Obamas wrap up five-day Bali trip   
FORMER US President Barack Obama and his family have wrapped up a five-day holiday on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali and headed to the historic city of Yogyakarta.
          Appropriate Ways to Be Handsome   
President Barack Obama is always seen wearing a stylish necktie over a dark suit in big events that he attends. For this reason, the President is slowly becoming a fashion icon in the political world. If you want to be seen in your office and make people notice you with your fashion statements, then you should look at the President as an example. Upgrading your wardrobe does not necessitate that you buy new pieces. If you can choose a perfect tie with a different texture and color and tie the knot that is appropriate for the occasion, then its taking your clothes to a different level. Wearing the appropriate tie to meet the occasion can definitely bring salutes from your colleagues.
          igra istine   
umijem, ali cesto pogrijesim...

vjerujete li slatkorjecivim osobama???
          If at first you don't repeal Obamacare, try doing it the right way   

          Repeal and Replace? Nah, the GOP plan is more like Obamacare Lite   

          The IRS and Humana put two more nails into Obamacare's coffin   

          Media hacks in the tank for Obama and Clinton whine that Trump won't bow before them   

          Trump-Supporting Doctor On MSNBC Says The NRA Is The Solution To Health Care   
Dr. Alieta Eck drew ridicule from MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday by suggesting that the way to give Americans better health care was to allow people to buy insurance through the National Rifle Association . During a discussion with a panel of doctors who support President Donald Trump's effort to "repeal and replace Obamacare," Ruhle asked Eck how legislation could improve the health care system.
          Jay Sekulow Demands President Obama Be Investigated Over Russia   
Yeah it was a hoax and fake news mere moments ago, but hey! If Trump can blame Barack Obama for Russia hacking our election, then Russian hacking all of a sudden is real. Most of Trump's tactics involve, "nothing is ever Trump's fault" and if it looks like it is then "blame everybody else."
          Barack Obama Clip Art   
          Ebony commissions artist Shepard Fairey for Trayvon Martin portrait   
theGRIO REPORT - Shepard Fairey, the artist behind Obama's 2009 'Hope' poster, made a a similar portrait for Trayvon Martin...
          Sotheby's trying to resolve Cambodia relic dispute   

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Associated Press

Sotheby's is working to help return an ancient statue to Cambodia after the government claimed it had been illegally removed from the country decades ago.

The auction house said Wednesday it took the 1,000-year-old relic off the auction block a day before a sale scheduled for March 24, 2011, after Cambodia sent a letter asking Sotheby's to do so and arrange for its return.

The 5-foot-tall sandstone sculpture of a mythical warrior in an elaborate headdress had been estimated to sell for up to $3 million.

Sotheby's identified the seller as a European collector who purchased the work from a London dealer in 1975, almost two decades before a 1993 Cambodia law prohibited the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission.

The auction house said it informed Cambodia about the statue in writing 4 1/2 months before the sale, in November 2010.

Jane Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby's, said the government did not respond until March 23, 2011, a day before the auction, when the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO contacted the auction house on Cambodia's behalf.

Cambodia "did not allege that the statue constituted stolen property, did not identify any basis to contest the owner's title to the property and did not allege that it would be unlawful for Sotheby's to sell the statue or that Cambodia owned the statue," said Levine.

The Associated Press was not immediately able to obtain the letter.

The story was first reported in New York Times on Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that it was working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan and the Cambodian government "to look into the matter and determine the proper course of action."

Spokeswoman Danielle Bennett declined on Wednesday to answer further questions, citing the ongoing investigation.

After the seller and Sotheby's voluntarily withdrew the statue from the sale, the auction house said it asked Cambodia to come up with a solution agreeable to both parties.

In May, Cambodia endorsed a plan to seek a buyer to purchase the statue and donate it to Cambodia. It subsequently identified a Hungarian antiquities collector as a potential buyer, with whom Sotheby's has been in talks, the auction house said.

"We are also very interested in hearing from anyone else who would be interested in participating in such a sale process," added Levine, a former Manhattan federal prosecutor who was appointed to President Barack Obama's Cultural Property Advisory Committee last year. "Sotheby's would like to find a solution that is fair to both Cambodia and to the owner who bought the sculpture in good faith almost 40 years ago."

Cambodian diplomatic officials in the United States were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Anne LeMaistre, a Phnom Penh-based UNESCO representative who is involved in the talks, told The Times "buying back such items can seem distasteful, but sadly it is not unusual when the country's aim is return of the property."

The work is one of a pair of statues from a temple in Koh Ker, north of the famous Angkor Wat complex of temples.

Archeologists have matched the footless statue to a pedestal and feet at a Cambodian archaeological site. The other statue has been at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., since 1980, and also has been matched to its base at the site.

Many ancient artifacts were looted and damaged in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge ruled the country.

Eric Bourdonneau, the archaeologist who matched both statues to their pedestals, told the Times the relics were looted in the early 1970s.

Levine said Sotheby's was aware before accepting the statue for sale that it had come from Koh Ker. But she said it did not know when and how it was removed "as the circumstances of that are to date unknown."

She said the statue was purchased in "good faith" and exported long before the 1993 Cambodian law was passed, "and Cambodia has not claimed otherwise."

Levine said a law dating to the 1920s may have provided certain export restrictions but did not nationalize ownership of Cambodian relics, and therefore could not retroactively "redefine clearly established legal title rights."

          President Donald Trump during meeting with Cubs: ‘Where’s Dan Gilbert?’   
The Chicago Cubs were in our nation’s capital on Wednesday for a special meeting with President Donald Trump. It was a sort of encore performance by the world champions, who visited with President Barack Obama back in January. The Cubs presented the president with a No. 45 jersey, which represents Trump as the 45th president […]
          The U.S. Department of Labor Rolls Back Obama-Era Guidance on Joint Employers and Independent Contractors   
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced today that it was rolling back an Obama-era policy that attempted to increase regulatory oversight of joint employer and contractor businesses. Courts and agencies use the joint employer doctrine to determine whether a business effectively controls the workplace policies of another company, such as a subsidiary or sub-contractor....… Continue Reading
          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.

And I was right.

Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.

What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.

I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 

Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact.


We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. 

One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change: 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats. 
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats. 
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year.

Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. 

It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people.


One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately: 
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises. 
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.

The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? 

Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:

WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.  
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.  
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.  
 According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. 
Oh, that's reassuring. Speaking of control systems, apparently pimps are controlling prostitutes with RFID chips:
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. 
 “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.” 
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this: 
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple 
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords. 
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.

Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.

According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march.

Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.

Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March). 
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate. 
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity". 
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete". 
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.

Like McCain, China continues to sound a similar note of support for globalization, on which its very economic survival so desperately depends:
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance. 
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability. 
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors.

I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.

UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous.

* Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). 

† The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors. 
          Obamacare Key Dates In 2014   
Implementation of the health reform law continues through 2014 with these key dates.
          Comment on DOJ Prosecuted Texas Sheriff in 1983 For Waterboarding Prisoners by Obama throws Bush under the bus......accuses him of torture - Page 53 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum   
[…] Quote: Originally Posted by rightwinger Guests cannot see images in the messages. Please register to forum by clicking here to see images. Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime In this case from the tribunal's records, the victim was a prisoner in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies: A towel was fixed under the chin and down over the face. Then many buckets of water were poured into the towel so that the water gradually reached the mouth and rising further eventually also the nostrils, which resulted in his becoming unconscious and collapsing like a person drowned. This procedure was sometimes repeated 5-6 times in succession. The United States (like Britain, Australia and other Allies) pursued lower-ranking Japanese war criminals in trials before their own tribunals. As a general rule, the testimony was similar to Nielsen's Here's the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese: They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness. And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water. As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the "water cure" to question Filipino guerellas It's not necessary to go that far back to find the United States prosecuting someone for water boarding a prisoner. reagan's DOJ did that in 1983 when a sheriff was water boarding prisoners for confessions. That sheriff and his deputies were found guilty and went to prison. DOJ Prosecuted Texas Sheriff in 1983 For Waterboarding Prisoners | Big Bear Observation Post […]
          President Barack Obama Responds to the "The Dark Knight Rises" Screening Shooting   

Explore Talent releases new article about President Obama's statement about "The Dark Knight Rises" shooting on http://www.ExploreTalent.com

(PRWeb July 22, 2012)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/acting/movieauditions/prweb9721467.htm

          'Hamilton' creator Lin-Manuel Miranda freestyle taps with Obama   
          Sen. Pat Roberts still defends GOP health plan; health care advocates say it's terrible for Kansas    
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said the bill would have been good for Kansas and that the Senate needs to act soon, "to prepare for Obamacare's inevitable collapse." Health care advocates in Kansas strongly disagreed with his statement.
          As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build   

While he presses Republicans to get behind his bill for undoing Obamacare, Senator Mitch McConnell is also raising the specter of bringing Democrats into Senate health care talks. Source link

link: As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build

          How Should We View the Obama Legacy? – New York Times   

New York Times How Should We View the Obama Legacy?New York TimesDo you know why President Trump is working so hard to tear down former President Barack Obama’s legacy? Because Mr. Obama represents everything that Mr. Trump is not: an articulate orator, a deep thinker and someone who is elegant in style, words and … Source…

link: How Should We View the Obama Legacy? – New York Times

          Evolution's End? President Obama Calls for Same-Sex Marriage   
This is a sad day for marriage, but now we know the truth.
          Biden, Education Secretary Indicate Gay Marriage Support   
Observers on both the left and right are wondering if and when President Obama will publicly declare his support for gay marriage.
          Labor Department Rethinking Obama-Era Overtime Pay Rule   
On Tuesday the Labor Department formally requested information from the Office of Management and Budget, setting the stage for scaling back a rule that would make more workers eligible for OT.
          President Obama sorry for Berlusconi   
Abbiamo scelto questo titolo perché abbiamo realmente raggiunto il punto di non ritorno. Un’orrenda figura che il nostro Paese fa per un “pover uomo” che non smette di fregnare dei suoi guai con la Giustizia neanche durante un convegno internazionale, andando a scomodare il Presidente degli Stati Uniti Obama. Veramennte non se ne può più di tutto questo e delle … Continua a leggere
          Opposition to GOP Health Bill Spurring Support for Single-Payer Plan   
The Republicans' push to reduce government's role in healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare has emboldened progressive politicians and activists to promote the exact opposite, a single-payer system in which the government would completely run a health system which...
          Schumer Slammed for Blocking Senate Hearing on Obama 'Unmasking'   
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley Wednesday ripped Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer after using a rarely used procedural tool to block his panel from holding a classified hearing with top intelligence officials.
          Quinnipiac Poll: 58 Percent Oppose GOP Healthcare Plan   
Fifty-eight percent of Americans oppose the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, with 71 percent against Congress making aid cuts to Medicaid, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
          McCarthy: We Can't Let Obamacare Collapse Without a Replacement    
Letting Obamacare collapse while failing to pass new healthcare legislation is not an option, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News on Wednesday.
          Levi Tillemann, Obama administration alum, set to join crowded race to unseat Mike Coffman   
The Aurora Democrat had been publicly flirting with a run for Congress since mid-May, when he called President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders "a unique and terrible threat to American democracy."
          Amerika chudobným berie. Napríklad obamacare   
Prezident Trump a jeho republikáni museli odložiť hlasovanie o zmenách v zdravotnej starostlivosti.
          Original Blog Entry: Could There Be A Military Coup in America ?   

“Could There Be A Military Coup in America Against the Obama Dictatorship”???????

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
  1. military coup ('m?l?t?r? ku?)




    1. a coup organized and carried out by members of the armed forces

    The definition seems simple enough to understand, then why can’t the Obama administration understand that what happened in Egypt was a ‘military coup’?


The answer is they do understand, but are hoping U.S. Military Commanders are not paying attention and listening.


Could a military coup happen in America, during the reign of Dictator Obama? This would lead to extreme violence in America and I hope it never comes to this, but there are without a doubt U.S. military Generals who are not happy with the Communist run style he is running our government.


Obama is leading our country in the wrong direction. For those who are keeping up with current times and issues, it is no secret Obama and his flunkies do not like America, and I would go as far as saying Obama hates this beautiful country.


What would it be like if U.S. military leaders decided to oust Dictator Obama. Many people believe it would take an enormous amount of money, personnel, and time. In reality it would happen just as fast as it did in Egypt.


Are there U.S. Generals who would take this drastic step to save America. At this time I do not believe there are military leaders who would risk their careers to save America. I do believe there are U.S. Generals who despise Obama and his anti-American leadership methods.


If martial law were ever declared by Dictator Obama, I believe this would be the turning point in the decision making process of American Generals. U.S. military leaders have always acted on what is in the best interest of our country. They would not allow it to be destroyed by self interest mongers such as the Obama administration, the liberal media, and Islamic based terrorist supporters in America.



