Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Mother’s Concern Over Homeland Security

The aftermath of the Christmas Day, Flight 253 attempted terrorist attack hits home.

Since 9/11 I haven't been that enthused about getting on an airplane, but it's never been a problem because I'm not a frequent traveler. However, I did allow my teenage daughter to fly out of the country to Taiwan and Malaysia for the Christmas holidays. Prior to my daughter's departure, I was aware that I would miss her a lot because she had never been out of my sight for more than five days and as most mothers, I was concerned about her safety. And, yes, I did think about terrorism and even mentioned it to some of my friends. There response, “You watch the news too much”.

The Christmas Day attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253 (Amsterdam to Detroit) awakened my fears because four days after this dreadful event, my daughter was about to board a flight to come home. And what made it most worrisome, she was flying from another country back to the United States––Taipei, Taiwan to Los Angeles. Feelings of fear hit home. Not like the terror experienced by the passengers and crew on Flight 253 on Christmas day, but inner panic that this terror plot might be more of a larger one. Was our government on top of this situation and handling our homeland security properly? Will be my daughter be safe?

I guess I wasn't too crazy because as I was writing this blog I found out that another airline bomber, with a plan similar to that of the "Christmas Bomber," was caught trying to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month.

Suffice it to say, my daughter made it home safely and without incident. In an effort to keep this story from becoming melodramatic, I'll just say that Tuesday, December 29 was a very long day of waiting and worrying, but with the assistance of my brother, my eldest daughter, a few friends, and my dog Shorty, I picked up my daughter from LAX and was relieved and excited!

Shortly after this attempted terrorist attack, the facts surrounding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab began to unravel. While many are still questioning how Abdulmutallab got on a plane with a bomb and why there weren’t more “red flags” raised, information about this case continues to soar faster than a jet. Like the fact that Abdulmutallab purchased a ticket with cash and did not carry any luggage and back in May he was denied a visa by the British government and was placed on an official watch list to prevent him from re-entering Britain. What we are learning is that Abdulmutallab has links to Al Qaeda, who have claimed responsibility for this plot to blow up the airliner bound for Detroit.

The most interesting part of this story is that the father of Abdulmutallab had recently (about a month ago) contacted the U.S. Embassy and various other security agencies to warn them that his son had "become radicalized." Apparently Abdulmutallab was placed on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list but failed to make it on the “no-fly” list. Recent reports also tell us that the CIA knew of a "Nigerian" airline terror plot, but according to a CIA spokesperson, "We learned of Abdulmutallab in November, when his father came to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him. We did not have his name before then."

What Flight 253 deserved in the days following this terror attempt was a quick response from a president to commend them for their heroic acts; followed by a nation that needed a sense of safety and security. But what we got was a president that decided to wait a few days before he addressed our nation, and worse an administration that sent out Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, who appeared on State of the Union this past Sunday and she stated that "the system worked" and a day later she clarified her ridiculous and controversial remark by backtracking and admitting, “Our system did not work in this instance".

When President Obama gave his second press statement in reaction to the Christmas day bomb plot, he labeled it a "systemic failure". Well, they got that right––the system and the people running the system FAILED! It not only failed those 278 passengers and crew on Flight 253, the city of Detroit, and the United States, but it failed all of the of people flying this holiday season, including my daughter.

I thought it was the job of Department of Homeland Security to prevent terrorist attacks, not the responsibility of citizens to thwart them. While there is plenty of blame to go around, a third grader could have put all of these “dots” together, made a nice picture, and colored it in without going out of the lines.

It’s unfortunate that our current administration treats terrorists more like common criminals as opposed to the unrelenting and deadly, terrorizing threat they represent. It's quite fascinating that they have changed the name from a "War on Terror” to "Overseas Contingency Operations". Did they miss the fact that these radical Muslim extremists declared jihad (“holy war”) against the U.S., intensified their warfare on 9/11 when they used four of our airplanes as weapons murdering almost 3000 innocent people, have in 2009 vowed to open "new fronts" against the U.S. and its allies, and evidently aren’t done yet.

