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Libya – Obama’s Warped Concept of War Powers

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There’s a nice news nugget rolling around the web right now to the effect that the President “overruled” two White House Constitutional wonks on what constitutes hostilities involving the United States that require the approval of Congress. The case in question was, of course, Libya, and the specifics were whether the turning of Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli into a parking lot constituted ‘hostilities’.

From Qaddafi’s point of view, there’s no doubt that having his outhouses flattened and army tanks turned into burning hulks clearly constitutes ‘hostilities’. But war these days can be fought from a distance. It doesn’t have to be a two-way street anymore. Apart from the accidental loss of an F-15 during the early stages of the air strikes, we have suffered no battle casualties, and nor, as far as we know, have our allies. We have no boots on the ground, and will not be committing combat troops, which means we’re relying on air-power alone to sink the Libyan dictator. All that makes Obama’s and risible ‘constitutional’ argument somewhat defensible.

The second key factor is the legal foundation of the assault on Qaddafi. It’s a UN humanitarian mission, and definitely not an Article 7 assualt. The reason, of course, that it’s a “humanitarian” mission to bomb the daylights out of Qaddafi’s forces is because that was the only way to get the Chinese and Russian’s to abstain and allow the mission to move forward. The Russians and Chinese got played (which is rare for them). At the time, they had no idea of the extent of the mission, but they could hardly have been seen voting down a humanitarian mission. In other words, “humanitarian” is the cover that enabled the mission to have begun at all. If you remember, the origin of the ‘humanitarian’ mission was to avert a massacre of Benghazi rebels by Qaddafi’s forces massing outside the city. That massacre was predicted, but hadn’t taken place. An interesting approach to humanitarianism is born. From now on we can put the world’s bad guys on notice that if the UN conveniently ‘predicts’ a humanitarian catastrophe it can theoretically go to war to stop it. That would seem to extend the UN’s powers exponentially.

Thirdly, there’s the added cover of the assault being a NATO led mission. Since its creation just after World War Two, NATO has always been a fig leaf that enabled America to bypass the appearance of facing the Soviet Union alone. But the truth is that the power and capabilities of all our allies in NATO combined didn’t come close to that of the United States. NATO without America was not feasible, then, and it’s not feasible and now. In the case of the Libyan assault, the enemy is so weak that once the US had dispatched its air defenses, the feeble and out-dated Air Forces of our allies were more than adequate to the task of pounding the Libyan Army and Qaddafi’s headquarters.

Put all these factors together, and Obama can quite easily make a ‘de facto’ case that the Libyan mission doesn’t constitute hostilities under the War Powers Act. But make no mistake, despite all the talk of the learned constitutional scholar overruling his legal pups in the Oval Office, this debate has zero to do with the constitutional powers of the President, and everything to do with politics. The West wants to expunge its renewed relationship with Qaddafi, including the embarrassing trade agreement that the US recently forged with him.

But there’s a host of problems. What happens if we’re still slugging it out with Qaddafi a year from now, as we approach the Presidential Election? The argument will hold an awful lot less water, especially as the stalemate narrative will have solidified beyond any doubt. Does the US withdraw its forces? Does John Boehner try again to push through the War Powers argument? Certainly, on the ground, it seems clear that as of now, the Rebel forces do not have – without mass army defections – enough firepower, manpower, or operational ability to drive into and hold the capital Tripoli. The allied effort is driven by the thesis that Middle East dictators have total control until the day it rapidly falls apart. This may yet stand up, but the deeply tribal basis of Libyan culture and political life would tend to work against it. However, in the long term, Qaddafi will fall. The question is only whether NATO will have to call off the dogs for other domestic reasons.

More likely is another set of issues. What happens when Qaddafi falls, and despite all the moderate talk of the “Transitional Council” the bloodletting by anti-Qaddafi tribes begins? What happens when the cobbled-together “democracy” they try to create collapses? What happens when Islamists try to gain control? What happens if the refugee crisis Europe is hoping to avert – doesn’t get averted. What if we just get a different set of refugees?