[ More ]

          Moscow prepares retaliation for U.S. seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds   

Moscow prepares retaliation for U.S. seizure of Russian diplomatic compoundsMoscow is preparing retaliatory measures to Washington's decision to seize two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States in 2016, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday. In December, U.S. seized two Russian diplomatic compounds as then President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking to interfere in the U.S. presidential election campaign. Moscow, which denies such allegations, did not retaliate immediately, saying it would wait to see if relations improved under President Donald Trump.

          Tim Allen’s Hilarious Show Mocks Obama “Last Man Standing”   

Comedian Tim Allen has an idea for a home improvement at the White House: Get a new tenant!

Calvin's Commentary and a prayer: At the Watchwoman and Watchman's house, the DVR is set to record every episode of Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing”! It is very entertaining! It humorously and delightfully encapsulates Tim's struggle to be a man in a society that has been femin-nazi-ized!  For 99% of the time, it is not...

Read the full post here »

The post Tim Allen’s Hilarious Show Mocks Obama “Last Man Standing” appeared first on Watchwoman on the Wall.

          Good Words from Obama - About Children Who Die Due To Abortion   
President Obama's speech about what he intends to do to address gun violence was very good. 

But as I heard it and then read it online, the question occurred to me, "Mr. President, Why is this not all also true of the unborn that are killed by the violence of abortion?" 

Look at these excellent words from our President - and see how they are also applicable to the 1.3 Million children aborted each year.

"These are our kids... And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing — not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country.
"This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged...If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."
"This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever."
"That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness…those rights are at stake."
"… when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now."

          Continuing the Case for Health Care Reform   

Fareed Zakaria is one of the most balanced, sensible reporters and commentators on international affairs going today. Because of this, he brings a global perspective to American domestic issues that many of the pundits lack. In this week's Time Magazine, he has a commentary entitled, “Health Insurance Is for Everyone” (CNN shows about half the article, the entire piece is on Time’s website that is accessed by subscribers).  In it he writes,

The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties--the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland.

Switzerland is not your typical European welfare-state society. It is extremely business-friendly and has always gone its own way, shunning the euro and charting its own course on health care. The country ranks higher than the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom.

Twenty years ago, Switzerland had a system very similar to America's--private insurers, private providers--with very similar problems. People didn't buy insurance but ended up in emergency rooms, insurers screened out people with pre-existing conditions, and costs were rising fast. The country came to the conclusion that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance. So the Swiss passed an individual mandate and reformed their system along lines very similar to Obamacare. The reform law passed by referendum, narrowly. The result two decades later: quality of care remains very high, everyone has access, and costs have moderated. Switzerland spends 11% of its GDP on health care, compared with 17% in the U.S. Its 8 million people have health care that is not tied to their employers, they can choose among many plans, and they can switch plans every year. Overall satisfaction with the system is high.

Zakaria continues,

The most striking aspect of America's medical system remains how much of an outlier it is in the advanced industrial world. No other nation spends more than 12% of its total economy on health care. We do worse than most other countries on almost every measure of health outcomes: healthy-life expectancy, infant mortality and--crucially--patient satisfaction. Put simply, we have the most expensive, least efficient system of any rich country on the planet. Costs remain high on every level. Recently, the International Federation of Health Plans released a report comparing the prices in various countries of 23 medical services, from a routine checkup to an MRI to a dose of Lipitor. The U.S. had the highest costs in 22 of the 23 cases. An MRI costs $1,080 here; it costs $281 in France.

In 1963, Nobel Prize--winning economist Kenneth Arrow wrote an academic paper explaining why markets don't work well in health care. He argued that unlike with most goods and services, people don't know when they will need health care. And when they do need it--say, in the case of heart failure--the cost is often prohibitive. That means you need some kind of insurance or government-run system.

Now, we could decide as a society that it is O.K. for people who suddenly need health care to get it only if they can pay for it. The market would work just as it works for BMWs: anyone who can afford one can buy one. That would mean that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a triple bypass or a hip replacement when they needed it. But every rich country in the world--and many not-so-rich ones--has decided that its people should have access to basic health care. Given that value, a pure free-market model simply cannot work.

In the campaigns for president, it seems that the conservatives have changed their tunes on requiring mandate for everyone to be included in health insurance. Zakaria observes,

Catastrophic insurance--covering trauma and serious illnesses--isn't a solution, because it's chronically ill patients, just 5% of the total, who account for 50% of American health care costs. That's why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate in the 1980s, proposing that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance. That's why Mitt Romney chose this model as a market-friendly system for Massachusetts when he was governor. And that's why Newt Gingrich praised the Massachusetts model as the most important step forward in health care in years. They have all changed their minds, but that is about politics, not economics.

He concludes,

When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them--including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan--have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results.

          Art as Prophetic Subversion   
banksy_christI have already stated emphatically that art is good simply because it is creative. Art glorifies God simply by being imaginative and original. Art’s value is not based on its instrumentality or on its commercial value. What proceeds below must not serve to undermine this foundational assertion: Good art is good art; it glorifies God “as is.”

Beyond the inherent goodness in art, there are also other ways that art can bring glory to God. Today we will look at how art can be both creative and prophetic. Tomorrow we will see how art can be redemptive and restorative.

Art can be prophetic, creating critical awareness of injustice, brokenness, oppression, and the need for action to alleviate suffering.
“Using the arts to create critical awareness is not new. In the Old Testament Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, and other prophets used drama, allegory, and poetry to jolt people and nations into thinking about their lives in the world. Jesus, by his presence and his storytelling, often confused and angered those around him who did not want to recognize their own role in oppressing the poor. He created critical awareness among the poor by causing them to see and act on the new life of freedom that was possible outside the accepted cultural boundaries based on status, wealth, power, religion, gender, and ethnicity.” (Taking it to the Streets: Using the Arts to Transform Your Community, by J. Nathan Corbitt and Vivian Nix-Early, p. 129)
In the movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop, an eccentric Frenchman Thierry Guetta has an obsession to videotape the secret lives of the most famous street artists as they create their art. Even though he tells the street artists he is making a documentary, he in fact has no ability to do so, he simply collects box after box of unmarked videotapes. In his exploits, Guetta meets many of the most famous street artists in the world, including Space Invader, Shephard Fairey (known for his Andre the Giant stencils and made famous through his colorful Barack Obama posters during the 2008 election) and the most famous and most mysterious street artist of them all, Banksy, whose legendary art mysteriously appears on walls, bridges, and streets throughout the world. All we know of Banksy’s identity is that he is a 30-something male from the Bristol area of England. In the film, Banksy’s face is obscured in black while he wears a hoody as he is speaks to the camera.

Banksy - No_LoiteringBanksy is one of today’s greatest creative geniuses. Most of his art is created through a unique stenciling technique (though he also creates physical props) and these masterpieces are often satirical and subversive, using irreverent dark humor to offer insightful social commentary.
banksy - palestinian wallHis art has appeared throughout the world, including buildings made derelict by Hurricane Katrina (one painting depicted an old man sitting on a rocking chair waving a small American flag under spray-painted words “No Loitering”), the wall that divides Israel and Palestine (where he created nine provocative paintings depicting escape, freedom, and beauty on an object that represents imprisonment and the ugly reality of political faction), and even Disneyland (where he placed a life-sized replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee next to a roller coaster). When an art museum commissions Banksy to display his art, the museum is vacated while he secretly comes in and installs his art. One of his most provocative paintings depicts Christ crucified, but instead of being on a cross, his spread arms and hands are carrying shopping bags full of Christmas presents. The street prophet is asking us, “What is Christmas really about today? How has commercialization and commodification usurped the real story of Christ?”

banksy-disneylandIn Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy realizes that Thierry Guetta is not really a creative artist capable of making the movie and therefore takes over the direction of the documentary. Flipping the script on Guetta, Banksy suggests to the crazy Frenchman to become a street artist himself, which he excitedly does. Guetta takes the alter ego “Mr. Brainwash” and mass-produces street art for a big debut show in Los Angeles.

Banksy successfully transforms the movie into the story of Thierry Guetta, whose only talent is to copy the art of those he admires for commercial monetary success. “Mr. Brainwash’s” show is a success, as people line up and pay a lot of money for pieces of pop-art that are totally derivative of the true street artists.

Bansky’s film shows, through the character of the shallow Guetta, that not all art is authentically creative. Banksy also exposes the desire in our culture to commodify everything, even art.
So, in the film, we get insight into both the creative and the prophetic aspects of art that glorifies God.
Art is art when it is not derivative, when it is done with authenticity, and when it is not subsumed under the weight of commercialization. This is art that is done by image-bearers reflecting the creative imagination of the Creator.

Art can also be prophetic, as exemplified by the work of Banksy, whose subversive creations speak against injustice and unrighteousness. While the authorities paint over his art because they are classified as “defacing graffiti,” Banksy continues his defiant agitation of the status quo.

What would it look like if a new generation of Christians took seriously the task of being subversive prophetic voices in their culture?
          Small town values   
I just attended the memorial service of a close relative in a town with a population of 1,500. A large number of neighbors and townsfolk attended, in addition to family members. After the service, we all moved to the nearby town hall, for a meal of homemade lasagna, salad and brownies.

Although the families were Christian, they weren't "Christian." There was a brief prayer and a mention or two of God, but no officiating religious figure, no religious doctrine, and no murmuring about the lack of any of that.

No one advocated censoring books in the local library, or breaking down the constitutional separation of church and state.

The man whose life we were celebrating was a WWII vet; there were American flags, including a veteran's flag folded into a triangle, but there was not a buzz about "my country right or wrong," or supporting the Iraq war. There was talk of peace.

There were deer-hunters in the assembly, but also vegans.

My sense is that there was a diversity of opinion on such matters as choice and shotgun weddings for teenage children. There were even Obama supporters among the attendees.

My impression of small town American values was of a place where people could vote their conscience, agree to disagree, and come together at a memorial service without shoving their beliefs in your face.

To the GOP handlers of Sarah Palin who wish to portray small town America as a monolith of intolerant, super-religious, right-wing, wildlife-killing, book-burning opinion -- you can kiss my a**.
          The Latest: Trump promises 'big surprise' on health care   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Obama health care law (all times local):...
          Flowers for Hillary   
What's with all the metaphorical bouquets being thrown by the media at Hillary's feet as she takes her big exit curtain call? It's a little annoying. Usually, this is the winner's moment in the sun. That would be Obama.

Okay, it's an historic campaign where for the first time a woman was a serious presidential contender, she got more votes than "any previous loser," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And it's weekend coverage, so what's the harm?

One problem is that we don't know for sure that Hillary is in fact bowing out gracefully. While she made a more-or-less gracious concession speech (I think -- I couldn't stand listening to much of it), can she in fact support Obama in some suitable way without making an issue of herself? Will an ugly, self-centered wish that Obama loses so that she can then become the 2012 "candidate of inevitability" sprout up through the cracks in her artificial smile? Only time will tell.

A quick review of the facts: Hillary lost my vote for her presidential campaign when, in 2002, she voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and when she refused forever after to admit she made a mistake. Call me superficial, but I think that a voter's disapproval of a candidate's position on the most important issue of the decade is appropriately signaled by voting for someone else.

Not only was Hillary dead wrong in this position, but she also revealed herself as Bill Clinton redux -- an image-driven, poll-driven centrist pol, who will do or say whatever it takes to get into power and then, once there, forget that the whole point was to use that power to do good.

Ironically, Hillary's desperate effort to repackage herself as a tough, hawkish chief-executive-in-waiting -- again, signaled by that 2002 vote -- probably has not won her a single vote. The public perception of her as a liberal feminista -- a perception driving both the votes for and against her -- was probably immovable all along. Her best strategy would have been to stay true to the ideals of her youth.

And now we learn that her much touted "experience" was also hogwash. Her totally botched campaign was driven repeatedly and ultimately off the rails by a motley crew of (1) foxy, unscrupulous types who were not as smart as they think they are and (2) loyal friends who are incompetent political amateurs. Apparently, there was not one authoritative person among them who could tell Hillary the bad news when she needed to hear it. Her apparently terrible executive style did not bode well for the "candidate of experience" to run the White House.

Hillary's long run also symbolized the Democratic Party's self-destructive streak. This is the "perfect storm" for Republicans, the year they cannot possibly win -- they are responsible for (1) an unpopular and ill-conceived war that (2) has sent the economy hurtling into an impending crisis engineered by (3) a president with 25-28% approval ratings.

But Hillary would have been a weak candidate, for all she tried to spin her self-absorbed refusal to quit as toughness. With her unredeemed Iraq war vote and the stinky cloud of questionable financial dealings that trail her and her husband everywhere, she wouldn't have been able to hit hard enough on McCain's two biggest Achilles heels -- the War and his own involvement in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s (see the Keating Five), which resonates so powerfully with the current mortgage crisis.

Hillary was the one Democratic candidate that cannot win -- if her campaign mismanagement didn't kill us, her unusually high negatives would have. And we came within a hair's breadth of nominating her! I may not be right about her unelectability -- but thank goodness we'll never know for sure.
          Please, please, please ....!   
... do not pick Hillary as your running mate!

