Shavuot (Commemorating the time when G-d gave the Torah to Moses)
Happy Shavuot to my Jewish readers!
Obama the disappointer: Hot air gives way to reality
Janet Albrechtsen comments from Australia
FEW leaders have brought so many tears to the eyes of so many people as US President Barack Obama. Oprah Winfrey says she almost cried her eyelashes off when the young Democrat from Chicago accepted the party’s nomination. Jane Fonda admits she became a bundle of nerves, crying all night at the thought of Obama losing the election.
Our own Guy Rundle summed up the election of Obama for many progressives. Writing last November, he described how he and the young desk clerk in the lobby of his Washington hotel, who had just come off a 12-hour shift ("because that’s how you work in (George W.) Bush’s America"), “just held hands and wept for a minute or so, in happiness, in relief, in the victory of something larger than both of us, that contained us both”. “It is a victory for the global Left,” Rundle wrote. “These are the great days.”
More likely those were the salad days. Now, plenty of Obama’s most ardent admirers are rethinking their exuberance. Rundle has attacked the “small stuff” - gaffes over gifts to Russians and bad jokes about the Special Olympics - and the “big stuff”: complaining at the paltry size of Obama’s $1.2trillion stimulus package. Democrats are meant to spend more. Bob Dylan, who once described Obama as “redefining the nature of politics”, is shrugging hisshoulders, describing politicians as “interchangeable”.
Al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is also disappointed: “America came to us with a new face.” But it was a ruse, he says. They have not “changed their crimes, aggressions, thefts and their scandals”, he says in a statement released by the SITE Intelligence Group.
And Wall Street bankers - who barracked for Barack by bankrolling his campaign to the tune of $US9.9million (not to mention giving Hillary Clinton $US7.4 million) - whine about getting hit by higher taxes. What did they expect? Democrats lowering taxes for the uber-rich?
Of course, Obama could never meet the great expectations surrounding his presidency. Indeed, the greatness of Obama’s presidency will depend on him disappointing Rundle’s “global Left”, not to mention al-Qa’ida. The responsibility of power means the 44th President has already proved he is more pragmatic than ideological. As much as the Left will loathe this, the unfolding of his presidency is a lesson in the old adage that the office changes the man more than the man changes the office.
Last November The New York Times was effusive in its praise about Obama’s promise to “restore Americans’ civil liberties and their tattered reputation around the world”. In office, Obama is talking like a Bushie, disappointed Times editorial writers noted in March.
Given Obama’s continuous backpedalling, The Wall Street Journal was right to advise the friends of newspaper editors to remove all sharp objects from their vicinity. Now it’s a case of: How do I not love thee? Let me count the ways.
Obama has refused to support the release of photographs detailing abuse of detainees, has supported warrantless wiretapping, boosted US involvement in the Afghanistan war, opposed the prosecution of those allegedly involved in torture and called a halt to rendition practices only to maintain what are conveniently called temporary facilities.
Campaigning for the presidency, Obama said: “As president I’ll close Guantanamo Bay, reject the Military Commissions Act, adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” He described Bush’s military commissions as a “legal framework that does not work” and promised to release Guantanamo Bay detainees, transfer them to foreign countries or try them in federal US courts. Four months after taking office, Obama says “military commissions have a long tradition in the United States” as he confronts the political reality - and presidential responsibility - of what to do with the 240 detainees still in Gitmo. The President’s lame changes to military commissions are acknowledgment of what Bush knew from the outset: military commissions are essential in dealing with suspected terrorists. And Obama admits indefinite detention will continue for some.
Ah, the fecklessness of those in search of a messiah. Anti-war group Code Pink is wondering whether Obama is a “war criminal”. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch are also disappointed. But Obama needn’t have bothered inviting human rights leaders to his 90-minute tea and biscuits, please-still-love-me routine at the White House last week. The more they cry foul, the clearer it becomes to a wider audience that Obama is behaving like a President responsible for the nation’s security, just as president Bush did.
Last week a leaked Pentagon report revealed that one in seven of the 534 prisoners released from the facility in Cuba since 2002 has returned to terrorism. FBI director Robert Mueller has told Congress that he, too, has concerns about the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Then came the ultimate rebuff to Obama supporters. Last Wednesday, in a 90-6 vote, even Democrats in Congress rejected Obama’s request for $US80 million to close down Guantanamo Bay - blocking the release of detainees - until he explains his precise plan. Montana’s senator Max Baucus said: “We’re not going to bring al-Qa’ida to Big Sky Country.” Nebraska’s Democratic senator Ben Nelson said: “I wouldn’t want them and I wouldn’t take them”; and Dianne Feinstein’s office in California said: “Alcatraz is a national park and a tourist attraction, not a functioning prison.”
