Friday, May 31, 2013
According to Dick Morris, longtime Washington insider political analyst with Oval Office experience, there is no chance President Barack Obama knew nothing of the IRS targeting conservative groups. Why else would IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman have visited the White House 157 times during the period that groups with "tea party," "patriot" and other conservative buzzwords in their names were being targeted for extra scrutiny. "The incredible frequency of the White House visits — essentially weekly — indicate that Obama must have been deeply involved with the inner workings of the audits and harassment of conservative groups." Morris asks what other reason would have brought Schulman to gthe White House. "Not ObamaCare. Not without having (Health and Human Services) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in attendance, you wouldn’t," Morris says. "About Treasury issues? Deficit reduction? Not without Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner." The reason, Morris says, is that Obama was following the IRS actions with an "obsessive, personal involvement." The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that opened the political process to groups and individuals until then excluded galvanized Obama into action, Morris says, and "tapped so deeply into his psyche that he was determined personally to supervise the castration of the wealthy people and groups whose access to the political system was opened wide by the Court." Schulman held a subordinate, non-policy making position, Morris said, so to have seen him 157 times, Obama had to have been "a president on a mission." The scandal is not one of a rogue agency, Morris says, but one of a rogue president using the agency for his personal purposes. "An instrument of vengeance, or self- defense, and of political influence." President Richard Nixon was doomed, Morris notes, when the public realized that his own paranoia had infected his entire administration...when we realized that [Chuck Colson] was operating as Nixon’s man doing Nixon’s bidding based on the needs of Nixon’s psyche." The public now realizes that the IRS harassment went deeper than was initally admitted," Morris said."This scandal will destroy him.". ~~~~~ And, dear readers, the latest results of the Quinnipiac University poll seems to show the effect of what Dick Morris calls presidential "paranoia." President Barack Obama's job approval rating has taken a big hit in the wake of the accumulation of White House scandals. Fewer than half, 49%, of the registered voters surveyed now believe Obama is "honest and trustworthy," going from 58% the last time the question was asked in September 2011. The IRS scandal is hitting Obama hardest, the survey found. The voters, who were surveyed between Wednesday last week and Tuesday of this week, think the IRS scandal is more worrying than those surrounding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi or the seizure of phone records from journalists. More people now view the president negatively than positively - 49% say they have a negative view of Obama, while 45% have a positive view. One month ago, before news of the IRS controversy broke, the president's job approval rating was more positive than negative, at 48 to 45%. When it comes to the individual scandals surrounding the Obama administration, 44% of voters see the IRS prying into conservative groups as the most important, while 24% say they are most concerned about the administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and 15% say the records seizure at news organizations is most important. Many voters, 43%, believe criticism of the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack as "just politics," while, more than three out of four voters, 76%, believe a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the IRS scandal. That figure includes 63% of Democrats, 88% of Republicans, and 78% of independent voters. "There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute."Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't think highly of him," Brown said. Holder got a negative 39% job approval rating, compared to 23% who approved of the way he is doing his job. But the poll also shows that 73% of voters believe that dealing with the economy and unemployment is a higher priority than investigating these three issues. Only 22% disagree. According to the poll results, political parties and groups are generally held in disdain. Voters have an unfavorable view of both the main parties and the tea party. And a minuscule 3% of voters surveyed say they trust the federal government to do the right thing all the time, 12% says they trust the feds most of the time, 47% say some of the time, and 36% say hardly ever. A congressional election today would be evenly split, with 38 percent saying they would vote for a Republican to sit in the House of Representatives and the same number saying they would vote Democrat. What is President Obama's own take on his responsibilities? In September 2012, President Obama said on 60 Minutes that he bears responsibility “for everything--to some degree." However, President Obama received more than $110,000 from IRS employees for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, topping all rival political candidates, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
There are growing indications that the various breaches of constitutional regularity enmeshing the Obama administration are merging into one grand scandal and finding legs. (1). Talking to MSNBC, former Obama campaign advisor and member of the Obama inner circle David Axelrod said he finds the Justice Department's probe of a Fox News reporter "disturbing." Axelrod also chastised the department's decision to label Fox's chief Washington correspondent James Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in its investigation of a national security leak. "I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,...The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing." He added, "We have to figure out ... how we deal with national security leaks and how we protect the freedom of the press and the freedom of reporters to operate. And certainly this Rosen case raises some very disturbing issues....I don't think reporters should be considered criminals for doing their jobs, and it's the job of reporters to uncover facts," Axelrod said. (2). Republican Representative Peter King of New York has told Newsmax that Attorney General Eric Holder's initial denial of involvement in the targeting of Fox News reporter James Rosen "could be perjury." King was highly critical of Holder, who previously said he would never be part of targeting a reporter and didn't think it was good policy when he actually approved a search warrant on James Rosen. The House Judiciary Committee reportedly is looking into whether he perjured himself in steadfastly denying a role in the Rosen subpoena when he OK'd the seizure of the Fox reporter's phone records. King explained his comment : "To me, on its face, that certainly could be perjury. And the reason I'm saying 'could be' — I know there's always precise standards to meet — that certainly warrants a full investigation as to whether or not perjury was committed there. There've been other people over the years indicted for perjury or tried for perjury on a lot less evidence than that." (3). There is also the matter of the Justice Department’s leak investigations. President Obama took credit for asking Congress to pass a shield law “to guard against government overreach.” This is amusing, considering that it is Obama’s own administration that has been overreaching. It is an interesting twist on presidential leadership to develop a policy of stretching constitutional government to its limits and beyond and then asking for legislation to assure that it does not happen again. (4). A lawsuit seeking "compensatory and punitive damages" from the Obama administration was filed on Wednesday by an organization representing 25 tea party and conservative groups that were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service."The only way to stop this flagrant and arrogant abuse of our clients' rights is to file a federal lawsuit, which we have done," explained Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the group filing the lawsuit, the American Center for Law and Justice. "The lawsuit sends a very powerful message to the IRS and the Obama administration -- including the White House: Americans are not going to be bullied and intimidated by our government." The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, alleges that the groups faced "comprehensive, pervasive, invidious and organized" targeting and were denied their First and Fifth Amendment rights. The defendants named in the lawsuit include the IRS, Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Steven Miller, the former acting IRS chief; and two other IRS officials linked to the scandal, Lois Lerner and Holly Paz. The legal action also seeks a permanent injunction barring federal agencies and officials from discriminating against the 25 groups "for disparate treatment and particular scrutiny based on the unconstitutional criteria of political viewpoint or association." ~~~~~ Dear readers, these movements suggest that opposition to the Obama tactic of ridiculing those who complain of administration acts and then trying to sweep them under the carpet as old news is failing. Americans are becoming more aware that it is they themselves who must defend their own constitutional rights and personal liberties. If they don't call on the courts to help them - if they don't keep pressure on Congress to investigate thoroughly all these indications of serious constitutional excesses - nobody will do for for them. As the old saying goes, "If you want the job done, do it yourself." Nowhere is this more true than in the defense of constitutional government by informed and concerned citizens.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