The idea that Obama should pick Clinton as his running mate to "heal the party" or, more precisely, to increase the ticket's appeal to "white, blue collar males" is ludicrous.

One of the facts of our political life is that Republicans win the white house more often than Democrats, even though more voters are registered as Democrats than Republicans. The reason for this is that many registered Democrats vote for the Republican presidential candidate in November.

It stands to reason that many of those Republican-voting registered Democrats will vote in Democratic primaries, particularly this year when the primaries continue to have an impact on the nomination. I seriously doubt that, in November, Hillary would win many votes of white males who can't stomach the idea of a black man as president. Chances are they're not too keen about a white woman either. They'll vote for McCain.

There are apparently white women who feel the same way. As for white women Democrats who would normally vote Democratic in November, but will take their ball and go home if Hillary doesn't get the nomination? How many of those are there, compared to independents among the majority of Americans who find her to be untrustworthy? The pollsters don't tell us that.

Anyway, having Hillary on the ticket doesn't pick up a single white male vote. Well, maybe one: Bill Clinton.
          Ada Obama Menginap Aktivitas Di Hotel Tentrem Berjalan Normal   

Ada Obama menginap aktivitas di Hotel Tentrem berjalan normal Obama dan keluarga menginap di kamar Presidential Suite Hotel Tentrem Kamar tipe Presidential Suite ini semalamnya dihargai Rp 30 juta
          Rindu Makanan Nusantara Obama Pesan Sate Hingga Nasi Goreng   

Obama memesan makanan khas Indonesia Seperti sate ayam bakmi goreng dan nasi goreng
          With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for substantial changes, rather than mere tinkering, to a major healthcare bill if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law.

          Obama Kagumi Borobudur Sebagai Simbol Harmoni Dan Toleransi   

Obama kagumi Borobudur sebagai simbol harmoni dan toleransi Obama menceritakan bahwa kunjungannya ini merupakan yang kedua Obama mengaku pernah berkunjung ke Borobudur
          Ini Tiga Pemandu Khusus Untuk Obama Selama Di Candi Prambanan   

Obama beserta rombongan direncanakan akan berkunjung ke Candi Prambanan pada Kamis besok
          Pengamanan Ketat Saat Kunjungan Obama Ke Borobudur Selama 30 Menit   

Pengamanan ketat saat kunjungan Obama ke Borobudur selama 30 menit Selama kunjungan beberapa pengunjung Candi Borobudur Magelang yang ingin mengabadikan kedatangan Obama dijaga pagar betis pasukan TNI Polri
          Obama Keliling Candi Borobudur 30 Menit Indah Dan Damai   

Mura menuturkan Obama terpana saat candi tersebut terbuat dari 2 juta batu disusun sehingga membentuk candi sangat megah
          igra istine   
Bilo gde se zivi, bitno da ste okruzeni s voljenim osobama wink wink

Verujete li u vecnu ljubav? lol lol
          Why It Makes No Sense to Separate the White Working Class from the Black Working Class    
The media consistently radicalizes the white working class as noble; meanwhile the money is going to the top 1%.

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

“After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”  —Barack Obama, Farewell Address, Chicago, January 2017

After three losses to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a trifecta last accomplished by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, there was much hand-wringing among Democrats about the loss of the South and the vanishing loyalty of Southern whites. William Galston and Elaine Kamarck at the Progressive Policy Institute argued that the electoral math made the South the true presidential battleground; that Democrats could not win by being more liberal or hoping to motivate black and poor voters to increase their voter participation. Thomas Edsall and Mary Edsall similarly warned in the pages of The Atlantic that the South was key, and it was lost because the liberal orthodoxy was too tied to race, and out of touch with white working-class voters.

“Liberal” candidates like Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis were out. Their message was deemed too Northern, elite, and alien to the needed Southern white voter. In was a candidate who could rebrand the Democratic Party and break liberal orthodoxy, proving the party could be tough on crime and defense, and reinvent welfare and the social state. This turned out to be Bill Clinton. Now, the defeat of Hillary Clinton has once again caused Democrats to argue about what is needed to win the white vote.

Countless articles have focused on what Democrats have done wrong. And much of the theme remains the same as in 1989—that there is a noble white worker who has been betrayed. Here is how the Edsalls portrayed one such voter back in 1989:

“You could classify me as a working-class Democrat, a card-carrying union member,” says Dan Donahue, a Chicago carpenter who became active in the campaign of a Republican state senator in 1988. “I’m not a card-carrying Republican—yet. We have four or five generations of welfare mothers. And they [Democrats] say the answer to that is we need more programs. Come on. It’s well and good we should have compassion for these people, but your compassion goes only so far. I don’t mind helping, but somebody has got to help themselves, you’ve got to pull. When you try to pick somebody up, they have to help. Unfortunately, most of the people who need help in this situation are black and most of the people who are doing the helping are white. We [white Cook County voters] are tired of paying for the Chicago Housing Authority, and for public housing and public transportation that we don’t use. They [taxpayers] hate it [the school-board tax] because they are paying for black schools that aren’t even educating kids, and the money is just going into the Board of Education and the teachers’ union.”

As President Barack Obama warned in his farewell address, this depiction of whites as hard-working, noble, and beset (compared with whom?) is nowhere to start a dialogue about an economy in which the real problem is that all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. The language presumes that there are not black workers who lost out to trade deals that sent thousands of auto-parts jobs from Flint, Michigan, to Mexico or shut steel mills in Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, echoed Obama on the risks of reinforcing Trump’s cynical manipulation of race and the white working class:

Anyone who talks about dividing people in the country as a solution is a threat to the country, to democracy, the economy, and to working people, and we take every one of those seriously.

Oddly, much of the hand-wringing comes after victories by Presidents Clinton and Obama, each of whom demonstrated both the complexity of the white vote and the fact that the black vote matters. A core challenge is that many voters misunderstand basic economics, leading them to vote against the interests of working America as a whole. Many Americans still hold the view articulated by the Edsalls’ late-1980s white voter that government is not the solution. And their misunderstanding has been reinforced by actions of recent presidents.

One of those was Bill Clinton. The pursuit of white voters by Clinton led to attacks on the Social Security Act, first on the premise that budget discipline was more important, and second on the assumption that Social Security’s aid to the poor was too generous and too much of a handout to black women. Clinton supported partial privatization of Social Security pensions. Even Obama, pursuing deficit cuts, flirted with cuts in the cost-of-living formula.

The Social Security Act, let’s recall, was intended to protect the income of working-class American families. Yes, it was an entitlement, and proudly so. Social Security was first denied to most black Americans, but then extended. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a core part of Social Security. Clinton’s view that single mothers should be written out of the act—for that is what the end of “welfare as we know it” meant—was not viewed as an attack on working people. But it was. Black women, who have historically had the largest labor force participation rate among all racial groups, and who work more hours than any racial group among women, were stigmatized as being made lazy because they finally had access to that part of the Social Security Act which had initially been denied them when it was passed.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the feeble successor to AFDC, removed a class of workers from Social Security protection. Because of the “Nannygate” scandal surrounding Clinton’s attorney general nominee, protections for domestic workers within the Social Security Act were watered down. Despite the ravaging effect of the Reagan-era downturn on unemployment insurance, the Clinton administration offered little to repair a state-based system that had gone bankrupt and then refinanced itself by cutting access to benefits and benefit levels.

THE HARD REALITY OF TODAY'S level of inequality is this: For an increasing share of the population—black and white—the market no longer works to serve basic needs like housing, health insurance, child care, or college education. As the share of income held by the middle 60 percent declines, the top 10 percent’s share continues to grow, and within that, the top 1 percent.

The effect of heavy concentrations of money in fewer hands means that market-based allocations of resources are dictated by a smaller set of decision-makers. Businesspeople react to where the money is, whether they are home-builders, college presidents, or day-care providers. In the market, price is used as the rationing device, and prices follow where the money is.

When the middle class dominated the economy, it meant that prices for key personal investments followed increases in the incomes of the middle class. The government stepped in with housing, health, and education policies to subsidize those in the bottom 20 percent whose incomes were not keeping pace, and who would be rationed out of housing, health, and education by a market outcome. Worsening income inequality meant rising demands on government programs to ensure fair access to health and education, as prices rose faster than low income. Through the 1990s, the effect of discrimination made blacks synonymous with the bottom 20 percent, as they were overrepresented in the bottom income group.

What has happened to more whites now is that the market has moved past them as well. Pricing for child care and college education, essentials for their children, are outstripping their income growth; instead, prices are tied to the growth in income for the top 1 percent in the case of college tuition. And whites in the bottom 20 percent of income, who hold considerably more wealth than blacks in any part of the income distribution, can no longer self-insure themselves against the bumps in the economy.

As it took almost 40 years to get to this point, in the near term no recipe of policy fixes will sufficiently remedy the effects. Democrats need to focus on reversing those long-term trends, but also must have something to offer workers now. But every year that Trump is in office, that goal becomes more difficult.

Union representation, a key element in reversing those trends, continues to fall. More states are likely to adopt “right to work” laws. It will be increasingly difficult to rebuild workers’ voice in deciding how corporate output will be divided between wages and profits. That is the greatest source of the rising inequality. The hollowing out of the middle is not the result of automation. Rather, it reflects the relative advantage of those workers more closely tied to management, who squeeze down the income share for the middle and below.

What Reagan achieved in the 1980s was the illusion that by letting the floor fall, the middle could be protected. Unfortunately, too many white workers still have a view of the economy fed by the Reagan framework of government’s role. The unabated concentration of income will make after-tax methods of redistribution more vital so that Americans can have access to housing, education, and health. The Affordable Care Act, a market-based approach to health access, is one example where the fix is inadequate to rising income inequality, and made worse because it naïvely assumed that states would expand public access to address the gap in affordability.

UNDER TRUMP, RACE WILL complicate the effort to devise palliatives to rising inequality until more effective remedies can take effect. His dismantling of anti--discrimination offices within the federal government will create new downward pressures on an already stressed black working class. And the decline in union membership is more dangerous to black workers, who have higher union density than white workers and who rely far more than whites on union bargaining power to get higher wages. Further, black union density is more heavily reliant on public-sector bargaining than is true for whites, and public-sector unions are a target of Trump, who will abet the attack on public-sector unions taking place at the state level.

Under Trump, the gap between the experience of black and white workers will grow. Trump has already changed the political discourse. He has revived a strain of Southern populism that allows for asserting white privilege.

For Democrats, the problem with language that emphasizes the white working class as a separate problem from rising inequality of income and wealth is that it will racialize the debate rather than emphasizing the common assault on all who are not rich. It evokes the negative part of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Hillary Clinton had a hard time convincing young black workers that welfare reform and mass incarceration weren’t key to the Clinton legacy. The lack of black enthusiasm for Clinton is as much a part of the story of 2016 as the enthusiasm of white voters for Trump.

Further, progressive forces in the Democratic Party have been too uncritical of Bernie Sanders’s inability to lay the proper foundation with the party’s African American base ahead of the primary season. It was curious during the 2016 primary season to see Republicans all hopped up about the “SEC primary” (so-called because the Southern states involved have flagship universities in the Southeastern Conference), but no mention among the Democrats of the SWAC primary (the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a complementary athletic conference of public historically black universities).

So, while in the fall of 2015 Republicans fawned over attending games between the University of Alabama and Auburn, not a peep was heard on the need for Democrats to be at a game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M. Black voters often determine the victor in the Southern Democratic primaries, but spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire would be a likely outcome of a party worried about white working voters.

Democrats need to spend more time developing a frame to combat inequality. They need to do a better job of explaining that income inequality is a threat to economic growth. They need to be spending time helping Americans take the blinders off and see that workers, of all races, are being given the shaft by a system where corporate greed has become an elite “entitlement.” They need to pull the Band-Aid off a false sense there is some white privilege that can spare some workers the wrath of America’s war on working people. They must fess up to their quiet, and sometimes vocal, support of an agenda that attacked America’s workers. They need to stop believing the problem confronting American workers is that they are uneducated or unskilled. They need to stop defining the white working class as the less-educated. Those are the perennial excuses meted out to black workers. Young black workers reacted angrily in 2016 to a perception that their pain was being ignored. They didn’t vote for Trump, but Clinton lost as much because they didn’t vote for her either as Trump won because white voters voted for him.

The Democrats won’t solve their electability issues repeating the debate about white voters that they had in the late 1980s. They need to focus on the urgency of the effect of income inequality on American democracy. They need to sound the alarm. And they need to wake up and see who they are in bed with. The power elite of the party think they have freed themselves of a dependency on union support. But the Wall Street vision of the economy is poison for workers of all races and for Democrats.

