Friday, September 28, 2012
Today's musical interlude...
So... did you catch all of yesterday's newsbites, folks? My advice? Make sure you do.
Mary and I are headin' up to Boston later today so newsbites will be a bit abbreviated today and there'll be no weekend newsbites.
Anyway... have a great weekend, everyone!
Thursday, September 27, 2012
This "Rob" who I off and on rant "to"...
He's a friend. A real person. "His" name may or may not be "Rob." Indeed... "he" may well be a "she."
"Rob" is a busy guy...gal...guy..girl... er... person.
He/she doesn't have time to "play" here on my blog.
In a sense ALL of my newsbites are "conversations." I use them to inform and comment. Sometimes I address the reporters/editors/pundits by name during newsbiting... usually I don't. (But since I always provide links... they're always identifiable - except where the reporting has no byline.)
Anyway... my point... don't take the "tone" as anything besides what it is - my writing style. (And, yeah... my face to face style as well - for good or ill.)
For a variety of reasons I don't get much feedback here at my blog. I do get a fair amount of hits. Many are no doubt random views. But I do have my regulars.
Most of my regulars are... er... important... important in the sense that they have public personae to safeguard; professional reputations to keep clean. (Heck... a few have federal security clearances!)
Agreeing with some of my more... er... "robustly stated" contentions publicly might well cause some of my regulars "problems" of one sort or another down the road.
Even disagreeing with me here requires... er... creating a public record which could come back to haunt someone. (Hey... there's a reason lawyers tell their clients to keep their friggin' mouths shut!)
Anyway... just wanted to make clear that what might seem to the casual reader an "attack" on "Rob" is really more of me thinking out loud and continuing real conversations that he/she and I have had.
Taken from today's Wall Street Journal
Yet another stand-alone newsbite on the Libyan "incident" of 9/11/12:
In his United Nations speech on Tuesday, President Obama talked about the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and declared that "there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice."
FOLKS... DID YOU READ THE PREVIOUS NEWSBITE? (ENOUGH SAID.)
What he didn't say is how relentless he'll be in tracking down the security lapses and intelligence failures that contributed to the murders.
None of the initial explanations offered by the White House and State Department since the assault on the Benghazi consulate has held up.
BUT, HEY... THEY'VE BEEN GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY BUDDY ROB SO FAR - GO FIGURE!
First the Administration blamed protests provoked by an amateurish anti-Islam clip posted on YouTube. Cue Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador and leading candidate for Secretary of State in a second Obama term: "What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . . . as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent."
IF NOT A LIE... THAN INCOMPETENCE. RIGHT? THE PROBLEM WITH GIVING MS. RICE "THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT" IS THAT I CERTAINLY KNEW SHE WASN'T MAKING AN ACCURATE STATEMENT. WHY DIDN'T SHE...? (AND ASSUMING "SIMPLE" INCOMPETENCE IS THE BEST CASE SCENARIO, ROB.)
Administration officials also maintained that the diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, the site of the first attacks this September 11, were properly defended and that the U.S. had no reason to prepare for any attack.
ROB. IT WAS 9/11. ISN'T THAT REASON ENOUGH ALONE - ALL BY ITSELF - TO INCREASE SECURITY FOR THE DAY? ISN'T THAT ENOUGH TO TRIGGER COMMON SENSE "PREPARATION" FOR A WORST-CASE SCENARIO?
"The office of the director of National Intelligence has said we have no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week...
ROB... THE AMBASSADOR HIMSELF FELT HIMSELF TO BE AN AT-RISK TARGET. (REMEMBER, BUDDY... OBAMA AND CLINTON DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE DIARY - LET ALONE ENVISION IT'S CONTENTS BEING MADE PUBLIC.)
...calling the security measures in place there "robust."
ROB... "ROBUST...???" REALLY...?!?!
