World Politics Archive

2

Persons Of The Year: The Tea Party Movement

It was the spring of 2009 when the Tea Party movement made its first impact.  Just weeks after Barack Obama took office, the public was already stirring.  After Congress passed a huge stimulus, and had promised to pass a budget with the largest deficit in U.S. history, the grassroots movement of the right and of disaffected independents started to take shape.  All through 2009, they fought the huge Democrat majorities from passing Obamacare, and were able to successfully kill off the public option.

In January, spurred by the support of the Tea Party, Republicans were able to elect Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts…supposedly to be the 41st vote against Obamacare.  However, that would not be enough.  In February, Democrats were able to successfully pass their $1.5 trillion health care program through reconciliation, and against the opinion of the majority of Americans.

That was the final catalyst for the Tea Party to truly gain strength and momentum.   After almost a year of trying to convince the governing party that their health care policy was too extreme for the bulk of the nation, Democrats simply ignored them, and went against the wishes of a significant majority of the population.

Conventional wisdom from the left at the time was that the Tea Party would fade into oblivion.   However, they did not disappear.  Far from it.  Instead, they refocused their sights to the 2010 elections.  If they didn’t have the power to reform the entire country in a single move, then they would start with reform of their party.  Although not always successful, clearly the results were satisfactory.  2010 gave Republicans their largest gains since 1994, and significantly moved both Houses of Congress to the right.

When picking a person of the year (or in this cases persons of the year) one has to look at their large scale impact on society.  Within the United States, no movement or group has had the impact that the Tea Party has had over the past 20 months.  One could argue that they have done the impossible…and have successfully moved Barack Obama to the middle (well, maybe not the middle, but let us say, less far left).  They have given the Republican party focus that it had completely been lacking since the 2008 elections; some would argue that focus had been missing for much of the past decade.

If the Tea Partiers are able to keep Republican’s feet to the fire, and force them to make difficult decisions on spending, the deficit, and maintaining a small but efficient government, their power and influence will be greater than anyone else for the year 2010.

2

2010 Predictions…A Look Back

So you can see my predictions of the year 2010 here, if you wish.  My 2010 predictions weren’t too bad…but in hindsight, I have to say that I have outdone myself.  Regular typeface is my original prediction, and bold is my current commentary…

  • President Barack Obama will sign a health care reform bill…but not until well after the State of the Union, and only with a lot of difficulty.  Democrats will fight another civil war on the public option, taxes, abortion, and illegal immigrants.  CORRECT!
  • Democrats will try for a third stimulus, in which Obama will try to focus on tax cuts, but progressives in the House will push him to spend more on government programs.  CORRECT!  ASSUMING YOU ARE COUNTING THE CURRENT TAX BATTLE.
  • Obama’s Budget Director forecasts a 4.0% growth rate next year…the rate of growth will be much less, closer to 2.5% for the year.  SO FAR, ACCURATE.
  • We will see narrowing of job losses in the beginning of the year, but some of it will be smoke and mirrors as the government hires 700,000 temporary workers to carry out the 2010 census.  By the end of 2010, the overall rate of unemployment will still be in the double digits.  CLOSE.  WE ARE SLIGHTLY UNDER 10%.
  • The stock market will have a mediocre year, rising 7-8% to around Dow 11,300 by the end of next year.  Businesses, however, will again be profitable.  Hiring will start in earnest in the end of 2010.  NOT BAD…THE DOW IS UP ABOUT 8% FOR THE YEAR.
  • The Federal Reserve, in a bid to halt inflationary pressures, will increase Fed rates by middle of the year.  The dollar will actually gain value…and gold will stabilize or drop in price.  However, oil prices will rise to around $100/barrel.  WRONG.  THE FED IS STILL TRYING TO FLUSH MONEY INTO THE SYSTEM.  OIL IS AROUND $80.
  • Legislatively, Democrats will have greater and greater difficulty in passing anything.  Cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and card check will all die an ignoble death.  TRUE.
  • Obama’s attempts at budget deficit control will go to naught, as Democrats fight among themselves over which they should do:  tax increases or budget cuts.  Ultimately, nothing will be done, and the deficit for 2010 will be around $1.5 trillion…or about the same as 2009.  In other words, matching the largest national yearly deficit in world history.  CORRECT!
  • Almost nothing will get done by Congress, as Democrats (not Republicans) will virtually bring the legislature to a standstill.  FALSE.  REPUBLICANS STOPPED MOST EVERYTHING, TO THEIR CREDIT.
  • By summer, Tea Party protests will be ravaging the nation, as the protesters fight for control of the Republican Party.  Conservatives will be pitted against moderates, and in most races, the conservative will triumph; for example, Rubio probably will oust Crist in Florida.  Democrats will giggle in glee, remembering the outcome of NY-23.  But who has the last laugh?  ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY CORRECT!
  • Obama’s poll numbers will stabilize in the spring, as unemployment numbers artificially are leveled off.  However, as the year progresses, and unemployment stays in double digits, Obama’s popularity will drop below 40%.  As time goes on, Obama will be blamed more and more for the economy, and his laying the blame with the prior administration will sound more and more like whining.  FALSE.  ALTHOUGH MUCH IS TRUE, OBAMA’S POPULARITY HAS LEVELED IN THE MID-FORTIES.
  • Republicans will gain 8 Senate seats.  I will be more specific in my 2010 election prediction article, but briefly I predict Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to flip (I know, I am an optimist).  I predict Republicans will pick up 40 seats in the House, just short of the majority, but will try to entice additional Blue Dogs to switch parties.  It will be that close.  2010 will be a historic landslide, ala the Second Republican Revolution.  NOT BAD!  REPUBLICANS GAINED 6, NOT 8, SENATE SEATS.   AS FOR CONGRESS, I WAS CLEARLY PESSIMISTIC, AS THE GOP PICKED UP 63 SEATS…BUT CORRECT ABOUT THE LANDSLIDE!

