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Bin Laden’s Legacy: We Are All Americans, Once Again

Nearly 10 years ago, days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I drove home to the Washington, DC suburbs from Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a long, long trip, some 28 hours of driving over two and 1/2 days, but an experience like no other.  There was a special sense of community, of shared loss, of egalitarianism that pervaded the highways. Flags and signs hung from overpasses. Everyone listened to the same news alerts.  People made eye contact at rest stops and restaurants, nodding knowingly about the inner rage, and determination, affecting the United States. In many ways, it was a highly spiritual experience and a unique time in this country.

Sunday’s special ops killing in Pakistan of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — mastermind, symbol and financial underwriter of the Al Qaeda network — produced much of the same feelings.  Twitter and social media were overwhelmed.  Young people, who have never known a United States without its current national security state apparatus, celebrated in front of the White House. CNN and the other television news networks served as a place of gathering for Americans of all races, backgrounds and socio-economic status.

Bin Laden’s theory was that Western democracies are weak and thus that direct terrorist attacks would splinter the citizenry and end Western involvement in the Middle East. He got it entirely backwards. The reality is that 9/11 united the United States. We debate and fight about tactics, long-term strategy and effectiveness, but since that day no American can look at the massive hole of ground zero in Manhattan’s financial district, or the new granite walls of the Pentagon, without recalling where they were and how they felt on 9/11. That’s a legacy that has already outlasted bin Laden.

bin Laden was special ops "double tapped" in the forehead. Guess AK-47 marksmanship training FAILED for that bastard. A fitting end.
Glenn Manishin

There’s another way in which bin Laden’s death has once again transformed this country from a nation of strangers to a shared community. This president, whose policies on healthcare, deficit reduction and the like are attacked from all sides, risked everything to get America’s most well-known terrorist enemy. If the operation had failed Obama would have been a crippled leader, like Jimmy Carter after the 1980 Iranian hostage rescue operation faltered in the desert sands, with re-election impossible. His was a balls-out call. For a Democrat, especially, to maintain secret, unilateral “black” intelligence operations in foreign countries has been all but anathema. Obama acted more like Ronald Reagan than either W. or Bush 41 ever did.

John Ullyot, a former Marine intelligence officer who served as a Republican spokesman on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the operation was “a gutsy call because so much could have gone wrong. The fact that Obama approved this mission instead of the safer option of bombing the compound was the right call militarily, but also a real roll of the dice politically because of how quickly it could have unraveled.”

Obama Finds Praise, Even From Republicans | NYTimes.com.

No one is criticizing the decision to assassinate bin Laden. That in itself is simply amazing, another sign of the feelings of community pervading this country. They will not last, of course. But today we are once again all Americans.

One difference is that although worldwide support for American spiked after 9/11, it seems even Arabs and other Muslims have now largely abandoned the anti-Western Jihad mentality that bin Laden fostered. The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya re not being driven by radical Shi’ite imams, rather by middle class tech executives and students.  This year’s Arab Spring movement is secular and largely non-violent. American flags are not being burned and our government — massively out of character historically, and at long last — actually stood on the side of the protesters and against entrenched, repressive Arab governments. That’s another arrow in Al Qaeda’s coffin, and another way in which, in the instantly connected global community of today’s Earth, we really are all Americans.

Bin Laden was adept at convincing smaller, regional terrorist groups that allying with Al Qaeda and focusing on America were the best ways to topple corrupt regimes at home. But many of his supporters grew increasingly distressed by Al Qaeda’s attacks in the last few years — which have killed mostly Muslims — and came to realize that bin Laden had no long-term political program aside from nihilism and death.

The Arab Spring, during which ordinary people in countries like Tunisia and Egypt overthrew their governments, proved that contrary to Al Qaeda’s narrative, hated rulers could be toppled peacefully without attacking America. Indeed, protesters in many cases saw Washington supporting their efforts, further undermining Al Qaeda’s claims.

The End of the Jihadist Dream | NYTimes.com.

HHS To Standardize Fast Food Serving Size?

It is completely beyond my why the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats could be this obtuse. No one should want — and I doubt any American really does support — the government standardizing serving sizes and recipe compositions, even on health grounds.

Remarkably, Section 4205 of the new health reform law, which requires chain restaurants and vending machines to provide nutrition notices, instructs the HHS Secretary to:

Consider standardization of recipes and methods of preparation, in reasonable variation in serving size and formula of menu items, space on menus and menu boards, inadvertent human error, training of food service workers, variations in ingredients…

HHS Secretary to Regulate Serving Sizes and Recipes for Cheeseburgers and Fries | John Goodman. Who could have known? That’s in part because the provision literally was buried:

You’ve heard the phrase “buried in the bill,” of course. Section 4205 of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the health care reform bill President Obama signed on March 23, 2010 is contained on pages 1206-14 of a 2407 page bill. It could hardly be more buried than that.

Food Lability Law Blog.


And so, America has gone from “Cheeseburger in Paradise” to “I Can Has Cheeseburger” to self-proclaimed “reformer” rants against Five Guys burgers as Xtreme Eating. What a country! It’s all well and good that Ms. Obama’s pet issue is childhood obesity, but outlawing fatty and big meals will, like illegal drugs, just make them more desirable. So this proposal for more government will inevitably backfire, as well as being totally repulsive from a civil liberties standpoint.

