THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
The other night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went after the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, "with all due respect," for supposedly disrespecting the chain of command. Around the Congressional Democratic Caucus, we're told Members refer to General McChrystal as "General MacArthur," after the commander in Korea sacked by Harry Truman.
White House aides have fanned these flames with recent leaks to the media that "officials are challenging" his assessment asking for more troops. In the last two days, the White House National Security Adviser and the Secretary of Defense have both suggested that the general should keep his mouth shut. President Obama called him in Friday for a talking-to on the tarmac at Copenhagen airport.
Though a decorated Army four-star officer, the General's introduction to Beltway warfare is proving to be brutal. To be fair, Gen. McChrystal couldn't know that his Commander in Chief would go wobbly so soon on his commitment to him as well as to his own Afghan strategy when he was tapped for the job in April. …
Gen. McChrystal's liberal critics also have very short memories. In 2003, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki clashed with his superiors by saying many more troops were needed to pacify Iraq. He became a Democratic hero and is now Mr. Obama's Veterans Secretary.
The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus is one of several commentators who insist the general’s critics “didn't pay close attention to his remarks” to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, pointing to his assurance that “I'm certainly not going to circumvent any political leadership, because at the end of the day the political leadership are the people who I work for.”
Jed Babbin, who served Bush 41 as a deputy undersecretary of defense and is the editor of Human Events, sees parallels between McChrystal and Viet Nam-era general Harold K. Johnson, who lost his resolve to resign over President Lyndon Johnson’s order to deploy the Airmobile Division: “If President Obama decides to pare back McChrystal’s request for reinforcements and a new strategy - focused on the Afghan population in the classic counterinsurgency mold - both General McChrystal and his boss, General David H. Petraeus, will face the same moment that Harold Johnson did on July 28, 1965.” However, McChrystal’s remarks in London should tamp down fevered speculation that he could resign over this.
Think the White House may want to work on its vote-counting operation before the health care bill makes it to the Senate floor?
Think the CBO might be just as brutal as the IOC - with scoring that counts just as much?
Think the public debate over Afghanistan strategy gets any easier as events shape perceptions? …
This is a time where the president needs to be spending his capital - in the halls of Congress, and on the world stage. But when he talks, who is listening? (And does the president lose options himself the longer he chooses to keep listening?)
Who’s listening? Iran, North Korea, Russia and al-Qaeda to name a few. Foreign affairs analyst Nile Gardiner notes that Barack Hussein Obama “seems embarrassed, even ashamed, by the power and greatness of his own country” and his apologetic and appeasing foreign policy approach screams weakness to our enemies.
† R-E-S-P-E-C-T: You Get As You Give: Commenting on the schadenfreude exhibited by some on the right when Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes that “the episode illustrated an essential truth about the state of American politics: at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it - whether or not it’s good for America.” As if the same could not be said of Dems during George W. Bush’s two terms. But then, what do you expect from a man who can't count to 8?
† Sotomayor: A Quintessential New Yorker: No shrinking violet she, on the first day of her first term Justice Sonia Sotomayor - a former prosecutor who often dealt with criminal-procedure issues - peppered both sides with “dozens of detailed and specific questions” during oral arguments in a case involving the scope of the "Miranda warning," reports The Washington Times:
The specific issue at hand involved the admissibility of incriminating statements made by a convicted child molester years after he had first been questioned in the case. Attorneys for 51-year-old Michael Shatzer argued that a 2006 conviction in Maryland for sexually abusing his son should stay thrown out because he told investigators three years earlier that he was asserting his Miranda rights.
Armed with new evidence, police came back to question Shatzer after that lengthy gap; this time, he waived his rights and talked to police. His attorneys say that even approaching him the second time violated his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Maryland's highest court agreed with Shatzer's attorneys and overturned his conviction, a decision the state is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to The National Law Journal, Sotomayor “lived up to her billing as a forceful questioner … often formulating her queries as a prosecutor or trial lawyer might: declarative statements about an aspect of the case, followed by the question, ‘Correct?’”
