Friday, February 28, 2014
BBC is asking the right question : "Will Russia intervene militarily in Crimea to safeguard its strategic interests?" Or, more precisely, has Russia already intervened? Who are the armed men who seized control of Simferopol airport? BBC reporters on site say their equipment, vehicles and behaviour mark this as a trained military unit, not a local group of pro-Russian loyalists. "These men look like a formed and organised body of troops. They appear to be disciplined, confident and uniformly dressed and equipped," according to Brigadier Ben Barry, a land warfare expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "Irregular militia may obtain bits of official kit but they tend to look like a military jumble sale." So, it seems that a military unit secured the airport in the Crimean regional capital, Simferopol, on Friday morning. This is one of the reasons for the deepening tensions between Kiev and the Russians, who are making their usual threats and menaces aimed at the new interim authorities in Ukraine. Russian combat aircraft in areas bordering Ukraine are on alert. Snap military exercises have been held to demonstrate the readiness of Russian forces. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Russian soldiers had arrived in Sevastopol military airport near Russia's Black Sea Fleet Base on Friday and were patrolling outside, backed up by armoured vehicles, but Ukrainian military and border guards remained inside : "I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms," Mr Avakov said. Armed men also arrived at Simferopol airport overnight, some carrying Russian flags. A man called Vladimir told Reuters he was a volunteer helping the group there, though he said he did not know where they came from. "I'm with the People's Militia of Crimea," he said. But, the Russian military already is the major presence in Crimea, where it leases facilities from the Ukrainian authorities. The bulk of Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea with its headquarters in Sevastopol. Russian naval personnel move freely in Sevastopol. The Russian navy dominates the town, but the Black Sea Fleet has a contingent of marines and there have been reports suggesting that Russian forces in and around Sevastopol have been bolstered in recent days. Andriy Parubiy, acting chairman of Ukraine's National Security Council, has claimed that both airports are now back under the control of Ukrainian authorities, but this has not been verified. In earlier actions -- on Thursday, a group of unidentified armed men entered Crimea's parliament building by force, and raised a Russian flag on the roof. The Crimean parliament then announced that it would hold a referendum on expanding the region's autonomy from Ukraine on 25 May, the same day elections are set in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged his government to maintain relations with Kiev, but he is also giving the Crimean government humanitarian aid. Putin has called for a rapid return to normality in Ukraine. He spoke to Western leaders by phone to emphasise "the extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence," the Kremlin said. However, Ukraine's foreign ministry has sent a protest note to Moscow citing a violation of airspace and provisions of the treaty regulating the Russian presence in Crimea, a treaty under which the US, UK, France and the UN undertake to support Ukraine's territorial integrity. US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on all sides to "step back and avoid any kind of provocations." And Friday, ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich held his first news conference after fleeing Kiev, vowing to fight for Ukraine. Speaking in Russia, he said he was "not overthrown" but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life. Yanukovich told the news conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don : "What's going on now is lawlessness, lack of authority, and terror. Decisions in parliament were taken under duress." He apologized to the Ukrainian people for not having "enough strength to keep stability" and described his usurpers as "young, neo-fascists." Russia has threatened to increase customs duties at the two countries' border and warned of the threats to Russian minorities, orthodox religious shrines and so on. Although reminiscent of Russian rhetoric prior to its invasion of Georgia, many experts believe a similar full-scale Russian intervention in Ukraine is unlikely because of the size of Ukraine and the divisions within its population. Occupation would simply saddle Russia with involvement in what might rapidly become a bitter civil war. ~~~~~ However, the most urgent threat to the immediate future of Ukraine is economic. On top of its political problems, Ukraine has seriously urgent financial problems. The global banking association, the International Institute of Finance (IIF), warns that even if Ukraine slashes fuel subsidies and undertakes other reforms, it still requires $20 billion in foreign assistance over this year and next to service its debt and cover a large fiscal deficit, AFP reports. IIF economist Lubomir Mitov told AFP that the government needs "an injection of cash just to keep afloat. They need to get some money just to allow the budget to operate," he said. But getting quick bilateral support will be a challenge he says, because the EU and US in particular "are very reluctant to give a blank check to Ukraine." Here, Russian pressure serves a different purpose. Ukraine is heading towards bankruptcy. It needs outside funding and Moscow knows that Western financial institutions must play some kind of role. Its concern is to highlight as clearly as possible that any future Ukrainian government should reach out towards Moscow as much as to the EU. This also serves Russia's bottom line - Kiev should resist any temptation to move toward NATO. In other developments, Swiss and Austrian authorities have blocked the assets of Viktor Yanukovych and his associates, and launched a corruption probe. Russian MPs propose new laws that would make it easier for Russia to incorporate parts of Ukraine. And, amid growing fears of hyperinflation, Ukraine's central bank has put a 15,000 hryvnia (€1,000) limit on daily cash withdrawals. The UN Security Council is set to hold private discussions on the crisis later on Friday. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is anyone's guess what the outcome for Ukraine will be. If Russia can be persuaded to settle for keeping Crimea as an independent enclave that guarantees the security of Russia's Black Sea Fleet - and if Kiev can be persuaded to let go of the Crimea in exchange for a financial support package to guarantee its economic future - then partition into west and east Ukraine would be a clean answer. There are two small Russian areas in the west but these people could be given the choice about their future. Russia has a natural historical role to play in deciding the future of Ukraine, and it would be advisable for the EU and the US to accommodate that role instead of threatening Russia. Crimea has a large pro-Russian population, probably the majority. Many Russian naval personnel are retired there. It is physically and politically far from Kiev. Current Russian pressure in Crimea serves Moscow's wider purpose of reminding Ukraine's new rulers that Moscow's concerns must be considered in any future economic and diplomatic arrangements. But, in all negotiations, the democratic future of the valiant people of Ukraine who courageously won their freedom from near-tyranny, must have equal weight with any Russian agenda.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Obamacare "raided” $300 billion for Medicare Advantage and seniors will begin feeling the cuts next year, according to a December 2013 analysis by the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, which states that Obamacare took $700 billion from Medicare and $300 billion from Medicare Advantage for its own funding. The Subcommittee report reveals that cuts to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will “begin to be fully realized in the next year." But the Obama administration made a promise to seniors. The promise was that "we’re going to use your Medicare dollars as a piggy bank to fund the Affordable Care Act, and in doing that we’ll improve Medicare and allow seniors to keep their doctors," - if they like them. Is this another Obamacare broken promise? "Yes," according to Subcommittee vice chairman Representative Michael Burgess. American Action Forum president Doug Holtz-Eakin said in a statement : “Those most hurt by the cuts are low-income seniors in rural areas without other options for supplemental Medicare coverage. Additional scheduled cuts in the future will broaden the damage to Medicare Advantage.” Twenty-eight percent of Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2013. Following up on this latest broken Obamacare promise of President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, GOP Florida Governor Rick Scott cited these proposed cuts in Medicare Advantage plans, saying the Obama administration is raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Scott made his comments in Washington last weekend while attending the National Governors Association meeting, where Scott and other governors met with President Barack Obama. In a press release Monday, Scott said he had asked Obama "to fix Obamacare immediately." Scott added : "We learned last week that Medicare is being raided to pay for Obamacare, which is hurting our seniors, who could lose access to the doctors they liked and were told they could keep,....We need to give our seniors a voice and ask the President directly to not pay for Obamacare by raiding Medicare. He has stopped and delayed other broken parts of the healthcare law. He should do the same with this," the Scort news release said. Appearing Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "Your World With Neil Cavuto," Governor Scott said 300,000 Floridians have lost health plans they were promised they could keep, and now senior citizens, a significant part of the state's population, are telling him they can't find a doctor who accepts Medicare. "It's totally different from what our citizens were promised," Scott said. Cavuto noted that several of Scott's fellow governors said during the weekend conference that Obamacare isn't going to be repealed, so it is up to them to find ways to make it work. "Well, it should happen," Scott replied. "This president's not going to do it, but somebody's got to fix this." ~~~~~ Dear readers, another Obama broken promise - a lie deliberately told to Americans in order to make them swallow the bitter pill that is Obamacare. And a lie told to the oldest, most vulnerable group of Americans, citizens who worked all their lives to keep America great. Can no one stop this Obama trainwreck that is destroying the fabric of America? Is there not one member of Congress, House or Senate, who is willing to stand up and be counted on the side of America, putting America above any personal agenda? Karl Marx was wrong -- religion is not the last refuge of scoundrels. Washington is. Where, oh where, are the Articles of Impeachment? Is there an unspoken understanding between the American electorate and the GOP members of Congress that Impeachment will follow if November's election returns a Senate with a GOP majority? America cannot wait much longer to deal with this most un-American presidency in its history. The one phrase that summarizes President Obama is - "if you like it, you can keep it" - consistently followed by lies and broken promises that have caused the majority of Americans to become unable to believe anything Barack Obama says. Consider for a moment the unprecedented horror of this state of affairs...America has a President who cannot be trusted to speak the truth.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
