23
Sep

Important news context:

thepoliticalnotebook:

This past few days there have been reports that there is a  ”just as bad as ISIS” terror group plotting international attacks from the same region — a group named Khorasan.

The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said on Thursday that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

If you’ve never heard of Khorasan, that’s fine. It’s probably because Khorasan’s not actually a terror group, new or old. It’s still Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra doing what they do. 

Journalist and Syria in Crisis editor Aron Lund explains it:

"Khorasan" would be a great name for a terror group, with nearly unlimited potential for ominous mispronounciation. Sadly, it is not. It’s a word used by al-Qaeda (& others) for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, where its top leadership sits. What has happened, if US intel is telling the truth, is that a group of AQ veterans have relocated to Syria to support AQ’s local franchise, Jabhat al-Nosra, and (this is the newsworthy part) to develop its capacity for international attacks. All this, apparently, on the urging of AQ’s core leadership. The "Khorasan group" thing comes from them being sent to Syria from "Khorasan" – that is, by AQ’s leadership in Pakistan – and presumably taking their orders straight from there. It’s not the name of a group and they’re not an independent organization. As described in reports so far, they’re a specialized working group inside or otherwise attached to Jabhat al-Nosra that seeks to use the training camps, resources & recruits that Jabhat al-Nosra controls in Syria to run global attacks for which AQ can then claim credit.

22
Sep

Mayor De Blasio Will Try Treatment, Not Punishment, For Low-Level Offenders

The model for this is Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which looks very promising.

22
Sep

BREAKING: U.S. Middle East Policy Still a Disaster

A few interesting tidbits from several periodicals of note.

First, a reminder that U.S. intervention in Iraq helped create ISIS, via The New Yorker:

ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals, according to Hisham Alhashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government and an expert on ISIS. Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons. 

Then, a thorough debunking of the plan to arm and back a “moderate” opposition in Syria from The New York Times:

The persistent belief in Western policy circles that there is a “moderate opposition” in Syria…warrants serious scrutiny. The very notion of a “vetted” opposition has an absurd ring to it. It assumes that moderation is an identifiable, fixed element that can be sorted out from other, tainted characteristics. It further presumes that the vetting process will not stain those being vetted. It takes as a given that Western-backed opposition will prevail and in turn provide the basis for a happier and better Syria.

There is little to support any of these beliefs. The most effective forces on the ground today — and for the foreseeable future — are decidedly nonmoderate.

… The alleged moderates have never put together a convincing national program or offered a viable alternative to Mr. Assad. The truth is that there are no “armed moderates” (or “moderate terrorists”) in the Arab world — and precious few beyond. The genuine “moderates” won’t take up arms, and those who do are not truly moderates.

And finally, evidence that almost every instance of U.S. intervention in the Middle East has unexpected and/or dangerous consequences, via Haaretz:

The Islamic State jihadist organization has recruited more than 6,000 new fighters since America began targeting the group with air strikes last month, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 1,300 of the new recruits are said to be foreigners, who have joined IS from outside the swathes of Syria and Iraq that it controls.

So we helped create ISIS in the first place and we’ve made it bigger and our strategy for destroying it might be doomed. Other than that, we’re doing just fine.

19
Sep
When Jews arrived at those buildings, a man stood dressed in a white coat, according to one German officer who later testified to what happened there. “He used to wear a white coat to give the impression he was a physician,” the officer said, according to the Holocaust Education and Archive Research Team. He ‘announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection. … After the Jews had entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors, the motor was switched on … and after the gassing, the doors were opened and the corpses were removed.’
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The Washington Post

Stories like this make me want to climb into a deep, dark hole and never come out. 

18
Sep

Senators who voted against arming Syrian rebels

NAYs — 22

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Props.

17
Sep
politicalprof:

On this 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, a reality check: the politics associated with the ratification of the Constitution (completed in 1788), were nasty. Really House of Cards stuff.
To wit: a breakdown of which areas in the various states voted to support or oppose the new Constitution.

George Clinton was such a relentless dick, it’s unbelievable.

politicalprof:

On this 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, a reality check: the politics associated with the ratification of the Constitution (completed in 1788), were nasty. Really House of Cards stuff.

To wit: a breakdown of which areas in the various states voted to support or oppose the new Constitution.

George Clinton was such a relentless dick, it’s unbelievable.

