Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Supreme Court ruling on 2nd amendment proves conservative hypocrisy and dishonesty

When the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, struck down Chicago's gun ban as violating the 2nd amendment they actually struck a blow for the most far reaching liberal interpretation of the constitution possible. The five members also betrayed themselves as being the most intellectually and constitutionally corrupt justices since 1859 when the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott that "a black man had no rights a white man was bound to respect".

There is not a shadow of doubt, none whatsoever, that the 2nd amendment as written and as intended by the Founders has nothing to do with an individual right to own a gun. That is absolute and not open to the slightest interpretation. Its the reason that a lower court upheld the ban and it took a corrupt conservative majority to over turn it.

What these five conservative justices of the Supreme Court did was nothing less than throw the Constitution out the window and substitute their own ideological preferences for that of the Founders, something conservative hypocrites wail about all the time when it comes to liberals. Only this time conservatives did it for contemporary conservative ideology.

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Richard Nixon had said in 1993 that the idea that the 2nd amendment applied to individuals was " the biggest fraud -- I repeat the word fraud -- ever perpetrated by an interest group ( the NRA) on the American people".

In applying the constitution based on original intent, ( the approach that conservatives say was violated in Roe v.Wade,claiming there is no specific right to privacy in the constitution,) there is no individual right to own a gun specified in the 2nd amendment. None. And it doesn't take a constitutional scholar to understand it, only someone with a 5th grade reading level.

Original intent means applying the constitution both as written and knowing the specific intent of the founders based on the constitutional debates which were taken down verbatim at the time the constitution was adopted.

We know from these debates that the purpose and intention of the second amendment was ONLY to allow individual states to train,arm, and deploy their own armed militias. It didn't address individual gun ownership in even the smallest way. It wasn't even brought up by the people who authored and debated the amendment which shows just how dishonest and ideological the decision by the conservative members of the court really is.

Knowing the original intent of the 2nd amendment, it is intellectually and legally impossible to construe in any way that the amendment has anything to do with individual rights to own a gun, which is why it took ideological conservatives on the court to over turn lower court decisions which upheld the true view of the constitution.

The dishonesty of the decision is going to become clear in the coming months. The reason? The infringement clause of the second amendment makes clear that the right enumerated in the 2nd amendment is absolute and a right that "shall not be infringed" in spite of Alito's attempts to weasel out of that little detail.

"To infringe" means exactly what the dictionary says it means. It means that any law of ANY kind that inhibits, interferes,diminishes, reduces or alters even in the smallest way, even on the outer edges, the absolute right enumerated in the 2nd amendment makes every gun law in every state, city, town or village unconstitutional. All of them. Anything short of that is constitutional hypocrisy.

If you extend the 2nd amendment to individuals that is the reality as absurd as it is. Based on this decision, every inmate in New York serving time on concealed weapons charges must be freed and there are already plans to challenge the concealed weapons laws in LA and San Francisco. New York has the toughest concealed weapons law in the country and its almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to obtain a permit to carry one.

To highlight the absurdity of the conservative majority's decision, the very requirement of needing a gun permit should now be unconstitutional. It can easily be argued that you do not need, and no local government can require, that you get a permit to express a constitutional right. So when Alito actually says this decision will not affect local governments rights to impose gun restrictions, it's hard to know what he is talking about. Unless he is talking out of both sides of his mouth, which may well be the case since they didnt even bother to strike down the Chicago law they said was unconstitutional but sent the case back to the lower court.

The ruling said that state and local governments are subject to second amendment "limits". The problem? The language of the 2nd amendment makes clear its a right without limits as the infringement clause makes clear. Yet, as Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center pointed out, the court recognized that the decision "does not prevent our elected representatives from enacting common-sense gun laws to protect our communities from gun violence... and
that the Second Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions on firearms, including who can have them and under what conditions, where they can be taken, and what types of firearms are available."

Actually it doesnt. This is standing the 2nd amendment and it's intention on its head. Read the second amendment and see if there is a word in it about any kind of restriction, reasonable or not. The fact that the conservative majority on one hand paves the way for striking down Chicago's gun ban on 2nd amendment grounds and on the other chooses to "recognize" that the government has the right to apply reasonable restrictions is just intellectually dishonest and legally wrong.

It is one of the other. The amendment applies to individuals or it doesn't and instead only applies, as it was intended, to the states right to have armed militias. There are no provisions in the 2nd amendment for restrictions of any kind. In fact it specifically forbids any restrictions, because if there were, the amendment would be useless since it was conceived to allow the states to have whatever weapons they need to fight off either an invasion from a foreign government or the new federal government itself. And in fact state National Guards, the evolution of those state militias do have much the same weapons as the federal army including tanks and fighter jets, even bombers, which is why so many Guard units are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Supreme Court has now opened a Pandora's Box. Mayor Bloomberg applauded the decision by saying it didn't stop local governments from enacting "common sense" gun laws to protect its citizens. That would only be true if the 2nd amendment did not apply to individuals.

The NRA would now be absolutely crazy if they didn't start challenging every gun law in every state because simply put, its a no brainer that these laws are now unconstitutional based on this ruling. If at any time the Supreme Court rules in a case and says otherwise, it will further highlight the hypocrisy and dishonesty of their ruling. The fact that the ruling was 5-4 on ideological grounds does not give any confidence that the ruling was honestly derived.

One more aspect the court obviously didnt anticipate: if the 2nd amendment applies to individuals as the conservative court decided, that means individuals may possess any weapons they wish. "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". That means any kind of arms. Including tanks,bazookas,any kind of armament, automatic weapon, any kind of explosive device -- anything. There is nothing in the 2nd amendment that restricts the kinds of arms "the people" have a right to keep. That of course is because the amendment was, at the risk of being repetitious, was only meant to apply to the states right to have armed militia that were as well armed as the federal army.

No reasonable person would argue that individuals could possibly defend themselves against a federal army with hunting weapons. And the word "arms" in the 2nd amendment is also made clear in the debates : it means weapons of war. An individuals' right of self defense wasn't even discussed.

