The Deaf Claque

Because they’re worth clapping for…probably…

Another Possible Mayor of the United States?

By Theo O’Brien

There is some talk of a possible run for president in 2008 by Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s current mayor and founder of Bloomberg L.P. Earlier in the year, Mr. Bloomberg switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, which drew a great deal of attention from the media. Though he denied any intention to run next year, numerous people that have talked to him insist that he had not stopped considering it, and with his billionaire status he is quite capable of waiting it out, even past the primary elections.

At No. 142 on the Forbes list of the word’s richest people, Bloomberg is worth at least $5.5 billion. He controls a private company that provides real-time financial data to money managers and others around the globe. And he has built a news-gathering organization that employs more than 1,000 reporters.” (1)

The most recent signal that the mayor is moving toward entering the race for the Whitehouse is his reported meetings with a previous United States ambassador to the U.N.

The sessions, which were confirmed by multiple sources, have been conducted with Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a Clinton Administration foreign policy adviser. One source described her as “Bloomberg’s Condi.”

A range of topics have been discussed, from non-proliferation to the defense budget, with a specific focus on the war in Iraq.

These sessions dramatically contradict Bloomberg’s denials that he is planning to run for president. The one aspect of his possible candidacy that is considered missing is foreign policy experience. These strategy sessions with Soderberg seem clearly designed to fortify that weakness.” (1)

Bloomberg, himself, has not admitted publicly to having any plans to run next year but with his vast financial resources he poses an interesting possibility and a plausible threat to the candidates currently leading in the polls.

November 24, 2007 Posted by | 2008 Election, Theo O'Brien | , | Leave a comment

Somalia Is Still Down

By Theo O’Brien

The eastern African country has continued to struggle finding stability after the United Nations’ forces withdrew in 1995. The government’s military—with aid from its ally, Ethiopia—has attempted to suppress a strong insurgency, but is suffering heavy casualties and fierce resistance. The insurgents are suspected to be mostly composed of the former government in Somalia: the Union of Islamic Courts. The Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has asked his citizens to aid the troops countering the insurgency.

‘My government is doing all it can to save lives but people in the neighbourhood must also fight the al-Shabab militants hiding among them,’ President Yusuf told a news conference in Nairobi.” (1)

The conflict has created a large amount of refugees and a huge problem for the humanitarian aid organizations attempting to stave off more civilian casualties.

The worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur, but here, along a 20-mile strip of busted-up asphalt, several top United Nations officials said.

A year ago, the road between the market town of Afgooye and the capital of Mogadishu was just another typical Somali byway, lined with overgrown cactuses and the occasional bullet-riddled building. Now it is a corridor teeming with misery, with 200,000 recently displaced people crammed into swelling camps that are rapidly running out of food.” (2)

Somalia has seemed to receive far less aid and attention than the similarly tragic crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan—though U.N. officials are claiming that Somalis in a worse situation.

Top United Nations officials who specialize in Somalia said the country had higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur, which is often publicized as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis and has taken clear priority in terms of getting peacekeepers and aid money. (2)

The reason for the inattention to Somalia’s on-going disaster is that the country has been in crisis for many years, compared to Darfur’s relatively new tragedy, says Eric Laroche, the head of United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia.

If this were happening in Darfur, there would be a big fuss. But Somalia has been a forgotten emergency for years.” (2)

I am not contending that either crisis is more important—obviously, both are incredibly disturbing situations—but simply attempting to draw awareness to the alarming circumstances facing the Somali people.

November 20, 2007 Posted by | Humanitarian Crisis, Theo O'Brien | , | Leave a comment

Senate Confirms Mukasey

By Theo O’Brien

The senate has moved to confirm Michael Mukasey to the position of attorney general, despite heavy skepticism by Democrats over the issue of waterboarding—the controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

“After daylong negotiations, the Senate opened debate Thursday night on President Bush’s nomination of Mukasey, a retired federal judge, to replace Alberto Gonzales.

To win confirmation, Mukasey has promised to enforce any anti-waterboarding law passed by Congress but his Democratic opponents say he is being disingenuous because any such law would likely be vetoed by President Bush.” (1)

November 10, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Michael Mukasey, Senate, Theo O'Brien | , , | Leave a comment

The Unsettling Situation Under Musharraf

By Theo O’Brien

President Musharraf, reacting to the current crisis in Pakistan, declared the nation to be in a state of emergency and installed martial law, suspending the country’s constitution. The declaration incited mass protests—primarily by lawyers. The use of military force seems to have accomplished the opposite of its purpose by further contributed to the civil unrest it hoped to quiet.

