Exclusive video of full Q&A with Rob Astorino, Sheriff Chriss Moss, and Sheriff David Harder

By Michael Vass | October 31, 2014

The following video is the full set of questions and answers with candidate for Governor Rob Astorino and running mate Sheriff Chris Moss after an event in Binghamton, NY on October 31, 2014.

The video is unedited, and covers:

  • The first 90 days if elected
  • Hydrofracking
  • Common Core
  • Start-Up New York and jobs in NY
  • NY Safe Act and transparency in government
  • Chance to win

    In addition, we exclusively were able to speak with Broome County Sheriff David Harder after the event. That exclusive discussion is at the end of the above video.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5
  • Rob Astorino and Sheriff Chris Moss speak to Binghamton ahead of election day

    By Michael Vass | October 31, 2014

    On Oct 31, 2014, gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and his running mate Sheriff Chris Moss came to Binghamton to speak with supporters and the public at large as the final days before the election tick away. It was a short trip as the candidates were on a multi-district tour of Upstate New York, but the energy in the conference hall at the Holiday Inn  in downtown Binghamton, NY made up for any brevity.

    The mid-day rally gathered an estimated 110 – 160 supporters. This includes local elected officials such as State Senator Tom Libous, Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, and Sheriff David Harder (each an incumbent seeking re-election). In addition Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, Binghamton Mayor Rich David, Johnson City Mayor Greg Deemie, County Clerk Rick Blythe, Binghamton Councilman Chris Papastrat, Broome County Republican Party Chairman Bijoy Datta, and candidate Mike Baker for Family Court Judge were also in attendance. Both Executive Preston and Sheriff Harder took the opportunity to endorse Astorino and Moss, respectively.

    Sheriff Moss, a well known opponent of Gov. Cuomo’s NY Safe Act signature legislation, spoke directly to the power of the voters to resolve the challenges facing New York. His focus was on reminding voters to get on November 4, 2014 as the issues facing the States are critical. He said in part,

    “If we want to de-regulate, if we want to lower taxes, if we want to repeal the Safe Act, repeal Common Core, this is our chance Tuesday, November 4th.”

    Rob Astorino, the County Executive of Westchester County, detailed the effort he and his running mate have expended over the past 7 months to reach the public. The two drove a combined 80,000 miles crisscrossing all 62 districts of the State, Astorino stated to the enthusiastic crowd. That effort was coupled with his vision to redefine the State as a business friendly opportunity – in part with the introduction of rules and regulations that would allow hydrofracking with in the State in his first 90 days if elected, as well as lowering taxes and instituting term limits. This counters the inaction of Gov. Cuomo to resolve the “fracking” issue though Cuomo had promised decisive action when first elected.

    Rob Astorino went on to state,

    “His [Gov. Cuomo] New York is very different than the real New York…But the economy in New York is not good. You know what it grew last year? … 0.7%, and Andrew Cuomo is taking victory laps for that?”

    Thus far in the election cycle Gov. Cuomo, has not visited Binghamton. His last visit was in 2013, even though Cuomo’s Start-Up New York program drew 5 new businesses to Binghamton University – for a total of 80 jobs at the cost of 10 years of tax revenue. Gov. Cuomo called the news a “game-changing move” for New York at that time. The current employment rate for Binghamton is 6.3% and according to George Winner in the New York Post,

    “A recent US Conference of Mayors report says outlook for much of the state is anemic all the way to 2020. This is especially so upstate, in areas like Binghamton and Utica.”

    Ultimately, voters will decide the fate of all the issues facing New York State. November 4, 2014 is Tuesday and poll are open from 6 AM until 9 PM.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    Is betting against Donald Trump on NY casinos a smart idea?

    By Michael Vass | October 31, 2014

    ** Originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **


    Once again the persistent question of profitability of casino’s in New York State has been raised. This time by Donald Trump, on October 20, 2014, as reported by the Daily News. Mr. Trump believes that NY casinos will fail in the long-term , even as a rash of Atlantic City casinos are closing and plans to open casinos close to the New York border are being debated. Who is correct, Gov. Cuomo or Donald Trump?

