Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Bye for Now.

The political game is clearly one of the more disgusting activities of humankind and it inevitably succeeds in tarnishing all who engage in it.  I am stepping back for a while to think about why we humans are so flawed and are so consistent in our stupidity.

Benghazi Revisited

We have a lot of things on our plate these days.  The so-called fiscal cliff is the public's biggest concern right now, but Benghazi is still an unfinished piece of business and I fear that we are losing our focus on what is important about it.  A lot of time and effort is currently spinning around Susan Rice and her talking points.  Because she is apparently in the running for the job of Secretary of State that is a relevant issue, but it is not the critical issue by any means.  There is also some left wing media criticism of Fox and a couple of senators for having dared to talk about Benghazi during the run-up to Obama's re-election.  That too is interesting, but not very important in the scheme of things.  The important subjects are what happened in Benghazi, why it happened, and who made it happen.  Here is a brief refresher on the events:

The security situation in Libya, and specifically in Benghazi, was deteriorating in the months leading up to the 9/11/12 attack.

Some 230 different security incidents took place in Libya during the year preceding the attack and about 40% of those incidents were in Benghazi.

Al Qaeda was making a very concerted effort to establish control of the Libyan revolution and Al Qaeda flags openly flew over several government buildings in Benghazi.

The consulate was attacked twice prior to the 9/11/12 attack.  One of those attacks blew a hole in the outer wall large enough for a truck to drive through.

On President Obama's direct order, a drone strike in Pakistan killed Aya Yahaya al-Libi.

Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a public statement that called for revenge for the Aya Yahaya al-Libi killing.

Ambassador Stevens wrote in his diary that his name was on an Al Qaeda hit list.  (It is important to note that the man that Obama killed in Pakistan was a notable terrorist leader from Libya.  Chris Stevens, as the personal representative of the President in Libya, was specifically targeted for assassination for this reason.)

The Libyan government informed Ambassador Stevens that it could not provide adequate protection to the Benghazi Consulate.

Ambassador Stevens and his security team repeatedly requested additional security.

At some point in time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the Ambassador's request for a security upgrade in writing.  (It is not clear exactly when she did so and it is an important point that needs clarification if we are to properly understand her own involvement.)

Nothing was done to harden the consulate and no additional security personnel were provided despite the Secretary's written order.  (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs, Charlene Lamb, testified under oath that the reason the security upgrades requested by the ambassador were not implemented was that the President's policy called for the reduction of security and the normalization of our relations with Libya.)

The consulate facilities were not hardened and security personnel in country were actually reduced just prior to 9/11/12.

Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi all day on 9/11/12 and there were no demonstrations.  This was reported to Tripoli and to Washington.

On the evening of 9/11/12, the consulate compound was entered by a large group of armed men.  This was immediately reported to Tripoli by telephone, email, and probably cable as well.  The consulate had live video coverage of the attack.

U.S. military assets all through the region were on high alert, but, according to the Administration, did not have any capabilities that could provide timely assistance to the Consulate if requested.

The Benghazi action continued in two phases for seven or eight hours.  The personnel in the consulate repeatedly requested help.  An unmanned drone was put in place over the battle, but no other assistance of any kind was provided to the people on the ground.  The IR equipped drone provided real time video of the battle to all relevant USG crisis centers.

Four Americans, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty were killed.  We are told that Woods and Doherty died of mortar fire while defending the consulate annex and Smith died of smoke asphyxiation.  We do not yet know how the Ambassador died.  Speculation includes torture.  Other Americans were severely wounded.

During the attack, Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility on Facebook.  Subsequently, a spokesman for that group stated that it had not been the work of the organization, even though they reported to Al Quaeda that their personnel had executed the attack.

After the attack, the president got a good night's sleep before jetting off to a fund raising party in Las Vegas.