Cell phone video footage and witness testimony from Benghazi soon undercut the Administration trope of an angry march "hijacked" by a few bad people. As it turned out, the assault was well-coordinated, with fighters armed with guns, RPGs and diesel canisters, which were used to set the buildings on fire. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation. Briefing Congress, the Administration changed its story and said the attacks were pre-planned and linked to al Qaeda.
RIGHT? TRUE? (BUT HERE'S THE THING, ROB... WHY DID THEY HAVE TO CHANGE THEIR STORY IN THE FIRST PLACE? WHY DIDN'T THEY KNOW WHAT THE FOREIGN MEDIA KNEW... WHAT LIBYAN OFFICIALS KNEW... WHAT WILLIAM R. BARKER KNEW (THANKS TO SIMPLY READING OPEN-SOURCE SOURCES)?
AGAIN... BEST CASE... INCOMPETENCE. (BUT IT SURE STILL LOOKS LIKE A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT EARLY ON TO SHIFT BLAME... TO SHIFT FOCUS AND ATTENTION... (AND WHO COULD BLAME THEM FOR TAKING THE BET THAT THEY COULD GET AWAY WITH IT? PERHAPS THEY WERE CONFIDENT THE LIBYAN AUTHORITIES WOULD BACK THEIR PLAY? PERHAPS THEY COUNTED ON THEIR ALLIES IN THE MSM TO PROTECT THEM AND NOT "GO OFF THE RESERVATION" LIKE CNN HAS DONE.) NO, BUD... I DON'T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS... BUT I'M CERTAINLY LOOKING AT ALL THIS THE SAME WAY I WOULD IF IT WERE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OR A ROMNEY ADMINISTRATION.
You'd think this admission would focus attention on why the compound was so vulnerable to begin with.
I KNOW, ROB... I KNOW... IT WAS A CONSULATE, NOT AN EMBASSY. GRANTED! SO LET'S SUBSTITUTE FOR "COMPOUND" THE WORD... "AMBASSADOR." WHY WAS ANY AMERICAN AMBASSADOR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD SO OUT OF CONTACT AND RELATIVELY UNPROTECTED ON 9/11?
(*TWIDDLING MY THUMBS*)
The removal of all staff from Benghazi, including a large component of intelligence officers, would also seem to hinder their ability to investigate the attacks and bring the killers to justice.
YEP. TO ME IT WOULD. HOW'BOUT TO YOU...?
Journalists have stayed on the case, however, and their reporting is filling in the Administration's holes.
AND, YET... YOU DON'T SEE IT THAT WAY.
On Friday, our WSJ colleagues showed that starting in spring, U.S. intelligence had been worried about radical militias in eastern Libya. These armed groups helped topple Moammar Ghadhafi last year but weren't demobilized as a new government has slowly found its legs.
Deteriorating security was no secret. On April 10, for example, an explosive device was thrown at a convoy carrying U.N. envoy Ian Martin. On June 6, an improvised explosive device exploded outside the U.S. consulate. In late August, State warned American citizens who were planning to travel to Libya about the threat of assassinations and car bombings.
ROB. UNLESS YOU BELIEVE THAT ALL THESE ARE RIGHT-WING WSJ LIES... CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHY I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU DON'T SEE WHAT I SEE (AND HAVE SEEN ALL ALONG) SO CLEARLY?
Despite all this, U.S. diplomatic missions had minimal security. Officials told the Journal that the Administration put too much faith in weak Libyan police and military forces. The night of the Benghazi attack, four lightly armed Libyans and five American security officers were on duty. The complex lacked smoke-protection masks and fire extinguishers. Neither the consulate in Benghazi nor the embassy in Tripoli were guarded by U.S. Marines, whose deployment to Libya wasn't a priority.
OOH...! I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT NO MARINES ASSIGNED TO THE EMBASSY! WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT ONE, ROB?
Rummaging through the Benghazi compound, a CNN reporter found a seven-page notebook belonging to Ambassador Stevens. According to the network, the diary said he was concerned about the "never-ending" security threats in Benghazi and wrote that he was on an al Qaeda hit list.
