Archive for January, 2009

Obama on Al-Arabiya

For most of the day, the DrudgeReport has been leading with the news that President Obama chose the Arabic network Al-Arabiya for his first televised interview.

I have previously expressed my concerns about President Obama and his approach to the war on terror, but I have absolutely no problem with him courting the Arab media.

In fact, I cannot understand why any thinking person would be opposed to the idea of an American president attempting to reach the Arab street in this manner. Isn’t this what we want our presidents to do? To try to get past the Ahmedinajads of the world and speak directly to the people? “Tear Down This Wall” and “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” – anyone? anyone? Bueller?

Moreover, there is nothing particularly new or radical about this move- President Bush realized the importance of such efforts and gave several interviews to Al-Arabiya. In addition, the Republican party gave Al-Jazeera its own booth and banner at the 2004 Republican Convention, a courtesy that apparently was denied by the Democrats that year.

My concern, of course, is what the President says, not where he says it.

Turning to the substance of his comments, I do take issue with the way President Obama uses his background and ethnicity when it suits him, while playing the victim when others make mention of it. To wit, note the following:

[Obama] talked about growing up in Indonesia, the Muslim world’s most populous nation, and noted that he has Muslim relatives.

During the campaign Obama supporters (especially his cheerleaders in the media) expressed outrage when others dared to mention his muslim roots. Pretty disingenuous to trot them out now when it suits his interests.

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“Intractable”

Michael Totten remains my favorite writer on all matters relating to the Middle East. In this sober, and sobering, post about the Arab-Israeli conflict, he shoots down all the idealists and explains why the situation is intractable. Key quote:

A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but that’s not an option…“We will never recognize Israel,” senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan said before he was killed by an air strike in Gaza during the recent fighting. “There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination.” Hamas does not speak for all Palestinians…but let’s not kid ourselves here. Hamas speaks for a genuinely enormous number of Palestinians, and peace is impossible as long as that’s true.

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Is the Times Toast?

The entire newspaper industry currently is suffering, but this article paints an incredibly bleak picture of the financial situation at the New York Times.

Here are the highlights:

Moody’s is clearly worried about the company’s liquidity, giving it a Speculative Grade Liquidity rating SGL-3. The company faces some substantial debts coming due through 2011. Moody’s believes the [Carlos] Slim Money and other sources of cash will cover the 2009 debts, and the majority of a $250 million note coming due in March, 2010. But it has a $400 million debt rollover coming due in June, 2011. To pay that note off, the company will have to scrape together whatever cash it can drag out of its operations, and add money the company hopes to generate by selling (and leasing back) its interest in its headquarters building, and selling its interest in the Boston Red Sox, the New England newspapers, and perhaps — its last salable asset — the About.com group. Plainly, the game is survival now.

How cool would it be if Rupert Murdoch swooped in and purchased the Times and then cleaned house? Okay, that will never happen. But it’s a nice thought.

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“He’s Going to Pay”

They’re seething in Camelot. Should the accidental governor be frightened? Too soon to say, but he clearly has been hurt by this fiasco, and it could turn out to be his own personal Hurricane Katrina, wherein the patina of incompetence never really disappears.

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Bibi 2.0?

I was curious how the polls in Israel would be affected by the recent war in Gaza. According to this survey, little has changed, with Benjamin Netanyahu holding a handy lead in the polls. The election is February 10.

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Look Who Else Is Cheering

Yay We’re Being Nicer to Terrorists
Oh, great.

Here are some of the other people joining in the applause for President Obama’s decision to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

In Saudi Arabia, families of the country’s 13 remaining Guantánamo detainees rejoiced at the news.

“That was a humane decision. We’re very optimistic,” said Ali al-Sayari, whose son Abdullah, 28, has been there for eight years. The family has not heard from or about him for the past two years.

“Obama is correcting the mistakes of his predecessor,” said Ali al-Shamrani, whose nephew Mohammed al-Shamrani has been in Guantánamo for eight years.

Okay, I understand the mere fact, in and of itself, that these individuals are cheering doesn’t prove closing Guantanamo is a victory for the terrorists.

But it sure isn’t encouraging either.

And look who else is excited:

The UN’s torture investigator, Manfred Nowak, welcomed the move and said freed inmates should be allowed to sue the US if they had been mistreated.

So the UN is loving it (in my book, that’s strike 2) and why? Because it will open the door for some bloodsucking trial lawyers to sue (Strike 3).

Yay.

Forgive me for not joining in the applause.

I wonder if, anywhere on this planet, a single terrorist or Muslim fundamentalist is not cheering as well. I wonder if, anywhere on this planet, a single terrorist or Muslim fundamentalist is thinking “Oh no, things are going to be a lot tougher for us now that Obama is President.” I highly doubt it.

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Paterson v. Kennedy

Oh, the sniping is just too funny. They’re killing each other, and I can’t look away. Somebody stop me!

Was he or wasn’t he going to pick her?

Did she “withdraw” because of Ted’s illness? nanny issues? tax issues? marital issues? her inability to, you know, speak?

I’m trying to decide who looks worse, Caroline or the Accidental Governor?

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Congratulations, Governor Paterson

Let me be the first to congratulate (accidental) Governor Paterson:

With your pathetic bumbling vis-a-vis the vacant senate seat, you have actually made Rod Blagojevich look like a statesman.

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Or Did She?

Amazing.

As I type this, the AP is reporting here that Caroline Kennedy has not withdrawn her name for consideration at the same time that the New York Times is reporting here that she has withdrawn. And both stories have been posted in the last hour.

Whatever the outcome, this is a total circus and a national embarassment. Blame our accidental governor.

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Kennedy Withdraws (?)

Perhaps she realized that being a Senator is a real job – something she’s never had – or perhaps she realized that the position requires, you know, public speaking.

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The Missing Words

The biggest reason I did not vote for Barack Obama was my concern that he, like so many others, just doesn’t get it on terrorism, by failing to grasp the total and undeniable link between terrorism and Islam. You can’t deal with a problem if you are in total denial about its origin.

For that reason, I drew no comfort at all from President Obama’s fleeting references to terrorism in his speech yesterday. Here is what he said:

Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred…And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, “Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you”…To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

Granted, in an inaugural address you expect lofty rhetoric and not specific descriptions of policies or of particular enemies. But I would have felt a lot more comfortable if he had been willing to say “a far reaching network of Islamic extremists who perpetuate violence and hatred.” At some point he is going to have to give up the political correctness and face reality– unfortunately he is likely to learn this reality the hard way.

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A Decent Man Who Deserved Better

Here is what top adviser Mark McKinnon had to say about (now former) President Bush’s view of President Obama:

I think I can fairly report that he feels a genuine warmth for President Obama. He admires his sense of family, his relaxed and easygoing nature, and his character. He has gotten to know him during this transition period and he has a pretty good gut for people. His gut tells him Obama has what it takes to be a successful leader. Not yet tested. Not yet proved he is willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions. But the potential is clearly there.

Norman Orenstein, no Bush fan himself, adds this:

Beginning well before the election, President Bush and his chief of staff, Josh Bolten, decided to make this transition different by removing many of the usual obstacles and fostering cooperation and harmony.

What a stunning contrast between the way President Bush treated his adversaries and the way they have treated him.

Classless to the end, many of the Obama fans at yesterday’s inauguration booed and shouted obscenities when the outgoing President was introduced. I wasn’t surprised.

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Blagojevich 1, Reid 0

Clearly Rod Blagojevich got the best of Harry Reid in the Battle of Burris.

As distasteful as it appears, Blagojevich of course had every right to pick whomever he wanted to fill the Obama seat. He’s still the governor, and the law in Illinois says the governor gets to fill any Senate vacancy. End of story. Blame the people of Illinois for electing a crook. Or blame them for enacting a law which gives the governor the power to fill the seat (a handful of states call for a special election to fill such vacancies).

Harry Reid had said after the Blagojevich arrest that no Blago appointee would ever be accepted by the Senate. I wonder if Reid consulted an attorney before making that claim. I doubt it.

And Reid is as nasty and partisan as they come. Although he did not want Blagojevich to make an appointment, he also let it be known that he opposed a special election. Why? Pure partisanship- Reid knew there was a chance (though a slim one) that a Republican might win the seat.

While Burris apparently is considered a lightweight and an egomaniac, he certainly has the qualifications to serve in the Senate. It’s not like he’s an incoherent child of privilege who’s never even held a real job.

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Bail, Madoff, and the Law of Return

One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of criminal law is the purpose of setting bail in criminal cases. The purpose of requiring bail money is to ensure that the accused comes back to court. Period. It is not meant to be punitive. The defendant who has posted his money (or home, or stock, or some other thing of value) has an incentive to return for future court appearances, lest he lose the money if he skips town. And no matter how horrific the alleged crime, the defendant who has posted bail (in the amount deemed appropriate by the court) has every right to remain at liberty- you know, that whole presumption of innocence thang.

Among those who don’t seem to understand this is CNN’s Campbell Brown, who complains here that Bernard Madoff’s bail should be revoked, basically because he is a bad guy. While there may well be valid reasons for revoking Madoff’s bail- such as violating the conditions previously set by the court – Brown is clearly clueless in making this argument:

Letting him serve his time at home for this long has been bad enough. To let him live in his luxury digs while he awaits trial would be a disgrace.

“Serve his time”? Is she unaware that at this point he has not been convicted of a crime?

One thing a court may consider in setting bail is how easy it would be for the defendant to flee the jurisdiction. Which brings me to a very interesting case currently pending in Iowa. Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin was the head of AgriProcessors, the largest kosher meatpacking plant in America. However, Rubashkin was arrested earlier this year after an immigration raid revealed hundreds of illegal and underage workers were employed at the plant. He also faces bank fraud charges.

At a hearing in November, Rubashkin was denied the chance to post bail after, among other arguments, the prosecutor argued that Rubashkin was a flight risk on the grounds that since Rubashkin is Jewish, he has the right under the Law of Return to seek citizenship in Israel. Taken to its logical end, this would mean no Jewish defendant should ever have the chance to post bail. Again, as with Madoff there may well be other valid reasons to deny Rubashkin bail. Yet at least according to this article, the judge cited this as one of the reasons for keeping Rubashkin locked up.

Troubling.

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File This Under “Duh”

A new study by the New York City Department of Health shows that those who engage in binge drinking are more likely to have sex, and also more likely to get an STD. Shocker.

The sad part is that our tax dollars were used to make this “discovery.”

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