Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here is a list of the First Lady's staff (with salaries):
The salaries for staffers in the Office of First Lady are also on the newest list. The highest paid is Chief of Staff Susan Sher, who gets the top $172,200. Here are the rest:
Frye, Jocelyn C. (DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PROJECTS FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Rogers, Desiree G. (SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL SECRETARY)
Johnston, Camille Y. (SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Winter, Melissa E. (SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY)
Medina, David S. (DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY)
Lelyveld, Catherine M. (DIRECTOR AND PRESS SECRETARY TO THE FIRST LADY)
Starkey, Frances M. (DIRECTOR OF SCHEDULING AND ADVANCE FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Sanders, Trooper (DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PROJECTS FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Burnough, Erinn J. (DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY SOCIAL SECRETARY)
Reinstein, Joseph B. (DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY SOCIAL SECRETARY)
Goodman, Jennifer R. (DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF SCHEDULING AND EVENTS COORDINATOR FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Fitts, Alan O. (DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF ADVANCE AND TRIP DIRECTOR FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Lewis, Dana M. (SPECIAL ASSISTANT AND PERSONAL AIDE TO THE FIRST LADY)
Mustaphi, Semonti M. (ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY TO THE FIRST LADY)
Jarvis, Kristen E. (SPECIAL ASSISTANT FOR SCHEDULING AND TRAVELING AIDE TO THE FIRST LADY)
Lechtenberg, Tyler A. (ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF CORRESPONDENCE FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Tubman, Samantha (DEPUTY ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR,SOCIAL OFFICE)
Boswell, Joseph J. (EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY)
Armbruster, Sally M. (STAFF ASSISTANT TO THE SOCIAL SECRETARY)
Bookey, Natalie (STAFF ASSISTANT)
Jackson, Deilia A. (DEPUTY ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF CORRESPONDENCE FOR THE FIRST LADY)
Johnson didn’t explain how, exactly, such a program could be extrapolated to the entire country. And only at the very end of the segment did Sawyer raise the issue of cost: Speaking of the representatives who partake in this service, she finally wondered, "Yes. So, good for you, that you have it. But make it the standard of care for everybody else, too. But, is that realistic, economically?"
Former ACORN worker details blackjack voter registration bonuses
A former field director testifies about extra payments to Las Vegas canvassers for bringing in 21 new registration cards in a day.
By Ashley Powers
September 30, 2009
Reporting from Las Vegas
In the summer of 2008, with presidential contenders battling fiercely over the swing state of Nevada, Christopher Edwards was racing to register voters.As the field director of ACORN's Las Vegas office, he brainstormed a way to motivate meagerly paid canvassers: If they turned in 21 or more registration cards in a day, they were each given a $5 bonus."Hey, it's Las Vegas," Edwards testified Tuesday. "It's blackjack."But Edwards' "blackjack bonuses," which he bragged about to other ACORN offices, broke the law, state prosecutors say. Nevada bars quotas or cash incentives in voter sign-up efforts: Officials fear they could lead to false registrations.On Tuesday, a judge began considering whether Edwards' former supervisor, Amy Busefink, and the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now will stand trial on 13 low-level felony charges of compensation for registration of voters. The evidentiary hearing will resume this morning.Edwards, a former union organizer who once worked for former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts. He took the stand Tuesday as the prosecution's star witness."No one in ACORN knew this was illegal," he told Justice of the Peace William D. Jansen.In recent weeks, ACORN, a longtime target of Republican ire, has been battered by secretly recorded videos from other states that appear to show ACORN staffers advising two conservative activists -- who were posing as a pimp and a prostitute -- on tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution.The IRS, Census Bureau and Bank of America have severed ties with ACORN, and Congress has voted to slash its federal funding. The controversies have heightened the attention paid to the Nevada case.Clare Crawford, ACORN's deputy political director, called the charges here "political grandstanding," though Nevada's secretary of state and attorney general are Democrats. Their investigation began in 2008, after Clark County officials complained that some registration forms issued to ACORN had come back fraudulent -- in one instance, someone had signed up much of the Dallas Cowboys' starting lineup.Edwards, who said he was under pressure to boost the number of voter registration forms collected, oversaw as many as eight political organizers and their teams of canvassers. If canvassers, who made $8 an hour, turned in fewer than 20 registration cards a day, their jobs were at risk."I seen a lot of people getting laid off," testified Dwain Dennie, an ACORN canvasser who worked outside a welfare office.Edwards thought up the blackjack program as a response to canvassers who had falsified time cards or generally slacked off, he testified. It was an informal plan, announced on a huge office dry-erase board, but not in e-mails or memos -- a fact that drew some derision from Jansen.ACORN attorney Lisa Rasmussen suggested that bonuses marked on time sheets might have been for mileage, working in extreme heat or speaking multiple languages -- not blackjack incentives.Edwards, however, said that Busefink not only signed off on the program, she suggested that canvassers turn in more cards to get the bonus. She also praised the program, Edwards testified, saying it capitalized on the "Las Vegas mystique."Defense attorneys, however, portrayed Edwards as a rogue director with a "maverick attitude" who rarely informed superiors of his plans. Busefink attorney Kevin Stolworthy suggested that Edwards was bitter over workplace firstname.lastname@example.org
The Obama administration, while skeptical of an early breakthrough in nuclear talks withSo these October 1 talks are really just a prelude to the scheduling of future meetings. The Obama administration really seems to not want to make any decisions whatsoever. At the same time the clock is ticking and Iran might be able to build a bomb as soon as February according to some estimates. , indicated Tuesday it does not intend to swiftly press for stiffer .
In advance of six-nation talks with Iran on Thursday in Geneva, the State Department stressed its hope that the session would open the door to more in-depth dialogue about ways Iran could alleviate concerns that its emerging nuclear program may be secretly developing .
If Iran is willing to address the nuclear issues, then there likely will be subsequent meetings,P.J. Crowley said.
"That process will take some time," Crowley said. "We're not going to make a snap judgment on Thursday. We're going to see how that meeting goes, evaluate the willingness of Iran to engage on these issues."
Crowley noted that President Barack Obama has said he intends to take a few months to assess Iran's position and consult with U.S. negotiating partners before deciding what next steps to take.
Starting this year, Social Security will spend more in benefits than it will receive from its payroll taxes. This is somewhat unexpected as just last year, the 2009 cash surplus was predicted to be about $80 billion. Even in May of this year, the program's actuaries predicted a roughly $19 billion surplus. However, they failed to allow for the full effects of the recession, and the soaring unemployment both reduced tax collections and increased the number of workers who were forced to take early retirement.
This is very bad news for taxpayers, but worse is yet to follow. The 2009 deficit of about $10 billion will be followed by a 2010 deficit of about $9 billion. If there is a strong recovery--which is questionable at best--the program could briefly return to surpluses. But by 2016, deficits will return and continue permanently. A far more likely scenario is that Social Security will run deficits from this point on.
