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Observing Hillary Clinton, 10/20/07 May 2, 2016

Posted by vsap in 2008 Presidential Election, Blogroll, Poetry, US Politics.
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This is not about you, it’s about America.

It’s not about your pant suits or relationship with Bill,

it’s about your record, your positions, and truth.

You trade honesty for pandering like boys traded

baseball cards when you were a child, but this is no game,

this is not about you, it’s about America.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest woman in the world,

everyone thought that of Martha Stewart before prison,

now, like you, she has her mindless drones, her groupies,

to keep the media empire stoked, to keep the PR machine humming,

but this is not about you, it’s about America.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight or trans, what matters

is that you place the best interest of your country ahead of your own

and if you ever do, maybe it won’t seem like you’re mailing it in,

soaking us with bromides and double-speak the likes of which

make Dick and George blush and say, “oh my!” Oh, yes.

Seeking after adoration and coronation (I sound like Jesse, oh no!)

you’ve forgotten, this is not about you, it’s about America.

It must hurt that Al won the Nobel, however hollow that is,

since you have to think of something better to claim as your own

and we see you scampering for it, elusive that it is, and frankly,

there’s great amusement in watching your arms flail and your

head bob up and down in those unfamiliar waters.

Somehow people forget you’re a Chicagoan, not an Arkansas

Ridge Runner and no more a New Yorker than Bobby Kennedy.

What you’ve learned since Park Ridge has made you smug,

not humble, and in no discernible way Midwestern.

Make no mistake, this country doesn’t embrace you,

not for some personal quirks or swirling issues, but because

we know your vision is to marginalize us, to install your

peculiar brand of monarchy, and create a third-world fiefdom

of your own choosing, of your own liking. But you forget one thing:

This is not about you, it’s about America.



Michael Brown’s Reflection November 25, 2014

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Poetry, US Politics.
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St. Louis County police cars were burning
People poured into and out of the Ferguson Liquor Store
not patrons, simple thieves emboldened by a belief
their desires for justice could be stolen from its floor

Torching Little Caesar’s, Metro PCS and a beauty salon
makes love to news cameras, fleeting hot sex
Bullets fly at firemen framing the moment
but memories escape, distracted by what’s next

Walgreens and McDonalds windows smashed and looted
symbolic of pain? emblematic of savagery
trading your brand of justice for narcotics and beer
your faux defiance makes you forget how to fear

We could have told them, as if it mattered,
Atlanta burned to the ground but ignorance of history
is nine-tenth of lawlessness in Michael Brown’s reflection
Blame police all you like, purloined cigarillos cost a life

And through it all, “Season’s Greetings” hangs benign over the scene.

A “brokered convention” for the GOP? Yes. Ryan-Rubio! February 24, 2012

Posted by vsap in 2008 Presidential Election, Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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Let’s start at the beginning. What is a brokered convention? A “good enough” answer is found on Wikipedia:

“A brokered convention is a situation in United States politics in which there are not enough delegates ‘won’ during the presidential primary and caucus elections for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority, during the first official vote for a political party’s presidential candidate at its nominating convention.”

You don’t have to believe me but I urge you to believe the facts. In Gwinnett County, GA, arguably the most conservative bastion of the GOP in the state located in an urban/suburban setting, Ron Paul won the straw vote among precinct captains and their legions, some 400 in attendance last week. That is total nonsense. Even if you want to believe that is a haven for the Neal Boortz/John Linder/Rob Woodall brand of Fair Tax, it is also a birthplace of the Tea Party that helped sweep the GOP to a majority in Congress in 2010. And, US Rep Woodall is no Libertarian…and neither is Boortz, really, but that’s an argument or another time.

The point is this: Gwinnett County Republicans do not want Ron Paul as their presidential nominee. They, like most others in the US, don’t know what they want. Or, more to the point, they haven’t seen what they want yet.

Here’s my short takes on the short list:

Mitt Romney – Centrist who likely can’t “out-center” President Obama. As with the two George Bushes, this guy is no conservative, even if you like his business and political cred.

Rick Santorum – Couldn’t get re-elected as Senator in PA. That should be enough said, but Tea Partiers and social conservatives still want a “dog in the hunt”. Well, they have a smelly one in Rick.

Newt – Smartest guy in the room. The guy you want to debate a know-nothing like Obama and show him for what he is. But, he is either too smarmy, esoteric or academic to have the warmth of either Romney or Paul. For all his attributes: unelectable.

Ron Paul – The Dennis Kucinich of the GOP. The “crazy uncle” in the room that you enjoy for entertainment value and, sometimes, keeping the others honest. Isolationism is an old Libertarian idea that isn’t worthy any comment today…along with the majority of what Paul says.

From this perspective, what alternative is there to a brokered convention? Karl Rove argues that the GOP simply won’t have one. Someone, possibly someone not in the race this very day, will emerge and the there will be sufficient support to sweep that candidate to victory…with ALL of us on the bus. After all, the goal is to defeat Obama, not beat each other up. This is supposed to be our “Reagan vs. Carter moment”…we can’t possibly lose. Right?

Unfortunately, we have no Ronald Reagan at this moment to be the obvious choice against an inept president and administration. I was hoping that someone would emerge, quickly, after the 2010 election, be the “900-pound gorilla” that would incessantly beat up on the sitting president so that when 2012 rolled around, the debates would be minimal, the squabbles petty, and the victory assured well before the convention and a foregone conclusion by November. No such fortune has befallen the GOP.

Here’s Rove’s take:

“A brokered convention would see a new candidate — someone other than Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum — enter the remaining primaries or parachute in during the convention (if no existing candidate has secured a majority of delegates). In backroom deals, either based partly on the strength of his late primary performances or only on the discretion of party leaders, he would become the nominee.

A contested convention, on the other hand, would see no dark horse enter but none of the existing candidates arrive in Tampa with a 1,144 majority of delegates. Lots of wheeling and dealing would ensue, and after several ballots a nominee would emerge from the four current candidates.

Is either scenario likely? Let’s put it this way: The odds are greater that there’s life on Pluto than that the GOP has a brokered convention. And while there’s a better chance of a contested convention, it’s still highly unlikely.”

The upshot? Rove concludes:

If a new candidate gets all the winner-takes-all delegates (unlikely since 222 in California and New Jersey are awarded by congressional district, not statewide), plus half those awarded proportionally, he still would have just 378 delegates of the 1,144 needed for nomination. At least two current candidates are likely to have far more. Why would they step aside for a newcomer?”

It is hard to argue with Karl Rove’s math. And you almost hope he’s right when you read Dave Boyer in the Washington Times:

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the top choice of Republicans if the party nominates its presidential candidate at a “brokered” convention this summer, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday.

