Saturday, September 28, 2013

Obama Takes Body-Blows From the Press

Finally.  And, no, this isn’t from the Wall Street Journal regarding Obamacare.  It is about his war-mongering ways – a subject not touched by the left, and applauded by the right.

This, from Seymour Hersh:

The Obama administration lies systematically, [Hersh] claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

[Hersh] has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

"Do you think Obama's been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What's going on [with journalists]?" he asks.

On the “death” of Osama bin Laden:

"Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

Seymour Hersh is no light-weight, kooky blogger:

Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a "five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award."

He first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison gained much attention.

Hersh beats up on mainstream journalists:

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would"… 

Yet, on a couple of points, he seems to leave a little bit hidden:

He says in some ways President George Bush's administration was easier to write about. "The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era," he said.

At least in this report of the interview, he does not say why this is so. 

"I'll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can't control," he says.

What he is describing is the internet.  What he is offering is the only hope for mainstream news sources to remain solvent, and if they want to regain relevance.

"I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let's start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won't like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that's what we're supposed to be doing," he says.

This is what Lew Rockwell and Robert Wenzel, among many others, do – get people mad at them by advancing the non-mainstream narrative.

"The republic's in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple."

As Lew Rockwell often says (paraphrasing), it is safe to assume that whatever they tell you is a lie.

And he implores journalists to do something about it.

Yes, if they want to survive economically.  Otherwise, good riddance.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Further Evidence of US Isolation

I will pick up where I previously left off regarding the “wants” of the US government in the UN Security Council regarding Syria, and the increasing isolation of the US on the world stage:

There needs to be consequences for noncompliance,” [Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser] told reporters on a conference call. “We would want to see the strongest enforcement possible.”

Well, it looks like that didn’t go well:

According to a Western diplomat, the draft resolution imposes a set of binding legal obligations on Syria that includes, in the event of noncompliance, Security Council ability to seek sanctions under a separate Security Council resolution.

The language in the draft text authorizes the director general of the OPCW and the U.N. Secretary General to report noncompliance to the Security Council as it happens, after which the Security Council can decide to impose measures, the Western diplomat said.

The resolution would not authorize automatic use of force if Syria is said to be in violation, as was previously sought by the United States, said the source. (emphasis added)

Nothing automatic.  No “bombs away” resolution.

So much for Syria.  What about Iran?

"We hope to be able to make progress towards resolving this issue in a timely fashion based on respecting the rights of the Iranian people to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, including enrichment. And, at the same time, making sure that there is no concern at the international level that Iran's nuclear program is anything but peaceful," Zarif told reporters after the meeting.

This is more or less what Iran has said every time the west has bullied them about the Iranian nuclear program.

"I think all of us were pleased that Foreign Minister Zarif came and made a presentation to us, which was very different in tone and very different in the vision that he held out with respect to the possibilities of the future," Kerry said.

Different in tone?  How would Kerry know?  The words certainly aren’t much different.  Tone?  You only know tone based on a voice.  The US hasn’t sat down with an Iranian leader in over 30 years.

If there is any difference in tone, might it not be from the bully that recently received a punch in the nose?  More than once?

Now for some words worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize:

[Rouhani] called on Thursday for an end to nuclear weapons, saying such disarmament "remains our highest priority."

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use, threat of use and proliferation persist," Rouhani told the U.N. General Assembly on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. "The only absolute guarantee is their total elimination."

This is a most moral sentiment, and the only ethical option.  It is an ethic well-grounded in Judeo-Christian principles.  Judeo-Christians in the west should perhaps take note.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Voice of Reason From Russia

At the height of the united states government’s bombastic and murderous threats toward Syria, Putin stepped in and provided a voice of reason – bringing a peaceful alternative to what seems to be the only tool available to the leader of the free world – bombs.

Another voice of reason from Russia spoke out at the same time – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who wrote a letter directly to president Obama:

The tragic events in Syria have raised anxiety and caused pain in the Russian Orthodox Church. We receive information about the situation there not from the news reports but from living evidence coming to us from religious figures, ordinary believers and our compatriots living in that country.

As opposed to relying on the white-house-talking-points-parroted-by-the-western-media, it appears the Patriarch has actual reports from individuals directly affected by the situation in Syria.

Syria today has become an arena of the armed conflict. Engaged in it are foreign mercenaries and militants linked with international terrorist centres.

WHAT?!?!?  These aren’t local freedom fighters?

We were deeply alarmed to learn about the plans of the US army to strike the territory of Syria.

As was much of the world outside of the dc beltway…thankfully…thus putting a halt (for the first time I can recall) to the bombs-away desires of the one-size-fits-all war machine in washington.

An external military intervention may result in the radical forces coming to power in Syria who will not be able and will not wish to ensure inter-confessional accord in the Syrian society.

The machine that is Washington may be murderous, but it isn’t stupid.  Perhaps bringing radical forces to power was all part of the plan?

