It’s Your Fire Truck, What Are You Gonna Do With It?

A commenter, King Beauregard, wrote the following in response to my piece, “What Some Liberals Get Wrong About The Fight Against ISIL”:

If I have a history of arson and then I ironically find myself in a position to rescue someone from a burning building, shouldn’t I rescue them? What sort of moral idiot would think that I should let them burn? If anything, I am morally obligated to put myself more at risk than the average citizen to atone for my past crimes.

That got me thinking.

Let’s imagine that the fire department here in Joplin once hired a fire chief who turned out to be an arsonist. But before he was found out, he and a few of his fellow firefighters started a rather horrendous fire inside a community several miles from Joplin that ended up consuming several homes and killing several people. Soon after the fire started, most of the Joplin fire department was called out to help fight the raging fire, since our chief started it, and after several days most joplin fire stationof the fire was under control.

Meanwhile, the fire-happy fire chief retired and a new fire chief replaced him, promising he would properly use the fire department from now on. The new chief, after a few more days, decided that the Joplin fire department had done enough to put out the fire his predecessor had started, and he turned the rest of the job—tending to the smoldering ashes—over to the local community. He brought the Joplin fire trucks and the Joplin firefighters back home.

Soon enough, though, the local leaders in the fire-ravaged community, instead of concentrating on putting out the smoldering ashes, began to fight with each other. And not long after, a raging fire was again consuming their land, threatening to spread to other cities and towns. The new Joplin fire chief had a decision to make. He had promised Joplin residents that he would wisely use their firefighting resources. But through his upper-floor office window he could see on the horizon the smoke from the newest out-of-control fire. Should he send in equipment to help the locals put out the fire? Should he, God forbid, send in Joplin firefighters once again? Or should he do nothing, since the fire was far from Joplin and Joplinites felt they had already sacrificed so much for people in the other community, with much of that sacrifice highly resented by some who still remembered that first fire chief’s arsonous behavior?

What should the new Joplin fire chief do?

Here are some of the ways Joplin citizens have responded to this scenario:

1) Many folks say that the first fire chief wasn’t an arsonist at all. Yes, he started the first fire, but it was because he was just trying to clear the land and make room for a new development that would improve the fortunes of everyone around, including people in faraway Joplin. The chief intended no ill will, they say, despite all the destruction and death. And they further assert that the second fire chief is the one who started the second big fire by not following the plan laid out by the first fire chief. They say if the new chief had just stayed with the program, the scorched acreage would be much prettier than it is today and all the death and destruction would not have been in vain. But they will grudgingly applaud the new chief if he sends Joplin firemen and equipment back into the community to put out a fire they blame him, not the first chief, for starting.

2.) Some other Joplinites say that because the first fire chief was obviously an arsonist, because he set a horrific fire that killed so many and destroyed so much, he should have been prosecuted for his crime. They spend a lot of time talking about that around their kitchen tables. They further say that sending more Joplin firefighters and equipment to the burning community will only make things worse, since some of the locals resent it when outsiders come into their towns, some of them so resentful they would even shoot at the Joplin firefighters as they try to fight the fire. These Joplin residents even go so far as to say that it is the nature of any fire department, especially the Joplin fire department, to want to start fires, since it keeps the firefighters busy. And they add that since the first fire chief started the fire on purpose, it would be stupid to think we could trust the newest chief to do any better. Fire chiefs just aren’t happy unless there is a fire to fight, these folks say, and if we don’t stop them the whole world will be in flames.

3.) There are still other Joplin residents who say that even though our fire chief started the fire, it is now the problem of the local community. No more Joplin resources should be wasted on it. We’ve spent enough, they say, trying to help these people put out the fire. Heck, even if we put out this fire, someone will just start another one for the simple reason that some people in that community have come to love the flames and the smell of smoke. We can never bring enough bodies and equipment from Joplin to ever put out all the fires, so just let it go. Should this current fire spread to our town, we’ll deal with that when it happens. For now, it is their problem not ours. In fact, from now on we should only worry about fighting our own fires here in Joplin and not concern ourselves with other communities.

