Exclusive – Oval Office Watch – Tuesday, June 15
by OVAL OFFICE WATCH
June 15, 2010
Obama: Gulf spill 'echoes 9/11' - HERE.
Clintons Stand Up For Colombia - HERE.
Obama Urges New Job Aid to Maintain Economic Recovery - CLICK HERE.
Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites(… or maybe not???)
Hugh Tomlineon, TimesOnline.co.uk
Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.
In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.
Passing over Iraq would require at least tacit agreement to the raid from Washington. So far, the Obama Administration has refused to give its approval as it pursues a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Military analysts say Israel has held back only because of this failure to secure consensus from America and Arab states. Military analysts doubt that an airstrike alone would be sufficient to knock out the key nuclear facilities, which are heavily fortified and deep underground or within mountains. However, if the latest sanctions prove ineffective the pressure from the Israelis on Washington to approve military action will intensify. Read article.
Saudi Arabia: We will not give Israel air corridor for Iran strike - SEE HERE.
Gates: 'Iran 1-3 years from nuclear device.'
It will take Iran at least a year and perhaps three to produce a nuclear device, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
It will then take more time for Iran to produce a weapon and a system for getting it to a target, Gates said at the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.
"But clearly, them getting to the threshold of having weapons is what concerns everybody, and not the other things, and in that area I would say there is a range there from [one to three] years," Gates said.
The time range is based on different intelligence estimates.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy and medical isotopes, but the United States and many allies believe Tehran's real goal is to build weapons. Read article.
Free to Choose
John Stossel, Townhall.com
America's current struggles notwithstanding, life here is pretty good. We have a standard of living that's the envy of most of the world.
Why did that happen? Prosperity isn't the norm. Throughout history and throughout the world, poverty has been the norm. Most of the world still lives in dire poverty. Of the 6 billion people on earth, perhaps 1 billion have something close to our standard of living. Why did America prosper when most of the people of the world are still poor?
Milton Friedman taught me the answer. More than any other American, Friedman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1976, clearly warned the world about the unintended consequences of big government.
"We've become increasingly dependent on government," said Friedman. "We've surrendered power to government; nobody has taken it from us. It's our doing. The results -- monumental government spending, much of it wasted, little of it going to the people whom we would like to see helped." Read article.
Congress Ponders How to Push Electric Vehicles
Saqib Rahim, Scientific American.com
Lawmakers have floated a proposal to fast-track electric cars, but some in the clean-car field are worried that the wheels may fall off.
Last week, House and Senate legislators released bipartisan plans to speed up the deployment of electric vehicles. In each plan, the centerpiece was a "targeted deployment" approach: Rather than offer the same incentives nationwide, the government would award federal funds to the regions that come up with the best blueprints for rolling out tens of thousands of plug-in cars.
In H.R. 5442, proposed by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), the Energy Department has to select five regional plans, with each one eligible to get up to $800 million.
S. 3442, from Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would select five to 15 communities, and winners could receive up to $250 million. Read article.
Obama: I will visit Kenya before my term expires
Rachael Nakitare, kbc.co.ke
US President Barack Obama has urged Kenyans to take advantage of the constitutional review process to ensure sound governance and robust institutions in the country.
In the first ever exclusive interview with KBC the US President said Kenya has immense potential to grow into an African powerhouse but blamed corruption and bad politics for the wanting state of affairs in the country.
President Obama also talked of his plans to visit Kenya and the scheduled visit by vice president Joe Biden next week.
President Obama urged Kenyans to participate in the referendum scheduled for August 4 calling it a "singular opportunity to put the government of Kenya on solid footing beyond ethnicity violence, corruption and towards economic prosperity".
He hailed the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in having brought the review process this far and urged Kenyans to"take advantage of the moment".
The U.S president was speaking to KBC's Rachael Nakitare in an exclusive Oval Office interview on June 1st. Read article.
Running back to the USA
Matt Gurney, FrontPageMag.com
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned after barely eight months in office. Despite his desire to reduce Washington’s influence over Japanese politics, Hatoyama was forced to back off a major campaign pledge —beginning the process of removing all American military forces from Japan’s Okinawa Island. Already weakened by domestic political scandal, Hatoyama resigned rather than lead his Democratic Party into parliamentary elections next month. He felt that he had lost the confidence of his people after announcing that American forces would indeed be staying on Okinawa (though moving to a more remote location).
So ends the tenure of a man who came to power riding a wave of popularity, promising to lead Japan to a new era of reduced spending and a foreign policy distinct from the United States. He ended Japan’s supportive, non-combat role in the war in Afghanistan. His stated goal was to rebalance Japan’s alliance with the United States, maintaining close ties, perhaps, but under terms less favorable to America.
