Sunday, January 3, 2010

Political Digest January 3, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

CIA base attacked in Afghanistan supported airstrikes against al-Qaeda, Taliban
Excerpt: The CIA base attacked by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week was at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by the agency's remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, officials familiar with the installation said Thursday. The assailant, wearing an explosives belt under his clothes, apparently was allowed to enter the small base after offering to become an informant, according to two former agency officials briefed on the attack. The CIA declined to comment on the circumstances behind the incident, and it was unclear whether the bomber chose the base because of its role in supporting CIA airstrikes against top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the region. (You search them someplace other than inside your base/target. Then you lose fewer personnel and equipment. Duh.)

White House advisor briefed on 'underwear bomb' in October
Excerpt: White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was briefed in October on an assassination attempt by Al Qaeda that investigators now believe used the same underwear bombing technique as the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, U.S. intelligence and administration officials tell NEWSWEEK. The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. In late August, Nayef had survived an assassination attempt by an operative dispatched by the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda who was pretending to turn himself in. The operative had tried to kill the Saudi prince by detonating a bomb on his body, but stumbled on his way into the prince's palace and blew himself up. (Good thing BO declared the War on Terror over, or someone could get hurt!)

Obama's problems with the intelligence community
Excerpt: The Newsweek story covered by Clarice Feldman this morning regarding the briefing Obama received three days before the attack about possible Christmas terror plots seemed a little strange. After all, it was based on a conversation with a "high administration official" which usually means someone with regular access to the president. The question is why would anyone close to the president leak the story that he had been briefed just days prior to the attack that something might happen? Buried in that Newsweek story was this: “Presidential aides are concerned that Obama will somehow be unfairly accused of dropping the ball on the fight against terrorist in Yemen.” It seems pretty clear that the president wants to shift any blame for this debacle to the intelligence agencies. Not surprisingly, this isn't sitting well with them.

Al-Qaeda: Al-Zawahiri calls to “disinfect the Maghreb of Spanish and French nationals“
Excerpt: This time the message comes from Al-Zawahiri, AQ’s No.2. In a video, he addresses the members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, those who have kidnapped three Spanish volunteers (and another French national). Al-Zawahiri assures that they will never be able to reconquest Al-Andalus without cleaning, “disinfecting” he says literally, the Maghreb of the “Infidels”, those who for Bin Laden’s No.2 are represented by Spanish and French nationals in the area.

Somali shot after allegedly attempting to attack Danish cartoonist
See, the cartoonists depicted Muslims as being violent…so they have to die! Guess we’ll have to do away with that free speech stuff so they’ll love us. Excerpt: Westergaard's caricature of Mohammed -- which depicted the prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse -- sparked an uproar among Muslims in early 2006 after newspapers reprinted the images months later as a matter of free speech. The cartoon was first published by the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

Police: Suicide bombing kills 75 in NW Pakistan
Didn’t get the Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace memo. Excerpt: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle in a crowd of people watching a volleyball tournament Friday in northwest Pakistan, killing 75 people in the deadliest attack in the country in more than two months. The attack in Lakki Marwat city appeared to be retaliation against residents who formed militias to drive militants out of the area and a meeting of anti-Taliban leaders being held nearby may have been the actual target, police said.

Merry Christmas, al-Qaida Style,_al-qaida_style
Excerpt: Now, the al-Qaida agents of slaughter are smuggling explosives in their underwear instead of trying to hijack the entire plane. Instead of being handed over to the military, this Umar nitwit will be tried in civilian court so the world can understand that the U.S. justice system really, really works. Like the world cares. Apparently, Abdulmutallab was trained in Yemen -- the same Yemen that on Dec. 20 accepted six Guantanamo Bay detainees. That's another puzzling deal. In the fall of 2007, the United States sent two other Gitmo terrorists to Saudi Arabia for "rehabilitation." Now one of those guys, Said Ali Shari, is reportedly a top al-Qaida commander in -- wait for it -- Yemen! As the Church Lady once said, "How convenient!""

Clueless. It’s the word that best describes the Obama administration’s first year in office. They’ve proven themselves clueless about creating jobs; clueless about handling growing nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea; and now, most devastatingly, clueless about protecting Americans from terrorist attacks on our own soil. And with nearly one year under the belts, they can’t keep blaming the Bush administration for everything that goes awry.

Harry's dream come true
Excerpt: "If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime," President Obama told Congress on February 24. "I repeat: Not a single dime." This remains technically true. For families earning less than $250,000, taxes would rise between 2010 and 2019 by much more than a single dime. According to Americans for Tax Reform, seven of Mr. Reid's tax hikes violate Mr. Obama's pledge and collectively cost $81.8 billion. These include:

Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional
Excerpt: President Obama's health-care bill is now moving toward final passage. The policy issues may be coming to an end, but the legal issues are certain to continue because key provisions of this dangerous legislation are unconstitutional. Legally speaking, this legislation creates a target-rich environment. We will focus on three of its more glaring constitutional defects.

