I am going to list a few noteworthy articles and commentaries from this past week, and I am going to make it very brief. I am sure you have heard that before. Okay, it will be relatively brief; emphasis on ‘relatively.’ Those of you who have gone through selling your house, while living in it, especially with a kid or two or three …, well, you know how annoying it can be. You get a short notice, you run around trying to organize, clean, put away toys (including those hidden under the sofa, tucked behind the sink …), and then, you have to ‘evacuate’ your house for the potential buyer…Now you have the reason behind the ‘relatively brief’ round up.
I hope you enjoyed our interview with Tom Woods. We also recorded a great interview with Grant Smith on Israel and the Israel Lobby which will be posted next Friday. I don’t know why but I’ve been getting tons of good comments/responses at Facebook, and very little feedback here at BFP. Any ideas as to why? Please let us know.
Here are my noteworthy items from this week:
The Good Taliban, The Bad Taliban, The Ugly Taliban- different or one & the same?
In May 2009 I wrote an article on the Obama presidency and the current American political party system as ‘Two Sides of the Same Coin … Heads-Heads.’ Here is what I wrote on our confused Afghan strategy:
It is another war with no time table. It is the continuation of the same abstract ‘War on Terror’ without any definition of what would constitute an ‘accomplished mission.’ One minute there is pondering on possible ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban, and the next minute seeking to topple it. In fact, to confuse the matter even further, we now hear this distinction between ‘Good Taliban, Bad Taliban, and the Plain Ugly Taliban.’ As stated by Karzai on Meet the Press on May 10, 2009, not all Taliban are equal!!
And the following related news came out this past week:
Afghan Taliban to Open Office in Turkey
Voice of America
The Turkish foreign minister has confirmed that preparations are underway for opening an office in Turkey for the Afghan Taliban. During a recent visit to Turkey, the president of Pakistan, together with his Turkish counterpart, made a commitment to support political initiatives to end the war in Afghanistan. Ankara has been calling for talks with the Taliban, and having strong ties with both Afghanistan and Pakistan is seen as a key element in facilitating talks.
Turkey says it is willing to host a political office for Taliban militants from Afghanistan in order to promote talks to end the war there. An unnamed Afghan official is quoted as saying that planning for the office is already in progress.
But wait, that’s not the most noteworthy aspect of this news. You know how they say the devil is in the details? Well, here is the ‘devil’ in this development [emphasis all mine]:
Last week, a senior Afghan official, Mohammad Massoom Stanekzai, secretary of the Afghan High Peace Council and an adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, announced a US$50 million donation from the United States government to the council - the body responsible for seeking peace talks with the Taliban - in support of reconciliation efforts.
This is the beginning of official; up-front peace negotiations with the Taliban, which to date have taken place in backrooms. However, in stark contrast to US hopes, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that al-Qaeda was gradually returning to the eastern Afghan provinces of Nuristan and Kunar, setting up bases for the first time in years in the wake of the withdrawal of US troops from the area to more populated centers.
Okay, let’s ask it out loud: who exactly have we been bombing in Afghanistan? Pakistan? Al-Qaeda? Taliban? Only the Bad Taliban? All of the above? None of the above? A mixture of good, bad, and [plain ugly Taliban? And, which Taliban are we funding and opening international offices for? I have a pretty good theory (maybe a hypothesis) on this, but that will have to wait for another time and another article…
The Devolution of the People & the Government of the Czars
Language and words people use tell a lot about their culture, values, even geographic characteristics and forms of government under which they live. But then again the situation, circumstances, change or evolve, and with them the language and the use of some words. Once upon a time, here in our country, government workers were referred to as public servants, and it wasn’t that unusual to hear expressions like ‘government of the people, by the people…’ Back then, people hated words associated with kings, queens, emperors … But then, things devolved. Really, devolved big time. We went from a small government to a gigantic one; from public servants to czars and czarinas. And, looking at the frequent and accepted usage of words reflecting this devolution, our society seems to have accepted the position of servants ruled by their masters…Here is what I had to say in an article:
I can go on listing cases of Mr. Obama’s change on change. Whether it is his reversal on protection for whistleblowers, despite his campaign promise to the contrary, or his expansion of the Un-American title of ‘Czardom,’ where we now have more czars than ever: Border Czar, Energy Czar, Cyber Security Czar…Car Czar…maybe even a Bicycle Czar!
