The Unknown Knowns Redux

ISIS

Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld famously ruminated on the difference between “known knowns,” “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” in the intel business. It seems to me that our intelligence services (all 17 of them) have the most difficulty with sorting out the unknown knowns (i.e. things widely reported, whose significance is apparently unknown to the government). The news media told us about the the capture of Fallujah by ISIS 9 months ago. (At that time, ISIS was best known as the employer of fictional spy Sterling Archer). Ought to have been a wake-up call, don’t you think?

President Obama, unlike the last one, is at least able to acknowledge and take responsibility for a mistake:

America failed to recognize the threat posed by Islamic State terrorists and mistakenly relied on the hapless Iraqi army to combat them, President Obama admitted in an interview broadcast Sunday night.

In an about-face from earlier remarks that likened ISIS to a terrorist “JV team,” Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he agreed with National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s recent assessment that “we underestimated the Islamic State.”

“Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated . . . what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.

The president also called it “absolutely true” that the United States put too much faith in the Iraqi army, whose soldiers turned tail rather than wage war against ISIS fighters invading from Syria.

Obama’s comments marked his bluntest acknowledgment that the United States bungled the initial response to ISIS, which American-led planes began bombing inside Syria this month.

More info: ISIS Fast Facts

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Fuck cancer

Just in case you’re curious.

Fuck cancer.

I just read an article about a woman who said, “I will die in a few weeks, but life is still beautiful.” She has two daughters, 5 and 9, and a loving husband. She’s 38. She’ll be dead in a few weeks.

Seriously. Fuck cancer.

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Posted Sans Comment part something or other, the revenge

Posted sans comment: the never ending series. This time, since I don’t comment, the quoted commentary is provided by some of the rightwing blogs that I read each week. Enjoy….

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Colorado students learned their civil disobedience lessons…

Colorado students and teachers alike have been staging walkouts over the new conservative version of history that is being forced on schools by the rightwing school board. And this story is just full of irony. For one thing, among the subjects being removed is all mention of civil disobedience. Thus the students are teaching the topic to the school board. At least a thousand students walked out of class Tuesday, at three separate schools. More followed Wednesday and still more were planned for today.
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Bombs Away in Syria

Syria strike
An F/A-18E Super Hornet and an F/A-18F Super Hornet prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush

The Obama administration has ramped up the air war against ISIS by attacking bases in Syria. The operation – which employed Tomahawk missiles, B1 bombers, fighter-bombers and drones – was supported by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE. According to reports, the $139 million F-22 stealth fighter jet saw combat for the first time ever during the strikes over Raqqa. The U.S. also carried out separate raids on the little-known al-Qaeda group Khorasan near Aleppo, possibly killing Muhsin al-Fadhli, a veteran al-Qaeda operative.

Gareth Evans points out the obvious fact that strategic bombing isn’t going to succeed where the 8-year U.S. occupation of Iraq failed.

The competence of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces — crucial if territory is to be taken and held — will take time to build up, and may never be achievable with the so-called moderate forces within Syria. Airstrikes anywhere risk civilian casualties — and thus the possibility of inflaming the very sentiments one is trying to counter.

Moreover, airstrikes in Syria without the government’s consent or Security Council authorization will be manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter.

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Proof: I’m a Communist!

me and kruchev

I have no idea what sort of fowl play was going on there, but that’s me on the left; a dead ringer for Nikita Khrushchev.

Later in life:
trib photo me

The jury is in.

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Elisabeth Hasselbeck Destroys Utah Civics Education Initiative

Elisabeth Hasselbeck

Faux News Channel host Elisabeth Hasselbeck accidentally pulverized the Utah Civics Education Initiative in one interview. Raw Story:

On Monday, Utah Civics Education Initiative co-chair Lorena Riffo-Jensen told Hasselbeck that requiring a civics test was a good first step for encouraging students to be involved in the community.

Hasselbeck suggested taking the idea “one step further” by requiring a test to vote.

It might make elections “more meaningful,” she said. OK, what could possibly go wrong?

Civics education is important, especially if students learn the extent to which our political system has become corrupt and dysfunctional. But any educational change that Overstock.com is pushing makes me very suspicious – millionaire Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock, you may recall, was a driving force in the failed attempt 7 years ago to institute a private school voucher system in Utah that would have undermined public education.

More info:
Proposal: Pass citizenship test to graduate from Utah high school
Take the Impossible “Literacy” Test Louisiana Gave Black Voters in the 1960s

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700 Words?

Looking over some of my personal favorite posts, I realized I tend to think in long form – many of my favorite posts have run into the 3000 to 5000 words range. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I’ve decided to practice writing some shorter posts – in 700 to 1000 word range, focusing narrowly on a single topic.

I think the discipline of shorter posts will be good for me.

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700 Words

In an article published in 2005, historian and author Stephanie Coontz observed:

Marriage is no longer the main way in which societies regulate sexuality and parenting or organize the division of labor between men and women. And although some people hope to turn back the tide by promoting traditional values, making divorce harder or outlawing gay marriage, they are having to confront a startling irony: The very factors that have made marriage more satisfying in modern times have also made it more optional.

