JOHN RIEWE

Archive for June 2006

Enlightened Remarks from the Esteemed DNC Chairman

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When DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks I listen. For his infinitely introspective articulations? No, for entertainment purposes. The “I have a scream” speech was no fluke; Dean says a lot of things that are a little bit stupid. I’ve heard him pander to just about every group. On Tuesday, it was the clergy at a religious conference.

One wonders how Dean spent the ’60s. We do know that he remembers the decade fondly, and regardless of its relevance it served as the basis for his remarks to the religious leaders assembled in DC Tuesday. “We’re about to enter the ’60s again,” declared Dean. I’m not sure what you remember about the ’60s, but I think of them exactly as Dean does: an “age of enlightenment led by religious figures who want to greet Americans with a moral, uplifting vision.” Other highlights of the era we are evidently returning to are its noble culture of morality and a sense of we’re “in it together.”

Dean kept morals and religion central in his remarks. But listening to his remarks I think one would get the sense that Dean’s “religious” agenda might be a little less Biblical and a little more populist. “I’m talking about moral principles like making sure everybody in America has health insurance” and “making sure no child goes to bed hungry at night” said the DNC chair.

In other parts of his talk, Dean offered some shocking admissions of the past failures of the Democrats, in, of all eras, the ’60s. The glorious view of the ’60s seemed to disappear as Dean changed his tone to explain “I’m not asking to go back to the ’60s; we made some mistakes in the ’60s.” On the subject of Democratic public housing initiative back then he admitted “we essentially created ghettoes for poor people.” He said that LBJ’s Great Society was negative because “we did give things away for free, and that’s a huge mistake because that does create a culture of dependence…”

Later Dean returned to more traditional Democratic rhetoric, dissing Bush’s Tax cuts, calling for a big jump in minimum wages, and saying America is “about as divided as it has been probably since the Civil War.” On what its not readily apparent.

Dean ended with a return to deep spirituality, sincerety dripping as he explained:

“I came in the wrong door when I first got here,” Dean said. “I came in the back, and everybody was talking about praising the Lord, and I thought, ‘I am home. Finally, a group of people who want to praise the Lord and help their fellow man just like Jesus did and just like Jesus taught.’ Thank you so much for doing that for me.”

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Written by John Riewe

June 30, 2006 at 12:45 am

Warren Buffett: The Darker Truth

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June 28, 2006

When someone donates tens of billions of dollars to charitable work, it seems out of sorts to malign his or her character. Nonetheless, upon the announcement that Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, the “Oracle of Omaha,” was to donate 85 percent of his multi-billion dollar worth to the foundation headed by the world’s number one richest man, Bill Gates, pundits began to discuss what sinister agenda might exist behind Buffett’s astounding donation. By the end of the story’s rounds on talk shows Tuesday, it appeared that most agreed that it was a huge contribution to the cause of world health and to Bill Gates’ self-proclaimed initiative to eradicate the world’s twenty most deadly diseases.

However, another angle struggled futilely to rise to prominence in course of dissecting Buffett’s philanthropy—his heretofore unpublicized philanthropic history. And that is in fact a rather controversial one. While his money in the hands of the Gates Foundation will be targeted at initiatives to save lives, it has for years funded abortion rights and family planning through the Susan Buffett Foundation named for his late wife. And in addition to the $31 billion going to the Gates Foundation, Mr. Buffett is also putting $3 billion more in funds into his late wife’s foundation.

Have you ever heard of the Susan Buffett Foundation’s massive support of abortion rights? If not, you are in the majority. The foundation has kept an extremely low profile in the past. But that is out of proportion with the extent of its monetary support for the pro-choice agenda. Support for activism has paled in comparison the monies directed to more substantive “reproductive rights” projects. The foundation was key in funding research on the RU-486 abortion pill, and has provided crucial funding for the training of a new generation of doctors to perform abortions at a time when many are getting out of the business as it were. Furthermore, “the foundation awards grants to chapters of Planned Parenthood like most foundations award grants to affiliates of United Way or the Red Cross. More than 100 PP affiliates received grants ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 during the last three years.”