The Reality of the Trust Fund
These deficits do not mean that benefits will be cut, but they do increase the burden on taxpayers to pay them. On top of the $1 trillion-plus deficit predicted for this year to pay for the Obama Administration's programs, taxpayers will have to find still more money to pay Social Security's deficits. It is true that a trust fund exists that has been funded by $2.4 trillion of Social Security surpluses since 1983, but there is no real money in that trust fund.
As the Office of Management and Budget said in 2000, "These balances are available to finance future benefit payments ... only in a bookkeeping sense. They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits, or other expenditures."
Congress has already spent every penny of that money, and all that is left are IOUs that must be repaid by the same taxpayers who paid the extra taxes in the first place. Taxpayers, not the trust fund, will end up covering Social Security's deficits.
Massive Deficits and an Even Worse Future
This May, Social Security predicted that it would first run deficits in 2016, and after that the picture was grim. After adjusting for inflation, annual deficits were predicted to reach $68.5 billion in 2020, $170.4 billion in 2030, and $293.6 billion in 2035. Now those deficits will come much sooner than expected.
In net present value terms, Social Security owes $7.7 trillion more in benefits than it will receive in taxes. This consists of $2.4 trillion to repay the special issue bonds in the trust fund and $5.3 trillion to pay benefits after the trust fund is exhausted in 2037. In other words, Congress would have to invest $7.7 trillion today in order to have enough money to pay all of Social Security's promised benefits between 2016 and 2083. This money would be in addition to what Social Security receives during those years from its payroll taxes.
According to the 2009 Trustees Report, Social Security is projected to owe $7.4 trillion after 2083, making a perpetual deficit of $15.1 trillion. Last year's number was $13.6 trillion. This means that Social Security's total deficit continues to grow well beyond the 75-year projection period. Therefore, any reform that just eliminates deficits over the 75-year window will not be sufficient to solve the program's problems.
Oh, by the way, Medicare is in even worse shape. So when you here estimates of the cost of Obamacare, as outrageous as they are, you can bet that the real costs will be higher by 5-15x the estimates as they have been for every other major government social program from Social Security to Medicare to Medicaid. As P.J. O'Rourke said, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free".
A more detailed explanation of the actual data issues can be found here.
A scientific scandal is casting a shadow over a number of recent peer-reviewed climate papers.
At least eight papers purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC's assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia. In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.
At issue is the use of tree rings as a temperature proxy, or dendrochronology. Using statistical techniques, researchers take the ring data to create a "reconstruction" of historical temperature anomalies. But trees are a highly controversial indicator of temperature, since the rings principally record Co2, and also record humidity, rainfall, nutrient intake and other local factors.
Picking a temperature signal out of all this noise is problematic, and a dendrochronology can differ significantly from instrumented data. In dendro jargon, this disparity is called "divergence". The process of creating a raw data set also involves a selective use of samples - a choice open to a scientist's biases.
Yet none of this has stopped paleoclimataologists from making bold claims using tree ring data.
In particular, since 2000, a large number of peer-reviewed climate papers have incorporated data from trees at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. This dataset gained favour, curiously superseding a newer and larger data set from nearby. The older Yamal trees indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures.
How could this be? Scientists have ensured much of the measurement data used in the reconstructions remains a secret - failing to fulfill procedures to archive the raw data. Without the raw data, other scientists could not reproduce the results. The most prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, were reluctant to demand the data from contributors. Until now, that is.
At the insistence of editors of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions B the data has leaked into the open - and Yamal's mystery is no more.
From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.
In all there are 252 cores in the CRU Yamal data set, of which ten were alive 1990. All 12 cores selected show strong growth since the mid-19th century. The implication is clear: the dozen were cherry-picked.
(This oversimplifies the story somewhat: for more detail, read this fascinating narrative by blogger BishopHill here.)
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The actual cost of the Baucus bill is $1.7 trillion over ten years, but Democrats prefer to say it will cost $900 billion over the next ten years — this is true, but only because the main spending provisions don’t kick in until 2013. The Democrats also aren’t advertising that the $838 billion in new taxes and fees in the legislation begin being collected next year.
Further, the bill’s long-term deficit-reduction plans depend on cuts to Medicare — year after year — that Congress seems unlikely to support once Baucus’s bill is passed. Even when the Congressional Budget Office tallied up the costs of the bill based on the assumption that these cuts would be made, the
CBOvoiced doubts that they will be. “These projections assume that the proposals are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation. For example, the sustainable growth rate (SGR) mechanism governing Medicare’s payments to physicians has frequently been modified to avoid reductions in those payments,” reads the CBO score of the Baucus bill. That’s bureaucrat-speak for “Not gonna happen.”
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
When Republican Rep. Mark Foley was caught chasing congressional pages, he got exactly what was coming to him. In a blizzard of coverage (1,400 stories, according to Google news), Mr. Foley's creepy behavior was examined from every possible angle. Nobody wanted to hear that the congressman's stupid and objectionable behavior was confined to e-mails and text messages. His immediate resignation didn't quiet the furor. When two years of investigations found no crime, the results got barely a peep.
Whether the press feeding frenzy around Mr. Foley's disgrace was justified or not, the explosion of coverage was certainly understandable, even predictable. That reality is what makes coverage of Kevin Jennings, President Obama's "safe school czar" something of a mystery.
Mr. Jennings brings all the sleaze of Mr. Foley. Sex and the underaged? Check. An older man? Check. Potential misbehavior by a government official? Check.
And the Jennings case brings a lot more: A "safe schools czar" who failed to report a statutory rape? An education leader who encouraged a 15-year-old student to be comfortable with sexual abuse? A federal official who ignored a law requiring him to report even the possibility of a crime?
And it is not just sex, there's a political angle, too. Since taking office, the Obama administration has been hammered by repeated breakdowns in its vetting process. Appointees who don't pay taxes. An appointee who signed on to accusations that the previous administration was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And now an appointee who thinks sex between an adult and a 15-year-old is no big deal.
All those facts aside, from the media's perspective, the stories aren't even remotely similar. Mr. Jennings hasn't been hit with 1,400 stories or 140 or even 14. With the exception of Fox News, which discovered new audio-taped evidence in the case, Mr. Jennings' story has been ignored.
So far, the Obama administration and Mr. Jennings himself have refused to answer any questions. That's not so tough when most of the press isn't even bothering to ask them. If this were a Republican administration, the press furor would be deafening.
By: Sam KazmanOpEd ContributorSeptember 29, 2009
In the early 1800s, when railroads first began to spread across Great Britain, the Duke of Wellington reportedly sneered that this innovation would "only encourage the common people to move about needlessly."
For last week's World Car-Free Day, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, channeled the Duke of Wellington, complaining about the "domination of the car" and called for a new type of society "in which we are not dependent on it to such a great extent for our daily needs."
The Prince reportedly owns two Audis, two Jaguars, a Range Rover and an Aston Martin. The Duke of Wellington undoubtedly had other means of getting around the British countryside, but despite being separated in time by two centuries, these two aristocrats had something in common--a distaste for commoners enjoying the mobility to which they themselves were born.
World Car-Free Day appeared, at first glance, to be a lifestyle event--a celebration of living without cars. But it had an underlying political agenda; its organizers call on "governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars."
