Sunday, September 28, 2014

An ISIS Primer

The Oil Soaked, Religious, Arab Desert 
Politics of Revenge, Ambition and Betrayal
Wet dynamite packed in the trunk of a stalled Pinto parked in the rain
What could possibly go wrong?

Fairly reasonable estimates put the total number of "participants" in the ISIS rebellion at somewhere around 30,000 - 40,000. This isn't the number of "fingers on the trigger," but, instead, this represents the full collection of Islamists ranging from casually sympathetic to completely and feverishly dedicated. We can safely assume that a good number have "joined up" simply because conditions of life where they were had become so terrible that practically anything looked like an improvement.

Future caliphates don't have much to offer beyond promises, but they don't need much more.

The "WWII thing" would have been somewhat accurate a month or two ago. Events at that time were painting a new face on what we had seen of terrorism previously. The "militias" were taking and holding territory in Northwestern Syria and Eastern Iraq -- that was something quite different from the "fly by and blow it up" approach we had seen everywhere before.

Right away, however, we need to take a closer look at the "territory" which was being taken. Northwestern Syria was essentially a "freebie" given that most of Assad's ground forces were entangled with stubborn rebel fighters in the other end of the country. The Syrian dictator's air force was continuing to make "show the flag" sorties over the ISIS held regions, but these amounted to little more that "three times a week reminders" from Damascus that "We'll get around to you after we've finished in the South."

The plains of Eastern Iraq presented a slightly different situation, but, in the end, one destined to suffer the same outcome. The Baghdad government had remained paralyzed by the Shi'ite looters who had been installed at the end of the occupation. In hindsight, it is now quite clear that the Iraqi soldiers charged with facing the ISIS threat in combat were thoroughly convinced that, win or lose, they could expect nothing more than continuing exploitation from Baghdad.

We need to remember that those forming the Iraqi "democracy" were being counseled by Viscount Bremer, US Governor of Iraq, presenting the grotesque Bush W. version of the US democracy for a model.

Taking a Hard, Tactical Look at ISIS
Please remind everyone who'll listen that this ISN'T WWII.
Especially the war mongering geriatrics in Congress.

The surrender of Mosul and their retreat from the battle field may have appeared surreal to those of us accustomed to European armies, but when the "proposed combat" is a zero sum game, MeanMesa sees the frantic withdrawal of the Iraqi military as completely understandable and essentially inevitable. Interestingly, there was potentially an opportunity for a withdrawal which might have included also withdrawing the substantial equipment deployed with the Iraqis, but -- tellingly -- even this was abandoned. [Read more here: New York Times]

There was no lingering interest in "returning to the fight" in the minds of the Iraqi military running toward Baghdad after Mosul's fall. This is evidence of how deep and complete the demoralization inflicted by the Baghdad government had become in the Iraqi military.

The forces now being fielded by Baghdad are being energized by groups such as the Mahdi Shi'ite militias which the US occupation had so much trouble suppressing in places like Sadr City. It turns out that no matter how far along the military violence in the region may have progressed, there is always still time to transform it into sectarian warfare. The political version of this same divisive impulse in the Baghdad government delivered the intractable mess currently unfolding, so it's not surprising that the rise of the materially military form of the same thing is part of the result.

These are the wages of apartheid, Middle Eastern style. [Read more here: Foreign Affairs - Keven Russel]

Supplying Gasoline and Cash to the Caliphate
Even stolen trucks have thirsty gas tanks...

The "WWII thing" really begins to evaporate when we consider precisely what assets ISIS has within the new "caliphate."

For starters, the revenue generating ISIS "oil refineries" scattered around the Northern Syrian desert would be mistaken for junk yards everywhere else in the world, and, if they didn't look like junk yards before the first waves of bombing, they do now. Permanently junk or not, you can't hide them, you can't move them, and you probably can't build very many news ones from what's left.

Exactly this presents the first "supply challenge" faced by the "caliphate" -- gasoline or diesel. The "home refineries" produce, at best, slightly refined crude oil. The current "market" for this refinery product is, generally, in Turkey and Syria. It cannot be used to fuel gasoline powered engines and, although it might run a diesel engine, it would not be good for it. Black market trucks load up with this barely refined crude -- black market priced somewhere around $20/barrel -- and haul it to "full" refineries across the Turkish border to the north where it is further refined into gasoline or diesel.

Most of this refined black market gasoline or diesel is marketed in Turkey, but some of it is loaded back into the trucks that brought the crude and sent back to the fuel hungry ISIS vehicles in the "caliphate." The diplomatic branch of the coalition is pressuring Turkey to take steps needed to curtail this cross border flow -- both ways. The coalition is also quite interested in ferreting out refineries which might be supplying fuel to ISIS directly.

This explains the almost obsessive ISIS interest in capturing Kirkuk, the site of established "full" oil refineries. With control of this area ISIS would move significantly closer to enjoying a self-sustaining gasoline or diesel supply along with a major increase in revenue from refined product sales. [Read more: Reuters]

Kirkuk Refinery [image Kirkuk-Now]
Many oil refineries processes include an on-site crude oil topping unit scaled to provide gasoline for the vehicles servicing the plant. The small on site refinery at Kirkuk also produces fuel for the power grid. Should ISIS manage to capture one of these in tact, it could then be up scaled to more or less permanently solve the ISIS fuel problems.

The back yard refineries have been generating ISIS revenue at a respectable rate but an incredible inefficiency. Neutralizing this revenue stream was clearly one of the objectives of the coalition air strikes in Syria. Some of the "big money" revenue for ISIS is generated by sales of crude oil from the refineries they have captured and held, and another substantial part is from direct donations originating in primarily Gulf states. [Read more here: Fortune (July 2014)]

ISIS: Where Can We Store All This Stuff?
We need to keep it handy across a 500 mile wide caliphate.

Additionally, what we might first imagine as something similar to a US National Guard armory full of supplies or a military transportation center full of trucks would be a far departure from what ISIS was using for these purposes. This issue unavoidably "bleeds" into the further question of "Who's actually in charge?"

Also, we have all seen plenty of video of ISIS fighters packed into fairly new pick up trucks bristling with guns roaring across the desert. Every once in a while these scenes also include a few tanks, low-boy trailers carrying anti-aircraft missiles and a collection of field artillery that looks suspiciously similar to old US issue 105 mm. Howitzers.

The Spider Web Caliphate [image source]
The "ISIS colored" area on the map [right] would greatly under represent the "secured caliphate" in the eyes of ISIS, but this discrepancy would reflect more on the uncertainty of exactly what an "ISIS controlled area" actually means. MeanMesa suspects that all that is required is that a field commander can order ISIS fighters into such a place without expecting resistance.

[The link for image credit on the picture to the right offers an extended source of current information about ISIS.]

A more conventional army would have a command infrastructure in place to, for example, decide which "teams" of fighters would have trucks. However, at this time the amount of military equipment seized by ISIS during its rushing advance through Iraq can be considered "the curse of plenty." There are probably very few disgruntled ISIS fighters anywhere in the "caliphate" frustrated because the "high command" didn't give them a truck.

Heavier weapon equipment is, apparently, not nearly as "over stocked." ISIS has, however, allocated what heavy weapons it has fairly effectively -- most recently when confronting Kurdish troops --  but generally when there are any valuable "hard targets" to be taken. For example, the Kurds have the misfortune of frequently standing between ISIS and refineries.

