Friday, November 6, 2009

Afghanistan May Not Be Up To Obama

Because in addition to UK PM Gordon Brown threatening to pull out of Afghanistan unless the Karzai government gives in to major reforms, now the UN has pulled more than half of its staff out and is threatening to pull out completely unless those reforms are made quickly.
The United Nations today temporarily pulled half its international staff out of Afghanistan and threatened that a complete and permanent withdrawal could follow.

Amid an atmosphere of increasing gloom in Afghanistan, the UN Special Representative in Kabul, Kai Eide delivered a pointed warning to the government of Hamid Karzai.

“There is a belief among some, that the international community (presence) will continue whatever happens because of the strategic importance of Afghanistan,” he told a press conference this morning. “I would like to emphasise that that’s not true.”

He added that the Afghan government must demonstrate a willingness to reform and address corruption and the power of warlords.

Of the 1,100 foreign UN workers, 600 will now leave until the situation improves. The remaining UN workers are to be relocated inside Kabul from the current network of 93 different UN guesthouses, many of them privately run civilian houses, to a one large compound which is currently used for the European Union police training mission. The new arrangement will echo the ‘Green Zone’ found in Baghdad.

The move follows last week’s attack on a UN guesthouse in the heart of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in which five UN international staff were killed by gunmen and suicide bombers who were disguised in police uniform.

Kabul is coming apart. The Karzai government has no international legitimacy, and no factual control over anything outside the Green Zone. Gordon Brown and Kai Eide will say what Obama will not: that the mission in Afghanistan may beyond hope, and it could be time to cut losses and leave.

What Obama wants to do in Afghanistan may not matter in the end.

Three Cheers For Bernie And Paul

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski will say and do what needs to be done on Too Big To Fail: break the banks.
An independent U.S. senator on Friday introduced a bill that would give the government the power to identify and break up financial firms that are "too big to fail," an idea that is catching on.

"If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist," said Senator Bernie Sanders in a statement.

"We should break them up so they are no longer in a position to bring down the entire economy," he said.

Sanders is an independent outside the U.S. political mainstream. But he is not the only one looking at break-ups.

Representative Paul Kanjorski, the Democratic chairman of the capital markets subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, is working on a break-up power amendment.

It would give a new government systemic risk council break-up power, with clearance from the president.

"It's the natural action of capital to grow and exceed. Now we're going to contain it," Kanjorski told CNBC television.

He said large banks oppose his amendment because it would threaten them. But, he said, mid-sized and smaller financial institutions would be helped by it because they would be better able to compete if mega-firms were downsized.

"When the people's money is being used to bail out these large companies ... We certainly have to have someone to tell them what to do in order to save them," he said.

The idea seems exceedingly simple, so much so that you have to wonder why it hasn't been proposed. We have already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that any bank that represents a global systemic risk is too large to function safely. Rescuing these banks cost trillions of dollars and will continue to cost trillions. It has all but wrecked the dollar and with it our economy. The only way to assure this never happens again is to break the big banks, period.

And of course this legislation will never, ever get near a vote. It will never get out of committee. Our Congress is too corrupt, regardless of party affiliation.

We'll see.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Perhaps House Republicans should spend more time actually voting in the House than hanging out at photo ops with Teabaggers. Turns out several GOP House members missed some key Patriot Act amendment votes sponsored by Republicans, and those amendments failed because of their absence.

They were too busy on the podium screaming how Obama was shirking his duties to national security, you see.

And people wonder why nobody takes the GOP seriously.

Something Happened On The Way To The Forum

You see, that historic House health care vote tomorrow? Not gonna happen tomorrow...
House Democrats acknowledged they don't yet have the votes to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system, and signaled they may push back the vote until Sunday or early next week.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters in a conference call Friday that the make-or-break vote on President Barack Obama's push to make health coverage part of the social safety net could face delay. Democrats were originally hoping to pass the bill on Saturday.

The apparent problem: Democrats have yet to resolve intraparty disputes over abortion funding and illegal immigrants' access to health care. They cleared one hurdle Friday when liberals supporting a government-run Medicare-for-all system withdrew their demand for a floor vote.

Story continues below ↓
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The White House said Obama remains hopeful of getting an overhaul bill this year and plans to go to Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to rally support.

Hoyer sought to pin the blame for any possible slippage on delaying tactics expected from Republicans, who unanimously oppose the health care remake.

