Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hyperbole on Obama's Seemingly Condraditory Stands on Hondruas and Irant

I think Andy McCarthy at The National Review deserves the award for going off the deep end for this comment he posted on the magazine's blog.

The link is provided but here is the post in its entirety Note the high-lighted words (my emphasis):

"Call me thick, but I continue to be baffled by a lot of the commentary, cited by Rich and others, which gives as the rationale for President Obama's diffidence his purported determination to preserve the opportunity to negotiate with the mullahs on their nuclear program. Obama is resigned to Iran getting nukes (perhaps even having them already) and has no intention of doing anything meaningful about it.

The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society. In this he is no different from his allies like the Congressional Black Caucus and Bill Ayers, who have shown themselves perfectly comfortable with Castro and Chàvez. Indeed, he is the product of a hard-Left tradition that apologized for Stalin and was more comfortable with the Soviets than the anti-Communists (and that, in Soros parlance, saw George Bush as a bigger terrorist than bin Laden).

Because of obvious divergences (inequality for women and non-Muslims, hatred of homosexuals) radical Islam and radical Leftism are commonly mistaken to be incompatible. In fact, they have much more in common than not, especially when it comes to suppression of freedom, intrusiveness in all aspects of life, notions of "social justice," and their economic programs. (On this, as in so many other things, Anthony Daniels should be required reading — see his incisive New English Review essay, "There Is No God but Politics", comparing Marx and Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb.) The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated — "equal rights" and "social justice" are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies.

The key to understanding Obama, on Iran as on other matters, is that he is a power-politician of the hard Left : He is steeped in Leftist ideology, fueled in anger and resentment over what he chooses to see in America's history, but a "pragmatist" in the sense that where ideology and power collide (as they are apt to do when your ideology becomes less popular the more people understand it), Obama will always give ground on ideology (as little as circumstances allow) in order to maintain his grip on power.

It would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs, so Obama's instinct was to do the next best thing: to say nothing supportive of the freedom fighters. As this position became increasingly untenable politically, and as Democrats became nervous that his silence would become a winning political round for Republicans, he was moved grudgingly to burble a mild censure of the mullah's "unjust" repression — on the order of describing a maiming as a regrettable "assault," though enough for the Obamedia to give him cover. But expect him to remain restrained and to continue grossly understating the Iranian regime's deadly response. That will change only if, unexpectedly, it appears that the freedom-fighters may win, at which point he'll scoot over to the right side of history and take all conceivable credit.

I think Victor had this right on Saturday: "Obama is almost more at ease with virulent anti-Westerners, whose grievances Obama has long studied (and perhaps in large part entertained)," (though I'd have omitted the "almost"). Mark Steyn made the same point in a post last week (about a Robert Kagan column that Pete Wehner also discussed).

It's a mistake to perceive this as "weakness" in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters' side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn't done that, and he won't. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely. That's not weakness, it's strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us."

Wow. I don't know if this even merits a thoughtful response.

Oh wait. It would help if Andy McCarthy followed this link from Andrew Sullivan's blog. Zelaya is the internationally-recognized head of state for Honduras. Mousavi in Iran was not.

Sixty Votes

Now that former Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) belatedly conceded after losing a legal challenge in a unanimous decision issued by Minnesota's Supreme Court, the Democratic Party is running out of excuses. Should Senators Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy return to vote in the fall, President Barack Obama and the Democrats in the senate should have the votes to override any Republican filibuster and they should have the votes to pass the bulk of and the most significant if not all of the progressive agenda items they ran on. The Republicans can no longer block any legislation unless some Democrats join them.

Sanford Crossing the Line

I don't want to imagine what Governor Mark Sanford means when he says he "crossed lines" with multiple women though he didn't go as far as he did with them that he did with Maria Belen Chapur. Is he telling us that he "made it to first or second" but not "third base" with these women or is he saying he he fell in love with Chapur while treating the others as sex objects. Were they prostitutes?

Who knows? but this story is getting weirder and weirder and Mrs. Jenny Sanford must be getting angrier and angrier as he publicly discloses these details concerning his sexual trysts.

Oddly enough he invoked God as his excuse for staying in the senate. I don't know how this governor who cheated on his wife and risked his family income on potential child support (should he have impregnated his mistress and sex objects) while condemning others for violating conservative sexual mores could invoke God.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Krauthammer's Search for a Hero

"Iran today is a revolution in search of its Yeltsin. Without leadership, demonstrators will take to the street only so many times to face tear gas, batons and bullets. They need a leader like Boris Yeltsin: a former establishment figure with newly revolutionary credentials and legitimacy, who stands on a tank and gives the opposition direction by calling for the unthinkable -- the abolition of the old political order." - Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post

Um. He might have thought about this before he urged our president to side with the revolutionaries.

