Sunday, May 10, 2009


OK... I know we've been faking!

I can't speak for my associate, but I've been somewhat disillusioned with our president lately. To a certain degree, I've been overwhelmed by all the developments. There has been a lot to process... but in the end, I'm still unsatisfied. I promise to explain further in the coming days.

Meanwhile, I saw another glimmer of hope that I posted on somewhere else.

Monday, March 30, 2009


For the blessed souls who check this site regularly, apologies are in order - we've been on holiday for most of the month. I can't speak for Junius, but I know that I've intentionally kept myself out of the loop for the past several weeks. It's time to get back in the mix... Let us know if there is anything you'd like to see (or not)?

For a number of reasons, we have decided to stop our WEEK IN REVIEW series. Our purpose is not to keep tabs of every minute detail of the Obama presidency, but rather to shed light on specific subjects of interest.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Much has transpired over the past two days but I won't get into it yet. Unfortunately, we've been too busy to post the most recent week in review well and on time, but here goes nothing...

The big story in the first days of March was healthcare, an area that needs a whole lot of work. There is no good reason for the all the problems plaguing the medical system in the US. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies continue to rake in billions at the expense of all the rest of us (including many doctors). Unless Obama's healthcare agenda reverses this trend, it will only make matters worse, especially since there is no money to spend. Whatever his plan may be, it will not be easy to fix the problem.

Here's a brief rundown of some things that happened in week nine... 

 - Obama announced Kathleen Sebelius - a former insurance executive - as his latest pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services. There are still many posts left to fill...


 - The President of the United States met with the British Prime Minster... no big deal.
 - Meanwhile, members of Congress debated Obama's massive budget on Captiol Hill
 - In other news the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir. In ambiguously supporting the ICC decision, The president seems to be suggesting that he values justice over peace. If only that were something that applied in other hot zones.


 - Obama announced plans to overhaul the way that contracts are managed and awarded. While this may seem like bad news for big firms with well-to-do shareholders, it is probably little more than a publicity stunt. 
 - In the evening he hosted members of Congress at the White House in hopes of convincing them to back his budget plans.


 - A mass of people attended the White House Forum on Health Reform that lasted all afternoon despite the fact that there is still nobody in charge of that department. Nevertheless, President Obama called for a comprehensive overhaul of the healthcare system (his reforms could cost US taxpayers $2.5 trillion while still leaving over 45 million uninsured) 
 - VP Biden spoke to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Miami – he reitetreated the WH position that “a strong middle class needs a strong labor movement.” Considering most middle-class workers in the US are not members of any unions, he is probably wrong.
 - While participating in some positive charity work, FLOTUS Michelle Obama had a rather bizarre phot-op at a homeless shelter. 
 - US District Judge James Robertson threw out a lawsuit questioning Obama’s citizenship. He ordered the prosecution to to show why it hadn't violated court rules barring frivolous cases and why the plaintiff' should not have to pay Obama's attorney for wasting his time. Amen to that! Still no news on the other case I keep yapping about.

 - Obama spoke at a graduation ceremony for police recruits in Ohio where he sought to justify his gigantic spending bill.
 - Barack toughened his stance on whaling, a move that is sure to upset some people in Japan. I'm not fan of animal cruelty, but I've heard that whale meat is absolutely delicious. 
 - The president announced plans for some more foreign policy appointments... More on this later.
 - Right before the weekend, the White House signaled that limits on stem-cell research would be lifted (more on that some other time).

