Archive for April, 2009

Where Are They Now?

A suspicious, cynical mind like mine doesn’t let go of things easily. So, while President Obama was brushing off the importance of his 100th day in office by flying around the country and preempting prime time, sweeps week TV, I was thinking back to an earlier carnival sideshow—the Florida town hall meeting.

Oh, you remember: Henrietta Hughes’ tearful plea for the satisfaction of her “urgent needs”? Julio Osegueda’s prayer for major medical and dental? Coming back to you now? Yeah, me too. Like a refried bean burrito.

Things are still tough for Ms. Hughes:

Henrietta Hughes is still struggling to make ends meet.

Unemployed and homeless, she caught national attention during President Obama’s visit to Fort Myers when she asked for his help. After her plea, Hughes was given a free place to stay, but she still can’t find a job and may soon find herself homeless again.

Though she hasn’t had to pay rent, Henrietta says she hasn’t saved much money either. Her bills are often more than her income. Now she’s praying her story ends how she hoped it would. “Get a job and get on to do things that I decide to do,” she said.

Henrietta does have a job interview on Monday to do administrative work at a local hospital. She’s hoping some of the computer skills she was learning help her get the job.

In this economy, there are a lot of Henrietta Hughes, unfortunately, so I don’t know how lucky she’ll be. The story does say she and her son Corey have applied for many jobs already, but without success. I must say I find that odd: she was a celebrity, and touched hearts around the nation and the world—and no one will hire her to answer the phone or open the mail? Why, do you suppose?

There goes that cynical, suspicious mind of mine. But don’t forget the background stories we learned about HH here and here, among many other places.

Julio is more of a success story, thank goodness:

For one night, Julio Osegueda forgot about flipping burgers and studying for his college tests. He was consumed by double plays, base hits, strikeouts and batting averages.

His nerves were calm and excitement was high Friday night in his debut as a color commentator at the Fort Myers Miracle’s season opener against the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

“It went great,” said Osegueda, 19, of Cape Coral. “It was a great experience and a good opportunity.”

The Miracle offered Osegueda the chance to kick off his broadcast career after he gained national attention in February at President Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in Fort Myers. Osegueda, who has worked at a Cape Coral McDonald’s for four and a half years, asked the president if he would ever get better benefits.

Two months later, Osegueda put his knowledge of team rosters and stats to the test alongside Miracle play-by-play announcer Zach Spear.

“I was really impressed with his preparation for one thing,” said Spear, 23. “I think his voice is good, and he has a good energy. … He really enjoyed himself.”

I hope so. Because it sounds like that’s all he’s going to get:

Gary Sharp, media relations director and promotions manager for the Miracle, said Osegueda was everything the team expected.

“He was entertaining and interesting, and we thought it was a success,” he said.

While it’s always a possibility Osegueda could be invited back to broadcast with the Miracle, Sharp hopes the opportunity helps him further his career as a disc jockey or radio personality.

In other words, don’t call us, we’ll call you—and we’ll take fries with that.

But I don’t bring up these epilogues to well-known stories merely to humiliate these two private (ha!) citizens. I cite them as exhibits A and B of the failure of handouts. I don’t know whether Henrietta and her son are grifters, as one blogger claimed, but they’ve been living off the dole and private charity for years. Years. And while Julio would appear to have more upside, he, too, will actually have to make something of himself.

Both were touched by the divine, yet both remain anchored to the ground. Does anyone else find that curious—and, more to the point, instructive?

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Brouhaha Over Obama At Notre Dame

A female, Catholic Harvard professor of Law has decided not to accept an honor from Notre Dame

Breaking news in the controversy over the University of Notre Dame’s decision to grant an honorary degree to President Barack Obama: Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon has decided to decline the university’s prestigious Laetare Medal, which was to be awarded at the same commencement ceremony.

Here is the letter Glendon, who was the Bush Administration’s final ambassador to the Holy See, sent this morning to Notre Dame President the Rev. John I. Jenkins:

“Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime Consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the President an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. Bishops? express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

“President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former US Ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

“We think having the President come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the President and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision–in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. Bishops–to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the Bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame?s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours very truly,

Mary Ann Glendon”

Huh. I wonder if she will get the Larry Summers treatment?

- Aggie

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100 Days, Almost as Many Broken Promises

A small exaggeration.

Let Jim Geraghty count the ways:

1. “As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

2. “I will make sure that we renegotiate [NAFTA].”

3. Opposed a Colombian Free Trade Agreement because advocates ignore that “labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis.”

4. “Now, what I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.”

