The speech, and what it meant

I don’t usually watch presidential speeches. Part of that is due to my poor hearing, and this is the first time there has been one since I got what are referred to at the Pico household as my bunny ears. Another reason is that, well, most of them have been boring.

The speech started out rather poorly in my view. The delivery was flat, and the audience unimpressed, visibly unimpressed. A lot of that, I think, was due to the subject matter: the President was talking about history, about past policy, about things he really didn’t like. President Obama’s delivery picked up some when he was past the policy part, when he was giving his reasons for his decision. He was on firmer ground here, personally, because this was the area that, as a politician, he is most comfortable. It never gpt to the old-fashion stemwinder type political speech, but it improved markedly toward the end. I checked the clock when I noticed the improvement in the speech, and it was 8:31 PM EST.

The audience reaction was very restrained. Two of what the President anticipated as applaude lines left the audience silent. This was, of course, a very disciplined audience, the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy, a group of young men and women who will actually have to execute the strategy the President sets forth. I watched on NBC, and the cameras panned through the audience, and I saw a lot of serious, dead-pan faces. I did notice that the cameras focused on one female cadet in particular, of at least partially oriental descent. And there was a lot of focus on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the exclusion, at times, of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was seated beside her; I thought that strange, given the venue.

But delivery is one thing: the more important part is what the President said. Unfortunately, though he waxed eloquent toward the end about why we are in Afghanistan and why it is important and in our national interest to finish the job, he actually said only four things of any importance:

  1. He will send, beginning early next year, 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan;
  2. He considers Pakistan to be just as important a problem as Afghanistan, though in a different way;
  3. He wants to hold the Afghan leadership and people accountable for their own security; and
  4. He will begin drawing down troop levels in the summer of 2011.

Other than the number of troops to be sent, and the President’s planned end date, he really didn’t say anything new. The notion that the Afghans eventually have to take over their country’s security is nothing new; he has said it before, and President Bush said the same thing. The merging of the Afghani and Pakistani problems is not new; this was stated last spring.

And while noble phrases were many, and soaringly delivered toward the end, details were few. The intelligent and educated cadets certainly didn’t miss this: many knew that they’d wind up serving in Afghanistan, but I’m not sure that they picked up on what would be different, what the President’s strategy would actually be. Really, how could they, because the commander-in-chief never told us what it was.

My overall impression was that this was a speech which would satisfy few people. For me, the notion that our mission would be defined not by objectives achieved but by a date on the calendar seems ridiculous: it tells the Taliban, it tells al Qaeda, that if they can just hold out until July of 2011, they’ve won. What happens if the Afghan security forces are simply not ready in 18 months; the President never addressed that question.

I’d guess that our friends on the left will be disappointed as well. For all of the President’s protestations that we are not an occupying power and don’t want to be an occupying power, many liberals see us as just that, many see our presence in Afghanistan as morally objectionable. That President Obama has said he will increase our efforts and our troop strength there will cause some real howls, I would guess.

As I listened to this speech, one word started popping into my head: Vietnamization. This speech could have been delivered in 1969 or 1970 by President Nixon, telling us of his plans to gradually train and increase the responsibilities of the Republic of Vietnam.

President Obama specifically drew a difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam, saying that the Taliban movement was not a popular insurgency as was the Communist movement in Vietnam. Quite frankly, I didn’t buy that: if the Taliban didn’t have some popularity, they couldn’t survive, because guerrilla fighters need the cooperation of the people amongst whom the hide, to stay hidden and to stay fed.

In the end, President Obama drew a very direct parallel in his plan to what President Nixon did in Vietnam. President Nixon, after trying to win the war by expanding it into Cambodia, in an attempt to shut down supply and personnel inflows from North Vietnam, decided that it couldn’t be won, but that he couldn’t just cut-and-run.

The Communists recognized this, and very kindly offered President Nixon just what he wanted: negotiations and a peace treaty to give the United States a fig leaf of respectability, while the Communists would retool for the final push once the Americans were out. They knew, everybody knew, that once the American troops were out, there was no way in Hell the Congress would let them go back in, regardless of whether the Communists broke the Paris Peace Accords or not.

And that’s just what President Obama told al Qaeda and the Taliban. Give us 18 months to rebuild the Afghan security forces, and then we’ll go on our merry way. The Taliban, if they’re smart, will lay low, and let the United States do what it wants, because in 1½ years, we’ll be gone . . . and then they can do whatever they damned well please.