4.) But there is another group of Joplinites who say this: Yes, the first fire chief shouldn’t have started the fire in the first place, no matter what his motivation was. And maybe he should have been held to account for his actions, but that would have taken a lot of time and consumed valuable political and civic resources, when there were other more pressing matters that needed our undivided attention at the time. And, yes, we have spent way too much, in terms of human and material resources, putting out fires in that other community, even if our fire chief started the first one. But he did start the first fire. And that has led to others, including the big one going on now. Sure, it is the case that some small group of locals in that other community hate it when they see a firefighter with a “Joplin” patch on his or her uniform. They hate it when they see our big fancy firetrucks pull up and start dousing the fire. They hate it so much they will try to kill our firefighters. But beyond the fact that our previous fire chief did a bad deed in our names, one we simply can’t morally walk away from, we Joplinites have two other good reasons to send help, this group of citizens say.

First, we have some values we claim we live by, including protecting innocent people from harm, when there is something we can do to help. It is clear that many innocents, including women and children, are perishing in the flames and it is equally clear we can help them. In fact, we are the best trained and best equipped to help. To not do so would be to forsake our values. To not do so would mean that many more innocent people would needlessly die or be forced from their homes forever.

Second, we can see the smoke from this fire, even if some of us have to squint to see it. And if we can’t see it, we can faintly smell it. It’s in the air. That means that if this fire isn’t brought under control, it will spread; it will threaten our city. And by the time it is a direct threat to Joplin, it will be so large we will have to devote many more resources to fight it. Right now, all we need to supply is firefighting equipment to the locals in that other community, as well as drop highly-effective flame retardants from the sky. There are those on the ground, most of whom are begging for our help, who are willing to do the dirty work of actually putting out this fire.

This last group of Joplin citizens would ask everyone a question: If you saw a mom holding her little girl out the window of a burning building, smoke engulfing them 100 feet from the ground, would you sit in your fire truck with its 110-foot ladder and watch them die?

“The Language Of Force”

As the fight against ISIL continues, we are greeted with this headline from The Washington Post:

U.S. and Arab aircraft attack oil refineries seized by Islamic State in Syria

The story reports a rather remarkable fact: “U.S. fighter jets and drones, alongside warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, struck the refineries in remote parts of the Syrian desert.” It is quite extraordinary that we have partnered with Arab nations to attack the source of much of ISIL’s funding of its uae female pilotjihadist brutality. Quite extraordinary. As NPR reported this morning, “the Saudi’s released photographs of the pilots” involved—two of them “sons of senior princes”—because “the royal family wants to show they are ready to put their own sons on the front line.” The UAE even released a photograph of a woman who is flying missions, which may strike additional fear in the minds of some of the religious fanatics connected to ISIL, because apparently some of them “believe they’ll go to hell if they die at a woman’s hands.”

I know most of you have by now heard President Obama’s remarks in New York yesterday, but I want to highlight two passages that pretty much say it all about terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. First the general statement President made at the United Nations Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters:

Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America. 

That last sentence should be emphasized. Without the United States, without a general American commitment to remain a strong and reliable partner with other world nations, the fight against specific terrorist groups will be a feeble one. And as for the specific terrorist group we are fighting in Iraq and Syria, the President made a few things clear, as he spoke before the U.N. General Assembly:

…the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria.  Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war.  Innocent children have been gunned down.  Bodies have been dumped in mass graves.  Religious minorities have been starved to death.  In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror.  No grievance justifies these actions.  There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.  The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.  So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

That line, “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” may disturb some people who think our actions to degrade and destroy what President Obama called “this network of death” will only perpetuate the violence and breed more terrorists in the future. But the President is right. And for those who think he is wrong, they are obliged to tell us just what alternative language will work to stop the advance of ISIL, to stop the raping of mothers and sisters and daughters, to stop the murder of children, to stop the public beheadings.

In the mean time, here’s to hoping even more women will be dropping bombs or firing missiles at those ISIL bastards. Hell, I hear, has plenty of room.

What Some Liberals Get Wrong About The Fight Against ISIL

Whenever I want to check out what anti-Obama lefties are saying about anything, I first go to Firedoglake. There you will find some committed, if sometimes immature, left-wingers assailing the President and his administration for all kinds of failures to live up to the purity of liberalism, at least as it is defined by Firedoglake contributors.

After today’s announcement of the necessary and justified attacks on the Islamist murderers in Iraq and Syria, I turned to Firedoglake for a quick look. Here’s a little of what I found:

Yesterday the US began bombing yet another country in the Middle East with strikes targeting ISIS forces in Syria…The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad who has been locked in a struggle with ISIS and other rebels for control of Syria…Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones. Though that is of no apparent concern to the Obama Administration which has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

In another post by the same author, DSWright, we find this ominous opening:

Remember when the reason for expanding this military campaign from Iraq into Syria was because ISIS was in both countries? It wasn’t so long ago. Well, now President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.

