Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Obligatory “100 Days” Under Obama Post

First, I’ll give my honest opinion, and it’s quite different from what you’re likely to see on CNN. Obama’s first 100 days have been a disaster. I’ll go even farther. You’d have to either really not be paying attention, or a complete Obama partisan to think otherwise.

Let’s go to the tape:

  • He campaigned on bringing change to Washington, avoiding “politics as usual”, but…
    • His stimulus bill was passed with no real bipartisan support.
    • He campaigned on transparency in government. He has none.
    • His Cabinet appointments have been laughable. Apparently, all you have to do to get a Cabinet appointment from Obama is to not pay your taxes
    • He continues to attack the previous administration, for no apparent reason other than to distract us from the failures of his own.
    • Earmarks were supposed to be a thing of the past. So much for that.
    • Ditto on allowing lobbyists positions inside his administration.
  • Foreign Policy?
    • Well, know about “the bow” and “the handshake” and “the iPod” , “the DVD’s”, and “the reset button”. Really, none of these are big deals. But they do paint an overall picture of amateurishness on the part of the Obama administration and State department. Do these people know nothing of protocol? How stupid are they?
    • What’s worse is that his overseas trip was a complete failure. He pleaded for help in Afghanistan. He got none. The North Koreans were so impressed by him that they launched a missile as he was calling for nuclear disarmament. He claimed U.S. responsibility for the global economic downturn, which is odd since it started earlier elsewhere and has been deeper felt elsewhere as well.
    • He hasn’t yet screwed things up in Iraq, so I guess that’s a plus.
    • We haven’t yet had another 9/11, so that’s a plus too.
  • Economic policy?
    • The Dow was at roughly 8,000 when he took office, and still is, although it dropped to the 6,500 level in mid March. On the whole, not as bad as it could be.
    • The state of economy is still worsening.
    • He’s nationalizing the banks. Which, by the way, is a bad idea.
    • He’s nationalizing GM.
    • Before the nationalizations, the administration decided it had a) the knowledge, b) the power to fire CEOs of businesses.
    • Housing prices are in freefall.
  • Fiscal Policy?
    • He recently asked his Cabinet to find $100 million in cuts over the next 90 days. Let’s put this in perspective. If your family is making $100,000 a year, and you did the equivalent, you’d budget to spend $150,000 this year, and then you’d cut out roughly $5 in spending. Yeah, that’s a big help.
    • From the “a picture paints a trillion words department”:
    • He wants to reinstitute Pay As You Go (to avoid pictures like the one above).  Now, let’s be honest here.  He just got a huge spending increase passed….so, do you really think he’s changed his mind and wants to cut all that back? Or is he going to raise taxes?
  • General foolishness:

The successes here are very small and few and far between. Good news, though. There’s only 1287 days until the 2012 general election.

More here.

Why All the Sudden Interest In Interrogations and Torture?

First, President Barack Obama (D-USA) stated that there would be no prosecutions of CIA officials for using “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Of course, the then changed his mind. Then the administration released the Office of Legal Counsel’s (from the Bush administration) memos on the interrogations. Except they released versions turned out to be edited, and missing the information saying that valuable information was received during these interrogations. Finally, the administration will now release more pictures of apparent prisoner abuse.

So, a couple of missteps here. First, the flip-flop, then the disingenuous release of the memos.

Of course, if there are investigations, one reasonable question is how far will they spread? We know Congressional Democrats were briefed on the methods and the results. So, Obama can’t use this as an indictment against the previous administration without tarring his own party, can he?

Yes, he can. And that’s exactly what he intends (or more likely, the DNC intends to do).

The Democrats have been running against George W. Bush (R-USA) since 1999. Around the beginning of 2005, they finally figured out how to do it correctly, and won elections in 2006 and 2008. They’re going to keep running against him until they start losing elections again. The point of this whole mess is to keep bringing up real or imagined failures or mistakes by the Bush administration. This will not be the last event like this we see. In fact, I expect to see many many more.