So, without armories, mechanic shops or big warehouses manned by inventory officers and file keepers ISIS is, at least in the tactical military sense, nomadic to a fault. So far this has been a vulnerability because it leaves ISIS equipment in the open. The predictable asymmetric response habitually chosen by terrorists and rebels is to rapidly insinuate all of this into civilian populations to counter the advantage promised by air superiority.

Still, if you happen to be an ISIS commander trying to focus the force carried by all this spread out, rag tag, camouflaged army, the dispersion nightmare only becomes worse. To mount an offensive somewhere the equipment must be called from where it is hidden, moved to an attack position, and then gathered in plain sight before an aggressive advance can be initiated.

This is the material advantage of coalition air superiority -- even when capitalizing on it means trying to coordinate with the Iraqi Security Forces. For ISIS any plan to continually resupply such an active advance once in progress will carry a very, very high price.

Think of it as almost the exact opposite of the Indians in General Custer's India Wars.

Bullets, Boots, Bandages, Food and Spare Parts
There are, undoubtedly, already crippling shortages.

There are, for certain, "supply lines" flowing into the ISIS controlled region shown on the map. [above] Yes, the area is "blessed" with international borders, but these seem to offer very little impedance to the massive re-supply effort necessary to sustain 30,000 combatants in an active military theater. [Read more here: Public Radio International]

Further, while ISIS has, unquestionably, begun to warehouse these supplies in the best tactical dispersal possible for the existing conditions, the problems began immediately for them and continue to grow worse. The black market suppliers are, very likely, failing to provide the "complete list" of the thousands of specific things necessary for operations and maintenance.

Think about how many items are in the catalogs used by a supply officer for a US military unit. Think about the tedious process of requisitions, approvals, acquisition, delivery, warehousing and ultimate distribution required to actually put those supplies where needed to sustain a US or European military unit -- even when not engaged in active warfare. Remember that all this is done in Europe and the US with procurement contractors eager for the business in territory not dominated by hostile fighter bombers.

Here, we're not referring to the right flavor of toothpaste or replacement pillows for the barracks. ISIS procurement is focused on items such as breech block lubricants, brake pads.

The point here is that the surviving ISIS supply warehouses are -- or soon will be -- running out of everything. In many cases the necessary re-supply will not be exclusively a matter of cash, but also one seriously complicated by problems of logistics. The coalition's diplomatic strategy will be doing everything possible to make those logistic problems even worse than they are currently.

Command and Control for an Uncontrollable Army
Gee whiz, there certainly seems to be a lot of 
different agendas and priorities in this outfit.

Make no mistake. The "top end" and the "bottom end" of the ISIS army are perched in shockingly disparate, fundamentally alienated roles with respect to both dreams and temperament. We won't find many ISIS fighters who perceive "Supreme Caliphate Commander al Baghdadi" as something even remotely similar to General Patton's famous title as "the soldier's General."

This is not to say that there are not remarkably cohesive "local militia units" in place around the "caliphate." Also, there are, indeed, orders or some sort floating down from Supreme Commander -- orders which are largely, more or less, often obeyed -- at least roughly. There is a general staff of old Baathist Generals who have survived like "cock roaches with stars" from the Sadam Hussein regime in Iraq who are charged with breathing some very dilute form of military discipline into the hordes. [Read more here: New York Times]

At the local militia level ISIS fighters have a wide -- and understandable  -- collection of personal priorities and motivation. Perhaps the largest block of the influences would be comprised mainly of the "three R's:"  revenge, respect and revelation. Many of these fighters are motivated by the opportunity for personal vendettas offered along with service to ISIS. In general populations in  the region sustain more than a little resentment at the 500,000 to 1,000,000 dead resulting from the US invasion. [Read more here: WIKI]

We can also assume that there is, probably, even a smaller force of ISIS soldiers which can be considered "relocatable," that is, who are stable enough to be transferred from one of the militia units to another effectively in response to active combat developments. We see a consequential disadvantage when we size up the "technically competent" units who, for example, might be dependably capable of launching surface to air missiles or even manning Howitzers.

However, for the vast majority of the "caliphate's army," ISIS has "breathed new meaning" into the old phrase: "cannon fodder."

Caliphs, dictators, kings and most other versions of autocrats have found religion an awkward but essential foundation for their authority -- especially when it comes to managing an unruly fighting force. By "unruly" we mean one with a robust variety of available "reasons" to suddenly turn on absolutely anyone. When such an army is, actually, "cannon fodder," the religion becomes even more useful and necessary -- particularly if you happen to be the one who might be unexpectedly attacked.

This is nothing new. It was already this way when Pope Urban II declared holy war and the Crusades on the Ottoman Empire in 1095 AD, and history has continued this trend since then.

The higher leadership of ISIS is comprised of the "borrowed and re-soled" Generals, largely self-established militia leaders and a sprinkling of the ISIS equivalent of "field marshals" empowered to issue assignments to the militia groups under their command. The man at the very top is [at least reported to be] al Baghdadi.

Biographical accounts of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi have suffered the predictable insults to their accuracy, but none of the propaganda seems inclined to downgrade the Iraqi Sunni's dynamic capacity to command ISIS effectively. [Read more here: Washington Post.] Iraqi propaganda is reporting his death during one of the air strikes, but this account has very low credibility. [Read more here: Iraqi News]

While ISIS has demonstrated a respectable savvy with the use of video cameras for their decapitations and the social media for soliciting recruits and terrifying everyone else, MeanMesa presumes that command level communication throughout the ISIS military structure is woefully amateur at such techniques as effective encryption, code writing and even the routine discipline regarding what's to be said and not said in cell phone calls between the military leadership.

All these weaknesses coupled with the rather strangely limited coalition air strikes targeting "available" ISIS targets in Iraq lead MeanMesa to assume that the intelligence build up is significant. The likely outcome of this is an intense, rapidly executed program of air strikes against every identifiable ISIS target in the field when the order is finally given. [Read more here: MeanMesa: ISIS and the Politics of Congress]

In the meantime ISIS is suffering losses only in instances of "wide open" exposure to coalition air power. Strategically, this is probably because ground forces cannot yet capitalize on the results of a more aggressive air campaign. There is little reason to simply "liberate" territory only to leave it available for "re-occupation" by ISIS forces a few days later when some of them are sent there.

A Delightful, Final Conspiracy Theory
There may be some actual malice
 down among all the feathers and fury.

What could possibly be a better ending for this long post than proposing a so far unspoken conspiracy theory to stand in for the "icing on the cake?"

The "quiet" player with perhaps the greatest interest in what ultimately becomes of Syria is the Russian Federation. [Read more here: MeanMesa: Syria and Russia] Of course, it is sometimes frustrating -- if not out rightly perplexing -- to attempt to divide the state aspirations of the Russian Federation and the suspiciously personal ambitions of its President, Vladimir Putin, but the likely consequences of the success of either will play directly into the matter of ISIS.

It is no mystery that the stubborn Russian support of the Syrian Assad regime has weathered all manner of international criticism already, but it is also not a mystery that any likely prospects of a "good outcome" for the apparently intractable Syrian civil war remain tragically out of reach, too. Given these unarguably ugly possible choices, let's take a look at what may well be some "not so far fetched after all" suspicions MeanMesa is entertaining about the intentions of this "Russian wild card."

