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Imagine a World Without Saudi Arabia — It’s Easy If You Try

In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall thinks the unthinkable — and it’s about time:

It would be far-fetched to describe the US and Britain’s long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia as a love affair, although elements of romance, blind infatuation and lustful mutual gratification have never been entirely absent. But what has become painfully clear from the furious row over the sycophantic official reaction in Washington and London to the death, this month, of King Abdullah is how much the relationship has changed, at least on the west’s side of the bed…

Intent on offering his condolences and meeting Abdullah’s successor in person, Obama led an exceptionally high-powered delegation to Riyadh that included former secretaries of state, past presidential candidates and senior military commanders. Similarly subservient, Britain had already sent David Cameron and Prince Charles.

Yet when asked to justify this level of attention and, for example, the flying of flags at half-mast on government buildings, Downing Street was hard put to explain its stance. Saudi Arabia was an important ally and economic partner came the muttered reply from No 10, and others. To act otherwise would have been “aggressive” and impolite. A legion of critics vociferously disagreed.

This kneejerk diplomatic kowtowing, embedded in the thinking of a cold war, 1980s world that no longer exists, looks increasingly anachronistic and warrants close scrutiny. All the main policy planks underpinning the Saudi relationship are, more or less, under challenge.

Tisdall goes on to list them, including a shift in the balance of global oil-producing power (thanks, fracking! thanks, North Dakota!), which is breaking the sheikdom’s stranglehold on oil prices, but also its self-protective, two-faced role in the “War on Terror” (if Bush had called it by its proper name, a war on radical Wahhabist Islam, the Saudis wouldn’t have been able to get away with their tiresome act), and of course their despicable repression of women, public beheadings, etc.

The relationship with the west has survived several wars between Israelis and Arabs, in Afghanistan and in Iraq (twice); the chilling predominance of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks and the rise of al-Qaida; serious bribery and corruption scandals and diplomatic rifts; recurring oil crises; deepening concern over Saudi funding for extremist religious teaching and its links to terrorism; escalating rows about egregious human rights abuses and the repression of women, and most recently, the Syrian calamity and the ascendancy of the black-shirted head-cutters of Islamic State.

But it has survived at what cost? For many in Britain and the US (which, post-1945, gradually assumed Britain’s geostrategic role in the Arabian peninsula, as elsewhere), the rationale binding western interests so closely to the Saudi state is no longer obvious, persuasive, welcome or easily justified.

You can say that again. Given its structural weaknesses, the sheikdom’s future under its new hereditary fraternal “monarch” looks very dubious.

Writing days before Abdullah’s death, the American author Stephen Kinzer warned that the basis of the west’s relationship with the Saudi regime was shifting in fundamental ways, while Saudi Arabia’s position in a region beset by insurrection and civil war was ever less secure. “The most intriguing candidate for collapse is Saudi Arabia,” Kinzer wrote. “For more than half a century, Saudi leaders manipulated the United States by feeding our oil addiction, lavishing money on politicians, helping to finance American wars, and buying billions of dollars in weaponry from US companies. Now the sand is beginning to shift under their feet. 

“After [King Salman, Abdullah’s successor, departs the scene], a power struggle within the royal family is likely. No one can say how intense or violent it might become, but the prospect of crisis comes at an especially bad time. The region is afire and oil prices are plummeting. It would be foolish to bet that Saudi Arabia will exist in its current form a generation from now.”

“Three generations and out” has long been rule in the United States, whether for Rockefellers or the Gambino crime family; or “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Let’s hope the same is true for the Saudis, although in this case it’s from camels to camels. 

Posted at 4:57 am on January 28th, 2015 by

Obama Administration Cancels Helicopter Sale, Lending Tacit Support to Boko Haram Terrorists

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a lip-service visit to Nigeria on Sunday. The country best known as Ground Zero in the fight against radical Islamists Boko Haram (remember #BringBackOurGirls of 2014?) will be holding elections in February that stand to determine whether the government will continue to be led by a Christian, or if the government will turn into a Muslim regime. If it were up to the Obama administration, the latter would be preferable, at least based off of their latest decision to cut off military aid in the form of much-needed helicopters to Christian forces:

Kerry promised more US support in the fight against Boko Haram if the elections take place peacefully and democratically. However, the United States apparently stopped a planned sale of retired American-made Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Monday.

Haaretz has learned that the Defense Ministry had already made plans for the sale to Nigeria and the transfer of the helicopters – but the United States prevented the sale, due to fears that civilians would be harmed during the use of the helicopters in Nigeria.

The New York Times reported at the end of December that the US had blocked the sale “amid concerns in Washington about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain that type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Haram, and continuing worries about Nigeria’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations.”

Radical Islamists are more than aware of the usefulness of civilians in waging operations against trained armies. The Obama administration’s rather clever excuse regarding civilians isn’t all that clever when one realizes Hamas uses the same argument in press releases involving their latest round of human shields.

But this administration has bigger goals on its plate than saving persecuted Christians in Nigeria. They have plenty of battles in their own self-titled “War on Muslims” to wage, which is most likely why, when speaking to the Nigerian audience on Sunday, Kerry “…referenced his Davos speech in which he said linking Islam to terrorist activities is ‘the biggest error we could make.’”

Posted at 4:25 am on January 28th, 2015 by

Decline of the West, Part Whatever

They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

Charles of Arabia

Charles of Arabia

You know, T. E. Lawrence has an awful lot to answer for. St. John Philby, too. What is it about the Brits and their love affair with dress-up?