"Nice try Rep. Hoyer, but you can't blame Republicans when the fact is you just don't have the votes," said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio. Republicans could stall the bill by demanding roll-call votes on parliamentary matters.

What I don't get is that the clear message from Tuesday is that Democrats win when they stick to their guns, and lose when they run away from Obama (or in Jon Corzine's case have a crapload of personal negatives.) Creigh Deeds said as Virgina's governor, he would opt out of the new health care legislation if given the choice, and said the public option wasn't necessary. Of course Democrats didn't turn out for the guy. I wouldn't have voted for him either.

By the same token, Bill Owens in NY and John Garamendi in California both stated their support for the public option. They won even in off-year elections, and Owens won in a blood red district. Even if you combine the Hoffman-Scozzafava vote it would have been 50-50, and in a blood red district like NY-23 this race never should have been close enough for Owens to win period.

And yet voters went with the person supporting the public option when voting in a guy like Hoffman would have been a message that the public option was in trouble, especially just days ahead of the vote.

If there is a Blue Dog who would be vulnerable, it would be Bill Owens. He's behind the public option, turns out...and was never against it. Voters elected him anyway.

The lesson here is that the public option is a winner, guys. Try getting out more.

Guilt By Association

And so it begins.
In the wake of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood by a military psychiatrist of Middle Eastern lineage, the hosts at Fox News have begun suggesting that all Muslims in the military should be treated as potential threats.

"Do you think it's time for the military to have special debriefings of Muslim Army officers -- anybody enlisted?" Fox's Brian Kilmeade asked Geraldo Rivera on Friday morning. "Because if I'm going to be deployed in a foxhole, if I'm going to be sticking in an outpost, I got to know the guy next to me is not going to want to kill me."

Rivera pivoted. "But isn't this the headline, Brian, that there are four or five million American Muslims and how scant and few and far between these horrifying incidents are?"

"I've been in Afghanistan with these guys," Rivera continued, "in Iraq with these guys. They are treasured for their bilingualism, their multiculturalism, the fact that they can bridge and understand and translate for us."

Fox's Gretchen Carlson, however, joined the bandwagon. "Our society has become very politically correct," she objected. "Could it be that the military was also exercising political correctness, even though he had a poor performance report and even though he spoke openly about being a radical Muslim and had those supposed postings online?"

Fox News legal analyst Peter J. Johnson jumped in, asking Rivera, "You won't countenance special screening for Muslims will you?"

"It's a hard step for me to take," Rivera replied. "This is an American born person. This is not a naturalized citizen."

But remember, FOX News is a serious journalism outlet full of people asking probing questions. Apparently those probing questions include "Should we throw all Muslims out of the military because they are they enemy, or because they are scaring Christians?"

Hey, it worked for homosexuals in the military.

Over The Edge

We've now gotten to the point where the Obama Derangement is there just for the sake of Obama Derangement, as this guy redefines the term "spittle-flecked outrage."
President Obama didn't wait long after Tuesday's devastating elections to give critics another reason to question his leadership, but this time the subject matter was more grim than a pair of governorships.
What did he do? Invade another country? Alienate key U.S. allies? Unilaterally place America in an untenable position? Surely with an opener like that, the offense must be historically grave...
But instead of a somber chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion, viewers saw a wildly disconnected and inappropriately light president making introductory remarks. At the event, a Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian affairs, the president thanked various staffers and offered a "shout-out" to "Dr. Joe Medicine Crow -- that Congressional Medal of Honor winner." Three minutes in, the president spoke about the shooting, in measured and appropriate terms. Who is advising him?
Wait, what? He mentioned a Native American Congressional Medal of Honor winner at the White House's Tribal Nations Conference? The...outrage?
Indeed, an argument could be made that Obama should have canceled the Indian event, out of respect for people having been murdered at an Army post a few hours before. That would have prevented any sort of jarring emotional switch at the event.
So now the President should cancel events should a mass shooting occur or whenever American troops are killed? I wonder when he'll get anything done in the meanwhile.
If the president's communications apparatus can't inform -- and protect -- their boss during tense moments when the country needs to see a focused commander-in-chief and a compassionate head of state, it has disastrous consequences for that president's party and supporters.

All the president's men (and women) fell down on the job Thursday. And Democrats across the country have real reason to panic.

And if Bush had done it, the same people would be saying "And yet that's what America needs to see, a Commander-In-Chief who is human, like the rest of us."