In short, for all the President’s attempt to turn this into a professorial legal issue. It isn’t. It’s nasty, dirty, political and practical.

Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule could yet apply. We’ll own the Libya we inherit.

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Written by coolrebel

June 18, 2011 at 2:06 am

Basking in Bin Laden’s Death Was a Big Mistake For Obama

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that making the killing of the Jihadist Porn King public was a big mistake. Thereisnoplan has been saying this since the attack, generating much mirth amongst friends and associates. But I stand by the notion. Obama screwed up.

If you remember, on the big night back in May, Obama made an unscheduled late night White House appearance to give us all the good news and earn a nice little approval bump in the process. Great theater. Great Politics. Sure, that poll bump has gone, but at least now nobody can accuse the President of not being decisive. He rolled the dice on the killing of UBL and won.

Unfortunately, basking in the glow of the biggest targeted assassination in history has one major strategic downside; as a result, the wheels are definitely coming off the crucial relationship with Pakistan. It needn’t have been so.

Obama was right to keep Pakistan out of the loop on the killing of UBL. They can’t be trusted. But he was dead wrong to make the attack public. By keeping it under wraps, even after losing that chopper during the attack, the info could have been controlled, we’d have earned the more willing support of Pakistan, prompted their army and intelligence services, who would have been eager to avoid the intense embarrassment of having UBL living down the road from the Pakistani Army West Point since 2005. Make no mistake, Pakistan would have been delighted to have the opportunity of covering it up themselves. Plus we’d have had a nice little sword of Damocles to hang over their heads. Play nice on our Afghanistan supply lines and keeping the lid on your militants or we expose the truth about where Bin Laden was watching videos of himself.

And if some enterprising foreign journalist had dug up the truth, the US and Pakistan could have called it yet another hoax. “There’s simply no way Pakistan would  have allowed Bin Laden to live peacefully so close to Islamabad”. And everyone would have believed them.  Add in the useful intelligence coup of having UBL dead without anyone knowing, and we’d have been able to essentially create our own ‘shadow’ UBL, with all the intelligence advantages a Trojan Horse would have given us in helping to misinform  and bring down dissipated and de-centralized Al Qaeda franchises.

And there’s another more important but related matter. Sustaining a manageable relationship with Pakistan is critical in one other crucial respect. They have nukes, and we need to keep tabs on them. That relationship has always been symbiotic at best, but since January it was getting increasingly strained. Making the UBL attack public may have killed the goose for good.

Why? Because Obama chose not to take the high road, and made a big song and dance about killing UBL, who was clearly a marginal figure, living, bizarrely enough for a super-terrorist, in retirement.  It was a case of pure revenge, a national blood-letting, totally understandable after the unforgettable outrage of 9/11, but nevertheless, a brief moment in time that resulted in limited political gains at home for the President, and more importantly a dangerously, and perhaps permanently toxic relationship with Pakistan. That compromises US withdrawal plans in Afghanistan at the worst possible time, and reinforces the power of those rogue elements of the Pakistani Army and ISI who nurture and coddle Pakistani Taliban and other militants for their own nefarious and overblown nationalistic purposes.

I’m sure people are still giggling at the idea that we should have kept the UBL killing under wraps, but in the light of the arrests of Pakistani Army officers and other intelligence assets the US used to set up the Abbottabad attack, perhaps one or two are changing their minds.

Written by coolrebel

June 16, 2011 at 12:59 am

Tom Coburn is the Key To The Deal on Debt Ceiling and the Election

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Thereisnoplan Prediction: Tom Coburn will unlock the Deal on the Debt Ceiling and help Obama get re-elected.

It was such a romantic moment. Obama’s first speech to a joint session in ’09. He walks down the aisle of the chamber of the House of Representatives and saves his biggest hug for one of the most conservative senators in the GOP line-up. Tom Coburn, Junior Senator of Oklahoma.  Turns out they’ve been firm friends since Barry first showed up for Senate Orientation back in ’04. They worked together on aisle-crossing bills and helped establish Barry’s bipartisan bona-fides.

Cut to now.