His name is Alexandre. He went to a large Parisian shopping mall. He bought a pocket knife and a carton of orange juice. He said a Moslem prayer in a corner of the mall. He then attacked a 22-year-old French soldier on patrol, stabbing him several times in the neck and throat. Alexandre was also 22. He was homeless. He had converted to radical Islam as a teenager. He was arrested today at the home of a friend who has not been implicated. He was identified through DNA on the plastic juice bottle, said Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the French police union UNSA. Alexandre told police 'I know why you're here.' A French police spokesman said that "The nature of the attack, the fact that it happened three days after the London attack and a prayer that was carried shortly before the attack make us believe that he acted in the name of his religious ideology and that his wish was to attack someone representing the state." The spokesman also said the man came under scrutiny after a street prayer in 2007 and authorities had his DNA profile on record after a series of petty crimes as a minor. Under French anti-terrorism law, he can be held for 96 hours without charge, but French police believe he was a Lone Wolf would-be assassin. If so, this would be the first time a French Moslem convert committed a lone-wolf style terrorist act, rather than as part of a terrorist network, according to an analyst who said Lone Wolf attacks are the most alarming because it's completely unpredictable." French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said, "I have said it before and I say it again. We have dozens if not hundreds of potential terrorists in our country." ~~~~~ Dear readers, this is the new face of radical Islam terrorism in our midst. Drones and hit squads are essentially useless against them. There is nothing swashbuckling or world-changing about their violent acts. They will not be remembered for long as individuals. They are outcasts being turned against society by professional terrorists using religion and the social difficulties of young men to wreak violence on citizens of the democracies of the world and on the Moslems in their own world who dare to disagree with them. In both cases, our children are being brainwashed into ticking time bombs and we need a strategy to stop the perpetrators and to recover these young and vulnerable converts to a false religion of domestic and international terrorism.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Dear readers, once more the European Union has stepped up to an issue concerning the Middle East and the Arab Spring ahead of the United States. The EU announced Monday night that the general arms embargo against shipments to Syrian rebel forces has been lifted. From 1 June, EU member states will be able to decide individually whether to supply arms to the Syrian rebel coalition and its armed force, the Syria Free Army. European media commenting today believe that decisions to ship arms to the rebels may be made within days. EU foreign affairs leaders say the embargo was lifted to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime ahead of planned peace talks in Geneva mediated by the United States and Russia. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the decision "sends a very strong message from Europe to the Assad regime." But the decision was far from unanimous and exposed the EU hesitation on sending arms to a foreign conflict only months after the 27-member bloc won the Nobel Peace Prize. No one is intending to "rock the boat" by sending arms immediately during the delicate period before the Geneva conference, according to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who said lifting the embargo was an effort to force Syria to participate in good faith at the "Geneva II" talks tentatively scheduled for June. The EU is also maintaining its stiff economic sanctions against al-Assad's regime, which also sends a message - to Russia. Moscow continues to support al-Assad and openly sends weapons regularly to the regime. EU arms deliveries could partially re-balance the civil war when it comes to firepower and this could level the playing field and force al-Assad into a negotiated settlement. As in the Libya insurrection, it has been Britain and France - the EU's largest military powers - pushing the EU and America, this time in Syria, to lift its embargo on delivery of weapons into Syria to help the out-gunned opposition. Austria, which has sent peacekeepers to the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, was opposed. Several other EU countries argued that the region already has too many weapons. Everyone seemed to agree that everything possible should be done to control exports and make sure they do not fall into the hands of extremists or terrorists. Hague said Britain would only send in weapons "in company with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances, and in compliance with international law." French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius returned to Paris Monday to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who are leading the effort to bring the two Syrian sides to the negotiating table. In Paris, officials traveling with Kerry had no comment on the EU arms decision. Meanwhile, on Monday US Senator John McCain, who has long proposed the arming of Syrian rebels, crossed into Syrian territory to meet with Syrian rebel leaders. The leader of the Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, who accompanied McCain across the Turkey-Syria border, asked him for increased US support, including heavy weapons, a no-fly zone and airstrikes on Syrian government and Hezbollah forces. McCain, who is a fierce critic of Obama administration policy in Syria, has never recommended sending US ground troops into the country, but he has called for a no-fly zone in addition to arming the rebel forces. Last week the US Senate Armed Services Committee, with a Democrat majority, sided with GOP Senator McCain in voting to arm and train vetted rebel groups. And on another front, France's Fabius added to the chemical weapons debate on Monday, saying there are increasing signs that chemical weapons are being used in the war by the al-Assad regime. Fabius said there are indications that the regime is mixing toxic gases with tear gas to camouflage their presence. ~~~~~ So dear readers, we are watching the world, and even his own Democrat Party, begin to pull away from the non-intervention Syria policy of President Obamma. But it is probably too late to salvage the results through intervention that Obama hoped for by his hands-off policy. The extremists are mingling with rebel forces; the death toll is fast approaching 80,000; and the war has spread into Lebanon with the active participation of Hezbollah; and Israel is endangered. Non-intervention did not work. Intervention comes late. All we can hope for now is that Europe's threat to arm the Syria rebels will bring al-Assad to a negotiation that leads to some sort of settlement before the real result of Obama's failed policy - a generalized Middle East war - sucks the entire world into its maelstrom.
Monday, May 27, 2013
On July 1-3, 1863, the American Civil War saw its turning point at the Battle of Gettysburg, where Union forces delivered a seminal defeat to Confederacy forces in a small Pennsylvania town just north of the Maryland border that marked the division between the Union North and the Secessionist South. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to give a speech at the consecration of the Soldiers National Cemetery being opened for Civil War dead. Lincoln's two-minute remarks have become known as the Gettysburg Address. It has been compared for its literary quality to Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible. It has no equal in its precise, sweeping defense of America's Founding Fathers' principles of republican government and equal rights for all. It also offers the clearest explanation of the moral and patriotic value of the sacrifice of American soldiers ever written. For those who think that America's dedication to her soldiers, whether war dead or living, is a recent phenomenon, I point out that the Gettysburg Soldiers National Cemetery was opened 150 years ago, and almost two years before the Civil War ended in the victory of the constitutional concept of the Union of American States. Here, on Memorial Day, the day when all Americans honor their fallen soldiers, are the timeless words of a fallen President, cherished by Americans as their greatest leader. ~~~~~ "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." ___Abraham Lincoln
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Most Americans who recognize the name Edward R. Murrow probably saw the George Clooney film, Good Night and Good Luck, which traced the determination of the first great American TV journalist to expose Senator Joseph McCarthy for the charlatan he was. Murrow did it in the face of the fears and misgivings of his network, CBS, and of his commercial sponsors. He paid for the telecast without their sponsorship. Murrow was right and he started the process that brought down McCarthy. Americans flocked to his point of view, forcing a reluctant President to intervene. The next time you feel inclined to lump all reporters into one bag or another, depending on your own politics, pause to think about the courage of Edward R. Murrow. It was his courage that Dan Rather said "...separated him from other reporters." Here are a few of the many memorable Murrow quotes. ~~~~~ "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.....We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home....We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it....A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices....We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men – not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular....To be persuasive, We must be believable, to be believable, We must be credible, to be credible, We must be truthful....Most truth's are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.”― Edward R. Murrow. ~~~~~ In the latest challenge to the supremacy of the US Constitution's First Amendment, Fox News President Roger Ailes blasted the Justice Department for targeting journalists as if they were criminals and said the government's seizure of reporters' emails and phone records would not stand "the test of law....The recent news about the FBI's seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States....We reject the government's efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a federal judge as a 'co-conspirator' in a crime....We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth,....I stand with you, I support you and I thank you for your reporting with courageous optimism. Too many Americans fought and died to protect our unique right of press freedom....We can't and won't forget that. To be an American journalist is not only a great responsibility, but also a great honor. To be a Fox journalist is a high honor, not a high crime." Roger Ailes. ~~~~~ I bring up Edward R. Murrow and Roger Ailes, dear readers, because America is facing a frontal attack on First Amendment rights to freedom of the press. AP and Fox News journalists are being harrassed, and in the case of Fox News being criminally charged with co-conspiracy, as part of the Obama administration's effort to stop the leaking of secrets. The witchhunt is a B-rated copy of McCarthyism. It seeks to chill the right of reporters to seek information and the equal right of Americans to receive that information. Freedom of the press is not a post-publication post-censorship determination. It exists at the very heart of the need for a free and informed society of responsible citizens that the Founders placed in the Constitution. To squelch the First Amendment is to disarm Americans just as much as to suppress the Second Amendment is to leave them helpless at the hands of a powerful, faceless federal government. Whether you agree or disagree with Obama's politics or his defense of state secrets is not the point. Americans are constitutionally guaranteed a free press and no one has the authoriry to take away that right.
