Many Americans are lauding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner for the past five years by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, probably somewhere in Pakistan.

His freedom came about via a prisoner exchange, with the United States trading five Taliban detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay.

The Guantanamo Bay detainees released are:

  • Khairullah Khairkhwa, an early member of the Taliban whose most prominent post was as governor of the Herat province from 1999 to 2001.
  • Noorullah Noori, who served as governor of the Balkh province and played a role in coordinating fighting against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.
  • Fazl Muhammad, the commander of the main force that fought against the Northern Alliance in 2001 and served as chief of army staff under the Taliban. He was also accused of war crimes during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s.
  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban’s intelligence service.
  • Muhammad Nabi Omari, a minor Taliban official from the Khost province.

The exact details surrounding Bergdahl’s capture are sketchy, with many sources reporting that Sgt. Bergdahl was not captured by insurgents, but that he deserted his post, and willingly joined the terrorist organization that just released him. But let’s for a moment set aside Sgt. Bergdahls’s disquieting story, and pay attention to the larger story surrounding his “release.”

The Washington Post brings up some rather significant and troubling aspects of the story.

Amid jubilation Saturday over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity by the Taliban, senior Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were troubled by the means by which it was accomplished, which was a deal to release five Afghan detainees from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Top Republicans on the Senate and House armed services committees went so far as to accuse President Obama of having broken the law, which requires the administration to notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out.

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-Calif.) and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, James M. Inhofe (Okla.), said in a joint statement.

Lawmakers were not notified of the Guantanamo detainees’ transfer until after it occurred.

The law requires the defense secretary to notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days before making any transfers of prisoners, to explain the reason and to provide assurances that those released would not be in a position to reengage in activities that could threaten the United States or its interests.

Before the current law was enacted at the end of last year, the conditions were even more stringent. However, the administration and some Democrats had pressed for them to be loosened, in part to give them more flexibility to negotiate for Bergdahl’s release.

A senior administration official, agreeing to speak on the condition of anonymity to explain the timing of the congressional notification, acknowledged that the law was not followed. When he signed the law last year, Obama issued a signing statement contending that the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief and that he therefore could override it.

President Obama, on the occasion of signing H.R. 4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013”,  announced that he would refuse to abide by provisions of the law that he interpreted as being unconstitutional, because in his opinion, the duly enacted law placed unnecessary restrictions on his authority as head of the Executive Branch, and Commander in Chief of the nation’s military.

Statement by the President on H.R. 4310

Section 1028 fundamentally maintains the unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country. This provision hinders the Executive’s ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers. The Congress designed these sections, and has here renewed them once more, in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies. My Administration will interpret these provisions as consistent with existing and future determinations by the agencies of the Executive responsible for detainee transfers. And, in the event that these statutory restrictions operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.

As my Administration previously informed the Congress, certain provisions in this bill, including sections 1225, 913, 1531, and 3122, could interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States. In these instances, my Administration will interpret and implement these provisions in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. Section 1035, which adds a new section 495(c) to title 10, is deeply problematic, as it would impede the fulfillment of future U.S. obligations agreed to in the New START Treaty, which the Senate provided its advice and consent to in 2010, and hinder the Executive’s ability to determine an appropriate nuclear force structure. I am therefore pleased that the Congress has included a provision to adequately amend this provision in H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which I will be signing into law today.

Certain provisions in the Act threaten to interfere with my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch. Specifically, sections 827, 828, and 3164 could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials. As my Administration previously informed the Congress, I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential. Additionally, section 1034 would require a subordinate to submit materials directly to the Congress without change, and thereby obstructs the traditional chain of command. I will implement this provision in a manner consistent with my authority as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the head of the executive branch.

A number of provisions in the bill — including sections 534(b)(6), 674, 675, 735, 737, 1033(b), 1068, and 1803 — could intrude upon my constitutional authority to recommend such measures to the Congress as I “judge necessary and expedient.” My Administration will interpret and implement these provisions in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority.

Here are my concerns…. and I have several.

Are we now, under the Obama administration, redefining “diplomacy” to include conducting secret negotiations by the Executive Branch with terrorist organizations?

Who exactly did the Obama administration negotiate with? It is blatantly obvious that under Obama’s direct order, members of our military met (directly or indirectly) and negotiated terms with known terrorists, under the guise of power of the Executive.