The conservative members of the Supreme Court have now made a decision that not only overturned established precedent, it's going to clog the court system, put criminals on the streets and wreck havoc with domestic tranquility. Its a decision both they and the country are going to regret. Unless in future decisions, they expose their hypocrisy by allowing restrictions to the ownership of arms that the 2nd amendment clearly forbids.

Further proof that this was nothing more than 5 conservative judges applying the constitution for an ideological agenda and disregarding the constitution in the process, is Justice Alito, writing the majority opinion in justifying the decision, wrote that the right to keep a gun in the home for protection was "fundamental and deeply rooted in America's history and tradition".

This is absolutely true. It is and was fundamental, certainly to those in 1789, and without a doubt deeply rooted in America's history and tradition. The problem is, it is not deeply rooted or even mentioned in the constitution, the document they are supposed to be applying. Prostitution is also deeply rooted in America's history and tradition so based on Alito's reasoning prostitutes all over the country should have constitutional protections to be prostitutes. And maybe they do.
For more absurdity, Alito, to justify the ruling, had to quote from England's Sir William Blackstone that "keeping arms was a fundamental right of Englishmen".

Blackstone? Wasn't this supposed to be about Americans? And the constitution? Five conservatives on the Supreme Court are overturning an American law and 70 years of precedent by using what an Englishman said about English law 100 years before the constitution was written? If this were a college law school exam instead of a Supreme Court ruling all five justices would flunk.

There were better ways to handle the controversy over Chicago's handgun ban in the home than resorting to corrupting the constitution.

Conservatives claim this is how liberal judges undermine the rule of law by legislating from the bench instead of following the constitution or the laws as congress writes them. Whether they have any proof that that's what liberals do or not, we now have proof that it's what conservatives do.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Obama: the "better than nothing" presidency?

Supporters -- actually more like cheerleaders -- of President Obama have now taken the line that he is the "most transformative" president since FDR. That is what cheerleader Rachel Maddow said the other night and poor Ed Schulz suffering from battered Obama syndrome also tries to sell, as MSNBC seems to be hell bent on being as intellectually dishonest about Obama and his accomplishments as Fox is in their attacks on him. Which doesn't leave much for people who simply want some objective truth.

So here is some objective truth. So far, one can accurately define the Obama presidency as the "better than nothing" presidency. And in other cases the worse than nothing presidency.

Yes he came into office having to deal with the worst collection of problems of any incoming president, left for him by the most incompetent, inept over his head president in history in George W. Bush and an inept,incompetent and blindly ideological Republican congress that together caused more damage to the United States in 8 years than the Soviet Union could do in 50.

But that would have been the case no matter which Democratic candidate had been the nominee and therefore elected. (no Republican had a chance to win in 2008 after 8 years of Bush and the Republicans).

The issue is how has Obama handled the problems he was elected to solve and accomplish the things he was elected to do?

The answer is, not so good. Which given Obama's 13 year political history of being a talker and not a doer, having never accomplished a thing in his political life other than get elected to the next office, Obama's mediocrity as a president shouldn't come as much of a surprise. At least not to people who were paying attention during the Democratic primaries.

The one thing to keep in mind about Obama's presidency is that Obama has had the biggest congressional majority of any president in more than 50 years. And what has he done with that? Produced everything from mediocrity to disaster.

The "big fucking deal" that Joe Biden called the healthcare reform bill which, failing at achieving true healthcare reform was called health insurance reform, was described by the senators and members of the House who passed it as "better than nothing". That's it. Better than nothing. Because that's all it is.

And the reason for that is Barrack Obama .

Obama couldn't handle the Republicans even with the biggest congressional majority in 50 years, couldn't or wouldn't rebut their steady drumbeat of lies about healthcare reform, showed no backbone, drew no lines in the sand, gave no direction to congress, showed no leadership as most congressional Democrats admitted behind the scenes, couldn't handle Joe Lieberman, and in the end sold out the only really transformative component of healthcare reform, the public option, even though there were the votes to pass it with reconciliation in both the House and the senate.

The New York Times had reported that Obama threw the public option under the bus last August, selling out to healthcare industry lobbyists and drug companies, promising to ditch it in return for certain concessions, then in true Obama fashion, went out and made public speeches vowing to get it passed knowing that behind the scenes he would undermine it. As Nancy Pelosi said, the only reason we don't have a public option now is because Obama didn't support it and didn't fight for it.

Had their been a public option there wouldn't have been a need for health "insurance" reform since the public option would have forced insurance companies to make those changes on their own if they wanted to compete with the government run plan.

Far from being transformative, Obama's incompetence in handling the healthcare debate and then his selling out the public option because he didn't have the fortitude,ability or conviction to get it passed, resulted in a mediocre healthcare bill that Senators from Tom Harkin to Bernie Sanders described as"better than nothing". After all that, after a year of intense debate, Hitler signs and swastikas ( all of which contributed to Obama's selling out) after members of congress stuck their necks out in the face of Republican attacks, the bill that finally passed was "better than nothing" thanks to Obama.

One other point you wont hear from those in the media who still refuse to face the truth about Obama; a reporter for the Washington Post reported that just after Scott Brown's election, the "transformative" president had decided to drop healthcare reform, put it on the back burner and concentrate on "jobs, jobs, jobs", only because he thought it was the politic thing to do. According to reports, Al Franken stood up in a meeting Democratic senators were having with David Axelrod about what to do next after the Brown victory, and when he was told about Obama's new strategy of shelving healthcare for jobs, Franken got into a shouting match with Axelrod, accusing both Axelrod and Obama of having no convictions.

Other senators agreed with Franken and the result, predictably was Obama making a speech telling congress to "show some backbone" and pass health "insurance" reform, supporting the use of reconciliation if they had to -- something Obama could have supported a year earlier and saved the congress, congressional Democrats and the country a lot of angst and political blood letting, and would have passed the public option in the process. That would have been real leadership.

Members of congress, most of whom were disappointed with the bill have said there are some good things in it. And there are. None of which would have been needed had the public option been passed. And the jury is still out over whether the current bill will mean a big increase in rates for consumers.

