WaPo Thinks She’s Running

Sean McElwee and Jon Green of The Washington Post sure think New York’s own Kirsten Gillibrand is running for preznit.

For those of you who hit the Post’s paywall: They think so because she has established a boldfaced anti-Trump voting record. They argue that this voting record makes Gillibrand an undisputed claimant to the progressive mantle.

For now, so long as we can re-elect her to the Senate in New York, I’m happy.

Now, while I think Democrats need to expend more effort in 2018 developing its own message rather than pointing out the painful shortcomings of Preznit DJ Trump, I still rush to share a recent article from Politico.

It is horrifying.

Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously: It’s Worse Than You Think

It’s Time to Get Back to Work

Happy New Year, everybody.

It seems like a good time to pick up this mantle again.

After all, in nine short months, we’ve got a job to do.

I keep watching the TV news shows on the MSNBC these days, and I keep watching Ari and Chris and Chris and Rachel and Larry all breathlessly report to us about the Mueller investigation, keep waiting for that to lead to something. Which it won’t.

As Ryan Cooper of The Week writes:

On the contrary, it’s highly likely that if Mueller gets close to the president, Trump will simply fire him, and the Republican elite will help him do it. Republican hacks are already whipping themselves into a froth by smearing Mueller (who was appointed head of the FBI by George W. Bush) as some kind of deranged communist, and using that as a convenient excuse to carry out a partisan purge of the FBI.

Republican congressional leaders, glorying in their latest transfer of wealth to the ultra-wealthy, will either look the other way — perhaps their upcoming plan to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — or join in the fun.

Investigations, impeachment, conviction, these things will not get us out of this putrid bag in which we find ourselves. The reason the threat of impeachment was effective in sending Nixon fleeing was because the baseness of Nixon’s actions were at last laid bare before Republicans, who, at that time, still gave a darn to some extent about goodness in government. It was only when Nixon was warned by fellow Republicans that he made his finest speech ever and boarded Marine One out of there.

And Clinton was only impeached with the help of his fellow Democrats.

These Republicans today have nearly to an eyeball joined the cult.

“Mr. President, I have to say that you’re living up to everything I thought you would. You’re one heck of a leader, and we’re all benefiting from it. . . . You stop and think about it, this president hasn’t even been in office for a year, and look at all the things that he’s been able to get done, by sheer will in many ways,” effused Sen. Orrin Hatch recently upon passage of the tax bill.

They aren’t just brown-nosing. They are attempting to lick off his decals.

So, they won’t impeach him, and impeachment is the only enforcement tool available. Democrats’ only option is to throttle the opposition at the ballot box in 2018. And I’m going to start here and now by cheering and raving that my senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is looking to retain her seat in 2018. And we are going to spend a lot of time this year talking about Kirsten Gillibrand.

Because there are no safe seats.

Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi

It is vital, I think, when trying to decant whether or not the “Benghazi scandal” is a political witch hunt or not (it is), to remember a little history, to remember exactly how and when the tragic turn of events regarding the attack on a diplomatic outpost (note: NOT THE EMBASSY, WHICH IS IN TRIPOLI, AND YOU’D BETTER BELIEVE THAT DISTINCTION IS IMPORTANT) became such an issue of public concern in the first place.

Remember, when this happened, there was a preznintial campaign going on. And both campaigns had at least implicitly agreed to remain in their respective corners out of respect for the September Eleventh remembrance. But when word spread of these attacks and these horrible deaths?

The Romney camp was like a 13-year-old boy called to write on the chalkboard, awkwardly clutching its Trapper Keeper to its lap. It released a statement by 10 p.m., initially embargoed until midnight, “…but then, 15 minutes later, the campaign appeared to change its mind, and Saul told reporters the embargo was lifted and the statement could be published immediately.”