Our special concern is for the fate of the Christian population of Syria, which in that case will come under the threat of total extermination or banishment.

Such concerns fall on deaf ears with the political leaders of the land of equal opportunity.  Official washington cares nothing for Christians just as they care nothing for Muslims or any other religious sects.  They pretty much care nothing for people.

I am deeply convinced that the countries which belong to the Christian civilization bear a special responsibility for the fate of Christians in the Middle East.

To the extent one can speak of a country as religious, the united states wears the symbols of Christianity without bearing much of the fruit.

No doubt, the current Syrian crisis needs to be settled with the participation of the international community. In this regard, I consider it important to use the opportunities which have opened for a diplomatic settlement of the conflict. These opportunities imply the international community’s control over the chemical weapons in Syria.

Opportunities made possible due to Russia….

It is too much to ask that this should be the view of all Christian leaders at all times when the politicians beat the drum for war?  Always?

I know what Lawrence Vance would say…

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An Isolationist Foreign Policy

The United States is growing increasingly isolationist – not by following the Ron Paul path to Peace and Prosperity, but instead due to the world finally being in a position to push back.

On the economic stage, the US burned its last bridges in 2008; in the meantime, we live through the transition toward whatever is next – and rest assured, the elite don’t have a replacement plan prepared, else it would have been rolled out by now.

Geo-politically, Syria has completely changed the game – at least it is the first obviously visible sign to laymen that this is so.  Putin has outmaneuvered Obama, and this in a situation where Russia has the wherewithal to back up its words.

This is no return to the cold war – then, the two so-called super-powers fought through proxies.  This one is naked for the world to see – no shell games, no intrigue.  US diplomacy by bombing vs. Russian diplomacy by…diplomacy.

It seems Russia is not done pushing back, and it seems the US is growing increasingly isolated (well, except for the French and maybe the British – but they, like the US, don’t have a seat at the table if my speculation of a possible future plays out). 

From Bloomberg:

Russia rejected a U.S. and European plan to include enforcement in a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons disarmament, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Of course, Russia has both the ability and the muscle to reject the US plan if it chooses to do so.

Western actions are “irresponsible and unprofessional,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One published on the Foreign Ministry’s website today. They want to “drive through a resolution based on force” and that blames President Bashar al-Assad for everything, he said.

If someone can point to any untruth in these statements, let me know.

Part of the agreement previously reached between Lavrov and Kerry was for Syria to itemize and disclose its chemical weapons arsenal:

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Sept. 20 it had “received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons program.” The Sept. 14 U.S.-Russian agreement, which averted an American military strike on Assad’s government, called for an itemization of Syria’s poison gas stocks by yesterday.

Mmm…several days before the due date.  The result of effective engagement – the course Russia pursued.

The executive council of the chemical weapons organization in The Hague, which would oversee Syria’s disarmament, said Sept. 20 it postponed a meeting on Syria and is aiming for a new date in the middle of this week.

Wait – Syria was early, and now the bureaucrats want to delay the discussion? Can you smell the United States behind this delaying action?  Lavrov does:

“Our American partners are trying to blackmail us,” Lavrov said. The U.S. is saying that “unless Russia accepts to adopt this resolution under Chapter 7 [an enforcement provision], we will stop the work of the OPCW in The Hague,” he said referring to the UN charter’s chapter, which lays out provisions that have been used to justify armed interventions since the Korean War.

I was a fly on the wall in the oval office when the news was delivered that Syria complied with its report deadline:

Kerry: Big O, Assad just delivered the inventory.
Obama: Dammit John, you told me they would delay and obfuscate.  Just how stupid are you trying to make me look?
Kerry: Well, since you asked: it gets worse.  Remember, we wanted a quick meeting at The Hague because we just knew the Syrians wouldn’t deliver the report on time?  Remember how we were going give Russia a diplomatic wedgie when Assad didn’t deliver?
Obama: Yeah – that was a nice Photoshop – I never laughed so hard as when you had that picture of Putin with his Haines pulled up over his head!
Kerry: Well, you can stop laughing now.  Assad delivered, and now the meeting is tomorrow.
Obama: I never thought I would miss Hillary.

But attempts at looking tough continue:

Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Sept. 20 that it was “a positive step” for Syria to submit the list within the period outlined in the agreement, which calls for the Arab country to turn over its chemical weapons to international control for eventual destruction.

Can’t you just hear the international world chuckling at this statement?  As if somehow the United States took any positive actions toward making it come about (and no, “bombs away” isn’t a positive action)?  As if anything the US now says on this matter is terribly relevant?

“There needs to be consequences for noncompliance,” Rhodes told reporters on a conference call. “We would want to see the strongest enforcement possible.”

The US government is reduced to expressing “wants.”  It has lost its standing.  The only diplomacy known to Washington is to make threats.  This has been exposed, and this was stopped by one of the few entities on earth powerful enough to stop it.

