Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who Believes in the Obama?

Who still believes in Barack Obama as a leader? That's really the key question 10 months into the presidency of this community organizer, who's never held a real job or run a business. From what I can tell those that still believe in Obama are the elite media, Democrats (those that hate G.W. Bush and those that are so far left they think Hugo Chavez is a moderate) and the Kool-Aid drinkers that just don't know any better.

With his healthcare "reform" on life support and his "cap and tax" bill on the back burner, the president turned his attention to an elite media blitz. He spent Sunday Morning doing interviews with ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and UniVision. The interviews were mostly unremarkable, in that the hosts (I dare not call them journalists, lest I insult true journalists) asked the Community Organizer-in-Chief softball questions. Even when George Stephanopoulos did ask Obama about the ACORN scandal, he let the president off the hook after Obama claimed not to know about all the money ACORN was receiving from the American Taxpayers. This Sunday Morning liberal lovefest was followed on Monday by an appearance on 'Late Night with David Letterman'. Once again Obama yucked it up, playing the rockstar and abandoning all semblance of being presidential. All of this face time was intended to convince the American people of how wrong we are about Obama's healthcare agenda and the rest of his misguided ideas and how wonderful he's supposed to be. The polls would indicate that he failed miserably on both counts, again. The elite media may believe in Obama, but rather than helping him change our minds about the Prez, they've only reduced their own relevance.

The Democrats, and I should specify that I mean Democrat politicians, still believe in Obama either because they share his left-wing agenda or because they have little choice. Their political futures are irrevocably tied to his now and his to theirs. Except for the rare animal known as "Blue Dog" Democrats, the Dems in Congress are hell bent on achieving their agenda while they still control both the Senate and House of Representatives. They know that the majority of the voters don't want what they're peddling, but they intend to force it through, even if it means they lose effective control in the 2010 mid-term elections. They've abandoned the moderates in their party who spent August having HR 3200 quoted to them by angry voters that have made it clear that any member of Congress foolish enough to vote with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be unseated next year. Already Harry Reid and Chris Dodd are down in the polls and many expect them to lose their senate seats. Other true believers like Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank are in safe districts and feel invincible. They don't care that independents, moderate Democrats, conservatives and Republicans, even those that are their constituents, consider them out of the mainstream. They're going to take advantage of having a naive, young president that shares their liberal agenda. This is the opportunity that they've been waiting for, and they're not going to let it pass.

The Kool-Aid drinkers fall into two categories, those that drink it by choice and those that don't even know they're drinking it. The first, are the Bush haters, the America haters and the self-hating liberals that are guilty that they're successful, while others are not. These people are beyond reason and won't realize that Obama isn't the "One" until the nation collapses into bankruptcy or is attacked 9/11 style, and probably not even then.
Those that don't even know they're drinking the Kool-Aid are the people that watch the aforementioned elite media and believe what they're told to believe. They're told the economy is improving, so they believe it. They're told that Obama's "stimulus" improved the economy, so they believe it. They won't believe that Obama is a failed president until the elite media tell them he has.

So who believes in Obama's leadership 10 months into a presidency marked by failure and denial? The lying enablers in the elite media, the lying enablers in the Congress and the guilty and oblivious in the general public. All of them, for one reason or another, need to believe in him. To stop believing in Obama would somehow mean admitting that everything they believe in is wrong. Of course, that isn't true. Obama is after all, just a community organizer, an average politician and an average orator. It's not Obama they believe in, it's the idea of Obama they believe in. He is a creation of people like David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama. He's been packaged and marketed, like any product that people buy. The trick is to convince them to stop buying.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th, 2001: Eight Years Later, What Have We Learned?

The morning of September 11th, 2001 was a bright, sunny, crystal clear one. I was living in Fresh Meadows, NY about 17 miles from the World Trade Center in the Borough of Queens. I was working from home at the time, I got up and went to my desk, turned on the TV to Fox News with the sound off as I usually did and started to check my email. Not long after I sat down, I noticed that on the television was the World Trade Center with smoke billowing from the North Tower. The caption said something to the affect of “small plane hits WTC”. I turned the sound up and the anchor repeated that early reports were that a small plane had struck the tower. My initial reaction was that the damage to the building was too severe, and the amount of smoke and fire too great, for it to be just a Cessna or other small plane. At the same time, I wondered how any plane could have accidentally hit the WTC on such a clear day. Soon the news indicated that a commercial jet had struck the tower. This only made me wonder more how this could have occurred. After all, a commercial plane has two pilots and collision avoidance systems. As I and the TV anchor were pondering the same question, our answer came in the form of a silver jetliner which appeared from the right of the screen, disappeared behind the towers, then reappeared to the left, turning and crashing headlong into the South Tower bursting into a fireball, leaving the building scarred and burning. At that moment it became apparent that this was a terrorist attack.

