This is not the act of a civilized nation

It’s past time for the death penalty to go on indefinite hiatus. It’s sad enough that the company we’re keeping on the “executing criminals” front is China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. It’s deplorable enough that we know to a certainty that people have been put to death in this country for crimes they didn’t commit. Either of these facts alone ought to be enough to have ended the death penalty a long time ago. But if we can’t carry out an execution without making the dying convict suffer horribly in the process, then that’s the final straw.

The Lindsey Graham foreign policy playbook, at LobeLog

In case you missed it, and chances are you did, Sunday’s “Meet the Press” finally established once and for all that Senator Lindsey Graham (What? Lindsey Graham on a Sunday morning TV show? How unusual!) is perhaps the keenest foreign policy mind this country has ever produced:

However, when Senator Graham shared his critical thoughts about Obama’s foreign policy record July 20 on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he let his guard down a little, and we got a glimpse of what a Lindsey Graham foreign policy agenda might look like:


Well, Senator, there’s a lot to unpack there, specifically with regards to Russia. This crisis over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight. What did Secretary Kerry not say? What is the administration not yet prepared to do that you think must be done?


One, he didn’t call Putin the thug that he is.

Intrigued by Graham’s aggressive use of Mean Names to make fun of world leaders he doesn’t like so that they will Do Diplomacy with him, I tried to find out more. I was able to get a look at part of Graham’s foreign policy strategy, which I’ve shared at LobeLog. I don’t want to reveal any more than that here, because it’s really devastating stuff, but there was one plank that I was forced to leave out of the LobeLog piece because it’s frankly too risque — apparently, a President Graham (we can dream!) would always refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “President Farty Butt.”

“Boko Haram leader AbuBakar Shekau? In a Graham administration, he’s ‘Heywood Jablome,’ and that’s from Day One, David.”

I’m telling you, this material is incredibly potent. Could shake up the entire world order, to be honest.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo offers the most damning critique of cable TV ever made

This is so devastating that I almost feel like it’s unfair:

Of New Day, which had its one year anniversary last month, Cuomo admitted it “has to grow, it has to get better,” but he said it’s “a good show that is based on the understanding of taking what matters seriously but not taking ourselves seriously.”

On top of that, he said it is “significantly challenging Morning Joe for the mandate of having the smartest show on cable television, and I want that mantle.”

There you go. Morning Joe is “the smartest show on cable television,” but CNN’s morning show is challenging for the title. If that’s not a reason to get rid of the entire enterprise of cable TV, I don’t know what is.

Note that he does not mention perennial ratings leader Fox & Friends in this equation.

You don’t say?

Why do anti-marriage equality types think that this is an effective argument?

Marco Rubio:

“If pro-traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot just before the 2012 election,” Rubio, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, said in a speech about conservative family values at Catholic University.

Ralph Reed (seriously, this guy is still around?):

Saying he “can’t let that go,” Reed, an unapologetic social conservative, jumped in to disagree.

“This suggestion that because somebody wants to affirm the institution of marriage, that they’re ipso facto intolerant – by that argument, Barack Obama was intolerant 14 months ago,” he said.

Is this supposed to make liberals fall to their knees, heads asploding out of sheer cognitive dissonance? “OMG HOW CAN WE CALL ANTI-GAY BIGOTS ‘BIGOTS’ WHEN OUR COMMUNIST KENYAN GOD WAS JUST LIKE THEM A SCANT TWO YEARS AGO????!?!? WHAT DO WE DO NOW????”

The answer to “arguments” like this seems pretty self-evident to me: “Yes, yes he was. But now he’s changed his views and we’ve moved on.” Just because movement conservatives feel the need to turn their political leaders into mythological figures doesn’t mean everybody does.

I guess this is why I’m not making big bucks in the right wing PR industry, because I don’t get it.

When it comes to separatists, irony abounds

Will Freeman at ThinkProgress notes that Vladimir Putin’s Russia tends to take a dim view of separatists within its own borders, even as it cultivates them in places like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, which seems odd for a guy who claims to care so much about hypocrisy:

Over the years, President Vladimir Putin has made it his trademark in speeches and even New York Times op-eds to call out the U.S. on flouting the principles of international law when they don’t align with national interests. Just a brief glance at the history of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, or more recently the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses of having weapons of mass destruction, make his biting allegations of hypocrisy hard to ignore.