Posted at 3:32 am on January 28th, 2015 by

Watch Obama Refer to Himself 118 Times in Three Minutes

President Obama, speaking to an audience of mostly young people celebrating India’s Republic Day in New Delhi on Tuesday, told the crowd, “I realise that the sight of an American president as your chief guest on Republic Day would have once seemed unimaginable.  But my visit reflects the possibilities of a new moment.” He pointed out that he was the first American president to participate in the country’s Republic Day and boasted, “And I’m the first American president to come to your country twice!”

The president went on to refer to himself an astonishing 118 times in the short 33-minute speech, touching on injustices in the United States and in his own personal life.

Obama told the enthusiastic crowd that he and Michelle have been strengthened by their Christian faith. “But there have been times where my faith has been questioned — by people who don’t know me — or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing,” Obama said.

He added that “too often religion has been used to tap into those darker impulses as opposed to the light of God.” He cited as an example the attack three years ago on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The American president, who is suing Catholic nuns to force them to comply with Obamacare’s birth control mandate, told the crowd of Indian young people that “every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Obama also talked about inequality in both India and America, as if the two countries are indistinguishable — as if poverty in the U.S. is in any way comparable to poverty in India.

“Sisters and brothers of India,” Obama said, “we are not perfect countries. And we’ve known tragedy and we’ve known triumph.  We’re home to glittering skyscrapers, but also terrible poverty; and new wealth, but also rising inequality.  We have many challenges in front of us.”

Bloomberg noted that Obama didn’t actually see much of India’s poverty during his trip:

Obama stayed insulated from the poor in a country where three of five people live on less than $2 per day, zipping by pockets of slums where residents used corrugated metal and tarps as building materials.

India accounts for about 60 percent of the world’s residents without toilets, according to a report released in May by the World Health Organization and Unicef. The country’s 50 percent open-defecation rate compares with 23 percent in Pakistan, 3 percent in Bangladesh and 1 percent in China, the report said.

Nevertheless, Obama went on to lecture the poverty-stricken country about the perils of climate change, warning that the seas were rising and the Himalayan glaciers are melting. “Few countries will be more affected by a warmer planet than India,” Obama warned.

In case any of the young people in the crowd were tempted to curb their global emissions just to please Obama, the president noted, “I’ll be gone when the worst effects happen.  It’s your generation and your children that are going to be impacted.  That’s why it’s urgent that we begin this work right now.”

And, of course, no Obama speech is complete until the president has tossed out the race card.

The putative leader of the free world complained, “Even as America has blessed us with extraordinary opportunities, there were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the color of my skin.”

I’m sure the Dalits – traditionally regarded as untouchable and only fit to remove rubbish and human waste in the Indian caste system — can totally relate.

 

Posted at 7:20 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

Laughing at the Death of Little Nell, PC Division

This essay on the evils of Political Correctness by liberal Jonathan “Why I Hate George W. Bush” Chait — has been widely chewed over on the Net today, but I did want to bring it to your attention, if only to…

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… sorry I can’t stop laughing.

Neither can Kevin Williamson at National Review. Or Ace, who has a longish post about it here. But if it’s a dose of good old schadenfreude you’re looking for to drive the blizzard blues away, then look no farther than this primo example of how stupid, nasty, vicious, destructive and evil the Left really is. And how fully they deserve to get what’s coming to them, good and hard.

If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible…

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.

“Undemocratic liberalism”? Perish the thought! It’s a Little Nell moment, so savor it while you can.

 

Posted at 3:02 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

(VIDEO) Gowdy on Benghazi Hearings: ‘We’re Going to Ratchet It Up’

He also says that he would rather have hearings about substance rather than process. One thing is certain, he’s not going to back down just because the Democrats and their media mouthpieces keep saying he should.

Posted at 2:30 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

What If They Gave a Snowstorm and Nobody Came?

Pathetic.

A howling blizzard with wind gusts over 70 mph heaped snow on Boston along with other stretches of lower New England and Long Island on Tuesday but failed to live up to the hype in Philadelphia and New York City, where buses and subways started rolling again in the morning.

Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, apologized on Twitter for the snow totals being cut back. “My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public,” Szatkowski tweeted. “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t. Once again, I’m sorry.”

Meanwhile… a travel ban? In New York and New Jersey… in January? What the hell is this country coming to?

Officials launched a vigorous defense of the blanket travel bans and rail closures, saying it had been prudent to protect lives, protect equipment and get services back to normal more quickly. ”You plan the best you can and you lead toward safety,” Cuomo said, adding that he had no estimates for loss of business. “It may actually have brought us back to full operating capacity sooner but I do not criticize weather forecasters. I learn.”

Coastal Massachusetts got a snootful, but then it always does whenever a nor’easter strikes.

Well, at least both masters and peons will be ready for martial law whenever the next “emergency” arises. Honestly, it makes me ashamed to be an American. And it ought to make you ashamed, too.

 

Posted at 2:27 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

Boehner: House ‘Finalizing a Plan’ to Sue Administration Over Immigration

It’s a start.

House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team is preparing a resolution that could authorize further legal action against the Obama administration over its moves on immigration, he told his colleagues Tuesday morning.

The resolution, which Boehner discussed in a closed Republican meeting Tuesday, could authorize the House to take several different forms of legal action against the administration, but no final course of action has been decided. For example, the resolution could authorize the House to join a lawsuit that states have filed against President Barack Obama over the executive action.

“We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue — one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner said in the meeting.

Honestly, this is a pleasant surprise. For a few years Boehner has been echoing the president about a “need for immigration reform” and he was really only kept in check last year by Mitch McConnell and the prospect of retaking the Senate. The president’s post-election love for executive overreach seems to have been a blessing in disguise, as Boehner seems resolute about battling the tactic.

If the result of the president’s arrogant constitutional end-around plays is a slightly more conservative speaker, here’s hoping the White House remains tone deaf for the next couple of years.

