Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheney's Over-the-top Rhetoric

Former Vice President Richard Cheney spent the first year of his retirement doing everything he can to undermine our president. In perhaps one of his more egregious (they have all been egregious but this especially so) statements to Politico.com this week, the former vice president said the president was downplaying the war on terror so that he can push his domestic agenda.

[W]e are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe, Joe Biden's predecessor told Politico. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society.”

Our president is not, in spite of Cheney's assertions, pretending that we are not in war. In speech after speech, before and after winning the campaign for the White House, he reminded us that we are involved in two wars, one which he intends to "wind down" and one in which we will redouble our efforts. Nor did the president try to hide his intention to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama announced his decision in a speech which he delivered in prime time for all to see. We needed to, he said, deny Al Qaeda the safe haven they would otherwise use to plan future attacks on U.S. soil.

Moreover, the U.S. Attorney General, no doubt acting in consultation with the president of the United States, said he will try several war detainees in federal in Manhattan, noting as he announced his decision that they will face his accusers at the scene of the crime they participated in eight years ago. Justice will be meted out by the very ones who were attacked.

The president no doubt has a different strategy to win that war on Islamic terrorists. To the Pakistani administration's dismay, the president has authorized predator drone attacks that extend into Baluchistan. He is doubling down by adding an additional 30,000 troops into the war in Afghanistan. He is aiding Yemen's army as it fights to reconquer land now held by the Taliban within their own country. And he is moving war detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay to Illinois.

This latest move brought him criticism from the left and from the right. His progressive base thinks he is upholding his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by establishing a new one on the homeland while his conservative opponents say he is tempting fate by creating a new target for terrorism (this even though the blind sheikh who was behind the first World Trade Center attack is being held on U.S. soil).

Much to Mr. Cheney's dismay, our president doesn't believe he needs to beat his chest everyday in order to fight this war against the Islamic terrorists. He might just believe speaking softly and carrying a big stick might be enough to do the job.

Pure Hatemongering

This will probably miss the top ten list for the most vile use of language because it came too late in the season and because it comes from an organization that really isn't taken too seriously but it really deserves to make the top ten list:

"A SERIOUS NOTE: As you can see, below we are making light of the bald-faced hypocrisy of homosexual activists, who demand tolerance for themselves even as they maliciously attack and victimize their critics — and falsely accuse them of “hate.” However, we are not including the most vicious manifestation of homosexual hatred that occurred this year: the recent murder conviction of Teah Wimberly, a lesbian student who shot and killed Amanda Collette, her 15-year-old classmate at Ft. Lauderdale’s Dillard High School — because Collette refused Wimberly’s same-sex romantic advances.

This is no joking matter, so Wimberly (courtroom photo below left) is not on our list. Needless to say, her conviction for the murder of the talented and beautiful Collette (pictured below right) — a murder directly tied to homosexuality — has not received anything close to the national media attention that made homosexual murder victim Matthew Shepard a household name. (Recall that the much-touted “anti-gay-hate-crime” motive for Shepard’s murder was later cast into serious doubt by ABC’s 20/20.)
Teah_Wimberly_Lesbian_Murderer_Court

Teah Wimberly was found guilty of murdering the target of her same-sex crush, Amanda Collette.

A little over a year ago, Amanda Collette became the ultimate victim of homosexuality when Wimberly shot her in the back at school. As the Miami Herald reported, “Collette, 15, a star dancer on the school’s hip-hop dance squad, had rejected romantic advances from Wimberly in the days before the shooting.” Minutes after the shooting, Wimberly cried in a call to the 911 operator: ”I didn’t want to kill her so I shot her in the back . . . I just wanted to give her the pain she gave me.”

Regardless of what other factors were involved in this tragedy, it is not unreasonable to assert that Collette would be alive today were it not for the modern GLBT activist movement, which aggressively seeks to mainstream sexual deviance and immoral gay/lesbian “relationships” as normal and acceptable — most tragically among young people.


Yes, Virginia, there was a time in America when young women did not have to worry about sexual harassment and sexual advances from other young women. And the GLBT movement is first and foremost to blame for the rising number of youth who are embracing homosexual behaviors and considering destructive “gay,” lesbian, bisexual, or “transgender” self-”identities,” at younger and younger ages. We ask you to pray for the families of both Collette and Wimberly, and pray for the Christian conversion of Teah Wimberly as she awaits sentencing."

Peter Barbera says we killed Collette because one individual who fell in love killed the person who rejected her entreaties. And we can blame the hetero-normative movement for the murder of anyone who spurned the entreaties of a member of the opposite sex.