President Obama Won’t Abide by Provision in Budget Bill
Jake Tapper, ABC News
In a statement issued Friday night, President Obama took issue with some provisions in the budget bill – and in one case simply says he will not abide by it.
One rider – Section 2262 -- de-funds certain White House adviser positions – or “czars.” The president in his signing statement declares that he will not abide by it.
“The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” he wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it. Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama was quite critical of the Bush administration’s uses of signing statements telling the Boston Globe in 2007 that the “problem” with the Bush administration “is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation.” Then-Sen. Obama said he would “not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law.”
And here are a few more links and excerpts for you:
Halfhearted Gestures & Another Case of a For-Show-Only Congressional Performance
Rep. Chaffetz seeks to limit pat-downs of children after new TSA controversy
Pete Kasperowicz, the Hill
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would prohibit Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials from conducting pat-downs on minors without consent from a parent.
Chaffetz's bill, H.R. 1510, was spurred by video footage posted online over the weekend of a 6-year-old girl being patted down at an airport gate by a TSA official as her mother objected. Chaffetz wrote to TSA chief John Pistole on Wednesday to complain about what he called an "invasive pat-down at the hands of TSA personnel."
Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, warned Pistole that he would be introducing legislation, and said the agency "must get serious" about how it tries to balance national security and personal privacy."At the very least, it cannot continue to operate under the belief that little girls and handicapped children pose such a serious threat that [TSA officials] must abandon all manner of decency when interacting with them," he wrote.
Okay, do you want to know what triggered this latest for-show-only performance; soon to be forgotten ultimatum? Here it is, watch it.
Obama’s Drone Obsession: They say a man obsessed with really big cars has a small…But what do they say about a man obsessed with drones?
US Ignores Pakistan Warning, Continues Drone Strikes
Jason Ditz, AntiWar.Com
Though Pakistani officials were quite clear on Monday in their demand that the US put its entire drone strike program “on hold” for the foreseeable future, drones were active again today in South Waziristan, attacking a village and killing at least six people.
The latest strike spawned another quick rebuke from officials, who insisted the attacks are “counterproductive” and are indeed being used as a recruitment tool by militant factions. The US has launched scores of such strikes since President Obama took office, killing massive numbers of people, many of them civilians.
The continued strikes had previously been done in the context of some backdoor agreements with officials to keep them going, but in the absence of those it seems the Obama Administration is betting Pakistan just doesn’t care enough about the constant bombardment of their tribal areas to actually do anything about it.
What Could Halt US Arms Sales to Any Middle Eastern Country? Nothing, really.
U.S. reviewing Mideast arms sales
Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
The U.S. government is reviewing arms sales to Middle Eastern countries on a "case-by-case basis" given turmoil in the region, and has already halted some sales, a Pentagon official said on Monday.
Richard Genaille, deputy director of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said that two of the biggest deals on the table have been cleared to proceed: a $29.4 billion sale of 84 Boeing Co F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and a $7 billion sale to the United Arab Emirates of an advanced missile defense system built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
A team of officials from his agency, the State Department, military commanders and the White House National Security Council were carefully reviewing planned arms sales to the region, Genaille told Reuters in an interview after a speech at the annual Navy League conference.
Unrest and violence spreading across the Middle East have sparked questions about U.S. arms sales to the region, deals that many U.S. defense companies had hoped would offset an expected decline in U.S. defense spending in coming years.Genaille said the current reviews affected specific parts of arms sales that had already been approved by Congress and were being readied for delivery to Middle Eastern countries.
Earlier, Genaille told the conference that he expected continued strong foreign demand for U.S. weapons, predicting that the overall level of foreign military sales could exceed the currently forecast level of $46 billion in fiscal 2011, which ends on September 30, buoyed by the Saudi arms sales.The agency that oversees foreign arms sales reported $31.6 billion in new sales in fiscal 2010, according to its website.
The Saudi arms sales are likely to buoy sales in 2011, although the overall level will likely drop off and stabilize between $30 billion and $40 billion for several years.In October, the Obama administration notified Congress of a proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion over 15 to 20 years. It would be the largest arms deal on record if all purchases are made, including 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have.
Hope you all had a nice weekend so far; enjoy the rest of it