The Romney campaign was so convinced they had a winning issue here and so eager to unbox it for all of America to see that they couldn’t wait. They just threw that Trapper Keeper to the floor, unzipped, and wagged it around for the whole class to see. Romney even doubled down the following day, following derision and ridicule by is own party for the ham-handedness of the move (even his running mate Paul Ryan was trying to pour cold water on the thing), so convinced was he that the Benghazi attacks was a powerful political issue, and not only that, they flouted the whole “at the water’s edge” thing they used so freely a few years before to drum the Dixie Chicks out of their industry.

Benghzi was born as a political cudgel, and it will so forever be, thanks to Mittens Willard Romney III.

Good thing, too! In case you hadn’t noticed, this thing is a political loser! Keep it up! Benghazi!

Chuck Schumer is no Democrat

Chuck Schumer is now officially the Senator from Israel. He is no longer a member of the Democratic Party that I belong to, and his primary constituency is the small number of well-moneyed AIPAC contributors who have bought up all his stock.
Now he is trying to cover his tracks with a story that he didn’t really mean to oppose the President. That’s why he waited until the middle of the GOOP debate to announce, and caught the very slow Friday news cycle. So no one will notice. Well I noticed.
And he is trying to sound moderate. We just need a better plan he says. We can go back to the table and get a better deal, he says. Bullshit. Let me count the ways. First, there is no better deal. You don’t have to take that from me. Listen to the guy who used to make his living opposing ANY nuclear deal with Iran, Gary Samore, until recently president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a job he resigned because UANI is still opposed to the deal. (He has been replaced by none other than Joe LIEberman, which will tell you which direction UANI is headed.) Samore, a Harvard professor and authority on Iran and nuclear disarmament, had this to say: “I’m skeptical that we can reject this agreement and negotiate a substantially better deal within any kind of reasonable time frame.”
Second, the fact is everyone wants to get this done, Iran has gone as far as it will go (which Samore says it’s much further than he ever thought possible), and our negotiating partners are as tired of the trade embargo as are the Iranians. So Sen. Schumer is rejecting a common sense approach to one of the most delicate diplomatic challenges of this century… exercising the galling presumption that he somehow knows a lot more about this deal than does the President, or Secretary of State, both of which have staked their legacy on its outcome.
Third, common sense tells you it is not a bad deal. It substantially reduces the ability of Iran to make weapons. It provides for and establishes a significant and unprecedented inspections program that can easily inform the participating nations in the event of any breach or attempted breach by the Iranians. AND any breach of the agreement by Iran will lead to re-imposition of sanctions… an action that is binding on all signers of the pact. That is important. Russia and China are also signers to the pact. Without a pact they are likely as not to abandon the process and never return. With it they have an obligation to support the others if there is a breach.
The Iranians will get something for their participation, most importantly, they get relief from stringent economic sanctions and they get access to billions in Iranian assets that have been frozen in the US since 1980.
Fourth, the agreement will have positive repercussions worldwide. For the USA, for better or ill, lifting the sanctions will open the market to Iranian oil and lower the cost of fuel. Gasoline is expected to drop below $2 in the USA for the first time in years. In the Iranian economy, stifled by sanctions for decades, access to world markets is expected to be dramatic.
Fifth, political implications are significant. Iranian oil is another assault on the Saudi oil monopoly which has already been challenged by Iraq, Koch brothers’ Bracken Crude from Canada (which we hope is also challenged by Iranian oil) and natural gas from world-wide fracking. Thus it will further diminish the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and beyond. We should remember that Saudi money is still fueling ISIS, still funds hundreds of madrassas throughout the region, all of which are no more than recruiting centers for terrorists and suicide bombers. In Iran, the hard line Mullahs are as opposed to the deal as are Israel’s hard liners, and for similar reasons. The pact gives more credibility to moderate forces and creates opportunities for further cooperation between Iran and the rest of the world. Hard liners, who use fear as a tool of control, hate moderation.
Sen. Schumer has yet to offer an alternative that will improve on the already substantial world-peace potential of this agreement. All he has are threats and fears. The tools of despots. He says we can’t trust Iran, what happens if Iran backs out? The answer to that is written in the terms of the agreement. We are back to sanctions and a continued effort at economic isolation, and every signer of the agreement is obliged to re-impose sanctions.
Sixth, Sen. Schumer has forgotten one important element in the game. The USA is not the principal player in on the field. Also playing are the four permanent members of the United National Security Council (China, France, Russia, The United Kingdom), Germany and the European Union. Other affected nations that have been more or less honoring the sanctions include India and Pakistan and Japan. Some of these nations, China and Russia in particular, are unlikely to agree that more talk is useful or necessary. With or without an agreement, they may reopen trade with Iran. Once they open trade, the rest of the world is likely to follow. In short, whether or not the USA agrees to the deal, the other parties will likely go ahead without us.
Senator Schumer’s claim that we need a better deal offers no deal that we can get. Especially appalling, nothing in his statements have improved on the talking points offered by the Republican Party, all of which were originally offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came the USA with the specific intent to embarrass President Obama in an address to a Republican Congress particularly hostile to the President.
Chuck Schumer is no Democrat. He has no party loyalty, he is a traitor to his President.