Unless of course, he doesn't care if the president eggs the Iranian protesters on to their own slaughter like sheep. President Barack Obama said he didn't know what the end result would be and he knew that whatever hope they had relied upon our silence. Why don't the neoconservatives care about the facts on the ground?

And no. Whether the president goofed up by noting the similarities between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad or not, his assessment didn't undercut the rebellion. Large protests were were held after the president made those comments. Large protests were held before the president spoke and they were held after the president spoke. They dwindled in size after the "Supreme Leader" declared all of those who continued to protest "enemies of the state."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Happened today.

in Iran? Michael Jackson. in North Korea? Michael Jackson. in South Carolina? Michael Jackson. In Washington? Michael Jackson. in California?. Michael Jackson.

Jenny Sanford the Feminist

When Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) delivered his mea culpa, his wife Jenny Sanford wasn't paraded out for all to see. She didn't make Sanford's betrayal more forgivable by standing by his side. She didn't want him to let him portray himself as a family man. She left him standing alone with the aides who unwittingly lied to him.

No. She stayed a way from the press conference and shortly after, she issued a press statement, asserting that she threw the governor out of the house. Contrast that with the reaction we typically see when a prominent public official admits to having an affair. We usually see both, the offending public official and the victimized spouse standing next to each other, giving everyone who is watching the false impression that everything will be all right. The offending public official renewed apologized to his or her spouse and the two have renewed their vows to each other.

Dana Matos McGreevey and Suzanne Thompson stodd by their men (former Governor James McGreevey and former Senator Larry Craig) after they were caught cheating on them with another man. Governor James McGreevey was involved in an intimate relationship with an Israeli national whom he subsequently appointed to head Homeland Security. His nomination fell through. Senator Larry Craig plead guilty to lesser charges after an undercover police officer charged him for soliciting sexual favors in a public airport men's bathroom. Wendy Baldwin Vitter and Silda Alice Wall Spitzer stood by their husbands (Senator David Vitter and NY Governor Eliot Spitzer) after they publicly admitted that they paid for sex.

Though she did not stand by her husband's side, Secretary of State (then First Lady) Clinton said she forgave then President Bill Clinton and vociferously defended her husband from the Republicans and Ken Starr. The first Lady who undeservedly was criticized for saying she didn't want to just "bake cookies" could not bring herself to walk away from their relationship.

One would have hoped that a wife would not stand by her cheating husband when his philandering is made public. That such a wife, having been humiliated through now fault of her own, would not participate in this facade that all is well, that the husband has retunred and still believes in family values.

Mrs. Jenny Sanford, however, had none of it. She would not provide her husband with whatever political cover he might have sought. She wouldn't behave like the obedient housewife who submits to her husband. She let those who watched the press conference know that a wife need not stand by the one who breaks his vows, and reminded her husband that he too, had to live up to her responsibilities, and that one who does not forfeits the right to expect such loyalty from the offended party.

one could hope that she is starting a trend.

Sanford: Reimbursements

Yep. There's more and tough the governor gets a reprieve for tonight new revelations could always shift the spot light back on him.

The governor's promise to reimburse the state for his trip should not absolve the state from conducting an investigation into the governor's use of state funds. As one legislator from his own party noted, he might have used the meetings as an excuse to visit his mistress.

Court: Protection from Strip Searches in School

Wow. I'm pleasantly surprised since the questioning during oral argument suggested a lop-sided victory in the other direction. There really should be no strip searches in public schools. I wonder what turned them around to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's way of thinking. She had her work cut out for her.

Justice Clarence Thoma was the sole dissenter and I have a slippery slope question for those who would take his side. Would a school, using his reasoning (ahem) be prohibited from conducting a cavity search?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Olbermann on Sanford

I don't think anyone can top Keith Olbermann's Mark Sanford coverage. Watch it until it is no longer funny - if that is possible.

Governor Sanford

Many considered Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) was considered one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, one who might one day run for the party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

Today however, the governor, who aligned himself with the ayatollah (socially/religiously) conservative wing of the Republican Party, admitted that he had been involved in a one-year sexual relationship with a woman who lives in Argentina.

I feel no sorrow for the man since he used the bully pulpit to defend "family values," and in the process demean gay people. He told people how they should live and then broke those same rules. People who live in glasses, as he did, shouldn't throw stones. He did and now the governor's house is broken. I'm only sorry there were no photos. Wouldn't it be something if his boys' teachers showed them a newspaper with the governor performing the act and asked them whether South Carolina's gay marriage ban saved his marriage? It might be cruel but the children would get the point.


"You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night’s light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details ...

- to be found in Sanford's upcoming book "Sanford's Choice"

Illegal Immigrants Get NY Times' Sympathy

yet again.

Democrats keep saying they don't have the votes to pass gay rights legislation or health care that includes the public option. I hope they are wrong on those counts but one area where they have said nothing but where I really pray (and this is coming from an agnostic) they don't have the votes for is legislation making it easier for illegal immigrants currently living in this country to assimilate. If anything we should be making it harder for them to stay in this country and doing everything we can to discourage future transgressors from sneaking across the border.