As for my ever pathetic sports predictions:

  • Alabama will defeat Texas for the BCS Championship.  CORRECT!
  • The San Diego Chargers will finally break through and win the Super Bowl.  NOT QUITE.
  • Kansas Jayhawks will win the NCAA Basketball championship.  NOPE.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins will repeat as NHL Champions; the L.A. Lakers will repeat as NBA championships in a classic series over the Boston Celtics.  LAKERS CORRECT, PITTSBURGH NOT SO MUCH.
  • The United States will finish 3rd in the medal count at the Olympics.  WAY TOO PESSIMISTIC!
  • The Red Sox will outduel the Yankees, and win the World Series.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.
  • O.K., my ‘homer’ picks were horrendous last year.  Here we go:  The Pistons will miss the playoffs, and get the 8th pick in the Lottery.  The Red Wings will lose in the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.  The Tigers will miss the postseason once again, this time by 5 games.  The Lions…who cares; I am a Redskins fan!  The Skins will get Mike Shanahan as coach, dump Jason Campbell as QB, and will draft Sam Bradford with their first round pick, which will guarantee that he will be a major flop in the NFL.  And my beloved Michigan Wolverines will get back to a bowl…but only an average one.  FRANKLY, NOT BAD, NO?

Oh, and of course, the obligatory JibJab piece:

0

The End of the Honeymoon

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The Media/Obama Love Affair is apparently over...sigh...

Ah, it must have been glorious while it lasted, huh Mr. President?

You know what we saw today in the White House Press Briefing Room?  The end of the honeymoon.  Oh, and what a glorious time it was for the press…a time when the young President, with the beautiful family, could do no wrong, and love and cherry blossoms were in the air…

Well, it pretty much ended in a big, hollow thud on Tuesday.

To Mr. Obama’s credit, he came out strong in the press conference, finally condemning the Iranian regime for attacking protesters…of course, it was 10 days too late, but still, give him what little credit he deserves.  He specifically mentioned Neda, the young woman who was killed with video taping, who has since become a virtual martyr for the cause.  Still, it took her death on YouTube to get Obama to make a strong stand against the regime.

But the press (gasp!) was still not satisfied.

Clearly, it started with Iran.  The opening statement was strong…but the press surprisingly didn’t buy it.  The obviously question, finally from Fox News’ Major Garrett: “What took you so long?”   The president responded by saying, in part, “we’ve been entirely consistent, Major, in terms of how we’ve approached this.”  Garrett followed by asking if the Iranian delegation was still invited to July Fourth celebrations at the White House.  Obama conspicuously avoided giving a straight answer. (The White House changed their answer the next day…).

Um, yeah.  First, NO MEDDLING.  Now, MEDDLING.  Sure.  But it got even worse.  Here’s an exchange between Mr. Obama and NBC’s Chuck Todd:

Todd: Mr. President, I want to follow up on Iran. You have avoided, twice, spelling out consequences. You’ve hinted that there would be from the international community, if they continue to violate — and you said “violate these norms.” You seemed to hint that there — there are human rights violations taking place.

MR. OBAMA: I’m not hinting. I think that when a young woman gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car, that’s a problem.

Todd: Then why won’t you spell out the consequences that the Iranian people…

MR. OBAMA: Because I think that we don’t know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not. OK?

Ouch.  And that from NBC…yikes.

Then, in what was a planned question, Obama flubbed again.  Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post (which, incidentally, has done an excellent job filtering news from Iran) asked this question from an internet poster from Iran:

Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of — of what the demonstrators there are working to achieve?

Great question!  Except, Obama did his classic avoidance routine.  He stated he didn’t have inspectors on the ground during the election, and he couldn’t verify if it was rigged or not.  Then he said it was the Iranian people’s decision if the government was legitimate or not.  Great, except the question was how Mr. Obama would view that legitimacy.  Talk about avoiding the question.  So in the end…we still don’t know.  I am sure that the Iranian poster was happy that the President at least got the chance to avoid his question.