† Obama – Not McCain - Will Be Bush III: The Washington Post’s often droll but not always original (last item) Dana Milbank describes two counter-demonstrations in Washington, D.C., that bear out author Charles Dudley Warner’s observation about politics making strange bedfellows:
A few hundred people massed on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods, holding photos of wounded children or carrying coffins. They chanted antiwar slogans, acted out waterboarding and pretended to die on the sidewalk. Those who refused orders to leave the area - including ubiquitous activist Cindy Sheehan - were arrested.
But the remarkable thing about this familiar antiwar demonstration is that it occurred Monday, and the target was not George W. Bush but the White House's current occupant. Protesters' signs carried Obama-specific barbs: "Change? What Change?" "The Audacity of War Crimes." "Yes We Can: U.S. Out of Afghanistan."
Several of the demonstrators had T-shirts showing a missile labeled "Obomba" and the question "Is it really OK if Obama does it?" …
Observing the scene with some satisfaction was counter-demonstrator Phil Wilk of the conservative group Free Republic, who found himself in the odd position of defending Obama against his left-wing critics. "We're a little queasy about this," he admitted. Just to make clear that he was no Obama fan, he had a sign asserting that "Liberal Protest of Obama Doesn't Make Him a Hawk - Just a Flip-Flopper."
The Stiletto’s not sure why Milbank would find it “remarkable” that people who are morally or reflexively anti-war would protest war, regardless of who is occupying the Oval Office. The man-bites-dog story here is that someone who otherwise opposes everything Obama stands for would defend him – albeit for continuing Bush administration policies that have proven successful in thwarting another attack on the homeland.
† There May Be Snow On The Roof, But There's Still Fire In The Furnace: Because half of AARP’s 40 million members are eligible for Medicare and half are between the ages of 50 and 64, The New York Times reports that “bridging this generational divide has become a delicate task” for the organization:
Proposals on Capitol Hill to expand health care coverage largely rest on forcing younger and healthier people to get insurance, expanding the money available to subsidize care for the elderly.
But the proposals also count on about $400 billion in savings over 10 years in the Medicare program. In effect, the young and the old are being asked to sacrifice for the middle-aged. …
Some of AARP’s older members are furious, and tens of thousands have resigned in protest. But organization leaders say that much of their efforts are focused on strengthening Medicare and that they must also be mindful of the needs of younger members. Further, the departures represent a fraction of 1 percent of the organization’s members, who pay annual dues of $16.
David Certner, director of legislative policy for AARP, said one out of every four 60-year-olds in the country could not get health insurance.
“I can’t tell you how many people in that age category tell me, ‘I’m just praying that I don’t get sick until I get Medicare,’ ” Mr. Certner said. AARP’s name is attached to some private health insurance products.
One thing younger and older AARP members agree on: the healthcare provided to members of Congress should be no better than what most Americans will be getting.
† Gitmo Detainees Have A “Cadillac” Healthcare Plan: Like independent journalist Judith Miller, The Washington Post's Peter Finn describes how cushy life is for Gitmo detainees. But where Miller only flicked at how miserable life will become for them should they be moved to a Supermax prison on the mainland, Finn goes into greater detail:
Based on what is known about restrictions in the country's highest-security federal prisons, Mohammed and other terrorism suspects would face profound isolation in the United States.
If sent to a facility such as the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., they would be sealed off for 23 hours a day in cells with four-inch-wide windows and concrete furniture. If they behave, and are allowed an hour's exercise each day in a tiny yard, they will do so alone. They will have little or no human contact except with prison officials. And the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group with access to Camp 7, will no longer have contact with them. …
The detention center at Guantanamo Bay "now provides the highest standard of security and humane detention of terrorists consistent with the standards of the Geneva Conventions," said Kirk S. Lippold, who served as the commander of the USS Cole and is now a senior military fellow at Military Families United, an advocacy group. "Unless the administration plans on spending millions of taxpayer dollars on drastically changing the conditions at the supermax facility, then moving the detainees to a prison like Florence would result in less humane conditions for detainees and less security for all Americans."