We should remember that these four deaths could have been avoided in three ways.  We could have followed the example of Great Britain and the Red Cross and pulled our people out of Benghazi, or we could have provided the Ambassador with the security upgrade that he was requesting, or we could have prepositioned military force in such a way that it could have intervened.  Instead, we left a large number of Americans in Benghazi, ignored all of the intelligence reports, degraded the already inadequate security of the consulate, and refused to come to the aid of our people while they were being killed.

Following the attack, the United States Government launched a massive public affairs effort to paint Benghazi as a demonstration against an obscure video that went awry.  They did this for two reasons.  At home, they did not want to admit that Benghazi ran counter to the President's claim that we had Al Qaeda on the ropes.  Internationally, they were attempting to deflect the wrath of the Arab Street from our policies to the misdeeds of a single person who did not speak for the American government.

Even though many in this country do not see the Ambassador's symbolic significance, the terrorists that murdered our Ambassador and his four colleagues in Benghazi, Libya, do understand it.  Subsequent to the attack on our consulate, the terrorists actually explained it in their announcements to the Arab Street.  President Obama "eliminated" Aya Yahaya al-Libi with a drone strike, so they answered that with the "elimination" of Obama's personal representative in Libya.  The man that Obama killed was a prominent Terrorist leader from Libya, as his name (al-Libi) indicates.  The terrorists that carried out the attack were responding to Al Queda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's call for revenge.  That call was made publicly and was available to the entire world prior to 9/11/12.  Although President Obama might have skipped the intelligence briefing that mentioned it, Ambassador Stevens certainly did not and it was probably one of the reasons that his diary mentioned that he knew that he was targeted for assassination.

We reelected President Obama and sent enough Democrats to the Senate that Harry Reid still controls that body, so now we have Obama as our president for four more years.  I believe that America made a serious mistake when we did that, but now we have to decide what we do about it.  Benghazi is one of the more difficult issues for me to deal with in this regard.  I believe that the four needless deaths were due to the flawed policies of our president and the disgraceful actions that he took personally before and during the attack on our consulate, but he is our president.  Justice for these horrible deaths will obviously never happen and that depresses me no end.  The political question before us, however, is how much of a political price we Americans demand that Barack Obama pay.  There will be important national and international ramifications to any action that we take.  My  head is still arguing with my gut about it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2014 Contract with America

Not very many conservatives have really noticed yet, but the 2014 congressional and gubernatorial electoral campaign got under way on November 7, 2012.  While we conservatives spend our time critiquing Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, David Axelrod already has his political-activist-in-chief out working the hustings.  I am not smart enough to know exactly what is in Axelrod's playbook, but my guess is that the reason that President Obama proposed a budget that would raise spending unrealistically and minimize any action to reduce debt was to make it inevitable that the Republicans would continue to oppose political compromise.

My guess is that Axelrod is taking advantage of the Benghazi tragedy with the same purpose in mind.  The White House continues to obfuscate what really happened in that hellhole for a wide variety of reasons, but several of them are related to 2014.  The President's personal reputation must be protected at all costs in that it is one of his more important strengths among the general electorate.  If the Administration presents Susan Rice to the Senate for the position of Secretary of State that too will, in part, be a component of the 2014 strategy.  Here again, Axelrod expects conservative congressional members to vociferously oppose the President.  There are, of course, numerous other elements in Axelrod's game plan, but hopefully these two - the budget fight and Benghazi - will make my point.  The 2014 struggle has commenced and we are already behind the power curve.

Benghazi is the issue that bothers me the most in my gut, but the immediate, even more important, battleground is the so-called fiscal cliff.  The state of the economy is the issue that is at the heart of the domestic problems that face this country.  This is the issue that must be fought vigorously and effectively.  The vigorous part is easy for all conservatives, but we have had far less success recently with the effective part.  At the same time that we do what is necessary to deal with our shattered economy, we must also gear up to protect and expand our strength in congress and in the state capitals.  Imagine what the second half of Obama's term in office would bring if we lost our majority in the House of Representatives.  Imagine what will happen in states across the nation if we lose governors and state legislatures.  Heck, you don't have to imagine.  Just look at the state where I live - California.  That is the future for the entire country if we don't get effective.