Friday, May 24, 2013
President Obama spoke in detail Thursday about the US drone program, firmly defending the controversial strikes as legal and necessary to national security - while at the same time announcing that he was setting new limits on their use. The President for the first time personally acknowledged that US drone strikes have killed several Americans overseas, only one of whom was targeted. Attorney General Eric Holder made the information public a day earlier. Obama confirmed that he had signed a directive setting guidelines for the strikes. "Simply put, these strikes have saved lives," Obama said. In a major speech on anti-terrorism, the President also renewed his call for closing Guantanamo Bay. Some Republican lawmakers were angered by Obama's urging Congress to lift restrictions on transferring detainees and revealing that the Defense Department is now looking for a US domestic location for military commissions. He emphasized that he wants to detain and prosecute terrorists as if in a normal, criminal law system rather than a war tribunal. The President also spoke about his long-stymied effort to close Guantanamo Bay and said the administration is also looking to transfer detainees outside of the prison camp once again. He said the administration was lifting a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen. It was a proposal Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called "very troubling," suggesting Yemen conditions are not adequate. In re-affirming his pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo, Obama is seeking a renewed effort to transfer its 166 detainees, some of whom are on hunger strike and being force-fed, to other countries. Congress and the White House have argued since Obama took office in 2009 over the fate of the suspects and whether they can be brought to trial on US soil. In the meantime, the detainees have been held for years with diminishing hope that they will charged with a crime or be given a trial. The president addressed the program in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Obama's new policy would still require congressional approval to move detainees to US prisons if the prison is to close. Representative Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he's "open" to a presidential proposal on Guantanamo Bay but called for more than "talking points." "This speech was only necessary due to a deeply inconsistent counter-terrorism policy, one that maintains it is more humane to kill a terrorist with a drone, than detain and interrogate him at Guantanamo Bay," he said in a statement, asking how the president would handle terrorists too dangerous to release buty who cannot be tried. "Podium platitudes cannot make up for solid answers to these questions," he said. Earlier, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told Newsmax TV that it was a mistake for Obama in his 2008 campaign to say he wanted to shut Guantanamo, and that by doing so, it would eliminate an al-Qaida recruiting point."Gitmo is an excuse for al-Qaida; it's not the reason. If Gitmo did close, they'd find another recruiting tool. The facility was set up because there was no place else to put those people, and that remains true today," Bolton said. "The notion that you let them go simply means that at least a third will return to the battlefield against us and probably much more than that. We say a third of those released have been recidivists, but those are the ones we know about." Bolton told Fox News that since 9/11, al-Qaida "has metastasized into the Arabian peninsula, into the Maghreb, into Iraq. It doesn’t follow a corporate or government organization chart. It's a much more distributed network. "The threat is growing, not receding....They did it in Boston on April 15; they did it in London yesterday." On the subject of Obama's admission on the use of drones, Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has mixed feelings. "I'm glad he's defended the use of the drones to date. That helps legitimize them beyond any question, including in the elimination of Americans that have turned against their country and are waging war against it," he told Newsmax. "But to say, having declared victory now, we're going to limit our use of drones...the president here is really saying that the tactic which formerly was a mark of their success in the war against terrorism, we're going to abandon. "So you figure that out. This is a cause for celebration in terrorist camps all over the Middle East." ~~~~~ Dear readers, we are seeing once again President Obama's indecision about the war on terrorism. He takes credit for successes while trying to distance himself from the unpleasant realities of the tactics required to garner successes. War is always bloody and violent. War against faceless and fanatic terrorists, even more so. But denying that terrorism is still rampant - refusing to call terrorism by its name - cutting back on tactics that have worked to bring down terrorist individuals and cells -- these leadership actions only make the job harder for those on the front lines risking their lives to make the world a safer place. They deserve a President who fully supports them.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
There are two lessons to be learned from the daily bombardment of information bites from congressional leaders and the media about Benghazi, the attempts by the IRS to shut down the President's political opponents, the harrassment of AP and Fox News reporters in a concerted First Amendment attack. The FIRST LESSON has to do with the trappings of presidential power run amok. When an American President believes that he is somehow above the Constitution and the law, there will always be scandals - minor or major depending on the character and idiosyncracies of the President in power. Clinton preferred women to political power and that produced Monica Lewinsky. Reagan brought on the little-remembered Iran-Contra affair to pay for unauthorized forays into Central American ideological politics. President Obama seems to favor presidential power of a kind that more closely resembles that of President Nixon - stifle the press, lie about what's happening, use the federal bureaucracy at your disposal to bring down your political enemies. Karl Rove recently described this attitude as 'corrosive.' Rove told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview, “They'll eat away at the president's rating. We'll see it over time and, particularly, as Congress asks more questions in the weeks ahead....This stuff is only starting to seep in,...I am not surprised that it hasn’t begun to impact his job approval just yet.” Rove, like almost everyone, finds the Benghazi cover-up most troubling - he described it as the Obama administration grossly mismanaging the information surrounding the attacks on the US consulate in Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. “The West Wing was complicit in the Benghazi lie,” Rove declared to Newsmax. “And, look, I believe that, ultimately, the president is responsible for setting the tone....You don’t send out [US Ambassador to the UN] Susan Rice to go on five Sunday morning talk programs unless somebody in the West Wing has said, ‘Let's send her out’ — and somebody in the West Wing has said this is what she needs to say or said, ‘O.K., that's an interesting idea. You ought to go ahead and say that.’” Rove says the controversies - which also include the targeting of tea party and conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service and the recent secret seizure of telephone records of editors and reporters at The Associated Press - point to a haughty President. “I do see an arrogance, a belief that the rules somehow don't apply to him - that the norms that other presidents have abided by should not be respected and that he is free to do something that he would criticize in others,” Rove said.“There's lots of things that he has done that are inappropriate.” But the most egregious will always be Benghazi, Rove says. “This involves the president himself,” he declared to Newsmax. “He is the commander in chief, and at 4:08 p.m. in the afternoon on Sept. 11 in Washington, our government received word that attack was underway on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi.“ At 5 p.m., the president was told about this by the Secretary of Defense [Leon Panetta] and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Gen. Martin Dempsey], who were in the office for a half-hour meeting on another subject. “The president ordered them to deploy whatever forces were necessary,” Rove adds. “They later testified that was the last contact they had with the president that night - and we now know that no forces were deployed. “The president didn't say: ‘I'm going to pick up the phone and call the president of Libya and say: Our facility's under attack. You have an international responsibility to protect our people. What are you doing?’ He talks to him for the first time ever the next morning to say thank you for returning the body of our dead ambassador.“ This is unacceptable,” Rove continues. “Where was the president? What was he doing? Who concocted this lie that was told to the American people? We know that it's a total, complete fabrication, a lie - and we still don’t know who was the person who authored that and told her to go say that?...It's somebody sitting in the West Wing of the White House - and their motivation was to protect the president against criticism that the war on terror was not over and that this was a terrorist attack.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, I gave you Karl Rove's outline of the Benghazi affair not because it contains news but because it describes another sad point in American history. Go back and re-read Rove's Benghazi account -- replace Benghazi with Watergate...replace atrack with burglary...replace Obama with Nixon. Karl Rove is presenting the SECOND LESSON. President Nixon and his White House thought they could use the immense powers of the White House, IRS and Department of Justice to weather the Watergate storm. They hunkered down in the White House. They lied. They covered up prior lies with new lies. They lost. And President Obama will lose, too -- unless he can overcome his political instincts learned in the rough-and-ready precincts of Chicago - unless he can overcome his own worst enemy, his belief that he is not only always right but invincible. The soundbites are increasing in Congress - from both Democrats and Republicans. The use of the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate oneself by tesyifying under oath has already been used by an administration official. The media smells blood. President Obama is running out of time.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Two men ran over another man with their car and then dragged him into the street and hacked him to death, trying to behead him, with large kitchen knives and machetes near a London military barracks Wednesday afternoon, in what British authorities were investigating as a terrorist act. The two attackers were finally shot by police and taken to hospital. British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Paris for talks with French President Hollande, called the killing "truly shocking" and said he had asked Home Secretary Theresa May to call an urgent meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee. May was briefed by Britain's domestic security service, MI-5, and by police on what she called a "sickening and barbaric" attack. Britain's Ministry of Defense said it was urgently investigating reports that a serving soldier was the victim, and although the MoD has said it is extremely likely he was a soldier, as of this hour that has not been offficially confirmed. Live television images of the scene, many of which I have personally watched, show a trail of blood staining a wide area of street and pavement, cordoned off streets and crime scene investigators marking the scene. An AP News reporter talked with Fred Oyat, a 44-year-old who lives in a high-rise near where the attack occurred. He said that he heard four gun shots and then went straight to the window and saw a man lying in the street bleeding profusely. "There were four knives on the ground - big kitchen knives. The knives were very bloody," Oyat said. David Dixon, head teacher of a nearby primary school, said police told him there was a serious incident nearby. He said he saw a body lying in the road outside. He told the BBC that he then made sure the children were inside and put the school into lockdown mode. He said he then heard shots fired. Other eyewitnesses interviewed by Sky News said the two assailants stayed at the attack scene, urging people to take photos of them and their victim. One British broadcaster ran video footage of what appeared to be one of the attackers, his hands covered in blood, making political statements about "an eye for an eye" to an unknown cameraperson as a body lay behind him on the ground. Speaking with what Sky News anchormen later described as a south London accent, the man apologized for the women passers-by who "have had to witness this" attack, saying that "in our land our women have to see the same." He gave no indication what that land was. David Cameron, in a brief joint news conference in Paris with the French president, said, "...we have had these attacks before but because of the indomitable British spirit, we will never buckle in the face of these threats....they will never win because they cannot defeat the values we hold dear." British political leaders and police are calling for calm and for "a measured response" to today's attack. The Muslim Council of Britain has condemned the attack as barbaric, saying it has no basis in Islam's teachings. The Council called for calm and solidarity in the aftermath of the attack. But there are unofficial reports of an attack on a mosque in Essex in southern England this evening. Meanwhile, security has been tightened at all London military barracks. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is important to call for calm and to show the measured behavior taught by our western judeo-christian tradition. The solution is not to meet extremism with extremism. The solution is to demand that Islam put its own house in order. It is not Christians or Jews who are attempting to terrorize the world into submission to a violently inhumane political construct. That construct terrorizes and offends the Five Pillars of Islam and those who follow their ecepts just as much as it does us. But, we cannot educate Muslim children in Moslem countries. We cannot use force to bring down every Muslim dictator who mistreats his own people. We cannot accept every peace-loving Muslim into our societies only to have radical imams and organizers turn their children into homegrown terrorists. We cannot enforce basic human liberties and rights for all the citizens of all Muslim nations. We cannot create functioning Muslim economies and jobs. Only Muslims can do these things in a way that will eradicate islamist terrorism by giving Muslims everywhere the kinds of lives they long for and deserve - not fake western democracies but real Muslim societies based on personal development that creates real families, real communities, real religious values. We can help when asked, but we cannot do for Muslims what they must do for themselves. And until Muslims cast off their fear and lethargy and act - terrorist acts will continue, Muslims will be less welcome than they should be, or want to be, in Europe and America, and Muslims will suffer more than we ever will, both at the hands of islamist terrorists and as outsiders in the community of nations. Think about it. There must be Muslim leaders who can get the reforms started. Find them. Begin.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Much of the West is watching rescue efforts following the gigantic tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma - and our thoughts and prayers go out to the decimated town's citizens. But events have been moving rapidly on several fronts in another devastated region - Syria. Despite recent rebel setbacks in Syria's civil war - which could either be an indication that stalemate has been reached between al-Assad and rebel forces or that the continuing Russian supply of missiles and other materiel is propping up an otherwise weakening regime - the main opposition coalition has indicated that it will make demands to protect its position as it considers whether to attend possible peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's regime sponsored by America and Russia. The Syrian National Coalition said the group wants ironclad guarantees of al-Assad's departure as part of any transition deal and more weapons for rebel fighters. Last weekend, al-Assad also took a tough stance, saying once again he won't step down before elections are held. At the same time, his troops launched an attack against Qusair, a rebel-held town in western Syria, the latest in a series of military gains by the regime. The US-Russia effort to organize a peace conference has been overshadowed by disagreements, particularly over Russian shipments of advanced missiles to al-Assad. The Russian missiles may be playing an important part in the recent al-Assad successes in retaking rebel-held areas. While Russian arms shipments to al-Assad continue unabated, the West, and in particular the United States, has been reluctant to arm the rebels, because of concerns such weapons will fall into the hands of Islamic militants with ties to the al-Qaida network. Britain and France have been breaking out of that consensus in recent weeks, arguing that al-Assad will only negotiate seriously if the rebels can pressure him militarily. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday, "We must make it clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table." And while Obama administration officials have refused to rule out the participation of Assad's biggest military backer, Iran, French President Hollande says it does not want Iran to attend. But, the weekend thrust of al-Assad forces in an effort to retake Qusair, a strategic rebel-held town between Damascus and the Lebanese border, in the heartland of Assad's Alawite sect, is important for several reasons. It has drawn Hezbollah overtly into the Syrian civil war. Between 14 and 23 Hezbollah fighters in Syria have been killed, depending on the source. Whether Hezbollah is in Syria because they feel their ally, al-Assad, threatened or because Iran, who supplies Hezbollah with arms and other support, has encouraged them to intervene, the result is likely to be the drawing of Lebanon into the Syrian conflict. Lebanon has taken Hezbollah into its weak coalition government not out of friendship but because Hezbollah has the strongest military in Lebanon. And if Lebanon falls firmly into the hands of Hezbollah and Iran, Israel's northern border will be compromised, making an Israeli intervention to restore quiet in the volatile Golan Heights and southern Lebanon region very likely. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we are beginning to see the more serious effects of the Obama hands-off position in Syria. The combination of Syria becoming an even more dependent client state of Russia and Iran, the entry of Hezbollah directly on the side of al-Assad, the infiltration of groups with al-Qaida ties on the rebel side because of the lack of western support for their cause -- these are all symptons of the power vacuum created by Obama's hesitation. Europe is trying to fill the gap but it is only Israel that can readily put a lid in a regional collapse into sectarian conflict. And that will inevitably draw America into the wars. "Pay me now or pay me later," as the old saying goes. Mr. Obama should have considered the consequences of American inaction publicly pointed out to him early on in the Syrian rebellion. It may well be too late now.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Let's take a look at weekend events and draw some conclusions, dear readers. (1). On Sunday, Newsmax published the results of a new poll finding that a majority of Americans believe Congress is not overreacting to the growing scandals threatening the Obama administration. The CNN/ORC poll found that 54% of Americans don't believe Congress is overreacting to the IRS harrassment of conservative groups, while 42% said that it is. By a larger margin, 59% to 37%, respondents said that Congress is making the right moves on the administration's actions regarding the Benghazi terror attack. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer appeared on several Sunday talk shows to defend President Barack Obama. Pfeiffer said Obama learned about the IRS scandal on May 10, the same day as the public, even though Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was aware of the probe earlier. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell sees it differently : The White House might not have commanded Internal Revenue agents to target conservative groups, but a "culture of intimidation throughout the administration" made them think it was acceptable. McConnell told Meet the Press that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all have targeted conservative groups. "What we're talking about here is an attitude that the government knows best,...The nanny state is here to tell us all what to do, and if you start criticizing you get targeted." But, Pfeiffer got some news while appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," which reported Obama's job approval at 53%. The numbers were up 2 percent from early April, and up 6 percent from their low of 47% in mid-March."I think the American people have great faith in the president," Pfeiffer said. (2). This weekend the president and CEO of The Associated Press made his first public statement about the Department of Justice seizure of AP journalists' phone records, calling it "unconstitutional" and arguing that the seizure has already had a chilling effect on First Amendment rights to a free press, making sources less likely to talk to AP journalists. Gary Pruitt, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said the AP was informed of the seizure of two months of phone records in a letter it received May 10. Prior to that date, prosecutors had already said they were conducting a leaks investigation into how the AP learned about an al-Qaida bomb plot in Yemen before it was made public last year. Pruitt said the AP story contradicted the government's claim at the time that there was no terrorist plot. (3). In a Newsmax interview, Senator Bob Corker says he is waiting for an explanation from the White House over reports that the United States has made millions of dollars in secret cash payments to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. Corker told Newsmax TV that a letter he wrote to the Obama administration was first answered by officials who told him it wasn't his business. "I want to know why we're doing it. I understand when we go into conflict areas in the very beginning, there's no doubt we deal with cash,'' Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said. "But with a government that's been in place for this long, has gone through two elections, this is not a proper approach....Maybe the administration feels that it is, but if they do, I want to know why,'' Corker said. Karzai has called the payments "the choice of the American government.'' Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Karzai is apparently "not ashamed'' of the payoffs. "And obviously he's not ashamed that citizens throughout the country are aware.'' In a letter to the president, Corker said, "Our assistance to Afghanistan should have long since evolved to a carefully coordinated, fully transparent effort across federal agencies with appropriate congressional oversight to ensure US aid meets our national interests....These secret payments lack any kind of accountability, encourage the very kind of corruption we're trying to prevent in Afghanistan, and further undermine US taxpayers' confidence in our government.'' ~~~~~ Dear readers, the American people have many serious reasons to be suspicious of the Obama administration's handling of its responsibilities. There are not only actions that verge on illegality, perhaps criminal in nature - Benghazi, IRS targeting of conservative groups. There are also attacks on the Constitution that should make every American citizen consider the constiturional goals of those around the President - gun control, harrassment of AP journalists and their sources. There are, in addition, actions that indicate a lack of understanding of how any political system should be managed - domestic security lapses, foreign affairs bungled at the expense of allies and of America's position of moral authority in the world. And with Senator Corker's statements we have the spectacle of a US President paying millions of dollars in cash to an "ally" in the war against terrorism - presumably to keep him an ally. This is a damning commentary on Obama's failed attempt to forge a foreign policy in the Middle East. He has alienated his only real ally, Israel. He has made America's Arab allies suspicious of America's regional "sticking power." He has left a trail of missed opportinities in Syria. These shortcomings may not be the stuff of congressional investigations, but in the longer term they may have the most negative effect on America and her allies around the world. One is forced to ask - who are the 53% of Americans who still look on President Obama favorably?