When did any President, or in fact, any member of any branch of any of level of government in the United States, gain the power to declare a duly enacted law as “unconstitutional” by decree, invalidating the Legislative Branch’s constitutional powers by an unstained opinion and the stroke of a pen? Obama talks about the law’s “violation” of the principle of separation of powers, even as he assumes unto himself the power of the Judicial Branch to decide on the constitutionality of duly enacted laws.

His are the actions of a Supreme Leader, who sees himself as standing above any and all other sources of power and authority in the government of the nation… a Führer.

Back in 2008, Ali Sina, an ex-Muslim, warned us who and what Obama was… and we failed to listen.

Something of that nature could never happen in the U.S.

Most people, caught up in the historical significance of the term Führer, never got past the title and into the substance of the article.

Go ahead and read it, and compare it to everything that’s gone on in this country since 2008.

We have a Führer in our White House.

Call it by any other name if that one makes you uncomfortable, but the end result are the same.

We have that type of a leader in charge of our military, and he recognizes no law other than his own.

Understanding Obama. The Making of a Fuehrer.

When you fall for someone to the extent that Obama’s followers have fallen for him, you surrender your reason and individuality to him willingly. When millions of people surrender their hearts and their minds to one person the result can be catastrophic. This is what happened in Germany with Hitler, in China with Mao, in the Soviet Union with Stalin, in Cuba with Castro, in Iran with Khomeini, and so on and so forth. Today, we think these men were monsters, but that was not what millions of their worshipers thought. Those people loved them.  Dictators can’t dictate, unless peole are willing to be dictated.

And that’s the last wire for Sunday, June 1st, 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

 

 

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President Barack Obama has finally decided it was time to keep the most broken promise of his Presidency.

(The Guardian, U.K.) The White House blew the cover of the top CIA agent in Afghanistan on Sunday, when the person’s name was included on a list given to reporters during a visit to the country by President Barack Obama.

The name was then emailed by the White House press office to a distribution list of more than 6,000 recipients, mostly members of the US media.

The agent in question, listed as chief of station, would be a top manager of CIA activity in Afghanistan, including intelligence collection and a drone-warfare programme under which unmanned aerial vehicles mount cross-border attacks into Pakistan.

The name appeared on a list of attendees requested by White House officials for the president’s visit to Bagram air base to mark Memorial Day, the national day of tribute to fallen service members. The list of 15 people was drawn up by the military, written into a routine press report and sent to Washington. The Obama press office then sent the list, unredacted, to the larger group.

The mistake did not come to light until the reporter who had filed from Afghanistan, the veteran Washington Post correspondent Scott Wilson, looked more closely at what he had sent and noticed the name and title.

“I drew it to their attention before they had noticed what had happened,” Wilson said on Monday, hours after returning from the 33-hour trip overseas.

We finally have transparency from the White House.

I’m half-suspecting that faced with an increasingly hostile White House Pres Corp pressing for answers as to why the President would allow such a thing to happen, Jay Carney will stick to his go-to play, answering that President Obama learned about the issue from the news, and has promised ‘not to rest until he gets to the bottom of the issue.”

In Obamaspeak that means “don’t bother me, I have fund raising to tend to.”

There’s an emerging image of this administration as being one so completely out of their league on the world stage, that it is reverting to the smaller field of local fund raising, college and late-night TV show speaking gigs, and impersonal social media pushes.

Obama at this stage reminds me of an aging rock band that could once sell out arenas, but are now lucky to fill Civic Auditoriums sharing billing with other aging rockers in “Remember When” festivals.

Bill Clinton, as close to an ultimate political beast as the US has seen in decades called it, according to Edward Klein’s “The Amateur”, as he urged Hillary to challenge Obama for the 2012 nomination while having cocktails with close friends in their Chappaqua homestead.

“I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama,” my sources quoted Clinton as saying. “I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur!”

An amateur in charge of the United States armed forces, led by amateurs and ideologues who have absolutely zero concern over anything other than politics is a frightening thing to ponder.

obama-fiddled

The Economist on Obama’s White House.