Let me quickly address the concerns in these two articles (and something Glenn Greenwald wrote, which I will get to later), concerns that I have heard expressed elsewhere by left-leaning folks:

1. “The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad…”

Yes, I hear that a lot. And it may be obvious. It certainly seemed obvious to Assad, who welcomed our attacks by doing nothing to stop them. And it may seem obvious to us, even if we don’t want to say so out loud. But so what? The mission is not to aid Assad but to send as many ISIL fighters on a one-way visit to Allah as our air strikes can facilitate. If doing so actually helps Assad in the short-term, then so be it. In fact, it could be argued that it is only a short-term help for the Syrian dictator. It could be, somewhere down the road, that weakening ISIL enough to make it vulnerable to other groups in Syria opposed to both Assad and ISIL means that Assad’s short-term gain will turn into a long-term loss. In any case, ISIL needs our attention and to stand paralyzed for fear we will help a man whose country is disintegrating before his eyes would be foolish and short-sighted.

2. “Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones.”

This one is easy. It may be questionable, it may even be “highly questionable,” if we can really destroy ISIL under the present circumstances, but it is a near certainty that we will never destroy ISIL if we sit and wait for Iraq and Syria to become something other than war zones. Those who oppose what Obama is doing never address that reality. Sitting and waiting for peace to break out in the region, while ISIL gains power and territory, and while killing untold numbers of innocents, would be not only strategically unwise, but a moral outrage. And besides that, it isn’t that questionable whether ISIL can be defeated in Iraq. In time that is likely to happen with U.S. support, if Iraqis have the will to make it happen. In Syria, of course that is much more difficult. But doing nothing makes it not only more difficult still, but quite likely impossible. Is that what liberals want? Huh?

3. “…the Obama Administration…has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

Not really. Yes, it will take a long time, maybe even “several years,” to reduce ISIL to a relatively inconsequential player in the region, but Obama hasn’t really “launched America into another war in the Middle East.” Part of what he is doing is continuing a war against terrorist groups that began in earnest after 9/11. The other part of what he is doing, which some folks seem to have forgotten, is attempting to clean up a mess that neoconservatives in the Bush administration began with the colossally stupid invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yes, it is too bad that we once again have to aggressively attack another terrorist group in the Middle East. We all wish it weren’t the case. But it is a legitimate and moral use of American power, even if it is largely made necessary by a once-illegitimate use of American power.

4. “President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.”

I get real creeped out by the overuse of the phrase “mission creep.” For some journalists it has become something they inject into their reporting to make it clear they have learned their lesson from the disastrous, media-championed Iraq invasion in 2003 and will not be duped again by an administration wanting to drop bombs and fire missiles it has no business dropping and firing, even in the name of fighting terrorists.

The problem is that some missions need to creep, as the attack on the al Qaeda-related Khorasan Group demonstrates. If liberals won’t support an attack on a group of terrorists—whose existence is dedicated to developing creative and undetectable ways to kill Americans using airplanes—then it is hard to understand what use liberals will ever have for the U.S. military.

“Mission creep” claims, which normally are necessary and proper to consider, are in this case simply one way for people queasy about the general use of military force to fight terrorists to say that this specific mission is, as DSWright claimed using italics (and contradicting his claim in his other article; see 3. above), the opening “of another front in the perpetual War on Terror.Some of us agree that we shouldn’t call what we have done and are doing a War on Terror. We should simply say, when the need arises, that we are fighting terrorists, those who have essentially declared war on America. But leaving aside the semantics, using mission creep worries as an excuse to do nothing, or next to it, in Iraq and Syria means—let’s be honest about it—ISIL will continue to conquer and kill.

Related to this point is a particularly reprehensible article by Glenn Greenwald, who has become quite famous on the left for championing Edward Snowden’s illegal leaking of sensitive information that hasn’t made it any easier to track terrorists. The article was titled, “SYRIA BECOMES THE 7TH PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM COUNTRY BOMBED BY 2009 NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE,” and in it Greenwald, conspiracist to the core, makes a claim that others on the left make: we are only producing more terrorists by fighting ISIL. Except Greenwald makes the point with a nice little twist:

Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

He ends his blame-America-first piece with this:

…the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism is the pretense, not the purpose.

