Posts Tagged ‘Obama’


An End to the “Obama is a Radical Socialist” Meme


Given the fact that Obama agreed to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone – including for the richest 1% of Americans – I’d be curious to hear the explanation for people who still hold the belief that he’s a socialist.

I’m sure that they’d point to the debt and how he’s done nothing about it.  Or bring up the stimulus again (even though I don’t hear them screaming about socialism at the moment when – gasp – nearly a trillion dollars added to the deficit to help get the economy going sounds a lot like the stimulus plan). Or maybe they’ll mention that unemployment is at roughly the exact same place that it was when he took office and claim that his goal is to have everyone living off the government’s dime so that he can control everyone.  Or they might say that this is all a tactic to improve the economy so that he can win re-election in 2012 and then he’ll implement all of the truly devastating aspects of his socialist agenda onto the American people.

The reality is that people who perceive Obama as a weak, un-American, Muslim, socialist/fascist “other” will continue to do so regardless of what he says and regardless of what he does.

  • He can cut taxes (which he’s already done before to the tune of nearly $300 billion as part of the Recovery Act);
  • increase the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan;
  • continue to keep troops in Iraq to support the nation-building there;
  • say he’s against DADT but seek out an appeal when a court finds it unconstitutional;
  • declare an end to torture in America yet protect all of those involved in that disgusting enterprise;
  • and, back off on his moratorium for Israelis building settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, he’s a leftist radical?  Not just some annoying liberal, but radical.  Really?  In what Beckian nightmarish world, exactly?

(And as for all the Internet emails about how Obama is actually a Muslim and doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance and was sworn in on a Koran or something — please, stop getting your information from mass emails of which you don’t know the source.  Do some investigation of your own and at least get your facts straight.)

What’s interesting about this deal is that the most grief he’s taking is from the left, not the right.  The conservatives might not be stoked about some of the elements of the deal, but overall they seem relatively cool with it.  After all, they did get the one thing they wanted: making sure that Americans making over a million dollars a year (the new definition of millionaire, by the way, is not for people who have a million dollars, but rather those who make seven figures annually) get $100,000 extra in their pockets.

Sure, they lost on the whole making sure the unemployment extension was paid for, but that wasn’t really that big of a deal.  It’s not like they weren’t going to eventually agree to unemployment benefits — their base might want fiscal austerity during elections, but much like the whole lack of atheists in a foxhole, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has been unemployed for over a year with a family to feed saying no to extending unemployment just because it’s paid for by the deficit.  National concerns become rather minuscule when faced with the personal stresses of being able to put food on the table.

Idealists on both sides lost this one.  Regardless of the health of the short-term economy, the progressives wanted to win this battle against the conservatives.  They wanted some justice for the decade-long tax holiday the rich had been enjoying at the expense of the overall national debt.  And no matter what they got in return — college tax credits, tax rebates, 13 more months of unemployment benefits — the true leftists feel like they lost big time with this deal.  They probably feel betrayed by this president who was supposed to be some progressive savior — while others still wax hyperbolic about how much of a socialist radical he truly is.

Seems like both were wrong about him after all.  He’s still the left-of-center pragmatist who puts governance over ideology every single time.  Just like he’s always been.  And you can still dislike him all you want — but at least dislike him for what he really is and what he’s really done, not for what you project onto him to be.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Our Current Political Discourse: Time for Critical Thinking, Not Selective Listening


If we consider the endless debating on the 24-hour-news TV channels, in the blogosphere, and on talk radio as healthy political discourse, we’re lacking the “healthy” and “discourse” parts of it.

Instead of focusing on facts and figures to influence a “this is the best course of action” decision, all of our time “discussing” is really just making sure that every single person’s view on things – regardless of how informed it may be – gets its validation in the world.

I suppose the idea is that offering different viewpoints allows the reader/viewer/lemming to determine on their own which one is right and which one is wrong.  Or, more likely on the complex issues not as cut-and-dried as something like the Birther insanity, that each side would offer something valuable to the discussion (and by that I mean factual knowledge, not just personal belief) that would help the reader/viewer/lemming to come to their own conclusions.  Instead, though, people tend to just latch onto whichever person already coincides with their own beliefs (not facts or conclusions) and just accepts everything that person says as truth.  Our news has become simply about offering an outlet to validate everyone, not to empower them to come to their own conclusions.

So what ends up happening? People immediately become defensive when debate occurs because it’s not a discussion of independent facts and points of view; it’s become a personal attack on beliefs.  And, of course, people just reiterating the same talking points over and over.  It’s like we’re all just in one camp or another, following the leader.  That’s not informed debate.  That’s not engaging, educational discourse.  That’s not examining complex issues. It’s just finding someone that is a supposed authority to make you feel like, “Yup! I knew it: I’m right!  See, he said so, too, so that means whatever I think it’s the truth!”

The reality is that everyone lives life in a gray area, even if they claim to – or want to – live in an ideal world where there are clearly defined rights and wrongs. Recently in a Facebook thread, I had a discussion with two Republicans who can’t stand Obama and it came down to this: no matter what Obama does, they won’t agree with him. For example: despite the fact that Obama increased the military campaign in Afghanistan — which is something that one supported — she marginalized it by saying that Obama has merely “supported” the effort there.  I countered that factually that was inaccurate — Obama drastically increased the troop levels in Afghanistan — but, it didn’t change her opinion that he was a “pansy.”  Since she already had established that as her belief of Obama, everything had to be spun to fit that image rather than amending her belief; in this case, marginalizing Obama’s surge in Afghanistan as simply “supporting” what had already been started by his predecessor.

