The Department of State: beating its head against a wall, for no good reason

I could actually understand the Obama Administration trying to get involved in the Honduran situation — even if they were really on the wrong track — back in the summer. But it’s January 8th, the elections have come and gone, and a new, duly elected president will take office in just nineteen days. The Administration hasn’t been able to accomplish anything that they’ve set out to do yet in Honduras — other than look like fools — in the six months of the Micheletti “interregnum,” so why would they want to step into this minefield again? There is nothing that they would like to accomplish that they could accomplish before January 27, so why try anything, why say anything?

From the State Department Daily Briefing, 5 January 2010 (Hat tip to DRJ):

QUESTION: Well, I just want one on Honduras. I mean, isn’t it a little besides the point now? I mean, you’re going to kind of implement the San Jose process. You already have a president-elect. You have an inauguration coming up. You’ve already pretty much said that you’re going to accept and deal with the new government. So what is this kind of symbolic box-checking of making sure that you implement the San Jose Accords before the new government –

(Assistant Secretary Phillip) CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think it’s symbolic at all. I mean, obviously, what happened back in June represents a breach in the heart of Honduran society, and to some extent that tension is still there. So yes, you’re right; there is a new government that will be installed on January 27th. The real question is: Can that government be a vehicle through which you begin a healing process and you have a situation where the Honduran people can unite behind this new government? That is our primary effort here: How do we help Honduras move forward and to overcome the clear tension that resulted in the actions taken last June?

A breach in the heart of Honduran society? Honduras held its presidential election, on the previously-scheduled date, and, with significantly higher turnout than occurred in the 2005 electing won by Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans voted for “Pepe” Lobo, the candidate of the major center-right party, Partido Nacional, by a significant majority. Former President Zelaya’s former party, Partido Liberal, came in second, while the Zeyalista candidate received a whopping 1.7% of the votes.

The Honduran Supreme Court had voted unanimously to depose Mr Zelaya, and the Honduran Congress had voted to do the same, 125-3; Mr Zelaya’s party held the congressional majority at the time.

Of course, there were the so-called San Jose Accords, calling for the Congress to vote on the restoration of deposed President Zelaya:

National Congress of Honduras rejects the restitution of Sr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales

The legislative body reaffirms its support for the constitutional succession that brought Roberto Micheletti Bain to the Presidency

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, 02 December, 2009 – With a vote of 111 in favor and 14 against, the National Congress of Honduras today overwhelmingly rejected the restitution of Mr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the presidency of the Republic. Also, Congress passed a motion supporting the succession leading to the constitutional presidency of Mr. Roberto Micheletti Bain. Members in turn strongly and affirmatively expressed of the permanence of President Micheletti in office until January 2010, confirming Decree 141-2009, with 111 votes for and 14 against. The president-elect of the Republic, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo will take office on January 27, when the new President of Congress will place the presidential sash.

In making that decision, Congress fulfills the responsibility that fell on the legislative body under section five of the Agreement Tegucigalpa / San José, which was signed last October 30 by representatives of President Micheletti Bain and Mr. Zelaya Rosales. As stipulated in paragraph five, the Congress “To achieve reconciliation and to strengthen democracy, in the spirit of the theme of the proposed agreement of San José, both negotiating committees have decided to respectfully submit that the National Congress, as an institutional expression of popular sovereignty, exercising its powers, in consultation with the instances that it deems appropriate such as the Supreme Court of Justice and in accordance with the law, resolve as appropriate in respect “to roll back the ownership of Executive Power to its previous status as at 28 June, until the conclusion of the current governmental period on 27 January 2010″. Contrary to public statements from various sectors, the agreement makes no type of recommendation with regard to due result of this decision, it only required that the same was done.

