As climate change negotiations approach in Copenhagen . . .

The following gruesome photos (below the fold) have gone viral on the internet, and have even made their way into my email inbox.  I tried to check the website cited on the pics, but I don’t read Arabic, so I reached a dead end. I also googled the photos and found them posted at numerous websites that advocate against eating meat.

Are the photos real?  Are they doctored in any way?  Are they photoshopped?  Is it a complete hoax?

They are purported to be photos of a ritual slaughter of Risso dolphins and pilot whales at a harbor in the sparsely populated archipelago of the Faeroe Islands, ruled by Denmark, the nation that will soon be hosting a global summit on saving the planet through creation of a new climate change regime. Purportedly, these marine mammals are used for food, but, allegedly, much more “food” is harvested than is actually consumed. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s an Iranian to do?

Bill Clinton returns from North Korea with two American reporters who’ve been released from captivity.  I’m happy that the two reporters are coming home safely.

But let’s not forget how well this plays out for Kim Jong-Il.  In another blog entry, about an underground nuclear test, I had this to say about North Korea:

“The brinksmanship games that North Korea plays only feed the mythology propagated throughout the North Korean populace.  The six-party talks are characterized in such a way that renowned nations such as South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States, all come crawling to North Korea on hands and knees begging for some small concessions.  Sometimes the North Koreans indulge the petty requests of those beggars, and sometimes not.  See how the current methods of dealing with North Korea only enable them?”

Did you notice how it appeared that the former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, came crawling  to North Korea on hands and knees begging for the release of the reporters?  This is fantastic propaganda for North Korea.  Kim Jong-Il gets to appear magnanimous in indulging Bill Clinton’s “petty” request, because the North Korean population has already been convinced that the two reporters were spies deserving of a harsh criminal sentence.  That Kim Jong-Il can just let the two “spies” walk away communicates to the North Koreans that they have no need to fear us and our trivial attempts at espionage, but that they are feared, even by the United States, who whimperingly must acknowledge that North Korea had the upper hand.

I don’t begrudge Clinton or Obama any bump in the polls that result from the good news of the reporters’ release.   However, what concessions did we gain from North Korea on other fronts?  We just singlehandedly helped the smooth transition of power from Kim Jong-Il to his successor, when a turbulent transition would have given us much more leverage.

The leverage we have lost is not just leverage with North Korea.  We continue to lose leverage all over the globe.

We’ve allowed the Russians to cavort with the Venezuelans, carrying out joint military exercises in our own hemisphere.  Did Kennedy allow the Russians to cavort with Cuba in our own hemisphere?  Did Reagan allow the Russians to cavort with Grenada in our own hemisphere?  Russian attack submarines are prowling the ocean close enough to our Eastern Seaboard that we’ve had to keep a close eye on them.  South Ossetia is attempting to make false claims again about being disturbed by Georgia, with Russian “peacekeepers” set to wreak havoc in Georgia all over again.  The Russians are toying with us.  Obama is Carter to them.

Mexican drug gangs have no respect for our borders, and take hostages with impunity both here and in Mexico.  Are our enforcement efforts against illegal immigration slackening?  Are we slackening in our interdiction of the drug trade?  Why do these Mexican thugs have no fear of us?  Why do they toy with us?

And what about Iran?  They have three Americans in custody now who hiked into their territory from the Kurdish-dominated region of Iraq.  Did we have grand goals in mind of what major concessions we might be able to leverage from Iran?  If so, have our goals now shrunk down to securing the release of three Americans?  Haven’t we played this game already?  Didn’t we just exert political capital to release an American journalist from Iran?  Today, we get release of two journalists from North Korea, with nothing else immediately gained on that front, and, for an encore, will we be groveling for the release of three more Americans from Iran?

How many people live in Israel that continue to be threatened by Iran’s provocations?  How many people live in America and in the West that may be drawn into warfare over Iran’s continued provocations?  How many people live in Iran who are threatened with surveillance, arrest, torture, and death because they voted for a reformist candidate who gave them hope of living in a nation that wasn’t going to continue the provocations that put Iran on a collision coarse with war against the West?  Are we going to let millions of people down by squandering our political capital on 3 captive Americans?

I had an internet chat with an Iranian many weeks ago.  The Iranian and I have had multiple online chats over time.  The Iranian has been alarmed by the warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran.  The Iranian wants peace.  The Iranian doesn’t want war to come to Iran the way it did to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Iranian understood that the current government has been provoking the West.  The Iranian was ready to vote for a change of leadership.