BARACK OBAMA has been portrayed as everything from post-racial political saviour to underground socialist. In Ron Suskind’s telling, Mr Obama is reduced to a hapless rookie manager presiding over insubordinate, quarrelling aides and aggrieved women. It is not news that Mr Obama and his aides were often at odds on issues ranging from the size of the fiscal stimulus, whether to bail out Chrysler and when to proceed with health-care reform. Mr Suskind, an American writer and journalist, provides a more detailed picture, with the help of lengthy interviews with former officials.

The presence of an amateur in the White House could actually pose a bigger threat to our national security than having a Socialist ideologue there. We can fix things internally in his wake, but the damage done to the U.S.  on the international stage will take long to repair, if it can ever be repaired at all.

(Beijing) THERE had been plenty of time to negotiate a deal—more than a decade, in fact. What Russia and China needed was the right amount of pressure to seal it. That came in the form of Western sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. Eager to show America and Europe that he has other friends to turn to, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on May 21st in Shanghai, secured a long-term agreement for Gazprom, a state-owned Russian firm, to sell natural gas to CNPC, a state-owned Chinese one. The final details of pricing—the main sticking point—were not released but the deal is thought to be worth about $400 billion over 30 years. It gives Mr Putin a much-needed strategic boost as he confronts those sanctions and suffers increasing isolation from the West.

China had reasons of its own to strike a deal. It needs as many energy sources as it can find, especially clean energy, so that the Communist Party can show its people that it is dealing with air pollution across the country, much of it caused by a reliance on coal. China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, said earlier this year that the government had “declared war” on air pollution.

So both sides wanted to emerge from Mr Putin’s visit with an agreement, and to put a friendly stamp on their meeting. China’s president, Xi Jinping, praised the partnership between their two countries. Mr Putin told Chinese journalists that the relationship was at “the highest level in all its centuries-long history”. The two countries signed economic agreements, held military exercises offshore, and agreed on a joint statement of “concern” about Ukraine, which by implication might seem to absolve Mr Putin of his role in stirring unrest there.

So, as the Obama administration moves to defend yet one more show of ineptitude, this picture should bring a shiver to anyone who follows the politics of power.

putin Xi

 

Maybe it’s time for the opposition to unite, circle the wagons and agree to disagree on any issue other than getting someone in charge who knows how to run a nation.

Working out our differences while holding the reins of power is far more satisfying than bitterly arguing who on the right would be more right, as we watch the left tear everything down around us.

It’s time to get on the bus, and there can be no one hanging on to the door or half out the windows when it leaves the station, if we expect a chance of ever setting things right again.

And that’s the last wire for Monday, May 26th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

Good night.

Sometimes, lessons are learned from the most unexpected places. This is one of those times.

Traditional hunters armed with homemade guns, poisoned spears and amulets have gathered in their hundreds, eager to use their skills and what they believe to be supernatural powers to help find nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists.

Some 500 hunters, some as young as 18 and some in their 80s, say they have been specially selected by their peers for their spiritual hunting skills and have been waiting for two weeks in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and the birthplace of Boko Haram, to get backing from the military and get moving.

With Nigeria’s military accused by many citizens of not doing enough to rescue the girls, the hunters demonstrated their skills to an Associated Press reporter on Sunday. With cow horn trumpets echoing eerie war cries from the screaming and chanting men who twirled knives and swords with dexterity, occasionally stabbing and cutting themselves with no apparent harm.  The hunters claimed their magic charms prevented any blood being drawn. They also trust amulets of herbs and other substances wrapped in leather pouches as well as cowrie shells, animal teeth and leather bracelets to protect them from bullets.

The appearance of the hunters from three northeastern states underscores how deeply the April 15 mass kidnapping — and the government’s apparent lack of action — has affected Nigerian society. It has spawned demonstrations and a tidal wave of commentary in media including social sites like Twitter and Facebook.

A spokesman for the hunters stopped short of actually criticizing the military.

“We’re not saying we are better than the soldiers, but we know the bush better than the soldiers,” said Sarkin Baka. The hunters said they gathered here at the suggestion of a state legislator.

A military spokesman did not immediately respond to an emailed question from AP on whether it would take advantage of the hunters’ local knowledge.

These men came to help, uninvited and unfunded, out of a sense of humanity and they’ve been sitting idle for two weeks as the help given by the world’s superpowers turns up nothing in their search.

