O’Donnell: Obama ‘soft on terror?’

May 7, 2011

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, in his feature “The Last Word”: Who’s soft on terror?

Gunning against UN peacekeeping

January 30, 2011

Chicago Boyz fancy themselves as hard-nosed, free-enterprise economics sorts of guys (as opposed to capitalists — but let’s not let Texas education politics muddy the waters).  It seems to me, too often people who self-label themselves as skeptics are not, and those who label themselves as “just give me the facts” sorts of people don’t really want to look at the facts at all.

A recent Chicago Boyz post expresses excitement about Republican investigations into corruption, which would indeed be news were it directed at corruption among Republicans in Congress, and good news at that.  Despite the hopeful ambiguity of the statement, I gather the author favors investigations into corruption in the UN, as if that were one of the top problems we face in the world today.

Corruption is not pretty.  Corruption should be prosecuted.  Corruption is not the target of the Chicago Boyz and their fellow travelers, however — the UN itself is.

Do they know what they’re talking about?  I have my doubts.  James Rummel complains about UN corruption in humanitarian missions after 9/11.  Um, don’t look now, boyz, but you’re confusing things.  The UN is located in New York, but didn’t carry out humanitarian missions there after 9/11.  Of course, that’s not what they meant to imply — Rummel was complaining about the Oil for Food program in Iraq, which was set up in 1996 to allow Iraq’s people to get needed food and medicines from foreign suppliers, food and medicine that had been cut off as a result of Gulf War I, putting Iraqi citizens in dire straits.  (The mention of 9/11 was just gratuitous red meat to the conservatives, probably.)

Ultimately the program was found to be riddled with fraud.  The UN shouldered blame, but a careful reading of the Volcker Report on the incident shows facts we should consider:  The fraud was contrary to UN guidelines — that is, not caused by the UN — and the UN could not monitor the program adequately because it was underfunded.  Why was the UN program underfunded?  In 1996, all UN programs were underfunded because North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms successfully cut U.S. funding because of his allegations of fraud and waste — allegations that didn’t bear out.  In addition, political considerations pushed operations to high-cost contractors.  In particular, the U.S. didn’t want Swiss banks to be in on the operation at all.

So, the last time the Republicans went after the UN  for fraud and abuse, the Republicans’ actions caused fraud and abuse. And if we look to pin blame for the problems, fingers point to the U.S.


I don’t think a new investigation and cutting funding to the UN makes a lot of sense, now.

Rummel also complains that UN sanctions didn’t seem to affect Saddam Hussein after 9/11.  This is astonishingly selective memory.  All evidence we have now indicates that there were no weapons of mass destruction — and, consequently, the judgment must be that the UN sanctions worked, and worked well.  This is a continuing embarrassment to the United States, and while we wish it were ancient history and could be forgotten, we do so at great peril as we deal with every other nation on Earth who well remembers that the U.S. invaded Iraq to stop the spread of “weapons of mass destruction,” only to find there were none.  Don’t embarrass the U.S. further by looking dotty in foreign relations.  (Were I feeling snarkier, I’d put in a link to Bush’s “humorous” show at one of the Washington correspondents association dinners, where he feigned searching for WMDs in the Oval Office, under White House beds, etc.)

But then, in comments, the truth starts to get smoked out in comments at Chicago Boyz.  One commenter complains about all the socialist nations sitting on the human rights commission, including the U.S.    One commenter complains about how ineffective  the UN has been in making peace in Korea, Vietnam, and Israel.

Oversimplifying, but no more so than Chicago Boyz, we should note that the truce in Korea has held for more than 57 years, even without a formal end to hostilities.  That sounds rather successful, to me.  And Israel’s existence since 1948 seems to have caught hold, even if to the chagrin of major Arabic groups in the region.  Israel is generally considered the great power in the area.  Not exactly a failed enterprise on the UN’s part, on that score.

Vietnam?  That was never a UN project. Much as it pains me to point it out, it was the U.S. who stopped elections in Vietnam in the 1950s (1956?), and it was the South Vietnamese government whose corruption so often derailed attempts to make a lasting peace that would have kept any part of Vietnam noncommunist.  (Investigations into corruption, anyone?)

So, of the three so-called “failed” UN peacekeeping projects, two really were very successful, and the third had nothing to do with the UN.  Is this the accuracy and level of analysis that calls for an investigation of the UN now?

A complete set of facts might be useful before going off half-cocked.  Since 1948 the UN was called in for 64 peacekeeping operations — the UN has no troops, and so cannot wage war nor force war-waging nations to stop.  If we conceded the two operations, Israel and Korea, as failures, that would leave 62 other operations unstudied.  Most of those missions ended years ago, and without making an actual count, I’ll wager most of them ended successfully.  We don’t regard Guatemala anymore as a hotbed of unrest and civil war, for example.  Angola isn’t perfect, but neither is there a civil war there fueled by Cuban assistance, for another example.