Jake Tapper from ABC then noted that Mr. Obama had not answered a previous question on health care from David Jackson of USA Today (after two minutes of speaking, mind you) on whether he would sign a bill without a public option.   Obama was not pleased.  I bet this is a tougher question on health care than Obama will get on his ABC News special

Reporters then grilled him on his smoking habit…Obama was not happy.  Mr. Obama would later knock a reporter’s attempt to tie his smoking habit to yesterday’s tobacco legislation because, he argued, the bill is focused on children.   “I think it’s fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it’s neat to ask me about my smoking as opposed to it being relevant to my new law,” he said.  He followed that up by stating that he never smoked in front of his children.  Note that he does smoke in front of the rest of America, including our children.

This was a mess of a press conference for Obama.  Forget the debacle of stuff he did mention…he didn’t even use the following words:  Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Pakistan, Soldiers, War.  I guess those things aren’t that important to Barack Obama.

Sure, there was still ridiculous questions still given by reporters who are still in the daze of love for the President.  But for the first time, reporters from most of the mainstream media outlets asked legitimate questions, which Obama just could not handle.

Welcome back to the real world, Mr. President.

5

Should Obama Get Credit For The Iran Revolt?

I have heard numerous commentators state that Barack Obama deserves a lot of credit for giving his Cairo speech, which in turn caused people in Lebanon, and then Iran, to move toward the more western candidates.  Heck, this week the White House themselves gave Obama credit for the Iranian protests.  From the Washington Post:

Obama’s approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president’s words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic’s Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

Right.  They don’t want to meddle…but are now stating that their Cairo speech meddled enough to create the largest protests in three decades…I don’t really understand the logic in that. Addditionally, they were even previously meddling. Just released were letters Obama sent to the Mullahs prior to the Cairo speech.  I guess it is o.k. to meddle, as long as people aren’t dying in the streets for freedom.

O.K.  Forget the politics.  Let us look at this factually and intellectually.

First, Lebanon is much easier to discount.  Voting in that country was going on as Obama was talking.  I am not sure I understand how Obama effected that .  Additionally, you had a ruling coalition (who was elected when George W. Bush supported them, mind you) that got re-elected.  And polls there showed them slightly ahead all along.  The economy is good, Beirut is booming, there is relative peace, the Syrians are gone…what isn’t there to like.  So commentators that say Obama was responsible for the re-election of a relatively popular government…that doesn’t make any sense.

Iran is a much more complex situation.

I think there is a valid case to be made that Obama had some significant influence in the Iran election; and maybe more than some, maybe quite a lot.

First, Mousavi and Ahmadinjead used ‘Change’ as their calling card.  Mousavi openly said he would like to negotiate with the West, especially the new American President.  Of course, Ahmadinejad, the voice of the regime, said otherwise.  Mousavi is far from a reform candidate that the U.S. would have picked; he has even been linked to the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.  So, in a relative sense, Mousavi may be better than Ahmadinejad; but not by much.  So if this is the case, how much influence did Obama really have?  The influence he had, I would presume, was more toward the Mullahs than the general populace, which would mean that the Cairo speech had a negative effect for the U.S..

Second, Obama’s Cairo speech came at least 4 days before voting occurred.  Information travels much slower in other parts of the world than in the West, remember that.  In many of these places, the bulk of older people still get their news from newspapers (remember those paper things we used to buy on street corners).  For news to go through Lebanon is not realistic.  For it to go through Iran, however, is reasonable.

When the Mullahs decided, obviously, to rig the election, you wonder how much of a influence the Obama Cairo speech had.  Did they fear that a Mousavi victory would appear to be a victory for the United States.  Very probable.  I am sure, almost positive, it had some influence.

And when protesters took to the streets, I believe that a stronger statement would have had more resonance.

So I think Obama deserves some credit (sorry conservative buddies, but it is true).

But here is the dirty little secret:  so does George W. Bush and others.  Why?  Do you really believe that the Iranian regime would allow this level of protests if Iraq were still a threat on their border?  Of course not.  They would have crushed the protesters in the first few days, killed or imprisoned the leaders and moved on…that may still happen.  The removal of Saddam has given space to countries who felt threatened, and now can accept some level of dischord, because there is no real external threat.

The same can be argued, to some degree, in Lebanon.  Pushing Syria out was the key.  Israel and Hezbollah made things worse with their stupid war in 2006, surely, which also was a byproduct of Bush.  But that said, the reason democracy has a chance their is because Bush was able to get the international community to push Syria out.

That said, I still believe that in Iran, Obama deserves credit.  Yes, I wish he had spoken more forcefully, and still do.  He (finally) used the word ‘condemn‘ on Tuesday, 10 days after the revolt started.  That said, I do NOT want him to side with any side, other than generally supporting the Iranian people.  His press release on Saturday did that, but I would like to hear it from his own mouth.  At least, the word ‘condemn’ should come from his lips, don’t you think? (PLEASE NOTE:  Obama did use the word ‘condemn’ in his press conference today…)

An aside…it seems like the few days are the only ones of his presidency that he has been misssing on TV, by the way.