Posted at 12:55 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

California Franchise Tax Board Cleared for Suspicious Package…Full of Dog Droppings

I swear it wasn’t me.

A package opened in the tax-collecting agency’s mailroom in Sacramento on Monday caused an evacuation until firefighters determined the substance was – technically — harmless: dog feces.

The dog waste was inside a leaky container within the package, said Capt. Michelle Eidam of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. Workers called authorities once they saw the liquid had leaked, noticed the odd smell and saw it had no message and no specific addressee. It was sent through standard mail.

Oh, I won’t lie and say I haven’t had the urge to do something along these lines but, hey, the fact that it has to be sent anonymously kind of takes the fun out of it.

I also don’t have a dog right now.

Posted at 12:40 pm on January 27th, 2015 by

White House Pulls Together Big Posse of Lawmakers, Admin Officials to Pay Respects in Riyadh

President Obama summoned a posse of Congress members and administration officials to meet him in Saudi Arabia today to offer condolences on the death of King Abdullah and meet with King Salman.

Some of those lawmakers were pulled away from key hearings to fly to Riyadh, including Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Dem on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a critic of soft Iran policy, who missed a hearing on the status of Iran negotiations.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) missed an Armed Services Committee hearing on national security threats, at which one retired general warned that al-Qaeda has grown fourfold over the past five years. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, was pulled away from a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the matter today.

Other lawmakers brought to the kingdom were Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters today that upon the news of King Abdullah’s death last Thursday, “we went to work to put together a delegation that represented people who had been invested in the Saudi relationship for a long time and had known King Abdullah well.”

“We wanted to make sure that we had bipartisan representation from members of Congress, given the deep congressional interest and relationship with Saudi Arabia, and we also wanted to make sure we had bipartisan representation across different administrations,” Rhodes said. “And, again, we were able to have a number of former administration officials, including Republican administration officials, join us and then people who worked closely on the Saudi relationship. So I think if you look across it, it meets the threshold of being bipartisan, high-level, and individuals who have worked very closely with Saudi Arabia over many years.”

In addition to Rhodes and press secretary Josh Earnest, the current administration officials included in the delegation were Ambassador Joseph W. Westphal, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, White House counselor John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Anita Breckenridge, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling and Advance Chase Cushman, United States Chief of Protocol Peter A. Selfridge, CIA Director John Brennan, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady Melissa Winter, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget Brian Deese, and U.S. Central Command leader General Lloyd J. Austin III.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was sent to Poland for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which was attended by about a dozen heads of state including French President Francois Hollande.

Past administration officials on the Saudi Arabia delegation included former Secretary of State James Baker, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Fran Townsend.

King Salman greeted the Obamas at the airport with a band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The delegation feasted upon appetizers, soup, seafood, lamb, ravioli, veal steaks, stuffed chicken breasts, and five dessert choices at Erga Palace.

Rhodes was asked what Obama would say to the new king about human rights after giving India a lecture on equality and tolerance before flying out of New Delhi.

“What we would say to all of our partners around the world is that we fundamentally believe in a set of values to include equality for women and religious freedom and tolerance. Obviously different countries are in very different places in terms of their embrace of those values. I think what the president would say is that it’s not simply a matter of the United States telling other countries what they should do; it’s frankly a fact that societies are more successful when they respect those types of universal values. And that’s the message he delivered in India,” Rhodes said.

“And then, ultimately, stability in the long run is going to depend on a process of reform in different societies that move in the direction of those values. Again, places don’t change overnight but I think with Saudi Arabia what we’ve said we’d support is a reform process that does provide for greater respect for those types of universal values. King Abdullah took some initial steps in that direction, in terms of more political participation for some people within Saudi Arabia, more access to education for women. But, clearly, much more work needs to be done to realize the types of values that the president was talking about in India, and that will be a consistent part of our dialogue with all countries around the world.”

 

Posted at 11:38 am on January 27th, 2015 by

(WARNING: GRAPHIC) Facebook Jihad: Belgium ISIS Cell Shared Victim Photos, War Stories

Just posted by MEMRI (subscription required, shared with permission): an ISIS cell was raided in Belgium in the days following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Two of the three jihadists were killed, and a third is believed to be at large. All had previously been to Iraq and fought for ISIS.

In a report on how ISIS members use social media for recruitment and communication, MEMRI has published multiple clips and stills of the jihadis posting photos of their activities on the front lines — including graphic photos of their dead victims. The full report is here, below are some clips and photos:

Jadaoun (27) was of Moroccan origin. Before leaving for Syria, he posted on Facebook regularly, first under the alias Abu Abbas Al-Belgiki and later under the alias Abou Hamza Belgiki; his accounts were frequently shut down. His publicly shared content consisted mainly of quotes from Islamic texts, anasheed (religious songs), reflections on the situation and suffering of Muslims around the world such as the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and his own personal musings and photos of himself with friends and family. He signed some of his messages “The Lion” and shared images of lions; the lion is a common motif among jihadis, symbolizing the mujahideen and their courage.

a

3(90)

b

On August 4, he posted a photo he took of a front line position at night, stating: “May Allah protect the brothers in combat. Pray for the mujahideen, it is the least of faith you can show. Pray so we march onto Palestine and free them with the help of Allah…”

d

On September 21 he shared a photo of a body and boasted: “My first victim, by Allah’s grace.” When asked by friends to elaborate, he wrote: “Ha-ha it’s a beautiful story. I got so close, around 10 meters away – that I talked to him. It was night time. There was an olive grove in front of his position, I passed through it. I was afraid I might shoot a brother [a fellow jihad fighter]. I asked ‘who are you brother,’ he asked me as well. We had a code between brothers and I stressed out and said to him ‘dawla islamiya’ [Islamic State], so he started shooting at me, the dog. I saw where he was shooting from, I swear he was very well tucked in a prone position. I shot a volley. There were three or four of them, the rest fled. I swear to God, Allah helped us a lot to conquer this village, and all villages, but I have only been in two [of these assaults]. At night he was on his stomach and in the morning I found him like this.”

e

 

Posted at 8:59 am on January 27th, 2015 by

General Tells Senators al-Qaeda Has ‘Grown Fourfold in Last Five Years’

The former vice chief of staff of the Army warned the Senate Armed Services Committee today that al-Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years.”

