Daily Archives: April 17, 2009

Obama Ready to Tell Chavez U.S., Venezuela Should Shelve ‘Old Arguments’


Friday, April 17, 2009

MEXICO CITY — There’s nothing “on the schedule” when it comes to a possible meeting at the Summit of the Americas between President Obama and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, but the president’s ready tell Chavez the two nations should put aside “old arguments.”

With the summit beginning Friday, Dan Restrepo, the president’s top Western Hemisphere adviser on the National Security Council, told FOX News Obama might cross paths with Chavez.

“A chance encounter if it occurs,” Restrepo said, in describing such a meeting, before launching into what sounded like Obama’s pre-planned pitch. “Let’s put the animosities behind us. Let’s not have old arguments.

“Let’s not have tired ideological arguments. Let’s get down to figuring out how we can advance things that are in our national interest. Things that matter to the United States that should matter to Venezuela. Putting the arguments and ideologies of the past aside and working on pragmatic solutions to real problems that face our countries today,” he said.

Obama has no known “animosities” or “tired ideological arguments” with Chavez (he vowed to meet him without preconditions during the campaign). Restropo suggested the burden of improved relations could be on Chavez.

“You have in the United States a president who’s willing to work with whomever is interested working constructively with the United States and with President Obama,” Restrepo said. “That poses a very different dynamic than has perhaps has been present in the past in Summits of the Americas or in the relationship writ large. I think will be interesting to watch the dynamic as it unfolds over the course of the summit.”

Though Restrepo seemed to suggest an encounter with Chavez is on the horizon, the White House remained cagey.

Late Thursday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs used the “there’s nothing on the schedule” dodge when asked directly if Obama would meet face-to-face with Chavez.

That recalled a similarly vague “schedule” reference from the president’s trip to Europe and Turkey. Near the end of Obama’s two-day visit to Turkey, Gibbs was asked point blank if Obama would fly directly from Istanbul to Washington, D.C., as the White House schedule indicated. “You have the schedule,” Gibbs replied curtly. Within hours, Obama landed in Baghdad for his first visit to that war zone as president.

When asked what Obama would do if Chavez tried to pull him aside for a chat, Gibbs said:
“Every time I’ve pulled the president aside for a conversation, we’ve had that conversation, so I assume he would do the same.”

So Obama and Chavez may do more than eye each other across the table Saturday at the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) talks that are a sideline to the summit that begins Friday in the Trinidad and Tobago capital of Port of Spain.

If they do, it may be Chavez who will have to explain to Obama how he has “the same stench” as President Bush, a comment he made after Obama accused Chavez of backing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a leftist terrorist organization that has terrorized Columbians with kidnappings and murders for 45 years.

While visiting Iran on April 1, Chavez said this about better relations with the U.S.: “I don’t have much hope because behind him is an empire. He’s the president of an empire. I hope President Obama is the last president of the Yankee empire.”

Talk about old animosities and tired ideological arguments.


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Afghan Quakes Kill at Least 20, Destroy Homes

Friday, April 17, 2009

KABUL —  Two earthquakes shook eastern Afghanistan early Friday, killing at least 20 people and destroying dozens of homes, officials said.

The quakes destroyed an estimated 100 houses in two villages in Nangarhar province, said governor’s spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai. The provincial police chief, Ghafor Khan, said at least and 20 were injured.

One villager said the death toll was considerably higher. Officials were traveling to the site.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Nangarhar province was hit by two earthquakes — a 5.5 magnitude quake at about 2 a.m., and a 5.1 magnitude aftershock two hours later.

Khan said two villages suffered the most damage — Sargad Kheil and Khodi Kheil, both in Sherzad district, about 50 miles east of Kabul.

A villager in Sherzad, Shah Mohammad Khan, told The Associated Press that 40 people were killed and 60 wounded, but government officials did not confirm those figures.

Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountain range is hit by dozens of minor earthquakes each year. Many Afghan homes are made of dried mud, so even moderate earthquakes can cause many deaths and major damage to infrastructure.

The Associated Press contributed this report.

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Cable Anchors, Guests Use Tea Parties as Platform for Frat House Humor

Cable anchors and guests covered the anti-tax tea party protests by cracking a litany of barely concealed sexual references.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

For thousands of Americans, Tax Day was a moment to protest what they see as bloated budgets and a pile of debt being passed on to their children.

For CNN, MSNBC and other media outlets, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the word “teabagging” in a sentence.

Teabagging, for those who don’t live in a frat house, refers to a sexual act involving part of the male genitalia and a second person’s face or mouth.

So when the anti-tax “tea party” protests were held Wednesday across the country, cable anchors and guests — who for weeks had all but ignored the story — covered the protests by cracking a litany of barely concealed sexual references.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper interspersed “teabagging” references with analyst David Gergen’s more staid commentary on how Republicans are still “searching for their voice.”

“It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging,” Cooper explained. Gergen laughed, but Cooper kept a straight face.

MSNBC’s David Shuster weaved a tapestry of “Animal House” humor Monday as he filled in for Countdown host Keith Olbermann.

The protests, he explained, amount to “Teabagging day for the right wing and they are going nuts for it.”

He described the parties as simultaneously “full-throated” and “toothless,” and continued: “They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending.” Shuster also noted how the protesters “whipped out” the demonstrations this past weekend.