During our chats, we’ve often been in disagreement with each other.  The Iranian had believed that the American journalist was, indeed, a spy, because a confession had been broadcast.  I disagreed.

I voted for John McCain.  The Iranian disagreed.  The Iranian was flabbergasted to learn of my vote for McCain.  The Iranian thought I should have voted for Barack Obama.  To the Iranian, McCain would surely plunge headlong into war with Iran, while Obama surely signaled that he would not do so, and that there would be peace for Iran once a new, reformist government was voted into office in Iran.

Very recently, for the first time since the Iranian elections, I had another chat with the Iranian.  This time, there was no disagreement.  I expressed my deepest sympathies as the Iranian told chilling tales of surveillance, of violence against those who wanted reform, of arrests, and of deaths while in government custody.  The Iranian sees that there was no intention on the part of the government to hold a fair election.  The Iranian sees that “confessions” of dastardly plots are coerced from fellow citizens who have done nothing wrong.  Every time the Iranian joins with others to take to the streets to  show support for reform, they are clamped down upon by the current government.  More terrifying than the clampdowns on assembling in the streets, though, are the interruptions in communications, with cell phone use interrupted, websites being blocked, even huge websites like Yahoo.  It’s terrifying because it demonstrates how much control the government has over everything.  The Iranian feels that leading a religion and simultaneously leading a nation are incompatible tasks.

What more can an ordinary Iranian citizen do to change the course of a nation?  It’s a question that was posed to me, but all I could do was listen and acknowledge.  I had no suggestion, and I find that heart-breaking.  I worry for the Iranian’s safety.

And so I wonder, with so much at stake in the world at large, will America be toyed with?  Will America enable these malevolent regimes?  Will Obama be content with the bump in popularity polls he gets from securing the release of captive Americans, while peace-loving Iranians die?

Will we see a revolving door of hostage crises, so that all we can do is tread water as we focus on releasing captives?  Will malevolent leaders ever get the message that America is a force to be reckoned with and we won’t be toyed with anymore?

Erie County Republicans meet Kevin DeWine

Matthew OldThis is a photo of Matthew Old, Erie County GOP Chair, taken in downtown Sandusky’s Washington Park on the day that John McCain and the Straight Talk Express made a Presidential campaign tour stop in Sandusky.

A few months later, at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner held last Friday, February 20th, Mr. Old remarked that local Republicans had been excited just to be able to host Senator McCain’s surrogates.  They were suprised when Senator McCain, the candidate himself, made plans to stop in Sandusky.

Are Ohio Republicans demoralized from the election losses in 2006 and 2008?  After seeing the turnout from Sandusky County, Seneca County, and Erie County at recent Lincoln Day Dinners, I’d be inclined to say that interest in participation in the party is on the INCREASE in early 2009.

2009 is an election “off-year,” when low profile local races such as city council, village council, township trustee, municipal court judge, and school board races are decided.  I’ve seen turnout for party functions in other “off-years.”  There may have been complacency on display during those other “off-years,” but this time is different.  What I’ve witnessed so far this year is hunger, and I’m not talking about hunger for food.

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 24th, I plan to be at the Cuyahoga County Lincoln Day Dinner, and I’ll be curious to see if the same trend manifests itself there.

At any rate, Matthew Old acknowledged that people in Erie County are seeking out the GOP in greater numbers.  One of the reasons I attended the function (held at the Sandusky Yacht Club, which, by the way, may very well have the most attentive and pampering waitstaff I’ve encountered anywhere) was that one of my mom’s friends, who lives in the city of Huron, was curious about getting involved in the Republican Party.  We thought that accompanying her to the Lincoln Day Dinner would help tremendously in introducing her to like-minded Republicans.  We weren’t disappointed.  In addition to the official Erie County GOP organization, there is also a club for Erie County Republican Women.  Apparently, my mom’s friend represented just the tip of the iceberg, because many new faces had emerged at recent party functions.

The keynote speaker for the evening was the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Kevin DeWine.  He acknowledged that Republican officeholders in high places had made grave errors of hypocrisy leading to the election defeats of 2006 and 2008.  Our party platform includes principles of small government, balanced budgets, lower taxes, transparency, and ethics.  Yet, we witnessed the biggest expansion of government on the Republicans’ watch, with unbalanced Federal budgets, and closed-door deals that led to ethics scandals.  While Mr. DeWine acknowledged all of these errors, he said that the party must turn toward the future rather than wallow in the past.  I think everyone in attendance was there because we were concerned about the future, not because we were still focused on the past.