Mr. Christie is favored by 32 percent of Republicans, followed by former Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Jeb Bush of Florida with 20 percent each, the poll found. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is fourth at 15 percent.”

Say what? That’s a handful of non-starters that make Ron Paul look credible.

It’s worth noting the history lesson provided by Don Gizzi on Human Events recently:

“The last time a brokered convention happened for Republicans was in 1940.  At that time there were a dozen primaries, compared to the thirty-plus of 2012. Most of them were held closer to the convention rather than “front-loaded” by states in January or February.  The bulk of delegates were picked in caucuses or conventions run by state party organizations and more of them came to the convention in Philadelphia uncommitted to any candidate than committed.

The easy winner in most of the primaries was Thomas E. Dewey, 38-year-old district attorney of Manhattan and a true “celebrity crimebuster” in the mold of Elliot Ness and Rudy Giuliani.  He rolled up nearly 49.9 percent of the votes cast in primaries over three heavyweight opponents: Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, the conservative favorite and son of a President; Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenburg, the GOP’s top point man on foreign policy; and Wendell Willkie, New York “superlawyer” who had neither held nor sought elective office and had until recently been a Democrat (and freely admitted he had voted for President Franklin D. Roosevelt).

On May 8, one poll showed Dewey supported by 67 percent of likely Republican voters and 3 percent favoring Willkie (who never won a single primary and in fact got only a miniscule 21,170 votes in the primaries).  But many party leaders and influential business and opinion leaders (notably Time-Life publisher Henry Luce) felt that Dewey’s youth would be a detriment to the GOP as war continued in Europe and Asia.  Moreover, as the lone internationalist in the race, Willkie stood out from the other three, all of whom were non-interventionists in the growing World War.

“Back then, conventions actually chose candidates instead of ratifying the verdict of primaries,” Charles Peters wrote in his epic account of the convention Five Days in Philadelphia. “Modern conventions are shorter because their results have been pre-determined by primaries.”  He also pointed out that “[i]n 1940, security was lax to the point of non-existence and no one has figured out how many standing room tickets were distributed by Willkie’s man, [convention chairman] Sam Pryor.”  So with people such as 26-year-old Gerald Ford in the galleries cheering “We Want Willkie!,” radio listeners and delegates had the sensation of a groundswell of support.

It took six ballots but Wendell Willkie became the Republican nominee.  The rules of the time had been tailor-made for political powers to snatch nomination from a candidate who had competed in and won primaries and give it to someone who had not won a single primary.

Today, they are not.  And, with so many new factions in the Republican Party—from cultural conservatives to the “Tea Party”– one has to wonder just who would do the “brokering” at a brokered convention?

Willkie lost to FDR in his historic third term bid that fall.

When I tweeted the fact that Willkie was the last Republican nominee who had never won a primary, my friend and colleague Philippa Thomas of the BBC responded most poignantly:  “A warning not to ignore the grass-roots, you think?”

Again, hard to disagree with the cold, hard facts BUT I still believe that delegates will arrive in Tampa without a consensus…except to defeat Obama.

The question remains: Where is the Tom Dewey or Ronald Reagan for 2012? I certainly don’t see one and, according to the Gwinnett County, GA, GOP, they don’t have one, either. The almost tongue-in-cheek straw pole demonstrates the divide that needs to be bridged in order for the entire GOP to get behind their nominee full-force. We will not win with the lukewarm effort placed against a lukewarm candidate in 2008.

Here is who could take a brokered convention:

Paul Ryan (WI), for president and Marco Rubio (FL) for vice-president.

Setting aside the fact that neither have shown interest, they will if their party calls. A combination of youth, enthusiasm and smarts that could bring out the center and young to rally and sweep the GOP into the White House. Plus, they have the conservative cred to make the Tea party and social conservatives comfortable as well as the more moderate business elite. If handsome means anything, then you will get the attention of women voters. And, you may net a few more Hispanics in the deal. I realize it sounds too simple to be achieved, but sometimes you have to strip the complexity away to get to reach the objective.

To release Obama-Biden to the college and book-signing tours, elect Ryan-Rubio!

Paula Deen takes care of Bourdain, NYT in 2011 December 31, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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Frank Bruni does an admirable job for The New York Times. Paula Deen does admirable work in the way of perpetuating traditional Southern Cooking. This is a disagreeable subject to Anthony Bourdain, menace to the decent, and The New York Times, elitest meddlers.

Here’s an excerpt for an August 24, 2011, report from Bruni on Bourdain’s rant (bold is mine):

“Anthony Bourdain, the part-time chef and full-time celebrity, has a tongue on him. It’s the sharpest knife in his set. He has used it to carve up vegans, whom he called the “Hezbollah-like splinter faction” of vegetarians, and the culinary moralist Alice Waters, whose rigidity is “very Khmer Rouge.”

The latest to be slashed: Paula Deen. For the uninitiated, she’s the deep-fried doyenne of a fatty, buttery subgenre of putatively Southern cooking. And Bourdain, in an interviewwith TV Guide published last week, branded her an outright menace to America, scolding her for “telling an already obese nation that it’s O.K. to eat food that is killing us.”

To this he added a gratuitous schoolyard-crass putdown of Deen cuisine.

Which certainly isn’t my cup of lard. But it bothers me no more than his ill-timed elitism, which Deen nailed in her response.

“Not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine,” she told The New York Post. “My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills.”

Put aside her one-with-the-masses pose, ludicrous in light of the millions she has made from television shows, cookbooks, cookware, mattresses and more. She’s otherwise 100 percent justified in assailing the culinary aristocracy, to which even a self-styled bad boy like Bourdain belongs, for an often selective, judgmental and unforgiving worldview.

And her retort exposes class tensions in the food world that sadly mirror those in society at large. You can almost imagine Bourdain and Deen as political candidates, a blue-state paternalist squaring off against a red-state populist over correct living versus liberty in all its artery-clogging, self-destructive glory.”

For added kick, he wrote: “When Deen fries a chicken, many of us balk. When the Manhattan chefs David Chang or Andrew Carmellini do, we grovel for reservations and swoon over the homey exhilaration of it all. Her strips of bacon, skirting pancakes, represent heedless gluttony. Chang’s dominoes of pork belly, swaddled in an Asian bun, signify high art.”

Fast forward to December 28, 2011, when Bruni’s own NYT took on Deen (as reported by Todd Starnes, Fox News):

“The New York Times has declared down home Southern cooking undignified in a story heaping praise on a new generation of Southern chefs while denigrating fried chicken, Cracker Barrel restaurants and renowned Georgia chef Paula Deen.

The food snobs at the Times attacked Miss Paula in the second sentence of their lengthy diatribe – calling her a “so-called queen of Southern food, who cooks with canned fruit and Crisco.”