Obama's latest "achievement" is financial reform and the same things are being said about that as was said about healthcare. Its better than nothing. But people in the know call the bill tepid and a watered down version of what it should be.

How good is Obama's financial reform bill in protecting consumers against abuses by banks? When the senate passed their version of the bill, bank stocks shot up.

The biggest criticism of the reform is that it didn't reform any of things that actually needed reforming and caused the economic melt down in the first place.

To date, working with the biggest congressional majority any president has had in decades, with a public who, after 8 years of Bush and the Republicans were hungry for some real reform and accomplishment, not one promise or pledge Obama has made has been fulfilled. Instead, as Matt Taibii wrote in Rolling Stone regarding Obama's health care bill, the country and Obama's supporters have been on the wrong end of a bait and switch, bills that are just shells of what they should have been but Obama touts as success. It reminds one of the line about Richard Nixon, "would you buy a used car from this man"?

Add to this his response to the Gulf spill which people in Louisiana consider worse than Bush's response to Katrina, and the fact that he simply lied about the extent of his response ( 3 weeks into the spill, responding to criticism he hadn't done enough he promised the government was doing "everything it could". Three weeks later, responding to criticism he wasn't doing enough he said the government was "doubling and tripling" its efforts) and now there is light being thrown on what is looking like a fiasco in Afghanistan. If Rachel Maddow continues to extol Obama's accomplishments on MSNBC somebody is going to have to get her a sock puppet.

It is also clear that Obama was a total failure at the G-20 summit unable to get any other country to agree with his economic approach of stimulus spending. Even Great Britain rejected it and, as with other countries, said they would approach cutting their deficits by cutting spending.

The real question for congressional Democrats up for re-election this year is going to be what to do about Obama. No Democrat Obama has backed since he's been in office, whether in primaries, or in general elections, congressional or gubernatorial has won ( I dont count Blanche Lincoln).

With Obama's approval ratings nothing short of bleak regarding every aspect of his presidency, congressional Democrats are going to have to keep one thing in mind if they want to retain control of the House and senate. They are going to have to do better than nothing. And that is going to mean distancing themselves from Obama.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Afghanistan: becoming McChrystal clear

Thanks to the McChrystal blow up, the focus is back on Afghanistan, a deteriorating situation quickly joining everything else that's gone wrong with Obama's presidency.

Following McChrystal's dismissal, Secretary Gates said publicly that its "not going according to plan", but, he added, it doesn't mean it wont succeed eventually. One assumes the plan he is talking about is the plan Obama said was his plan that McChrystal was simply executing even though facts prove the opposite.

Regardless of whose plan it is, McChrystal had said it would take ten years to implement and make it work. Col. Jack Jacobs has said that McChrystal is right. It would take ten years for this plan to succeed. Obama gave McChrystal a year. Mostly because of politics. This is one of the deep policy differences between the two that the mainstream media and Obama pretend didn't exist.

Afghanistan is now a real mess. And what McChrystal's dismissal has focused on is the idea of leadership. Many are looking at McChrystals' dismissal as Obama showing leadership. What they dont want to acknowledge is that it was Obama's lack of leadership that was being criticized by McChrystal and his staff to begin with. The same lack of leadership from Obama that Democrats in congress complained about bitterly during the healthcare debate and now is universally acknowledged as a lack of leadership by Obama in responding to the Gulf spill a complaint still being made as recently as today.

Changing commanders is not going to fix where the real problem lies which is, as McChrystal undiplomatically pointed out, is at the top. As far McChrystal and his staff were concerned regarding the White House, no one was in charge.

So there is not only a mess in Afghanistan there has been a mess in terms of leadership and that mess didnt start with McChrystal and wont end with his dismissal even though there was really no choice but to dismiss him given the traditions and constitutional authority that exists between civilian and military.

But most of the problem is with Obama's policies and decision making. Which has been nothing more than to continue the policies of George W. Bush with one hand, while trying to soothe those opposed to the war with the other. Which is why, showing no leadership, he spoke out of both sides of his mouth at the same time when he announced an additional 30,000 troops and then in the next breath announced their withdrawal next July.

So far, all Obama has done is continue the policies of Bush who started the mess to begin with.

After 911, Bush diverted forces away from Afghanistan,the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden so he could invade Iraq for fabricated reasons the mainstream press were too timid to investigate and bring to light until it was too late.

To show how truly incompetent in strategic thinking Bush,Cheney and Rumsfeld really were, it never occurred to them that had they put all the forces necessary into Afghanistan in the first place and wiped out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and captured Bin Laden ( which they could have done when Bin Laden was cornered in Tora Bora), Bush could have said to Saddam, "get out now or your next". With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan ready to invade, Saddam would have grabbed what he could and gotten out without a single loss of American life.

Richard Engel of NBC who knows Afghanistan better than anyone also says its a mess. And he cant see any way that the mission can possibly succeed. Because Obama has turned it into a "hearts and minds" mission. And that is asking soldiers to be something more than soldiers. If we are thereto achieve some military victory, like wiping out the Taliban completely, then let Obama say so and get on with it and then bring the troops home. But it doesn't seem to be that way.

You would think that with all the comparisons being made to Vietnam someone would point out that the "hearts and minds" strategy in Vietnam didn't work either.

Anti-insurgency and counter terrorism can be fought more effectively with far fewer numbers as experts have pointed out. Winning hearts and minds in the midst of what is called a corrupt Afghan government is not what an American solider is trained to do, and it wouldn't matter if there were 200,000 there instead of 100,000.

Obama likes to talk about the messes he inherited from the Republicans and they certainly did leave the country a lot to clean up. But Obama has been creating a few messes of his own that he hasnt been able to clean up, from a botched healthcare reform bill losing the public option, a weak finanical reform bill and a response to the Gulf spill that the people of Louisiana rated as worse than Bush's response to Katrina.

It's now apparant that Afghanistan is the latest.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not exactly McChrystal clear

President Obama dismissed General Stanley McChrystal for remarks that violated the accepted military code of conduct related to public statements criticizing civilian authority.

Even conservative Republicans criticized McChrystal for lousy judgement and public statements that did not respect the powers and authority of the president to be commander-in-chief as specified in the constitution.