At some point you just have to let the irrational hatred of Obama go, man.

[UPDATE 2:10 PM] And the winner in last night's "I wonder who will blame Obama first for the Fort Hood shooting" contest is WorldNutDaily's Jerome Corsi.

Here We Go Again

Another mass shooting, this time in a high rise office building in Orlando. Suspect still on the loose at this hour.
A gunman was at large after firefighters and police responded to a reported shooting Friday at a high-rise building in Orlando, Florida, authorities said.

Authorities received a report shortly before noon of a shooting on an upper floor of the high rise, said John Tormos of the Orlando Fire Department.

A spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which is helping the city police department, said investigators are looking for a man wearing a blue Polo shirt, gray vest and blue jeans.

"We're in a search mode for the gunman," said Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

CNN affiliate WESH reported that at least eight people were shot at the Gateway Center -- a 16-story building near Lake Ivanhoe and Interstate 4.

The interstate was closed in both directions near the office building, according to the Florida Department of Transportation Web site.

It's like everything's falling apart out there. It's crazy.

[UPDATE 1:51 PM] MSNBC has ID'ed the suspect as 40 year old Jason Rodriguez, a former employee in the building.

[UPDATE 2:30 PM] AP is reporting that Rodriguez has been apprehended.

The 2008 Election Never Happened

According to Chuck Krauthammer, anyway. America is really a country ruled by Republicans, you see.
In the aftermath of last year's Obama sweep, we heard endlessly about its fundamental, revolutionary, transformational nature. How it was ushering in an FDR-like realignment for the 21st century in which new demographics -- most prominently, rising minorities and the young -- would bury the GOP far into the future. One book proclaimed "The Death of Conservatism," while the more modest merely predicted the terminal decline of the Republican Party into a regional party of the Deep South or a rump party of marginalized angry white men.

This was all ridiculous from the beginning. The '08 election was a historical anomaly. A uniquely charismatic candidate was running at a time of deep war weariness, with an intensely unpopular Republican president, against a politically incompetent opponent, amid the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. And still he won by only seven points.

Exactly a year later comes the empirical validation of that skepticism. Virginia -- presumed harbinger of the new realignment, having gone Democratic in '08 for the first time in 44 years -- went red again. With a vengeance. Barack Obama had carried it by six points. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 -- a 23-point swing. New Jersey went from plus-15 Democratic in 2008 to minus-four in 2009. A 19-point swing.

What happened? The vaunted Obama realignment vanished. In 2009 in Virginia, the black vote was down by 20 percent; the under-30 vote by 50 percent. And as for independents, the ultimate prize of any realignment, they bolted. In both Virginia and New Jersey they'd gone narrowly for Obama in '08. This year they went Republican by a staggering 33 points in Virginia and by an equally shocking 30 points in New Jersey.

White House apologists will say the Virginia Democrat was weak. If the difference between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds was so great, how come when the same two men ran against each other statewide for attorney general four years ago the race was a virtual dead heat? Which made the '09 McDonnell-Deeds rematch the closest you get in politics to a laboratory experiment for measuring the change in external conditions. Run them against each other again when it's Obamaism in action and see what happens. What happened was a Republican landslide.

The Obama coattails of 2008 are gone. The expansion of the electorate, the excitement of the young, came in uniquely propitious Democratic circumstances and amid unparalleled enthusiasm for electing the first African American president.

November '08 was one shot, one time, never to be replicated. Nor was November '09 a realignment. It was a return to the norm -- and definitive confirmation that 2008 was one of the great flukes in American political history.

Your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen. Obama was merely a fluke. Sixty Democratic Senators, merely a fluke. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker? Fluke. Dems going 3 for 3 in 2009 special elections since Obama's election, an anomaly.

Democrats never win elections. It's just a collection of random data points in the electorate. The fact those data points spell out "screw the GOP" doesn't matter. Here's the money shot:

The irony of 2009 is that the anti-Democratic tide overshot the norm -- deeply blue New Jersey, for example, elected a Republican governor for the first time in 12 years -- because Democrats so thoroughly misread 2008 and the mandate they assumed it bestowed. Obama saw himself as anointed by a watershed victory to remake American life. Not letting the cup pass from his lips, he declared to Congress only five weeks after his swearing-in his "New Foundation" for America -- from remaking the one-sixth of the American economy that is health care to massive government regulation of the economic lifeblood that is energy.
Hey Chuckles? Might want to look at this:
The highest identification ranking for Republicans came in a February 2009 Rasmussen poll, where 34 percent of respondents listed themselves as party members. That was far and away the outlier. Since August there have been 18 public opinion polls conducted which have measured party identification. Of those, just one showed more than 30 percent of the public affiliating itself with the GOP. Twice, Republican self-affiliation was below 20 percent. By contrast, ever single poll during that time period has had Democratic Party ID above 30 percent, with a high of 38 percent in the month of August.
Not happening, Chuck. Not happening.

It Wasn't Just US Banks...

...But world banking giants like Switzerland's UBS that screwed people over.
Four former dealers at UBS plundered customer accounts to trade and dumped the resulting losses on them, Britain's financial regulator said, further denting the battered Swiss bank's reputation.

The scandal has cost UBS more than $55 million as the Financial Services Authority slapped on an 8 million pound ($13.2 million) penalty — its third largest ever — and the bank compensated clients by more than $42 million.

The Zurich-based bank's systems and controls failed to prevent four London-based employees carrying out unauthorized trades on at least 39 accounts over almost two years, the FSA said on Thursday.

The four dealers at UBS — struggling to rebuild its reputation after a high-profile U.S. tax fraud probe — traded foreign exchange and precious metals using customer money, with as many as 50 trades a day taking place at the peak.

"These employees were able to take advantage of UBS's inadequate systems and controls, giving them free rein to make unauthorized trades with customer money that they were then able to conceal," said Margaret Cole, FSA director of enforcement and financial crime.

There isn't an adequate financial control that can stop good old fashioned mega-greed, folks.

These were the four that got caught. How many more are out there? We may never know, and Obama's weak financial reform certainly will not help.


190,000 jobs lost last month, unemployment rate now 10.2%. The real story is the U-6 number hitting 17.5% however, and that means there are counties out there where the real unemployment figure is closing in on 30% or more.

Prolonged numbers that bad are simply going to drive local governments out of business. They're not going to be able to cope without raising taxes, period.

Suicide Is Painless

Here in Kentucky, law enforcement officials are increasingly convinced that despite being found bound and gagged, census worker Bill Sparkman committed suicide rather than being killed.
Investigators probing the death of a Kentucky census worker found hanging from a tree with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest increasingly doubt he was killed because of his government job and are pursuing the possibility he committed suicide, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said no final conclusions have been made in the case. In recent weeks, however, investigators have grown more skeptical that 51-year-old Bill Sparkman died at the hands of someone angry at the federal government.

The officials said investigators continue to look closely at suicide as a possible cause of Sparkman's death for a number of reasons. There were no defensive wounds on Sparkman's body, and while his hands were bound with duct-tape, they were still somewhat mobile, suggesting he could have manipulated the rope, the officials said.

I'm not convinced, but then again I don't have all the facts, and I'm not a coroner. Sparkman's family isn't convinced either.

Sparkman's adopted son has been adamant the case is murder, and he is not alone in that opinion.

Jerry Weaver, one of the people who found the body during a gathering at a family cemetery, remained certain the death was a homicide. Weaver told The Associated Press this week that he recalled Sparkman's hands being close together.

Weaver also said the rope, which he described as thin like a clothes line, was wrapped around the high branches of two different trees as if for leverage. Sparkman's truck was found nearby, and Weaver said he saw Sparkman's clothes in the bed of the truck and a census worker placard sitting on the dashboard.

Weaver had previously told the AP that the body was naked, bound at the feet and hands, and gagged. He didn't see the word "fed" on the chest but did notice there was an identification tag taped to the side of his neck.

"He was put on display," Weaver said.

A friend of the dead man said he seemed as chipper as ever in the days before his death.

Gilbert Acciardo, a retired Kentucky state trooper who directs an after-school program at the elementary school where Sparkman was a frequent substitute teacher, said he spoke with Sparkman two or three days before he died and saw no signs that he was upset about anything.

"He was the same Bill Sparkman I always had contact with," Acciardo said. "I didn't notice any change in mood or behavior. He came bouncing in like he always did, with a smile on his face, cutting up with me."

The only thing known for sure is that there's still a lot of questions about Sparkman's death. I'm still going with the murder angle, but if it's taking this long to determine cause of death, there's enough to question if it was a murder. The question is why Sparkman would commit suicide in such a bizarre manner.

I don't know. I could have been completely wrong.


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