The Times bemoaned the “hayseed image” of Southern cooking while praising “a new generation of chefs who have pushed Southern cooking into the vanguard of world cuisine.”

Starnes continued with autobiographical flavor:

“For the record, I happen to have a Cracker Barrel rocking chair in my office at the Fox News Corner of the World – along with several copies of Paula Deen’s cookbooks. That being said – I’m really not quite sure why The New York Times felt compelled to launch a broadside against the traditional cuisine of the Southern states.

I’ll take a Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf sandwich and a slice of their Double Chocolate Fudge Coca Cola Cake any day of the week — over the slop they serve at those five-star New York City restaurants.

Does The Old Gray Lady really want to pick a food fight with Alabama or Mississippi? There’s a reason why the Magnolia State is the plumpest in the nation — it’s called banana pudding.

In New York City, they eat boiled animal tongues. In the South we use our tongues for licking our fingers.

Southerners eat buttermilk biscuits and sip frosty glasses of sweet tea. New Yorkers nosh bagels and drink seltzer water.

New Yorkers eat fermented soy and tuna tartar – while folks in Tennessee eat fried catfish – with tarter sauce.

As an expatriated Southerner living in Brooklyn, I’ve come to realize that this quest to redefine Southern cuisine has taken root in the Big Apple. Chefs who couldn’t succeed in Dixie have moved north to ply their trade. It’s a movement called, “New Southern Cuisine.”

To be fair, I decided to visit one of those so-called “New Southern Cuisine” restaurants the other day. To their credit, they served sweet tea. But that’s about the only southern thing in the building.

The first item on the menu was “Black-eyed Pea Hummus.”

I threw up a little inside my mouth.

The waiter brought my iced tea and suggested I try something they called “Arugula Smear.”

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat it or wipe it.

I paid for my sweet tea, went home and whipped up a batch of Miss Paula’s macaroni and cheese. And as I sat down at my table, I prayed this prayer:

“Dear Jesus, thank you for butter. Amen.”

Class warfare is not only for the political arena. It has now jumped into the culinary arena!

The irony, of course, is that Ms. Deen’s book, The Southern Cooking Bible, spent two weeks in December 2011 atop its very own best seller list! Revenge can be delicious, can’t it, Paula?

What’s in a name? Osawatomie December 16, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Financial Crisis, US Politics.
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President Obama delivered an address to high school students in Osawatomie, KS, recently, that raised eyebrows, especially of his naysayers, like me.

Here’s some background from Joe Pollak at Big GovernmentBlog:

“Osawatomie was the site of a historic battle between abolitionist John Brown and pro-slavery forces (who were backed by the Democrats of the age). Though Brown’s men were defeated, his audacious tactics earned him the nickname “Osawatomie.” Obama may have chosen deliberately to cast his struggle against “the rich” in the same emotive terms.

Obama alluded to Osawatomie in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, in discussing his Kansas ancestors (p. 12):

…Kansas had entered the Union free only after a violent precursor to the Civil War, the battle in which John Brown’s sword tasted first blood…

Obama also cited John Brown as one of his historical inspirations in his second autobiography, The Audacity of Hope. In a passage that almost anticipates the radical themes of this week’s speech, he writes (p. 97):

The best I can do in the face of our history is remind myself that it has not always been the pragmatist, the voice of reason, or the force of compromise, that has created the conditions for liberty… It was the wild-eyed prophecies of John Brown, his willingness to spill blood and not just words on behalf of his visions, that helped force the issue of a nation half slave and half free.

Obama conspicuously neglected to mention Osawatomie’s history in his speech on Tuesday, but the town is clearly important to Obama’s personal identity, as well as to the way he understands his political destiny.”

Osawatomie plays another important part in Obama’s “political identity”. It was the name of a newspaper published by the Weather Underground, a domestic communist/anarchist group bent on terror in the early 1970s. Several deaths and many injuries were attributed to WU bombings. WU was headed by two close friends of Obama, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. The same two people Obama claims to have started his political career in the living room of their home.

So, what did President Obama say on December 7 to the impressionable youths in his audience? An excerpt:

“Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments – wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paycheques that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

…But, Osawatomie, this is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement. Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.”

Thus, old hippie values don’t die, they just get re-packaged for the next generation. Then, to be sure it doesn’t sound like re-wrapped policy ramblings, he evokes the memory of Teddy Roosevelt:

“And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie and he laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy … of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a socialist – even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it’s made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.”

As usual, the president didn’t get it quite right. Teddy Roosevelt said it this way:

“If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs.”

This is a far cry from Obama’s radical socialism.

The failures of socialism and communism are apparent to all except the president, Ayers, and their ilk. They long for a chaotic, third-world United States, no more “exceptional” than the Sudan.

I will do my best to defeat this president in the next election so Osawatomie thinking can be relegated to the political backwaters where it belongs, if anywhere.


10 years after: 9/11 memories September 9, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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I lost my job on August 31, 2001. I had just carted my daughter off to her freshman year of college. My wife was a secretary at the same school my son attended. In short, all was right with the world on September 11, 2001. Except, of course, I was in the beginning of a job search.

Living in the Chicago area at that time, whatever Michael Jordan did made news. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Jordan had retired. That was the lead on Yahoo news, my home page at the time. I looked at the headline, shrugged, and went to work sorting the freshly printed resumes and considering who should be the fortunate companies to receive them. Severance was good until the end of October, so I didn’t feel any hard stress, but I knew I had to get some interviews in quickly if I was going to have a job by the holiday season.

Then, the phone rang…still a land line back then. It was my wife:

“Do you see what’s happening?” she asked urgently.

“Michael Jordan retired. So what?” was my off-handed reply.

“Don’t you have the TV on?”

“No. I’m looking for a job.”

“I know. I know. But a plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York!”

“What?” I replied, like it was absurd. Then I refreshed my screen and Michael Jordan disappeared and the first shot of smoke bellowing out of the side of the WTC appeared.

“Just turn on the TV. I’ll call you later,” she said.

I did as instructed and the horror of that day began to unfold in front of me.

After the second plane hit, the phone rang again.

“Daddy, what’s going on? Are we safe?” It was my daughter’s urgent voice this time. It took a little while to assure her that whoever the perpetrators were, they weren’t looking to destroy a small college in southern Wisconsin.

“But we’re close to Chicago. Couldn’t they try to destroy Chicago?” The balance between girl and woman hung on that question. Yes, I agreed reluctantly, if they were so armed I suppose they could take out the Hancock or Sears Tower but, again, that’s quite a distance from her.

“What if it’s nuclear?” she finally asked.

“If it is, then it wipes out everything for a hundred and fifty miles in every direction, so all of us will be gone. I don’t see that happening. What I do see happening is you calming down, praying, and just staying put until we know more. How’s that?”