    To understand the chance of success it may be best to first understand the situation. In this year alone 3 Atlantic City casinos have closed (Revel, Showboat, and Trump Plaza) with another in danger of closing shortly (Trump Taj Mahal). The reasons vary to a degree, but all include 2 things: the national economy and competition in neighboring States.

    Unlike almost any other industry, casinos are essentially a zero sum industry. In essence casinos take more out of communities than they put in – if they are successful. Casinos do not create a good that can be sold, and the number of jobs created is fixed once a casino is up and running. The goal of all casinos is the Las Vegas model. That is that the glamour and entertainment is attractive enough to pull tourists from other locations, thus increasing the pool of money that can be taken without destroying the local economy the casino is based in.

    For more than 2 decades Atlantic City did exactly what Las Vegas has done. They pulled visitors on the East Coast via boxing matches and ease in travel (compared to Las Vegas). There is the benefit of a decent climate (for the northeast) and a beach in addition to entertainment venues. This was an ideal situation, until competition arrived.

    First there was Foxwoods in Connecticut. Then came the changes in laws in neighboring States, including the creation of racinos (race tracks with limited additional gambling options) – like Tioga Downs in New York (opened in 2006). While the short-term shows increased revenues for virtually all locations (Tioga Downs had revenues double to $60 million from 2006 until fiscal 2013) the key is saturation. This lead to the currently ill-fate of Atlantic City, and the first signs of problems in other States.

    Fiscal 2014, Tioga Downs had its first revenue decrease. Two long-term well established casinos in Atlantic City closed with a third expected to follow shortly. Even the most successful New York racino at Aqueduct in New York City – a very old and well-established race track with expanded gambling options since 2011, plus the draw of the City, and access to a massive pool of tourists – has experienced problems. Growth at Aqueduct  has slowed to 6.5% as of August 2014 (down from 14% growth), with the majority of revenues coming from the local community and not tourists.

    “Resorts World has not been as successful tapping into the robust tourism industry in the Big Apple as it would have liked. The vast majority of its customers are locals from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.”

    This reality of current environment does not take into account:

    1. Market saturation – additional casinos outside of Atlantic City, along the New York border such as the Meadowlands and Jersey City, are poised to open casinos. This does not count the 4 casinos planned in New York, nor expansions in other nearby States.
    2. A lackluster economy – For all the talk of recovery and improved economics, the total number of unemployed has remained relatively steady. Most of the recent reduction in the unemployment rate have come from not counting unemployed persons for varying reasons, not in an increase in employment (See our article - 6.1% Unemployment Rate: celebrate the headline, fear the facts)
    3. Impact to locals communities – even with the draw of New York City, the saturation of casinos is causing a greater reliance on local community revenues as a source for the casinos. While a diverse city like NYC has millions of people and generally a higher income per person, Upstate NY has neither the population nor the economic diversity on its side.

    Given all the factors, and the reality of the economic environment facing casinos in New York and the Northeast, could Donald Trump be correct? Or is this the key to creating a vibrant business climate the Gov. Cuomo has boasted of in numerous commercials? Can gambling casinos save New York?

    No, New York will never be saved by casinos. The math at the current time, and foreseeable future, indicate that the revenues. Given the relatively harsh winters (that numerous New Yorkers escape south to avoid every year), the lack of diversity in Upstate New York, the limited pool of discretionary dollars available, and high competition, casinos cannot be the savior to New York’s State deficit. For these same reasons local communities, that may gain a short-term bump due to curiosity and ease of travel, will not have meaningful long-term improvements.