One commenter complaints about a “fantasy world” about the UN that the left occupies:

One of the big differences between the Left and Right is that the Left is more controlled by fantasy narratives and can’t separate the real world organization from the one that Leftists would like to have. In other words, they can’t separate the real world U.N. from the noble goals it is supposed to achieve.

Quite the opposite, it’s the right who occupy a hallucinogenic world with regard to the UN, unable to count accurately even the peace operations of the UN, and unable to accurately state the history of operations they wish to criticize.  Fantasy narratives in this case reside almost completely on the right.  Rightists can’t separate the real world UN from the ignoble beast they wish to crucify.

They hope to take the UN hostage to begin the crucifixion, soon.


Michigan flags at half-staff tomorrow

July 7, 2009

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm continues to notify people when to fly flags at half-staff in honor of Michigan’s fallen soldiers.  Tomorrow, for example, flags in Michigan fly half-staff in honor of Staff Sgt. Timothy A. David, of Gladwin, Michigan; he served in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

(Texas could fly flags at half-staff, too — where are you, Texas Gov. Rick Perry?)

What caught my eye was this:  It was Sgt. David’s sixth tour of duty in war, fourth in Iraq, with two in Afghanistan. This has been a very long period of war for the U.S.

Condolences to his family and friends.  You may fly your flag at half-staff whether you are in Michigan or not.

July 7, 2009

Flags to be Flown Half-Staff Wednesday for Staff Sgt. Timothy A. David of Gladwin

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, in honor of Staff Sgt. Timothy A. David of Gladwin, who died June 28 in Sadr City, Iraq, while on active duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Flags should return to full-staff on Thursday, July 9.

Staff Sgt. David, age 28, died from injuries sustained earlier in Baghdad , when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas .

This was Staff Sgt. David’s 6th tour of duty, having previously served twice in Afghanistan and was completing his 4th tour of duty in Iraq .  Funeral services will be held at Beaverton High School in Beaverton, Michigan, on Wednesday with burial in St. Andrews Cemetery in Saginaw.  He was the son of Michael and Linda David of Beaverton.

Under Section 7 of Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code, 4 USC 7, Governor Granholm, in December 2003, issued a proclamation requiring United States flags lowered to half-staff throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters to honor Michigan servicemen and servicewomen killed in the line of duty.  Procedures for flag lowering were detailed by Governor Granholm in Executive Order 2006-10 and included in federal law under the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-41).

When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position.  The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

When a member of the armed services from Michigan is killed in action, the governor will issue a press release with information about the individual(s) and the day that has been designated for flags to be lowered in his or her honor.  The information will also be posted on Governor Granholm’s Website at www.michigan.gov/gov in the section titled “Spotlight.”

# # #

Government spending

August 7, 2008

The Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the war in Iraq, or about $200 million a day, according to the CBO [Congressional Budget Office]. That is about the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria.

By Martin Wolk
Chief economics correspondent

Double standard

May 28, 2008

George W. Bush was famously untravelled as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency.  He had spent more time hanging out in bars just over the border in Juarez than hanging with diplomats anywhere.  In 2000, conservatives found this lack of care about foreign nations, U.S. interventions, and foreign people to be “charming,” sort of a poke-in-the-eye to the Rhodes scholar-rich Democratic Party who worried about things like peace in Palestine and getting the North Koreans to agree to stop building nuclear devices (who could be afraid of a bad-hair guy like Kim Jong-Il anyway?).

That was then.  Now they desperately have to find something about Barack Obama to complain about.  Never mind that Obama has spent more time overseas and in Iraq than George W. Bush, still.  While John McCain can get his information in a one-day, flack-jacketed, armored personnel-carrier tour of Iraq, Obama’s two days isn’t enough to please Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit nor Jim Geraghty at National Review Online.

Observation:  Conservatives are really, really desperate to find mud on a nice guy; Reynolds and others really are losing badly on issues, to make so much of so little.  Also, William F. Buckley has been dead for just over three months, and NR has already gone to hell, deteriorating to a barking-dog cutout of its former intellectual heft.


Rewrite the government and civics texts

May 16, 2008

Government teachers, can you find this in the textbooks you use in your classes?

Nat Hentoff reports:

The Bush administration believes, he said, “that the president could ignore or modify existing executive orders that he and other presidents have issued without disclosing the new interpretation.”