But won’t the splatter hit people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)? Yes, but it won’t be a big deal. First, the Democrats will make sure that there are no actual criminal proceedings, just endless investigations. A criminal proceeding would hurt Pelosi, but not an investigation. She’s the representative of a carefully gerrymandered Democratic district in California. Unless it’s proven that she attached electrodes to the testicles of prisoners herself, she’s safe as long as it stays out of criminal prosecutions. She might lose a few votes for an election cycle or two, but she’s not going to lose her seat. But the news will be national and will further impugn the reputation of George W. Bush, and by association, the Republican party. So, it won’t hurt Pelosi, but might hurt a Republican in a more purple or even blue district. That’s the plan by the DNC, and the Obama administration is just doing all it can to help.

Expect more of the same from President Hope and Change over the next 2 years at least, probably the next 4.

More on Arlen Specter

I heard both John Zogby and Scott Rasmussen claim yesterday that Arlen Specter (D-PA) will now easily win re-election in 2010. These are people who are paid to analyze these things, and have been doing it for years. They know a lot more than me. So, you should listen to them.

However, in my opinion, they’re wrong. Of course, I thought that Barack Obama (D-USA) could not win his party nomination or the presidency. Shows what I know.

I’ll be blunt. For Specter to win in 2010, he has to move to the left. Hard left. And fast. For those of you keeping score, that would be a disaster for the GOP (and for America, in my opinion, but that’s another topic). Anyone who is claiming that this is good for the GOP is fooling themselves.

Let's be honest with ourselves. He made this switch out of concern for his own political future. He wants to be re-elected in 2010. Period. There's no other reason behind it. He can claim that the Republicans went to the right during his tenure, but that’s nonsense and he knows it.

Ok, let’s look at history. In 2004, his Democrat opponent got 43% of the vote. These 43% aren't likely to be very enthusiastic about Specter. Let's say the teacher's union was against him in '04 (I don't know if they were). They're unlikely to change their position in '10. Without a movement to the left, his support from the left is going to be tepid at best.

Also, he needs to generate money, and fast. Toomey's bringing in lots of cash. Specter's already in a hole because he's going to actually have to give back some of what he's taken in. And who's going to donate to him? Campaign contributors tend to be among your most partisan constituents. Is he going to get much money from his former contributors? Unlikely. How about from the left? Again, unlikely, unless he moves to the left.

Yes, the DSCC will pump some money into this campaign, probably quite a bit of it. They would have in any case, to defeat Toomey. But, so will the NRSC, so that's unlikely to help much.

Prediction? Toomey outspends Specter by a hefty margin and this election is much closer than our so called experts are predicting at the moment.

If re-elected, Specter probably moves back towards the center, but until next November, he’s going to move left and stay there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Makes It Official – He’s a Democrat

Read his statement here.

Let’s parse some of it, briefly:

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right.

Hmm. Certainly this statement is not true of his fellow Senators, and he knows it. Is it true of the Republican citizenry? Hard to tell, but I’d say “no”. I’m calling B.S. on this one, and Arlen Specter (D-PA) knows it.

Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats.

Ah ha! This is the most important sentence in his entire statement. This is a political move, pure and simple. Specter doesn’t care about party affiliation. He cares about being re-elected in 2010.

And he knows he wasn’t going to win the Republican primary against Toomey. Recent polls have had him 20 points down.

Or, as he puts it:

Since then, I have traveled the state, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable.

On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

So he had to do this. He couldn't run as an independent. Beyond the legal primary issues involved, the politics were against him. This isn't like Connecticut and Lieberman where Lieberman won because of Republican votes. Republicans voted for him over their own candidate because their own candidate was so awful. Specter would have been trounced as an independent from both the left and the right.

Short term, this is a PR disaster for the Republican party. No doubt. Particularly on the 99th day of the Obama administration. I'm sure this will be hyped as part of the 100 day celebration.

Long term, hard to tell, but it may be better for the Republicans. Depends on whether Specter stays somewhat in the middle or really does move to the left between now and November 2010. Also, depends on how deep the short term effects are, and how lasting.

Until today, it appeared a near certainty that a) Toomey would defeat Specter in a Republican primary, and b) some Democrat would defeat Toomey in the general.