1. The Kremlin's "second choice" for Syria

Assad and his bloody regime are probably permanently finished whether the insurrection in Syria succeeds within the next few years or not. This leaves the Russians looking for a second choice. "If not more of Assad, then more of whom?"

All the insurgent armies in Syria have "troubling strings" extending to other powers in the region and the world. Most of those battling Assad are receiving substantial resources from Middle Eastern sources, Europe or the United States. If any one of these groups -- or any collection of them -- were to wrest control of Syria, Russian interests [especially the naval station] would take a serious hit.

If such a "hit" were constrained only by the necessity of satisfying the interests of the new owners, things might be manageable for the Federation, but if the interests of those who had patiently supplied millions or billions of dollars worth of aid for the long fight were added to the mix, the Federation could emerge the loser.

Facing this possibility, ISIS might actually appear at least slightly more workable as the new Syrian government to the Russians.

2. Russian supply lines and a Grateful ISIS

Among all the potential "state supporters" of the "caliphate," the Russians are absolutely in the top tier with respect to their ability to move military supplies into the battle zone. Given the Federation's already existing arrangements with the Assad regime in Damascus, this access to Syria -- currently intended to support the regime and supply the Russian naval assets at Tartus -- could be almost painlessly diverted to provide support for ISIS.

Don't cringe. The US has a sordid history of supporting both sides in wars for years.

With ISIS firmly in control of Syria that old "Moscow magic" could fairly easily begin purchasing the cooperation of important players in the new ISIS-Syrian government. Russian ambitions for access to the Mediterranean would be protected with only a few, painless policy accommodations for the Islamic State.

3. Diffusing Ukraine and Bothering NATO

An ISIS seizure of Syria would trump the current waves of criticism for the Federation's "meat handed" annexation of Crimea and rabble rousing in Eastern Ukraine. If the impact on the "news cycle" continued long enough, Vladimir might possibly use it as cover for an even more aggressive policy in Ukraine, perhaps including an out right invasion.

At least in the beginning a Russian sponsored ISIS success in Syria and Iraq would pose a far greater problem for the West than it would pose for the Russian Federation. If it were actually possible to embarrass the United States even more after the Bush W. catastrophe in Iraq, so much the better.

4. Exacting Revenge for the "Crimea Sanctions"

Although the Russians have played every possible card to depict the economic sanctions as ineffective and irrelevant, the wounded oligarchs surrounding Putin are remaining far from convinced. The sanctions were designed to be venous, painful and patient, and MeanMesa is suspects that they will have precisely that effect. Their impact will relentlessly increase as they continue over time.

Patience is the key. There remains a very real possibility that, in the end, it may turn out that Crimea is not as permanently Russian as reported and concluded.

Quite aside from the economic punch the sanctions inflicted, the "image damage" plays a close second in terms of being irritating if not persuasive. Russia acted badly, and flagrantly boasted that no one could do anything to change "the facts on the ground." The pitch was that the Russian Federation was so powerful that it could effortlessly withstand all calls to conscience, and that it could painlessly endure any retribution.

This may have been the original plan, but then the Federation was scolded and punished.

This is the garden where revenge is grown -- in any season.

A Post Posting Post Script

This post has not mentioned anything about what the right wing war mongers in the Congress have been bellowing about the handling of the issue with ISIS. We will get to this very, very soon. Watch this space.

[This was posted subsequently. If you would like to continue reading on this topic, please link to MeanMesa here:  ISIS and the Politics of Congress]

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hearts, Minds and Democrats

[MeanMesa has been "off line" for a couple of weeks suffering from an unusual "hardware driver problem." The main consequence of this "problem" was that what was being typed on this keyboard appeared as something quite different on the computer screen. Happily, Dave, MeanMesa's brilliant IT guy, came to the rescue! We're back in the saddle! Thanks Dave!]

The Silent War Cry of the Invisible Democrats
Mistaking surrender and complaints for a declaration of war

Yeh, yeh, yeh.

The Democrats email MeanMesa just about every day. The depressingly predictable subject lines are all about the same.

"Send money!"
"We're pleading!"
"Don't say no!"
"They're 100% sure we'll lose!"

The content of the emails themselves are equally depressing invitations to "join an army in retreat." After reading through all this doom and gloom, MeanMesa isn't the least bit inspired to send any money or canvass door to door. It should probably be added that usually, in the past, MeanMesa has been totally ready to send money and canvass door to door.

Why this recently discovered disinterest in being a good little Democratic Party foot soldier?

It certainly isn't because MeanMesa has accidentally drifted into the zombie-like clutches of the oligarch party. It is quite safe to say -- right here and now -- that such a grisly descent into the politics of greed will never happen to MeanMesa. Whatever may be left for a final interment into the Earth's sweet soil will NOT be a Republican carcass.

Having said that, it has been looking very much like MeanMesa wasn't destined to become a Democratic carcass. either. This development might have something to do with the "generalship vacuum" currently plaguing the Democrats.

How the Democrats Lost the Hearts and Minds
There used to be two parties, then there was one,
 and, now ... there's just reactionaries yelling on cable.

We don't hear much from Democrats these days. The current Owners of the Republican Party also happen to be the current owners of the Fourth Estate. Some time ago -- probably around the time that Ronald Reagan's famous "Moral Majority" scheme received its first few million dollars from the oligarchs of the day -- a quiet, patient Wall Street "shopping spree" was commencing. Within a decade the "purchases" included most of the commercial corporate media networks in the country.

Of course, right along with the newly purchased "titles" to those corporate networks came a nice serving of editorial content control. The broadcast corporations were purchased for a single motive: the slow conversion of what had previously been credibility into raw propaganda.

Naturally, the oligarchs themselves were not at all interested in plastering these erstwhile credible broadcast outlets with their own meat handed elitist clap trap, so they turned the job over to the public opinion "psych techs" inhabiting their already extensive "think tanks."

We are all familiar with the recent "birth" of Rupert Murdoch's FOX network, but we too often over look the literal fact that the major "alphabet networks" are also in the oligarchs' "asset portfolio." Even the most naive media consumer has undoubtedly wondered why almost all the people he knows in his daily life are of one general mindset while all the networks oozing into his cable television are suggesting that their daily biased "fact twisting" indicate a huge majority with essentially the opposite mind set.

The "meme" is quite clear. Regardless of what a citizen might think about the "burning issues of the day," the "wholly owned" media relentlessly serves up a "not particularly odor-free something" that implies the huge majority of voting Americans are only a couple of niches more rational than Rush Limbaugh. 

Additionally, all the usual reporting of any information contradicting anything in this "two step chorus" is simply omitted. There were more than a million Americans on the streets demanding that something be done about immigration. There were well attended demonstrations across the country from Bangor to San Diego asking for firearm registration laws. However, the average American peering into the drivel from his cable "news" saw mainly coverage of three dozen drooling tea bags standing on a California highway screaming at a bus full of terrified grade school kids from the next town.

All this would amount to basically pointless rambling if the entire Democratic Party had not also  -- in a eerily voluntary way -- stumbled into the same grisly soup. The Democrats disappeared onto the editing floor along with everything else the Owners of the Republican Party -- and the Owners of the corporate Media -- didn't want any citizens thinking about or knowing about.