I noted before, these are exciting times to be teaching, with all these examples of Constitutional law, and Constitution abuses, and President Bush’s War on the Constitution in the headlines, or buried on page 14, every day.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture WarsNat Hentoff’s original column is at WorldNet Daily (!!!).  The Constitution with comments, and also here.

Other resources:

Kicking education while it’s down

May 15, 2008

For the past half century at least one of the greatest exports from the U.S. has been education. The benefits to the U.S. flow from having trained many of the best scientists, business executives, international leaders and others worldwide. Friends in high places help a lot.

Beginning with the Reagan administration as I count it, there has been a concerted war on education. Without openly stating the case, officials in government have systematically hammered away at America’s leadership in science research, technology applications and defense readiness. In 1993 Newt Gingrich led the effort to stab America’s nuclear research in the back, successfully, killing the Superconducting Supercollider, in a move that simultaneously took revenge on the education establishment, science and scientists, and Texas politicians like LBJ and former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, of Fort Worth.

The War on Education continues. Notice that in fighting against scientists and educators, officials also must sabotage America’s readiness to defend against natural disasters, and chemical and terrorist attacks.

Do I exaggerate? I wish I did (click to read).

Where is David Pierpont Gardner to write the report when you need him?

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Liberal Doomsayer.

Other resources:

What if you had commanded the South at Gettysburg?

January 31, 2008

Can you snatch victory from the jaws of historic defeat?

Military.com features this quick-play, script simulation of the Battle of Gettysburg. I played it, and the South won.

Can you figure out how to use this game to stimulate interest in history, in your classroom? Please tell about it.

Pragmatic, applied geography: Baghdad

November 27, 2007

Do your students ever ask why we bother to study geography? Consider these sources for a one-day exercise in geography, world history or U.S. history:

How U.S. forces took back Baghdad

al Quaeda map of Baghdad, used to take back Baghdad by U.S. forces

Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze alerts us to this interesting story of applied geography.

The map of Baghdad, above, was found in a raid on an al Quaeda house in the past year. It details the organization of al Quaeda, especially with regard to shipping guns, ammunition and explosives into Baghdad.

Armed with this knowledge, U.S. forces set about severing each of the cells from each other, separating the pieces of the snake to kill the beast.

Here is the New York Times story. (So much for wild claims that “mainstream media” do not cover such news.) Here is the Fox News story, with a link to a .pdf version of the map.

A map drawn by Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — who was killed last year by U.S. forces — turned up last December in an Al Qaeda safe house and essentially gave U.S. war planners insight into the terrorist group’s methods for moving explosives, fighters and money into Baghdad.

“The map essentially laid out how Al Qaeda controlled Baghdad. And they did it through four belts that surrounded the city, and these belts controlled access to the city for reinforcements and weapons and money,” said Maj. Gen. Bob Scales, a FOX News contributor who recently visited Iraq.

That’s what geographic knowledge can do. It can be the difference between peace and war, the difference between life and death.

Sticking by the error

November 17, 2007

Neil Boortz has a bottomless well of venom. Boortz appears to be the chief source of the mean-spirited, cut-from-whole-cloth fables about Hillary Clinton being next to Marx.

Checking to see whether he had run a correction of those errors* (he did not), I found this little spittle of acid in that same post from October 8: Boortz wonders about former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger advising Hillary Clinton’s campaign, citing Berger’s admission that he took documents out of the National Archives as a basis for some conspiracy about a cover-up of Bill Clinton’s actions prior to September 11, 2001.

Berger pled to misdemeanor charges. He had the right to view the documents, especially since many of the documents he was reviewing were his own. NARA staff said he took copies of documents only. He was working to prepare a report to the 9-11 Commission at the time.

Neil, here are the facts: Berger was right about Osama bin Laden, years before you ever thought about it. Berger was the guy who was left standing at the White House door, ready to brief President George W. Bush on the need to continue chasing Osama bin Laden and the threat al Quaeda posed to America when Condoleeza Rice informed him that the Bush administration would not continue the chase. Berger was the guy who first got the news that Bush was letting al Quaeda off the hook.

There is great value in getting advice from people who seem to have an ability to see the future, or at least get the present right. Boortz can’t even bring himself to admit error for a silly quiz. We shouldn’t expect him to admit the larger error: Sandy Berger was right about Osama bin Laden and al Quaeda, and it was a nasty, damaging error for the Bush group to brush him off and ignore his warnings. Now we are involved in a great, perhaps misguided war that could have been avoided had Bush listened to Sandy Berger in January 2001.

It must be painful for Boortz to even imagine such things.

It’s a great idea for Berger to advise Clinton, or anyone else, because George W. Bush didn’t allow it, would not listen. Nearly 10,000 Americans are dead, 100,000 to more than a million Iraqis and Afghanis are dead, the U.S. has a multi-trillion-dollar debt, and the entire planet is a lot less safe because of Bush’s error. Let’s not compound the error.

