Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very safe, happy, and blessed Thanksgiving holiday. Posting here has been and will obviously be light for the next couple of days as Phineas is visiting family and mine is visiting me. Lots of cleaning and prep work has gone on in the last couple of days.
We should be thankful everyday but Thanksgiving provides us the opportunity to amplify our appreciation for faith, family, friends, and food. Please also remember to be thankful and say a prayer for those who can’t be with their families today for whatever reason – whether serving in the military, working in law enforcement or in the medical profession, and any other job or responsibility where there never really is a “day off” or “holiday.”
Yours truly, with a lot of help from Mama T., made the family turkey last night in advance so I could free up some time this morning for other things to do before the family comes over. I get the honor of hosting the Thanksgiving holiday at my little home this year, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Enjoy your day today – God bless!
**Posted by Phineas
Not in the sense of “after him, a civil war,” of course. That line of thinking, which I’ve occasionally seen, is a bit overwrought. But something Stanley Kurtz wrote today made me think of Jimmy B.
Discussing what may have motivated Obama to ink this bad deal with Iran, Kurtz discounts the idea that it was done to give the administration a win after the Obamacare debacle. Rather, Kurtz thinks that Obama did this because his support has shrunk to his hardcore base, and that base hates the very idea of violent conflict with Iran. To keep from losing this last group, which is already angry over Obamacare’s problems, Obama is willing even to sign an agreement that wreaks havoc on the US position in the Middle East, as long as it postpones conflict with Iran. Kurtz writes:
Americans are weary of war and few on any political side were inclined to bail Obama out of his Syrian “red line” misadventure. Yet there is still a strong constituency for taking action when core American interests are threatened. That constituency, unfortunately, stands largely outside of Obama’s base.
To the extent that this analysis is valid, it means that as long as Obamacare is on life-support (for the next three years, by most accounts), Obama’s policy inclinations and political survival alike will conspire to dictate American weakness on the world scene. With Obama down to his dovish core supporters, we are paralyzed abroad.
And it’s this that makes me think of the hapless Pennsylvanian. Faced with a potential crisis, trapped by his ideology and party supporters who loathed the idea of federal intervention against the states, Buchanan sat there and temporized and let the problem fester until he could hand it off to Lincoln and say “You deal with it!”
And so it is with Obama and whoever succeeds him.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
**Posted by Phineas
Darn Judge Michael Kenny and his concern for the law! Doesn’t he know he’s standing in the way of the future?
A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that there was “no evidence in the record” to support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s request in March to sell the bonds from Proposition 1A, a $10 billion measure approved by voters in 2008 that allowed the bullet train project to move ahead.
In a separate but related case, the judge sided with the Kings County Board of Supervisors and two homeowners who sued the rail agency, saying it had failed to detail how the project will be financed, as legally required, before seeking bond money to begin construction.
The judge’s rulings leave the future of the $68 billion project in question. The state has been trying to get the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley built using $3.24 billion in federal funds and $2.61 billion in Prop. 1A bond money. The rail authority has already signed a construction contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno.
The judge rejected opponents’ calls for that contract to be rescinded.
The judge’s ruling seems a reasonable one, as he sticks to the question of CHSRA’s authority to sell bonds (1); the contract is a separate matter and, if the State can’t raise the money to pay for it, also moot.
Naturally, this ruling is going to get appealed by proponents of this boondoggle all the way to the State Supreme Court, if need be. Let’s hope they uphold Judge Kenny’s ruling; then maybe we can escape from this fiasco having wasted only $600 million.
I’m not, however, getting my hopes up. The legislature might try to rewrite the law to allow the bond sales. This would be difficult and subject to court challenges, as the original measure approving HSR was a public ballot initiative, and changing it might require another vote, something Brown opposes because the California public has turned against the project. He wouldn’t want to risk a public rejection that would definitively kill his 1930s retro-future dream. Whichever way this goes, it’s going to be a long fight.
As they say, “stay tuned!”
(1) I almost wrote “”bongs.” Fitting, seeing as this is California.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
**Posted by Phineas
There’s been a lot of talk since the weekend about the deal brokered between Iran on the one hand, and the US and its European partners on the other, that supposedly somehow represented a breakthrough in the quest to prevent the Iranian mullahs from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Discussions have centered around diplomacy and grand strategy, and the motives of the Iranian and US governments. Matter of “high politics,” as they might have said in the 19th century.
But the agreement touches people on a very personal level, too. Left unmentioned in any of the negotiations are Americans trapped in Iranian prisons, men such as Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was accused of the horrid crime (in Iran, under Islam) of preaching the Gospel and helping to establish home churches (1). Abedini was yanked off a bus, his passport taken from him, and he was consigned to Iran’s notorious Evin prison.
And, in the negotiations leading to this wonderful deal, the US never mentioned him once:
Two words are nowhere to be found in the pages of text that spell out a new interim nuclear deal with Iran: Saeed Abedini.
Now some supporters of the American pastor, who’s been detained in Iran for more than a year, are accusing U.S. officials of betraying Abedini by signing off on an agreement that doesn’t get him out of prison.