The consequence of this stifling "psychoanalytical censorship" is that the millions of Americans who sill continue to "submit" themselves to the twisted conceptual mayhem of network "news" reporting have literally no idea what the Democrats are trying to accomplish politically for the country. Not even the President's speeches are broadcast in their entirety. They appear as annotated excerpts, and the "annotations" are far from innocent and even farther from balanced or even handed.

[MeanMesa now receives all broadcast televised news via ROKU. While it is delightful to have "cut the cable" and save $80/month, the very best part is that there is now access to FAR BETTER news reporting on a number of FREE ROKU channels. MeanMeas's "current favorites" are NEWSY, BLINKX HEADLINES and the POST ROKU broadcast. If you happen to be curious, the ROKU in use cost around $60. It draws the broadcast content through the wi-fi in the Galactic HeadQuarters' modem. It also provides LOTS of FREE movies -- mostly "oldies but goldies." If you already have a wi-fi internet modem, you can "turn the news back on" and watch it every day -- at any time you like -- on your own television! Link: ROKU]

The lingering image which is left from the "news interviews" of the passive, awkwardly timid, almost uninterested and certainly uninteresting Democrats is one suggesting to the public an image of strident incompetence. The short snippets of domestic media "interviews" with them present a perfect reinforcement for the unending argument issuing from the almost unilateral right wing media voice that Democrats -- to a man -- are no more than a troublesome minority of all "dangerously deluded" liberals primarily dedicated to wrecking the already tattered US economy with their bumbling and complaining.

What's not happening is that Democrats are prepared to be as mean to the GOP as it has been to them -- and as mean it has been to us citizens.

And, it HAS been mean as hell to citizens.

None of this mischief would have ever been possible if:

1. the Democrats had not slipped into the spell of a GOP-like "politics are everything, policy is nothing" trance [Democrats have good policy but lousy politics];

2. the Democrats had continued to effectively -- and publicly, relentlessly and stubbornly -- move legislation targeting middle class values; and,

3. The Democrats had not quietly resigned themselves to "media invisibility" at the first "nip of the wringer" when the Wall Street corporatists and oligarchs began to order their now "wholly owned" media moguls to shut anyone not eating a "straight FOX diet" out of public view.

Further, we all realize what this media blackout might look like to US Democrats, but we refuse to accept the idea that nothing constructive can be done to "re-introduce" the Democratic Party to American voters. Granted, it looks grim enough, but it does NOT look like political suicide is the "only way out."

A large part of this strange Democratic Party behavior derives from sheer political remorse. The Democrats fiddled around -- diddling with meaningless political trinkets -- while the "free press" was being patiently eviscerated and placed under the control of the oligarchs.

Unhappily, as national Democrats have steadily marched into the political shadows, American voters -- whether for material cause or not -- have responded by expecting less and less of them. The success of the recent right wing "gimmick" of selling the idea that "both sides are the same" is ample evidence of this.

[It should be added here that MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show is a salient exception. MeanMesa watches Dr. Maddow's thoughtful analysis and reporting on contemporary issues every week day on line. The podcasts are on a "one day delay," but they are high quality and free. Here's a link to the site.]

2014: An Unexpected "Herald of the Coming Good"
There are still Democrats -- here and there --
actively fighting for the democracy.

The most refreshing aspect of this news is that these "still fighting" Democrats are neither desperate, dim witted nor defeatist. What a change!

Amid all this desolate landscape of political withdrawal and surrender MeanMesa sees unmistakable evidence of some rather spectacularly "out of character" Democratic Party "moxie." We don't yet know if they will win, but they are fighting.

In this large view what we see is Democrats ready to sacrifice their own political careers to protect specific states and the entire Republic from additional damage at the now clearly criminal hands of what used to be the GOP.

So, where are the battles, and who's in the combat?

The location of the battles is amazing. They are scattered around the country in -- at least what we would have considered a month or two ago -- the least likely of all possible races. The list of the sites is riveting. The national impact of these newly challenged races is too. The sound and smell of Democrats engaging in actual political election strife has also awkwardly reinvigorated other important sections of the "Party of Lost Causes."

The sudden rise of this unexpected threat has not been overlooked by the Owners of the Republican Party, either. The billionaires have dispatched attack teams comprised of their best "crack election crime troops" -- loaded with plenty of oligarch cash, of course -- straight to these "troubled races" from the Wall Street bunkers where they are kept.

Heh, heh. Right about now even a common man's old Plymouth can find a parking spot on K Street.

Catch Up on Some News
Don't cringe -- it's delightful!

The conventional fights -- for example McConnell vs. Grimes in Kentucky and Wendy Davis vs. Abbott in Texas -- have received some publicity already, but these were the ones everyone was expecting. The free for all campaigns in Kansas, Alaska and Maine were surprises. 

Wonderful surprises!

The suspiciously obedient media has been relentlessly spewing prophecies of gloom for the Democrats in the mid term for months. The meme that Republicans are about to conduct a clean sweep has been repeated so often that even small children are presuming it to be a settled fact.

Yes, the sold out fascists in control of Red States are disenfranchising voters as quickly as they possibly can disqualify registration cards. Yes, the 2010 anti-democracy gerrymandering is still firmly in place and staunchly defended by "legal states rights rules" written during the time of political hacks and blatant racism in the 30's. And yes, clutches of salivating billionaires are crouched in their gated communities scheming to overwhelm any candidate standing in their path. Yes, all this is true...


Even in the midst of all this, MeanMesa is convinced that Democrats -- perhaps better described for the time being as "not Republican" voters -- are a large majority in the country's electorate.

Settle into your favorite chair, make a nice cup of tea and fire up your computer. What you'll find at the other end of these links will give your troubled soul a well deserved breather.

Naturally, MeanMesa will take this opportunity to add a few suggestions from this blog.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Doughnut Hole: Still Going Strong, Still Killing People

Oh Happy Day!
The Doughnut Hole is Finally Gone!
Right? It's gone now, right?

Some of us may have thought that the infamous "doughnut hole" had finally been "defanged" by the Affordable Care Act's successful implementation. That idea would be partially correct. The ACA's implementation has begun to mark the end of the thing -- it is scheduled to be phased out gradually over the next few years. In the meantime, again thanks to the ACA, some, but not nearly all, of the most injurious features of the imposed limit on prescription coverage -- mainly the ones with the "worst bite" -- will be gradually reduced until the "doughnut hole" reaches its final, apparently permanent, minimum state in 2020.

Having said all that, today's "doughnut hole" is still quite alive and dangerous -- especially to old people.

Last Night's Activities
 at Short Current Essay's
Galactic HeadQuarters
Please pass the pill splitter...

About this time every year MeanMesa has to gather the prescription bottles here -- there are four or five which are to be taken daily -- and begin the rather awkward task of deciding which are so cash maintenance" and which can be reduced or "set aside" altogether until the Medicare Part D "annual year" end in January. Usually the black pit of this "doughnut hole chasm" arrives a little later in late October or November, but this year it's arrived in full force at the beginning of September.

That means that there will be around four months of "doughnut hole" level of austerity insurance coverage under Part D for MeanMesa's prescriptions. During that time, it will be necessary to prioritize and economize prescription medicine consumption to "shoe horn" what's left of the insurance coverage into a Social Security income budget. This is all very far removed from the bellowing ideological debates" our masters dutifully conduct in the Congress -- between vacations, of course.

