Posted: December 18, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, U.S. News, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Chris Matthews, Michelle Malkin, Michelle Obama, MSNBC, Twitter, White House
Posted: December 18, 2014 Filed under: Asia, Censorship, Diplomacy, Entertainment, Humor, War Room, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Dennis Rodman, Hillary Clinton, North Korea, Parody, satire, Sony pictures, Wag the Dog
Posted: December 18, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, Diplomacy, Mediasphere, Politics, White House | Tags: Alan Phillip Gross, Barack Obama, Cuba, Cuba–United States relations, Cuban American, Cuban exile, Diplomacy, Little Havana, Miami, United States, United States embargo against Cuba
Havana (CNN) — Church bells rang out Wednesday afternoon in Havana, marking a major moment in history — Cuba and the United States are renewing diplomatic relations after decades of ice-cold tension.
Word of the massive change was met with passionate opinions and some protests in the United States. And tearful celebrations erupted in the streets of the island after President Raul Castro announced the news in a televised address.
“With the main obstacle for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations eliminated, the only unknown is the next step. Is the Cuban government planning another move to return to a position of force vis-a-vis the U.S. government? Or are all the cards on the table this time, before the weary eyes of a population that anticipates that the Castro regime will also win the next move.”
– Yoani Sanchez, a well-known Cuban blogger
But there was uncertainty and some anger amid the joy.
Dissident Cuban blogger Yusnaby Perez tweeted that his neighbor asked him whether a change in U.S.-Cuban trade relations would mean that he could finally afford to buy meat.
Other dissidents worried that their concerns will now be overlooked.
Yoani Sanchez, a well-known Cuban blogger, decried what she described as a carefully plotted victory for the Castro regime in the swap of detained U.S. contractor Alan Gross for Cuban spies imprisoned in America. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 18, 2014 Filed under: Diplomacy, Global, History, Mediasphere, Think Tank, White House | Tags: Africa, Alan Phillip Gross, Angolan Civil War, Barack Obama, Cold War, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Henry Kissinger, National Review, Rich Lowry, Richard Nixon, United States
Rich Lowry writes: …His surprise unilateral change in the U.S. posture toward the Castro dictatorship came without even the pretense of serious promises by the Cubans to reform their kleptocratic, totalitarian rule.
The trade of Alan Gross, the American aid worker jailed in Cuba for the offense of trying to help Jewish Cubans get on the Internet, for three Cuban spies is understandable (we also got back one of our spies, and Cuba released several dozen political prisoners as a sweetener).
“If tourism were the key to empowering and eventually liberating the Cuban people, the country would be a robust democracy by now. About a million Canadian tourists go to Cuba every year. In total, more than 2 million tourists visit annually, and yet the Castro regime is still standing.”
The rest of Obama’s sweeping revisions — diplomatic relations and the loosening of every economic sanction he can plausibly change on his own — are freely granted, no questions asked. It is quid with no pro quo. Even if you oppose the isolation of Cuba, this is not a good trade.
After waiting out 10 other U.S. presidents, the Castro regime finally hit the jackpot in Obama, whose beliefs about our Cuba policy probably don’t differ much from those of the average black-turtleneck-clad graduate student in Latin American studies.
“The Cuba embargo is condemned as a relic of the Cold War. But the root of the matter is the Cuban regime that is itself a relic, an inhuman jackboot left over from the era when people actually professed to believe in workers’ paradises.”
Every dictator around the world must be waiting anxiously for a call or a postcard from Obama. The leader of the free world comes bearing gifts and understanding. He is willing to overlook human-rights abuses. And his idea of burnishing his legacy is to clinch deals with his country’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 17, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, White House, Diplomacy | Tags: United States, Anti-Americanism, Barack Obama, Florida, National Review, Havana, Communism, Charles Krauthammer, Cuba, Dictatorship, Tyrant, The American Left
“Is there no tyrant or anti-American center in the world that Obama will not appease for nothing in return? If you get something in return I’d be willing to listen. I haven’t seen anything.”