Notice too that Europe, only too eager to describe Gitmo as Bush’s legal black hole, hasn’t rushed out the welcome mat for detainees. Indeed, Europe’s embrace of Obama as multilateralism man has produced little in the way of multilateral results. When the US received minimal assistance from European allies in Afghanistan, it was blamed on Bush’s brand of unilateralism. When Obama failed to secure more troops from NATO allies during meetings with European leaders in April, it was apparently just a case of Europeans pursuing their national interest. And the US is once again left to do the heavy lifting.
Not much happening over at the UN Security Council either. As the council convenes to consider its response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, it pays to remember that last month it could manage only a lame, non-binding presidential statement because members disagreed on a binding resolution.
Alas, Bush is no longer the reason for UN intransigence.
For some on the Left, the Obama presidency may well be a case of what began in tears ends in tears, of a different, more bitter taste. More canny observers knew that the Obama who presented before the presidential elections would change once in office. When Bob Ellis - who described Obama as “the present world’s likely saviour” - expresses his disillusionment, we will know Obama is on the right track.
Obama is a "Centrist" to the Left
Below is part of a transcript from a recent Chris Matthews Show. The transcript is of comments about 4:20 minutes from the end.
"MATTHEWS: It seems to me that they're--what they're going to do in politics--I'm going back to my baseball metaphor, win big games at the beginning of the season, roll up the score, you don't have to win them in October. It seems to me what they're going to try to do is get a second-rate Republican effort against them. Every week they've--since they've been in office they've ignored the Republican Party. They've gone after the screamers like Rush Limbaugh and Cheney and Newt Gingrich. They don't want there to be another governing party. And I'm wondering if they're just hoping to get a Mondale election against them, or a Bob Dole election, a second-rate effort by the other side so they can sweep 60 percent.
Mr. IGNATIUS: Well, I think they feel the Republicans are very demoralized. But they do want to get legislation passed and they would like to have Republicans voting for it. They're very pleased, for example, they just got a procurement reform bill with a lot of Republican supporters. It was a big John McCain issue. What's striking to me in these first few months is that--is that--is that Obama really is going for the center in American politics. He's really trying to redraw the map.
And Leftist cartoonist Ted Rall is disappointed with Obama too, though with better reason:
Encroaching Fascism: “In practice, Obama wants to let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying off the street. Preventive detention is the classic defining characteristic of a military dictatorship. Because dictatorial regimes rely on fear rather than consensus, their priority is self-preservation rather than improving their people’s lives. They worry obsessively over the one thing they can’t control, what Orwell called ‘thoughtcrime’ — contempt for rulers that might someday translate to direct action.”
A few minutes ago, I did a radio-show piece with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, who voiced her hope that this confirmation process would be dignified and merits-based, and not involve the “dumpster-diving” and smear-tactics to which, she asserted, extremists on the left and the right have resorted in the past, etc.
Look for expressions of regret, and calls for seriousness, civility, and the like, in the days to come from President Obama’s surrogates in the press and in the activist groups. You will have to look harder, though, for journalists to observe, and these surrogates to admit, that
(a) the “let’s use Supreme Court nominations as occasions to smear good people” tactic is one that the Democrats — but not, in fact, the Republicans — have practiced enthusiastically;
(b) that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg were easily confirmed, with substantial Republican support, not because they were “moderate,” but because the Republicans voted in accord with the “President gets his (qualified) nominees” standard; and
(c) that dozens of Democratic senators, including the president, abandoned this standard (to the extent they ever respected it) and disgraced themselves by voting against Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts, easily among the most impressive nominees in history.
It also seems safe to predict that the press will, as they swoon over Judge Sotomayor’s personal story and Ivy League credentials, forget the extent to which Justice Thomas’s own story did not protect him from outrageous attacks, and his own prestigious degrees did not prevent snide insinuations that he was merely the beneficiary of affirmative action.
Oh, and I am just guessing that we will not hear any mutterings among those on the left about the nomination of (yet another) Roman Catholic.