“We were across the table from the Iranians, and we did not bring home Americans. To me that’s a tragedy and that’s outrageous,” said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family in the United States.
While analysts debated the nuclear agreement’s pros and cons, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said she was trying to comfort her two young children.
“It’s very painful,” she told CNN’s “The Lead” on Monday. “My kids were crying this morning, saying, ‘God, don’t let Daddy die. Bring him home.’ “
One would think an American government, leading a nation founded on principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, would have raised a stink about Abedini at these negotiations, something along the lines of “You want sanctions lifted and your sequestered cash released? Give us Abedini and we’ll talk.” (2)
But then one would remember Barack Obama is in charge. Defending Americans in danger abroad is a bit alien to him, as we learned in Libya.
Via Bryan Preston, who connects Abedini’s abandonment to his Christianity and draws a parallel to the Obama administrations attacks on religious liberty here. I disagree with Bryan on this: nations have often sacrificed individuals for “reasons of state” when a higher goal was at stake. In the Obama administration’s case, the nuclear deal with Iran was paramount, and if the government was willing to blindside Jewish Israel and Muslim Saudi Arabia with this, they weren’t going to let the fate of Saeed Abedini (or Robert Levinson) stand in the way. It’s shameful and cynical, to be sure, but not religiously motivated.
RELATED: There are several good articles explaining why this deal stinks. At The Weekly Standard, John Bolton calls this “abject surrender.” Writing at PJM, Michael Ledeen points out, among other excellent observations, that the Iranian treasury was almost empty, but we’ve now agreed to give them billions. Genius. Eli Lake at The Daily Beast quotes an expert who says this comes close to a “nuclear 1914 scenario.” How fitting, with the hundredth anniversary of World War I approaching. James Carafano calls this a deal based on a dangerous fantasy — Munich II. My own observation is this: Regardless of the restrictions placed on the Iranian public nuclear program by this deal, if you think there isn’t a secret program run in parallel by the military that is still going full-speed, you’re high.
This deal makes war more likely, not less.
(1) Abedini’s offense was compounded by being himself a convert to Christianity from Islam. Under Islamic law, that is the crime of apostasy and is punishable by death. I suppose the Iranians thought they were being merciful for just sticking him in jail for eight years.
(2) Not that I’m a religious person, but I believe very strongly in the natural right of all humans to freedom of speech and religion, and, within very broad bounds, government should stay the heck out. No law is legitimate that oppresses those rights, and an American government that won’t stand up for its citizens’ rights in the face of a tyranny that tramples both is craven.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
Via The Hill:
The Iran nuclear deal has put new strains on President Obama’s relationship with Jewish donors, a pillar of Democratic fundraising.
The U.S.-led agreement — endorsed by France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia — has attracted criticism from Democratic allies of Israel, including Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.).
Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, predicted the “disproportionality” of the agreement would spur Congress to pass additional sanctions against Iran.
“It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table. And any reduction relieves the pressure of sanction and gives them the hope that they will be able to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Jeff Robbins, a Democratic lawyer and fundraiser based in Boston, said many Jewish Democrats agree with Schumer.
“There is a strong concern that in the frenetic eagerness to secure a piece of paper, an eagerness that could not have been more ostentatiously advertised, the United States and others went for a deal which was not consistent with the leverage that was had.”
He said that, in pursuit of a deal, the administration took “crude, petulant and harmful swipes at Israel” that were “difficult to understand from a friend.”
Robbins also criticized Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that Israeli officials were disparaging the emerging deal without being fully briefed on its details.
“Stuff that seems aimed of fomenting a view of those who are concerned about Israel as somehow obsessive-compulsive or worse,” he said. “We’re talking about a potential nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran.”
A Jewish donor to Obama’s campaigns who requested anonymity to discuss the deal frankly, accused the president of “selling Israel down the river,” adding that it is a “betrayal of our closest ally in the region.”
Rep. Eliot Engel, a senior Jewish Democratic lawmaker from New York, called the agreement “very disappointing.”
“We need to be very, very careful with the Iranians,” the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee said on CNN over the weekend. “I don’t trust them. I don’t think we should trust them.”
Good to see the bipartisan criticism over this one-sided “deal” get louder. That said, would someone alert the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who apparently thinks the only people who have serious issues with it are Republicans who would “mindlessly” oppose the President no matter what anyway? Just because he’s used to reflexively standing shoulder to shoulder with whatever the administration does doesn’t mean the rest of us have to …
I included a link to this article in my earlier post on how Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) suggested Obama use executive orders as often as possible to get around Congress, but figured it deserved its own post. The Hill’s recap of it is a bit more thorough:
President Obama told donors Sunday night that he’s not “particularly ideological.” He made the comment at one of two Democratic fundraisers he attended in Seattle.
