Homo politicus

August 3rd, 20:30pm PST:

“NKorean media says Clinton arrives in Pyongyang” (Associated Press)

August 4th, 2009, 1:09 PM EDT:

“Clinton’s Unwise Trip to North Korea” – John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006, for the Washington Post.

August 4th, 2009, 4:07 p.m. EDT:

“North Korean media say leader Kim Jong Il has pardoned two American journalists and ordered their release during the visit of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.” (Associated Press)

* * * UPDATE

In late 1993, evidence of a North Korean clandestine nuclear weapons program came to public. Pyongyang then abruptly announced its intention to become the first nation ever to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, defying its earlier commitments to submit its nuclear activities to full international inspections, unleashing a potentially nuclear crisis. The whole story about the 1994 crisis is told in “Going Critical“, including how former President Jimmy Carter went to North Korea as a “private citizen”. In this book, Bill Clinton gave his view:

“Look, I knew I was going to take some heat for letting Carter go there,” Clinton recalled. “But I also knew I needed to give the North Koreans an escape hatch, some way to climb down without losing face. I figured if they could say to themselves that a former president had come to their country, it would allow them to do that.”



At this point everybody knows it: Arlen Specter, the longest-serving Senator in Pennsylvania history, will switch parties and join the Democrats.

Lots of blog posts are seeing this move as good for the Democrats. But nobody mentions the betrayal of 2,925,080 people who, in 2004, voted for a Republican Specter.


How long will it last?

How long will it last?

Obama has approval ratings around 60%, comparable to the first 90 days of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. But Sean Trende is thinking of Republicans chances in 2010:

All honeymoons end, and with an economy on a shaky foundation, the ending of this honeymoon could prove to be particularly brutal for Democrats. […] As the out-party in a midterm election, with the economy unlikely to recover fully by 2010 and with many Democrats in Republican-leaning districts, Republicans are poised to perform well in 2010.

The LA Times, who in 126 years had never endorsed a Democrat for president until doing it for Obama “without hesitation“, recently seemed disappointed for the bait-and-switch approach used in the stimulus package:

He says he wants to fix the financial crisis, but he’s focusing on selling his long-standing liberal agenda on healthcare, energy and education as the way to do it, even though his proposals have absolutely nothing to do with addressing the housing and toxic-debt problems that are the direct causes of our predicament.

Truth be told, the stimulus package was mostly a creation of House Democrats. But the notion of Obama as a double-talker pushing a partisan agenda while marketing “new politics” is spreading:

Obama thinks he can ignore these blatant inconsistencies. Like many smart people, he believes he can talk his way around problems. Maybe. He’s helped by much of the media, who seem so enthralled with him that they don’t see glaring contradictions. During the campaign, Obama said he would change Washington’s petty partisanship; he also advocated a highly partisan agenda. Both claims could not be true. The media barely noticed; the same obliviousness persists. But Obama still runs a risk: that his overworked rhetoric loses its power and boomerangs on him.

Even Newsweek, who all but eulogized the new Messiah, is reporting some disappointment from the establishment:

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least judging by the latest polls. But, in ways both large and small, what’s left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.

Is the honeymoon ending? Hard to tell. Obama supporters still believe in him, and a common subject is now how the new President inherited all these problems from eight years of right-wing policies. For these die-hard supporters, the honeymoon will last four years. For the remaining people, a tough 2009 and a not-easier 2010 will probably mean some Republican come-back in the House, although still keeping a Democrat majority. And in 2011, when the economy finally fixes itself as it had in the past, Obama will be able to reap the glories.

Jack Ohman, February 13, 2009

Jack Ohman, The Oregonian, February 13, 2009

Go ahead... Make my day...

Go ahead... Make my day...

Only seven states ban openly carrying handguns (this USA Today article forgot about Illinois). Now four of them are considering legislation to drop the ban: Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas would allow people to carry handguns openly in a holster, which is legal in most states.

While Vermont and Alaska allow adults to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and Wisconsin, Illinois and D.C. don’t allow them at all, most states have strict laws governing concealed weapons. But the story is different for open-carry. Historically, concealed weapons were seen as deceiving, while open-carry was honest. People should bear arms openly, according to gun-promoting group OpenCarry.org (“A Right Unexercised is a Right Lost!”). How bizarre.


"We came in sight of Cyprus, and leaving it on our left we sailed on to Syria and landed at Tyre because the ship was to unload its cargo there." (Acts 21:3)

It’s a story that, amazingly, is finding very little coverage.  Yet again, Cyprus is positioned right in the center of the action. But in this case, it’s not a matter of Geography.

A Cypriot-flagged container ship, going from Iran to Syria, is stopped by U.S. in the Red Sea, under suspicion of sending weapons to Gaza. The ship is searched and let go, followed by American officials urging it to be seized for breaching U.N. sanctions since Iran is not allowed to send arms abroad. The ship goes through the Suez Canal and stops at Cyprus, where Cypriot authorities quietly stop it, search it once, search it twice, and, still holding the ship, send a report to U.N..

Admiral Mike Mullen (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said the vessel was stopped in the Red Sea carrying Iranian arms, “including propellant and other casings for artillery and tank rounds, as well as shell casings”. U.S. authorities suspect the shipment was ultimately bound for Gaza, but they were not authorized to seize the weapons or detain the ship. Even the search itself had to be under permission of the captain.

On Friday, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said the ship had violated U.N. resolutions. But on the next day Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said a first inspection of the Monchegorsk was complete. A second inspection took place two days later. A report on the cargo was given the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee. And now Cyprus is awaiting United Nations guidance on whether the ship’s cargo breached sanctions.

Cyprus authorities have been tight-lipped about the ship and its cargo, insisting that disclosing information about a “delicate and sensitive matter” would hamper their handling of the case. Of course they are concerned: with the fourth largest merchant navy in the world, shipping provides for 2% of the island’s GDP. Cyprus is in a tough position of trying to protect their interests and at the same time suffering international pressure about the dealings of its customers. In a sense, reminds of the role Swiss banks played during the Nazi regime.

* * *

Cypriot authorities on Friday 13th began to unload the cargo, after a ruling by the UN sanctions committee that the cargo was in breach of a resolution against Iranian arms exports. There were more than 90 containers on the ship containing raw materials that could be used to manufacture ammunition.

Geithner stays

Geithner stays

Tim Geithner, now Treasury secretary, failed to pay $34,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes throughout three years. He paid the bill, apologized and characterized his incomplete payments as an innocent mistake. At that time, Obama stuck his neck out: “It is an innocent mistake. It is a mistake that’s commonly made for people who are working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He’s paid the penalties.”

Tom Daschle, tapped to lead the Department of Health and Human Services failed to pay about $140,000 in income taxes throughout three years. He filed an amended tax return, sent a check, apologized. Asked if he still stands by Daschle, Obama answered: “Absolutely“.

Daschle goes

Daschle goes

Now we know Geithner stayed, and Daschle withdrew his bid. Explaining Daschle’s withdrawal, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Obama and Daschle “both recognized that you can’t set an example of responsibility but accept a different standard in who serves.” Different standard?!

To NBC’s Brian Williams, Obama said: “I’ve got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”

Yet one was confirmed and the other was shamed out of an appointment…

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