State of the Union

Making Political Hay From a Tragedy

The Haitian earthquake is an enormous tragedy made worse by politicians and the media.  I note with dismay that relief supplies are backed up because of the terrible destruction in the port and also at the international airport, which has only one operating runway.  Nevertheless, US pols like Hillary Clinton and the major TV networks have managed to make the trip and have inserted themselves into the relief process.  What exactly will Clinton contribute by being there apart from snarling up relief convoys due to her massive security escort?

I applaud the efforts by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to raise money for relief because they have the sense to be doing it from the US without demanding a photo op in front of the collapsed Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince.  Assuming a couple of airplanes arrived with Hillary, wouldn’t it have been more helpful to have filled the aircraft with food and water instead of Clinton and a gaggle of bureaucrats and reporters?  And do we really need to have Brian Williams and his counterparts from the other networks reporting live?  How many aircraft did NBC require to bring in Williams and their news team?    And likewise CBS, ABC, and Fox.  If I were a Haitian dying for lack of a bottle of water while watching a reporter perform in front of some ruin I would look around for a rock to hurl, no doubt about it.

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Keeping the establishment GOP (and the INC.) out of Tea

Unlike William Upton, I am more encouraged that Tea Partiers are resisting attempts by the flunkies and the hacks of both the GOP establishment and Conservative INC. to try and take it over. There’s no doubt that both wings of the establishment Right are trying or are going to try and co-opt the movement. A good example of this is the list of “allowed” news organizations which will be present at the so-called Tea Party convention next month: The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Breitbart, World Net Daily, Newsmax, all the right establishment news and information outlets.

But it’s my opinion that many Tea Parties know there are shysters out there ready to pull the wool over their eyes. Many I do believe will skip the Nashville conclave because its expense alone proves that Conservative INC. is out to empty their wallets for their steak dinners and speaking fees. They can also keep the current GOP and INC. out of the Tea by supporting independent candidate Joe Kennedy in the upcoming  Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election.

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Another Tea Party Takeover

This from Talking Points Memo:

In August, O’Neal, an attorney and anti-tax activist who had had little involvement with the Tea Party movement, registered the “Tea Party” as a new political party with the Florida Division of Elections. O’Neal has told the press he intended to recruit conservative candidates under the Tea Party banner — an idea that hasn’t sat well with many Tea Party activists, who view any organized political party with distrust.

Now, according to one activist, O’Neal and his business partner “are trying to ‘hijack’ our movement and turn it into the thing we are protesting for their own personal gain.”

More accusations of either profiteers or GOP establishment types trying to co-opt the Tea Party name for their own personal gain. It seems when a movement gets plenty of media coverage, everyone wants their cut. Which brings me to this conclusion.

The Tea Party movement has been severely damaged by the recent amateur attempts at co-opting the name and philosophy. We’ve seen it with Sarah Palin and Judson Phillips and their involvement in Tea Party Nation and that dreadful convention in Nashville, and now we’ve seen the more direct politicized outcome with Fred O’Neal attempting to actually turn the movement and its ideologues into a Third Party force, of course with himself as founder and leader.

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Is a U.S. Default Inevitable?

We were blindsided. We never saw it coming.

So said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein of the financial crisis of 2008. He likened its probability to four hurricanes hitting the East Coast in a single season.

Blankfein was reminded by the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee, Phil Angelides, that hurricanes are “acts of God.” Financial crises are manmade. Yet Blankfein was backed up by Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, who said, “Somehow, we just missed … that home prices don’t go up forever.”

The Wall Street titans thus conceded they did not foresee the housing bubble ever bursting and they did not consider the possibility of a collapse in value of the sub-prime mortgage securities piled up on their books.

Backing up Blankfein’s plea of ignorance and incomprehension is this: The crisis killed Lehman Brothers and would have killed every one of them had not the Treasury and Fed, neither of which saw it coming, either, intervened with hundreds of billions in bailout cash.

Yet there were those who warned a housing bubble was being created like the dot-com bubble; others who predicted the Empire of Debt was coming down. As, today, there are those warning that the United States, with consecutive deficits running 10 percent of gross domestic product, is risking an eventual default on its national debt.

The warnings come from the Committee on the Fiscal Future of the United States, chaired by Rudolph Penner, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, and David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office and author of “Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility.” Read More…

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Harold Ford Jr. An Elitist Not A Statesman

Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast has a great story on The New York Times interview with Harold Ford Jr. and his potential run for U.S. Senate in Tennessee New York. Some gems from the The Daily Beast’s take on the interview:

Turns out Ford was always a New Yorker at heart. New York City, he explained, is one “of really two cities [the other being Palo Alto] in the country where the outlook is always forward-looking.” (Evidently, Memphis—the city where Ford was born and raised and which he represented in Congress—is already being thrown under the bus.)