National Review Online
Posted: December 17, 2014 Filed under: Economics, Global, Diplomacy | Tags: United States, Barack Obama, Havana, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Miami, Diplomacy, Raúl Castro, Human Development Index, Public policy of the United States
Bobby Ghosh writes: Many Americans and Cubans believe that it is the tight noose of the US embargo that keeps the island nation deep in poverty. This narrative suits the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro, because it gives the grim brothers a ready excuse for their inability to give their subjects decent economic opportunities.
“For a microcosm of the Castros’ failure as managers of the Cuban economy, look no further than the tourism industry….for 20 years most tourist services and imported products in Cuba have been priced in an artificial currency created by the regime to bilk foreigners.”
But the noose is pretty loose: Most of the world does business with Havana. Although much is made of Cuba’s special relationship with Russia and Venezuela, it trades with most of the countries that would be considered close US allies. With a halfway competent government, Cuba could be a fairly wealthy nation, able to brush off the American embargo as a minor inconvenience.
For a microcosm of the Castros’ failure as managers of the Cuban economy, look no further than the tourism industry. The island—blessed as it is with gorgeous beaches, warm weather, fantastic music, and terrific rum—gets nearly 3 million foreign tourists a year. Nearly a million come from Canada, with the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany all accounting for large groups. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 17, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Global, Politics, White House, Diplomacy | Tags: United States, Barack Obama, White House, Havana, Cuba, Miami, Diplomacy, Cigar, Cubans, Alan Phillip Gross, United States embargo against Cuba
WASHINGTON — With President Obama announcing major shifts to diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba, it’s going to get easier to find the one of the country’s most renowned exports:
In the changing relations, the “number of steps to significantly increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba,” will increase, diplomatic officials told reporters Wednesday.
American citizens will be also authorized to import additional good from Cuba.
The ease of travel and commercial restrictions may soon result in more Cuban cigars in the country. Relaxed commercial restrictions may facilitate the ability to do exports by making the general process easier, as well as more travelers from Cuba bringing back the famed smoking sticks. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 17, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, Diplomacy, Global, Russia, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Communist Regime, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Fredo Corleone, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Marxist Rebels, Michael Corleone, Moroccan detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Raúl Castro, The Godfather, Twitter, U.S. Embassy
Steps to restore ties with Cuba are certain to meet resistance by some groups, particularly the Cuban community in South Florida that remain staunchly opposed to the communist leadership in Havana
Brian Murphy reports: The United States and Cuba will begin talks to normalize relations, including opening an embassy in Havana and putting to rest one most enduring Cold War standoffs, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The landmark initiatives appeared to be set in motion by a surprise prisoner swap that freed American contractor Alan Gross after five years in custody in Cuba. In exchange, the United States would release three Cubans jailed for espionage, the Associated Press reported.
President Obama was expected to make a statement on Cuba at noon. At the same time, Cuban President Raul Castro was scheduled to address his nation about relations with the United States, Cuban state television reported.
Possible moves to close the rifts would mark a significant moment in Western Hemisphere politics.
The United State has maintain various sanctions against Cuba for more than five decades and enmity between Washington and Havana has played a role in affairs across the world — from snubs against the United States from Cuba’s allies in Latin America to the hero’s welcome given to then-President Fidel Castro during a visit to Tehran in 2001.
“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
– Senator Marco Rubio
At the moment, the United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations, but allow interest sections to handle outreach.
The U.S. official said Gross departed Cuba on a U.S. government plane earlier Wednesday. He was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Gross, 65, was detained in December 2009 while setting up illegal Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 16, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, Law & Justice, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Andrew C. McCarthy, Arthur J. Schwab, Barack Obama, Enforcement discretion, Executive (government), Judicial opinion, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Substantive rights, United States district court, United States federal judge
Andrew C. McCarthy writes:
“I wonder how the Republican establishment will take this: A federal court has the gumption to declare the obvious — namely, that Obama’s immigration policy is unconstitutional, just as Republican candidates argued while seeking votes during the recent midterm election campaign — only three days after 20 Republican senators astonishingly joined with the Democrats to endorse Obama’s policy as constitutionally valid.”