Regarding the future, Mr. DeWine said that we need to multiply our party’s membership rather than purge our party’s membership.  I’m inclined to agree.  After all, the name of this blog, Buckeye RINO, is partly a response to those who bandy the “RINO” appellation too freely.  Republicans are supposed to be the big tent party, not the groupthink party.  To be the big tent party, we have to be tolerant of varying opinions on a wide array of topics, though there are some bedrock principles that we all subscribe to.  The party of Lincoln is a party of liberty, not groupthink.

I think alarm over rampant socialism within our own nation is part of the motivation for the increased attendance at these functions.  Another common concern is the feeling that, when it comes to foreign affairs, we need to be every bit as relentless as our adversaries, and, frankly, it appears that our nation may be caving in on many international fronts.

Mr. DeWine said that he fully expected a solid GOP ticket for 9 statewide offices up for grabs in 2010.  While discussing some of the possible names that may appear on the 2010 ballot, he was careful to point out that only Rob Portman had made an official announcement so far.  Portman is seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator George Voinovich, who has announced his retirement.

In one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I inquired about the ORP’s commitment to campaigning all over the state, not just in southwest Ohio.  Mr. DeWine gave his assurance that winning statewide races requires campaigning in northern Ohio.  What caused me to make such an inquiry?  It was the Secretary of State race in 2006, when Jim Trakas stepped aside to let Greg Hartmann carry the banner for the GOP.  Greg Hartmann was invisible in northern Ohio.  I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of that mistake in 2010.

Also in one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I asked about the GOP’s competitive disadvantage in early absentee voting.  Northern Ohio Republican candidates have fared much more poorly since absentee voting laws were changed to allow voters to vote early without having to specify a reason why they were choosing to do so.  Mr. DeWine said that many other states have made similar changes, so this is a topic of discussion that’s been brought before Michael Steele and the rest of the RNC.

Two other featured guests at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night were two state senators:  Senator Karen Gillmor, and Senator Mark Wagoner.  Erie County is located within Senator Wagoner’s state senate district, so he was granted a few minutes to speak from the podium.  Senator Karen Gillmor didn’t speak from the podium, but she did work the room, meeting and greeting guests before dinner was served.

Lack of love for America from abroad?

As this blog piece from the Lorain County Photographer’s Blog shows, anti-American sentiment abroad isn’t caused by a lack of $$$$$$$$.

Irked by Obama

I watched the entire debate between McCain and Obama last night, and thought that both sides could see some positives in the performances of whoever their favorite candidate was.  So I would mostly leave the debate topic alone, as there were no decisive blows, and emotions stayed on an even keel.

Except for one thing.  One thing that irked me.

And since it remained on my mind, and I couldn’t sleep, I figured I’d better blog about it.

Since Obama’s early campaign appearances, he’s been talking this nonsense about him, as U.S. President, willing to meet anyone, including enemies, including Iran, face to face, to engage in diplomatic negotiations.

Last night, Obama said it again, only this time, he said that 5 prior Secretaries of State agreed with him.  I watched that special on CNN hosted by Christiane Amanpour with 5 Secretaries of State (Henry Kissinger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, and Colin Powell).  Zero of them agreed with him.  And that’s what irked me.  That’s what made me mad.

None of those 5 Secretaries of State talked about meeting with Iranian leaders at the Presidential level without preconditions.  All 5 of them agreed with having talks with Iran, which is something McCain agrees with, too, but the highest level of talks any of them spoke about without preconditions was at the Secretary of State level.

I repeat, the Secretary of State level was the highest level recommended by any of the 5.

Obama even named Kissinger as someone who agreed with him.  McCain called him on it, clarifying that there would be talks with Iran in a McCain Administration, but not at the Presidential level without preconditions, and that Kissinger agreed with McCain.  CNN’s fact-checkers confirmed that Kissinger sided with McCain.

But after being called on it by McCain, Obama backpedaled, as if to dismiss the notion that he, Obama, was referring to talks at the Presidential level, and tried to utter some nonsense about preparation, but that just irked me.

