Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Those,Cold, Dark Iraqi Nights, Predator Strikes, and Presidential Bubbles

David Brooks
Eugene Robinson
Ahmed Rashid
Robert Gates

"But as this sour and unsettled summer ends, the political center looks like the white line running down the middle of a busy street -- a foolish place to stand and an excellent place to get run over." - Eugene Robinson

"Many Afghans I talk to see this as year one. They see the last eight years as time wasted...
You don't woo the whole Taliban movement, but fracture them." - Ahmed Rashid

"The reality is also that al-Qaeda has killed many more Muslims than it has Americans, Europeans and others." - Robert Gates

Those cold, dark Iraqi nights...
It's not easy being a cop. By and large, it's a thankless job where you deal with the bottomdwellers of a society and violence can erupt at any moment. Probably the most dangerous job in the world is being a cop in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In Iraq, the death toll rose in August and does not seem to be letting up: "While Iraq’s police and army have long been targets of insurgents, August was the deadliest month for them since the Americans withdrew combat troops from the cities in late June, with 32 members killed. Since January, 164 Iraqi police officers and army soldiers have been killed.

The strategy of those committing violence in Iraq, never easy to divine, is particularly difficult to gauge when dealing with attacks on police officers in local areas. Insurgents, of course, seek to destabilize the government. But there are also networks and overlays of crime, corruption, political power plays, ethnic rivalries and local factions in competition for control over vital areas."

This week more police were stationed at checkpoints leading into some major cities, trying to prevent the big car and truck bombs getting past them, from the NY times: "Insurgents detonated bombs and threw grenades on Monday at or near six Iraqi police and army checkpoints, in assaults on the most visible deterrents the Iraqi government has to attacks.

After a captured insurgent leader described a truck bomber breezing through several checkpoints on his way to the Finance Ministry last month, the Iraqi government said that vigilance at all the country’s checkpoints would be stepped up. The goal, the officials said, was to stop the killers before they reached population centers and to prevent even more horrific death tolls.

Those same officials acknowledged that Monday’s violence at the checkpoints was also a troubling sign that insurgents remained active and continued to try both to undermine the government’s claims that they are able to provide security and to test for weak spots in the security apparatus." The Iraqi officials consider it a success that the checkpoints have held, and those whose job it is to be sitting ducks work through the darkest nights. Inside the cities thousands of American soldiers still work, helping to train the police and army, and help stabilize governmental infrastructure.

There's a high flying bird, way up in the sky...
The US has launched 36 predator strikes into Pakistan so far this year. The recent ones seem coordinated with air strikes from Pakistan's air force into North Waziristan, where they claimed that two senior al Qaeda leaders were killed.

One predator strike in Afghanistan exploded a couple of fuel trucks that had been stolen by the Taliban, and Afghan officials have said that it killed many civilians. One of the fuel trucks was stuck in the sand when it went off road into a ravine, and the Taliban rousted nearby villagers to dig the truck out. When the predator struck at four am, those unfortunate enough to be around the truck became crispy critters. No blame has been placed on those who forced the civilians to their task, political winds blow ill towards the foreign presence that strikes silently from above.

The man in the bubble....
Beyond the GOP playing nasty and creating as much negativity towards everything that Barack Obama tries to accomplish, is the tendency for the President to become isolated, out of touch with the regular people who were supportive and voted in favor of him. Surrounded by staff who are too busy to also get in touch, it's called being in the bubble, and is the problem for every person in political office. Especially worse for the President, from the Daily Beast is Nicholle Wallace: "You can overcome sinking poll numbers. Negative press comes and goes. But when the public no longer sees you as someone who understands the problems the American people are facing, you’re trapped inside the presidential bubble—and you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
This summer, President Barack Obama became a full-time resident of the bubble. And he’s going to have a hard time climbing out. The plummeting approval numbers are not the crisis pundits and political opponents suggest; polls turn around based on events and legislative triumphs. But falling out of touch with the gritty reality facing a majority of families in this country is like falling out of love. It’s often difficult—if not impossible—to generate the starry-eyed adoration and trust again...Obama's campaign performed brilliantly when it hit bumps in the road. His message of hope and change seemed to lift him above the grimy campaign trail, up to a better place—where the air was cleaner, the breeze was cool, and the media assured us of this bright young star's many virtues.
But the reality of leading a mostly centrist country facing real and urgent problems seems to have thrown the president's team to a perilous place: out of touch with the mainstream of American values and priorities and into the dreaded presidential bubble." Nicholle worked for George Bush and knows about being in the bubble from first-hand experience. What Obama should have done this summer was do the Democratic townhall meetings with every Senator that had one planned. It would have short-circuited the GOP protests and he would have been in dialogue with many people and been able to listen to their fears and objections.

