Archive for April, 2009

Arlen Sphincter (D-PA)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

So, Arlen Specter has found himself “increasingly at odds with the Republican party”? Does this mean that Specter is not at odds with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, and the rest of the looney Democratic left?

According to Penn. Sen. Arlen Specter to Switch to Democratic Party,

[Specter] said that the loss of several hundred thousand GOP voters who left the party in 2008 to vote in the Democratic presidential primary left the Pennsylvania Republican Party too conservative to support a moderate such as him.

I recall reports of many GOP voters voting in Democratic primaries in an effort to disrupt those very primaries. I wonder how many of the “several hundred thousand” voters that voted in the primary have actually left the party. More importantly, does Specter identify with, say, the Pennsylvanians that keep sending that loser John Murtha to the house?

How did Obama secure the likely filibuster-proof 60th vote? Simple. In Arlen Specter and the Democrats: Be careful what you wish for Doyle McManus tell us

Obama and the Democrats, to win Specter over, offered him an amazingly good deal. The president promised to support him in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary next year. (Presidents don’t normally intervene in primary contests — at least, not so openly.) Gov. Ed Rendell, the most popular Democrat in Pennsylvania, promised to help too. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada allowed Specter to keep the 28 years of seniority he has amassed as a Republican — meaning he’ll replace some unlucky Democrat of longer standing as chairman of a major committee.

Will Specter change his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act?

I will not be an automatic 60th vote.

We will see.

Arlen Sphincter

Arlen Sphincter

Citations of Success

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Well, today President Obama continued his campaign against his old foe, George W. Bush. We now learn that Obama is Open to Probe, Prosecutions of Top Officials Over Interrogations. He claims that releasing the memos will make the US safer, although it is difficult to see how the release does not embolden the enemy.

Much has been made of the memos, the Justice Department, and specifically the Office of Legal Counsel. One might get the impression that the memos were written by summer interns, in crayon, on a single sheet of paper, that say something like “Torture is okay”. But what are called “memos” by the media are lengthy legal arguments. For example, the four “secret memos” released on April 16 are, respectively, 18, 46, 20, and 40 pages in length. The memos contain footnotes, case citations, and all the legalese that is expected by a profession with a nice hourly rate. For example, see the memo of May 30, 2005. Included is this brief passage

The “waterboard”, which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits. It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has “credible intelligence that a terrorist act is imminent”, “substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt, or delay this attack”, “and [o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information [or] CIA has clear indications that other…methods are unlikely to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for prevent the attack.

Sounds reasonable to me. More than reasonable, really. Also in today’s Washington Post is an opinion piece by Marc A. Thiessen that make the case that The CIA’s Questioning Worked (contrary to popular belief). Thiessen points out that the memo of May 30, 2005 cites many instances where attacks were thwarted, including a planned attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles and the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (mastermind of 9-11 and murder of Daniel Pearl). Thiessen complains that even more citations of successes have been redacted in the memo. For example, a large redacted portion begins

We discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM.

I look forward to the full disclosure of the lives saved and plots foiled that are attributed to the harsh interrogations. I suspect that Obama will rue the day that he caved to the loony left on this issue.

Keep Paying the Water Bill

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The catharsis continues with the Obama administration’s release of a Bush-era memo revealing that two Al Qaeda leaders had been waterboarded 266 times.

CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on two top al Qaeda suspects, according to a Bush-era Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration.

The controversial technique that simulates drowning — and which President Obama calls torture — was used at least 83 times in August 2002 on suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, according to the memo.

Interrogators also waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

For those clamoring for investigations and trials of evil-doers, this is like catnip. But this story reminds me of the macabre joke about a person found dead with dozens of fatal stab wounds and, after the investigation, the death is ruled a suicide. I mean, 183 times? That’s a lot of “severe pain or suffering”. Or maybe it is not. I’m thinking that these large number of incidents actually militate against torture, unless the waterboarding was carried out for purely sadistic pleasure. Maybe Khalid Sheikh Mohammed can share with us his thoughts on whether his interrogators were extracting sadistic pleasure. Mohammed surely understands the concept, what with his murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.

I don’t know. The enhanced interrogation techniques, including the enhanced insect technique, don’t seem so bad to me. We are, after all, trying to extract information from psychopaths that participate in a neural net of jihadist murderers. I say, keep paying the water bill.

Hoping For Better Weeks Ahead

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The conventional wisdom is that Obama’s recently concluded eight-day trip to Europe was his “best week”. It’s too bad that an historic President has to have his best week away from the United States. Europe still loves President Obama as much as they did candidate Obama. But this trip was not perfect by any means.

The conventional wisdom is that, while the Europeans were favorably disposed toward Obama, the President secured very little in the way of his objectives, which is not to say that hopes were high. Europe is still Europe.

The stories suggest that Obama’s conciliatory tone went over better than Bush’s ultimatums. Funny, but I don’t quite remember it that way. I recall the Bush administration spending months to convince our allies to put teeth in resolutions against Saddam. And I remember that it was French (and Russian) intransigence that doomed such resolutions. We were most disappointed in France. Remember “Freedom Fries”? At the time, we had no idea that the Oil For Food Scandal would implicate several French diplomats.