COULD IT BE THAT STEVENS NEVER MENTIONED ANY OF HIS FEARS TO HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON? IS THAT POSSIBLE? ROB... IF ANYONE IN THE PRESS HAS BOTHERED TO ASK HRC, I FOR ONE AM NOT AWARE OF IT. ARE YOU? IT'S A GOOD QUESTION... RIGHT? ME? IF FIND IT VERY DOUBTFUL THAT STEVENS FAILED TO KEEP HRC IN THE LOOP. BUT EVEN IF HE HAD... ISN'T IT HRC's RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW STUFF LIKE THIS...??? (OH... WAIT... RE-READING FROM PREVIOUS PARAGRAPHS IT'S CLEAR HRC DID KNOW ABOUT IT! AT LEAST THE STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALLY KNEW ABOUT IT. RE-READ THE "DETERIORATING SECURITY WAS NO SECRET" PARAGRAPH.)
Imagine the uproar if, barely a month before Election Day, the Bush Administration had responded to a terrorist strike — on Sept. 11 no less — in this fashion.
ROB. YOU'VE TOLD ME YOU DIDN'T BLAME BUSH FOR 9/11. FAIR ENOUGH. I ACTUALLY DID... TO A CERTAIN EXTENT... A FAR LESSER EXTENT THAN I BLAME CLINTON... BUT IN ANY CASE I "GET" YOUR RATIONALE. BUT AS TO THE QUESTION ABOVE RAISED BY THE WSJ... WHAT SAY YOU?
Obfuscating about what happened. Refusing to acknowledge that clear security warnings were apparently ignored. Then trying to shoot the messengers who bring these inconvenient truths to light in order to talk about anything but a stunning and deadly attack on U.S. sovereign territory...
I DON'T KNOW, ROB. MAYBE I'M JUST A CYNIC... BUT I'M GUESSING THE MEDIA HEAT ON BUSH WOULD HAVE BEEN A HELL OF A LOT HOTTER AND I REITERATE MY GUESS THAT HAD THIS HAPPENED UNDER BUSH'S WATCH AND YOU AND I HAD A RIDE TOGETHER WITHIN A FEW DAYS... WE WOULD SURELY HAVE DISCUSSED IT.
AND MORE IMPORTANT... MY GUESS IS THAT THE WHOLE COUNTRY WOULD HAVE BEEN "DISCUSSING" IT.
(*YET ANOTHER SHRUG*)
Four Americans lost their lives in Benghazi in a terrorist attack that evidence suggests should have been anticipated and might have been stopped. Rather than accept responsibility, the Administration has tried to stonewall and blame others.
FRANKLY I'LL STICK WITH "LIED."
...the following link to an essay penned by Trevor Burrus and Aaron Ross Powell posted via The Libertarian Library on September 14, 2012.
I'm posting the essay here at Usually Right - interspaced with my commentary, of course:
* * * * * *
Even if we try to ignore it, politics influences much of our world. For those who do pay attention, politics invariably leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather. Politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect.
So far, so good; no disagreement as yet!
It’s not difficult to understand why politics plays such a central role in our lives: political decision-making increasingly determines so much of what we do and how we’re permitted to do it.
Again... alright... I'm with the authors so far.
We vote on what our children will learn in school...
We do...?!?! Since when...??? I never have. The most I can do is vote for School Board members whose direct policy responsibilities encompass an effect upon perhaps 2% of the school budget (around 98% of school spending is mandate-bracketed to one extent or another) and who have basically nothing to do with curriculum setting.
...and how they will be taught.
Again... not quite sure where the authors are getting this from - but it's not true.
We vote on what people are allowed to drink, smoke, and eat.
No... actually our representatives do - often, in my opinion, illegitimately claiming this power... and almost always getting away with their power grabs.
We vote on which people are allowed to marry those they love.
Actually... direct referendums are few and far between.