“Okay, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you, too, kid. I’ll call you later.”

This story was likely replayed a million times simultaneously across the nation on that day.

In the days after, I took on substitute teaching. The job market in Chicago dried up and I finally landed in Virginia, not more than fifty miles from the Pentagon. My brother-in-law commented, “Everyone wants to get away from there and you’re moving there!” It was true and the horror would begin again with the emergence of the DC Sniper on the scene, hot on the heels of 9/11 it seemed.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of 9/11 didn’t hit me hard until I visited the site of the WTC in April 2007. I had traveled to new York City several times in 1999 and 2000 for work. I had lunched around the WTC and our New York hosts were always proud of that landmark. Rightfully so.

The April 2007 visit was my first since 2000. I was crushed beyond measure. Furious at the loss of life. It may have been the first time my son saw me cry. I was full of vengeance. I remember hearing myself say, to myself, I hope, “Kill them all! Kill all of them!” then sobbing all the more.

Again, this was likely not unusual for even the toughest New Yorker. But I found myself, in 2007, where New Yorkers might have been in 2001, with unhealed wounds and hate in my heart. They had moved on, in some measure. Me, living far away, I had suppressed my feelings and never revealed them until this visit.

Crying does good. It cleanses, really. I enjoyed the rest of the time in New York and I have been back a couple of times since then. After all the wrangling about what to do with the site, something new has finally been planted. It spits in the eye of terrorist who believe their jihad will endure. It will not. But, by the grace of the Lord God of Israel, the American spirit will.

PresBO as Centrist? Say it ain’t so! April 26, 2011

Posted by vsap in 2008 Presidential Election, Blogroll, US Politics.
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David Gerwitz, on ZDNet Government (April 25, 2011), ostensibly speaking for/to “techies”, makes some sobering observations about PresBO:

“Mr. Obama has had a decidedly uninspiring presidency, from a health care reform victory where the cure is probably worse than the disease, to a new third war, to a jobs situation still in the crapper, to issues of privacy, security, and TSA indignities.

“Only history will be able to tell whether President Obama’s moves after the 2009 financial crisis turned things around that would have otherwise led to another Great Depression. But we all have experienced the Great Recession and Obama-the-President is far more universally disappointing than Obama-the-Campaigner.”

Now, I can’t pretend to know if “techies”, young and old, are pre-disposed to supporting the President or not, but it seems odd to read these words from this corner of the known universe. Mr. Gerwitz concludes:

“Barack Obama’s a tough read. It’s honestly hard to tell whether he’s been good at his job or horrific. That’s his fault. Because while it’s very difficult to tangibly determine whether we’d have been better off with Mr. McCain than Mr. Obama these last few years, it’s absolutely clear that Barack Obama has dropped the ball when it comes to inspiring the world.

“And that, more than anything else, may well be Barack Obama’s most serious strategic mistake.”

Mr. Gerwitz’s indictment is not a whispered sentiment any longer. It’s out there. Conservatives and most Republicans have said and written these sorts of things long before a reasonable assessment could be made of this President. The same was true in the early Reagan presidency: liberals vilified him from the moment he took the oath of office. So, let’s cast off those we know oppose this President and his policies in favor of those voices which first fell in love with “Obama-the-Campaigner” and fell out of love with “Obama-as-President”.

Michael Gerson wrote in The Washington Post on April 11, 2011:

“Intentional or not, it sizzled with symbolism that President Obama announced his reelection campaign the same day his administration threw in the towel on the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four others would be tried by a military tribunal at the prison Obama once described as a violation of “core constitutional values.” A central pledge of one campaign was abandoned to kick off the next.

“This reversal was soon followed by a budget agreement that Obama described as the “largest annual spending cut in history” — leaving his progressive base wounded and abandoned on the budget battlefield. The man that liberals elected to complete the work of Lyndon Johnson had suddenly adopted the idiom of Ronald Reagan.”

PresBO, desperate for a second term, has resorted to do anything strategy to win. But, it seems the only one he is fooling is himself.

Mr. Gerson continues:

“The overall strategy of projecting a centrist pragmatism is probably a good one. Though Obama has seen some recent erosion in support among African Americans and Hispanics, his approval among liberals is steady in the 70s. At a comparable point in his presidency, Bill Clinton’s liberal support was in the mid-60s. Even as the professional left registers feeble protests to Obama’s ideological evolution, nothing seems to shake the faith of progressive voters. They can be safely taken for granted.

“In contrast, Obama’s approval among independents has dropped 23 points since he took office. Democrats lost this group by a 56-to-37-point margin in November. There is no reelection without reversing this trend.”

Independents, in love with “Obama-the-Campaigner” have fallen out fo love with “Obama-the-President”.

Another April 11 analysis was published by Clay Waters:

“Obama the centrist? That’s the takeaway from New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny’s Sunday “news analysis,” “President Adopts a Measured Course to Recapture the Middle.” The original online headline was even more misleading: “President Obama Adopts Centrist Approach.”
Actually, Zeleny has considered Obama centrist, or at least a “pragmatist,” from his first year in office, well before the 2010 election. Here’s Zeleny on Obama the pragmatist in December 2009: “He delivered a mix of realism and idealism….he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.”
That’s just weird, even for The New York Times. Michael Barone, after the President’s speech on April 12, wrote this for The Washington Examiner:

“Not just weak but pitiful,” “devoid of detail,” “a waste of breath.” Those were among the reactions of The Atlantic’s Clive Crook to Obama’s speech this afternoon. Crook is no Republican partisan; he calls House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan “no good.” But he is dismayed that “the administration still lacks a rival plan,” and that, as he puts it in his penultimate sentence, “the speech was more notable for its militant—though ineffectual—hostility to Republican proposals than for any fresh thinking of its own.”

What’s particularly pitiful here is that Barack Obama, with the full resources of the Office of Management and the Budget (a first-rate public bureaucracy) available to him, was able to do no better than this. But then I gather he didn’t get all the asbestos out of the John P. Altgeld housing project in Chicago either.”

Daniel Strauss, from The Hill, on February 5, 2011, shows that even the President’s opposition in the 2008 election is coming around:

“The president has become more centrist, which makes him easier to work with, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday.

“Speaking with Bloomberg Television a day after a private meeting with President Obama, McCain said he could picture working with Obama on several issues going forward.

“I think there’s a number of issues we could work on together, and I think it’s pretty clear that the president has really pivoted to a much more centrist position, which I think makes it much more for us easier to work with him,” McCain said.”

Oh boy! So much to look forward to now!