Monday, March 2, 2009


If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Barack Obama could not have picked anyone worse than Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State.  In her first official trip to the Middle East, Bill's wife showed her true colors when speaking about Gaza and Hamas. Like her boss, she continued to spew Bush-era talking points without shame. She spoke to reporters Monday after a Gaza "reconstruction" conference in Sharm El Sheikh. Her demeanor was unpleasant as usual. Here is some of what she had to say: 
"Hamas is not a country. It is an entity that has to understand what the principles for any engagement are, not just from the United States. The Quartet – which consists of the United Nations, Russia, the European Union, and the United States – as well as the Arab League are in agreement that there are certain principles that Hamas would have to adopt in order for any of us to engage with Hamas: recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to abide by the prior PLO agreements. Now that is not the United States talking. That is the Quartet and the Arab League. Everyone knows what Hamas must do, and it is up to Hamas."
By putting the onus for political participation squarely on Hamas, Secretary Clinton is making it clear that the US will continue to support Israel blindly, no matter what the consequences. Hamas is ready to negotiate - they have been for years. The problem is that Israeli leaders have no desire to place themselves in any position where a viable peace would be in reach, thus the pre-conditions we keep hearing about.

Hillary Clinton has long been a 'friend' of Israel so nobody should be expecting any surprises from her. If Obama plans to make things better (he doesn't) he'll fire her (he won't). Sadly, there is little hope for improvement with Hill-dog in charge of diplomacy. She will make every effort to stifle any meaningful negotiations by ensuring Israeli interests are never compromised. 

While Obama at least pretends to be reaching out to Iran, his Secretary of State is already signaling that such efforts will be in vain. Surprisingly, she managed to shake hands with Syrian FM Walid Muallem... it's too bad he didn't twist her arm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


President Obama started his eighth week in office with a promise to cut the national deficit in half by the end of his first term. Considering the massive spending package he recently signed into law, that may seem a little too optimistic. With time it is becoming ever more clear that despite the dire economic situation we are currently in, our new president intends to spend money we don't have in hopes of making things better. By the end of the week, Barack made his intention to raise the deficit abundantly clear. 

The media highlight of the week was a toss up between an appearance at a Washington Wizards game, and his first 'State of the Union' type speech. It was typical Obama... flourishing rhetoric reminiscent of his campaign days. Unfortunately, the address was quite weak on substance as the Associated Press dutifully pointed out. In many ways, the Republican response was stronger (from a political perspective). While the president sounded more optimistic in discussing what lies ahead, he delivered a laundry list of promises he is unlikely to deliver on them all.

It's too early to pass judgment on the Obama administration's handling of the economic situation, but if his budget proposal is any sign of things to come, there may be real cause for concern. Unsurprisingly, they want to spend a lot of money. Hopes that the stimulus and bailout packages will increase economic growth are probably misplaced. Republicans are gearing up for a fight, and in his weekly video address Obama affirmed his commitment to fight back. There are no real causes for optimism at the time being when it comes to the economy. 

In other news this week, VP Joe Biden presided over the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force in Philadelphia - the focus was on green jobs. We'll see what actually happens (and how much it costs), but at least the administration appears to be moving in the right direction when it comes to the environment.

Obama laid out his plans for Iraq at Camp Lejeune; among other things, he decided to give the military a little more time to get the job done, electing for a 19 month timeline as opposed to the 16 months he promised while campaign. No big deal really... unless 19 becomes 24 or more. Whatever the case, the military will have its hands full in Afghanistan. It's a rocky road...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Unsurprisingly, President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress was a good one... even if I still couldn't shake the reminders of the campaign days. Although, he was conciliatory and refreshingly positive in his outlook, there was nothing new that would warrant me writing much more...

What I found to be relatively impressive - and noteworthy - was the Republican response delivered by the 37-year old Governor of Louisiana. Aside from most of his rhetoric on 'national security' the speech was solid. He started out by highlighting the significance of Obama's presidency and he immediately drew a personal comparison as the son of Indian immigrants. Bobby Jindal then went on to make a number of points that are difficult to argue against. He pointed out the resiliency of the American people (as opposed to the US government) and he lamented the passage of a stimulus bill that many argue comes at far too high a price. He also spoke the truth about healthcare reform - specifically that bureaucrats should not be in a position to tell medical professionals what and what not to do. Sounds pretty reasonable to me...

2012? Probably not.

There is nothing good I can say about our two-party system. But there are some good things to be said about the Republican party. One of the reasons so many progressive people have such a negative view of the Grand Old Party is the racist stigma attached to it. Even if Jindal had what it took to be the next presidential candidate (I don't know enough about the guy yet), there is no way the majority of Republican voters would rally behind him.

