Sunday, February 21, 2010

Political Digest February 21, 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.

Longtime Dem Consultant Torpedoed by Union Thugs
My take is Caddell has been moving more conservative and often anti-Democrat in recent years. Excerpt: In Democrat political consulting circles Pat Caddell is a big name. One-time adviser to President Jimmy Carter and longtime political strategist for the left, Caddell isn’t someone you throw off a campaign easily. But the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) doesn’t care about past success. It only cares about its power. After being thrown off the campaign of Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff’s campaign for Senate, Caddell spoke to the folks at The Daily Caller and said he’d been axed by the “thugs” at the SEIU. “What I said about Andy Stern and the SEIU? Sure, they’re thugs,” said Caddell, a former adviser to President Jimmy Carter, who until Monday* had an informal advising role with the primary challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. “The unions have been considering endorsing Romanoff, and basically they told him that if I was involved with the campaign, ‘sayonara,’ which I think is the definition of thuggery isn’t it?” said Caddell, who has worked for a who’s who of Democratic politicians over the last few decades, including Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, Mario Cuomo and Gary Hart.

Supreme Court Justice Barack Obama?
Liberal press looks for job for favorite lame duck, despite no experience on the bench and a poor understanding of the constitution. Excerpt: He's too detached and cerebral . Too deferential to Congress. Too willing to compromise. And he's too much of a law professor and not enough of a commander in chief, as Sarah Palin recently admonished. These are some of the qualities for which the president, rightly or wrongly, is criticized. They are also the qualities that make him well suited for another steady job on the federal payroll: Barack Obama, Supreme Court justice. Think about it. Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal. Obama is clearly eager to take on the four truly conservative justices -- Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- as his State of the Union smackdown suggests. But as president, he's constrained by that pesky separation of powers. So what better way to engage the fight than to join the bench? It would be unusual, but not difficult, for Obama to get himself on the Supreme Court. He could nominate himself to replace John Paul Stevens, for example, or he could gamble and promise Hillary Rodham Clinton that he won't run for reelection in 2012 in exchange for a pledge of appointment to the next vacancy. And although as president, Obama has seemed haunted by the example of his political hero, Abraham Lincoln, on the Supreme Court he could take up the mantle of the greatest liberal justice of the 20th century, Louis Brandeis, another community organizer with a background in politics. In the end, Obama's legacy on the court might surpass his legacy in the White House.

Low expectations on health summit could be a blessing for Obama
Excerpt: Few expect Thursday's health summit to generate significant momentum on healthcare reform. But that could be a blessing in disguise for President Barack Obama. Obama needs to deliver some type of game-changer if he has any hopes of reviving the cornerstone of his domestic agenda. And there is little doubt that Obama is the underdog in his effort to overhaul the nation's health system.

Senate GOP: Dems lack votes to use partisan tactic on health reform
Excerpt: Senate Republicans are claiming Democrats lack the votes to pass healthcare reform through reconciliation rules, but their math appears a bit fuzzy. Senate Republicans on Friday distributed a press release titled “18 Democrats Oppose Health Care Reconciliation” with a breakdown of each senator’s statements on the issue.

West is a congressional candidate I’ve contributed to. Dems who disagree with him are racists doing so because he’s a black guy—I can channel Jimmy Carter too!

