August 6, 2011

Will He Cut and Run, or Respond Appropriately? (UPDATE: Remember? Biden Blew The SEALs’ Cover)

Via Solomon Moore at the Associated Press, who has a history which may become relevant as this unfolds:

31 Americans, 7 Afghans killed in helicopter crash

A military helicopter was shot down in eastern Afghanistan, killing 31 U.S. special operation troops, most of them from the elite Navy SEALs unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, along with seven Afghan commandos. It was the deadliest single incident for American forces in the decade-long war.

The Taliban claimed they downed the helicopter with rocket fire while it was taking part in a raid on a house where insurgents were gathered in the province of Wardak late Friday. It said wreckage of the craft was strewn at the scene. A senior U.S. administration official in Washington said the craft was apparently shot down by insurgents. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the crash is still being investigated.

NATO confirmed the overnight crash took place and that there “was enemy activity in the area.” But it said it was still investigating the cause and conducting a recovery operation at the site. It did not release details or casualty figures.

“We are in the process of accessing the facts,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman.

One current and one former U.S. official said that the dead included more than 20 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six, the unit that carried out the raid in Pakistan in May that killed bin Laden. They were being flown by acrew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because families are still being notified.

President Barack Obama mourned the deaths of the American troops, saying in a statement that the crash serves as a reminder of the “extraordinary sacrifices” being made by the U.S. military and its families. He said he also mourned “the Afghans who died alongside our troops.”

The death toll would surpass the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 …

The concerns of those who wondered why we even identified the unit which went after Osama Bin Laden in May appear to have been validated.

So, is commander-in-chief Barack Obama going to act as he should, with swift, sure retribution and decide that we should be striving for v-v-v-v-victory — or will he use it as an excuse to claim that the greatest fighting for the world has ever seen can’t defeat an enemy whose primary advantage in conflict is our “rules of engagement”?

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UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: I’m periodically saving AP revisions to see how the story evolves (or devolves) I may post links to saved versions of them later — update — depending on what AP does with or to the story.

UPDATE 2, 7:15 p.m.: We need to remember this from Toby Harnden, the Daily Telegraph’s US Editor, based in Washington, on May 4 (HT to Doug Ross; also excerpted at the time at Fox Nation):

Joe Biden opens his mouth about US Navy SEALs

Since President Barack Obama announced that “a small team of Americans” had killed Osama bin Laden, US government officials have carefully stuck to the line that they will not talk about which units were involved.

Obama did not say it was the SEALs. In numerous television appearances, Obama’s counter-terrorism chief John Brennan didn’t and his deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough didn’t. Despite the numerous news reports that named the SEALs, none of the anonymous briefers from the CIA and Pentagon would confirm it.

… But here’s what the legendarily verbose and loose-lipped Vice President Joe Biden said at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council:

Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees. Admiral James Stavridis is a, is the real deal. He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.

If Dick Cheney had done this, they’d have the noose ready by now — and, in the opinion of the proprietor at the Master Chief’s Lair (note: his opinion, not mine — yet), the punishment would be appropriate:

… I suspect that they (the Taliban) were tracking SEAL Team Six ever since the OBL event. How did the Taliban know who did the OBL job, Vice President Biden told the press!!! He blabbed a top secret op in the open to the press to look good! This moron is a danger to the security of America not to mention the lives of American fighting personnel.

The Vice Presidents reckless abandonment of security classifications has lead to the death of 31 military members including 25 members of this elite team. He should be tried for treason and murder in my book. His desire to “look good to the press” by showing them he knew what was going on, permitted the Taliban to track and kill these men. If this was an enlisted man, he would be in a Courts Martial this morning and hung this afternoon. But not Vice President Biden. No, he will continue to be a threat to the lives of our military and the security of our Nation.

… Remember this event, these deaths in November 2012!!

