Thursday, January 7, 2010

And the Beat Goes on....

The recent “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is the latest iteration of the attempt by radical Islamists to attack Americans. President Obama, having learned well from his predecessor, blamed failures in American intelligence efforts and lack of inter-agency coordination for the government’s inability to stop this alleged Al-Qaeda from boarding the Northwest airlines aircraft. But, nevertheless, those who failed and those who did not coordinate will remain employed the executive branch. We have not yet had a “you’re doing a great job, Brownie:”-like statement, but maybe the lack of terminations is the equivalent. Maybe Janet Napolitano was just too busy getting her hair plasticized to be bothered with the reports that suggested holidays attacks were a possibility. Of course there is also the issue of having no director for the Transportation Security Administration. According to the Washington Post, the nomination of a former FBI agent, Erroll Southers, to lead the TSA hit a new obstacle Wednesday as several Republican senators expressed "serious reservations" about the nominee and pressed the White House for details of incidents in which he improperly accessed a confidential federal database year ago. Apparently Southers provided differing accounts to the Senate about incidents in 1987 and 1988 in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, in a search for records about his estranged wife's boyfriend. He was censured for this incident. On the plus side, in addition to four years as an FBI agent in San Diego, Southers has served as a police officer, a senior official in the California governor's office of homeland security, and associate director of a homeland security center at the University of Southern California. He is assistant chief of homeland security and intelligence with the Los Angeles World Airports police department. In an interview, Thomas Hughes, who was head of the San Diego FBI office while Southers was there, said he does not recall the circumstances leading to Southers' censure. He said people who worked more closely with Southers described him "as an energetic, athletic, smart and competent agent who was well liked by everyone." All of this seems like damning with faint praise, but Southers may be good for the next White House pick-up basketball game. Is there really no one more qualified out of 300 million Americans?

I am awaiting the President’s address to the nation about this incident. I have several predictions of what he will say:

1. He will take responsibility for the failures of coordination and communication. I am underwhelmed by this because I am not sure what it actually means. It’s also easy to say but probably means nothing in actual practice.

2. There will be measures put in place that will inconvenience the traveling public further. Many will say that it will be worth the hassle if it makes us safer. It seems, however, that previously introduced hassles have not been successful so why should we expect these new hassles to do better?

3. From my years in government, I learned that the best way to look like you are actually doing something is to reorganize. I expect Obama will move around the deck chairs on the Titanic.

4. He will call for the quick approval of the Southers’ nomination. That gives me scant security.

5. Obama may call for increased focus on the buildup of Al Qaeda in Somalia and Yemen. I hate to think what this might mean in terms of lives and the treasury.

6. Obama will go out of his way not to criticize Islam, but will go after the “extremists.” Nevertheless, Americans will continue to blame Islam, characterizing it as a violent religion. They forget about the 400 years of Christian incursions into the territory of Islam during the Crusades. But I guess it’s important for us to hew to the principle that our god is better than theirs.

There are several things that I do not expect to hear from the president:

1. That the US will no longer unconditionally support the war-like and discriminatory policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians. Our unbridled support for the Israeli government inflames many Muslims, but we do it again based on the notion that our (Christian and Jewish) Abrahamic god is better than their Abrahamic god.

2. That the US will reduce the”war on terror” as embodied by our adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

3. No individuals and their failings will be highlighted. No one will be fired. The players will remain with great hope that the game will be played differently in the future.

4. Obama will never admit that maybe it is not possible to stop individual acts that attack the US. The public cannot be expected to handle the truth but it will accept the requirement to spend trillions on false expectations of safety.

I am happy that I am not in charge.

And so goes the sunset.

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