But so far the criticism of McChrystal has not been about what he said but that he said it at all and publicly to a reporter. The criticisms McChrystal leveled seems to be something that most commentators with a military background have agreed with -- namely that there was a lot of frustration that no one seemed to be in charge at the White House and there was no specific chain of command. McChrystal also criticized Obama for not being prepared at their meetings, and McChrystal never backed off the substance of his criticism.

One might dismiss McChrystal's comments ( though no one questions his credibility) except for the fact that exactly the same charge has been made about Obama by congressional Democrats during the health care debate ( and all painfully true) when he was flummoxed every other day, never drew any lines in the sand and let the Republicans take control of the debate. And the same charge of no one being in charge has been leveled at Obama by just about everyone over his tepid response to the Gulf spill. Just about everyone in the Gulf has complained that no one seems to be in charge.

This should not come as any surprise to anyone familiar with Obama's entire political career since he has never displayed at any time even a shred of ability to take charge of anything except his own political fortunes. Remember this is the president who, when a state senator voted "present" over 100 times not voting for or against anything.

When it comes to policy, ideas, thinking, problem solving, leadership and taking charge, Obama is and has been over his head from day one, exactly as his critics during the Democratic primary said he was, and as he has shown for the first 18 months of his presidency.

The good that is coming from McChrystal's remarks is the focus now been thrown on Afghanistan and Obama's policies and leadership problems

The mission as defined by Obama is to defeat the Taliban, secure the country against Al-Qaeda, and somehow engage in some kind of nation building to "give the Afghans a better life". This last does not go over well with anyone, especially Democrats, and as far defeating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda many military and counter terrorism experts feel that could be done better with a smaller force of commandos and counter terrorism forces, not 100,000 troops occupying a country that no foreign power has been able to successfully occupy.

At a press conference today Obama was asked about the dismissal and, as usual, simply lied about every facet of the question, something no doubt the mainstream press will ignore.

Obama said, "let me be clear, there were no policy differences between myself and General McChrystal. General McChrystal was executing my policy and my strategy".

All of that factually was a lie.

There was a fundamental and deep policy difference between McChrystal and Obama. McChrystal had made it clear he needed ten years to complete the mission and Col. Jack Jacobs has said McChrystal is right. The problem is Obama had given McChrystal till next July to accomplish the mission. That is the date Obama promised to start withdrawing troops, something he promised to do at the time he announced the additional troops and something McChrystal and others in the military felt demoralized the troops even before they got there.

The second set of lies is that McChrystal was "executing" Obama's policies and Obama's strategy. How he gets away with this without anyone in the media calling him on it is incredible but the truth is the policy and the strategy was McChrystal's and it was Obama who simply signed off on it.

It was McChrystal who came to Obama with the request of 40,000 additional troops, not Obama waking up one morning and deciding they needed more troops. McChrystal got 30,000 but it was at McChrystal's request.

Obama also said that he would "evaluate" when the time comes whether the troops will start to come home in July as he promised. The withdrawal announcement at the time was just Obama throwing a bone to the left who wanted out of Afghanistan in the first place. Now he is on the verge of reneging on yet another promise, only saying now that he will "evaluate" the situation when the time comes.

CNN was reporting that Secretary of Defense Gates wanted to keep McChrystal as being vital the mission. Patraeus is certainly a logical choice to replace him. But, as time will probably tell, the real problem wasn't McChrystal, though he deserved to get the boot for undermining civilian authority. The real problem is the one McChrystal complained about in the first place, that the man at the top doesn't seem to know what he's doing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Does McChrystal deserve a break today?

General McChrystal is due to meet President Obama face to face in the White House over his remarks made in that now infamous Rolling Stone article and there is a general consensus that McChrystal's remarks betrayed an immaturity inconsistent with his responsibilities. That word -- immature -- keeps coming up, both in the White House press briefing and with other critics. But the one aspect of McChrystal's criticism which has so far been downplayed in favor of the fact that he made any public criticism at all, is that in his opinion, Obama was unprepared in the first meeting they had to discuss Afghan strategy. And that sense of a lack of preparedness is what probably laid the groundwork for all the disparaging remarks which now has McChrystal in hot water.

What has been interesting about McChrystal's subsequent apologies is, while apologizing for making the remarks, he never retracted them, especially the comment that Obama was unprepared.

That has been a constant theme throughout Obama's presidency and was sadly apparent during his quest for the nomination. His argument that he was ready to be president from day one was a joke to almost anyone without an agenda. He had never accomplished a thing in 13 years of elected office other than simply getting a elected. And as his handling of what we can call his McHealthcare bill, and his inadequate response to the Gulf spill, McChrystal's harshest criticism -- that Obama was unprepared in an area as serious as the Afghan war should be getting more play. But it isn't.

It was no secret General McChrystal is and has been at deep odds with Obama over Afghanistan, a point that not many of the talking heads at the cable networks seemed to know. The division was pointed out by MSNBC contributor Col Jack Jacobs, who agreed that McChrystal should be fired for violating the American tradition of the military in never criticizing civilian leadership in public. At the same time Jacobs believes that its McChrystal who is right and Obama wrong in terms of policy. McChrystal feels he needs ten years for the strategy in Afghanistan to work and Jacobs feels McCrystal is absolutely right.

The problem is Obama will never give McCrystal 10 years because Obama's decision on Afghanistan in sending more troops in the first place was based on what so much of Obama's decision making is based -- politics.

It was during the healthcare debate when Obama was being savaged by the right that he decided to give McCrystal not the 40,000 troops he asked for but 30,000, a decision most of the people on the right who were criticizing him applauded.

But at the same time, Obama did what Obama does often -- talk out of both sides of his mouth, trying to satisfy all sides politically, by announcing a troop withdrawal at the same time he was announcing their deployment. It was like an Obama Afghan Value Menu where there was something for everyone. Additional troops for the right, ( so stop with the Hitler signs) and a withdrawal date for the left. At the time I called it Obama's Hello-Goodbye Afghanistan policy.