Finally, one last point.  I am willing to give Obama credit, but with that comes responsibility.  If the Iranian protesters win, Obama will deserve even more credit for providing a positive result in the Middle East.   If the protesters are crushed, however, Obama will deserve the same level of blame as the level of credit I am giving him now.  That is just rational.  Hopefully, I will be here in a week congratulating Mr. Obama, and not partially blaming him for a slaughter.

Michael Ramirez, IBD Editorial

Michael Ramirez, IBD Editorial

UPDATE:  Doesn’t it seem like Mr. Obama is now meddling, considering that he basically supported Mousavi in his last few statements?  And how does the White House defend that hypocrisy?

9

Iran Revolt, Week 2

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The second week of the protester revolt begins in Iran.  Though violence was heightened over the weekend, and several dozen died, there was no Tiananment like crushing of the protest movement.  The regime appears willing to threaten and enact some violence, and hope the protests die a slow death over time.

The British Embassy is pulling out families of its personnel in Tehran.  Embassy officials will remain.  Iran is threatening to expel all western diplomats.

The Guardian Council will start the week.  They have apparently rejected all election fraud protests.  And this was after they confirmed that over 50 cities in Iran had more votes than citizens.  Ah, repression at its best.  I am sure this will go over well with the protest movement, though after Ayatollah Khameini’s speech on Friday, no one expected anything less.

The Revolutionary Guard is threatening to crush any remaining dissent today.  A statement posted Monday on the Guard’s website warned protesters to “be prepared for a resolution and revolutionary confrontation with the Guards, Basij and other security forces and disciplinary forces.”

Word is spreading that organizers are trying to implement a countrywide strike.  This would continue the movement, while at the same time limiting violence.  People have been told to stock up on supplies like food and medicine.  This would be especially profound if the oil workers, who account for the bulk of Iran’s GDP, join in the strike. That would also harken back to 1979, when the oil workers strike greatly diminished the Shah’s power base.

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“America’s position in the world is one of moral leadership. It’s not about what takes place in the streets of Iran. It is about what takes place in America’s conscience.”

Sen. John McCain

Andrew Sullivan continues to bash the ‘NeoCons’ who are calling for Obama to be tougher.  To support his point, he uses…Zbigniew Brzezinski.  You gotta  be kidding.  One of the least useful statesmen in our generation.  This man was the most despised of Carter’s Cabinet, and he quietly waited around as the Shah was overthrown in Iran and the Soviets entered Afghanistan.  Is this really the best the liberals have to offer?  Pretty sad.

Again, liberals like Brzezinski don’t get it.  This isn’t just Republicans. And other than a very small sliver of ultraconservatives, these aren’t warhawks either.  The House of Representatives voted a measure supporting a strong statement 435-1.  Does that sound partisan to you?  Obama’s own Secretary of State and Vice President appear to disagree with Obama’s current stand…and remember, Obama brought them in because of his lack of foreign policy experience. There was also a real reason that the U.S. decreased in strength and the Soviets increased in strength under people like Brzezinski.  Oh well, liberals apparently never learn.

Even some Iranian protesters are starting to attack Obama. From Gateway Pundit:   Courageous Iranian student activist Ahmad Betebi was sentenced to death by the evil regime in Iran after the student protests of 1999. He was severely tortured for years in the notorious Evin Prison in Iran. Last year Ahmad Batebi arrived safely in the United States.  “His (Obama) lack of response will not be regarded lightly. We will watch for how much his response will help the people or the regime. We will know more this week… Obama can hold talks with the regime in Iran if he wants. Is it morally correct for Obama to support the regime?”

I guess Zbigniew Brzezinski considers John McCain a neocon.

John McCain had a strong performance on Face the Nation on Sunday.  McCain said he “appreciates” President Barack Obama’s statement warning Iranian authorities that the world is watching its crackdown on protestors, but said that the comments by other world leaders, such as France’s Nicholas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel, have been stronger than President Obama’s.  “Every time that there has been a totalitarian dictatorial government that has faced protestors from their citizens, they blame the United States,” the senator reasoned.

And McCain has been exactly right.  Remember, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 all in one way or another tried to form relationships with Iran.  Bush 43 was the most vitriolic, too be sure.  Obama’s demands, that Iran give up their nuclear program, is much MORE demanding than any of his predecessors outside of GWB.  No matter what America says, Iran needs the West as a foil; someone to blame all their ills on, much like they blame the ‘Zionists in Israel’ for all of their troubles.

Obama has been about as tepid as you could be.   He could only go further by voicing his support for the regime.  And yet, Iran is still blaming the US and the West for the dischord.  You can’t win with a lying regime.  They have accused America of fighting a ‘cyberwar’ against them because of Facebook and Twitter.  Heck, Obama has not rescinded his invitation to Iranian Diplomats to celebrate July Fourth at the White House. No, I am not kidding.