Nigeria’s military insists that it is diligently searching for the girls and says near-daily aerial bombardments of the forest that began in mid-January were stopped to avoid accidentally hitting the girls.

“Our troops are out there combing the forests and all other possible locations searching for our fellow citizens. International support is also there assisting the process,” Mike Omeri, a government spokesman, said Friday.

Some parents of the abducted girls say villagers in the Sambisa Forest tell them they haven’t seen a uniformed soldier in the forest.

The girls of Chibok were kidnapped six weeks ago, on April 14, and because of the denseness of the forest in the region where Boko Harum is known to operate, no trace of them has yet to be found.

So then, why not use trained forest hunters to help locate traces of the girls and their kidnappers?

In fact, why aren’t we pushing for the hunters to be allowed to go find the girls?

The First World arrogance thinly veiled in the news reports on the tribal hunter volunteers gives us a clue, and it’s certain to be shared by the government of Nigeria.

It took primitive tribes in the northeastern part of the country two weeks to organize a party of 500 hunters and travel (on foot) to the staging area for the multinational search for the kidnapped girls, and they sit idle waiting for the courtesy of a response from anyone.

On the flip side it took six weeks for the United Nation to condemn the act and place sanctions on Boko Harum.

And they have phones and computers to assist them in discussing the issue,  jets to get the to their rent-free digs in New York, and limos and city cars to get them to their soft, comfortable chairs in the General Assembly room.

Islam itself reacted faster than the United Nations.

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, the top religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has condemned Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a group “set up to smear the image of Islam” and condemned its kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls.

Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said the radical movement, which says it wants to establish a “pure” Islamic state in Nigeria, was “misguided” and should be “shown their wrong path and be made to reject it.”

His remarks came as religious leaders in the Muslim world, who often do not comment on militant violence, joined in denouncing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau for saying Allah had told him to sell off the kidnapped girls as forced brides.

“This is a group that has been set up to smear the image of Islam and must be offered advice, shown their wrong path and be made to reject it,” he told the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat in an interview published on Friday.

If the grand mufti had seen fit to condemn Boko Harum on their slaughter of Christians in the town of Benisheik on January this year, or perhaps the United Nations would have been moved to believe that it is just as wrong to massacre Christians in a House of God, as it is to kidnap little girls and threaten to sell them into sexual slavery, Boko Harum may have been targeted by the international community earlier, and the girls may have not been kidnapped.

The grand mufti however, knows that these al-Qaeda-trained fighters are the arm and the sword of Islamic terrorism, and condemning them doesn’t suit his purposes.

Than again, the United Nations however has issued no condemnations over the killings of Christians by Islamic terrorists at any time that I could find. Apparently condemning the killings of Christians for their faith doesn’t suit its purposes either.

Humanity baffles me sometimes.

Mostly because a sense of it doesn’t always serve the purpose of humanity itself, and that makes for an odd paradox.

Maybe the West should walk away from the search for the girls of Chibok and let Islam tend to the monster of their own creation that is Boko Harum.

But the (alleged) leader of the Western world has already declared that “the future most not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”, so I’m not sure that we’ll get much action coming from him either.

I say that we let the tribal hunters have their shot, and bring our personnel and our drones home, and that the lesson to be learned here is that any time they are busy killing one another is a good thing for the rest of humanity.

And that’s the last wire for Sunday, May 25th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

Good night.

No Wire Tonight

Posted: May 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

Closed-for-the-weekend

The Wire will be back Thursday June 5th, at 11:59 PM.

Last week, Rep. Joe Garcia D-FL) was caught on camera enjoying a snack during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on government surveillance programs.

The irony of that is beyond amazing.

He was picking his ear and eating the wax, unaware that he was on camera during a house judiciary committee on surveillance.

The more I say it, the funnier it gets.

This week Joe is having his foot for dessert.

Garcia has tried to brush off criticism for his comment by writing it off as a cheap shot at his GOP opponents on the subject of immigration reform, and by standing on his Cuban immigrant status.

“This is an absurdity, accusing the son of Cuban immigrants of believing in Communism is just ridiculous,”  Garcia told The Miami Herald in an interview this week.

Joe… sadly, there are more and more children and grandchildren of Cuban immigrants espousing Socialism and neocommunism in Miami every day. You’re a prime example.