But there were indications McChrystal considered it foolish and that Obama's announcing a withdrawal at the same time he was announcing the additional troops, according to sopme military officials, demoralized everyone concerned with the policy. It also showed just how political Obama's decision was.

It was a McStrategy to announce the addtional troops and withdrawal at the same time, and if McChrystal wants to talk to a bunch of people demoralized by Obama's handling of an issue, he should talk to congressional Democrats about the health care debate.

McCrystal had made it clear that he thought it would take ten years to accomplish the mission as he defined it. And no way was Obama going to give him ten years when he knew the left would have gone ballistic. As it is the mission has gotten away from Obama and he is getting heavy criticsim on the left for Afghanistan.

Obama recently defined it as helping the Afghan people live a better life in peace and security, though only a few days ago he defined it as keeping Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan with the focus of the mission being the war on terror. With two separately defined missions, its an indication that Obama himself doesn't know what the mission is, or what he thinks it should be.

There is no way the country can support a mission that is anything other than to destroy the Taliban to keep them from letting Al-Qaeda gain a foothold and conduct more terrorist attacks. But, like Viet Nam, the mission now seems ill defined.

So Obama has a huge problem. And that is the mission. The current mission in Afghanistan has been defined by McChrystal not Obama who simply agreed on the plan. But if Obama fires McChrystal what happens to the mission? And who is responsible?

McChrystal gives Obama cover since its McChrystal's plan. And for that reason Obama may keep him. But the best reason to fire McChrystal would be the opportunity to change the mission. Or end it.

The Afghans themselves have made it clear they don't want McChrystal fired. They don't want the upheaval what would ensue in a major change in leadership and chain of command.

For all these reasons there is a chance Obama will give McChrystal a break today on his McOutburst. If for no other reason than to continue the McStrategy and give Obama cover. It would also be framed by the White House as Obama's maturity and benevolence, rising above McChrystal's petty immaturity for the greater good. On the other hand, politically Obama could be concerned about appearing weak if he doesn't dismiss McChrystal.

Obama no doubt will play the part of the stern and angry president so his aides can pass on "how angry the president was" and the dressing down he gave McChrystal. But this could also be an opportunity to change course in the war. But if that doesnt happen, no matter what Obama does, it wont change what matters most -- Obama's war in Afghanistan. Which no one sees as a Happy Meal.

It's a dicey situation. Col. Jack Jacobs has pointed out that at the root of the whole problem and what was behind the derision in the first place, is Obama's lack of leadership regarding the war, or as Jacobs more diplomatically put it, "no leadership at the top". It's been stated over and over again that McChrystal has been frustrated that, in terms of the civilian leadership,no one seems to be in charge, a complaint that congressional Democrats made about Obama during the health care debate and most recently has been made of Obama and the response to the Gulf spill. Not exactly ready to be president on day one.

On the other hand, military derision of civilian authority is dangerous no matter who is president and it cant be tolerated. On the face of it, McChrystal has to be dismissed, even if, as Jack Jacobs has said, he is right about his criticism and policy conflict with Obama. But one thing is certain -- if he isn't dismissed, the reason will be Obama politics.

UPDATE: McChrystal was dismissed, and ironically, replaced by General David Patreus, George W. Bush's choice to lead the "surge" in Iraq that Democrats opposed. Notably absent at the announcement was former general and NSA Jim Jones, one of the targets of derision of McChrystal and his aides. It's an indication that much of McChrystal's criticism was well founded.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rahm Emanuel is "fed up with idealism in the White House"? What idealism?

In what is obviously a painfully transparent attempt to give gravitas, depth, and a sense of conviction and mission to the Obama administration as he faces more and more criticism over the Gulf ,the economy, unemployment, and huge disappointment over a tepid healthcare reform bill, Rahm Emanuel supposedly let it be known that he is "sick of the idealism in the White House."

That sound you hear is not an earthquake but a few hundred million people rolling on the floor laughing.

The truth is there has never been a shred of idealism in the White House about anything, or anything Obama has ever done in 13 years of elected office. Obama is about as idealistic politically as Richard Nixon and he shows it time and time again, most brazenly during the Democratic primary campaign for the nomination but has continued it into his presidency and his first 18 months in the White House.

Obama's lack of commitment, backbone and conviction was painfully clear during the health care debate when he capitulated every other day to whoever was criticizing him the most, then sold out the public option to a bunch of health industry lobbyists ( as reported by the New York Times last August) after pledging to support it to the very end. Then in typical Obama style, when asked about the loss of the public option in the health care bill in a PBS interview he simply lied claiming he didn't lose anything because he had never campaigned for a public option. Even Nixon would has asked if the guy was crazy. A slew of youTube videos showing Obama campaigning for the public option as well as his own campaign literature promising the public plan was soon all over the net.

The White House, any White House,is well aware of public relations. Messages are tightly controlled, ( which is why the General McChrystal Rolling Stone article has him in hot water),and people do not go off on their own expressing opinions that haven't been cleared in advance (except obviously McChrystal).

There is not the slightest doubt, none, that Emanuel's statement that he was "fed up with the idealism in the White House", was intentionally made public and was a calculated attempt to score political points for Obama, and was something known to, discussed and agreed on by Obama in advance.

It was just one more cynical political ploy by a White House that has always put process and politics ahead of policy, and it was a ploy made with Obama's knowledge and probably collusion.

In many ways its another example of Obama and the White House counting on at least some members of the press to be stupid enough not to see through it, and that is a calculation that has paid off for them politically in the past.

There is no idealism in the White House. There isn't even any real competent pragmatism. There is only politics, and as Obama has shown, he will turn on a dime if he thinks its the political thing to do. Just look at the results of healthcare reform, something most Democrats are bitterly disappointed with.

So far the attempt at painting Obama as an idealist isn't working and probably never will. The best thing Obama has going for him is that he is not George W. Bush, unquestionably the worst and most incompetent president in history. But so far Obama has been a distant second.