After public outrage over its study on editorial choice in newsrooms, the Federal Communications Commission will “amend” the research project - but still plans to conduct it. FCC chair Tom Wheeler will remove the questions in the study relating to news philosophy and editorial judgment, the commission announced, which leaves the question of what exactly the FCC will end up studying. The Hotair site has published the questions to be asked of journalists and publishers/managers in the study, concluding that "it’s difficult to see what value it has." The study was supposed “to identify and understand the critical information needs (CINs) of the American public (with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations).” A direct assault on news philosophy and editorial judgment. Here are the questions asked in the study of (1). Owners/operators and editors :• What is the news philosophy of the station?• Who is your target audience?• How do you define critical information that the community needs?• How do you ensure the community gets this critical information?• How much does community input influence news coverage decisions?• What are the demographics of the news management staff (HR)?• What are the demographics of the on air staff (HR)?• What are the demographics of the news production staff (HR)? (2). Editors and mid-level managers :• What is the news philosophy of the station?• Who else in your market provides news?• Who are your main competitors?• How much news does your station (stations) air every day?• Is the news produced in-house or is it provided by an outside source?• Do you employ news people?• How many reporters and editors do you employ?• Do you have any reporters or editors assigned to topic “beats”? If so how many and what are the beats?• Who decides which stories are covered?• How much influence do reporters and anchors have in deciding which stories to cover?• How much does community input influence news coverage decisions?• How do you define critical information that the community needs?• How do you ensure the community gets this critical information? ~~~~~ The FCC simply is so far off base here that one wonders what to say. Last May the FCC proposed its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," or CIN. A field test in Columbia, South Carolina, was scheduled to begin this spring - it's interesting that the FCC chose a conservative, Republican-leaning state for its first test...no doubt to be able to prove its liberal-leftist premise that most American news is not of the far left persuasion represented by MSNBC and CNN and The New York Times. The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with"perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations." The study would have started, except for GOP-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who blew the whistle on the study plan. Pai has told Newsmax that the survey has been "suspended," not canceled as the FCC has said. The FCC declared last week that it had shelved the controversial survey on how newsrooms cover various news stories, which was excoriated by critics as a threat to the First Amendment right of press freedom. But in explaining the decision, FCC spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said that "the pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final," suggesting the program could be brought back at a later date. "It's suspended, and the way I like to think about it is [how] you would think about a baseball game being suspended," Pai told Newsmax TV. "It’s not being canceled, it could come back," he said Monday. "The good thing is that the FCC has said that any study along these lines will not involve government researchers going into newsrooms and asking questions about a perceived station bias or how they decide to cover certain stories, not others, whether they're covering the critical information needs that people need to know. "But nonetheless, we need to remain vigilant to make sure that any future study doesn't intrude on that core constitutional freedom of the press. The devil's going to be in the details, and if they decide to go ahead with this study, you can rest assured that I'll be watching to make sure that nothing like this is attempted again." Pai had revealed earlier this month to The Wall Street Journal that the FCC planned to infiltrate newsrooms with the potential that media organizations would eventually be pressured into covering certain stories. But Pai told Newsmax that the agency, as part of its apparent plan to intrude on media coverage, had twisted a provision of the law that requires the FCC to report to Congress every three years on barriers that businesses face when they're trying to get into the communications industry and the broadcasting business. "As I looked over the study design, it seemed to me that some of the questions and some of the purposes had nothing to do with that report. I mean, they're trying to figure out what a station's perceived bias is or whether reporters have been told by management not to cover certain stories," Pai said. "I mean, that has nothing to do with barriers to entry, and that's one of the reasons why I got a little bit concerned, especially because this was an initiative that none of us voted on. This wasn't decided by a vote of all the commissioners, and it was important to bring public awareness to this issue." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the very idea that news in any form ought to meet "critical information needs," and study "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations" is opposed to every liberty enshrined in the First Amendment : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances." That is a very clear prohibition against any governmental interference in the fundamental right to free speech. The FCC must unequivocally end this CIF study. Now. And, we have every right to ask why the President - under oath to defend, preserve and protect the Constitution - is silent. This is one more example of Barack Obama encouraging his administration to trample the US Constitution when it interferes with his goal of weakening the liberties that the Constitution confirms and grants to Americans. Why is President Obama not under Articles of Impeachment?
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has revealed the defense component of the Obama 2015 budget, set to be sent to Congress next week. Hagel's defense budget shrinks the Army to its smallest size since 1940, closing bases and reshaping forces to operate in a "more volatile, more unpredictable" world with a more flexible military that has fewer ground troops. Looking beyond America's post-9/11 wars, Hagel said the US can afford a smaller military as long as it maintains its technological advantage and the agility to respond on short notice to crises anywhere on the globe. He said the priorities he outlined reflect a consensus among America's military leaders. Hagel described it as the first Pentagon budget to fully reflect the nation's transition from 13 years of war. In a speech to mark his first year as Defense Secretary, Hagel revealed the core of his plan - the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved longer and more costly than foreseen, and that the US military will no longer be sized to conduct large and protracted ground wars. It will put more emphasis on versatile, agile forces that can project power over great distances, including in Asia. Hagel stressed that such changes entail risk : "We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted." However, Hagel contends that budget constraints demand new approaches, and he proposed a variety of changes in military compensation, including smaller pay raises, a slowdown in the growth of tax-free housing allowances and a requirement that retirees and some families of active-duty service members pay more in health insurance deductibles and co-pays. "Although these changes will not cut anyone's pay, I realize they will be controversial," Hagel said, adding that America cannot afford the escalating cost of military pay and benefit packages that were enacted during the war years. "If we continue on the current course without making these modest adjustments now, the choices will only grow more difficult and painful down the road," he said. ~~~~~ Secretary Hagel may have the agreement of the millitary, but after the high-level officer purges carried out by President Obama and Hagel, one wonders what this "agreement" really means. Congress has already set a fiscal 2015 Pentagon budget of $496 billion, under a congressional deal passed two months ago that holds the Pentagon's 2015 budget at the 2014 level. But Hagel said Obama's overall 2015 budget proposal also will include a government-wide "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" that would provide the Pentagon with an additional and separate $26 billion - assuming there will be no return to across-the-board sequestration. He said the new money would be used for increased training and other partially neglected activities central to making the military ready for combat, but Hagel says there are still major decisions to be made on how the total budget should be spent to best protect the nation. Reaction from congressional Republicans was negative. "I am concerned that we are on a path to repeat the mistakes we've made during past attempts to cash in on expected peace dividends that never materialized," said Senator Marco Rubio, a possible presidential contender in 2016. "What we're trying to do is solve our financial problems on the backs of our military, and that can't be done," said Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. An example : there will be another round of domestic military base closings in 2017, but in the years following the last round in 2005, members of Congress fought to protect bases in their home districts and states, arguing that the process does not yield as much savings as advertised. Other components of Hagel's budget that Republicans in Congress criticize include the following Hagel proposals : *Reducing the size of the military to 440,000 - the lowest since the 267,000 number in 1940 before the nation geared up to enter World War II - and down from the current scheduled reduction to 490,000 from 520,000. *The Army National Guard would drop from 355,000 to 335,000 by 2017. *The Army Reserve would drop by 10,000, to 195,000. *The National Guard would send its Apache attack helicopters to the active-duty Army in exchange for Black Hawk helicopters more suitable for domestic disaster relief missions. *The Navy would remove from active service, 11 of its 22 cruisers for modernization. *The Navy would also reduce from 52 to 32 its purchase of littoral combat ships, which are smaller vessels designed to operate closer to shore. *The Air Force would retire its fleet of A-10 "Warthog" tank-killer planes for an estimated savings of $3.5 billion over five years and would also retire the classic U-2 spy plane, which debuted early in the Cold War to bolster US intelligence. ~~~~~ Hagel says his case rests on what he calls a foundation of realism, emphasizing that the period of explosive growth in defense budgets is over, making it more important to preserve a technological edge as other nations modernize their militaries. Hagel did not mention China or Russia, although both are investing heavily in their military capabilities. "Budget reductions inevitably reduce the military's margin of error in dealing with these risks," according to Hagel, who added that a smaller US force "strains our ability to simultaneously respond" to multiple global crises. He and General Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, both argued against a return to across-the-board sequestration budget cuts that were partially suspended for the 2014 and 2015 budgets. Hagel compared a return to such cuts to "gambling with our military." Dempsey said those deeper cuts would have exceedingly harmful effects on the entire military. "We are all willing to take risks," Dempsey said. "None of us are willing to gamble." ~~~~~ Dear readers, this budget battle will be waged by military experts, both at the Pentagon and in Congress. The US senior officer corps has lost many of its combat-tested generals to the Obama purge. But it is not difficult to calculate that the army will be reduced by 15%, the National Guard by 6%, the Reserves by 5%. Half the Navy's cruisers will be drydocked for major modernization. Almost half the scheduled shoreline ship replacements will be cancelled. And reduced pay and benefits will make it harder to recruit qualified military personnel. I think this would seem to most of us to be major reductions that will significantly impact "the margin of error" - taking risks that amount to gambles with the security of America and the world. Hagel spelled out his and Obama's view on this : "We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted." We must ask the critical question -- If America is no longer to be the dominant power, who will be? For it is clear that some country will become dominant. China? Russia? And what risk-laden chance will that pose to America? A major one, to be sure. Former Vice President Cheney has questioned Hagel's military cuts, in place of military readiness, at a time where the US faces threats from multiple areas of the world. “That would lead me to think I need the strength of military capabilities, not cut it.” But, Cheney said he believes the cuts are a reflection of President Obama’s beliefs, and that the President has always wanted to cut the military. “He said when he went to Cairo in that famous apology tour back in ’09 that he believed...apologized for our overreaction to the events of 9/11,” Cheney said, “and today he is fixing it in a way, in a fact where it will be almost impossible for future presidents to deal with that kind of situation.” Finally, the Hagel-Obama military budget is yet another deliberate attack on America by the President who is not operating in America's best interests...perhaps not in America's interests at all.