MeanMesa staff at HQ [Galaxy Patrol]
The process described here is a lonely one taken up as each year draws to a close. Part D's "doughnut hole" means three months of fall and winter with much less daily medicine than what is ordered on prescriptions. It means even more months with much less medicine for tens of millions of other older Americans trying to live of even smaller Social Security checks than MeanMesa's.

There should be no confusion here at all. Two of MeanMesa's prescriptions are terminated at once. There is no possible way these two can be purchased for cash with the drastically reduced insurance coverage Part D offers those in the "doughnut hole.". A third prescription is marginal. Its use may also need to be terminated depending on what the monthly cost will look like with the greatly reduced coverage. In the meantime, the pills from the third prescription will be split in half to see if that can work.

The prospect of reducing the last three to half doses is pretty scary, so the cost for maintaining those at their full dosage will just have to be covered with adjustments to the grocery bill, if necessary.

MeanMesa is an old geezer in fairly good health. But naturally, as one passes across the Social Security and Medicare age requirements, a few things here and there have begun to, shall we say, wear out a little. Medicare itself has worked quite well with respect to providing good insurance coverage for doctor visits and tests. Thanks to that program, MeanMesa has a good collection of HMO doctors on what is called a "health care team."

To further illustrate the point of this post, we can take another, closer look at that "third prescription" mentioned above. The medication deals with a mild bladder problem which wakes MeanMesa in the middle of the night. The prescription was written by MeanMesa's endocrinologist, Dr. R. Administered at a half dosage, the medication still continue to works somewhat but definitely not the way that a full dose works.

Now, Dr. R might have, herself, changed the dosage on "prescription three" based on MeanMesa's condition, symptoms and so on, but Dr. R had nothing to do with this change in medication. In fact this change in medication had no relation whatsoever to any change in symptoms or any complaint by this patient about side effects of interactions. Finally, the change to this new half dosage rate for this medication had no overview or monitoring by Dr. R. or any other medical professional.

Now, MeanMesa can afford to refill this prescription so long as the dosage has been halved, doubling the length of time before the next refill. Additionally, MeanMesa is probably not going to die because of this necessary change. It will, in fact, most likely amount to nothing more than a few extra bathroom trips throughout the night.

However, the point of this post directs out thoughts to precisely whom it was who, actually, made this decision necessary. This is where the tale becomes far more interesting, and, hopefully, this will be the part which might serve to educate and enlighten this blog's valued visitors who had previously assumed that this problem was, in a deliriously happy fashion, a thing of the past.

That interesting "whom" mentioned above turns out to be a grisly troop comprised of salivating Congressional Republicans, lobbyists from the huge, already quite profitable pharmaceutical corporations, Dick Cheney and, of course, the "auto-signature President," George W. Bush.

The real story of those split pills began long ago when Part D benefits were just first "being born" in the Republican Congress under George W. Bush, so let's take a look at that part of the story.

Medicare Part D's Painful "Birth"
Hmmm. That was awfully fast.
Perhaps we over lubricated this legislation...

First of all, the passing of the Part D legislation was shockingly different from the passing of the Affordable Care Act. In the latter case Big Corporate Pharma and the Big Corporate Health Insurance companies fought tooth and nail for years to sabotage, murder, deform or exploit what became known as ObamaCare. In fact these freedom loving "corporate free enterprise entities" poured around $1 Mn per week into the promotion of an entirely fictitious, incendiary advertising campaign including everything from death panels to care rationing as if these were, somehow, something more material than simply the gaseous, yet egregiously over compensated detritus from the corporations' wholly owned think tanks.

Part D, on the other hand, "slid" through the GOP's normal stranglehold looting in the House and Senate in an eerily graceful, arcane choreography entirely scripted by literally thousands of lobbyists -- each equipped with a dripping check book chuck full of "campaign contributions" for the obediently sold out GOPCons on the receiving end.

Of course there were plenty of Congressional voters who were horrified at the gigantic give away to the lobbyists' bosses Part D in its final form had become. All medication covered by the plan would be blindly purchased -- without any negotiation whatsoever -- directly from the Big Pharma Corporations at literally any price they wished to charge. In fact shortly after Part D became law, additional legislation made it illegal to try to negotiate pharmaceutical prices in any fashion.

Because of the "divided sentiment" in the GOP controlled Senate, the actual floor passage of Part D became a drama as close as any heavily lobbied, Republican sponsored, Republican written, major looting legislation headed for a Republican President could ever possibly become. At 6 P.M. there were not enough Senate votes to safely bring it to the floor. At 12:00 A.M. there were still not enough votes to pass it. It was not until around 3:00 A.M. that enough deals had been made [...enough Senators bought off...] to draw the votes for the Part D bill to a tie. At this point Vice President Dick Cheney took his seat as "tie breaker" in the Senate, and the thing was headed for the desk of President George W. Bush where it arrived hours later.

Not even many of the "safety net hating" conservatives liked this one -- probably because they didn't get in on the Congressional pay offs available while it was being written. The following article was authored by a very conservative writer for publication in the New York Times recently.

[This article is excerpted. Read the original article  here.]

New York Times

Medicare Part D: Republican Budget-Busting

[Before reading this excerpt from the original article, it is important to know a little more about the author. About Bruce Bartlett: Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take.”]

Ten years ago this week, Republicans enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state since the creation of Medicare in 1965 by adding a huge unfunded program providing coverage for prescription drugs to the Medicare program.

For years, responsible critics had said it was a system flaw that Medicare did not pay for prescription drugs along with hospitalization and doctors’ visits. By 2003, strong bipartisan support existed for expanding Medicare to include prescription drugs.

Republicans were keen to make sure that the legislation enacted was theirs, because the Democrats were certain to include cost containment for drugs in their legislation. It was widely believed that if the federal government used its buying power to pressure drug companies to cut drug prices, the cost of providing drugs to Medicare recipients would be substantially reduced.

But forcing down drug prices would diminish the drug companies’ profits and Republicans were adamantly opposed to that. Consequently, despite their oft-repeated opposition to new entitlement programs, they got behind the new drug benefit, now known as Medicare Part D, and made sure there was no cost-containment provision.

George W. Bush strongly supported this effort. Looking ahead to a close re-election in 2004, he thought a new government giveaway to the elderly would increase his vote share among this group. According to exit polls, those over age 65 gave Mr. Bush only 47 percent of their vote in 2000, with 51 percent going to Al Gore.

From the beginning, Republicans decided to forgo dedicated financing for Part D. Except for trivial premiums paid by recipients, the entire cost would fall on taxpayers. Moreover, Republicans refused to raise the Medicare tax or cut spending to cover Part D. Hence, the deficit increased by virtually the entire cost of the program.

Through 2012, Medicare Part D added $318 billion to the national debt (see “General Revenue” on Page 111 in the 2013 Medicare trustees report). That same report projects that Medicare Part D will add $852 billion to the debt over the next 10 years.

[Bruce Bartlett wrote an interesting article for FORBES dealing with the same topic. FORBES: Republican Budget Hypocrisy in Health Care]

[Note: Even through the eyes of this typical conservative writer, the absence of negotiated pricing with drug manufacturers was clearly a scam. The potential for controlling Part D's over all cost impact was to be found primarily in negotiating drug prices with the manufacturing corporations.]

The "trivial premiums" noted in the article are "trivial" precisely because of the fundamental target for Part D's benefits -- otherwise uninsured, older Americans relying primarily on Social Security income. Roughly $135 per month is deducted from MeanMesa's Social Security benefit as a "trivial premium" for Medicare -- including Part D. If this deduction were much higher than than, it would place Medicare beyond the affordable range, contradicting the intent of the Medicare program.