President Obama even touched on the real weakness of this, the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If the Taliban and al Qaeda are smart, they can wait out that 18 months, wait until American forces have “achieved their objectives” and mostly left, and then the Islamists can attack, and move on both the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Why? Because the one thing I didn’t hear the President say was that he was going to hunt down and destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda. And if they are left alive, to fight another day, rest assured, they will fight another day.

Government General Motors loses another CEO

This is not a surprise.

General Motors CEO Henderson out

Has run company since March, board chairman to be interim replacement

General Motors Co. CEO Frederick “Fritz” Henderson stepped down Tuesday after the board determined that the company wasn’t changing quickly enough.

Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr. said at a hastily called news conference that he will serve as interim CEO, and an international search for a new CEO and president is planned.

Whitacre thanked Henderson for his work during a period of challenge and change, but said it is time to accelerate the pace of rebuilding the largest U.S. automaker.

The resignation comes just eight months after Henderson, 51, replaced former chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who was ousted March 29 by the Obama administration’s government’s auto task force.

Henderson has been with GM his entire career and was the government’s choice to run the beleaguered company after Wagoner left. Whitacre, picked by the government in June to be chairman of the new GM, is considered an industry outsider, having run AT&T Inc. for 17 years.

Whitacre and the board have become increasingly active in the company’s decisions, at times challenging some of Henderson’s decisions. In November, the board voted to abandon plans to sell GM’s European Opel unit. That reversed an earlier option favored by Henderson to sell it to a consortium led by Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc.

“Based on the determination of the board and the pace of the change in the company, it was determined that it was best to initiate a change in direction,” spokesman Chris Preuss said.

An Obama administration official said in a statement that “this decision was made by the Board of Directors alone. The Administration was not involved in the decision.”

I happen to have a bridge for sale, and you can put tolls on it, too, for any of you who believe that the Obama Administration “was not involved.”

Government General Motors’ biggest problems are that:

  1. There are people like me who will not ever buy another GM vehicle, now that the government owns it; and
  2. GM builds crap.

I’m thinking that the second problem might be a bigger one, but, it’s also important that someone like me, someone who actually has a job and will eventually have to buy another truck, is simply not available to GM as a potential customer, even if they do improve the quality of their junk.

Talking with a health care reform supporter

I was talking with one of my friends this afternoon, someone who voted for President Obama, is a loyal Democrat, and who very much wants to see health care reform. Our conversation on the subject began because he has a niggling medical problem, the treatment for which his physician referred him to another doctor to perform.

Well, it turned out that the second doctor doesn’t accept his health insurance, so my friend will have to get another referral, to another doctor who can treat the problem, but one who does accept his insurance. Annoying, but not really all that uncommon. He is also urinated off because, despite the fact that his portion of his health insurance costs him $61 a week, it still doesn’t cover everything, and he has a co-payment he’ll have to make. the government, he says, just has to “do something” about health care.

OK, fine, that’s what he thinks. But, other than requiring “shall issue” health insurance — insurance companies could not deny coverage for pre-existing conditions — and a requirement that companies above a certain size must offer health insurance for their employees and the employees must carry some form of health insurance, every plan out there, whether what President Obama wanted, what passed the House of Representatives, or what will (hopefully not) pass the Senate, every one of them is based on maintaining the same private health insurance system.

In other words, what my friend complained about isn’t going to be addressed! It will still cost him money — probably more money — and there’s nothing in any plan which would eliminate co-payments. Nor is there any particular guarantee that medical professionals will accept more different insurance carriers; he could well have the same problem of the doctor he wants to see not accepting the insurance his employer provides. Right now, right now, there are many physicians who don’t accept Medicare or Medicaid patients, don’t accept the government’s insurance, for one reason or another.

It seems to me that there are a lot of people who expect the government to “do something” about health care, like my friend, but, judging by the way things are going, if the government does “do something” — heaven forfend! — a whole lot of the supporters (already a minority now) are going to be very disappointed in just what does get done.

Oh, the poor dears!

I’ve pretty much avoided the “CrasherGate” “scandal,” the one where Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed President Obama’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Yeah, it was a security breach, and yeah, it could have gotten ugly if the gate crashers had been potential assassins rather than fame-seekers.

But I completely lose sympathy for people like the Salahis parlay their fifteen minutes of fame to go on the Today show and complain that their “lives have been destroyed.” If their “lives have been destroyed,” it’s because they did something wrong.

Donald Douglas excoriates them, and their self-serving, evasive interview on Today. Me, I just think that they are pathetic.