And these days, when the air is thick with claims of impending climate catastrophe and the need for so-called sustainability, calls for automotive restrictions are finding an increasingly receptive political audience.
But for most people in this country, the car-free life would be as desirable as being shackled to a ball-and-chain. It is easy to forget the incredibly liberating nature of the automobile. In the 1910s-1920s it ended the crushing isolation of rural life.
In 1955-56, it enabled black people to boycott the segregated buses of Montgomery, Alabama.
In the 1970s-1980s, it gave mothers the ability to enter the job market while still getting their kids to day care and putting food on the table. Today, the car allows new immigrants to enter the American mainstream by vastly expanding their choices of where to work and where to live.
Even in cities with well-functioning mass transit, a car can be essential if you're old or ill, or are carrying babies and groceries, or if the weather's miserable, or if you've got to get somewhere after the busses and subways have closed. It's no wonder that most promo shots of Car-Free Day events featured only the young and healthy, out on picture-perfect sunny days.
Being able to get around freely is not some superficial desire that can be dismissed as the product of an allegedly car-addicted Western culture. Some Americans may view India and China as countries happily populated by bicyclists and pedestrians, but consumer demand for cars in those countries is booming, especially with the introduction of new low-priced vehicles. The car, it appears, satisfies a pretty basic human need.
A philosophy professor who emigrated here from Eastern Europe once commented on Car-Free Day by noting that, given his time behind the Iron Curtain, he'd already endured enough car-free decades.
Living car-free may be fine for many people during some phases of their lives, and it may be fine for some people for all of their lives, but it's no way for most of us to live--regardless of what Prince Charles and his fellow aristocrats may think.
He is the past. A war hero past his sell by date.
by Connie Hair (more by this author)
Posted 09/29/2009 ETUpdated 09/29/2009 ET
Yesterday State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley referred to Gitmo terrorists as “refugees.” During the daily State Department briefing, the Assistant Secretary of State unveiled the new terminology (Video here at 24:10 minutes):
REPORTER QUESTION: Talk to us a little bit about response and talks and any commitments that you may have gotten from our European and other friends in the international community about taking in Guantanamo detainees as the camp in Guantanamo is expected to close at some point in the near future. Have you gotten any commitments from our European friends and anybody else? ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHILIP J. CROWLEY: Ambassador Dan Fried continues his efforts to resettle, you know, Guantanamo refugees to various places around the world.Resettling refugees. Like we resettled the Vietnamese boat people fleeing oppression? Like the Irish emigrating to escape the potato famine? Sure: to Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the terrorists imprisoned at Gitmo are “refugees” to be “resettled.” A refugee is a person seeking protection from religious persecution or political oppression or seeking safe haven during a war. The Obama administration denies we are even at war. Could they possibly consider these terrorists as victims seeking safety?The terrorists housed at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are the worst of the worst of those who murder people under the guise of their religious views. They plot and plan to blow up men, women and children as they innocently go about their daily lives. Some of those poor, unfortunates at Gitmo are responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans on September 11th. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Gitmo refugee. Could anything be more absurd? (Yet putting KSM into a civilian court system that has completely different standards of rules of evidence than, say, a wartime military tribunal, and you could be dealing with a “not guilty” verdict through disqualified evidence.)A dear friend once passed along very sage advice about playing with verbal fire. He told me if you ever speak before the public, never say anything in private that you might regret saying if it were to slip out in public. Because it will come out of your mouth at the most inopportune moment -- like repeating a humorous nickname that you heard someone use. Former Texas Congressman Dick Armey learned that unfortunate lesson several years ago in a nickname gaffe about Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).When something as substantial as “Gitmo refugee” rolls so easily off of a spokesman’s tongue, you can lay odds that it’s been said before -- and often.Hoekstra Seeks White House Intent on GitmoRep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is calling on the White House to confirm or deny press reports stating they’ve abandoned their plans to transfer some Guantanamo Bay terrorists to the prison facility in Standish, Michigan. “I am seeking formal notification of the Obama administration’s plans for Guantanamo inmates, but preliminary indications at this time are that Standish is off the table,” Hoekstra said. “The administration has been anything but transparent and has refused to answer even basic questions about its Guantanamo intentions, but I will continue to seek answers and press them to keep Gitmo open. The detention facility there was built specifically for housing terrorist detainees, and there is no compelling reason or problem that will be solved by bringing them anywhere in the United States, whether to Michigan or Kansas or any other state.” “President Obama made a mistake by rushing a decision on Gitmo and setting an arbitrary closure date when he didn’t have a plan,” Hoekstra added. “The bipartisan opposition to the president’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay shows that this is not an issue to be solved politically. The real solution to the president’s dilemma is to keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open.” Rasmussen: Support for Health Care Reform Hits New LowAs the Senate Finance Committee resumes their markup a mere outline of their latest effort for a government takeover of health care, public support continues to plummet despite or perhaps in response to the Obama media blitz that seemingly has no end.Only 41 percent of voters favor the Democrat plan, two points lower that its lowest historical level just a week ago. A full 56 percent of voters are opposed to the plan proposed by Obama and Congressional Democrats.A mere 33 percent of seniors support the plan while a whopping 59 percent of seniors oppose. A measly 16 percent of those over 65 years of age strongly favor the legislation while 35 percent are strongly opposed. That’s cutting directly into a Democrat base constituency that turns out to vote in substantial numbers.The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 30 percent of voters strongly approve of Obama’s job performance while 39 percent strongly disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index of -9.Obama’s overall dismal numbers show that 49 percent of voters at least somewhat approve of his job performance while 51 percent disapprove.
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she'd rather not see him prosecuted because she can't stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
Can we do that? Can we take a moment to think about all that, and about the fact that Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, before we start talking about what a victim he is? Because that would be great, and not nearly enough people seem to be doing it.
The French press, for instance (at least according to the British press) is describing Polanski "as the victim of a money-grabbing American mother and a publicity-hungry Californian judge." Joan Z. Shore at the Huffington Post, who once met Polanski and "was utterly charmed by [his] sobriety and intelligence," also seems to believe that a child with an unpleasant stage mother could not possibly have been raped: "The 13-year old model 'seduced' by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies." Oh, well, then! If her mom put her into that situation, that makes it much better! Shore continues: "The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It's probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence."
It is amazing how un-serious the Obama team is. They care more about images than reality. Being perpetual campaigners it isn't surprising how they got this view. When you are campaigning, any truth can be spun, reality can be changed with a turn of phrase. At some point in the real world, hard facts catch up. Unfortunately for us, we have the worst possible President in some of our most dangerous times (even his attempt not to "spoil the image of success" turned out to be a disaster. It's not like the G-20 meeting was so far into the future that people forgot the utopian garbage that Obama was spewing at the UN . And then being exposed by the French President didn't do him any good either).
President Obama wants a unified front against Iran, and to that end he stood together with Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in Pittsburgh on Friday morning to reveal the news about Tehran's secret facility to build bomb-grade fuel. But now we hear that the French and British leaders were quietly seething on stage, annoyed by America's handling of the announcement.