Central Falls, R.I.: An SB5 Mini-Lesson

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:28 am

To those who believe that the great State of Ohio would be just fine if the unbalanced post-1983, pre-2011 relationship between public-sector unions and their various government entities had been allowed to continue, I give you Central Falls, Rhode Island, as described in a Friday Wall Street Journal editorial (bolds are mine):

On Monday the small Rhode Island town of Central Falls declared bankruptcy because its sky-high labor costs had impaired its ability to pay its bills. The ratings agencies say the development is no surprise, but we wonder whether they’ll be saying the same thing when a bigger city falls off a cliff.

Central Falls’s financial problems are not much different from many states and municipalities. Inflexible and costly collective bargaining agreements have driven up its labor costs and crowded out services. The city is running $5 million annual structural deficits on a $16 million budget. Its pension and retiree health-care bills add up to $80 million. Public safety officers contribute a mere 7% of their salaries to pensions and can retire after 20 years with pensions equal to 50% of their final year’s salary. Such a system in which employees spend more time in retirement than working is unsustainable. Greece, Q.E.D.

The city’s first receiver Mark Pfeiffer raised property and car taxes by more than 20%, but higher taxes merely drove residents out of town.

In February Governor Lincoln Chafee replaced Mr. Pfeiffer with retired state supreme court judge Robert Flanders. He, too, asked the unions for concessions but came up empty-handed. Mr. Flanders then shut down the city library and community center. In a last ditch effort to save the city from bankruptcy, Mr. Flanders asked retirees to accept scaled-back pensions and to contribute more to their health benefits. The retirees overwhelmingly voted no.

… Mr. Chafee, an independent, and the Democratic state legislature have committed to tackling pensions in the fall. State treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, recently issued a report that suggests modifying retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments, raising the retirement age and creating new hybrid pensions that include a 401(k)-style plan and a modest defined benefit. These all sound like good ideas, but the test of Democrats’ sincerity will be when the unions turn out en masse at the capitol to denounce them for betraying their party and trashing collective bargaining.

I wish it weren’t so, but time and again hard experience has taught that in the vast majority of circumstances public-sector unions will not give back when giving back is obviously needed — even if it means layoffs of less senior coworkers, and even if it means that their employers might go bankrupt. This is why the unbalanced public sector union-employer relationship needed to be changed in Ohio. SB5 did that.

Repealing SB5 would return us to the alternative described in the editorial, which, ultimately, would lead to dozens of Buckeye State renditions of Central Falls, large and small.

Mark Steyn on the Decline

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:02 am

Brilliant, as usual, on the state of the nation’s finances, which is not strong:

Brokest Nation In History On Edge Of Armageddon

… And, if none of these parties seems inclined to pay down the debt now, what are the chances they’ll feel like doing so by 2020 when, under these historic “cuts,” it’s up to $23 trillion-$25 trillion?

Like America’s political class, I have also been thinking about America circa 2020. Indeed, I’ve written a book on the subject. My prognosis is not as rosy as the Boehner-Obama deal, as attentive readers might just be able to deduce from the subtle clues in the title: “After America: Get Ready For Armageddon.”

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not one of these “declinists.” I’m way beyond that, and in the express lane to total societal collapse. The fecklessness of Washington is an existential threat not only to the solvency of the republic but to the entire global order. If Ireland goes under, it’s lights out on Galway Bay. When America goes under, it drags the rest of the developed world down with it.

When I go around the country saying stuff like this, a lot of folks agree. Somewhere or other, they’ve a vague memory of having seen a newspaper story accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office graph with the line disappearing off the top of the page and running up the wall and into the rafters circa mid-century.

So they usually say, “Well, fortunately I won’t live to see it.” And I always reply that, unless you’re a centenarian with priority boarding for the ObamaCare death panel, you will live to see it. Forget about mid-century. We’ve got until mid-decade to turn this thing around.

Otherwise, by 2020 just the interest payments on the debt will be larger than the U.S. military budget. That’s not paying down the debt, but merely staying current on the servicing — like when you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off any of what you borrowed but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge.