When the Republican Party of the 19th century cut its deal to end Reconstruction and concentrate on winning the white vote, it launched the Gilded Age and the unremittent growth of inequality that collapsed in the Great Depression. It was accompanied by a Southern populism that entrenched a harsh racial code. Trump’s victory puts us within reach of repeating that mistake in history. Democrats need to be wary, and shrewd. How they handle this could entrench the dystopia of more Trumps—or create a new multiracial coalition of class uplift.


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          The Cubs visited the White House. Again.   
They visited Obama back in January. Yet here they are, back again.

La frase que llevo largo tiempo deseando escuchar.

Post scriptum: la gente de El Catoblepas ha establecido un paralelismo, inconsciente en el  imaginario colectivo pero muy interesante entre las figuras de Obama y el arquetipo del héroe de "El Sargento Negro" de John Ford (este, no obstante, declarado republicano), con el trasfondo de la "Operación Gerónimo" que ha llevado a la muerte de Osama Bin Laden.
          La 'Flota de la Libertad', una operación anti-Israeli   

Antisemitismo y críticas a Israel.

A riesgo de equivocarme quiero comenzar esta anotación, casi artículo, señalando que los hechos relativos a la 'Flota de la libertad” que pretendía romper el bloqueo a la franja de Gaza, serán en menos de un mes no más que el recuerdo de la enésima operación del islamismo radical (dirigido esta vez por la Turquía de Erdogan) contra el Estado de Israel, con la inestimable ayuda de los tontos útiles habituales de occidente (ONG’s, eurodiputados, intelectuales varios, gobiernos y medios de comunicación) los cuales tratan de disfrazar su "antisemitismo" con "criticas al Estado de Israel". Si bien muchos judíos viven desligados de Israel (aunque a casi ninguno puede resultarle indiferente lo que le pasa), lo contrario es imposible, y a la historia de los últimos 60 años me remito. Parto, pues, de la presunción de que sobre toda crítica a Israel planea la sombra del antisemitismo. Desde un punto de vista racional y desapasionado es posible cuestionar los aspectos concretos de la política exterior y de seguridad del Estado de Israel, pero en estos casos suelo invertir la carga de la prueba, y pasas a ser los “críticos” quienes han de probar que no son cómplices, aún involuntarios y de buena fe, de la enésima campaña antisemita. Por desgracia, en el asunto de la 'Flota de la libertad' muchos han caído, otra vez, en al trampa de los que desean que Israel sea borrado del mapa.

Sobre las 'opciones' militares, el uso de la fuerza y las victimas civiles(?)

Por más vueltas que se ha dado a los argumentos esgrimidos para desaprobar la conducta del ejercito Israeli por el abordaje (que no asalto) al carguero perteneciente a la flotilla, el Mavi Marvara, sospechoso de transportar armas y combatientes islamistas, ninguno me ha hecho cambiar de opinión. Es más, a cada minuto que pasa y más cosas se van sabiendo, me convenzo de que no había otra opción desde el punto de vista militar. En primer lugar, se ha dicho que pudo bloquearse el paso de los barcos con la marina israeli, pero esto no hubiera impedido que la flotilla siguiera avanzando hasta incluso chocar físicamente con los israelíes si así lo deseaban, poniendo a estos en una situación de riesgo inasumible, ya que, sin saber que contenían aquellos barcos, de haberse producido una agresión a poca distancia, la única opción a mano sería la de abrir fuego directo contra todos ellos. Del mismo modo, el haber esperado a que la flotilla entrará en aguas israelíes en vez de actuar en aguas internacionales, habría situado al ejercito israelí en una situación igual de delicada, estando legitimado para proceder a su hundimiento sin previo aviso. Por ello creo que el abordaje en altamar respondía acertadamente a fines preventivos y de limitación del uso de la fuerza y daños a civiles, mientras que otras opciones no eran viables o asumibles.

En segundo lugar, se ha criticado la forma en que se desarrollo el abordaje, pues debieron usarse desde el principio gases lacrimógenos o fuego indirecto disuasorio, como si estas medidas estuvieran exentas de riesgo para la salud e integridad física de los tripulantes. Una cosa es sospechar que puede tratarse de un barco hostil y otra declararlo como tal, y más cuando lo único pretendido es la inspección de la carga (de la que incluso fuera posible que los tripulantes desconocieran todo su contenido). Un asalto si hubiera significado una extralimitación solo sería legitimo si Israel considerara que el barco y todos o algunos de sus tripulantes constituían una amenaza directa, solo entonces podían haber entrado usando ese nivel de fuerza.

Respecto de la "desgraciada" muerte de 9 tripulantes, lo sería de llevar al extremo esa ética que considerara que cualquier perdida de vida humana es condenable, ética indolora del estilo del exMinstro de Defensa José Bono y su "prefiero morir a matar" y que significa la rendición contra todo aquel que amenace nuestra existencia. Sin embargo, dudo que de haber sido los muertos soldados israelíes se hubiera producido una reacción internacional de condena contra la "perdida de vidas humanas". También se obvia que dichas personas no eran ya "civiles" tras blandir palos, cuchillos, hachas y arpones, hasta cócteles molotov, contra los soldados, a los que intentaron desarmar, como ha quedado demostrado por vídeo y fotografía.

Derecho internacional humanitario y legitima defensa.

Más absurdo es el debate sobre el derecho internacional aplicable al caso, viciado de prejuicios positivistas, abierto con respecto tanto de la operación de bloqueo sobre Gaza (bloqueo ejecutado también por Egipto) y el hecho del abordaje del Mavi Marvara. El derecho internacional se usa hoy día más como causa de justificación que como principio legitimador. Así, los responsables de la Flota y sus simpatizantes apelan al derecho internacional humanitario para justificar su total inmunidad para transportar, supuestamente, alimentos y medicinas a Gaza. Lo cierto es que cualquier derecho positivo internacional es impotente frente a un principio general y superior como es la "legitima defensa" y que asiste al Estado de Israel para proteger su territorio y ciudadanos del terrorismo de Hamas.

Una operación islamista contra Israel.

Siguiendo con el derecho internacional, Turquía ha tenido la desfachatez de invocar el articulo V del Tratado de la OTAN para pedir ayuda de sus aliados frente al abordaje de Israel de un barco bajo su pabellón. O mejor dicho, el gobierno islamista de Erdogan. Este personaje, al que ilegalizaron dos partidos políticos de manera consecutiva en su propio país por pretender instaurar la “sharia” o ley/costumbre islámica como norma suprema del Gobierno Civil, llegó a la Presidencia mediante la ocultación de dicho proyecto, pero a él sigue dedicando esfuerzos denodados. Otro de sus objetivos encubiertos (ahora ya menos) es acabar con el Estado de Israel, al que amenaza ahora con quitarle la condición de aliado, y Turquia lo fue mientras sus dirigentes eran declarados laicos, partidarios de la separación entre Iglesia y Estado, y respetaban el legado del padre de la nación turca moderna, Kamal Ataturk. Pero desde que Erdogan y sus partidarios se hicieron con el poder, las relaciones diplomáticas entre ambos países son prácticamente inexistentes.

La 'Flota de la libertad' se montó con el beneplácito y colaboración de las autoridades turcas, por conocidos simpatizantes del islamismo radical, por tanto, si alguien esta legitimado para denunciar, por ejemplo, ante el Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas, ese es Israel, sobre la base de que el Turquía impulso una maniobra que pretendía romper un bloqueo naval legítimo, afectando a la seguridad y credibilidad de Israel. Turquía además se negó a que funcionarios de la embajada de Israel verificasen el contenido inicuo de la carga transportada antes de partir de puertos turcos.

La hipocresía de la comunidad internacional.

En la Unión Europea, algunos países han condenado las acciones de Israel, por lo menos en un primer momento, culpabilizandole del resultado (aunque la mayoría empieza a marcar distancias con esa postura crítica inicial). Pero ni Obama ni los dirigentes europeos están en posición de criticar nada, cuando desde el principio han demostrado escaso interés por el conflicto bélico con Gaza (solo el ya mencionado Egipto colaborara activamente con los israelies). Estos países que ahora se llevan las manos a la cabeza debieron ejercer presión sobre la autoridades turcas para que los israelíes despejaran todas sus dudas sobre la flotilla, no lo hicieron así. También permitieron que algunas personalidades de sus países y eurodiputados se prestaran a ejercer de escudos humanos de la flota.

Pedir fe cuando claramente se observa que lo pretendido con la "flotilla humanitaria" era apuntarse una victoria simbólica contra Israel mediante la ruptura del bloqueo naval sobre Gaza, es como mínimo una ingenuidad. Más gravemente es una muestra palpable del escaso interés por la suerte del Estado de Israel, única democracia de la región, acosada por el islamismo radical y aislada de la comunidad internacional por el antisemitismo presente en importantes círculos políticos, intelectuales y sociales de Occidente.

          Los empresarios: ¿en ayuda de España ó del gobierno socialista?   
"Los comerciantes del mismo gremio rara vez se reúnen, siquiera para pasar un buen rato, sin que terminen conspirando contra el público". Adam Smith.

Otro ejemplo de capitalismo de Davos, el del G-20, la UE, los EEUU de Bush-Obama, y por supuesto de la España de Zapatero.

"El objetivo de la libertad económica no es alcanzar un equilibrio social entre productos y consumidores. La libertad económica es importante porque crea un espacio para que la gente pueda practicar su libertad, cuidar a su familia y cumplir con sus responsabilidades. La libertad económica es necesaria porque le permite a la gente asumir riesgos y crear prosperidad material. Pero tanto uno como lo otro necesitan de virtud individual y moral para ser viables y no de una cultura adolescente que persigue sus caprichos o de una cultura separada de las raíces históricas, de los sacrificios y de las luchas de nuestros padres con su espíritu y dedicación a la libertad."

          Keynes vs. Hayek (a ritmo de rap)   
Sencillamente, sublime.

Actualización: una entrevista con uno de los creadores del vídeo musical aquí.

          Llamazares: “Quiero responsabilidades al mismo nivel que las acusaciones”   
Mis lectores ya conocerán de el caso de Osama Bin Llamazares, como se le ha bautizado por algunos. El FBI habría utilizado supuestamente una imagen de una campaña electoral del exlider de Izquierda Unida para crear un retrato occidentalizado del terrorista. No tengo ni puñetera idea de porque el FBI pierde el tiempo con estas chorradas, totalmente inútiles y ciertamente inconstitucionales (aunque tampoco hay que exagerar). 

Estamos a la espera de saber si el político comunista acudirá a la SGAE para que lo defienda la propiedad intelectual sobre su imagen. Mientras, la edición en papel de El Mundo de hoy miércoles recoge las primeras impresiones del afectado:
“No me bastan las excusas menores; quiero una investigación sería y na depuración clara de responsabilidades”.
Y añade:
“No me basta que el último de los técnicos del FBI caiga o sea desplazado, sino que quiero responsabilidades al mismo nivel que las acusaciones”.
Desde aquí le animó pues a acusar al máximo responsable de entre las autoridades estadounidenses. El mismo que dirige la Guerra contra el Terrorismo, que tiene entre sus objetivos políticos fundamentales la destrucción de Al Qaeda y la captura o muerte de Osama Bin Laden. Ese tipo es:

Barack Hussein Obama,
Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América 


PD: si quieren echar unas risas mientras disfrutan de otras composiciones como la de Llamazares pueden pasarse por el grupo de Facebook “Lina Morgan Freeman” (no tengo que explicarlo, ¿verdad?) :)

          UBER rich   
And now the Wall Street automotive report, sponsored by Country Saab.

Al Gore started it, Bush approved it and Obama signed it.

Last week, the US government approved a $528 million loan from the U.S. Energy Department to Fisker Automotive Group, a start up automotive company based in California.

The car Americans are investing in costs $89,000, reach top speeds over 150MPH and go 330 miles without a charge.

A Toyota Prius for the UBER rich.

Production is being planned in Finland some 4200 miles away from Washington DC.

But no worries folks, the 528 million are part of the billions in TARP funds we put on the coffee table sometime last November.

They say good things happen to those that show up... Fisker wasted no time, with check in hand even Walt Disney couldn’t top the joy Fisker executives experienced on their way home.

This is Robb LoForese
          Future Editorial September 22, 2020   
“Your Shoelace is untied”

It’s a famous line, you're looking ahead and something takes you off track and wallops you down.

That’s what happened to GM, Ford and the former Chrysler Corporation in CY 2008 when suddenly without notice the price of crude oil sky-rocketed towards the $150 per barrel mark, as brokers (based in London) speculated short positions on oil indexes without any regulation - other than those of greed.

Thus with the cost of oil rising almost out of control, Detroit’s big 3 slashed truck production, planned smaller fuel efficient cars and laid off thousands of workers.

Former President Obama’s “Big 3 Bail or Fail” plan of 2009 accelerated the demise of US auto makers by providing tax credits for smaller unprofitable cars at a time when US and Global oil production started its steady rise as China, India and Russian economies slowed during the mid 10’s.