The editorial writers say we should help them out because, they came here through no fault of their own:

"These students came here as minors, hitched to their parents’ aspirations for a better life."

Quite true, but they are now adults and they now have a choice to either respect our customs, leave, and re-enter this country the legal way or defy our legal system by rallying for special treatment. And as far as their "parents' aspirations" are concerned too bad for them. They had a choice. Apply for residency and wait until they were invited into this country or risk their and their child's future by coming in without state approval.

"They," The New York Times writers claim," seemed incredulous that a message they grew up with — work hard, stay in school, study and you will succeed — does not apply to them." Oh it but it would have applied to them. There's just one small but significant requirement the writers forgot to mention. You have to follow the rules in order to get ahead as well. Work hard and follow the rules.

I have no sympathy for those who break the rules and I spare none from those who benefit from the those who broke the rules for them. Why do you ask? Because there are too many people who, even though they are starving to death in third world waste-lands like Bangladesh or Somalia who make do with what they have. And because there are too many people who apply for asylum from oppressive regimes (China, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Zaire, and Zimbabwe), then wait years in UN-designated refugee camps before their applications are approved.

There is something patently unfair about rewarding those who step ahead of the line while those who work hard and play by the rules, rot either in their home countries or in refugee camps.

Conservatives Defending the President's Strategy on Iran

"To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous. The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week. John McCain and others went quite crazy insisting President Obama declare whose side America was on, as if the world doesn't know whose side America is on." - Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal

"Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough on Monday's show.

George Will during Sunday's "This Week" roundtable."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama's Stronger Statement on Iran

President Barack Obama strongly condemned the "unjust actions" the Iranian government is using to suppress the protesters marching in the streets. "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days," he said in his opening remarks to a press conference held today. "I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost."

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, attributed Obama's escalating rhetoric to the evolving facts on the ground when he was interviewed by Chris Matthews on "Hardball." He noted that the president had spoken up for the right of the Iranian people to peaceably assemble as soon as Iran's election results were officially announced. The president himself, noted his words of caution to the theocratic regime in his response to Major Garrett of the FOX News Channel.

From the very beginning the president's response to the Iranian election results were remarkably restrained. He, like most Americans, obviously hoped Iranians would vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ouster. The president wants to negotiate with the Iranians and though he has promised to negotiate with the eventual winner, whoever it was, no one believes Ahmadinejad was going to behave as a genuine negotiating partner.

However, the president noted that we have a complicated relationship with the Iranians. We had, after all, overthrown Iran's democratically-elected government in 1953 at our British allies' urging in order to safeguard access to that country's oil supply. Then we backed the Iraqis when it, then ruled by the late Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran in 1980.

Had we forcefully called for the Iranian government's ouster, as some of the president's Republican critics have suggested, we'd undercut the Iranian protesters' legitimacy by giving the regime the excuse they need to brand its critics Western plants.

Iran's theocratic ruling class has, no doubt has already blamed us for meddling in Iran's domestic affairs. Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's Supreme Leader, has denounced the Western Powers, and the United Kingdom in particular, for interfering in Iran's domestic ongoing political dispute.

But these accusations had not swayed the Iranian public behind the ruling class because they are not believable. No western power has invaded Iran and no western power, as of yet, imposed economically-crippling sanctions designed to lead to the government's ouster. In other words, we have given the Iranian public no reason to believe in their government's claims.

The president wisely ignored demands for economic sanctions and, up to now, escalating rhetoric designed to pressure the Iranian regime into calling for new elections. He did not know, at the time in which Iranians first marched on Tehran's streets, whether the protesters would succeed or fail. He did not know whether Iran's "Supreme Leader" would back President Ahmadinejad when he addressed his people during last Friday's prayers, call for a recount (statewide or not), or call for a new election. Nor did he know how the protesters would react as soon as the Supreme Leader spoke.

Protesting Ahmadinejad, after all is one thing. Protesting the Supreme Leader's decision is quite another. The former calls into question the election results, the other their faith in the system writ large.

On Saturday we got an answer. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Iranians marched in Tehran's streets. But tens of thousands it not hundreds of thousands. And since hundreds of thousands turned out earlier in the week, turnout over the weekend was comparably light. One could say, though perhaps too hastily, at that point, that the revolution was losing steam. The rallies held earlier last week were organized in advance. Those held on the weekend were not. On Thursday we'll see if opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh's call for a general strike is a success and, perhaps consequently, whether the opposition has regained the momentum.

