Archive for February, 2009

There’s A Chance We’re Going To Get It Wrong

Monday, February 9th, 2009

For the record, I am not in favor of the economic stimulus plan as currently constructed. Obama takes the critics to task for complaining that the plan is a “spending” plan. Obama smugly says, “that’s the point.” But spending for the sake of spending is not the point. The point is to stimulate the economy in such a way that jobs are created or saved in large numbers, at a reasonable cost, and quickly. The point is to help stabilize the housing industry – for example by reducing foreclosures – and quickly. The point is not to repay every liberal interest group.

Obama will be addressing the nation in prime time this evening, and the stimulus bill will need to be hashed out in the House-Senate Conference. But already there is some effort to tamp down expectations. There is nobody better able to lower expectations than VP Joe Biden. Here is what Biden has to say about the plan

If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30 percent chance we’re going to get it wrong.

Huh? Biden is known for gaffes, social blunders. But the oxymoronic is new territory for Joe. It’s nice to know that he is branching out.

Turkey to Probe Gaza Offensive

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

There were three articles just in today’s Washington Post on Gaza and the recent Israel-Palestine “war”.

The article U.N. Says School in Gaza Where 43 Died Wasn’t Hit by Israeli Fire begins

GAZA CITY, Feb. 6 — The United Nations said this week that Israeli mortar fire that killed at least 43 people in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp on Jan. 6 had landed just outside a U.N.-run school housing refugees from the fighting but did not hit the school itself.

Israel has said the attack was in response to Palestinian fire coming from the area around the school.

On the day of the incident, and in the weeks since, there were conflicting reports over whether the Israeli strikes hit the building.

There seems no question that some seeking refuge within the school fell victim to Israeli fire landing outside of the school. This is a sad, but unfortunately expected outcome when a terrorist group like Hamas chooses to operate from within heavily populated areas. To observe that all of Gaza is heavily populated does not absolve Hamas or their responsibilities.

The article U.N. Halts Aid to Gaza In Dispute With Hamas begins

GAZA CITY, Feb. 6 — A United Nations aid agency that serves more than half of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip suspended humanitarian shipments here on Friday, accusing Hamas of confiscating U.N. material for the second time this week.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, had seized 10 trucks filled with rice and flour. Earlier in the week, the agency had accused Hamas’s police force of confiscating blankets and food from a U.N.-affiliated warehouse.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Hamas to release the aid immediately. In a statement from New York, the world body said the suspension would remain in place “until the aid is returned and the agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts.”

The suspension comes at a time when Gaza’s residents are still reeling from the effects of a 22-day Israeli offensive in the coastal territory.

The unasked question from this article goes along the lines of “how bad must Hamas’ actions have been in order for the U.N. to suspend aid?”. This is further proof, as if any discriminating individual actually needs further proof, that Hamas does not act in the best interest of the people of Gaza. Quite the contrary.

And finally, there is a news brief Turkey to Probe Gaza Offensive

A Turkish state prosecutor has launched an investigation into allgations that Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, the Islamist-oriented human rights group Mazlum-Der said. The probe began after the group submitted a complaint naming 19 people it considered responsible for the operation, including Prime Minsister Ehud Olmert, President shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Deense Minister Ehud Barak.

First of all, I find the use of the terms “Islamist” and “human rights” in the same thought as a bit of an oxymoron. But let’s allow for the possibility that Mazlum-Der is actually sincere in its efforts for advancing human rights in Turkey. We do know, of course, that Turkey has, how shall we say, direct experience with genocide, though Turkey will not officially acknowledge the use of that term. So while they will not officially recognize the genocide committed against the Armenians (complete with concentration camps and many hundreds of thousands of deaths), they are quick to point fingers after a 22-day offensive in which thousands of operations were carried out in a densely populated area. As with the operations in Lebanon, Israel was clearly focused on damaging Hamas through damage of buildings, rather than through deaths of civilians. It is estimated that the recent Israel-Gaza conflict claimed 4,000 buildings with another 20,000 severely damaged. Israel dropped leaflets and made phone calls alerting the population. This is not a sign of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Freeloading On The Back Of U.S. Military Security

Friday, February 6th, 2009

If we’re honest… we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart and forgotten our shared destiny.

So said then-candidate Obama in Berlin this past summer. The crowds in Europe adored Obama as much as the crowds in the United States. That right there should have been enough for any discriminating individual to vote for McCain.

But the past is the past, and now we have Afghanistan Appeal May Temper European Allies’ Ardor for Obama in today’s Washington Post, which begins

MUNICH, Feb. 5 — European leaders cheered when Barack Obama was elected president in November. They cheered again when he proclaimed during his inaugural address that America was “ready to lead once more” in the world, and yet again when he pledged to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But when Obama sends his vice president and other top emissaries to an international security conference here this weekend to seek help with the war in Afghanistan, NATO allies are unlikely to be as enthusiastic, European defense officials and analysts said in interviews.