    “The problem is the whole country is becoming one big gambling casino, and many of them will die.” – Donald Trump, 10/20/14

    In fact, it is a very real probability that at least some of the local communities in Upstate New York, will be harmed by the casinos. The limited pool of discretionary funds available in these areas may funnel into the casinos. Funds that will never reach back to the communities they came from, because that is the purpose of a gambling casino – if they are run to create a profit.

    Without a massive, and highly unlikely, boost to the national economy Donald Trump is likely correct. Without a massive change in business friendliness (a reduction in the number of regulations and a decrease in personal and corporate taxes) for New York State, which is again highly unlikely, Donald Trump is likely correct. Considering all factors, the probability of success for New York casinos beyond 3 years of operation decrease for every continued year of operation, while adding to the burden of local communities.

    “New Yorkers cannot gamble their way to prosperity; gambling is not a path to economic growth.” - Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, 11/1/13

    Casinos take in money, that is their purpose. For New York State to expect them to generate money could be called absurd. Donald Trump understands this well, and was successful for decades in the casino industry. Betting money says he is right again on New York.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    Astorino campaign representative speaks with Vestal, NY residents

    By Michael Vass | October 31, 2014

    ** Article originally posted on 10/10/14 at http://www.examiner.com/article/astorino-campaign-representative-speaks-with-vestal-ny-residents **

    With the onset of October statewide election campaigns are gearing up for the November election. As of October 10, 2014 voter registration forms must be in the mail to be accepted by the Board of Elections and allow a vote next month. October is also the month where campaigns reach out to the undecided voters, as well as address the voter apathy that is rampant in New York State. In Vestal, New York on October 7, 2014, the campaign of Rob Astorino for Governor stopped by the Vestal Public Library to speak with concerned voters and answer their questions.

    Bijoy Datta, a lifelong local resident and chairman of the Broome County Republican Party, spoke on behalf of the Astorino/Moss campaign that he has work with for most of the year. Rob Astorino is running against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The running mate for Mr. Astorino is Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, an outspoken opponent of Gov. Cuomo’s NY Safe Act. Together they are trying to unseat an incumbent many believe is using the position of Governor as leverage for a run for President in 2016.

    Mr. Datta answered local residents questions on issues ranging from the impact of PAC’s and corporate donors supporting the incumbent, to media ads and the connection to elections, to issues far closer to residents and their pockets. One of the main items that Mr. Datta stressed was that ever vote matters. In a race with 19 million possible voters, it was explained that the final outcome is likely to be decided by some 2.5 million votes statewide. The cause of the massive reduction in votes? Voter apathy and lack of registering to vote. Yet, Mr. Datta pointed out that this means that the large pool of voters upstate could swing the vote.

    It should be noted that there are an estimated 5 million gun owners in New York State. Given this figure and the fact that 52 out of 62 Counties in New York created legislation in opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s signature legislation, the  NY Safe Act, the target of 2.5 million votes may well be surpassed. According to Assemblyman Bill Nojay’s comments early this year, the incumbent may not have the support of sheriffs or State Troopers.

    “If you don’t have the troopers and you don’t have the sheriffs, who have you got? You’ve got Andrew Cuomo pounding on the table in Albany.”

    But the discussion with Mr. Datta was not limited to just the repeal of the NY Safe Act. We had the opportunity to ask where Mr. Astorino stands on the controversial NY START-UP, a program that supports new companies entering NY State with a decade free of taxes, while offering no such benefit to existing companies. Further we asked what was the alternative that Mr. Astorino has to this and similar programs? The answer (which can be seen in full in the video below) was that Mr. Astorino opposes Government picking and choosing which private business to support or not. Mr. Astorino seeks to lower corporate and personal taxes as a means to spur business growth and raise New York from 50th place among states for business friendliness. Lastly, the issue of State regulations was addressed,

    “The other point Rob [Astorino] likes to make frequently is that there are 750,000 regulations in this state between local government, State government and so on. We put a freeze on that from day one, so no new regulations go into effect … and we toss out ones that don’t need to be there.”