Senate health-care bill would still leave millions uninsured
Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Mayo Clinic in Arizona to Stop Treating Some Medicare Patients
Since cost shifting doesn’t reduce costs, it’s going to get worse. Excerpt: The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health-insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman. The decision, which Yardley called a two-year pilot project, won’t affect other Mayo facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

Rush appears to be okay
Disappointing for leftwing bloggers hoping for his demise.

Best airport security in the world
But they profile. Better your children should die than that we be non-PC.

What Israel can teach us about security
Excerpt: While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification. That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience. "It is mind boggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

Afghanistan war strategy faces mounting challenges in year ahead
Excerpt: It also won't be known until a Jan. 28 meeting in London exactly how many troops other NATO countries will contribute to the effort from an earlier pledge of 7,000 troops. "One of the questions is how much are the European allies going to put up," Robert Hunter, who served as President Bill Clinton's ambassador to NATO, told The Hill. The war in Afghanistan also will now compete for attention with Yemen, where al-Qaeda hatched the plot to bomb a Christmas Day Northwest Airlines flight headed for Detroit from Amsterdam. "We can see the more we learn about the Christmas bombing attempt we could have another conflict on our hands in Yemen, and likewise in Somalia," John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, told The Hill.

The Mainstream Media Wakes Up?
Excerpt: Home values have appreciated at rates that dramatically exceed individual's growth in salaries. Of course home value expansion significantly beyond the rate of inflation must eventually cause people to be unable to afford houses. The "why" on this isn't particularly difficult to figure out, but for those who were educated in Government Schools, let me lay it out for you.

The States and the Stimulus
Excerpt: Remember how $200 billion in federal stimulus cash was supposed to save the states from fiscal calamity? Well, hold on to your paychecks, because a big story of 2010 will be how all that free money has set the states up for an even bigger mess this year and into the future. The combined deficits of the states for 2010 and 2011 could hit $260 billion, according to a survey by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ten states have a deficit, relative to the size of their expenditures, as bleak as that of near-bankrupt California. The Golden State starts the year another $6 billion in arrears despite a large income and sales tax hike last year. New York is literally down to its last dollar. Revenues are down, to be sure, but in several ways the stimulus has also made things worse. First, in most state capitals the stimulus enticed state lawmakers to spend on new programs rather than adjusting to lean times. They added health and welfare benefits and child care programs. Now they have to pay for those additions with their own state's money. For example, the stimulus offered $80 billion for Medicaid to cover health-care costs for unemployed workers and single workers without kids. But in 2011 most of that extra federal Medicaid money vanishes. Then states will have one million more people on Medicaid with no money to pay for it.

New Media leader exposes myth of Obama's 'bottom-up' Internet-driven 2008 campaign UPDATED: More storm clouds gathering on the Left
Excerpt: Remember how the Mainstream Media endlessly told us in 2008 that the Obama campaign was blazing new trails by raising millions of dollars of campaign donations and creating the first-ever bottom-up, people-driven Internet-focused presidential campaign apparatus? Sifry's post is a must-read for those across the political spectrum who seek to understand why the truth about the Obama campaign in 2008 was almost exactly the opposite of that mythic rendition at the heart of the conventional Mainstream Media wisdom. Sifrty's post also makes clear why many of the Obama administration's major political and personnel decisions events of 2009 make little sense apart from that truth. Sifry summarizes the difference between the truth and the myth at the outset of his post, noting "the truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied.

The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality
This guy is reportedly a leftie. Excerpt: In terms of the early money that was raised by his campaign in 2007--and this is the most influential money in politics--more than one-third (36%) of his total came from the financial sector (compared to 28% for Hillary Clinton), reported campaign finance expert Thomas Ferguson. Between January and August 2007, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, 60% of Obama's donations were in amounts of $1000 or more--a smaller proportion than Clinton, but still a majority of his crucial early funding. In terms of Obama's overall funding, nearly half of his donations came from people giving $1000 or more….. I've always thought that the idea of Obama as grassroots champion was more myth than reality, especially after reporting on how his campaign treated one genuine grassroots activist, Joe Anthony, who had spent more than two years of his life nurturing a page on MySpace dedicated to Obama, well before there was any campaign, only to have it stripped out of his control when it became a valuable campaign asset. But I also thought this was a useful myth because it generated rising expectations both here and abroad, not only in what Obama might do if elected president, but also in what anyone might do today using their greatly enhanced powers to communicate and collaborate around common causes. (In case you haven't noticed by now, I tend to be pretty skeptical of all politicians, and far more interested in small-d democratic self-empowerment as the best path to a better society.) The problem for Obama and the Democrats today, as they head into 2010, is that much of their activist base appears to have swallowed too much of the wrong half of the myth: they thought that Obama would be more of a change-agent, and never really embraced their own role.

Scott Brown files ethics complaint in Senate race
Excerpt: Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission after a report that a union backing rival Martha Coakley used state resources to urge workers to volunteer for Coakley's campaign. The report by FOX25 said the Service Employees International Union used state computers and e-mail addresses to direct state employees to volunteer for Coakley, the Democratic state attorney general. (You can’t do that? Boy, things must have changed since I left Massachusetts politics!)

Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you. – Paul Wilkinson

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