Tea Party participants were not amused. The events were held in dozens of cities across the country, and while some demonstrators were criticized for wielding off-topic and sometimes insensitive protest signs, most took to the streets to speak out against government spending.

Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, said the media coverage was “insulting,” reacting specifically to CNN reporter Susan Roesgen’s combative interviews with Illinois demonstrators in which she declared that the protests were “anti-CNN” and supported by FOX News. She left the teabagging jokes to her colleagues, though.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bozell said. “The oral sex jokes on (CNN) and particularly MSNBC on teabagging … they had them by the dozens. That’s how insulting they were toward people who believe they’re being taxed too highly.”

Max Pappas, public policy vice president at FreedomWorks — a small-government group which promoted the tea parties — said it’s a “shame” media outlets cracked jokes at a genuine “grassroots uprising.”

“I think what that reveals is how worried they are that this might actually be something serious. You make fun of things you’re afraid of, I’d say,” Pappas said.

If anyone thinks the orally charged remarks on mainstream cable were just a coincidence, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s segments over the past week with guest, Air America’s Ana Marie Cox, would dissolve all doubt. Their on-air gymnastics, dancing around the double entendre of the week, looked like live-action Beavis and Butthead.

By one count, the two of them used the word “teabag” more than 50 times on one show. And on Monday, Cox even let the viewers in on their joke — referencing Urbandictionary.com, a site which offers a number of colorful definitions for the term “teabagging.”

“Well, there is a lot of love in teabagging,” Cox said. “It is curious, though, as you point out, they do not use the verb ‘teabag.’ It might be because they’re less enthusiastic about teabagging than some of the more corporate conservatives who seem to have taken to it quite easily.”

Jenny Beth Martin, a Republican activist who helped organize one protest in Atlanta, said she’s not too worried about the protests being dismissed by some media outlets. She estimated 750,000 people attended more than 800 protests in all 50 states, and that at the very least the local media and community newspapers documented it.

“Our message definitely got out where it needed to get,” she said.

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Yesterday was Tax Day, and it was marked by large numbers of Americans turning out for an estimated 2,000 tea parties across the country. This movement is significant.

In 1978, California voters enacted Prop. 13 in reaction to steep property taxes. That marked the start of a tax-cutting movement that culminated in Ronald Reagan slashing high national income taxes in the 1980s. Now Americans are reacting to runaway government spending that they were not told about before last year’s election, and which Americans are growing to resent.

Derided by elitists as phony, the tea-party movement is spontaneous, decentralized, frequently amateurish and sometimes shrill. If it has a father it is CNBC’s Rick Santelli, who called for holding a tea party in Chicago on July 4. Yesterday’s gatherings were made up of people who may never meet again (there’s no central collection point for email addresses). But the concerns driving people to tea parties are real, growing and powerful. Politicians ignore them at their peril.

>> Read full article


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Palin Takes Obama to Task for Stance on Abortion


Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, criticized Obama’s positions during a speech at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life’s annual dinner Thursday night in Evansville, Ind.

Associated Press

Thursday, April 16, 2009

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is taking President Barack Obama to task for his support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, criticized Obama’s positions during a speech at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life’s annual dinner Thursday night in Evansville, Ind.

She says deciding when babies get human rights isn’t above her pay grade — a reference to Obama’s response to a question from the Rev. Rick Warren last year. Obama said such questions were above his pay grade. (see Catholic News Agency article immediately below)

Thursday’s appearance was Palin’s first out-of-state trip on a partisan agenda since the presidential campaign ended. Some Alaska lawmakers have criticized her decision to make the trip as the state Legislature approaches its Sunday deadline.

Obama concedes that ‘above my pay grade’ remarks were ‘probably’ too flippant


Sen. Barack Obama

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2008 / 02:24 am (CNA).- Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, has backed away from his remarks that deciding when life begins is “above my pay grade,” conceding in a television interview that the comments were “probably” too flip.

At the Saddleback Church candidates’ forum in August, moderator and church pastor Rev. Rick Warren had asked the candidates “At what point does a baby get human rights?”

Sen. Obama had replied to Warren by saying that determining when life begins is “above my pay grade.”

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped for ABC’s This Week, Obama said:

“What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into … It’s a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”

Explaining the answer he wished he had given to Rev. Warren’s question, Obama commented, “What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue, that it’s one that families struggle with all the time. And that in wrestling with those issues, I don’t think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions.”

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Former CIA Chief Hayden Criticizes Release of Memos Detailing Interrogation Techniques

Even though Attorney General Eric Holder is giving the first definitive assurance that CIA officials are in the clear as long as their actions were in line with the legal  advice at the time, releasing memos long held secret by the Bush administration is not ‘the right thing to do’.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the Obama administration is endangering the country by releasing Justice Department memos that detail the CIA’s interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.

Hayden tells The Associated Press the release will give terrorists a precise guide for what to expect in a CIA interrogation if those methods are ever approved for use again.

The Obama administration outlawed the techniques but has a task force reviewing the military’s interrogation methods to determine if they are sufficient for CIA use.

Hayden says he worries the revelations will also deter other governments from cooperating with the United States because it shows the U.S. “can’t keep anything secret.”

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