Part of me was waiting for the anchor to say that what were watching wasn’t real, that it was part of some simulation or a scene out of some apocalyptic Hollywood movie. Even sitting there watching it unfold it was difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea that someone would use commercial planes, loaded with passengers, as guided missiles and crash them into buildings filled with even more innocent people.

Soon my thoughts turned to my brother-in-law, Eric, who worked at the World Trade Center. I knew he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, but I wasn’t sure which tower or what floor. I called my sister to see if she was watching and if she’d heard from Eric. She told me she was watching but hadn’t heard from him and that she wanted to leave the line clear, in case he called. I told her I loved her and hung up, hoping she’d soon be calling to tell me that Eric was okay. Unfortunately, that was a call that never came.

As I turned my attention back to the news the next thought that occurred to me was, were there more planes? I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. Soon I was learning of the attack on the Pentagon and of a plane going down in a little town called Schnecksville, PA. Only later did we all learn of the heroics of the passengers of United Flight 93 and how they’d stormed the cockpit, forcing the plane down in an empty field, rather than allow it to be used as a weapon.

I continued to watch the unbelievable and horrific sights unfold before my eyes. People jumping from the towers, making the decision that it was better to make a leap of faith than to burn or suffocate in the heat and choking smoke of the uncontrolled fires that burned in both the North and South Towers. Those are images that will be with me always. As will the first of two sounds I’ll never forget. One intrepid cameraman had made his way to the courtyard between the two towers. As he moved along, I could periodically hear what could only be described as sickening thuds. These were the sounds of the people that had jumped impacting the ground at terminal velocity.

I began to wonder as I looked at the fire and the physical damage to the buildings, how long could the damaged areas of the towers support the weight of the floors above them? Again my unspoken question was answered with the unimaginable. The South Tower, which had been struck second, collapsed in a shower of steel and concrete, creating a cloud of dust and debris that seemed to chase the people in the streets forever. When the dust finally cleared and some of the reporters nearest the scene came back on the air with pictures of crushed vehicles and people covered in grey dust, looking like stunned zombies, the second sound I’ll never forget could be heard. It was a chorus of electronic chirping sounds. The sounds of hundreds of FDNY distress beacons chirping in unison. After that, it seemed inevitable that the North Tower would soon collapse too. And yet, when it did, I was still taken by surprise. Once again the same scene that had played out with the previous tower did so again, there was a loud rumble, a shower of debris, a dust cloud, then the silence and the chirping.

I can remember all these things vividly even today 8 years later. I can remember the anguish, the numbness, the helplessness, the anger and the disbelief. All these feelings stayed with all of us for the days and weeks that followed. Even as we held a memorial service for my brother-in-law, whose body was recovered only a few days later, all these feelings, especially the anguish, numbness and anger seemed to be all I could feel. There was no humor, no laughter, it seemed that we would never smile or laugh again. It wasn’t just the loss of Eric and the nearly 3,000 others; it was the pain for my sister, who had lost her husband and my nephew, who wasn’t even 2 years old yet, who had lost a father he’d never know. It was for all the families whose fathers; mothers, sisters and brothers would never be coming home.