Grover Norquist is frothing at the mouth at the idea that Tom Coburn is in favor of rolling back individual and corporate deductions to help reduce the nation’s massive debt, and go the ball rolling with a handy victory in the Senate on Ethanol subsidies. Old Grovey knows that if Coburn buckles to new taxes, his whole No Tax Pledge in blood deal isn’t worth the toilet paper it’s printed on – and as an added (and thoroughly welcome) aside – he finally gets exposed as the malevolent Kook that he truly is. It won’t be government that’s small enough to be drowned in a bathtub – but his whole cockamamie movement.

Coburn hasn’t made a big deal of the fact that he’s buddies with Barack because that wouldn’t be good for business in today’s supercharged world of political silliness. No doubt the President suggested in the strongest terms that Tom keep their affair on the down-low, for the benefit of both of them.

But it’s rapidly becoming clear that Coburn is the key to the whole debt ceiling debate. He’s the Trojan horse. The first stage was to have him lead the way on reducing Ethanol subsidies. (It helps that Oklahoma’s an Oil State so he doesn’t have to sacrifice any votes at home). Even the GOP Senate Caucus signed on to that victory, knowing that ‘something had to be done’.  Softening up stage one complete.

Biden’s bi-partisan group negotiating the debt ceiling is designed to fail, so Barack (and his little buddy Tom) can ride to the rescue in a display of bipartisanship that will solve the (non)problem of the debt ceiling and establish Barack as the can-do, cross the aisle President who can actually get stuff done. (He’s got stuff done before but not stuff the GOP can get behind so it didn’t count).

The coming debt ceiling success will basically render null-and-void all the Red State Ryan Paul Express rhetoric coming out of the deadbeat GOP presidential candidates. They’ll suddenly realize that the red-meat hurdles they have to leap just to win over the GOP cracker-brigade will hobble any GOP candidate in the general, when facing the giant that is centrist, Independent-hogging Barack. McCain went nutty and ceded the center to Obama in ’08, and the President is banking on a repeat performance with gusto. The only guy who sees this coming is Newt, and he’s now running a campaign of one because he dared to actually speak the truth. Not that he’s remotely electable because of all that Tiffany Jewelry around his wife’s slightly scrawny neck.

And the bigger picture is even more interesting.

Obama knows that the economy is not going to anywhere near where it needs to be for him to guarantee a win next November solely on that basis. The housing and credit markets are still very soft, unemployment is still high, and the economy is sputtering at best. He might be able to prime it, and primp it to make it look a little healthier. But to be sure of a win he’s got his Plan B already laid out. The strategy is simple. Barry makes bipartisanship cool. He can get stuff done the middle way. That wins the Independents and along with some of Obama’s trademark ‘yes we can’ charisma the General election is in the bag by 3-4 points. Barack is banking on the GOP falling in line with a knuckle-dragging Know-nothing candidate who hands over the center yet again. That’s why Barack has made no secret of saying that he regards moderate Huntsman as a threat, a statement designed to help make Huntsman’s task that much harder in the red-neck primary contests.

And where does all this leave old Tom C of OK?

That snuggy hug in ’09 pretty much killed any presidential ambitions that Coburn may have had. But despite all the buddy stuff, it was still very calculated. Unlike most GOP knuckle-draggers, Tom knows that Obama doesn’t actually threaten the fabric of America’s out-of-control capitalist zeal, and is really just a Wall Street Stooge, which is good enough for Tom. In short, Barack, even in the White House is a man he can do business with. He’s proved his ability by ably steering the Ethanol subsidy repeal through the Senate, and suddenly GOP tax pledges seem a little softer than they did.

Surreptitiously supporting the President gives Coburn two new avenues. Either he’s the guy who helped make the debt-ceiling crisis go away and moves into poll-position to be Senate Majority leader, if as is very possible, the GOP take the Senate. Or he ditches the Capitol Hill Old Boys Club and takes a cushy job in the next Obama cabinet. There’s even an outside, and I mean outside the very edge of outside chance, he could get the VP nod.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that we should thank Coburn for his politicking. While President Obama has been a profound disappointment in so many ways, the world has changed. We need him to win to prevent the GOP hyenas from taking over and hastening the decline of the America, and must back him with everything we have.