“For the second time, this Congress has spoken strongly that Mr. Zelaya Rosales not be restored to the presidency. For the second time, the congressmen elected by the Honduran people have raised their voices in defense of our constitution and democratic system of government. There will not be a third time. We demand that the international community respect the final decision of this legislative body, where the popular sovereignty of our people resides,” said José Alfredo Saavedra, President of the National Congress and member of the Liberal Party.

Before making its decision, Congress sought views on the legality of the possible return of Mr. Zelaya Rosales from several entities of the government of Honduras. As dictated by the Tegucigalpa / San José Agreement, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Solicitor General’s Office, the Commissioner Human Rights, and the Attorney General, presented reports.

These opinions and consultations for the consideration of the Honduran congress were made available to members of Congress, even though these were not binding on its final decision.

The decision against the return of Mr. Zelaya Rosales to the presidency, was overwhelmingly supported by members from all political parties represented in Congress.

“This Congress has fulfilled its responsibility under the Agreement Tegucigalpa / San José in a transparent and democratic manner. We call on all of the international community and regional bodies, including the Organization of American States, to respect our sovereignty. Having elected a new president, all Hondurans have already begun the process of national unity and reconciliation. Those seeking to continue the controversy and to perpetuate the political crisis in our country are obsessed with the past and personal agendas and not the welfare of our country,” added Ramón Velásquez Nazar, Vice President of Congress and member of the Christian Democratic Party of Honduras.

The Honduras National Congress consists of 128 deputies who represent 5 political parties. Deputies are elected every four years by the Honduran people for a period of four years.

Translation from the Spanish original by La Gringa.

The clear majority of the people of Honduras approved deposing President Zelaya, as is evidenced by the votes they cast in a free and fair election, but our own State Department can’t seem to see that. Then, the Congress, which still had a majority of members from Mr Zelaya’s former party, voted 111 to 14, not to restore the deposed president. Just how much more evidence does our State Department need that there is no “breach in the heart of Honduran society,” at least, not among Hondurans? That there may be a breach in the heart of some State Department desk jockeys I readily concede. Back to Secretary Crowley’s briefing:

QUESTION: Well, but the tension was from Zelaya’s rule and the people that wanted him back in versus the people that –

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: Whatever.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s true. By the same token, our interest here is in seeing a true restoration of constitutional and democratic rule, and to see Honduras advance as a stable and contributing member of the international community.

If that is our interest, then we have already seen it met: a free and democratic election was held, and the Honduran constitution was upheld. If Honduras still lags “as a stable and contributing member of the international community,” it isn’t because of the actions of the people of Honduras, but of the reactions of other countries. That Hugo Chavez is upset is understandable, and will not change; that the United States government is standing in the way is unpardonable.

MR. CROWLEY: And, oh, by the way, we do have some decisions to make in the future about the future nature of our relationship. As we said back in November, the election was a step forward. We felt that the results did reflect the will of the Honduran people. That said, the election by itself was not enough to – we have some decisions to make in terms of the nature of our relationship, the nature of assistance in the future.

So there are still steps that Honduras has to take, and we are encouraged by comments by President-elect Lobo, but we are there to continue to move this process forward not only to get to January 27, but most importantly, to see that government advance once it’s in office.

You know, we deal with governments all the time that are not “reflections of the will” of their people, whose “elections” are as one-sided as they get, yet we don’t seem to have “some decisions to make in terms of the nature of our relationship.” Yet Honduras has a free and fair election, one which our own State Department has conceded reflects the will of the people of Honduras, but it’s just not quite good enough for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

QUESTION: How – I mean, I understand about moving forward, but how by undoing what you did – not what you did, but what was done in Honduras at the absolute last minute right before the inauguration of this new president that you – by this new president repairs the constitutional breach that took place? And why would you need to reevaluate what kind of relationship you need with Honduras going forward? This was all about the interim government and the former deposed government. And why would you punish this new government for what happened before that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, remember, not only do we support a government of national unity that reflects all of the components –

QUESTION: For a day or a couple of days?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no – we support the formation of a national unity government that represents broad interests in Honduras. But most importantly, you need to have this truth commission that is part of a healing process that has to occur if Honduras is going to advance. So it is – there are a number of steps in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords. Some of them have been implemented, but not all, and this continues to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Honduras and to the future relationship between the United States and Honduras. But there are definitely – Craig is there to communicate clearly to a variety of parties that there are still things that Honduras has to do.

