Open Thread for Monday, December 14, 2015

Soon, I can type “2016,” as my fingers have tried to do all year, and it will be right!

Meanwhile, some possible topics:

  1. Bergdahl


    Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, freed in prisoner swap, to face court-martial — I thought they’d decided against that. Oh, well — this thing was always so fishy, the matter should probably be adjudicated. So if we decide swapping for him was a bad deal, do we get those Taliban guys back? No, I guess not…

  2. State agency questions Richland County’s handling of penny sales tax — This is Doug’s cue to say, “I told you so!”
  3. US hitting IS harder than ever, says Obama — Yeah, but “harder” is kind of a relative thing, right? Still, he’s talking tough now, telling ISIL, “You are next.” Scoff at that if you like, but remember this guy’s got a list, and no end of drones. He may not be much of one for going to the mattresses, but he’s whacked a lot of guys by remote control.
  4. ICYMI: White supremacist groups see Trump bump — This story is several days old, but somehow I missed it until today. Pair this with Ross Douthat applying Umberto Eco’s definition to assert that Trump is, indeed, a fascist, and it gets really interesting.
Oh, yes... and The Force Awakens in just four days.

Oh, yes… and The Force Awakens in just four days.

37 thoughts on “Open Thread for Monday, December 14, 2015

  1. Doug Ross

    “State agency questions Richland County’s handling of penny sales tax”

    I’d rather hear an apology from those who lied to pass the tax and those who were duped by their lies.

  2. Doug Ross

    “The S.C. Department of Revenue says it has turned up evidence of public corruption, fraud and millions in wasteful or potentially illegal spending in Richland County’s handling of revenue raised by the county’s added penny sales tax, according to a letter made public Monday.”

    Imagine how corrupt they’d be in private.

    Spending and stealing other people’s money is the norm for these people.

    1. Barry

      Reading the letter- it looks like – as usual- the council has created a way to pay some friends some serious money.

      The council seemed focused on making sure minority public relations firms got their “fair share” – whatever that means. Ignoring the fact that Richland County already has a PR office.

      Is the Richland County PR office that busy that they couldn’t handle this project? Would it not have been more prudent to simply hire an additional PR person to focus on this project if that was the desire?

      I also see that some of the issues raised by the DOR report were things like “$13,000 for website development.”

      Have you seen this website? I have. A 10th grade IT class at any Richland County High School could have developed that same site- and would have done a better job- for free.

      It seems to escape their intellect that the best – and only- way to generate support for this program (a program that has already passed into law so how much public support is necessary at this point? ) is for the public to see the roads being built.

      That’s what matters- not what some PR firm that is buddy-buddy with the council says about the penny tax.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I had reTweeted that with a bunch of question marks, mainly because there was a paywall at Foreign Policy that prevented me finding out what it was about — although I soon read about it elsewhere.

      In response to my question marks, Bryan Tweeted, “It’s a movie reference. Flashdance.”

      Yes, I told him. I had realized it by then. In fact, I saw the movie. With my wife. I did not, however, memorize the lyrics. Unlike some people who are running for president.

      Cruz sort of slipped off-message there. If he’s going to quote movies, it should be something like “The Dirty Dozen” or “American Sniper.” I thought he was supposed to have this macho, gun-lovin’ theme going on…

      I mean, what’s next? “Tootsie?” “Sleepless in Seattle?” “An Affair to Remember?”

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Let’s see:

    1. Bergdahl: Have a trial. If he’s guilty that’s bad for him. Bad, like crossing the streams, bad.

    2. Corrupt Officials: Can we bring back tarring and feathering?

    3. ISIS: Great that we’re escalating the bombing campaign from tickle fight level. Going to need troops on the ground to do the real work, eventually.

    4. White supremacists and Trump: Ignore ’em.

  4. Karen Pearson

    And exactly how well did troops on the ground work for us in Iraq? The problem wasn’t withdrawing early; the problem was going in to start with. Perhaps Isis would not be what it is today if we had not withdrawn so early, but I think that we’d still be there today if were going to stay until Iraq was stable.

    1. Brad Warthen

      Yes, that was the idea — it required at least a generational commitment. Like Germany. Like Korea. Like Bosnia. As Lindsey Graham said from the beginning, it was going to take a long, long time to build the kinds of civil institutions necessary to stability.

      And troops on the ground worked fine. They got the job done in a few weeks. Our failure came after they had done the job they were sent to do.

      Bush didn’t believe in nation-building, so things fell apart. When you create a vacuum, you are obliged to fill it — so that something like ISIL doesn’t do it for you…

      1. Mprince

        The definition of a fool’s errand:
        Attempting to “nation build” in the midst of a sectarian/ethnic civil war.

        Footnote: Postwar Germany and Japan weren’t “built” by us – they effectively (re)built themselves. Moreover, each occupation regime ended after 10 and 7 years, respectively – not a generation.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You’re missing the point: We’re not talking about occupation. We never occupied Iraq; we didn’t send enough troops to do that. We just sent enough to topple Saddam.

          I’m talking about maintaining a presence, to prevent a dangerous vacuum. In Germany, we maintained that presence to keep the Soviets out. Not the same thing as occupation at all… (And the other examples I mentioned, Korea and Bosnia, don’t involve occupation, either.)

          As for “Attempting to “nation build” in the midst of a sectarian/ethnic civil war.” I’m not talking about that, either.

