And Now For Some Turkish Cats....

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 5:34 PM EST

Maybe you've seen this before, maybe you haven't. But if you'd like a little break from the manliness contest being waged among Republican presidential candidates, here's the latest security breach at the G20 conference. The lesson is clear: we need to focus on the true threats to human civilization.

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Let the Mudslinging Begin

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 5:18 PM EST

Hugh Hewitt quotes President Obama today:

What I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of "American leadership" or "America winning."

Goodness, that sure sounds pusillanimous. I wonder how Obama can stand to look at himself in the mirror each—oh, hold on. What's that? There's more to the quote?

What I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of "American leadership" or "America winning," or whatever other slogans they come up with, that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France.

And if you want even more, here's what Obama really said:

My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it....But what we do not do, what I do not do, is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough.

....We'll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it's entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues....But what I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I'm too busy for that.

I guess this is going to be "You didn't build that" all over again. I can hardly wait. Elsewhere, Donald Trump is crowing that (a) Obama just told Putin how important the Russian airstrikes against ISIS have been and  (b) now we're attacking the oil, just like he said a long time ago. "I TOLD YOU SO!" he tweeted. Except that (a) Obama actually told Putin he would like Russia to start striking ISIS, and (b) we've been attacking ISIS oil convoys all along. According to the Pentagon, we've carried out three or four airstrikes per week against ISIS oil infrastructure. And anyway, didn't Trump actually recommend that we encircle the ISIS oil fields?

Sigh. I guess none of this matters. We're now entering a period in which conservatives are going to start playing "Can You Top This?" on ISIS. A week ago they talked big but were afraid to actually commit themselves to any serious action. Now, we're in a war of civilizations and soon they'll be outbidding each other on how many divisions they're willing to ship overseas and how best to describe the complete and total inaction that the appeaser Obama has been engaged in.

I think I'm going to go take a nap.

Mike Huckabee Wants Syrian Refugees to Be Placed in Homes of "Limousine Liberals"

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 3:07 PM EST

In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was quick to blame President Obama's handling of ISIS and the current migrant crisis swelling Europe. On Saturday, he topped his usual blend of hateful xenophobia by suggesting Syrian refugees be placed in the neighborhoods of "limousine liberals" such as Hillary Clinton.

"How come they never end up in the neighborhood where the limousine liberal lives?" Huckabee said in a radio interview. "Behind gated communities and with armed security around. Mrs. Clinton, you have suggested we take in 65,00 refugees. How many can we bring to your neighborhood in Chappaqua?"

The former Arkansas governor continued by connecting two seemingly disparate events and belittling the protests that erupted at the University of Missouri last week over allegations of racism on campus.

"Heck, we may take them to the University of Missouri," Huckabee continued. "A lot of the students are so stressed out from feeling unsafe because somebody said a word they didn’t like that they are not using their dorm rooms anymore. Maybe we can put them there."

Since the deadly attacks on Friday, Republican politicians have been vowing to slam the door on the Obama administration's plan to accept refugees fleeing from violence in Syria and the Middle East. Concerns over the screening process have been heightened after a Syrian passport was located near the body of one of the Paris attackers.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey on Monday, President Obama hit back at Republicans' growing refusal to take in refugees, calling their rejections a "betrayal of our values."

Why Did the Media Ignore the Beirut Bombings One Day Before the Paris Attacks?

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 2:16 PM EST

After the Paris attacks, a popular tweet made the rounds asking why the media was covering it so heavily when they'd ignored a pair of ISIS suicide bombings in Beirut just the day before. Over at Vox, Max Fisher says this is just plain wrong:

The New York Times covered it. The Washington Post, in addition to running an Associated Press story on it, sent reporter Hugh Naylor to cover the blasts and then write a lengthy piece on their aftermath. The Economist had a thoughtful piece reflecting on the attack's significance. CNN, which rightly or wrongly has a reputation for least-common-denominator news judgment, aired one segment after another on the Beirut bombings. Even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid most known for its gossipy royals coverage, was on the story. And on and on.

Yet these are stories that, like so many stories of previous bombings and mass acts of violence outside of the West, readers have largely ignored.

It is difficult watching this, as a journalist, not to see the irony in people scolding the media for not covering Beirut by sharing a tweet with so many factual inaccuracies.