“AQ and its affiliates exceeds Iran in beginning to dominate multiple countries,” retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane testified.

Using a term that the Obama administration now eschews, Keane called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation.”

“Radical Islam, as I’m defining it for today’s discussion, consists of three distinct movements who share a radical fundamentalist ideology, use jihad or terror to achieve objectives that compete with each other for influence and power,” he said.

“In 1980, Iran declared the United States as a strategic enemy and its goal is to drive the United States out of the region, achieve regional hegemony, and destroy the state of Israel. It uses proxies, primarily as the world’s number one state sponsoring terrorism. Thirty plus years Iran has used these proxies to attack the United States. To date, the result is U.S. troops left Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, while Iran has direct influence and some control over Beirut, Lebanon, Gaza, Damascus, Syria, Baghdad, Iraq, and now Sana’a, Yemen,” the general continued.

“Is there any doubt that Iran is on the march and is systematically moving toward their regional hegemonic objective? Iran has been on a 20-year journey to acquire nuclear weapons, simply because they know it guarantees preservation of the regime and makes them, along with their partners, the dominant power in the region, thereby capable of expanding their control and influence. Add to this their ballistic missile delivery system and Iran is not only a threat to the region, but to Europe, as well. And as they increase missile range, eventually a threat to the United States. And as we know, a nuclear arms race, because of their nuclear ambition, is on the horizon for the Middle East.”

Keane detailed the growth of al-Qaeda in its quest to “eventually achieve world domination.”

“Third, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS reemerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012, and began seizing towns and villages from the Syria-Iraq border all the way to the western Syria from Aleppo to Damascus,” he reminded the committee.

That leads to an “unmistakable” conclusion that “our policies have failed,” Keane added.

“And the unequivocal explanation is U.S. policy has focused on disengaging from the Middle East, while our stated policy is pivoting to the east,” he said. “U.S. policymakers choose to ignore the very harsh realities of the rise of radical Islam. In my view, we became paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequences in the Middle East after fighting two wars. Moreover, as we sit here this morning, in the face of radical Islam, U.S. policymakers refuse to accurately name the movement as radical Islam. We further choose not to define it, nor explain its ideology, and most critical, we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it or defeat it.”

Posted at 8:37 am on January 27th, 2015 by

Report: Bergdahl to be Charged with Desertion

No official confirmation yet from either the White House or the Defense Department, but NBC News is quoting senior Defense officials as saying Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion within a week:

According to the officials, the desertion charges would be based on allegations that Bergdahl abandoned his remote outpost in June 2009 to avoid hazardous duty or important service, which are grounds for charges of desertion under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, (UCMJ). According to one senior official, Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan go well beyond the lesser offense of AWOL, absent without leave, because he allegedly abandoned his post “in the middle of a combat zone, potentially putting the lives of his fellows soldiers at risk.”

The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahls was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan. He was released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.

While a court martial could lead to imprisonment, defense and military officials tell NBC News it is likely Bergdahl would be given consideration for the 5 years he spent in captivity and be permitted to leave the Army with a “less than honorable discharge.” If accepted, Bergdahl would be denied as much as $300 thousand in back pay and bonuses, and reduced in rank to at least Private First Class, the rank he held when he disappeared from his outpost in Afghanistan.

More than half a year after his Memorial Day release in a swap with the Taliban, the Defense Department referred Bergdahl’s case to a General Courts Martial Convening Authority just before Christmas.

Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command, “will determine appropriate action – which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial,” the Pentagon said in a brief statement then, adding that “a thorough investigation and a comprehensive legal review” had been conducted.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said the five Taliban traded for Bergdahl’s release “are in Qatar but they are scheduled to go back to Afghanistan.”

“And that’s the real worry that some many of us have had,” Ayotte told Fox. “The issue really is that what’s the price being put on American lives, number one, we now are going to have a pattern where people are being asked to be traded — you have ISIS also saying for certain individuals, we want terrorists released in exchange for some of the prisoners we have. And so it gets us down this slippery slope and Qatar, of course, in the middle of this, Qatar is where the Taliban Five were transferred to and where from there they will be returning to Afghanistan.”

UPDATE: A Forces Command spokesman tells Army Times that no decision has been made, despite reports from NBC and Fox. Bergdahl’s attorney refused to comment.

Posted at 7:45 am on January 27th, 2015 by

WATCH LIVE: 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

YouTube Preview Image

Currently being broadcast live from Poland.

Posted at 7:12 am on January 27th, 2015 by

‘Yeti’ Wanders Boston Streets During Snow Storm

A person wearing an abominable snowman costume was spotted wandering the streets of Boston in the middle of last night’s massive snow storm.

Below, the Yeti tries to hail a cab.

BostonYeti3

The Boston Yeti debuted mysteriously on Twitter at about 10 p.m. Monday and wandered the deserted streets of Somerville, a Boston suburb, around midnight, after a travel ban went into effect.

BostonYeti1

The Boston Yeti told ABC News “it was raised and educated by the woods.” The “Yeti’s” identity has not been revealed.