Toomey will now likely coast to an easy win in the Republican primary, and have a nice little war chest available for the general, which he would not have had otherwise. He'll also have a motivated base behind him.

And, instead of facing "a real Democrat", he's going to be facing Specter. Unless Specter moves to the left, it's hard to see how liberals are going to be all that excited about voting for him. The Democrat in 2004 picked up 43% of the vote. Hard to believe those 43% are suddenly going to become Specter supporters. Without a high turnout, it would seem unlikely for him to be able to hold his seat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Lenin’s Birthday!

Today (April 22) is the birthday of the Father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. As we continue our march to socialism, we should celebrate the lives of it’s founding fathers.

Lenin oversaw the executions of possibly a quarter of a million of his own people, and had the model of forced labor camps later used by Nazi Germany.

Even the clergy did not escape his tyrannical methods:

Lenin remained an advocate of mass terror, according to Richard Pipes. In a letter of 19 March 1922, to Molotov and the members of the Politburo, following an uprising by the clergy in the town of Shuia, Lenin outlined a brutal plan of action against the clergy and their followers, who were defying the government decree to remove church valuables: “We must (…) put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades. (…) The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing (…) the better.”[68] Estimates of the numbers of the clergy killed vary. According to Orlando Figes[69] and The Black Book of Communism[70], 2,691 priests, 1,962 monks and 3,447 nuns were executed as a result of Lenin's aforementioned directives. Historian Christopher Read estimates from the records that a grand total of 1,023 clergy were killed in the whole period 1917-23.[71] However, the late Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) and later head of the Presidential Committee for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, cites documents that confirm nearly 3,000 were shot in 1918 alone.[72] Yakovlev stated that Lenin was "By every norm of international law, posthumously indictable for crimes against humanity."[73]

I won’t speculate on what it means that today is also “Earth Day”.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Georgetown University Covers Up Symbol for Obama’s Speech and Rightwing Bloggers Swing At The Dirt

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, President Barack Obama (D-USA) spoke at Georgetown University last week, and the university covered up an “IHS” symbol behind him. IHS is a symbol for the name of Jesus.

CNS News has even discovered that GU did not cover up the symbol when First Lady Laura Bush spoke there in 2006.

The Christian right is up in arms about this.

Pardon me while I stifle a yawn.

No doubt, had they not covered up the symbol, we would’ve seen some AP photograph this week cleverly angled so that the symbol would appear directly over Obama’s head. And the Christian right would be upset about that showing that our MSM is once again trying to make a messiah out of Obama. This was done numerous times during the election campaign.

You can’t have it both ways. And I, for one, am more upset about the messiah images than this, if I have to choose. So, with GU’s choice here, I am at least spared one more messiah image.

Tea Parties – Great Kid! Don’t Get Cocky!

Reliable estimates put total Tea Party attendance somewhere north of 300,000. Perhaps even north of 500,000.

Tea Party organizers are giddy about these results.

The left and MSM continue to treat the events with scorn and ridicule.

They’re both right. And both wrong.

First, the left criticism that these are astroturf campaigns is both laughable and ludicrous. Laughable because it comes from the Soros-funded MoveOn.org crowd, who know a thing or two about astroturfing. Ludicrous, because if the GOP was really capable of organizing people this well, they wouldn’t have lost the last two elections.

However, the left is correct that these protests are dwarfed in size by many Iraq War protests and May Day protests (and we can bet that they will make sure that this year’s May Day events are huge, no matter how much astroturfing they have to do to get there).

The tea partiers are correct too. Let’s face it, most of these protestors were from the right or at least center right. Getting 300,000+ conservatives together to protest anything is amazing. Conservatism is all about individualism. It’s not about mobs. (It’s also about jobs and work ethic, but one could argue that I’m hitting below the belt here). There’s every reason to be excited about these numbers. Especially for a nascent “movement”, that doesn’t have a huge (or really any) organizational structure or backing.

But the tea partiers are wrong to call this a “movement”. This was one day out of people’s lives. Will they follow up? Will they hold their congressmen’s feet to the fire? Will they “throw da bums out”? Will they form a new political party? Will they fund their own candidates and get them to run? Will they go to future protests, town halls, etc? Will they call, write letters, go door-to-door? Until the tea partiers can prove they can do at least some of these things, they shouldn’t call themselves a “movement”.

