There is no shortage of big things going on, but here are a couple of quickies on what I think were the biggest stories of last week.
There was a huge effort on the part of Scotland to break away from the U.K. and become its own independent state. It ultimately fell a few poll points short, but would have had major implications for the U.S. and the rest of the world. A friend of mine was there in Scotland to see history in the making, and shared some very interesting thoughts that are worth checking out (here). While this result may have been a bitter disappointment to some, and an obvious blow for independence and freedom for Scotland, there were some huge concerns with the ramifications of a permanent split. It’s all conjecture, of course, but conjecture with solid reasoning behind it that should at the very least cause one to pause and consider how entwined this world is becoming.
The mess is just getting messier, and Obama still isn’t doing much about it. Ironically, a lack of action leading to a descent into worsening chaos was predicted by none other than…Barack Obama himself:
History will come to regard President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013 as a pivotal speech. In that address, Obama warned Americans about the dangers posed by a failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and of what an unwillingness to intervene in that rapidly worsening conflict could mean for the geopolitical order. He then went on to state why he would probably ignore his own advice.
While the president chose not to intervene in that conflict, Obama’s warnings regarding the threat the Syrian civil war posed to the world were not unfounded. It seems that the president’s failure to follow up on his own “red line” for action has yielded many of the consequences Obama warned would follow Western inaction.
It’s no wonder 68% of Americans lack confidence that Obama is able and/or willing to do anything of substance about this. In fact, the waffling is so bad that even the mainstream media has noticed and called it underpowered. Ah, nuance! Anyway, the House has now approved a measure to arm and train a group of so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels in an attempt to push back on ISIS. This seems like a singularly terrible idea to me. Does no one remember the so-called “moderate” rebels that the U.S. armed and trained to fight the Russians in Afghanistan back in the 1980s? Oh yeah, they ended up killing thousands of Americans on 9/11. To me, this appears to be a coward’s escape, as Obama refuses to exert American military power because he knows his own base will hate it. What I can’t figure out is why so much of Congress went along with it. I must be missing some of that Washingtonian nuance somewhere. Or, maybe I’m just stuck in the same mindset as the military itself, which appears to be thoroughly disgusted with and unimpressed by Obama’s *ahem* leadership.
But don’t worry, Obama had no problem dispatching thousands of American troops to Africa to combat the ebola virus. Priorities, you know? And nuance.
I realize that it’s not at all constitutional to suggest that people should have to pass a test in order to vote, but I’m just about to the point of supporting an amendment requiring precisely that. Read on only if you have anti-depressants handy:
When you’re waiting in line at your polling place in November, remind yourself that it’sstatistically likely the person ahead of you and the person behind you understand basic civics at the level of a four-year-old.
Still care about voting?
Only 38 percent of Americans knew the Republican Party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, while 17 percent think Democrats are still in charge. The number of people who knew Republicans were in charge has dropped 17 percent since the last time Annenberg asked, back in 2011, right after Republicans reclaimed control.
An identical number, 38 percent, knows Democrats run the Senate, while 20 percent believe Republicans control the upper chamber. Only 27 percent knew it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.
If it makes you feel better, we don’t seem to be getting worse at civics, just coasting along at our usual levels of ignorance. Compare the data from 2014 and 2011. Solid as a rock:
The only thing worse than this kind of staggering ignorance is an obliviousness to it in oneself:
…when people were asked whether they thought they knew the three branches, 72 percent said yes (73 percent in 2011). It’s not just ignorance you’re seeing here, it’s ignorance about the depth of one’s ignorance. The best kind.
Yes, the investigation is still ongoing. Not that anyone would know about it due to the complete lack of media coverage of it. However, a new bombshell rocked the hearings this week that could have some big implications, especially if Hillary decides to run for President in 2016 (emphasis mine):
During questioning on the first day of the Benghazi Committee Hearings, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) brought up a seemingly minor detail about the Benghazi compound that could have huge implications for the State Department’s fault in the 2012 attack.
In question was the designation of the embassy as a “Special Mission Compound.” Roskam asked Todd Keil, a member of the Independent Panel of Best Practices, what that term actually means. Keil stated:
To be honest, from our review, Under Secretary Kennedy, in authorizing that, made up that term in order to avoid the OSPB security standards.
Keil was referring to Patrick Kennedy, who is the Under Secretary for Management. Several bureaus, including the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, fall under his jurisdiction.
The OSPB, or Overseas Security Policy Board, security standards are in place to carry out “the statutory security responsibilities prescribed by the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986.”
They consist of “threat-indexed countermeasures (i.e., actions, devices, procedures, or techniques that reduce vulnerability),” according to State Department documents.
In searching for other instances of “Special Mission Compounds,” Roskam said he and his staff found nothing – Benghazi alone had this designation.
So if the category of the compound was changed to avoid important anti-terrorism security standards – as Keil confirmed – that mere word change could have drastic effects on how the crisis would be handled. Roskam continued:
“What does it mean if something is said, ‘Well, we’re just going to declare this as something other than that which is to be regulated.’ That means you have no regulations, isn’t that right?”
Keil’s brief response: “Correct, sir.”
This minor detail of a designation change has major implications for the State Department’s responsibility. It furthers the idea that State Department leaders, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were either in over their heads, or that they were preemptively covering their tails should they fail to protect the compound and its inhabitants.
Kudos to the Republicans on this committee for refusing to let this issue die. Four Americans were killed by terrorists, and the Obama administration seems hell bent on covering it up and/or brushing it under the rug. I’m glad someone is pushing back for a change.
There’s my two cents.