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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hard To Believe

John Kerry used to be the dumbest member of the US Senate.  Now he is the dumbest Secretary of State in living memory.  Just think how many times Kerry's mouth has moved faster than his brain.  Actually, let me rephrase that; think how many times Kerry's mouth moved without significant input from rational thought of any sort.  The latest such statement from Kerry came Friday when he said that the failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict was fueling recruitment for ISIS.

The Secretary of State is supposed to understand the international situation or at least to come close to understanding it.  Kerry seems to be living in a delusion.  ISIS is fighting in Syria and Iraq.  In Syria, ISIS arose because the regime of Bashir al Assad was killing Sunnis on a non-stop basis.  ISIS began fighting against the Shiite terrorism of Assad.  It grew in Syria fighting Assad's terrorist army.  Remember, the Assad forces have killed nearly 200,000 people in the last three years.  The Sunnis in Syria who are the main participants in ISIS in that country are not fighting because of perceived delays in the Palestinians reaching peace with Israel; they have more immediate concerns.  In Iraq, the ISIS fighters are mainly Sunnis who have been mistreated by the Shiite government in Baghdad.  Those people do not care about the Palestinians; the fight is much more localized.

ISIS is a group of crazies.  They have taken a bizarre religious outlook and converted it into an army of death.  The people they are killing, however, are not Israelis.  ISIS is killing the Shiites, Christians and Yazidis along with those Sunnis who do not accept the religion of death.  In many ways, ISIS is an equal opportunity bunch of murderers; they kill everyone who is not them.  If Israel and the Palestinians made peace today, ISIS would still be out there killing tomorrow.  In fact, if there were peace between Israel and the Arabs, the only likely change for ISIS is that Palestinians would go higher on the list of those to be murdered.

The real truth is one that has escaped Kerry's notice.  The biggest recruiting tool for ISIS at this point is its success in defeating the Iraqi army and its perceived American friends.  Al Qaeda fought against the USA and its "success" was mostly the fact that it was not entirely wiped out.  ISIS is the first Sunni terror group that has actually won significant battles against an American backed force.  Many of the recruits to ISIS want to be part of that success.  The reality is that it is the American abandonment of Iraq that allowed this to happen.  President Obama pulled out American forces while leaving the appearance that we were still supporting them.  In that way, for millions around the world, the defeat of the Iraqi army is considered the defeat of US forces.  It is not such a defeat in reality, but that does not matter.  The perception is that it is such a defeat.

Even the current desultory American air campaign adds to this perception.  Obama and Kerry say that we are engaged in an air campaign to destroy ISIS, but then we hit ISIS with the equivalent of a slingshot rather than a howitzer.  The images of American planes circling overhead and dropping a few bombs are on the world's TV screens, but the ISIS forces continue to advance in many areas.  Obama and Kerry literally hand this major victory to ISIS by not bothering to use the military force of the USA which could crush ISIS.  This empowerment of ISIS is the big recruiting tool for the terrorists.  They tell potential recruits to come and join the religious battle which is holding off and defeating the world's only superpower.  Surely, God must be on their side.  It is a compelling argument for a certain type of person.

For many decades, the standard thinking in much of the Western world has been that solving the Arab-Israeli dispute is central to there being peace across the Middle East.  The events since 9-11 have made clear that this idea is wrong.  Despite the actual facts, the idea has remained a mainstay in liberal academic circles.  The professors in the faculty lounge who have the luxury of ignoring the actual facts still pontificate to each other about how to bring peace to the area.  Kerry has never realized that the reality is something quite different.  The problem, of course, is that Kerry is not sitting in Cambridge, Massachusetts sipping sherry at the faculty lounge; he is the Secretary of State.  He ought to know better.  If America wants to put a crimp in the recruiting efforts by ISIS, the best way is to unleash the full force of the US Air Force on ISIS.  If there were 1000 sorties each day against ISIS targets for the next two months, the resulting disaster for the ISIS forces would speak much louder than any speech by Obama.  It would put an end to ISIS as a success story.  If the USA armed the Kurds with better weapons so that they could move forward against the ISIS thugs, that would add to the message.  These moves, however, require a real commitment to victory over ISIS.  Obama's faux campaign designed to look good for the November elections just won't do that.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Join The Club

The New York Times this morning reported that president Obama is really angry about the response to the Ebola outbreak in the USA.  All I can say is "Mr. President, join the club."