What Garcia did was to inadvertently expose the Democrat’s dirty little secret… they believe that Communism works, if managed properly by the right people.

Communists and Democrats all believe that leftist ideology fails because of opposition to it, and never because it is a failed ideology to begin with.

So Cuba’s “Communism” failed because of US interference, and Soviet Communism failed for the very same reason.

It’s the same argument that is used by leftists in the US government: if you point out to a liberal that after spending $15 trillion dollars on the War on Poverty there are more Americans than ever living in poverty, they will argue that it’s only so because Republicans have obstructed access to sufficient funds to win the war.

The same goes for education and any other failed leftist program in the US.

On the flip side, if you try to make the point to a leftist that the Obama Stimulus failed, they make the unprovable argument that without it, the economy would have fared worse.

I have searched all over for the Latin name of that logical fallacy, and I can’t find it so I am hereby officially creating The Walter Mercado Logical Fallacy.

It goes like this:

We did “A”, and while the outcome is bad, without having done “A”, things would have been worse.

That’s an impossible point to argue because it basically turns the debate into a discussion of whose astrological reading of the future is correct.

The reality is that without the stimulus money being spent, things could have A) remained unchanged, B) gotten better, or C) gotten worse. We don’t know what would have happened if the stimulus monies hadn’t been spent, because the stimulus was set in place and a linear progression of events was set into motion stemming from a present where the stimulus monies were spent.

Walter Mercado may have just fainted.

Or rather, he may have swooned.  Walter Mercado doesn’t faint… he swoons.

Make no mistake about something. Garcia believes, like every true leftist believes, that Communism works in spite of the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

He just said as much.

So all we have to figure out now, is whether we believe what came out of Garcia’s mouth, or what Walter Mercado says will happen to you if you don’t read this column.


Walter-Mercado

And that’s the last wire for Thursday, May 22nd 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

Good night.

(Bloomberg) – A group of 44 former high-ranking U.S diplomats, civil servants, military officers and Cuban-American businessmen is calling on President Barack Obama to further loosen a half-century embargo on the Communist regime in Cuba.

In an open letter sent to Obama, the group, which includes former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, former head of the U.S. Southern Command Admiral James Stavridis and Andres Fanjul, co-owner of sugarcane producer Fanjul Corp., called on Obama to expand the roster of groups allowed to organize travel to the island, authorize import and export licenses between the two countries’ private sectors and encourage the expansion of telecommunications in Cuba by permitting the sale of hardware.

“The U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy,” the group said in the letter. “The Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to usher in significant progress using its executive authority at a time when public opinion on Cuba policy has shifted toward greater engagement with the Cuban people while continuing to pressure the Cuban government on human rights.”

I think that someone should put this myth to bed once and for all.

There is no US embargo on Cuba.

Did everyone get that?

Let me say it again.

THERE. IS. NO. U.S. EMBARGO. ON. CUBA.

I can prove that easily.

Go here and read the dollar value of direct U.S. sales to Cuba. In the last ten years (2004 through 2013) U.S. direct exports to Cuba have exceeded $4.35 billion dollars.

The U.S. is one of Cuba’s top ten trading partners. Hard feat to accomplish with an embargo in place, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s an insight from the U.S. Department of State:

Although economic sanctions are in place, in 2012, the United States was Cuba’s primary supplier of food and agricultural products, and humanitarian goods, a significant supplier of medicines and medical products, and Cuba’s seventh overall largest trading partner in goods.

So then, what embargo are Negroponte, Stavridis and Fanjul talking about?

What ‘sanctions” is the Department of State talking about?

What politicians and business tycoons alike, along with the despots in charge in the island itself are arguing for is the lifting of the trade credit terms imposed on Castro’s Cuba which deny credit terms to the Cuban government, and forces them to pay COD for any goods they wish to buy lest the seller wishes to absorb any losses related to non-payment of the goods.

From Capitol Hill Cubans, June 2011:

The Paris Club, a group composed of the world’s 19 largest creditors nations, has released its annual list of outstanding claims (debtors).

Its largest debtor is Indonesia, which owes $40.679 billion.

Second is China, which owes $30.573 billion.

Castro’s Cuba has the third largest debt of $30.471 billion.

