Archives for: December 2009
Accusations of partisanship notwithstanding, it is hard to blame Republicans for attacking President Obama over the instance of attempted terrorism during the holidays.
Peter King of New York put it this way: “I think that the administration has made a mistake by treating this terrorist as a common criminal, by putting him into the criminal-justice system. I wish they had put him into a military tribunal so we could get as much intelligence and information out of him as we could.” We should give Representative King the benefit of the doubt. In his position as the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee he fully realizes that the young man is providing "detailed information about his recruitment and training" to the FBI. Experts say "harsh interrogation," as it is called, is more useful in getting false confessions than in getting useful information. But it is the principle that concerns Peter King. The young man should be tortured. Period.
It is principle, more than performance, that matters on other counts as well. King has been witheringly critical of the Obama administration on the emotion front. His comments were especially biting concerning Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "There was no intensity," he pointed out. "There was no show of emotion."
Attitude counts. Former Vice President Cheney points this out with some drama. “[W]e are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe,” he said to Politico.com. “Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society.”
King and Cheney are gentlemen. They have restrained themselves from pointing out the most laughably reckless act of all. Information obtained through non-harsh interrogation of the underwear terrorist, confirmed by other sources, reveals the attack was planned by detainees who were actually released from Guantanamo and sent to Saudi Arabia.
Why? It turns out it was for an "art therapy rehabilitation program." Give me a break. Diligent reporting has uncovered Department of Defense documents. Cheney and other Republicans should be joined by Americans of all political persuasions in going after the limp wristed fools who let terrorists free to join some art therapy. Who cares about accusations of partisanship in the face of politically correct mush-for-brains laxness like that?
The airheaded bureaucrats who let the terrorists go have turned out to be . . . oh my . . . the Cheney/Bush administration in November 2007.
Oh. Well, never mind the details. It's emotion that counts.
We've got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country and our government is responding accordingly.
- - President George W. Bush, December 28, 2001
Speaking for the first time about Richard Reid, the shoe bomber,
six days after the terrorist incident, in answer to a single question.
The President was not criticized by Democrats for the delay
At first, it sounded as if President Obama, the one who was supposed to replace casual carelessness with competent diligence, was simply repeating the laughable banalities of our last President. After rightly praising law enforcement personnel who often put themselves at risk in protecting the security of the nation, he seemed to support the inartful position of his Secretary of Homeland Security. "Moreover, as Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253 -- after his attempt it's clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions."
Yeah. Heckuva job, Janet. But then he went on, witheringly, barely holding his fury in check. "When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable." It was about as far from a Katrina moment as we are likely ever to witness.
"Totally unacceptable" sounds right. Just as the goofy looking shoe bomber Richard Reid was far more dangerous in 2001 than initially believed, so this individual could have killed a lot of people. As reported by the Washington Post, "A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated..."
Republicans were quick to point out that the incident was directly caused by Barack Obama. Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) took on what he called the President's "weak-kneed liberals," offering his own calm analysis: "Barack Obama's policies may impress the 'Blame America First' crowd at home and his thousands of fans overseas, but they sure don't do anything to protect our families in Michigan or the rest of America."
Hoekstra does have a point. We should hold people responsible for this breakdown of security. We could begin by firing the head of Obama's Transportation Security Administration. The only problem with that gesture is there is no head of the TSA. The appointment has been held up for months by Senate Republicans, led by Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Even so, billions assigned for national security remain carelessly unspent. More than $4 billion was supposed to go "for screening operations," reports Politico.com. "$1.1 billion in funding for explosives detection systems, with $778 million for buying and installing the systems." Bureaucrats holding up progress ought to be fired. Except it turns out national security funding has been hamstrung by Pete Hoekstra and others. Republican leader John Boehner explains the protest: “Democrats are trying to ramrod as much spending in this Congress as they can, as fast as they can.” Ya think?
How about less posturing and more cooperation on national security?