Written by coolrebel

June 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Chromebook’s Big Day. Not.

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Ah, the charming uselessness of Google. They promise us the world but can never quite deliver.

Today is supposed to be the great unveiling of the Chromebook, an impressive idea if ever there was one. A simple netbook with a stripped down operating system that does one thing and one thing only – it connects you to Chrome via your Google ID. It boots in seconds, works real fast (because it doesn’t have all the other OS baggage to contend with) and is blessedly free of unwanted features.

There’s only one problem.

Even though today is supposed to be C-Day, you can’t actually see one unless you buy it online via Amazon and Bestbuy.com. Thereisnoplan was so keen on the idea of this wonderfully genericized web-book that I actually arrived at BestBuy in West LA the moment it opened, only to find that nobody knew much about them. There were none in stock, none on sale, no colorful bunting, no knowledgeable nerds in Google t-shirts wowing us with what they could do.

Nothing.

To me that pathetic display is a mark of a complacent company. Google has been handed its lunch by Facebook on social networking and by Apple on just about everything else. They’ve been working on this Chrome idea for a while and it’s a good one, but when it comes to anything that remotely smacks of brick and mortar they just mess up.

One more thing. The Chromebook is a superb idea but it’s simply too expensive. Charge $199 for one or maybe even $99 and everything I’ve just written would be null and void. It would be a winner, hands down, and would completely reenergize Google as a viable player – outside its search dominance.

Google is a good company, with at least a semblance of honesty. Sure, they have their problems, but their no-nonsense, genericized, design-free suite of web products is very solid. It just needs to be more coordinated, and marketed way, way better.

C’mon boys. Show us that you’re not just sitting on search.

Written by coolrebel

June 15, 2011 at 1:39 am

Thereisnoplan Declares Little Taco-Dog Poops a Menace to Decent Society

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It’s official. Thereisnoplan has declared Little Taco-Dog Poops a menace to decent society.

The basic problem is simple. Tiny little dark stringy dog poops that nestle in the sidewalk grass. But the real issue goes deeper – indeed right to the heart of civic responsibility. Were the owners of those obnoxious little Yorkies and Chihuahuas just lazy or incapable physically of stooping down to scoop up the poop? Or did they justify that laziness or incapacity by rationalizing that nobody would notice such a tiny stool? Or worse still, did they think that the small size of those poops made them any less of a health hazard? The answer almost certainly has to be one of the above.

In a very small and stringy way, this problem sums up America. “It’s no big deal” says the owner of the dog, proprietor of the plastics factory, or the administration that starts the dumb-ass war.  They figure they’ll get away with it and avoid sieve-like regulation, often with the help of bare-faced lies or hare-brained politics, or both.

That works find until someone steps in the poop.

Or on top of the land mine.

Written by coolrebel

June 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Facial Recognition – Facebook Shows Its True Face

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It’s your face. Don’t let Facebook tell you otherwise.

Perhaps it was always about creating a big book of people’s faces.  But it certainly seems like Facebook’s latest attempt to control the ‘social graph’ of the entire planet is the ultimate emblem of its profoundly amoral, conscience-free, pursuit-of-profit megalomania. The idea that you can post a picture and that everyone in it is tagged for future ‘sharing purposes’ crosses the line in a way none of its past transgressions has even approached. But like all the others, it’s pretty clever; incremental and insidious, rather than explosive and egregious. As with all efficiently spreading viruses, Facebook is stealthy and surreptitious in it encroachment and colonization. It feeds on that very human social impulse that we all to a greater or lesser extent share (no pun intended).  And as such, its parasitic reach is almost universal.

The fears that Facebook’s facial recognition technology (and its wily pre-set that one is automatically opted in rather than out) are a threat to personal privacy is a little off-target. What’s really in play here is the right to control one’s identity in the public space. Simply put, a Facebook user who either doesn’t know, appear to care or doesn’t understand how to opt-out of the system, can have their identity utilized without their permission. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why this could be a gross violation of one’s identity and publicity rights. To make matters worse the chances that the technology is foolproof are almost nil, so cases of mistaken identity, many of them likely to be deeply compromising will be rife.