Schieffer asked what happens if the Iranian government does not heed a stronger condemnation from the United States.  McCain quoted Daniel Webster, who argued that rhetorical support could help those involved in the Greek Revolution of 1823. “I hope it may, it may give them courage and spirit,” Webster said according to McCain, “teach them that they are not wholly forgotten by the civilized world…The fact is, America has been and will be the beacon of hope and freedom,” McCain said. “We are on their side as they seek freedom,” he said of the protestors. He also spoke proudly of how American technologies such as Facebook and Twitter have been influential in allowing protestors to communicate.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

8

Iran Protests: The Regime Fights Back

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UPDATE:  There are so many amazing reports from Iran, I can’t list them all.  Roger Cohen of the New York Times has an excellent piece on the events of Saturday.  Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post has done a wonderful job distilling the many twitter and facebook tweets since last week; I applaud him.  Andrew Sullivan has a number of great posts on this thread.  Mousavi has also released a statement (a pretty good one at that) that can be read here.

At least 19 people are reported to have died this weekend so far, though some estimates are rumored to be closer to 100.  Reports say doctors had been ordered to report protest-related injuries to the authorities, and that some seriously injured protesters had sought refuge at foreign embassies in a bid to evade arrest.  There were numerous break-ins by paramilitaries last night.

On Sunday, former Prime Minister Rafsanjani’s daughter was arrested.  There are rumor of Mousavi’s arrest, but that has been rumored before.  The BBC’s main reporter has been expelled, apparently, and the Twitter posts have certainly slowed down.  A Life magazine reporter is also missing.  That is worrisome, because you wonder if the regime’s final assualt is being planned.

Reporters Without Borders released a study, showing Iran as the leading repressor of journalists, right with China:  “The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election.”  Pretty tough statement, no?  Well, atleast stronger than some…

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior dissident cleric, stepped up criticism.  “Resisting people’s demand is religiously prohibited,” said Montazeri, an architect of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution who fell out with the present leadership and has been under house arrest for some years.

Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani, a Khameinin supporter but a man who detests Ahmadinejad,  said that “a majority of people are of the opinion that the actual election results are different than what was officially announced.”  Protests continued on Sunday, as can be seen below:

Worldwide support is growing, with protests around the globe. The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the EU all continued to ‘meddle’, and asked for open and transparent recount of the election results.  Barack Obama stated that the ‘world is  watching’ and that justice would eventually be served.  Even Israeli President Shimon Peres applauded the protesters.

Obama appears to be holding par for the course.  He had a slightly stronger statement yesterday.  His goal obviously is to be able to  have dialouge with the now illegitimate regime, regardless of the outcome of this revolt.  Senator Richard Lugar supported Obama on this today.

On that, I agree.  Frankly, we have and  do deal with regimes that are worse.  However, the miscalculation in my mind is that this is a lose-lose situation for Obama.  If the protesters win out (unlikely but possible), then Obama will get less credit than, say, the Europeans or even the U.S. Congress.  If the protesters are crushed, then Obama may be accused of doing nothing when their plight was the greatest.  I guess the ultimate question is, what would Mr. Obama say, sitting across the table from Ahmadinejad, if the regime, say, kills 10,000 protesters?

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This weekend, we are seeing the real force of the Iranian regime put into play.

First, Ayatolla Khameini stated the regimes views at Friday prayers:  that the protesters must stop, that the opposition leaders must stop the protesters, and all will be held liable if they don’t heed his calls.

To support this point, the regime has sent in large number of police and other forces.  There have been small clashes.  At the central Tehran site where a protest was to be held earlier, a few thousand protesters came into contact with riot police, with mild violence and the firing of tear gas.  A few thousand protesters have gather at Tehran University, which is close to the protest site.

Scarier still was a report of a bomb (rumors of a suicide bomber?) at the Mausoleum of Ayotallah Khomeini.  A few people were reported injured.   However, this site is highly sequested, and no independent news sources were available to verify the story.

There were mass demonstrations scheduled for Saturday, but they do not yet appear to be coalescing.  Mousavi and other leaders have been told they will be held responsible for the protests…which may mean their lives are at stake.  Mousavi apparently declared on his facebook page that he is now ready for martyrdom.  Mousavi has placed the blame for any violence on the regime itself.  “If the huge volume of vote-rigging — which has set aflame people’s trust in Iran’s ruling system — is going to be used as proof for the lack of rigging, then the system is going to the slaughterhouse,” the Facebook post stated. “It will also prove the incompatibility of Islam and democracy.”

There are reports of hundreds of injured.  Some are being taken and seeking refuge in foreign embassies.  There are a number of dead as well.  “Let the Qu’ran shield you. It’s a mortal sin to kill anyone holding the Qu’ran. BRING your Qu’ran to protest!!!” one person wrote on Twitter. “We will try 2 keep this rally peaceful/silent as usual at every cost. Cant give them excuse 2 use force. Hope they wont,” another said.  There are numerous videos of people being shot and killed.  I don’t feel right posting them directly but you can see them here and here.  Viewer discretion advised.