This broad support of abortion rights has been a boon to that movement. In fact, many abortion rights leaders consider the support of the Susan Buffett Foundation to be the glue that has kept their cause together in the face of the comparatively huge funding that the Right pours into pro-life campaign. It has served as a literal “lifeline” according Ellen Chessler of Planned Parenthood. And will the additional $3 billion, this “lifeline” should become considerably more robust.

Notes: I recommend hearing this piece by NPR’s Julie Rovner.
See this page for a fact sheet on the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.

Written by John Riewe

June 29, 2006 at 2:30 am

NY Times Has Your Back

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You needn’t worry about the government impinging on your right to privacy in its execution on the war on terror. That’s because Bill Keller’s NY Times is here to make sure the US government is more transparent than Transparency International. Congressional Democrats can’t seem to find out how badly the Bush War on Terror is destroying the Bill of Rights; luckily for them the press can find out just in time for the Dems to piously raise “serious concerns” about invasions of our privacy. And, my how we have been saved by that intrepid media which is unafraid to spit in the face of government requests to keep quiet. Now we know that the government is listening in to all our phone conversations without warrants. Now we know that the government tracks every dime we spend. Why if it weren’t for the NY Times’ tireless fight for justice, before too long we might find that we in fact live in a communist state called BushCheneyRiceRumsfeld.

Except its not like that. While the NY Times (and their ilk) parade themselves as some massive watchdog operation, they simultaneously wholly discount the gravity of the War on Terror. While the NY Times et al deign to fight for your supposedly endangered civil rights, they leave the back door wide open as it were. Did they forget that national security was, well, kind of in jeopardy at the moment. Well, as it turns out they did not. Eric Lichtblau, Washington Bureau reporter for the NY Times, was all over talk shows Tuesday explaining the Times’ decision. He admitted that the government had strongly urged them to hold the story of the SWIFT finance tracking program last week, but the decision was made “above my pay grade” said Lichtblau to print it anyway.

So print it they did. And as I mentioned yesterday, Rep. Peter King of New York called for criminal charges against the Times, defining the breaking of the story as “treasonous.” The White House today called it “disgraceful.” How is it that the NY Times deems itself qualified to decide what state secrets should really be secret? On NPR’s Talk of the Nation today Neil Conan ran Lichtblau through a wringer of sorts (refreshing stuff to hear on public radio), finally asking why if the government, which is undisputably the most knowledgeable about the threats we face, says to shut up, then why would the NY Times decide that the danger was not in fact enough to stop the story? In other words, why should we take the Times’ word over the word of the government on how detrimental it is to declassify a very successful anti-terror initiative? On the same show, Jonathan Winer, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of State for international law enforcement under President Clinton, said that were he still in government, he would be furious. In essence, one of the most successful tools in the War on Terror, one that has been shown to save lives and track down terrorists, has been compromised.

Worse still is the fact that not unlike the phone call tracking outcry a few weeks back, we find the program at the heart of the debate is not even illegal. In the SWIFT transaction tracking initiative, we have found that no laws are being broken and no one’s privacy is being impinged upon, despite what the NY Times would like you to think.

Shame on the NY Times for at once impeding the war on terror and feasting on the commotion arising from the false perceptions they will stop at no end to create. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. The claim that Bill Keller is guilty of aiding and abetting terroism appears increasingly less far-fetched.

Written by John Riewe

June 28, 2006 at 3:17 am

More Blatant Posturing

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In the author’s school of thought on political strategy, posturing is not becoming to the posturer, and thus achieves greatest success when it is camouflaged. Take, for instance, the defintition of marriage amendment that the Republican Congress trotted out earlier this month out of the blue and in the midst of vigorous national debates over immigration, right-to-privacy vs. national security, and oil prices. Opinion polls showed the Republicans had lost their ability to excite even their core supporters, so they dropped everything to hoorah an issue guaranteed to always stir up the GOP faithful. And they were immediately (and rightfully) called out by the press and everyone else for pre-election posturing. This was chronicled at length in the inaugural article on this very blog on June 5.