In such crucial life decisions, as well as countless others, we have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people.
But do we really want to live in a world where politics is so important to our lives that we cannot help but be politically involved? Many, both on the Left and the Right, answer yes.
And frankly, they're wise to answer yes - at least in the sense that if we have government in the first place, it's best for the People to have at least theoretical control over government and a voice in decision-making effecting private citizens. Where the debate properly lays is the size, scope, and limitations imposed upon government power - of which I believe there should be many!
A politically engaged citizenry will not only make more decisions democratically but also be better people for it.
This depends. It depends upon whether the People - or should I say a transitory majority of the People - have their power properly constricted by the Rule of Law. (America was founded as a Republic - not a Democracy - deliberately and for good reason!)
From communitarians to neo-conservatives, there’s a sense that civic virtue is virtue — or at least that individually we cannot be fully virtuous without exercising a robust political participation. Politics, when sufficiently unconstrained by crude individualism and sufficiently embraced by an actively democratic polity, makes us better people.
Er... it depends.
Seriously... I'd have to hear specific scenarios laid out by the authors in order to give a fair up or down response to their last paragraph.
Yet the increasing scope of politics and political decision making in America and other Western nations has precisely the opposite effect. It’s bad for our policies and, just as important, it’s bad for our souls. The solution is simple: when questions arise about whether the scope of politics should be broadened, we must realistically look at the effects that politics itself has on the quality of those decisions and on our own virtue.
Politics takes a continuum of possibilities and turns it into a small group of discrete outcomes, often just two. Either this guy gets elected, or that guy does. Either a give policy becomes law or it doesn’t.
Ah... but now we're back to the issue of "Constitutional Republic Under the Rule of Law" vs. "Democracy." I believe that there are many, many, many decisions that government has no business sticking its nose into. There are many laws on the books that I don't consider legitimate laws. This goes beyond simply "policy preference" or "personnel preference" to the central question of what are the proper limits of governmental authority even assuming said authority is in line with the "popular will."
As a result, political choices matter greatly to those most affected. An electoral loss is the loss of a possibility. These black and white choices mean politics will often manufacture problems that previously didn’t exist, such as the “problem” of whether we — as a community, as a nation —will teach children creation or evolution.
Oddly, many believe that political decision making is an egalitarian way of allowing all voices to be heard. Nearly everyone can vote after all and because no one has more than one vote, the outcome seems fair.
Again... a very large and complicated topic to deal with. Obviously the authors "get" this (or else why write "seems"), so I'll continue reading rather than try to respond to the authors' contention at this point.
But outcomes in politics are hardly ever fair. Once decisions are given over to the political process, the only citizens who can affect the outcome are those with sufficient political power. The most disenfranchised minorities become those whose opinions are too rare to register on the political radar. In an election with thousands of voters, a politician is wise to ignore the grievances of 100 people whose rights are trampled given how unlikely those 100 are to determine the outcome.
The black-and-white aspect of politics also encourages people to think in black-and-white terms. Not only do political parties emerge, but their supporters become akin to sports fans...
Oh, yeah! On this one the authors have reiterated one of my own most common complaints concerning how human nature impacts politics and thus policy-making!
...feuding families, or students at rival high schools. Nuances of differences in opinions are traded for stark dichotomies that are largely fabrications. Thus, we get the “no regulation, hate the environment, hate poor people” party and the “socialist, nanny-state, hate the rich” party — and the discussions rarely go deeper than this.
True... and regrettable... but again, the "cause" of this isn't the two-party system; the "cause" is sheer human nature!
People are stupid... selfish... unsophisticated... ill-educated... stubborn... and so on and so forth. Not all share all - or even most - of the ills I've mentioned, but far too many do.
Politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans, and often worse because politics is more morally charged. Most Americans find themselves committed to either the red team (Republicans) or the blue (Democrats)...
True... but on the bright side, a plurality of Americans are registered neither Democrat nor Republican, but "Independent."
