Tag Archives: CNN

Paris Criticisms: Politicking at Its Finest

While the national conversation of what happened at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have simmered down, criticism against the Obama Administration took up the newly vacant space in the airwaves and bylines of radio and online outlets all across cyberspace.

There was no shortage of statements by “experts” and consultants on the media circuit immediately following White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s comment at a White House Press briefing days after the attacks in Paris. At the briefing, Earnest responded to questions regarding the absence of U.S. officials and said, “It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile” to attend the Paris March immediately following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

WhiteHouse Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers press briefing 1/12/15
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers  press briefing 1/12/15

While this is an easy example of a moment where Mr. Earnest wasn’t wearing his P.R. hat correctly, it would also be fair to say that his comment didn’t consider national security concerns, or the inevitable criticism from opponents that would stem from the wording of his statement. However, he made some of the security concerns clear following his initial statement.

Sending President Obama or any other “high ranking” official to March in the streets with the people of Paris would have come off as an attempt to capitalize on another country’s tragedy, have given republicans more fuel for their anti-Obama fires, and most importantly, would posed been a huge security risk.

Obama signs a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, the statement took about two whole minutes to write, but seemed much longer

On the day of the attacks, President Obama personally called French President Francois Hollande and extended an offer of American resources to help investigate and apprehend those who carried out or enabled the attacks in Paris. The next day he visited and signed a lengthy statement in a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, and even seemed to pray (or at least gave a moment of silence) for those who lost their lives in the attack.

Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and   sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before when they funded a defund Obamacare tour
Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before during a defund Obamacare tour in 2013, which they funded.

Despite this, conservatives pulled no punches in their pathos-based criticisms. Perhaps the most notably theatrical was Ted Cruz’s Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit speech, where he mimed marching with the people of France and affirmed “how sad” it was to see “40 world leaders marching in the streets of Paris” with the United States absent (completely ignoring the fact that the march was spontaneous in and that those leaders were much closer in physical proximity than the U.S. is).

Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta
Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta

Even ex-figures of state like former director of the CIA Leon Panetta and ex-political strategist for the Carter administration Patrick Caddel threw in their own baseless and highly-arguable accusations and opinions as to how and why the Obama Administration came up short in showing solidarity.

Caddel was bold enough to emphasize that American absence was “to our detriment,” and that as a country, “we will pay a price for this”, while Panetta claimed that the U.S. “missed a chance to show solidarity with the French people.”

John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and "higher officials" absence at Paris...Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word
Left to right: John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and “higher officials” absence at Paris…Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word

Perhaps what is most depressing about these accusations is the rigor that these figures devote to ignoring the data behind what could have contributed to an American absence from the marches.

In mid-December of 2014, the United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel issued a review to the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding the White House fence-jumping incidents, and included within it were important memos and recommendations on how the service could seek to reduce the amount of risks and incidents against government officials and White House staff.

The highest recommendation? An increase in the amount of guards employed by the service. Throughout the report, the importance of an increased Secret Service force were noted to the point where the USSSMP suggested overlooking the financial implications of more hires, in the report they boldly stated: “Forget about what the Service has asked for in the past: Define the mission, and make the argument to policy makers in the Executive Branch and Congress that this sum- which we believe to be more than current appropriations-is needed.”

USSSMP report

As ex-director of the C.I.A., the likelihood of Mr. Panetta not knowing the risks associated with sending the President of the United States to a foreign country where a terrorist attack’s investigation still remains fresh is slim to none. The nature and environment of the march (outside, open, with millions of pedestrian foot traffic) would have most likely been a nightmare for the Secret Service to keep up with. It should be noted that a week after the Paris attack, four assistant directors of the Secret Service were reassigned, so the work environment of the service could have also been called into question.

As for Senator Cruz’s statement: if he felt so strongly for the people of France, and the need to show U.S. support for France, what stopped him from attending the march himself?

One answer could be that Cruz realized his political capital would be much more wisely-utilized in the speech to his donors and lobbyists at the Heritage Action for America rather than living up to his word. Let’s not ignore that even if Obama had gone to Paris, the Republican Party would have had a talking point about the president favoring international travel rather than facing domestic issues in the bag, regardless of the tragedy that took place.

In short, this and every other criticism that came Obama’s way for this incident stems from the same root: it’s just politics.

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Water Shutoffs in Detroit: Violation of Human Rights or Blatant Irresponsibility?

Photocredit: http://syntheticzero.net/author/arranjames/The City of Detroit has decided to shut off water for customers of the Water and Sewage department who haven’t paid their bills for access and usage of the city’s water. Activists and citizens of Detroit have expressed disappointment and outrage over the city’s handling of the water utility department, and U.N. officials have even gone so far as to condemn the city for the shut-offs.