Some in the press will swallow Emanuel's "leak" like trained seals swallowing fish the zookeeper throws their way. But its not likely to do much good. Not given the reality of Obama's presidency so far, which, given what has been clear about Obama politically should come as no surprise. And as most Democrats will tell you, has been anything but ideal.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Democrats and Alvin Greene: what goes around comes around

Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina is calling for an investigation. He thinks there were irregularities in the voting machines that gave the Democratic primary for US senate to Alvin Greene, the unemployed army veteran who didn't campaign but won the Democratic senate primary with 60% of the vote. Clyburn said there were "shenanigans" that led to Greene's victory.

But James Clyburn complaining about political shenanigans is like Bernie Madoff complaining about someone cheating at bingo.

Clyburn is no stranger to shenanigans. Though no one could prove it Clyburns fingerprints were all over Obama's playing the race card against Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary in 2008 when he accused her of diminishing Martin Luther King's legacy because she tried to make the point that it took an experienced, arm twisting and strong willed president like LBJ to get the civil rights act passed in 1964.

Clinton, who was absolutely right, was making the point that Obama lacked the experience, accomplishment, background, gravitas, conviction, or proven wherewithal to be president and accomplish what was needed to be done, something that was all too painfully clear as Obama botched the healthcare debate and sold out the public option, ironically the most important legislation since the civil rights act of 1964.

But Clinton was hammered by Obama and Clyburn over her statement and the press who clearly had their own agenda to elect Obama, piled on.

Clinton didn't say anything that Tom Brokaw didn't say in his biography and documentary about Dr. King, but no one complained that Brokaw was "diminishing" the legacy of King. Because it did take Johnson to twist arms, threaten, cajole or pat on the back the southern Democratic members of congress who were standing in the way.

Up until that moment, Pew Research showed that Obama and Clinton were splitting the African American vote almost 50-50. But after Obama played the race card in South Carolina and Clinton didn't hit back ( because the DNC twisted her arm behind the scenes and told her not to) Obama won the South Carolina primary with 90% of the black vote.And from that moment on, Obama won 90% of the black vote in every succeeding primary.

Then we had more shenanigans with the DNC trying to tilt the playing field for Obama( something they now certainly regret) when both the DNC and Obama successfully silenced the votes of 1,600,000 people in Florida and Michigan in one of the most disgraceful episodes in Democratic party history, largely because Clinton had landslided Obama in both states and that didn't fit the program.

Now, in many ways, Alvin Greene seems like karmic payback.

During the primaries the DNC tried to sell , with the help of sympathetic and sycophantic collection of journalists like Jonathan Alter, that it was somehow justice to deny those 1,600,000 voters their representative delegates at the DNC convention because two state party chairmen decided to move their primary dates up against the wishes of the DNC. This supposedly justified silencing the voices of 1,600,000 people.

Those 1,600,000 people simply went to the polls when their states attorneys general told them to go and they exercised their civic responsibilities and voted. The real problem was they voted for Hillary Clinton and not Obama and in landslide numbers and that wasn't the result the DNC and the press wanted. It seems not to have occurred to the DNC that if they wanted to punish anyone, maybe it should have been two state party chairman who changed the primary dates and ban them from the convention. Instead of punishing the people who made the decision, the DNC thought it made the most sense to punish 1,600,000 voters in Florida and Michigan who had nothing to do with the decision because those voters crushed Obama in both states in favor of Clinton. And of course the candidate who was saying "every voice must be heard" said nothing.

During the primaries if those votes and delegates won were legitimately counted as they should have been by a press who was clearly conspiring to see Obama win, then Clinton for most of the primary season would have been winning the popular vote and, until the caucuses would have been leading in the delegate count. But that was neither the perception or the reality the DNC ,Obama, or much of the mainstream press wanted. So the candidate who made speeches saying " every vote must count, every voice should be heard", was, as usual, talking with nothing real behind it. In fact, Obama did everything he could to keep those voices in Florida and Michigan from being heard.

Now there is Alvin Greene. And the Democratic party in South Carolina is crying foul and James Clyburn is crying shenanigans and complaining about voting machines and irregularties -- the same machines as far as anyone knows, that were used in the Democratic primary that Obama won in 2008 and the presidential election state wide. But there is nothing he can do. The Democratic party in South Carolina have no grounds to overturn the election or even investigate and they will do neither. And Alvin Greene is going to be the Democratic nominee for senate in South Carolina.

What goes around comes around. And it might not be the end of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Study shows that MMS knew in 2009 of BP safety failures

A study commissioned in partnership with the MMS during the Obama Administration uncovered 62 instances of blow out preventor (BOP) failures including 4 that were considered critical and yet MMS took no action against BP, allowing the drilling to go forward despite being warned that the blow out preventors were suspect and could result in catastrophic failures.

While Obama has received heavy criticism for an inadequate response to the Gulf spill now in its 60th day, a response that those in Louisiana continue to find lacking, there is now evidence that the Obama Administration was just as negligent as the Bush Administration in dealing with the oil industry and safety standards.

There was ample warning that the blow out preventors presented a potential hazard for failure in any underwater environment but the fact that they were going to be used for the first time in water 5000 feet deep raised no concerns at the Obama Administrations's MMS.

It is specifically the failures at those depths that is the real cause of the environmental disaster in the Gulf. Had the same failures occurred in 200 feet of water, any of the remedies BP used to try and plug the leak would have worked. It is at depths of 5000 feet, depths at which those remedies had never before been tried, that made attempts to plug the leak virtually impossible.

Given the greater risks that drilling at those depths entailed, especially given the warnings of potential failures of the BOP's at any depths, much less 5000 feet, the evidence seems to be that the MMS under Obama did nothing more than continue the polices of the Bush Administration and that led to the disaster. Business as usual from the candidate who promised to change the way business was done.

Considering that Obama had announced a new policy of more off shore drilling only days before the explosion, ( a policy now on hold) its clear that prior to that announcement there was no review undertaken by the Obama Administration of the MMS and its regulations and policies before deciding to expand its drilling policy. Instead the MMS was allowed to ignore the safety concerns raised by the study as recently as June of 2009, and granted safety waivers to BP.

While BP is getting its well deserved share of blame for their cutting corners and being responsibile for the spill, the news media, once again blind to Obama's failures, have cut their own corners, so far ignorng the evidence that the MMS overseen by the Obama Administration, gave BP its waivers on safety, specifically on the blow out preventor at the heart of the problem, in spite of warnings it had of the dangers.

