Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Oh Shut Up!

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

I was flipping through the channel guide last night a little after 10 p.m. I happened to see the White House Correspondents Dinner on MSNBC. I tuned to that and was treated to the last nine and a half minutes of Wanda Sykes. All I can say is

I would say that whoever scheduled Wanda Sykes to speak at the Correspondents dinner should be shown the door. Her vitriol was counter to the notion of Obama as a uniter. Wishing for Limbaugh’s kidneys to fail. Combining “pulled out at the last minutes”, abstinence, and Sarah Palin. Suggesting that small children would be better off in a stranger’s car than in Dick Cheney’s.

In the MSNBC coverage, the camera was tight on Sykes. This is clearly torture as opposed, say, waterboarding. It was an affront to at least two of the five senses.

She kept looking to her right. I assume that this is where Obama was sitting. From her reactions, I have to assume that Obama was none too pleased with the over-the-top routine.

Oh shut up, you all are going to be telling that one tomorrow. Shut up.

Um, no. I doubt that very many people will be “telling that one tomorrow”.

She said that she was so happy that “you’re doing something about education”, as if Bush did nothing for education. But then she tells us exactly what “doing something for education” means to liberals. It means nothing more and nothing less than “paying our teachers more”. Liberals do not care about actual education of our children.

Sykes hit rock bottom when she suggested that some previous first ladies should be wearing “ponchos” because of their appearance. News flash, Wanda. You aren’t exactly eye candy yourself.

Likening Limbaugh to Bin Laden, suggesting that he was the 20th hi-jacker. She looked back over to Obama.

Come on…too much? … OK

But you’re laughing inside. I know…

Sykes suggests that an attempt to defend torture by cataloging the valuable information obtained is akin to her robbing a bank and then defending it by saying

Yes your honor, I robbed a bank…but look at all the bills I paid.

Seems like perfectly good analogy, if you are an imbecile.

Specter Wastes No Time Getting Down

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Anyone that has listened to Arlen Specter (D-bag, Pennsylvania) over the past couple of years knows that he has sounded more and more detached from reality. And I’m not talking about his recent switch to the Democratic party. Over the weekend, Specter plumbed new lows, using the death of former colleague Jack Kemp for partisan purposes.

In Specter Claims Kemp Would Be Alive if Congress Better Funded Medical Research, Specter claims

If we had pursued what President Nixon declared in 1970 as the war on cancer, we would have cured many strains. I think Jack Kemp would be alive today. And that research has saved or prolonged many lives, including mine.

Yes, and if we had just funded more AIDS research…and if we had just funded more fetal stem cell research…and if we had just navigate to these guys

What Specter really ought to be interested in is more funding for mental health issues.

I’d certainly like to see a debate on how we fund disease research. Some diseases receive disproportionate funding compared to the number of those stricken. One such disease is AIDS. And, unlike most cancers, AIDS is nearly always the direct result of choices made by its victims. These choices – for example, the sharing of needles, unprotected (and even protected) sex of various sorts – have been well known to lead to HIV and AIDS since the national brochure was sent to US households in 1988 from Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

Would Specter have us divert AIDS funding to the NCI?

I Don’t Get It

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

No doubt about it, the Democrats are up and the Republicans are down. There is no shortage of pundits and politicians that wag their finger in the direction of Republicans and kindly suggest that the GOP will continue to contract if it continues to be “the party of no”.

But I don’t get it. I understand that demographics (e.g., Hispanics and younger adults) are not in the republican’s favor. But I don’t know what the critics would have the republicans become. It seems like the major complaint is that Republicans are not Democrats.

The Republican party nominated John McCain for president last year. Not a southern Christian, not a neo-con. But one of the few politicians that has actually worked with those across the aisle to accomplish legislation. It is true that recent budgets and stimulus packages received little or no Republican support. But why would there be such an expectation. As Nancy Pelosi said, the Democrats won, so they get to write the bill. A vote against $750 billion of stimulus, with its 1000+ pages, and with less than 24 hours to read, sounds like good judgement to me. Such a vote would not mean “no stimulus package”. It would just mean “not that stimulus package”. Meanwhile, President Obama has stressed on a few occasions since taking office that bi-partisanship is not about attracting votes of both parties. It is about “talking”. Umm hmm.

And, since the smack down in November, the Republicans have selected Michael Steele to head the RNC. Mr. Steele, a moderate Republican, was elected Lt. Governor of the People’s Republic of Maryland.

My favorite Republican last year, Mitt Romney, is an early front-runner for 2012. Romney, a moderate Republican, was elected Governor of Massachusetts. And he was the only candidate in either party that has actually spearheaded something like universal health coverage at the state level.

Thinking back to 2000 – and I know this may engender a lot of bad memories – I recall that W ran as a “compassionate conservative”. But what exactly did that mean? At the beginning of his administration, before 9/11, his main focus was on education. Later, he would turn his attention to Medicare prescription drug benefits and to an international AIDS program. I also recall the diversity of W’s cabinets. There were women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans. Some were held over from Clinton’s administration. Some were Bush’s people from Texas. Others were those that had served the elder Bush with distinction. I realize that some of these folks did not work out well. But the Bush cabinet was not, for example, a bunch of old white men.

I was amused by an article today in the Washington Post Outlook section. Who Won Feminism?*, by Naomi Wolf, begins

Look at Michelle Obama: She has segued seamlessly from an active professional life as a highly paid hospital executive to her current incarnation as fashion plate, doting mom and demure sex object, posing for Vogue in a hot fuchsia frock that shows plenty of skin. What’s most surprising about this metamorphosis? How few people are objecting to it.

I mention this passage by way of showing the degree of infatuation with the Obamas.  Sure, Ms. Obama was a highly paid hospital executive. I guess she brought unique skills to her job, because when she left the position to come to Washington, her position was not back filled. Sounds more like she was given her position as a way to buy influence. This was similar to Hilary Clinton, who was a full partner in the Rose Law Firm.

Yes indeed, the Democrats are up. The Republicans are down. But I still don’t get it.

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.

Man-Caused Disaster

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Introduced in House as the Grayson-Himes Pay For Performance Act of 2009, H.R.1664 is House Financial Services Committee chair Barney Frank’s attempt to put his hand down our pockets and grab something (such as, I hope, our money). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have Frank’s hands anywhere near my pocket.

According to Beyond AIG: A bill to let Big Government set your salary

The new legislation, the “Pay for Performance Act of 2009,” would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The purpose of the legislation is to “prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards,” according to the bill’s language. That includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

And who would get to determine what is unreasonable? Why Treasury Secretary Tim ‘TurboTax’ Geithner.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is “unreasonable” or “excessive.” And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate “the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates.”

This is freaking hilarious. The government is going to come up with a method to evaluate performance? The government can barely come up with a method to evaluate it’s own performance, where “profit”, “productivity”, and “innovation” are not exactly watchwords. The government is notoriously poor at establishing balanced performance measures (i.e., a balanced scorecard). Rather than establish balanced measures, the government tends to measure only inputs, rather than actual results, or benefits.

Now I know what Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano meant by “man-caused disasters”. Just pay attention to Barney Frank’s next move.

This Is Your New Bonus

This Is Your New Bonus