Obama had better decide what he’s saying.  He can’t say contradictory things at once.  Either he’s talking about Presidential summits with other world leaders with no conditions, like he’s done since the beginning of the campaign, or he’s talking about diplomatic communications at the lower levels, not at the Presidential level, which means he has to say that he is retreating from the position he took at his campaign’s outset.  I’m not letting Obama have any wiggle room on this.

In international affairs, one must keep in mind that despite the long distances and large regions of the world that are involved in such discussions, “all politics are local.”  Leaders of foreign countries have to worry about their own domestic bases of power.  Often, the posture these foreign leaders assume on the world stage has everything to do with how they are viewed by the people at home, within their own countries, and not so much to do with what is accommodating to outsiders.

Keep that in mind.

If you are a President of the United States, you are a very busy person.  Though very many people want to infringe upon your time, though many people want an audience with you, you have to be very judicious with how you spend your time.  You have many very weighty responsibilities.  You have to prioritize who gets access to you and who does not.  For those who don’t get access to you, you have to allow them access to someone that you authorize to act on your behalf.  For foreign governments, you authorize the Department of State, which has many capable diplomats in its ranks working on behalf of the President and the American people.  The State Department can handle whatever diplomatic tasks you choose to delegate to them.  There are, however, certain circumstances where you may decide that something is important enough that you do not delegate a matter to the State Department because you choose to deal with it yourself, as President.

Question:  Would I, as President, want to allocate my scarce time to negotiate directly with an enemy foreign leader with no preconditions?

Answer: No.

Question: Why not?

Answer: If I set no preconditions, then I have no indication from the enemy foreign leader that negotiations will lead to anything productive.  When preconditions are met, that is a signal that negotiations might lead to a favorable outcome. Therefore, if there are no preconditions, or preconditions are not met, a summit could easily be a total waste of a President’s time.  Therefore, delegate the matter to the State Department to handle until such a time arrives that the enemy foreign leader exhibits some sign that a summit might lead to progress.  Unless an enemy foreign leader gives some signal that compromise is possible, having a summit with that leader would be trying to negotiate from a position of weakness.  The President would be seen as caving in to the obstinate foreign leader, in which case, negotiations can only go badly, as only the United States is signaling a willingness to compromise.  The President must be at least on equal footing, if not on firmer ground, in order to negotiate from a position of strength.  Furthermore (and this is where the adage “all politics are local” fits in), if an obstinate foreign leader is granted access to the President without meeting any preconditions, the comparative weakness of the President will be exploited for domestic consumption by the enemy foreign leader to consolidate power within his/her own nation, further hampering future efforts to gain any concessions at all from the foreign leader.

The enemy foreign leader will brag.  BRAG!  The enemy foreign leader will brag to the people of his/her country that the uncompromising stance they took was able to humble the United States, forcing the U.S. President to crumble, and come crawling on their knees and begging for a concession, and the foreign leader defiantly and triumphantly decreed, “No!”  Thus the enemy foreign leader becomes a hero/heroine in the eyes of his/her people that they were able to subordinate the United States to their will.

That is what John McCain means when he says that meeting with enemy foreign leaders at the PRESIDENTIAL LEVEL WITH NO PRECONDITIONS legitimizes tyrants.  John McCain, as President, will not offer himself as fodder for the propaganda machine that tyrants employ to legitimize themselves and consolidate power.

Advice for Obama on consulting Biden

With news trickling in that Obama has made the wise choice to fill in the foreign policy resume holes with Senator Joe Biden as VP candidate, I have this to say to Obama about formulating foreign policy:

1) GET OVER YOURSELF! I know you want to portray yourself as a strong leader, but reminding us that you are the one who will call the shots on foreign policy is not a selling point to me.  Your prior utterances have convinced me that you know little of the outside world, know nothing of negotiating from a position of strength, and are even confused about what America’s best interests are in the international community.

2) HEED EVERYTHING BIDEN SAYS ON FOREIGN POLICY! I don’t agree with all of Biden’s foreign policy positions (Biden’s obviously not perfect), but, having said that, I can’t think of any Democrats that I agree with more when it comes to foreign policy than I do with Joe Biden.  If you don’t get over yourself (step one), then you probably will take a cavalier approach to Biden’s advice.  Taking a cavalier approach to Biden with your very limited understanding of foreign affairs will be catastrophic for our nation if you actually become President.  Until you wise up, you’d better be humble and let Biden guide you.

If you get to be President, please don’t screw it up.