17
Sep
People too poor to afford private attorneys too often appear before judges without a lawyer by their side, or are forced to navigate the criminal justice system with a revolving cast of overworked attorneys unfamiliar with their cases. Public defense attorneys who strive to protect the rights of their clients are too often thwarted by caseloads up to five times the recommended maximums and a lack of resources for investigations, experts and even workplace basics like computers. New York has turned its back on decades of studies and official reports warning that indigent defendants are consistently denied their right to counsel. As a result, justice in New York often is available only for those who can afford it.
16
Sep

N.Y. State Senator Looks to Legalize Marijuana for General Use

Liz Krueger has been great on this issue and tried to mount a legalization effort last year but unfortunately for everyone who is or will be imprisoned for marijuana offenses, Democrats in New York recently decided that Andrew Cuomo should be their governor instead of Zephyr Teachout, who supports legalization. Last year, Cuomo’s spokesman called Krueger’s marijuana bill a “non-starter.”

So thanks, Democrats, for making marijuana reform an impossibility. Keep up the great work.

15
Sep

A Staten Island high school is facing a backlash from students for its newly implemented, hyper-strict dress code, for which 200 students have already been given detention for violating.

Students at Tottenville High School are fighting back against the draconian new policy, which prohibits girls from wearing shorts or skirts shorter than finger-tip length—in addition to low-cut or midriff-bearing tops—despite many classrooms not having air conditioning. In protest, some girls—who comprise 90 percent of the detentions given over the past two weeks—are dressing more skimpily than ever.

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Gothamist

If you’re an adult who has been made to look ridiculous and sexist by a bunch of teenagers, you should probably re-examine your life.

15
Sep
While we all oppose terrorism, a more tempered, well-tailored response is needed than to write a blank check to the president for waging war in unknown places, against unknown adversaries, and at unknown costs.
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One of the supportive letters written to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Ca.) after she was the sole “no” vote in the overbroad Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Afghanistan in 2001.

Lee received quite a lot of mail following her vote, some of it supportive, some angry but reasonable, and some super incoherent and racist (click here to see examples of all three categories—it’s a fascinating collection).

Lee’s concern that the AUMF would give the President “a blank check to attack an unspecified country, an unspecified enemy for an unspecified period of time” proved prescient; President Obama is now using that same AUMF to justify war on ISIS without congressional approval.

(via hipsterlibertarian)

15
Sep
nycnostalgia:

Harlem, 1970. Stylin’

That guy on the left just knows he looks good.

nycnostalgia:

Harlem, 1970. Stylin’

That guy on the left just knows he looks good.

(via oldnewyork)

13
Sep

Horse carriage debate 'about to begin'

I cannot for the life of me understand why banning horse carriages in/around Central Park is being prioritized by anyone. I’d rather not have horses trotting about busy intersections and I suspect that accusations of animal abuse have some merit, but this is a divisive issue that will rile up the public. If de Blasio is going to lose approval points and provoke protests he should do it for something that concerns the two-legged: homelessness, racially biased arrests, charter schools, affordable housing, low wages, etc. He shouldn’t blow his political capital on this. Not to mention, he’s turned Liam Neeson into an enemy, which can have devastating consequences…

13
Sep

Best mom ever. 

12
Sep

[T]he president seems grimly determined to practice what Mr. Bush’s lawyers only preached. He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war.

In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.

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Bruce Ackerman’s devastating op-ed in The New York Times.

The paper’s editorial board was just as harsh.

11
Sep
allisonkilkenny:

This excellent human being is named Draven Rodriguez and he’s a student at Schenectady High School. He wants this photo to be in his yearbook photo, but the school administration are being massive tools and not letting him.
Which is bullshit.
In fact, I think lasers and cats should be mandatory in all high school yearbook photos
Jessica Roy at NYMag disagrees because:

It may seem cute and funny and cool now, but imagine explaining it to your future significant other in ten years. It’s not worth it, bro. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything …

Bullshit. If his future significant other rejects him for this amazing photo, they’re a loser and he should walk away.
update: here’s the petition

Today’s profile in courage. 

allisonkilkenny:

This excellent human being is named Draven Rodriguez and he’s a student at Schenectady High School. He wants this photo to be in his yearbook photo, but the school administration are being massive tools and not letting him.

Which is bullshit.

In fact, I think lasers and cats should be mandatory in all high school yearbook photos

Jessica Roy at NYMag disagrees because:

It may seem cute and funny and cool now, but imagine explaining it to your future significant other in ten years. It’s not worth it, bro. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything …

Bullshit. If his future significant other rejects him for this amazing photo, they’re a loser and he should walk away.

update: here’s the petition

Today’s profile in courage.