Monday, February 24, 2014
National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who made her first Sunday morning appearance since the Sunday after the 2012 Benghazi attacks, remained unrepentant, saying she has no regrets on her words that Sunday. "Because what I said to you that morning and what I did every day since is to share the best information that we had at the time," Rice told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory. Rice, then US Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on all five Sunday morning news shows, blaming the September 11, 2012 attack on the US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on an anti-Islam video produced in the United States. She admitted to Gregory this last Sunday that not all of the information she shared in 2012 turned out to be 100% correct. "But the notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false," she said. "And I think that's been amply demonstrated....The information I provided, which I explained to you, was what we had at the moment. It could change,...I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning, was provided to me and my colleagues and, indeed, to Congress, by the intelligence community. And that's been well validated in many different ways since....We'll want to see the results of [an FBI] investigation to draw any definitive conclusions." Rice made similar statements on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and Fox News Sunday. ~~~~~ But critics of the Obama Benghazi position have stressed that there is - and even before that September 2012 Sunday morning there was - ample evidence that the attacks, in which US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, were not a spontaneous protest sparked by the video, but were pre-planned by an al-Qaida-linked group. Many wondered why Rice, as UN ambassador, even took on the role of spokesman that morning instead of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rice has said she agreed to the appearances because Clinton was exhausted from dealing with Benghazi. But the controversy over that appearance cost her the job of Secretary of State, for which she was being considered after Clinton announced she was stepping down. The congressional furor over Rice's Sunday comments on Benghazi caused Rice to take her name out of consideration. ~~~~~ Here are the pieces of the Benghazi jigsaw. (1). THE OBAMA POSITION -- On September 16, 2012, five days after the Benghazi attack, Susan Rice appeared on CBS's Face the Nation to state that : "we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this [attack] was premeditated or preplanned," but on ABC's This Week Rice said that the attack was "hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons." This was repeated as recently as February 2 when President Obama hinself told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly concerning his early insistence that the Benghazi attack was the result of an anti-Islamic video : "We revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time,...The notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes when, a week later, we all said, in fact, there was a terrorist attack taking place the day after, I said it was an act of terror -- that wouldn't be a very good cover-up." (2). THE CASE AGAINST THE OBAMA POSITION -- It is probable that President Obama and Secretary Clinton sent Rice to offer their agreed position, one they thought would hold up until the national and congressional outrage over Benghazi subsided. But, they had not counted on other sources coming forward. Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for management, said even prior to the Rice Sunday TV interviews that he believed the assault was planned. Other sources, including Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf, had expressed the view that the attack was pre-planned and that there was an al-Qaida link. Ninety-seven House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama on November 19, 2012, to say Rice's statements were "misleading" and that she should accordingly not be considered a candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton in 2013 as Secretary of State. The Democrat Senate majority responded unanimously in support of a resolution that said : "the violence in Benghazi coincided with an attack on the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which was also swarmed by an angry mob of protesters on September 11, 2012." The Democrat resolution made no mention of al-Qaida. But, as America continued to demand that the President give a reasonable explanation of what happened at Benghazi, GOP Representative Trey Gowdy, who had doubted the Obama position from the beginning, used a House hearing on May 8, 2013, to read into rhe record an email, which was never classified, that was sent on September 12, 2012, to Susan Rice, as well as many other members of the State Department. The email stated clearly that the attacks were committed by Islamists and the email contained no mention of an "angry mob" or protesters. Gowdy questioned Gregory Hicks, Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Charge d’Affairs in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, Diplomatic Security Officer and former US State Department Regional Security Officer in Libya, who both appeared at the hearing of the House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform on May 8, 2013. The committee held the hearing to investigate the events and response to the 2012 Benghazi attack. Gowdy asked Hicks about the Obama administration’s response to the deadly attack. Hicks said he was “embarrassed” that the attack was initially blamed on a YouTube video. “So hours after our ambassador and three others are killed in Benghazi, the president of Libya says it was an attack with possible terror links, correct?” Gowdy asked. “Yes sir, that is what I recall,” Hicks replied, adding that the Libyan president did not make any mention of “spontaneous protest” related to a video. “When Ambassador Stevens talked to you, perhaps minutes before he died, as a dying declaration, what precisely did he say to you?” Gowdy asked. “He said, ‘Greg, we are under attack,’ ” Hicks answered. Ambassador Christopher Stevens also did not make any reference to a spontaneous protest, according to Hicks. When asked about US Ambassador Susan Rice going on Sunday talk shows and blaming the attack on an anti-Moslem YouTube video “five different times,” Hicks said he was “stunned.” “My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” he added. Hicks also said Rice made no attempts to talk to him before speaking on TV that Sunday, despite the fact that he was the highest ranking official in Libya at the time. Gowdy later read an excerpt from a previously unreleased email sent by a State Department official identifying a terrorist group as the perpetrators of the attack the day after it occurred. The email was sent by Beth Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs at the State Department, to Hicks and other top US officials. The email was sent on September 12, 2012, one day after the attack. “Some of these emails, even though they are not been classified, have not been released,” Gowdy explained. “Including the one I am about to read from,” : “I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements,” the Jones email read. “When he said his government expected that former Qadaffi regime elements carried out the attacks, I [Jones] told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.” Again, that was one day after the September 11 attack and four days before Susan Rice, who had received at least the Hicks email. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we can only assume that Rice and Clinton and Obama can neither read nor use a telephone or that they are enmeshed in a continuing conspiracy to cover up the facts about what happened in Benghazi and why they did not want those facts to become public - just a short time before the election of Obama to a second term. But conspiracies are difficult to handle. They include at least two people and that is where the trouble begins. There are the smoking guns - phone call records, official agendas showing meetings, emails, text messages. And the co-conspirators may not always give identical accounts. So, if they were subpoenaed, they could be confronted with inconsistencies between the smoking guns and their position. They could be confronted with third party evidence that punches holes in their story.There is also the promise of Department of Justice immunity in exchange for breaking rank with their co-conspirators. This is why it is critically important that Congress subpoena Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Leon Panetta. Their use of the Fifth Amendment or inconsistencies in their testimony would show what Articles of Impeachment against President Obama should contain.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Today is George Washington's birthday. Here is one of his observations that sounds as if it might have been spoken yesterday : "Few people have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder." George Washington would have added an 'Amen" if he were following the girations now going in Washington about raising the minimum wage. President Obama, in an apparent effort to bolster Democrats in this fall's midterm elections, announced in his State of the Union Address in January that he wanted Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.75 to $10.10, a 40% increase. Obama also announced that beginning in 2015, he was by Executive Order raising the minimum wage for federal contractor emloyees to $10.10, to be paid for by US taxpayers one way or another at a time when the size of the budget deficit and the rapidly rising national debt are a major concern for everyone, except, it seems, Barack Obama. Add to this the recent calculation by the independent Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that if the minimum wage is raised to that level over the next three years for 16.5 million Americans, it could result in the loss of around 500,000 jobs - and possibly as many as a million - with major employers cutting back on staff to afford the wage hikes. Of course, Obama knew that if a minimum wage hike were to be enacted, it would require the support of his nemesis, House Speaker John Boehner, who in 1996 declared that he would rather kill himself than vote for a "clean" minimum wage bill. President Obama surely knows what Speaker Boehner's position on a high minimum wage is, and with the CBO's report that an increase could cost up to 1 million jobs, it's highly unlikely John Boehner will change his mind soon. Former Ohio Representative Steve LaTourette, a Republican who is close to Boehner, said the Speaker has "always believed that it's a job killer" and the CBO report has just fueled his fears. So, as far as Boehner is concerned, nothing is going to change when wage legislation comes up in the House in the next few weeks. Former Representative Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, said, "John and House Republicans right now see Obamacare and the economy as being the No. 1 issues. I think it would be very, very difficult, if not impossible, for John to schedule a clean up-or-down vote on a minimum wage bill. "There's no hiding it, John just believes it's bad economic policy. [Boehner] is a guy that is very fond about talking about growing up in a bar and starting work at a young age." ~~~~~ Dear readers, we may conclude that President Obama, knowing full well that Speaker Boehner would never support his minimum wage hike, asked for it to create an embarassment for Republicans during the Fall congressional elections. He calculated that the GOP, opposing the wage hike, would be seen as being "against the middle class...the little guy." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look at Obama's handiwork -- a lingering unemploynent rate at around 7%, if we accept Obama administration questionable figures, that Obama makes worse by : refusing to sign the Canadian-US pipeline bill, by refusing to agree to tax code changes that would allow business to create more jobs, by piling on regulations that cost business more and more of their profits that could better be spent on expansions that create jobs, by allowing illegal immigrants to fit into the American workforce and by encouraging the acceptance of 11 million illegals into favored employment positions as citizens, by forcing through Obamacare that will cost Americans millions of jobs and reduce fulltime employees to part-timers as employers attempt to avoid Obamacare's crushing costs and taxes for noncompliance. And now Obama wants an employment-destroying high minimum wage. All of tbese job destroyers are opposed by the GOP, which has for five years asked the President to approve the pipeline, reform the tax code, reduce the burden of wasteful and unneeded regulations on business, enter into reasonable immigration reform negotiations and repeal Obamacare. Where is the job killer? He is sitting in the White House, hoping that George Washington was right : "Few people have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder." Obama is betting that the false allure of a higher minimum wage will save the Democrats from becoming the minority party in the Senate, as they are now in the House. Let us prove that Americans are above taking such cheap bribes.