    Ultimately the race for New York will be decided in November. At that time the public will learn if media ads, or contact with local residents, has won the day.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    Should illegal aliens be allowed to join US military? Because they are.

    By Michael Vass | September 27, 2014

     DREAM Act hopefuls

    Once again the consequences of the unilateral political ambitions of the White House have resulted in an outcome that the vast majority of Americans neither expected nor knew happened. Quietly, in 2009 the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program hit the ground. The MANVI program was scheduled to end September 30, 2014, but has just been extended. That extension included an expansion of the program few expected.

    The MANVI program was initially a pilot program to allow the military access to legal non-citizen residents that could provide skill sets vital to the military. An example of such a skill set was foreign language or professional medical skill. The program in many ways was similar to previous programs such as under the Lodge Act of 1950, to help with the Korean War effort or the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 that allowed Filipinos to enter the Navy until 1991. A key point of the original MANVI program was that it allowed only legal immigrants, a point that changed September 25, 2014.

    Due to the unilateral imposition of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) upon the nation, the MANVI program has now been modified to accept illegal aliens (or undocumented immigrants as they are referred to under DACA). It has been suggested that the change in requirements is part of a broader immigration reform policy to be enacted by President Obama, as stated by the Military Times,

    “The new DoD policy may be the first phase of a broader governmentwide effort to ease pressure on immigrants and create new paths to citizenship.”

    Whether or not this is the first step towards a path to citizenship, or some other aspect of the promised actions on immigration reform without the consent or authorization of Congress that President Obama has promised to enact after mid-term elections in November, remains to be seen. What is clear is that this move by the Department of Defense (DoD) has caught the attention of certain opponents and supporters of expanded rights for illegal aliens. Justin Vélez-Hagan, the founder of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, has stated,

    “I know enlisted people who are getting pushed out of the service right now. It’s hard [to deal with that] and at the same time have people who aren’t in the country legally [replace them].”

    In February 2014 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed to cut 80,000 Army troops and a fleet of Air Force fighter jets, reducing the military to the smallest size in 74 years. Still the impact of MANVI, with or without illegal aliens, is small. To be exact, the MANVI is capped at a total of 1,500 people in any given year that can access the program.

    There has been no word on the number of illegal aliens that would be allowed to fulfill that program cap, or if any additional restriction on illegal aliens that apply may have. Which has led supporters of DACA and granting expanded rights to illegal aliens to state, as Felipe Sousa Rodriguez, deputy managing director at United We Dream, did,

    “It’s really important that this does not become a new benchmark, where the administration believes that if it gives us a new benefit that only benefits very few people it will silence our demands.”

    Ultimately the final outcome of illegal aliens in the military may be resolved in November or shortly thereafter. President Obama will present the public with his immigration reform agenda. Congress (especially the House of Representatives) will weigh in on the potential Executive Branch overreach. An overreach that the Obama Administration expects may lead to impeachment proceedings. Then the public will voice its opinion in various polls. Political leaders on both sides of the issue will certainly take their cues from that.

    Presidential approval is currently at 41.3%, with both Republicans (56%) and Democrats (46%) being seen as not doing a good job on immigration reform.  If the new DoD policy is a test for the November announcement, changes in polling may well tailor how and what is presented after the mid-term elections. Either way the question remains, should illegal aliens be allowed to join the military as the DoD will now allow?

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    Is the FBI stacking the deck on gun violence and mass shooting stats?

    By Michael Vass | September 25, 2014

    ** With update from our article at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com**

    2nd Amendment

    The FBI release on Sept 24, 2014, a review of mass shootings from 2000 until 2013. The announcement has drawn a great deal of attention, especial from the supporters of gun restriction legislation. But the data deserves closer attention than the hype some have place on the statistics.