I’m not saying that I advocate the aggressive “Cowboy Bush”––shoot first ask questions later approach, but going the other extreme––everyone needs to love me passive, “Obama Style”––is just as dangerous. I'm well aware of the complexity of the terrorism issue and the difficulties involved in combating this type of evil, but homeland security should be a top priority––they need to fix the failures, make sure there are no other loopholes in the system, and anticipate possible killing methods terrorists may try in the future. I can only hope and pray that moving forward our concerns will be lightened and as we (or one of our loved ones) board an airplane we will be safer.

A Mother’s Concern Over Homeland Security
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 31, 2009 at 1:33 pm
Politics, BlogCritics

Friday, December 25, 2009

Just in Case You Missed Church This Christmas 2009

Candles illuminate what is most important during Christmastime; the birth of Jesus and family and friends.

When I was growing up and our family would go to Church, my mother would test me to see if I had paid attention to the sermon, by asking me what it was about. Raised Catholic and a child who went to Catholic school for my elementary school years, I didn’t appreciate my faith and the people surrounding it, so how could I remember the sermon and it's message.

What is amazing is that I can recall all of the nuns who were my educators at St. Theresa School. In hindsight, the nuns and priests had a profound impact on my life then and to this day. In fact, when I was very young I wanted to be a nun. Well, we all know that didn’t happen. But it was Monsignor Rice and Sister Theresa, not part of my Catholic school but leaders of a church I later attended as a youth, who had the most influence –– they were my heroes growing up.

Presently, I can honestly say that the gift of faith that my mother introduced me to and nurtured (along with all the nuns and priests), was the best gift of all. Over the years I drifted away and turned my back on my faith, and at times was one of those "carnal" Christians with one foot in Christianity and the other in the world. Talk about darkness and inner turmoil –– but that’s another story. The good news is that whenever I returned to my faith, I always found Jesus Christ waiting with open arms and forgiveness in His heart, ready to put me back on the path of "light".

Christmas 2009 is “bitter sweet” for me because my youngest daughter is on a holiday trip, making this the first Christmas that she is not with me. However, my eldest daughter came for Christmas bringing me comfort and joy! It's interesting to note that my youngest, who does believe in Jesus still has many questions in her young mind to contend with in order to put all her faith in God, but my eldest daughter has found her way and is a strong believer; as they say in Christian circles, she’s "on fire for the Lord"!

So, with only one daughter by my side, we attended the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at Grace Church here in my hometown. Considering it was Christmas Eve and church with candles, we were both excited. After all candles, developed by the Ancient Egyptians, have been used for light and to illuminate man's celebrations for more than 5,000 years. “Candles have played an important role in early religious ceremonies including Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which centers on the lighting of candles and dates back to 165 B.C.”

As we entered the church, we got our candles, had a quick giggle, and found our place in the pews –– a mother, daughter bonding moment if you will. Later a very special friend of mine along with her family joined us. The Christmas Eve service provided a collection of scriptures from the Old and the New Testaments, some foretelling the birth of Jesus, while others confirming that He has arrived. The scripture that caught my attention and stuck with me throughout the service was Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel"––Immanuel meaning God with us.

In between scriptures were traditional Christmas carols that brought me back to my youth and at the end of the service we all lit our candles and sang, Joy to the World. With hundreds of candles burning and unity and goodwill abounding, what a precious time it was. I could feel the power of God’s love –– realizing, not for the first time but a much deeper revelation, that God actually came down from heaven to be with us –– the light and savior of the world.

This Christmas, candles have taken on a more significant meaning for me: a guiding light illuminating what is most important during Christmastime: the birth of Jesus as well as my family and friends. Also, leaving me a glimmer of a distinct memory I will have forever –– Christmas 2009.

First on BlogCritics in Culture

With all my love to my wonderful daughters Nicole and Angelica! MOM

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Barack Obama: “Absolutely, We Need Earmark Reform”

Business as usual in Washington: So much for "Hope and Change", just control and more debt.

