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Chicago Tribune, June 24: President Barack Obama said that firing Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal was necessary to ensure that his national security team was working together. “I welcome debate, but I won’t tolerate division,” he said. So Obama has just sacked the architect of his Afghanistan strategy, the person who was most committed to that strategy.
Chicago Tribune, March 15: On Wednesday (March 10), Democratic leaders decreed that they will ban earmarks – special, under-the-radar spending requests – that benefit private businesses. The Democrats will still allow earmarks that go to not-for-profit enterprises. On Thursday, House Republicans went one better: They announced they won’t seek earmarks for anybody. A unilateral disarmament.
Kansas City Star, Dec. 2: Saying that fighting extremism in Afghanistan is vital to American national security, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the rapid deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops. But what mattered most in the president’s nationally televised speech from West Point was that he clearly defined the mission and the exit strategy for a conflict that he rightly described as having drifted for the past several years. While Obama’s strategy is sound, his timeline will require an amazing amount of work and more than a little good luck.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 29: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was royally punked earlier this month, falling victim to an elaborate ruse by a group of political activists. The business group is peeved, calling the prank “commercial identity theft masquerading as social activism.” Now it has filed suit. A group called the “Yes Men” is the object of the Chamber’s ire. The Yes Men is a self-described ensemble of actors “best known for posing as corporate executives in order to reveal how corporate greed negatively influences public policy.”
Kansas City Star, Oct. 13: Congress has tried to create a charmed life for ethanol and Midwestern corn growers in recent years. First came a hefty tax credit for producing the renewable fuel. And in late 2007 U.S. lawmakers passed a new standard that requires quadrupling the output of ethanol and other biofuels by 2022.
Dallas Morning News, Sept. 29: Fugitive film director Roman Polanski learned over the weekend that you can’t outrun the long arm of the law. Swiss police nabbed the confessed sex criminal as he arrived in Zurich to accept a film festival award. Now Polanski, 76, faces extradition to Los Angeles County, where prosecutors have waited more than 30 years for the rapist to show up for sentencing. Anyone who feels sorry for Polanski – having to live in exile all these years and now facing the prospect of extradition and a prison term in the United States – should understand what Polanski did to land in this mess. He drugged, raped and sodomized a frightened 13-year-old girl.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 17: Clever, Sen. Max Baucus. The Montana Democrat who heads the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday breathed new life into the growing calls to create a government-run competitor to private health insurers.
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 4: When the federal Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a request for proposals seeking competitive applications for the production, analysis and distribution of “marijuana cigarettes,” the request might have seemed a bit unusual to those unfamiliar with Washington’s dance around cannabis research. The federal government, after all, is not widely known to support marijuana cultivation. But those in the know just shrugged. The department has issued similar requests every few years to select a contractor to conduct government-approved marijuana research, and with depressing regularity it has then awarded an exclusive contract to the University of Mississippi. For 40 years now, Washington has sought such “competitive applications,” and Mississippi “wins” every time.
Chicago Tribune, July 8: Even in death, he made a spectacle of himself. Billions of mourners around the world watched Michael Jackson’s memorial service Tuesday, an unrestrained display of communal catharsis that played out on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, E! and, of course, Twitter. It was hard not to be moved, even if you think the good stuff ended with “Thriller” and you still have doubts about Jacko’s behavior around young boys. Maybe someday we’ll sort it all out, but this was not that day. “Obama’s inauguration is so six months ago,” wrote Joshua Alston, a blogger for Newsweek. “The where-were-you moment of 2009, if not the aughts, is the day the King of Pop lay in repose in a basketball arena.”…
Los Angeles Times, July 1: As the United States prepared to invade Iraq in 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell famously warned that “if you break it, you own it.” In many ways, the U.S. did break Iraq, ousting Saddam Hussein’s quarter-century regime without ensuring that a stable government would take its place. That ushered in a bloody, six-year occupation that cost the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and nearly $700 billion. Americans will always bear responsibility for this misbegotten war of choice, but now, at last, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities marks the beginning of the country’s return to its rightful owners: Iraqis. Although U.S. combat troops have been moving to bases for months, Iraqis sang and set off fireworks to celebrate an end to foreign tanks in their streets and uninvited soldiers in their homes. Some Americans will remain as trainers and advisers, but President Obama has committed to withdrawing all combat troops by 2011. We opposed the invasion of Iraq, then supported a surge of U.S. troops to stabilize the country and allow our forces to leave. Now it is time to close this shameful chapter.
Newsday, June 5: It was the right message, delivered in the right place by the right messenger. President Barack Obama’s nuanced parsing yesterday of the conflicts and commonalities of Islam and the West was a plain-spoken appeal to ordinary people of all faiths and nationalities for an honest conversation about the way forward. That he traveled to Egypt, a Muslim nation, to give a speech about relations between the United States and the world’s Muslims, added to its power. By acknowledging the complicity of both the United States and the Muslim world in the problems that bedevil us, and calling on people everywhere who want peace to join in that pursuit, Obama made a bid to marginalize violent extremists. Today, they appear a bit smaller and more out of touch.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21: If it weren’t so disturbing, it would be funny. CIA interrogators had been handed Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi national believed to be a top strategist for al-Qaida. He’d been captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and flown to a secret CIA prison in Thailand. How best to get information out of him?
Chicago Tribune, March 26: It used to be that members of Congress had to ask themselves if they deserved a pay raise before giving themselves one. Wouldn’t you love to have a system like that in your workplace? All in favor of higher wages, raise your hand. Motion carries unanimously! It’s so much more direct than the usual model, with all those troublesome judgments about job performance and payroll targets. The ayes have it. Cha-ching!
Miami Herald, Feb. 10: Pope Benedict XVI stirred up another controversy last month when he reinstated a bishop who said of the Holocaust: “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies.” Apparently, Pope Benedict either didn’t know that British-born Bishop Richard Williamson believes that the Holocaust never happened, or else he misread what a stir the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop would cause.
Fresno Bee, on Jan. 28: Mamma Mia! Talk about an unexpected bundle of joy. On Monday, a mother in Southern California gave birth to octuplets. Doctors said the mother, who has requested not to be identified, plans to breastfeed all of the babies. That just sounds like it would be an around-the-clock adventure.