On the dark side... in order to "impact" elections from the bottom up it's often necessary to be a registered party member in order to take part in actual candidate selection, party platforms, etc.
...and those on the other team are not merely rivals, but represent much that is evil in the world.
Not to be picky... but I'd prefer use of the word "bad" as opposed to "evil."
To further narrow it down, I'd like to add the word "policies." As in "bad policies" vs. "evil policies."
Politics often forces its participants into pointless internecine conflict, as they struggle with the other guy not over legitimate differences in policy opinion but in an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice.
For the dullards... sure. But obviously for the rest of us there are degrees... there's reasoned "compare and contrast" involved in the ultimate decision making. In other words... "greater good" can equate with "lesser evil" and most often it does!
How can this be? Republicans and Democrats hold opinions fully within the realm of acceptable political discourse...
Many do... but many don't.
...with each side’s positions having the support of roughly half our fellow citizens.
Ah... now we come to another MASSIVE misunderstanding of reality!
Here's the problem with the authors' above contention: Both sides distort their own positions AS WELL as their opponents'! Therefore, unless one is fully engaged, sophisticated, knowledgeable, bright, and reads A LOT... the average American believes quite a lot about "their team" and "the other team" that just.. isn't... true..! And, folks... this skews the outcome of Democratic governance. It skews it badly.
If we can see around partisanship’s Manichean blinders, both sides have views about government and human nature that are at least understandable to normal people of normal disposition — understandable, that is, in the sense of “I can appreciate how someone would think that.”
Well... yes and no. For example, I recently referred to my friend Rob as "deranged" because he refuses to acknowledge that the Obama administration "lied" about the Libyan "incident" and its cause. I don't "appreciate" how Rob can think this. I don't understand how Rob can think this. And of course on certain topics Rob no doubt feels that I am the one who is "deranged."
But, when you add politics to the mix, simple and modest differences of opinion become instead the difference between those who want to save America and those who seek to destroy it.
Back to Rob... funny thing... just this morning he and I were discussing the meaning of the word "destroy" in the political context.
Bottom line... if one feels that "fundamental change" is "destructive"... well... then using the word "destroy" makes sense. (And the same for those who view "staying the course" or "adhering to tradition" as "destructive.")
This behavior, while appalling, shouldn’t surprise us.
But it's not necessarily "appalling." Often it's simply "shorthand" for complex, multi-faceted beliefs, assumptions, and analysis.
Psychologists have shown for decades how people will gravitate to group mentalities that can make them downright hostile. They’ve shown how strong group identification creates systematic errors in thinking. Your “teammates” are held to less exacting standards of competence...
True for most people to a greater degree than not... but less - much less - true for me. (Or for Rob for that matter!)
...while those on the other team are often presumed to be mendacious and acting from ignoble motives. This is yet another way in which politics makes us worse: it cripples our thinking critically about the choices before us.
Again... not to toot my own horn... but my critical thinking is just fine. (Indeed, superior to most!)
(*WINK*) (*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)
What’s troubling about politics from a moral perspective is not that it encourages group mentalities, for a great many other activities encourage similar group thinking without raising significant moral concerns. Rather, it’s the way politics interacts with group mentalities, creating negative feedback leading directly to viciousness.
Obviously the authors have never been to a Yankees vs. Red Sox game at EITHER Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park...
Politics, all too often, makes us hate each other.
Umm... more in the abstract than in reality. In the real word reasonable people maintain friendships - and certainly family bonds - with those who differ from them politically. This "hate"... as a real emotion directed at real, specific people... is the exception - not the rule.
Politics encourages us to behave toward each other in ways that, were they to occur in a different context, would repel us.
Speak for yourselves, boys...
No truly virtuous person ought to behave as politics so often makes us act.
With all due respect... this "us" the authors refer to isn't me. Oh, sure, I can be (and often am) a condescending prick when it comes to politics, but "hatred"... "viciousness"... no... when push comes to shove... well... actually "shoving" is the exception, not the rule.