There’s definitely some potential here, though, and both Democrats and Republicans ignore this group at their own peril.

So, call me skeptically optimistic. This could be the dawn of something huge for those who lean to the right. Or it could fizzle out and merely be a footnote about President Barack Obama’s (D-USA) first 100 days in office.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15 – Tax Day – FairTax, Tea Parties, Total Income Tax, Oh My!

Well, long time readers of this blog know how I feel about our tax code. At the risk of being redundant, today is a good day to check out www.fairtax.org, and learn about the FairTax.

If you do a little research on it (and I encourage you to do so), you may run across a “fisking” website, www.fairtaxfraud.com. You can read my smackdown of this ill-informed site here.

I also encourage you to read both of the two books co-authored by one of the sponsors of the bill, The FairTax Book, and FairTax: The Truth: Answering the Critics.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any good website or book that criticizes the FairTax.  Not that there aren’t plenty of criticisms out there, but they’re universally bad. The most common tactic is to misrepresent what the FairTax is, and then to punch holes in all the problems with their misrepresentation. Or they’ll make meaningless claims like “you will no longer be able to deduct your mortgage interest from your income taxes” (which is technically true, but completely irrelevant as I point out in my smackdown that I mentioned above).

Perhaps I’ll be forced to write a critical post about it myself. I’ve said numerous times that the FairTax is not without warts. I’m pretty certain it’s impossible to create a wart free tax plan. It just has fewer warts than any other plan that I’m aware of.

One might ask if I’m going to be attending any of today’s Tea Parties. There is one here in Indianapolis.


View 2009 Tea Parties in a larger map

 

Unfortunately, I’ve had several circumstances that have caused me to miss time from work recently, and I know I have at least a couple more coming up, so I won’t be able to attend. I highly encourage you to do so, however.

I also encourage you to be suspicious of a Republican politician who jumps on the “Tea Party” bandwagon. These protests aren’t merely about high taxes, but high spending. Ask this Republican where s/he was the last 8 years when spending was out of control (or at least what we thought of as “out of control” then…drop in the bucket compared to now).

Not that there weren’t Republicans who tried to reign in the growth of government over the last 8 years. But they were the minority in their own party. And is the primary reason we are now saddled with the government we now have.

Today’s also a good day to reflect upon how much you actually paid in taxes this year. No, not the size of the check you’re writing today, or the size of the “refund” you’ll be getting, but the total amount you’re paying. Do you know? Most people don’t.

Mine? About $24,000 in federal and state income tax. Note that doesn't include FICA taxes, unemployment taxes, property taxes, vehicle excise taxes, sales taxes and probably a few dozen other taxes that aren't coming to mind at the moment. Even I don’t know my total tax burden offhand, although at least I keep a close enough eye on my finances to be able to calculate it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I’m Now Sold On Term Limits For Supreme Court Justices

Since one of the main topics of this blog deals with civil rights, I tend to keep an eye on the Supreme Court and the Justices. I currently subscribe to two SCOTUS blogs, and while they’re very informative, they’re also a good cure for insomnia. However, I also watch for news stories about the Justices and in particular their speaking engagements.  One this past weekend caught my eye.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke at Ohio State University this past weekend.  The NYT covered it here.

The speech is shocking in how clearly it shows that Ms. Ginsberg is unqualified for the job she now holds.

She spent quite a bit of her speech “defending the use of foreign law by American judges”, according to the article.

Let me explain in detail what’s wrong with that idea.

Here’s the Wiktionary definition for “judge”.

judge (plural judges)

  1. A public official whose duty it is to administer the law, especially by presiding over trials and rendering judgments; a justice.

And for “legislator

legislator (plural legislators)

  1. Someone who creates or enacts laws, especially a member of a legislative body.

Now, if you’re making governing decisions for the United States based on foreign law rather than existing U.S. law, which one of the two are you?

If you answered “legislator”, then you’re apparently smarter than Ms. Ginsberg.