Of All The "Reasons" to Criticize Obama

"Barack Obama was elected on the word "Change." We got it. I hope everyone who voted for him is happy with this change. He returned to his "childhood home" of Hawaii. One would think he would want to attend some Christmas service that he remembered from his childhood days." from your local moron in The Asbury Park Press

Monday, December 28, 2009

Napolitano

While she was making the rounds of the talk shows yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "our system worked" since, "everybody reacted the way they should.". Our Homeland Security Department secretary was clearly on the defensive, evading or otherwise side-stepping question after question.

On "Meet the Press" she failed to say whether whether the terrorists' ability to sneak an explosive on board represented a failure to the system and she failed to say whether the failure to put those who are on the TIDE list onto the "no fly" list represented a lapse in the security system.

Her response? "Well, this is the way it works," she said. The Secretary didn't have her priorities straight. At this point in time she wanted us to believe that in her estimation, those involved in defending our homeland following the established protocols. Time will, it is hoped, tell whether the department and those under it responded appropriately but her main priority and her focus should be directed to the establishment and implementation of procedures that would deprive would-be terrorists from the chance to bring airplanes filled with passengers down.

Some conservatives, most notably Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic and Jonah Goldberg at The National Review, have called for her resignation. At this point I don't see what she has done that warrants her removal. Napolitano is at worst, guilty for being politically obtuse and behaving as a defensive bureaucrat. She was not responsible for the lapses in failure that preceded this incident. That lies with the officials who were screening passengers who boarded the plane in Lagos and Amsterdam.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just a Thought on the Abortion Compromise

To get Senator Ben Nelson's vote (D-Nebraska) while retaining the support of the liberal Democrats who are already fuming over the elimination of the public option, Senator Harry Reid agreed to let the insurance companies participating in an exchange offer abortion coverage at their own discretion as long as the money that is paid to by the federal government is not directed to pay for abortions. Under the compromise, states can, however, bar insurance companies that choose to participate within their particular exchange programs from providing abortion coverage.

To me this seems like a suitable compromise, particularly for the conservatives who claim that they merely want to see Roe v Wade overturned so that each state can decide whether and to what extent if so it would accommodate those who want to have an abortion. Which raises a question in my mind - why the objection to this compromise? And when will the talk show hosts start asking the conservatives that very question?

Republicans' Priorities

"Public schools in Hawaii are closed most Fridays, rats scurry across bananas in an uninspected market, and there may not be enough money to run a Congressional election." excerpt from The New York Times

Rats on bananas (and I'm sure that's not the only thing they are on), and what do the Republicans want us to do with the unspent money currently reserved for Wall Street's Banks? They want to cut the deficit.

Couldn't the states use that money? Couldn't they use it to make sure there are no rats scurrying over our food?

An Alternative Strategy for Afpakistan

from last Sunday's The New York Times. Late, but still worth the read.

Iran's Disillusioned Theocratic Revolutionary

died today.

South Korea's Demographic Problems

Undervaluing the other sex does have its disadvantages.

Two Developments Concerning North Korea

some diplomacy
some trafficking update news
and some hacking/espionage news.
"Democratic leaders dropped a government insurance option and the idea of expanding Medicare to younger Americans. Reid also omitted language that would have eliminated the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers -- another nonstarter for Nelson." excerpt from The Washington Post

Talk about making a deal with the devil. So much for reform. The health industry will retain its monopoly and it will retain the right to raise its premiums on those with pre-existing conditions and it won't have to compete with the government or anyone else for customers who are forced to buy the product. Now, the subsidies purportedly will make it easier to purchase the insurance cartel's (yes, Keith Olbermann is right on this in spite of his over-the-top call for civil disobedience) lousy product but when those premiums but the industries inevitably will raise the premiums as time goes on. Will Congress increase its subsidies to offset those premium hikes? Can Congress afford to?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama and the Environment

Oh what do you know! Obama won't commit us to carbon reduction.

Putting the Democratic Party's Loss on Health Care in Perspective

John Aravosis is fuming and I can see why:

"It's not about the votes, people. It's about leadership. The current occupant of the White House doesn't like to fight, and the leadership in Congress has never been as good at their jobs, at marshaling their own party, as the Republicans were when they were in the majority. The President is supposed to rally the country, effectively putting pressure on opposition members of Congress to sit down and shut up. And the congressional leadership is supposed to rally its members to hold the line, and get the 51 votes necessary for passing legislation in a climate where the minority is too afraid to use the filibuster. When you have a President who is constitutionally, or intellectually, unable to stand for anything, and a congressional leadership that, rather than disciplining its own members and forging ahead with its own agenda, cedes legislative authority to a president who refuses to lead, you have a recipe for exactly what happened last night. Weakness, chaos, and failure.

We lost real health care reform not because we don't have a "real" filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. We lost health care reform because we don't have a real leader anywhere in our party. It's not going to get better if we elect more Democrats to the Senate and it's not going to play out any differently should we try to revisit this issue in the future."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lieberman

I think the Democrats have to strip Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) from his chairmanship at Homeland Security if he doesn't vote for a health care bill that either expands access to Medicare or provides for a strong, easily accessible public option.