    In a brief overview, the FBI has determined that since 2000 there has been a trend of increase in mass shooting. There were 160 incidents in the 13 year period reviewed, with an average of 11.4 incidents per year. There were a total of 1,043 people that were either injured or killed as a result of these incidents. The FBI report does not include the shooters in the injured/killed data, and a mass shooting is defined as single events where 4 or more individuals were shot and/or killed.

    According to the report, in the last 7 years up to 2013, the number of mass shooting incidents increased vs. the prior 7 years – a total of 16.4 incidents per year vs. the previous 6.4 per year. This is a significant trend which many might find troubling. But there is a potential issue that arises from the data as well.

    A question that should be asked is why the timeframe of the report is from 2000 to 2013? The FBI has stated this was

    “To provide our law enforcement partners—normally the first responders on the scene of these dangerous and fast-moving events—with data that will help them to better prepare for and respond to these incidents, saving more lives and keeping themselves safer in the process.”

    This is of course a logical reason for the report. But why not a 10 year report? Why not 20 years? Or 15? 13 years is an odd figure that doesn’t fit easily into any planning systems that most law enforcement agencies plan out in 5 or 10 year periods. Why didn’t the FBI wait 2 years to make a 15 year study, or start the data review from 2 years earlier?

    In addition, the trend indicated is based on relatively short period compare to the totality of data available. According to our research in our article - How rampant are mass shootings, in 2013, the findings of Professor James Alan Fox, of Northwestern University, indicated

    Over the thirty-year time frame, an average of about 20 mass murders have occurred annually in the United States with an average death toll of about 100 per year.”

    This is important because Professor Fox used the same definition and criteria used by the FBI to come to his findings. The difference in results lies directly in the amount of time used to understand the trend. According to the FBI mass shootings are on the rise, but 30 year data indicates that the trend is in fact decreasing. This remains true even if only the most recent 7 year period is compared to the trend over 30 years.

    Based on this contradiction in facts (with the only factors differing are 3 years and the total range of data looked at), the query leads us back to the question asked previously why did the FBI pick 13 years and 7 years? One reason may be that the answer sought can only be attained if the data is organized in this manner. It’s an old political trick that very specific figures and data are quoted because it provides the answer/justification that suits the position of the politician quoting the data. The FBI would appear to be using the same trick.

    If this is the case, which would fall in line with the gun restriction position of the Obama Administration, then it is a manipulation of facts to serve a political end. If this is the case this would be tantamount to lying to the public. Clarification from the FBI on why such an exclusive data set was used, or why a more complete statistic based on the 33 year data trend available was not included, needs to be determined.

    Over the past 13 years fewer mass shooting (by 8.6 incidents/year) and fewer injuries and murders as a result of these shootings (by 20 people/year) than is the 30 year historical average have occurred. That decrease in gun violence includes, and remains true, if only the past 7 years is considered. This is without gun restriction legislation promoted by Gov. Cuomo (a 2011 NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services report indicated the second lowest rate of firearm violence in a decade), President Obama and VP Joe Biden. But this will not reach the headlines of any of the major media – even though it is supported by facts omitted by the most recent FBI report.

    The conclusion would seem to be that the FBI, for the benefit of a specific political agenda, has packaged a set of statistics that appear to imply an outcome not supported by a review of the totality of available data. The consequence of course will be a renewed effort to restrict assault weapons and impede the 2nd Amendment. It will likely also stimulate the continued backdoor effort to revoke gun permits and ownership via National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS), H Amd 704, and HR 4660 (as we noted in our article – House of Representatives passes Bill, enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right).

    **Update – as predicted, as of this repost, there is no major news media outlet that we are aware of that have reviewed/noted or even acknowledged that statistics for mass shootings exist since 1980. Also, none of the major media questioned why the FBI presented the data with the odd timeframe, or the short-term trend figures isolated from the long-term reduction in mass shootings.**

    Rating 3.50 out of 5

    In with the new out with the old, is that good for NY State?