As early as April 28,2010, J. Bradford DeLong opined for The Economist:

“On healthcare reform, Obama’s proudest moment, his achievement is…drum roll…a scheme that almost precisely mimics the reform that Mitt Romney, a Republican who sought the presidency in 2008, brought to the state of Massachusetts. The reform’s centerpiece is a requirement imposed by the government that people choose responsibly and provide themselves with insurance – albeit with the government willing to subsidize the poor and strengthen the bargaining power of the weak.

“In all of these cases, Obama is ruling, or trying to rule, by taking positions that are at the technocratic good-government center, and then taking two steps to the right – sacrificing some important policy goals – in the hope of attracting Republican votes and thereby demonstrating his commitment to bipartisanship. On all of these policies – anti-recession, banking, fiscal, environmental, anti-discrimination, rule of law, healthcare – you could close your eyes and convince yourself that, at least as far as the substance is concerned, Obama is in fact a moderate Republican named George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Colin Powell.

“Now, don’t get me wrong. My complaints about Obama are not that he is too bipartisan or too centrist. I am at bottom a weak-tea Dewey-Eisenhower-Rockefeller social democrat – that is, with a small “s” and a small “d.” My complaints are that he is not technocratic enough, that he is pursuing the chimera of “bipartisanship” too far, and that, as a result, many of his policies will not work well, or at all.”

And, if the election of 2010 is any indication, it hasn’t worked at all…and it is getting worse for PresBO as time marches on. yet, even before this, on January 22, 2010, Jon Meachem, in Newsweek opined:

“Obama is essentially a centrist. His world view cannot be easily consigned to the familiar categories of left and right. In fact, those categories have been obsolescent since George W. Bush effectively nationalized the banks and Obama won the nomination on a center-right cultural platform. No matter how simplistic competing cable networks try to make things, when you have a Republican president behaving like a European socialist and a Democratic president who opposes gay marriage and has added troops to Afghanistan, you are living in a volatile ideological age.
“…He has grandly failed so far in doing what presidents must do, which is to lead the nation emotionally as well as rationally. It would be great if politics were fact-based, but it is not, and it is surely not nuance-based. What works in a classroom or a think tank does not work on Capitol Hill or in the White House. Obama sometimes seems to be running the Brookings Institution, not the country.
“Like all of us, Obama has the vices of his virtues. He is cool and steady, but can seem cold and remote. He is thoughtful and thorough, but can appear eggheady and out of it. He appeals to the intellect, but often fails to make the visceral case for something. The question now is whether his presidency has simply hit one of those unavoidable grim moments when nothing seems to go right (such moments come to every White House) or whether a tactical shift could improve his chances of accomplishing more of what he wants to do.”
In short, it would appear he is unfit for the center, even as the arguments mount in favor of that change.
Then there’s this blog post from Jared William (May 29, 2010) regarding a discussion he was having with his friend Tim about Obama education policy:
“When Obama was just about to overtake Clinton in terms of national favor, we had a debate that covered many things, but my primary argument was that people, when looking – actually looking – at Obama’s policies, would see him for what he is – a middling, almost cowardly centrist who would get little done and had no truly progressive ideas.”
Even an “everyman” blogger could see through the veneer of “Obama-the-Campaigner” as it flaked and peeled to reveal “Obama-the-President”.
While belittling the liberal media is a hobby of mine, the truth is always stranger than fiction, as pointed out by Barry Secrest on February 7, 2011:
“Time’s Mark Halperin has hailed Obama as “magnetic,” “distinguished,” and “inspiring” – )n one story. ABC’s Christiane Amanpour saw “Reaganesque” optimism and “Kennedyesque” encouragement – all in one speech. Howard Fineman, the former Newsweek columnist who now writes for the Huffington Post, said conductor Obama was now leading a “love train” through D.C.”
Wow! There’s objectivity you want from your news coverage! All of this to lead you to believe PresBO is alright. He is not a European-style socialist soft on jihad and anti-business. I’m still looking for evidence that those assertions are wrong. But, this isn’t about me. it’s about whether or not the president can fool enough people into believing he is centrist so achieve re-election.
So, let’s conclude with Dana Millbank, from The Everett (WA) Post, April 14, 2011, from a opine piece entitled “Obama claims his centrist birthright”:
“Though he occasionally struggled against his congenital reasonableness during his first two years in office, Obama blessing the debt commission’s bipartisan product of spending cuts and tax increases confirms him as a born moderate.”His embrace of the compromise debt proposal — and of the effort by the Gang of Six senators to put something like it into legislation — will be considered apostasy by true believers on both sides. But it dramatically increases the likelihood that Washington will solve its debt problem — and it strongly allies Obama with the independent voters who will determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

Obama’s embrace of Bowles-Simpson will open a new rift with his supporters on the left, including the Campaign for America’s Future, which has already begun an e-mail campaign, and the columnist Paul Krugman, who accuses Obama of defining “the center as being somewhere between the right and the far right.””White House officials were not deterred by the critique. “We’re accustomed to it,” one said. “This is about economic realities, not politics.”

House Democrats further strengthened Obama’s position by offering a budget proposal that relies more on tax increases. That leaves Obama alone in the political center — in a perfect place to triangulate. For a born moderate, there is no cozier place to call home.”


Cuba makes it complicated March 15, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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Alan Gross. Not a household name. Not even today as the news of his 15-year prison term was revealed. Most of us may have never heard of the employer he was working as a contractor for: US Agency for International Development (USAID). No matter, he should be recognized by you now. If nothing else, he signifies what is still WRONG about Cuba.

Nicholas Casey reported in The Wall Street Journal today that Mr. Gross has been sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for “distributing Internet equipment on the island under a democracy-promotion program run by USAID.” A Cuban court held that was illegal because it aimed “to destroy the revolution.”

No. Stop laughing. I will write it again: Mr. Gross will be imprisoned for aiming “to destroy the revolution” in Cuba. Now, I have to ask…what revolution? I thought that took place in the 1950s. We’re at least six decades removed from any kind of “revolution” in Cuba. How can one man, selling “Internet equipment” single-handedly destroy a tyrant, dictator, and (against all objective evidence and truth) communist? We’ll get back to “Internet equipment” and revolution in a moment.

At this point, a word of thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She rightly pointed out that if Cuba refrains from releasing Mr. Gross it will “decrease chance the US will push more conciliatory measures with Cuba in the near future.” This is a set-back. It is not permanent. It can be reversed if Cuba (read: the Castros) will be less bellicose about their failed “revolution”.

The Miami Herald clarified the issue on its Op-Ed page:

“The 15-year verdict handed down by a Cuban “court” against U.S. citizen Alan Gross is the deeply unjust result of events that bear no relationship to due process in an impartial legal system. Let’s call this cynical maneuver what it really is — blackmail.