For the record - I am not a Republican (not that it would be any worse than being a Democrat). But the fact is that there is good in both parties, which is precisely why we need more than two to choose from. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Another relatively uneventful week... which culminated with Mr. O's 30th day on the job. As numerous observers have remarked, it almost seems as though he is back on the campaign trail trying to muster support. It's worth mentioning that after a month, he still does not have a Secretary of Commerce or a Secretary of Health and Human Services - that is inexcusable. For those who needed it, we were reminded how far we still have to go before overcoming racism. Things haven't been going to well for him lately... no wonder Junius has been so silent!

As in any week, there were a few notable occurrences. Here are some of them:

Friday, February 20, 2009


I hesitated to post it, but people need to see the truth (if they haven't already). I can only see two possible explanations for this cartoon: either those behind it are straight up racists, or it was some sort of a pathetic attempt to comment on the idiotic notion of 'post-racialism.' Maybe the fools at the New York Post who allowed this cartoon to be published were conducting some sort of experiment. But probably not.

Protesters took to the street after a worthless apology. Some people are either unwilling or incapable of admitting their flaws. Here is what the editor in chief had to say about it:
The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.
Sounds like a load of crap to me... Whatever their true motives, they must have known it would be offensive to most people. Clearly they did not care. Many of the newspaper's employees are understandably upset.

While the cartoon immediately touched a nerve for me, that would not have been true if W was still president. He was always depicted as some sort of apish buffoon... and that was cool.

I don't see the value in this "politically correct" culture of ours. It only leads to increased naivety and a false sense of reality. Most political cartoonists are feeling the need to be overly cautious. There is a good reason for that - this country is still not over its issues with race. Excessive caution is unfortunate but also understandable. Even I am willing to tolerate it sometimes.

The monkey cartoon is distasteful and it is racist (by US standards), but in an ideal world it would not be a problem. We don't yet live in an ideal world... even if there is a Black man in the White House.

I'd be curious to hear what he has to say about this whole thing.

Monday, February 16, 2009


A few weeks ago I posted about a State Department employee who filed a lawsuit alleging Hillary Clinton is constitutionally illegible to serve as Secretary of State. Mr Rodearmel seems like an uptight nerd but the guy intrigues me... I wish him well in his current endeavor but I'm not fooling myself. 

While the reasoning behind David's case may be technically sound (it seems to me that it is), as a recent Wall Street Journal article explains, he lacks "standing" so the case is unlikely to make it to court. Here is a brief excerpt:
The idea of standing flows from the Constitution, which grants federal courts jurisdiction over "cases" or "controversies." The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that courts can't give advisory opinions or make policy pronouncements, and only should decide disputes where the plaintiff alleges "concrete" and "particularized" harm, rather than what Justice Antonin Scalia has called "purely psychological displeasure."
I'm no lawyer, but  think I can understand the argument. Still, what mechanisms are in place to rectify constitutional violations, something Hillary Clinton's current position very well may be?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


In his third full week as president, it seemed as though all Barack Obama's attention was focused on the worsening economic crisis. 37 million viewers tuned into his first primetime press conference where he hoped to drive his message home. It was more exciting than most of his previous appearances as president, but the bar was set pretty low.

There were several other television appearances throughout the week. He smiled for cameras from Indiana to Florida as he sought to reiterate his resolve to the American people. (He also traveled to Illinois to address the workers who help maintain the brutal occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank.)

Fortunately for Obama, his people run Congress - it mattered not that every Republican in the House of Representatives voted against the bill. Things in the Senate were a little more interesting... the vote was held open for over five hours as a handful of staffers waited for Senator Brown to return from his mother's wake to seal the deal.

Understandably, a big deal was made of Lincoln's bicentennial. Obama took to the cameras again and delivered another one of his speeches.