Calculated on a per capita basis — that’s a debt of $23 per Chinese national, $177 per Indonesian and $2,650 per Cuban.

Debt for repression — that’s quite a bargain Castro has made for himself, at the cost of the Cuban people.

In a country were a cardiologist earns less than $150 a month, the debt per citizen is $2,650.

So, again… what is it that Negroponte, Stavridis and Fanjul are asking for?

They want the U.S. government to allow Cuba and U.S. industry access to the securities granted by the U.S. Export-Import Bank on credit sales to foreign countries.

Castro’s Cuba is a notoriously bad credit risk.

The island owes billions to the Russian government but refuses to pay them because they say that the country that they owe money to (the U.S.S.R.) no longer exists. They refuse to be members of any international financial body such as the IMF or the World Bank, and will not disclose information about their international reserves to creditors.

They just want us to send them stuff that they may pay for someday.

Should the Negropontes. Stavridis and Fanjuls of thie nation get their way, they will be able to sell boundless good and services to the Cuban government on credit, with their receivables being guaranteed by the U.S. taxpayer.

Did you get that?

U.S. taxpayers would guarantee all debts incurred by one of the worst credit risk nations in the world for goods and services sold to them by U.S. companies.

The ExIm Bank:

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States. Ex-Im Bank’s mission is to assist in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets.

Ex-Im Bank enables U.S. companies — large and small — to turn export opportunities into real sales that help to maintain and create U.S. jobs and contribute to a stronger national economy.

Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders but provides export financing products that fill gaps in trade financing. We assume credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept. We also help to level the playing field for U.S. exporters by matching the financing that other governments provide to their exporters.

In return for the taxpayers covering the Cuban government’s debt risk, U.S. manufacturers get to negotiate with the Castro government for labor should they decide to build manufacturing facilities in the island.

How does that work?

(HAVANA TIMES) — Ana Teresa Igarza, director general of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) Regulations Office, recently announced that a special hard-currency exchange rate had been established for Zone employees.

Contracted employees will receive 80 percent of the salaries agreed to by Cuban employment agencies and investors, and payments are to be made in regular Cuban pesos (CUP), at a “special” exchange rate of 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) to 10 CUP. This is as “special” as the Special Period.

That is to say, if the employment agency negotiates a 1,000 CUC salary (or its equivalent in US dollars) for a Cuban worker, the agency will pocket the 1,000 CUC (or its equivalent in US dollars) and pay the Cuban worker (in CUP) 80 percent of the sum agreed to, at the special exchange rate of 10 CUP to 1 CUC.

If mathematics hasn’t also been deformed by “State socialism”, this means the worker will receive 10 Cuban pesos for each CUC, which means that their salary would be 8,000 CUP (10 x 800).

When that worker comes out of the ZEDM, in order to purchase anything at the hard-currency stores operated by Cuba’s military monopoly, they will have to resort to government exchange locales (or CADECAS), where they are required to buy CUC at an exchange rate of 25 to 1. Thus, their 8,000 Cuban pesos become 320 CUC

In short, Cuba sells her people as laborers and keeps the lion’s share of the wages.

That’s the country of my birth, but what truly concerns me about the idea of trade with a despotic government like Cuba’s, is that it indirectly soils us as a nation.

It is unconscionable to think that the United States would allow American businesses to engage in what constitutes short-hand rightless serfdom.

It is an inexcusable proposition that would make the U.S. taxpayer liable for the bad debts incurred by one of the world’s worst credit risk nations.

And that’s the last wire for May 21, 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

Good night.

The Book

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is a stunningly beautiful example of prose at its very best. An absolute pleasure to read and to immerse oneself in the writer’s delicately crafted imagery, Lolita, as seen through the eyes of Humbert Humbert is the epitome of one who “walks in beauty like the night.”

 “Oh, what a dreamy pet! She walked up to the open suitcase as if stalking it from afar, at a kind of slow-motion walk, peering at that distant treasure box on the luggage support. (Was there something wrong, I wondered, with those great gray eyes of hers, or were we both plunged in the same enchanted mist?) 

The deftness of the prose is incredible. In your mind’s eye you can “see” exactly what the writer wants you to see moving at the exact pace that he intends for you to move at.