I’m sorry, but this is utter lunacy. Whatever problem the Obama Administration saw with Honduras has already been solved. What President Obama and his minions wanted to do, the restoration of Señor Zelaya, they could not get done in the five months between him being removed from power and the election, or in the 1½ months since the election; the chances that the Administration can get Honduras to knuckle under to our will in the nineteen days before President-elect Lobo receives the Presidential Sash are vanishingly small. At this point, there is no point in wasting time and money and effort on something which will not succeed, would not accomplish anything of value if it did succeed, and will only further anger the people of Honduras if we persist.

We still have another three years and twelve days of the Obama Administration and its naïve foreign policy. I sure hope that in that three years and twelve days, some of these noble idealists will grow up, will become adults. Right now, their pitiful performance on foreign policy in Latin America isn’t exactly encouraging.

How to make al Qaeda prisoners talk

Just sit them through a laser eye procedure!

Not lasiks, but what I had done today, which was where the ophthalmologist used a laser to blast away some scar tissue behind the lens implant in my right eye. There’s no actual pain involved, but it’s like having to sit there, with your eye held open by a contact device, and stare at welder flash for hours on end two minutes.

Like I said, no pain, but you have a natural instinct to close your eyes, to look away, to avoid that painfully bright light. Having to sit there seems almost unbearable; Khalid Sheikh Muhammad? He’d have broken, and quickly!

Oh, by the way, I can see a lot better now. :)

In the meantime, whilst sitting in the doctor’s office — but before the laserboarding treatment — my cell phone rang. It was PFC Pico. She had told me that she had to be at her unit at 8:00 PM today, and that her unit was going to Fort Dix for some sort of training. Well, turns out that she was supposed to be at her unit at 8:00 AM today. I thought that was why the military used military time, to prevent foul-ups like this.

The Army is being nice, and they came by and picked her up (just a few minutes ago). She is anticipating push-ups for this one; hopefully it will be fewer than a thousand.

Transparency?? So is 18 inches of Concrete

Speaking of Transparency, here’s from an article from a Dem challenger to Arlen Spektor in PA for Senator. It’s mostly campaign stuff, but the transparency comment is great.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_661036.html

Rep. Joe Sestak blames Democratic leaders for the plunge in public support for overhauling the health care system, saying Wednesday they failed to defend proposals that helped carry the party to victories in 2008.

They said it would be transparent. Why isn’t it?” said Sestak, a Delaware County Democrat, in a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters. “At times, I find the caucus is a real disappointment. We aren’t transparent, not just to the public but at times to the members.”

Sestak is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the May 18 primary, as is Dravosburg’s state Rep. Bill Kortz. Former Rep. Pat Toomey of the Lehigh Valley and Peg Luksik, a Johnstown activist, are seeking the Republican nomination for the seat.

Mostly campaign stuff in the article above.

But Breitbart TV posted eight incidences where BO said Health Care would be televised. C-SPAN may get an hour, the rest in secret.

Nancy Pelosi said this is the most open it has ever been especially for Health Care (See Sestak’s comment above) Also CBS and CNN have complained about the lack of transparency also.

So, how’s that Hopelessness and No Change doing for ya????

Technology aids stupidity

Two quick stories from this mornings news.  First, Joe Spadaro, an employee of the Philadelphia Eagles, videotaped himself spitting on the star at Cowboys Stadium, and posted it on an Eagles website.  It was soon taken down, but not before someone else picked it up and posted it on YouTube.  Mr Spadaro has issued an apology, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he soon became a former; Eagles employee.