The 61-year-old Mr. Gross is not a criminal of any sort. He’s a chess piece manipulated by the Cuban regime in the relentless war against its own people. The Castro brothers want to stop ordinary Cubans from obtaining the slightest bit of information from the outside world from any independent source. Punishing this envoy from a private U.S. company financed by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is a convenient way to deter further efforts to circumvent Cuba’s extensive system of communications surveillance.

Satellite phones are increasingly common instruments used to make calls around the world. But not in the Orwellian world run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and their paranoid minions. In Cuba, a satellite phone like the one Mr. Gross is accused of carrying for use by the island’s tiny and impoverished Jewish community is deemed a dangerous weapon in an alleged “cyber war” being waged by the U.S. government to bolster a web of spies plotting to bring down the government.

In most any other country, a violation of customs regulations might result in a stiff fine and possible expulsion from the country. In Cuba, where the state controls all information outlets, violations that threaten the state’s hegemony are seen as crimes that endanger the security of the state.

The real target of this mock-judicial charade is the “pro-democracy” funding from USAID designed to promote Cuba’s budding civil society movement. People who can think for themselves, talk to each other and learn from each other without government intrusion represent a danger to the state’s tyrannical masters, which practice various forms of mind control designed to snuff out any kind of independent action.”

(Bold type is mine in the above quotation)

The Washington Post added:

“(Mr.) Gross, of Potomac (MD), had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

U.S. diplomats expressed dismay but not surprise at the length of the sentence, since prosecutors had sought 20 years. U.S. officials hope the Cuban government will release Gross soon on humanitarian grounds, as it has done with other jailed Americans.”

We can only hope.

Alternatively, Politics Daily‘s Bonnie Goldstein was more skeptical of Mr. Gross than us mere mortals. In a February 11, 2010 column, more than a year ago, she wrote:

“Although he entered the island on a tourist visa, Gross was not in Cuba for the exceptional bird watching. The 60-year-old family man, synagogue member, and former Obama supporter is a technology expert and federal vendor whose specialty is bringing satellite signals to remote locations. Though uninvited by his hosts, he was on Castro’s island as an “independent business and economic development consultant” to Development Alternatives, Inc., a State Department contractor that hired him under a $8.6 million contract from the Agency for International Development. Since his arrest, reporters have asked at State press briefings about Gross’ detention and his precise assignment in Cuba. Few details have been released other than he was there to assist “civil society organizations” to better communicate through technology.”

Ardently mistrustful of the USAID, and maybe rightly so, Ms. Goldstein continued:

“A 2006 audit and investigation by the GAO highlighted taxpayer monies used to purchase Godiva chocolates, Nintendo GameBoys and cashmere sweaters [from USAID funds]. An alleged embezzlement scheme by another grantee was discovered in 2008, leading a member of the House to challenge USAID’s annual program allocation, which had by then grown to $45 million per year. The agency agreed to more closely monitor its contractors, and soon after Alan Gross was hired via DAI to travel to Cuba.

The New York Times reported the lone consultant had already visited Cuba several times under his subcontract when he was arrested. Early accounts of his efforts say he was there to help a small number of Jewish citizens in Cuba obtain “unfiltered access” to the Internet, The Miami Herald reported, but prominent members of the Cuban Jewish community claim they don’t know Gross.
Though his bosses deny he is an intelligence agent, there has been a lot of mystery surrounding Gross’ mission. For over a week after he was detained, his arrest was kept secret from the press and Congress. After reporters learned of his detention, his supervisor at DAI released this statement: “The detained individual was an employee of a program subcontractor, which was implementing a competitively issued subcontract to assist Cuban civil society organizations.” It was not disclosed what companies competed for the job.”

Ms. Goldstein finishes off with this:

“Whether you call what Gross was distributing “cell phones and laptops” or “sophisticated satellite communications equipment” his humanitarian activities are considered by the Cuban government to be illegal. According to the nonprofit Center for Democracy in the Americas, Cuba’s penal code provides a prison term of three to eight years for someone who “participates in the distribution of financial . . . or other resources that come from the United States government, its agencies, subordinates, representatives, functionaries, or private entities.””

So, as far as Ms. Goldstein is concerned, it appears, Mr. Gross is a criminal. He knew what he was getting into and, furthermore, he was associated with an agency not known for precision in its spending and accounting for its spending.

Thus, what is Mr. Gross?

Criminal? No.

Freedom-fighter? Hardly.

An intelligence agent? Not likely.

We have probably seen too many spy movies in the USA. Today, it is easier than ever to believe your benign neighbor is into some sort of sinister undertaking.

Mr. Gross is a convenient outlet for liberals to rail against this administration when they are impotent to do so on real issues.

What Alan Gross represents, more than anything, is what is STILL wrong with Cuba. If attempting to deliver free speech is a crime in Cuba, he will do the time. Cuba will do much worse in the long run.

PresBO don’t know history, can’t deal in reality of Middle East March 1, 2011

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From “Obama’s Democracy Delusions” by Robert Spencer on Jihad Watch of Human Events, March 1, 2011:

“…Obama spoke with satisfaction about “the peaceful transition to democracy in both Tunisia and in Egypt” too, and was pleased that “the change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region.  This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power.  It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.”  He vowed that “throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.”

The one thing the President didn’t explain was his justification for believing that the Libyan, Tunisian, and Egyptian people actually care as much as he assumes they do about principles and rights such as freedom of speech and the dignity of all people, both of which are mitigated under Islamic law.  Nor did Obama touch on why he assumes that they hold an understanding of freedom and justice that is remotely comparable to that of the American constitutional system.

There are numerous signs that they don’t.  It isn’t insignificant that Libyan protesters have marked Gaddafi’s picture with the Star of David.  Rather, it is an indication of the protesters’ world view, and of the pervasiveness of Islamic anti-Semitism.  Egyptian protesters defaced photos of Mubarak in the same way.  When Muslim protesters want to portray someone as a demon, they draw a Star of David on his picture.”

It has been opined by those much more brilliant than I, that, at very least, we will lose Egypt as a friend like we are losing Turkey. The slide toward Jihadist Islam is obvious to all except our President. I would like to think that he is simply trying to press his rhetorical brilliance to a new high, believing against all objective fact, that his stature as leader of the free world (with a Muslim middle name) will genuinely impact the people of this powder keg of a region. His rhetoric falls on deaf ears. It would be sad to believe he knows it and still persists.

Spencer continues:

“There are also clear indications that the protesters are decidedly anti-American.  Even before CBS reporter Lara Logan was brutally raped in Cairo’s crowded Tahrir Square by a mob chanting, “Jew!  Jew!,” several other mainstream media reporters from the United States were roughed up or otherwise imperiled, including Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour.  These two hard-Left journalists have repeatedly insisted that Islam is a religion of peace and that anyone who says otherwise is bigoted and racist.  In Cairo, they ran up against the buzz saw of reality.”