                                Here’s what happened.

Before the shutoffs occurred, the Detroit water and sewage department faced debts and uncollected payment upwards of $90 million. A substantial amount of that pre-shut off debt stems from the department’s lax attempts to collect payment from customers. In hopes of reversing the dismal financial situation, city officials turned to the old-fashioned tactic of shutting the water off, in hopes that this would encourage citizens to pay for their water usage.

The results were mixed; over half of the 17,000 citizens who had their water shut off subsequently paid their bills and had their water restored, (this is according to city officials), while citizens who really couldn’t afford the bills met the shutoffs with outrage.

More recently following the U.N.’s condemnation of the water shut-offs, the city of Detroit released a statement outlining modifications to their initial and more stringent shut-off strategy.

Changes contained in the modification include desisting holds on properties facing foreclosures who can’t meet the financial obligations of paying water utilities on time, setting up payment plans with struggling with their payments and additional funds and resources for citizens who need assistance paying their water bill, namely – The Detroit Water Fund, which includes nearly $2 million devoted solely to the cause.

The question at heart remains, are the shutoffs an example of “Cold hearted” penny-pinching greed, or is the situation more complex in terms of what city officials have called “An Economic Reality”?

This issue is simple to a certain degree, there is no doubt that it is a demonstrable consequence of misaligned of priorities, both on behalf of the city government and (some) of the citizens of Detroit. After filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit was blinded by an overwhelming amount of duties to get out of bankruptcy.

One of the biggest concerns with the bankruptcy filing had to do with pensions of city government employees and retirees; many of which saw their pensions take cuts for the sake of digging the city out of the $18 Billion debt accrued. The second largest concern was their water and sewage department’s financial state, which contained over $6 Billion of the bankruptcy debt alone.

Now let’s be clear here, the fact the Detroit fell into such bankruptcy and problems with its Water and Sewage Department to such an extreme extent is a transparent sign of failure to the constituency that is the citizens of Detroit. The fact that pensions had to take cuts in the first place for current and retired employees speaks in volumes about the fiscal irresponsibility that the city had in allowing those events to transpire that far.

What really makes matters worse is looking into how Detroit initially handled the water situation. After deciding to restructure the financial integrity of the water and sewage department, the city realized that delinquent customers continued to abstain from paying their bills and shifted the costs onto dependable customers.

If that wasn’t enough to spark outrage, after shutting off the water to more than 14,000 homes, the city took longer than two months to even begin shutting off water access to 36 delinquent commercial businesses- 12 of which contained delinquencies totaling more than $100,000. The city responded to criticisms from citizens claiming the commercial businesses were gaining favoritism over the households affected by stating,

“The contractor couldn’t shut them off…They’re not equipped to shut off a larger industry like a Ford Field or what have you.”

As if that excuses two months of delayed action.

The irresponsibility of the City government is mostly to blame for this situation, however some of the delinquent citizens must be held accountable too, after all; the citizens who paid immediately after having their water shut off demonstrated that the water bill wasn’t so much a priority as it was an inconvenience.

This irresponsibility is also illustrated by customers who could have initially afforded to pay their water bills, but chose not to for whatever reason and waited for their water to be shut off or for their debts to accumulate to untamable amounts.

Shifting the blame to the city for not collecting sooner is easy to do because yes, the city is responsible for collecting the payment that it seeks- but why did it take so long for these customers to take care of their financial obligations or voice their concerns over their bills?

After the City’s meeting with U.N. officials, Chief Staff Alexis Wiley noted a perceived narrowness by their perspective in a statement:

“Hundreds of cities in Michigan and thousands nationwide shut off water to people who do not pay.  It is a standard practice among utilities. Yet for some reason, the UN is focusing only on Detroit, apparently to the exclusion of all others.”

The way that the city handled the Water and Sewage department’s financial crisis was deplorable, and the citizens were merely following example set forth by their so-called community leaders who took oaths of responsibility and failed them in providing it through the practice of their policies.

Photocredit: Wikimedia.com
Photocredit: Wikimedia.com

But that’s not to say things aren’t capable of being steered on to the right track.

The city does seem to be making strides in atoning for its sins, just yesterday it reappointed retirement investment committees to oversee future developments in pension funding. This latest move is one of the essential last steps in resolving Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, and will lead the city to its way of eventually curing the blight that has been its national image.

What could have been done to save James Foley?

Photo credit:Gawkr media
James Foley in hostage video released by ISIL, Photo credit:Gawkr media

As you’ve most likely heard by now, American journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic militant group known as ISIL. The execution was carried out as promised by the extremists after they vowed to murder Foley, should the U.S. continue its renewed air strikes in Iraq.