Friday, February 21, 2014
On March 10, 1783, General George Washington learned that his officers planned to meet on the following day at the Temple of Virtue, a large hall near his headquarters in Newburgh, New York. The meeting was called to discuss a fiery petition, probably written by John Armstrong, Jr., an aide de camp of General Horatio Gates, calling for the officers to mutiny if Congress failed to deliver their back pay and pensions. If the war continued, they would lead the army into "some unsettled country" and let the American people fend for themselves against the British. If the war was over, they would march on Congress and demand their pay at gunpoint. While Washington was just as concerned as his men that Congress had failed to pay the army, he was determined to prevent a mutiny among his officers. Banning the March 11 meeting, he ordered his men to meet instead at noon on March 15. On that day, as his officers crowded into the Temple of Virtue, Washington quietly entered through a side door and suddenly stood before them to read a nine-page speech, known as the Newburgh Address. Washington sympathized with their demands but rejected their methods. He admitted that the petition made several excellent points : the army had suffered much, but Washington reminded them that he had been with them through it all, he was continuing the fight to persuade the Congress to pay them, but the petition's solutions could only be described as madness. Washington asked the assembled group if they were actually willing to leave their wives, their children, and their property unprotected and defenseless in the face of the British army. Could they "sully the glory" they had won on the battlefield by marching on Congress as a mob? Promising that he would continue his strenuous efforts on their behalf, he urged them to stand with the elected representatives of their young republic, to give them time to solve this problem, rather than opening the "floodgates of civil discontent." After finishing his speech, Washington tried to read a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones of Virginia that clearly supported the officers' demands. Stumbling over the opening words, he put on a new pair of eyeglasses, saying, "Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." The incident moved many of his officers to tears. The next day, they passed a unanimous resolution commending General Washington for his devotion to them. The mutiny of the officers was over. Washington kept his promise, writing one letter after another to Congress, and finally winning his officers five years of full pay for their service in the war. Mary Stockwell, Ph.D. has a fuller account of the Newburgh Address at www.mountvernon.org where you can read much about the life and character of George Wawhington. ~~~~~ Dear readers, George Washington may have been the only irreplaceable member of the Founding Fathers. He was the only one of them to sit in the councils of state and then go forth to give those decisions life. His iron determination to win a military victory by forming, training, fighting and suffering alongside the Continental Army was decisive. His resolution to put aside his failing health to become the first President of the Untied States was another aspect of his determination to leave behind him a young republic ready to unite and grow together. Without the genius of George Washington, the debates and words and political positioning of the other Founders, uniquely great as they were, would have been simply another 18th century philosophical debate about the virtues of libertarian republicanism. George Washington saw the beauty of the Founders' work and understood the necessity of giving it practical shape. He was seamless in this effort and his honesty and moral virtue were the rock he stood on before Americans and the world. When Washington died on December 14, 1799, the eulogy was written and delivered on December 26, 1799, by Virginia's great orator, Richard Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee. General Robert E.Lee later wrote of his father that the eulogy alone would give him an immortal place in history. The words are familiar. "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout. To his equals he was condescending, to his inferiors kind, and to the dear object of his affections exemplarily tender; vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life - although in extreme pain, not a sigh not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well-spent life. Such was the man America has lost—such was the man for whom our nation mourns." George Washington's last words were, "T'is well." He was surely thinking of America as well as of his own soul.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings." Shakespeare, Julius Caesar. ~~~~~ Barack Obama might have done better to read more Shakespeare and less law when he was young. His days as a law student seem only to have made him determined to weaken to the maximum the constitutional underpinnings of the United States, whereas reading the Bard might have given him more insight into truth, justice, and human nature's beauties and flaws - his own included - a lesson we all must learn if we are to do more good than harm as we wind our way through life. As it was, Mr. Obama came to the American presidency wirh what appears to be a belief in his own infallible perfection of judgment. That, as Shakespeare could have told him, is the stuff of tragedy. Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, Lear. But Barack Obama has persisted, despite, or perhaps because of, the conservative American heartland telling him at every turn that he was wrong. Stimulus, Obamacare, Benghazi, NSA, IRS. His stubborn clutching to his breast of his own uniquely non-American view of America has earned him the distrust and often the outright hatred of a majority of his fellow citizens. But, as in every Shakespeare tragedy, things go along well for some time and the tragic hero becomes even more convinced of the justice of his ways. And then, the fatal flaw is exposed by events seen coming by everyone but the tragic hero. In Shakespeare, the tragic mistake in judgment is often predicted by a ghost or vision in a dream, because that was how the 16th century explained fate. Banquo's ghost haunts Macbeth, while Hamlet's dead father tries to warn him, and Otbello is driven to murderous madness by false jealous visions of the faithful Desdemona's infidelity. But, for Barack Obama, the fatal flaw was simple inattention to a computer system and its programs. And when that flaw was exposed, Obama's tragic unravelling and destruction became inevitable. And, like every one of Shakespeare's tragic heros, instead of heeding the proffered advice, Obama doubled down, becoming even more sure of his own perfection. His rashly prideful announcement in his 2014 State of the Union address that his pen and phone would trample constitutional checks and balances was the tragic flaw personified. It has left Obama alone to face his fate, abandoned by his Democrat Party and the liberal left who loved him. Lec Walesa says he is "disillusioned." US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court's black member, says American society is more "conscious" of race than it was in the segregated south and during the early period of the civil rights struggle. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the Obama administration is carrying on "a war against the propositions in the Declaration of Independence : It is a war against the spirit that motivated abolitionism : It is a war against the faith that motivated the Civil Rights struggle : It is a war against the soul of countless acts of charity : It is a war against the conscience that drives social change : It is a war against the heart that binds our neighborhoods together : It is a war against America's best self, at America's best moment. "It is a war - a silent war - against religious liberty." Donald Rumsfeld, who was secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush, commenting on Obama's foreign policy, said : "Iran's ayatollahs are determined to build a nuclear weapon, which will set off a dangerous Middle East arms race. You very likely are going to end up seeing other countries in the region develop nuclear weapons,...And there are other countries that are perfectly capable of it, and there are countries around the world that are willing to assist them with nuclear programs. And that is not a good thing for the world." Hollywood filmmaker Oliver Stone says President Obama is a "weak man" who has abandoned the principles he espoused on the campaign trail about civil liberties and foreign policy. "The man stunned us with a lack of spine," Stone told an audience of libertarian students at the 2014 Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C. ~~~~~ Dear readers, what is remarkable about these attacks on Barack Obama, coming from all quarters of American political views, is that each remark was made after Obama's January State of the Union Address. The tragic denouement, the collapse of the tragic hero - made possible by Obamacare - was precipitated by Obama's own words : "I have a pen..." When Lear sees his beloved daughter, Cordelia, dead because of his own proud acts, his final madness and grief overcome him and he dies trying to breathe life back into her dead body. His young band of heros look with pity on him. Edgar, Lear's conscience, has the last words : "The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long." The curtain falls on the band, determined to remake the ruined nation and to prevent another tragedy. We who are watching the America we love beset by every attack may be sure that she will survive - if only we have the courage to "speak what we feel" and the patience to support the young among us who will repair the Obama damage to her soul.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Events in Kiev are escalating and moving rapidly today. AP has reported that Ukraine's top security agency says protesters have seized over 1,500 firearms, and is announcing a nationwide "anti-terrorist" operation to restore order. President Yanukovich has again blamed the violence on "radical and extremist groups" that "threaten the lives of millions of Ukrainians." The latest news is that Maidan protesters tried to attack Parliament Tuesday evening to demand action on their list of grievances. They were forced back to Independence Square and were later stormed by riot police who set fire to their headquarters. But the Maidan drove the police out of the Square and set up burning barricades of wood, furniture and tires. As smoke rose above the center of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, today police fired stun grenades and officers in riot gear again tried to push demonstrators away from the Square. The deadly clashes between police and protesters have left at least 25 people dead and hundreds injured and raised fears of a civil war. Wounded protesters are being taken to St. Michael's Cathedral where doctors have set up an emergency clinic and operating room. After several hours of relative calm, confrontations flared up again Wednesday afternoon, with hundreds of police amassing on the edges of Independence Square, throwing stun grenades and using water cannons to try to disperse protesters. Thousands of activists armed with fire bombs and rocks held their ground, defending the Square which has become the symbol of the Maidan protest. The Kiev Post newspaper reports the following local timeline (GMT + 4) -- 17:06 • Traffic on Ukrainian-Polish border blocked. 16:30 • 'He (Yanukovich) must go': Kiev protesters will fight president. 