Both countries wanted to confront Iran a day earlier at the United Nations. Mr. Obama was, after all, chairing a Security Council session devoted to nonproliferation. The latest evidence of Iran's illegal moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon was in hand. With the world's leaders gathered in New York, the timing and venue would be a dramatic way to rally international opinion.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy flanked by President Barack Obama, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. President Sarkozy in particular pushed hard. He had been "frustrated" for months about Mr. Obama's reluctance to confront Iran, a senior French government official told us, and saw an opportunity to change momentum. But the Administration told the French that it didn't want to "spoil the image of success" for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N. and his homily calling for a world without nuclear weapons, according to the Paris daily Le Monde. So the Iran bombshell was pushed back a day to Pittsburgh, where the G-20 were meeting to discuss economic policy.
Le Monde's diplomatic correspondent, Natalie Nougayrède, reports that a draft of Mr. Sarkozy's speech to the Security Council Thursday included a section on Iran's latest deception. Forced to scrap that bit, the French President let his frustration show with undiplomatic gusto in his formal remarks, laying into what he called the "dream" of disarmament. The address takes on added meaning now that we know the backroom discussions.
No one should believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran seems intent on developing a nuclear weapons program and the missiles capable of delivering them. This -- not the public revelations of a known installation -- is the real crisis, possibly one that can only end in war. It is entirely possible that Israel, faced with that chilling cliche -- an existential threat -- will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. What would happen next is anyone's guess -- retaliation by Hamas and Hezbollah, an unprecedented spike in oil prices and then, after a few years or less, a resumption of Iran's nuclear program. Only the United States has the capability to obliterate Tehran's underground facilities. Washington may have to act.For a crisis such as this, the immense prestige of the American presidency ought to be held in reserve. Let the secretary of state issue grave warnings. When Obama said in Pittsburgh that Iran is "going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice," it had the sound of an ultimatum. But what if the Iranians don't? What then? A president has to be careful with such language. He better mean what he says.
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" -- and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan -- and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees -- and then again maybe he would.
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation -- "Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . " -- and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence -- meet it or else.
Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran. He has gotten into a demeaning dialogue with Ahmadinejad, an accomplished liar. (The next day, the Iranian used a news conference to counter Obama and, days later, Iran tested some intermediate-range missiles.) Obama is our version of a Supreme Leader, not given to making idle threats, setting idle deadlines, reversing course on momentous issues, creating a TV crisis where none existed or, unbelievably, pitching Chicago for the 2016 Olympics. Obama's the president. Time he understood that.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The Soviet Union and Germany signed the Boundary and Friendship Treaty on September 28, 1939. The secret appendix to the treaty contained a paragraph about Lithuania’s transition from the German to the Soviet sphere of influence. Lithuania was included in the German sphere of influence in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939.
Some Lithuanian politicians did not miss a chance to use that moment of history in their own goals. The autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is opening in Strasbourg today. Over 20 deputies, including some from Lithuania, introduced a special resolution on the agenda “to condemn the crimes of communism.”
The document obviously continues the story with the resolution approved by the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, in which Stalinism and Nazism were labeled as equal regimes. The resolution, which was approved in July of this year, triggered vehement protests in the Russian administration. Now it is the PACE that is going to consider a similar document.
It is not ruled out that Lithuania will attempt to claim a billion-dollar compensation from Russia for the so-called “Soviet occupation.” The nation, the economy of which has been declining for months due to the economic crisis, is in dire need of cash.
The Baltic nation raised the issue before the crisis too. In 1991, the date of September 28, 1939, is considered in the nation as the start of “the Soviet occupation.” The nation even conducted a referendum on June 14, 1992, when the majority of the Lithuanians said that Russia must compensate the damage caused during the years of the Soviet occupation.
Lithuania became a member of the European Union in 2004, and the issue of the compensation started to gain more and more popularity. The administration believed that its EU membership would give it an opportunity to show more pressure on Russia.
In 2005, the parliament of the country approved a resolution, urging Russia to acknowledge the Soviet occupation in the Baltic region and pay the damage. Another resolution appeared in 2007. In 2008, President Valdas Adamkus stated that Lithuania would continue the struggle with Russia seeking a 28-billion-dollar compensation.
A special committee of the parliament made a slight cut in the claimed amount to $23 billion. Deputies said that they would deliver the issue to international instances if Russia refused to make any payments to the country.
The Lithuanian officials resort to Russia’s recognition of the USSR’s economic and political legacy. Of course, they have forgotten about several very important things. The Soviet Union invested a lot in the economy and the infrastructure of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. The USSR did not conduct the deportation of Lithuanian nationals according to their national affiliation. Finally, the countries that won WWII were relieved of the obligation to pay any compensation to anyone.
Mikhail Alexandrov, an expert with the Institute for the CIS and the Baltic States, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Lithuania’s idea to claim the compensation from Russia could only be described as absurd.
“If Lithuania files such a lawsuit and wins the case, Russia will have to set forth its own claims in return. Russia could dispute the annexation of the Port of Klaipeda and the eastern part of Prussia from the Soviet Union to the Soviet Lithuania. Lithuania’s current capital appeared in 1939 owing to the “Soviet occupants” too – Vilnius, the nation’s capital, used to be the territory of Poland,” the expert said.
If Russia counter-claims, Lithuania will never be able to pay its debts.
Activists protest Va. strip club's Obama banner
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Activists gathered outside a downtown strip club Monday to denounce as racist a banner depicting President Obama as the Joker from Batman.
"Not only is it an attack on the president, but also on all men and people of African descent," King Salim Khalfani, president of the Virginia NAACP, said of what he called "the abomination that's on the wall" outside Club Velvet.
The banner, unfurled within the past few days, depicts Obama as Heath Ledger's grotesque Joker character from "The Dark Knight." The president is shown with smeared red lipstick, a white face and darkened eyes. The word "socialism" is spelled out below the caricature.
Dancer Kaitlyn McGee handed out a statement from club owner Sam Moore, who did not appear. The statement described him as a "staunch libertarian" and said the banner was intended to show his displeasure with Obama's policies. McGee walked through the crowd with a sign that read "Strippers 4 Obama" to show that Moore is not opposed to the president himself.
"Mr. Moore would like to say that anyone who believes that his banner is racist is an ignoramus," it read.
But the activists said the Joker banner was typical of what they called escalating attacks on the president - from depictions of Obama as Hitler at rallies to South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during Obama's recent nationally televised address to Congress.
"Racism is as American as apple pie," Khalfani said. "The presence of a president that as African blood is very, very troublesome to many in this country."
McGee, who described herself as a waitress and dancer, said customers had not complained since the banner was unfurled at the busy intersection in Shockoe Bottom, a historic entertainment and residential district.
"As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really bother me," she said. "You could say a lot worse things about him."
Posted Sep 14, 2009 by ■ Wang Fangqing
A new memory-cleansing medicine aims to help us forget about all the unpleasant, sad moments just as easy as you can imagine them.