The term earmark comes from the practice of marking the ears of livestock for identification, yet in American politics it has come to mean money that is "set aside for a special project or purpose": AKA pet projects, pork. As I'm sure that animals are not thrilled by this procedure, I am more confident that Congress and their frivolous spending outrages the American people.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog organization states "widespread earmarking is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics, which gained momentum in the 1970's". Pork in a bill in Congress is as common as a hot dog at a football game. Moreover there continues to be a rise in pork barrel spending and there is no getting around it; both Republicans and Democrats are part of this Congressional excess and waste.

During the first presidential debate Senator John McCain and then Senator Barack Obama argued over the earmark issue, and Obama pledged, "Absolutely, we need earmark reform. And when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely." Hold your applause please; I'm just getting started!

Considering the White House continues to proclaim that "we are in the worst economic crisis since the great depression", why does Congress keep spending money on flippant projects. It's one thing to spend money when we are flying high in prosperity, but when we are drowning in debt, it doesn't make sense.

Any intelligent American household would have enough common sense to cut out the "extra stuff" when they are facing dire financial times; why doesn't Washington? Are they that ignorant, unwilling or are they just self-serving?

We started 2009 spending; when Congress passed the urgent $800 billion Economic Stimulus Package claiming that it would create jobs and save our economy. Almost a year later and as we continue to await the arrival of our jobs, we do know that the White House website, which costs over 18 million dollars to renovate, reported that thousands of jobs were saved in Congressional Districts that don't exist. Not to mention that stimulus checks were sent out to dead people and inmates. But, that’s another story.

While the stimulus package was in the midst of scrutiny, President Obama said, '"Members of Congress won't be allowed to slip earmarks into the economic recovery package Congress will soon take up. And concluded "we are going to bring a long-overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington." "We are going to stop talking about government reform, and we're actually going to start executing."

The Republicans claimed that there were over 9,000 earmarks with an estimated value at $7.7 billion in the stimulus and the Democratic leadership estimated the dollar amount to be around $3.8 billion. But President Obama bragged, "We passed a recovery plan free of earmarks," and on many fronts, has blasted earmarks. In February Robert Gibbs declared victory on the earmark front maintaining there were "no earmarks" in the stimulus package, yet Truth-O-Meter found his statement to be FALSE. I guess that is the nice way of saying "you lie".

Congress continued this pattern and in March of this year passed an Omnibus Spending bill at a price tag of $410 billion, which contained 9,287 pork projects at a cost of nearly $12.8 billion.

Contrary to his campaign promise, President Obama signed that bill too, however, the White House did have an excuse. In an exclusive interview with ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag told Stephanopoulos, "This is last year's business. We want to just move on". Orszag also stated that Obama intends to work on earmark reform in the future.

Even Chris Matthews, one of Obama’s biggest fans, criticized Obama for breaking his earmark reform pledge.

Now we end 2009 with yet another spending fiasco. Over the weekend the Senate was at it again and passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill. The 1,000-page-plus package passed with a 57-35 vote and now heads to President Obama for his signature.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there are 5224 earmarks worth $3.998 billion, and that is just the preliminary round. Included in the list of pork barrel spending are "home-state projects sought by individual lawmakers in both parties". While the legislation also contains numerous items not directly related to spending, it also approves a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers.

On the Senate floor, Senator McCain expressed his concern over the earmarks in the spending bill, calling it "shameful", urging his colleagues to vote against it, and "demanded" President Obama to "keep his word" and veto it.

McCain’s two favorite earmarks are the $2.7 million to support surgical operations in outer space at the University of Nebraska and the $655 thousands for Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California for equipment and supplies for the Institute for Irritable Bowel Syndrome research. This would be laughable if it were a Saturday Night Live skit, but this is not joke, this is our Congress in action.

Americans are jobless, losing their homes and can barely put food on the table, yet Congress wants to play doctor in outer space and contribute to IBS –– literally. By the way Woodstock Film Festival Youth Initiative gets 30 thousand of our taxpayer dollars. Besides the fact the youth in America are already inundated with Hollywood stuff, isn't the film industry wealthy enough to pay for their own special projects? And, I wonder if this earmark has anything to do with the National Endowment for the Arts.

I’m just waiting for the millions we’re going to spend on condoms for animals; or will it be Viagra? I’m sure Congress wants to put a Kool-aid station on Mars or research the farts of pigs. Yeah, that makes sense. And since this is the season to spend frivolously, maybe Congress plans on buying Christmas presents for Al Qaeda this year.

Despite the 5000 earmarks, President Obama has gone ahead and signed it anyway. Apparently, Obama didn't get that earmark reform memo.

And to add insult to injury, Washington is so out of touch with reality and politicians like Senator Schumer have the nerve to utter that American people don’t care about earmarks. Billions of dollars wasted, are you kidding me? Congress is nuts to think we don’t care –– we do! Furthermore, we are sick and tired of out-of-control spending, votes being bought as well as the fact that special interest groups, lobbyists and big business are making out like bandits, while the needs of the American people are ignored.

With our economy in shambles, unemployment above 10%, and our national debt at $ 1 2 , 1 0 5 , 1 3 8 , 4 6 5 , 5 3 5 . 5 1 and climbing (financial burdens of the massive health care reform and cap and trade legislations yet to be factored in), what is their excuse? I’m sure the White House would like to continue to blame Bush, but even smart Obama supporters know that game is getting old––BLAME GAME OVER.

This may be business a usual in Washington, broken promises and a smorgasbord of pork, but it's an utter disgrace and a slap in the face to the American people. Both sides of the political aisle, Republican and Democrat are guilty; and that means those who get appropriations for their pet projects, vote yes on pork-laden bills, and any president that signs such treacherous bills. So much for "Hope and Change": all we can expect is government control and more debt.

BlogCritics in Politics
Barack Obama: “Absolutely, We Need Earmark Reform”
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 16, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Senator Barbara Boxer Compares Abortion to Viagra

Drivel and arrogance intact, Boxer is up for re-election here in 2010––time to run Boxer right out of office.

The men who have brought us this [amendment] don’t single out a procedure that is used by a man, or a drug that is used by a man, that involves his reproductive health care, and say they have to get a special rider...There is nothing in this amendment that says if a man some day wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider.”

This is the latest drivel in the health care debate brought to the Senate floor by Barbara Boxer this past Monday in response to the
Nelson Amendment, a proposal "to ensure that no federal funds are used to pay for abortion".

After Senator Reid's ridiculous statement comparing health care reform to slavery, this recent absurdity reminds me of the Jim Carrey movie, Dumb and Dumber. What the heck does Viagra have to do with abortion? How is there any comparison between an erection (or lack thereof) and terminating the life of a fetus? Either Barbara Boxer is on drugs, is showing her ignorance, or worse, she's demonstrating her lack of sensitivity for the unborn.

Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson noted that the current Senate health care bill does “allow taxpayer dollars, directly and indirectly, to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion”. Nelson led the charge along with nine others Senators, offering an amendment that mirrored the Stupak Amendment language that was passed by the House last month and was to extend the Hyde Amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1976, barring public funds from covering abortion.

Abortion is an extremely contentious topic and even though the goal of the ten Senators was not to take a women’s "right to choose" away, but to make sure taxpayer dollars don't have to foot the bill, it was rejected yesterday by the Senate with a 54-45 vote. While I'm sure Boxer did some high fives, Majority Leader Harry Reid had a message of his own, "The legislation is about access to health care, not abortion". Do Boxer and Reid know that an abortion is an elective medical procedure with the goal of ending a life, not health care aimed at caring for and saving lives? When are these progressive Democrats going to get out of their pathetic ideology and off their "we know what is best America pedestal” for just a few minutes and do what is right? Or at least they can choose proper analogies to make their point.

The silver lining in the dark clouds looming over ObamaCare (if there is one) is that Barbara Boxer and others in Congress are up for re-election in 2010! "Call me Senator”, Boxer may be facing off with either Republicans Carly Fiorina or Chuck Devore in 2010. While a November Rasmussen poll puts Boxer ahead of both Republican candidates, there is plenty of time to expose her inadequacies.

Senator Boxer's voting record reflects a left-wing political agenda, a partisan approach, and a strong partiality toward unions. Boxer is also considered a career politician who apparently hasn’t done much legislating or communicating with her constituents, although she has plenty of time to write books and attend book signings.

This past summer, Boxer preferred to serve herself rather than conduct Town Hall meetings to address the concerns about health care reform shared by many California citizens. Who could forget her starring role as "Obama's attack dog"; condemning concerned citizens. Both proof that she doesn't give a damn about us citizens. And more revealing was Boxer's condescending racial twaddle when she addressed Harry Alford, the President and CEO of the Black Chamber of Commerce.

As I continue to monitor and research the potential Republican candidates who may get in the ring with Boxer, it is clear that whoever gets the job, a knock out would be the best outcome for this political bout. Since this match will affect my state, my hope is that Boxer’s 2005 book; A Time to Run is prophetic in nature. Wake up California, we need a change; it's time to run Boxer right out of office –– three terms (18 years) is long enough!

Senator Barbara Boxer Compares Abortion to Viagra
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 09, 2009 at 4:07 pm
And featured on National Broadside Mag - the place to get your political fix!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

White House Party Crashers: Who Let the Salahis In?

As the mystery unfolds, a Congressional hearing is forthcoming, to which the Salahis do have a formal invitation.
Caution: this is a SATIRE piece...

'Twas the night of the White House dinner, when all through the House
Not a guest was stirring, not even a spouse;
The Secret Service were standing by the White House with care,
In hopes that the President would soon be there;
The media were nestled all snug in their heads...[screech]...BUT WAIT! A couple appeared, with camera in tow and even got a photo with Joe.

You know the story and it's not the one about St. Nicholas. A Virginia couple apparently crashed the White House dinner last Tuesday, November 24, 2009, which included 320 guests — “a potent mix of politics, diplomacy and glamour.” Later identified as Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple managed their way past the Secret Service and into the star-studded state dinner, where they mixed and mingled, shook hands with President Obama, warmed up to Vice President Biden twice, had a photo op with Rahm Emanuel and others, posting their exploits on Facebook. Busted?

First, where was Joe Biden’s wife? From the looks of this cozy photo with Joe, if I were Mrs. Biden I would have chased that Michaele woman right out of the dinner and with one of my Callaway golf clubs –– maybe my nine iron. Speaking of golf, you can’t even gain access to a private golf course without a membership or a guest pass. In fact, a while ago and guest approved, I was unable to play golf or have lunch at The Olympic Club in San Francisco because my pants were inappropriate –– they had belt loops. Furthermore, the odds of penetrating certain night clubs without being on a list is grim.

So, how did this happen? This story reminds me of the song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and would be funny if it didn't reflect a breach in the security of the White House and our President. Maybe they should do what Santa does –– check the list twice. What is bizarre is that we are the most powerful nation in the world and we can’t seem to figure out who let this star-struck, fame-seeking couple into the White House dinner in the first place.

The Salahis recently appeared on the Today Show where they told Matt Lauer that they were “shocked and devastated” to discover they were labeled as “party crashers.” Lauer also pointed out that they had been kicked out of another event on September 26, the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner –– where they were also uninvited — and they denied it. When asked by Lauer, “Who invited you,” the interview progressed or should I say, regressed. The couple had a pity party, portraying themselves as victims, claiming they were invited and that at the end of the investigation, they will be exonerated. At the center of this obscurity is Michele Jones, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and she had this to say on the matter: "I specifically stated that they did not have tickets and in fact that I did not have the authority to authorize attendance, admittance or access to any part of the evening's activities. Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come."

So, who let the Salahis in? At this point, with all the coverage, confusion, and rumors, it still remains a mystery. While the Secret Service have launched an investigation into the security breach, the preliminary probe has already thrown them under the bus, yet this couple is free to crash the next party and maybe a party near you. In the meantime, a Congressional hearing is forthcoming, to which the Sahalis do have a formal invitation.

Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 02, 2009 at 2:24 pm
Satire in politics on BlogCritics