US Alaskan Oil (symbol “USAO”) and former Vice Presidential candidate Sara Palin stated “back in 2008 US politicians sold the American public on global warming scams and sheer oil shortages because of increasing world demand. We now know the gas crisis of 2008 was nothing more than manipulation and unfortunately the former Big 3 automakers suffered the worst”.

Kia Motors (Ford's Parent Company) CEO Mark Fields stated today that “as long as large US cars and trucks get over 35 MPG and the price of gas stays at $5.95 per gallon we see no need to plan smaller car and truck platforms for the US market any time soon. We learn by our mistakes”.

Brent crude oil closed today at $125 a barrel – its lowest levels since 2014 this at time when wind power tax credits have peaked with little or no new wind energy farms on the horizon.

Well its possible!!!
          President Obama's State of the Union Speech Launches 'Thug Life' Memes [VIDEO]   
President Barack Obama is living that thug life. "I have no more campaigns to run... I know 'cause I won both of them," he said proudly Tuesday night (Jan. 21) during the State of the Union address. It was only a matter of time before the Internet took his swag lord sentiment and turned them into a series of hilarious 'Thug Life' memes. Continue reading…
          Ted Cruz poses with his lookalike, and the internet is ded RIP   

One Ted Cruz is a lot to handle. Two Ted Cruzes standing next to each other wearing matching World Series rings is the stuff of nightmares.

Everyone naively assumed this scenario was something we'd never have to deal with, but thanks to Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and the magic of faceswap, we have now seen things that can't possibly be unseen.

SEE ALSO: Alyssa Milano shuts down Ted Cruz for being creepy on Twitter

The Cubs clinched a highly anticipated World Series victory in 2016, of course, and visited the White House to see Barack Obama. But because Ricketts is a huge Trump fan, the World Series trophy made its way to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, and the team paid a visit to the 45th president on Wednesday. Read more...

More about Twitter, Politics, Ted Cruz, Chicago Cubs, and Faceswap
          Obama is gutting Medicare | New York Post   
          'Ed Show' poll: November 5, 2014   
Do you trust Mitch McConnell to work with President Obama? Vote now and watch "The Ed Show" weekdays at 5pET on MSNBC!
          McCain Will Push For Ground Troops In Iraq, Syria If GOP Wins The Senate   
- If Republicans gain the Senate majority in November, President Barack Obama could face pressure from Congress to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria. "Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy," Sen. John McC …
          The Latest: Trump promises 'big surprise' on health care   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Obama health care law (all times local):...
          Trump Transition Team 12 Remix   

Trump Transition Team 12 Remix

Trump Transition Team 12 Remix (2016)


During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to "drain the swamp" -- leading chants of the phrase at his rallies -- part of an anti-establishment, anti-Washington message that was predicated on rooting out corruption and bringing an outsider's perspective to government...Critics have used it to assail Trump's high-level appointments of Wall Street and DC veterans, like former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Ron Klain, a former Obama administration official, tweeted, "Sure, Drain the Swamp. Congrats to all you outsiders who thought that Hillary Clinton was too establishment."
--David Wright, CNN

          Some of Obama Administration’s Proposed Tax Changes Lay Groundwork for Federal, State Reform   

This blog post is one in a series detailing President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2013. Most of the attention on President Obama’s proposed tax changes in his 2013 budget proposal has focused on his proposal to sunset the Bush tax cuts for household income above $250,000 per year and his long-term goal of using the ...

The post Some of Obama Administration’s Proposed Tax Changes Lay Groundwork for Federal, State Reform appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.

          NASCAR, Politics, and Bowl Games   

Cross-posted from the NC Conservation Network blog. Written by Dan Conrad. When President Obama gives his upcoming State of the Union address we will hear those famous words uttered: “Ladies and Gentlemen: the President of the United States.” After the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding campaign contribution limits, one has to wonder if in 3 ...

The post NASCAR, Politics, and Bowl Games appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.

          A Bunch of Acronyms and Some Trade Politics   
Last February Sarah and I* speculated in a short National Interest article that a EU-US trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP) could put pressure on the recent prevalence of investor-state dispute clauses (ISDs):
While ISD clauses are widespread, they usually exist within the context of treaties between states characterized by economic asymmetries. For instance, of the more than 2000 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) worldwide, none exist between two advanced industrial countries. The United States generally embraces investor-state dispute clauses; both their model free-trade agreement (FTA) and BIT contain such language. However, it is far from certain that a US-EU treaty would include an ISD clause. Generally, advanced industrial countries have shown they are more interested in promoting legal regimes that protect "their" multinationals while they are less willing to cede jurisdiction over investment disputes in which they might be defendants.
Today, via Simon Lester, we see that the EU is not super-thrilled with the idea of having an ISD in TTIP that is typical of US ISDs, although it's tough to know from the formal language exactly what the EU is after. Or as Lester puts it: 

What are the authors saying here? Are they saying: 
1. Investment protection and investor-state will only be included if high EU standards for investment protection, as opposed to the weaker U.S./Canadian standards, are met? 
or are they saying: 
2. Investment protection and investor-state will only be included if the usual provisions are weakened so as to ensure that public policy objectives can be pursued? 

I don't know the answer (perhaps Sarah could chime in?), but it seems clear that any ISD in TTIP will have to be different than that in the model US bilateral investment treaty. So far our article is holding up pretty well.

Meanwhile, Eyes on Trade doesn't like Obama's secrecy on another potential trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)**. They also nail the reason for the secrecy:
So why keep it a secret? Because Mr. Obama wants the agreement to be given fast-track treatment on Capitol Hill. Under this extraordinary and rarely used procedure, he could sign the agreement before Congress voted on it. And Congress’s post-facto vote would be under rules limiting debate, banning all amendments and forcing a quick vote.
Eyes on Trade think all of this is severely crippling democracy. In a way it is, it by "democracy" you mean legislators favoring parochial interests over the good of the nation as a whole. The Congress has often given the President fast-track authority. Clinton had it for part of his terms. George W Bush had it for most of his. The reason for this is so that individual Congresspeople can't fiddle with the deal in order to privilege local constituencies after its been agreed to by the negotiators of both sides. It's basically a legal way to curtail rent-seeking exceptions and other Congressional shenanigans. These are generally questionable on welfare grounds when things like tax bills are being debated, but when negotiating a trade deal they can be deadly: each new Congressional exception has to be approved by the foreign party, which will likely demand further concessions in exchange, which would have to be approved by Congress in turn, etc. Each iteration of this lowers the chance of any deal being reached. Fast track authority cuts that process out. Interested groups can still lobby the US Trade Representative, and Congress still has to approve any deal, so it's not exactly undemocratic. But fast track makes the policy process more efficient.

Obama hasn't been given fast track authority. Democrats have typically been skeptical of trade deals -- remember that renegotiating NAFTA was a big issue during the 2008 Democratic primary -- and Republicans seem intent on blocking anything Obama chooses to do on grounds of principle. It doesn't seem to have been a major priority for Obama until now, as he's preferred to focus on health care, immigration, and other issues first. But without fast track trade deals are much more difficult to complete. So much so that foreign countries often prefer not to negotiate at all because they know that whatever agreement they reach will end up being altered by Congress. Given that, what's the point of negotiating in the first place?

Although they are fairly obscure these issues are quite important. I continue to think there's a decent chance that Obama gets fast track, and if he does that some deals will get done. The business community is very interested in seeing agreements made, so they will likely push the GOP to give in to Obama. Democrats are a bit less enthusiastic, but are more likely to give Obama authority than they would be to lengthen Romney's leash. And if Sarah and my article is correct, there are not many important interest groups that oppose a EU-US deal. The TPP makes sense in a number of ways as well.

All of this remains to be seen of course, but I'm still pretty optimistic that we'll see some movement on trade during Obama's second term.

*Really Sarah. She knows much more about ISDs than me and wrote that part of the article more or less on her own.

**Yes I know. TPP and TTIP and ISDs, oh my.
          President Obama Health Care XXX Parody   
Watch President Obama Health Care XXX Parody at XXXPorn.rs - best free online XXXPorn videos for you to enjoy.
          Turkish President's Bodyguards Beat Peaceful Protesters in Washington, DC   
The Wall Street Journal reports;
WASHINGTON—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security team was accused Wednesday of taking part in an unprovoked attack on protesters in the U.S. capital, marring a Washington visit for the second year in a row. 
District of Columbia police have joined the Secret Service and State Department in an investigation of what Police Chief Peter Newsham said appeared to be an unprovoked and “brutal attack on peaceful protesters” that sent nine people to the hospital on Tuesday. One police officer and two members of the Secret Service were also injured in the clashes, according to the police and a U.S. official. 

The attacks were captured on video and shared widely on social media, drawing denunciations from the State Department, U.S. lawmakers, the city’s mayor, and the police chief. 
“This is the United States of America,” U.S. Sen. John McCain, (R., Ariz.), said on Twitter. “We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior.”
According to protesters and video showing the attacks, a few dozen demonstrators marched to the Turkish ambassador’s residence, where Mr. Erdogan was speaking, to protest his first official visit to Washington to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday. 
The demonstrators included a mix of people opposed to Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on opposition lawmakers, journalists, diplomats and military officers. They were met by a group of Erdogan supporters, District of Columbia police and members of the Turkish president’s security detail. 
The Turkish Embassy cast the demonstrators as terrorist sympathizers of Kurdish separatists known as the PKK who were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled” to support Mr. Erdogan. The Erdogan supporters “responded in self-defense,” leaving one seriously injured, the Embassy said. 
“The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration,” the Embassy said. “We hope that, in the future, appropriate measure will be taken to ensure that similar provocative actions causing harm and violence do not occur.”
Former President Barack Obama refused to meet with Erdogan who has jailed journalists and suppressed civil liberties in a crackdown on political opponents following a coup attempt.  President Trump, however, has praised the Turkey strongman who since has assumed dictatorial powers. President Trump offered no criticism of the beatings of peaceful protesters.  The State Department, however, told reporters that it was communicating corn about the incident to the Turkish government "in the strongest possible terms" and that {v]iolence is never an appropriate response to free speech."

          Trump Campaign May Have Coordinated with Russians on Release of Information Damaging to Clinton Campaign   
CNN reports:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.   
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source.   
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel,
business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.   
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."  
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial. 
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.   
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
Yesterday in a bizarre turn of events House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefed President Trump on intelligence he had seen in which names of the Trump transition team (of which Nunes himself was a member) had appeared in intelligence intercepts relating to foreign targets, intercepts he didn't bother to share with anyone else on the committee.   While this was in fact old news, Nunes held a press conference to claim that the information somewhat supported Trump's claim that Trump Tower phones were wiretapped by President Obama.  In the next breath, however, Nunes said that the information did not show Trump's claim was true.
The big development though may well be that Nunes has shown himself to be an agent of President Trump and, thus, unable to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of matters relating to the Trump campaign.  Nunes might lose his chairmanship as a result of the stunt he pulled yesterday. At the very least he made the appointment of a independent committee much more likely.

          A "Big, Gray Cloud" Descends Over the Trump Presidency   
Today, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there exists a current FBI investigation into possible coordination between members of Trump's campaign team and Russian officials in the latter's interference into the 2016 election.  Fox News reports:
FBI Director James Comey said during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today that there is an ongoing investigation into possible "coordination" between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016
FBI Director James Comey
presidential election. 
"That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," he stated.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was a member of the Trump transition team, complained that Comey's testimony created a "big, gray cloud" over the White House and urged a quick conclusion to the investigation. 

Comey also confirmed that Trump's tweets claiming former President Trump had ordered his phones "wiretapped" at the Trump Tower were simply not true.  Also confirmed as inaccurate was the new claim that British intelligence had wiretapped Trump at President Obama's request.

When the media begins examining more closely Trump campaign connections to Russian officials, , expect a few names to come to the forefront quickly, most notably Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page.  In an apparent attempt to head off damaging association, administration spokesman Sean Spicer today incredulously noted that Manafort had only a "limited role" with the Trump campaign.  A mighty strange way to characterize the former MANAGER of the Trump campaign.

          Trump Administration Vows to Crack Down on Pot, Enthusiastically Embraces Other Failed Criminal Justice Policies   
The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.  
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.” 
It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.  
Spicer telegraphed the administration won’t take a get-tough approach against medical marijuana, saying Trump believes in its ability to "comfort" people suffering from debilitating diseases.  
But he said he takes a different view of recreational marijuana, linking it to the abuse of opioid drugs in states across the U.S.  
There is little evidence showing a link between abuse of the two drugs. Some researchers believe medical marijuana could help reduce demand for opioid-based painkillers.  
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty others have laws allowing medical marijuana. 
If revival of the failed War on Drugs (at least against marijuana) was not enough, Trump's administration appears ready to enthusiastically embrace other 1980s era criminal justice failures.  Trump has already signaled support for civil forfeiture, which has a well documented history of abuse.  His administration also appears ready to end the Obama-era moratorium on the feds renewing contracts for the use of private prisons, another enormous policy failure.  Is federal sentencing reform out the window as well?  Could be as Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked to block sentencing reform while in the U.S. Senate, despite widespread bipartisan support.
The sad thing was that pre-Trump the GOP was moving in the right direction on all these issues.  Reform though seems endangered by a "law and order" Republican President who seems oblivious to the failed history of the policies his administration supports.

          RVDA Asks Dealers to Lobby for SBA Help   
RV dealers and their volunteer leaders agree: the number one issue facing the RV industry is financing. The Obama administration must turn its attention on the severe impact of the credit crisis on RV dealers and the urgent need for floorplan credit, according to Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). Without […]
          Spielt mit mir "Wer bin ich ?" - Facebook und die Klarnamen.   
Ich wurde ausgeschlossen. Aus einer Gruppe. Vor fünf Tagen. Das letzte Mal ist mir das vor 20 Jahren passiert. Da wollte mich eine Gruppe von blöden Pferdemädchen nicht auf einen Ausritt mitnehmen. Sie haben mir erzählt, alle Ponys wären schon besetzt. Ich saß weinend in der stinkenden Pferdebox und zählte Pferdeäpfel. Meine Reiterhofkarriere war beendet bevor sie anfing.

Diesmal hat mich Facebook aus seiner Mitte katapultiert. 
Erbarmungslos wurde mein privater Account gelöscht und ich dazu aufgefordert, meinen Ausweis mit Lichtbild zur Überprüfung bei Facebook einzureichen, sollte ich weiterhin ein Teil des größten sozialen Netzwerkes der Welt sein wollen. Ich wurde kurzerhand aus einer Weltgemeinschaft entfernt! Wie gemein! Ich hatte offenbar gegen die "Klarnamenpflicht" verstoßen, weil ich in meinem privaten Profil unter einem Spitznamen auftrat und damit Facebook in seinen "Gemeinschaftstandards" tief verletzt habe. So tief, dass sie nichts mehr mit mir zu tun haben wollen. 

Ich fühlte mich fünf Tage lang wie Nordkorea, nur dass ich nicht mit atomarer Aufrüstung sondern mit automatischer Entrüstung und stillem Protest reagierte. Beleidigt und stur schickte ich meinen Ausweis natürlich nicht hin. Ich wollte mich nicht täuschen lassen, von dem falsch-freundlichen Hinweis: "Ni! Deine Freunde wollen wissen wer Du wirklich bist. Nenne uns Deinen echten Namen, dann schalten wir Dein Konto wieder frei."
Mann ey, meine Freunde wissen doch, dass ich das bin! Selbst wenn ich mich auf Facebook Xena, Göttin des Feuers  nennen würde. Vermutlich gerade dann.

Vor einigen Monaten habe ich bereits über den Datenschutz und seine Tücken geschrieben. Darüber, wie gläsern wir alle werden und warum der Satz "Ich habe ja nichts zu verbergen" leider zu kurz greift. Aus diesem Grund biss ich mir jetzt natürlich die Fingernägel kurz. Ich haderte tagelang mit mir selbst und Facebook lies mich am langen Arm verhungern. Facebook vermisste mich überhaupt nicht. Wer mich suchte, mich verlinken oder kontaktieren wollte, fand nur noch einen gelb unterlegten Hinweis "Der Nutzer wird derzeit überprüft". Alarmiert riefen nach zwei Tagen vereinzelt Freunde bei mir an, ob ich vielleicht tot, im Knast oder im besten Falle komisch geworden sei, aber egal wie oft ich versuchte, mich wieder einzuloggen: Es blieb beim gelöschten Account. 

Wäre meine Juramama-Facebookseite nicht zwingend mit meinem persönlichen Profil verlinkt und mir der Zugriff darauf nicht ebenfalls verwehrt geblieben, hätte ich vielleicht einfach wieder weinend Pferdeäpfel gezählt und wäre ein beleidigter Facebookausgestoßener geblieben. 

Aber ich knickte ein. 
Heute morgen.
Vor mich hin schimpfend wie das Faktu-Akut-Männchen aus der Hämorrhoidenwerbung, fotografierte ich meine Krankenkassenkarte mit dem abscheulichen Lichtbild und schickte sie an Facebook. Die Datenkrake hat mich besiegt und ich liege geschlagen auf dem Rücken. Getragen von der Hoffung, dass die biometrischen Daten meines verzerrten Fotos nicht nutzbar sein werden. Ich hoffe, dass ich jetzt nicht in fünf Jahren von Facebook über jede Überwachungskamera automatisch gesichtserkannt werde, wenn ich heimlich Sexspielzeug kaufen will und danach noch in den Baumarkt gehe. Nicht auszudenken, was das mit den Werbebannern auf meinem PC und den Vorschlägen für "Dinge, die mich interessieren könnten" Newsfeeds anstellen könnte.

Wenige Stunden später war mein privates Profil dann tatsächlich wieder da. Wortlos. Kein "Ach Nina, altes Haus. Du bist das! Wie schön, dass Du wieder da bist." oder etwas ähnlich angemessenes.
Wie eine zurückgenommene Ex-Freundin bin ich aber noch immer etwas schmallippig. Ich wollte zwar zurück zu ihm, aber jetzt wo es so weit ist, werde ich mal ein bißchen an den Hausregeln feilen. Ich will wissen, ob Facebook es nun wirklich ernst meint mit mir oder vielleicht nur mein Geld will? Oder meine Jungfräulichkeit? Beides ist nicht vorhanden, warum also diese Klarnamenpflicht? 

Was wissen die über mich und was dürfen sie wissen? 

Ich habe während meiner Wut-Recherchen in den fünf facebookfreien Tagen erfahren, dass Facebook mich durch das ganze Netz verfolgt, wenn ich den "Auf-Facebook-angemeldet-bleiben"-Haken setze oder den Privat-Surfen-Modus meines Browers nicht verwende. Facebook sammelt nicht nur Informationen aus Inhalten, die wir selbst bei Facebook teilen.  Auch aus Seiten, die uns gefallen oder aus Artikeln und Videos, die wir anklicken und sogar aus externen Webseiten, die wir besuchen, wenn wir so durchs fröhlich Netz klickern. Wir werden also von Marc Zuckerberg beschattet. Besuchen wir die Webseite eines Fahrradgeschäftes, speichert Facebook beispielsweise "Radfahren". Haben wir eine Fitness-App auf dem Handy, speichert Facebook "Fitness" oder vielleicht "Diät".

Durch all diese zusammengetragenen Informationen werden wir zu einer definierten Zielperson, die in eine bestimmte Zielgruppe gehört. Diese Zielgruppen möchten Unternehmen gezielt erreichen, deswegen bezahlen sie Facebook dafür, dass sie an diesen Informationen teilhaben dürfen und uns Werbung für ihre Produkte oder Dienstleistungen anbieten können. In unseren Kontoeinstellungen können wir ausstellen, dass uns diese auf uns zugeschnittene Werbung angezeigt wird. Das heißt aber nicht, dass dann auch keine Informationen mehr über uns getrackt und gespeichert werden. Es gibt also kein Entrinnen. Übrigens ist es juristisch wirkungslos auf der eigenen Pinnwand einen Widerspruch oder ähnliches gegen die Facebook AGB zu posten, da diese Widerspuchserklärung mangels Zugang bei Facebook nicht wirksam werden kann.

Die klassische philosophische Frage "Wer bin ich?" oder das älteste Rätsel für Generationen von Männern "Was will die Frau eigentlich?" kann Facebook echt beantworten? 
Im eigenen Profil unter "Einstellungen" kann jeder die über die eigene Person gesammelten Informationen mal anschauen. Ich tat es. Ich war sehr gespannt, was ich so für eine Type bin. 

Tja, was soll ich sagen, ich bin einigermaßen bestürzt.
Ich möchte eigentlich nichts mehr mit mir zu tun haben, wenn das alles stimmt.
Die Pferdemädchen damals hatten absolut Recht, mit mir stimmt was nicht.

Ich firmiere in der Kategorie "Lifestyle und Kultur" beispielsweise unter folgenden Begriffen:
Weihnachten, Weiblichkeit, Ritter, Subkultur, Föderalismus, Meinungsführerschaft und Langeweile. Langeweile! Unter "Lifestyle"? Ich grab mich ein.

Unter "Hobbies" gibt es über mich zu wissen, dass ich gerne kreuzfahre, stricke, Hunde mag und Gartenarbeit. What? Ich beginne sofort systematisch über jede Reling zu kotzen, sobald ich ein Boot betrete. Stricken macht mich aggressiv, Hunde ignorieren seit jeher meine Autorität und ich hab es geschafft, dass der 50 Jahre alte Efeu in unserem Garten komplett eingegangen ist. Efeu ist eine Friedhofspflanze, die überlebt quasi überall. Nur nicht mit meiner Fürsorge.

Die Ausnahme in diesem offenbar schlechtesten Profiler-Programm aller Zeiten bildet die Kategorie "Essen und Trinken". Sie ist sowohl in Reihenfolge als auch Inhalt erstaunlich präzise: Bier. Wein. Schokolade. Kaffee. Hamburger. Gourmet. Wiener Schnitzel und Mett. Offenbar esse ich auch Lamas und Goldfische.

All diese Dinge gibt es über mich zu wissen. Nun auch unter meinem richtigen Namen. Und 80% sind falsch, es bringt also niemandem etwas. Ich finde das doof.

Ist die Klarnamenverpflichtung in Deutschland überhaupt erlaubt?

In den USA, da wo Facebook wohnt, sind bekanntlich Dinge erlaubt, die hier nicht erlaubt sind (mit Schußwaffen spazieren gehen). Es sind dort aber auch Dinge nicht erlaubt, die hier erlaubt sind (Brüste öffentlich zeigen). Die Klarnamenverpflichtung hat aber nicht nur bei uns sondern auch in den USA für heftige Debatten gesorgt. Deutsche Juristen sind überwiegend der Ansicht, dass die Klarnamenverpflichtung von Facebook gegen deutsches Recht verstößt. Bei uns gilt nämlich das Telemediengesetz, das recht klar aber auch pauschal in § 13 TMG sagt:

„Der Diensteanbieter hat die Nutzung von Telemedien und ihre Bezahlung anonym oder unter Pseudonym zu ermöglichen, soweit dies technisch möglich und zumutbar ist. Der Nutzer ist über diese Möglichkeit zu informieren.“

Privatpersonen wie uns nützt das TMG aber nicht viel, wir können daraus keine direkten Recht ableiten. Speziell berufene Personengruppen, wie Datenschutzbeauftragte, dürfen aber aufgrund des TMG zur Tat schreiten und Streit anfangen. Die Schleswig-Holsteiner Datenschützer und jüngst auch der Datenschutzbeauftragte der Stadt Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, haben gehandelt und sind gegen die Klarnamenverpflichtung vorgegangen. Da Facebook eine deutsche Niederlassung hat, die Facebook Germany GmbH in Hamburg nämlich, ist der oberste Datenschützer der Hansestadt hierfür zuständig und auch befugt.  Er hat also 2015 seinen Datenschützerdrucker angeworfen und Facebook eine Verwaltungsanordnung geschickt. Unter Androhung von Bußgeldern von bis zu 50.000 € forderte er "Facebook Deutschland" auf, die Klarnamenforderung zurückzunehmen und betroffene Profile wieder unter den von den Nutzern gewünschten Namen freizugeben. Das Milliardenunternehmen Facebook zählte vermutlich erstmal kurz in der Kaffeekasse nach, ob da vielleicht noch 50.000 € in Münzen rumkullern, entschied sich aber trotzdem, der Anordnung nicht zu folgen und einen Eilantrag zu stellen. Das geht und Facebook bekam auch Recht.

Das Hamburger Verwaltungsgericht hat Facebook den Rücken gestärkt (Beschl. v. 03.03.2016, Az. 15 E 4482/15.) Das deutsche Telemediengesetz erlaubt zwar eine anonyme Nutzung, jedoch sei das deutsche Recht in diesem Fall nicht anwendbar, sondern das irische Recht.

Das europäische Datenschutzrecht und auch das Bundesdatenschutzgesetz sehen vor, dass in Fällen der "Datenverarbeitung" das Recht des Landes anzuwenden ist, in dem die Datenverarbeitung stattfindet, also dort wo die Server stehen. Die EU-Datenschutzrichtlinie nennt das das "Sitzlandprinzip". Die Hamburger Niederlassung kümmert sich, so das Gericht, hauptsächlich um das Marketing, die Datenverarbeitung selbst finde aber in Irland statt, da Facebook seine europäischen Server dort und nicht in Deutschland aufgebaut hat. Aus steuerlichen Gründen.