[Also see – Chris Christie Prediction: ‘In 2017, there won’t be an Obamacare‘]
From Jon Adler‘s analysis on Judge Schwab’s opinion at the Volokh Conspiracy…
Earlier Tuesday, a federal court in Pennsylvania declared aspects of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional.
According to the opinion by Judge Arthur Schwab, the president’s policy goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority.
This is the first judicial opinion to address Obama’s decision to expand deferred action for some individuals unlawfully present in the United States. [I’ve now posted the opinion here.]
The procedural background of the case is somewhat unusual. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 15, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Charles Krauthammer, Deroy Murdock, Elizabeth Warren, National Review, NRO
“I think she ought to run, I’d be the No. 1 supporter, I’d love to see her run. It would be a festival if you’re a conservative or a Republican. We put up anybody sentient on the other side it’ll be a good night on Election Night.”
National Review Online
Posted: December 12, 2014 Filed under: Asia, China, Global, Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Beijing, British Overseas Territories, Carrie Lam (politician), Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Communist Party of China, CY Leung, Hong Kong, Pan-democracy camp, President of the People's Republic of China, Protest, United States, Xi Jinping
The world response was shameful. As during Iran’s Green Movement protests in 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, so five years later Obama all but ignored what was happening in Hong Kong: He chose to expend a minuscule drop of the moral authority of the American president to make a point about the value of democracy.
Michael Auslin writes: The tents are gone and the streets are cleared. The thousands of students and older citizens peacefully trying to make their voices heard have gone back home. And the best hope for ensuring that Hong Kong’s fragile and evolving democracy does not flicker out has been extinguished.
What the Chinese government, and its proxy in Hong Kong, gained from the protests should not be underestimated.”
Hong Kong police finished clearing out the last remaining protest site this week after allowing two and half months of peaceful demonstrations. For a brief while in the beginning, back in late September, it looked as if things could get violent — that Hong Kong students in 2014 could wind up suffering a fate close to that of their predecessors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing back in 1989. Yet the Hong Kong police, despite a few volleys of tear gas, refrained from physical confrontation.
“First, they crushed the movement peacefully, thereby avoiding the international opprobrium that would have come in the wake of a violent suppression…”
Not so the mysterious groups of thugs who harassed the students and attempted to break up some of their encampments. Whether directed by China or not, those ruffians clearly had the backing of the mainland authorities, as well as of Hong Kong’s Beijing-picked leader, who made clear throughout the months of protest that his primary loyalty is to the Communist party of China, and not the people of Hong Kong.
“Second, they successfully encouraged or used small groups of thugs to intimidate the protesters and sympathetic onlookers….”
So many weeks later, it is hard to remember that the demonstrations began over a simple point: the right of Hong Kongers to democratically choose their chief executive in elections starting in 2017, as seemingly promised by Beijing back in the 1984 agreement with Great Britain that paved the way for the handover of the colony in 1997.
“Third, they neutralized global criticism. Most importantly, in winning the confrontation, they have shaped perceptions of Hong Kong’s future, erasing any doubt over China’s ultimate control of the city.”
Yet the agreement’s language was vague enough that Beijing could manipulate its implementation despite later promises to allow free elections — and, really, what could anyone actually do to prevent the Chinese from running Hong Kong however they liked? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 11, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, U.S. News | Tags: media, news, Barack Obama, Liberalism, Andrew Sullivan, Progressivism, Chuck Hagel, Leftism, Peter Beinart, Antisemitism, Leon Wieseltier, Guy Vidra, The New Republic, Chris Hughes, Franklin Foer, Digital Media, Marty Peretz, Atrios
Joel B. Pollak reports: The implosion of The New Republic, pending its move to New York and re-establishment as a “digital media” company, has consumed much of the political commentariat in recent days. The change is deeply mourned by former editors and writers for the publication, many of whom resigned in protest. However, the shift mirrors that of other publications that shifted further left in recent years, only to stumble into commercial failure.