The US is quickly losing standing in the international arena.  Everyone knew the emperor had no clothes, but perhaps the time and situation had to grow ripe for the global exclamation of this fact.

The US has grown extremely isolated in the world. 

Fear the Shutdown

More soft-shoe: horror of horrors – the government might shut down!  Time for a little rational perspective.  Let’s check with Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. 

First, perhaps some background.  What is the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget?

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. The Committee is made up of some of the nation's leading budget experts including many of the past Chairmen and Directors of the Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Reserve Board.

A bunch of insiders.  My hopes for sanity from Maya on this topic decrease.

Maya MacGuineas is the President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Maya testifies regularly before Congress and has published broadly, including articles in The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Financial Times and the Los Angeles Times. Once dubbed “an anti-deficit warrior” by The Wall Street Journal, Maya comments often on broadcast news and is widely cited by the national press. In the spring of 2009 Maya did a stint on The Washington Post editorial board, covering economic and fiscal policy.

“An anti-deficit warrior.”  She sounds like someone who will take a strong stand on this issue.  My hopes increase!

Maya has worked at the Brookings Institution and on Wall Street. As a political independent, she has advised numerous candidates for office from both parties, and works regularly with members of Congress on health, economic, tax, and budget policy. She serves on the boards of a number of national, nonpartisan organizations and received her Master in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The Brookings Institute…JFK School of Government at Harvard….  My hopes decrease.  Oh well, we’ve come this far, let’s see what she says.

Maya MacGuineas has been fighting for less debt and more fiscal responsibility in Washington for more than 10 years. So when MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, says, "There's a very significant risk" that the government will shut down, there is a very good chance it will. "There is no plan for keeping [the government] funded," she tells The Daily Ticker. "'It's very likely that [Congress] falls into a shutdown even if they don't mean to..."

While I would find this hard to believe…from her lips to God’s ears.

What would be the impact of such a shutdown?

A Big Bill for Taxpayers. A government shutdown won't save taxpayers money but will actually end up costing them more. The last shutdown in late 1995 and early 1996 cost $1.4 billion, which is more than $2 billion in today's dollars, according to MacGuineas. She explains: The government has to develop contingency plans, which costs money and furlough workers, who will likely receive back pay. And then there's the spillover effect of a slowing economy due to less government spending, which ultimately will reduce tax revenues.

Start by not funding the back pay – what about that?

The US government might be about the only entity on earth that could figure out a way to do absolutely nothing for a few months and spend more money than they would have if they continued as is.  Not that I wouldn’t consider this a net benefit, I’m just saying.

Slower & Fewer Mortgage Approvals. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which accounts for about a quarter of first-time mortgages, would either not make loans or make a lot less loans if the government shuts down.  "Part of the economic recovery is the housing industry," says MacGuineas, "It's sort of dangerous to think about slowing down housing [by way of] a self-inflicted wound at the very time when we want to make sure that [the housing] continuing to move along and help the economy to grow."

Instead of all of this gobbledygook voodoo economic stuff, why not just form a “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” that considers it responsible to get the government out of the mortgage business?  Wouldn’t that be a bit more responsible – to say nothing of Constitutional?  Oh, wait.  I used the “C” word; a failing argument for over 200 years now.

Delays in Passport & Visa Processing. A government shutdown would make it harder for people to leave and to visit the U.S. "The tourism industry can be hit quite hard as can the airline and travel sector," says MacGuineas. In the 1995 shutdown, more than 200,000 passports went unprocessed.

I don’t care about the tourism industry – as there won’t be any customs and border patrol agents working (we are talking about a shutdown, aren’t we?) I won’t need a passport to leave….

(Yeah, I know; I will need one to enter somewhere else.  But I won’t let facts get in the way of making fun of this nonsensical talk about a non-shutdown shutdown.)

Closure of All National Parks. MacGuineas says she still hears stories of disappointment from people who weren't able to visit national parks on their vacations during the last government shutdown. "This is not a critical function" of government, says MacGuineas.

"This is not a critical function."  Wait a minute – are they only talking about shutting down the non-critical functions?  If they aren’t critical, why not just shut them all permanently?  Sooner or later, it is going to come to this anyway.  Perhaps someone should form a “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” in order to advocate for the responsibility of such a federal budget action.

Slowdown in Social Security Enrollments. Social Security checks will not be delayed if there's a government shutdown but enrollments will be, at least temporarily, if Social Security workers are furloughed. And that could affect thousands or more since 10,000 baby boomers turn 66 every day and are eligible for full Social Security benefits.

I consider this nothing more than a dry-run for the reality of the future of social security.  Prepare to be disappointed in this scheme one way or another – through inflation, means-testing, delayed retirement age, bounced checks, etc.

That’s it – there is Ms. Maya’s “responsibility.”

Sadly, after spending time writing this post I am struggling to find any point in it.

Kind of like the song-and-dance in this entire let’s-pretend-we-are-discussing-something-important conversation on a potential shutdown of the government.