An interesting turn of events. Concerted action sometimes does produce results. (See 1 below.)
Reflecting further on Obama's address and reaction and commentary from less virulent Black Ministers in other churches around the country it would appear the message they have been conveying to their congregations is their opposition to the money spent on the war in Iraq and their belief that we need another Lyndon Johnson type "War on Poverty" at home. I can understand their viewpoint but, once again, if you want more of something just let the government spend money on it, ie. more money spent on poverty will breed more poverty.
If there is a desire to truly address the problem I would offer boot training and education in return for sweat equity. Move volunteers to vacated army bases and educate and train them is something worth exploring but simply handing out checks is nonsense and counterproductive welfare. Most government programs become permanent mismanaged boondoggles and simply provide employment for "dogooder bureaucratic staffing." Something on the order of a contemporary WPA run by the private sector funded by government might be worth a try and would be a legitimate response to helping those on the bottom who were willing to put forth the effort to lift themselves.
But a word of caution! I am reminded of my friend John Agresto's failed efforts which he wrote about in "Mugged by Reality" and which I reviewed many memos ago. John was sent by this administration to Iraq to restart Iraqi higher education. He was promised funding which never came and found conditions beyond hope because of the destruction on campus and plundering of equipment which he could not afford to replace and the fear engendered among faculty and disruptions caused by the insurgency against students seeking to return to college to further their education in a safe environment. The level of chaos that existed was beyond his ability to cope so he returned and wrote the book about his disappointing experience.
I believe John is back at it again because he asked a mutual friend to join him in a renewed effort now that conditions have improved and matters are somewhat calmer and safer. I do not know whether John is making better progress this time. I cite John's experience not because the same conditions obtain in our country but because good ideas and competent efforts have a way of being thwarted by heavy handed government bureaucratic red tape and petty turf wars.
Cheney re-introduces military option re Iran but it could be another act of bluster to frighten Iran. Attacking Iran would be a bold move considering the political atmosphere with a Democrat Congress in opposition, a presidential campaign which could swing either way as a consequence. A successful attack could improve McCain's chances because he is the lone hawk in this fight and an unsuccessful attack might even improve his chances considering the aftermath prospects of such. GW will not attack Iran to improve McCain's chances but only because he would conclude he cannot leave the issue unsettled with the prospect of an Obama or Clinton presidency and out of concern for his own reputation as historians eventually write it. GW will weigh the prospects for success against his belief Iran will achieve nuclear status unless we intervene. An attack on Iran, should it come, could also send a clear message to N Korea to beware but, again, an Obama or Clinton presidency would relieve them of that concern. (See 2 below.)
1) ANTI-ISLAMIST MUSLIM JOURNALIST TAKEN BY PARA-MILITARY GOONS
DHAKA (MARCH 18, 2008) At approximately 7:00pm, Dhaka time,
members of Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) stormed the
office of anti-jihadist Muslim journalist, SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB
CHOUDHURY. A para-military arm of the government, RAB is
notorious for its crackdowns on dissidents and wholesale
violations of human rights. They ordered all employees out of
the newspaper and interrogated Shoaib , seizing his phones and
not allowing him any communication with friends, family, or legal
counsel. After more than an hour and a half, RAB claimed to find
a controlled substance in Shoaib's desk--an allegation that
Shoaib's friends and associates claim is impossible. His brother
Sohail claims that any evidence had to be planted. Shoaib was
blindfolded and taken a RAB interrogation center in Dhaka where
his captors verbally abused him for hours, repeatedly calling him
a "Zionist spy and agent of the Jews." The verbal assault, which
included numerous threats, continued for another three hours
until someone RAB described as a "high government official"
telephoned and ordered them to release him. When Shoaib asked
about the contrived drug charge, he was told that they would not
That order followed some immediate and direct action from several
Upon receiving the news about his brother, Sohail contacted Dr.