Every American ought to be angry at the way the government mishandled the Ebola event.  This outbreak was no surprise; any observer of the growing problem in West Africa would understand that eventually some infected person would make his or her way into the USA.  We will never know for certain if the first patient who came from Liberia realized that he might have the disease when he arrived here, but it really does not matter.  The USA ought to have been ready to deal with that first case once it occurred, and clearly we were not.

Right now, there are two nurses who have been infected because they were not given proper protective gear and full instruction as to how to use that gear.  How could that be?  How could the CDC not have instructed the hospitals ahead of time on the proper way to handle Ebola patients?  How could the CDC have left local hospitals to treat Ebola victims rather than sending them to the places that are ready to deal with this disease?  How can the CDC fail to tell staff at the hospital that they ought not use airplanes, cruise ships and other public transportation means after a potential exposure?  And how can we get non-stop double talk from the CDC, the president, and the entire government on the topic of Ebola?

If Obama is angry, it should be at himself for failing to lead.  Again, this outbreak was not a surprise.  Any leader paying attention to the world ought to have asked for plans to be developed and put into action so as to be ready should the disease hit.  Why didn't the president do that?  Why didn't the Secretary of Health and Human Services do that?  Why didn't the CDC do that?  How could the failure, the inability to look ahead be so widespread through the administration?  Is there really no one in charge?

So if Obama is angry, it is certainly not surprising.  He should be very angry at himself.

News From the ISIS Front

I just saw a big headline on a news site that proclaims how American planes have "pounded" ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria on Friday and Saturday.  There were 25 raids on those two days and Saturday is not yet over.  From the headline and the first few paragraphs of the story, one would think that an all out onslaught against ISIS was underway.  The truth is something quite different.

Remember, 25 "raids" means that 25 planes were involved in individual attacks.  If one plane few both days it counts as two "raids".  If five planes hit one target, it counts as five "raids" in the parlance used by the military.  So we had roughly 13 planes hit targets in the two countries each day.  During the initial phase of the Iraq War, it would not have been unusual for there to be 500 planes hitting targets in one day.  If you remember the "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad that began the Gulf War, there were over 100 planes involved in that one mission alone.  The current level of attack is more like a tickle than a pounding.  In fact, maybe we should start to call the Obama air power policy "trickle down bombing".

The targets hit by the planes are also important.  On Friday and Saturday, there were two planes that hit targets in Ayn al Arab (or Kobani as most of the media calls it).  The single most important battle in Syria against ISIS is underway and going poorly, and the USA supports the Kurds with two, TWO, bombing missions.


Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law To Be Used

This morning, the Supreme Court issued an order that allowed Texas to enforce its voter ID law in the upcoming elections.  The order is not a final decision of the status of this law.  In fact, there is an appeal pending in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on the fate of the law, and that issue may never get to the Supreme Court.  The issue before the court today was whether or not the law could be enforced while the appeals were pending.

The court order comes with no opinion, so we don't know the reasoning applied by the Supreme Court in making this ruling.  Most likely, the justices did not want to order a change in election law less than three weeks before the November elections.  The resulting chaos could have been overwhelming.  Texas has been following the requirements of the voter ID law for the last two years, and the state is set up to carry out elections under those rules already. 

In the last month, the Supreme Court has issued orders regarding voting in North Carolina, Wisconsin and a few other states.  In general, the orders have prevented last minute changes and disruptions to the election laws. 

It is nice to see that at least in the Supreme Court, some measure of common sense prevails.


Experts? Are They Kidding?

It's time to talk about common sense when it comes to travel from Ebola affected West Africa to the USA.  The issue is not stopping flights or preventing all travel.  There are no flights from the three affected countries to the USA.  Passengers have to fly to Europe and switch planes there if they want to make the trip to the USA.  The issue instead is denying entry visas to the USA for holders of passports from the three countries or others who have been in those three countries within the previous 21 days.  On top of this, American citizens who would not need entry visas would be quarantined for 21 days if they returned home from a trip to one of the three countries.