Ultimately, it will be interesting if this protest movement follows the path of 1999, when the protests died in a few days after regime forces clamped down, or is closer to the 1979 revolt.  The remainder of today should tell us a lot about the strength of the movement, and what price they are willing to pay.

Internationally, Europe has been very strong in their repudiation of the Iranian regime’s actions.  Angela Merkel, Nicholai Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown have given strong statements against any violence.  Barack Obama continues his patient vigil of noninterference, despite quiet protestations from allies in the inner circle who disagree with him, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  One problem was the Ms. Clinton has been in the hospital for a elbow fracture, and so Mr. Biden has been the lone voice for a stronger statement…and his voice has lost much credibility in the White House at this point.

Ultimately, although a stronger statement by America would be better for longterm American interests, as far as the Iranian protests are concerned, it is doubtful that by itself it would make a difference.  It would provide moral support for people putting their lives at danger.  On the other hand, I doubt that an American President’s words are going to make the difference.  Mr. Obama ultimately should neither get the credit or blame if this protest movement fails.  It will be up to the protesters themselves to determine how much they are willing to sacrifice for freedom.

I will say this the Iranian protesters:  the World community is with you in spirit, no matter what our leaders will and will not say.  And I will leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; they they fight you; then, you win.”

Keep the spirit alive.


15

Obama’s Hypocrisy On Iran

I have been attacked for the last week or so for stating my utter disappointment at the silence of the Obama Administration in supporting the protesters in Iran.  Obama went from absolute silence last Saturday and Sunday, to a weak statement Monday, to a statement on Tuesday that said there is no difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.

Not exactly a ‘Tear down this wall!’ statement.

What makes it worse is that just one week earlier, Mr. Obama was lauded for his speech in Cairo, which I myself have said was a good speech.  It was a statement that at least I felt was a starting point for dialogue with the Muslim world.  I thought Mr. Obama was starting an honest back-and-forth exchange with the Muslim world. My conservative friends and blogger buddies did not think that I knew what I was talking about; that Obama was just using his eloquent speaking abilities to simply ‘sell’ America.  I felt that Obama was heartfelt in his words.

They were right, and I was wrong, and today I admit it.

Reads these words directly taken from Mr. Obama’s speech; some are cut out, but I don’t believe they are taken vastly out of context; many have to do with Israel and Palestine, but I believe Obama was also referring to the world at large:

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private….

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

Maybe Mr. Obama feels that he is upholding these beliefs by his weak statements of support.  His ‘concern’ and ‘worry’ I guess is as much as the Iranian protesters, those beaten, harrassed, and killed on the streets of Tehran, can expect.  I guess, however, the part about we will say in public what we say in private…well, apparently that was just drivel.

Even non-Democratic countries like Egypt understand what is at stake:  “The caution that has characterized the position of the principle international actors towards the abuses occurring in the streets of Iran, up to and including the killing [of protesters], may be sending the wrong message to the ruling powers there.”  Even the Egyptians get it.

And then there is the liberal view.  The Nation came out and blasted Obama on his stance as well:

President Obama’s tepid response to the evidence the Iranian election was stolen from the people of that country by current president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his thuggish allies is disappointing. …

The president says he entertains “deep concerns about the election” in Iran. Well, who doesn’t? Expressing concern is “nice,” it’s “diplomatic”–in the worst sense–but it is not sufficient to the circumstance, as Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are reportedly arguing within the White House. …

By every measure, the US president’s response has been less than that of other world leaders, especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has branded the announced election “result” a fraud and bluntly decried the government’s clampdown on dissent “brutal,” “totally disproportionate” and “extremely alarming.”

Obama also once again has shown his surprisingly lack of understanding for other countries.  These protests in Iran are no longer simply about the election.  For example, the Grand Council is recounting votes as we speak…you think that will placate them?  No, it is about a much grander vision for Iran…where the Islamic state can move into the future.  Obama has missed that.

Instead, the Obama White House has promised to continue dialogue with Ahmadinejad and the regime, regardless of the outcome of this crisis.  So if they kill, say, 50,000 protesters, will Obama just sit down with the leader of that regime and calmly discuss nuclear weapons?  And to what end?  Ahmadinejad repeated this week that the nuclear issue is a ‘closed file’ and that he would not have any further negotiations regarding the topic, either with the West or the United Nations.  What dialogue is Mr. Obama proposing, dare I ask?

Barack Obama has said that after the strong willed George W. Bush ‘ruined’ our standing in the world, and that he, and he alone, would restore America’s moral standing in the world.  Mr. President, does our moral standing improve by equating protesters who just want their vote counted, to the mullahs who are beating and killing those same protesters?  That is exactly what you did this week.  I see no moral fortitude in that.

So, Mr. Obama has no problem speaking harshly to our allies.  But while the Ayatollah and his allies sit in Tehran, deciding if they should sit idly and wait for the protests to die down on their own, or impose a ‘Tiananmen-like’ solutions and bring in the Revolutionary Guard to wipe out the protesters, Mr. Obama has decided a simple course of action:  do nothing.