Grading Our Politicians

First off, I don't think the president doesn't look good rating himself when Americans are losing their jobs. The president may feel he is doing a good job but the people who elected him might not think he's done enough for them. He should have deflected that question and said he is too busy trying to re-jump the economy.

Second, leaving that aside, I'd rate him a gentleman's C on the economy and domestic issues. He really hasn't shown any leadership on health care, the economic stimulus package, or financial reform. He hasn't kept many of his promises on civil rights and had in fact, antagonized his relationship with gay Americans seeking their place on the table.

On Foreign Policy, I'd give him a B+. There have been some gaffes - his decision to turn down the Norwegian King's lunch invitation comes to mind - but the president overall has changed the tone and the way we approach the international community. I have my doubts about the president's Afghan strategy but he at least took his time to think it through.

He isn't failing on the domestic front because I need to factor in his dealings with Congress and the mess he has inherited from his predecessor. Congress has done an abysmal job. I'd give the Speaker and the House Democratsin general a C- and the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Democrats a D.

The Republicans wouldn't even get an F since they haven't even made the effort to come up with an alternative set of policies to fix the economy and their failure to repudiate those who bring up the latest conspiracy theories suggests they should be expelled for uncivil behavior.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frum Nitpicking Obama Speech

David Frum nitpicks his way through an exceptionally good, realistically sobering, speech.

Listen to this:

The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

“Of generations past?” Did those “generations” not contain any names? People – Americans! – who did brave things at risk and often at cost of their lives?

The memory of the crowd dismantling the wall is a lovely one. But the great events of November 1989 could only occur because of the successful defense of the Western world over half a century by the armed power of a military alliance headed by the United States. (NB – nor did the Cold War end in November 1989. It ended almost two years later, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.)

Notice the abstractions and passive verbs: “commerce” “have been lifted.” Unless the sentence begins with an “I”, there are no antecedents, no doers, no causes.


So what? Frum may very well be reading into this. Our failures are also described with passive verbs. "We know that," Obama said, "for most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible." "It became clear to victor and vanquished alike," he said one paragraph down.

Before I continue, here's Frum again:

Frum again:

The sentence I am about to quote may well have begun as an attempt to pay tribute to another:

As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.

But on the way to the tribute, Obama managed to insert two references to himself in a sentence that found room for only one reference of King. And there are surely ways to praise Dr King without exalting yourself even higher. As is, it seems that King is a great man because he made Obama’s career possible. One wonders: surely there must have been at least one or two other beneficiaries of King’s work as well?



He refers to himself in three notable occasions on several occasions and in each case he does not once use it to credit himself. President Barack Obama did not, as Frum suggest, claim to be the good thing the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did. He used himself as an (not the) of what nonviolent resistance can accomplish. Mr. Obama isn't "the one" who stands as the "other beneficiaries of King's work," as Frum would have us believe. He is, and Obama specifically told us, that he is "someone" who, as Frum puts it stands as a beneficiary of King's work as well."

Words have meaning. "Someone" according to Wikipedia tells us is an indefinite pronoun hat refers to one or more unspecified beings, objects, or places. "Merriam-Webster" defines it as "some person." The Free Dictionary says it refer to two groups of people, that "unspecified" group of people noted above, or that person who thinks he is really important. Frum obviously would have us believe that Obama thinks he is really something but one must also refer to the prepositional phrase "as someone who stands here." He can, in other words testify on Martin Luther King's behalf.


Oh and by the way, he did mention some "doers." In the beginning - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela

And Towards the end - Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Richard Nixon (in his role as a peacemaker), Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Foreign Policy Snub

Turning down invitations with heads of state? I'd expect that from President Barack Obama's predecessor but apparently our president found a way to embarrass the Norwegians. Did he really need to turn down the Norwegian's king's invitation to lunch?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Supreme Court Watch

Expect the Supreme Court of the United States to rule for the Christian group and it would be well within its right to do so. Mandating the inclusion of those who do not agree with the religious organization's mission dilutes its message.

Iraq Bombing, Afghanistan and the Question that Must Be Asked in Light of It

The war in Iraq, we are told, wasn't going too well until President Barack Obama's predecessor authorized the troop surge General David H. Petraeus sought. Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists were bombing Iraq's cities into oblivion while Shia militiamen associated with the Mahdi Army and the Al Badr Brigades were murdering Sunnis, Christians, and gays living in and around Baghdad. The Kurds, meanwhile were forcibly removing or otherwise butchering Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabaks and anyone else with a weird non-Kurdish sounding name near Kirkuk. The troop surge, we were told, ended the civil war and President Barack Obama, apparently agrees.