The Downfall of Human Rights
You don’t slag the lad holding the purse strings. Excerpt: Touring Asia in November, Barack Obama hit all the usual presidential themes, including free trade, investment, and strategic alliances, except for one: human rights. During a scripted press conference in Beijing, Obama barely mentioned it. In Shanghai he offered only mild criticism of China's Internet blocks, saying he was a "big supporter of noncensorship." Obama's nonstatements amount to a clear break from nearly three decades of U.S. policy. From its engagement with the brutal Burmese junta to its decision to avoid the Dalai Lama when he first visited Washington during Obama's tenure to its silence over the initial outbreak of protests in Iran, Obama's administration has taken a much quieter approach to rights advocacy than his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. "Conceding to China upfront doesn't buy you better cooperation further down the track," says Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. Obama's waffling was hardly unique. Across Europe, Asia, and Latin America, many democracies have abandoned global human-rights advocacy, trotting it out only for occasional speeches or events like International Human Rights Day. With the prominent exception of Canada, the developed world has fallen mum. Earlier this year European nations handed the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, one of the major organizations tasked with promoting human rights in Eurasia, to Kazakhstan, a country accused by human-rights groups of arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture. In Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised a new dialogue with North Korea, rather than pressuring Pyongyang to first release alleged Japanese abductees. In contrast to predecessors such as Junichiro Koizumi, Hatoyama prefers a soft approach to China as well, calling for far closer ties while all but ignoring the growing climate of repression under the government of Hu Jintao. The Australian government, once known for stinging critiques of China, Burma, and other autocratic regimes, now collaborates with Indonesia and other neighbors to prevent refugees from Sri Lanka and elsewhere from entering the country, instead detaining the migrants in a Guantánamo-like camp on remote Christmas Island. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has refrained from criticizing China, even for the arrest of an Australian mining executive on what many observers see as a trumped-up spying charge. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has failed to deliver on his campaign promise to champion human rights and end the country's old ties to African dictators. Instead of the "new relationship" with Africa that Sarkozy promised, his government has backed the new ruler of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, despite widespread claims of fraud in his election, and offered a state welcome to Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the general who launched a coup in Mauritania. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the cofounder of Médecins Sans Frontières, a unique kind of human-rights organization, admitted in an interview, "There is a permanent contradiction between human rights and the foreign policy of a state."

Iran secretly working on developing a nuclear payload for its missiles: IAEA
Excerpt: Thank God Mohammed ElBaradei is no longer head of the IAEA. The guy was famous for using weasel words and outright underplaying Iran's nuclear progress and ambitions. Thankfully, the new head of the International Atomic Energy Administration is made of sterner stuff. Yukia Amano has completed his first report on Iran and comes to a frightening conclusion. (Comment from a Marine buddy I’ve known since 1964: Just in time to ruin your day. Just within the last two weeks, they put a satellite in orbit. Left unmentioned by any news organization I saw was that once in orbit--yes, even low earth orbit--re-entry can be ANYWHERE. That's the advantage of going to orbit. If they can orbit a warhead, even of large conventional power, there IS no safe place to hide from it. The only "good" news--and it is only very slightly good--is they probably lack accurate guidance to hit pinpoint targets. Say for example, aiming at Washington and hitting Baltimore would be pretty good shooting, but only from the perspective of those in Washington. I suspect those in Baltimore might have a different opinion. They will solve this problem the same way we and the Soviets did back in the 50s and 60s: they'll use much larger yield warheads than we now use. That way, a "near miss" IS a hit.--Ron P.)

Keeping you safe
Excerpt: In Iran, the self-declared nuclear regime announced that it was now enriching uranium to 20 percent. When President Obama took office, the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5 percent. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20 percent. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, now cautiously concedes that Iran’s nuclear ambitions may have a military purpose. Which is odd, because the lavishly funded geniuses behind America’s National Intelligence Estimate told us only two years ago that Tehran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Is that estimate no longer operative? And, if so, could we taxpayers get a refund? This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations micro-regulate every aspect of your life in the interests of “keeping you safe.” If you’re minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than four miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It’s for your own good. If you’re a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take preemptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona. On the other hand, when it comes to “keeping you safe” from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren’t going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don’t want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing — which, as Greg Sheridan of the Australian puts it, “would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration.” Indeed. Nonetheless, Washington is (all together now) “losing patience” with the mullahs. The New York Daily News reports the latest get-tough move: “Secretary of State Clinton dared Iran on Monday to let her hold a town-hall meeting in Tehran.”

Authors of waterboarding memos won't be disciplined
Yoo’s book on the subject is pretty interesting. Excerpt: Bush administration lawyers who wrote memos that paved the way for waterboarding of terrorism suspects and other harsh interrogation tactics "exercised poor judgment" but will not face discipline for their actions, according to long-awaited Justice Department documents released Friday. The decision represents the end of a five-year internal battle and flatly rejects recommendations by the department's ethics investigators. They had twice urged that allegations against John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee be sent to state disciplinary authorities for further action, including the possible revocation of their licenses to practice law.

In Marja, it's war the old-fashioned way
Excerpt: MARJA, AFGHANISTAN -- They had slogged through knee-deep mud carrying 100 pounds of gear, fingers glued to the triggers of their M-4 carbines, all the while on the lookout for insurgents. Now, after five near-sleepless nights, trying to avoid hypothermia in freezing temperatures, the grunts of the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment finally had a moment to relax.

Pan Am Clipper, December, 1941
Interesting story.

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