“The move appeared to be an effort by General Musharraf to reassert his fading power in the face of growing opposition from the country’s Supreme Court, civilian political parties and hard-line Islamists. Pakistan’s Supreme Court was expected to rule within days on the legality of General Musharraf’s re-election last month as the country’s president, which opposition groups have said was improper.” (1)

The president seems to be attempting to restore order and reclaim lost power but it may be his ultimate undoing as political opposition could finally grasp the public attention and support necessary to seize power—although this is currently just speculation.

The U.S. and Pakistan

The United States had insisted on free democratic elections and Musharraf’s withdrawal as military chief but President Musharraf instead defied the American pressure by resorting to military rule—though he has said he planned to step down as the military leader. The United States has urged Pakistan’s President Musharraf to restore civilian rule and to make steps toward a democracy.

Press freedoms have been curbed and independent television stations taken off the air.

Bush said Monday he recognized the threat Musharraf faces from extremists, citing past attempts on Musharraf’s life, but said the emergency measures ‘undermine democracy.’

‘We expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform,’ Bush said.” (2)

This recent tension between the two countries signifies a possible end to a close relationship founded primarily on a shared desire by both presidents to quell terrorism. Pakistan was considered a key ally in the United States’ war on terror both geographically—Pakistan borders Afghanistan—and politically—many countries have opposed U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

[In light of this current instability in Pakistan—increasing violent Islamic extremists, a president struggling to maintain dominance, censorship of media and rising political opposition to the current regime—it is important to note that the country is currently a nuclear power.]

November 7, 2007 Posted by | George W. Bush, Nuclear weapons, Pakistan, Theo O'Brien | , | Leave a comment

Bush Defends Mukasey, While Attacking Congress

By Theo O’Brien

 

Click Here for Speech (External Video)

In a speech today (original source) before the Heritage Foundation, President Bush plead for the confirmation of Michael Mukasey while scolding Congress for what he considers a lack of progress and support for the troops deployed overseas.

 

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s recently struggled with Democrats over his definition of torture. In his speech the President rose to the defense of his nominee reasoning that the acceptance of Mukasey as Attorney General is key to America’s safety against terrorism.

 

The job of the attorney general is essential to the security of America. The attorney general is the highest ranking official responsible for our law enforcement community’s efforts to detect and prevent terrorist attacks here at home.” (1)

In response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s continued pressure for a more revealing insight into the legality of the United States’ interrogation techniques by Mr. Mukasey, the President had this to say:

Finally, he does not want any statement of his to give the terrorists a window into which techniques we may use and which ones we may not use. That could help them train their operatives to resist questioning and withhold vital information we need to stop attacks and save lives.” (1)

President Bush recently vocalized his disapproval of Congress, chastising the fact that they have not sent him a War Spending Bill yet. Today, he again called on Congress to allocate the funds necessary to fund the Iraq war.

 

Congress is also stalling on the emergency war supplemental to fund our troops on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. This crucial bill includes funds for bullets and body armor, protection against IEDs and mine-resistant ambush-protective vehicles.” (1)

He also spoke adamantly of the need to pass other bills to support the troops fighting in Iraq currently, and those who have returned.

Congress also needs to pass the Department of Defense spending bill, as well as a funding bill for our nation’s veterans.

There are reports that congressional leaders may be considering combining the funding bills for our military and our veterans together with a bloated labor, health and education spending bill.

It’s hard to imagine a more cynical ploy than holding funding for our troops and our wounded warriors hostage in order to extract $11 billion in wasteful Washington spending.” (1)

This has been the latest of a string of pleas by the President for financial support of the war, highlighted by his recent criticism of Congress as having “the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.” (2)

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Congress, George W. Bush, Iraq War, Theo O'Brien | , , , | Leave a comment

Colbert Denied By Democrats

By Theo O’Brien

Stephen Colbert’s highly publicized attempt to run for Presidency of the United States seems to have come to an abrupt end. The South Carolina Democratic Party decided Thursday that Colbert did not meet the criteria of having a strong chance at winning—possibly because he has only applied to run in South Carolina.

 

One of Colbert’s opponents on the executive council, Charleston Democratic party chairman Waring Howe, defended the decision.

‘Stephen Colbert clearly didn’t qualify under our rules, and it would have been a mistake and wrong to violate our rules,’ he said.” (1)

 

This obstacle in the pundit’s campaign is especially devastating, as he has opted not to run for in the Republican primary citing the $35,000 fee. Maybe revenue from his new book, I Am America (And So Can You!),” will give him the funds he needs to get on the ballot as a Republican.

Additional Commentary by Nathan Schmitt

The [Democratic] party’s executive council met Thursday afternoon in Columbia to decide which candidates met the criteria to be placed on the ballot, and Colbert didn’t make the cut, executive director Joe Werner said.

Colbert has said he will not file for the Republican party ballot because of the $35,000 fee, so the move likely ends his bid to officially run for president in South Carolina.” (1)

This highlights and interesting and probably unintended (by the framers of the constitution, that is) loophole in the democratic system we have developed in the United States. I’m by no means the first to point this out, but I definitely think it’s worth mentioning.