What We Should Be Asking of the TPP

I am not sure I know any actual facts about what the TPP will do. We are told it is a wonderful thing for us and its terms are completely top secret, so should we be suspicious?
Indeed the first and maybe most controversial aspect of the TPP is that it is so secret. Congresspersons are allowed to read it only in a locked and guarded sound proof room in the Capitol Building and are forbidden to take notes out of the room. It may provide some comfort that trade negotiations are always surrounded by secrecy… allegedly because the information is very valuable to investors and because trading partners are very goosy about letting their public know what is happening.
The basic facts about the TPP are simple enough. It will remove trade barriers between the majority of nations on the Pacific Rim. The parties to the TPP are the USA and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Trade barriers are not just tariffs. These include laws and regulations specifically intended to be trade barriers, intellectual property laws (copyrights and patents), labor laws and other matters having to do with commerce.
Because the agreement is so secret (not to mention massive, Congresspersons are said to have access to thousands of pages including the current draft and annotated position statements of trading partners) most of what we think we know about the TPP comes from leaks and more significantly, what is reported about what has been leaked. We also have a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report that provides a basic analysis. Surveying the two, I cannot say that we have a clear picture.   For example, the leaks focus on a section intended to protect imports from fake trade barriers, such as  Japan’s claims years ago that American electronics (Motorola pagers) were inferior to Japanese products.  Current trade agreements allow corporations to sue to remove such artificial barriers, but this provision has been abused and misunderstood. Recently, tobacco companies sued Brazil under this provision because of local rules that prohibited the use of company logos on cigarettes in order to discourage cigarette sales. The reporting on this in many cases has been about the ability of corporations to use this provision to circumvent local laws. The CRS report points out that the US sees this example as an abuse of the rules and is looking for language that will clarify this.
Also reported widely is the complaint that the TPP does not demand stringent protections for labor and the environment, and has no mechanisms for enforcing the limited standards that are included. If the CRS description of the standards and enforcement mechanisms are correct, this criticism is accurate, and indicative of the abuse of power our government so frequently allows its corporate masters.
While rich and powerful corporations and investors have a seat at the negotiating table and participate fully in the process of drafting this top secret treaty, working Americans, labor unions and consumers are not even allowed to read it. Among the certain results of this imbalance are weak labor laws, poor consumer protections and limited environmental expectations.

American labor has lost out in prior trade agreements because it is competing with countries where employees work 16-hour days, seven days a week for three dollars a day. They have no health or safety standards and take no special pains to protect the environment. These conditions are perfect for rich corporations and investors, not so good for the rest of us, and disaster for the lowest end of the US labor market. Economic studies show that NAFTA has been particularly damaging to people on the lowest end of the economic spectrum… low-skilled workers with limited education are now essentially competing with the lowest skilled Mexican labor market.