[Order Joel Pollak’s book “Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party” from Amazon.com]
Former publisher Marty Peretz lamented in 2013 that the magazine he sold to Facebook guru Chris Hughes–a key social media operative in Barack Obama’s rise to power–had moved in a nakedly partisan direction, away from its traditional center-left liberalism: “The magazine wasn’t supposed to be a White House siphon….The magazine now seems to live in a space where those ‘little insurrections of the mind’ are unwelcome. It is akin to the atmosphere in many colleges and universities: There are prevailing orthodoxies but they aren’t recognized as such. Mr. Obama himself is the main one. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 11, 2014 Filed under: Law & Justice, Politics, Think Tank, War Room, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Central Intelligence Agency, Democratic Party (United States), Dianne Feinstein, Espionage, John Kerry, John O. Brennan, Mark Udall, Presidency of George W. Bush, United States Senate, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Louis J. Freeh writes: Seventy-three years ago this week, on a peaceful, sunny morning in Hawaii, a Japanese armada carried out a spectacular attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403, wounding 1,178 and damaging or destroying at least 20 ships. Washington immediately declared war and mobilized a peaceful nation.
“The RDI program was not some rogue operation unilaterally launched by a Langley cabal—which is the impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee report tries to convey. Rather, the program was an initiative approved by the president, the national security adviser and the U.S. attorney general…”
In another unfortunate Washington tendency, the government launched an investigation about who to blame for letting the devastating surprise attack happen. A hastily convened political tribunal found two senior military officers guilty of dereliction of duty, publicly humiliating them, as some political leaders sought to hold anyone but themselves accountable for the catastrophe.
“The Senate committee’s new report does not present any evidence that would support the notion that the CIA program was carried out for years without the concurrence of the House or Senate intelligence committees, or that any of the members were shocked to learn of the program after the fact.”
With the Democratic members of the SenateIntelligence Committee this week releasing a report on their investigation holding the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency accountable for the alleged “torture” of suspected terrorists after 9/11, some lessons from the Pearl Harbor history should be kept in mind.
First, let’s remember the context of the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when President George W. Bush and Congress put America on a war footing. While some critics in and out of government blamed the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for failing to prevent the terrorist attack, the 9/11 Commission later concluded that part of the real reason the terrorists succeeded was Washington’s failure to put America on a war footing long before the attack. Sept. 11, 2001, was the final escalation of al Qaeda’s war-making after attacking the USS Cole in 2000 and U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
“CIA leaders and briefers who regularly updated this program to the Senate Intelligence Committee leadership took what investigators call ‘copious, contemporaneous notes.’ Without a doubt, the Senate Intelligence Committee and congressional staffers at these multiple briefings also took a lot of their own notes…”
The Intelligence Committee’s majority report fails to acknowledge the Pearl Harbor-esque state of emergency that followed the 9/11 attack. One week after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, President Bush signed into law a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.”
“…Will the committee now declassify and release all such notes so that Americans will know exactly what the senators were told and the practices they approved?”
This joint congressional resolution, which has never been amended, was not a broad declaration of a “war on terror,” but rather a specific, targeted authorization to use force against the 9/11 terrorists and to prevent their future attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 11, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, The Butcher's Notebook, U.S. News, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Congress, Cromnibus, Elections, Executive order, government, Legislation, Senate, Spending, The Washington Post, White House
The Washington Post
Posted: December 10, 2014 Filed under: Politics, War Room, White House | Tags: Barack Obama, Central Intelligence Agency, Democratic Party (United States), Dianne Feinstein, Director of the National Clandestine Service, Enhanced interrogation techniques, George W. Bush, Jay Rockefeller, John Kerry, Presidency of George W. Bush, Saxby Chambliss, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations is a moment for reflection, but not for the reasons you’re hearing. The outrage at this or that ugly detail is politically convenient. The report is more important for illustrating how fickle Americans are about their security, and so unfair to those who provide it.