In its simplest terms, marriage as practiced by heterosexuals the last few centuries has made same-sex marriage socially and legally viable. As more and more straight couples have sought marriages that are emotionally fulfilling partnerships, they have also sought more freedom to end those partnerships when they stopped being fulfilling. Procreation, securing property or social status have ceased to be the primary reasons straight people marry. Child-bearing increasingly takes place outside of marriage. Many social and religious conservative bemoan these trends, but rather than use their energy to redress them, these some conservatives seek to continue banning same sex marriage.

The contemporary model of marriage as a mutually supportive partnership of a loving, couple is the product of the last couple centuries. In leading this revolution in the institution of marriage, heterosexuals have created the cultural environment in which gay and lesbian couples seek marriage.

Marriage may or may not confer upon same-sex couples social approval but it will confer important legal protections and responsibilities. Without the legal protections of marriage, same-sex couples are subject to a variety of injustices and hardships that their heterosexuals brothers and sisters do not face. The legal protections include such simple things as not losing one’s house if your spouse dies and the right to make medical decisions for your spouse. Too many gay and lesbian couples have found themselves, after years and sometimes decades of partnership, legally estranged by hostile family members, suddenly dispossessed of houses, bank accounts, businesses because they have been denied the simple protections of legal marriage.

Marriage is also a public celebration with friends and family, a proclamation by the couple to their community, that they are a partnership and are building a life together. Gay or straight, that public celebration and acknowledgement of marriage is part of our culture. Gay and lesbians persons are asking to marry because they have been raised in our culture, have shared in its celebration of love and partnership and they want to build very normal lives as couples. Most same-sex couples want the white picket fence, the fights, the make-ups, the vacations, the day to day sharing of housekeeping and the day to day companionship of a loving partner.

From a legal standpoint, enacting marriage equality, will result in one outcome – same-sex couples will be able to legally marry. Treating those couples equally to married, heterosexual couples may be difficult for some persons. The courts have, at this point, generally sided with nondiscrimination laws in holding that public accommodations are subject to generally applicable laws and cannot discriminate against same-sex couples. As with resistance to treaing inter-racial couples equally a few decades ago, this part of the social change will very likely quickly fade as the normalcy of same-sex marriage becomes part of day to day life.

Religious questions about marriage will and must be settled internally by each church and denomination. Many churches will have members on both sides of the issue. But, American law protects the rights of churches to determine how they live out their teachings. The fear that churches will be “forced” to perform same-sex marriages will not be realized. At the end of the day, marriage equality poses no threat to persons of faith or the practices of churches.

It may take a few years, but legal same-sex marriage with quickly become a non-issue for almost all Americans. At the time of Loving decision, a majority of Americans opposed inter-racial marriage. Today, for the majority of Americans, it’s a non-issue. There’s no reason to believe same-sex marriage won’t follow the same path. Opponents of same-sex marriage will quickly see they are required to simply accept as legal same-sex marriage. Beyond that, their lives will not change.

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People’s Climate March Livestream

Because cable TV news has this event blacked out, even MSNBC. It’s happening in Manhattan, right under the noses of the media elite, and they won’t report about it.

Tom Engelhardt: Is Climate Change a Crime Against Humanity?

From two scientific studies just released, for example, comes the news that the West Antarctic ice sheet, one of the great ice accumulations on the planet, has now begun a process of melting and collapse that could, centuries from now, raise world sea levels by a nightmarish 10 to 13 feet. That mass of ice is, according to the lead authors of one of the studies, already in “irreversible retreat,” which means — no matter what acts are taken from now on — a future death sentence for some of the world’s great cities. (And that’s without even the melting of the Greenland ice shield, not to speak of the rest of the ice in Antarctica.)

UPDATE: OK, MSNBC is now reporting that well over 100,000 marchers are on the streets. They have a reporter doing a live shot now (10:30 am).

UPDATE: Hundreds Of Thousands Turn Out For People’s Climate March In New York City

NEW YORK — More than 400,000 people turned out for the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world’s leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit.

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Ironic Photo

If these people are standing up for children, why is everybody sitting down?

Sorry, I just thought it was funny.

6 Comments

Surprise! Federal Charges Brought Against Illegal ATV Ride

Venomous
Salt Lake Tribune photo

Did anybody actually think that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was serious about enforcing the non-motorized trail restrictions in Recapture Canyon? It took four months, but yesterday acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen brought charges against the five organizers of last May’s illegal ATV ride.

These guys are innocent until proven guilty, and even if found guilty the penalty will probably be a small fine. However it’s nice to see the rule of law kick in once in a while.

The BLM closed the canyon to motorized vehicles in 2007 after some locals constructed an illegal ATV trail, damaging several archaeological sites. The closure has been a sore point with the southeastern Utah off-road crowd.

Note: I know one of the accused, and he’s a great guy. If he did break the law it would have been intended as a sincere act of civil disobedience, and I respect that even if I don’t agree with all his opinions about public lands.

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