Today, as noted above, the president's rhetoric, perhaps regrettably, was stronger than it was previous occasions when he was asked to speak about Iran's election dispute. And as I have noted before this can be attributed in part to the escalation in violence and in part to the Republicans' accusation that the president's prior responses were "timid and weak" when compared to the responses issued by our British, French, and German counterparts. Some conservatives have, most notably MSNBC morning talk show host Joe Scarborough, Wall Street journal columnist Peggy Noonan, and ABC News commentator and The Washington Post columnist George F. Will (on "This Week", have defended the president.

He did, however, wisely, adamantly deny the Iranian regime's claim that we are somehow meddling in its domestic affairs. "I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs," the president said.

"The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the elections.

These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders.

This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose."

Having escalated the rhetoric against Iran's regime, nothing less than an equally forceful rejection of calls for interference would have sufficed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Khomeini: United States Not the Great Satan After All

The Republicans may be criticizing President Barack Obama because he has not, in their opinion, sided with the Iranian protesters forcefully enough but his low key approach may be paying off in unexpected ways. In his speech threatening the dissidents with bloodshed should they march in the streets again, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini blamed the Western Powers (the United States included) for interfering in their internal political affairs. This was to be expected. Iran's "Supreme Leader" blames the west (and/or the "Zionist Jews") for the world's problems and they think it is an effective way to rally the public to his side.

We did, after all, have two run-ins with the Iranians of unequal moral standing. In 1953 we overthrew Iran's democratically-elected government. This action was designed to secure Iran's oil for the United States at a time in which the United States and the now defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were vying for the world's natural resources.

The second concerned the haplessly exercised but justifiable attempt to rescue the American hostages seized by Iran's theocratic revolutionaries. Neither action endeared us with the Iranian regime.

Khomeini, however, did not refer to us as the "Great Satan." Yesterday Khomeini focused his ire on the British. Khomeini may be using the poor Iranians' anti-British sentiments to rally support around the regime but it may also, as noted in the article, reflect his desire to negotiate with our president. If Khomeini had no desire to work with us, he'd have no problem burning his bridges.

Oh, and as promised, Chris Matthew's interview with Senator Saxby "Iranians are ignorant bastards" Chambliss.

But when the Republicans try to demagogue their way back into power by making President Barack Obama appear weak on terrorism and human rights we should ask them what they would do once the crackdown begins. They want a rebellion and they say they want the president to back it. How? Merely with words? What happens when the tyrants from Tehran slaughter the protesters? Would they have us bomb Iran into submission or would we send the American troops to rescue fleeing protesters? Would we offer them asylum?

If we push for the uprising then we eventually will come to own it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saxby Chambliss on Iran

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) is one of the Republicans who is criticizing President Barack Obama because he isn't vocal enough in expressing his displeasure with the way Iran's presidential elections were supposedly rigged.

Today on "Hardball" Senator Chambliss reiterated his argument and then said something that I could not believe anyone would say. When pressed by MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews whether such outspoken criticism from President Barack Obama would rally Iranians behind incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad given this country's role in overturning a democratically-elected government in 1953, the senator dismissed those fears by suggesting, yes, you heard it on the show and then here, that the protesters wouldn't know about their country's history.

Did the senator not hear of textbooks? Would not Iranian students lean about their nation's history? We do. Nearly every American who is paying attention in class learns about the American Revolution, the War of 1812, our fight with the Barbary Pirates, the American Civil War and Reconstruction in the South, the Great Depression, the New Deal, our involvement in both World Wars, communism, suburbanization, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the sexual revolution, the hippies, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the race into space, detente with China, Watergate, and the Cold War in general. We didn't all live in these times we studied but we know something, albeit not the complete history of, all of it.

And whether that history is completely accurate or not we believe there is at least some truth behind it. The same logic holds for the Iranians now protesting in Tehran. They may not have lived in the 1950s and they may not (particularly since they live in a theocratic country) understand why we overthrew their democratically elected government and if they had known they might not have cared. Whether we did so for defensive, imperialistic or both, they probably would have objected to the coup d'etat had they been around.

Expect the link sometime after the transcripts are provided.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

President's Measured Tone on Iran

Some Republicans are beginning to criticize President Barack Obama for, it is alleged, his failure to condemn the Iranian regime for upholding what Republicans assert fraudulent elections results.

When the Iranians went to the polls this Sunday, many pollsters were expecting an upset. Mir-Houssein Mousavi, himself a former Iranian prime minister, was closing the gap on incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's lead with the most recent polls suggesting neither would garner the 51% of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. Both candidates declared victory shortly after the polls closed but when the incumbent was declared the winner, Mousavi's supporters took to the streets, asserting voting irregularities and fraud.

Our president has reacted with restraint. President Barack Obama expressed his concerns regarding the Iranian regime's crackdown on dissidents (7 protesters have died) while prudently refusing to side with either party's claim to power. The president knows that he eventually will have to negotiate with the eventual winner over the country's nuclear program, the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a stabilization plan for Iraq, so he did not want to and squander any good will he might have by backing the losing party. He also knows that he could undermine the reformers by endorsing their candidate. President Ahmadinejad could always use our support for Mousavi against him by suggesting that he was an American puppet.