Nonetheless, when we consider the "fundamental target for Part D benefits" and "the intent of the Medicare program" as compared to the apparent priorities built into the obscure, lobbyist authored language of the Part D section, we begin to see why Congressmen not receiving lobbyists' checks found it so despicable.

There's "Cost Containment,"
 and then there's "Cost Containment"
Actually, the tattered remnants of the "free market" 
were at work...

Of course, there's no way to accurately estimate the thoughts running around in the mind of the editorialist who wrote the article [above], but the idea of "cost containment" when interpreted by "little people," such as this blogger, means controlling the cost of what it takes to operate something like Part D. After all, the article was quite right -- the main burden of the program lands on the tax payers.

When "little people" are considering the purchase of anything this expensive, they want to negotiate the price if at all possible. In the case of Part D the main thing landing on tax payers is the bill for all the pharmaceuticals purchased and provided under the plan. Policies determining co-payments and monthly premium amounts certainly play a role, but one almost inconsequentially small and  insignificant when compared to the gargantuan cost of paying for the actual prescriptions.

So, right away, we see that the sold out Congressional GOPs immediately set aside the best and largest opportunity to "contain" Part D costs by outlawing price negotiations with manufacturers. But, where exactly does the "free market" crack come into this picture?

Not to worry.

Start by recalling who all was there in the Congress when the bill was being written: Republicans as the majority Party in both houses, hundreds of K Street lobbyists working for very generous Big Pharma corporations, Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush who was, as a political creature, obsessed with squeezing a few more votes out of the older American voting block.

The "free market" side slips into the picture through the "back door."

Yes, Part D amounted to a "no holds barred" $ multi-Trillion Christmas present to Big Pharma. The policy would extract vast sums of tax payer money and direct it to the corporate pockets of the billionaires -- every dollar for every prescription at what ever price they decided to charge. However, although billionaires are traditionally "short sighted" -- especially in the proximity of glacial flows of Federal money -- in this case an unanticipated road block appeared on their "hard working road to paradise and prosperity."

If the Feds spent too much on Medicare Part D expenses, there simply wouldn't be enough billions left over for their very most favorite, specially designed, pharmaceutical corporation tax breaks!

The normally good natured oligarchs' think tankers and lobbyists froze in their busy little Part D tracks. Although the initial scheme had already  been cravenly greedy -- so much so that the billionaires had grudgingly become willing to actually partially "subsidize" medicine for the country's old people so long as the profits were absolutely awesome, the plan now needed a good dose of tightening up and "cost containment" before things went forward in the Congress.

Happily, Big Pharma had some really smart schemers at work in their think tanks. Literally clusters of "great ideas" were rolling out in no time. Naturally all the corporately delightful "cost savings" would fall to the pharmaceutical corporations, while the "not so pleasant" cost increases and benefit decreases would land on Medicare Part D beneficiaries, you know, on old people.

Saving Pennies for Corporate Tax Cuts
Just think of it as a complicated geriatric economic principle.

With Big Pharma's sudden concern for "austerity" in the Congressional budget, this resulting "flood of new ideas" became stranger and stranger. In fact the only "common thread" which could be discerned as running through all of them was that each one either limited or eliminated some part of the original Part D "benefit package" while holding the drug manufacturing corporations' profits harmless.

The "doughnut hole" concept was one of these "new ideas" which was ultimately incorporated in the bill's final form by the "cost containing" Big Pharma lobbyists and think tank "legislation writers."

Meanwhile, the drug companies were already attempting to forecast the utterly stupendous profits the bill's scheme would provide in their corporate futures. It should be no surprise that they have been fighting to maintain Part D in its original, high profit version -- the version authored by the Big Pharma lobbyists -- everyday since the instant George W. had finally finished bumbling with the signing pens.

The concept of the "doughnut hole" is somewhat misleading. The righties' pundits, always eager to indulge their apparently genetic appetite for conveniently "oversimplifying" things, often imply that there is simply a limit on the amount of "free" medicine the plan will provide to the "moochers and takers" who benefit from it.

Of course, matters in the real world are significantly different. Plan D beneficiaries pay around one third of this cost in co-payments. Further, although it might seem logical that Plan D would enter the "doughnut hole" after Medicare had paid a certain amount, the fact is that entry into the "doughnut hole" isn't based on how Medicare has paid -- it is based on the total of what Medicare has paid AND what the Part D beneficiary has paid.

It doesn't matter if MeanMesa is "spending" Medicare Part D money or simply forking out cash to cover the co-payments, every dollar that is spent by anyone brings MeanMesa's Part D "total drug costs" one dollar closer to hitting the "doughnut hole."

Of course the "debate" in the Congress about Part D amounted to little more than a fast descent in a goose greased slippery slide with Big Pharma's lobbyists impatiently fidgeting in the, heh, heh, lobby. However, when ACA was being "debated" [Remember the threats of care rationing and the ghostly death panels?], there were all manner of good ideas which could have permanently repaired the Mad Hatter system.

The sold out Republicans wouldn't touch any of them with a stick.

Although these "plutocratic GOP puppets" spent a month of two harping about "jobs, jobs, jobs" right after their bosses had hollowed out the economy, they finally had to concede that they had no idea what to do about the wreckage of the economy. At that point the "new order of the day" became a maudlin drama about deficit reduction -- the billionaires who call the shots for the GOP began to hate Part D even though they had originally loved it.

The following cartoon will be a good place to stop this post.

Conservatism is a racket. [image source]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ISIS and the Politics of Congress

The Democracy Making War
A quick review of how it's done

When your Congressional district elects one of your neighbors to the US House of Representatives, your thoughts may be focused on matters such as tax rates and federal subsidies for pet projects. However, in the cold light of dawn, your neighbor has been elevated to a global position of significant power. When you and the other voters of your state elect your US Senator, a similar elevation has occurred.

Theoretically, these elections, your vote and the actions of those elected will be defined and limited, generally, by the Articles in the US Constitution. These comments will become more relevant as this post continues.

Separation of Powers [image]
In the most sanguine view possible this "elevation" places immense military power in the  hands of those inhabiting the Congressional bodies. The Representative you've just elected, acting in concert with the Senate and the President, Commander in Chief, has the power to attack any part of the 60% of the planet comprised of nations which are unable to resist. The "Triumvirate" of the Congress and the President is completed, at least theoretically, with the addition of the American electorate in the role of the "third party."

Further, the individual "roles and responsibilities" designated to the parties in democracy's "Triumvirate" are specifically detailed in the Constitution. In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the centuries of European inter-state military violence in the centuries preceding it, the Constitution's authors designed the process very thoughtfully. 

The Constitution constantly imposes this fundamentally limiting structure -- that is, all the time, not just in times of threat. We need to keep this Constitutional provision in mind as we consider the role of the US democracy as it anticipates attacking ISIS, and the US democracy IS now anticipating attacking ISIS -- or, at least, it is trying to do something similar while appearing to be Constitutional.

Right away, "the thistles take the lawn."

The most favored harangue issuing forth from the oligarchs' think tanks as of late is that the President is "over reaching" his authority. Hence, we "little people" hear this message from the Republican controlled Congress with very little proposed contradiction from the tatters of the Democratic minority. The irony emerges as we watch those same Congressmen who accuse the President of this "over reach" demand that he do precisely this, that is, "over reach" with respect to making war on ISIS, because they will -- quite intentionally -- do nothing.