The Obama administration is expected to announce plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the United States and its allies fear they are losing ground in the war against the Taliban. Although European leaders say they are eager to curry favor with the new U.S. president, they are proving just as reluctant to contribute more soldiers or money to the NATO-led operation as they were during President George W. Bush’s last years in the White House.

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said last month that “there is no question, for now, of considering extra reinforcements” from Paris. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said his country would start drawing down its 1,770 troops in Afghanistan next year. German officials have also ruled out sending more soldiers beyond a parliamentary decision last year to expand the force to 4,500.

I’ll be sure to send my thanks to France, Holland, and Germany. I mean, we are talking about Afghanistan here, right? This isn’t Iraq. The fantasy continues

Some European defense officials, however, have warned that a perceived lack of support for the Afghan mission will damage the political credibility of NATO members who otherwise want to be taken more seriously in Washington.

Who are these bed wetting European defense officials? What makes them think the US merely “perceived” lack of support? What credibility? If they want to be “taken more seriously”, they should stand up and deliver.

“If Europeans expect that the United States will close Guantanamo, sign up to climate-change treaties, accept European Union leadership on key issues — but provide nothing more in return, for example in Afghanistan, than encouragement — they should think again,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a Jan. 26 speech in Brussels, where NATO has its headquarters. “It simply won’t work like that.”

John Hutton, Britain’s defense secretary, last month chided unnamed European members of NATO for “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security” and said they had a “limited appetite” for the Afghanistan campaign.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and John Hutton actually get it. John Hutton especially stands out for reading supine Europeans the riot act. The UN, NATO, Europe, and Japan have been “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security for more than half a century. We should charge them their fair share.

There was a time when the United States had a representative to the United Nations that was as blunt and plain-spoken as John Hutton. His name was John R. Bolton but he was considered too blunt. We wouldn’t want to offend the sensibilities of a bunch of kleptocratic jihad-apologists.

John Hutton - Not an EU Panzie

John Hutton - Not an EU Pansy

Provincial Elections in Iraq

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

It is still early, but the preliminary results from Iraq’s provincial elections bode well for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq Election Results Point to a Big Win for Maliki begins

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

Mr. Maliki’s Dawa party is predicted to emerge at the top of the poll in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq’s two largest cities, as well as in most of the overwhelmingly Shia south of Iraq. The largest Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), hitherto one of the main powerbrokers in the country, suffered heavy losses in all the provinces where it has been in charge for the past four years. “According to initial information, Maliki’s list has come first in Basra with 50 per cent of the vote. Ours took 20 per cent,” said Furat al-Sheraa, the head of ISCI in Basra.

The outcome of the election, which will probably be repeated in the parliamentary elections in December, marks a sea-change in Iraqi politics, with both the Shia and Sunni communities punishing the religious parties which flourished after the U.S. occupation in 2003. The results are a clear endorsement of Mr Maliki who has managed to displace the militia of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, negotiated the withdrawal of 142,000 U.S. troops during the next three years and confronted the Kurds By stressing his nationalist credentials and success in improving security, Mr. Maliki has gained the allegiance of the majority Shia community.

The Election: Preliminary Results from the New York Time Baghdad Bureau states

The preliminary count shows Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition getting the biggest vote in nine out of the 14 provinces contested, but nowhere does he manage an absolute majority. His highest tally is 38% in Baghdad, but in other areas he is on 11% to 20%, which means he will be dependent on other coalition partners, or could even be squeezed out by others forming alliances against him.

It is unclear exactly how many seats each of the leading parties will win – with between 26 and 57 up for grabs in each province, depending on its size. The full results will take more than three weeks, because of complex voting rules on how to allocate seats. Anbar could prove problematic, with some parties alleging voting irregularities.

and later, the article refers to

…Mr. Maliki’s current high personal standing as a leader with a good security record.

That’s refreshing. And it must be equally refreshing to Iraqis to actually have more than one name on a ballot. I wonder who Muntadhar al-Zaida voted for? Maybe he has put down the Ramazan Baydan Model 271 Brogues long enough to reflect on the significance.

Birdie Diplomacy

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

The article U.S. Disappointed in Iran’s Refusal to Issue Visas to Badminton Team has this subhead

State department spokesman said when the Iranians unclench that fist and agree to dialogue, there will be a hand waiting to greet them.

The article begins with

The United States on Wednesday expressed disappointment with Iran’s refusal to issue visas for an American badminton team and said it did not bode well for possible similar outreach programs in the future.

As the Obama administration continues with a broad review of U.S. policy on Iran that may include the appointment of a special envoy and direct contacts with Iranian officials, the State Department said Tehran’s batdown of what some have termed “shuttlecock diplomacy” was troubling.

Hey, I have an idea. In an effort to show Iran how sincere we are, in case they run out of shuttlecocks, I suggest we send them a bunch of birdies. Call it “birdie diplomacy”. Here’s how I’d like to see hands greeting Iran.