Richard Benkin of Chicago. After the two discussed strategy,
Sohail called the US Embassy, and the matter was reported to the
charge d'affairs. Benkin contacted the office of Congressman
Mark Kirk (R-IL) who has been Shoaib's long time champion in
Congress. Kirk's staff, led by Andria Hoffman, set up a command
center in his office, while Benkin contacted several other
supportive members of Congress and Shoaib's international human
rights attorney Irwin Cotler. Benkin then called the Bangladeshi
Embassy and demanded that Shoaib be released unharmed immediately
or there would be consequences. Soon thereafter, the embassy
received telephone calls from several Congressional offices
including Kirk's and those of Rep.Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep.
Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ), and others.
Though Shoaib was released unharmed, the action represents a
serious escalation of the government's harassment of the
courageous journalist who now counts supporters on every
continent save Antarctica. People in RAB custody have been known
to "disappear," and RAB does not carry out actions such as
today's without serious consequences. The raid could have been
in response to several failed attmepts on the part of the
government and radical Islamists to re-incarcerate Salah Uddin
Shoaib Choudhury. And in my years of work on this case, I have
learned that every government action is a probe of our resolve to
continue the fight against injustice--a resolve several
government officials have told me we do not have. And so we MUST
2) US Military Option on Iran Is Back on the Table
“Iran has got to be very high on that list,” said a senior aide ahead of the talks US Vice President Dick Cheney will hold during his 10-day tour of the Middle East and Turkey, which began Monday, March 17 in Iraq.
Singling out Oman, the aide noted that the US and Oman are co-guardians of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. “The Omanis, like a lot of other people,” he said “are concerned by the escalating tensions between the rest of the world community and Iran and by some of Iran’s activities, particularly in the nuclear field, but outside its borders as well.”
Military, Washington and Gulf sources report US Vice President Dick Cheney is again talking about possible US military action to shut down Iran’s covert nuclear program.
Cheney stopped over in Oman Wednesday, Wed. March 19, after two days in Iraq. He will travel next to Saudi Arabia, is due in Jerusalem next Saturday and will also visit Ramallah and Turkey.
His talks are focusing on two aspects of the Iranian nuclear threat:
1. The Bush administration’s decision to distance itself from the National Intelligence Estimate released last December. Its conclusion that Iran’s nuclear arms program was shelved in 2003, which rendered America’s military option superfluous, is now deemed a mistake.
2. The administration now buys British, German, French and Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran is indeed pressing forward with programs for building nuclear weapons, warheads and ballistic missiles for their delivery.
The vice president will listen closely to his hosts’ ideas about joint efforts for containing Iran’s aggressive expansionist thrusts across the Persian Gulf and Middle East and halting its progress towards nuclear armaments.
The vice president’s choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again. American will need the cooperation of all four - Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey - to mount a military attack on Iran.
Oman hosts the big American air bases which are the core of the defense shield for the Strait of Hormuz and for the US Navy, Marine and Air Force units deployed in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is the senior Gulf and Arabian trend setter and the key to pan-Arab endorsement for a US offensive against Tehran. Riyadh has opposed military action until now.
Israel is the only regional nation willing to actively participate in an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites; its military has been putting together plans for going it alone.
Last week, sources report, Jerusalem was notified by the White House that the Iranian issue had been added to Cheney’s regional agenda at the last minute; his hosts were requested to prepare themselves for exhaustive and lengthy discussions on Iran with the vice president and his aides.
Israel’s defense cabinet was accordingly convened last Wednesday – officially to scrutinize the armed forces’ forward planning and applications of the Lebanon war inquiry panel’s recommendations. But, military sources report, the ministers were convened to decide which of Israel’s military plans of action were to be presented to Cheney.
Turkey is a pivotal element in any war plan because American warplanes and missiles heading for Iran will have to transit its airspace and take off from air bases on its soil. The US and Turkey have improved their military relations since they worked together against PKK havens in northern Iraq last February.
The vice president’s Iraq visit marked the fifth anniversary of the US invasion.
While there, he made it clear that the US was in no hurry to pull out of the country before its mission was completed and would not allow the country to become a staging ground for terrorist attacks on Americans.
In his talks with Iraq leaders, he hammered out military and political plans to bridge the 10 months remaining until a new president takes office in Washington. After talking to prime minister Nouri al Maliki, the US leader flew north to meet with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
In particular, he sought progress on Iraq’s oil law which is held up by disagreements between Kurds and Arab Sunni leaders.