And in Bangor, Pennsylvania, a 24-year-old teacher’s aide had a nude photo of herself on her cell phone.  Some kid lifted the phone, found the photo, and e-mailed it around.  The moral of the story: if you don’t want nude photographs of yourself spread around, don’t have them on your cell phone!  She just might lose her job over this.

In the olden days, people could keep their mistakes and their idiocy to themselves; thanks to modern technology, if you are stupid, it will get publicized!

Hawai’ians Like Spam But I Don’t

Those living in Hawai’i are proud to be known as the Spam capital of the world. They eat more Spam per capita than anywhere else that I am aware of. If you go into a McDonalds in Hawai’i, you can find a list of breakfast meal deals that include Spam. It doesn’t hurt that their pork and beef products are almost 100 percent imported and Spam is among the cheapest ways to get meat.

But I don’t like Spam… or spam. I just checked the statistics for CSPT. This site will break the 40,600 comment mark sometime this month. It will also break the 670,000 spam mark sometime this month. And huge quantities of that spam are wholly societal-dregs value.

As I’m on during hours when most Americans are sleeping, I have made it a point to try to rescue comments from the moderation filter. I used to try to rescue comments from the spam filter without prompting but I have given that up. No amount of Ivory soap can clean a body from what is in that filter.

BUT I CONSIDER the heavy dosage of spam that gets filtered to be a mark CSPT can be proud of. Any site that gets a 16-1 spam-comment ratio is getting enough traffic to be proud of. And it isn’t the article authors that makes the whole thing go. It is those who comment on the articles posted and those who lurk and just read. Those hits are what make CSPT so enticing to spammers. And that huge spam-comment ratio gives me, at least, a feeling that CSPT is indeed getting the word out on many important and frivolous matters, and a feeling that the commenters here are being heard outside our little circle.

Majorly important question

Whilst my darling bride was driving me back from the ophthalmologist (which I spelled right the first time, amazingly enough), we were talking about our upcoming income tax refund. I mentioned that President Obama had changed the withholding schedules without actually changing tax rates, so our refund would probably be smaller.

She then said, Why do you call him Obama, as in rhymes with Alabama. His name’s Obama, with the first a sounding like the o in bomb.

So, which of us is pronouncing it correctly?

As for the ophthalmologist, I’ll be having eye surgery soon. I had a cataract removed in 2003, in my right eye, and some scar tissue has formed. On Friday, the ophthalmologist will use a laser to blast away the scat tissue, so I’ll be able to see more clearly out of my right eye.

Then, on Tuesday, 19 January, I’ll be having the cataract which has been developing in my left eye removed. The doctor said that Friday’s treatment was quick and painless, and that I should see better immediately, so I don’t anticipate any hiatus from entertaining everybody with my brilliant mind and powerful prose. The surgery on the nineteenth should leave me able to see just fine that afternoon, but I might take a break for a day or so./

He set his own standard; can he meet it?

Seth Williams is Philadelphia’s new District Attorney, replacing his former boss, Lynne Abraham.


R. Seth Williams installed as Philadelphia D.A.¹


By Miriam Hill, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

At a swearing-in ceremony attended by more than 1,000 people and punctuated by cheers and applause, Philadelphia’s first African American district attorney, R. Seth Williams, vowed to fix a “broken” justice system and “make Philadelphia the safest big city in America.”

Achieving that goal would mark a complete reversal of the city’s current status as a place with high crime rates where criminals often walk free.

At his inauguration yesterday in Verizon Hall, Williams, 43, said he would improve conviction rates, especially for violent offenders. “Four years from now, we will not have the lowest conviction rate in the country,” he said.

He cited an Inquirer investigative series in December reporting that Philadelphia had the highest violent-crime rate among big cities – and the nation’s lowest felony-conviction rate.