… No author writes a dystopian apocalyptic doomsday book because he wants it to happen: Apart from anything else, the collapse of the banking system makes it hard to cash the royalty check. You write a doomsday book in hopes you can stop it happening.

But time is running short. If you think we’ve got until 2050 or 2025, you’re part of the problem.

As readers know, I’m not convinced we even have the four years Steyn says we have (I think it’s more like two or three), but Steyn is far closer to the truth than the Congressional Budget Office or most of the rest of Washington will admit.

Positivity: Fukushima children promise Pope they will persevere through nuclear tragedy

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:55 am

From Rome:

Aug 4, 2011 / 12:10 pm

Twenty elementary school children from northeast Japan promised Pope Benedict “they would never give up” in the face of adversity.

The children traveled from the Japanese city of Ofunato, to Italy and greeted the Pope at the conclusion of this week’s Wednesday General Audience, reports L’Osservatore Romano.

Ofunato is a coastal city which was impacted by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

They told the Pope of their will to “live and be reborn” and of their effort to “rebuild our still-beautiful city.” They also pledged to “never lose their smiles, which are a source of hope.”

To symbolize this hope, the mayor of the Japanese city of Hokuto, Masashi Shirakura, presented the Pope with a branch of cherry tree blossoms.

Go here for the rest of the story.

Well, They Did It

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:27 am

Compromising what was once a perfectly good economy’s stellar credit standing is one hell of an “accomplishment.”

Here’s the (thus far) crowning achievement of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, aka the Fear-Based Economy:

S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating for first time

Standard & Poor’s announced Friday night that it has downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time, dealing a symbolic blow to the world’s economic superpower in what was a sharply worded critique of the American political system.

Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said “political brinkmanship” in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances “less stable, less effective and less predictable.” It said the bipartisan agreement reached this week to find at least $2.1 trillion in budget savings “fell short” of what was necessary to tame the nation’s debt over time and predicted that leaders would not be likely to achieve more savings in the future.

“It’s always possible the rating will come back, but we don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon,” said David Beers, head of S&P’s sovereign debt rating unit.

The decision came after a day of furious back-and-forth debate between the Obama administration and S&P. Government officials fought back hard, arguing that S&P’s analysis of the potential for political agreement was flawed and that its initial report, which was flagged by the Treasury earlier in the day, contained mathematical errors.

S&P’s downgrade was as much a political critique as a financial conclusion. It is based on a view that American political leaders would be unable to come up with at least $4 trillion in savings, which is needed to bring the nation’s debt to a manageable level over the next decade.

The debt deal swung earlier this week proposed spending cuts in two phases. Democrats and Republicans agreed to the first round, worth nearly $1 trillion. But a Congressional committee must decide the remaining $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion — and S&P questioned whether that would ever happen.

Yes, of course one can and should argue that John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Republicans had their hand in the final chance to avoid the downgrade. But y’know, they had Cut, Cap & Balance, and the Harry Reid and the President both rebuffed it, even mocking it. If Boehner had stuck to his guns, you can write it down that Barack Obama would have made sure that seniors saw disruption in their receipt of Social Security checks and/or Medicare provider reimbursements — not because he had to (because he didn’t), but because he would have wanted to. If not senior citizens, then the military. Anything visible to blame the problem on Republicans, regardless of who gets hurts.

Never, ever, ever forget that Sherrod Brown described voting for a package far weaker than CC&B was John Boehner’s and the House’s “patriotic duty” to protect the “full faith and credit of the United States of America.” Mr. Brown, the Senate and the White House, both of which your party control (with some RINO help), forced the clearly inadequate debt-ceiling deal.

Nope, this is all on the Terrible Triumvirate — Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid — plain and simple. Three-plus years ago, they sent the economy into a tailspin from which it has yet to genuinely emerge. They took the national debt up to it current dangerous level.

This is Exhibit A that my concerns about whether we really have 18 months to survive into after the next president’s inauguration earlier this week are far from groundless.