By Gaetan Lee
The Human Brain
There are some memories we wish we'd never had; the embarrassing moments, the heart-wrenching break-up and the terrible treat we got in our childhoods, yet they will likely to haunt us forever. But now, a new medicine still in research phase aims to change that.
Andreas Luthi of the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland is the guy who wants us to be happy.
According to the Daily Mail, his animal testing shows the drug erases the barrier around amygdala, the part of the brain where mammals store their fear memories. These animals were no longer afraid of the noises linked to electric shocks.
"The study uncovers a totally novel, molecular mechanism by which fear memories are preserved and protected from erasure," the study indicates. "It is highly relevant from a clinical perspective because fear memory extinction is the corner-stone of the psychological therapy of several anxiety disorders. Furthermore, it puts forward a novel explanation for the frequency of relapses of fear responses after extensive therapy, which are a major clinical problem."
Scientists believe the drug can be used on humans as well. They believe it wold be especially beneficial to soldiers who are suffering from post-war trauma, said Joseph LeDoux, professor of neuroscience at New York University.
Critics, however, worry about the drug being used maliciously to erase memories.
Among all the bad memories, public humiliation, a persistent memory, is what most people want to get rid of, according to Ashok Hegde, a neurologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
More info can be found at the Friedrich Miescher Institute, online here.
are a free for all, but get all the perks, as high ranking government employees, who have the president's ear & know how
to get things done.
Afghanistan Czar: Richard Holbrooke- Ultra liberal anti gun former Gov.of New Mexico. Pro Abortion & legal drug use.
AIDS Czar: Jeffrey Crowley Homosexual. A Gay Rights activist. Believes in Gay Marriage & Special Status, including free health care for gays.
Auto recovery Czar: Ed Montgomery- Black radical anti-business activist. Affirmative Action & Job Preference for Blacks. Univ of Maryland Business School Dean teaches US business has caused world poverty. ACORN board member. Communist DuBois Club member.
Border Czar: Alan Bersin- former failed superintendent of San Diego. Ultra Liberal friend of Hilary Clinton. Served as Border Czar under Janet Reno - to keep borders open to illegals
California Water Czar: David J. Hayes Sr. Fellow of radical environmentalist group, "Progress Policy". No training or experience in water management.
Car Czar: Ron Bloom- Auto Union worker. Anti-business & anti-nuclear. Has worked hard to force US auto makers out of business. Sits on the Board of Chrysler which is now Auto Union owned. How did this happen?
Central Region Czar: Dennis Ross- Believes US policy has caused Mid East wars. Obama apologist to the world. Anti gun & proabortion.
Domestic Violence Czar: Lynn Rosenthal- Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Vicious anti male feminist. Supported male castration.
Drug Czar: Gil Kerlikowske- devoted lobbyist for every restrictive gun law proposal, Former Chief of Police in Liberal Seattle. Believes no American should own a firearm. Supports legalization of drugs.
Economic Czar: Paul Volcker: Head of Fed Reserve under Jimmy Carter when US economy nearly failed. Obama appointed head of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board which engineered the Obama economic disaster to US economy. Member of anti-business "Progressive Policy" organization.
Energy and Environment Czar: Carol Brower- Political Radical -Former head of EPA -- known for anti-business activism. Strong anti-gun ownership.
Faith-Based Czar: Joshua DuBois Political Black activist-Degree in Black Nationalism. Anti gun ownership lobyist.
Great Lakes Czar: Cameron Davis- Chicago radical anti business environmentalist. Blames George Bush for "Poisoning the water minorities have to drink." No experience or training in water management. Former ACORN Board member
Green Jobs Czar: Van Jones, (since resigned). Black activist Member of American communist Party &d San Francisco Communist Party who said Geo Bush caused the 911 attack wanting Bush investigated by the World Court for war crimes. Black activist with strong anti-white views.
Guantanamo Closure Czar: Daniel Fried. Rights activist for Foreign Terrorists. Believes America has caused the war on terrorism.
Health Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle, Former head of Medicare/Medicaid. Strong Health Care Rationing proponent. She is married to a reporter for The New York Times
Information Czar: Vivek Kundra, Born in New Delhi, India. Controls all public information, including labels & news releases. Monitors all private Internet emails.
International Climate Czar: Todd Stern, Anti business former White House chief of Staff- Strong supportrer of the Kyoto Accord. Pushing hard for Cap & Trade. Blames US business for Global warming.
Intelligence Czar: Dennis Blair, Ret Navy. Stopped US guided missile program as "provocative." Chair of ultra liberal "Council on Foreign Relations" which blames American organizations for regional wars.
Mideast Peace Czar: George Mitchell, Fmr Sen from Maine- Left wing radical. Has said Israel should be split up into "2 or 3 " smaller more manageable plots". Anti-nuclear anti-gun & pro homosexual.
Pay Czar: Kenneth Feinberg Chief of Staff to TED KENNEDY, Lawyer who got rich off the 911 victims payoffs.
Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein, Liberal activist judge-believes free speech needs to be limited for the "common good." Rules against personal freedoms many times -like private gun ownership.
Science Czar: John Holdren, Fierce ideological environmentalist, Sierra Club, Anti business activist. Claims US business has caused world poverty. No Science training.
Stimulus Accountability Czar: Earl Devaney, spent career trying to take guns away from American citizens. Believes in Open Borders to Mexico. Author of statement blaming US gun stores for drug war in Mexico.
Sudan Czar: J. Scott Gration, Native of Democratic Republic of Congo. Believes US does little to help Third World countries. Council of foreign relations, asking for higher US taxes to support United Nations.
TARP Czar: Herb Allison, Fannie May CEO responsible for the US recession by using real estate mortgages to back up the US stock market. Caused millions of people to lose their life savings.
Terrorism Czar: John Brennan, Anti CIA activist. No training in diplomatic or gov. affairs. Believes Open Borders to Mexico, a dialog with terrorists & has suggested Obama disband US military.
Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra, No Technology training. Worked for the Advisory Board Company, a health care think tank for hospitals. Anti doctor activist. Supports Obama Health care Rationing & salaried doctors working exclusively for the government health care plan.
Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion Jr, Puerto Rican. Anti American activist & leftist group member in Latin America. Millionaire "slum lord" of the Bronx, NY. Owns many lavish homes & condos which he got from "sweetheart" deals with labor unions. Wants higher taxes to pay for minority housing & health care.
Weapons Czar: Ashton Carter, Leftist. Wants all private weapons in US destroyed. Supports UN ban on firearms ownership in America. No Other "policy"
WMD Policy Czar: Gary Samore, Former US Communist. Wants US to destroy all WMD unilaterally as a show of good faith. Has no other "policy."
MAYNARD: In politics the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf.---------------"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle." Winston Churchill-------------------------------"You can't make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak." Abraham Lincoln-----------------If you aren't scared, you're NOT LISTENING.
n 1994, proponents of the Framework Agreement with North Korea argued that Pyongyang would not cheat because the risks of being caught were too great. As it turned out, even the chances of being caught were not great and the consequences proved to be negligible. When the Clinton administration found signs of a secret facility in 1998, it was unable to prove it, perhaps because the North Koreans had cleaned up the site (as the Iranians are probably doing now). Definitive proof of North Korea’s centrifuge programme did not come to light until 2002, but when charged with this violation, Pyongyang rapidly broke out of the 1994 restrictions, reprocessed the previously “safeguarded” plutonium and tested a nuclear device. Faced with the prospect that North Korea could always do something worse, the US kept making concessions in order to resume negotiations.