”I’m not a particularly ideological person,” Obama said, according to the White House pool report. “There’s things, some values I feel passionately about.” Those include, he said, making sure “everybody gets a fair shake” and “everybody being treated with dignity or respect, regardless of what they look like or who they are.” [Don't you love the 'humble brag' there? Ugh. --ST]
Congress, Obama said, is the “biggest barrier and impediment” to achieving progress. He added that, without politics, there’s strong agreement on how to tackle infrastructure, immigration reform, early childhood education and investing in science and research.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) attended the event, and Obama said she’s “soon-to-be speaker again.”
“More than anything, what we’re looking for is not the defeat of another party, what we’re looking for is the advancement of ideas,” he said. “But to do that we’re going to need Nancy Pelosi as speaker because there’s a lot of work to be done right now.”
And, dammit, they can’t have the opposition “impeding” them at every turn, ya know.
At another left coast fundraiser, a heckler brought up the possibility of Obama using an executive order on the issue of immigration. Here was his response:
SAN FRANCISCO – President Obama pushed back Monday against supporters who want him to sign more executive orders to overcome opposition to his policies from Republicans in Congress.
After a man repeatedly shouted “executive order” during Obama’s speech at a fundraiser here Monday afternoon, the president said there is “no short-cut to democracy” and that he could not sign executive orders to bypass Congress.
“A lot of people have been saying this lately on every problem, which is just, ‘Sign an executive order and we can pretty much do anything and basically nullify Congress,’ ” Obama said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco.
Many in the audience of more than 400 supporters began applauding. “Wait, wait, wait,” Obama said. “Before everybody starts clapping, that’s not how it works. We’ve got this Constitution, we’ve got this whole thing about separation of powers. So there is no short-cut to politics, and there’s no short-cut to democracy.”
That’s a very nice defense of separation of powers, but don’t get too relieved. This President – and many high profile power brokers in his administration are very good at paying lip service to the Constitution, but the reality is another matter entirely …
**Posted by Phineas
We knew Edie Sundby wouldn’t be the only one. In Virginia Beach, grandmother and kidney-cancer sufferer Debra Fishericks was happy with the coverage she has, but the federal government wasn’t. Guess who won?
“We were happy,” says the business owner. “We had great insurance. We had continuing care for our employees.”
Says the owner, “Great–until owner Betsy Atkinson learned the policy would be terminated because it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”
Great work there, Democrats. Your genius plan is not only making healthcare worse in this country, but it’s going to get people killed.
(h/t The Weekly Standard)
RELATED: From my beloved Golden State, read how one family is having to scrimp and save every penny, because Obamacare is wreaking havoc on their finances. At least they’re not having to consider bankruptcy because of the ACA. Yet. Meanwhile, Covered CA (the state Obamacare exchange) teamed with SEIU and the California Endowment to hold a sign-up party in Sacramento, probably because not enough of the young and healthy are volunteering to be fodder for the ACA vampire. Of the roughly 1,500 people who showed up for the one-day event, ten completed applications, while less than 50 others had even started one.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)
The Observer’s Politicker reports on a recent interview Congressman Rangel did with NY1 in which he expressed support for President Obama going around Congress via the use of executive orders “for everything”:
Congressman Charlie Rangel has a solution for bypassing gridlock in Washington D.C.: executive orders for “everything.”
In an interview last night with NY1, the congressman praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to push through the so-called “nuclear option” to end filibusters on most presidential nominees. But he lamented the fact the work-around could not be used for legislation, suggesting the president turn to the executive orders–like the kind used to end the deportation many people who’d entered the country illegally as children.
“You know, the DREAM Act for the kids that came over here and didn’t know their home town, the president did that by executive order. What I did is I’ve taken out the language that he used and I’m gonna see why we can’t use executive orders for everything. What’s he gonna do? Make the Republicans angry? They’re gonna get annoyed? They’re not gonna cooperate?”
He went on to slam the Republican Party for refusing to cooperate–accusing them of acting against the interests of their own constituents.
“A police officer once told me when I was a kid that the worst criminal to deal with is one that doesn’t mind dying,” he said. “And if you take a look at what these Tea Party people have done–recognizing that there’s more sick and poor white folks then there is–but they still are resisting everything that the president wants to do so they can destroy the people in their district in terms of education and jobs, the Congress, the Republican name. And when we had the debt ceiling crisis, they were really prepared to let the United States of America fiscal policy to go in the tubes. How can you talk with people like this?”
And just last week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) proposed expanding the use of the nuclear option to beyond just the filibuster on judicial nominees by way of, ya know, actual legislation.
How DARE Republicans disagree with Democrats and President Obama on how best to turn around the economic crisis our country faces – a crisis that has actually gotten WORSE under their watch? Shame on the GOP for accurately predicting exactly what problems Obamacare would cause. It was just pure luck they got it right. There can’t possibly be any genuine philosophical differences for disagreement with liberals. Why, conservatives and Republicans just want to “destroy” people. Oh, and raaaaaaaaaacism!
It’s always illuminating when the ‘moderate’ masks of Democrats come off, isn’t it? Their true fascistic faces are revealed in all their ugliness for the country – and the world – to see. It’s disturbing to watch but necessary. It’s good to know who – and what – you’re really up against.