It is hard to contain one’s anger at such conspiratorial nonsense. According to Greenwald, the entire effort to stop anti-American terrorism, an effort that began after essentially ignoring terrorism resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, is just a way for the defense industry to make a buck. Just a way for America, pretending to care about the deaths of innocents slaughtered by jihadist killers, to keep the “machine of Endless War” going. America, in Greenwald’s eyes, is nothing more than a nation run by greedy imperialists. That’s all we are. Obama is no different from Dick Cheney. Our attack on ISIL is no different from the invasion of Iraq. There’s no room in Greenwald’s conspiracy-poisoned mind to entertain the idea that, despite plenty of monumental mistakes in the past that have actually strengthened anti-American sentiment, the present situation calls for what most Americans see as legitimate and moral action.

Meanwhile, Greenwald offers us nothing condemning ISIL or explaining what he would do about the bloodthirsty bastards in Iraq and Syria who would, if they had the chance, saw off Glenn Greenwald’s head as quickly and brutally as they sawed off the heads of other journalists. The only difference would be that the ISIL bastards wouldn’t have to write an anti-American script for Greenwald. They could just make him read his latest article.

Having said all that, there are legitimate questions about the constitutional propriety of President Obama’s actions in Syria, as he continues to authorize attacks on ISIL with neither the permission of the Syrian government nor the official permission of Congress. Those questions have been raised by various congressional voices, including Democratic voices, and it is obvious that if there were a will in Congress to stop what is going on, those voices would be turned into legislative language constitutionally tying the hands of the president. For now it appears all that is being offered is an official authorization of what Obama has already started, with some restrictions placed on its scope, and the requirement to come to Congress periodically to defend continuing the effort against ISIL—and whoever else decides that Allah is on the side of psychopaths waving black flags and beheading innocents, including innocent Americans.

The Embarassing Things That Hating Obama Will Make You Do

Three Tweets from Newt Gingrich this morning, after President Obama confirmed the first strikes on ISIL in Syria, demonstrate not only what is wrong with Newt Gingrich’s mind, but what can go wrong in the age of instant communication when an Obama-hater says something critical of the Commander-in-Chief before the Obama-hater took the trouble to find out if his Obama-hate got the best of him:

gingrich tweets

 

How Anti-Obama Republicans In Congress Have Effectively Poisoned The Country—In Two Sentences

There it was right there in a Reuters story about how 24% of Americans—24 bleeping percent—“strongly supported or tended to support” their particular states leaving the union. There it was right there for all of us who have followed politics since the age of Obama to see. Right there in two sad sentences from the story:

I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done.

That was said by a confused man named Roy Gustafson, from Camden, South Carolina. Roy, the story goes, is “on disability payments” and is quoted as saying, “The state would be better off handling things on its own.”

I will try to ignore the utter ignorance behind the idea that any state in this union would be better off “on its own.” And I will try to ignore the sad misapprehension of reality that a man on federal “disability payments” possesses when he says things would be better if there were no federal government to which his state owed its allegiance, a state, by the way, dominated by Tea Party Republicans who would most surely cut off his disability payments faster than old Roy could say “secession.”

Just look at those first two sentences: It doesn’t matter “which political party is running things. Nothing gets done.” That, my friends, is the product of years of Republican obstruction and obfuscation (despite the recent legislative endorsement of part of President Obama’s ISIL strategy).

And you have to hand it to Republicans. For all their tactics in Congress, for all their vacations and filibusters and wasted time on doomed-to-fail legislation regarding ObamaCare and abortion, too many people still don’t recognize whose fault it is that “nothing gets done.” In fact, a large number of folks will run, not walk, to the nearest polling place in November and attempt to put even more Republicans in Congress.

Amazing.

Apple Just Made The World Safer For Terrorists

Has it become un-American to want to catch the bad guys? Think hard about this lede from a Washington Post story titled, “Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for police, even with search warrants“:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

I would guess that bit of news warms the hearts of terrorists everywhere, not to mention other criminals who can now avail themselves of the latest technology knowing there is a greatly reduced risk of getting caught via the use of smartphones. Apple, and no doubt other tech companies will follow its lead, couldn’t help the good guys even if it wanted to. To hell with law enforcement, we Americans demand our privacy!

Or do we? We routinely give corporations, like Google and Facebook, lots and lots of information about ourselves, which they use to make money. Most people don’t think twice about sharing that information. And once it is in the hands of these non-government entities that exploit our generosity, then we no longer have control of it. And we do all of this voluntarily.

