Tag: War on Terror

Rand Stands Again

So today, Rand Paul engaged in his second filibuster, this time against the Patriot Act, talking for ten hours. Specifically, he was filibustering against Section 215, which supposedly enables the NSA meta-data collection program.

This has been building for several weeks now. The Second Circuit, in fact, ruled that the Patriot Act doesn’t authorize the data collection program and the NSA has said they will not change anything until Congress acts. Following this, the lying sack of shit that leads the NSA claimed that he lied to Congress about the program because … and I’m not making this up … he forgot the program existed. Defenders of the program are demanding Congress reauthorizing it, making dubious and sometimes outright false statements about the success of the program. And last week, the House voted to reign in the NSA’s power, albeit in water-down version. The ball is currently in the Senate’s court.

I don’t think the Patriot Act should be renewed. This has been primarily used as a smokescreen for prosecutions on drug and other non-terrorism charges. It was passed in the first place on false claims that 9/11 happened because the government didn’t have the powers within the Patriot Act. If it must be passed however, it should only pass after the USA FREEDOM Act directly curtails the NSA’s power.

I have my disagreements with Paul, but this is another occasion on which he has made me proud. Let’s hope other Senators will stand not just with Rand, but with us.

Bin Laden Coverup

Seymour Hersh, source of some big — although not necessarily accurate — stories, is alleging that the bin Laden raid did not go down as we were told:

The principal claims that Hersh’s article makes, which largely rely on the assertions of a single, unnamed, retired senior U.S. intelligence official, are:

• That the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid on the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was hiding in northern Pakistan was not a firefight in which SEALs went into a dangerous and unknown situation, but a setup in which Pakistan’s military had been holding bin Laden prisoner in Abbottabad for five years and simply made him available to the SEALs who flew in helicopters to the compound on the night of the raid.

• An officer from Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency ISI accompanied the SEALs on the raid and showed them around the Abbottabad compound, and the only shots fired that night were the ones that the SEALs fired to kill bin Laden.

• A “walk in” to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad tipped off the CIA that bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad compound, and it was not true — despite the statements of multiple U.S. officials after the raid — that the CIA had traced back one of bin Laden’s couriers to the Abbottabad compound and built a circumstantial case that bin Laden was living there.

• Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden’s upkeep in his Abbottabad compound.

• A Pakistani army doctor obtained DNA from bin Laden that proved he was in Abbottabad, proof that was provided to the States so that all the supposed uncertainty — cited by Obama administration officials after the raid — about whether bin Laden was actually living in the compound was a lie.

• The “most blatant lie,” according to Hersh, was that “Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders — General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI — were never informed” in advance of the U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound.

In short, according to Hersh’s account, President Barack Obama and many of his top advisers lied about pretty much everything concerning what is considered one of the President’s signal accomplishments: authorizing the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

In some way, I’m disposed to believe this story. It always did seem suspicious that bin Laden was right near a Pakistani military headquarters. And I wouldn’t put it past Obama to lie to us about it. The Administration has been milking the raid for propaganda since before it happened, including giving classified information to filmmakers for Zero Dark Thirty.

But after thinking about it, I have to say, like Peter Bergen, I am deeply skeptical of this. Part of this is Hersh. Yes, he broke My Lai story. But he also claimed that Bush intended to use nuclear weapons on Iran. So he’s not always in Earth orbit. Part of this is my general suspicions of conspiracy theories. Part of this is that it smells badly of a Killian Memo.

But mostly it because it contradicts well-established facts. You can read the details in Bergen’s piece. Notably, multiple witnesses, including Bergen, can attest to a bullet-riddled compound and multiple bodies. And there’s this:

Common sense would also tell you that if the Pakistanis were holding bin Laden and the U.S. government had found out this fact, the easiest path for both countries would not be to launch a U.S. military raid into Pakistan but would have been to hand bin Laden over quietly to the Americans.

Indeed, the Pakistanis have done this on several occasions with a number of other al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, who was handed over to U.S. custody after a raid in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi in 2003. So too was Abu Faraj al-Libi, another key al Qaeda leader who was similarly handed over by the Pakistanis to U.S. custody two years later.

Ed Morrissey is suspicious of the story for similar reasons.