Schon das OLG Schlewig 2013 und im März 2016 auch das Hamburger VG haben also entschieden, dass quasi die Iren für die Sache zuständig seien. Die Iren werden aber natürlich einen Teufel tun und sich für deutsche Standards stark machen und damit ein solches Unternehmen wie Facebook verprellen. Hier offenbart sich leider die große Tücke des Europarechts. Leider machen die Gerichte hiervon viel zu oft Gebrauch und drücken sich um mutige Entscheidungen. Das Ergebnis ist dann leider oft: Stillstand. Außer Caspar ist nochmal ein wackerer Krieger und legt Beschwerde beim Hamburger Oberverwaltungsgericht ein, die Chancen stehen nicht schlecht.

Die Entscheidung des VG Hamburg über die Klarnamen steht nämlich nicht unbedingt im Einklang mit der Rechtsprechung des Europäischen Gerichtshofes. 

Der hatte im Fall von Suchmaschinen im Jahr 2014 entschieden, dass sehr wohl das jeweilige nationale Recht anwendbar sein könne, selbst wenn die Server in einem anderen EU Land stünden. In Bezug auf Datenschutzrechte und das "Recht auf Vergessenwerden" hatte ein Spanier Google-Spain verklagt, weil ein Eintrag über ihn aus dem Jahre 1998 zwar inhaltlich korrekt, aber veraltet war. Der EuGH überaschte damals sogar die Datenschützer, als es sich im Fall "Google" vom "Sitzlandprinzip" (und damit Irland) verabschiedete und auf das "Marktortprinzip" (Spanien) verwies, mit der Folge, dass sich Google an die Datenschutzrechte des jeweiligen europäischen Landes halten muss, in dem es eine Niederlassung hat. Das Urteil des EuGH hatte zur Folge, dass Internetnutzer nun Anträge auf Löschung von Einträgen bei Google stellen können. Über 1,2 Millionen Links wurden seit dem Urteil bereits gelöscht.

Nicht mehr Ni Espunkt?
Nun, uns nützt das momentan nicht viel. Ich heiße jetzt wie ich wirklich heiße und Facebook behauptet zahlenden Werbetreibenden gegenüber, ich würde Goldfische essen und dabei stricken und auf meinen englischen Rasen blicken.

Ob ich für Facebook bezahlen würde, damit ich es nutzen darf und dafür auf Tracking verzichten würde? Ja, ich glaube, das würde ich vielleicht sogar tun. Kostenpflichtige Plattformen wie Xing gibt der Erfolg Recht. Ob wir mit der Klarnamenpflicht Terroristen aufspüren oder Hetzer leichter dingfest machen können? Kann sein, aber solange blanke Busen stillender Mütter auf Facebook gesperrt werden und rechtradikale Hetze unter Meinungsäußerung fallen, mag ich das Argument nicht so recht gelten lassen.

Daxaio Productions/Shutterstock
Ich grill mir jetzt erstmal ganz in Ruhe ein Lama und dann versuche ich vor lauter Langeweile die Weltherrschaft an mich zu reißen.

Ich freue mich übrigens über Eure Ergebnisse von "Wer bin ich". Wessen Lifestyle ebenfalls von so spannenden Themen wie "Langeweile" oder "Föderalismus" geprägt ist, möge sich bitte auf meiner Terrasse einfinden. Es gibt Bier.


Hier eine Linkleiste, wer jetzt sein Facebookprofil mal überarbeiten möchte:
-Wer bin ich? Hier überprüft ihr, wer ihr seid.
- Datenschutzeinstellungen auf Facebook überprüfen
- Das "Recht auf Vergessenwerden" bei Google, die Pressemitteilung des EuGH
- Der Antrag bei Google

          Obama visita templo durante férias de família na Indonésia   

Ex-presidente dos EUA viveu no país durante quatro anos quando sua mãe se casou com um indonésio. Escola onde ele estudou tem estátua representando 'little Barry', como era chamado por seus colegas de infância.
          e3 2012 - sigh   

This year, e3 leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps even a little dirty.

We've seen the young Lara Croft get tied up, bludgeoned, stabbed, molested and shot at whilst we stare at her lovingly blood-stained skin and listen to pants and groans that would sound just at home in the moment of orgasmic climax as they do in moments of terror.

We've seen Sam Fisher embark on a mission that seems to have been designed during the collective wet dream of the US army's propaganda department. We're asked to delight as he takes on the role of what might as well be an Obama sanctioned one-man-kill-squad, making the "hard choice" and brutally murdering lots and lots of Arabs in order to save America and the whole world.

We've seen Quantic Dream (a studio that since Heavy Rain I've been counting on as a breath of fresh air amongst the sewage smell of extreme-violence-for-fun) take a loving step back towards the absurdities of Indigo Prophecy instead. For the sin of my hope, they've given us a (wait for it) young girl with psychic powers on the run from the police. From gameplay footage, "Beyond" consists of the ability to knock over coffee with your mind, along with what promises to be an endless chain of "dramatic" chase sequences that have become the aspiration of every major studio under the sun since Naughty Dog wrote "you've got to be kidding me". Helicopters crash from the sky, buildings collapse around us, everything explodes, we jump over chasms, and all the while we could be playing Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Beyond, Call of Duty, or watching 2012 for all it matters.

But wait! Could this be something different - for a moment, the announcement that the new Star Wars game would be "gritty and mature" was promising... until the gameplay happened and "you've got to be kidding me" was actually the first thing I thought - without a trace of irony. Uncharted-in-space sounds more exciting to write than this was to watch. No matter how incredible the graphics were. Perhaps when a games developer uses the word "mature", it means "appeals to adolescents who like blowing stuff up" instead of "fully developed and complex".

Even the kings of over-the-top chase sequences, Naughty Dog, left a sour taste in my mouth with a franchise that initially promised to be different. As beautifully designed and paced, as absorbing to watch as it was, The Last of Us presents us with a man who, uncannily like Nate, has to kill streams of inexplicably violent men intent on killing you for no obvious reason at all. So, shoot (or stab brutally in the neck, or burn to death) first, and never ask questions later at all.

And if we're bored of killing the living, we can kill them again, after they're already dead. Zombies don't count because they're not even people. Even Nintendo are headlining a Zombie game (although that at least looks like it might be a welcome return to the low-key tension and genuine scares of survival horror as opposed to shooty-shooty-action-explosion-chase-scene-this-isn't-really-horror-at-all-horror).

And thinking of Nintendo last, it was perhaps most sad to watch Reggie, stilted purveyor of wholesome family entertainment, get even more awkward than he usually is, "talking" to a sexed up Harley Quinn in a desperate bid to attract the swarms of big-budget-game players that have been dubbed "hardcore gamers" (and depressingly seem to account for most of the console market). Hardcore used to mean a love of complex stats and a penchant for grinding. Now it seems to just mean a love of guns with chainsaws attached.

In short, the message from e3, resounding from every manufacturer in horrible, unbroken unison is this:

Just switch your mind off, stare with a fixed expression at any and every screen you have (if that's more than one screen at the same time, then all the better), squeeze the universally standard trigger-buttons so handily provided, and pay us for it.

Thank god Matt Stone and Trey Parker were there to take the piss out of us all for it, if only for 30 seconds, because the sad thing is that these are all beautifully designed and produced games that have taken huge teams of artists, writers and engineers years to produce. They're probably stunningly put together and really fun to play, and I'll probably play a bunch of them and enjoy them quite a bit.

But I wish there were something different to choose instead, because I can think of so much I'd rather be experiencing through one of the most exciting and engaging storytelling media out there. I'm willing to bet that not a one of them will do for me what Journey did last year, and move me to tears because I felt like I'd lived the struggles of an entire lifetime in a few hours - or do what Heavy Rain did and actually make me feel horror and remorse the one time a gun is fired - or sit me on the couch with James Sunderland as the meaning of everything he has seen and done dawns slowly - or do anything at all but "entertain" me by allowing me to narrowly escape implausibly contrived death over and over again whilst murdering hundreds of people.

Lets hope the last day of the show proves me wrong. I seem to remember Journey being announced on the last day of the show last year.

The Libyan leader Muamar Gadafi is the owner of half the land in Pujerra and a third of that in Júzcar in the Serranía de Ronda. This has been confirmed by the mayors of both municipalities, Francisco Macías and David Fernández respectively. They say they have no information on the companies involved.

A finca of 7,200 hectares is owned by the Libyan State. In the deeds appear the names of the Libyan Foreign Bank - the Banco Exterior Libio and extends over five municipalities: Benahavís, Estepona, Igualeja, Júzcar and Pujerra.

It is in the latter two municipalities that the Libyan ownership has not been known by the residents or that Gadafi has owned much of their land for many years. Initially these lands were owned by the Unión Resinera Español and later purchased by the Libyan bank.

In the case of Pujerra Gadafi owns some 1,000 hectares although the mayor believes it could be higher as nobody is any too sure who owns what. As the land mass of Pujerra is 2,400 hectares Macias observes the Libyan leader could have around half. The holding runs from La Venta de Tía to Los Baños de la Corcha on the boundary with Benahavís.

Macias says that some years ago directors of the Libyan bank arrived in the village to talk about building 400 luxury homes in the municipality “but they disappeared and since then we have not heard from them.”

A similar situation exists in Júzcar where Libya has acquired 1,384 of the 3,400 hectares in the municipality. Mayor David Fernández says he has been in office for four years and never during that time has there been any contact with the owners. Again the finca runs from La Resinera to the boundary with Benahavís.

In both cases the land acquired by the Libyan bank is principally pine forest and mountainous. At the start of the year a 60 kms long wire fence was placed around the land. However both mayors say the land is used for hunting.

Curiously around seven years ago some land owners in the area were approached by foreign investors who wanted to buy their lands with chestnut plantations for sums far above the market value. All turned the offers down as the lands have been passed from father to sons over generations and the chestnut crop is one of the main sources of income for families in the area.

I have written about Gadafi’s land holding in Benahavís before – the inland municipality where Michelle Obama and her daughter holidayed last summer. I have also highlighted the fact that the Libyan dictator has numerous other investments in Spain including a petroleum company with numerous forecourts and banks.

That oil rich Gadafi and his family should have investments in Spain is hardly surprising. They have them in the USA and throughout Europe. What is a surprise is that the Spanish Government has seemingly done nothing to impound or embargo them.
          Great Job, Internet!: Gloriously dumb video has Obama dunking on Trump, rapping Drake’s “Back To Back”   

The NBA2K series specializes in wish fulfillment. Its create-a-player mode allows you to watch somebody who looks like you turn into the most statistically astonishing player the game has ever seen. There’s been a model for former President Barack Obama in NBA2K for years, thanks to a cut scene that had your create-a-player meeting him after winning the championship. So it was only a matter of time before someone put together a video of our jump-shooter-in-chief dunking all over our current, meatloaf-loving schlub of a president, who actually does not believe in exercise. Please enjoy a video of the ensuing chaos, but mostly, please enjoy the creator’s remarkable impression of Obama rapping a full cover of Drake’s “Back To Back”:

While the video itself is impressive, and probably a fair prediction of what a game of hoops would be like between presidents 44 and 45, the corny ...

          Mattis Consults NATO on Afghan Strategy   
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Brussels, where he will consult with NATO allies on troop contributions and other support for Afghanistan, before announcing his own policy plan for the war-torn country. The Pentagon has promised a new Afghanistan plan by mid-July, and Michael O’Hanlon, a senior defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, expects the new plan will not be a “repeal and replace” strategy, but rather a reformation of the Obama administration’s plan. “Mattis and...
          Moscow Prepares Retaliation for US Seizure of Russian Diplomatic Compounds   
Moscow is preparing retaliatory measures to Washington's decision to seize two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States in 2016, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday. In December, the U.S. seized two Russian diplomatic compounds as then-President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking to interfere in the U.S. presidential election campaign. Moscow, which denies such allegations, did not...
          "Just enjoy your freedom"   

(Marines honor guard with casket of Pfc. Washalanta, photo by D. McDaniel, Oklahoman)

A civilian saw a soldier at the airport. Filled with gratitude, the civvy asked, “What can I do for you?” The soldier replied, “just enjoy your freedom.”

If one thinks too long about it, the weight of grief on a day like today can be overwhelming. Too many wars, too many families, too many empty chairs around the table.

From the President at Arlington Memorial Cemetery this Memorial Day:

Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God…

What is thing, this sense of duty? What tugs at a person until he or she says "Send me"? Why, in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of the narrowest self-interest, have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others? Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?

Wisely, our poet-President declined to answer those ultimate questions. They are too lofty for us. More from President Obama...

Whatever it is, they felt some tug; they answered a call; they said "I'll go." That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform -- their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.

Wisely, he acknowledged that we are not all the same. We are different - those who accept the call and those who do not.

The text of the President’s speech here.

It is important to honor the fallen by remembering them and their sacrifice. For this citizen, the freedom they defend is more than some misty, sentimental ideal. The freedom I enjoy is manifest daily in freedom of speech and faith, movement, self-defense, due process, and opportunity. You know, the Constitution. Still worth fighting for.

          La Habana tendrá una réplica de la estatua de José Martí situada en Nueva York   

La Prensa

La Habana, Nueva York.