It’s been eight short years since that day that changed everything. My sister and nephew moved to Florida shortly after to be close to my parents. My wife and I followed a year later and we’ve all done our best to move on with our lives. But the truth is, 9/11 is with my family and me everyday. We don’t dwell on it or weep everyday. We don’t watch the towers fall on video endlessly. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember it. My sister and my nephew live with the consequences of it everyday. My politics and attitudes about many things have been shaped by the events of 9/11. I find that I’m much more patriotic and more politically active than I was before we were attacked. I’ve found a new respect for firefighters, police officers, our military and the members of our intelligence community. All these people put their lives on the line everyday to try to ensure our safety. They run towards danger when ordinary citizens are running away.
The thing that angers me now isn’t that we haven’t captured or killed Osama Bin Laden, though I wish we had. No, what gets me angry nowadays is the fact that so many in the public and the government have become apathetic again so soon. Many that didn’t lose someone on 9/11 seem to think the War on Terrorism isn’t that important and worry more about Enhanced Interrogation Techniques causing Kalid Sheikh Mohammed some discomfort, than the safety of the CIA agents that used those techniques to prevent another terrorist attack on our nation. Many in the government seem more interested in prosecuting our soldiers and intelligence officers than in keeping the American People safe. There is this notion that we need to use gentler methods, so that our enemies won’t hate us, or so that our soldiers will be treated properly if they’re captured, as though Al-Qaeda won’t behead an American soldier if we follow the Army Field Manual. I don’t understand that mentality. It seems to defy logic. In just the last few days a picture of a very healthy looking Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, taken by the Red Cross, has found it’s way onto Al-Qaeda websites, where it’s being used for recruitment purposes. He doesn’t look like he’s been tortured or mistreated. He looks ready to kill again. At the same time a group calling itself the John Adams Project has been taking pictures of CIA agents and showing them to terrorist detainees, endangering the lives of the agents that are trying to protect us. I keep waiting for our president to denounce these actions, but he remains silent. I’m afraid that our leaders haven’t learned a thing and I’m afraid we’re doomed to be taught the lesson of September 11th, 2001 all over again.

Remembering Eric

Eric M. Sand was a son, brother, husband, father, son-in-law, brother-in-law and a truly good and gentle soul. He was my brother-in-law, but I thought of him as the brother I never had.

Being a dad was his greatest joy. The thing I remember most, about his short time with his young son, was him listening to Kansas’s Greatest Hits with my nephew and especially the way he would sing ‘Horse With No Name’ to him and the way they would both be smiling and laughing.

He was a devoted, loving husband and took wonderful care of my sister. They had so much in common and yet their personalities were different and complimentary. I’ve never known my sister to be as happy as she was during the time she shared with Eric.

Eric was very giving, loving and unselfish. My wife Denise has four children from a previous marriage. They were all young adults when I met her. Eric treated all of them like they were his family, giving them attention and advice. He had an impact on all of their lives that to this day they still talk about. When he died, they all mourned him like they had lost a family member they’d known for all their lives.

My two fondest memories of Eric were when he’d come to my parent’s house for dinner and when he, my sister, my wife and I would all go camping. He was a fit guy, with an appetite that belied his trim frame. When he would come over to my parent’s house for dinner he would always make my mother happy by clearing his plate, taking seconds or even thirds and making sure that there were no leftovers. I would joke with him that if he kept going he’d actually eat his plate. When we would go camping there were certain rituals that were always followed. First we’d setup our tents, then we would start searching the woods for kindling and logs for what would inevitably become not just a campfire, but a roaring bonfire. Along the way, Eric would always find himself a sturdy stick. This stick would double as both a walking stick and a poker for the fire. I can still see him in this worn brown bush hat and his sleeveless plaid, flannel shirt, smoking a cigar, smiling and sitting by that roaring fire. Those camping trips were always fun and always something we all looked forward to. I miss those trips, almost as much as I miss Eric.

As I mentioned he was a gentle soul. He was soft-spoken but also able to take care of himself and his family. He took Tae Kwon Do in Manhattan and was very good at it. But at the same time, he would go to great lengths to avoid a confrontation, if possible. I said at his memorial that Eric, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “spoke softly and carried a big stick”.

My other great memory of Eric was the way he bonded with my late grandmother over Martinis. I believe that Eric is watching over my sister and nephew, who he loved more than anyone or anything. Sitting with my grandmother, drinking martinis.

It’s been 8 years now, but it feels like it was only yesterday that we lost him. I remember him everyday. But today as I write this remembrance, the memories are much more vivid and the emotions they invoke are more difficult to restrain. My eyes are full of tears of both pain and of joy, the pain of his loss and the joy of knowing that the memories of him and his life haven’t faded.