I’ve heard many people say, “The wonderful thing about the U.S. is that anyone can run for President.” This story seems to bring this statement into question. Sure, technically anyone can run as an individual or even through a minor party, but as the current system is set up, can anyone truly believe they have a chance at winning as such a candidate?

That’s not to say that these candidates can’t influence politics; they certainly can in many ways. But, if the two dominant parties filter the candidates in such a way, is it possible to claim and substantiate that anyone can become President? To be fair, the candidates are representative of the respective parties, so it doesn’t seem fair to blame it solely on the parties. But what does this mean about our democratic system as a whole?

November 1, 2007 Posted by | 2008 Election, Nathan Schmitt, Stephen Colbert, Theo O'Brien | , , | 1 Comment

Mukasey Tortured Over Definition

By Theo O’Brien

Former federal judge and Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey has refused to comment on whether he considers a number of techniques to be of a torturous nature. Instead, in his second day of the confirmation hearings, he chose a seemingly safe definition of anything that is unconstitutional, while adamantly refraining from listing waterboarding as a type of torture.

Mukasey, a retired federal judge who has ruled in some of the nation’s highest-profile terror trials, repeatedly avoided discussing the legality of specific interrogation techniques — including forced nudity, mock executions and simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

To comment would be irresponsible ‘when there are people who are using coercive techniques and who are being authorized to use coercive techniques,’ Mukasey said. (1)

Many Democrats publicly opposed his refusal to deem such acts to be unconstitutional and illegal, thus threatening his confirmation as Attorney General. In a possible attempt to regain some popularity in congress, Mukasey seemed to offer a concession on the issue.”

Michael B. Mukasey on Tuesday declared that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques “seem over the line or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me” and promised to review the legality of all such techniques if confirmed.” (2)

For a former federal judge—who relied on the power and impact of words—Mr. Mukasey appears to have a distinct lack of clarity, intentional or not, I cannot say. His inability to elucidate his position is concerning as he is posed to become the definitive legal authority in the United States.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Theo O'Brien, Torture | , , | Leave a comment

The Associated Press Reports Immunity To Blackwater

By Theo O’Brien


By granting Blackwater bodyguards immunity from prosecution, the State Department may have placed a strong deterrent in the federal investigation of the security contractor’s role in a shooting in Iraq that left seventeen Iraqi civilians dead.

The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

‘Once you give immunity, you can’t take it away,’ said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.(1)

An Iraqi probe investigated Blackwater’s role in the deaths of seventeen civilians earlier this month. The conclusion was that Blackwater’s body guards were unprovoked and fired randomly, this prompted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to call for the company’s immediate departure from Iraq. The FBI is currently involved in its own investigation into the matter but it is reported that several of the Blackwater employees have refused to answer a number of questions citing the recently granted immunity.

[In the pursuit of truth, it is worth mentioning that Fox News has challenged the authenticity of the Associated Press story.]

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Blackwater, Theo O'Brien | , | 1 Comment

FEMA Reclaims Its Image?

By Theo O’Brien

The Federal Emergency Management Agency finally received positive attention from the media in a press conference on Tuesday regarding the wildfires in southern California; the only problem is that the independent reporters asking deputy director Harvey E. Johnson questions were actually FEMA employees.

Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s No. 2 official apologized yesterday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions.

I am not sure what the consequences of this clearly unethical act will be but homeland security chief Michael Chertoff was less than subtle about his feelings on the matter:

I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I’ve seen since I’ve been in government.” (1)

John Philbin, one of the FEMA “reporters”, resigned from his position as director of external affairs to take a more fitting job as head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

October 28, 2007 Posted by | General Discourse, Natural Disasters, Theo O'Brien | , , | Leave a comment

Light in an Extremely Dark Tunnel

By Theo O’Brien


Amid The chaos of the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan, victims of the fighting are receiving hope from the most unlikely of places…their own government. The Sudanese government has announced plans to begin a cease-fire in Darfur during its peace negotiations this week. U.N. ambassador to Sudan announced:

“‘On that day … we will declare a cease-fire so that we can give the negotiators a chance to get out with an agreement on cessation of hostilities and cease-fire in the first round of the talks,’ he told The Associated Press in an interview.” (1)

Although it is a tad belated—estimates suggest over 200,000 people have died as a result of the fighting and 2.5 million are now refugees—and an important rebel leader has promised to continue fighting despite the cease-fire, the Sudanese government’s willingness to enter peace talks suggests a possible paradigm shift on their part. This news–along with the UN/AU Hybrid peacekeeping force in the region– provides a stronger source of optimism than those effected have seen since the conflict’s beginning in 2003.

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Darfur, Theo O'Brien | , , , | 1 Comment