But now, he has quit, and his replacement has already sought to reassure America that the alliance will remain as-is. The reason for this sudden shift, yanking Japan firmly back into America’s orbit, was explained by a joint statement issued by Tokyo and Washington: “Recent developments in the security environment of Northeast Asia reaffirmed the significance of the Alliance.” Addressing reporters later, Hatoyama went further, saying, “I am painfully aware of the feeling of the people of Okinawa that the present problem of the bases represents unfair discrimination against them. At the same time, the presence of US bases is essential for Japan’s security.”
In other words, the North Koreans have rattled the Japanese. Read article.
Admiral Gary Roughead Looks Ahead
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Sitrep.globalsecurity.org
Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, opened the 2010 Current Strategy Forumat the Naval War College. Right now, some have called into question the relevance of the U.S. Navy given the types of operations the United States is involved in; Admiral Roughead noted that at this moment, there are "more sailors on the ground" in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa than deployed at sea.
However, looking to the future, he foresees a resurgence of the Navy's traditional Cold and post-Cold War role as the vehicle for the projection of a "credible military presence offshore" anywhere in the world. Given the importance of the sea lanes for the global economy, the importance of the oceans for transport and communications ("the internet swims with the fishes"), and the increasing size of the oceans (considering the climactic changes in the Arctic opening up the northern passages), the United States will need to be able to demonstrate it has credible capabilities for ensuring its interests. The U.S. must cross two oceans to reach many of the areas that are vital to U.S. interests, which requires a robust force structure. Read article.
New national security strategy borders on incoherent
Clifford D. May, Scripps News.com
Is it possible to defeat an enemy we don't understand? That is only one of the questions that ought to occur to anyone reading President Obama's new national security strategy (NSS).
Administration officials and loyalists have been trying to put the best possible face on the congressionally mandated 52-page document. But anyone who glances at so much as a page will see that is rife with platitudes, wishful thinking and self-delusion. It requires a bit more effort to see how unserious and self-contradictory it is.
Start with this: Who do you think is to blame for the most deadly terrorist attack ever on American soil? According to the NSS, the answer is "globalization," the current buzzword for integrated economies, networked transnational communications and the outrage of selling McDonalds hamburgers to Parisians. The NSS states: "The dark side of this globalized world came to the forefront for the American people on September 11, 2001." Is it possible that policymakers in the White House sincerely believe that's what happened? Read article.
Obama’s Oil Spill Panel May Look Beyond Gulf Disaster at U.S. Energy Needs
Seth Borenstein, CNS News.com
The new presidential commission investigating the Gulf oil spill will include two experts who have been active on the subject of global warming, including one who wrote just last month that the country should redouble efforts to lessen its dependence on oil, The Associated Press has learned.
The two will join former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly, whose roles as co-chairmen of the seven-member panel were previously announced.
Together, the backgrounds of the four panel members selected so far suggest the commission will look at more than just what went wrong, including the bigger picture of the country's conflicting environmental and energy needs.
The third and fourth commission members are Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, and former Alaska Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, currently University of Alaska Anchorage chancellor, the AP has learned. The appointments were expected to be announced publicly soon. Read article.
Inspector General’s Memo: Census says it hired more workers than it needed as a 'cost-saving measure.'
Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS News.com
The U.S. Census purposefully hired more workers than it needed, telling the Office of the Inspector General of the Commerce Department that it did so as a “cost-saving measure,” according to a memorandum that Todd J. Zinser of the inspector general’s office sent to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves last week.
“According to Census,” said Zinser’s May 26 memo to Groves, “‘frontloading’ its workforce (i.e. hiring and training more enumerators than necessary to offset turnover) is a cost-saving measure.” The inspector general’s memo, however, suggested that in at least one Census Bureau operation excessive staff had increased the “cost of operations” and that in another operation deployment of an unnecessarily large number of workers "increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs." Read article.
Visions for Afghanistan
Ed Corcoran, Sitrep.globalsecurity.org
The Taliban have a vision for Afghanistan, and for the whole world - a vision of a medieval, ascetic society controlled by theocrats. Their vision includes a harsh and inflexible enforcement of religious prescriptions, including a number of prescriptions that are not actually required by Islam, particularly in regard to the status of women, but also in regard to music, beards, and prayers. Their vision has the advantage of being clear, straightforward and claiming a special relationship with pure Islam. It energizes their dedicated cadre and provides a rationale for more peripheral members - they know what they are fighting for.