16:16 • EU still ready to sign association agreement with Ukraine. 16:15 • Weapons, ammunition stolen from Ukrainian Security. 16:02 • Huffington Post: EU Foreign Ministers to meet on Ukraine. 15:41 • About 100 masked men assault pro-European demonstration. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has reported that Russia is withholding further aid payments to Ukraine amid a "coup" attempt. The deadly clashes in Kiev have also drawn sharp reactions from Washington, sparked a rapidly growing push for European Union sanctions and led to a Kremlin statement blaming Europe and the West. Here are some of the international reactions -- EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday expressed "shock and utter dismay" at the violence in Kiev, blamed Ukraine's "political leadership" and predicted the 28-nation EU will impose sanctions as a result. "We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our member states as a matter of urgency, as proposed by the high representative/vice president (top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton)," Barroso said in a statement. EU foreign ministers were summoned to an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday afternoon to decide on the bloc's course of action on Ukraine. United States Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine's President Yanukovich, to express "grave concern" and to request the pullback of government forces and the exercise of maximum restraint. The White House said Biden made clear that while the United States condemns violence by all parties, the government bears "special responsibility to de-escalate the situation." Biden also called on Ukraine's government to address the protesters "legitimate grievances" and put forward proposals for political reform. The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the West for the escalation of violence and called on the Ukrainian opposition to work with the government to find an exit from the crisis. "What is happening is a direct result of the conniving politics of Western politicians and European bodies," the ministry said in a statement. Germany's leaders had refused to back Washington's calls for sanctions against Ukraine's government to pressure it into accepting opposition demands for reforms. But on Wednesday, a senior lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, Andreas Schockenhoff, said EU-wide measures such as the freezing of bank accounts and entry bans had become necessary. Schockenhoff also said "Yanukovich clearly bears responsibility for the escalation of violence." A statement issued by Germany's Foreign Ministry Wednesday, however, did not mention sanctions. It quoted Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as calling the outbreak of violence "appalling" and the high number of victims "terrible." Steinmeier said that "a pause for breath is urgently needed" and called on all concerned not to use force. ~~~~~ Dear readers, right now, riot police are massing near Independence Square while protesters are making petrol fire bombs and Kiev supporters are delivering sandwiches and other food to them. The situation is rapidly escalating and bears the marks of a civil war scenario. Once again, the smiling Sochi face of Vladimir Putin hides his bloody determination to hold into Ukraine at any cost. This is not a battle between the West and Russia. It is the battle of western-style Ukrainian citizens against their pro-Russia government and that government's sellout to Putin. We acknowledge that the half of Ukraine closest to Russia contains Russian sympathizers - the descendents of the Soviet-era packing of eastern Ukraine with Russians. They still speak Russian and not Ukrainian. Yanukovich is close to them and a native Russian speaker. This is not to say that they do not have rights. But their rights do not include suppressing the will of the Urkainian-speaking majority. We witnessed a similar "packing" with Germans by Nazi Germany in eastern Czechoslovakia before it was seized and its native inhabitants terrorized by the Nazis. Ukraine must not be abandoned to such a fate today at the vicious hands of Vladimir Putin. Any sanctions imposed by the EU must also be directed at Russia and Putin, where they will have an impact. Sanctions against Yanukovich and his cronies are useless. And in an Olympic aside - the IOC today refused to allow Ukrainian athletes to wear black armbands. Perhaps spectators ought to wear them for the muzzled Ukrainians at Sochi.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
It took months of difficult bargaining before Iran and six world powers agreed to a first-step nuclear agreement. The two sides will find it even harder as they start to confront the realities standing in the way of a final agreement. Iran denies that it wants, or has worked on, nuclear arms. But on November 24, it agreed to some curbs on uranium enrichment - which at higher levels becomes the core of nuclear arms or reactor fuel - in exchange for some easing of the sanctions that are choking its economy. The purpose of the initial 6-month deal was to provide entry-level concessions from both sides that would make it easier to reach a final accord to minimize any potential Iranian nuclear weapons threat in return for a full lifting of sanctions. But as the sides begin meeting to shape the final pact in Vienna, Gary Samore, who helped the US negotiate with Iran until last year, and now is at Harvard's Belfer Center think tank, has told the US media that the interim deal is "simply a truce," with the hard work still ahead. While the US Congress weighs how to keep Iran under the control of sanctions to encourage it to negotiate a final agreement, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, acuses the US of bad faith and says his country will negotiate but is pessimistic that a deal can be reached. There are several key issues, but the most contentious is the question of how many and what kinds of enrichment centrifuges Iran should be permitted to have. The interim accord says a final deal will include sufficient centrifuges for a program with practical limits and a peaceful nature. The Iranians continue to insist on keeping all of the 20,000 centrifuges now at their enrichment sites. Of those, 10,000 are running. But the US fears that having 20,000 centrifuges on site - even with most of them idle - would give Iran the capacity to produce enough weapons-grade enriched uranium within a few months. The US and its negotiating partners - Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain - want only a few thousand of the machines left in place in Iran, to give them a more than a one-year window to produce one nuclear weapon, if Iran turned on all its centrifuges and started working on weapons-grade uranium. Iran also wants to upgrade its centrifuges so as to enrich uranium four times faster than its current centrifuges, something the six nations oppose. Another major disagreement surrounds the underground enriching facility at Fordo, because it is heavily fortified against aerial attacks. The six powers have said that they want Fordo shut down. But because Teheran is opposed to tearing down any of its atomic infrastructure as a matter of national pride, Samore thinks a possible compromise would be to "repurpose" Fordo while keeping it a nuclear facility, perhaps as a storage area for equipment or material. The six allied nations also worry about Arak, another Iranian nuclear facility, because it is a heavy-water plant that would produce substantial amounts of plutonium, which can also can be used as the nuclear core of a missile. Converting the reactor to a light-water installation or cutting back on its output would ease big-power concerns, even if, according to Samore, they have to pay for the conversion. And the problem with the longest lifespan is the question of how to treat Iran ultimately. Because it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran will at some point have to be treated as any other non-nuclear weapons NPT member state, if it honors the commitments it makes under a final agreement. The big question is - when? And what happens then? The US and its allies will undoubtedly want to extend the agreement for a very long period, up to 25 years, for maximum assurance that Iran has abandoned any potential nuclear weapons ambitions. Samore says Iran wants the final agreement to end after five years, so that it can start building its nuclear program like any other non-weapon NPT state. That would mean that Iran could run tens of thousands of centrifuges and reactors that produce substantial nuclear fuel, which worries the international community. All this is permitted under the NPT as long as the UN nuclear agency can find no reason to suspect that any activity is non-peaceful. This will eventually renew worries about Iran's nuclear program, because once Iran passes into the NPT system, it will be impossible to single out Iran for restrictions that other NPT member states are not under. That's why the US and its allies want a long period before this occurs - to allow time for peaceful regime change. ~~~~~ And, if you think the American Congress is bluffing, consider that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican likely to become Speaker if John Boehner is ousted, yesterday delivered a speech at the Virginia Military Institute condemning President Obama’s foreign policy. In a major national security speech, Cantor warned of a "brutal" Iran becoming a nuclear power, saying that American allies fear that US enemies feel empowered under Obama’s leadership and that the nation’s status as a world power has vastly diminished. "America’s friends worry we have lost our way, that we have lost the will to live up to our values or stand up to aggressors," Cantor said. "They see a divided, inward-looking America that is focused on its weaknesses rather than its strengths, and they know this is an America that invites challenges and emboldens adversaries." In the speech setting out "clear principles" for his own foreign policy initiatives, including American-Russian diplomacy, Cantor singled out US nuclear negotiations with Iran as a dangerous setback to US peace-keeping efforts in the Middle East. "I can imagine few more destabilizing moments in world history than Iran on the threshold of being a nuclear power," he said in the prepared remarks. "Make no mistake : Iran is a brutal theocracy. Its leaders violently repress dissent at home and support conflict and chaos abroad. We should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement." Cantor has previously said that the six-month nuclear deal with Iran "bodes very ominously for the region and US security." And he warned that it brings Iran "closer to becoming a nuclear power" and threatens US relations with Israel. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Iran nuclear negotiations are going to be extremely difficult - not only in Vienna but also in Washington, where many Congress members believe Iran's only negotiating goal was to loosen sanctions and that Obama fell into the trap. Many Americans oppose Obama's Iran position. They are already worried by President Obama's willingness to trust Iran and his obvious estrangement from Israel, and they are supported by both the Republican majority in the House and minority in the Senate, and many Democrats in both chambers, who see any deal with Iran that leaves any Iranian nuclear capability in place a threat to world peace and to Israel's existence. It may very well be that Obama's non-American actions on the world stage will meet their Waterloo over Iran. Obama does not represent America's view of appropriate foreign policy and asking them swallow a nuclear Iran may just prove to be Obama's undoing.