UPDATE Mr. Mousavi has apparently written a letter to Barack Obama; whether Obama received it, or sent it back because he is worried about meddling, who knows.  Whether the letter is authentic, I have no idea.  But here it is below:

From  the Office of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi

To the President of the USA, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama:

Dear Mr. President,

In the name of  the Iranian people, we want you to know that when you recently made the statement “Achmadinejad or Mousavi? Two of a kind,” we consider this as a grave and deep insult, not just to Mr. Mousavi but especially against the judgment of the Iranian people, against our moral conviction and intelligence, especially those of the young generation that comprises a population of 31 million.

It is a specially grave insult for those who are now fighting for democracy and freedom, and an unwarranted gift and even praise for Mr. Khamenei, whose security forces are now killing peaceful Iranians in the streets of every major city in the country.

Your statement misled the people of the world.  It was no doubt inspired by your hope for dialogue with this regime, but you cannot possibly believe in promises from a regime that lies to its own people and then kills them when they demand the promises be kept.

By such statements, your administration and you discourage the Iranian people, who believe and trust in the values of democracy and freedom.  We are pleased to see that you have condemned the regime’s murderous violence, and we look forward to stronger support for the rightful struggle of the Iranian people against the actions of a regime that is your enemy as well as ours.

2

US Backs Down to North Korea

After passing a UN resolution, and then getting permission to block North Korean ships that could be transporting weapons of mass destruction technology, now what happens?  The Obama Administration backs down.

The ship left North Korea last week, but it has been heading along the Chinese coastline, so far avoiding international water.  What the U.S. does once it catches up to the ship is another question all together.  Because of Chinese demands, the UN resolution does not allow the United States to board the ship forcibly.  Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that the United States would not forcibly board a North Korean ship but, in accordance with a recent U.N. resolution, would request permission to search the ship or press any port the ship docks in to inspect it for illegal materials. Permission from the North Koreans?  A highly unlikely scneario.

North Korea has stated that it will view any forcible action as an act of war.  They have said the will enact retribution 100 to 1000 fold upon their enemies if the ship’s ‘rights’ are violated.

All this comes upon rumors that Kim Jong-Il has ordered an ICBM missile to fired in the direction of Hawaii around the July 4th holiday; nice of him to celebrate our independence.  I am assuming (and hoping) that it doesn’t look anything like this:

Fireworks Show

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered missile interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and near Hawaii.  “We are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory,” Gates said Thursday.  I point out, this is the same missile defense system that Mr. Obama denigrated in last years election campaign…

I had previously stated that I supported Obama’s strong stance on this.  Well, I equally dislike his backing down.  There is simply one word for this:  wimpy.  The North Koreans have been throwing threat after threat at the United States since this began.  They took 2 U.S. journalists prisoner.  And what does Obama do?  Admit defeat and surrender.

Obama was confronted with the first foreign policy test of his presidency, just like Joe Biden suggested would happen.  And apparently, he has failed.  He has given North Korea full reign to do as they wish, and he has no one to blame other than himself.

2

Obama’s Regulatory Reform: Who Is John Galt?

atlasjohngalt

Those that have seen my Current Books page know I have been reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  It is long, sometime boring tome regarding the ever increasing power of government, and how federal power can destroy capitalism.

It is scary how similar to reality it is.

Now, I am not saying that Barack Obama is the autocratic monster of Rand’s book.  But, the power he is trying to garner for the Federal Government?  For the first time in my life, I am really getting scared.  And I am not one of those ‘black helicopter’ or ‘new world order’ people.  In fact, I don’t think I have believed in any conspiracy theory in my life.

But I know that I love my country, and fear my government.  And I never felt that fear before.

The governmentpower to take over of banks, financial institutions, and car companies was bad enough.  At least you could see some short term benefit to these things.  Only problem?  Obama’s policy are almost certainly ensuring that these interventions will NOT be short term at all.

The administration’s proposal would give the government the power to take over and wind down a large financial company, a power that government officials lacked last year when the financial crisis was intensifying. It would also give the central bank more powers over the payments and settlements systems in U.S. financial markets to prevent a breakdown that officials fear could destabilize the economy.

But who would control that, and who would provide oversight?  The answer is, virtually no one.

Most of these powers would be entrusted to the Federal Reserve, who by design is required to speak to Congress but ultimately has total independence.  Therefor, the power to destroy large corporations and billions of dollars of value in a country lie in an unelected council with no checks and balances.  One new detail is that any large, interconnected company that the government wants to take over and break up could be pushed into government seizure by the Treasury Department, if certain conditions are met; those conditions, of course, defined by that same government. Once taken over, the companies would typically be run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but the proposal gives the government discretion to change the way this might work. The Treasury has said these powers were necessary, but the details of how they would work were unveiled for the first time in this proposal.

Sound like Ayn Rand’s world yet?

Here is my problem with all this.  First, there is a system to unwind corporations that have failed:  it is called bankruptcy.  Can anyone name me a corporation that went into bankruptcy that brought down a nation’s financial system?  Anyone?  It is a straw man.  Look, I am not saying that it would cause huge ripple effects, or that the government should not get involved at all.  But giving the government (an absolute power, as far as I can tell) to destroy and take over corporations based on their will is unconstitutional and unamerican.

Let us go back to last fall.  What effect would these regulations have had then?  Well, very likely the government would have stepped in and taken over Citibank, Bank of America, AIG (which they practically did anyway), Wells Fargo, and others.  Let me ask you:  which one of those companies caused the destruction of the U.S. economy?

In fact, all of those banks are on their way to solvency, or are already solvent right now.  So you are telling me, that after the once in a lifetime credit crisis of last fall, that the government needs even more power to handle a crisis that may not again occur in our lifetimes?  And additionally, despite how messsy and wasteful the bailouts and TARP were, didn’t it help us move past the immediate credit crisis?

I believe that we do need better regulations.  Better does not mean more. People without any intellectual drive just add regulation upon regulation.  In actuality, some of the regulations we had need to be thrown out, because they actually made things worsee.  More regulations by itself won’t solve the problem.  However, conservatives must understand that at the same time, the regulatory system is broken beyond repair, and needs to be built from the ground up.  Too many  interest groups have their paws on the regulatory system, which basically make it useless.

The pushback is starting, and starting from the most surprising of places:  Russia.  Vladamir Putin, autocrat extraordinaire, has warned Obama that he will fight any international regulatory system that covers corporations in his country.  Another shock?  Revolt from Blue Dog Conservative/Moderate Democrats. They are starting to feel the heat from their constituents, who are largely conservative and small government in belief.  These Democrats will have an increasingly tough time winning in these districts if they have to support such widening of federal powers.

I am deeply concerned about the federal power growing under this plan.  The power to tax is the power to destroy; but the power to destroy directly?  That is scary.  Oversight and limitations will be critical in this bill.  It must be highly limited, only to corporations about to declare bankruptcy.  If a corporation is profitable at all, the government should not be able to touch them, no matter what their opinion.  It should give the government the ability of oversight of large hedge funds, but should not stymie the investment dynamism of venture capitalists.  And most important, the government powers must have checks and balances.

Without those protections of individual rights, we should all be fearful of this bill.  I know Ayn Rand would.

0

Iran Divided

Tuesday's Unsanctioned Protest

Tuesday's Unsanctioned Protest

The political powers that be in Iran are becoming more and more divided.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.

“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, he stated. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”

“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God.”

Montazeri, who at one time was considered the most respected cleric in the country, has caused great division among the Mullah’s hierarchy.  There has been arrests of some second-line protest leaders, although Mousavi and his top associates remain free.  Also, some prosecutors are calling for the death penalty for certain ring leaders in the protests.  All of these events further erode the legitimacy of the current Iranian regime.

The day was littered with scattered violence.  The secret police (baseej militia and Etellaat) attempted to instigate violent protests by the Mousavi protesters, but appear to have been largely successful.  Large scale attacks occurred at multiple University campuses in Tehran.  At least 5 students were confirmed killed in University dormitories.

The government is pretty much conceding that it is losing the technology battle however.  Social media like Twitter have compeletely evaded all attempts at coercion.    The government is using traditional methods, such as arresting or deporting journalists, but that has done nothing to stop the news from coming out.  The Revolutionary Guard has tried to ban those sites...how successful they have been will remain to be seen.

Late in the day, there have been unconfirmed reports of army units moving toward the city, but the  army refusing to fire on protesters.  More rumors persist that several generals have been arrested.  And there are unconfimred repots that the regime is actually bringing in Hamas soldiers (aka Jimmy Carter’s buddies), because they trust them over their own soldiers.

Protests persist.  Mousavi called for wider (peaceful) protests today, despite increasing crackdown’s by government allies.  Yesterday, the Iranian Soccer team, beloved in the country, showed their support by wearing green on their jerseys.

Clearly, this is not going to end quickly or quietly.  And yet, the U.S. still sees fit to stay completely on the sidelines, instead of being the beacon of hope and freedom for the world.

Obama now argues that Mousavi is not a big reformer, so these protests are irrelevant. I agree that Mousavi is not much of a reformer…but totally disagree that the protests aren’t important.  First, Obama is worried that Iran will think that we are interfering; the Iranian government thinks that right now, and Obama has not said anything.  The Iranian Foreign Minister filed an offiicial protest with the Swiss ambassador (who represents US interests since we don’t have an embassy there).  So what is there to fear from a more profound statement?

Additionally, Mousavi’s election is just one step.  We want the Iranian people to understand that they, and not the mullahs and autocrats, ultimately should decide their country’s fate.  And we also want them to know that America will be supportive of their hopes and dreams, regardless of political expediency.  In the past, we did many things in Iran that were devastating to the people there to achieve our own goals. Obama, by remaining silent, is actually doing the exact same thing.  We should stand up for free expression of beliefs anywhere and everywhere in the world, even if sometimes it may be to our own detriment.

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