Go Grab His Ass

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

A Los Angeles Times article this past Sunday called Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool begins

The CIA’s secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.

But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

The left wing blogosphere is all abuzz with stories of how the LA Times was “punked” by Bush loyalists that have “burrowed” into the government during the transition period, waiting for the perfect time to commit “sabotage”. For example, see this article that explores the problem by using quotes from the left and looney Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. Hmm. Methinks that left-wing paranoia has returned after two weeks.

The point made by liberals progressives is that renditions are okay. It’s that dastardly Bush’s extraordinary rendition program that stinks. The extraordinary rendition program connotes torture to many, even though many or most of the countries that receive prisoners are, like the United States, signatories to United Nations Conventions Against Torture (UNCAT).

According to the Wikipedia article on extraordinary rendition, this Presidential Decision Directive gave the CIA the green light for performing rendition against suspects of terrorism. Well, you know if the CIA is involved, things can, and should, get a little dicey. Sorry, but that’s reality. The interesting thing about that PDD? It was authored by Bill Clinton in 1995. The same article quotes from Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies (pg. 143-4)

…’extraordinary renditions’ were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgment of the host government…. The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: “Lloyd says this. Dick says that.” Gore laughed and said, “That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”

Chalk one up for Ozone.

Go Grab His Ass -- Al Gore

Go Grab His Ass -- Al Gore

No Taxes No Problem

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I would say that the sheen of the Obama administration and Democrats, the aura of moral and ethical superiority, is now completely gone. And not even two weeks in. Even I didn’t think it would happen this soon.

Today, the Democrats rallied around Tom Daschle, he of the $128,000 tax mistake. As Jay Rockefeller said, the “moral imperative” of national health insurance outweighs the concerns. You know, it was a serious mistake.

I wonder how Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood feel about this. You recall Zoe and Kimba…they were Bill Clinton’s first and second picks for Attorney General. Ms. Baird had hired illegal aliens as her chaffeur and nanny, and failed to pay social security taxes. Ms. Wood had hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny but did in fact pay social security taxes. Instead, we got Janet Reno, and we know how well that worked out. That right there might be the best argument for giving Daschle a pass.

Of course, Attorney General is an important position, the top law enforcement officer. Which leads us to Eric Holder and his participation in the Marc Rich pardon. Never mind, it was a mistake.

And Timothy Geithner, who will oversee the IRS, and his tax problems. Never mind, it was a TurboTax error.

Now, Chris Dodd will refinance two homes in which he currently has mortgages with Countrywide Financial, reportedly at unusually attractive terms. What are attractive terms? Well the Countrywide VIP program waives points, lenders fees, and even borrowing rules. Dodd should be investigated, charged, and tried along with the other Friends of Angelo

  • current Senator Kent Conrad
  • former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson
  • former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala
  • former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke
  • former Obama campaign advisor James Johnson

All these folks received similar mortgages from Countrywide. Richard Holbrooke, of course, has been tapped for a position in Obama’s administration. I wonder if Angelo Mozilo has any friends that are conservatives.

Nice Tan Angelo

Nice Tan Angelo

Thank goodness Eric Holder is African American, and thank goodness his problems have nothing to do with finances. Otherwise, I might have concluded that the only people getting free passes were rich white men surrounded by hoards of more adoring rich white men coming to their defense when they thoughtfully divert their tax liabilities into their favorite savings account.

Timely, Temporary, and Targeted?

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

President Obama has asked for a package that will help “jump start” the economy. House Speaker Pelosi has insisted on the three T’s

timely, temporary and targeted

The problem with the current plan is that it appears to be none of these. It does not rush funds into the economy rapidly enough. It may be difficult to rescind certain aspects of the plan a few years down the line. For example, certain tax cuts and certain health programs for the unemployed. Portions of the package may become ingrained in the “baseline budget”. So it may not be temporary at all. And finally, the incredible scope of the package puts the lie to the idea that it is targeted. As the details of the stimulus package continue to emerge, it is quite clear that this package is simply the biggest pork-barrel giveaway ever conceived. The Wall Street Journal estimates that only about 12 cents of every dollar spent will have the desired growth stimulus effect.

Pelosi has warned

If we heap too much on top of the package, it will then take us deeply into debt.


As the Senate takes up the matter of the economic stimulus package, the coming days will go a long way in revealing the character of the new administration. Whether this is really a post-partisan age or whether it is partisan politics business as usual. Will Obama accede to a plan with no Republican support? We are not likely to find out because recent reports suggest that the House package cannot find sufficient support in the Senate.

On the news, when asked about the current situation, Obama says something to the effect: “The important thing is that we get it passed.” I think that, by “it” Obama means “a stimulus package” as opposed to “the House plan as currently written”. At least that’s what I hope.

Check out Stimulus Watch to learn more about the current package.