I readily admit that I haven’t at any time watched Cooper or Logan. I may have listened in briefly to Amanpour once or twice during her early CNN days but not since then. So, I don’t know what they have had to say about their treatment. Let’s re-visit that in a moment. For now, here’s Spencer’s final salvos of this column:

“Indeed, while numerous American analysts praise the “pro-democracy” uprisings in these nations, no secular democratic leadership has yet emerged.  The momentum is moving in the opposite direction—that is, toward the Islamic supremacists.  Aware of this fact, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was more realistic than Obama when he remarked on the Middle East situation on Feb. 22.  “These states are difficult,” Medvedev said, “and it is quite probable that hard times are ahead, including the arrival at power of fanatics.  This will mean fires for decades and the spread of extremism.””

Even a communist can tell a bad political atmosphere when he sees one.

Back to the treatment of the American reporters. The New York Daily News reported on February 10:

“Cooper said he was punched 10 times in the head as a pro-Mubarak mob surrounded him and his crew trying to cover demonstration,” CNN producer Steve Brusk tweeted.

The network reported that even though attackers “pushed and shoved the CNN crew” in Tahrir Square in Cairo, no one was seriously hurt.

Cooper later tweeted, “Got roughed up by thugs in pro-Mubarak crowd..punched and kicked repeatedly. Had to escape. Safe now.” He had previously mentioned that he had been awake for four days in a row.”

So, Cooper blamed those who supported the sitting president of Egypt.

Lara Logan, too, laid the blame on the sitting Egyptian government, in this case, the military:

“We were detained by the Egyptian army,” Logan told Esquire. “Arrested, detained, and interrogated. Blindfolded, handcuffed, taken at gunpoint, our driver beaten. It’s the regime that arrested us. They arrested [our producer] just outside of his hotel, and they took him off the road at gunpoint, threw him against the wall, handcuffed him, blindfolded him. Took him into custody like that.”

There was more: “They blindfolded me, but they said if I didn’t take it off they wouldn’t tie my hands. They kept us in stress positions—they wouldn’t let me put my head down. It was all through the night. We were pretty exhausted… We were accused of being Israeli spies. We were accused of being agents. We were accused of everything.”

Greg Palkot, of Fox News, seems to have received similar treatment from the Egyptian military:

“The Wrap reports that the Fox News team beaten and detained in Egypt were also accused of being Israeli spies.

The site writes that Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig were taken to the hospital after being severely beaten—at which point they were detained by Egyptian military police, who accused them of being Israeli spies. Palkot was also blindfolded throughout the interrogation.”

Added to by Mediaite on February 16 was this on Palkot:

“Palkot is careful to make clear that he believes he, Wiig and others were targeted and attacked because they were foreigners, not because they were members of the press. Palkot also describes how his captors sought medical treatment for his extensive wounds, including a substantial amount of blood lost after having been struck on or near an artery.”

Finally, as TMZ put it, “Not to be out-done by Anderson Cooper”, Christine reproted an attack (From Mediaite, Febraury 2):

“Amanpour was riding in a car with her ABC crew after attempting to record protesters on the bridge into Tahrir Square. As Amanpour described the attack: An angry mob surrounded us and chased us into the car shouting that they hate America. They kicked in the car doors and broke our windshield as we drove away.

As Amanpour reports, the sudden increase in violence–including automatic gunfire and molotov cocktails being thrown into the crowd–has sent ripples of panic through the city. “The overwhelming feeling on the street is one of fear, of how this is now going to go. If Mubarak leaves precipitously, there could be real chaos.””

Of course, this brings us back to the question: Does President Obama only have rhetoric in this game? Are there no substantive policies and actions to support his delusional democracy whimsy? It appears not.

Today, Ari Shapiro wrote on NPR:

“When protesters took to the streets in Cairo, President Obama spoke early and often, mentioning the crisis in front of TV cameras five times in two weeks.

But the unrest in Libya presents a very different set of political challenges for the White House, and President Obama has responded largely by working behind the scenes.

In his only public comment on Libya thus far, Obama did not call for Gadhafi to leave.

“The Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people,” the president said last week.

At that point, Americans were still stuck in Tripoli. Once they reached safety, the president called German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the White House, Obama said Gadhafi “needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”

That was three days ago.”

To call him a bumbler gives bumblers a bad name. That’s because the majority of bumblers aren’t the leader of the free world..or on his team!

To wit (from the same NPR report):

“White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked Tuesday why President Obama hasn’t been very vocal on the crisis on Libya. Carney said that presidential action takes many different shapes.

“Not everything we do comes in the form of a speech or an announcement,” he said.”

Since when? All the man can do is speak eloquent rhetoric. He has proven incapable of doing anything behind the scenes…because, to be blunt, running this nation isn’t like running a branch of ACORN in Chicago. We don’t believe by default like those followers did. We, as a nation, aren’t simply trying to improve a few city blocks in the Austin or Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago. This is REALLY important, world-shaping stuff…and, all of a sudden, he goes quiet.

And the only one who sounds cogent is from Human Rights Watch? Now it’s getting scary:

“Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch warns that overusing the presidential megaphone diminishes its impact.

“I’m a strong believer in the power of presidential words, and sometimes all you’ve got is words. But in this case, they’ve got so many other, far more tangible tools.”

Malinowski says Gadhafi’s generals might not notice what President Obama said, but they’ll definitely notice American naval vessels heading toward Libya.

“With Egypt, you had perhaps greater use of the bully pulpit, but far more limited American action. With Libya, virtually every tool in the toolbox of American power is now being employed.””

He is right. It’s time to turn to the US Navy and Air Force to flex some muscle…and while we’re at it, let’s destroy a few ships-full of Somali pirates and their land-based operations.

Will PresBO ever understand what it truly means to lead?

Cuba Libre February 12, 2011

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“I was gambling in Havana/I took a little risk/Send lawyers, guns and money/Dad, get me out of this!” – Warren Zevon

“Havana moon, Havana Moon/Me still alone/Me sip on the rum/Me wonder where the boat she come…” – Chuck Berry

“Tropic days turn into steamy nights/Stateside ways give in to appetites/panatelas under white straw hats/Sit and soak…Rum and Coke/Cuban rhythms push the night along/Past the limits of what’s right or wrong/Hardly anyone is keepin’ score/Let it ride…Por favor.” – Linda Eder

“PT-boat on the way to Havana/I used to make a living, man/Pickin’ the banana/Now I’m a guide for the CIA/Hooray for the USA!” – Phil Ramone

Then there’s this:

Cuba Libre is a highball made of Cola, lime, and white rum. This highball is often referred to as a Rum and Coke in the United States and Canada, where the lime juice is optional.