Yet, many people almost lost their minds, not to mention their faith in good government, when it was revealed, through illegal leaks by Edward Snowden, that the National Security Agency was conducting electronic surveillance and going to court to force tech companies to turn over data that might help take the terror out of terrorism. I argued with some of those people on this blog. One would have thought all hope for the future was lost just because the government was doing what it is supposed to do: helping to protect us against bad people.

It is certainly true that since the dawn of smartphones, more than five years ago, people have increasingly used them to store all sorts of information, some of it intensely private. And it is certainly true that Americans should expect such information to remain invisible to government eyes, unless there is a compelling reason to examine it. The Supreme Court earlier this year rightly decided that the police had to have a search warrant to gather data from mobile devices. Now, after Apple’s announcement, that ruling will soon be as out-of-date as, well, landline phones. Ten thousand court orders won’t do any good. Apple has blinded itself and done so on purpose. And its inability to see means the government can’t see either:

Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, called the move by Apple “problematic,” saying it will contribute to the steady decrease of law enforcement’s ability to collect key evidence — to solve crimes and prevent them. The agency long has publicly worried about the “going dark” problem, in which the rising use of encryption across a range of services has undermined government’s ability to conduct surveillance, even when it is legally authorized.

“Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” Hosko said. He suggested that it would take a major event, such as a terrorist attack, to cause the pendulum to swing back toward giving authorities access to a broad range of digital information.

Given what Apple has done, it is hard to see how that pendulum can swing back. The world is now a lot safer for the bad guys, especially terrorists who use smartphones for recruitment and planning attacks. Those wonderful little devices we all carry around with us are now, for a select few, much better weapons than ever.

isis phone

Spare The Rod And Ignore The Bible

The Minnesota Vikings’ owner has admitted that he made a mistake when his team reinstated Adrian Peterson, its star running back and one of the league’s best, after first deciding to keep Peterson from participating in team activities, when it became known he had been indicted last week for injuring his 4-year-old son by beating him with a “switch,” aPhotos from the Houston Police Department showing injuries of Adrian Peterson's allegedly abused son. slender tree branch often used for disciplining kids.

My dad used a switch on me now and then when I was growing up in southeast Kansas in the 1960s, and it is, apparently, still fairly common in some parts of the country to beat children with them.

I heard Goldie Taylor, an often insightful African-American pundit, on public radio this morning explaining, in a way that partly echoed Charles Barkley’s comments on the issue, that for a lot of black folks in the South, beating their kids is a part of their culture, some of it stemming from the phrase used in black churches, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” a phrase that most people think is in the Bible. Actually that phrase isn’t in the Bible, but what is, from Proverbs 13:24 (King James Version), is this:

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

That seems clear enough, no? Beating your kid with a stick is a way of showing him (or, presumably, her) love. But Goldie Taylor, parting ways with Charles Barkley, tried to explain that the “rod” in that phrase was not an instrument of punishment, but something shepherds used to gently guide their sheep, not beat them. It was, she said, a source of comfort not pain (“thy rod and thy staff comfort me,” from the 23rd Psalm), and the misinterpretation of that Bible-inspired phrase was erroneously used to justify the whipping of children by their parents, parents like Adrian Peterson, who, he said, had parents that beat him in the same way.

Hooey.

Here is the King James Version of another passage in the Bible, Proverbs 23:13-14:

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Nothing in the Bible is clearer than that. No amount of sugar-coating the Bible can alter the meaning of that passage. Beating your kids is not only okay, says the God of the Bible, it is part of a divine strategy to keep them from going to hell (a place which, oddly, the God of the Bible created as punishment for the disobedient). And, for those of you who are not familiar with such things, that stuff is taught in evangelical and fundamentalist churches all over America, not just in the South and not just in black churches. I was taught it and I, on rare occasions, practiced it on two of my three children, acts for which I am now utterly ashamed.

We know better these days. We have learned something about the effects of trying to beat obedience into our kids. We are evolving culturally. Violence against our children doesn’t do any real good, but does do a lot of real harm. In this case, given the publicity it has received, it may be that some unintentional social good can come from what happened to Adrian Peterson’s 4-year-old son, namely that it is no longer acceptable, anywhere, to beat kids with a rod, a stick, a switch, or even the hand.  And more than that, perhaps another good is in sight: more people will realize that the Bible is full of bad advice, a strong indication that the much-revered book is a product of ignorant and narrow-minded men, and not an infallible Word from the God of the universe.