This is raw politics. Any Congressional interest in national security or following the Constitution is left on the floor as an unwelcome wine stain from the night before.

["Wait," you might insist, "the Congress is split between Party control, isn't it?" Well, yes and no. The Republican/tea bag minority weaseled control of the House through electoral manipulation. While they may be "called" the House Majority, they are not -- and they will tell you this themselves. The Senate also finds itself under control by the minority. The Republican/tea bag Party -- called the "minority" in name only --  currently has complete control of the Senate and has accomplished this by utilizing centuries old "Senate Rules."]

The game for these miscreants now is to abandon the President to act in accord with his oath while at the same time re-imaging the domestic media picture to suggest that he's, well, "over reaching" his Presidential authority. No one in the GOP could possibly care a whit about the "threat" of ISIS. As usual, this issue of National Security was immediately transformed by them into "politics as usual," and it's not a pretty transformation.

If the oligarchs' think tanks can successfully nail Barack Obama to this cross, their dream of impeaching him will have inched significantly closer to reality.

Let's review what the US Constitution says about "War Powers:" Who's got them. Where they reside. How they are used.

War Powers Clause

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording: [The Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

A number of wars have been declared under the United States Constitution, although there is some controversy as to the exact number, as the Constitution does not specify the form of such a declaration.

History and usage

Five wars have been declared by Congress under their constitutional power to do so: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

In a message to Congress on May 11, 1846, President James K. Polk announced that Texas was about to become a state. Consequentially, Mexico then threatened to invade Texas, upon which the President amassed troops in the area of Corpus Christi. Texas then became a state, and US troops moved into an area in which the new international boundary was disputed. Mexican troops moved into the same area, and the two forces clashed. The President then stated "after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced and that the two nations are now at war." Some in Congress wondered if this were so, including Abraham Lincoln. He wrote in a letter to his law partner:

“Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is, that if it shall become necessary, to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country; and that whether such necessity exists in any given case, the President is to be the sole judge...But Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and allow him to make war at pleasure…. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you ‘be silent; I see it, if you don't.’

“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.”

[MeanMesa has commented on this topic before. If you are interested, you can read the post here:

The Congressional Cowards

[In the interest of simplicity in this post MeanMesa will use the more or less colloquial term "ISIS" to refer to the Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria rather than flit around furiously with all the other names that group has adopted.]

Well, it certainly looks like everything has been pretty well set up by the Constitution and the oaths all the D.C. Folks took to uphold it, but...

First of all, we really need to obliterate one commonly used excuse that we have heard from the Congress before. "We didn't know we were supposed to do this."

Granted, although a good number of bellowing tea bags in the House may have never actually read the Constitution, we have to assume that the oily lawyers the oligarchs sent with them have. Further, although this same crowd of tea bags may not have understood the oath they were taking in 2013, they, again, almost certainly have "staffers" who are quite literate.

The exact way this has unfolded, as we might all expect, is another of the clumsy, tragically comical, famously unscripted "strateegeries" of the Boehner directed House "Republican" caucus. Being "died in the wool" fear mongers, a literal chorus of these hill billies instantly began screeching for US military intervention in the "ISIS crisis" from the first day that FOX, their exclusive "information" source, began spouting in unison its typical fact twisting repertoire.

Son of a gun. They all wanted war. More importantly, obviously caring nothing whatsoever about the country's security, the march was on to feverishly convert every tidbit of the matter directly into politics. Republicans disavow the existence of policy. They believe everything is politics.

Further, they weren't at all politically satisfied with the President's war making. They wanted BIG war making. Desperate, frantic war making. The owners of the Republican Party make money even faster when the United States acts like a drunken bully, and, with respect to war, they definitely don't care who wins or loses.

And, after all, these ISIS monsters ARE Muslims.

No problem. The official GOP party line would be one to maximize abject terror among their already rather frightened base. Absolutely anything that could be thrown into the soup to further horrify the hill billies! The scruffy Sunni rebels were glad to help, brutally slicing off the head of the US reporter on video -- and on FaceBook -- and on You Tube.

The whole drama suggests to MeanMesa that it was all quite similar to what must have gone on in Sunday School the week after Pope Urban II declared holy war on Islam 1095 and started the bloody Crusades. The god loving pastors of that day were charged with recruiting thousands of illiterate, rosy cheeked farm boys directly from those Sunday School classes for the march to Jerusalem. did all these bumbling, belching tea bag patriots do next?

They left town for a month long vacation.

Of course, the screeching didn't abate so much as a single decibel after they left town, either. The US corporate media made sure there were "drool proof" microphones waiting, ready for even more screeching, where ever they might travel. These patriotic tea bag Congressmen apparently never sleep when there's even a chance that they might further incite their education challenged base to an even higher state of frantic, Obama hating horror.

But, what these GOP tea bag patriots didn't do is also interesting.

They could have returned to Washington to debate US policy with ISIS. You know, something along the lines of what was laid out in the Constitution, [See above.] but they didn't.

The Media's Hilarious "Crucifixion"
of a "No Strategy" President
Good grief! What did he expect Congress to do?

Interestingly, the President told Congress what he expected from them. It was the same speech where the mindless media "reporters" latched on to the "terrifying no strategy" to further fuel the "incompetency" meme the media has invested so much promoting. The media was unable to "hear" the President's statement about what he expected for Congress to do in accordance with the Constitution and their oaths of office.

Just when the rest of the world was waiting for the American democracy to actually function, all we got was more Republican minority Party political maneuvering. 

This Reuters article is a prime sample of the brazenly biased, irrelevant "reporting" that has been flooding the media like wall paper.  MeanMesa has taken the liberty of highlighting some of the typical, glaring contradictions. MeanMesa doesn't particularly have a "bone to pick" with Reuters, but this article is typical of the media's relentlessly repeated "no strategy," lurching hopelessness seizure. The contradictions are embedded in the "green areas."