Since she can’t be bothered to remember the definitions of these two words, perhaps she could at least be called upon to remember her oath of office?

I, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.

Hmmm…I see, “under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” I don’t see “under the Constitution and laws of the United States and other foreign powers.”

The Supreme Court examines cases brought to it and is the final arbiter of how the case is decided. Their primary resource is the U.S. Constitution and federal law. To judge the merits of a case based on laws from another nation grossly exceeds it’s authority and completely topples the balance of power between the three branches of government as it makes the Supreme Court the decider and implementer of the “law of the land”.

Here are a couple quotes from the Justice:

Why shouldn’t we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor?

And

I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law.

Well, unless the judge from abroad was citing a case in the United States and referring to U.S. law, the simple reason is that his/her opinion is entirely irrelevant.

Chief Justice John Roberts addressed this properly in his own confirmation hearings:

If we’re relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge. And yet he’s playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country.

Another wonderful quote:

American hostility to the consideration of foreign law, she said, “is a passing phase.” She predicted that “we will go back to where we were in the early 19th century when there was no question that it was appropriate to refer to decisions of other courts.”

That doesn’t tend to agree with my 19th century study of the court, but I haven’t done the research to properly rebut such a claim. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that our 18th century founders would’ve been adamantly opposed to such a ludicrous idea.  She’s right that there should be no question about this. She’s just completely wrong in her conclusion.

Ms. Ginsberg even applied some circular logic in her reasoning, which any first year law student should know to avoid.

She added that the failure to engage foreign decisions had resulted in diminished influence for the United States Supreme Court.

The Canadian Supreme Court, she said, is “probably cited more widely abroad than the U.S. Supreme Court.” There is one reason for that, she said: “You will not be listened to if you don’t listen to others.”

Ahh…so we should cite others so they’ll cite us. And why exactly, should we want them to cite us? No doubt so that we can cite them. If your head is not spinning at this point, then you’re qualified to work for Justice Ginsberg.

I doubt that Justice Ginsberg reads this blog, but she probably should. Here’s the simple truth. We shouldn’t care whether our court decisions are cited elsewhere. The same reasons that make their decisions irrelevant in our cases make our decisions irrelevant in theirs. They’re not dealing with U.S. law!

The fact that Justice Ginsberg could come to these views and have the temerity to actually speak them in public shows that she no longer has the ability to function in her role as a Supreme Court Justice.

It also makes me wonder why we even bother with nomination hearings. If someone with so little understanding of her role and the role of the court could achieve such a high level position, then clearly, I myself am qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. Yes, I hold no law degree, nor have I ever studied law. But I do understand the Constitution, and my blog posts should show that I’m quite capable of thorough research on any given topic.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Word About U.S. Intelligence In the Persian Gulf

This relates to my earlier post giving a brief historical perspective of the last 50 years or so in the region. I’ve split this out because it’s a bit more opinion oriented than that piece, which I tried to keep as factually based as possible.

Even a cursory examination of U.S. involvement in the Middle East demonstrates that our foreign intelligence and understanding of the area have been pathetically bad for quite some time.

President Carter (D-USA) was completely wrong about the Ayatollahs and how they would feel about the United States. President Reagan (R-USA) was equally wrong about Saddam Hussein.

In fact, I think these two administrations are the focal point of our problems in the area today. Each faced challenging decisions. Had they made different choices, the Persian Gulf region that President George W. Bush (R-USA) faced in 2002, would’ve been a quite different place. Not necessarily better, and not necessarily worse, but almost certainly different.

But that’s beside the point. The point is that (assuming the best of both men) both men were given faulty intelligence on the region and specific people. Both men made decisions based on this intelligence, with disastrous consequences.

So, it’s hardly surprising that in 2002-2003 we once again received faulty intelligence from the region and made (possibly) questionable decisions based on this data.

Keep that in mind when current and future Presidents make important decisions regarding the region.

Why I Haven’t Commented On ‘The Bow’

Should American Presidents bow to foreign potentates? No, of course not.

Did President Barack Obama (D-USA) bow to the King of Saudi Arabia on his trip? Don’t know. Haven’t watched the video. Don’t care.