His critics are having none of this. US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), his Republican opponent in the general election, said he should speak out against this "corrupt, fraud sham of an election." Speaking out would do nothing and it may be counterproductive. Since we aren't the ones counting the ballots we cannot say, for sure, whether fraud occurred and if so, whether it was the contributing factor to the incumbent's victory. We are not, after all, counting Iran's ballots. In either case, staking the president's diplomatic credibility on this disputed election makes no sense when the Supreme Leader, and not the president, makes the important diplomatic calls.

The president has not, in his efforts to strike a balance, avoided the concerns regarding Iran's crackdown. He spoke of the right to dissent, free and fair elections, and free speech but by limiting his objections to the government's reaction to the protests he avoided the risk of offending his potential negotiating partner.

Obama on North Korea

President Barack Obama on North Korea

Another Puritanical Hypocrite

admits to an affair.

He defended straight couples' who are married from the fear that their loved one would dump them and marry a member of the same-sex once gay marriages were recognized but couldn't defend his marriage from an affair. Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Bill Clinton (he did sign the ahem, "Defense of Marriage Act" into law), Gary Condit (for condemning Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky), David Vitter, Larry Craig and now Bob Ensign. Did I leave anyone out?


Note that he is admitting to this while the protests in Iran continue. I guess he didn't want the media to devote 24 hour news coverage to this scandal.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dean on Rachel Maddow

blames the wrong person for DOMA. Hint, it wasn't Karl Rove who is to blame for this one.

Try then President William Jefferson Clinton.
"To say it as plainly as I can, health care reform is the single most important thing we can do for America's long-term fiscal health. That is a fact." - President Barack Obama in his speech before the American Medical Association

"Each time an uninsured American steps foot into an emergency room with no way to reimburse the hospital for care, the cost is handed over to every American family as a bill of about $1,000 that is reflected in higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher health care costs; a hidden tax that will be cut as we insure all Americans. And as we insure every young and healthy American, it will spread out risk for insurance companies, further reducing costs for everyone. ...

... But alongside these economic arguments, there is another, more powerful one. It is simply this: We are not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women, and children. We are not a nation that lets hardworking families go without the coverage they deserve; or turns its back on those in need. We are a nation that cares for its citizens. We are a people who look out for one another. That is what makes this the United States of America."
- President Barack Obama in his speech before the American Medical Association

Obama's audience reacted positively to this line:

"Insurance companies have expressed support for the idea of covering the uninsured – and I welcome their willingness to engage constructively in the reform debate. But what I refuse to do is simply create a system where insurance companies have more customers on Uncle Sam's dime, but still fail to meet their responsibilities. That is why we need to end the practice of denying coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions. The days of cherry-picking who to cover and who to deny – those days are over."

Pretty good speech.

Where he sees saving costs?

generic as opposed to brand-name drugs

changes in Medicare fund reimbursements so that payment is tied to quality care so
fewer stays requiring reimbursement

focus on preventive care so fewer hospital stays

electronic medical records to reduce paperwork

competitive bidding in Medicare Advantage

reducing hospital funding as more people are covered for insurance

Iran Election Rsults

Most media coverage concerning Iran has focused on the swing towards the "moderate" and the clamor for change coming from young, educated Iranians. Polls leading up to the election suggested an upset with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad losing in a close election. Then, when his margin of victory was announced, his opponents took to the streets, claiming fraud. Most observers (by that I mean the reporters) believe them, particularly since the results were announced 2 hours after the polls closed and because he won in his opponents' back yard.

They may be right. I think they are right. No one can ignore the massive protests in Tehran. Iran's president does have the weight of the government bureaucracy behind him. But they may, I'm afraid to say, be wrong. Kudos then go to The Washington Post, which though it is no friend of the current president, published this op-ed suggesting that vote margin properly and frighteningly I might add, match the will of the people, as measured by their poll.

This poll obviously may not reflect the attitudes of the Iranian people. People on the streets, fearing for their own safety, might lie to the pollsters and even if it is accurate it merely reflected the attitude the polled Iranians had at the time, and not how they felt when they showed up at the polls.

Their poll's disputed accuracy, however, should have no bearing on how the Iranian government treats its dissenters.

As to what our president should do?

Virtually nothing in public. There might be a backlash. We don't want to give Ahmadinejad a rallying point. If we sit this one out the Iranians in Tehran might carry this through to its logical conclusion and overthrow the Mullahs. If they fail or if they don't go that far, and we supported them, we look bad and the Mullahs can always rely on nationalist-driven anti-American imperialism to sustain their hold on power.