We’ll see what comes out. But I highly suspect Hersh is full of it. ISI may have known more than they were saying about bin Laden’s whereabouts. But a cover-up of this magnitude would also involve Seal Team 6 and multiple intelligence agencies. I find it highly unlikely a lid could be kept on such a conspiracy only to be blown by the likes of Hersh.

The Torture Report

The Senate has release their report on the CIA torture program:

The CIA’s harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees during the Bush era didn’t work, were more brutal than previously revealed and delivered no “ticking time bomb” information that prevented an attack, according to an explosive Senate report released Tuesday.

The majority report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a damning condemnation of the tactics — branded by critics as torture — the George W. Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The techniques, according to the report, were “deeply flawed” and often resulted in “fabricated” information.

The CIA immediately hit back at the report, saying in a statement that the program was “effective” and substantially helped its understanding of Al Qaeda’s tactical operations and goals.

I am disinclined to believe the CIA on this, given their desperate attempts to cover it up, which included the destruction of video tapes of interrogations and attempts to spy on members of Congress. The report was trimmed down from more than 6000 pages to the current 480 and large parts were redacted at the behest of the CIA. And it’s still pretty damning. The initial reporting is that it included weeks of waterboarding and sleep deprivation, usually used almost immediately after capture.

I’ll post more as commentary comes in and I get a chance to read some of the report. The report itself is here.

Update: NYT:

Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some C.I.A. prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings.”

The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt Pit — a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”

The report also addresses the CIA’s list of terror attacks they claim were prevented by torture, noting that in most cases the torture information was either inaccurate or confirmed information they already had.

You can read the response of ex-CIA directors here.

Update: A look at claims made by the CIA that torture worked. None of them stand up to scrutiny … according to the CIA’s own documents.

A Quick Thought on the Bergdahl Deal

Events are moving quickly on the Bergdahl deal. Congress is going to have hearings about whether Obama broke the law (when even noted liberal hack Jeffrey Toobin says that Obama “clearly broke the law”, I would say that Obama probably broke the law). The army is now going to investigate his disappearance. Homecoming parades have been cancelled. And the Obama people are, once again, bumfuzzled that not everyone is baking is their gloriousness.

But I wanted to peel off a question here. When discussing this case with my father-in-law today, he was puzzled that Obama would make this deal since he thought it would encourage more abductions. I said that the Obama people saw this as a straight-forward POW exchange. And then it hit me. This deal isn’t about Bergdahl. It isn’t about leaving no man behind. It isn’t about the Gitmo 5. And it’s not about distracting from the VA scandal (the lapdog media will take care of that).

This deal is about legitimizing the Taliban.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. It’s more accurate to say that this about setting the stage for post-war Afghanistan. Karzai is a lame duck and will soon be replaced. His successor may not last long after we leave. Either the Taliban will take over or they will be part of a power-sharing agreement. The United States has been negotiating directly with the Taliban for a while, trying to bring more moderate elements to the fore (the Taliban is not a monolithic organization, but is a coalition of powers ranging from somewhat moderate to absurdly extreme).

I think this is aimed directly at building a relationship with the Taliban. It is not a coincidence that this happened just after we announced the timetable for leaving Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has seen the writing on the wall — the Taliban will rule Afghanistan again. And they’re trying to establish a relationship with Afghanistan’s future government.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing only history will tell. I don’t think we have much of a choice. We can’t stay and nation-build in Afghanistan forever. The only force that will rid Afghanistan of fundamentalism is the Afghan people deciding they don’t want it anymore. Our main priority has to be making sure that terrorist organizations are not allowed to flourish in postwar Afghanistan.

Will this prisoner swap with the Taliban help? I’m very dubious. But I think that’s what’s going on here.

Because this is a lot better than GITMO! and NOT BOOSH!

Boosh was evil for finding the least ugly solution to a horrible problem and giving us GITMO, while Clinton’s rendition policies never caused consternation until they could blame Boosh for them too. So I wonder how soon they will be blaming Boosh for Obama now using NAVY vessels to circumvent the faux-angst the left had about questioning & detaining terrorist prisoners. From the article.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Instead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA “black” sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is questioning terrorists for as long as it takes aboard U.S. naval vessels. And it’s doing it in a way that preserves the government’s ability to ultimately prosecute the suspects in civilian courts. That’s the pattern emerging with the recent capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, long-sought for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. He was captured in a raid Saturday and is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious warship mainly used to transport troops.

Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Barack Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end. The strategy also makes good on Obama’s pledge to prosecute terrorists in U.S. civilian courts, which many Republicans have argued against. But it also raises questions about using “law of war” powers to circumvent the safeguards of the U.S. criminal justice system.

By holding people in secret prisons, known as black sites, the CIA was able to question them over long periods, using the harshest interrogation tactics, without giving them access to lawyers. Obama came to office without a ready replacement for those secret prisons. The concern was that if a terrorist was sent directly to court, the government might never know what intelligence he had. With the black sites closed and Obama refusing to send more people to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it wasn’t obvious where the U.S. would hold people for interrogation.

And that’s where the warships came in.

Well, I see a silver lining: not everyone is getting drone-striked to death if they are capturing some of them. Of course, one has to wonder how many are being “buried at see” so they can keep the program under wraps. Rush Limbaugh and other enemies of the state better watch it or they could end up feeding the fish…

Three More Arrests

I’m slammed today at work, but here’s a thread to discuss the arrests today in Boston that are apparently related to the marathon attack. Right now the charge is lying to investigators. That sounds less like something they’ll be prosecuted for than it a is a charge to take them into custody while the feds figure out what to really charge them with. Reports are that they helped destroy evidence. But it’s not clear that they knew what they were doing (Tsarnaev called them when he became a suspect and asked them to throw out stuff). I suspect that Dershowitz is right and what the feds are really after is getting these guys to talk about what they may or may not know about a larger terror connection.

Updates as events warrant.

Ken from Popehat is on it:

Very briefly, the affidavit alleges that Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov saw emptied-out fireworks in accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s room, concluded that he was one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and decided to dispose of the container of hollowed-out fireworks, apparently to protect Tsarnaev. Phillipos, the FBI alleges, gave multiple statements and initially lied about what he knew of actions by Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov.

Sounds serious.

The Stabby Skies

Last week, TSA, in its never-ending quest to make air travel more complicated and arbitrary, decided to allow small knives back on planes. Apparently, this is controversial. But as I see it, the only real controversy is why they are only lifting the ban on small knives.

I realize that talking sensibly about terror threats is considered insensitive. We’re all supposed to be in a constant mindset of PANIC!! But let’s be honest: the big security loophole that was exploited on 9/11 was not knives. The security loophole was the policy of cooperating with hijackers, a policy the passengers of United 93 ended heroically and permanently. With a locked cabin and a policy of never cooperating with hijackers, the chance of another 9/11 is low whether the hijackers show up with small knives, big knives, Swiss Army Knives, machetes or nothing but their small swinging dicks. A hijacker armed with a knife could kill some folk (before likely being beaten to death by the passengers). But I think our efforts would be better directed toward keeping hijackers off planes rather than knives. The focus on knives is just an extension of our national dementia on weapons as evil talismans that cause death and destruction all by themselves.

Of course, even this baby step toward sensibile screening policy has to come with a passel of TSA bullshit. Knives are limited to 6 cm in length. Knives with molded grips or locking blades — assault knives, I guess — are still banned. Moreover, they are continuing a ban on boxcutters and razors for “emotional” reasons since obviously the sight of a razor blade would reduce the American passenger — the passenger who, you may remember, actually fought back on 9/11 — to weeping hysteria. So stand by for TSA lines to get longer as they puzzle out whether a blade is allowed or not.

Rand Filibusters

It is midnight right now and Rand Paul is still filibustering John Brennan’s nomination over the issue of domestic use of drones. And good Lord, it is beautiful.

Some choice quotes:

When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.

If there were an ounce of courage in this body I would be joined by other senators… saying they will not tolerate this.”

So should we trust the President when he says, ‘I would never use the power wrongly, so why shouldn’t I have the power?’

I’m not saying that anyone is Hitler, don’t misunderstand me. But what I am saying that is…when a democracy gets it wrong, you want the law to be in place.”

Holder earlier said that they had no plans to use drones for domestic killing but reserved the right to use them in “extraordinary circumstances” which could mean anything. Paul is absolutely right to demand that the Administration answer questions on this.

Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Jerry Moran, Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Saxby Chambliss, John Cornyn, John Barrasso, John Thune, and Mitch McConnell have given their support in the form of long questions that give him a break. Other senators are actually engaging him in debate. And really, it should be all 100 senators up there demanding answers from this Administration.

It’s rare that a politicians makes me proud. Rand Paul is making me proud right now.

The State of the Campaign

Here’s the thing that struck me as I read Obama’s State of the Union address: very little of this is going to happen. There is no way he will get even 10% of his agenda through a Republican House. Most of it would not even go through a Democratic House. This read less like a SOTU speech and more like a rally for liberals.

That would be fine except that … there are some things that kind of need to happen. Entitlements need to be reigned in. Our tax and regulatory structure are desperate for an overhaul. We need to cut spending and in a smarter way than the sequester does. So, in the end, this is fiddling while Rome burns. Or, more accurately, making MSNBC fawn over themselves while the country stumbles and bumbles.

Let’s go through a few talking points.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Technically, this is true. In reality, almost all of these “cuts” are in future budgets, not current ones. Spending has been flat over the last couple of years (after the 2009 runup) and it is now likely our deficit will fall under $1 trillion this year. If we can maintain that semi-discipline, the deficit will be a little less disastrous. But that budget control has come over the frothing opposition of the President’s party and every liberal commentator out there. And it’s still more like a few hundred billion, at most. You can’t really claim budget cuts that haven’t happened yet, especially when the rest of your agenda amounts to MOAR SPENDING!

Obama comes out against the sequester, which is indeed a crude and likely destructive tool compared to more targeted cuts (of course, he happily ignores his role in creating the sequester). It also doesn’t address, as he notes, entitlements. Oh, but on that subject:

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

Let’s get this straight: Obama’s healthcare reforms have not slowed the cost of healthcare costs. That slowing began before Obamacare was passed and was likely related to the Great Recession. Furthermore, his healthcare reforms have completely screwed young people, saving money by restricting what insurance companies can charge older people and therefore jacking up insurance rates on young people. (Yeah, how do you feel about voting for Obama by 24 points now, young people?)

He then talks about tax reform. But unless the mortgage interest deduction is on the table, such talk in unserious. That is not only one of the largest deductions (and one that heavily benefits the wealthy; for most middle class people, the mortgage interest deduction is less than their standard deduction), the unwillingness to challenge it is a sign of fecklessness. If you’re not willing to at least have it one the table at some point, you’re not serious about tax reform. Obama isn’t.

Obama then pivots to the economy for about the eighth time this week.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.

Almost all of those jobs were created by 2012. It’s nice they are coming back. But that has nothing to do with government policy and everything to do with smart business. Many businesses have realized that outsourcing wasn’t such a hot idea. They are bringing back some of their manufacturing. But most of it will remain overseas. And those trends have nothing to do with Obama’s policies.

Obama then talks up science and technology — fair enough. But then we get this whopper:

We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

Good Lord, there’s a lot of BS in here. First of all, we have not doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas. That’s a goal in the law, but it is not reality. We encounter this over and over with Obama. He thinks that just passing a law calling for something to be done is the same as actually doing it. He fundamentally believes that law has the ability to change reality, alter the laws of physics and create the future. So, in his mind, we have doubled the mileage of cars. We passed a law, didn’t we? So.. done! QED. It’s the same logic by which he claims we have cut spending by $2.5 trillion because we passed a law calling on future Congresses to do so.

Second, jobs are being created in renewables but government investment is hurting that trend by funneling money to politically connected dead ends. Third, production of oil and gas have boomed over liberal protestations. Fourth, energy bills are not down (even with subsidies, renewables cost more per kwH than fossil fuels). And fifth, our emissions are down, in large part, because we have moved energy production from carbon-intensive coal to less carbon-intensive natural gas. None of this, none of it, is because of Obama’s policies. It is all because of innovation in the private sector.