    By Michael Vass | September 24, 2014

    PepsiCo logo

    It has long been said that New York State is a difficult State. High taxes, cold winters, plus an exodus of jobs and  population have combined to devastating effect. For 50 years New York has lost businesses and population to other States, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to create START-UP NY. The concept was to draw new businesses to the State with tax exemption, but the plan may not be as well thought out as it was hoped to be.

    An example of the benefit, and consequences, of START-UP NY and the continuation of high tax rates can be found in Binghamton, NY. It was once a thriving city home to manufacturers located in the Southern Tier of the State. It is now saddled with 6.7% unemployment (preliminary July 2014) – which exceeds the unemployment rate of the State. But the problem is growing.

    On July 29, 2014, it was celebrated news that 5 businesses were coming to Binghamton. Less celebrated was the fact that the total number of jobs to be created were 80. Also generally unmentioned was the fact that these 5 business start-ups will not pay taxes in the State of New York for 10 years. Gov. Cuomo took the opportunity to highlight the program responsible, START-UP NY. He stated at the time,

    “Governor Cuomo called it a “game-changing move” in regard to NY State’s business climate.”

    Another part of the “game-changing move” was publicly announced September 23, 2014. PepsiCo released the news that it will close its beverage storehouse in November. The number of long-term jobs lost may be as high as 74. Add to this the $610,000 in 2014 that may be lost from the assessment on PepsiCo’s building in Binghamton, NY. PepsiCo has not yet announced its plans for the soon to be vacant building. Six years earlier Coca-Cola had closed its Binghamton location.

    The cause of the loss of PepsiCo? Economic reasons was stated in the NY Department of Labor filing. New York ranks 50th in business friendliness, with personal, property, business, sales and unemployment insurance taxes all ranked among the worst half of all States. A situation that has persisted for years. Binghamton alone has lost 9,700 businesses since 2009 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Gov. Cuomo believes that 5 start-up companies, some in the unproven fields of energy storage and others in the crowded field of Wi-Fi, will change the game for Binghamton, and New York.

    Success can be difficult to measure in some cases. Success for a business is usually profits, and potentially growth. Success for a State is in part higher revenues due to taxes on growth and profits. Binghamton is the high-stakes bet of Gov. Cuomo that losing taxes will result in new business growth even as established business departs with its history of jobs and taxes.

    The future is unknown. Yet, the strategy to give up on older established businesses to accommodate unproven new companies is controversial, at best. To date it has yet to improve the business friendliness of New York, and evidently has not stopped the outward flow of business from New York.

    Thus questions should be asked of Gov. Cuomo. Since START-UP NY has had minimal impact on jobs, but a bigger long-term tax footprint that affects all of New York, isn’t it time to adjust the strategy? Perhaps some effort to lower taxes and/or the over abundant number of regulations (that combined have consistently keep New York at the lowest ranks of business friendliness) could spur job growth and nudge NY from the bottom of the rankings? These are questions that Gov. Cuomo seems unwilling to address.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    And the kindara (shoe) drops…

    By Michael Vass | September 19, 2014

    With the approval from the House of Representatives on Wednesday, and the Senate on September 18, 2014, for the Obama Administration plan to arm Syrian rebels attention has now focused on who are the Syrian rebels. One of the key names mentioned, for the first time by a US official, by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is the Khorasan Group. A name that goes directly to the fears of arming Syrian rebels.

    As previously discussed, Islamic State (ISIS) was a fringe terrorist organization that gained a resurgence due to the Syrian civil war. In part, that resurgence is due to confiscation of arms and resources from the US. Those arms were meant for moderate anti-Assad forces in Syria, but have since been used in ISIS attempt to sweep through Iraq.