The other commenter in the discussion summed it all up rather succinctly:

“He is slithery and two faced, that is the bottom line.we will never agree on what he has done or not, but he is a fake for sure. [sic]”

Notice that phrasing — implying that even the facts are debatable and up for personal interpretation.  We can certainly disagree on the value of his actions, but to not even be able to see eye-to-eye on what actions he’s done… I mean, that’s outside the boundaries of rational thought. Unfortunately, I feel like that’s where much of our discourse exists today.

We’re at a point where people stick to their preconceived notions in the face of facts that may run contrary, seeking out and listening to others to reaffirm and support those notions rather than absorbing the facts and using those to influence our opinions.  Coming to conclusions based on the evidence seems to be an outdated concept having lost favor to everyone needing validation that their own view of the world is the right one and everyone else is wrong.

Except for those chosen political pundits that share those same beliefs of course.

I mean: what’s so good about all sharing the same feelings on politics as Glenn Beck?  So you can have the exact same political opinions as every other Fox News Channel viewer?  Or every other talk radio listener?  Every other self-proclaimed Republican?

We should all be as skeptical of opinion writers/pundits/hosts as we are of the public figures they themselves are criticizing.  We should all also accept that:

  1. our initial opinions might be wrong;

  2. accept that we won’t share the exact same opinions that we’re “supposed to” have given our political affiliations; and

  3. we will not know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” on every single issue or policy or maneuver or bill that comes down the pike and is discussed exhaustively in the public eye.

There’s not nearly as much security in accepting those three realities — it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that we’re right and they’re wrong.  The biggest impediment to acceptance is that the pride that has been established already in the polarizing discourse has meant that no one can handle the ego blast that one would endure at this point if a die-hard Republican admitted that – gasp! – Obama did something they agreed with for once and didn’t spin it to still retain their comforting disdain for him.

To universally dismiss and disagree with everything that someone does simply because they did it is the exact same fallacy as universally celebrating and agreeing with everything that person does simply because they did it. It’s the flip side of the same misguided coin.  We need to accept the gray area.  We need to accept that Republicans will sometimes favor (insert traditional Democrat stance here) and Democrats will sometimes favor (insert traditional Republican stance here).  This shouldn’t be surprising nor unforgivable.

It should be encouraged that we think for ourselves and have diverse stances on things rather than stick to partisan talking points.  It’s time to validate critical thinking, not selective listening.


Why the Bush-era Tax Cuts Should Expire for the Richest Americans


The Bush Tax Cuts are set to expire at the end of this year.  The Republicans want to continue them; the Democrats want to let them end.

NY Times:

Democratic leaders, including Mr. Obama, say they are intent on letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire as scheduled at the end of this year. But they have pledged to continue the lower tax rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 — what Democrats call the middle class.

To put this in perspective, this means that the Democrats — the party typically in favor of higher taxes to pay for their penchant for more government programs — aim to keep the tax cuts for nearly 98% of Americans, while letting the unfunded, deficit-increasing Bush tax cuts lapse for the richest of earners.

This seems like the best course of action for a number of reasons:

  1. The one group of people that don’t need financial help right now are the top 2%, the richest Americans who despite the economic recession that has left millions jobless — and even threatened with being denied continued unemployment benefits — the rich, while having lost wealth, have already rebounded.  In fact, the “millionaire class held a larger percentage of the country’s wealth [in 2009] than it did in 2007,” meaning that the rich are richer now than before the recession, at which time the top 1% of raked in 24% of the nation’s income.
  2. I don’t find higher taxes on the wealthy to be a form of punishment regardless of the economic climate.  It’s like Warren Buffet said: “If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”  No one gets to the top alone.  And no one at the top should ever forget about everyone else in the middle and at the bottom.
  3. The overwhelming majority of Americans, those making under $200,000 per year, the supposed middle-class and below, the group most affected by the sub-10% unemployment rate (but by some accounts could be upwards of 20%), can’t handle having their taxes raised.  They simply can’t afford it.  (Now, one could argue that $200,000 per year earners could afford it, but arguing about where the middle class to upper class cut-off lies is a different blog post.)
  4. It’s estimated that the tax cuts on the top 1% could cost upwards of $40 billion.  Since this action now falls under the Pay-As-You-Go rules, the cuts can’t simply be paid for by adding to the deficit.  For those who want to continue the tax cuts, I find it appalling that resources would be found to spend that kind of money on millionaires, meanwhile millions of people still can’t find work.  There has to be countless better ways to spend $40 billion during a time of record national debt than handing it over to the richest people in the country.

This is a society.  We work together.  We need each other. We don’t live in a vacuum, where we are only affected by our own choices.  Individual responsibility is extremely important, but we are a collective, as well.   And right now, the rich don’t need the help; everyone else does.


Tea Party Group Compares Obama to Hitler, Hurts Own Cause


Less than a day after Sarah Palin blasted the NAACP for blasting the Tea Party groups as “racists,” a billboard in Iowa has been taken down for its depiction of President Obama as being in the same vein as Hitler and Lenin.  The billboard – which displayed pictures of Hitler, Obama, and Lenin – was ordered by the North Iowa Tea Party.

