Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's 1st-100-days presser

Quick thoughts as I listen to the 100-day-presser:
1. First question on H1N1 swine flu - praises Bush administration for preparedness following bird flu! Self-identifies as part of a group of Congressmen who worked with Bush admin. for this.
2. "I'd like to get the US government out of the auto business as soon as possible!"  Seems to know what's happening at Chrysler, well-prepared.
3. On torture, recalls an article about ~200 prisoners in Britain during WWII, and Churchill apparently saying "we don't torture."  And did previous administration sanction torture? "Waterboarding was torture and prev. admin.'s reasonings were a mistake."
"Public reports that info was obtained through torture do not answer question whether info could be obtained without torture, and whether torture made us safer.  Will do whatever is needed to keep people safe, but without taking shortcuts that undermine who we are."
4. Chuck Todd wants to move to Pakistan?  No, just a question on Pak nuclear arsenal falling into Taliban hands.  POTUS more concerned about fragility of civilian government not able to deliver basic services.  Should move away from thinking of India as mortal threat, and focus on Taliban/Al-Qaeda militancy (agreed - RS.)  Not going to engage in hypotheticals about securing Pak nukes.
5. Specter!!  (But he just voted NO on budget!  What filibuster-proof majority?! - RS)  Congress is an equal branch of government, will have to compromise with opinionated Senators.  But bipartisanship does not mean accepting same failed principles of past eight years!
6. Abortion: moral+ethical issue. Not just about women's freedom!? Other factors as well, which women have to wrestle with on individual basis, they don't take it lightly, hence pro-choice.
7. Surprised by so many problems coming to head at same time, 7-8 big problems when typical POTUS has 2-3.  Troubled by slow pace of change in DC.  Enchanted!?  Service men and women - not enchanted, but proud and grateful [Would have expected servicemen/women mention for humbled - RS.]  Humbled by... missed it - POTUS has extraordinary power??  Ship of state is an oceanliner/battleship - takes a while to move.  Humbled by patience of American people [AHHH.... the other safe answer! - RS].
8. Immigration reform!  Illegal immigration means exploitation of Mexican workers crossing dangerous border even as they depress US wages.  Need to work with Gutierrez and McCain?  Get people out of the shadows.  Maybe no legislation this year, but process will get started.
9. Black male unemployment rate in NYC is 50%!?  POTUS: Every step we are taking is designed to help *all* people, but those who need most help will get most help? [Does Obama avoid answering in any way that might indicate favoritism toward Blacks?  Recall question from Black woman during primaries, about immigrants stealing jobs from minorities.  Typical White POTUS might have answered differently.]
10. State secrets doctrine criticized by candidate Obama but used by POTUS Obama's Justice.  Why?  Need to finesse that blunt instrument. [Not sure Dahlia Lithwick/Slate would agree... We need Open Government, right? - RS]
11. Like any shareholder, American taxpayers have right to see how money's being spent. If Japs can create hybrids, so can Americans, doggone it! [All too true! - RS]
12. "If I were given humming auto industry/banks, but have to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, NKorea... and a pandemic, I'd take that deal!  I don't want to grow government, I want a lean government!"

Nicely done.  He was well-prepared, and used humor as appropriate.  Not as much follow-up questions, but took about 15 questions.  Yes, I definitely like this as a regular feature - screw Faux News if they don't want to broadcast it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama and the Bush torture memos

This week, the Government released 4 Bush-era "torture" memos - legal advice from the Justice Department lawyers authorizing torture techniques to be used on GWoT detainees.  President Obama apparently suggested a "forget and move on" policy, angering many on the Left.  Dahlia Lithwick, as always, has a great read on this issue.  Lithwick quotes President Obama:
This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence.
Emphasis added by me.  Lithwick also quotes Keith Olbermann:
This country has never 'moved forward with confidence' without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past. In point of fact, every effort to merely draw a line in the sand and declare the past dead has served only to keep the past alive and often to strengthen it.
Lithwick observes that the 3 memos that came out in 2005 "reinstated the torture regime Bradbury's predecessor, Jack Goldsmith, withdrew in 2004 for being "sloppily reasoned" and "legally flawed"" precisely because the earlier torture memo did not result in any penalty.

This take from Lithwick is precisely the reaction I had to President Obama's "forget and move on" suggestion.  The entire premise of law-and-order - penalizing people for crimes they commit - is not just punishment, but also deterrence of future criminal acts.  Not that it stops many criminals, but still.  So is President Obama saying we should not take criminals - of any kind, white collar lawyers, blue collar commoners - to task?  If someone kills 20 people, let's try to put it behind us and move on?

All this fulminating may well come to nought, however.  As Lithwick observes, it may not even be possible to prosecute either the lawyers who gave this bad "torture is legal" advice or the actual people who tortured - because the former did not torture, and the latter were assured by their superiors that what they were doing was legal!  And yet... as Lithwick reiterates: "the real risk of getting over it is the possibility that it happens all over again."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Focus of US troops in Afghanistan

Congressman Polis wrote a post about his recent trip to Afghanistan. He objects to the troop surge, since they apparently are not fighting Al-Qaeda. I am a little puzzled, hence this comment - which I was unable to post on his blog at

You probably have a better idea of what the US troops are expected to do in Afghanistan, but I didn't see that in this post. I thought they were supposed to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and train Afghan troops - not occupy the country like Iraq. A bit hard to occupy Afghanistan with just 70k troops - half the deployment in Iraq, which has a similar population, and dare I say, friendlier terrain.
As an aside, till you get to go back and move freely, I'd recommend a neat Indian movie - Kabul Express. I would be glad to lend you my copy the next time you return to Boulder :-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On local media: The Deuce

Recently, KWGN/Ch2 rebranded itself The Deuce, and moved its programming around.  The local news is at 7.00 PM instead of 9.00 PM earlier (itself a head start on the usual 10.00 PM newshour.)  This meant I was quite confused last Thursday when I switched on the telly and didn't find Smallville - instead, talk about the Cutler saga.  So I was bummed for a while.

Some thoughts off the top of my head:
1. Maybe a 7.00 PM newshour is a good time - so I can watch something else at 7.00 PM and not miss my Ch2 shows.
- Gossip Girl!? vs The Big Bang Theory/How I Met Your Mother?  Still, I watch Two-and-a-Half Men at 8.00 PM - sorry, but CBS wins Monday nights.
- Still, I can come home late from work, before 8.00 PM, and not miss The Reaper or Smallville (though the latter should be pulled... Grow the frak up, Superman!)

2. On the other hand - just watched Daybreak on Deuce, the morning show.  What I liked was its focus on local stuff - where NBC has Today or CBS/ABC have their national morning shows, The Deuce appears to have a purely-local morning hour (maybe I am wrong.)  But I much prefer to hear from Denver Mayor Hickenlooper on the TV - I get my national news online, and much of the national morning shows are blather anyway.

3. If Ch2 wanted to pull me in for the 7.00 PM newshour - I'd like a focus on local issues, maybe coverage of local businesses or even better, the arts scene.  Maybe have one of the many local bands play, along with a brief interview, and tease it via Tweets all day long.  Maybe the 7.00 PM newshour does this anyway, but I don't know about it (hence, the Tweasers!)

Off to work!