While other Democrats are trying to find someone to blame for this, at least the president is saying it is the responsibility of his administration.
My hope is that he'll change his focus from politics to real security.
- - Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), December 29th, 2009
Senator DeMint is using a Senate procedure to keep Obama's nominee
for head of the Transportation Security Administration, Erroll Southers,
from assuming his duties in defending national security.
Victor Davis Hanson, in the National Review, asks rhetorically of Barack Obama: "So what drives his agenda? What are its origins?" He then divines the answer and explains the inner workings of the mind of the President.
It works like this: The ghetto resident, the denizen of the barrio, the abandoned and divorced waitress with three young children, can all chart their poverty and unhappiness not to accident, fate, bad luck, bad decisions, poor judgment, illegality or drug use, or simple tragedy, but rather exclusively to a system that is rigged to ensure oppression on the basis of race, class, and gender—often insidious and unfathomable except to the sensitive and gifted academic or community organizer.
So Obama combines the age-old belief that the state is there to level the playing field (rather than protect the rights of the individual and secure the safety of the people from foreign threats), with the postmodern notion that government must recompensate those by fiat on the basis on their race or class or gender. Remember all that, and everything from the Professor Gates incident, to the dutiful attendance at the foot of Rev. Wright to Van Jones become logical rather than aberrant. Michelle Obama could make $300,000 and she will always be more a victim than the Appalachian coal miner who earns $30,000, by virtue of her race and gender.
But for this insight, we might be unaware of Obama's hidden agenda, for evidence alone would not support any of this. To the unenlightened, it might appear that the President wants to lower taxes, cut health costs, and create opportunities for the Appalachian coal miner who earns $30,000. Those unable to discern hidden racial motivations might be deceived by outward appearance: that he is attempting this by increasing, although by a small margin, taxes paid by Michelle Obama and those at her high level of income. With people like Obama, things are never what they seem.
Mr. Hanson makes other points that mere evidence might not support. "... a clear majority of Americans is opposed to almost everything Obama has to offer." That the President "is the most partisan we’ve seen" is a welcomed revelation to those frustrated by his substantive concessions to Republicans in return for nothing. His "Daley style-corruption" escapes the notice of watchdog groups. The article in the Hill is entitled Obama scores well for first year on ethics, say watchdog groups. But that's just nitpicking.
The thrust of Mr. Hanson's argument is all too familiar: Obama's initiatives on behalf of the middle class may also benefit members of some undeserving minority, someone who is not white. Deserving people can't let that happen.
How was he a black nationalist militant, become communist, anarchist and then find the eco movement and then say this is the job for me? Because the green jobs czar isn't concerned about the planet. He's concerned about reparations. He's concerned about leveling the playing field. Universal healthcare is the next step.
- - Glenn Beck, Fox News personality, July 23, 2009
Warning white people of President Obama's hidden racial agenda
Democrats are facing a very tough year. A lot of it has to do with health care reform. "They all joined hands and walked of the cliff together," says Mitch McConnell (R-KY). "There is no question that this bill will be a big if not central issue in 2010....Every single Republican opposed the measure."
Charlie Cook, who specializes in political outcomes, predicts Democratic troubles. "Winds that began shifting against Democrats around the end of June are transforming their party's potential problems into real ones." Off years, those not divisible evenly by 4, are usually tough for incumbent parties. Most folks are what are called low information voters. They don't have the time or the interest for politics or policy. Hobbies of normal folk extend from football to dollhouses and beyond, but stop at politics.
President Bush had a deep and abiding interest in baseball. His obsession extended to memorizing baseball averages from the 1950s. His lack of interest in policy was reprehensible only because he was ... you know ... President. Most people catch glimpses of policy debate. The highest of highlights are all that register except in Presidential years. It is in this atmosphere that falsehoods can become the mothers' milk of politics.