_______________________________________

[photo: Adrian Peterson’s son and his injuries, from Houston police department]

Obama And The World’s White Blood Cells

The world is in the midst of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Ebola is a rare virus that infects and eventually kills a majority of its victims. Some species of Ebola are more deadly than others, with one species killing almost 8 in 10 of the people it infects. There is often a lot of bleeding associated with an Ebola infection, like bleeding “from the eyes nose, ears, mouth, and rectum.” Here is one description of why Ebola is such a killer:

One of the main things that seems to make Ebola viruses especially deadly is that they seem to be able to evade much of the human immune system. Among other problems, white blood cells from the immune system are often seen to die off in patients. And if the body can’t fight fully back, the virus can just keep taking over.

In order to beat Ebola, bodies need a strong immune system—especially white blood cells—to fight back.

We, the United States of America, are part of the immune system of another fight against a deadly virus infecting a part of the world: Islamist terrorism. Currently its most deadly species is ISIL.

I have heard a lot of talk since Obama’s speech on Wednesday, outlining his approach to confronting the phony “Islamic State.” Some of that talk focused on the strategy, some of it focused on the legality, and some of it focused on whether we actually have a real coalition of nations, especially Arab states, sufficient to warrant going forward with any hopes of ebola flagsuccess. But despite all the debates, both legitimate and otherwise, we should never lose sight of the fact that if we fail to act against this spreading infection, no matter who is with us, it will have consequences we won’t like.

Right now, the Ebola virus is attacking people in West Africa, far, far way from the United States. There is little chance, at the moment, that we will be impacted by Ebola here at home. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have an interest in helping fight it in West Africa. The world is connected by airplanes. Everywhere. Ebola can have a first class ticket to nearly any destination in the world. And even though the United States doesn’t have much to fear from Ebola directly—we have the resources and technology necessary to keep a widespread outbreak from happening here—we do have national interests, both economic and moral, in not allowing Ebola to spread its infection to other parts of the world.

It’s the same way with the spread of the ISIL virus.

That’s why I was shocked to hear Jeffrey Sachs, a liberal, say on television this morning that he thought President Obama’s plan to attack ISIL was “absurd.” Not misguided or unconstitutional or insufficient, but absurd. Sachs was on television because he wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Let the Middle East Fight Its Own War on ISIS,” in which he says:

…Obama is leading us into a prolonged trap; the fight against ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL) is a fight that the region itself should lead…Yet again, as with George W. Bush, Obama will needlessly set the US up as the leader of a crusade against Islam…President Obama is getting us still deeper into this never-ending battle with monsters stoked by our own ill-advised policies…So why is Obama leading us further down this failed path? The US fights these failed wars mainly because of domestic politics….We can’t win this war any more that we could win the Vietnam War, but Obama dare not “lose” the war on terror before the next election…These wars are therefore as open-ended as they are futile…If the US had a real strategy for national success, we would let the Middle East face and resolve its own crises, and demand a UN framework for action.

Those kinds of sentiments are voiced by people who don’t view ISIL as a deadly virus that can spread to other regions of the world. But at the heart of those sentiments is a dangerous isolationist idea. It is a dangerous thing to say to countries in the Middle East that they are essentially on their own in the fight against ISIL. It’s not really our problem. We don’t have to worry about it here at home, so to hell with the rest of you. We’re tired of fighting your battles.

flag and cellsYet, just a moment’s thought would reveal what would happen, if we, and other nations around the world, felt the same way about Ebola, if we told the governments of Liberia, or Guinea, or Sierra Leone that Ebola was their problem, that if they wanted to fight it they should fight it themselves without our help. Ebola would spread. And kill.

Thankfully, we are not abandoning West Africa in its fight against Ebola. We, along with Great Britain, are even sending troops and other resources there to fight the spread of that deadly virus. And now President Obama, having begun the fight against a similarly deadly virus in Iraq, is poised to act against ISIL in Syria.

The world of nations is one body now. Islamist terrorism is a deadly, deadly pathogen that has infected a part of the world body. It’s current and most bloodthirsty strain is ISIL. We, the people of United States, are an integral part of the world’s immune system. We are its white blood cells. To ignore that reality is to invite more death and devastation, not less.