And:

By this point, one assumes, Ford’s flak is lying dead on the floor, having impaled himself with his BlackBerry. How else to explain what happens next? “Jets or Giants?” asks The Times reporter innocuously. To which Ford begins, “I had breakfast about every morning when I am in town or should I say, several mornings, at the Regency.” (Note to aspiring politicians: When trying to establish one’s local credentials, don’t say you have breakfast in the state “when I am in town.” And when trying to establish one’s populist credentials, don’t say you eat breakfast every morning at an ultra-luxury hotel.) Ford, it turns out, favors the Giants. Because he thinks Mark Sanchez will never be able to read defenses as well as Eli Manning? No, because Giants owner “Steve Tisch is my close personal friend,” while he just met Jets owner Woody Johnson “for the first time.”

Beinart highlights why Ford running in New York, following in Hillary Clinton and many other aspiring politicians footsteps, is an affront to the representative political system the Founders envisioned. Beinart states:

All good for a laugh, except when you realize that the framers of the Constitution worried about exactly this sort of thing. “If residence be not required [for members of Congress],” declared George Mason in 1787, “Rich men of neighbouring States, may…get into the public Councils after having failed in their own State. This is the practice in the boroughs of England.”

This illustrates my opinion on American politics in general, that the system has become overwhelmed by career politicians, essentially no better than snake oil salesmen, who in their decadence, encourage the spread of radical thought, need I point to the tragedy that was the French Revolution. Though I worry about the “kick the bums out” philosophy (the de Maistre in me speaks to this), we must still strive to recognize the flaws in our government that allow even good leaders to become corrupted. America needs statesmen not wealthy aristocrats from a few families constantly shifting positions to maintain power. Pericles, from the standpoint of Thucydides, shows us the dangers of such individuals. With statesmen you get honest debate, intelligent thought, and the best government has to offer (which still is not always that great). With careerists you get unnecessary wars, reckless fiscal policy, and empty promises.

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Tea Partying For Personal Gain

From Post Politics, a Nashville Post blog:

In a post on his personal blog, In Media Res, Kevin Smith, an owner of the web design company HearSAY, writes that Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips took advantage of his volunteer computer experience in the creation of Tea Party Nation’s web architecture and profited from the enterprise.

And:

Smith reports being shocked when Phillips filed to create Tea Party Nation as a for-profit corporation. Disgusted with Phillips’ decision to continue taking donations for the for-profit company, Smith ultimately resigned.

The story continues on about how the American Liberty Alliance, run by self-described “blogavist” Eric Odom, has pulled its sponsorship of the convention, and about how the movement is struggling against the encroachment of corporate interests.

Yesterday I posted about Sarah Palin and her commitment to speak at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville. The mystery surrounding Tea Party Nation is interesting. Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent reported that journalists were being barred from the convention. What was equally interesting to me is why Sarah Palin would commit to speak at such an event, instead of CPAC. I caught some flak over a hypothesis as to why, but that is besides the point. It has yet to be seen how the revelations about the convention will impact Sarah Palin, but the fallout from the collapse of support could be damaging to both Palin and the Tea Party movement.

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More War, More Enemies

As intelligence agencies rush to connect more dots on a page so crowded with dots that they already almost touch, Americans need to focus on the real problem, our foreign policies. We have made ourselves the enemy of over a billion people, nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Aside from President Obama’s Bush-sounding, bombastic speech, there is simply an overload of information: too many names, too many threats from citizens of too many nations. Indeed, overloading our defense systems may be part of al-Qaeda’s strategy.

As many Muslims see it, Washington kills innocent civilians all the time. American hypocrisy enrages them almost more than our bombs, no matter how much we claim that we only aim at bad guys. Our problem is the same as one faced by mighty Hercules in ancient mythology – for every enemy we kill, 10 more spring up in their places, each hating America even more. Hercules’ solution was to stop his killing and leave the country.

Almost all Muslims have been outraged by our foreign policy in Iraq and Gaza. Several years ago, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote of a Palestinian woman and her children screaming for help into a cell phone as Israeli soldiers were breaking down her door to expel her from her home. Friedman reported that the recording was then played over and over again by radio stations in the whole Muslim world. Such recordings and now videos from the attack on Gaza must also be on the Internet and are surely used by al-Qaeda for its training and motivation courses.