For her part, The Stiletto thinks that absent execution, the only fitting punishment for Khalid Sheik Mohammed is gender reassignment surgery and immediate release into a tribal region of Pakistan or Afghanistan governed by Sharia law, so that he is forced to live out the rest of his life as a Muslim woman. Within a matter of days he is sure to have one unguarded moment when he forgets he's no longer a man and shows a bit of ankle, whereupon he will be stoned to death. Problem solved.
† Warning: Dining Out Is More Fattening Than You Think: A study by professors at New York University and Yale that examined whether seeing calorie counts on the menu boards at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken changed the eating habits of customers in poor neighborhoods of NYC found that “people’s stomachs are more powerful than their brains,” reports The New York Times:
This study focused primarily on poor black and Hispanic fast-food customers in the South Bronx, central Brooklyn, Harlem, Washington Heights and the Rockaways in Queens, and used a similar population in Newark, which does not have a calorie posting law, as a control group. The locations were chosen because of a high proportion of obesity and diabetes among poor minority populations.
The researchers collected about 1,100 receipts, two weeks before the calorie posting law took effect and four weeks after. Customers were paid $2 each to hand over their receipts.
For customers in New York City, orders had a mean of 846 calories after the labeling law took effect. Before the law took effect, it was 825 calories. In Newark, customers ordered about 825 calories before and after. …
Nutrition and public health experts said the findings showed how hard it was to change behavior, but they said it was not a reason to abandon calorie posting.
One advocate of calorie posting suggested that low-income people were more interested in price than calories.
“Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.
In the population studied, the financial impetus to choose cheap food was an important confounding factor and may have skewed the results. The researchers should have included a wider socioeconomic demographic to determine whether nutrition information influences behavior. Personally, The Stiletto has not fully enjoyed a meal - or finished one – since calorie posting went into effect at chain restaurants like Chile’s or Hard Rock Café. Still, if you are health- or weight-conscious this is important information to know before chowing down.
† Updates To Previous Posts (fifth item, We Fight Them Over There So We Don’t Have To Fight Them Over Here?): For the past year the FBI has investigated the disappearances of dozens of teenaged Somali American and Muslim American converts, mostly from Minneapolis, Seattle and Columbus, OH, who are believed to have been recruited by Shabab to wage jihad in Somalia, reports The Washington Post:
Affiliated groups such as Shabab … are providing al-Qaeda a pipeline of American and European fighters whose passports would make it easier for them to travel undetected and potentially attack Western targets, current and former U.S. officials said.
"The role of returning foreign fighters to the United States changes the nature of the threat to the homeland," [FBI Director Robert Mueller] said in written testimony last week to a Senate hearing into the evolving terrorist threat inside the United States. …
Although Shabab has not launched attacks outside Somalia, al-Qaeda operatives might "commission" a U.S. strike, American officials said. They note that people trained in Somalia have been traced to several international plots, including one that Australia's police in August said was aimed at an army base there. …
The Justice Department disclosed this summer that three U.S. citizens - Kamal Said Hassan and Salah Osman Ahmed of Minnesota and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse of Seattle - have pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges and await sentencing in this country after cooperating with investigators regarding their training in Somalia and Yemen. …
Overall, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said, "we've measured the numbers of Somali Americans that go back to Somalia to fight in the dozens."
By comparison, the number of Americans of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi or other descent who have gone overseas for training with groups related to al-Qaeda is "an order of magnitude smaller … in the handfuls," the official said.
True to form, CAIR is accusing the FBI of religious profiling and is pressing the Somali community in Minneapolis not to cooperate with the investigation, which sparked a backlash amongst those who want Shabab to stop poaching their sons. This is just one in a long line of examples in which CAIR – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood dedicated to undermining our national security – has tried to impede an investigation into homegrown terrorism.