The biggest hit he took came from Republican Senator Judd Gregg who withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Commerce, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with Obama and his polices. Although Bill Richardson stepped away because of a scandal, Gregg left for political reasons further damaging the president's efforts at bi-partisanship. Even if he is planning to exit on a high note, the significance of Gregg's withdrawal should not be underestimated - it served as a rallying point for Republicans and fiscal conservatives of all stripes.

Not much happened on the foreign policy front... The White House must have watched the outcome of the Israeli elections with apprehension... Richard Holbrooke traveled around Afghanistan where he was greeted by a series of suicide bombings... Pakistan also remained in the adminstration's crosshairs... Later in the week, rumors emerged of potential Russian cooperation on the much disputed missile defense shield...

On the national security front, the adminstration began a sweeping cybersecurity review. True to form, the Democrats are getting their hands dirty in all facets of government... I'm not hopeful about this stimulus, especially considering the money needed to pay for it is not available. Either Obama and the nation will emerge victorious when it's all said and done, or his party will screw things up so badly that voters will turn to their other alternative which is equally bad.

We need real change we can believe in...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


President Obama gave a major press conference on Monday night (prime-time on the east coast). He was discussing the dire straights of the national economy and the steps he feels need to be taken in order to make things better. As the Senate prepares to vote on its version of the stimulus package, Barack took to the airwaves to defend his, and he did so with more passion that usual. Although it was slightly overdue, it was another solid oratory performance. Here are some of the more notable excerpts:
It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs.  And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do... 
Tax cuts alone cannot solve all our economic problems – especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans.  We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it has only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now...
More than 90% of the jobs created by this plan will be in the private sector... 
The plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenge we face right now.  It is a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America; by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO... It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability, so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we’re spending every dime... 
My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing too little or nothing at all will result in an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes; and confidence.  That is a deficit that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.  And I refuse to let that happen.
A good speech, but not without its flaws. First of all, I don't understand how the government can be the only one that can "break the vicious cycle" we're in. There are many who believe the government was directly to blame for the predicament we find ourselves in today. And although Obama later implied that Republicans and the previous administration were responsible for the mess he inherited, most experts agree that many of the problems began the last time we had a Democrat in office.

Obama justified the size of the bill by saying that it had been approved by businesses of all sectors, and union bodies. Like most 'liberals' the president is major supporter of unions who simply do not represent the American working class as we are intended to believe. Unfortunately, reporters often fail to point that out when given a chance.

As in any press conference, the fun part came when the questions began. Our new president is not as entertaining as his predecessor, but watching him interact with the press is starting to become more amusing.

The first question came from the Associated Press, and it was related to the economy. Obama talked about politicians who are philosophically opposed to any form of government intervention in financial matters. He went on to defend the massive tag on the stimulus package, adding that "it wasn't some random number I just plucked out of a hat." He said that TARP funding should be conditioned on financial restraint, but he provided no clear guidelines as to how that could be achieved. 

A couple other comments on the economy stuck out, such as his claim that "consumer spending did not get us into this mess" but banks taking on major risks. I would't argue with that, but I wouldn't dismiss consumer spending as irrelevant either - there are millions of people who simply bought more than they could afford. Nevertheless, it is ultimately the system that poses the biggest problem, and we aren't hearing of any major efforts to change the fundamental weaknesses in that system. Maybe Tim Geithner will impress, but that seems doubtful. This administration has so much on its plate that it is bound to screw up in some way.

Luckily some of the correspondents took advantage of the opportunity to ask foreign policy questions, most of which were total softballs. Even though it was coated in sugar, we heard the same stuff about Iran that W used to say. We also heard the president reiterate the importance he sees in Afghanistan, calling it a "big challenge" and admitting that he does not know how long he will have troops in there tearing it up. But the highlight of it all came when he called on veteran reporter Helen Thomas. Once again she gave him his toughest challenge and he failed miserably...

Oh well, the focus was on the economy. 