    As stated by Secretary of State John Kerry, to Senator Bob Corker, on the question of what Arab nation will put boots on the ground as part of President Obama’s coalition to fight ISIS,

    “At this moment, no country has been ask to put boots on the ground, or no country is talking of it, and we don’t think it’s a good idea right now. There is no discussion of that at this moment.”- @ 2:49 in the video above

    Yet as stated by Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to the House Intelligence Committee on September 18, 2014,

    “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility. We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”

    Thus with the lack of any foreign nation willing to apply necessary ground forces to the effort to defeat ISIS, including the US, President Obama turned to the Syrian rebels to provide the ground troops needed. Still, the main fear that has withheld arming these groups, since the proposal in 2013, has been that control over who receives the arms could not be guaranteed. The thought is that arming another, potential worse, threat will only cause the situation to continue under a new black hat.

    That’s where Khorasan Group comes in. Khorasan is made up of veteran fighters from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe. Reports as recent as July 2014 have shown that Khorasan Group has been key in torture and interrogations on behalf of other militant groups that have occupied Northern Pakistan- just southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.

     As reported by Bob Orr of CBS News, Khorasan

    “… is focused on trying to build bombs capable of being sneaked onto airliners, and finding the Western jihadists in Syria who could try and carry them.”

    This makes them a more immediate threat to the US, as has been reported. Yet military action as proposed so far ignores their presence. The very real concern is that attempts to arm moderate anti-Assad Syrian rebels will inevitably arm Khorasan or similar groups.

    Considering the lack of detailed planning, the refusal and objection of all coalition members to provide essential ground troops, and the proven record of arms and supplies targeted for moderate Syrian rebels instead reaching anti-Assad forces that are equally anti-western nations (especially the US), the overview by Jon Stewart may best describe the situation,

    “…the Obama Administration would like us to do the right thing in as chaotic and confused a way as possible.”

    Rating 3.50 out of 5

    Time for the plan C in Iraq

    By Michael Vass | September 19, 2014

    ** as originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz – with added updates**

    Map of Syria and Iraq and influence of forces

    The appearance of ISIS in Iraq, and the horrific actions taken against innocent American and British citizens, has resulted in a rollercoaster ride of political and military actions. With a 273-156 vote in the House of Representatives on Sept 17,2017 (and approval by the Senate 78-22 the next day), the stage is set for even more twists and turns in the near term.

    The terrorist group known as Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) existed before Al Qaeda and has been in resurgence for years. One of the key groups involved in the civil war in Syria, they were feared to have been part of the anti-American forces that have commandeered resources targeted for more moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Those fears were realized as throughout the year ISIS invaded and took control of numerous cities in Iraq, almost taking control of Baghdad by the time the US attention focused on them.

    Once aware of the threat from ISIS, President Obama authorized humanitarian aid for the Yazidis ethnic group targeted by ISIS. In addition drone bombings were started to impede the spread of this group in Iraq. Which led to the beheading of 2 American citizens and 1 British citizen. International outrage followed.

    This culminated in a national address by President Obama on September 10th. In that address President Obama announced efforts to remove the threat of ISIS, via aerial attacks and a coalition of nations – especially nations in the Middle East. The success of the coalition has been mixed, as 30 nations agreed to varying degrees of outrage, some offered support and combat air forces, but none were willing to provide ground troops (further confirmed by Secretary John Kerry). President Obama has already pledged that no US combat troops would be on the ground in Iraq to fend off ISIS.

    This in turn led to various parts of the Obama Administration to state America is either at war, or not at war, with ISIS – or to the degree that America is at war with Al Qaeda. The matter was further obfuscated when General Martin Dempsey stated that there is a likelihood that US troops will be needed to fight ISIS on the ground in Iraq.

    “…I believe that will prove true but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that we include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

    A statement that was quickly walked back by the Obama Administration. Yet this outcome seems to be the pivotal factor in coalition troops taking a stand on the ground behind US leadership. Even Iran has noted that “[ISIS] will not be eradicated by aerial bombardments.”

    With the need for ground forces to directly confront ISIS, and a lack of any national body willing to provide front-line troops, President Obama turned toward to his political adversaries in Congress for support. The plan is to supply moderate Syrian anti-Assad forces with the means to take on ISIS. A plan that was described by Rep. Charlie Dent of PA as

    “We’re sort of in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.”

    So in summation, the US supplied weapons and funds to Syrian rebels (plan A), which helped strengthen ISIS not only in Syria but also Iraq. ISIS then swept through Iraq, causing the US to bomb them (Plan B), which garnered the beheading of innocent citizens. A rightly angered US called on the international community to remove the threat of ISIS, which resulted in near complete agreement without the conviction to actual take concrete steps to remove ISIS. This vacuum of leadership and strategy, in part, motivated the House of Representatives (a Republican majority) to approve once again arming Syrian rebels to take on what was originally Syrian rebels (Plan C).

    As circular as the actions may seem it is not new strategy for the Middle East. Nor is the pattern of a regional conflict expanding and thus fueling the next round of fighters an uncommon historical situation to the Middle East. But this just blurs the fact that at its core, the world is apparently waiting for the US to take the lead that it is remiss in doing. The odds of an new global threat appearing within the next 10 years, with its inception from a global coalition, seem too probable to even contemplate.

    One would only hope that the cycle of Wyle E. Coyote international policy will end before Plan D springs upon us.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5

    President Obama’s international coalition floundering

    By Michael Vass | September 14, 2014

    2003 BBC map

    BBC map of potential Iraq coalition allies from 2003 mirrors 2014

    In very familiar wording, on September 10, 2014, President Obama told the nation that a key component to fighting Islamic terrorist group ISIS will be a coalition of nations supporting US efforts. Also critical in that national address was the promise that American combat troops would not set foot in Iraq. It was stated that several hundred non-combat troops are either in or on their way to Iraq to help that nation’s infrastructure defenses.

    So far the staunchest allies of the United States have stepped forward. Australia has offered 600 troops and 10 planes. None are combat troops. England, which recently had one of its citizens beheaded, has made a clear statement of supporting the US coalition. That support so far has not equated to joint airstrikes,  and has clearly emphasized a lack of combat troops. But British Prime Minister David Cameron was clear on the resolve of the British people on Sunday  Sept 14,2014,

    “Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL [ISIS] and what it stands for. We will do so in a calm and deliberate way, but with an iron determination.” -

    The call for coalition has also been raised with several Middle East nations. Egypt has stated that they support the US call for coalition. Egypt for its part though has offered neither combat nor support troops and planes. Turkey has followed Egypt in inaction, but the ramifications are far deeper.

    Turkey is believed to have backed ISIS in its early stages. This tacit support allowed ISIS to engage Syrian forces that are not supported by Turkey. That implied support from Turkey may have changed when 49 Turkish hostages were taken by ISIS, further complicating the matter. Whatever the reasons though, Turkey has not committed troops, has not condemned ISIS, and will not allow NATO troops to use airbases or staging areas in the nation.

    The summation of this brings with it a question. If Middle East nations are only willing to provide lip service to the US-led coalition, and the most ardent allies of America are not willing to have troops put a foot on the ground, how is ISIS supposed to be thwarted? As awesome and powerful as airstrikes may be, even the most rudimentary military strategist will note that airpower cannot take or hold ground positions. With all sides unwilling to commit combat troops, and the general agreement that Iraqi forces are not up to the task, the focus comes back to the US for leadership. A leadership that is needed to prevent a predictable outcome, as stated by Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army,

    “If we don’t confront and destroy these Islamic State Jihadi fighters then their influence will grow, their confidence will grow and the problem will get bigger.”

    Thus, once again, the world is looking to America to place the majority of combat troops on Iraqi soil to take the brunt of the battle with ISIS. A prospect that is unlikely to change even after President Obama speaks to the UN Security Council. A prospect that will once again place President Obama in the unwelcome spot of either having directly lied to the American people or allowing a problem for the nation to grow.

    Rating 3.00 out of 5