Boston Yeti2

 

 

Posted at 7:08 am on January 27th, 2015 by

Trump: Romney Should be Out of 2016 Because He Couldn’t ‘Close the Deal’ in 2014

Donald Trump, who is “very, very seriously considering” a run for the White House in 2016, said 2014 candidate Mitt Romney has no business in the crop of contenders because “he was not able to close the deal.”

“He should have been able to. We had a president that was doing terribly, as bad as you are going to do, and he should have won,” Trump told Fox. “And many Republicans would have won. And he was not able to close the deal. And certainly, the Republicans cannot be so stupid as to give him a second crack because honestly he choked. He wasn’t able to get it done. He should have been able to get it done. There is no excuse for it. And you cannot give that person a second chance, unfortunately.”

He called Jeb Bush’s surname “a huge negative.”

“The Bush name is not exactly hot right now. I think it’s a very, very big negative. He is very weak on immigration. He is for Common Core, which, for is a Republican, I can tell, it is not a positive thing. I think he wouldn’t get elected. I don’t think he would beat Hillary or whoever it may be,” he said.

Trump says that he “could make America great again.”

“I was doing well last anytime. I could have done something. In a way, I have a regret. I did what I had to do when I backed Mitt and Mitt let us down and that was very unfortunate,” he said, adding that he would be “willing” to walk away from his TV show, The Apprentice, because “the country is far more important.”

“And I can do things that other people can’t do. I can do things that the other Republicans candidate and, frankly, the Democratic candidates can’t do. One of the things we have to do is stop with this tremendous flow of people just walking right into the country. We don’t know who they are, where they come from. They just walk right across our southern border. And who builds a better wall than Donald Trump? I build the best buildings.”

Posted at 7:01 am on January 27th, 2015 by

Treasury Secretary Sent to Auschwitz Memorial as Obama Flies to Riyadh

Survivors and world leaders are marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz today, but President Obama is not among them.

Obama wrapped up his India trip before flying to Riyadh to meet and dine with King Salman.

Vice President Biden is in Kentucky for the funeral of former Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.).

“On the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the American people pay tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. We also honor those who survived the Shoah, while recognizing the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since,” Obama said in a statement released this morning by the White House.

“Honoring the victims and survivors begins with our renewed recognition of the value and dignity of each person. It demands from us the courage to protect the persecuted and speak out against bigotry and hatred,” he continued. “The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a painful reminder of our obligation to condemn and combat rising anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust.”

Obama called the anniversary “an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made confronting this terrible chapter in human history and on our continuing efforts to end genocide.”

“I have sent a presidential delegation to join Polish President Komorowski, the Polish people, official delegations from scores of nations, and many survivors, at today’s official commemoration in Poland,” he said.

That delegation was led by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and included State Department officials and two Holocaust survivors.

“As a founding member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the United States joins the Alliance’s thirty other member nations and partners in reiterating its solemn responsibility to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration,” Obama continued. “We commemorate all of the victims of the Holocaust, pledging never to forget, and recalling the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz Primo Levi, ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . . It can happen anywhere.’ Today we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.”

Among those at Auschwitz today was director Steven Spielberg, who told CNN that he was “appalled” that on his first tour of the death camp the guide “never mentioned the word Jew… just said that ‘many innocent people had been killed here.’”

Spielberg, who has been documenting the histories of Auschwitz survivors, said at the ceremonies, “If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom in free expression, you know that like many other groups, we are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance.”

He noted “Facebook pages identifying Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack and the growing efforts to banish Jews from Europe.”

French President Francois Hollande and German Prime Minister Joachim Gauck are among about a dozen heads of state at Auschwitz today. Britain sent Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, according to the Daily Mail. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his chief of staff.

Posted at 6:52 am on January 27th, 2015 by

California Wants to Ban Public Use of E-Cigs

A new bill introduced in California on Monday would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and also tighten up restrictions on selling e-cigs to minors.

Electronic cigarettes are gaining in popularity but the health risks associated with them have yet to be determined. It sounds like a perfect time for the state to step in and start crushing some freedoms.

“Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it’s nicotine addiction and it kills,” nanny-stater Democratic state Senator Mark Leno, who introduced the bill, said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use just like we did from traditional tobacco use.”

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The bill is looking to regulate e-cigs and add them to the list of tobacco products controlled by the state. This would include banning the use of e-cigs in public places the way cigarettes and other tobacco products are.

The bill was criticized by the American Vaping Association, which said it punished people who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes.

“California smokers deserve truthful information about smoke-free alternatives, not hype and conjecture designed to scare them away from attempting to quit with these innovative technology products,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said in a press release.

On the other side of things, nanny-stater Leno’s bill is backed “by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, said the vapor released by the e-cigarettes contains carcinogens, and the nicotine in them is addictive.”

 

 

Posted at 6:31 am on January 27th, 2015 by

Sundance Film Claims FBI Entraps Innocent Muslims

Any of my regular readers here at PJ Media can attest, I am no fan of the FBI’s counter-terrorism programs. Recently, I’ve been writing about the FBI’s failures to catch “Known Wolf” terrorists – individuals who were already known to law enforcement prior to their acts of terror. So no one can accuse me of being an apologist for the bureau.

But an article yesterday in The Guardian entitled “Counter-terrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it’s creating more of it” by two individuals currently promoting the screening of their film (T)ERROR at the Sundance International Film Festival falsely claims the FBI is engaged in a deliberate effort to entrap innocent American Muslims.

Here’s the case they make:

While making our film (T)ERROR, which tracks a single counter-terrorism sting operation over seven months, we realized that most people have serious misconceptions about FBI counter-terrorism efforts. They assume that informants infiltrate terrorist networks and then provide the FBI with information about those networks in order to stop terrorist plots from being carried out. That’s not true in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases.