Opinion surveys indicate the the overwhelming majority of Afghans reject such a monastic view of life, particularly after large sections of the country actually endured it during the Taliban regime. Afghan society and the wider Muslim world is distressed at the violence perpetrated by the Taliban, suicide bombings killing thousands, mostly Muslims, many women and children. But there is no alternative vision for Afghanistan, a vision of what Afghanistan could be, a vision of a prosperous Afghanistan with a society based on Islamic principles, but providing fulfilling lives for its citizens. What could this Afghanistan look like? What would it include? How could it be achieved?
The economic aspects of such an Afghanistan are clearly within reach -- other societies have shown the way. South Korea serves as a prime example. A society also ravaged by war, with a poorly educated population and even lacking in natural resources. Nevertheless in a few short decades it rose from a subsistence society to be one of the economic giants of Asia. Yes, there are certainly differences with Afghanistan - Korea has an ethnically homogeneous population without divisive religious and cultural factions. And once the war was suspended, internal security was strong. But Korea also did not have natural resources to help fuel its economic development; nor did it have the combined weight of the world's strongest democracies ready to buttress its development. Read article.
Tax dollars perpetuate global-warming fiction: $6 million study is used to lobby for cap-and-tax
Editorial, Washington Times.com
With public faith in the global-warming myth on the wane, leftist zealots are desperate to spin a new tale - and they're spending your tax money to do it. Three years ago, Congress appropriated $5,856,600 for the National Academy of Sciences to complete a climate-change study. This bureaucratic attempt to cook the books, which was completed last week, may be too late to save this dying religion.
The academy now offers the taxpayer-funded research for download in three separate sections for $44 each. The first volume presents the case that human activities are warming the planet and that this "poses significant risks." A second report urges that a cap-and-trade taxing system be implemented to reduce so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The final section of the study explores strategies on adapting to the "reality" of climate change, meaning purported "extreme weather events like heavy precipitation and heat waves."
None of the big-government recommendations are worth the 1,089 pages of presumably recycled paper on which they are to be printed if planetary warming is actually a phenomenon beyond human control, so the first volume is of primary interest. "Advancing the Science of Climate Change" asserts that the Earth's temperature has risen over the past 100 years and that human activities have resulted in sharp increases in carbon dioxide. The coincidence of these facts on their own, of course, proves nothing. The Earth has been as warm or warmer in past periods, such as the medieval and Roman warm periods, long before the internal combustion engine and coal plants were around to take the heat for a particularly sweltering summer day. Read article.
Administration advances plan to federalize private pension system
Karen McMahan, Caraolina Journal Online.com
In February, the U.S. Treasury and Labor departments jointly announced they were seeking public comment on proposed design changes to employer-sponsored 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts that would centralize the private pension system under structures created and administered by the government.
Supporters say these changes are needed to ensure Americans save more for their retirement and have lifetime income options that prevent them from outliving their retirement savings, protecting them from market risk.
At stake for the millions of Americans with private retirement plans: Would they be able to continue making their own investment decisions? Or would Congress mandate both investment options and distribution methods? Government Retirement Accounts also would prevent workers from owning their retirement savings fully, as they could bequeath only half of their remaining account balances to their heirs.
Government officials, labor unions, and some industry groups favor GRAs and mandatory annuitization. Under the proposal being discussed, workers and companies alike would contribute a minimum of 2.5 percent of pay, up to the Social Security earnings cap, to their GRA. In return, workers would be guaranteed a 3 percent return on their investment. This system would not replace Social Security, forcing workers to contribute to both systems.
According to the Department of Labor, 61 percent of all private-sector workers and 71 percent of all full-time private-sector workers had access to an employer-provided retirement plan in 2008, and another 47 million households currently participate in IRAs. Proponents of a government takeover of the private pension system say the housing and financial crises have jeopardized retirement security and left Americans less trusting of the financial system. Read article.
Obama's NYC apartment during Columbia years now for rent
Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times.com
Apartment 3E at 142 West 109th Street looks like a pretty straightforward New York City apartment. It’s a one-bedroom third-floor walk-up with a windowless office and only a little corner to call a kitchen. It has exposed brick walls and wood floors. It’s a couple of blocks to the subway.
But it has one very special feature, indeed: Barack Obama lived here.
The president’s former pad — which he shared with a roommate in 1981 when he was a junior at Columbia University — is for rent, asking $1,900.
“A place to live is for you,” said Dalila Bella of CitiHabitats, the listing agent on the property. “But people would be more inclined to take this one than, say, 4W,” she suggested, “even if the other was a little nicer. It’s a dinner conversation.” Read article.