Saturday, May 18, 2013
In the last several days, the media and several Republican heavyweights have been giving free advice to the GOP House of Representatives majority and Senate minority --- get all the facts before you accuse President Obama or the Democrats of anything - don't ever use the word Watergate - don't threaten impeachment until you are sure you gave the facts to proceed. Good advice? Maybe. But the advice generally centers on the IRS. Benghazi could be the exception. Last week, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said claims that Republicans are making too much of the Benghazi affair in an effort to discredit likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are false. "No, that’s the sideshow, the Hillary Clinton piece of it," Rumsfeld told NBC's Today show host Matt Lauer, who asked Rumsfeld if Republicans were stirring up the Benghazi attack to get at Clinton, a favorite among Democrats to be their 2016 candidate for the White House. Rumsfeld answered that the basic principle is : "if you’re going to put people at risk, you have to try to protect them,...The British took their people out because they knew they were at risk, and the Americans were left in, and they weren’t provided the kind of security they needed, obviously, because they’re dead." Rumsfeld added that the White House continues to hide information about warnings it received concerning a possible attack well before it actually occurred : "I think as it’s unfolding, it’s very clear that the people knew from the outset that it was not the YouTube, that it was not a demonstration" that sparked the assault, he said. "People on the ground and people in Washington have now testified to that." On Friday, Donald Rumsfeld was joind by another Washington old hand and heavyweight, Bob Woodward, who helped break the Watergate scandal as a Washington Post reporter in the early 1970s. Woodward sees a similarity between the Obama administration's handling of the unfolding Benghazi affair and Watergate. He pointed to White House laundering of its talking points after last year's attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. "I have to go back 40 years to Watergate, when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, 'Let's not tell this, let's not show this,'" the political author told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed." In the future, Woodward said, the government should forego talking points. Talking points, as we know, are like legal briefs. They're an argument on one side. We need to get rid of talking points and they need to put out statements or papers that are truth documents." Meanwhile, Woodward believes the IRS targeting of conservative groups, while a serious issue, but doesn't yet rise to the level of Watergate. "It’s a big mess, obviously. I know there have been these comparisons to Watergate. I would say not yet." Earlier this week, Carl Bernstein, Woodward's reporting partner on the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, called the third scandal currently surrounding the Obama administration - the seizing of Associated Press reporters' phone records - "outrageous." Even if President Barack Obama did not know about the details, he knew of the policy, Woodward said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is always imperative to have as many facts as possible whenever serious charges are being levied. President Obama deserves facts - even if he may have erred on the side of ignoring the facts in Benghazi. But, he does not deserve the chance to doctor, edit or conceal the facts. He should cooperate fully with the congressional investigations. He should give all the evidence in the White House's possession. He should order every other executive department - State, Defense, CIA, other intelligence and diplomatic groups - to do the same. Barack Obama has crossed his own red line of sorts concerning Benghazi. Barack Obama has made the same mistake Richard Nixon made. It is too late for him to say, 'I didn't know and I have fired those who did know and acted wrongly.' AND a piece of good advice for the President. Get personal legal counsel now...do not rely on the Attorney General or on yourself. You are a lawyer and you know the old axiom: "A lawyer who has himself as a client is a fool." It is now time for President Obama to cooperate fully and openly in the hope that he still has a sufficient reserve of good will among the American people and their Congress to survive.
Friday, May 17, 2013
We are beginning to understand the full extent of the Obama administration's efforts to suppress its conservative political opponents by means of IRS manipulation of tax-exempt status approvals. No tea party applications were approved in a 27-month period beginning February 2010 and covering much of the 2012 presidential election period, but during rhe same period, numerous applications from liberal and progressive groups were given tax-exempt status. Some of those approved: (1). Bus for Progress, New Jersey nonprofit organization whose mission is to support "progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people's interests and make tough choices." The group, which uses a red, white and blue bus to "drive the progressive change," was approved as a social-welfare group in April 2011. (2). Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, approved in September 2011. The group says it fights against corporate welfare and toward increasing the minimum wage. (3). Progress Florida, which lobbies the Sunshine State's legislature to expand Medicaid under the provisions of Obamacare, and was approved in January 2011. These liberal groups, like the tea party organizations, sought tax reductions as social-welfare groups. It has also been revealed that during the same period the IRS expedited tax-exempt status for a charity run by President Barack Obama's half brother, despite numerous questions about how it is run. The application from the Barack H Obama Foundation was even backdated, The Daily Caller reports. Concerning another application, Representative Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, said the IRS actions show how the Obama administration puts politics ahead of anything else. Last year, Flores filed a complaint after the IRS asked the Waco Tea Party for information that he said was "overreaching and impossible to comply with." The IRS wanted transcripts of radio interviews, copies of social-media posts, and details on "close relationships" with political candidates as part of the process, claimed Flores, who says that when he asked questions, the agency failed to answer adequately. "They did more than sidestep the issue," Flores said. "They flipped me the finger." Lois Lerner, the IRS official responsible for granting tax-exemption status, has admitted the agency was mistaken to subject tea party groups to additional scrutiny and has apologized. But she denies rejecting groups based on ideology, and said some progressive groups also were selected for further scrutiny. IRS records obtained by The Daily Caller are said to show that Lerner signed papers granting tax-exempt status to the foundation run by Obama's half brother Abongo "Roy" Malik Obama. She signed off on the organization's tax status in June 2011 -- right in the middle of the 27-month hiatus for tea-party groups -- and granted it retroactive status within a month of filing. Action for a Progressive Future has faced legal issues over the past few years. In the month before the foundation was granted tax-exempt status, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the IRS, asking why the group was allowed to solicit tax-deductible contributions when it had not applied for a tax exempt status determination. That's when Lerner gave it the retroactive exemption back to December 2008. "The Obama Foundation raised money on its web page by falsely claiming to be tax deductible. The organization run by Malik had not even applied and yet subsequently got retroactive tax-deductible status," complained Ken Boehm chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. He called the attempt to raise money "common law fraud and potentially even federal mail fraud." The Obama Foundation was set up ostensibly to help poor children in Kenya where Roy Obama lives. However, The Daily Caller says, it has not registered in Virginia, where it is said to be based. The IRS official, Lerner, a registered Democrat, has been slammed for the IRS handling of conservative groups, but her colleagues defend her, saying she acts "apolitically." ~~~~~ So, dear readers, we now have the Obama administration's definition of "apolitical." It consists in granting tax exempt status to liberal groups, as well as granting dubious tax exempt status to the President's half brother and back-dating it to cover his possibly illegal prior requests for tax-deductible contributions. The Obama administration's IRS definition of "apolitical" also includes refusing that same tax exempt status to any - not one - conservative organization during the same period -- undoubtedly resulting in the manipulated election of some Democratic Congresspeople and giving Obama an unfair advantage against his 2012 presidential opponent, Mitt Romney. Apolitical is clearly "in the eye of the beholder" I'd say. And I'd also say that the "beholders" in the Obama camp have some serious answering to do to the American people who naively trusted them.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Two words come to mind. Grace. Class. They describe David Beckham, who won league titles with four clubs in four countries in a long career that included a record 115 appearances for England. The soccer superstar who also became a fashion icon and a global celebrity announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the season. At 38, Beckham is already the old man of international football. His unique career dims almost any other, with the exception of Pele. And for both Beckham and Pele, it was not only their extraordinary talent but their personal qualities that gave them enduring worldwide recognition. David Beckham is ending a career in which he transcended the sport with fashion and a marriage to a pop star that made him a global celebrity. But it was Beck's curling free kicks and pinpoint crosses that were his signature as a player. Beckham's special kick was immortalized in the 2002 movie "Bend it Like Beckham," the story of a British teenage girl of south Asian heritage struggling with family and cultural expectations to play the sport she loves. Beckham's announcement inevitably led to a flood of tweets saying, "End it Like Beckham." He has two more matches left at Paris St. Germain, where he has been giving his salary to a children's charity. When a reporter asked when he had decided to retire, Beckham laughed and answered: "Probably when (Lionel) Messi was running past me in that home game," referring to PSG's Champions League match against Barcelona last month. Beckham started his career with Manchester United, as an 11-year-old under the care of United coach Alex Ferguson. Beckham also played for Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy, winning national titles with all those clubs. He played on loan with AC Milan and made 115 appearance for his country, a record in England for someone other than a goalkeeper. Beckham, who captained the England side, said. "I knew every time I wore the Three Lions shirt, I was not only following in a long line of great players, I was also representing every fan that cared passionately about their country. I'm honored to represent England both on and off the pitch." FIFA President Sepp Blatter described the midfielder as "one of the most iconic figures in global football....It's the end of a chapter of an loving child who achieved his dreams, and unquestionably inspired millions of boys and girls to try and do the same." While talking recently about his celebrity overshadowing his football prowess, Beckham said it hurts to hear it. "I am a footballer that has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world and played with some of the best players in the world, played under some of the biggest and best managers and achieved almost everything in football." But he often says that he owes everything to Victoria and the kids for the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period. Commenting on his decision to retire, his wife Victoria said, "...this was not an easy decision to make, and to me and the children he will always be an amazing sportsman and a devoted husband and father." Beckham has already started planning for his post-playing career, becoming an ambassador for Chinese soccer. He says he looks forward to the future helping the game he loves. "I'm fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career and now I feel it's my time to give back." As any of Beck's fans will tell you, his future is sure to include lots of fundraising and personal time on the pitch with the thousands of youngsters he is helping realize their own dream of playing the Beautiful Game. ~~~~~ Dear readers, life is beautiful, too, and people like David Beckham remind us just how beautiful it can be when we do our best and reach out with love.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