Monday, February 17, 2014
This might have been a day of celebration for President Obama - not just the nondescript US Presidents Day that tries to make Americans forget that Lincoln was born on February 12 and Washington on 22 February, by creating an extra Monday holiday for federal employees - no, Obama might be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the $700 billion stimulus bill that he signed on February 17, 2009. The bill contained an array of spending cuts, tax breaks and welfare provisions and plenty of long-sought Democratic policy prescriptions. Even today, the President’s senior economic adviser insisted that the stimulus helped the US avoid a “second Great Depression” and will pay dividends for years to come. But the economic recovery has been very uneven and unusually weak since the end of the recession in mid-2009. Liberals such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued then and now that the stimulus was too small to give the economy the jump-start it needed. They believe a bigger Keynesian-style stimulus, worth well over a trillion dollars, would have led to a stronger recovery. Conservatives dismiss this, saying most of the stimulus package was wasteful and misdirected, adding substantially to the US national debt without any long-term benefit. They say the government should have cut taxes, scaled back regulations and kept spending in check. The debate on the stimulus is likely to go on for years, perhaps with no resolution, because only Obama's approach was tried. Yes, as a forewarning of things to come, the stimulus bill passed with hardly any Republican support and became a political football for several years until superseded by an even more profound fight over Obamacare, passed with no Republican votes. And that's the second reason why President Obama is not celebrating today. He has been dealt a stunning new blow by Obamacare because even though there was a December-January upward tick in sign-up numbers, reports show that only half the people "enrolled" at Obamacare exchanges in various states have actually paid their premiums. With the March 31 deadline for enrollment just seven weeks away, the number of sign-ups in federal and state marketplaces has slowed down alarmingly since the sudden surge in the latter part of December and early January. But the bigger problem for the Obama administration is that roughly 50% of those who had supposedly enrolled for Obama's healthcare reform have missed their payment deadline for January 1, according to Investor's Business Daily's website. Examples show how bad it is -- *in Washington state, the goal was to sign up 340,000 participants by the end of March, but only 170,000, have filled out the Obamacare forms and only 88,071 of those had paid their premium as of Febeuary 1 - a little more than half the sign-ups and 25% of the number that Washington had hoped to enlist by March 31 with their premiums paid up. *in Wisconsin, half of the 40,752 state residents that signed up for health insurance through Obamacare by December 31 have paid their premiums and are currently receiving coverage. *in Nevada, they had targeted 115,000 sign-ups for Obamacare by the March 31 deadline, but just 14,999 paid their premiums by February 1, or 66% of those who enrolled and 12% of the target figure. *in Minnesota, 27,775 households had received private coverage as of January 18, but only half (14,500) have paid or have payments pending, out of the 67,000 targeted sign-ups by March 31, and there has been a slow-down in Obamacare ebrollments, from 4,000 a week for five weeks over December and early January, to just 700 a week now, which is about the same as the abyssmal October-November figures. Investors.com says that the January data from New York, Colorado, Maryland and Kentucky also show that the Obamacare sign-ups have slowed significantly in the second half of the month. According to the report, the "spotty" payment rate may indicate that the demographics of paid enrollees "may be older and possibly sicker than even the national sign-up data have signaled." Obamacare needs young and healthy customers to sign up with state and federal healthcare exchanges to keep the cost down for older and less healthy consumers. ~~~~~ Dear readers, neither the stimulus nor Obamacare can give Barack Obama any reason to celebrate today. His lack of understanding of how to enact programs by enlisting Republican support, combined with his 2009-2010 Democrat majority in both the House and Senate, made Obama push through both the stimulus and Obamacare with only Democrat votes. Those early power plays left the GOP angry and frustrated that their advice - advice that represented half of America - was ignored and belittled. And President Obama has paid the price for those early strategic errors ever since. There is no way now to repair the damage, either with the Republicans in Congress or with America.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
The second round of the Geneva 2 talks on the Syrian civil war ended as they began - with the opposition demanding that negotiations focus on creating a transitional government which does not include President Bashar al-Assad, and the government saying that Mr Assad's role is not negotiable. The government said it was only open to discussing means of combating "terrorism," which it blames on opposition forces and their foreign backers. Mr. Brahimi, the Arab League negotiator, said future talks would focus on ending violence and terrorism, and then move on to discussing the creation of a transitional governing body. British Foreign Secretary William Hague blamed the al-Assad regime for the breakdown of the talks : "With the war in Syria causing more death and destruction every day to the people of Syria, we need to do all we can to make progress towards a proper solution," he said. According to new figures released by the Britain-based Syrian Observ Human Rights on Saturday, 140,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011. The stalemate caused Mr. Brahimi to end direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition Saturday without finding a way of breaking the impasse in the peace talks. Saturday's session lasted only a half an hour and left the future of the negotiating process in doubt, with no date was set for a third session. Brahimi told a news conference that both sides agreed that the agenda for the next round should focus on four points: ending the violence and terrorism, creating a transitional governing body, building national institutions, and reconciliation. Before resuming discussions, the parties must, according to Brahimi, be prepared to discuss on the first day ways to end violence and combat terrorism, the main thrust of the government's stance, and on the second day to talk about how to create a transitional body, as the opposition and Western powers insist. "Unfortunately the government has refused, which raises the suspicion of the opposition that in fact the government doesn't want to discuss the TGB (transitional governing body) at all," Brahimi said. "In that case, it's not good for the process, it's not good for Syria that we come back for another round and fall in the same trap that we have been struggling with this week and most of the first round," he said. "So I think it is better that every side goes back and reflect and take their responsibility: do they want this process to take place or not?" Brahimi said he would consult with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about a way forward. "I am very, very sorry, and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes which were very, very high that something will happen here," Brahimi said. The Syrian government's ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, said the government accepted Brahimi's proposed agenda but a problem was raised "by the other side when they gave their own interpretation of the agenda." He insisted that the government is committed to returning to negotiations and will go back to Geneva to continue the talks as long as it takes, because "we are extremely careful about stopping the bloodshed in Syria and combatting terrorism," Jaafari told reporters. "This I promise you: We will be committed to doing so." Anas al-Abdeh, a member of the opposition negotiating team, said his side accepted the agenda but the government's refusal to go along with the order of discussions put the prospects of a third session of talks in the Geneva 2 negotiating round in doubt. The first two sessions lasted from Jan. 22-31 and Feb. 10-15. The first round, known as Geneva 1, resulted in a June 2012 roadmap for peace that was not followed. Al-Abdeh labelled the continuing stalemate in negotiations a result of the government's "continuous effort to not talk and not to discuss the issue of the transitional governing body." The unconfirmable death toll has reached 140,000 from three years of violence, with more than 3,400 reportedly killed this month while the peace talks were being held in Geneva. The UN's human rights office said in January it has stopped updating the death toll from Syria's civil war, confirming that it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July. ~~~~~ Dear readers, if we consider the comments coming out of the Geneva 2 talks, it is clear that the discussions are still focused on setting the agenda items. There have been no substantive negotiations, with the exception of the evacuation of starving rebel families from Homs, and the motives behind the al-Assad regime's agreeing to this are still far from clear. What we know is that the evacuees, under the protection of the Red Cross, have been questioned by al-Assad representatives. And, vis-à-vis yesterday's blog -- we all know that Vladimir Putin is on the wrong side in Iran, Ukraine abd Syria, to name several of many, and that these political realities are not to be forgotten by his use of the Sochi Games to improve his public image, something that has been going on since the 1936 Munich Games -- but one might point out to Mr. Putin that he could have gained immeasurably greater worldwide stature by going to Damascus to demand that al-Assad stop his butchering and get on with serious negotiations to give Syria back to its people...for Syria belongs to them - not to the al-Assad regime.
Friday, February 14, 2014
It's St. Valentine's Day - a day for love and friendship, so let's put aside the world's many heavy burdens today and take a trip to Sochi, for Russia's Winter Olympic Games. They got off to a rough start, with unfinished hotel rooms and funny-colored water. But President Vladimir Putin was able to make it all work reasonably well - tight security, hotel rooms for all and well-prepared sports venues. The water is still funny, but nobody seems to be ill. The TV coverage is often disjointed and more complete coverage of major events would be appreciated by fans around the world. But these faults are balanced by the reports out of Sochi that the Russians are providing friendly service. That is real progress because Russians, while very warm and friendly in private, tend to be cold when in service jobs. ~~~~~ And the great news for Switzerland is that it has 5 gold medals, only 2 behind the leader Germany. Congratulations to my adoptive country...and to all small countries that provide the backbone of Olympic competition while often resting in the shadows of the world's sports superpowers. Now, let's all cheer for Jamaica's bobsled team. That would be real Cinderella stuff that legends are made of. ~~~~~ In another display of the international friendship that the Olympic Games try to foster, Russian President Putin dropped in on US Olympic headquarters today for a casual chitchat about the Winter Games and the upcoming Russia-US ice hockey showdown. According to AP, he even wore a red "Happy Valentine's Day from Team USA" pin on his lapel. Putin spent a half hour at USA House in Sochi's Olympic Park, sitting on a couch talking with US Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun. Putin's visit offered a sharp contrast to the antagonistic political relations between Washington and Moscow over issues like Ukraine, Syria, Edward Snowden, gay rights and human rights. President Barack Obama is not the attending the games. In what is seen as a snub, the US delegation to the Olympics does not include a president, former president, vice president or first lady for the first time since 2000. But global politics took a back seat Friday as Putin turned up the charm during a visit that appeared calculated to defuse tensions and soften his image, and surely also remind everyone he is the central force behind Russia's Games. In the open-air terrace in the center of the USA House, as American athletes, families, sponsors and fans looked on, Putin was described as relaxed and "genuinely interested in whether we were having a quality experience at the games," Blackmun said. The upcoming preliminary round men's hockey game between the Americans and Russians has revived memories of the "Miracle on Ice," when the US beat the Soviets to win the gold medal at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid. "There are many Russians in the NHL," Putin told the Americans, according to Russian news agencies. "I promise you we have a lot of fans who love and know American players." In fact, Putin may be among them in a country where ice hockey is the king of sports. Putin is expected to attend the US-Russia game. Putin praised the performance of US athletes in Sochi, telling them he admired their balanced strong participation in practically every discipline. Putin also thanked the US for supporting Sochi's Olympic bid. Sochi was awarded the games in 2007 after Putin traveled to Guatemala to lead the presentation. "We remember that, and are thankful to our American friends for the support," Putin said. Putin's visit to USA House started with some American athletes saying "Welcome!" to him in Russian. He answered "Thanks!" in English, according to Russian news agencies. From USA House, Putin stopped at Canada House next door. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Vladimir Putin had and has a gigantic load to carry in Sochi. The security threats alone pose enormous challenges. And holding Winter Games at a summer resort provides problems for the athlietes who must compete on snow that is often slushy. But, let's give credit where credit is due. The Sochi Games are so far working. And if security can permit, it would be a fine gesture if the United States and other western powers sent high profile delegations to the Closing Ceremony as a way of thanking Vladimir Putin for his extraordinary effort and success against great odds.