 

Poll Junkies

Yesterday I was discussing public polling and how the results don’t always reflect an understanding of the facts. Since then, we have had MSNBC all morning fussing over the latest polls, including this one:

NBC/WSJ/Telemundo Poll: Latino Voters More Sour On Country, Obama

Even as pissed off as some Latinos are over President Obama’s unwise decision to postpone his promised executive actions on immigration, they still have some grasp of what is going on. But you wouldn’t know it from the headline above. That headline, and others like it, reflect the way the poll was introduced on MSNBC this morning. It was mostly about Latinos “souring” on the country and on President Obama. The headline, though, could have been,

Latinos Disappointed with Obama, But Still Very, Very Sour On The Republican Party

Why? Because of these two paragraphs near the end of the story:

Over six in ten Latinos prefer to see a Democrat-controlled Congress, compared to 28 percent who want to see the Republicans in charge. This is seen in their take on which party handles issues better; 53 percent think the Democratic Party looks out for the interests of women, compared to 11 percent who say that about Republicans. 

On immigration, 41 percent think the Democratic party looks out for their interests as opposed to 19 percent who favor the Republican party. Still, immigration is one area where the majority of Latinos – as opposed to other groups in the country – favor legislation or executive action to change the current laws and policies.

So, I suppose the problem is not so much with the polling, but with the presentation of the results. If a reader only read that “Latino Voters More Sour On Country, Obama” headline, he or she would get one message. But reading the entire article, the reader gets a different one. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves. The way a headline hovers over a story affects how people read it, if they bother to read it at all. Some folks just scan the headlines, thinking they’re getting the “news.”

NBC and the Wall Street Journal also have a new poll out that they find worthy of our attention:

The latest NBC/WSJ poll shows that the past few months of foreign-policy crises — especially regarding ISIS and Ukraine — have taken a toll on President Obama and his party. Just 32% approve of his handling of foreign policy, an all-time low in the survey; the GOP has an 18-point advantage on which party deals best on foreign policy, an 11-point jump from a year ago; and Republicans hold a whopping 38-point lead on which party best ensures a strong national defense, their largest lead on this question in more than 10 years.

If that depressing paragraph doesn’t tell you why snapshot polls during certain world events mean absolutely nothing, besides merely registering frustration and ignorance on the part of many Americans, then nothing will. The idea that the obstructionist Republican Party “has an 18-point advantage” over Democrats on any issue, much less foreign policy, defies explanation, unless one resorts to chalking it up to ignorance.

And please, someone, anyone, tell me why Republicans have enjoyed “an 11-point jump from a year ago”? Or how could Republicans, who brought us the sequester that has cut into the Pentagon budget with a blunt ax and who committed trillions to an unnecessary war in Iraq that started most of the messes we see, possibly “hold a whopping 38-point lead” on ensuring a strong national defense? Can people be that ignorant, that tuned out, not to say that stupid? God, let’s hope not. We’ve suffered enough.

That “exclusive poll” presented by NBC and The Wall Street Journal also, “reveals that 47% of Americans believe the country is less safe now than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” Really? Based on what? Ten or fifteen thousand ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria now worrying every day about where the next American missile will fall and take out a few more of the bastards? Nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened here in the homeland recently that would lead a rational person to conclude that we are less safe now than when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was ignoring Osama bin Laden in the summer of 2001. We are much more safe, in terms of terrorist attacks. That’s not even arguable.

Oh, and do you want a good headline based on a poll? Try these beauties:

newsmax

bloomberg poll

Wow! Really? Man, that is big, big news. The Europeans have abandoned and deserted the most powerful leader in the world! What do we do now?

Well, let’s begin by reading the actual article, originating with the respectable Bloomberg News, that those ridiculously false headlines announced, including this little finding:

Obama’s European approval rating dropped to 64 percent, sliding for the fifth straight year from 85 percent when he took office…

Oh, so Europeans have abandoned the President, they have deserted him, yet 64% of them still approve of the job he is doing? Get that? Sixty-four percent think he’s doing a good job! That is a strange kind of abandonment and desertion. Actually, if you bother to go look at the poll itself, you will find that President Obama’s approval rating regarding his “international policies” only dropped from 69% to 64% since 2013. Considering all that has happened in the world since then, I find that utterly remarkable. Thus, the headline should have been:

President Obama Remains Very Popular in Europe, Despite World Events

But that headline just doesn’t fit in with the fashion of the day, which is, right now, to pile on President Obama as he struggles through some tough times on the foreign front. Let me be clear, though. Journalists shouldn’t be cheerleaders for any president or political party. They should tell it like it is. But neither should they be cheerleaders for pessimism, especially when they have to go out of their way to create it themselves.