Obama addressing the union over plans to eliminate ISIL on August 8th photocredit: PBS.org
Obama addresses the union over plans to eliminate ISIL on August 8th photocredit: PBS.org

The airstrikes were approved in early August, along with humanitarian relief- after president Obama announced that the U.S. would begin military action in Iraq as a response to increasing threats to the safety of U.S. personnel stationed there; he also cautioned about the possibility of ISIL sparking genocide in the region and stated that the U.S. could not turn a blind eye towards the conflict.

Foley’s parents claim to have been threatened by the White House, when they raised funds to pay off Foley’s captors.

“We were  told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try and ransom our son out and that we had possibility of being prosecuted” his mother, Diane Foley,  said on ABC news.

The National Security Council has taken an interesting approach to these accusations, with NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden stating:

NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden
NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden

The law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately.”

Many American media outlets as such as FOX, CNN, and MSNBC, fail to raise the important questions: How could this have been avoided, what could have been done?

As reported by Yahoo News, a mission to save Foley was conducted in August. Intelligence agencies believed that they had discovered Foley’s location in Syria, and “several dozen” special forces operations were deployed from aircraft carriers and engaged in a firefight with militants; but as the scene was later investigated, it became apparent that the location of the hostages (including Foley) had changed. The rescue mission was declared unsuccessful as a result.

What’s so interesting is that the release of this information by the White House marks the first time that the U.S. has divulged information about military personnel being “on the ground” in Syria since their civil war three years ago- yet they won’t comment on when the operation took place or how many hostages they were attempting to rescue in total during that operation. However, a detailed yet unconfirmed account of the rescue attempt by a resident in Raqqa paints a likely picture of how events unfolded in the James Foley rescue attempt, the account in its entirety it resembles the mission carried out to assassinate Osama Bin Laden.

THUMB
*unsubstantiated and unverified account of what happened on July 4th raid on Raqqa to save James Foley * photocredit: the telegraph Uk

Now to answer the questions set before:How could this have been avoided, what could have been done?

As you may know The White House has a pretty shoddy way of getting Americans back from oppressive regimes and terrorists. Bureaucratic red tape frequently halts or stalls negotiations in returning Americans to the homeland- and families are left to worry.

The situation between the Foley family and the White House  is somewhat understandable over  the concern of ransom funds being used to fund terrorist acts, but how long should a family wait to see results?

At the root of the kidnapping was the issue of  American intervention in Iraq and Syria combined with U.S. aggression against ISIL – which can be seen as another attempt of “nation building” on America’s part– this is what ISIL was attacking.

In the transcript of the beheading, the executioner- suspected to be Abdel-Majed-Abdel Barry, A.K.A. “Jihadi John- says the following:

“I’m back, Obama, and I am back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic state. Because of your insistence in continuing your bombings in Muhassan, Alboumar, and Mosul dam, despite our serious warnings. You, Obama, have yet again, for your actions, have killed yet another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knives will continue to strike the necks of your people. We take this opportunity to warn those governments who have entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic state and back off and leave our people alone.

And:

“Any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership. So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

Notice the distinct omission of any hatred towards democracy or our culture, the freedom and equality of women within our social construct, or anything else resembling the “they hate us because they hate us” rhetoric that gets repeated time and time again by mainstream pundits.  All of the grievances mentioned are a result from an embittered regime struggling to fight back against foreign and domestic enemies.

Territorial_control_of_the_ISIS.svg

Keep in mind that ISIL is surrounded by enemies all over–  governments in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran are all hostile to it, and it also has the enmity of Al Qaeda, the Kurds, and other rebel groups in Syria- the truth still remains that ISIL is less of a threat than Al Qaeda. President Obama himself has even said on occasion that the amount of territory that ISIL controls is small and while debates go on about how much territory they currently control, it’s mostly agreed to look as pictured above.

As well funded as ISIL might be, there’s no reason to believe that they could afford a war on all fronts with their middle eastern rivals, as well as their European and American enemies.

To this day, ISIL has only vowed to carry out an attack against or our people, should we continue to attack them.

any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

Though ISIL may have beheaded an American citizen- it was due to renewed aggression by the United States Government in what they see as a threat to their sovereign region, and considering that they claim to speak for  “Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership”- makes it that much of a bigger target for its predominantly Muslim neighbors, and that much less of our problem.

*This is  post is not excusing ISIL,  nor is it an attempt to justify their actions, it is simply an attempt to put the events listed within context and to promote constructive discussion*