I have posted articles about many of the very difficult things that I believe that we must do in order to begin to be more effective.  They include rigorously eliminating all social and religious issues from our platform so that we can focus all of our efforts on reducing the size of government and improving the health of our economy.  Another is to recruit an effective general to lead our campaign.  Somebody that is the equal of David Axelrod.  Another is to create an effective nationwide organization that works full time to educate the public about the issues that are challenging our nation.  In this article, I would like to add one more point to our To Do List.  We need a new Contract with America that lays out the conservative agenda in clear twenty-first century language that everybody in this country can understand.  Then we need every single Republican to sign that contract.  We have the right ideas, but our vocalization of them is too often confused, befuddled and outright stupid.  In short, although I hate to admit it, we conservatives all need better talking points with a more sharply focused and more disciplined message.

Were conservatives to get our act together right now, we could look at the 2014 election as an opportunity to expand our position in the House and take control of the Senate.  That kind of positive attitude would, all by itself, provide momentum to the grass roots effort that I advocate.  More importantly, it would be the first step toward fiscal sanity for all of America.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It is time for Liberals to Compromise on the Economy

I agree with Newt Gingrich that we conservatives should stop panicking about the "fiscal cliff."  There is no question that our economic situation is grave, but that does not mean that we have to agree to continue those policies that are leading us to economic disaster.  Quite the contrary, this is the essential fight that we must engage in fully.  Of all of the myriad important domestic issues that face this country, I posit that this is the most important.  Lose this one and we don't just lose an election, we lose a decent future for all Americans - liberal and conservative alike.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I advocate compromise.  I have listed numerous places where I believe that we conservatives can compromise.  The economy is a good place for liberals to seriously consider making a few compromises themselves.  It is actually in their own vital interests to do so.  I believe that this is a place where it is important to help the American public understand that it is the private sector that generates wealth.  We don't have to like the fact that greed, inequality, and not a little stupidity is involved in business, but we must understand the very simple real world fact that it is private enterprise, not government, that is the economic engine that gives each one of us our livelihood.  We must understand that the vast majority of the wealth that government spends ultimately comes from the private sector.

At the present time, we are engaged in a multitude of actions which are, in the aggregate, strangling private enterprise and growing government.  Each one of these actions has a constituency that supports that particular regulation, tax, penalty, program or whatever, but the net result of all of these actions is that it is more difficult today to generate the wealth that is necessary to keep the government going than it used to be.  At the same time, we are engaged in a massive effort to grow the size and expense of government.  It is a very simple equation.  We just do not have enough money to pay for all of the things and services that we are buying.  Borrowing to keep the spending going just magnifies the ultimate difficulty of righting the economy.

President Obama is back out on the hustings, campaigning for his budget which continues to spend more than we take in and does not address any of the fundamental issues which are undermining our economy.  He may not be very interested in doing his job in Washington, but he is a darn good campaigner (as we have seen recently).  I suggest that he is once again smarter than we conservatives are.  The real problem is not in Washington.  It is out in main street America.  Too much of the public has been and is being seduced by empty promises of a mythical road to a socialist utopia.  Conservatives are doing an inadequate job of explaining basic economics to our citizenry.  We must continue to do battle in Washington on the immediate issues involved in the fiscal cliff thing, but we have a much more fundamental problem that we had better begin attacking effectively or all of America is going to lose the entire ball game.  The battleground for that contest is in the heartland - not in Washington.

The inherent danger of the road that we are on can be ignored, as we are now doing, but the end of the road can not be avoided.  We have numerous concrete examples in the world all around us of other societies that have gone this route, but Greece is probably the most vivid and immediate.