The effect of the travel restrictions would be to reduce the number of people coming to the USA each day who might possibly carry the Ebola virus.  On average, 150 travelers come to America each day from these three countries.  If only one tenth of one percent of the people carry Ebola, that is still one infected passenger arriving every week.  That is one infected passenger too many.  Because Ebola is undetectable during the incubation period, there is really no fool proof way to screen out infected folks other than refusing entry to all.  One sick person could cause a calamity, and that needs to be avoided.

But we are told that the "experts" disagree.  Here is how the latest AP story puts it:

The experts' key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say.

In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.

Think about that.  The ban would prevent non-Americans from traveling to the USA from the three countries. Why would that limit supplies or people going to those countries?  Would a non-American really decide not to go to help in Africa because for three weeks after that he or she could not come to visit the USA?  Of course not!  Anyone who felt strongly enough to go to Africa to help would not be dissuaded because there might be a delay in later coming to the USA.

And what about the people from the affected countries lying about their histories.  These people would need false passports to enter the USA and they would also have to lie about where they have come from.  It would be extremely difficult to evade the ban.  While it would not be foolproof, it would surely reduce travel from the affected countries to the USA by over 90%.  That is a good thing.  It means that many fewer potentially infected people could enter the country.

The experts also say that other methods work better than the travel restrictions to keep Ebola out of the USA.  This is another of those silly things that "experts" supposedly say.  There is no need to pick one or the other method; we should use both.

So, how can we really be having a debate about these travel restrictions being imposed?  The answer comes when you read the articles like the latest one from the AP.  The reporter there says that "Republicans and even a few Democrats" are calling for a travel restriction.  Suddenly, sensible public health measures are political issues. 



Friday, October 17, 2014

But My Dog Was Available!

President Obama has named DC Democrat political insider Ron Klain as the Ebola Tsar.  Klain has no medical training and no experience in health matters other than his own annual physical examination.  In fact, the lack of medical experience was actually touted by the White House as a good reason for selecting Klain.

Let's be honest.  The Ebola Tsar has to be able to organize and run a major effort, indeed to bring order out of chaos.  Klain has some organizational experience, but no major accomplishments in that regard.  The problem, however, is that the Ebola Tsar ought to be able to recognize good ideas from bad ones.  Without having any medical knowledge, Klain won't even know what questions he should ask.  He certainly won't know the difference between good and bad ideas.  It will be like those managers who oversaw the development of the Obamacare website that failed so spectacularly.  These managers knew nothing about computer programming, so they missed the fact that the website was not even close to being ready when it went live.

The truth is that all that president Obama wants is someone else to blame.  For that, Klain is fine. 

I am annoyed about one thing.  If Obama wanted someone with no medical experience, he could have called my house.  My dog's only contact with medicine are her few run ins with the vet.  She would be perfect to be an Ebola Tsar and she is available.  I believe that Obama's decision to choose Klain over my dog is just another example of discrimination against animals by Obama.

More on the Cruise Ship/Ebola Story

Here is an update on the Carnival Cruise Line ship/Ebola story.  As you know, one of the passengers on that ship works at the Dallas hospital where the Ebola patients were treated.  This passenger may (MAY!!!) have handled samples taken from the first Ebola patient.  At the moment, the passenger has no symptoms that indicate any Ebola disease.  But here's the update:  both Belize and Mexico are refusing to let the ship dock in their ports.  The two nations will not take any chance that the Ebola virus could come into their countries from the ship.

The irony of Mexico closing its borders to a ship filled with Americans cannot be lost on most people.  When the Mexicans do it, it is sound judgment regarding a potential health hazard.  If the USA were to close our borders, it would be a racist and xenophobic act of hatred.  At least that is the way that the mainstream media would report it.

So let's add two more countries to the list of places that are closing their borders to potential carriers of the disease.  Who knows, maybe at some point president Obama will realize that a flight and visa ban is an issue of health and not a political one.