So take that article, entitled “An Embarassing Lack of Imagination,” and replace “marriage amendment” with “Flag Burning Amendment.” For Monday on the Senate floor debate began on a constitutional amendment to reverse the 1989 Supreme Court ruling that flag burning was a protected form of speech. Indeed, eschewing debate on more pressing matters the Senate is taking up debate on an issue no more exigent now than it was a month ago, a year ago, or even seventeen years ago. And lo and behold, today the press is calling out the Republican Congress for it.

Yes, it happens every election. But its poor strategy in the view of the author. What is going on is clear for all to see. Worse still, the proposed flag burning amendment is not a wholly galvanizing issue among the GOP. It disrespects the issue by politicizing it, and its shows yet again an embarassing lack of imagination on the part of the GOP leadership. On the other hand, maybe the Congress are simply trying to rush through all the campaign promises from last election. Ah, procrastination. The author would know nothing about that.

Written by John Riewe

June 27, 2006 at 3:22 am

The Media: A Threat to National Security?

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On Sunday Representative Peter King (R-New York), Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for the executive branch to file criminal charges against media outlets that reported on a secret finance-tracking program used to follow the path of terrorist transactions. He specifically called out the New York Times for its piece on the program. “We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous,” complains King. The program, run by the CIA and overseen by the Treasury Department, has been in place since late 2001.

The finance-tracking program was exposed last week after the successful foiling of a terrorist plot in Florida. And it was all over the papers, the internet, and talk radio. NPR’s Laura Sullivan did a nice interview with an expert who basically said hey, this program works. He suggested that it’s usefulness outweighed concerns about illicit prying to the lives of private citizens, and that maybe, since people get so worked up about it, perhaps it would be better if we just didn’t know about it. In addition to this astounding non-leftist viewpoint heard on NPR, we heard more conventional proponents of the initiative like Treasury Secretary John Snow, who says that “By following the money we’ve been able to locate operatives, we’ve been able to locate their financiers, we’ve been able to chart the terrorist networks and we’ve been able to bring the terrorists to justice.” Makes sense, right?

But, to our immense suprise, the Democrats and other assorted leftists immediatly cryed foul, that we were spying on private citizens, that we are not safe from intrustion by Dubya’s psycho CIA and FBI lackeys, etc, etc. Its a cheap trick of the Dems to capitalise on fear that they create in the American populace. Ah, those paternalistic Dems, the noble advocate of the people in the face of an evil Republican Administration. What is reality? In the name of protecting the people, one by one Democrats try to destroy our initiatives to win a WAR. And the media has been right at their side at every juncture.

Back to the earlier point, that perhaps if using records of transaction and phone calls makes us queasy about invasion of privacy perhaps we should just cover our ears. I don’t like the idea of shutting out things I don’t like. Perhaps we should step further backward and say that maybe the media should stop digging up bones, “exhumin’ things thats better left alone,” to quote Nashville crooner Randy Tavis. We need transparency in our government. But the media is responsible to stay on the other side of a line that has national security behind it. The media in the past was always judicious about reporting. But now they seem to think nothing of reporting on the latest anti-terror initiative. Being a terrorist would appear easy in this arrangement of things. To know how to beat anti-terror initiatives, were I one I would simply watch TV. Its all there. I would know which cities are least prepared for an attack, what they are doing to increase security at high-risk locations, how to avoid having communications tracked, how to avoid having money tracked, where the least defended portion of the border is, and much more.