Of course, the Free Cuba Foundation: http://www2.fiu.edu/~fcf/introd.html

Why this fascination with Cuba? Well, in my mind, would be a better choice for 51st state than Puerto Rico. We, as a nation, have for too long decided that the communist threat some 90 miles off the shore of Florida is intolerable. For a time, it was…and there was reason for concern. But as Fidel Castro’s reign evolved, he discovered, as we did, that his brand of Soviet communism wasn’t working. Freedom…Cuba Libre… is the best path for this people.

Let’s take a look at some current thought, just so you know I’m not a rabid dog barking in the might.

John J. Miller wrote for the National Review on February 4, 2011:

“Eagerly, warily, Cubans are taking up the government’s offer to work for themselves, selling coffee in their front yards, renting out houses, making rattan furniture and hawking everything from bootleg DVDs to Silly Bandz and homemade wine.

Hoping to resuscitate Cuba’s crippled economy, President Raúl Castro opened the door to a new, if limited, generation of entrepreneurs last year, after warning that the state’s “inflated” payrolls could end up “jeopardizing the very survival of the Revolution.”

The Cuban labor federation said the government would lay off half a million of about 4.3 million state workers by March and issue hundreds of thousands of new licenses to people wanting to join Cuba’s tiny private sector, in what could be the biggest remodeling of the state-run economy since Fidel Castro nationalized all enterprise in 1968.

By the end of 2010, the government had awarded 75,000 new licenses, according to Granma, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, swelling the official ranks of the self-employed by 50 percent.”

Miller goes on to say, in essence, this is a very small step on a very long path toward a big solution. But, even the Chinese don’t look much like communists anymore…until someone steps out of line. Today’s communist must where a business suit and feign the love of a measure free enterprise…just don’t think that means you can speak or act as you choose!

In June 2009, Mark Scheffler for the Global Post opined:

“Ah, Cuba: Land of cigars, sandy beaches and a long-isolated populace hungry for the fruits of the Western world.

Ugh, Cuba: A country with crumbling infrastructure, economic puppetmasters like China and Venezuela, and a populace with an average monthly wage of $19.

Such are the attractions and pitfalls for the U.S. economy as it eyes the island nation on the heels of the Obama administration’s April 13 elimination of Bush-era travel restrictions and partial easing of the 47-year-long embargo.

Who cares about 11.5 million communist consumers? Businesses should.”

Yes, they should. I am not a fan of PresBO but I have to admit I think he’s right on this one. The Huffington Post reported on April 13, 2009:

“In a measured break with a half-century of U.S. policy toward communist Cuba, the Obama administration lifted restrictions Monday on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to their island homeland.

In a further gesture of openness, U.S. telecommunications firms were freed to seek business there, too. But the broader U.S. trade embargo remained in place…

But the moves fell far short of the more drastic policy adjustments that some _ including Republican Sen. Richard Lugar _ have argued are required to promote U.S. interests in Latin America and to bring about change in Cuba. For most Americans, Cuba remains the only country in the world their government prohibits them from visiting _ a barrier to potential travelers as well as to the Cuban tourist industry that would like to see them…

Lugar’s report also urged congressional action to remove all U.S. travel restrictions, not just those for Cuban-Americans. Further, it advocated lifting travel restrictions on Cuban diplomats in Washington, who are not allowed to journey outside the capital area. It said this would encourage a reciprocal lifting of Cuban restrictions on U.S. diplomats, improving the U.S. government’s ability to understand more fully the conditions that exist on the entire island.”

Let’s look at a Readers Digest-like version of what happened to tilt Cuba to Communism:

“In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the U.S. The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure “at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants”, leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which was comparable to the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with the unemployment.

On 2 December 1956 a party of 82 people on the yacht Granma landed in Cuba. The party, led by Fidel Castro, had the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. While facing armed resistance from Castro’s rebel fighters in the mountains, Fulgencio Batista’s regime was weakened and crippled by a United States arms embargo imposed on 14 March 1958. By late 1958, the rebels broke out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general popular insurrection. After the fighters captured Santa Clara, Batista fled from Havana on 1 January 1959 to exile in Portugal. Barquín negotiated the symbolic change of command between Camilo Cienfuegos, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and his brother Fidel Castro after the Supreme Court decided that the Revolution was the source of law and its representatives should assume command.

Fidel Castro’s forces entered the capital on 8 January 1959. Shortly afterward, a liberal lawyer, Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó became president. He was backed by Castro’s 26th of July Movement because they believed his appointment would be welcomed by the United States. Disagreements within the government culminated in Urrutia’s resignation in July 1959. He was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, who served as president until 1976. Castro became prime minister in February 1959, succeeding José Miró in that post. (bold, italic is mine)

In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation, nationalized public utilities, tightened controls on the private sector, and closed down the mafia-controlled gambling industry. The CIA conspired with the Chicago mafia in 1960 and 1961 to assassinate Fidel Castro, according to documents declassified in 2007.

Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro’s government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra. The government nationalized private property totaling about USD $25 billion, of which American property made up around USD $1 billion.

By the end of 1960, the coletilla made its appearance, and most newspapers in Cuba had been expropriated, taken over by the unions, or had been abandoned. All radio and television stations were in state control. Moderate teachers and professors were purged. In any year, about 20,000 dissenters were imprisoned. Some homosexuals, religious practitioners, and others were sent to labor camps where they were subject to political “re-education“. One estimate is that 15,000 to 17,000 people were executed.

The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as ultimate leader. Fidel’s brother, Raúl Castro, became the army chief Loyalty to Castro became the primary criterion for all appointments. In September 1960, the revolutionary government created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which provided neighborhood spying.”

It is small wonder why Americans are frightened of PresBOs’ socialistic tendencies. Cuba serves as an example that the wheels can come loose from the wagon of freedom very quickly indeed. The 2010 elections demonstrated that the American people can kick the likes of PresBO to the curb and put the wheels back on the wagon. Cuba was not so fortunate, even after being looked-upon for years as the most advanced Latin American nation, between 1950 and 1960, it was over. You know the rest of the story.

That’s why taking a step toward “normalization” of political and business relationships with Cuba will do more goodwill than ever before. More than a half-century of repression, in the name of revolution, has not advanced Cuba. Soviet-style communism failed but Fidel and Raul didn’t “get the memo”.

Let’s hope Egypt has learned by the sad histories of other nations like Cuba and doesn’t allow the moment for “freedom” to slip into another form of dictatorship.

For the moment, let’s make “Cuba Libre” the mantra for a new era of US-Cuban relations.

Now, that would be change I could embrace.