Patterico's Pontifications


Israeli Nuclear Scientists Denied U.S. Visas (Updated)

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 11:30 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via the Instapundit, the Obama Administration has denied visas to Israeli scientists who want to travel to the U.S. for scientific study:

The Obama administration is now denying U.S. visas to Israeli scientists who work at that nation’s Dimona nuclear reactor. This startling reversal of traditional policy was reported April 7, 2010, in the Israeli website/newspaper NRG/Maariv …
According to Maariv: “…. workers at the Dimona reactor who submitted VISA requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering — have all been rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor. This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration, since there never used to be an issue with the reactor’s workers from study in the USA, and till recently, they received VISAs and studied in the USA.”

Remember way back in March 2009 when Obama promised to put science before politics?


UPDATE 4/12/2010: Roger L. Simon followed up on his report by talking to one of the Israeli scientists and has issued a correction. The change in visa policy occurred after 9/11:

“This morning (Pacific time) I was able to reach Dr. Alfassi in his office at Ben Gurion University in the Negev. Apparently, my report — and the newspaper’s — was inaccurate. The professor informed me that while it was extremely difficult for scientists who worked at Dimona to obtain U.S. visas, this was not a new policy of the Obama administration. This problem has been going on since 9/11.

Alfassi explained that formerly he and other scientists were able to go through travel agents to obtain visas to the U.S. Now they have to go personally to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He knows of at least one case of a scientist who was not able to attend a conference in this country because of this system. European scientists, he said, did not have this problem.”

Thus, this was a Bush era policy and I was unfair to the Obama Administration. I apologize.

Dan Collins: The Obama Doctrine

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 11:20 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In case we are attacked with biological agents


Who Do You Trust on Nuclear Policy?

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 8:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Who do you trust more regarding America’s nuclear policy — Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, or Defense Secretary Robert Gates?

It’s not a hard call for me but it’s clear from this Allahpundit post that Obama puts his trust in … :

“Wish I could give you a video clip but ABC’s being stingy until tomorrow. For now, we’ll have to make do with the Reuters transcript of his interview with Stephanopoulos:

Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, has not been shy about criticizing Obama’s policies and this week weighed in on his revamped nuclear strategy, saying it was like a child in a playground who says ‘punch me in the face, I’m not going to retaliate.’

“I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News…

“What I would say to [Republican critics] is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”

Are they comfortable with it, though? One of the unanswered questions about the new protocol promising no nuclear response (in most cases) to a biological or chemical attack is how much of it reflects — or rather, doesn’t reflect — Gates’s thinking.”

Allahpundit quotes from a Gates’ 2008 speech and suggests Gates may not be on board with Obama’s policy change. That’s supported by last week’s New York Times’ article on Obama’s new nuclear policy:

“Discussing his approach to nuclear security the day before formally releasing his new strategy, Mr. Obama described his policy as part of a broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear ambitions. To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own defense secretary.

Mr. Obama’s strategy is a sharp shift from those of his predecessors and seeks to revamp the nation’s nuclear posture for a new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater threats than traditional powers like Russia and China.”

It’s much easier to claim everyone agrees with you when you get to overrule their objections.


Jihad Janes and the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Terrorism — DRJ @ 3:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

One of two American women accused of terror-related charges entered a silent plea to avoid the possibility of incriminating herself:

“With a shake of the head, a pregnant Colorado woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of helping foreign terrorists who authorities say were plotting to kill a Swedish artist.

Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 31, entered the silent plea to avoid giving prosecutors a sample of her voice. The government evidence includes hard drives and other computer files that may contain voice recordings, and her lawyer did not want to provide a sample for comparison.

“If there’s any voice recordings, I would not want to be creating evidence against her,” said lawyer Jeremy Ibrahim, who spent several years at the Justice Department.”

Authorities charge Paulin-Ramirez and a second woman, co-defendant Colleen LaRose, of planning a Muslim jihad to murder Danish artist Lars Vilks, “who angered Muslims with a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body.” They apparently met on or via the internet:

“Acquaintances describe both women as isolated, troubled individuals who spent increasing amounts of time on the Internet, where LaRose allegedly used the online name “Jihad Jane.”