In his Politics, Aristotle wrote, "Man by nature is a political animal." He added that man becomes the worst of animals when he is separated from law and justice. The Founding Fathers understood this, both philosophically and in practical terms, and so they enshrined in the US Constitution this fundamental aristotelian principle. And if the American Constitution is the finest example of democracy - rule by the people - and of republicanism - the elimination of aristocratic and ecclesiastical privilege in favor of popular political rule, the Constitution has one unavoidable flaw. It depends on the good faith of everyone participating as citizens and leaders. But, as Lord Acton remarked in the late 18th century, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," which brings us to the current frightening spectacle of corrupted power in the American federal government. While the Constitution distributes power equally among the three branches of American government, since the Second World War the executive branch headed by the President has rapidly outstripped the judicial and legislative branches in both its size and its influence on the American political process. And this has unbalanced fundamentally the power distribution contained in the Constitution. Today's horrifying parade of executive branch bureaucrats and their political managers ignoring constitutional absolutes - such as equal treatment before the law, being responsive to Congress, protecting America's diplomatic interests, and preventing the excessive use of police power against American citizens - is the direct result of the granting of powers to the office of the president without being able to monitor or control their uses. And Aristotle would easily have predicted the outcomes -- dead Anerican diplomats, efforts at the unconstitutional seizure of firearms, harrassment of peaceful citizen groups who seek to defend constitutional rights, attempts to tamp down first amendment rights to freedom of the press. These bureaucratic power grabs have headline names - Benghazi, Gun Control, IRS Illegal Acts against Non-profit Groups, AP Phone Record Seizures by the Justice Department. They are the symptoms of a political system dangerously beyond the control of law and justice. The President's executive branch cannot correct this constitutional disorder. Only Congress and the courts can correct it. And they must do so - now and together - if constitutional America is to survive. And, Congress and the courts will need the undivided attention and help of all American citizens, Democrat, Republican, of all colors and ethnic backgrounds - supporting Congress in its attempts to find the truth and set the nation afloat again. What America faces now requires that men and women of good will do all they can to save their precious human experiment in freedom and democracy. Aristotle got it right when he said in the third century BC, "If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service, the often-feared US federal agency that collects taxes, has been targeting US constitutionalists, tea party organizations, and other conservative groups for excessive scrutiny and harrassment by tagging certain names with codes to indicate that they should be subjected to thoroughgoing, but illegal, investigative techniques. The coded criteria were later expanded to include groups that promoted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In some cases, the IRS acknowledged, agents inappropriately asked for lists of donors. This is not the first IRS impropriety, but unlike other recurring IRS problems, this one attacks not just individual "enemies" but also a broad cross section of American citizens concerned about the growing unconstitutional actions of their government. One IRS function is to award non-profit tax status to organizations that engage in charitable, social and religious activities. But instead of treating those requests in an unbiased manner, IRS officials began tracking them and slowed up decision-making on their requests. This cuts to the heart of the American political ideal that government should be small and inobtrusive and that people should be treated equally within the context of government and law enforcement. Numerous congressional committees already are investigating the IRS for singling out tea party and other conservative groups during the 2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight has demanded that the IRS provide by Wednesday all communications involving the words "tea party,""conservative" or "patriot." The committee also is demanding the names and titles of all individuals who were involved in targeting conservative non-profit groups for extra scrutiny. And today, the Justice Department has announced that it is opening a criminal investigation into the IRS targeting of these groups for extra scrutiny over whether they qualified for tax exempt status. Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI is coordinating with the Department of Justice to see if any laws were broken. Holder's announcement came a day after President Barack Obama said that if the agency intentionally targeted such groups, "that's outrageous and there's no place for it." The agency blamed low-level employees in a Cincinnati office, saying no high-level officials were aware. Acting IRS Commissioner Miller said the agency has implemented new procedures that will "ensure the mistakes won't be repeated." Miller was informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny. On July 25, 2012, Miller testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, but again did not mention the additional scrutiny, despite being asked about it. ~~~~~ Dear readers, this is a huge disclosure that indicates the extent to which the US federal political bureaucracy under President Obama is uncontrolled. The Civil Service handles regular emloyment issues for permanent federal employees correctly enough. But, these permanent civil servants work in sections managed by presidential political appointees approved by Congress. It is at this level that policy formulation and management occur. These political appointees are connected to their secretaries and, through and with them, to White House staff experts and to the President. If we can stretch our credulity sufficiently to accept that the President did not directly order harrassment of his conservative opponents during two national election periods -- the President is still responsible. He likes to talk about being commander-in-chief. But he is also administrator-in-chief. So far, he has failed dismally in this part of his job. It isn't glamorous or headline-grabbing. UNTIL the administration fails. The Obama administration has failed. Miserably.
Monday, May 13, 2013
American First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the graduating class at Eastern Kentucky University Saturday. Her advice was to reach out. ~~~~~ "If you're a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican," Mrs. Obama told 600 education, business and technology graduates at the third and final commencement ceremony of the day. "And if you're a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. Maybe you'll find some common ground, maybe you won't." Mrs. Obama predicted they would learn something only if they reached out "with an open mind and an open heart." She said, "We know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do. We just get stuck in our ways." ~~~~~ We sure do know what happens, Mrs. Obama. And this speech must have been easy for you to write - since it has to be what you say to your husband every morning. But alas, we know that Barack doesn't seem to be able to hear this advice. He's too stuck in his way of talking to people who think like he does.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Dear readers, let's cover several key news items making headlines this Saturday : 1. Three explosions - car bombs - rocked the Turkish town of Reyhanli, near the Syrian border, killing 40. The Turkish government has preliminarily blamed the al-Assad regime. If this is the work of al-Assad groups, and it is hard to imagine anyone else except possibly terrorist units imbedded in the rebel Free Syria Army, it is a very negative answer to the US-Russian conference initiative, as weak and unlikely to produce results as the conference may be. More ominous, it could mean that al-Assad is taking his pursuit of Syrian rebels into Turkey. There have been Turkish deaths in several recent Turkey-Syria border attacks attributed to al-Assad forces. And if al-Assad is targeting Turkey border areas, will he also attack the Lebanon and, more likely, the Jordan border areas sheltering hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees? 2. The Pakistani national parliamentary elections were held today. Results will come later. But the real news is that the out-going government was the first in Pakistan's post-1947 history to serve a full term without a military coup or other premature termination. And it hasn't been easy. One former prime minister's candidate son has been kidnapped. Imram Khan, the great cricketeer who has formed a centrist party, ended up in intensive care after falling off a speaker platform but continued to campaign from his hospital bed. And ordinary Pakistanis were threatened with death and injury by the Taliban if they attempted to vote. One man ready to vote said the Pakistani people had had enough, were no longer afraid, and wanted to make their country a real democracy of the people. Let's pray and encourage them. 3. An American safety volunteer has been arrested in West, the Texas town where a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 and injured 200, flattening homes and businesses for blocks around the plant - significantly, in the same 24 hours that saw the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing. The man was arrested for possessing materials that are the commonly used components of bombs. There have been questions from the beginning about whether the plant explosion was a terrorist attack. So far, police and FBI investigations have found no evidence that suggests anything but an accident. And last night they were very careful to say that the arrest was "not related" to the plant explosion. Something to follow.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Tim Marshall, the Sky News chief correspondent on the ground in Syria, gave a rather stark live report today from the line separating rebels and al-Assad troops in central Syria. The topic - peace in Syria. His opinion - we don't know where the Syrian peace conference will be held, who will be there or what the agenda will be. His read in the situation is that we have heard positive commentary from the US, the UK and Europe about Russia's agreenent to participate in the conference, but until Russian president Vladimir Putin actually faces a TV camera and says that Bashar al-Assad has no role to play in Syria's future, there can be no breakthrough. Marshall said that when that happens, peace will be possible...and not before. Meanwhile, earlier today we learned that a Russian shipment of missiles to al-Assad is being completed "under a signed contract." ~~~~~ Dear readers, Oscar Wilde once said that "marriage is the triumph of hope over experience." Wilde was not a political expert, but that remark is spot on point in Syria. The West, naive even after almost a century of failed attempts at trying to negotiate with Russia in good faith, nevertheless continues. Russia is not the key to peace in Syria - Russia is the key to endless stalemate and civil war. The West and US President Obama have to understand this truth in real politik terms. Only when the Syria Free Army is armed and supported by the US and Europe in a way that makes it possible for the rebels to defeat al-Assad on the ground will Russia change its position. Until then, the civil war will achieve only a pushing back and forth of front lines, with more and more of the Syrian people becoming refugees in their own country. Is this really the best that Mr.Obama and the West can do?