In response to the universal outcry, North Iowa Tea Party co-founder Bob Johnson agreed that the billboard was offensive, saying that the imagery took away from the intended message of being anti-socialism:

“They are absolutely right in their criticism because the image of Hitler just totally wiped everything else and it misrepresents the tea party movement. They were right from the standpoint that the image was not a positive reflection on the tea people.”

Okay, so critics weren’t right in that the North Iowa Tea Party’s assertion that Obama is a leader on par with two of the worst human beings of the 20th century is beyond absurd and offensive and wrong; rather, the use of that imagery simply didn’t reflect positively on the tea people.  It’s not that they’re wrong, mind you.  Just that by being so blasphemous, they made themselves look bad.  That’s quite the mea culpa, Johnson.

As for my earlier reference to Sarah Palin defending the Tea Party groups as not being racist: in her note, she quotes South Carolina GOP congressional candidate Tim Scott, who said that

“the NAACP is making a grave mistake in stereotyping a diverse group of Americans who care deeply about their country and who contribute their time, energy and resources to make a difference.”

On the surface, yes, this is a compliment to the people who make up the various tea parties; but, these characteristics are not mutually exclusive.  One can be racist and still contribute plenty of time, energy, and resources to make a difference in our society.  It’s the nature of what kind of difference they’re seeking to make that should be questioned; not their efforts. People can care deeply about their country – or any number of things, for that matter – yet be misguided in their ways of showing that affection.  Simply saying that you’re doing something out of love, even if harmful or flat wrong, doesn’t excuse anything.

True, posting a billboard depicting Obama as a peer of Hitler and Lenin doesn’t mean that they’re racists — in fact, it’s asserting that Obama himself is a racist, which they very well may believe.  Perhaps the North Iowa Tea Party group posted this out of plain ignorance, not understanding the vast differences between Nazism and Leninism, but also not realizing that the political philosophy they accused Obama of espousing is called democratic socialism, not “democrat socialism.”

But, even if that were true, they still have no one to blame but themselves for the way people view their organization and their cause.  When you want to be taken seriously, you don’t go down the lowest (highest?) road of hyperbole and compare someone to Hitler.  Unless someone has systematically eradicated nearly an entire population of human beings and invaded numerous countries causing a world war, there should never even be a remote comparison between the two.

This isn’t the first time that a tea party group has likened Obama to Hitler (see above picture), and I’m sure that it won’t be the last.  It seems that Johnson and other tea party group founders should learn to focus on the real, everyday issues about which they feel the most passionate to change rather than marginalizing themselves with images like on this ridiculous billboard.  They have a chance to voice their opinion and let people know just what they’re truly about, to prove the haters wrong, to show that they are about actual policy issues, that they’re not racists or extremists, and this is what they come up with: more than just a failed opportunity to change the opinions of many Americans; this is the sort of thing that reaffirms people’s already negative feelings toward the entire movement.

Unless of course the current sentiments about the tea party groups that Palin and others fervently defend against really are warranted.  In which case, they should just keep the billboard up and own the backlash because if that’s what they’re really about, have the courage to stand behind it.  (Plus, for being so against wasteful spending, you’d think that this group wouldn’t blow their hard-earned cash on such a self-damning sign.)

Photo courtesy of elviskennedy’s Flickr Photostream


Deconstructing Rick Santorum’s Argument that Obama is Detatched from American Experience


Former PA Senator Rick Santorum:

“Obama is detached from the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of its people. And as a result of that, he doesn’t connect with people at that level.”

His argument: Obama is detached from the American experience, which prevents him from connecting with people at that level.

His support:

  1. Obama’s background of living in Indonesia and Hawaii.  Despite Indonesian Americans only comprising about .02% of the US Population (as of the 2000 census), it doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans who live in that country for a period of time, or those who emigrate to America, are less knowledgeable on the American experience.  One could argue that part of the American experience is being able to see the world and learn other cultures first-hand.  Perhaps Mr. Santorum is unaware that Hawaii is actually our 50th state and part of the union.  Sure, it’s way out there in the Pacific, but to say that living there makes your experiences less American than the average American sure is a slap in the face to the nearly 1.3 million citizens that call Hawaii home.  Maybe he has Hawaii confused with Puerto Rico.
  2. Obama’s viewpoint of academics.  Since when is it un-American to value an education?
  3. Obama’s time at an Ivy League school.  See previous rebuttal.

Therefore, he comes to this conclusion:

Ivy League schools and academics are in direct opposition to loving America and understanding the basic values and wants and desires of its people.

By this line of thought, even Santorum himself falls into this group into which he lumps Obama: he attended Penn State University for both undergrad and his law degree.  Not quite Ivy League, but a highly esteemed public school nonetheless, and one that surely falls into the realm of academics.  How does he reconcile the fact that he apparently loves America and understands the basic values of its people despite also coming from academia himself?  Also – the choice of saying “its people” implies that Obama isn’t even a citizen, that he’s looking in from the outside at America, of which he’s not a part.  Subtle, yet rather inflammatory in its suggestion.

This argument seems to be another way for Santorum to portray Obama as an elitist, that he doesn’t understand the common American.  It’s an offensive argument to both Obama and to whomever passes off as “common Americans” these days.  First to Obama because it casts him aside as some outsider, an out-of-touch American — or worse, un-American.  But the real offense is how he patronizes everyday Americans as not being able to relate to Obama because he’s highly educated.  As if the average citizen is an uneducated, ignorant person who finds intelligence to be suspicious and unappealing, and considers school to be against his or her core beliefs.