Since 9/11, as Human Rights Watch and others have documented, the FBI has routinely used paid informants not to capture existing terrorists, but to cultivate them. Through elaborate sting operations, informants are directed to spend months – sometimes years – building relationships with targets, stoking their anger and offering ideas and incentives that encourage them to engage in terrorist activity. And the moment a target takes a decisive step forward, crossing the line from aspirational to operational, the FBI swoops in to arrest him.

So they accuse the FBI of setting suspects up and then arresting them — entrapment. This “entrapment” claim is commonly repeated by defense attorneys and self-styled “civil rights” groups. In fact, that’s what the authors of The Guardian article explicitly say:

The cumulative effects of FBI surveillance and entrapment in communities of color have been devastating.

I’ll leave aside their “communities of color” smear, but there is one glaring problem with their entrapment claim: in no single jihadist-related terrorism trial since the 9/11 attacks has a federal court on ANY LEVEL found that the FBI engaged in entrapment. Many suspects have made the claim, but none have successfully argued it. In only one case I remember, that of Ahmadullah Niazi, did the Justice Department voluntarily drop an indictment because of the reliability of an informant.

Those who peddle these FBI entrapment claims have been found to regularly play fast and loose with data, such as describing terror conspirators who turn state’s evidence against their partners and are sentenced to jail for their roles in terror plots as “informants.”

Another tactic taken is to equate the involvement of an informant as a de facto case of entrapment, as do the authors of The Guardian article. They cite the arrest earlier this month of a Cincinnati-area man:

A recent example: on 14 January, the FBI announced that it had interrupted an Isis-inspired terrorist plot in the United States. Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old recent Muslim convert from Cincinnati, was allegedly plotting to attack the US Capitol with pipe bombs and gun down government officials.

But then they make a colossal leap with this non sequitur:

Cornell was arrested after purchasing two semiautomatic weapons from an Ohio gun store because the man that Cornell thought was his partner was actually an FBI informant.

So the reason he bought the weapons was because there was an informant? In the information made available so far, there’s no indication that’s the case. If the record of every single jihad-related terror case since 9/11 is any guide, it’s unlikely their claim will stand. One reason why these terrorism cases have universally withstood scrutiny by the federal courts are the extensive measures taken by the FBI to prevent entrapment.

As an example of how far the FBI will go to prevent someone from turning to terror, consider the case of 19-year-old Colorado woman Shannon Conley, who was sentenced last week to four years in prison. As the court record shows, the FBI repeatedly warned Conley over a period of months not to attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIS and even talked to her parents asking them to intervene. And yet she persisted in her plans and was arrested trying to board a plane bound for Turkey. Now her parents are saying “the terrorists have won” after her sentencing, blaming the federal government for prosecuting their daughter.

If anything, this administration has bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns that they are unfairly targeting Muslims, such as special rules for dealing with the Muslim community and conducting a wide-spread purge of counter-terrorism training materials at the request of Muslim organizations. Curiously, none of this is mentioned in The Guardian article.

Attorney General Eric Holder, hardly a right-wing neo-con “Islamophobe,” has directly challenged the claims that the FBI uses entrapment targeting the Muslim community, telling one Muslim legal group:

Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight or do not have a full understanding of the law.

And yet The Guardian regurgitates a number of howlers, such as this:

And on campuses across the country, Muslim student associations have banned discussions of politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.”

But Muslim Student Associations (MSA) have had no trouble at all discussing politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.” In fact, you can’t shut them up from talking about it. One topic you won’t hear addressed at MSA meetings, however, is the long litany of senior MSA leaders who have been convicted in terrorism cases.

In the absence of actual evidence, The Guardian authors have to resort to anecdotes, including this one:

After a recent screening of our film at a New York City mosque, a young African-American convert to Islam, sporting a brown full-body covering with matching hijab, confessed to us that she feels uncomfortable discussing aspects of her identity. She does not speak about her religious conversion in public, for fear of attracting or encouraging informants.

Yes, because wearing a brown full-body covering with a matching hijab, no one would ever know she’s a Muslim.

This is how laughably ridiculous those who peddle this false narrative have sunk. Perhaps a review of some of the jihad-related terror cases where FBI informants weren’t involved is warranted:

Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo

UNC-Chapel Hill vehicle jihadist Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar

Seattle Jewish Federation killer Naveed Afzal Haq

Little Rock killer Carlos Bledsoe (aka Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad)

Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Hasan

Would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad

Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Cross-country jihadist spree killer Ali Muhammad Brown

Undoubtedly, if FBI informants had been used in any of these cases to prevent their terror attacks, The Guardian authors, Islamic “civil rights” groups and their ilk would be crying “entrapment.”

Posted at 6:10 am on January 27th, 2015 by

The Government Is Spying on Your Car

Current and former administration officials have confirmed that the Justice Department has been building a massive database to track real-time movement of vehicles in the United States. The secret spy program collects and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter.”

We’re getting pretty close to establishing a department of pre-crime here in America.

Initially, the cover story for the wholesale snooping on citizens’ automobiles was that the government was trying to fight the drug cartels. “What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’’ according to one email reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The database is not just used by the Feds. There is a “wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.”

Now, here we have an interesting juxtaposition between this story, revealing that local law enforcement can track your car in real-time, and the story I wrote about yesterday where law enforcement officials are lobbying the Waze app to disable the feature where citizens are able to track and locate police officers as they drive. This situation is entirely INVERTED. It’s the citizens who need to keep an eye on their government, not the other way around.

The documents disclosing the latest government snoop effort were obtained by the ACLU via a FOIA request. A DOJ flak responded: “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity.”