One can imagine, down the line, that Facebook could be facing a massive class action publicity rights lawsuit, as millions of people are wronged either by having their identities revealed at a given place and time against their wishes, or worse, being mistaken as someone they’d rather not be.  Facebook will no doubt retreat to their usual ‘we’ll make it better’ recourse of changing the privacy settings to Facial Recognition is opt-in, but if lives have been materially affected in a negative way, the company’s “there we changed the settings” scam will not make real-life problems caused by the technology go away. If we’re lucky, they’ll have to pay through the nose to settle.

Perhaps, finally, this move towards appropriation of humanity’s social space will be the hubristic moment that we realize Facebook is indeed another of the ‘super-bugs’ (like Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft) that infests the world today. That may be wishful thinking, but Facebook’s imperialist move with Facial Recognition certainly represents a risk for them, however (sadly) small, that they will be exposed as the conscience-free carpetbaggers that they truly are.

To a company like Facebook, with two-thirds of a billion members, individuality is not exactly top of their list of priorities. And with membership being – of necessity – free, it’s always been a numbers game for them. They can only make money if people use the site, and that means lowering rather than raising boundaries. Or to put it another way, in the case of those notoriously obfuscated privacy settings, raising boundaries to people raising their own boundaries.

Privacy is the catch-all term that Facebook fears most, and certainly the news that the site according to some reports shrank in its core US market by 6m subscribers over the last few months is instructive. People in America, after all, are imbued with a deep sense of the sanctity of privacy. Indeed its a constitutional right, at least in the eighteenth century meaning of the word.

Regardless of the constitutional implications, the Duke of Asperger, Mark Zuckerberg, tells us that privacy is overrated, and to an extent he’s right. It is. Privacy as we know it is a modern construct. The only place one truly has a right to privacy or at least an expectation of it (the two are often conflated) is within the walls of one’s home, and within the home, behind the door of one’s bathroom, and bedroom. In every other sphere, one can not guarantee one’s anonymity and the security of communications, nor should anyone expect it. And for the most part, the privacy that most of us appear to cherish is not at threat. Nobody really cares about the content of our emails. Most of them are really dull.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg’s case against privacy, for all its apparent modernity, is completely disingenuous. It has nothing to do with a historical re-accounting of the role of privacy in the modern world, and everything to do with cold hard cash. You see, if you’re a social media site, like Facebook, that earns its money from advertising, reach-driven partnerships, and data mining, privacy is very bad for business. More privacy equals less page views which equal lower revenues and profits.

It’s unlikely that the Facial Recognition spat will be the death of Facebook in particular and the cult of the narcissist in general. But what it does do, in a small but perhaps significant way, is to bubble up the bile of a few too many opinion formers for Facebook’s liking. Perhaps then, the zeitgeist will turn against Facebook, and that 6m subscriber loss in the US will turn into 60 million and then more. One can only hope.

Please share this via Facebook to help sow the seeds of its own destruction from within.

Written by coolrebel

June 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

Political Personality Disorder

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Political Personality Disorder is a fast emerging contender to join other borderline personality disorders in the DSM, the bible of mental health treatment.

The political personality is marked by the following characteristics;

Grandiosity. “I deserve to be President.” Sometimes morphs into “I am President.”  See Gingrich.

Sanctimoniousness. Also known as Santorousness.

Morbid Stupidity. Usually expresses in off-the-cuff comments on historical figures. See Palin.

Self-destructive Behavior:  Usually dangerous, and of a sexual nature. See Spitzer, Weiner, Strauss-Kahn, Gingrich, Ensign.

Intense Ambition: Willingness to say anything that furthers one’s career.  See Romney.

Obsessive Use of Rhetoric:  Too many examples to mention.

We have conducted an in-depth survey into the President and found that although he often displays rhetorical overuse, Mr. Obama appears to be one of the few politicians not to suffer from PPD.

Ironically, this may be his problem.

Written by coolrebel

June 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Washington