This newly-found confidence in military might is unfounded. The uneasy peace that followed our surge can be attributed to the opposing factions' decision to bide their time. Once we leave they can re-start their war if the negotiations which the surge was implemented to encourage fall through. They just passed an election law after weeks of haggling yet the fate over Kirkuk (and more importantly) the oil fields that surround it as well as the fate of those non-Kurdish minorities that live around is still in dispute. In a blow to Iraq's Security Forces and the surge which was designed to heal that country's wounds, terrorists (which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claims to be affiliated with Al Qaeda and former Baathists) detonated 5 bombs across the city, klling 121 Iraqis.

Today, General Stanley A. McChrystal expressed some optimism for the new, far more sober and limited objective placed before the American troops - to deny the Taliban what it wants to do. In other words, we aren't going to defeat the Taliban and drag Al Qaeda spiritual leader Osama bin Laden from his cave. The occupying power never wins a stalemate. They want to leave by a certain point of time while their opponents, who are fighting for their homeland, wait them out so we will either squander what remains of our financial resources by piling up more debt while forgoing much needed infrastructure programs by keeping while our forces fight the terrorists until the Afghans can train themselves or we will leave the Afghans to their own fate. The president said he wants us to begin (not complete) a withdrawal in 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, condition any withdrawal to the conditions on the ground. And the Afghan president says we'll have to stay until 2014 to get this done right.

Will the president have any resources to fight for the people who elect him?

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Conservative With a Proposal for Afghanistan

"Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, emphatically rejected the idea of "spheres of influence" in the 21st-century global order. Yet a revival of this 19th-century concept for Afghanistan might be quite necessary -- with explicit zones for India and Pakistan in the north and south respectively, Afghan regions enjoying greater autonomy from the center, and binding provisions for ensuring a "neutral" central government in Kabul.

What the U.S. cannot do effectively within the timeline sketched out by the president -- and given limitations on the personnel and resources Obama is prepared to commit -- is to impose a central government on the country and get India and Pakistan to agree to whatever order we deem necessary in Kabul.

The success of the president's plan requires that Afghans actively take control over security to satisfy U.S. concerns about denying al-Qaida safe havens to train and plan. But without Pakistan's explicit support, the strategy of catching the Taliban and al-Qaida in a vise along the Afghan-Pakistan border fails. And while Obama neglected to mention India in his West Point address, India's ongoing and extensive reconstruction efforts are vital to the U.S. effort.

These roadblocks cannot be wished away, and factors outside America's control could spoil the best-laid plans in Washington. Rather than waiting for the inevitable complications to arise, the Obama administration would be well-advised to take a proactive approach in the days and weeks ahead to confront the realities that will likely give rise to them."
Nikolas Gvosdev at World Politics Review

I like it but there are some questions:

Can the Pakistanis and the Indians agree on their respectable zones of influence?

and

Will the Pakistanis rely upon the Taliban to govern their zone of influence or is there another group which they can rely on?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Frum's Error in Logic

"Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it. Given the public unenthusiasm for the conflict, there will be political temptations to “go rogue” on the president, if not now, then in the summer of 2010. That will be our test, for us to pass as the president has passed his. I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: “Hey – the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it.” Correct. They didn’t. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it. “For it before I was against it” has deservedly become an epithet for shameful wavering. Let’s not inflict it upon ourselves." David Frum at FrumForum.com

Except that when the Democrats were opposing the Bush administration they were opposing a policy they did not agree with. Asking the Republicans to side with President Barack Obama should be far easier than it was to ask the Democrats to back his predecessor. The Republicans generally agree with the president on the troop surge. The Democrats did not agree with Obama's predecessor on his troop surge.

Bacevich Strikes Again (On Afghanistan)

"If knowing when to cut your losses qualifies as a hallmark of statesmanship, Nixon flunked. Vietnam proved irredeemable.

Obama's prospects of redeeming Afghanistan appear hardly more promising. Achieving even a semblance of success, however modestly defined, will require an Afghan government that gets its act together, larger and more competent Afghan security forces, thousands of additional reinforcements from allies already heading toward the exits, patience from economically distressed Americans as the administration shovels hundreds of billions of dollars toward Central Asia, and even greater patience from U.S. troops shouldering the burdens of seemingly perpetual war. Above all, success will require convincing Afghans that the tens of thousands of heavily armed strangers in their midst represent Western beneficence rather than foreign occupation."



and for what end?

"What Afghanistan tells us is that rather than changing Washington, Obama has become its captive. The president has succumbed to the twin illusions that have taken the political class by storm in recent months. The first illusion, reflecting a self-serving interpretation of the origins of 9/11, is that events in Afghanistan are crucial to the safety and well-being of the American people. The second illusion, the product of a self-serving interpretation of the Iraq War, is that the United States possesses the wisdom and wherewithal to guide Afghanistan out of darkness and into the light."

" Andrew Bacevich in The Los Angeles Times