FactCheck.org published a list of the top whoppers of the year. Health care dominated. The site is not intended to be partisan, so there was an attempt at balance. The whoppers attributed to Democrats tended toward the incidental. Bankruptcies due to medical costs do not happen every 30 seconds. They happen every 60 seconds. A cancer patient in Illinois denied chemotherapy because of previous unreported gallstones had his coverage reinstated after a short time. He died four years later.
Republicans, on the other hand, told lies about non-existent death panels, socialized medicine, doctors to be prohibited from treating illness without government permission, women to be denied breast cancer treatment, and a compiled list of 48 more such claims. Wow.
Democrats are predicting a slight health care bounce as voters discover that Republican stories are simply smoke. But details are obscure, and many actual effects will not be felt until 2014.
A local radio anchor in St. Louis functions as a sort of barometer. His usual uninformed cynicism has mirrored, with some moderation, the GOP line. But several times over Christmas week, he noted with surprising disdain Lieberman's torpedoing coverage for 55 year olds. A couple of polls seem to validate his position as a political canary. A new survey shows voters beginning to favor Democratic health care efforts over obstruction by the GOP. Joe Lieberman is experiencing a near 10 point drop. Why these shifts?
It may be because, for two blessed weeks, voters were paying attention.
I suspect every Republican running in '10 and again in '12 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill.
- - Newt Gingrich, former GOP Speaker of the House, December 27, 2009
Predicting Republican Repeal of Health Care Reform
A few days ago in a piece on health care reform I noted, with some glee, comments directed against bipartisanship for its own sake. The reported speaker, of all people, was Evan Bayh of Indiana who had seemed tireless in his quixotic quest for Republican cooperation. It was great to find him coming to his senses at last. Ned Williams, whose friendly opposition is unfailing, posts a question. "Burr, did you really quote the doxology in reference to the possible gov't takeover of healthcare? Is God for socialized medicine?" Ned writes capably for conservative blog Wisdom is Vindicated, which I follow faithfully.
Ned, the end of that piece was supposed to be obviously hyperbolic (I guess it wasn't so obvious after all) and was in reference to the surprising realization by a Democratic addict of bipartisanship that his obsession depended on at least some good faith by the other side.
As to whether God is for health care reform, that is quite beyond me.
For a long time, I carried in my wallet a prayer composed by the late Father Thomas Merton. Each time I came across it was a new reminder of a profound truth. It eventually became tattered and unreadable. Your kind comment reminds me I have intended to print it out again.
Here is Merton's thought. I believe it contains my answer to you:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thanks for writing, Ned, and for being curious about my thoughts.
On this historic occasion of the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, I must unfortunately recommend that you keep the kids away from the TV and pray that God will not rain fire and brimstone down on Washington DC.
- - Gary Cass, Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, January 15, 2009
reacting to the planned presence at the Obama inaugural of Bishop
V. Eugene Robinson of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Robinson is gay.
Fortunately, the Lord was more tolerant than Cass had feared.
The Capitol City survived Inauguration Day unscathed by holy wrath.
Nuggets of internet gold:
The World of Doorman-Priest offers thoughts on the paradox of Christmas clutter and the greatest of all possible gifts.
Conservative James Wigderson presents the ending to a memorable Christmas message from a nineteenth century liberal.
- Slant Right's John Houk posts his Christmas message in this season of good cheer, urging us to hate those who follow Islam.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for those in pain. Let's all be careful out there.
The holiday symbolizing Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men, also brings with it a viral email, one of many.
White House will not do Christmas
Thought you might be interested in this information from the White House. This isn’t a rumor; this is a fact.
We have a friend at church who is a very talented artist. For several years she, among many others, has painted ornaments to be hung on the various White House Christmas trees. The WH usually sends out an invitation to send an ornament and informs the artists of the theme for the year.
She got her letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees. And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme.
She was very upset at this development and sent back a reply telling them that she only painted the ornaments for Christmas trees and would not be sending any for display that left Christ out of Christmas.
Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America . If you missed his statement that "we do not consider ourselves a Christian Nation" this should confirm that he plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible.
As it turns out, it is pretty easy to find the truth. FactCheck.org devotes itself to verifying or debunking stuff like this. They checked with the National Christmas Tree Association, looked up news reports from the Associated Press, corroborated with National Park Service, and then contacted the deputy press secretary to Michelle Obama.
Guess what? It is not a distortion or an exaggeration. It turns out to be flat out untrue, made up, what we used to call, before journalistic balance bleached out fact-checking, a lie. There is not a drop of truth to it.
There was not a letter sent out telling anyone that the National Christmas Tree would be called something else. That is because the tree will still be called a Christmas Tree. There are actually two trees, one inside, one outside, both Christmas trees.
Don't believe every bit of gossip, even what comes after church on Sunday. A pretty fair number of misguided Christians don't hesitate to "help out" the truth when they feel the Lord isn't doing enough.
Having virtually abandoned the crusade to save Christmas from godless liberal elites in favor of a slash-and-burn campaign against Obama, the Christian right has exposed its holy motive: It’s only into Christmas for the gifts.
- - Max Blumenthal, senior writer for The Daily Beast, December 21, 2009
It was a marked departure from normal business, that May afternoon in 1856. Tensions were high between slaveholders and those who were repelled by the ownership of humans by other humans. Senator Charles Sumner made speeches on the Senate floor deriding efforts by slave holding states to increase their representation in Congress by increasing the number of states permitting slavery. As he rose to make yet another anti-slavery speech, a Congressman from South Carolina, Preston Brooks appeared and began clubbing Sumner with a cane. He continued the beating until he was pulled off the unconscious Senator.
Senators, even those from southern states, were appalled. This intrusion by an outsider went against the traditions of the upper chamber.
The Senate has usually been a friendly place. The "my esteemed colleague" language has usually masked actual friendship. Ted Kennedy, from the beginning of his Senate career, was hated by those politely termed "racial conservatives." But he was frequently seen sitting with John Stennis, the elderly segregationist Senator from Mississippi, giggling together over some shared private joke. Kennedy became effective in getting cooperation from opponents on measures of mutual interest, often obtaining their support in unexpected compromises.
The tradition was hallowed by time and reinforced in countless small tokens of courtesy. But tradition alone is an inadequate explanation. Folks would come and go in the House. Tenure in the Senate was longer. 6 year terms and frequent re-election combined with small numbers to form a curious social dynamic. A relatively small number of people, mostly male, forced into a long relationship easily bonded.
Criticism itself was frequently jovial. The late Everett Dirksen was irritated by a fellow Senator and was provoked into mentioning that he held his colleague in "minimal high esteem."
It is, perhaps, understandable that some Democratic Senators had groped for some of the old traditional camaraderie during health care debate. But tactics of false negotiation and constant filibuster had taken their toll. Evan Bayh, a friendly-to-the-last holdout, finally had enough, making a surprisingly fiery speech in caucus about the tactics used by Republicans.
A very ill Robert Byrd (D-VA) had aides carry him in to vote. In the old days, he would have been encouraged to convalesce at home. A Republican would have been found to deliberately miss the session, matching Byrd's vote. Instead, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered his own Christmas wishes concerning Byrd's health and life. "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight."
Even beloved traditions sometimes come to an unpleasant close.
Well, if you think your friend said something that's inappropriate, you don't go blast him on the floor, you go say, What did you mean by that? I mean, that's a friend.
- - Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), December 21, 2009
Attacking those who unkindly criticized his Christmas hope that the ailing
Robert Byrd be stricken or die, and so not vote for health care reform
GOP Governor Tom Kean of Pennsylvania had always forged alliances with Democrats. He governed his state in cooperation with politicians who were opponents only until election day. Bipartisanship was possible because of a recognition of, and respect for, the common good.