5. “If we see money being misspent, we’re going to put a stop to it, and we will call it out and we will publicize it.”

6. “Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”

7. “I want to go line by line through every item in the Federal budget and eliminate programs that don’t work, and make sure that those that do work work better and cheaper.”

8. “[My plan] will not help speculators who took risky bets on a rising market and bought homes not to live in but to sell.”

9. “Instead of allowing lobbyists to slip big corporate tax breaks into bills during the dead of night, we will make sure every single tax break and earmark is available to every American online.”

10. “We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress’s seniority, rather than the merit of the project.”

11. “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.”

12. “Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe the United States has to be frank with the Chinese about such failings and will press them to respect human rights.”

13. “We must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.”

14. “Lobbyists won’t work in my White House!”

15. “The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result.”

16. “I’ll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we’ll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills.”

These are only the 16 that I was able to find in my archives over the past 100 days, and I’m sure readers will recall more. But it is important that we remember that this is only the beginning. There is a long road ahead, and many more promises left to break.

UPDATE: And the readers come through!

17. “Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.” Obama is 1-for-11 on this promise so far.

I’m sure there are more out there, but at a clip of better than one a week he’s set himself a fast pace. He may have to resort to the truth out of sheer exhaustion.

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Will Obama Apologize for This?

Boy, are we stupid. Solid gold, platinum coated idiots. Bona fide morons of the highest order.

While we argue whether two or three terrorist scumbags (with the blood of thousands on their hands) were gavaged or not, another country is engaging in this sort of behavior—and much, much worse:

An official in the Ahwaz human rights organization stated that Hizbullah operatives had kidnapped an Ahwazi refugee named Ali Halali Majd together with his wife and three children, in Beirut, and had transferred the family to Damascus, from where all four were handed over to Iranian authorities.

The official said that Hizbullah had help from members of the Iranian diplomatic representation in Lebanon, and added that this was not the first time that Syria had handed Ahwaz refugees over to Iran.

I don’t know why this strikes me as sadder than imprisoning an American journalist (Roxana Saberi), hanging homosexuals, stoning women, and all the other abuses of inalienable civil liberties and human rights for which Iran is so justifiably notorious.

But if this story is true, someone who had escaped the verifiably evil clutches of the Islamic Republic, who presumably still worked for the benefit of his countrymen trapped in that nation/prison, was seized—along with his family—and sent back to face a fate that only depresses us to think about.

And depression is just anger turned inward. I want to go waterboard somebody right now. Here, puppy!

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Another Convert to the Cause!

Republicans may have lost Arlen Specter (give me Phil Specter any day), but they’ve gained Thomas Friedman:

One more 9/11 would close our open society another notch. One more 9/11 and you’ll be taking off more than your shoes at the airport. We have the luxury of having this torture debate now because there was no second 9/11, and it was not for want of trying. Had there been, a vast majority of Americans would have told the government (and still will): “Do whatever it takes.”

[N]ever forget who they are. They are not white-collar criminals. They do not care whether we torture or not — bin Laden declared war on us when Bill Clinton was president.

I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — particularly in Iraq. Al Qaeda knows that if it can destroy the U.S. effort (still a long shot) to build a decent, modernizing society in Iraq, it will undermine every U.S. ally in the region.

Conversely, if we, with Iraqis, defeat them by building any kind of decent, pluralistic society in the heart of their world, it will be a devastating blow.

So to recap: the Bush team kept us safe from an implacable foe by using interrogation methods which the American public approved of and by fighting (often against the admonitions of Friedman and his colleagues) and largely prevailing in Iraq. The latter effort may deal a death blow to Al Qaeda which one supposes made it a very worthwhile endeavor.

Jennifer Rubin, from Commentary. I would add that the interrogation methods were also tacitly approved of by Congress, as Speaker Peolosi’s bootless protestations have reminded us.

I don’t know if I’ll live to see it, but if history is just, President Bush will be remembered as a president with a mixed record (at best), who got the most important thing exactly right.

Yesterday, while out with the Bloodthirsty Puppy, I heard Jeffrey Toobin on Imus declare flatly that waterboarding was torture, followed perhaps an hour later by Brit Hume on Laura Ingraham, who declared just as adamantly that it was not. Both were expressing opinions, which is their jobs, but I wish both had acknowledged that. Something that causes no physical harm, that scares the hell out of you, but leaves not a mark, may or may not be torture—obviously people disagree—but the next obvious question is: so what?