“She stepped up to it, lifting her rather high-heeled feet rather high and bending her beautiful boy-knees while she walked through dilating space with the lentor of one walking under water or in a flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a  copper-colored, charming and quite expensive vest, very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings.”

Just then, you feel a tinge of something wrong.

You begin to sense the vulgar aesthetic of it all, and you come to grips with the realization that you’re enjoying beauty through the eyes of a pedophile, and the book is never the same again. You struggle with Humbert’s morally repugnant behavior even as you recognize the greatness of the writing.

Lolita herself is nothing like what Humbert describes her as being. She is a rather ordinary twelve year-old, and her exotic beauty resides solely in Humbert’s mind. The nymphet described in the book exists because he exists.

That’s classic solipsism.

The theory or view that the self is the only reality. An extreme form of skepticism which denies the possibility of any knowledge other than of one’s own existence. Applied to political ideology, it is the belief that one specific set of beliefs is the only acceptable set of beliefs which defines that political ideology, to the exclusion of all others.

The modern day Social Conservative movement is Humbert Humbert to the Taxed Enough Already coalition’s Lolita.

Humbert Humbert

The origins of today’s Social Conservatives can be traced directly to Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”.  Formed in 1976, Falwell’s decision to forego traditional Baptist principles separating religion and politics soon blossomed into a Southern Baptist political machine that was arguably instrumental in Ronald Reagan’s victories in the 80’s.

Falwell’s vision was to create a Southern Christian Right coalition to push back against the nation’s moral decay by bringing together conservative Christian PAC’s under one umbrella, with the goal of promoting candidates who campaigned on the “right side” of issues they perceived were central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

The Moral Majority’s primary goals were basic, yet wide ranged in nature:

  • Censorship of media outlets that promoted an “anti-family” agenda
  • Enforcement of a traditional vision of family life
  • Opposition to state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual acts.
  • Outlawing abortion.

In effect, Falwell injected religion into American politics to a greater degree than it had ever been done.

By the end of Reagan’s tenure, Falwell’s group was coming apart at the seams, as was the case for other Christian Right groups. Falwell resigned his position as the head of the Moral Majority in 1987, with the coalition formally disbanding in 1989.

Announcing the disbandment of the Moral Majority in 1989 in Las Vegas, Falwell declared, “Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and…religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration.” (*)

That ends Humbert Humbert’s portion.

Having lost his beloved Annabel Leigh, Humbert is left to mourn his love and seek a new one to fill the empty space in his life.

Lolita

What was the T.E.A. Party?

As one can surmise from the expanded acronym (Taxed Enough Already), the T.E.A. Party was (originally) a grass-roots movement protesting excessive taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility.

Some sources credit the simultaneous yet independent actions of two individuals for the birth of the movement:

  • Keli Carender – A Seattle at-home mom, Carender (using the online identity “Liberty Belle”) was using her blog to organize and promote the “Porkulus Protest” a populist rally organized to protest President Obama’s proposed $750 billion stimulus package. About 100 people attended her mid-February event.
  • Rick Santelli – On February 19, 2009 while broadcasting live from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Santelli delivered a spontaneous rant, harshly critical of the Obama administration’s proposal to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance their homes. The video went viral, and Santelli’s idea of organizing a “Tea Party” where “capitalists” would dump derivative securities into Lake Michigan in July that year resonated a chord with people of all walks of life and all political affiliations across the nation.

Both Carender’s “Porkulus Project” and Santelli’s “Tea Party” inspired similar events across the nation. Rallies protesting the idea of out-of-control tax and spend government were quickly organized in places like Denver, Mesa (AZ), and Tampa (FL). The first coordinated national T.E.A. Party event took place on February 27 that same year, with rallies of various sizes occurring in 40 US cities.

The impetus created by the “Porkulus Protest”, the Chicago “Tea Party” and the myriad of organized rallies across the nation culminated in the Tax Day event of 2009.

Depending on who you ask, there were somewhere between 200 and 750 rallies that took place across the country on that day, with between 250,000 and 500,000 people in attendance. Several thousands gathered in Atlanta (GA), and the protest outside the White House was broken up by police when a protester threw a box of tea over the fence.Throughout that summer, people claiming to be members of the T.E.A. Party disrupted hometown meetings held by members of Congress with demands of fiscal accountability, charging elected politicians with malfeasance and even treason.