There is no evidence the women ever met before they moved to Ireland to join what LaRose hoped, according to the indictment, would be “a training camp as well as a home.”

I didn’t think the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination prevented the government from obtaining blood, hair, fingerprint, DNA, handwriting or voice samples when a defendant is lawfully accused and detained. I could be wrong or maybe defense counsel just doesn’t want to waive a defense.


Jobless Claims Rise

Filed under: Economics — DRJ @ 12:15 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

More “unexpected!” news:

Initial jobless claims increase unexpectedly

The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign that jobs remain scarce even as the economy recovers.

The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims increased by 18,000 in the week ending April 3, to a seasonally adjusted 460,000. That’s worse than economists’ estimates of a drop to 435,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.”

Is there anyone outside federal government who hasn’t lost a job or know someone who has lost a job?

H/T Gerald A.


Could the GOP have preempted ObamaCare?

Filed under: General — Karl @ 9:32 am

[Posted by Karl]

Some influential bloggers seem to think so, including Ed Morrissey:

The GOP had total control of Congress from 2002 to 2006, and the only significant plan they put forward on health care was the creation of the Medicare Part D entitlement that did little but to speed the coming collapse of Medicare. In that effort, the Republican majority did everything that the GOP has rightly accused the Democrats of doing this time around – such as using statist solutions to a problem where market-based solutions existed, and fudging the numbers to fool people into believing it wouldn’t cost too much.

Not once during that period did the party seriously attempt to reform the health-care cost structure, let alone through the use of market-based strategies now expounded by Paul Ryan, among others. Why? First, Republicans did attempt to reform Social Security in 2005 with market-based strategies and got demagogued by Democrats for making the effort. But it wasn’t really that reason that kept the GOP from engaging on health-care reform. That issue was widely seen as a Democratic strength, and Republicans didn’t want to engage heavily on their turf.

What we see now is the result of leaving that vacuum on a major issue. Since the GOP refused to engage on it, they wound up with lower credibility. More importantly, by not accomplishing reform when they had their chance, Republicans left it on the table for when the Democrats got complete control of Washington.

Patrick Ruffini similarly blames GOP inaction in part for the passage of ObamaCare, while raising related points addressed below. Certainly, a defeat the size of ObamaCare ought to prompt some self-examination on the Right. However, the suggestion that the GOP could have preempted ObamaCare during the Bush Administration is too clever by half.

Consider how difficult it was for Democrats to pass a healthcare reform law. The Dems required a large majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority. Those large majorities were necessary to find the minimum number who — through a combination of ideological zeal, party loyalty, payoffs and threats — would squeak through bills in the face of public opposition. The opposition from the right is understandable. The opposition from the non-ideological middle is likely traceable to the consistent public opinion polling showing (as it did when ClintonCare failed) that the large majority have health insurance, and a large majority of them are fairly satisfied with that insurance. In addition, the polling consistently showed that the public simply did not trust politicians’ assurances (from Pres. Obama on down) that people would be able to retain their own coverage and doctors — or their assurances that costs would be reduced.

During the G.W. Bush Administration, the GOP never held as many seats in the House as the Dems hold today. More significantly, the Senate was divided 51-49. And that razor-thin margin was far from ideologically pure, including Sens. Snowe, Collins, Specter, Hagel, Graham, etc. Ed may discount the 2005 failure of Social Security reform as an example, but the fecklessness and disarray of the Congressional GOP then suggests a lack of the ideological and partisan commitment necessary for a project like healthcare reform.

Next, consider Ruffini’s diagnosis of the GOP’s policy problem:

On health care, I have no idea what our basic guiding principle is. Seriously, I don’t.

We have tried ineffectively to stretch free market rhetoric to health care without appreciating that health care is already too far removed from a free market for the analogy to make sense. Real markets are sensitive to price. Health care isn’t. The insurance companies hide the cost of actual care from the consumer.