While we may be able to slightly alter how political decisions are made, we cannot change the essential nature of politics. We cannot conform it to the utopian vision of good policies and virtuous citizens.
Who said most citizens are virtuous...? (And how is "virtuous" to be defined?)
The problem is not bugs in the system but the nature of political decision-making itself. The only way to better both our world and ourselves — to promote good policies and virtue — is to abandon, to the greatest extent possible, politics itself.
Speaking of utopian visions...
No. Just the opposite. Americans must become more engaged, better informed, indeed proactive! Americans must "take back" our country from the politicians who are slowly but surely destroying it.
"Power" is the key and whether we're talking Republicans or Democrats, Left or Right, we must take power away from the politicians and return to the ideals of the Founders and the blueprint of the Constitution!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Did you folks know about Hillary Clinton's "security waiver?"
Read today's first newsbite...
(Inside the comments section!)
(Hey, Rob... check out newsbite #3 as well!)
(And #9, Rob... read #9!)
Yep... remember back when Jack Bauer represented the dark side of the George W. Bush administration?
Well... Jack is long "retired," but Jethro Gibbs and his NCIS team are still on the job over at CBS reflecting the values of America in the Age of Obama!
Tonight's episode... "Extreme Prejudice."
Yep... the title refers to the plot anchor - an illegal presidential assassination order that apparently no one in TV land... or in the real word... looks upon as anything out of the ordinary - never mind out of bounds... illegal... unconstitutional...
Why do I say this? Well, prior to writing this I did a bit of googling and didn't find one negative comment on tonight's NCIS episode premise! Not one!
So... anyway... tonight's episode was the continuation of last season's closing cliffhanger.
American "terrorist" Harper Dearing has set off a bomb which has taken out part of the NCIS complex. People have died. People have been hurt. (All the major - and minor - recurring characters are ok, though...)
Actually... Dearing isn't so much a "terrorist" as he is a vengeful father who blames the U.S. Navy for the death of his son. The TV guide episode synopsis refers to Dearing as a "criminal mastermind."
In any case, prior to this latest crime...
(Previously Dearing had planted bombs in U.S. navy ships in order to force the navy to acknowledge the potential cost... now real cost... of allowing ship construction along a faulty design which made the ships vulnerable to internal fires... but that's going back to previous episodes...)
...Dearing had been "wanted."
But tonight... oh... tonight... the plot expanded to double-down on recent real presidential assassination orders to create the plot device of a very, very, very angry President (Obama) reacting to Dearing's latest bombing by ordering NCIS, the FBI, and by extension any and all U.S. governmental agencies, departments, and the military to go after Dearing with "extreme prejudice" - in other words... Dearing... an American citizen on American soil... was no longer a "wanted" man... he was now a marked man... marked for "termination."
And, oh, yeah... by the end of the episode he'd been... er... "terminated." Killed. Murdered. Assassinated. Pick your favorite term.
And... this being the age of Obama... no one in CBS's fictional reflection of the real America 2012 had a problem with this illegal, unconstitutional presidential order!
Nope... there wasn't even a philosophical discussion!
The President of the United States says "kill the bastard" then by God we kill the bastard!
Hell... the FBI deliberately blew off an opportunity to peacefully capture the "suspect" and bring him to justice just so that - instead - a uniformed FBI "SWAT" team would literally pour automatic weapons firepower into a bathroom where they thought Dearing was taking a wiz or perhaps just washing his hands.
(No calls for surrender... just an ambush... an ambush planned with one objective in mind - to kill, not capture, the "suspect.")
Yeah... it's "only a TV show." Keep on telling yourselves that, my friends.
No. What it is is a further "socialization" of the American People to "the new normal" where civil rights are what those in power say they are... the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are more like guidelines and suggestions... and the Rule of Law is replaced by the rule of the POTUS.
It really is amazing, folks. And most of you don't even see it.
That's what's so friggin' scary...