While on the trip, North Korea launched its missile in defiance of the international community. This seems to have taken the Obama administration by surprise because their response has not exactly been coordinated and consistent.

In Turkey, Obama struck another conciliatory tone. He had to state, in no uncertain terms, that the United States was not at war with Islam. Maybe Muslims are genetically pre-disposed to hearing loss, because I have heard this stated many times by George Bush. Rather being at war with Islam, the United States is actually Islam’s biggest benefactor, having gone to war about six times in the past 20 years to liberate Muslims. I’d be please if the President demanded a collective note of appreciation. Instead, In Turkey, Obama Reaches Out to Muslim World (Washington Post, April 7) tells us

“Obama wants to use Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan as shields for American soldiers,” said Burak Gunes, 21, an international relations student at a local university. “America killed millions of people in Iraq, so the Turkish people do not have any tolerance for the United States of America.”

Dogu Ergil, a professor of political science at Ankara University, said the protesters “represent nothing” of mainstream Turkish thinking.

“There are fringe groups everywhere who think America is the devil,” he said, noting that a recent opinion poll showed that 52 percent of Turks had a favorable opinion of Obama. “If he wanted to be a candidate, he could be elected and become the next president of Turkey!”

An international relations student at a local university is so ignorant that he actually believes that we want to use Turkish soldiers as shields? And he trots out the discredited figure of millions killed in Iraq (by the United States!)? What rubbish. And, sadly, what an archetype.

And Obama only garners a 52 percent favorable rating? How is that even possible? I think that the number is artificially low because of Obama’s previous comments on the Armenian genocide.

Obama finished his trip with an unannounced trip to Iraq. Inasmuch as he was willing to throw Iraq (and the Middle East) into chaos through precipitous troop withdrawals, I found this ironic. Why not Afghanistan?

I hope Obama has many weeks better than that one.

Obama Shoots And Misses

Monday, April 6th, 2009

In addressing the secular democracy of Turkey, President Obama had this to say

We seek broad engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.  We will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding and seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree.

Fair enough. This sounds like something that President Bush might have said. After all, President Bush referred to Islam as a “religion of peace”. Many times. More times than were warranted by the evidence.

Obama continued

And we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country.

Shape the world for the better? Including the United States? Um. No.

Obama’s Miniscule Moment

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, David Broder writes of Obama’s Muscle Moment. Broder writes

On Sunday night and Monday morning, word leaked out of Detroit that G. Richard Wagoner Jr., the veteran CEO of General Motors, was stepping down immediately at the behest of the White House.

The next day, Obama made it clear that Wagoner had been pushed out (along with most of GM’s board of directors) as part of the strict terms the president was laying down for a 60-day extension of the bailout loan the Bush administration had provided last year to help the staggering automaker avoid bankruptcy.

And later

In addition, Obama announced, Chrysler would have only 30 days more to work out its merger with Fiat or it, too, would be ticketed for bankruptcy.

It was a dramatic show of muscle, targeting two of the erstwhile Big Three, and the economic mainstay of the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, which rank among the top five political pillars of the Democratic Party. Michigan’s Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, protested that Wagoner was being made a scapegoat. But Sen. Carl Levin commented that when Obama met with members of the Michigan delegation, he made plain that “there wasn’t much point in arguing whether or not it was fair or unfair, wise or unwise. It was a decision that he didn’t ask us about; he informed us.”

Oh, come on. Dramatic? Granholm and Levin are not exactly Reid and Pelosi.

The most dramatic example of that kind of reappraisal in my experience was supplied by Ronald Reagan in the summer of 1981, his first year as president. PATCO, the union representing government employees who were air traffic controllers, presented a series of contract demands including $10,000-a-year pay increases and shorter hours to relieve the strain of their high-tension jobs.

When negotiations stalled, PATCO threatened to strike, despite federal law forbidding it. When the union carried out its threat, Reagan gave its members 48 hours to get back to work, warning that those who stayed out longer would be fired.

The union gambled that Reagan would not run the risk of disrupting air service and aggravating so many business travelers. But it lost. Twelve thousand of its members — all but the few dissidents who stayed on the job — were summarily fired. When the strike effectively collapsed after five days, Reagan barred the rehiring of the strikers for any government jobs.

The pushing out of Wagoner was nothing like the firing of PATCO controllers. In the case of Wagoner, it was a case of bayonetting the wounded. It might have been a necessary move, but brave or dramatic? Um, no. And who are Wagoner’s natural allies? Just CEO’s who, a recent poll indicated, are only slightly less popular than Casey Anthony. In the case of PATCO, organized labor as a whole took a huge hit.

Who was inconvenienced by the pushing out of Wagoner? Nobody. But when the controllers were fired, the flying public was inconvenienced with significantly reduced flights, and the FAA supervisors and military personnel with controller training – that were asked to sit down at the boards at the towers, approach control facilities, and Air Route Traffic Control Centers throughout the country – were certainly stressed for months and even years while the FAA’s air traffic controller pipeline struggled to produce controllers to backfill the departed.

Reagan’s refusal to rehire the strikers may have been a defining moment in his presidency. I doubt that the departure of Wagoner will be seen as a defining moment in Obama’s presidency. For the sake of the country, I hope that it is not. It is but a trifle.