He then talks of supporting McCain’s cap-and-trade scheme — the one that would put strings in every corner of industry and create hundreds of billions in federal slush funds. He propose that revenues from energy sources on federal lands go to an “Energy Security Trust” — another slush fund. This is the same stuff he has rolled out every year and it has gone nowhere.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

I’ve gone over the massively overstated case that our infrastructure is crumbling (such statements come from groups that lobby for more infrastructure spending). The Partnership to Rebuild America sounds very iffy. I’d much rather see privatization.

After talking about re-inflating the housing bubble, he turns to Universal Union Employment, er, Pre-K:

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.

I have taken on this subject before. There is no evidence that universal pre-K — yes, even in Oklahoma and Georgia — does anything. In fact, American kids start school performing quite well compared to international peers. But the longer they are in the public system, the more their performance decays. There is simply no good case to be made — other than wishful thinking and good feelings — that a lack of universal pre-K is the biggest problem with our education system. There’s frankly not a lot of evidence that it’s a problem at all. The logic amounts to “other countries have universal pre-K (even though many don’t) and other countries have better educational performance, therefore …” That ain’t logic. That’s rationalizing millions more union jobs.

Sandwiched in between Obama’s bullshit about pre-K and bullshit about college education is a not so bad idea:

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

This is, in fact, something that Bobby Jindal has been pushing in Louisiana. Most people do not need a college education to get a good job that matches their skills. A better high school education — focused more on skills than abstraction — could obviate the need for crushing student debt and bloated universities.

Oh, about that higher education. Obama claims to have brought down costs (he hasn’t) and proposes that student loans be more conditional on education utility rather than just being handed out. Of course, that could be achieved very easily and cheaply if we 1) re-privatized the student loan market; and 2) made student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. This would guarantee that $100,000 loans for degrees in puppetry wouldn’t happen. But, of course, that wouldn’t create more government spending and control.

Obama then digs into immigration, which I’ve already blogged about. He urges passage of the Violence Against Women Act (a bad piece of legislation wrapped in good sound bites) and the Paycheck Fairness Act. He proposes raising the minimum wage and linking it to the cost of living (as Romney proposed). Of course, that ignores that the COLA fell in recent years. Would the government then cut the minimum wage appropriately? I think not.

And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

Spend, spend, spend on dead towns. Create collaborations between local government, federal government and business to maximize corruption. That’s the way to move an economy!

Obama then shifts to foreign policy. He promises to get out troops out of Afghanistan and adds this:

Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

I don’t disagree entirely with this. But it seems like this has been obvious for quite some time and it took a disaster in Benghazi for the Administration to figure out that they were wielding the guns of august.

Here is the biggest whopper of the night:

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

This is, frankly, a lie. The Administration only recently shared their drone policies with some members of Congress after being excoriated for the ambiguities in their “white paper” on the subject. They have asserted just as much executive authority as Bush did and with even less transparency. This Administration has killed an American citizen and his son and refused to disclose the rationale. They have asserted their ability to kill American citizens without any kind of due process of external review. To talk as though they were the most accountable transparent Administration ever is absurd and offensive.

After burbling inanities on Russia, Iran, North Korea and third world poverty, he gets to his final issue, which is gun control:

Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Most of this I don’t have a problem with (although I don’t like citing victims of tragedy in support of any law). The problem here is the last sentence which claims that our citizens have “weapons of war” and the police are outgunned. This is simply false. Automatic weapons are heavily regulated and illegal in most areas. And the proliferation of para-military SWAT teams and no-knock raids that results in such things as the killing of Jose Guerena (a military man who responded to what he thought were robbers with a military weapon) cries against this bleating about police being outgunned. In fact, police fatalities have been declining steadily for nearly four decades.

All, in all, it was what I expected. A huge declaration of a big liberal agenda that will never happen. Punting on the most important issues and staying the course of this bumbling presidency. And always deferring to the state and the law for progress.

SOTU’s are never very substantive. With each one, I become more and more convinced that Thomas Jefferson got it right and the SOTU should be a letter instead of a monarchial speech. But it does give us a chance to see what kind of agenda that President’s party thinks they should be flogging. And this agenda is … well, what we expect after four years. Bigger government in the language of smaller; “new ideas” that aren’t; bold initiatives that are throwbacks to yesteryear; Bush policies in prettier packaging.

Change!