Obama gives America its second Vietnam
Vietnam was lost in Washington DC. Looks the same for Afghanistan. In Vietnam's case they talked about handing over to local forces too
US President Barack Obama used a prime-time address to the nation from the White House today to confirm the withdrawal of about 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year. Mr Obama said a further 23,000 troops would be brought back to America by mid-2012 - ending the US military "surge" in the war-torn nation.
"After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support," he said. "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
"We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al-Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11."
The US currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so even after all of the surge troops leave, the military will still have nearly 70,000 forces in the country.
Responding to Mr Obama's address, House Speaker John Boehner said he was pleased the president recognised that success in Afghanistan was paramount.
However, he cautioned, "It is my hope that the president will continue to listen to our commanders on the ground as we move forward. Congress will hold the administration accountable for ensuring that the pace and scope of the drawdown does not undermine the progress we've made thus far".
General David Petraeus and top Pentagon officials had asked for a slower drawdown through the (northern) summer of 2012 to allow them to solidify gains in southern Afghanistan and to mount counter-insurgency operations in eastern districts.
Senator John McCain said Mr Obama's decision, communicated to senior national security officials yesterday represented an "unnecessary risk" and said Gen Petraeus and Defence Secretary Robert Gates had recommended a "more modest withdrawal".
Tiny tyrannies matter too
Libertarian minds reel when considering the loss of liberty here in the United States. There is the ever-growing intrusion of the federal government into the daily lives of men and women, revealing a gross disregard for constitutional guarantees.
We’ve been inundated with examples recently. The effect of Supreme Court decisions and FBI directives can lead us to anger or bring a chilling unease as we wonder what might be next.
It’s easy to focus on what comes out of Washington. Decisions made on the national level affect everyone, the 300 million-plus U.S. citizens as well as the rest of the world. The federal government is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, at home and abroad. Not only are we being spied upon in violation of the Constitution, but the value of our money and our ability to save and invest are being destroyed by fiscal policy while the government’s foreign policy is one of destruction to people, places, and things. It makes enemies; it wages war and we are not any safer.
We also need to pay attention to what happens locally. The news out of Iowa about renters needing to provide apartment keys to the fire department in Cedar Falls is one case in point.
Another example comes from Dallas, Texas, where the city enacted an ordinance limiting window signs for retail businesses to 15 percent of the window area and no sign may be in the upper two-thirds of a window. The statute also prohibits signs that cover more than 25 percent of a building façade.
The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of a few businesses, but the city played hardball and threatened those retailers with fines of $300,000 if they didn’t drop the suit. The word extortion definitely comes to mind.
Cities such as Dallas and Cedar Falls are not unique in their intrusiveness. Even small townships in southeastern Pennsylvania have ordinances that interfere with personal rights.
Chadds Ford Township won’t allow a motorcycle dealership to park its trucks with company name in front of the shop because supervisors deem that as signage in excess of what ordinances allow.
Even changing the name on a sign requires approval from the Zoning Hearing Board and if the business is in the historic district, it needs approval from the Historic and Architectural Review Board. HARBs also tell homeowners in historic districts what colors they may use to paint their shutters. Any municipality with a HARB is over-regulated.
No business has asked for flashing neon signs or to light up the night sky with their names. They just want to let people know who they are, what they have to offer, and when they’re open.
The aversion to signs is ridiculous. One supervisor always looks for signs tacked to utility poles as he drives around the township. One Easter Sunday he was running around with a stepladder, climbing up and down, removing those nasty signs. Most were from small businesses trying to get their names out as cheaply as possible. It seems an odd way to spend Easter Morning.
When the economy turned upside down, township supervisors finally lightened up a little. Since 2009, some businesses may have a small, A-frame sign in front of their stores during business hours as long as the signs meet certain size specifications, they are taken in at night, and the owner pays a fee of $125.
It’s not just a matter of an anti-business climate. It’s a disregard for the Constitution.
Several years ago, Chadds Ford supervisors enacted a noise ordinance that contains a clause prohibiting congregating at the township building unless there is an authorized public event there. When the township solicitor told the supervisors’ chairman — the aforementioned sign-remover — that such a clause could be challenged as a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free assembly, the chairman said he didn’t care. The clause remains on the books.
Property rights don’t matter either. These same supervisors decided that the owner of a five-acre property. for example, doesn’t necessarily have five acres if he wants to subdivide. Steep slopes and stream areas must be removed from the calculations when determining lot sizes for subdivision. So, in a zoning district with a two-acre minimum lot size, a five-acre property with 1.1 acres of steep slopes, wetlands and other net outs can’t be subdivided because the total net out brings the lot size down to less than four acres. Landowners of larger properties lose even more value. Owners must still pay taxes on the full acreage though.