Do you want the media to expose our anti-terror strategy just to get some mileage out of the old invasion of privacy angle? I don’t. Like most Americans I am not into black helicopter hallucinations; I trust the government just enough to let them push the envelope a little harder to protect my security. The media needs to check itself big time. I think criminal charges are a little questionable. Certainly, Republican leaders are a little hestitant to join King in calling for such action. Its a dicey precedent to be sure. But no less is the prospect of allowing to media to act as the world’s spies and to share national security secrets with not only one enemy, but the entire world. Bottom line, I am a little reluctant to throw the New York Times in jail, but if the media continues to threaten national security just to make a buck, somebody’s got to lay the smack down.

Written by John Riewe

June 26, 2006 at 2:52 am

"I voted for troop withdrawal, before I voted against it"

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Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) has stepped up to the plate to help spearhead the Senate Democrats’ push for a pullout of US troops from Iraq. In typical Kerryesque fashion, however, this initiative is on the verge of collapse due to a failure to pursue only one agenda. That’s right, John Kerry has flip-flopped yet again.

As we know, Sen. Kerry danced not so deftly around the Iraq issue during the 2004 Presidential campaign, an exercise best characterized by his much-maligned “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” gaffe. Since then, he has from time to time agitated for a concrete deadline for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Kerry’s latest gem was begun last week when he promised to push to pull out of Iraq by December 31 of this year. Last Monday (June 12), Kerry on his website announced his intent to introduce an amendment to that effect. But alas, as Monday’s session came to a close, the Senator from Massachusetts had not yet moved to have his amendment considered. Not to worry, however, as the Senate Republicans took it upon themselves to sponsor it. It promptly went down in flames to the tune of a 93-6 vote.

So having lost his stomach for a December 31 ultimatum, Kerry is this week touting his new amendment, this time joined unsurprisingly by Senators Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold. This one appears to settle for a less-ambitious July 1, 2007 withdrawal date (its proximity to July 4 making a resolution to cancel Independence Day festivities in favor a of a national day of shame seem pertinent). To Kerry, Feingold, and Boxer, it obviously makes sense to fight fire with, well, nothing. “The goal of the Kerry-Feingold plan is to undermine the insurgency by…the redeployment of American forces,” according to the press release.

So how will this work out or Kerry? The more important question is how this will work out for the Democrats. “Top Democratic aides said they expect that idea will crash under the same bipartisan opposition” as the June 12 amendment, according to FOXNews.com. It is yet another example of how in spite of the manifold political opportunities afforded the Dems by a fumbling GOP, the Dean team still suffers the same lack of a singular voice that has spelled their defeat time and again for the past several years.

And as for John Kerry, it looks he is only further cementing his dubious image so well earned in 2004.

Written by John Riewe

June 22, 2006 at 3:30 am

Cut and Run

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Monday Senate Democrats proposed an amendment to phase US troops out of Iraq beginning by the end of this year and calling for the White House to provide a plan for continued redeployment past 2006. However Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) says this is “not a timetable.” Looking into the details of the proposal, it appears that it does in fact go so far as to limit the troops left in Iraq after the pullout begins to training and support for Iraqi forces.

Sounds to me like cut and run without concrete dates. It really boils down to the Democrats pandering to poll numbers and appealing to those who think we’re losing thousands of Americans daily. To hear men who have served in Iraq talk, they are dumbstruck by the perception of the war created in the media. “Its nothing like that,” I heard one say. Recent breakthoughs in Iraq make for an optimistic outlook there; so it would be a shame to follow the Dems’ plan and admit defeat and pullout now. Its shameful that the Dems would play such politics with something as grave as the war in Iraq. Its shameful that they are willing to tell the world “well, we were wrong, and we lost as we deserved to,” especially when we have a legitimiate stake in Iraq’s future. Its further shameful that they are willing to disrespect the hard-fought gains of the coalition troops in Iraq, and the sacrifices made by 2500 US troops, by saying in effect, “it wasn’t worth it.”

Written by John Riewe

June 20, 2006 at 11:44 am