without laws that can withstand the sway of men, get a pass at unconstitutional means used to grab power. The constitution becomes a worthless relic.
I am certain he thinks he is on to something, but for sheer get-to-the-pointedness, this is epic fail. Any professor of mine would have thrown it out and told me to start again. It is really a rather feeble tirade, as it focuses on a general anti-government malaise rather than on Kim Johnson and her refusal to do her job.
At that point, the citizens will clash beyond the ballot box. We see that beginning with random killings of police and random killings by police. It will only get worse. No one should want it and no one, myself included, does want it. But how much longer until we have another civil war?
Our nation’s leaders have excelled at nothing so much as dividing and pitting American against American. When the President of the United States tells supporters that Republicans are the enemy and they should take guns to knife fights, we should not be surprised when they take him seriously. Besides, who will punish them? They perceive themselves to be on the winning team.
How much longer before the cold war of citizenry fed and flamed by Washington turns hot?
There is another unsupported assertion to close his already tendentious essay: that there is a cold war of citizenry against government. I understand that this is a conservative trope, that it lurked behind the corporate-funded teabaggers as much as it now exhibits itself in the rants of Trump, the idea that government is the enemy.
But it isn’t government that is the enemy. It is inequality. Racial inequality, religious inequality, economic inequality. These are the driving forces of today’s demographics. The government isn’t the problem here: it isn’t the county trying to impose religion, but Kim Davis, who thinks one religion is more equal than all others. And that is the one thing Erick Erickson did not talk about.

Arsonist Burns Planned Parenthood Building As War On Women Burns On

Arson was ruled the cause of a fire that burned a Planned Parenthood health center early Friday morning in Pullman, Washington.…
The Pullman (WA) Fire Department and the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force have determined that arson was the cause for a fire that burned a Planned Parenthood health center early Friday morning. The blaze was set at around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, and the structural damage from the fire was substantial. The facility may be closed for a month or longer, according to Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tanya Riordan.
This apparent terrorist attack comes amid a growing wave of death threats against Planned Parenthood employees and other health professionals, who provide abortion or contraceptive services nationwide. While an exact motive for the arson has not been determined, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are involved in the investigation, because of the long history of domestic terrorists targeting facilities that provide reproductive services for women.
The Pullman Planned Parenthood health center did not perform abortions, although they sometimes gave abortion referrals for clients.
This is an appalling act of violence towards Planned Parenthood, but unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists.
Anti-choice terrorists seem to be escalating their war on women, emboldened by a string of heavily edited videos, that falsely portray Planned Parenthood as an organization that profits from abortion. Attacks on women’s health clinics, however, are nothing new to the region, as the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest have been targeted by violent right-wing activists a number of times.
In 1996, four White supremacists bombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Spokane Valley. From 1992 to 1997, anti-choice terrorist Richard Andrews burned at least eight women’s health clinics in several states, leaving a trail of destruction that stretched from Central Montana to Northern California.
While nobody was directly injured in the Pullman fire, the targeting of women’s health facilities is clearly an act of aggression, designed to intimidate women and to deny them access to contraceptive and abortion services. The arsonist who struck the Pullman facility is not in custody, so the exact motives of the attack are still unknown. However, it seems almost certain, given the existing political climate and the region’s history of domestic terrorism, that the decision to set the Planned Parenthood building ablaze was a political act.
Interestingly, while Republican leaders have been issuing statement after statement condemning the jailing of anti-gay Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, they have been conspicuously silent about condemning the burning of a woman’s health care center in Washington State. That speaks volumes about where their priorities lie.