Chadds Ford isn’t alone in its intrusiveness. Neighboring Birmingham Township has an ordinance regulating the size of leaves on a tree in a residential yard, and supervisors can force a tree removed if it hasn’t grown the way it supposed to grow within its first year.
Don’t even think about putting up a fence around a flower garden without permission and if you want to erect a swing set in your own yard for your own kids you’ll probably have to go to the zoning board.
Overregulation of society comes from local government as well as state and federal. As one area resident said, it’s “the tyranny of tiny rules and regulations.”
A year later that same resident became a supervisor who, like all other supervisors, now works to uphold all township ordinances, even the tiny tyrannical ones.
One of the ironies is that the 1777 Battle of Brandywine was fought in Birmingham and Chadds Ford townships. Boards of supervisors and members of HARBs fight to keep paint colors, building design, and open space true to that time period, yet they ignore what the war was all about — freedom from government intrusion.
So, while we keep an eye on Capitol Hill, we also need to keep an eye on city and township halls — and we need to fight all of them when they intrude on our liberty.
National security experts blast attorney general’s claim that lawyers are America’s ‘most effective terror-fighting weapon’
How did such a dummy get such a senior job? The color of his skin would seem the only explanation
Centrist and right-of-center national security experts reacted with contempt to Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim at a legal convention that the courts are the nation’s “most effective terror-fighting weapon.”
“That’s utter nonsense … it is simply lunatic,” said Ralph Peters, military analyst, author and former soldier. In the war against the jihadis, he said, the courts “have been totally ineffective when they’re not outright destructive.”
“He’s unconsciously shilling for his own profession,” said Michael Rubin, a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “Holder, like many ambitious bureaucrats, wants to build a bureaucratic empire … [and] by doing so, he will get Americans killed.”
On Sunday, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell added his voice to the criticism. “The attorney general said the other night our biggest weapon in the war on terror was the U.S. civilian court system,” he said on CBS’ Face The Nation. “ I don’t know what planet he’s living on.”
Holder’s declaration came in a Thursday speech to hundreds of progressive lawyers, advocates, judges and students gathered at the American Constitution Society’s annual gala. “I know that – in distant countries, and within our own borders – there are people intent on, and actively plotting to, kill Americans,” he told his legal peers in the enthusiastic audience. “Victory and security will not come easily, and they won’t come at all if we adhere to a rigid ideology, adopt a narrow methodology, or abandon our most effective terror-fighting weapon – our Article III [civil] court system,” he declared to much applause.
Holder delivered his speech several months after Congress and public opinion defeated his two-year political campaigns to transfer five captured Al Qaeda leaders from the military’s legal commissions to the legal profession’s civilian courts, and to close the military’s Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility.
At the lawyers’ convention, Holder called for an advocacy campaign that would give civil lawyers the lead role in the struggle against the jihadis. “We cannot – and we must not – allow the public safety concerns that all Americans share to divide us … we must ensure that the rule of law … must be recognized as the foundation for our continued security,” he said.
“Achieving this goal is our collective responsibility. And it must become our common cause,” he declared to his fellow lawyers.
Welfare before the welfare state: "Many people think life without the welfare state would be chaos. In their minds, nobody would help support the less fortunate, and there would be riots in the streets. Little do they know that people found innovative ways of supporting each other before the welfare state existed. One of the most important of these ways was the mutual-aid society"
There’s no “average” cancer patient: "On June 28, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a hearing to decide the fate of Avastin, a drug taken by thousands of women fighting late-stage breast cancer. Many of these women have pleaded for continued access to the drug, which they consider a matter of life and death. But this case is really about what will guide decisions on treatment options — the best judgment of doctors and their patients, or the policy preferences of the FDA."
Medicare Part D not broke, don’t fix it: "Only in Washington could you get traction with a saying like, 'if it ain't broke, fix it anyway.' But sure enough, in his new deficit plan, President Barack Obama has proposed imposing $49 billion worth of Medicaid-style cost controls on a health care success story -- the landmark 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug program. While deficit reduction is a worthy goal, this particular idea is not only bad; it won't work. There's ample evidence that it would not only increase costs, rather than reduce them, but also reduce access to life-enhancing and life-saving drugs."
What you don’t know can hurt you: "The Soviet Union enacted an infamous law in 1922 that criminalized 'hooliganism.' The crime was in the eye of the beholder, the beholder of consequence being the Soviet secret police. Because it was impossible for dissidents to know in advance whether they were violating this prohibition, they were always subject to arrest and imprisonment, all ostensibly according to law. In the United States, we have legal safeguards against Soviet-style social controls, not least of which is the judicial branch’s ability to nullify laws so vague that they violate the right to due process. Yet far too many federal laws leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment."
CBO sees government benefits swamping US economy: "The United States will find little relief from its bleak long-term fiscal outlook so long as growing federal healthcare and retirement programs gobble up more and more of the country's resources, said a new economic report issued on Wednesday."
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