What we have lacked in this debate is a simple clarion call to address an aching need — bringing free market principles to bear to improve tangible health outcomes.

However, if the problem is the current health insurance system — largely provided by employers, more like prepaid medical care than catastrophic insurance — it follows that reforming that system will almost certainly involve disrupting the current arrangements of the people in that system. (This includes not only healthcare consumers, but also the various interest groups later bought off by the Obama Administration.) Selling that scale of change to a non-ideological middle that remains (rightly) skeptical of government promises likely would have proven every bit as difficult for the GOP then as it was for the Dems last year.

Next, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the GOP — against all odds and history — produced a conservative/ libertarian version of healthcare reform, and had the ideological zeal and party unity, and somehow got it through the Senate via budget reconciliation, regardless of public opinion. Would it have stopped Democrats from pushing something like ObamaCare? That’s another of Ruffini’s arguments:

We don’t talk much about education at the federal level these days. There is a sense that the problem was “solved” by NCLB, which is now nearly a decade old. Likewise, no one will try to move welfare reform legislation because the successful 1996 reform law substantively and politically took the wind out of the sails of that issue.

Unfortunately, this claim is counter-factual. Pres. Obama’s first budget took steps to undo welfare reform. In year two, he is working on watering down NCLB. There may not have been a lot of talk about these efforts, as the focus was on big-business bailouts and ObamaCare — but they are happening. Just as the Right’s is fired up to repeal (or replace or whatever) ObamaCare, even if it takes several election cycles, it seems unrealistic to assume that passage of a GOP healthcare bill in the 200os — or anytime — would have caused the Left to give up on their decades-old dream of socialized medicine. The lesson should be that if the Right wants to deny the Left that dream, it will need to build large majorities and broadly convince the public that the problems of government controlled health insurance (and thereby healthcare) are not cured by still more intervention. In the best of worlds, the GOP would achieve the former by achieving the latter.


Obama Puts American on Terrorist Hit List

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 4:27 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Barack Obama objected when the Bush Administration locked up suspected terrorists without due process. Now Obama is willing to kill a suspected American terrorist:

The Obama Administration has taken the unprecedented step of authorising the killing of a US citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, linked to the plot to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day.

The move to place Mr al-Awlaki, 38, on a hit list was taken after a White House review concluded this year that he had moved from inciting terrorist attacks to taking part in them.

The decision is extraordinary not only because Mr al-Awlaki is believed to be the first American whose killing has been approved by a US President, but also because the Obama Administration chose to make the move public.”

As Glenn Greenwald points out:

And what about all the progressives who screamed for years about the Bush administration’s tyrannical treatment of Jose Padilla? Bush merely imprisoned Padilla for years without a trial. If that’s a vicious, tyrannical assault on the Constitution — and it was — what should they be saying about the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s assassination of American citizens without any due process?”
UPDATE: When Obama was seeking the Democratic nomination, the Constitutional Law Scholar answered a questionnaire about executive power distributed by The Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage, and this was one of his answers:

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

[Obama]: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

So back then, Obama said the President lacks the power merely to detain U.S. citizens without charges. Now, as President, he claims the power to assassinate them without charges. Could even his hardest-core loyalists try to reconcile that with a straight face? As Spencer Ackerman documents today, not even John Yoo claimed that the President possessed the power Obama is claiming here.”

Unlike Greenwald, I’m not condemning Obama’s decision … but I am pointing out Obama’s political double standard and weak character.


A New Era in U.S.-India Relations

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 1:04 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Newsweek says India is annoyed with Obama:

Barack Obama is in danger of reversing all the progress his predecessors, including George W. Bush, made in forging closer U.S. ties with India. Preoccupied with China and the Middle East, the Obama administration has allotted little room on its schedule for India, and failed to get much done in the short time it did make. Hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the November state visit, the administration managed to produce cordial photo ops, but the agreements reached on education, energy cooperation, and the like dealt with trivia.