That was why it was such a shock to those who knew him when Kean threw red meat to the most extreme members of his party at the Republican National Convention in 1992. He offered a story of how some effete designer had advised Democrats at their own convention that year to more attractively portray the American flag. Pastel colors would show better on television. Kean shouted to the assembled conservatives that real Americans had no use for "pastel patriotism." Republicans screamed until they were hoarse.
The blood libel Republicans have always hurdled at Democrats has been a lack of support for troops in combat during wartime. After the 9/11 attacks, Democrats, like everyone else, rallied around President Bush. But Republicans saw potential advantages in the tragedy.
Osama bin Laden and his chief operatives, beaten and facing death or capture, got away because the US did not have available US military boots on the ground. Troops were being deployed in preparation for invasion of an unrelated dictatorship. Still, Democrats supported the President for a time.
As the invasion was revealed to be based on untruths and innuendo, opposition mounted. When funding for the adventure in Iraq continued to distract from the fight against bin Laden's group, conservatives argued that capturing the mastermind of 9/11 was not so important as it had first appeared. Republicans yelled the same old slurs. Democrats were unpatriotic. They weren't supporting the troops in the field.
That made last week extraordinary. Funding for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was going to run out on Friday. So an emergency appropriation was set for a vote. Republicans said they would filibuster the measure.
Why would they do such a thing? It had nothing to do with any problem with military waste or actual opposition to the war. The strategy, according to Republicans, was that if they kept the troops from being supplied while under fire, Democrats would have to scramble to figure out how to keep them safe against the enemy. This would delay all other business, including health care reform, which Republicans wanted to hold off as long as possible.
"I don't want health care," explained Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). Richard C. Shelby (AL) and Kit Bond (we in Missouri are Soooo... proud of him) agreed. In the end, the filibuster against the troops failed.
Republicans have nothing against the troops, you understand, but priorities are what they are.
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, VOTE REPUBLICAN
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Just a few years ago, Republicans controlled the Senate, the House and the Presidency. President Bush nominated a series of Federal judges with variations of a philosophy expressed by Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He observed that terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on the questioning of prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." Conservatives generally applied "quaint" and "obsolete" to a number of rights considered an integral part of American life.
Democrats raised the alarm about a judiciary that subscribed to such a casual approach to American rights. The administration argued in public debate that any person, American or not, on American soil or not, could legally be taken captive by the government, held indefinitely, with no attorney, no charges, no hearings, no contact with the outside world, and no word to family or friends who might wonder that someone had disappeared. All that would be needed was for the President or his authorized representative to assert that the target was a suspected enemy combatant.
The entire matter passed almost unnoticed by the public. Basic assertions, the truth to which could be obtained with a small bit of effort, were presented by mainstream media as he-said-she-said issues.
Democrats were a minority, but the issue was seen as being of paramount importance. They began filibustering the most extreme nominations. Republicans threatened what was called the "nuclear option" of ending filibusters in cases of judicial nominations. Eventually and handful of Republicans worked with Democrats to affect a compromise. Firebrand nominees who seemed eager to discard basic liberties were withdrawn. In exchange, other extreme conservatives were allowed to come to a vote. Only in "extraordinary circumstances" would any filibuster be used when federal judges were nominated.
Most Americans who have an inkling of the definition of a filibuster, regard it as an obscure procedure requiring prolonged debate. Some might recall the maneuver being used in hours-long endurance tests involving racist US Senators who objected to rights being enforced on behalf of any of their constituents who had not exercised the virtue of having white skin.
Beginning this year, the filibuster in the Senate became routine. Virtually all legislation requires a super majority in the Senate. This combines with a rigid Republican refusal to consider legislation on the merits. They walk in lockstep, voting no with a single voice. This means no significant legislation passes without unanimous action by all non-Republicans, 58 Democrats and 2 independents. Any defection dooms progress.
This is not representative democracy in any meaningful sense. For the first time in our history, and until the back of routine filibuster is broken, we have government of, and by, and for, the weakest Democratic link.