Conservatives demanding ethnic profiling of potential terrorists used only to be concerned with Palestinians and other Arabs. Now there are Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Nigerians, Afghans, Yemenis, Saudis, and European converts, all potential suicide bombers. Meanwhile America cuts itself off from more and more Muslims both in terms of their traveling or studying in America and in terms of our losing out on business in the oil-rich nations. In Iraq, little business goes to America, and all the new oil contracts have gone to non-American companies; in Saudi Arabia, most new oil contracts now go to non-American companies; and in Iran, Washington prohibits U.S. business from most trade. In Yemen and Somalia, no American will feel safe for years to come.

[Read the rest]

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Wrong on Reid

GOP operatives are again falling on their noses trying to be more PC than the Democrats. Their war on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for saying in a private that president Obama was well-positioned in 2008 because he is “a light-skinned African American with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one” has turned into something truly tasteless. Although Reid apologized to the President for his “poor choice of words,” there was nothing outrageous in what he said, particularly since it came out in a private conversation. I heard quite a few observations similar to his from my impeccably leftist academic associates during the presidential campaign. Despite his left-leaning position as a senator, lots of Americans, I was told, would vote for candidate Obama because he seemed like a non-threatening black. White voters would feel good about themselves if they had the chance to vote for such a pleasant-sounding black candidate.

I’ve no idea why anyone but a PC exhibitionist who is straining hard to win minority votes could take offense at Reid’s remarks. Black spokesmen such as Al Sharpton and Congressman Charles Rangel, who are known to scream racism at the drop of a pin, seem unfazed by his comments. Both urged Americans to forget about this alleged insult and to pass the health care plan. Admittedly such figures are highly partisan Democrats, but I have to agree with them about the silliness of the GOP’s reaction to Reid’s comments, which were made to personal friends. Read More…

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Who Wants to See Sarah Palin?!

A few weeks ago, Sarah Palin declined her invitation to speak at CPAC. Many saw the former governor and former vice-presidential candidate’s snub of CPAC as a knee-jerk response to the co-sponsorship of the event by the John Birch Society, though this was never directly stated. Then in what came as another shock, Palin accepted an offer from a relatively unknown Tea Party group, Tea Party Nation, to speak at their swanky national convention being held in early February in Nashville, Tennessee. For $349.00 plus nearly a $10.00 processing fee, you too can drive, fly, walk, cycle, or boat to Nashville, Tennessee, find a hotel room, eat to your heart’s content, as long as you also pay for that too! So not only do Tea Partiers have to throw down a ludicrous sum of money (in tight economic times I might add) to see the popular politician speak, they also will be doing their part of spending every last dime they have to stimulate the economy of Nashville (I bet President Obama wished he thought of this one earlier…). And, according to the paypal.com link off the conventions site, the convention is sold out.

I have been unable to find any official estimates of the number of attendees for the convention, but according to the Gaylord-Opryland Hotel’s (this is the location of the event in Nashville) website, they have some serious conference space. Just doing some general number crunching, and just averaging the cost of the basic ticket level plus the even more expensive banquet level, if 3,000 people attend the convention, the people behind the convention would rake in over 1.3 million dollars, minus what they had to pay the hotel and event support. Now if the number of attendees is even more, and we’re talking around 5,000 or 6,000 then the money really starts coming in, between 2.25 and 2.7 million dollars.

And, strangely enough, I’m not the only crazy one who thinks this all smells fishy. Even GOP cheerleaders, who normally dump praise on the Tea Partiers, like Erick Erickson, have had reservations about this event.

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Why They Are At War With Us

“We are at war. We are at war against al-Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people and that is plotting to strike us again.”

Thus did Barack Obama clear the air as to whether we are at war, and with whom and why.

Following his remarks, during a White House briefing by National Security Council aide John Brennan, Helen Thomas asked a follow-up question to which we almost never hear an answer:

Why is al-Qaeda at war with us? What is its motivation?

It was Osama bin Laden himself, in his declaration of war in 1998, published in London, who gave al-Qaida’s reasons for war:

First, the U.S. military presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Second, U.S. sanctions causing terrible suffering among the Iraqi people. Third, U.S. support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians. “All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his Messenger and Muslims,” said Osama.

He began his fatwa quoting the Koran: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.”

To Osama, we started the war. Muslims, the ulema, must fight because America, with her “brutal crusade occupation of the (Arabian) Peninsula” and support for “the Jews’ petty state” and “occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there” was waging war upon the Islamic world.

Terrorism, the direct killing of civilians for political ends, is al-Qaeda’s unconventional tactic, but its war aims are quite conventional. Read More…

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