(Boortz’s radio show is carried on a backwater AM station here in Dallas — oddly on KSL’s old clear channel frequency. I’ve never heard it. Is he this reckless with facts on all things? If the FCC were alive today, such inaccuracies might endanger a license, back when broadcasters had to broadcast in the public interest. Nostalgia is appropriate here. Too bad such broadcasters are not required to be licensed like history teachers; worse that Boortz doesn’t work for accuracy himself.)

* No, I don’t really believe Boortz simply erred; but it’s polite to pretend so, so that he may more gracefully make corrections.

The first use of “terrorism”

November 3, 2007

Did you ever wonder when the term “terrorism” first appeared, and against what terror it was aimed?

George Bush and Dick Cheney will not like the answer. François Furstenberg gives the history of the term in an opposite-editorial page piece in the New York Times, “Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons.”

Here’s a hint: The phrase referred to governmental the ruling party’s actions against its own people, originally.

Furstenberg is a professor of history at the University of Montreal, and a scholar of George Washington.

Bring back the OTA, stop the War on Science

October 25, 2007

Bush administration officials make the case more powerfully that we need to resurrect the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

Bushies, going against their earlier claims that they accept that the nation needs to do something about changing climate, “eviscerated” testimony of a government official designed to protect public health. More voodoo science from Bush. According to The Carpetbagger Report:

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate panel yesterday that climate change “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans.” If that sounds a little vague and non-specific, there’s a good reason — the White House refused to let her say what she wanted to say.

Sadly, Carpetbagger Report lists several other instances in which White House officials have gutted the release of important information on global warming’s dangers.

If Osama bin Laden did something like that, we’d invade a smaller nation to stop it. Preventing Americans from being prepared for disaster is a terroristic threat under the Homeland Security Act, isn’t it? Is there a clause for citizen suits in there somewhere? Who will stand up to the abuses by George Bush?

Here’s the Washington Post story on the event. Here’s my previous post, with links to Denialism and Pharyngula, and even John Wilkins (love that picture of Snowflake!).

Hillary Clinton specifically calls for the recreation of OTA, a clue some of us politicos use to indicate she really does know what government under the Constitution should be doing. Other Democrats are friendly to the idea, but so far I’ve not heard a peep from any of the Republican presidential candidates. Orrin? What about you?

Bring back the OTA. Exorcise the demons of totalitarian Bushism.

What makes America worth defending

September 28, 2007

Anyone who wonders why the United States is worth defending should read the judge’s decision in the case of Brandon Mayfield.

Mayfield is the Oregon lawyer who was accused of being a participant in the al Quaeda-connected bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. The accusation appears to have been based mostly on Mr. Mayfield’s religious affiliation, and not on any evidence. Mayfield was arrested, charged and held in jail, until the charges were dismissed.

Mayfield’s suit points out that the government acted illegally against him, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which bans searches without a valid warrant. It appears that Mr. Mayfield’s religion was the chief basis for the search warrants obtained.

In what other nation, in a time considered to be a time of war, could such a suit protecting a citizen against his own government be entertained? In what other nation could one judge declare such a major action of its government to be illegal, with any expectation that the government would obey such a ruling?

The case will probably be appealed.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars covers the issue well enough to make a lesson plan out of it for government or civics classes.


Petraeus vs. Westmoreland

September 22, 2007

Santayana’s ghost sends links: The Horse’s Mouth via The Good Democrat.

Who are these guys? What did they say?

Gen. William Westmoreland, circa 1967

Gen. David Petraeus, 2007

Left, Gen. William Westmoreland, testifying before Congress, circa 1967; right, Gen. David Petraeus, testifying to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, September 11, 2007

Castro joins the 9/11 conspiracy cluster

September 12, 2007

9/11 conspiracy nuts are vexing, partly because they don’t pay attention to rebuttals, for example Osama bin Laden’s claiming credit for the attack, partly because their internet output gives succor to Islamic terrorists who argue the U.S. has no justification for any anti-terrorist activity, and partly because it just hurts to see so much time and trouble wasted on silly ideas.

Fidel Castro has joined them.

Darrell’s Corollary of Godwin’s Law is that if posters in an internet discussion know to avoid the mention of Hitler to avoid their opponents’ invoking Godwin’s law, they’ll compare the actions to Stalin instead.

Now we’ll have to figure out the corollary for Castro.  You know it’s gotta be pretty silly for Castro to go back on his previous statements.  Maybe we should cut the man some slack — he’s very ill, after all.

What’s the excuse of the other 9/11 conspiracy fanatics?

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