Nothing quite like someone with a relatively similar education background telling people that education is not for the common American and they should be skeptical of people with Ivy League degrees, but never mind my own graduate degree in law from this nationally ranked university.


How to Turn the Political Tide: Reward Rational Thought


From the blatant lies passed off as truths by Arizona’s governor to the Rolling Stone reporter whose article ultimately led to Gen. McChrystal’s forced resignation, the question raised by The Economist, Andrew Sullivan, and others seems more relevant than ever now: do intelligent arguments make a difference?

With so much of the blogosphere ripe with deeply partisan, harsh opinionators, and the populist movement in full force across the country, playing toward people’s emotions has seemed to trump rational arguments.  We’re living in a time when a journalist has to defend his reporting because it’s so vastly different from what gets passed off as news and journalism with outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, and the Washington Post dangerously blurring the lines:

“Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.” – Michael Hastings

In a debate with other gubernatorial candidate, Matt Jette, who said that a lot of undocumented workers “are just trying to feed their family… They just want to work,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer responded with:

“We are a nation of laws. And they are coming across our border illegally. And the majority of them in my opinion and I think in the opinion of law enforcement is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they’re bringing drugs. And they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth, Matt. That is the truth…”

Notice how her argument is based on her opinion, which at the end, she passes off as truth, as fact.  In her argument, there is no difference between what she believes and what is real.

Now, let’s just say for the sake of argument that she’s right: the majority of illegal immigrants are coming across the border to sell drugs and terrorize Americans.  If that’s the case, and the numbers (because there have to be numbers to prove something like this which is calculable) show this to be the case, then there’s no need to even bring up one’s opinion, or allude to the possible opinion of some third party.  There’s no my feelings versus your feelings; it’s just these numbers show this is happening, plain and simple.

The obvious reason that Gov. Brewer didn’t handle the argument in this manner is most likely two-fold:

  1. The numbers weren’t in her favor.  There are more than double the number of Border Patrol agents on the border now than six years ago, and the crime rates in border towns in Arizona haven’t changed much at all in the past decade.
  2. The masses aren’t interested in numbers.  Not to say that people are stupid, but when in large groups, it’s easy to play to emotions.  And emotions run high these days with nearly two years of unemployment near 10%, the housing market crashing, and broad anger toward those who are supposed to be the ones who can do something about it all.

To look outside of Arizona, let’s take the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Outrage slowly built after the initial oil rig explosion when people realized just how grave the situation was and how difficult it was going to be to fix it.  That outrage initially went right at BP, for good reason; but, as the weeks flew by with oil churning out of the earth, blame shifted to President Obama and the government — he should be doing more; he hasn’t done enough; he hasn’t been putting enough pressure on BP; he hasn’t even met with BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward.

When you ask people what they expect Obama to do that hasn’t yet been done, no one can give an answer.  And no one has an answer because no one has the answer.  The only actual fix seems to always have been the relief wells that are currently being dug and won’t be finished until August; everything else has been done on a wing and a prayer.  Not to say that the different methods of stopping the leak shouldn’t have been attempted, only that the probability of their effectiveness was never all that high — the “top kill” method only had an admitted 60-70 percent chance of working, and that was being optimistic since it had never even been attempted at that depth before.

People don’t like feeling helpless.  It might be the worst feeling, up there with guilt and shame.  We don’t take it well when we’re told “there’s nothing you can do.”  Usually you see this happen in a movie, in a hospital, when someone is told that there’s nothing more anyone can do to save someone who is dying and they demand, hysterically and angrily, that the doctor do something, that there must be another option, something else they can try.  The raw facts of the situation won’t change the emotional response of the poor soul dealing with the reality of his futility.

This feeling of futility seems to be the source of the growing populist movement of broad, unfocused anger toward the establishment.  There must be a way to fix the economy, create jobs, solve the undocumented worker issue, stop global warming without it costing us a cent, find an everlasting geyser of oil, and plug the gaping hole in the Gulf — we just haven’t found it yet, haven’t tried hard enough yet.  And indeed there must be.  But the only way will be to look at the facts with a rational eye.  It won’t be quick.  It won’t be easy.  And there will have to be sacrifices.

It’s easy to throw tantrums, point fingers, and react with our emotions, but there’s a reason why that didn’t work as kids, and why we need to be strong now and realize why it can’t help now that we’re adults.  Rational arguments can make a difference.  But it means having to face reality, as difficult as it may be, and rewarding those who give logical explanations for ways to solve problems and dismissing the ones who don’t.  It’s up to us.


Sarah Palin Deconstructed: Facebook Note on BP and Obama


I found it interesting when I examined Sarah Palin’s last Facebook note that I thought I would take a look at her latest: “Less Talkin’, More Kickin’.”

As before, my goal is to take a look at her arguments and claims and see what stands up to critical thought and is not just impassioned non-truths that merely espouse an ideology.  Given her track record, this may prove to be a futile effort, but since she is poised to be the next GOP candidate for the highest public office in the country, I think it’s worth the time.

And off we go:

50 days in, and we’ve just learned another shocking revelation concerning the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf oil spill. In an interview aired this morning, President Obama admitted that he hasn’t met with or spoken directly to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward. His reasoning: “Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he’s gonna say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions.”

So far, she’s got her facts straight.  After clicking the sourced link, she has properly quoted the President.

First, to the “informed and enlightened” mainstream media: in all the discussions you’ve had with the White House about the spill, did it not occur to you before today to ask how the CEO-to-CEO level discussions were progressing to remedy this tragedy?

Sigh.  More infuriating quotation mark usage.  I’ll save my breath on this one because I’ve already slammed this arguing technique before and it’s still no more potent today than it was then.  As per her question to the MSM: I’m not sure what she’s getting at.  I assume that she is likening Obama’s job to being the CEO of the country.  It seems that the more pertinent questions would be asking what exactly is being done to stop the spill, rather than if Obama had met with Hayword in person.

You never cease to amaze. (Kind of reminds us of the months on end when you never bothered to ask if the President was meeting with General McChrystal to talk about our strategy in Afghanistan.)

So, this blast of contempt is aimed at the mainstream media, yet the link she provides regarding Obama’s meeting with McChrystal directs over to a Fox News article — her current employer.  It seems that her dig here is actually at Obama regarding the way he came to a decision on what to do in Afghanistan last fall.  Rather unfocused and quite off topic from the oil disaster.

Second, to fellow baffled Americans: this revelation is further proof that it bodes well to have some sort of executive experience before occupying the Oval Office (as if the painfully slow response to the oil spill, confusion of duties, finger-pointing, lack of preparedness, and inability to grant local government simple requests weren’t proof enough).

To recap: the original issue at hand was Obama having not sat down face-to-face with BP CEO Tony Hayward regarding the oil spill.  Then it became about the mainstream media’s ineptitude at not looking into this matter until 50 days into the disaster.  And now it’s about how Obama doesn’t have the experience to run the country — her evidence: because he hasn’t actually spoken to BP Tony Hayward.

This seems to be a rather weak argument. Interestingly though, Palin goes into the reasons that one might be able to make a solid argument in favor of Obama’s potential ineptitude in her parenthetical aside.  Perhaps she expounds on these…

The current administration may be unaware that it’s the President’s duty, meeting on a CEO-to-CEO level with Hayward, to verify what BP reports.

False. This duty is no found listed under the president’s duties in the Constitution.

In an interview a few weeks ago with Greta Van Susteren, I noted that based on my experience working with oil execs as an oil regulator and then as a Governor, you must verify what the oil companies claim – because their perception of circumstances and situations dealing with public resources and public trust is not necessarily shared by those who own America’s public resources and trust.

The difference here is that this isn’t a matter of he-said-she-said: there is an actual event occurring before our very eyes and measures being taken to remedy the situation.  So far none have worked; even the current collection mechanism is missing a large amount of the oil.  Not sure what claims weren’t verified through Obama’s and Hayward’s people that could’ve been done so face-to-face or how that would’ve affected the situation.  It seems to be speculation at this point.  What didn’t Obama verify that he should’ve?

I was about run out of town in Alaska for what critics decried at the time as my “playing hardball with Big Oil,” and those same adversaries (both shortsighted Repubs and Dems) continue to this day to try to discredit my administration’s efforts in holding Big Oil accountable to operate ethically and responsibly.

No links to what she’s talking about here, but her record on her Big Oil stance is far from consistent. Regardless, she’s completely off topic now as she defends her own integrity in her own original post that started off attacking the mainstream media, then Obama’s ineptitude on a number of levels, and to non-truths about the president’s duties.  Let’s see if she gets back on track…

Mr. President: with all due respect, you have to get involved, sir. The priorities and timeline of an oil company are not the same as the public’s. You cannot outsource the cleanup and the responsibility and the trust to BP and expect that the legitimate interests of Americans adversely affected by this spill will somehow be met.

This is a sentiment from both sides of the political divide. Let’s see if she offers ways on how she would have him get involved…

White House: have you read this morning’s Washington Post? Not to pile it on BP, but there’s an extensive report chronicling the company’s troubling history:

“BP has had more high-profile accidents than any other company in recent years. And now, with the disaster in the gulf, independent experts say the pervasiveness of the company’s problems, in multiple locales and different types of facilities, is striking.

‘They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow U.S. health safety and environmental policy,’ said Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who led its BP investigations.”

And yet just 10 days prior to the explosion, the Obama administration’s regulators gave the oil rig a pass, and last year the Obama administration granted BP a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) exemption for its drilling operation.

Here’s the real inaction. Here’s the story and the argument. The whole not-sitting-down-with-Hayward-to-order-him-to-clean-up-the-mess-in-person was just a way to get into this.  And here she has some solid ammo for an argument.

These decisions and the resulting spill have shaken the public’s confidence in the ability to safely drill. Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill.

True.  Even Rasmussen reports that support is falling.

And we must! Or we will be even more beholden to, and controlled by, dangerous foreign regimes that supply much of our energy.

Her plan then, as I read it, is to increase regulation on oil drilling, but continue to drill so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Seems like this is actually on par with Obama’s stance — at least until this disaster made him halt new oil drilling.

This has been a constant refrain from me. As Governor of Alaska, I did everything in my power to hold oil companies accountable in order to prove to the federal government and to the nation that Alaska could be trusted to further develop energy rich land like ANWR and NPR-A. I hired conscientious Democrats and Republicans (because this sure shouldn’t be a partisan issue) to provide me with the best advice on how we could deal with what was a corrupt system of some lawmakers and administrators who were hesitant to play hardball with some in the oil field business. (Remember the Alaska lawmakers, public decision-makers, and business executives who ended up going to jail as a result of the FBI’s investigations of oily corruption.)

More Palin 2012 presidential campaign material.  Doesn’t really do much to support her argument.

As the aforementioned article notes, BP’s operation in Alaska would hurt our state and waste public resources if allowed to continue. That’s why my administration created the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office (PSIO) when we saw proof of improper maintenance of oil infrastructure in our state. We had to verify. And that’s why we instituted new oversight and held BP and other oil companies financially accountable for poor maintenance practices. We knew we could partner with them to develop resources without pussyfooting around with them. As a CEO, it was my job to look out for the interests of Alaskans with the same intensity and action as the oil company CEOs looked out for the interests of their shareholders.

Okay, here’s where it all comes back together.  But, in doing so, she actually negates her own argument.  Palin claims that in order to verify that BP would be held accountable, she had a new government oversight office created.  Yet, she states that the Obama administration also had regulators of its own, which means that Palin did the exact same thing that Obama did to verify that BP was being honest.  She didn’t meet with Hayward face-to-face, either.  Whether or not the regulators did their job isn’t what she originally argued – which would’ve been much stronger – so this support doesn’t help her case; in fact, it destroys it.

I learned firsthand the way these companies operate when I served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). I ended up resigning in protest because my bosses (the Governor and his chief of staff at the time) wouldn’t support efforts to clean up the corruption involving improper conflicts of interest with energy companies that the state was supposed to be watching. (I wrote about this valuable learning experience in my book, “Going Rogue”.) I felt guilty taking home a big paycheck while being reduced to sitting on my thumbs – essentially rendered ineffective as a supervisor of a regulatory agency in charge of nearly 20% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.

Back to shameless plugs and Palin 2012 campaign material.  It seems that if one could glean anything from this section, it’d be that in order to stand up for what was right, Palin quit.

My experience (though, granted, I got the message loud and clear during the campaign that my executive experience managing the fastest growing community in the state, and then running the largest state in the union, was nothing compared to the experiences of a community organizer) showed me how government officials and oil execs could scratch each others’ backs to the detriment of the public, and it made me ill. I ran for Governor to fight such practices. So, as a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with Hayward. Demand answers.

More Palin 2012.  She’s fueling the anti-establishment angle of her future campaign and one that many Tea Party candidates have been running in primaries across the nation.  She’s merely selling herself here and if the whole argument of this post is regarding Obama’s necessity to verify, she already swung and missed with her own anecdote of doing nothing much different from what Obama has done — or not done, as is her argument.

That said, her demand for answers is worthwhile.  Everyone wants answers for this debacle.

In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

This is more about her own ability and experience in these matters than the credibility of Obama’s advisers.  She doesn’t claim that Obama’s experts can’t help, only that her experts for sure can.  And that she, herself, can be of help.  Though, she doesn’t state how she could be of service.

And, finally, Mr. President, please do not punish the American public with any new energy tax in response to this tragedy. Just because BP and federal regulators screwed up that doesn’t mean the rest of us should get punished with higher taxes at the pump and attached to everything petroleum products touch.

No new taxes. Just a pointless dig that doesn’t have to do with her original argument.

All in all, a failed argument.  She does bring up some valid points and concerns that seem to be universal right now — mainly that everyone feels helpless and is acting out because of it.  We want to be able to blame someone.  We want to be able to just demand that the oil spill gets plugged.  We want to believe that it’s simply a matter of not trying hard enough to plug the hole rather than the more likely reality that this disaster has no quick fix, no simple response, regardless of how much we yell, blame, point fingers, demand, cry, scream, and whine.


Sarah Palin’s Good Advice: Seek Fair Reporting


In the aftermath of the deadly attack by Israel on the flotilla delivering humanitarian aid for Gaza, most political pundits have voiced their opinions. Unsurprisingly, people seem to be harshly divided into two camps: those supporting Israel, and those condemning its actions.  And for the most part, that division falls along party lines.

Sarah Palin supports Israel and condemns the liberal mainstream media for its condemnation.  I am in the condemning Israel camp.  That said, there are always two sides to every story.  Two viewpoints on all conflicts.  Everyone feels wronged in some way, whether one is valid or equal or not, it doesn’t mean people don’t feel it.

That said, regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, especially if you’re a public figure, you need to voice your opinion with some level of intelligence and the use of facts.  Palin gets the first part right – she sure loves to voice her opinion.

Let’s take a look at her latest Facebook Note and see how she does on the second part:

The media, as usual, seems to be reporting only one side of the Israeli Flotilla incident. Don’t trust the mainstream media to give you both sides of a story fairly… you must seek out fair reporting to ensure you have all the information.

She has a point here: depending on which news outlet you’re getting your information, you might be not be getting a fair report.  Fox News and MSNBC will do their best to paint the incident for their respective viewerships, while CNN will most likely go way overboard in being balanced, which will most likely be Wolf Blitzer agreeing and disgreeing at the same time with everything – fact or fiction – from all sides so as to not take a side at all.

As far too many in the media, and in various governments, rush to condemn Israel, we must put the recent events off Israel’s coast into the right perspective.

How many is “too many” in the media?

And, while many may be rushing to condemn Israel, it seems that there are a large – equal? – number of people rushing to support Israel.  If it’s the speed at which these people have reached their stance on the situation, what makes Palin any better?  Perhaps both sides are passing judgment too quickly.

This “relief” convoy was not about humanitarian aid, as the liberal mainstream media keeps reporting.

I can’t reiterate how much I hate the sarcastic use of quotes in political discourse.  If the convoy wasn’t providing relief, then prove that it was a warship and move on.  Do not just discredit it or suggest that there was an ulterior motive to the flotilla by throwing grammatically incorrect quotes around a word you dislike but fail to provide evidence to the contrary.  This is lazy and incompetent.

Also, note how Palin substitutes the word “convoy” for “flotilla,” which suggests that this was a group of warships with armed troops aboard, which serves her narrative much better than “flotilla,” which is much less charged and is a broad term defining a grouping of ships minus the military slant.  (Granted, the BBC uses the term “convoy,” as well, so either it’s a dialect thing or maybe “convoy” isn’t as highly charged a word as the dictionary makes it seem.)

So what was the convoy all about, Sarah?

The whole operation was designed to provoke Israel,…

Well, yeah.  They were clearly bringing to international attention the injustice of the Gaza blockade.   Was it illegal?  Possibly.  Did it necessitate the boarding of the boat by force that led to ten activists deaths?  Doubtful.

And, aren’t we all adults here?  We should’ve already learned that one valuable lesson from childhood: bully taunts you –> you punch bully –> you get in trouble.  Regardless of what someone else does or says to provoke you, ultimately only you control what you do.  Blaming the bully doesn’t justify your wrongdoings.

Now, that analogy only works if you assume the activists were bullies – which Palin does.  Though, it’s hard to see how delivering aid to the extremely impoverished state area of Palestine can be considered being a bully.

…not to provide supplies to Palestinians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Held hostage? The Palestinians had an election. They voted for Hamas. Hamas now rules Gaza. That’s hardly being held hostage.  Not to say that Hamas isn’t comprised of terrorists or at least affiliated with terrorist groups, nor that they’re the only government in Palestine — the whole situation is a disaster — but, this is a way for Palin to blast Hamas as an illegitimate ruling party, which then validates Israel’s attack, all the while not directly blaming the Palestinian people.

Anyone who sees the video of Israeli commandos being attacked as they land on that ship knows the people aboard were vicious thugs, not “peace activists.” The media insults our intelligence with their outright mischaracterization of who these enemies are.

Wait, so let me get this straight: you’re aboard your own ship in international waters when a group of heavily armed and well-trained commandos from another country drop in and takeover your vessel by force at gunpoint, during which you defend yourself with blunt makeshift weapons and this makes you the thug?  Only if Israelis are always the good guys and Palestinians/Turks/Arabs are always the bad guys does this logic work.

I’d say it’s Sarah Palin who insults our intelligence by thinking that we will just listen to her without thinking for ourselves about this situation after she tells us in the beginning to seek out fair reporting.  I suppose having to con yourself into believing the lies that would make one unwaveringly in favor of the Iraq and Afghanistan War for the past decade (and supporting the option to invade Iran), it’s understandable that she’d be deluded enough to think that the invader is the victim — in the case of Israel or America, at least.  Because we’re exceptional.  (Which is code for: the rules apply to everyone except us.)

Israel delivers thousands of tons of humanitarian supplies every week to Gaza. These ships could have offloaded their cargoes at a nearby Israeli port if they really wanted to help the people of Gaza. Instead, they chose to incite confrontation and violence.

I’m pretty sure that a quick look at the quality of life in Gaza right now would show that no matter how much aid Israel may be delivering, it’s clearly not enough.

And, again, how were the activists the ones inciting violence when the Israelis were the ones who dropped soldiers armed with machine guns down onto the boat while it was in international waters?  What was that supposed to be — a peacekeeping endeavor?

Israel has a right to prevent arms shipments to Gaza that will be used to target innocent Israelis, so they were legitimately checking the cargo on the flotilla.

It’s one thing to be stopped to have your shipments searched; that would be a different story entirely.  But that was not the case here.  Israel’s primary objective here was preventing this flotilla – regardless of what it was carrying – from reaching Gaza, by any means necessary.

And there has to be a better way to inspect the goods than dropping in commandos by rope from a helicopter one at a time with automatic weapons, yeah?  Perhaps it’d be best done at one of Israel’s ports, which is what some claim Israel was trying to get the flotilla to do, but the flotilla refused.  Now, the attack occurred in international waters, so it seems like if ever Israel had the right to use force, it’d be once the boats crossed into their territory.

Turkey has chosen to condemn Israel but we should be asking some serious questions about Turkey’s role in this whole affair. Why is a fellow member of NATO sponsoring such a dangerous publicity stunt? As one expert points out: “Three ships of that six-ship pro-terror convoy flew Turkish flags and were crowded with Turkish citizens. The Ankara government – led by Islamists these days – sponsored the ‘aid’ operation in a move to position itself as the new champion of the Palestinians. And Turkish decision-makers knew Israel would have to react – and were waiting to exploit the inevitable clash. The provocation was as cynical as it was carefully orchestrated.”

Well it should come as no surprise that Turkey – a Muslim nation – would be sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight.  And compared to many other actions that Islamists tend to do these days to get their word out – you know, like, car and suicide bombings that kill and maim scores of innocent people on a regular basis – saying that it’s a pro-terror provocation to send some ships full of playground equipment and pre-made homes is absurd to the point of not being grounded in reality.