But one thing that really bothers me is that the House Homeland Security Committee is going to launch a congressional investigation of this. What kind of a waste of money is it that Congress should take this up? Don’t our Representatives have something better to do with their time? With a huge, over-a-trillion dollar deficit looming, any waste of money is uncalled for, and this is a waste of money.

The Secret Service will conduct its own internal investigation, figure out what went wrong, and institute whatever changes are required. They are thoroughly professional, and non-partisan; they don’t care whether the Presidenmt is a Republican or Democrat, or whether the Salahis are Palestinian sympathizers, or anything along those lines. They simply care about doing their jobs.

Politically Incorrect Humor

This is a story my daughter told me (and she’s politically incorrect):

I was sweeping the office and 2LT [redacted] told me that I was doing an outstanding job and that I was going to do great at my future career of being a housewife. I said “why thank you sir, but I’m wearing shoes.” Then I told him the 2 black eyes joke:

What do ya tell a woman with 2 black eyes?
Nothing, you already told her twice.

That’s Laura, and I’m proud of her.
Cross Posted on Truth Before Dishonor

The Catholic Code

Yorkshire sent this to our e-mail group, but I had to use it here. As a real Catholic, I can get away with it. :)

Subject: Catholic Code

This information is for Catholics only. It must not be divulged to non-Catholics. The less they know about rituals and code words, the better off they are.

AMEN: The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.

BULLETIN: Your receipt for attending Mass.

CHOIR: A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.

HOLY WATER: A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY.

HYMN: A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the congregation’s range.

RECESSIONAL HYMN: The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly, since most of the people have already left.

INCENSE: Holy Smoke!

JESUITS: An order of priests known for their ability to find colleges with good basketball teams.

JONAH: The original ‘Jaws’ story.

JUSTICE: When kids have kids of their own.

KYRIE ELEISON: The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and baklava. (for you non-Catholics it means Lord have mercy)

MAGI: The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.

MANGER: Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph wasn’t covered by an HMO. (The Bible’s way of showing us that holiday travel has always been rough.)

PEW: A medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.

PROCESSION: The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, the celebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.

RECESSIONAL: The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.

RELICS: People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to sit, kneel, and stand.

TEN COMMANDMENTS: The most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.

USHERS: The only people in the parish who don’t know the seating capacity of a pew.

Little known facts about the Catholic Church in Las Vegas:
There are more churches in Las Vegas than casinos. During Sunday services at the offertory, some worshippers contribute casino chips as opposed to cash. Some are sharing their winnings – some are hoping to win. Since they get chips from so many different casinos, and they are worth money, the Catholic churches are required to send all the chips into the diocese for sorting. Once sorted into the respective casino chips, one junior priest takes the chips and makes the rounds to the casinos turning chips into cash. And he, of course, is known as the Chip Monk.

Oh, boo hoo! Hugo Chavez is upset!

From La Tribuna:

“Pepe” will not allow Chavez sticking their noses (in Honduras business)

EDITORIAL .- The winner of the elections, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo said Monday that it will not allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, no one “dares to stick their noses” in the crisis.

“That neither he (Chavez) and no one dares to set foot in Honduras,” said Wolf, the conservative National Party, which gained electoral authorities said in yesterday’s elections for 55.9 percent of the vote compared to 30.09 percent of Elvin Santos, the Liberal Party.

Honduras “is a free, independent and sovereign (…) will not accept impositions from anyone or political compromises that create division,” Wolf insisted.

Chavez called yesterday Honduran elections “a farce” and opined that have served to reveal the “double standard Yankee” and “double talk” of U.S. President Barack Obama.

American countries are divided between those who recognize the electoral process and its results, as is the case of Colombia, and those who have announced they will not because the elections were held without first reinstating the deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

“We want to restore and normalize relations with all countries. That they respect us just as we respect ourselves, “said Wolf

He stressed that the Hondurans came yesterday “massively” to the polls, saying that participation was around “62 percent” of the census compared with 54 percent of the previous election.

“There were no winners or losers. Democracy has triumphed, ” said Lobo, who added:” We can not dwell on the past. The most important thing is to see the future and avoid anything that divides people more

With far greater voter turnout than Honduras had when Manuel Zelaya was elected, the people of Honduras voted for the center-right Partido Nacional de Honduras. The center-left Partido Liberal de Honduras came in second, while the Zelayista César Ham finished with less than two percent of the vote.

Former President Manuel Zelaya had said that the election would have less than 50% participation and would thus be illegitimate; by the standard he set himself, the election was just fine. :)

The only reasonable interpretation of the vote is that the voters approved of deposing President Zelaya, and rejected the calls by President Chavez and other left-leaning governments to reinstate him.