I get Fisher's point, but come on. There's coverage and then there's coverage. On November 14, the New York Times dedicated a huge banner headline and nearly its entire front page to the Paris attacks. On November 13—well, don't bother looking for their Beirut story. Fisher is right that they had one, but it ran on page A6. And Vox itself? Beirut was relegated to one mention in its "Sentences" roundup on Thursday. By my count, Paris has so far gotten 26 separate posts.

It's true that readers tend to tune out reports of violence in the Middle East and other non-rich countries, but so does the media. Justifiable or not, there's plenty of blame to go around here.

France Scrambles to Secure Upcoming Climate Talks After Deadly Attacks

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 1:32 PM EST
Security was heightened across Paris following Friday's deadly attacks. A major international climate summit is due to start there in two weeks.

On Saturday, just a day after terrorist attacks in Paris left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured, the French government vowed to forge ahead with a long-scheduled international summit on climate change.

The summit, which is scheduled to start in just two weeks, will take place at an airport in the northern suburbs of Paris, not far from the stadium that was the site of multiple bombings on Friday. There, world leaders plan to hash out final details of the most wide-reaching international agreement ever to combat climate change. White House officials confirmed to Politico that President Barack Obama still intends to attend the talks, as scheduled prior to the attacks. Dozens of other heads of state are expected to be there as well.

"[The summit] will go ahead with reinforced security measures," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "This is an absolutely necessary step in the battle against climate change and of course it will take place."

Christiana Figueres, who chairs the UN agency overseeing the talks, released a similar statement on Twitter:

Even prior to the attacks, 30,000 French police officers were scheduled to secure the event, according to Radio France International. More than 10,000 diplomats, non-governmental organization employees, and journalists are expected to attend the summit. Specific new security measures have not yet been made public, but Politico quoted an unnamed French official who said participants should expect "extremely tightened security" following the attacks.

Paul Bledsoe, a former climate advisor to President Bill Clinton, also told Politico that the attacks could actually improve the odds that the talks reach a successful outcome.

"The resolve of world leaders is going to be redoubled to gain an agreement and show that they can deliver for populations around the world. The likelihood for a successful agreement has only increased because of these attacks," Bledsoe said.

On Thursday, just a day before the attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to butt heads with his French counterpart over what the exact legal status of the agreement will be. Other questions remain as well, such as how wealthy, heavily polluting countries such as the United States will help developing nations pay for climate change adaptation. But overall, the Paris talks are expected to yield a better outcome than the last major climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, which failed to produce any meaningful action to curb greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the impacts of global warming.

Meanwhile, on Monday French officials said they would block a series of rallies and side events that were scheduled to take place outside the main negotiations. Environmental groups are scrambling to work out how to change their plans following the attack. Several groups involved in organizing protests and rallies that were intended to coicide with the Paris talks confirmed to Mother Jones that a hastily arranged meeting to hash out a plan will take place on Monday evening, Paris time. Will Davies, a spokesman for Avaaz, one of the main advocacy groups involved, said that despite the flurry of activity, plans for global marches in cities other than Paris were still going ahead as scheduled.

Stay tuned for more updates on this story.

The Return of the Warblogs

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 12:14 PM EST

We're in a war of civilizations. If you won't say radical Islam, you aren't serious. We need to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here. They hate us for our freedoms.

I really hoped I'd heard the last of this nonsense around 2003, but I guess not. The sensibility of the post-9/11 warblogs is back, along with all the overweening confidence in amateurish geo-religious belligerence that fueled them the first time around. But at least this time, in the midst of the panic, we have a president who says this when he's asked about committing more ground troops to the fight against ISIS:

We would see a repetition of what we've seen before: If you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremists, that they resurface unless you're prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

The war against ISIS will be won when Iraq gains the political maturity to provide a working army that's not merely a tool of the endless Sunni-Shia civil war in the Middle East. Absent that, we could turn Anbar into a glassy plain, and all that would happen is that something worse than ISIS would crop up.

There's a lot we can do to defeat ISIS, and most of it we're already doing. Airstrikes? Check. Broad coalition? Check. Working with Arab allies? Check. Engage with Sunni tribal leaders? Check. Embed with the Iraqi military? Check. There's more we could do, but often it's contradictory. You want to arm the Kurds and create a partnership with the Iraqi government? Good luck. You want to defeat Assad and ISIS? You better pick one. You want to avoid a large American ground force and you want to win the war fast? Not gonna happen. Everyone needs to face reality: This is going to be a long effort, and there are no magic slogans that are going to win it. Unfortunately, they can make things worse.