“The report’s greatest offense is its dishonest treatment of political accountability. The authors portray a rogue CIA operating without legal authority and hiding information from Congress, the public and even President Bush. This charge is rebutted even by current CIA director John Brennan , who otherwise dries his predecessors out to hang.”
After the trauma of 9/11 and amid the anthrax letters in 2001, Americans wanted protection from another terror attack. The political class fired up a commission to examine what went wrong so it “would never happen again.” So the CIA, blamed for not stopping 9/11, tried to oblige. It captured the plotters, detained and interrogated them—sometimes harshly. There hasn’t been another successful al Qaeda plot on the homeland.
“Ms. Feinstein has had an admirable career, so it is a shame to see her mar her legacy with this one-sided report. Mr. Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are also not profiles in courage, issuing everyone-has-a-point statements while endorsing release of the report. Better leaders would have resigned for the morale of their agencies…”
But political memories are short. As the Iraq war became unpopular, the anti-antiterror left fought back. Democrats who sensed a political opening began to fault the details of how the CIA and Bush Administration had protected the country—on surveillance, detention and interrogation. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, the lead Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, unleashed their staff to second-guess the CIA.
“Then there is President Obama, who issued his own have-it-both-ways statement that condemned the Bush-era practices but extolled our intelligence services. He could have taken executive responsibility by having Mr. Brennan issue his own report or release the one done by former CIA director Leon Panetta , but that would have meant more personal political risk. Better to leave the public wet work to Senate staff.”
That’s the context in which to understand the Senate report, which reads like a prosecutor’s brief. It devotes 6,000 pages to marshalling evidence to indict the CIA program, and nothing was going to interfere with its appointed verdict. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 8, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, U.S. News, White House | Tags: Amnesty, Barack Obama, Democratic Party presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton, Illegal immigration, National Security Agency, New car smell, Oval Office, Telephone tapping, United States presidential election, White House
reports: According to retired ABC News journalist Ann Compton
, Barack Obama launches into “profanity-laced” tirades against the press in off-the-record meetings with reporters. In a C-SPAN interview
, Compton also derided the President for leading “the most opaque” administration of “any I have covered.”
“We cover what we are allowed to cover. And when policy decisions and presidents are inaccessible and don’t take questions from the press on a regular basis, I think they reap what they sow.”
The journalist, who retired in August after a 40-year career, revealed to C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb: “I have seen in the last year Barack Obama really angry twice. Both were off-the-record times. One, profanity-laced where he thought the press was making too much of scandals that he did not think were scandals.” [MP3 audio here.]
She explained, “And I don’t find him apologetic. But I find him willing to stand up to the press and look them in the eye, even though it was off the record and just give us hell.”
“Before I walked out the door on September 10, I was a strong voice for complaining that this particular administration has been more opaque than any I have covered about what the President does in the Oval Office everyday…”
After Lamb wondered if the President had a point, she chided, “We cover what we are allowed to cover. And when policy decisions and presidents are inaccessible and don’t take questions from the press on a regular basis, I think they reap what they sow.”
Despite Obama’s apparent rage against the press, he hasn’t had much to complain about. The Media Research Center documented how journalists covered-up his failures and scandals.
Earlier in the hour-long C-SPAN interview, which aired on Sunday night, but was recorded in October, Compton slammed the “opaque” administration:
ANN COMPTON: Before I walked out the door on September 10, I was a strong voice for complaining that this particular administration has been more opaque than any I have covered about what the President does in the Oval Office everyday. He is far less accessible on photo-ops with meetings. Even some meetings on the record, meeting in the Roosevelt room with financial leaders from, from Wall Street or on issues with environmental groups, or with issues with environmental groups, with public opinion leaders, I think most presidents have been far more forthcoming than the second Obama term, in terms of what the President is doing every day and we almost never get photo-ops.
She added that it’s fine for the White House to take its own photographs, but “those same elements should not be blocked from the White House press corps.”
Interestingly, on Compton’s last day in August, the President called on her for a final question. She chose to ask about the police shooting in Ferguson, not the concerns she expressed to C-SPAN. Read the rest of this entry »