Whether Obama will pay a political price for the safety violations that were ignored under his watch is hard to say. But the fact that MMS was notified of potential failures of the blow out preventor in June of 2009, which did in fact fail, may give Obama even bigger problems to deal with politically than his failures at getting help to the Gulf for the clean up.

A new opinion poll by CNN now shows 60% of the country disapprove of Obama's handling of the spill. The poll was taken after the announcement of a $20 billion escrow account BP will establish to pay claims.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama's gulf speech: a gulf in credibility

Anyone rational who listened to Obama's Oval office address to the nation regarding the Gulf spill is now wondering why he bothered. Well, we know why he bothered. Politics. And criticism. So Obama did what he always does when he is heavily criticized for things he's done or hasn't done -- he tried to talk his way out of it. Only this time it didn't work, even with those who have blindly followed him in the past, the people Hillary Clinton supporters called Kool-Aid drinkers during the primaries.

The Kool-Aid seemed to have worn off on Keith Olbermann, one of Obama's staunchest, and most blind supporters, when Olbermann was absolutely stupefied over Obama's speech, a speech that might have hit new lows in being empty, shallow, and superficial.

To sum it up, aside from announcing a new head of MMS which could have been done using a press release, Obama's Oval office address to the nation might be called Oval Office Speech Abuse.

Historians some day may label this Obama's The Dog Ate My Homework Speech. It sounded like something cobbled together by a 15 year old who had been up late playing Warcraft and put it together so at least he could turn in something.

Obama spent about 18 minutes basically telling us nothing we didn't know before except it sounded like it took him 58 days to find out what the rest of the country knew 58 days ago.

He said absolutely nothing of value, of interest or importance and his words that were already as empty as a Louisiana beach.

Today he announced a $20 billion fund that BP is putting in an escrow account to pay damages to people but did anyone really think BP wouldnt be held financially accountable especially with BP admitting their culpability?

What Obama needed to do and still needs to do is have the federal government take charge of the clean up. Cleaning up the gulf and skimming the oil off the surface should be where his focus is. Making the people suffering financial losses whole will happen with him or without him.

From a practical and presidential point of view whats been needed in the gulf is skimmers. There is no one familiar with the spill who hasnt said that there should be thousands of skimmers in the gulf cleaning up that oil. To date there are 32. The criticism of Obama is that he should have been on the phone more than a month ago and getting countries all over the world to send their skimmers to the Gulf to help with the spill. He did nothing.

Three weeks into the gulf spill in response to criticism that he wasn't doing enough, with Billy Nunguesser,president of Plaquemines parish in New Orleans on television every day and railing at Obama and BP over their lack of response and sounding like the only person who knew what he was talking about, President Obama called a press conference and said he and the government were doing "everything they could" to respond to spill.

But three weeks later, when "everything" amounted to not enough and criticism kept mounting even from people like James Carville whose vein were popping from being so angry, Obama, again motivated by criticism, responded that the government was now going to "double and triple" its efforts to help in the Gulf spill.

What you didnt hear in the news media and the question not one single reporter or commentator has asked is, how do you double and triple your efforts if you were doing everything you could in the first place? The answer is you cant. So there was never anything real behind doing "everything" they could. And one thing we know he didnt do which he could have and should have, is get those skimmers into the gulf. So much for "ready to be president from day one".

The New York Times recently ran an article about how chaotic Obama's response to the spill has been with one of the main criticisms being that no one seems to know who is in charge and that no one seems to be in charge.

Obama cannot show he is in charge because he isnt. He has shown he doesnt know what to do next or what he should have done. He cant show he is angry because he isn't. He is just used to being able to talk his way out of anything and now he can't.

There is no point in waiting for Obama to take charge. He is not and has never been a take charge person. This is the person who joked to a Chicago Tribune reporter covering one of his book signings when he was in the senate,that "maybe I ought to go back to the senate and actually do something". He never did. Instead he voted "present" over 100 times in the Illinois state senate voting neither for or against something because he either couldnt make a decision or didnt want to have a record an opponent could run against. Or both.

One more peice of bad news for Obama -- according to a new poll, Louisianans have said that Obama's response to the Gulf spill is worse than Bush's response to Katrina. Given that the Gulf spill is now in its 59th day and people are still complaining about the response and that as of this writing it is still not adequate and there are still not the 2,000 skimmers needed to clean up the gult, that's not a surprise.

And the word "gulf" is slowly coming to mean not just the oil spill but a reference to Obama's credibility.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

When being excommunicated is a badge of honor

The Catholic Church may have a new scandal to withstand or at the very least a PR nightmare along with the legitimate questioning of their moral authority while still reeling from an institutionalized child sexual molestation scandal playing out in public.

This involves the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride a top administrator at St.Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix and someone who sits on the hospital's ethics board.

The incident involved a 27 year old woman who was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and who was admitted to the hospital because the pregnancy was causing her severe health problems.

The woman suffered from pulmonary hypertension and she was told by her doctors at the hospital that if she continued the pregnancy her prospects for dying were close to 100% . She was told that the baby would die also.

Sister McBride conferred with the woman and her doctors and, given the fatal prognosis, decided this was an exception to the code of Catholic health care directives which, as everyone knows prohibits abortion under any circumstances for any reason.

Sister McBride decided this was an exception and gave the go ahead and the abortion was performed. It saved woman's life.

But Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, after finding out about the abortion, ordered that Sister McBride, and the patient who had the abortion to save her life, along with every other Catholic involved with the decision and the procedure, be excommunicated.

Sister McBride, who obviously exercised judgement far superior to Bishop Olmstead, has been reassigned to lesser duties and whether she will continue to work at the hospital remains to be seen.

But aside from the stupefying inhumanity of Bishop Olmstead, and his incredible lack of judgment, it seems to be another example of the church heirarchy caring more about itself than the people its supposed to serve, as the church's attempted cover ups of its serial child sexual abuse has showed.,

That both the woman and the child were sure to die meant nothing to Bishop Olmstead. Church rules, and its power meant everything.