The Paris attacks were barbaric and tragic. Let's try not to turn our response to them into a tragedy as well.

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President Obama's Air Campaign Against ISIS

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 10:49 AM EST

By popular demand, here is a chart version of last night's post about the French airstrike on Sunday vs. the ongoing coalition air campaign. Note that we've dropped a total of about 28,000 bombs and missiles over the past year, and so far the effect has been real but modest. There's just a limit to what air power can do, especially in a region like northern Iraq.

John Oliver Unleashes Profanity-Laced Rant on Paris Attackers: "Fuck These Assholes"

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 8:37 AM EST

Following the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, John Oliver began his show on Sunday by unleashing an impassioned, profanity-laced condemnation on the attackers responsible for the deadly siege.

"It's hardly been 48 hours and much is unknown, but there are a few things we can say for certain," Oliver started off. "And this is when it actually helps to be on HBO, where those things can be said without restraint, because after the many necessary and appropriate moments of silence, I'd like to offer you a moment of premium-cable profanity."

"First as of now, we know this attack was carried out by gigantic fucking assholes, unconscionable flaming assholes, possibly working with other fucking assholes, definitely working in service of an ideology of pure assholery," he said. "Second, and this goes almost without saying: Fuck these assholes.

"And third: It is important to remember, nothing about what these assholes are trying to do is going to work. France is going to endure."

The Last Week Tonight host continued to offer a message of hope for France, vowing terrorism will never succeed in the face of freedom.

These Just-Released Bob Dylan Recordings Go Behind the Scenes of His Iconic Albums

| Mon Nov. 16, 2015 6:00 AM EST

Bob Dylan
The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12
Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings

The archival Bootleg Series plumbing Bob Dylan's illustrious (and sometimes not so illustrious) history has produced such gems as the complete Basement Tapes and a compilation of his early Witmark publishing demos, but The Cutting Edge is far and away the most exciting entry yet. This dazzling six-disc set covers the period when Dylan plunged wholeheartedly into rock'n'roll and created one masterpiece after another, turning out Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and the two-record Blonde on Blonde in a frenetic 18-month burst of genius.

Consisting largely of previously unreleased material (actual bootlegs aside), The Cutting Edge collects early versions, rehearsals, alternates, and other fascinating leftovers from the sessions for those albums. What's immediately most striking is how hard Dylan and company worked in the pursuit of perfection, and how much songs evolved during recording. Want to hear "Like a Rolling Stone" as a waltz? "Visions of Johanna" as a spiky uptempo rocker? They're here, along with other classics-in-progress, and tantalizing orphans such as "Lunatic Princess," "You Don't Have to Do That," and "Sitting on a Barbed-Wire Fence." For those who want even more, there's a hefty (and pricey) 18-CD version available via Dylan's website.

What Kind of Bombing Campaign Against ISIS Do Republicans Want?

| Sun Nov. 15, 2015 10:54 PM EST

On Sunday night, France launched a series of airstrikes against ISIS in retaliation for the Paris attacks. The Washington Post called it a "furious assault." The New York Times called it "aggressive," CNN said it was a "major bombardment," and McClatchy called it a "fierce bombing campaign." The French themselves called it "massive," and the LA Times, Fox News, and the Guardian agreed.

The French assault comprised 10 aircraft and 20 bombs.

Since the beginning of the American-led air campaign against ISIS, the coalition has launched 8,000 airstrikes and dropped about 28,000 bombs on ISIS sites in Iraq and Syria. In other words, we've been launching about 17 airstrikes and dropping 60 bombs per day. Every day. For over a year.

And yet this campaign is routinely described as feckless and weak.

We could certainly amp up the air campaign against ISIS, especially if we take Ted Cruz's advice and stop worrying about civilian casualties. But I guess I'd like to hear specifics. How many airstrikes do you think we need? We've done hundreds per day for short periods in other wars. Is that enough? Should we start ignoring Turkey and Iraq and our other allies and bomb wherever and whenever we want? Do you think that will be enough to put ISIS out of business?

Inquiring minds want to know. If President Obama's current campaign against ISIS is feeble and timid, what kind of campaign do you want? Can we hear some details, please?