We can only hope the Obama Administration does not join the anti-Israel chorus in the aftermath of this staged confrontation. Please, Mr. President, we need to let Israelis know we stand with them in their fight against terrorists and those who arm and support them. America and her ally, Israel, stand by waiting for your response.

Well, the Obama Administration hasn’t out-right condemned Israel’s actions, so there’s that.  I’m sure that won’t be enough for Ms. Palin, of course.  It also hasn’t made many friends on the other side of the aisle.   Obama, like any US President these days, has to tow the line to an extent when it comes to our ties with Israel; however, Obama has been not-so-subtle about his disagreements with Israel’s direction lately in his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu.  That’s probably the most we’ll see given the complex and sometimes bizarre alliance we have with Israel.

Sarah Palin has taken the torch passed on by the Bush Administration’s War on Terror with gusto and glee.  She paints the world in black and whites, with nary a gray area for interpretation.  She speaks in absolutes, which makes it difficult to deal with the real world and the grayness in which just about everything resides.

After this lengthy exercise, the one thing that I can really takes away from Sarah Palin’s note is to agree that we should all seek out fair reporting to get the best information to help form our opinions on this murky situation.  And from what I’ve read here, I’d say keep looking.  Perhaps here.

– Sarah Palin

– Ryan Mason


Obama and Holder to Deny Miranda Rights to American Citizens


President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder take a play straight out of the neoconservative handbook with their newest stance on terrorism suspects: no Miranda rights.

The line of reasoning as I can tell goes something like this:

  1. All terrorists harbor information on the whereabouts and plans of other bigger and badder terrorists;
  2. Intense interrogation that potentially goes outside the realm of current American law is the only way to obtain this crucial information;
  3. Therefore, Miranda rights must be suspended for terror suspects in order to save lives.

This new stance comes after the attempted bombing in New York City’s Times Square last week by Faisal Shahzad — an American citizen.  Obama and Holder want to suspend the Miranda rights for anyone – this means American citizens, as well – accused of terrorism or attempted terrorism.  This wouldn’t come as much of a surprise had McCain/Palin won the election in 2008, but I find it troubling that it’s coming from the current administration.  And after last month’s passing of the new immigration law in Arizona, it seems that the new status quo is denying civil rights that have long defined America in favor of strict and intrusive government oversight, all in the elusive and illusory name of security.

Those who cried fascism – Tea Partiers/conservatives/Republicans – during the implementation of universal health care should be screaming their heads off at this, yet I haven’t heard anything but support so far from those groups.  I can’t help but wonder why — isn’t denying rights to American citizens at their discretion pretty much the epitome of big government?

Holder backs up this new policy with some lines that make him sound like the edited-for-TV version of Dick Cheney.

“We’re now dealing with international terrorists,” he said, “and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face.”

Oh, we’re just now dealing with international terrorists?  What about Mohammad Atta, Richard Reid, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?  They weren’t Americans.  Faisal Shahzad, however – the man whose alleged actions seem to have been the straw that broke the Miranda’s back – is an American citizen, so it seems that we’re actually now dealing with domestic terrorists.  (If you don’t count Joseph Stack, the disturbed American who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, which many don’t because he wasn’t an Islamist.)

More emptiness:

The conclusion that Mr. Shahzad was involved in an international plot appeared to come from investigations that began after his arrest and interrogation, including inquiries into his links with the Taliban in Pakistan.

“We know that they helped facilitate it,” Mr. Holder said of the Times Square bombing attempt. “We know that they helped direct it. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.”

Note that they got all of this information despite having read Shahzad his rights.

So, where’s this dire need for intelligence that can only be had by suspending Americans’ rights?  And why are so many Americans clamoring for this?


White House Releases the Real ObamaCare

South façade of the White House, the executive...

You can download the PDF of the president’s proposal here.

From what I’ve read, it looks like what people expected: a combination of the Senate bill and the House bill.  No public option was added; no more federal insurance exchange; the Nebraska deal eliminated along with the Stupak amendment; and many of the taxes won’t go into effect for several years to help ease states into the system.

In some aspects it looks like this proposal is a little more centered with the change of having states create their own insurance markets versus a national one, but then it also removes the abortion language that moves it over to the left.  So a few moderate Republicans might be happy with the former but then they, along with the conservative Democrats, will be rather displeased with the latter.

At the end of the day, I don’t know that the actual substance of this proposal will sway any politicians who weren’t already on board with the Senate bill.  It’ll lose some Democratic support with the removal of the Stupak amendment, and I highly doubt that it will gain any Republican support for any reason because they’re lock-step in opposition to the bill.  But one of the big criticisms of Obama and how the Democrats have handled this health care reform business was their total failure on selling the bill; they let the Republicans demonize it as a socialist, government takeover of health care.  And the public bought it.  How else can you explain how people tend to approve of the specific elements of the bill but not the actual bill itself? So, we’ll see if this has any affect on public opinion. If it does, it will take away some of the Republican’s ammunition of opposition and hopefully nudge the listless Democrats into signing off on a bill similar to that which almost all of them already voted yes. We’ll see.

Do your part of making an informed opinion: take a look at the proposal.  Nothing revolutionary that we haven’t already seen in some form in the House or Senate bills; like expected, it’s a mix of the two.  But, try to make up your own mind about it.

Image via Wikipedia

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]