It worked. And it didn’t take the absurdly large number of 183 sessions, as implied throughout the media, but five to ten. The next question we should answer, as put to us by Dennis Prager yesterday, is where do we draw the line? If you oppose waterboarding, how do you answer the fact that it revealed intelligence directly related to a terrorist plot? And if you support keeping it—like abortion, as someone put it, safe, legal, and rare—what are the safeguards? And what else do we support? Drills, pokers, plungers?

But it’s nice to see Friedman on board with pro-war, pro-torture crowd. We can use all the villainous low-lifes we can get.

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Cat Got Their Tongue?

No, that’s not some new form of torture dreamed up by Dick Cheney.

I don’t know why the Obama administration is suddenly mute on this extraordinary piece of good news from Iraq. Perhaps the president worries that he’ll be accused of grandstanding, or taking credit for something that he opposed repeatedly and adamantly (which he inherited!). I wouldn’t sweat it, Mr. President: the media have your back—and front, and sides, and top, and most definitely bottom.

Iraq says it has confirmed that a man it captured last week is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, believed to be the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda-linked group.

Baghdadi is said to be the head of the ISI, close to al Qaeda’s main organisation in Iraq, which is led by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

If he is the ISI leader, his arrest is a blow to the organisation and al Qaeda, both of which are already on the run after losing strongholds in Baghdad and western Iraq in 2007.

“Leadership is important and al Qaeda in Iraq is not in the strongest position,” said David Claridge, managing director of Janusian Security Risk Management.

“It’s finding it more difficult to attract foreign fighters and more difficult to operate. Losing a leader at this time is probably not ideal,” he said.

Maybe Obama isn’t claiming credit because the Iraqis captured this dirtbag all by themselves. You’d think he would embrace such a development, seeing that it follows his plans for that country to a T, but you can’t underestimate the value of publicity to this administration. He announced his intention to remove all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011—to much fanfare—when those were the terms of an agreement signed by Presidents Bush and Maliki well before His Oneness took office.

Iraqis defending Iraq from foreign terrorists is big news—to Iraqis. To an American president obsessed with his image and his first temporal landmark, not so much.

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Befuddled Liberal Explains Iran

One of the most naive and disturbing videos I’ve watched, perhaps ever

Go to the link. Watch the older guy (from my generation, I am so ashamed to say) explain to the bright young woman that Iran’s nuclear project is not directed at creating a bomb. Seriously. The young woman is appalled, but can hardly get a word in edgewise.

I bring this to you because we all need to remind ourselves what we’re up against. It isn’t necessarily malevolence; it is childlike stupidity, a born yesterday wonder in the world.

Can we destroy Israel with this silliness?

Yes, We Can.

- Aggie

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As Cuba Goes, So Goes Syria

I may be repeating myself here, but why do we diss our old friends—pawing Queen Elizabeth like she’s Mick Jagger, and presenting Gordon Brown with an incomplete set of season two of Two and a Half Men—while courting the world’s sleaziest dictators and cruelest despots?

Of course consider the source:

Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that the United States and Syria are close to restoring full diplomatic ties, but he doubted Cuba’s new openness means its leaders are ready to grant free speech or change their political system.

“I don’t have much doubt that the present tentative plan of our government and the Syrian government is to re-establish diplomatic relations when it’s propitious to do so,” he told The Associated Press.

“I don’t see any impediment to it. It will be an orderly process,” Carter said in a telephone interview from Quito, Ecuador, at the start of a four-nation South American trip. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens this year.”

carter
Ruthless anti-Semite, sworn enemy of Israel,
and ignorer of basic human rights
meets President of Syria

Maybe Carter doesn’t know what he’s talking about (maybe?), and I don’t get why he’s opining on Syria from Ecuador—but when he says “I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens this year,” I have to agree. I wouldn’t be surprised either.

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The $40,000,000,000-a-Day Presidency

Check my math: doesn’t four trillion divided by 100 equal 40 billion?

I’m still for counting days in such a way to celebrate President Obama’s 100th Day on May Day—but not for the first time am I alone on an island.

Let us pause in our partisan sniping and celebrate the remarkable and historic achievements in the first (and hopefully last) 100 days of this administration. Something tells me we’ll be studying this period for a long time in our history books—either by royal decree, or to figure out how 233 years of liberty went down the toilet so quickly:

Barack Obama is the frivolous man who concocted his own presidential-looking Great Seal before he was elected. An ego big enough to publicly display a ridiculous “Vero Possumus” (“Yes, we can” in Latin) motto and a regal eagle with the Obama campaign logo emblazoned on its chest is an ego capable of far more reckless things. Obama orchestrated a grand photo-op in Berlin, Germany, to declare his world citizenship at the Siegessäule Victory Column – a soaring monument of arrogance championed by Adolph Hitler and Third Reich architect Albert Speer. He manufactured his own Open Temple of The One in Denver for the Democratic National Convention last summer, replete with fake Greek columns.