Congress has approved the President’s authority to fast-track the TPP negotiations but it has one more opportunity to influence the process. I have three suggestions that will ensure that the TPP will work to the benefit of all Americans.
1. The Environment: Participating countries should all be required to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol (and its subsequent agreements). This provision provides a particular problem for the USA because most of the signers of the TPP are also signers of Kyoto, but the USA is not. While the President supports international  environmental agreements, the Congress, which is owned by the oil industry, does not.
2. Labor: The TPP should include minimum health and safety standards, a guaranteed work week of no more than 40 hours, annual leave and a minimum wage based on local “living wage” measurements. These standards should be specific and mandatory for each participating nation. There should be enforcement mechanisms in place… i.e. companies that do not follow the rules should be banned from international trade. Unions organizing should be legal and widely encouraged in every participating country.
3. Corporate Taxes: The ability of corporations to avoid paying taxes by forum shopping should be addressed through trade agreements. Corporations should be required to pay some stated tax in each jurisdiction where they store money, and that tax should be shared in some negotiated proportion with the country of manufacture which bears the cost of supporting infrastructure, the country of origin, which initiated the company’s success and continues to provide legal protections, and all markets where goods are sold.

Pam Geller You Crazy Slut

So USA Toady calls Pan Geller a “fiery activist” who is “known for taking on Islam.”

True maybe. She is also an idiot and a bigot best known for her campaign against the “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is not a mosque and not located at ground zero. Geller and her partner Robert Spencer have been said to be “the primary sources for the anti-Muslim propaganda that had helped give voice” to the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer.

Now, Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group, is sponsor of what she calls a “free speech event” that gives prizes for drawing the best comic representing Mohammed the Prophet.

This weekend a security guard at the event, held in Garland, TX, near Dallas, was shot down by two yahoos out to defend the honor of Islam and wage jihad against infidels. The Yahoos, as could be predicted, were gunned down by Texas police. Here there is a buttload of what the popular media calls “controversy” that is “swirling.” This is the kind of “controversy” that has one primary aim… make MS. Geller rich and famous and promote the interests of her obvious patron, Bebe Netanyahoo. Some points are worth making.

1. If you want to paint a target on yourself and attract a carload of Moslem terrorists, you should hold an event that offers a big prize for the best comic depiction of The Prophet.

2. Is this a free speech event? Yes it is, not a noble one, but it is a highly important constitutional principle that free people have a right to say whatever they please about anything, even religion. You cannot take the “free” out of free speech and leave it functional. Having said that, we should note that the sponsors of this event have an obligation to support all free speech… just like the ACLU supports nazis and liberals and gays and christians. So the christians, and Jews (and Ms. Geller’s Israeli patron) who supported this event should be equally supportive of events that promote Jesus and Mary jokes or Wailing Wall jokes (Jesus and Mary walk into the Wailing Wall Bar and Grill and sit at the bar next to a pig)… or the truth about how many Palestinians Bebe has killed today.

2. I saw the winning cartoon. It proves once again that conservatives have no sense of humor. An average disaffected sophomore could have done a better job.

3. Most important, why is it that the good guy who got shot was a renta cop? In fact, a moonlighting school security guard. While trying to pick up a couple of extra bucks to make the car payment, he takes the hit for… Pam Geller and the half dozen or so hot shots who put this dangerous event on the ground and stand to make money and fame from it. As in all wars, the people who suffer most are not the people who benefit from it.

Pity the Poor Rich People

The latest theme of the right wing propaganda machine is how abused the rich people are because they pay so much in taxes. The issue is so important to the mega money political handlers that even Willard Romney, who refused to reveal his tax history when he ran for President, has opened his books.

According to the NY Post, last year Willard paid $1.9 million in taxes on an income of $14 million — and gave $4 million to charity. AND, the year before, he made $21.6 million, paid $3 million in taxes and gave $3 million to charity. Poor Willard, after paying all those taxes he will have a hard time feeding his wife’s $800,000 horse.

So here are a few things they are not telling you about Willard’s income. First of all Willard has made a big deal about how he tithes to his church and relies on the church to engage in appropriate charitable activities. In other words, if he made $4 million in contributions to his church, his gross income is $40 million. (In 2013, he made only $30 million and had fewer deductions, so he is  showing a higher income.  He is getting a lot of tax breaks to get his $40 million net gross income down to $14 million. Those breaks include the care and feeding and transportation of the horse and depreciation on the barn and so on.