This isn't only about religion per se. One assumes Sister McBride knows as much about the Catholic faith as Bishop Olmsted. And probably more when it came to the ethics governing the situation. What it came down to was a difference of opinion that was about the life and death of a woman and exposed one of the church's most fundamental problems -- a patriarchy that has denigrated women since its inception, accused them of being witches and burned them in the middle ages and hung them in Salem Massachusetts, and shuts them out of every decision making process, essentially saying what they think doesnt matter. It took a Sister McBride to save the life of this woman and a Bishop OIlmstead who would have let her die.

With more incidents like this along with the constant revelations of the church tacitly accepting child sexual abuse and doing nothing to stop it and with charges of negligence that go all the way to the Vatican, the Church's moral standing seems to be not only collapsing but fraudulent. Which leads one to the conclusion given the church's seemingly conflicting behavior on child sexual abuse versus an abortion which saved a woman's life, that if the church cared as much about a child after it left the womb as it seems to while its still there, they wouldn't have a child sex abuse scandal in the first place.

Sister McBride has every reason to be proud of herself and her decision. And the patient, a mother of 5 who is alive today, has McBride and her doctors to thank. And so do her children. Had it been up to Bishop Thomas J.Olmsted, that woman would be dead today and her five children without a mother. Being excommunicated by someone like that should be and is a badge of honor.

And for members of congress who three months ago rejected the Catholic Conference of Bishops and their attempts at interfering with the wording in the health care bill on abortion this should reenforce that they did the right thing. As did Thomas Jefferson and the Founders when they passed the first amendment whose sole purpose was to permanently erect a wall between the church and any and all functions of the government.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Should Democrats work to defeat Blanche Lincoln in the fall?

A good case can be made that with Democrats like Lincoln who needs Republicans. And Democrats joining forces to defeat her would send a loud message to future Democratic incumbents that even if they survive a primary challenge they aren't safe.

Some might claim that defeating Lincoln and electing a Republican is self defeating for Democrats and plays into Republican hands. But that's not the case.

Even with a 60 vote majority, Obama has been so inept and politically incompetent and so lacking in conviction during the healthcare debate that it wouldn't have meant a dimes worth of difference had the Democrats had a 55 vote majority instead of 60.

Obama botched the entire healthcare debate from the beginning, finally cutting a backroom deal with lobbyists to dump the public option, the centerpiece of healthcare reform even though the votes were there in congress to pass it with reconciliation.

So with a president lacking in any real conviction beyond his own political standing, it really doesn't matter whether the Democrats hold a 59 seat majority or 58 or 55 for that matter. Obama had the largest congressional majority in memory and didn't know what to do with 60, so a few either way wouldnt make a difference.

Blanche Lincoln's opposition to the public option was one reason it was left in Obama's hands, the worst place to leave anything. Had she supported it, it might not have been left up to Obama's duplicitousness to not see it through. And she is also no friend of labor, another big Democratic constituency so if Lincoln lost because of opposition by Democrats what would be the loss for the Democratic and especially the liberal agenda? The answer is nothing.

For Democratic liberals though, defeating Lincoln in the fall could be a gain in political power and would send a strong signal to other Democratic members of congress that defeat is a price they risk paying in the future. Think of it as a Green Tea Party movement.

The argument against it is that the Democrats face an uphill climb in the fall but that is not necessarily true. Democrats who distance themselves from Obama ( and there are many who feel that way) will have a much better chance than those who tie their fortunes to him. Joe Sestak who had made it clear he wasnt an Obama Democrat comes to mind.

The conventional wisdom is Bill Halter lost because the Democratic Party machine in Arkansas closed 40 of 42 voting locations in Garland County, a county in which Halter did very well in the first primary. Closing those 40 places meant many primary voters in Garland county had to drive 20 miles to vote and the closeness of Lincoln's margin of victory, 52-48% indicates eliminating those voting centers made the difference.

Meanwhile one of Obama's White House insiders, an unnamed source who showed why the Obama White House and Obama himself has been inept and incompetent in just about everything they do, made a statement mocking labor for spending millions on what turned out to be a losing candidate in Halter. They seem to have forgotten that before Lincoln, every candidate Obama has backed in every election since he's been president has lost, the latest being Joe Sestak's win over Arlen Specter. A losing record like that for a president doesnt qualify them to mock anyone.

Liberals would send a strong message to Obama by working to defeat Lincoln that he might be next.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Helen Thomas loses her mind then loses her job.

On Monday Hearst Inc. told Helen Thomas to get the hell out of their newspapers. Thomas who had been a columnist for Hearst since 2000 but had covered the White House since 1960, revealed herself to be bigoted, ignorant of world history and probably anti-semetic when she told an interviewer in a video that "the Jews should get the hell out of Palestine. Its not their country. They are occupiers. They should go back to Germany and Poland and the United States".

Thomas, sounding like a spokesman for Hamas and showing the same ignorance of history, was quickly criticized and ridiculed by everyone from Jon Stewart to the White House when Robert Gibbs called her comments "reprehensible".

Thomas actually tipped her hand the day before when she wanted to know in a White House press briefing why the White House hadnt been more forceful in criticizing Israel for its action in stopping a Gaza bound ship from trying to run their blockade.

Thomas, as were many ignorant people around the world who expressed "outrage", was oblivious to the fact that under international law the blockade was perfectly legal and was so was Israel's intervention in preventing the ships from running the blockade. She was also oblivious to the fact that the Gaza activists had intentionally sought a confrontation, attacked the Israeli commandos legally boarding the ship first and brought the whole episode on themselves.

Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent in all probability was still harboring anger and resentment over Israel's incursion into Lebanon a few years ago to destroy Hezbollah after their being attacked by Hezbollah rockets, since just about everything she had to say which was caught on the YouTube video was anti-semetic, angry and irrational.

Which quickly resulted in Thomas being dropped by her speaking agency and had a recent speaking engagement canceled. She was finally told by Hearst to leave or be fired. She chose to "retire". But so far no word on whether she intends on "getting the hell out" of the news business and going back to Lebanon.