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Dear readers, we know that Benghazi was a very serious breach of American security and a total failure of the Obama senior team's leadership. We also know now that the first attempt to prove this beyond doubt in congressional hearings yesterday produced mixed results. The Republican House committee says its pursuit of the truth about Benghazi will continue. The Democrats say there is no smoking gun. But, the Democrats are wrong...for reasons that are remote from the Benghazi tragedy itself. The reasons are tightly tied to the 2016 presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton, and to the determination of the Democratic Party to support her - at all costs. The reason Benghazi is critical for the future ambitions of Hillary Clinton is closely related to her own 2008 presidential campaign ads. In one, the red telephone at the bedside of the US President rings. The ad asks if the rest of America will sleep better knowing it is the "experienced and tested" Hillary Clinton and not the inexperienced and untested Barack Obama who answers. Well, dear readers, with the tragic debacle of Benghazi, under the watch of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we have the answer. So now the question about sleeping well is answered. NOW, THE QUESTION FOR HILLARY IS: If you can't manage one attack on a US diplomatic compound, how can we trust you to manage the US or the world's security? Answering the phone at "3 am" would have been worth zero...it would have gotten Ambassador Stevens and three other American diplomats killed. Thank you, Mrs. Clinton.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Dear readers, for a long time I've been trying to develop a rational argument for the current frenzy to rid several sports of banned substances. Let's start with my stating unequivocally that I am against the recreational use of any drug except alcohol. So, anyone who finds this to be a philosophical black hole that disqualifies me from commenting on, or even voicing an opinion, about the use of "banned" substances in sports can bail out now. Okay. Here's my problem with banned substances in sports. It has become a technology-based million dollar cat-and-mouse game. The athletes use amphetamines - the sport hires doctors and scientists to devise a detection test. The athletes switch to EPO - another detection test arrives. But, the next time you hear any sports federation leader talking about banned substances, listen for a phrase like - it hurts their bodies...it kills them prematurely. You won't hear this. What you hear is that all banned substances must be eliminated, even those not yet created. And, we can be sure that new banned substances will be created to stay ahead of the detection tests for already-in-use banned substances. My question is -- when tbe ultimate non-detectable, non-traceable, non-testable banned substance is created, will the world's sports federations declare total victory over banned substances and stop. Or will they move on to something else? Will they find a new athlete practice to target with technogy, something like exercises or travel timing or foods. Foods. There's an idea. All athletes eat...just like "all" athletes use banned substances. We could test for cornflakes (too much carbohydrate might disfavor those not eating cornflakes) or milk (today's wisdom is that milk's bad for adults) or eggs (oh, let's not even start on cholersterol). Maybe what really got me started down this road was deer antlers. Vijay Singh or anyone else dumb enough to believe that deer antlers can replace talent and hard work in professional sports deserves to be caught up in a phony racket that charges $900 for delivering what my hometown school friends could buy for their hunting dogs at about $5 a tube. Ain't technology grand???
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Dear readers, mark your calendars - tomorrow, 7 May 2013 is the day that the Benghazi attack becomes "The Benghazi Cover-up" affair. It was Senator Lindsey Graham who first announced it last week on Fox News. “Come Wednesday, you’re going to start hearing the truth about Benghazi,...Our people were abandoned. They were denied assistance,” Graham said in an interview via satellite from Greenville, SC. “And what you were told by this administration after the fact was a complete political smokescreen.” Tomorrow, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California, will hold widely anticipated hearings on the September 11 attacks at the Benghazi consulate, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats were killed. Career State Department employees - self-described Benghazi “whistleblowers” - will testify. They are Gregory N. Hicks, a foreign- service officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission-Chargé d’Affairs in Libya; former Marine Mark I. Thompson, the State Department’s acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya. Nordstrom was the top security officer in Libya in the months leading up to the attacks. Graham told Fox that Hicks was Stevens’ deputy and that “he was on the phone with Chris right before he died" and will give "a chilling story of what it was like and how little help he received." Graham said, “This is not the fog of war,” referring to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s explanation of her department’s inability to obtain reliable information as the assaults were unfolding. “She was not confused by the fog of war. This White House, seven weeks before an election, tried to continue the narrative that 'bin Laden’s dead, al-Qaida’s receding in terms of influence and power' -- and Benghazi destroyed that narrative and that story line.According to Hicks, the State Department Accountability Review Board "report itself doesn’t really ascribe blame to any individual at all. The public report anyway....In our system, people who make decisions have been confirmed by the Senate to make decisions,...The three people in the State Department who are on administrative leave pending disciplinary action are below Senate confirmation level. Now, the DS (Diplomatic Security) assistant secretary resigned, and he is at Senate confirmation level. Yet the paper trail is pretty clear that decisions were being made above that level." CNN reported that Hicks then told Commitee members that"for there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens' front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable. And secondly, if he had reported it, he would have been out the back door within minutes of any demonstration appearing anywhere near that facility. And there was a back gate to the facility, and, you know, it worked." Hicks reportedly stressed that although he was the senior diplomat in Libya after Stevens was killed, he wasn't consulted at all before Rice went on Sunday talk shows to discuss the attacks. House committee chairman Issa told CBS that “Clearly there was a political decision to say something different than what was reasonable..." he said. Issa added that he was "dumbfounded” to hear Obama say last Tuesday that witnesses were not being withheld from Congress, noting that initial statements taken from survivors two days after the assaults were still being held by the FBI. Graham told Fox that he would remain vigilant on Benghazi until the Obama administration is “held accountable for the fact that four people were allowed to die. “Seven-and-a-half hours, they were under attack. Nobody could come to their aid - and on 9/11, of all days, our consulate became a death trap....This administration needs to be held accountable for Benghazi and the four Americans who were abandonesd by their government when they needed their government the most." And today, on the eve of the Benghazi whistleblower testimony, Issa went a step farther. He said there is “no question” that Hillary Clinton or someone in her “circle” was involved in the cover-up of administration missteps in the early days of the Benghazi consulate attack last September, Appearing on CBS News Monday, Issa repeated claims of Clinton’s involvement in a potential cover-up of the September 11, 2012 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. The State Departnent whistleblower testimony makes these charges seem much more plausible, even provable. The question now is “who is responsible?” Is it Hillary Clinton or someone in her inner circke at State? “If Hillary Clinton is not responsible for the before, during and after mistakes…it’s somebody close,” Issa says. “There certainly are plenty of people close to the former secretary who knew, and apparently were part of the problem.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, if Hicks follows through and testifies publicly that everyone (who matters) thought it was a terrorist attack “from the get-go” - completely contradicting the Obama administration’s evolving talking points, Ambassador Susan Rice’s talk show tour immediately following the attack, President Obama’s own comments in a presidential debate with then-opponent Mitt Romney, and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s testimony on the attack shortly before leaving office as Secretary of State - then we will be looking at a classic Washington cover-up. And, with it, perjury and possibly other criminal acts. If true, it will indelibly stain Clinton’s record as Secretary of State, and possibly end her 2016 presidential ambitions. Why would Hillary Clinton or the President and his men do anything so easily provable? Issa's answer is, ”it could be a general want to believe that we’re closer to the end of the war on terror than right in the middle of it. It also could have had a lot to do with the fact that President Obama was facing a major election at the time, as well." But, for me, dear readers, it is much more fundamental. The truly powerful players in Washington often finally believe their own PR. They think they are the chosen few, the best and the brightest, whose decisions are always right -- even when they are wrong.