Moreover, if he is paying 1.9 million on his $14 million income, he is paying an effective rate someplace under 15 percent. A family with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 pays an effective rate of over 16%. In real numbers when Willard paid a tax of $1.9 million, he had $12.1 million left to live on. The family with an AGI of $50,000, on the other hand, has $41,700 left to spend. In short, Willard is not missing any meals after having paid his taxes, neither is his horse. The other folks may also not be starving, but they do have to worry about how to send the kids to college, getting the car fixed, paying medical insurance… on and on.

Ask yourself what is more productive, putting more money in the hands of people like Willard, who are not likely to spend it, or people who need it to meet immediate needs. And do not try to feed me that bullshit about how rich people are “job creators.” In the average case, most jobs come from small businesses that do not pay anything near the taxes Willard pays (or should be paying). Willard’s specific history reveals he has killed more jobs than he has produced and many of the jobs he “created” were over seas.

Since the Busch tax cuts, most tax breaks have favored the rich at the expense of everyone else. The fact that millionaires have to actually pay taxes should be no surprise. The surprise is how little they pay in relation to the rest of us.

A Warm Place to …

Now the big Conservative Bugaboo is whether transgendered children can choose their place to pee. A school in Oklahoma had decided that a “boy” who identifies as a girl may not pee in the girl’s “bathroom” because… maybe he is a regular boy who is pretending that he is a girl so he can watch girls pee? Whatever…

All this while I am still processing all the marvels I beheld on my first trip to Europe last fall… including the rules for where you pee. Among the excellent local customs are these:
• When you are in a bar and want to pee you ask the waitperson for the toilet (OK “la toilette” which you ask with your best French accent which you have studied for minutes using the translator on your phone… so he/she will not think you are some dunderhead American). None of this bathroom stuff, or restroom nonsense. When was the last time you took a bath in your local bar? Or bothered to pause to rest in the toilet?
• There are no annoying cute designators on the doors… no “Does and Bucks” no “Sitters and Standers.” In fact there is usually only one toilette and if it’s big enough there could be girls in there peeing.
• Many towns have public toilets, usually on the town square, which cost about 20 cents. The better ones include showers in case you are biking and camping. When you are finished and close the door, the place locks up and is automatically sprayed down to make it nice and clean for the next person.
• The best town toilet was in Soissons (where an ancient local cathedral once boasted of having the Blessed Virgin’s shoe). There is a trough along the back wall so that guys who don’t want to spend the 20 cents can just pee in public.
• At a highway rest stop in Belgium there were long lines for the toilettes, which were operated by a British company and thus called “loos.” (Oddly enough the Europeans have commoditized pissing.) They had segregated pissers. Travelers who preferred not to pay were perfectly comfortable pissing on the lawn… backs discretely turned to the parking lot. I did not see any women watering the lawn and presume they chose to pay.

When I was in about the 6th grade there was a peep hole carved between the bathrooms at St. Rose School (which I was, in fact, too timid to use) so I recognize our long standing … concern regarding separate facilities… confusion regarding sex and peeing? I suspect they don’t have that problem in France. And ask yourself, if you desegregated toilets in the USA would people begin to hook up in the “restroom”?

You’ve Got Mail

Human beings are remarkable creatures in that we are exceptional at customizing the nature of our communication to the situation in which we find ourselves. I don’t, for instance, speak to my co-worker nor my boss in the same way I speak to my friends and family, nor in the same way I speak to that a-hole who cut me off in traffic. No, no, I have different words indeed for that fella.

So I wonder with all my heart how Hillary Clinton speaks at home, when she’s tucked her feet under her ass in her sweatsuit annd her fuzzy slippers, and she’s eating that bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios that Bill so lovingly prepared for her while she’s doing her NYT crossword and watching Ellen Degeneres on the TV. I doubt it’s the same tone she adopts when she’s constantly having to put up with stupid shit in public.