The Journal describes the database:

The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

Serious stuff.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects.”

The ACLU is not pleased about the program. “Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions,’” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “It’s unconscionable that technology with such far-reaching potential would be deployed in such secrecy. People might disagree about exactly how we should use such powerful surveillance technologies, but it should be democratically decided, it shouldn’t be done in secret.”

Add this to the disclosures that airplanes are mimicking cell phone towers to collect flyers’ cell phone data and collecting metadata from digital communications, and it’s indisputable that we live in a police state now.

 

 

Posted at 5:37 am on January 27th, 2015 by

Guess Who’s Throwing His Hat Into Kentucky’s Gubernatorial Race?

Over the last couple of decades it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of non-traditional office seekers. Kentucky voters can add one more name to that list: Drew Curtis, founder of the snarky aggregate news site Fark.com.

Curtis announced his candidacy – where else – on his blog at Fark.com on Monday. He also announced his wife Heather for lieutenant governor. He promises a completely different paradigm – completely removing the influence of so-called “special interests” from governance.

The 41-year-old Curtis is part the Citizen Candidate movement in which members pledge to make “data-driven” choices without party affiliation, which they argue makes them not beholden to special interest money.

Though political history is full of candidates who tried to win office by playing outside the prescribed rules, Curtis insists he’s unlike many of them.

“I’m not some wealthy person who calls himself an outside candidate,” he told FoxNews.com on Monday.

At his blog, Curtis laments the influence of big money in politics and proposes himself and other independent candidates as the answer.

The only way to fix this is from within.  So I’m taking my shot.  I’m running for Governor because if I get elected, the vicious cycle of influence money in politics grinds to a halt.  Corporations are remarkably predictable – they won’t spend money on politics unless it has a chance of creating a beneficial return. Why would any corporation spend money on legislation in a state where they can’t buy the Governor? The game would be completely disrupted.

So that’s what this is about – trying something new.  And proving that normal people can run for elected office and win.  If one million people can call the FCC and back Net Neutrality, surely I have a chance. The best part is, win or lose, I’m going to help produce the blueprint to allow other people to run for office and win without party support.

In terms of where Curtis stands on issues – well, he’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t really stand on any issues at all.

One thing that people have been asking is where I stand on “the issues”.  I’m still working up a response to that, mainly because I think it’s the wrong question.  Political parties use “the issues” as weapons of mass distraction.  If any of the really difficult political questions were solvable we’d have done it already.  Besides, I’ll be an unaligned Governor with no ability to submit legislation.  And Kentucky’s Legislature is currently split, which I think is a great thing.

I really want people to think in terms of solutions.  For example, someone asked me where I stood on the issue of equal pay for women.  Who would be against that?  However the problem there is what’s the mechanism?  What law could we pass that would solve that problem?  I would much rather people provide me with solutions – preferably ones that have worked in other states.

I don’t have “beliefs” on issues of economics.  I’m more or less agnostic on social issues.  And I’m far more excited about retooling the executive branch to better interface with customers than anything else. The boring stuff is the most important stuff.  It doesn’t grab headlines but it’s the part of being Governor I really want to sink my teeth into.

The only fringe idea I have is that Government could work better.

Curtis talks a good game, but the question that remains to be seen is whether his data-driven, third-way political style will work. Will voters buy his apparent pragmatic approach, or will they find themselves turned off by a candidate with little-to-no stance on issues? It looks like Kentucky may become the first big test of a whole new approach to politics.

Featured image courtesy of Business Lexington

Posted at 5:41 pm on January 26th, 2015 by

Media Busy Letting You Know SUPER SCARY KOCH BROTHERS Will Be Spending Money For 2016

Yeah, so?

Conservative political advocacy groups supported by the billionaire Koch brothers plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 U.S. elections, more than double what they raised in 2012, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The newspaper said the goal was announced to donors at a weekend meeting in Rancho Mirage, California, hosted by Freedom Partners, a business lobby at the center of the Koch brothers’ political operation. The Post cited a person who attended the gathering.

The money will be doled out by a network of 17 organizations funded by industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have become a major force in conservative politics in recent years, and other wealthy donors. The network raised $407 million for the 2012 campaign.

I spent some time scouring the MSM to see if there were any similarly specific stories about how much Tom Steyer or groups funded by George Soros plan on spending during the same election cycle and didn’t find much.

One of the inaccuracies in the constant media wailing is the “organizations funded by” line. Many of those organizations are only partially funded by the Kochs, one with a built-in reduced yearly amount. It doesn’t fit the “They control everything and damn Citizens United!” story that the leftist talking heads like to tell. When Soros only partially funds an organization, his name is never mentioned.

Steyer is pretty much a ghost, even though he throws money around Democrat politics like a Kennedy at an exotic dancer convention.

Posted at 4:53 pm on January 26th, 2015 by

At Miss Universe Pageant, Miss USA Said What as Her Message to Terrorists?

Miss USA, Nia Sanchez, came in second at the Miss Universe Pageant to the lovely Miss Colombia, and you have to wonder if her response to the question from judge Manny Pacquiao — a world class boxer who apparently absorbed a few too many blows to his head — had something to do with her failure to capture the top spot.

In this face-off between Pacquiao and Sanchez, it’s hard to figure out who gets the prize for having fewer working brain cells — the brain-damaged boxer or the empty-headed beauty queen.

Fox News:

Sanchez was asked by boxer Manny Pacquiao what her message to terrorists might be (admittedly a strange question), and Sanchez replied:

“I know as Miss USA I can always spread a message of hope and love and peace, and I would do my very best to spread that message to them and everyone else in the world.”