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Things in Washington are becoming more bizarre by the day. US Senator Ted Cruz, the lone Republican Senator to actively oppose last year's raising of the national debt ceiling, said earlier this week that it would be "irresponsible" for Congress to grant President Obama a debt ceiling increase without spending reforms. Cruz, who spoke to reporters after remarks at the Heritage Foundation, said he hoped the House would not "go down that road" of agreeing to an increase in the government's borrowing authority without demanding measures to rein in long-term deficits : "President Obama is asking Congress to give him a blank check to allow him to keep maxing out the credit card without doing anything to fix the problem. I think that's irresponsible," Cruz said. House Republicans disagreed, allowing the Democrat House members to give their President that blank check useable until March 2015. Cruz was a central figure in the government shutdown battle in the autumn of 2013, with his campaign to deny funds to Obamacare. His efforts, and those of outside conservative groups, were influential in persuading House Republicans to vote to block government funding for the new fiscal year if it included money for the law. The standoff launched a 16-day partial shutdown and rattled financial markets concerned about the debt limit, which needed an increase shortly thereafter. Since then, Congress has reached two minor budget deals and talk of brinkmanship has subsided. Cruz did not use procedural tactics to try to block or delay Senate consideration of the House bill raising the debt ceiling without attaching spending conditions. This occurred because the President would not talk to Speaker Boehner about compromise and insisted on a clean bill or a shutdown. ~~~~~ Former Florida GOP Congressman Allen West, a military career officer, says the GOP has a better chance of getting what it wants after the midterm election. West believes taking the Senate and maintaining the majority in the House will lead to "reform the right way and not have a repeat of what happened in 2012." West says the unemployment rate is higher than the official 6.6%, but President Obama wants to open the flood gates with more people, some former terrorists, being accepted as legal residents. ~~~~~ The Obama administration Monday delayed unilaterally another part of Obamacare, granting medium-size businesses a delay in paying a tax penalty until 2016 for not providing workers with health insurance coverage. Obama's pronouncement, the latest move to counter a storm of criticism from the business community about Obamacare, refueled Republican criticism that his signature healthcare law is a "train wreck" and "jobs killer." Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a staunch Obamacare critic, tweeted "If President Obama likes his health care law, why won't he keep it?" Nationally syndicated journalist Charles Krauthammer called Obama's constant changes to Obamacare "lawlessly" changing the rules, more akin to what goes on in a banana republic. "It's now reached the point where it's so endemic that nobody even notices or complains," he said. ~~~~~ Former Speaker Newt Gingrich weighed in on President Obama's blatant challenge to the GOP and Speaker Boehner, saying it hasn't helped that the President declared this month that he would bypass Congress : " 'I’ve got a pen, and … I’ve got a phone,' he said, to implement his economic agenda. The whole environment has been poisoned by Barack Obama talking about using his pen, doing things independently," Gingrich said regarding immigration reform. "I know Boehner made a point very clearly that as long as Obama is unwilling to reassure members that he actually will obey the law, it's very hard to move anything substantive on any topic, because the White House is so clearly dishonest." Gingrich also scored Obama's apparent lack of candor in his interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News before the Super Bowl, calling it "one of the most blatantly dishonest interviews I've ever seen an American President give." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the common thread in all of this is that President Obama has decided not to accept the role spelled out for the President in the Constitution. Instead of working with Congress and the Courts, constitutionally equal branches of the federal government, Obama has chosen to challenge and threaten the Supreme Court to construe laws as he would have it, he has chosen which duly enacted laws to enforce and which laws he prefers not to enforce, and now he has, after trying it and finding little pushback from Congress, decided to publicly state that he will use his pen, that is, write laws himself when that power is reserved for Congress in the Constitution. All this after taking an oath on the Lincoln Bible to preserve and protect the Constitution. There is a Lincoln quote that is little known : "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it." ___Abraham Lincoln. Every time I read that, I hear a Lincoln who was tied to Jefferson and Paine and Washington. It is a remarkable statement, coming from a President who went to war to save the Union. It makes his last plea to the South - we are brothers, we must not be enemies - that much more poignant. Reading this statement, one can understand how much Lincoln, as a great constitutionalist, must have wanted to let the South go its own way. But, as President, he also felt compelled to save the Union. He is the only President thus far who has had to make that choice between the constitutional right of Americans to revolt and withdraw from the Union and the presidential responsibility to protect the Union. Today, we can feel the ghosts of Lincoln's great constitutional struggle. But this time it is the President who wants to secede from the Union by ignoring the Constitution. And he wants to drag all of America with him. No one, and certainly not the President, has the right to ignore the Constitution. Mr. Obama must be prudent and uphold his oath to protect and preserve the Constitution, to truly follow the President he says he feels drawn to - Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln did his constitutional duty. He saved the Union.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The passage of the debt limit measure by the US House of Representatives without any attempt to extract offsetting spending cuts comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find an agreement in their caucus to pass a debt limit bill that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of parts of Obamacare. But a group of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government's borrowing ceiling. It was this that forced House Speaker John Boehner to ask Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure with Democrat votes. Pelosi was only too happy to do it. The bill passed in the House last night, 221 to 201, allows the United States to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the out-of-control debt ceiling issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to deal with next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they will insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts, but for now, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent President being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way. Speaker Boehner told his caucus earlier on Tuesday that he would call up for a vote a clean debt ceiling bill. He had already proved the necessity of a clean bill by his unsuccessful attempts to find any debt ceiling-spending cut combination that the GOP caucus would vote for in sufficient numbers to ensure passage. So, Boehner relied on mostly Democrats to bring the bill over the finish line - 193 Democrats voted for the bill, while just 28 Republicans did the same. Boehner put the best face on his inability to win over his conservative wing, saying, "Understand, it's the President driving up the debt and the President wanting to do nothing about the debt that's occurring, he will not engage in our long term spending problem. And so let his party give him the debt ceiling increase that he wants." His reference to Democratic overspending came just before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Elmendorf also warned a Senate committee about the runaway debt : "Such large and growing federal debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policy makers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis," he said. On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Boehner's decision but attacked House conservatives, saying, "I put nothing past the Tea Party-driven Republican Congress." ABC called the vote the end of the “Boehner Rule.” John Boehner once coined that phrase based on this conservative principle : Any increase in the nation’s debt ceiling would be accompanied by an equal dose of spending cuts. The rule has sparked a series of fiscal fights that have often left Capitol Hill frozen in gridlock. But it was set aside as Boehner called the vote last night. “We’ve lost the stomach for brinksmanship,” one Republican lawmaker told ABC News, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the mood and mindset inside the closed-door Republican meeting where Boehner announced his plan. When asked by reporters whether the “Boehner Rule” was dead, the Speaker simply said : “I would hope not. As I’ve said before, this is a lost opportunity.” While the decision by Boehner is an embarrassment on one level, yet another sign that he is unable to guide his rebellious Republican conference, it also is something of a relief. Republicans are eager to keep their election-year focus on criticizing Obamacare, without giving Democrats new ammunition to accuse them of being obstructionists. Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Capitol Hill, said he was pleased Republicans were moving forward. “Look, if a clean bill comes up and it passes, that’s all I care about,” Biden told ABC News, “no matter what the makeup of the votes was." ~~~~~ Dear readers, we will undoubtedly hear a lot about the need to replace John Boehner as Speaker. The Senate Conservatives Fund, which is dedicated to electing “true conservative leaders” and was founded by former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, is now urging its supporters to sign a “Replace the Speaker” petition. “Republicans must know that conservatives expect them to make a change at the top, and we’re not going to give up on this until John Boehner is gone,” the SCF executive director said. “It’s sad that it has come to this but enough is enough. We will never stop the massive spending and debt that are destroying our country if the Republican speaker of the House surrenders to the Democrats and stabs conservatives in the back.” SCF joins For America, Tea Party Patriots and Freedomworks in calling for Mr. Boehner to be removed from the House’s top post. But consider this -- the conservative group that refuses to follow Boehner's lead does not have enough votes to pass any House bill on their own. If they did, the clean bill would never have come to the House floor for a vote. So, we must assume they don't have enough votes to oust John Boehner from the Speakership, either. And that is one of the unspoken reasons for the conservative/tea party effort to replace incumbent GOP House members in the November elections. Those targeted, being labeled as non-conservative, are sure to vote to keep John Boehner in his job as Speaker un January 2015 when the new Congress convenes. What the conservative/tea party House group refuses to ubderstand is that their fight is not with John Boehner, who is a conservative ready to lead their fiscal assault on President Obama's senseless spending. Their fight is with the Senate Democrat majority. Instead to "eating their own children" by attacking GOP House incumbents and risking the loss of their seats to Democrats, the conservative/tea party group ought to be putting every dollar and every argument they can muster into electing a Republican Senate majority in Novenber. They would then have a Congress united against a Democrat President isolated and alone in the White House. Politics is about ideas - about constitutional government and fiscal sanity. But politics is also about tactics because you can have the best ideas ever conceived, but if you are not the majority, you will lose. Jim DeMint has been in politics long enough to know this. He ought to teach it to his followers by example -- elect a Republican Senate in November. The rest will then fall into place.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Of all the names being talked about and subjected to polls as potential 2016 presidential candidates, Vice President Joe Biden has to be the name that garners the least interest. But, not so fast says the man himself. A few days ago, Biden announced that he can't think of any good reasons not to seek the presidential nomination in 2016. "There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run," Biden told CNN last Friday. In typical Biden fashion, he joked that a good reason not to run was regaining the freedom to once again drive his Corvette, but Biden said that "realistically" he plans to make a decision by summer 2015 whether he'll run for the presidency. If he decides to run, Biden would have to face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who places at the top of most polls, including those with potential Republican candidates. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Biden, at 12%, placed a distant second to Clinton, at 73%. Biden told CNN that the decision will be determined by whether or not he is the "best qualified person" to run : "That doesn't mean I'm the only guy that can do it," Biden said. "But if no one else, I think, can, and I think I can, then I'd run. If I don't, I won't." But for the present, Biden is on the road to push President Obama's "year of action" promised in the State of the Union address and has been asked by Obama to develop a task force in the next six months to reform federal job training programs. “The income inequity in this country is profound. The middle class is shrinking,” Biden said earlier this week. However, CNN believes that immigration reform is overshadowing the focus on the middle class, pointing to House Speaker John Boehner's recent statement that immigration reform is unlikely this year because his caucus doesn't trust Obama. Biden says that he believes immigration reform is possible and that Boehner is "under a great deal of pressure from the right. I think no matter what we said, it would impact the internal dynamic and politics in the Republican Caucus. We should let them figure their caucus out." Meanwhile, Biden said that it's clearly "not our preference" to pass a bill that falls short of offering a pathway to citizenship."Any bill that passes out of the House has to go through a conference committee with the Senate, which passed overwhelmingly a pathway to citizenship," Biden said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the bigger reason Democrats are worried relates to how the botched Obamacare rollout will affect them at the ballot box in November's congressional elections. But, in another comment of the type that can almost be called "Bidenisms," the Vice President explained that the Democrat's worry about the November elections doesn't mean that Obama or he will stay out of the fall races. Here's how Biden put it : "There are places the President is popular and there are other places where he wouldn't be welcome but I can 'go in' while there are still other places where neither of us would go." And that, friends, is the exact reason why Joe Biden is not considered to have serious presidential potential. Even when Biden manages to control his earthy language, even when he manages to follow the script, even when he knows what the White House position on any given topic is and manages to repeat it -- even then, lJoe Biden cannot seem to avoid expressing himself in an English that is often almost incomprehensible. If the world has been confused by Obama's 'leading from behind' and vanishing red line rhetoric, it would be completely lost with Joe Biden's expressions. Pity the translators who would have to deal with his very off-the-cuff downhome English. And, by the way, Mr. Biden - there may be. Democrat strongholds where the American President, whether Democrat or Republican, would not be welcome, but I seriously doubt it. If you simply could have learned to follow your talking points and keep your convoluted opinions to yourself, you actually might have made the presidential wannabe list. As it is, you are, as you said, "not the only guy that can do it." In fact, you are probably the last "guy that can do it."