Financial Regulation

The president's financial team promises tougher regulation. I certainly hope they can deliver. Tougher oversight is definitely needed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Obama's Fierce Advocacy for Nothing

"We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?" by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry

perhaps "fierce advocacy."

Obama said he is a "fierce advocate" for gay marriage. Well, so far he has proven to be neither "fierce" nor an "advocate."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hate Crimes Amendment

It amazes me to no end that that the Democrats cannot pass a stand-alone hate crimes bill when they have a 59-seat (soon to be 60-seat) majority in the Senate and a larger margin in the House.

This is the most tepid and least effective (but by no means does that suggest it is unimportant or useless) measures gay rights groups are advocating for. If they cannot deliver on this piece of legislation what can they deliver on and why, if they can't deliver on their promises, should we donate any money to their campaigns ever again?

So now they are going to attach it to another piece of legislation. Fine. As long as it passes and is signed by the president I will be satisfied. But why, I ask must it be attached to such legislation? The Lily Ledbetter Act wasn't passed as an amendment to another bill. Why are they embarrassed whenever the issue concerns the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans?

I think we should issue an ultimatum to these weak-kneed Democrats. They must pass (and have signed into law) two gay rights measures in time for the midterm elections. If they do not, we'll run our own slate of primary challengers (or failing that), refuse to donate to the incumbents' campaigns.

Dear weak-kneed Democrats,

Give us the Matthew Shepard Act and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act if you do not have the courage to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or the misnamed "Defense of Marriage Act" and if they lack the empathy to pass the the Uniting American Families Act. There should be no reason why, in this day and age, a person can be fired, demoted or passed over for a promotion just because he or she is gay. This isn't about "special rights." It is about equal rights. This isn't about some affirmative action program (though many institutions, it could be argued might benefit by seeking out people of a gay sexual orientation). It is about building a sexual orientation - blind society (think "colorblind"). A conservative Republican who isn't owned by the religious right could vote for this bill.

If you want some time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," pass the Matthew Shepard Act by summer's end and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act before the midterm elections. Oh, and can our "fierce advocate" in the White House deliver a speech explaining why he is signing them? Can he sign them in front of the cameras, with Judy Shepard standing next to him?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Specter Caught in the Crossfire Flipflopping

If Senator Arlen Specter loses in the primary he will regret his flip-flops on EFCA. He once supported the measure, which would allow employees at any given facility to vote to replace the secret ballot used to form a union with the check card. Pennsylvania's senior senator once supported EFCA even when he was caucusing with the Republicans but he flip-flopped this year to help him survive a tough primary fight in the Republican primary.

Now, as a Democrat, he faces a tough primary opponent from U.S. Representative Joe Sestak and he now has to back his way out of the flip-flop with another quasi-if-not-full flip-flop. This looks bad. I feel sorry for him. He really wanted to be a Republican and looked for ways to give his Republican constituents and party officials at the national level a reason to support him but he was being forced out of a party that no longer values its moderate faction.

Now he's a Democrat and facing a challenge from the Democrats and as a Democrat is seeking ways to get the Democrats to believe he'll be a team player and so the senator who sold his soul to conservative-leaning Republican primary voters now has to resell it to liberal Democratic primary voters.

Politicians can get away with one flip-flop in one direction in one primary campaign season without looking too bad. They can justify their change in vote to a genuine change in opinion even if it isn't ideologically-based but when they change their vote on a whole number of issues one year before a primary election (like Mitt Romney) or if, as in this case, the politician moves to the right or the left to appeal to his party's base and then flip-flops as soon as he or she switches parties, the voters will think, for good reason, that he or she lacks principle.

Senator Specter had three options: (a) stand his ground on EFCA and let the Republicans reject him, (b) switch on EFCA to peel off potential conservative primary voters from the more conservative nominee, or (c) stand his ground on EFCA and switch parties. He did neither. Specter couldn't decide whether he was going to run as a Republican or as a Democrat and he may now pay the price. Note this line posted on Talking Points Memo:

"I understand your job's on the line," Senator Specter told the crowd which shouted back, your job's on the line!"

So out of touch. His job is on the line. We know the Republican base don't want him. Soon we'll know if the Democrats will have him.

Ta-Nehisi's Reflection on Political Correctness and My Response

The spelling mistakes can be distracting but the point Ta-Nehisi makes should not be ignored -

"I thought about all of this last night, after Lindsey Graham made his remarks about Sonia Sotomayor:

"My criticism about her comment and the speech that she gave wasn't that I think this lady is a racist," Graham said, later continuing: "There is no evidence of that, but this statement is troubling and I did tell her this, 'If I said it, it would be over for me. No matter how well-intentioned I was and no matter how much I tried to put it in context, that would be it.' And you all know that."

He added, "being an average, every-day white guy ... that does not exactly make me feel good hearing a sitting judge say that."