Obama says does not yet have broad strategy for Islamic State

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 28, 2014 

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014.U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he has not yet developed a broad strategy for confronting Islamic State in an acknowledgement that he has not decided whether to launch air strikes against the militant group in Syria.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Obama told a White House news conference ahead of meeting top national security advisers in the Situation Room about how to proceed against Islamic State.
Obama's decision to begin U.S. surveillance flights over Syria earlier this week prompted speculation that he was on the brink of expanding the fight against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria, prompting criticism from some lawmakers who worry they have not been properly consulted.
There has been a growing call from both Republicans and Obama's fellow Democrats in Congress for lawmakers to vote on whether the United States should broaden its action against the Islamic State.
Obama, who shied away from launching airstrikes in Syria a year ago to punish Syrian President Bashir al-Assad for use of chemical weapons against his own people [Ooops. The President threatened al-Assad with air strikes if he refused to turn over the chemical weapons for destruction in US and NATO ships in the Mediterranean. The weapons were delivered and destroyed. This is not the same as "threatening to punish al-Assad" for using the weapons.], has been reticent about getting involved in Syria's civil war, where he believes there are few good options for the United States to pursue.
Public anger at the beheading of American journalist James Foley, however, has led him to consider hitting Islamic State targets in Syria. So far the U.S. campaign against the group has been limited to striking the group's forces in Iraq but not taking on Islamic State's primary stronghold in Syria.
Obama said he has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to prepare options for confronting Islamic State and said Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the region to help put together an anti-Islamic State coalition.[This is what the Republicans and their press have conveniently characterized as "no strategy."]
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said after the news conference that when Obama said "we don't have a strategy yet" for Islamic State he was referring to military options still being developed for Syria.[This was actually presented later, after the corporate media had become transfixed on the incompetent "no strategy" line. It is not particularly true because the DOD planning will include military action against ISIS both in Syria and in Iraq. The President's point -- the one completely ignored by the media --is that the "strategy" needs to be compiled to match the military options with the results of the Congressional debate, but there hasn't been a debate yet. Congress is on vacation.]
Obama wants a comprehensive strategy for Islamic State that is not limited to military action but also includes encouraging a unity government in Baghdad between Shi'ites and Sunnis who have engaged in sectarian battles and supporting moderate Sunni rebels in Syria.
"My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL (Islamic State) made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself," he said.
He said the options he had requested from military planners at the Pentagon focused primarily on making sure that Islamic State is "not overrunning Iraq." [The President has said repeatedly that he will not order the US military to fight ISIS acting in the role of "servant mercenaries" to the corrupt Iraq government. If Iraq intends to avoid being "over run" by ISIS, its government will have to start acting responsibly. Obama is currently willing to deploy US military power as air strikes to give Baghdad a "window of opportunity" to get organized and recapture Iraq.]
Congressional concerns have been increasing about a potential military strike in Syria.
In the House of Representatives, three members – Democrats James McGovern of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California as well as Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina - asked Speaker John Boehner in a letter that Congress debate and vote on any authorization to use military force when the House is in session during the week of Sept. 8.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said he thought Obama would have “significant congressional support” [Think for a minute about the precise meaning of "significant Congressional support." The Congress -- both the House and the Senate -- is supposed to debate military action against ISIS. At the close of that debate, those bodies are supposed to vote and reach a decision. That decision will not be "significant support." That decision will be a statement of what Congress has decided the country will do.] if he provides a strategic plan to protect the United States and its allies from the Sunni militants.
Obama promised he would consult with Congress, but unlike a year ago when strikes were considered against Syria, he did not vow to seek a specific congressional authorization.[This is media "fact twisting" of the first order. Obama doesn't need to "promise" to consult Congress. The US Constitution requires that Congress debate this issue, make a decision and then tell the President what it is -- that is not "consulting." Obama has very clearly stated that he expects Congress crawl out from under their beds and do the job they swore they would do when they took their oath.]
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse," he said. He said news reports have suggested he is on the brink of an elaborate strategy for defeating the group without consulting Congress.
"That's not what's going to happen," he said.
A Few Words About the Difference
 Between Strategy and No Strategy
Gosh. The words seem to just roll right off my tongue.

Okay. When we "put out panties back on" and start to look at what's going on in Washington with the eyes of adults, it's not too difficult to rough out pretty much what has been going on in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. Dozens of folks -- who work for us, by the way -- have been pouring over intelligence, photographs and other statistics. They have been soliciting opinions from other people who actually know something about this -- about the players, about the region, about the possibilities, and so on.

While the corporate media has been frantically painting the picture of a befuddled black man, "in" way over his head, politically frightened [even though he is NOT running in the 2016 election...] and desperately paralyzing all the normal processes of government, the picture MeanMesa sees is quite different.

Things in Washington are proceeding in a pretty much normal process -- especially when we remember that this President is not only cautious, but historically effective in matters such as these. Still skeptical? For starters, let's just count the number of endless ground wars he has started since he was first Inaugurated.

The right wingers have fabricated a picture where the "ISIS strategy" has been doodled on a soiled scrap of paper which is being toyed with by an incompetent megalomaniac in the Oval Office. Well, relax. Take a deep breath. The vestigial "ISIS strategy" is currently comprised of dozens or hundreds of files, memoranda, research, intelligence and diplomatic estimations of all sorts. If all the classified parts were declassified and the entire pile were handed to Louie Gohmert with a ribbon, MeanMesa doubts that the Texan would be the least bit placated by the gift.

Louie and his ilk are not famous for being readers.

However, MeanMesa doesn't like to "penetrate" such pregnant issues without offering some sort of solution to the President -- at a "blog level," of course. In other words, when some strangely diffident passer-by asks MeanMesa "So, smarty pants, what would YOU do?" it's always more fun to have an answer ready.

MeanMesa's Solution: Fighting ISIS
How about the USAF as "repo man?"

First, let's go directly to MeanMesa's "ISIS strategy."

Begin by allowing the current sporadic frequency of US air strikes to "mellow out" for a week or so. This will provide the crazies in charge of the rebels time to grow "just a wee bit" more comfortable with the idea of daylight transport columns scrambling around the vast wasteland which is presently considered to be the "caliphate."

Once "traffic" has increased to a level deemed by those in the Pentagon to constitute a "target rich environment," unleash a cluster of armed drones that looks like a flock of swallows in springtime. Fly drones all over all the parts of Iraq currently held by ISIS and bomb every piece of "ex-American" military equipment which can be detected from aerial intelligence.

Drones are great at this kind of stuff!

By "ex-American" military equipment, MeanMesa refers to all the tanks, guns, trucks and jeeps the Iraqi army abandoned when it retreated frantically a few months back. All this stuff was previously handed over to the Iraqi government when the Americans left with the idea that, just maybe, that government might use it to maintain the autonomy of Iraq after we were gone.

This approach offers a couple of quite desirable military advantages.

1. ISIS has taken control of Mosul and a few other population centers in its advance into Iraq. In these areas the rebels enjoy the "protection" of being sequestered among large numbers of Iraqi civilians, making aggressive bombing far less effective, "hearts and minds-wise." Drones, on the other hand, could still select isolated targets even in these urban areas.

Out in the hinterlands of the Western Iraqi country side, this sudden "surge" could be even far more devastating to the bad guys. The survivors would either be walking or riding camels the next day.

2. The very idea of a strategic "surge" would play very favorably with the domestic electorate -- especially one that really, actually, worked. Grampy McCain would literally "cream his jeans."

3. These consolidated attacks could be executed a week or two before the President's 60 day time limit expired. The schedule should probably include several days during which they could be conducted repeatedly -- always un-announced. Should the Congress ever gather up enough gumption to actually ever debate US involvement in the regional conflict, the discourse might possibly be more constructive if there were a recent "victory" to lubricate the poll addicted miscreants currently seated in the pathologically risk averse House and Senate.

4. While the wing nuts' blustering demands for the unilateral "defeat of ISIS" would hardly emerge from the drone attacks, the rebels would suddenly be tactically "de-capacitated." Further, that development might open a "window of opportunity" for the Iraqi military -- or, at least, for our strong allies, the Kurds -- to retake significant territory and hold it.

The loud mouthed right wing McCain - Graham "chicken hawk" crowd are salivating over the prospect of the US bombing Syria uninvited, but what they really want is to lure President Obama into a show down with their very most favorite macho bully, Vladimir Putin. The righties have never had a moment's hesitation as they glorified Putin's "strong manly will" while they "compared" him to Obama.

If this Russian-US show down were to transpire in the manner of these war mongers' dreams, the cowardly, terrified Congress would pose even more of a national security threat to the country than it is now. Screeching, uber-political chicken hawks suck at fighting real wars.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.