Ok, don’t care might not be exactly true, but remember what I said on this blog last December:

I’m going to try to avoid swinging at pitches in the dirt. If I go after Mr. Obama on something, I want it to have substance. Hopefully this blog won’t get mired in pointless non-controversies like the Valerie Plame affair

Look, there’s a whole lot going on in this country to be concerned about right now. The economy, the march towards socialism, the towering national debt, taxes, health care, illegal immigration, North Korea, Iran, China, to name just a few.

I’ve got more important things to worry about and to blog about than a bow.

If Valerie Plame was a non-controversy, then this bow is barely even newsworthy. Far too many words and news cycles have been wasted on this already.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How We Got Where We Are In Iraq

A Brief History of Western Involvement in the Persian Gulf

Since, for once, I am trying to write a historical piece and not an opinion piece, I will attempt to keep it factual and not bias the history with my personal opinions, but I am human. 

You’ll find that the links here, in many cases don’t give additional information on these topics. My knowledge comes from a variety of history books and research done over the course of years on this topic, and at this time I’m not all that interested in hunting down every link to provide source context. If I have time later, I’ll update the post with that.

In the middle of the twentieth century, Great Britain and the United States decided that it was important to have a consistent ally in the Persian Gulf.  This ally would be counted upon to protect western oil interests, and to maintain some stability in a region famous for its instability.  Also, one other possible reason was to limit Communist influence in this region.  One could easily argue that the U.S and Great Britain should not meddle in the internal affairs of other governments, but one could also argue that instability in that region is in no one’s self-interest.  I’m not going to argue either side. 

Anyway, one of the results of this was something called “Operation Ajax”.  “Operation Ajax” restored the Shah of Iran to power, after he had been forced into exile by some nationalist-communist extremists in his own country. This was in 1953, under the Eisenhower administration. Some people blame all later anti-American sentiment in the region on this event, but that’s naive to say the least. There were plenty of events both before and after this to cause Islamic nations to be distrustful of the West.

The Shah was a dictator, but apparently a relatively benevolent one, at least by Middle Eastern standards.  During his rule, Iran became a very successful and rich country.  However, he was far too progressive for some Islamic extremists in his country.  He thought that women should have rights, the nerve of him!  Anyway, as he continued to move his country towards pro-Western ideas, and continued to drag them into the twentieth century, he angered more and more of the Islamic extremists.  This led to him constantly having to put down uprisings in his country, occasionally rather ruthlessly.  He also occasionally called upon support from the West to quell these uprisings.  These requests were usually granted, either openly or secretly.

Once again, one could argue that the West shouldn’t meddle in the internal affairs of a country, particularly in trying to support an increasingly dictatorial regime.  And one President did in fact argue just that.  During his administration, Jimmy Carter turned his back on the Shah.  Carter, a man of strong faith himself, felt that the uprisings backed by the Ayatollahs, the Shi’a religious leaders, might be a better fit for Western interests than this dictatorship. So he let things play out and didn’t offer any support to the Shah, and in fact, rejected requests from the Shah for such support.  One could argue that the events that followed should’ve been surprising to no one.  One could also argue that the U.S. was finally, thankfully, minding our own business.  I’m not going to argue either side.

Anyway, in 1979 or so, the Shi’ite Ayatollahs brought about a theocratic rule based on Islamic fundamentalism.  They saw the Shah’s ties to the West as a failing, and rejected any further Western influence.  Relations between the West and Iran became very tense despite the fact that the Ayatollahs really owed their rise in power to President Carter.  The Shah was exiled and President Carter refused him admittance to the United States, finally allowing a brief stopover for medical reasons.

The result of all of this was that the West lost its strong longtime ally in the region.