This is the sort of logic that leads people to complain that there is no white history month. It's my great nightmare that I, or my son, ever sound like that--smug, self-satisfied, unreflective, whiny and narcissistic. It's the sort of comment that betrays a man bereft of any deep interest in this country's history. But if you've never had to grapple with who you are in relation to other people, if you've never had to worry much about courting people who aren't like you, if you've never struggled with being politically correct, it's exactly the sort of thing you'd say.

It is, in a word, ignorance. I keep thinking about that Chris Rock joke about black people vs. niggers, but with a twist--Conservative love to not know: "Man, I don't be speaking no Spanish!!" or "Man I don't be knowing how to pronounce no Sotomayor! Call that Latin chick Sodameyer!!" or "Man I don't know nothing about that food she eats!! Tell her to get a cheeseburger--without mustard!"

I'm a liberal, not so much because I doubt the free market, not so much because I believe in universal health care, not so much because of the enviornment, but because of politicial correctness. As awkward as it may be, it at least demonstrates an attempt to see the world through another lense. This is a daunting task, and failing at it is so much more honorable than not even trying. Maybe you never quite get there, but it holds out a hope for your children, that unreflective, false symetry does not. Conservatives got away with this game for years. The luxury of being the majority in a democracy is the right to act like other people don't exist. But the world is changing around them and Birnam Wood is on the march.

If nothing else, remember this sentence:

"The luxury of being the majority in a democracy is the right to act like other people don't exist."

Now, do I believe in censorship? No, and if political correctness (right as well as left) is defined in those terms then it is self-defeating. It stands to follow that if we can learn from the "other" people they can learn from us. They too might be living in their own little world. But if political correctness refers to an exercise, a process, and a set of values grounded in a process of learning about and thinking about the "other," then I'm all for it.

Unbiased Judging

"Today's opinion requires state and federal judges simultaneously to act as political scientists (why did candidate X win the election?), economists (was the financial support disproportionate?), and psychologists (is there likely to be a debt of gratitude?)," - as quoted from The Washington Post

Um. No. Justice Kennedy is more right than Chief Justice John Roberts. If a judge is hearing a case and one of the parties in the case contributed a lot of money to the judge's campaign, the judge's ability to render an impartial verdict in any given case has been compromised.

If there is any problem with Justice Kennedy's decision (and there is a big one) it is that he didn't go far enough. Judges must specifically be prohibited from hearing cases involving a parties that contributed to their campaigns.

Truly comprehensive reform, however, would require state amendments that remove the selection of judges from the electoral process.

Obama on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

"In the "don't ask, don't tell" case, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration, which had urged the justices not to hear the appeal against the policy, even though Obama is on record as opposing it." from The Washington Post

We don't know whether the Court would have ruled for or against Captain James E. Pietrangelo II but since the Obama administration has backtracked on his support for ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and he urged the Court not to review the case, leaving the captain's discharge go unchallenged I would consider this to be a promise Obama broke. He said he'd end the policy and yet he is not only foot-dragging but fighting to uphold discharges.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

Brilliantly crafted, and forcefully delivered. The president broke almost no knew ground (promises of education and development partnerships excepted) but he said what needed to be said - covering all of bases, from our ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to economic development, democracy, exchange students, and religious pluralism.

Mr. Obama recommitted the United States to the Middle East Peace Process, and used his his speech to highlight the key promises Israelis and Palestinians must recommit themselves to. "Palestinians must abandon violence," the president said today. "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. ... ... Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."

To those of us who live in the United States this is a no-brainer. No state can be asked to surrender its land to a political entity that sides with those which either will not or cannot protect its partner from acts of terrorism. Substantively, Obama covered no new ground but he presented the argument in a new way that invites the Palestinians to draw upon the history of such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, and Mohandas Gandhi, the late spiritual and political leader of India's nonviolent independence movement:

"For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered."

Independence movements claim their moral authority through nonviolent means. They invite scorn, ridicule and political backlash when they reject peace.

The president was no less frank in his expectations for the Israelis. The settlements must go. It is unclear from his statement whether he is calling for the removal of all settlements or if he is merely calling for a halt to any settlement expansion or construction at this time.

As I have noted on prior occasions, the status concerning existing settlements can be determined at a future date as a part of an expected peace treaty signed between the Israeli and Palestinian states as long as the Israelis halt any ongoing and planned settlement construction/addition projects as a measure of good faith. Presumably, the Israelis would either have to dismantle most of its settlements as a part of a final peace deal. In the alternative, compensate for such land taken by offering the Palestinians land of equal worth elsewhere or provide more in the way of financial compensation.

Mr. Obama did not, as some of his critics suggest, apologize for wrongful acts committed by the United States. He noted that both we and the Iranians, have contributed to the "tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran." Mr. Obama reaffirmed his opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran, saying it could lead to a new arms race in the already violent-prone Middle East but said he is willing to negotiate with the country "without preconditions."