Oh mah gah! Hillary Clinton used her e-mail this way and not that way! Holy shit, the Moon is on fire!

I don’t need many details to know how much a load of stinky crappy crap this whole thing is; how utterly political it is, and I find it annoying. Because there is a story here. There is an issue here that you should actually be furrowing your brow over. Because Mrs. Clinton’s current e-mail woe is not a condition. It is a symptom, a symptom of something that the stupid tiny politics of 2016 is way too tiny a view of.

Here’s an inside, anecdotal scoop for you: When a federal agency hires a muckity-muck, a reporter should be allowed to ask for that muckity-muck-to-be’s bio and his or her salary. This is a person being hired on the taxpayer’s dime, and therefore the most basic information about these people should be printed for you to read and know. I have it on good authority, however, that of late in Washington, say, oh, the last decade or so, when you approach said federal agency to ask for this fundamental info, you’re told to get lost unless you have a FOIA request.

And yes, that’s right. I said the last decade.

Democrats can be just as bad as Republigoats regarding transparency, folks. There, I said it. And Washington D.C. has gotten much worse at this in recent years. Much worse. And yes, much of this bristling to transparency has happened under the guy who swore that sunshine is better than Lysol. And if yer just focusing on Hillary Clinton and her little homespun mainframe, then you are in the forest, buried underneath the damned trees. The problem isn’t Hillary alone. It’s the whole place deciding it can operate better with an opaque veneer around its business.

And it’s we letting them get away with that shit.

Hillary’s e-mail troubles will be out of the news cycle by Saturday, at least until the primaries heat up. In the meantime, however, reporters are having to flood federal agencies with paper to request and extract information that ought to be printed on our cereal boxes as a matter of course. That’s the real scandal.