Now, at about this same time, Iraq was going through some upheavals of its own.  The new man rising to the top was a military man named Saddam Hussein.  Saddam Hussein promised democratic rule and a government with none of the theocratic basis of neighboring Iran. Given how poorly the theocracy had worked for the West, the Reagan administration looked to Saddam with hope for a new ally. We helped him stay afloat during the early days of his rule and helped him with the eight year long Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).  Saddam, however, was already showing his practice of saying what he thought his audience wanted to hear (a practice that would serve him well dealing with later U.N. sanctions), and then doing what he wanted.  The promised democratic elections and freedoms never came, and he eventually used some of the weapons and technology we’d given him (usually covertly) against his own people and against our other “friends” in the region.  Some of this technology was in the form of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  One could easily argue that once again the West should’ve minded its own business then Iran might’ve taken out Saddam, and he never would’ve had a WMD program to worry about later, etc.  One could also argue that given the hostility of Iran to the U.S., a re-united Persia under Ayatollah rule would’ve been the worst thing possible. Such a reunited Persia would be either first or second in the world in petroleum reserves (between 15%-20% of total). I’m not going to argue either side.

Finally, in the late 80’s and the very beginning of the 90’s, it was becoming more and more obvious that Saddam Hussein would never be the ally we had hoped for.  We cut off our support to him, and tried to limit his aggressive moves and posture.  When he invaded Kuwait, Bush 41 went to the U.N. to get them to stop this aggression.  While there was not much Arab support for this endeavor, it was passed and “Operation Desert Shield” (eventually “Operation Desert Storm”) went into effect.  This U.N. operation pushed Iraq out of Kuwait and put severe sanctions on the country for its transgressions.  One of the sanctions was that the WMD program must be shut down and the weapons dismantled, and the evidence of this must be given over to U.N. inspectors (really little more than accountants).  One could argue that once the mission of removing Iraq from Kuwait was accomplished, the goal had been met and no further direct military action should be taken.  One could also argue that Saddam Hussein had shown nothing but aggression during his rule, and this was the perfect opportunity to remove him from power.  I’m not going to argue either side.

This led to twelve years of sanctions and increasing Iraqi resistance to the sanctions. They were never fully in compliance, and repeatedly kicked out the weapons accountants, claiming that the weapons inspectors were really spies planted by Great Britain and the U.S. Then, sometime later, he would appear very conciliatory to the U.N. and promise once again to obey the sanctions. By the late 90’s it was apparent that Saddam would never comply with the sanctions, and since he’d never been the ally we’d hoped for, “regime change” in Iraq became the official policy of the U.S. government, under the Clinton administration.  By the early 2000’s it became apparent that support for continuing the sanction was dying, either because the U.N. had become tired of trying to enforce them, or because Saddam was working secretly using whatever means he had at his disposal (i.e. “bribes”) to get them lifted.  We all know what happened after that.  Now, one could argue again whether “regime change” was the right policy, or whether we should try to enforce U.N. resolutions when the U.N. doesn’t want to itself, and various other things at this point. I’m not going to argue ANY sides of this issue.

I’ve really glossed over a lot of the details.  I suggest you read further if you’re interested in more information.  However, I suggest that since there’s quite a bit of room for interpretation on many of these points that you attempt to find references that have limited slant, or balance your research with slant from both sides.

 

UPDATE: I added in a few more details, most specifically relating to a bit better dating and references to what occurred during which U.S. Presidencies.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where Have You Gone, Mr. Jefferson?

You’ve likely seen this video elsewhere, but given the focus of this blog on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, I could hardly ignore it. Even has the obligatory “Gipper” segment for those of you wishing RWR was still in charge.

 

Watch this video now. Given the political leanings of Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, I wonder how long we’ll have it around.

Which Group Would You Prefer?

I’ve asked this question before, but it’s worth posting, I think.

Assumptions:

  • Political parties want to increase their power
  • The Republicans are the “party of the rich” (that’s what the media keep telling us)
  • The Democrats are the “defenders of the poor and downtrodden”

Ok, now call me crazy, but it seems like to me that if the Republicans want to gain power, the best way to do it would be to make more rich people.

And if the Democrats want to gain power, the best way to to do it would be to make more poor people.

Look at their policies of the last 50 years through that lens and see what you think of them.

Now, would you rather be in a group that wants to make you poor? Or one that wants to make you rich?

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Well, I really have missed doing my September 11 timeline. My daughters have asked about that, and I want them to understand it a little bet...

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