The West's handling of the Iranian nuclear program seems to be going down the same path. After years of waiting for diplomacy to work, with all official estimates pointing towards it being years before Iran gains nukes, Obama and company are now saying it is too late for a military strike. How these schmucks can continue to mismanage such important issues are incredible. Obviously the blame is not all on Obama as Bush could have taken Cheney's advice and done what has needed to be done. Be he spent all his energy on Iraq, which turned out to be the wrong target. To paraphrase the Godfather, it was Iran all along. They are the ones who have been pulling the strings of terrorist groups for the last 30 years and are a threat through their WMD's. Bush just became so beaten down that he really didn't do almost anything of consequence his last two years. Ariel Sharon and Olmert are also to blame. They kept thinking that either the US would handle Iran or they just thought the Israelis have already done enough. On the latter point, you could see that way of thinking in the way the Israelis conducted the War in Lebanon. They let the air force do most of the heavy lifting and were afraid to committ land forces which caused Hizballah to win a major public relations victory. Olmert just didn't have the guts to do what needed to be done nor take the responsibility if anything went wrong. Such was the case with the possible Iran strike. Now it's left to Bibi, who I think has the guts but it may even be too late already. If a strike had occurred 3 years ago and failed, at least there was time to do another one. Now there are no reserves, no margin for error and even a successful attack will only buy time, at best. Sorry for the rambling post, but this stuff really is worrying me. Everything just has the feel of the 1930's and I'm afraid we are headed towards another tragedy for the Jewish people. Israelis like to say "Never again. Never again will we walk quietly into the ovens." Let's hope that is the case, because Olmert and Sharon has brought Israel so close to them you can feel the heat all over your body.
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.So how has that higher tax revenue worked out so far? Not so well:
NEW LONDON, Conn. — Weeds, glass, bricks, pieces of pipe and shingle splinters have replaced the knot of aging homes at the site of the nation's most notorious eminent domain project.
There are a few signs of life: Feral cats glare at visitors from a miniature jungle of Queen Anne's lace, thistle and goldenrod. Gulls swoop between the lot's towering trees and the adjacent sewage treatment plant.
But what of the promised building boom that was supposed to come wrapped and ribboned with up to 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues? They are noticeably missing.
Proponents of the ambitious plan blame the sour economy. Opponents call it a "poetic justice."
"They are getting what they deserve. They are going to get nothing," said Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the landmark property rights case. "I don't think this is what the United States Supreme Court justices had in mind when they made this decision."Kelo's iconic pink home sat for more than a century on that currently empty lot, just steps away from Connecticut's quaint but economically distressed Long Island Sound waterfront. Shortly after she moved in, in 1997, her house became ground zero in the nation's best-known land rights catfight.
New London officials decided they needed Kelo's land and the surrounding 90 acres for a multimillion-dollar private development that included residential, hotel conference, research and development space, and a new state park that would complement a new $350 million Pfizer pharmaceutical research facility.Kelo and six other homeowners fought for years, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, justices voted 5-4 against them, giving cities across the country the right to use eminent domain to take property for private development.
Here is a summary of some of the perks of being on the government dole, er, payroll. A small sample:
- On average, federal civilian wages in 2008 was $79,197, more than 50% greater than that of the average private sector employee’s wages of $49,935, according to the Cato Institute’s analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
- Pay growth in the public sector has been much higher than growth in the private sector over the years, too. Between 2000 and 2008, wages for federal civilian workers climbed 53.7%, while wages in the private sector went up 28.5% over the same time period, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
- The U.S. government issued employee bonuses of some $370 million in the fiscal year ending September 2008. The largest bonus went to a Department of Energy administrator who received a $62,925 bonus in 2008 on top of his $172,200 base pay.
- The average state and local government employee earns 29% more than the average private sector employee, according to The Tax Foundation’s analysis of 2007 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The differences are greatest in Rhode Island (where state/local employees earn 63% more than private sector employees), Hawaii (62% more), Montana (62%), Nevada (55%), Vermont (55%), Alaska (53%) and Florida (51%).
Follow the link for the entire list.
Given the president's claims about the cost savings of preventive care, I do hope he will consider acting on the results of this research and instituting a mandatory program:
A study by German scientists showed that 10 minutes a day of ogling women’s breasts by men was as good at warding off heart disease, high blood pressure and stress as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
By the way, this wasn't just some nickel'n'dime, fly-by-night survey. Two hundred men participated in this survey, for five years. Which is a lot of breasts. Or a lot of work-outs, if you drew the short straw.
Weatherby found that a mere 10-minutes of staring at well-endowed females is roughly the equivalent of a 30-minute aerobics workout, because sexual excitement gets the heart pumping and improves circulation...She added:
“Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of a stroke and a heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years.”
Now that's affordable health care.
The more we inspect Max Baucus's health-care bill, the worse it looks. Today's howler: One reason it allegedly "pays for itself" over 10 years is because it would break all 50 state budgets by permanently expanding Medicaid, the joint state-federal program for the poor.
Democrats want to use Medicaid to cover everyone up to at least 133% of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 for a family of four. Starting in 2014, Mr. Baucus plans to spend $287 billion through 2019—or about one-third of ObamaCare's total spending—to add some 11 million new people to the Medicaid rolls.
About 59 million people are on Medicaid today—which means that a decade from now about a quarter of the total population would be on a program originally sold as help for low-income women, children and the disabled. State budgets would explode—by $37 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office—because they would no longer be allowed to set eligibility in line with their own decisions about taxes and spending. This is the mother—and father and crazy uncle—of unfunded mandates. This burden would arrive on the heels of an unprecedented state fiscal crisis. As of this month, some 48 states had shortfalls in their 2010 budgets totaling $168 billion—or 24% of total state budgets. The left-wing Center for Budget and Policy Priorities expects total state deficits in 2011 to rise to $180 billion. And this is counting the $87 billion Medicaid bailout in this year's stimulus bill.
While falling revenues are in part to blame, Medicaid is a main culprit, even before caseloads began to surge as joblessness rose. The National Association of State Budget Officers notes that Medicaid spending is on average the second largest component in state budgets at 20.7%—exceeded only slightly by K-12 education (20.9%) and blowing out state universities (10.3%), transportation (8.1%) and prisons (3.4%).
In some states it is far higher—39% in Ohio, 27% in Massachusetts, 25% in Michigan, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Forcing states to spend more will crowd out other priorities or result in a wave of tax increases, or both, even as Congress also makes major tax hikes inevitable at the national level.