The president affirmed his respect for democratic values which incorporate respect for religious pluralism, minority rights, women rights, and free speech but he reassured those of us who believe we shouldn't nor can't remake the world in our image. "No system of government," Mr. Obama said, "can or should be imposed by one nation by any other." Unfortunately, the president, who spoke so candidly about our disagreements on Israel, religious pluralism (going so far as to note the pleas from Coptic Egyptians and Maronite Lebanese), and women rights, missed an important opportunity to reiterate his commitment to gay rights. This glaring admission is troubling to many within the gay community who believe this president will if he has not already, broken the promises he made to it. At a minimum the president should have noted that the decriminalization of homosexuality is in line with and is in fact a worthy exercise in tolerance if not a prerequisite (that it is) for democratic governance and freedom. Liberty, after all, is about the rights of individuals to engage in practices that others might immoral or foolish.

Mr. Obama's commitment to strengthen our ties with the Middle East this early in his term was reassuring. Equally reassuring are the means he vowed to use to do so. The president offered us a comprehensive strategy that not only focuses on reviving the Middle East peace process and a new diplomatic tact with Iran but also on economic development and an expanded exchange student program that invites Arabs and Americans to broaden their minds by pursuing their training here (Arabs) and abroad (us). The ties which these students make both hear and abroad could moderate those who might otherwise have joined extreme Holocaust-denying, anti-American Muslim sects as well as those who might otherwise condemn all Muslims for being anti-American and sexist peoples.

Mr. Obama will have his work cut out for him but he is making, at least on the foreign policy front, a promising start.

Obama: Empathy Lacking

LGBT blogger Pam Spaulding posted a moving letter from a mother who is asking the president to show some empathy (something the president said he was looking for in a Supreme Court justice) for her gay son.

"Yes, I know, you walked into a horrific mess on January 20th, 2009. Yes, your plate is full. Yes, there are many urgent matters that must be dealt with. And yes, you must make some tremendously difficult prioritizing decisions. But your silence on every single one of these LGBT issues Mr. President, is deafening. And it is a crushing disappointment.

Do you ever ask yourself how you'd feel if one of your precious daughter's rights were up for negotiation at the ballot box every time some person or church decided that who your daughter chooses to love doesn't meet their religious standards? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to explain to your daughters why one of them will have all the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the other never will? Have you ever asked yourself how you would feel if people who claim to be religious used all their time, energy, and precious resources fighting to keep one of your daughters from being included in school anti-bullying measures or hate-crime legislation while the other daughter's inclusion is a foregone conclusion? Do you ever ask yourself how you'd feel if one of your daughters was dismissed from the military after years of committed service to her country because she refused to lie about who she was? Do you ever wonder how it would make you feel if one of your daughters was turned away from a job, or fired from a job, or denied housing because of her sexual orientation, percieved or real? Does the idea of putting one of your daughter's rights up for a vote feel like mob rule to you? Do any of these scenarios make you sick to your stomach. Would these scenarios feel like minor injustices that could be put on a back burner to be addressed at a much later date if one of your daughters were gay?"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gay Marriage in New Hampshire

Today New Hampshire became the third state to use the legislative process to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. Governor Lynch signed the bill tonight after New Hampshire's state legislature approved changes designed to protect the rights of sectarian organizations which do not approve of such relationships. Vermont's legislature passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages last month and then voted to overturn that governor's veto of such legislation. Maine' governor signed his state's gay marriage bill last month as well but that one might be put up to a vote before any marriages can be recognized.

New Hampshire's gay Americans will get to marry in January. The legislation specifically protects a religious organization's right to withhold its recognition of such unions thereby denying the conservative evangelicals one of their main claims - that their rights will be sacrificed at the altar of gay tolerance:

"No religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society."

To the Political Heretic this language wasn't needed. The First Amendment already protected their right to withhold support and recognition for gay couple. No harm, however, was done by adding that sentence and it may in the end have done us some good by clearly spelling that out. Either way it was needed to win the governor's signature.

One particular section of the statute, however, might be challenged in the court of law on sexual orientation -based and sex-based discrimination grounds. New Hampshire will, under the new law, recognize the marriages performed between younger teens but withhold such recognition for same-sex couples until a later date. (14 yr-old boys can marry 13-yr-old girls can marry but same-sex couples would have to wait until they are both 18 yrs old). A sex-based discrimination claim would note the smaller, perhaps almost minor disparity in age difference between the male who can marry (at 14 and the female who can marry at 13).

The Political Heretic does not believe we should challenge this legislation on either ground in the courts since it might invite unwarranted negative publicity if we were to push for gay marriages at an earlier age. Our opponents will disingenuously claim that we are "recruiting" their kids at an earlier age. An alternative approach would have us push for legislative revision that raises the age on heterosexual marriages. why people can marry at the age of 13 or 14 is anybody's guess.