          The sectarian conflict to which you refer was the RESULT of our failing to secure Iraq after we destroyed the state of stability that existed under Saddam. It was not a condition that existed when we went in.

          And you’re right that Germany and Japan were different situations, and that was mainly because they had been nations that had their act together in the past. Iraq didn’t have that history or that sort of natural unity…

          1. Karen Pearson

            And now we have problems in at least 2 countires, Iraq and Syria, if not more. Sending in ground forces is likely to cause more rebellion, not less.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Sending ground troops into Iraq/Syria to kill ISIS jihadists is going to cause rebellions in other countries?

          2. Mprince

            No, I’m not missing the point at all. If anyone is, you are, as you’ve demonstrated every time you’ve raised this subject, because you clearly do not understand what “nation building” is. It does not consist in simply maintaining a military presence – as if that alone makes a difference in the way a country operates. Rather it consists in actually intruding in the internal workings of a country to reshape that country’s governmental/economic/social order. We never did that in Korea, for example. We did it only to a very limited degree in Bosnia/Kosovo. And in Germany and Japan that effort ended, at the latest, in 1955 and 1953, respectively (though de facto much earlier than that).

            And as for your claim that it is “our fault” that Iraq wasn’t properly pieced back together, I’m sorry, but that is nothing more than a right-wing mirror image of the “blame America first” reflex of the left: whatever we do is wrong if it doesn’t lead to an ideal outcome. Moreover, the final line of your comment contradicts your next-to-last paragraph – and in so doing points to the real source of Iraq’s fragmentation – and to the fundamental difficulty of nation building imposed from without.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, M., I’ve made it clear quite a few times in the past that achieving our goals in the world require a lot more than just military intervention.

              However, what happens here on the blog is that our disagreements are always about the military part, so our discussions tend to center on that.

              That was the context here, so that’s what I mentioned. I can see how, in a vacuum, that could look like I’m only thinking in military terms. I accept responsibility for that.

              To be clear, I have always believed that effective engagement in the world requires diplomatic, cultural, economic and humanitarian involvement as well.

              It’s just that we seldom fight about those parts here…

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Granted, it’s important to learn from history. However, it’s a common mistake to view a current conflict wholly through the lens of the prior one. The quote of “Generals always fight the last war” is important to remember. The mistake in the Iraq war (in my view) was vastly underestimating how easy it would be to secure the peace after the fall of Saddam.

      We have a different situation on the ground now than we did before the start of the Iraq war. Before the first war, there was an actual government (albeit hostile to the US) in Iraq as the legitimate government. Today, the Iraqi government is weak and does not control much of the territory in what is nominally “Iraq”. The mission we had in the Iraq war morphed into “nation-building”. Perhaps that is something to avoid this time.

      The Iraq war has many lessons. Some people have taken the main lesson of the Iraq war to be: Don’t ever send ground troops to the middle-east, ever. I think it is a mistake to draw that conclusion.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Here’s a giveaway: When I start to google “princess bride quotes,” that is the first quote Google offers me… instead of cool, awesome quotes such as “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” And “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” And “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world – except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe.”

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Or is it “never get involved in a land war in Asia”? Sure, it’s a little over-broad, but I don’t really think of it as annoying, because it’s only said once. It’s not like Vezzini repeats it the entire movie.

        2. Jeff Mobley

          I was reminded of Dana Carvey’s George H. W. Bush on the lesson of Vietnam: “Stay out of Vietnam!”

      1. bud

        It is certainly a mistake to EVER send troops into the middle-east, period. I proudly and defiantly draw that conclusion. It’s the only rational, sensible conclusion to draw. We need to bring the ones who are there home, NOW. The problem is not simply the military aspect it’s the entire nation building process, meddling would be a more apt term to use. Nation building is a fools errand that just does not end well for any western nation who attempts it. We are seen as imperialists. Given the fact that fewer than 150 (fewer than 50 on US soil) American civilians have died at the hands of Islamic Jihadists since 9/11/01 it seems absurd to spend such enormous resources on such a tiny problem. Let’s give peace a chance and see what happens. That would at least be something we haven’t tried.

  5. Doug Ross

    Although it has yet to be proven, I won’t be surprised when we find out the election was rigged for the penny tax. The bungled voting machine setup and the high number of absentee ballots voting for the tax were suspicious at the time.

    People who pushed for the tax are now getting their kickbacks. And nobody cares. It’s just a penny afterall. No big deal.

      1. Lynn Teague

        All true – and around here, “most brazen flouting of accountability” is a remarkable achievement. Flouting accountability is the number one local and state government sport.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, as I spent most of 1991 explaining, government in South Carolina was set up to do just that. It’s designed for it. But I generally think of that applying on the state more than the local level.

          The main problem with local government in South Carolina is that it’s never been given much of a chance to work by the state…

          1. Lynn Teague

            Also true, but unfortunately too many local governments fail to take advantage of even the limited scope available to them. However, state officials appear to have a definite role in that as well.

            1. Barry

              The citizens don’t care.

              Mr. Rush seems totally shocked and confused about the entire process. He can’t imagine that there were any problems.

              Is Mr. Rush as foolish and ignorant as he sounds? I feel sorry for Richland County residents that they have this guy and group in charge.

              What a screwed up mess.

              Thankfully South Carolina has Greenville. At least we have one city that appears to be half way responsible.

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