Keep Those Boots Off the Ground

The history of the current situation in the Middle East is long and twisted and increasingly confused by people who have their agendas. Republican politicians want to attack Obama, Jews want to not see any further cooperation between Iran and the USA. The oil oligarchy wants to get back to the good old days of prohibitive gas prices. Crazy Christians want to bring about the end of the world, which is also what the really crazy Moslems want. To make some sense of it for myself, and for some of my friends who have talked about it with me, I sat down and made this list of my understanding of the situation. I also offer my conclusion that only a crazy person would think the USA should put troops on the ground there again.
1. After WWI, Britain, which claimed all the colonies in the Middle East not claimed by France, organized new governments there. The Brits never paid much attention to religious or tribal or ethnic differences among their conquered people, thus the Iraq they created includes three distinct groups: Sunni Arabs, Shiia Arabs and Kurds. Sunni and Shiia hate each other for reasons that date to the time after Mohammed’s death. Kurds are a distinct ethnic group, not Arabs. Until recent times they worshiped Zoroaster, Mithras and variations of those ancient Persian religions (Yazid is one we have recently heard). They are now mostly Sunni although they are not as serious about it as some would like to think. For political reasons the Brits placed Sunni in charge in Iraq even though they were a distinct minority.
2. Saddam Hussein was not a religious ruler. He governed through the BAATH party, which was an Arab nationalist party derived largely from the pan-Arab movements of the post WWII era. (Nasser and King Hussein were allied under the Pan Arab Banner, for example.) Saddam was a cruel and vicious bastard, but he managed to keep the lid on the fairly volatile stew of ethnic and religious groups he governed. (He is correctly compared to Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia … comprised of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Moslems… see what happened after he died and the strong central government failed.)
3. Iran is a Shiia nation of Persians. Not Arab or Kurd, they proudly trace their ancestry to Cyrus the Great. They generally view Arabs as lowly scum and Sunni Arabs as apostate, lowly scum.
4. Iran and Iraq fought a bitter war (from 1980 to 1988) in which millions were killed and neither side gained anything. The US, which had for years considered Iran, ruled by a CIA backed King or Shah, its closest ally in the region, now backed Iraq, having been tossed out of Iran by the 1980 Revolution. Iraq, being a not religious based government, was a natural ally for us in a region of religious governments.
5. In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait because Kuwait was drilling vertical wells under Iraq and stealing its oil. When asked whether it was OK to invade, the US Ambassador to Iraq told Saddam the matter was of no interest to the USA. Then the USA changed its mind (at the behest of the Saudi family which has long business ties to the Bush family) and threw Iraq out of Kuwait but did not invade Iraq itself. (While this happened, Kuwaiti army officers, exiled by the Iraqi army, partied in Lebanon and Paris), the Saudis, who had urged the USA to help Kuwait, loaned us some bases and its air force flew some missions, but for the most part the Saudi Army did not participate.
6. During the American invasion, The Kurds who had dominated the northeast corner of Iraq where all the oil was located, rebelled. They say they anticipated aid from the USA, which never came. Saddam retaliated by using nerve gas on the Kurdish people. The USA (now under Bill Clinton) and the UN imposed an embargo on Iraq in retaliation, and declared a no fly zone over the Kurdish region. This action allowed the Kurds to build their own governing system and establish an army without interference from Baghdad.
7. In 2011, a gang of terrorists financed by Osama Bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi family, financed a raid on the US that resulted in destruction of the World Trade Center towers and a direct assault on the Pentagon. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Saudi Arabia is dominated by a radical version of Sunni Moslem faith known as Wahabi. The Wahab originally came from India, but were suppressed there by the British who, ironically, helped the Saud family secure the Arabian Peninsula in the early 20th Century (you know, Lawrence of Arabia). The Saudi operated by offering opposing tribes the option of joining them… by adopting their religion…or fighting to the death. Oil was not initially an issue in these days. The Brits were interested in controlling trade by controlling the Persian Gulf. To this day, the Saudi civil government operates under a medieval legal system operated by Mullahs who act as moral police with broad powers to correct citizen behavior in public. (The private behavior of Saudi citizens is a tale of the most egregious hypocrisy since the days of the Borgia papacy.) Beginning in the 1980s, the Saudi government began financing schools throughout the world, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that taught the Wahabi version of the Koran to children of mostly poor families. The term Taliban means student and is derived from these schools. Mullah Omar, who led the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan, was a graduate of one of these madrassas. (Worth noting that the USA showed no interest in supporting Afghanistan after the Russians were thrown out with aid of the CIA. Many Afghans who are now fleeing their homeland were educated by the Russians, speak fluent Russian and miss the days of freedom under Russian rule. Benazir Bhutto came to the USA to plead for assistance in establishing schools in Afghanistan. As much as we praised the people who forced the Russians out, we did not stay around to help them establish a modern governing system. Instead we left them to the mercy of the Talban, which were financed largely by Osama Bin Laden (Saudi money) using American equipment and financing mechanisms initially established by the CIA.)