Eric was working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center for Cantor Fitzgerald on September 11th, 2001. He was taken from us far too soon. But he will never be forgotten. Not in eight years, not in eighty years.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

We Were Safer 10 Months Ago

I’m not an expert on terrorism or intelligence gathering. But I am an expert on the impact of terrorism on Americans. As I’ve mentioned before on this program, my brother-in-law was one of the 2,996 people that were murdered on September 11th, 2001. He was working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11, piloted by an Al-Qaeda terrorist slammed into it. The effects of his death and the deaths of all those lost in both World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, American Flights 11 & 77 and United Flights 175 & 93 are still being felt by my family and all the 9/11 families to this day.
By most credible accounts, there was no actionable intelligence that the attacks were going to be carried out on that day in the way that they were. There were many factors that prevented our intelligence agencies from having the information we would have needed to prevent the 9/11 attacks. I personally think that the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which distracted his administration, the Congress and the public, as well as a general apathy, both in the government and in the public were contributing factors. We thought we were safe, we thought we were invincible and the government to that point had treated terrorism like a law enforcement issue. Likewise, most had forgotten Al-Qaeda’s first failed attempt to bring the Towers down in 1993. I was working in a pharmacy, directly across the street from the Manhasset Long Island Railroad station at the time. I can clearly remember the people, many of whom I knew on a first name basis, streaming into our store with soot on their faces and especially their noses that evening. The looks on their faces, stunned and frightened said just one thing they now understood what terrorism was.But the biggest single factor preventing us from being ready on September 11th, 2001 was the lack of human intelligence. Our foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies weren’t on the same page and weren’t communicating the things they knew and connecting the dots. Prior to 9/11 the CIA and FBI weren’t permitted, or inclined to share information. And a few do-gooder politicians, most notably former NJ Senator Robert Torricelli, had made rules regarding who the CIA could and could not use as paid informants. This policy was enacted by President Clinton and became known as “the Torricelli Principle”. The Torricelli Principle grew out of an alleged conspiracy between the CIA and the Guatemalan Army. The conspiracy theory concerned the CIA's supposed illegal funding of the Guatemalan army in its fight against guerrilla groups. As it turned out, the CIA wasn't funding the Guatemalans. It was simply paying a Guatemalan officer for information on drug smuggling. But the conspiracy buffs managed to convince Torricelli to buy their theory about the back-channel funding and the informant's role in killing an American citizen. This allegation turned out to be untrue. But Senator Torricelli managed to get the CIA Director to adopt a policy that said they couldn’t employ terrorists as sources. How can we expect our intelligence agencies to infiltrate terrorist organizations, to gather the information they need to keep us safe, if they can’t employ terrorists?
Post 9/11, the Bush Administration put in place policies designed to make the CIA and FBI share information on terrorists and employed techniques, though controversial in the minds of some, that kept this nation from being attacked again. They treated international terrorism as a war, utilizing the military to track down terrorist leaders and training camps around the world and taking them out. They recognized that this is a very different war. Waged by people that don’t wear uniforms and who haven’t signed the Geneva Conventions. Our enemies deliberately target civilians and don’t represent nations, but instead an ideology.
Now eight years after 9/11 the CIA is being defanged and demoralized yet again by liberals that live in a fantasy world, where the bad guys are playing by some sort of rules. Al-Qaeda beheads anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. The US gives captured terrorists, medical care, good food and the chance to practice their religious beliefs. With the approval of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the same guy that okayed the Marc Rich pardon, has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA, the agents that interrogated high value terror detainees, like Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the attorneys that gave the Bush administration guidance on which Enhanced Interrogation Techniques could be used. Those techniques got KSM to reveal information that prevented additional attacks on the US and our allies, when less aggressive techniques failed. In short a little discomfort applied to the mastermind of 9/11 kept hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people from being killed.
At the same time the CIA is being investigated, the Obama administration is releasing dangerous detainees from Guantananmo Bay back to countries like Yemen, that harbor terrorists and that won’t even guarantee the former detainees will be imprisoned when they get home.As the 8th anniversary of 9/11 approaches this coming Friday, I fear that we’re much less safe than we were just 10 months ago. I think that this administration and this Justice Dept. have returned us to a pre-9/11 footing and that the results will be more American families suffering the same losses that the 9/11 families suffered and continue to suffer. I hope that I’m wrong, but I think I may actually be understating the danger.