Mark McKinnion on Obama's speech to kids today: "President Obama’s inspirational back-to-school message to students today is getting eviscerated by critics as a conspiracy to indoctrinate the nation's children. When the president can’t tell students to stay in school without causing an uproar, we’ve reached a new low.
Good God almighty, Ernestine, hide the kids and cover their ears, the damn president wants to talk to 'em.
Do we need any more proof that partisanship has entered uncharted territory than the fact that an American president can’t give a simple inspirational speech to students about staying in school and working hard without having his motives, character, and politics questioned?" Instead of taking your kid out of school, how about helping them and making sure they are getting A's in school? The high school dropout rate is over 30%. If parents are ultimately responsible for their children's education, then we are seeing a massive failure. The schools can only provide the tools for learning, it's up to the parent to see that their child takes advantage of them...

late night jokes...

"Next Tuesday -- a lot of people talking about this -- President Obama plans to make a televised speech to the nation's students during school hours. Many Republicans are planning to keep their kids home from school in protest. As a result, those kids have voted Obama 'Best President Ever.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Former President George W. Bush has hired a man to lead his presidential think tank in Dallas. The man was hired because he was the only candidate who could say the words, 'George W. Bush think tank' with a straight face." --Conan O'Brien

"Some Republicans are saying they want Dick Cheney, that's right, Dick Cheney, to run for president in 2012. Of course, you have to remember that when they said this, Cheney was torturing them." --Conan O'Brien

"This is weird. A new book that is coming out claims that Osama bin laden is a huge Whitney Houston fan. Experts say that helps explain why bin Laden's latest video repeatedly calls for 'death to Bobby Brown.'" --Conan O'Brien

"This is interesting. China has started an educational exchange program that's sending 23 high school students to schools in Detroit. Once in Detroit, the students will exchange cultural ideas, social theories and gunfire." --Conan O'Brien

"Hey, you know who's coming to town next month? Have any idea? Dictator of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi. Thank you, travelocity.com." --David Letterman

"I'm glad Muammar Qaddafi will be here because for once I won't be the most hated man in New York City." --David Letterman

"Qaddafi was going to rent -- this is crazy -- Joan Rivers' apartment in Manhattan. But the deal fell through at the last minute. Coincidentally, so did Joan's face." --David Letterman

"Labor day weekend. Remember Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska? She's having a big cookout for all her family, all of her friends up there in Alaska. And people say, 'Is she any good? Can she cook?' Remember last year she cooked John McCain's goose? Remember that? Tremendous!" --David Letterman

"And then next month, Sarah Palin is going to Hong Kong for a speaking engagement in Hong Kong. She says she can almost see Hong Kong from her house." --David Letterman

"Chinese are all very excited, though. They think they're getting Tina Fey." --David Letterman

"But the former governor's getting ready for her trip. She's reading all the Chinese menus she can get her hands on." --David Letterman

"She's going to do her best to promote capitalism while she's in Hong Kong, and then I guess in the end of the trip, she'll be riding around in helicopters, shooting pandas." --David Letterman

"It's a great day for President Barack Obama. He's getting ready for a speech he's giving to schoolchildren tomorrow. And he said he wants the speech to be at third grade level, so he tested it on Joe Biden." --Craig Ferguson

"There's a big brouhaha going on at the Venice Film Festival, because the guests this year include Michael Moore and the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. That was the guy that called George Bush 'El Diablo.' Now, people are saying that the festival shouldn't have invited that crazy America-hating lunatic, or Hugo Chavez." --Craig Ferguson

"Labor Day is Monday. Labor Day, of course, is the day that we set aside to remember when people used to have jobs." --Jimmy Fallon

"Despite the announcement today that the unemployment hit 9.7%, Joe Biden said that the recovery is more than we had hoped. And when asked to clarify, Biden said, 'Well, we had hoped that unemployment would only be about 5%, and now it is 9.7%. So, that's more than we had hoped.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"President Obama will be featured in four health magazines this fall to help promote his healthcare proposal. Obama even wrote an article for one of the magazines. It's called 'Smoke Your Way To Sexy Abs.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Hey, there's a lot of buzz about who is going to replace Diane Sawyer on 'Good Morning America.' Sarah Palin has expressed interest. She said, 'I'd be honored to quit that job.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"I want to say happy Labor Day weekend. I hope you have a job to be off from on Monday." --Jimmy Kimmel

"The economy getting worse. The Department of Labor today announced that unemployment is at a 26-year high of 9.7%, making this the most ironic Labor Day since 1983." --Jimmy Kimmel

"Crazy. There are 15 million unemployed people in America and Michael Vick isn't one of them." --Jimmy Kimmel

"President Obama is asking Americans to drive safely and not consume too much alcohol this Labor Day weekend. Boy, he really is just like Hitler, isn't he?" --Jimmy Kimmel

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