Pulse of a Presidency

It’s not a good political sign at all that liberals seem to be departing the president in droves. The more things “change,” the more it appears politicians give us more of the same.

As the Nation’s Pulse Races, Obama Can’t Seem to Find His [NYTimes.com].

President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles.

1, 2, 3 What are We Fighting For?

So with Al Quaeda essentially not hiding in Afghanistan — and certainly not operating terrorist training camps any more — why should the United States care about the Talban and a political “insurgency”? Our role is not to maintain of support the “national security forces” of third-world countries. Civil wars are the business of those fighting them. President Obama set a deadline, but this deployment has no defined mission and no clear objective. And for centuries Afghanistan has been the graveyard of foreign armies, including the Soviet Union. This is a tried-and-true recipe for disaster.


US General McChrystal Vows to Take Battle to Taliban [The Guardian].

McChrystal drew a distinction between al-Qaeda terrorists operating in Afghanistan, who he said were few in number and largely limited to non-combat support roles, and insurgents such as the Taliban. “What we are actually going to do is degrade al-Qaeda and prevent them being a threat and build up Afghan national security forces so they can deal with it effectively and so they will need less help. “We can significantly impact Taliban capacity in the timeframe of 18 months. We need to convince them … that [the insurgency] is a losing proposition.”

Posted via web from glenn’s posterous

Opportunistic Reversal or Just Politics?

The Obama administration shocked a lot of people — including this author — when an advisor announced Sunday that taxing medical insurance benefits is on the table as part of its so-called “health care reform” initiative. White House Open to New Tax on Health Benefits [washingtonpost.com]. The explanation, namely that everything is negotiable, rings very hollow. Obama campaigned hard on a pledge that anyone earning less than $250,000 would not see a tax increase under his health care reform proposal. Indeed, this was a central point during the debates in differentiating Obama from John McCain and painting a picture of a candidate more in touch with the concerns of everyday Americans.

Part of the real explanation, of course, is that to avoid (correct) charges of budget-busting, the Obama administration needs to craft a more “revenue-neutral” plan, and thus really needs the incremental revenue from such taxes. But from my vantage point, this is both opportunistic and cynical. Why should insurance proceeds, used to defray health care expenses, be taxed when for almost all taxpayers, insurance premiums are not tax deductible? This makes no sense from a tax fairness or financial perspective. To paraphrase a famous Ronald Reagan quip from New Hampshire in 1980, “we paid for those health benefits, Mr. Obama!”

This is Change?

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we interact, do business and make political decisions over the past 15 years. And yet now, after an historic election, the Luddites are saying that technology has no place in government. According to the New York Times, on taking office as president in January, Barack Obama will be forced to stop using email and turn in his BlackBerry. Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? If Obama Has to, Yes He Can [NYTimes.com].

The rationales given for this are plain stupid — that presidential records need to be preserved and that private communications might be intercepted. The Bush Administration has ignored email preservation anyway. And all presidential communications, including face-to-face conversations, can be leaked, recorded or intercepted, regardless of technology. No, this reactionary rule is simply an effort by the Secret Service and the permanent bureaucracy in Washington to prevent change, to keep the president in the “walled garden” of the White House.

John Kennedy famously went around the bureaucracy (which he compared to “nailing Jello to the wall”) and cultivated direct relationships with agency staffers. Barack, I’ll give you an email alias to use from your iPhone if you want. And I bet your friend Eric Schmidt at Google could do you even better!!

What Larry Doesn’t Get

I have tremendous respect for Prof. Larry Lessig of Stanford — developer of the Creative Commons license, author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace and a strong open-source software advocate. One of his most famous essays, from early in the Internet era, was titled “What Declan Doesn’t Get.” But Larry is also a dreamer, taking positions that as a practical matter are idealistic, not realistic. This one, I think, epitomizes that character trait. Lessig (and Others) Asks Candidates to Make Debates More Open [Post I.T.].

Who ever said these were really “debates” anyway? Lincoln-Douglas they are not, having calcified into a series of scripted mini stump speeches, in which the candidates are given a platform to offer bromides but never pressed by the media or engaged with each other. So to suggest that “new media,” bloggers and the like should participate misses the whole point. Major party candidates don’t want to debate. They like the dominance of debates by legacy television media; that’s the whole point, to STAY in their political comfort zone. It’s all good and well to propose otherwise, it’s just quixotic because no one who matters cares.

The Net Changes Nothing

So if Howard Dean and MoveOn.org mastered online contributions and bogs, Barack Obama has shown that he doesn’t get social networking. One For Actual Journalism: Barack Obama VP Pick Fails To Arrive First Via SMS And E-mail [paidContent.org]. The idea was that Obama and his self-styled new politics would go viral through Web technology and his VP choice. The reality is that he went backwards with the latter and simply bombed on the former. Sure, the campaign now has a cellphone database — free — all in the hands of sorely disappointed early adopters. Not a good sign in my view.