There must have been an audience full of punchy boxers and air-headed beauty contestants considering all the whooping and hollering they did after that weird and wonderful question and answer.

It is not sexist in the slightest to say that as beautiful as Miss USA truly is, she comes up a little short in intellectual gifts. After all, you can say the exact same thing about Matt Damon, once named by People as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

Actors and beauty queens don’t have to rely on their intellectual prowess to succeed in life. Especially Miss Sanchez, who will make a gazillion dollars modelling clothes, perfume, and, we hope, swim suits.

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As for her answer, spreading peace, love, and goodness even to terrorists is perfectly in keeping with liberal thinking on the terrorism problem. It’s not that these thugs are psychopathic, sadistic murderous cretins; it’s that they’re misunderstood. Give them good schools, Obamacare, and and a pocketful of coin, and they’d be just like you and me.

After all, we wiped out hunger in Africa by singing about it:

And look how peaceful the world got after we bought it a Coke:

All we have to do is “Imagine” a world without problems and it can happen.

The one constant in the universe is that no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary about the goodness in our fellow men, liberals will come up with some treacly, idiotic response that has rational people shaking their head in wonder.

Posted at 4:27 pm on January 26th, 2015 by

Our President Can Walk and Chew (Nicotine) Gum at the Same Time

President Obama was caught on camera chewing gum again. It’s either the president has this “man of the people,” working-class hero thing going, showing us what a regular guy he is (net worth: $12.2 million), or he gets major-league nic fits and can’t wait an hour or two until he can find a little more private space to either light up or chew his Nicorette.

Is Barack Obama a pack-a-day smoker? My expert analysis (I’ve been smoking for 45 years) of the president’s behavior indicates someone who is not “nicotine free” as his spokesman claims. If he was, he wouldn’t need a smoking-cessation aid at this point.

Obama emerged from his car chomping away on the gum. Couldn’t he have grabbed a quick butt in his armored car? That would have carried him over until the parade was over. Of course, he may be smoking on the sly, trying to keep his wife from knowing about his backsliding. But any non-smoker who lives with a smoker knows if their spouse has smoked in the last 24 hours. That smell just doesn’t go away.

So why try to fool the rest of us?

Times of India:

American media in past has commented about Obama’s habit of chewing gum while referring to his medical report, according to which the US president was in excellent health except for a minor problem of “history of smoking”.

But Obama was now “tobacco free” buoyed by the “occasional use” of “nicotine gum”, said a report in Washington Post.

I call bullcrap on that. Anyone who can’t go 2 or 3 hours without a nicotine crutch is still smoking. I guess we wouldn’t expect Obama to pull out a pack of Marlboro’s and light up in the middle of a formal ceremony — especially after he’s told the world he’s an ex-smoker. Besides, the last president to light up at formal gettogethers was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was never photographed without his elegant cigarette holder jammed between his teeth. LBJ smoked like a chimney but was rarely photographed doing so. Kennedy smoked cigarettes in private, but didn’t mind being photographed smoking a good cigar. There were several presidents who quit cigarette smoking before becoming president, including Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush.

So the question isn’t whether or not President Obama should light up in public. No one would approve of that. The question most of us are asking is, it any better to be seen chomping away on gum to assuage the pangs of nicotine withdrawal?

Some in India are asking the same question:

In an ungainly sight, cameras caught US President Brack Obama chewing gum during the Republic Day parade on Monday.

In the picture captured by cameras and posted on Twitter by some users, Obama was spotted removing his chewing gum while PM Modi was seen trying to explain something to the US president.

However, this is not the first time that Obama has been spotted chewing gum during an important function. Though there was a lot of commentary on social media on his chewing gum at a formal ceremony.

Comments on Twitter included remarks by author Shobhaa De, who said, “Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn’t gutka. But seriously – gum during a formal parade?”.

“Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?,” was how noted film-maker Shekhar Kapur reacted.

I sympathize with the president. Long airplane flights can be agony for me, so I feel his pain. But really, this is the president of the United States. He’s supposed to be better than the rest of us. It is a mystery to me why he can’t forgo the nicotine gum for a few hours while representing the majesty and dignity of his office, as well as the people of the U.S.

Otherwise, he demeans the presidency and makes the rest of us look like a bunch of ill-mannered louts.

Posted at 2:28 pm on January 26th, 2015 by

Well, Surprise Surprise!

Turns out Moscow really was behind the 2006 polonium poisoning of dissident FSB (the successor to the KGB) agent Alexander Litvinenko in London:

NSA-intercepted communications have proven what many have long suspected about one of the most intriguing cases of murder and espionage in recent times. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the Russian government was behind the 2006 poisoning of spy-turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained electronic communications between key individuals in London and Moscow from the time that the former spy was poisoned with radioactive material in central London. The evidence was passed to the British authorities. A source familiar with the investigation confirmed the existence of American “intelligence material”. They said it would have been “inadmissible” in court, but that the British authorities were “confident that this was a state execution”.

We knew that all along, but it’s nice to have the NSA spying on the Russians for a change, instead of American citizens:

American spies secretly intercepted communications between those involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and provided the key evidence that he was killed in a Russian-backed “state execution”, The Telegraph can disclose.

The disclosure comes ahead of the start of the public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death in 2006, which will see hearings, many of which will be held in secret, carried out over a nine-week period in the High Court from Tuesday…. The disclosure of the material is likely to be put pressure on the British government’s relationship with the Kremlin and will renew calls for the UK to toughen its stance.

Let’s see: the KGB is back. The Soviets are back. The Musselmen are back. Formerly eradicated diseases are back. And all during the Obama administration! I wonder if Francis Fukuyama wants to revist his “End of History” theory now.

 

Posted at 2:18 pm on January 26th, 2015 by