8. In 2003, the USA conquered Iraq, disbanded its army and disenfranchised the Baath party. This removed the strong non-religious central government that had kept the lid on the rival Moslem groups and ultimately brought about civil war between Sunni and Shiia. (Bush advisor Billie Kristol once said that there was no fundamental difference between the two sects.) The Sunni militia comprised largely of Iraqi army regulars, including officers who became unemployed when the USA took over. The Shiia were neighborhood insurgents trained, if at all, by Iran. The USA’s last ditch effort to stabilize Iraq, known as the Surge, worked because we began to support Sunni militia groups that we had previously fought. After we left, the Shiia dominated government remained in control of Baghdad and the southern marshes, but Sunni controlled the remainder of the country NOT controlled by the Kurds. Efforts of the central government to reassert control over the rest of Iraq failed mostly because the Shiia army treated the Sunni citizens badly, and the US armed Sunni Militia, left with what they saw as no viable choice, ultimately affiliated with ISIS. While USA advisors have been dispatched to Iraq, the Iraqi army is relying mostly on assistance from its Shiia brothers from Iran, which has sent advisors and troops to help counter the ISIS insurgency (aided by USA air strikes).
9. ISIS is an extreme fundamentalist Sunni sect determined to re-establish the true religion of Mohammed by building a Caliphate in the vast territory comprising large parts of Iraq and Syria. They believe in converting people by force and killing those who do not (or in some cases are not permitted to) convert. They view Jews and Shiia and Christians with the same distain. They are well armed (mostly with USA weapons) well led (a lot of experienced Iraqi military leaders) and financed (Saudi money, stolen oil and trade in everything from hostages to ancient art). They will cut off your head or burn you alive. No doubt scary fuckers.
10. The majority population of Syria is Sunni. The Assad government is dominated by the minority Alowite Moslem sect… which is Shiia and closely allied with Iran. Assad demonstrated what a bastard he is when he began slaughtering citizens participating in what was supposed to have been a peaceful protest widely known as the Arab Spring. (My opinion: Obama may have screwed up when he declared fairly early (as did most of the civilized world) that Assad should step down.) As the revolt spread and became an armed conflict, several militia groups took up the fight against Assad. Obama resisted significant pressure to arm the militia because he could not know who he was arming. (For example John McCain went to Syria and met with a rebel group and demanded the USA arm them. The group turned out to be ISIS.) This is all by way of stating the well-known fact that Syria is a mess.
9. Lebanon, which is the first place most of us came face to face with the Sunni/Shiia conflict is dominated now by Hezbollah, a Shiia outfit that essentially won the Lebanese civil war with the backing of Iran. The USA stepped into Lebanon a number of times. The only successful foray was in 1957, when Eisenhower sent in the army and made a peace that lasted nearly 20 years. Beirut became a major fashion and business center, but was literally blown to oblivion by the revolutions of the 1980s. Raygun sent in the marines, lost about 400 men in one suicide bomb incident and then made what is likely the wisest decision of his career… declared victory and brought the troops home.
11. Jordan is a corrupt but fairly successful parliamentary monarchy ruled by the same family since 1952. It is stable because the population is 95 percent SUNNI and most of its people are not starving.
12. Everyone in the Middle East hates Israel.
13. The Saudi Army is 250,000 active troops and can draw from a manpower pool of 15 million. It has a lot of money and the best equipment money can buy. This does not include its air force, which is well equipped, trained and experienced.
Kuwait has an active army of 11,000 troops, with a 6,000 person national guard and another 43,000 reserve force. The army is well financed with oil money and very well equipped. It also has an air force.
Lebanon has a 53,000 man army that is well equipped (financed largely by Iran) and experienced. It also has a 6,600 man navy.
Jordan has an army of 110,000 with an active reserve of 65,000. It can draw on an eligible population of over 3 million men of military age.
Egypt has enough trouble of its own.
Some Conclusions
Regardless what some people in Congress say, Israel ain’t in this. Israel is a convenient wedge issue for Moslem politicians. Just like Republicans have to hate gay people to get elected, so do Middle Eastern politicians have to hate Israel. Israel is not a primary concern of any Moslem leader at this moment.  In fact, as long as Sunni hate Shiia Israel can consider itself insulated from its neighbors. The more the Moslem world fights against itself, the greater protection Israel has from the Moslem world. If Israel has anything to worry about it is that the Moslems will fight it out once and for all. Not at all a likely result.

Israel has nothing more to do with ISIS than does Iran. ISIS hates every person who does not conform to its rigid way of thinking about the world, it views Jews the same way it views Shiia. There are many millions of Arabs and Persians and Kurds who have a personal stake in the battle with ISIS. There are very large armies available to fight that battle, some of which are engaged (Iran and the Peshmurga and Iraqis.) There are many armies that are not engaged and should be. The US Army is not among them.
The USA and western nations in general should only be concerned about ISIS if it wins. One way to make it easier for ISIS to recruit young soldiers… and thus win… is to make this a war between ISIS and western (i.e. in their mind Christian) nations. This is why ISIS is baiting us so strongly with demonstrations of violence against western captives. We are fools to rise to the bait.