Since taking office, President Obama has remained in perpetual campaign mode, idling in 9/10 gear. The photo album has filled up quickly with megalomaniacal moments. When his massive, pork-filled stimulus package was in trouble, he ran to Ft. Myers, Florida, for a carefully choreographed revival meeting with his most ardent supporters. “It is such a blessing to see you. Oh! Gracious God, thank you so much!” one young booster exclaimed.

Exactly. The kamikaze swoop over Ground Zero was just the Brandenburg Gate he never had.

But if it were all glitz and meringue, we’d be a lot better off. It’s the substance of this administration we have to fear, not fear itself.

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Why Did Specter Switch? I’m Confused.

On the one hand, he throws under the bus the party with which he’s identified for all his political life:

“As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party,” Specter said.

Okay, I’ll buy that. That’s why I’m no longer a Democrat (substitute left for right).

But then he said this:

“In the course of the last several months … I have traveled the state and surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls, observed other public opinion polls and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak.”

I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate — not prepared to have that record decided by that jury, the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.

So it’s not just the “party”, however that is defined, he hates. It is people who happen to vote in Republican primaries. Are Pennsylvanian Republicans really so repugnant, so hateful? I’m willing to consider it—he knows them better than I—but I wonder how that “jury” feels about what he said.

Especially when he said something like this not that long ago:

Mr. President, I have sought recognition this morning to comment on Senator Jeffords ‘ announcement that he will vote with the Democrats on organization of the Senate. I have delayed in expressing these thoughts to further reflect upon them and perhaps avoid saying something that I would later regret.

I intend to propose a rule change which would preclude a future recurrence of a Senator’s change in parties, in midsession, organizing with the opposition, to cause the upheaval which is now resulting.

I take second place to no one on independence voting. But, it is my view that the organizational vote belongs to the party which supported the election of a particular Senator. I believe that is the expectation.

That was then, I guess. This is now. Who can be surprised by anything this man of principle says or does?

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Palestinian Justice System

Sentenced to hanging for selling land to an Israeli

As you can see, the Palestinians are very much into modern democracy and freedom.

Palestinian gets death sentence for selling land to Israel

A Palestinian military court has sentenced a man to death by hanging for selling land to an Israeli company.

Land sales are considered treason by the Palestinians because of their long-running dispute with the Israelis, however the sentence is unlikely to be implemented.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas routinely withholds the required approval for executions. Several others are on death row as suspected informants for Israel.

The sentence was handed down Tuesday in a military court in the West Bank city of Hebron after two days of closed-door hearings.

Prosecutor Issa Amer said the defendant sold land that didn’t belong to him in the village of Beit Ummar using forged documents.

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They Came to Guantanamo for the Waters

Sister Toldjah cites a Fox News report (which in turn cites a Red Cross report) that states we didn’t waterboard Khalid Buddy Hackett 183 times, not even close. I know some of you may be disappointed to learn that, but have you no shame? Anything above 150—175 tops—is egregious, superfluous.

The New York Times reported last week that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, was waterboarded 183 times in one month by CIA interrogators. The “183 times” was widely circulated by news outlets throughout the world.

It was shocking. And it was highly misleading. The number is a vast inflation, according to information from a U.S. official and the testimony of the terrorists themselves.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the interrogation program told FOX News that the much-cited figure represents the number of times water was poured onto Mohammed’s face — not the number of times the CIA applied the simulated-drowning technique on the terror suspect. According to a 2007 Red Cross report, he was subjected a total of “five sessions of ill-treatment.”

“The water was poured 183 times — there were 183 pours,” the official explained, adding that “each pour was a matter of seconds.”

The Times and dozens of other outlets wrote that the CIA also waterboarded senior Al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah 83 times, but Zubayda himself, a close associate of Usama bin Laden, told the Red Cross he was waterboarded no more than 10 times.

Did Fox do an in-depth investigative report? Did they send undercover reporters to pose as Taliban terrorists? Nonsense. They merely went to the record, something the paper of record—ha!—couldn’t be bothered to do. Maybe you don’t like waterboarding at all. But it was used rarely, and it was effective. But there’s no doubt which number will stick in the public’s imagination, thanks to ceaseless repetition in the media.

If it chokes, it provokes.

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