Monday, May 6, 2013
We have the facts, as best we can have them from the world media, about Israel's bombing inside Syrian terrirory of Iranian shipments of missiles bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. But, we may wonder, dear readers, not what but why. Why? We know that Barack Obama and Benyamin Netanyahu are not real friends,but logic demands that Obama and the American military both knew and approved of the Israeli airstrike. And perhaps the answer has its roots much deeper in the Jewish and American psyches than we consider. Throughout history, various groups of people have considered themselves as chosen people by a deity for a purpose, often to act as the deity's agent on earth. In monotheistic faiths, like Judaism, references to God are used in constructs such as "God's Chosen People." Modern anthropologists consider these claims as a form of ethnocentrism. Religious authorities would argue that this is unfounded. In the Hebrew Bible, (or the Tanakh) called the "Old Testament" by Christians, the "Treasured People" is the exact phrase used, referring to the Hebrews/ Israelites. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God, Yahweh, proclaims the Nation of Israel, known originally as the Children of Israel, as his "treasured people out of all the people on the face of the earth." The Book of Exodus says the Hebrew people are God's chosen people and from them will come the Messiah, or redeemer of the world. The Israelites also possess the "Word of God" and/or the "Law of God" in the form of the Torah as communicated by God to Moses. In Judaism, chosenness is the belief that the Jews are a people chosen to be in a covenant with God. This status carries both responsibilities and blessings as described in the Biblical covenants with God. While other groups since the Biblical Hebrews have considered themselves special, it has mostly been for political domination or territoriality - think the Roman Empire, Charlemagne, the British Empire, the Soviet Communists. But,American exceptionalism is the proposition that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. It is not a notion that the United States is quantitatively better than other countries or that it has a superior culture, but rather that it is "qualitatively different." In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming what has been called "the first new nation," and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire economic values. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as "exceptional" in 1831 and 1840. Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the Biblical shining " City upon a Hill" and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries. The ideas that created the American Revolution were derived from a tradition of republicanism - the idea that sovereignty is derived not from privileged classes and kings but from the people. Republicanism had been repudiated by the 18th century British philosophical establishment. The ideas really came out of the Revolutionary era. So too did our idea that Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy." Thomas Paine's Common Sense for the first time expressed the belief that America was not just an extension of Europe but a new land, a country of nearly unlimited potential and opportunity that had outgrown the British mother country. These sentiments laid the intellectual foundations for the Revolutionary concept of American exceptionalism and were closely tied to republicanism. The American Puritans believed God had made a covenant with their people and had chosen them to lead the other nations of the Earth. One Puritan leader, John Winthrop, was the first to metaphorically express this idea as a "City upon a Hill"—that the Puritan community of New England should serve as a model community for the rest of the world. This metaphor is often used by Americans, including President Reagan who has become closely associated with the phrase. Puritan deep moralistic values remained part of the national identity of the United States for centuries, remaining influential to the present day. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, the end to my short history is that it could be that America and Israel feel a deep compatability that may not even be consciously felt -- the idea that they have been called to do special things for good in the world and that the only people who can understand and help is their friend and counterpart. America. Israel. Exceptional. Democracies. Republics.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
For the second time this year, Israel has launched an airstrike into Syria, enforcing its own red line of not allowing game-changing weapons to reach Lebanon's Hezbollah, a heavily armed enemy of the Jewish state and an ally of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. But the strike, which one Israeli official said targeted a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles, also raised new concerns that the region's most powerful military could be dragged into Syria's civil war and cause wider regional destabilization. Fighting has repeatedly crossed Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights during the two years of the Syrian civil war, while more than 1 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries. The airstrike, carried out early Friday and confirmed by US officials, occurred as Washington considers how to respond to the Syrian regime's almost certain use of chemical weapons in its civil war. President Obama has described the use of such weapons as a "red line," and the administration is weighing its options, including military action. Meanwhile, Israrl is trying to prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hezbollah or other extremist groups. It is estimated that Hezbollah has an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel would be prepared to take military action to prevent the Islamic militant group from obtaining new weapons that could upset the region's balance of power. Israel is concerned that Hezbollah will take advantage of the chaos in neighboring Syria to try to smuggle advanced weapons into Lebanon. These include anti-aircraft missiles, which could hamper Israel's ability to operate in Lebanese skies, and advanced Yakhont missiles that are used to launch ground attacks against naval ships. Hezbollah characterized the latest airstrike as the continuation of Israel's deterrence policy, warning that Israeli attacks could quickly lead to an escalation, leaving open the possibility of retaliation by Hezbollah or even the al-Assad regime and Syria's ally, Iran. The targeted shipment included Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hezbollah, according to US officials. Israeli officials have strongly hinted they carried out the airstrike, though there has not been formal confirmation. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said his militia "is ready and has its hand on the trigger" in the event of an Israeli attack on any targets in Lebanon, but details about Friday's strike remained sketchy. Much now depends on the response from Hezbollah and Syria, analysts said. But retaliation for Israeli airstrikes would come at a high price, said Moshe Maoz, an Israeli expert on Syria. Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside al-Assad's troops, appears to have linked its fate to that of the Syrian regime. Nasrallah said this week that Syria's allies "will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel." But, Hezbollah isn't Israel's only concern. Israeli officials believe it is only a matter of time before al-Assad's government collapses, and they fear that some of the Islamic extremist groups battling him will then turn their attention toward Israel. The Israeli military called up several thousand reservists earlier this week for what it called a "surprise" military exercise on its border with Lebanon. And US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is going to Moscow next week to try to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to support, or at least not veto, a fresh effort to impose UN penalties on Syria if al-Assad doesn't begin political transition talks with the opposition. Russia, alongside China, has blocked US-led efforts three times at the United Nations to pressure Bashar al-Assad into stepping down. ~~~~~ It seems, dear readers, that Israel is taking steps to defend itself. Is this because it no longer believes that an America led by Barack Obama will step up to the task? Or is it because the Obama administration has agreed to the Israeli airstrikes as a camouflage of America's defense of Israel - a situation that, in either case, makes President Obama seem less willing to step up to the Syrian crisis and, therefore, seem weaker overall in the Middle East.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Senator Lindsey Graham is performing a vital service in leading the Senate challenge to President Barack Obama's increasingly embarrassing effort to control the Benghazi Affair, again calling on the President to allow survivors of the deadly attack to talk with congressional investigators without fear of being fired. Graham told Fox News Wednesday : “Benghazi is eight months old, nobody has been arrested, and the survivors have never been allowed to be talked to by the Congress. This administration is investigating itself.” Earlier this week, attorney Victoria Toensing said she had a client who wanted to share classified information with congressional investigators, but is being blocked by the State Department. At least four career State Department and CIA officials are seeking legal representation and are complaining that administration officials are trying to intimidate them as they prepare to cooperate with congressional investigators, according to a Fox News report. The President, during his Tuesday news conference, said he was unaware of the issue, and White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday called it was a non-issue. “Let’s be clear,” Carney said, “Benghazi happened a long time ago. We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, the importance of Senator Graham's work was emphasized today by a Newsmax report indicating that the security group hired by the US State Department to protect its endangered Benghaei diplomatic mission had clear al-Qaida sympathies, and had prominently displayed the al-Qaida flag on a Facebook page for some months before the deadly attack. The organization calling itself the February 17th Martyrs Brigade was paid by the US government to provide security, but there is no indication the Martyrs Brigade fulfilled its commitment to defend the mission on 11 September 2012, when it came under attack, claiming the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Several entries on the militia’s Facebook page openly profess sympathy for Ansar al-Sharia, the hardline Islamist extremist group widely blamed for the deadly attack on the mission. According to Newsmax, the State Department did not respond to its request for an explanation as to why the February 17th Martyrs Brigade was hired to protect the mission. On April 23, House Republicans released an interim progress report on their investigation into the Benghazi killings, citing “numerous reports” that “the Brigade had extremist connections, and it had been implicated in the kidnapping of American citizens as well as in the threats against US military assets.” The report also stated that just a few days before Stevens arrived in Benghazi, the Martyrs Brigade informed State Department officials they no longer would provide security as members of the mission, including Stevens, traveled through the city. From June 2011 to July 2012, Eric Nordstrom, who was then the regional security officer for Libya, documented more than 200 security threats and violent incidents involving US personnel in Libya. Fifty of those incidents occurred in Benghazi. Yet despite those threats, repeated requests for additional security from the mission went unheeded by the State Department, for reasons that remain unclear. The biggest question is why the State Department would hire a group that openly displayed its admiration for al-Qaida, and ask it to participate in the defense of its diplomatic mission. The banner, or “cover photo” of one of the group’s Facebook pages, shows an Islamic fighter with a portable rocket launcher resting on his shoulder. The distinctive black flag of al-Qaida can be seen fluttering to the man’s left, attached to the vehicle in which he is riding. He wears a headband based on the design of the al-Qaida flag. The flag in question features the shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith, and a white circle that is sometimes described as the“seal of Mohammed.” The flag was made famous by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Iraqi al-Qaida affiliate, commonly known as “al-Qaida in Iraq.” The cover photo showing the al-Qaida flag was posted by the site administrator on June 10, 2012., and was the first activity on the Facebook page. Furthermore, the group has repudiated neither al-Qaida nor its violent ideology. According to Newsmax, a document recovered from the mission two days after the attack indicated the State Department had arranged for the Martyrs Brigade to act as a “Quick Reaction Force” to protect the mission. The Memorandum of Agreement states that “in the event of an attack on the U.S. mission, QRF will request additional support from the 17th February Martyrs Brigade.” Throughout the summer leading up to the attack, embassy officials repeatedly asked the State Department for additional security. But the State Department actually reduced security, removing a military detachment responsible for defending diplomats in Libya. Newsmax suggests that one reason the requests for additional security may have been denied is that they did not fit into the administration narrative that al-Qaida elements no longer posed a threat to US interests. One diplomatic cable to the mission indicated that the US-based deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security was “reluctant to ask for [additional security] apparently out of concern that it would be embarrassing to the [State Department to continue to have to rely on [Defense Department] assets to protect our mission.” When the mission’s regional safety officer in July 2012 wanted to ask State Department official to permit the military security team to continue to protect the mission, Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary in charge of diplomatic security, sent an e-mail that responded: “NO, I do not [I repeat] not want them to ask for the [military security] team to stay!" ~~~~~ One has to wonder if this is just one more security threat and bungled response that neither Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor President Obama knew anything about.