“The Philadelphia criminal-justice system is broken,” Williams said, despite the hard work of “dedicated and underpaid public servants who toil hard every day.”

I should have written about it earlier, but the Inquirer had some significant articles concerning criminal justice — and the lack thereof — in Philadelphia over the past couple of months.


Judge’s message to lawyers: Work faster


By Nancy Phillips and John Sullivan, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers

Citing courtroom delays that plague Philadelphia’s criminal-justice system, a top city judge has pressed court-appointed defense lawyers to move their cases along swiftly.

President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe of Common Pleas Court said her office would monitor how long lawyers take to handle cases and consider those “disposition rates” in making future assignments.

Dembe announced the change in a Dec. 17 letter to about 300 lawyers who represent indigent clients at the court’s expense. The letter came in response to an Inquirer series that depicted a city court system in crisis – beset by low conviction rates, a massive fugitive problem, long court delays, and dismissal of thousands of cases each year without any decision on the merits.

“My goal is to have lawyers think twice – especially if they’re operating on our dime – before they ask for a continuance that isn’t really justified,” Dembe said in an interview last week.

Lawyers who handle court appointments bristled at her decision to take aim at them.

Samuel C. Stretton, a veteran defense lawyer whose practice includes a significant amount of court-appointed work, said Dembe’s effort was “misguided” and would do nothing but deprive defendants of quality counsel.

But, of course, the article continued to note that by seeking continuances, the defense attorneys hope that the long delays will frustrate the prosecution, discourage witnesses and lead to the whole case falling apart. In Philadelphia, defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases, giving the city the nation’s lowest felony-conviction rate among large urban counties. Judge Dembe was, in effect, asking court-appointed defense attorneys to not do their best to get their clients off. It should be up to the prosecutors — that would be District Attorney Williams — and the judges to work against frivolous continuances; you can’t expect the defense attorneys to not work in their clients’ best interests.

How about this one?


Gun Arrests Galore, No Convictions At All


By John Sullivan, Emilie Lounsberry, and Dylan PurcellPhiladelphia Inquirer Staff Writers

Just 23 years old, John Gassew has been arrested 44 times, mostly on charges of sticking a gun in people’s faces and robbing them.

But in the eyes of the law, Gassew isn’t an armed robber.

He’s never been convicted.

Despite being called one of the city’s more prolific, and sometimes violent, stickup men by police – they say he bashed a delivery man over the head with a bat, shot at a 13-year-old neighbor, and smashed in the face of a robbery victim – Gassew has been sentenced to jail only once, for a drug charge.

The Northeast Philadelphia man has become so confident in his ability to beat charges, police say, that he openly scoffs at the system. In December 2007, officers arrested him as he ran down a street, leaving behind a car that police said was filled with the loot from 21 robberies he committed in just one weekend.

“It looked like a store in there,” said Detective Bob Kane.

As Kane and Detective Robert Conn of the Northeast Detective Division tell it, when they confronted Gassew with four trash bags of evidence, he leaned back in his chair and told them he’d take his chances in court.

“The bad guys know that if they come in the front door, the back door is usually open,” Conn said.

It’s an all-too-common story in Philadelphia: A small-time criminal emboldened by a system that fails time and again to put him away graduates to more violent acts and, eventually, a standoff with police.

Gassew has beaten cases in almost every way – including three trials in which he was found not guilty after witnesses changed their story on the stand or were found not credible.

“Twenty-three years old and 44 priors. There’s no excuse for that,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

The new District Attorney has his work cut out for him. To meet the standard of success he has set for himself, he has to go far beyond the authority of his own office. He has to get more help from the police, who are already overworked, he has to get more help from the judges, many of whom either coddle crimionals or are outright idiots, but, most importantly, he has to get help, a lot more help, from the community. A lot of the cases fall apart because witnesses are intimidated and change their stories or fail to appear in court.

____________________________
¹ – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday, 5 January 2010, p. A-1