A Leftist disparages a disabled person: "Alongside not talking with your mouth full and wiping, one of the elemental lessons in manners that civilized societies teach their young is not to mock the physically disabled. Someone should remind Joe Klein, the ostensibly adult political columnist for Time magazine. In a Politico story last week about conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, Mr. Klein said "there's something tragic" about the quadriplegic writer's work, as it "would have had a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about." In other words, don't trust the cripple because he can't take trans-Atlantic flights. [Imagine the uproar if a conservative had done likewise!]
Obama's men block prosecutiion of black thugs: "Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews. The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms. Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as "the most blatant form of voter intimidation" that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago."
A President who wants to emasculate America: "Barack Obama's legacy is coming sharply into focus, four years early. He's out to transform "a nation of laws," once the pride of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and exemplar to the world, into "a nation of feelings." We won't need judges, just social workers damp with empathy. This is in line with the president's larger vision, to cut America down to a size a community organizer could manage, making it merely one of the nice nations of the world, like Belgium or Brazil. The home of the brave and the land of the free would become what our English cousins call "wet," weak, ineffectual, fragile, fearful, and inconsequential. Sonia Sotomayor is one of the building blocks of the president's envisioned Mediocre Society."
GM bondholders offered a stake in the Titanic: "General Motors Corp said on Thursday it had reached a deal with some major bondholders that would give them a bigger stake in a reorganized automaker and could pave the way for a fast-track bankruptcy backed by the U.S. Treasury within days. The announcement was the clearest indication yet that GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker, is close to filing for bankruptcy under the direction of the Obama administration. It would be the biggest-ever bankruptcy for a U.S. industrial company. Under the proposed deal, which is supported by major institutional creditors holding about a fifth of its debt, bondholders representing $27 billion in debt would be offered 10 percent of a reorganized GM -- the same stake they had been offered previously. In a sweetener, bondholders would also receive warrants to acquire another 15 percent of the equity in the new company, provided they support a quick Treasury-backed sale process similar to one now being used for rival Chrysler."
Indian verbal ability wins the day again: "There were thrills, spills and misspells aplenty as a 13-year-old girl took the crown at the US Scripps National Spelling Bee final in Washington today. Kavya Shivashankar, who at 13 is a four-time veteran of the competition, was the last speller standing after correctly reciting the letters of the word laodicean, which means means to be lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics. She beat 11 other junior spellers, who emerged from a record field of 293 participants, in today's network-televised final. The favourite to take out ths year's 82nd annual competition was Sidharth Chand, who was runner-up last year. Chand missed apodyterium, the entry cubicles to a Roman public baths, and appeared inconsolable burying his head in his hands, even as he received a standing ovation from the crowd and other contestants. The national spelling bee gained a greater cultural profile after the 1999 documentary Spellbound and Kavya cites the winning speller from that film. Nupur Lala, as her hero." [All three kids mentioned above are of Indian origin]
The subversion of capital punishment: “What they lack in popular support, death penalty opponents more than make up in tenacity, skill — and success. When a one-per-27 minutes, 36-year, 707,000 homicide holocaust results in 1,136 executions (0.16%), capital punishment has been all but abolished. What remains is a costly and agonizing farce, with a token few murderers served up to fool the public. The United States Supreme Court and other courts have played a major role, enormously aided by the media in suppressing critical information.”
You can’t handle the truth?: “I have alleles that suggest that I have a lower than average risk of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Other alleles, however, indicate that I am slightly more likely to experience age-related macular degeneration than other people of European ancestry. In addition, if I need to use the blood thinner warfarin in the future, I should let my physician know that I have a version of the CYP2C9 gene, suggesting that I have a greater sensitivity to the drug and probably should start with a low dose. How do I know this genetic information? Because I paid for a direct-to-consumer genotype test from the California start up 23andMe. … does such direct-to-consumer (DTC) genotyping need to be regulated — or banned? Last month, Germany banned direct-to-consumer genetic testing. In 2007, the Genetics and Public Policy Institute found that 24 states limited or restricted direct-to-consumer genetic testing in some ways.”
Army starts testing “Judge Dredd” weapon: “The U.S. Army is set to start testing a computerized, high-tech projectile launcher that can take out bad guys hiding around corners and in caves or trenches, even if they’re out of the soldier’s line of sight. Some experts call it the ‘Judge Dredd’ gun, after the Sylvester Stallone movie. The Pentagon calls it the XM-25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, which uses a laser rangefinder to precisely measure the distance to a target, then primes a fuse on a timed grenade so that the projectile explodes exactly where it should.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)