Still, I'm not feeling this president at all right about now.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Today, a DOJ lawyer appearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of President Obama did something which is already upsetting many, many people. For years, liberals fumed over the Bush administration's invocation of the "state secrets privilege" to prevent courts from hearing cases related to its "extraordinary rendition" program, by which the US has turned over detainees for harsh interrogation in other countries. Many tied this program directly to former President Bush, given his shameful policy on the harsh treatment of detainees in American custody, and expected extraordinary new transparency regarding this program once President Obama took office. However, today the DOJ lawyer mentioned above made clear that the government was still invoking the state secrets privilege in seeking the dismissal of a claim related to extraordinary rendition.

This is a real punch to the gut for left-leaners and libertarians who championed Obama. To their minds, his election meant a 180 degree turn from the Bush administration's detention policy, including extraordinary rendition. And justifiably so - Obama was unequivocal in his denunciation of torture and his promise that it would not occur under his administration. This is why his first executive orders closing Guantanamo, ensuring compliance with the Geneva Convention and starting a review of detention policy were so promising. Many will ask why Obama would stop short with extraordinary rendition, a seemingly inhuman practice that should be cast into the waste bin of history along with other Bush-era practices.

Granted. Having not heard the other side of the argument (since the government refuses to give it on national security grounds), this is a deeply troubling decision - one would think that a victim of rendition should get his day in court. A few things should be remembered, though. First: extraordinary rendition was not a policy begun by George W. Bush - it has been used since the early 1990s. As such, rendition is much more of a staple of American foreign policy than liberals may want to admit. Second, a lower federal district court has already reviewed the classified information forming the basis for the DOJ's privilege claim, and found that the claim was well-founded. The lawyer today reminded the Ninth Circuit of this fact:
What the A.C.L.U. is asking, he said, is that the case be allowed to go forward, giving the courts a chance to decide, based on classified information revealed solely to the judge, what should be allowed to be discussed.

But Mr. Letter said that the lower court judge, James Ware, did receive classified information and came to the correct conclusion in dismissing the case last year. He urged the judges to pore over the same material, and predicted “you will understand precisely, as Judge Ware did, why this case can’t be litigated.”
I doubt this is the last we'll hear of this decision. The Ninth Circuit still has to rule on the ACLU's appeal of dismissal, and should they affirm (as I expect they will), there is little doubt that the ACLU will file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

For my part, ambivalence is the word of the day. I'm hesitant to really call Obama out on this. Yes, it certainly does not fit with his campaign rhetoric, and that's unfortunate. But on the other hand, campaigning and governing are two different things, and I'm inclined to trust the Obama administration when they say that the state secrets privilege is genuinely necessary in this case. Plus, this decision doesn't mean that rendition is actually ongoing (though whether it is is anyone's guess) - it simply means that a case involving rendition will not be heard by the courts. I hope the administration has an extremely good reason for this, and further, I hope that it decides to terminate an egregious and hypocritical practice which, along with even worse abuses by the Bush administration, has tarnished America's reputation in the world.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder over at the Atlantic had an excellent article today about why the Obama administration made this call. The explanation is exactly what one would expect out of an administration that, so far, has shown itself to be prudent, patient and practical. A quick summary:
Officials decided that it would be imprudent to reverse course so abruptly because they realized they didn't yet have a full picture of the intelligence methods and secrets that underlay the privilege's assertions, because the privilege might correctly protect a state secret, and because the domino effect of retracting it could harm legitimate cases, both civil and criminal, that are already in progress.

"If you decide today precipitously to waive this privilege, you can't get it back," an administration official said. "If you decide to assert it, you can always retract it in the future."

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Without a doubt, the honeymoon is over...
President Obama's third week in office seemed to have been his worst yet. He had been hoping to push his monstrous stimulus package through Congress. There was some 'progress' early on, but after a very long Friday, the Senate adjourned after having accomplished nothing of any real significance. It seems there is no shortage of problems with the proposed legislation; it is a weak attempt at a quick fix with potentially devastating long-term consequences. Barack stepped up the rhetoric in an effort to get the bill approved. Something is likely to pass next week... then we can start looking into the issues affecting its implementation.

But concerns over the ECONOMY were not limited to the stimulus bill:
There were several other important developments that are not directly related to the economy and the current financial crisis: