USSOCOM: Firefights & Finances Amidst Fiscal Austerity




     The U.S.’s tier one fighting force is known as United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The purpose of USSOCOM is to “Provide fully capable Special Operations Forces to defend the United States and its interests [and to] Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks.” [1] USSOCOM is the Special Forces equivalent to the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), which is the central unified command for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Whereas CENTCOM oversees the command for the general enlisted military forces, USSOCOM was specifically created for Special Forces components of the four aforementioned branches of the military. As all of these unified commands are military entities, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense.

     USSOCOM is as unique as it is integral. The President utilizes the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as an advisory position when it comes to making military policy. Per the synthesis and interactions with the JCS and the intelligence community, the President can then issue a directive for a military operation or covert action. In terms of Special Operations, this is where the connection between policy and engagement proceeds. USSOCOM takes the tier one Special Forces operators from all branches of the military, commanding “all active and reserve Special Operations Forces of all armed forces stationed in the United States.” [2]  USSOCOM is located at the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Specifically, USSOCOM is comprised of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC). [3]  With such a breadth of command control, USSOCOM has roughly “57,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Department of Defense civilians” at its disposal. [4]  Given the weight of the responsibility that USSOCOM has been charged with, their importance in U.S. defense cannot be overstated.

Operational History

     The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 and the subsequent Nunn-Cohen Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1987 laid the groundwork for the development of USSOCOM. The call for an upgrade to U.S. Special Forces and their capabilities arose from the strategic failures during the Iran Hostage Crisis. In early April of 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter authorized Operation Eagle Claw in an attempt to rescue the hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. [5]  The mission was an utter failure and arguably the death knell of the Carter administration. However, the U.S. military would learn from the operation’s failures and implement policy to prevent a recurrence of such failure. USSOCOM operates on two levels, one passive and one active. USSOCOM constantly pursues the best and emerging technologies to meet their equipment and arms requirements. In doing so, USSOCOM can be ready at a moment’s notice when called to the battlefield. The mission of USSOCOM is to not only have Special Forces at the ready, but to also make sure they have the necessary tools to get the job done. The caliber of the missions assigned to USSOCOM is unparalleled. For instance, their killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan during Operation Neptune Spear required cutting edge technology, highly advanced weaponry, and unrivaled training. It is specifically for this reason that adequate financing needs to be available for USSOCOM.

Financial Protocols

     USSOCOM is comprised of a combination of military branches, yet it is not reliant on any of them in regards to finances, appropriations, budgeting, and acquisitions. Representing about 1.5% of the Department of Defense’s annual Budget, "USSOCOM has its own budgetary authorities and responsibilities through a specific Major Force Program (MFP-11) in DOD’s budget." [6] [7] Within USSOCOM there is the Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center's (SORDAC). SORDAC is the link in the chain between the administration of USSOCOM and the holder of the purse, the U.S. Congress.

     Running USSOCOM is an expensive endeavor for the U.S. In 2011 that actual USSOCOM budget was $10.35 billion, in 2012 $10.47 billion was appropriated, and a slightly reduced $10.40 billion requested for fiscal year 2013. [8] USSOCOM handles mission specific equipment procurement on numerous levels. From small business contracts for small arms ammunition to emerging stealth technologies, USSOCOM is responsible for satisfying their own specific equipment requirements. [9]

     The needs of USSOCOM are constantly evolving as new technology becomes available, as well as in conjunction with an expansion of USSOCOM’s role in the U.S. military’s repertoire. As evidence of this, while the annual budget of USSOCOM has maintained at around $10 billion over the last three years, the allotment for overseas contingency operations (OCO’s) has shrunk by an average of 20% per fiscal year. [10] The routinization of OCO’s has led to the practice of the core budget incorporating what was previously accounted for in the OCO’s. So effectively the budget has maintained, but the line item breakdown demonstrates the U.S. reliance upon USSOCOM. Furthermore, USSOCOM’s 2013 budget justification describes “a new normal that requires Special Operations Forces (SOF) forces to be persistently forward-deployed.” [11]  Interestingly, while the line item budget accounts for every dollar USSOCOM spends, the specificity of what is entailed by “operational support” or “intelligence” is quite vague, even in the instances that a description is not obscured by being “classified.” [12]

     The specialized and adaptive platform that USSOCOM is modeled on includes fiscal considerations. Irrespective of the current state of the economy, the foreign strategic threats against the U.S. will still remain. Thus USSOCOM was designed to accomplish its goals on the bare minimum of budgetary funding. As a demonstration of this notion, USSOCOM was awarded the Department of Defense’s Better Buying Power Efficiency Award in November 2012 for “closing a capability gap with effective, timely, and affordable technologies.” [13]  This highly successful result was a product of SORDAC’s aim to “execute approved program profiles within 10% deviation of cost, schedule, and performance.” [14]

What Happened in Benghazi: The U.S. Response & Reactions




I want to discuss the armed assault of the U.S. consulate on the 11th of September 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. Not necessarily because I want to, but because I feel compelled to in light of the hyper-politicization by Republicans and FOX News. Even in light of all we now know, their continued perpetuation of false narratives and misconceptions have frustrated me and now I just want to finally clear up this non-issue. Now as a general disclaimer, I am NOT saying that there should be no concern in the media over Libya, I am NOT trying to minimize the tragedy that led to four brave Americans losing their lives, and I am NOT saying that there should not be an investigation or Congressional hearings. Now, let's begin.

To be clear on what I am arguing against, I will outline my concessions. Yes, the compound was not as secure as it should have been, but it was not a full scale embassy. The U.S. is still in the midst of fiscal turmoil, and as a result of austere fiscal policies, everything suffers - here it was the quality of security for the foreign consulates. And for a general outline and background for the events that transpired, here is the official time line of events that unfolded at the Benghazi consulate. [Links Here and Here] The myths that have entered the dialogue that can be addressed and thusly refuted by the timeline will not be mentioned here. 

1. Before the assault in Benghazi even began, the Republican leadership in Congress was trying to defund security resources in Libya. [Links Here and Here] While admittedly this is a fleeting assumption, it shows a continued trend of politicizing the events in Libya as well as Republican opposition to Obama's foreign policy. Perhaps if the mission had been able to fully operate to the extent it needed to, the threat of these armed militias could have been curbed during NATO's Operation Unified Protector.

2. The real-time intelligence being relayed to American military assets was murky. U.S. secretary of Defense Leon Panetta even said that the U.S. military lacked "real-time information." He went on to say, "You don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, (We) felt we could not put forces at risk in that situation." [Link Here] This is a clear no brainer. If there is indeed chaos, you don't throw assets at the conflict without knowing what is going on. This impulsive inclination leads to naive consequences. Even when the U.S. military is readily prepared in a region and in an active war zone, sending reinforcement assets can have devastating consequences even when there is a fairly clear picture of what is unfolding. [In reference to the 2011 downing of a Chinook Helicopter in Afghanistan, which killed 30 U.S. Special Forces Operators - Link Here]

3. Critics of the actual response have been throwing out 'what ifs' and 'Should have, Could have, Would haves' after the fact, failing to account that hindsight's 20/20. The claim that the U.S. government failed to act quickly to help the Americans under attack is reprehensible. Most notably, the likes of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans have been saying that the U.S. should have responded immediately with U.S. fighter jets stationed in southern Italy - or with other regional air assets like Armed UAV Drones or AC-130 Gunships. This would have had little to no efficacy due to the urbanized nature of the consulate's location and the extremely high risk for collateral damage and civilian fatalities. In direct response, U.S. secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said "these aircraft were not stationed near Benghazi and they were not an effective option." [Links Here and Here

An F-16 from the Aviano Air Base
4. Furthermore, even if F-16's were sent from Aviano Air Base, the nearest U.S. air base in Italy, it actually had the potential to be devastating. Here two separate premises that are true must be expanded upon: 1) That the real time conditions on the ground were murky and 2) That the attacking faction was heavily armed. The militants obviously wanted to inflict as much damage as they could on American assets. Sending an F-16 would have fed in perfectly to their plan, due to a long forgotten post-Gaddafi development - the proliferation of nearly 20,000 MANPADs in Libya. [Links Here and Here] MANPADS are Man-portable air-defense systems, which are basically shoulder fired anti-aircraft munitions like the FIM-92 Stinger. So if these heavily armed militants had gotten their hands on an anti-aircraft missile, and F-16 flyover would have resulted in a tragic addition of loss. Not only would the consulate's security personnel have been lost, but the reinforcements would have been walking into an ambush. Again, this demonstrates the need for prudence and explains why hastily sending reinforcements into this murky situation could not be justified.

Now, to address the recent reactions, I will deconstruct the criticisms of Susan Rice and examine John McCain's hyper-politicization of this issue. First and foremost, Susan Rice is a brilliant intellectual and academic. From the State Department website: "Ambassador Rice received her M.Phil (Master’s degree) and D.Phil. (Ph.D) in International Relations from New College, Oxford University, England, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She was awarded the Chatham House-British International Studies Association Prize for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in the United Kingdom in the field of International Relations. Ambassador Rice received her B.A. in History with honors from Stanford University, where she graduated junior Phi Beta Kappa and was a Truman Scholar." [Link Here] But the attacks hurled at her since are quite laughable.

1. The talking points given to Susan Rice by the Intelligence Community are as follows: [Link Here]

UN Ambassador Susan Rice
- "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."

- "This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated."

- "The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of US citizens."

In this context, she was just a mouth piece. It was a failure of intelligence that led to her making the remarks that she did. And as popularized in the 2012 presidential debates, President Obama did refer to the assault on the Benghazi consulate as a terrorist attack. Just like Condoleezza Rice and, especially, Colin Powell - their erroneous remarks concerning Iraq and WMD's were due to bad intelligence.

2. Susan Rice was not responsible for the creation of the talking points, nor did she alter them. Sources cited by CBS News and others said the Director of National Intelligence's office made statements to the effect that "the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack - with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. The White House or State Department did not make those changes." [Link Here] Even after this was confirmed by testimony made by General David Petraeus, the Republican narrative still apportioned blame to Susan Rice. Quite rightly, this led Adam Schiff, Democratic Representative from California, to say, "Gen. Petraeus made it clear that that change was made to protect classified sources of information, not to spin it, not to politicize it and it wasn't done at the direction of the white house. That really ought to be the end of it, but it isn't. So we have to continue to go around this merry go round, but at a certain point when all the facts point in a certain direction, we're going to have to accept them as they are and move on." [Link Here]

3. John McCain has repeatedly highlighted the lack of information being released about the Benghazi assault. This is hilariously ironic in light of the fact that he purposely absent from an official classified briefing about the details of the investigation into Benghazi. Perhaps if McCain had attended the briefing instead of spending his time in a hyper-partisan fashion by politicizing the attack, he would have answers to the assertions he keeps blindly hurling at the Obama administration. [Link Here] In fact, when McCain was questioned by CNN about this issue, he responded by saying, "I have no comment about my schedule and I'm not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media," McCain said. Asked why he wouldn't comment, McCain grew agitated: "Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?” [Link Here] I think this just demonstrates the declining integrity of John McCain and the withering of a long political career. He should have taken the loss in 2008 as a nod to go ahead and retire.

The investigation into what truly happened in Libya and how the Obama administration responded is  currently ongoing. But the fact that the investigation has already been launched is the important takeaway. As the revelations emerge, the picture will be more clearly formed. But until then, the defamation of Susan Rice and the criminal accusations being hurled at the Obama administration are based on ignorance, partisanship, and imprudence.

I don't claim to be an outright expert on all things State Department or Classified Intelligence, but I am quite the authority on post-Arab Spring Libya. Check out my NATO Project Page to see some of the research I have done on this subject. Please share this so the uninformed can become informed and we can finally stop hearing about this hyper-politicization. Because amidst the partisan narrative, the real issue has become lost in the fog of politics.

Israel, Hamas, and Palestine:
The Gaza Strip Rocket Attacks



UPDATE: The Israeli - Hamas Conflict in the Gaza Strip Entered into a Ceasefire on 21 November 2012. This is a video of a campaign to raise awareness of the Gaza Strip conflict at the University of Oklahoma's Norman Campus on Monday, 19 November 2012. I participated in this event with fellow classmates and clubs:

[I make my appearance at 2:45] 
Here is an article from the OU Daily on the demonstration.

-------------------- Original Article ------------------

IDF Rocket Attack Info-Graphic
Starting in the early 2000's, the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip are responsible for approximately 60 Israeli deaths and 1,650 Israelis injured. All rockets launched from the Gaza Strip are considered by Israel to be the work of Hamas. In reality the majority of the rocket attacks emanate from terrorist groups like the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades [Fatah], Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - while about a third of rocket attacks are perpetrated by unknown or unaffiliated actors. Albeit, the argument could be made that Hamas demonstrates tacit support in so far as it is not able to prevent third-party rocket attacks, but it is worth noting that Hamas does claim responsibility when launching their own attacks and has policed other groups attempts at rocket attacks. 

     Yes, Hamas is widely designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and it is the elected government for the Gaza Strip. However, this does not mean that Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip are explicitly supporting Hamas in terms of their military/resistance actions, nor are they endorsing such activities. Hamas also polices, provides public services, and operates schools & hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, public opinion polls of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have shown an increasing rate of disapproval of the rocket attacks and an decrease in the view that the rocket attacks help Palestinian goals. When local Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have tried to prevent rocket attacks, their families are terrorized and/or murdered. Even in the West Bank, western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vocalized his condemnation of the rocket attacks. 

     The number of rocket attacks coming from the Gaza Strip, since 2001, has been put at 7,882, with an estimated 4,890 mortar attacks, for a total of 12,791 attacks. Israel has responded to the rocket attacks by launching 7 official operations in the past decade, Operation Rainbow (May 2004), Operation Days of Penitence (2004), the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict, Operation Autumn Clouds (2006), Operation Hot Winter (2008), Operation Cast Lead (2009), and Operation Pillar of Cloud (2012 - Currently Ongoing), while also intermittently dealing with individual rocket launches on an individual response strike basis.  The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) conduct thousands of sorties, bombing hundreds of targets, over the period of an operation targeting rocket attacks. And although official sortie operation numbers from the Israeli Air Force are hard to find, there are an average of 2,000 per operation. So over the last decade the number of sorties performed by the Israeli Air Force are, by estimate, nearly similar in quantity to the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Iron Dome countermeasure missile battery in Israel
     Israel has developed two response systems for the rocket attacks: the Red Color early warning system and the famous Iron Dome defensive countermeasure anti-missile battery system. Both are highly advanced radar based systems. The Red Color warning system provides a town's residents with a 15 second warning of an incoming rocket. The Iron Dome defensive counter measure tracks an incoming rocket and fires countermeasure rockets to neutralize the threat - with about a 90% success rate. So, in the reality of statistics, the majority of potentially damaging threats to Southern Israel presented by the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip are effectively eliminated. 

     The Qassam class rockets that account for 92% of the rockets fired from the West Bank have a payload range of 10-45 lb. (5-20 kg) in the form of an explosive warhead with bearings. The Israeli Air Force often responds with rapid response Helicopter Gunships or F-15 and F-16 airstrikes targeting the areas in the Gaza Strip where the rocket attacks were fired from. Here is where a core problem emerges. The effective size of the Gaza Strip is 141 square miles (365 square kilometers) - about the size of Denver, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Liechtenstein. The population of the Gaza Strip is 1.7 million - about the size of Indianapolis, West Virginia, or Qatar. The population density of the Gaza Strip is 12,056/mi2 (4,657/km2) - about the same as Chicago, the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, or Moscow. These factors are clear evidence as to why the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. So when the Israeli Fighter Jets drop a 150 lb. (70 kg) cruise missile or a 500 lb. (225 kg) precision guided air-to-ground missile (AGM) on their target, it should come as no surprise that collateral damage to the civilian population is almost assured. The estimate of rocket attack response casualties are approximately 1,000 Palestinian deaths and 6,650 Palestinians injured. The ratio for Palestinian to Israeli casualties are 4:1 for injuries and 16:1 for deaths. Again, this comparison demonstrates the disparity of Palestinian and Israeli aggression.
   
     The British Balfour declaration stated that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." This is a long gone consideration. The wealth and luxury of Israel bordering the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank is humanity's greatest irony; the best of what that the modern western world has to offer, next to deplorable and devastating conditions - conditions resulting from and preserved by that slice of the western world. This paradox is ingrained in Israel's founding principle - "A Jewish Democratic State." It can be Jewish, and Israel can be democratic within that Jewish demographic, but this is racist. This is fine, but it has to be recognized and not simply ignored - and as a result, is nothing more than an artificial democracy.

The Daily Star - Lebanon Editorial Cartoon
     Fervently reiterated is the point that "Israel has a right to exist." No nation-state has a 'right' to exist, they do, however, have a right to defend themselves. The whole concept of Zionism and Israel is for "the Jewish right of return to their historic homeland." Yet the Palestinians who were forced out of Israel and the thousands who have fled as refugees are categorically denied this right of return privilege and instead are downplayed as the "Palestinian refugee issue." That term is used by Israeli politicians, Netanyahu and the like, to casually describe the ethnic cleansing that is taking place. This is a double standard, justified by racist policies, to preserve a racist status quo.

     The claims of Zionism and thus, Israel are political in nature, but based off of religious mythology. Critiquing Zionism and Israel is not anti-Semitic, nor is it "New Anti-Semitism." Criticizing a political and national foundation is not being critical of Judaism or Semitism - and any conflation of such is the fault and consequence of using those as the foundation for the justification and legitimization of Zionism and Israel.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     For more interesting information on this issue, read 'The Fallacy of Biological Judaism' by Robert Pollack. He focuses on the biological history of Jewish genealogy. Here are some selected excerpts:

"Unlike asking “Are Jews a family?”, as historians have traditionally done, geneticists seeking to advise Ashkenazic families are also, in passing, asking, “Do Jews all share the same versions of one or more genes?” - a question with a testable, precise answer. As no two people except pairs of identical twins have exactly the same version of the human genomic text, this claim could be confirmed or rejected by a search for versions of the human genome shared by all Jews and no other people."

"At a recent meeting of the Association of Orthodox Jewish scientists and the Columbia Center for the Study of Science and Religion, it became clear that Jewish curiosity has provided sufficient genetic material to give a perfectly clear negative answer: There is no support in the genomes of today’s Jews for the calumnious and calamitous model of biological Judaism. Though there are many deleterious versions of genes shared within the Ashkenazic community, there are no DNA sequences common to all Jews and absent from all non-Jews. There is nothing in the human genome that makes or diagnoses a person as a Jew."

"People - our species - are one family in precisely the same way that Jews are not. The story of Ashkenazic inherited diseases should make us all sensitive to the larger issues of inherited disease, and of genetic difference. But beyond the obligation this story tells us all to undertake - to accept the evidence and give up vain hopes of any religious birthright in our genes - is an even larger moral duty."


Here are links to the websites of the parties involved in the current conflict:


[This is neither a defense of Hamas, nor is it an endorsement of them or their tactics. The casualty figures listed do not include Palestinians that were claimed as a soldier by Hamas, or those accused by the Israeli Defense Force of being a militant or enemy combatant.]

Obama Wins 2012 Presidential Election!



     I am proud to say that I voted for President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden today! Yes, Romney did win my state of Oklahoma, but that was expected and all but certain. However, a more interesting and intriguing development has emerged in this election. The states where Mitt Romney was Governor - Massachusetts and Born - Michigan; as well as the state where Paul Ryan was born and is currently a Congressman - Wisconsin, have all been won by Obama in a decisive fashion.

     Many pundits and politicos were surprised, but I know why this turned out to be the case. The connections the Republican ticket had with these states where intimate, personal, and sustained. The voters in these states are clearly thoroughly familiar with the candidate's policies, platforms, and track records. What happened was these voters have direct insight that the entire country was not privy to. 

     Acting on what they clearly knew -  Mitt Romney's records & policies as a Leader & Governor and Paul Ryan's record & policies as a nationally elected official - they opted for the clearly better option. They rejected the failed policies professed by the Republican ticket and embraced what they knew to be effective, triumphant, and successful - President Barack Obama's proven track record, leadership, and policies through America's toughest trials and tribulations in generations.

FOX News, CNN, and All Major News Entities have confirmed that Obama is Projected to Win!

     Here are my projections for the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. I have no specific methodology or data interpretation - I just went with my gut. Obviously in the coming hours, and maybe days, a full comparison can be made with my projections and actual results. Obama wins 313 to 225!

The Official Nolan Kraszkiewicz vs. The World Electoral Vote Projection - Courtesy of CNN

UPDATE: I was 98% accurate in my projection model, correctly predicting 49/50 states - but not giving Virginia enough faith. My favorite election/polling blog, FiveThirtyEight and Nate Silver accurately predicted how 100% of the states would fall. Check out CNN Election Center and FOX News Results for the final poll results.
     
     I would like to thank the entire Obama - Biden 2012 re-election campaign for a hard fought battle against an atrocious FOX News and their Romney - Ryan election campaign. In the coming hours, days, and weeks I hope you will join me in watching, enjoying, and laughing at the apocalyptic and catastrophic meltdown that will likely hit the FOX News establishment. This self-induced hysteria is a result of the re-election of President Barack Obama.

     As for me, join me in watching a Live Election Special Edition of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Enjoy the rest of tonight's excitement and I'll see you in 4 years for the election of the Clinton - Booker 2016 Democratic Ticket!

WE Are victorious America! Now Forward We Shall Go!

Voltaire Re-Imagined



Today President Barack Obama addressed the 2012 UN General Assembly for the fourth and final time of his first term in office. His speech was compelling and relevant; mixing geopolitics, international relations, and foreign policy. In a strong message to the world concerning recent developments in the Middle East, Obama reiterated a strong and lasting component of the United States of America. Furthermore he tactfully framed his remarks to fit nicely into the 2012 Presidential Election dialogue. The direct quote from the speech was:
"I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so."                                                                  - Barack Obama, UN General Assembly, 25 September 2012
The principle that President Obama highlighted was made famous by the 18th century French writer, playwright, and philosopher, Voltaire. [Wikipedia Entry] The exact attribution of the quote is shadowy and not concrete. However, Voltaire is known to have actually said - or rather written in his Essay on Tolerance, "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too!" While the famous quote that has been attributed to Voltaire is, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

For an outspoken and verbose person like myself, I very much admire this principle. I rely on the liberty of free speech for the vast majority of my endeavors. Thus I value the gravitas of freedom of conscience and cannot fathom denying that right to anybody. Although I do withhold and often exercise the option to influence a person's opinion and worldview as I see fit. So in appreciation of Voltaire's principle and Obama's leadership on the international stage, I wanted to commemorate this re-imagining for the 21st century in the form of a graphic:


Please feel free to share on the internet!

P.S.

Here is a 5 minute clip of Obama's speech today. Thanks to C-SPAN I was able to cut a specific clip. The quote I highlighted in today's post is only a few seconds in, but I included the larger context to fully paint the positive and liberating message President Barack Obama is re-affirming in the United States of America and re-iterating to the world.

Something Wicked Awesome
This Way Comes!

After a fascinating and fulfilling summer in Belgium, I have since returned to Sooner Nation! I have some new and exciting developments on the horizon for my senior year here at the University of Oklahoma.

1. I will be graduating in the Spring of 2013! My journey from a Journalism Major to a Double Major in Political Science and Religious Studies is almost complete. This semester is another 18 hour intellectual marathon. I am taking 6 courses: Administration & Society, Making Public Policy, Voters & Campaigns, The Christian Religious Tradition, The War on Terror, and Covert Action. And per usual, I will be posting my graded papers on this blog.

NATO - S.H.A.P.E. in Mons, Belgium
2. I am currently in the process of editing a research paper I wrote on the Evolution Debate. I wrote this paper last year - during the 2011 Fall Semester - for my Religion and the U.S. Constitution class, instructed by Dr. Allen Hertzke. I made an A on this paper when I submitted it and received this commentary:  

"This paper reflects excellent research and is persuasively (and passionately) argued and documented. You also nicely applied constitutional principles and tests." 

The reason for this edit overhaul is that my paper has been selected for publication in the University of Oklahoma Religious Studies Student Journal!

3. I have separated from PolicyMic. I enjoyed my time writing for them and really value the experience and feedback I gained. The majority of my work was covering the developments of the ongoing Syrian uprising. This was partly why I had been on a mini-hiatus from this blog. I have switched gears and have joined the University of Oklahoma's student newspaper - The Oklahoma Daily a.k.a. The OU Daily. Previously I had occasionally submitted letters to the editor and had been featured as a guest columnist. Now I am an official opinion columnist with a weekly op-ed column.

As for the future, I will keep this blog updated at least on a bi-weekly frequency. So stay tuned for an exciting Fall 2012 Semester!

P.S. I went to Belgium this summer and I will be compiling photos and writing a brief summary of my trip for the blog. This project is ongoing and covers a wide array of adventures!

-N.K.

For Fox Sake: How Jon Stewart Exposes Rampant Hypocrisy

Location: Waterloo, ON Brussels, Belgium



During The Daily Show's recent holiday hiatus, Roger Ailes launched an attack on Jon Stewart. Ailes did so at his Alma mater Ohio State University. The head of Fox News leveled some heavy charges against Stewart stating that "He wouldn't do well without Fox News" and also claimed that Stewart had once "basically admitted to me, in a bar, that he’s a socialist." When I heard that Mr. Ailes had attacked my hero, Jon Stewart - I leaped into action to defend him during his time off. [Even Though I myself am currently on break -Studying abroad for the summer in Brussels, Belgium.]

The first charge is essentially nothing new, according to the Huffington Post article, Ailes made similar comments 2 years ago when he said that "[Stewart] makes a living by attacking conservatives." And anyone who frequents Comedy Central, Monday through Thursday at 11/10c, can easily attest to this claim. For those who don't, here's a quick overview:


Jon Stewart really does make his living by keeping Fox News in line. As for the Socialist charge, I do protest. While obviously I can't claim to know what Stewart did or did not allegedly say in a bar to Ailes, I can cite this Daily Show clip where Stewart firmly supports America's founding fathers principles [who were for the record clearly not socialist] - even when Fox personalities seem to not agree: [starts at ~1:33]


But as an ardent supporter of Jon Stewart, ending this article with that meager montage would not do justice to this much needed response. Also, because I don't think that Roger Ailes or Fox News will apologize to Mr. Stewart any time soon - much like Sean Hannity did here back in November of 2009:


So I chose instead to dig deeper into The Daily Show archives and highlight the battle of Jon Stewart vs. Fox News. I have selected and arranged the 10 clips that I feel highlights the arduous and ongoing battle between these diametrically opposed forces.

I'd like to begin with Jon Stewart's systematic and thorough evisceration of the entire Fox News Channel in this clip [from which I also pulled the title of this article] from October 2009:


In his classic method of using a previous clip, printed statement, or audio quote in juxtaposition with a contradictory one, he demonstrates how Fox News really isn't 'news' as we think it to be. Stewart points out that Fox's major line-up, like 'Fox and Friends,' Neil Cavuto, (the now re-assigned) Glenn Beck, and the power houses that are O'Reilly and Hannity - are by Fox's own words, NOT NEWS.

But when Fox (not really news) News is not busy pushing television propaganda via the airwaves, their parent company is actively influencing electoral politics by donating $1 million dollars to the Republican Governors Association. This claim was vetted by Fox News themselves here, but hilariously here by Stewart as well:


What made this piece so irresistible was the fact that Fox News has continually harped on left-wing corporations funding Democratic politicians - while Fox News' parent company was guilty of the same sin. This simply highlights Fox News' hypocrisy on two levels, that of corporate funding and their plight against the main-stream media for not covering anti-liberal news stories.

However, Fox's pattern of tracing a money trail to instill fear and a sense of contempt into their viewers was probably best chronicled in 'The Parent Company Trap' segment, yet again featuring News Corp. at its center:


Jon Stewart, with the help of The daily Show's pundits, illustrated how Fox News purposefully instills fear, but debates whether it is because of sheer stupidity or pure evil. The result is one of TheDailyShow.com's most watched segement with the tag of 'Fox News' with over a million views. [In the interest of full transparency, about 1,000 views are from yours truly.]

So what happens when the Absurdity of Fox News statements, allegations, and opinion are put to a sort of 'auditing of truth' thanks to Politifact?


The truth is revealed. Politifact has constantly and consistently proved Fox News' claims to be patently false, even awarding them with 'Lie of the Year' in 2009 and 2010. Stewart has the grace and modest to apologize for an unintentional fib, even though, especially as a comedian, he has zero responsibility to do so.

But holding the gang at Fox News to outside and potentially arbitrary standards, it is only fair to hold Fox News to the standards they both vie for and claim to adhere to:


Well, it looks as if Fox News is again left without a leg to stand on. Even by their own professed claims of ethics and standards, to never use the 'Reductio ad Hitlerum' rhetorical argument - also known as 'playing the Nazi card.' Not to mention the fact that this clearly highlighted Roger Ailes' extremely immature comments in respect to the Juan Williams - NPR controversy.

Now the case has been built, the claims have been substantiated, and the stage is set. Fox News' self proclaimed title of 'Fair & Balanced' is ripe for the decimation. How would Jon Stewart fare on one of Fox News' own shows opposite one of their biggest figure heads?


Exactly! Jon Stewart gets Chris Wallace to admit on his own show what the masses have suspected for years - that Fox News is just a "counterweight" and that they "tell the other side of the story." But of course, that never made it to air - rather, it was just filed away to the e-archives of foxnews.com. However, I found this unedited footage brilliantly mocked up to show the 'fair and balanced' editing of the full interview that took place: part 1 here & part 2 here.

Right as though it seemed the jig was up, Fox News attempts to re-write history to nudge the status quo back in line with their pre-conceived narrative:


This is hilarious for two reasons. First, because this is exactly the frame work of Fox News having a 'preconceived narrative' that Jon Stewart was attacking. And second, because Stewart further eviscerated Chris Wallace on The Daily Show in his typical hilarious fashion. But much like my article now, Jon Stewart does not stop after this devastating blow, he continues on. He reveals the clever ploy Fox News utilizes to propagate their framing of issues. Much like Stewart depicts in this segment, I also watch Fox News quite extensively. However instead of subscribing to their narrative, I watch it to mock and make my own satirical jokes while waiting for the next episode of The Daily Show to air.

Most importantly though, Stewart's ability to highlight the most important of issues is the backbone to his genuine determination to do good in the world [3:45 into the second video really got me]:


The issue of the Zadroga Bill was an issue that was close to me. I even wrote about it a year ago. For Fox News to be scooped by Al-Jazeera, and then to completely ignore the folks who you invoked in 9/11 references so many times that, in the words of Stewart, "if you don’t owe the 9/11 responders health care, at least you owe them royalties." Not only does he beat Fox in the realm of media accuracy, he beats them when the chips are truly down.

Lastly what I think clearly separates Stewart from the news media pack, and solidifies him as a comedic voice is ability for introspection and self-deprecating humor:


This segment was quite a thorough collection of Stewart's previous satirical impersonations. Clearly Stewart is nothing close to a racist. Thanks to his further solidifying his position as a comedian via a dildo-wheel, he is able to take jabs at both ends of the spectrum.

More recently he came to the defense of Sandra Fluke in the face of Rush Limbaugh's obscene comments and reiterated the point of being a comedian [My conclusion will be quite like Stewart's - starting at 6:48]:


So that's the conclusion. That's what I agree with. Fox News needs to stop acting like a big cry baby. And if you have stuck through this entire series of Daily Show segments with Stewart at his finest moments, you now see why too. Roger Ailes certainly has a reason to have a vendetta against Stewart, he constantly exposes the narrative that is the man behind the curtain at Oz. Hopefully this guide to exposing the shenanigans at Fox News will now allow those who were previously blind to see the hilarity and hypocrisy. While the methodology of Jon Stewart may be one of comedy and humor, the message he is trying to convey is a much more serious one. The American public can no longer afford the wholesale buying of the crap Fox News is selling.

How did this ALL start you ask? Here is the first direct shot at a Fox News entity from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a host:


NOTE: This piece was an original submission for the Student News Media site PolicyMic. This is my unedited version and the revision that will be posted on PolicyMic will be different. I encourage my readers to pleas also check out my articles on PolicyMic - I plan to add a PolicyMic tab to my blog in the near future...

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*UPDATE:

The Daily Show has now returned from their 2 week holiday - and they came out swinging!


As usual Stewart and The Daily Show gang did not disappoint. This looks to be the most heated exchange between the two forces since June of last year. Stewart really took heat after showing up on Chris Wallace's show and hasn't been invited back to any programs on the network since. I am in Belgium currently so my access to Fox News isn't as readily available as when I'm stateside. But stay tuned for my updates concerning developments with The Daily Show!

One Year Later: Retrospection
& Analyzing the Recent Dialogue


The DEVGRU Weapon of Choice: A SOPMOD M4A1
Today marks the one year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's terminus at the hands of DEVGRU. The world's most wanted man was finally brought to justice in his Abottabad compound. Delivering this justice was two 5.56 NATO rounds fired from a SOPMOD M4A1 rifle courtesy of a SEAL Team 6 operator. He conveyed this accomplishment by declaring "For God and country - Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo!" These powerful words, a combination of a Latin phrase and the operational codename for their primary target, were the first uttered in a post-Bin Laden world.

In the 365 days since this successful mission was executed with surgical precision, a partisan dialogue has emerged in regards to Operation Neptune Spear. Here are two critiques of how President Barack Obama has utilized this success in the context of an election year, followed by my response:

1. Obama really didn't do anything of major operational significance, he just gave authorization for an obvious decision.


This is an argument from ignorance, plain and simple. The outcome had the potential to be the worst American military fiasco since Operation Eagle Claw during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, or more recently in comparison to 'Black Hawk Down' in 1993. The location of this high-valued target was in the borders of the sovereign nation of Pakistan and only minutes away from the Pakistan Military Academy, their equivalent to West Point. Compounding the risk was the current anti-American political climate among Pakistanis. Not withstanding the fact this would be the first time a nuclear state would have their sovereignty directly challenged in such a manner - adding the unprecedented, and albeit unlikely, potential of two nuclear powers going directly to war with each other.

A Glimpse inside the Situation Room
Furthermore, as Commander in Chief, Barack Obama is the supreme commander of the United States Armed Forces. This integral role should not be overlooked. SEAL Team 6 launching a ground operation was never set in stone. Obama was presented with three potential courses of action. The first was a joint US/Pakistani ground operation; easily the most diplomatic. Second was having the site renovated from a compound to a crater, courtesy of a B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. Third was the option of the Seal Team 6 raid. The decision to go with the latter of the three options was not the easiest choice to come to. The joint operation had numerous potentials for error: intel leaks, logistical time delays, and a lack of prior precedent for how to conduct a US/PAK operation. The sortie would have guaranteed target annihilation, but would have had catastrophic levels of collateral damage - and no bodies to account for the mission's justification. So while the third option looked the most tantalizing, it put 79 American Soldiers on the ground. This meant boots on foreign soil, in pursuit of an unconfirmed target.

Regardless of what the President may or may not be doing in regards to referencing the success of this operation, credit must be given where credit is due. Diminishing Obama's role in Bin Laden's take down is more petty, ignorant, and deleterious than what any superimposed political narrative is accusing the President of doing.

2. Obama is employing divisive and unethical rhetoric when using Bin Laden's death as a part of his 2012 campaign platform.

There are so many elements wrong with this assertion. Most prominently is the fact that the majority of these attacks are coming from the right. While there may be legitimate critiques, Republicans are being hypocritical in their claims. The outline for what the Obama 2012 campaign is doing in terms of using national security, foreign policy, and successes in a war are no different than the Bush 2004 campaign [As Slate Magazine Demonstrates].

Should President Obama be able to laud the success of killing Bin Laden as part of his campaign? Without question. Especially because of his visit to Afghanistan and Bagram Airbase yesterday. To question Obama's visit to an active war zone, to visit American troops, and on the anniversary of Bin Laden's death, simply proved the foolishness and ignorance of those accusing him of grabbing cheap political gains.

Personally, I cannot think of a stronger message to send to the world than to return to the homeland of al-Qaeda on the one year anniversary of their founder's demise at our hands, and outlining a way to responsibly draw down a decade long conflict. 


History has shown that hasty military withdrawals that are irrespective and inconsiderate of real world implications have extremely negative consequences. And before anybody scoffs at President Obama's announcement to commit US and NATO forces to Afghanistan for the next decade, remember how all of this was started in the first place. Like it or not, al-Qaeda grew from the seeds of the American-backed Afghan Mujahadeen that fought against the Soviets forces during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The gravitas of this salute to America's determination and accomplishments easily exceeds Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier to proclaim 'Mission Accomplished.' And if the question were asked "Would Mitt Romney visit American troops at Bagram Airbase, in an active war zone, on the one year anniversary of Bin Laden's demise?" The answer would be 'No.' Mitt Romney decided to just mail it in.

Personally, I took time to reflect on the events surrounding Bin Laden's death. I found that certain sentiments that haven't changed, and I ultimately came to the same conclusion. To convey my current thoughts on the matter, I will quote from an oped I wrote for the University of Oklahoma's student news paper a year ago:

"Regardless, this is a time for celebration; if not solely for the death of a fellow human being, but for putting and end to what he [Osama Bin Laden] did and stood for. Hopefully a step in the direction of closure for those affected by the events of 9/11; and ultimately making it a little easier to breath for the Human Race as a whole."

[See my original op-ed in full at the OU Daily, Here

Jon Stewart: The Messiah of Political Satire



I originally wrote this article for PolicyMic, but slightly altered it from its original version. You can find the original published PolicyMic version here. In addition, after I published this on PolicyMic, the OU Daily also ran this article as an opinion column as well as a College News Aggregator UWire [Link Here].

President Obama on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on October 27th 2010

As a forethought, Yes, I am fully aware that I'm playing into the stereotype of the liberal-minded college student by saying this. Just like President Obama, I think Jon Stewart is brilliant.

In Barack Obama's recent Rolling Stone interview, the President said:
"I think Jon Stewart's brilliant. It's amazing to me the degree to which he's able to cut through a bunch of the nonsense – for young people in particular, where I think he ends up having more credibility than a lot of more conventional news programs do."
I certainly could not agree more. Jon Stewart's comedic genius has impacted me as a person on such a level that is only eclipsed by the late Christopher Hitchens

The earliest recollection I have of in regards to Jon Stewart is centered around 9/11. Much like everyone else, I remember the images of the planes smashing into the towers, the horrendous fires, and their eventual collapse. However, I also recall the moving and emotional introduction Jon Stewart gave on his first Daily Show after the attacks:


It was this episode with which I am able to pin down the point of genesis for my affinity of Stewart. Since then, I've been drawn in by his whirlwind of comedic political satire, confronting the likes of Tucker Carlson on Crossfire, inviting Jim Cramer as a guest, and countless other public figures. Furthermore, quite a few comedic powerhouses got their start at The Daily Show as well, including: Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, and Ed Helms.

The comedic credentials of The Daily Show go without saying. But, in conjunction with this visceral and upfront humor, true moments of journalistic genius have emerged. Looking back on the countless logged episodes on TheDailyShow.com, this claim is easily verified.

Jon Stewart has quite often made remarks to the effect that if it weren't for FOX News, he would easily lose more than half of the potential material for his show. Now I think it is quite obvious that I do not claim to be 'Fair and Balanced' but I can admit, objectively speaking, accomplishing that is impossible. However, for the company that does claim that, Jon Stewart has lead the charge against FOX News, 'the most powerful name in news.' By using the same exact tactics FOX News uses in their 'reporting/commentary,' Stewart demonstrates two salient points:

1) FOX News' hypocrisy in attempting to tie "Ground Zero Mosque" leader Imam Feisal Rauf to terrorism. In this clip, Stewart reveals how FOX News would be considered a terrorist command center, when the same flawed logic is applied. In a quite poetic juxtaposition, Stewart uses a clip of a Charlton Heston NRA speech to solidify his point.


2) News Corp's [FOX News' parent company] second largest shareholder outside of the Murdoch family is Al-Waleed bin Talal,  the very same shadowy figure that FOX News launched a [hypocritical] scare tactics campaign against, also regarding the "Ground Zero Mosque."


To accentuate this point, here is one of my all-time favorite Daily Show pieces: 'Persians of Interest.' This entire series dubbed 'Jason Jones: Behind the Veil' demonstrates how they can accomplish extraordinary feats of journalism without having to use CNN or FOX News as their punching bag. The Daily Show set the gold standard in its coverage of the Iranian Green Revolution, which is an achievement to be heralded. Again, this is one of many examples where the Daily Show surpassed other news outlets in regards to critical world events.

Whether you lean to the right, the left, or forward, it is impossible to deny Jon Stewart's tremendous influence with Millennials. The Daily Show program is billed as a satirical comedy news show, but is certainly steeped in real world implications. From classic hits like 'Indecision' election coverage to 'Mess O'Potamia' Iraq war coverage, the Daily Show has remained consistently a cut above the rest. Whether a viewer is a hardcore fan like myself or a casual observer like President Obama, the gravitas of the Daily Show is easily perceivable. 

[Watching a Daily Show clip in one of my classes at OU.]
On a more official note, here are the list of awards the Daily Show has won:, according to Wikipedia: "Under host Jon Stewart, The Daily Show has risen to critical acclaim. It has received two Peabody Awards, for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Between 2001 and 2011, it has been awarded sixteen Emmy Awards in the categories of Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program, and a further seven nominations. The show has also been honored by GLAAD, the Television Critics Association and the Satellite Awards. America (The Book), the 2004 bestseller written by Stewart and the writing staff of The Daily Show, was recognized by Publishers Weekly as its "Book of the Year", and its abridged audiobook edition received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. In September 2010 Time magazine selected the series as one of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME"." 

So here's to hoping Jon Stewart extends his contract past the current 2013 agreement!

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