Indian diplomats close to Singh say the lackluster results show how far the relationship has fallen since Bill Clinton and the two Bushes transformed a strained Cold War rivalry into a close strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies. Obama’s predecessors built a relationship around trade negotiations, joint military exercises, and ad hoc coalitions for humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of the Indonesia tsunami. Despite his reputation for uniquely pushy diplomacy, it was George W. Bush who concluded the landmark deal that recognized India as a legitimate nuclear power and opened the door to the sale of civilian nuclear technology to India. No single American move has done more to demonstrate Washington’s respect for New Delhi as a rising and equal power. Now Obama, who came to office promising to respect U.S. allies, is backpedaling on that deal, to the growing chagrin of the Indians.

Obama appears largely oblivious to India’s concerns.”

A lot of Americans know how that feels.


A New Era in U.S.-Central Asian Relations (Updated)

Filed under: International,Obama,War — DRJ @ 12:43 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Bush Administration cultivated a relationship with the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, not only to make inroads into the Russian sphere of influence but also to solidify the use of a “cherished military base in the north of Kyrgyzstan, without which U.S. supply lines to the nearby war in Afghanistan would be significantly hampered.” That relationship is in jeopardy following a bloody upheaval in Kyrgyzstan that was reportedly instigated by Russia:

Members of the besieged government of Kyrgyzstan suspect that Moscow precipitated the violent upheaval that has swept the former Soviet republic in Central Asia. Already scores of people have been killed and hundreds more wounded after troops opened fire on protesters, who in turn overpowered the police, stormed and looted government buildings and forced President Kurmanbek Bakiev to flee the country. On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied any involvement by his country in the turmoil after his Kyrgyz counterpart said that Putin gave the go-ahead to the revolt. But whether or not the Kremlin urged the Kyrgyz opposition to call its supporters into the streets, Moscow has a lot to gain and Washington a lot to lose from the bloody upheaval that has ensued.”

The action followed a personal appeal by President Obama to Russian President Medvedev:

“The struggle came to a head in February of last year, when the Kyrgyz handed the U.S. military base an eviction notice just weeks after Russia provided the impoverished country with a $2 billion loan and $150 million in aid. Russia denied any link between the two events, but U.S. officials saw it differently. Washington soon reached a deal with Kyrgyz leaders to keep the base open – in exchange for a tripling of the yearly rental to $60 million, among other conditions. (See Kyrgyzstan’s role in getting U.S. troops to Afghanistan.)

In a March 5 interview with TIME, an Obama Administration senior official said it had been a close call for the U.S. “That we have the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan is a great achievement,” he said. “Russia didn’t want to allow us to have that. They put down $2 billion to get us out. But Obama had very frank discussions with [Russian President Dmitri] Medvedev. He said, If you believe we have a common enemy in Afghanistan, then this is going to help us fight that common enemy. Had we lost that, it would have been a major blow. It is a major hub for getting our soldiers in and out of there.”

Since then, Russian-Kyrgyz relations have deteriorated, a process that culminated in Wednesday’s declaration by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov that one of the heads of the opposition had met with Putin before going forward with the revolt. Usenov told a press conference on Tuesday in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek that opposition leader Temir Sariyev claimed during an interrogation that he had received assurances from Putin of Russia’s support for the opposition.”

I guess we can safely call this a “major blow” to American interests now that the opposition has taken over government buildings and declared victory. The Obama Administration’s response was not convincing:

“The U.S. State Department was quick to issue a statement saying its air base in Kyrgyzstan was “functioning normally.” “We are continuing to monitor the circumstances. We continue to think the government remains in power,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement on Wednesday. But that view is beginning to seem untenable: Bakiev has already fled the country, and the opposition says it is forming a new government.”

Obama may have to get in bed with the repressive regime in Uzbekistan if he isn’t able to persuade the Russians of our mutual interests. Is there anyone outside America Obama can persuade about anything?


UPDATE — Here is an interesting report on the uprising.

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