So there’s the Lolita part of this analogy.

A young, boy-kneed political movement, alone and unattended (Lolita was an orphan) needs direction and leadership, and politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Solipsism

Falwell’s exit from the political stage and the dissolution of his Moral Majority left a membership in disarray, and the troops figuratively wandering the political desert.

The vacuum created by Falwell’s and the Christian Right’s loss of cohesiveness began to be quickly filled by activism in an emerging medium. Electronic bulletin boards and Usenet groups sprang up and Falwell’s troops assembled once again, this time in in virtual communities. The homeless, orphaned children of Falwell’s former political machine pseudo coalesced into a gelatinous, unmolded voting block of vaguely like-minded individuals that, for lack of a better name, became known as Social Conservatives (SoCons).

Somewhere along the way, and as a direct result of Falwell’s influence in the 80’s, the definition of what constitutes conservatism began to change dramatically. Where conservative icons such as Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke had understood that morality was a a deeply-held personal set of values necessary for a free society’s survival, Social Conservatives worked toward implementing moral values via support of candidates who would outwardly pledge to enact legislation that would secure in place those things that (reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority) they perceived as being central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

Thomas Jefferson’s warning on the dangers of mixing religion and public service were forgotten:

“… (O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.” – The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786)

As were Madison’s warnings ignored.

Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]

Eventually, conservatism was defined as ONLY that ideology which supported social policies reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority, and any other right-wing set of values which did not adhere to a Christian Right ideological base was not considered to be “true” conservatism.

Fiscal conservatives with liberal social values became libertarians, and moderate right wingers became liberals in the eyes of the SoCons. Conservatism had been successfully co-opted.

When the T.E.A. Party emerged as a cohesive national coalition, SoCons claimed title to the movement, and a grass roots uprising against taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility which included Democrats and persons of various (or no) religious affiliations, was literally hijacked.

SoCons have recreated the movement into their own image of what should constitute a grass roots movement, and what is today called the Tea Party not only barely resembles that original movement, but sounds exactly like every single other SoCon/Christian Right PAC that’s ever existed.

From the Tea Party (notice that the acronym has been dropped) website’s “About Us” page:

The Tea Party includes those who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judeo-Christian values embedded in our great founding documents. We believe the responsibility of our beloved nation is etched upon the hearts of true American Patriots from every race, religion, national origin, and walk of life sharing a common belief in the values which made and keep our beloved nation great. This belief led to the creation of the modern-day Tea Party.

The only thing that created the modern-day T.E.A. Party was anger at out-of-control government taxation and spending. There was nothing fundationally Judeo-Christian about Keli Carender’s and Rick Santelli’s rallies.

Listed on that “About Page” of TeaParty.org (next to the pictures of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul) are the organization’s “15 Non-negotiable core beliefs” which include things like #1. Illegal aliens are here illegally, #2. Pro domestic employment is indispensable. #5. Gun ownership is sacred. #12. Political offices must be available to average citizens (What exactly does THAT mean? When haven’t they been?) #14. English as our core value is required and #15. Traditional family values are encouraged.

Great values all to be sure, but values that have nothing to do with the original purpose of those rallies back in 2009.

Balancing the budget, ending bailouts and reducing income taxes are #s 7, 8, and 10 respectively. Quite a demotion. Almost an afterthought.

Here’s something to ponder.

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are members of the establishment. You don’t get to be a vice -presidential candidate, or a Senator and avoid being part of the establishment, so it’s hard to perceive a group that counts such luminaries among its leadership as being anti-establishment.

Social Conservatives have now successfully solipsized the T.E.A. Party. The movement has lost any semblance of its own identity, existing only as a creation of the minds of SoCons. The boy-kneed, wild child that disrupted Congressmen at town hall meetings and threw boxes of tea over the White House fence, has been replaced by the SoCons image of a nymphet in politics, but it’s not the same. It was never what people like TeaParty.org claim that it was.

Today’s Tea Party is a fabricated image of what SoCons want a grass roots movement to look like, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify grass roots activism with star-studded celebrities like Palin and Cruz as the face of the movement.

Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere in that “About Us” page will you find Keli Carender’s or Rick Santelli’s name.

“Lolita has been safely solipsized.”

And that’s the last wire for Tuesday, May 20th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.