But Putin’s government has its own record of flaunting tenets of international law, like rights to self-determination and sovereignty, when they run contrary to Russian interests. As Russia continues to pump guns and fighters into a conflict that is destabilizing not only Ukraine, but now all of Europe as well, Putin’s government hardly has the ability to claim the moral high ground.

Russia’s praise for separatists outside their borders and harsh condemnation of those within is obviously pretty ironic. But beyond making for hypocritical policy, the contradictory standards Russia applies to separatists may also threaten the nation’s stability.

It’s only really ironic if you were expecting Putin to be intellectually consistent on the subject of separatist movements, but of course he’s not. And he’s not alone or even in a small group as far as that particular kind of hypocrisy is concerned. Continue reading

Oh, bubonic plague. That’s nice.

China has apparently “sealed off” an entire city (Yumen) of 30,000 people, and put 151 of them in quarantine, after a man died of bubonic plague. It turns out that the plague still kills a whole bunch of people, mostly in the Congo region of Africa. Also, it turns out that 60 people in the West Bengal province of India have died over the past two weeks from encephalitis, which kills hundreds of people in India every year but doesn’t normally hit West Bengal like this.

I don’t really have a point here, except to say that between these two items, plus the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Ukraine/Syria/Iraq/Gaza, we seem to have war and pestilence covered. And South Sudan looks like it’s on the verge of a famine, so, um…


Gaza: weapons that maximize civilian deaths

The death toll in Gaza has shot up since Israel launched its ground assault on Thursday, with at least 565 Palestinians and 25 Israeli soldiers now reported dead. Yesterday’s Israeli assault on the suburb of Shujaeya killed at least 72 people, most of whom were women, children, and old men, and so they were probably among the civilian population that Israel claims it doesn’t want to kill. But the funny thing about claiming that you want to minimize civilian casualties is that sometimes your choice of weapon really gives away the game. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has found evidence that the IDF is using flechette shells in its attack on Gaza, and the IDF has not disputed it. These are not the kind of weapons you use against a densely populated urban area when you’re trying to minimize civilian casualties.

Via The Guardian, a photo of darts from a flechette round that was allegedly used by Israeli forces in Gaza last week

Flechette shells are designed to explode in midair and spray small metal darts out over a wide area. They are indiscriminate anti-personnel weapons designed for use against massed formations of infantry, and when you shoot them at a city full of people, most of whom are innocent civilians rather than the terrorists you claim to be targeting, chances are you’re going to hit a lot more civilians than terrorists.

Israel’s stated mission in Gaza has crept from retaliating for the murder of the three Jewish teenagers in Hebron to retaliating for Hamas rocket attacks to closing down the massive network of tunnels that Hamas has dug under Gaza, though their actual mission, breaking up the Palestinian unity government, has remained unchanged. Meanwhile, 3600 Gazans have been wounded and 85,000 are now displaced in addition to the 570 who have been killed. “Diplomacy,” which when it involves the Palestinians means “a bunch of people talking to everybody except the Palestinians about how to get the Palestinians to stop fighting,” is ongoing. John Kerry is in Cairo talking to…somebody, the Egyptians I guess despite the fact that Hamas and Egypt don’t like each other that way anymore. Ban Ki-Moon is traveling around the Middle East, also talking to people who aren’t Palestinian. Nobody seems to be spending any time convincing the Israeli government that it’s, well, doing exactly what Hamas wants it to do and killing a whole bunch of innocent people while doing it.

But the IDF is trying real hard not to kill those innocent people, don’t you know. Just ask them. But try not to be anywhere near an exploding flechette shell when you do. I think I’m in agreement with Ed from Gin and Tacos; if you’re really convinced of the righteousness of your cause, then you don’t need to pay hours of lip service to how much you care about protecting civilians, or to how your opponent is callously using people as human shields by, um, having them stay in their own homes, or to play logic games to redefine people as terrorists until proven innocent. If your cause can’t justify the inevitable loss of civilian life, then maybe it’s not a cause worth going to war over.

For the Palestinians, of course, beatings will continue until morale improves. If you’re of a mind and a situation where you’d consider giving to help alleviate the situation, the blog Qifa Nabki (a great read in general, especially if you’re interested in Lebanon) has a list of charities.