TV Media: Don’t Let The Facts Get In The Way Of A Pessimistic Poll

If you watch a lot of cable news, you know that whenever there’s a poll that comes out it is suddenly “news.” Networks spend a lot of money on polling and they aren’t going to waste it by ignoring the results. I have even heard news channels report on rivals’ polls, such is the need to fill air time with mostly meaningless snapshots of public opinion.

Most of the snapshots lately have shown some bad news for President Obama, both regarding foreign policy and things here at home, including the economy. But that’s not surprising considering the trouble in the world and the relentless beating he takes on Fox and its creepy companion, talk radio, 24 hours a day, every day.

The right in this country, because it has a theological conviction that the media are on the side of the devil, Barack Hussein Obama, thinks the networks are actually protecting him from the results of their own polling. Breitbart, one of the papal outposts of right-wing paranoia, posted a piece today with this headline:

STUDY: NETWORKS BURY OWN POLL RESULTS TO PROTECT OBAMA

The “study” was done by The Media Research Center, which is an outfit designed to intimidate journalists and networks into practicing “both sides are equally guilty” journalism, a strategy that works quite well for the right I might add. The story ends with this:

The media is not dumb. During the Bush years, the media knew that pounding these numbers to death would only serve to sour the public even more on the Bush presidency. A frenzy of pessimism breeds pessimism.

This same media is obviously willing to go to extraordinary, even absurd lengths, to protect Obama from that same feeding frenzy.

While it is obviously absurd to think the media (it’s not really one thing, but let’s pretend it is) is/are protecting the President, I can agree with the writer that “pessimism breeds pessimism.” That is why the country, fed a steady diet of pessimism for so long, is so down on itself and the President, despite the good economic news. Oh, you didn’t know there was good economic news? That’s the point. You may not have known about it, since news reports, especially on cable news channels, tend to focus on all the negative aspects of the economy (which there are too many, to be sure), while ignoring the reality of what has happened since President Obama came into office.

On that note, here goes, courtesy of Adam Hartung at Forbes (you should really read his entire post, “Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing”) and his guest, Bob Deitrick, CEO and author:

“Jobless claims [for August] were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007.  Despite the lower than expected August jobs number [142,000 jobs were created], America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.”

♦ “This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American history”:

Unemployment Reagan v Obama

♦ Here is a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing labor participation since 1948:Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject“As this chart…shows, as the Baby Boomers entered the workforce and societal acceptance of women working changed, labor participation grew.

“Now that ‘Boomers’ are retiring we are seeing the percentage of those seeking employment decline. This has nothing to do with job availability, and everything to do with a highly predictable aging demographic.

“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the eight years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

♦ “…the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone.  The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected.  This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.”

♦ “As the last 15 months have proven, jobs and economy are improving, and investors are benefiting”:

Investment Returns Reagan v Obama“While most Americans think they are not involved with the stock market, truthfully they are.  Via their 401K, pension plan and employer savings accounts 2/3 of Americans have a clear vested interest in stock performance.

“As this chart shows, over the first 67 months of their presidencies there is a clear “winner” from an investor’s viewpoint. A dollar invested when Reagan assumed the presidency would have yielded a staggering 190% return.  Such returns were unheard of prior to his leadership.

“However, it is undeniable that President Obama has surpassed the previous president.  Investors have gained a remarkable 220% over the last 5.5 years!  This level of investor growth is unprecedented by any administration, and has proven quite beneficial for everyone.

“In 2009, with pension funds underfunded and most private retirement accounts savaged by the financial meltdown and Wall Street losses, Boomers and Seniors were resigned to never retiring.  The nest egg appeared gone, leaving the ‘chickens’ to keep working.  But now that the coffers have been reloaded increasingly people age 55 – 70 are happily discovering they can quit their old jobs and spend time with family, relax, enjoy hobbies or start new at-home businesses from their laptops or tablets.  It is due to a skyrocketing stock market that people can now pursue these dreams and reduce the labor participation rates for ‘better pastures.”

The next time you hear some journalist on the telly talking about how Americans don’t approve of Obama’s handling of the economy (and by and large they don’t), remind yourself to do a better job of explaining to your family, friends, and co-workers that things are much, much better than they think. And if you really want to piss off right-wingers you know, don’t forget to tell them that:

“Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing”

_________________________

h/t: Drew Graham

 

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