Monday, February 10, 2014
President Obama has taken another step away from the American citizens who elected him - he has eased the rules for would-be asylum-seekers, refugees and others who want either to come to or remain in the United States, making it possible for the first time since 9/11 for those who gave given "limited" support to terrorists or terrorist groups to seek residence status. The change, carried out by executive order, is one of President Obama's first actions on immigration since he pledged during his January State of the Union address to use more executive directives - use his pen to go around Congress, as he put it. Congress passed legislation in the wake of 9//11 making it impossible for anyone considered to have provided support to terrorist groups to seek entry into the United States. The law's prohibition, known as terrorism related inadmissibility grounds, had affected anyone considered to have given such support. The provision has been applied rigidly to those trying to enter the US and to those already in the US but wanting to change their immigration status. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the rule change, which was announced last week without consulting Congress, gives the government more discretion, but won't open the country to terrorists or their sympathizers. People seeking refugee status, asylum and visas, including those already in the United States, still will be checked to be sure they don't pose a threat to national security or public safety, the department said. The new rule allows officials to consider whether the support was not only limited but potentially part of "routine commercial transactions or routine social transactions," according to Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard. "Nothing in these exemptions changes the rigorous, multilayered security screening we do." The new rule is silent about members of rebel groups who have led revolts in Arab Spring uprisings, and it does not specifically address "freedom fighters" who may have fought against an established government. The rule change will help people Boogaard described as deserving refugees and asylum-seekers. Democrat Senator Pat Leahy said in a statement that the previous rule barred applicants for reasons "that no rational person would consider." Republican lawmakers, however, argue that the administration is relaxing rules designed by Congress to protect the country from terrorists. Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the change naive, given today's global terrorist threats. The government should be protecting US citizens rather than taking a chance on those who are aiding and abetting terrorist activity and putting Americans at greater risk," said Goodlatte. ~~~~~ Dear readers, one is tempted to say that President Obama has taken leave of his senses. Using an executive order to taunt Congress for trying to provide protection from terrorists for Americans and, at the same time, taking lightly the to-be-expected negative reaction of both Congress and Americans seems both foolhardy and deliberately provocative. That the President chose not to explain such a sensitive action to America directly bespeaks a detachment from them and an indifference to their reasonable post-9/11 concerns. Has an American President decided to taunt not only Congress, which is after all a time-honored tradition, but also the American people? While it is true that Barack Obama is a figure now largely cast aside by a majority of the citizens who elected him, he is also for two more years the embodiment of the Office of the Presidency. If Americans do not support Mr. Obama, they nevertheless have enormous respect for the Office itself. President Obama should exercise sufficient self-restraint to prevent that respect from cracking into contempt. King George III made a similar mistake and paid dearly.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Congratulations to former President George W. Bush, who has been honored with the Anti-Defamation League’s highest award for his “inspirational leadership” in the face of the 9/11 terror attacks and his commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The ADL announced the award Friday at a private dinner for the ADL’s national executive committee meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. The group bestowed its “America’s Democratic Legacy Award” on President Bush, praising him for establishing the United States’ first special envoy to monitor and combat anti- Semitism. "The best Middle Eastern policy starts with an alliance with the only democracy in the Middle East, and that is Israel,” Bush said in accepting the honor, according to an ADL prepared statement. “The cornerstone of peace begins with an unshakable US-Israel alliance.” Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, said that Bush’s “vision…of ‘two states, living side by side, in peace and security still informs our consciousness and our parlance today. You solidified an unbreakable affinity between two democracies challenged by extremists and terrorists – and an ironclad shared understanding -- that security is one of the most important foundations for peace,” Foxman said, adding, “You led a united American people through the trauma of an attack that in one day redefined our sense of security and our domestic and foreign policy. When you were called on to respond to unspeakable terror, hate and violence, you refused to let America give into stereotypes. You answered calls for anti-Moslem revenge with calls for respect and understanding.” Previous winners of ADL’s America’s Democratic Legacy Award include former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman; as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Justice Earl Warren, Saul Bellow, George Tenet, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Lee Iacocca, Walter Annenberg, Dwayne Andreas and Cardinal John O’Connor. ~~~~~ But, a different tone was used to address issues around another American. Secretary of State John Kerry's "exuberance" in the current Mideast peace negotiations "causes some issues," ADL National Director Foxman told Newsmax this week. "He's very well intentioned, very intense - maybe a little bit super-intense," Foxman told John Bachman in an exclusive interview on "America's Forum" on Newsmax, saying that Kerry's claim that Palestinians in the West Bank haven't killed anyone in Israel in the past year has surprised American and Israeli observers. "[H]e warns Israel that it must make compromises [or]...it will be boycotted," Foxman said. "Instead of getting up in Munich and saying to the Europeans : 'The last thing you should do is threaten Israel with a boycott because that undermines the country's strength, it undermines its ability to compromise.' Foxman said that he believes Kerry's statements legitimize boycotts."Unfortunately, threats in Israel don't work," the ADL leader said. "Israel faced an onslaught of terrorism and it stood firm. Certainly economic threats won't work. He understands. He listens. I know him. I like him - and some days, he's just a little overzealous." Foxman told Newsmax that Kerry needs to "criticize and challenge both sides....We've primarily heard him say what the Israelis need to do, what consequence will befall the Israelis if they don't make the critical decisions. I haven't heard him say, 'What are the consequences for the Palestinians?' It would help for everybody if they heard consequences, that they have something at stake," he said. "In terms of Europe, he needs to say to the European countries 'Don’t threaten. Don't boycott.' " Regarding the negotiations between the US and Iran on its nuclear program, Foxman said that he was "comfortable at this stage" with how the talks were proceeding because economic sanctions remain in place along with the threat that Congress would strengthen them if Teheran did not follow through with a final agreement. According to Foxman : "Those sanctions need to be there. It's an important message to Iran. Whether or not they move forward, Iran has gotten a message. Fifty-nine senators, Democrats and Republicans, have publicly said, 'We want sanctions in place in case the Iranians do not make an agreement or fulfill it.' " Foxman added that "It's a clear message. All of us who believe that since it was sanctions that brought the Iranians to the table, if they're threatening that they're going to walk away....they've got something to lose." ~~~~~ Dear readers, there has never been an American President as detached and cool with Israel as Barack Obama. He has denied this but his actions continue to speak. If Mr. Obama were actually making gains for peace in the Middle East by following his "Bash Israel" policy, we all, even including Israel, could say, 'well, it's a big price to pay but Israel is now safer and the region is quiet.' But, the Obama decisions -- leaving Iraq prematurely has led to a quasi-civil war between sunnis and shiites that makes the prior American effort almost meaningless -- announcing, also prematurely, a unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan has effectively put Afghans back in the cruel clutches of the Taliban and again made the loss and maiming of young American men seem futile -- refusing to deal quickly with al-Assad's brutal crackdown on peaceful Syrian protesters has not only given al-Assad the green light to continue his slaughter of the opposition, it has caused an influx of jihadist terrorist groups and spread both sectarian fighting and 2.5 million refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Where is the logic for Obama's mistreatment of Israel? There is none. He has simply decided to favor Arabs over Israelis, and now even those Arabs whose self-interests made them stay close to America are fleeing Obama. It is a model for disaster carried out by an American President who is ignorant of the consequences of his actions and who has chosen not to be advised by those who could guide him wisely. One is forced to wonder if Barack Obama's childhood and early schooling in Moslem Indonesia has permanently tainted his thinking. Indonesia is in no way the Middle East. But, it is too late to help Mr. Obama learn that lesson. All we can do now is wait for the 2016 election. And in the meantime...just like President Bush does... take every opportunity to express our support for Israel.