Given the intensely and admirably egalitarian nature of the United States presidential election process, it has always been a theoretical possibility that the country will send to the White House a person inexperienced in global affairs and unequal to the international situation before him. Often this has not been the case, and incumbents have risen to the job. Sixty years ago, Harry S Truman had limited first-hand knowledge of great power bargaining but turned out to be farsighted enough to anticipate the Cold War. Mr Obama is the antithesis of this phenomenon. He is completely out of his depth and will probably leave behind a dangerous and unsure legacy. India could have done without this neophyte.
Half a decade or so back, I wrote: “It’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ’em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That’s the problem with the U.N.”Follow the link for the whole piece.
Absolutely right, if I do say so myself. When you make the free nations and the thug states members of the same club, the danger isn’t that they'll meet each other half-way but that the free world winds up going three-quarters, seven-eighths of the way. That’s what happened in New York last week. Barack Obama is not to blame for whichever vagary of United Nations protocol resulted in the president of the United States being the warm-up act for the Lunatic-for-Life in charge of Libya. But it is a pitiful reflection upon the state of the last superpower that, when it comes to the transnational mush drooled by the leader of the free world or the conspiracist ramblings of a terrorist pseudo-Bedouin running a one-man psycho-cult of a basket-case state, it’s more or less a toss-up as to which of them is more unreal. To be sure, Colonel Qaddafi peddled his thoughts on the laboratory origins of “swine flu” and the Zionist plot behind the Kennedy assassination. But, on the other hand, President Obama said: “No nation can or should try to dominate another nation.”
Pardon me? Did a professional speechwriter write that? Or did you outsource it to a starry-eyed runner-up in the Miss America pageant? Whether or not any nation “should try” to dominate another, they certainly “can,” and do so with effortless ease, all over the planet and throughout human history.
And how about this passage?
“I have been in office for just nine months — though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences . . . ”
Forget the first part: That’s just his usual narcissistic “But enough about me, let’s talk about what the world thinks of me” shtick. But the second is dangerous in its cowardly evasiveness: For better or worse, we are defined by our differences — and, if Barack Obama doesn’t understand that when he’s at the podium addressing a room filled with representatives of Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Venezuela, and other unlovely polities, the TV audience certainly did when Colonel Qaddafi took to the podium immediately afterwards. They’re both heads of state of sovereign nations. But, if you’re on an Indian Ocean island when the next tsunami hits, try calling Libya instead of the United States and sees where it gets you.
This isn’t a quirk of fate. The global reach that enables America and a handful of others to get to a devastated backwater on the other side of the planet and save lives and restore the water supply isn’t a happy accident but something that derives explicitly from our political systems, economic liberty, traditions of scientific and cultural innovation, and a general understanding that societies advance when their people are able to fulfill their potential in freedom. In other words, America and Libya are defined by their differences.
What happens when you pretend those differences don’t exist? Well, you end up with the distinctively flavored ice cream I mentioned at the beginning. By declining to distinguish between the foreign minister of Slovenia and the foreign minister of, say, Sudan, you normalize not merely the goofier ad libs of a Qaddafi but far darker pathologies. The day after the president of the United States addressed the U.N. General Assembly, the prime minister of Israel took to the podium, and held up a copy of the minutes of the Wansee Conference at which German officials planned the “Final Solution” to their Jewish problem. This is the pathetic state to which the U.N. has been reduced after six decades: The Jew-hatred of Ahmadinejad and others is so routine that a sane man has to stand up in the global parliament and attempt to demonstrate to lunatics that the Holocaust actually happened.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
By AMIR TAHERI
Throughout last year’s presidential campaign, Barack Obama lambasted the Bush administration for fighting “the wrong war” in Iraq and ignoring the right one in Afghanistan. Iraq was a “war of choice,” Obama claimed, while Afghanistan was a “war of necessity.”
Repeatedly, he claimed that, if elected president, he’d unveil a new “stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.”
In March, in one of those solemn-looking occasions in which he excels, Obama said that the new strategy, which he did not elaborate, was already in place. He speeded up the troop buildup ordered by the Bush administration, and a few weeks later named a new commander for Afghanistan.
That commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, lost no time in revealing that the Obama administration had no specific strategy and that his first task was to work one out. By the end of August, he’d drafted a “new strategy” and submitted it to the Pentagon in the form of a 66-page report that included specific steps for moving ahead, as well as a request for still more troops.
Then, nothing happened — until someone leaked the report.
One can only imagine the general’s surprise when President Obama, asked to comment on the leaked report, said he wouldn’t allow himself to be rushed into sending more troops, as requested by McChrystal, pending the development of a “new strategy.”
One might say, Wait a minute! We thought you had a strategy before you were elected, when you castigated Bush’s performance in Afghanistan — or at least in March, when you announced “the new, smarter strategy,” or in June, when you appointed a commander to “carry out the new strategy.”
What of McChrystal’s proposed “new strategy” spelled out in his report? No, the president says he’s still looking for a strategy.
Obama has reportedly set up a special “situation room” to look for a strategy. One meeting has been held, with three or four more planned for the next few months.
As on so many other issues with Obama, we have “on-the-job training” on grand scale.
The New York Times recently quoted administration officials saying that the president may be having “buyer’s remorse” after “ordering an extra 21,000 troops there within weeks of taking office before even settling on a strategy.”
Cynics might say that Obama drummed up the “necessary war” mantra in Afghanistan in order to paint the Iraq war as “a strategic error” without appearing to be soft on national security.
Now that he’s in office, however, he no longer needs to take risks with a difficult war — especially when Afghanistan is becoming a liability in terms of public opinion.
The US media tell us the administration is divided over strategy. We’re told Vice President Joe Biden is pressing for a reduction of troop numbers in Afghanistan, while Secretary of Sate Hillary Clinton urges more boots on the ground.
Nor is there agreement on the diagnosis of the problem. Biden thinks that Al Qaeda is no longer a threat in Afghanistan, that America should transfer the war to Pakistan. Clinton mocks that view — insisting that, if the US scales down its military footprint, al Qaeda will return to Afghanistan “like mushrooms after rain.”
Let us welcome Obama’s delayed admission that he has no strategy, and his tacit dropping of his claim that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity,” rather than a war of choice.
Despite all talk of doom and gloom, America its NATO and Afghan allies have already defeated the forces of obscurantist terror in Afghanistan. What they face is the consolidation of a hard-won victory that, unless protected for many more years, could be undone by the enemies of the Western democracies — who happen to also be enemies of the Afghan people.
To become credible on Afghanistan, Obama must do several things:
* Demonstrate clearly that he knows what he’s talking about. Right now, there are at least five diagnoses of the Afghan situation in his administration (those of Biden, Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. McChrystal and political adviser David Axelrod). He must take the lead in developing a synthesis supported at least by his own team.
* Try to convince both friend and foe that he’s committed to Afghanistan.
September 27, 2009 Posted by Scott at 8:46 AM
Jules Crittenden comments on President Sarkozy's statement at the United Nations last week: "It's a sad state of affairs when a Frenchman mocks an American president and you have to go with the Frog." Here's what the man said:
President Obama dreams of a world without weapons ... but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite. Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993. I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map.
Claudia Rosett quotes more of Sarkozy's statement and comments in "Learning to love the French: When Sarkozy spoke truth to Obama."
Sarkozy didn't comment on Obama's pathetic General Assembly speech with the line: "No nation can or should try to dominate another nation." Mark Steyn picks up where Sarkozy left off, asking:
Did a professional speechwriter write that? Or did you outsource it to a starry-eyed runner-up in the Miss America pageant? Whether or not any nation "should try" to dominate another, they certainly "can," and do so with effortless ease, all over the planet and throughout human history.
At the end of his column, Steyn comments: "As for the saner members of the U.N., many Europeans still think they've got the American president they've always wanted: They would agree with John Bolton's indictment -- that this was a post-American speech by a post-American president -- but mean it as high praise. As the contours of the post-American world emerge, they will have plenty of time to reconsider their enthusiasm." In which case, Sarkozy may be a leading indicator.
By Rita L. Marker
Live in Washington State? In a crisis? Suicidal?
A dispatcher sends crisis negotiators who, if they follow the suggestions provided at a recent negotiators' training session, could help you consider "all options." If you're eligible, you may be referred to friendly volunteers who will help you find a doctor willing to prescribe a deadly drug overdose.
Just take the prescription to a pharmacy. Have it filled by a pharmacist who hands it to you with instructions to "take this with a light snack and alcohol to cause death."
But what if the pharmacy has opted out of participation in assisted suicide?
Not to worry.
Washington pharmacies are required to fill your prescription.
And what if you're not "qualified" for assisted suicide under Washington's Death with Dignity Act?
No sweat. There's help for you, too. Exit International, an equal opportunity death facilitator, has just established its North American headquarters in Bellingham, WA.
Enter the twilight zone that is Washington State.
Last November, Washingtonians went to the polls and approved Initiative 1000, the Washington "Death with Dignity Act," a law that is almost identical to Oregon's assisted-suicide law. During the campaign, assisted-suicide advocates assured voters that the measure, if passed, would be solely a matter of choice for patients who wanted "aid in dying" and that health care providers would not have to participate in it.
That was Then, This is Now
Soon after the law passed, residents of Mount Vernon, a city north of Seattle, heard that Skagit Valley Hospital was one of many health care institutions that had opted out of assisted suicide. They assumed this meant their local hospital would be an assisted-suicide-free zone. However, while a hospital's opting out means there won't be any patients taking the deadly overdose on the premises, it doesn't prevent hospital staff from making referrals for help in committing suicide.
Take, for example, a recent program held in the community. Like most jurisdictions, Mount Vernon has a team of experienced commissioned law enforcement officers who are highly trained crisis/hostage negotiators. To continually enhance their life-saving skills, they have periodic training sessions. One routine training that took place in early August indicates how assisted-suicide promotion can permeate activities in unexpected ways.
As part of that recent training session, Amber Ford, a social worker from the hospital's oncology department, presented a comprehensive two-hour discussion about the suicide risk among cancer patients. According to one of the attendees, her presentation was sensitive and informative. But, at the end, a jarring note was introduced. Prefacing her comments by explaining that she was aware of I-1000's controversial nature, Ford explained that assisted suicide, like hospice care, was among the alternatives available to cancer patients. And, in keeping with providing all options now available in the state, she distributed a brochure from Compassion & Choices (C & C), the assisted-suicide advocacy group (formerly called the Hemlock Society).
The brochure explains: "C & C created the coalition that passed I-1000 into law and now stewards, protects and upholds Washington's Death with Dignity Act. There is never a fee for any service provided by C & C, and confidentiality is strictly protected." A toll-free number is provided to make access to assisted suicide only a phone call away. The brochure notes that a C & C volunteer can help patients "locate physicians who support a patient's choice to use the law" - in other words, to find a doctor willing to prescribe a deadly overdose of drugs.
The irony was not lost on one experienced negotiator in attendance:
"I find it interesting that, as crisis negotiators, we are trying to talk people out of killing themselves. But by the end of the afternoon, we had a social worker from the oncology department of the hospital talking about being able to assist people in killing themselves."
If, indeed, part of crisis management eventually includes offering suicide assistance, it could lead to a rather bizarre screening process. When a 911 call comes in, will there be an extra step in the screening process? If a person calls, asking for help for a suicidal family member, will the screener ask if the person is terminally ill? If not, crisis negotiators could be dispatched to the scene. But, if the suicidal person is terminally ill, will she be given C & C's toll free number - so C & C could dispatch assisted-suicide facilitators?
Death from your Friendly Pharmacist
Crisis negotiators aren't the only professionals faced with changing expectations of their role in the assisted-suicide-friendly state. Washington pharmacists are getting a rude awakening as well. When the campaign for I-1000 was ongoing, C & C assured voters that it would be completely a matter of choice for health care providers. Because of those assurances many in the health professions believed passage of the law would not affect them. They bought the hype but (like members of Congress) didn't read the bill.
It's true that the assisted-suicide law defines a health care provider as a person who is licensed to administer health care or dispense medication. And it also provides immunity for those who do not participate. This led those who own pharmacies to assume that they would not have to dispense assisted suicide drugs.
They were wrong.
In the law, "participation" is very narrowly defined. It only refers to those activities that constitute the duties of the attending physician, the consulting physician or the counselor under the law. It does not include dispensing drugs.
Pharmacy owners who assumed they could opt out were very much mistaken. Not only does the assisted-suicide law not give them the right to refuse to dispense a prescription for assisted suicide, but the Washington Administrative Code positively requires all pharmacies to deliver and distribute all lawfully prescribed drugs or devices to patients. That requirement was affirmed in July when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Stormans v. Selecky vacated a preliminary injunction preventing its enforcement.
The word games continue even after the patient dies from physician-assisted suicide. If she had taken pills that she stockpiled on her own, her death certificate would reflect that the cause of death was a barbiturate overdose and the manner of death was "suicide." However, if she is a C & C facilitated death, the state forbids any hint of that on her death certificate. Instructions from the Washington Department of Health make it crystal clear that doctors, coroners and others must refer to her underlying illness, not the drug overdose, as the cause of death and the manner of death must be listed as "natural." According to the Washington State Department of Health, "The cause of death section may not contain any language that indicates that the Death with Dignity Act was used."
Assisted-suicide advocates are well aware that, in Washington, they've found a friendly home from which they can expand their operations. The welcoming atmosphere has attracted Exit International's Dr. Philip Nitschke (sometimes called the Australian Kevorkian). During the few months in which euthanasia and assisted suicide were legal in Australia, Nitschke was the specialty's sole practitioner, using his "death by laptop" method. In the past, he received funding for development of a "peaceful pill" - the label used for a quick, sure do-it-yourself death - from the Hemlock Society. Long a believer in equal suicide opportunity for anyone of any age for any reason, he has said assisted suicide should be available to children and teens.
Recently, Nitschke announced establishment of a North American base in the college town of Bellingham, WA where he plans to hold an "Exit workshop" in the Fall, covering such topics as how to obtain end-of-life barbiturates, how to store and test veterinary Nembutal, and how to use helium and a plastic bag to end your life.
Move over, Holland. Move over, Oregon. Washington State is rapidly taking over first place when it comes to embracing the grim reaper.