La estatua ecuestre del prócer cubano José Martí que se encuentra desde 1950 en el Central Park de Nueva York, obra de la escultora estadounidense Anna Hyatt Huntington, tendrá una réplica a partir de septiembre en el casco histórico de La Habana, informaron hoy medios estatales de la isla.

Se trata de una escultura en bronce de 5,6 metros de altura que inmortaliza a Martí sobre su caballo en el momento en que cae herido de muerte durante la batalla independentista de Dos Ríos (1895), y que fue un regalo del pueblo de Cuba al pueblo de Estados Unidos decidido por el entonces Gobierno republicano del país caribeño.

El emplazamiento elegido para la reproducción de la obra es un "gran jardín" en el Parque 13 de Marzo, en La Habana Vieja, dijo al diario Juventud Rebelde la directora de Comunicación de la Oficina del Historiador de La Habana (OHCH), Magda Resik.

La iniciativa ha sido durante más de una década un empeño del propio historiador de la ciudad, Eusebio Leal.

"Nuestro país regaló esa escultura a Estados Unidos, y una reproducción en estos momentos históricos significa extender las manos al pueblo de EE.


y desde el pueblo de EE.


, para favorecer un abrazo solidario entre pueblos", ha afirmado Leal sobre el proyecto.

"El proceso" de Kafka vuelve a Berlín donde empezó la historia de la obraCuba y EE.


-bajo la Administración de Barack Obama- reanudaron sus relaciones en diciembre de 2014 y reabrieron embajadas en 2015 tras más de medio siglo de enemistad, aunque el nuevo presidente del país norteamericano, Donald Trump, anunció este mes varias medidas que suponen un retroceso en el "deshielo" bilateral.

La escultura fue fundida en Filadelfia (EE.


) y será colocada en La Habana en la primera quincena de septiembre, "de cara al mar, al puerto de La Habana, y mirando a la nación que (José Martí) conoció como pocos", aseveró el historiador de la capital cubana.

La base de la estatua, un pedestal de granito, también es una fiel reproducción de la que se erige en Nueva York, y su dedicatoria, según Eusebio Leal, rezará: "Del pueblo de Estados Unidos al pueblo de Cuba, englobando en el concepto de pueblo estadounidense no solo a sus ciudadanos, sino también a los cubanos patriotas que allí fijaron su residencia".

Resik recordó que la escultura original, que fue la última gran estatua ecuestre concebida por Anna Hyatt a los 82 años, comparte una plazuela en el área sur de Central Park con los monumentos consagrados a los héroes independentistas americanos Simón Bolívar y José de San Martín, en el inicio de la Avenida de las Américas".

Se supone que ese célebre espacio verde neoyorquino fue muy frecuentado por Martí durante la época en que residió en la ciudad estadounidense, entre 1880 y 1895.

La Habana cuenta con otras obras de Hyatt Huntington como "El relevo", en las cercanías de la Plaza de la Revolución, o el conjunto escultórico "Los portadores de la antorcha".

          Let's Pretend: A Civil Health Care Discussion   

I should probably accept that corporate and deeply entrenched political interests would not allow a comprehensive health care system to gain traction in the United States. Yet I can’t let go. One of the things that hurt me deeply is the lack of civil public discourse. It could have been different. Come with me to the set of the imaginary Vixen News Network as Becky Glenne shows us how it could have been possible for pundits to peacefully share differing opinions on health care reform.
Stethoscope on Indian banknotes of different denominations

Becky Glenne/VNN: Thank you H.C. Andersen for that follow-up report on the tragic situation the nation has come to know as “The Little Match Stick Girl.” Her identity is still unknown at this time. I have been joined by a panel of bloggers who have strong opinions and, at times, the facts to back them up.

Each of the panelists has been given the question “How does the death of The Little Match Stick Girl relate to the health care debate in the United States?" The order of the panelists has been selected by random draw to prevent accusations of favoritism.

VNN: Fulvia Tiberius, how does this tragic incident relate to the health care debate?

Fulvia: Well, Becky, as far as I can see it has nothing to do with it. It does speak to a higher natural law of survival of the fittest. It is indeed a shame a life has been lost, but I nor should anyone else feel that they have a so-called moral obligation to help, aid or assist another human being unless it is in that specific person’s vested interest to do so.

I reject the intervention of the government into private matters. I oppose the use of any federal state or local taxes to help or prolong the existence of vulnerable or unproductive members of the society. Let the market and environmental forces regulate the health care needs and wishes of the nation. Allow the forces of nature to adjust the population accordingly.

VNN: Germana Servius, your response to the relationship between The Little Match Stick Girl and health care reform, please.

Germana: When compassion is measured in dollars and cents terms, I am deeply saddened. It is not that we are incapable of designing a fair and equitable heath care system, it is that we are profoundly selfish and unwilling to provide the quality of services that members of Congress have currently enjoyed for years. I believe that no child or adult for that matter should be denied affordable health care.

If we seriously looked at waste and fraud within the federal budget, we could have the kind of coverage we could be proud to have as citizens. Stopping an illegal war would go a long way to providing health care funding.

VNN: I wish to remind the panel that the subject is health care, and to the extent possible please confine your responses to that topic. The next name to be drawn is Sabina Aculeo.

Sabina: Socialism! The victim mentality will destroy the nation. Give me my country back!

VNN: That is it? That is your entire response?

Sabina: Yes.

VNN: Moving on, up next is Claudia Laterensis.

Claudia: Glad to be here, Becky. Look,  there is a finite amount of money. We as a nation cannot fund every well meaning but financially unrealistic desire each citizen might want to have in terms of governmental services. Just as in our personal lives, we have to be fiscally prudent in our national spending.

However, there does need to be some form of a health support system. It would be unrealistic and in fact dangerous not to have a base level of health care resources as the incident with The Little Match Stick Girl illustrates.

Is this the time to implement a full-scale health delivery system? I don’t think so, but it might be a time of public/private option that does not require the full engagement of government support.

VNN: Finally we have Marcella Plauta to give her response to the topic.

Marcella: Thank you, Becky. It is the gift of passion and concern that has engaged the nation in this debate. Quite honestly, it has been a challenge to hear authentic and not politicized voices. I want no less than what the majority of industrialized nations have, an equable and accessible health care system.

It does not make me disloyal to my country to want to be able to obtain health treatment without losing my home, my stability or my piece of mind. It should not be a reflection of my character if I believe the interference for profit of the health insurance companies is not the best way to administer health treatment in this country.

I am profoundly disappointed that Congress and both political parties could not create a cohesive workable solution for the nation. There is only one approach at this time; a single-payer plan that does not involve the health insurance industry. This will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.

And so another dream of an engaged population rising above partisanship is once again deferred. Perhaps the next time.

Blogs to Consider If You Are Looking for Alternate Views:


Liberal/Progressive Blogs on Health Care


Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

          Why Black History Month Still Matters   

The stories that a nation tells about its history provide a foundation for building community, creating institutions and transmitting values. For a pluralistic democracy such as the United States, the work that historians call "constructing a usable past" is vital to the task of building a future. That's why it's imperative that people who want that future to be built on principles of inclusion, mutual respect and genuinely equal opportunity should understand and embrace commemorations such as Black History Month.

Let me start with a disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that founded what is now known as Black History Month. I receive no compensation for that position; I do it to repay a debt to educators and scholars whose work was essential to my survival and development. The views presented here are strictly my own, and do not represent the opinions of ASALH.

The learning opportunities afforded by Black History Month (and other related celebrations devoted to the history of other groups who have been traditionally under-represented or misrepresented in social studies curricula) offer the following benefits:

  • They can help children of African descent form a positive self-concept and a critical perspective on the negative propaganda about blackness that continues to encourage self-sabotaging behavior among black youth.
  • They can promote informed conversation about "race" because the historical formation of the concept of "blackness" is linked to the process by which "whiteness" was constructed. As Judy Helfand explains: "Whiteness is defined by determining who is not white; it is defined as the superior opposite of non-white."
  • They offer insight and context for contemporary policy debates, such as the furor over former Rep. Tom Tancredo's recent claim that President Obama was elected because we lack a "civics literacy test" as a qualification for voting.
  • The 2010 Black History Month theme, the History of Black Empowerment, is relevant to contemporary efforts to achieve genuine economic recovery

A Personal Journey

When i was growing up in black working-class neighborhoods in Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I did not see people who looked like me doing the kinds of things I liked Wikimedia portrait of Sarah Vaughanto do: reading books, taking Saturday morning science classes, collecting rocks, writing poems. One day in elementary school, though, I found ASALH's Encyclopedia of Negro History on a bookcase at the Friends' Neighborhood Guild. I can still remember the delicious shock of poring over profiles of black inventors, scholars and artists.

I did not know then what I know now, that Carter G. Woodson, a child of slaves who became the second African American to earn a doctorate in history at Harvard, founded ASALH in 1915 to redress the "mis-education of the Negro" (a term that became the title of his most famous book. In addition to the encyclopedia that held me in thrall, Woodson founded two

journals that are still publishing: the Journal of African American History, found today in many university libraries, and the Black History Bulletin, targeted to middle and secondary-school teachers. 

When I flipped through Woodson's encyclopedia, I remember, especially, being transfixed by a glamorous portrait of singer Sarah Vaughan, (pictured above, left). She had skin like mine, a nose like mine and hair like mine, and she was beautiful and successful. This was heady stuff in 1966, and it opened a crack in my very limited view of what a black woman could become. (It was only later, upon further study, that I learned how colorism had kept her from appreciating her dark chocolate skin, and that her success was circumscribed by patriarchy.)

In high school, I learned of WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson, further confirming my growing belief in the power of principled scholarship and culture work. However, I was nearly 40 by the time I discovered Jessie Fauset, who had come from my home town, gone to my high school, and become the magazine editor who first published Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and many of the other writers we now associate with the Harlem Renaissance. Despite my educational privilege I was 20 years out of journalism school before Patricia Hill Collins and David Mindich helped me understand why Ida B. Wells' exposure of Southern lynching and northern complicity had been ignored by my undergraduate history and politics professors and my graduate school journalism teachers. 

Today, when I teach my occasional class on WEB DuBois, or Race, Gender and the News, I still meet students who tell me that they've never encountered most of the American history we are studying. Others told me that while they may know some names, dates and places, they haven't been taught to think systematically about how African American or multicultural history helps to shape the nation in which they live today, regardless of their own racial or ethnic identification. A more comprehensive understanding of African American history would, I submit, substantially improve our civic discourse.

Robin Roberts Reads To Children For Black History Month

In other words, I agree with the Rev. Irene Monroe who rejected arguments against Black History Month by contending, "In order to move forward, you must look back."


Backlash and Confusion


In making this argument, let me acknowledge the anger and confusion that some people have around the rituals popularly associated with Black History Month. Womanist-Musings, for example, has been a vocal progressive critic of the way that corporations that market unhealthy products or engage in problematic labor practices use Black History Month as a marketing opportunity:

"Why should black history month be any different than any other public celebration?  That's right, commodify the shit out of it and then pretend that we seriously value it.  We certainly shouldn't be taking the time to educate children about the struggles of their ancestors through conversation, or even visit sites that are important in African Diaspora history, when we can conveniently purchase something to prove that we are culturally aware."

(A side note here - the history of the kind of cause-related marketing she's criticizing is an interesting African American history moment in and of itself. Moss Kendrix is credited with convincing corporations such as Coca-Cola to market products to black and urban markets in the 1950s and 60s. Many viewed his efforts as a step forward, because it gave black media and ad agencies access to advertising and promotional dollars that had been unavailable before. Many also also saw it as a way to break down stereotypes. When I was in corporate PR in the 1980s, I still read accounts of corporate advertisers being admonished that black consumers don't just buy cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars. As late as 2004, broadcasting personality Tom Joyner found it necessary to campaign against a major media buying organization that labeled urban radio stations ad being full of "suspects, not prospects.")

Mural with Carter G. Woodson quote

(media credit: DB King, Flickr)

Let's also dispense with the kind of faux controversy that the musician Questlove set off when he posted a picture of the soul food menu in the NBC cafeteria. He later said he posted the picture because he thought the sign was funny, but a national discussion ensued over whether a racial offense had been committed. What's really unfortunate about the incident is that this non-story dominates the Google Blogsearch results for the term "Black History Month" when there are many substantive issues to consider.


Tom Tancredo's Toxic Brew

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) stirred up some of those issues this past weekend with his speech at the Tea Party convention. His speech was a call to arms against what he claimed was a decades-long drift toward socialism accelerated by President Obama:

"It seemed as though we were doomed to experience the political equivalent of the proverbial frog in the water syndrome. Every year, the liberal Democrats and RINO Republicans turned the temp up ever so slightly till it seemed we would all be boiled to death in the cauldron of the nanny state. "And then, because we don’t have a civics literacy test to vote, people who couldn’t even spell vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House named Barack Hussein Obama. He immediately turned up the heat under that cauldron so high and so quick that people started jumping out of the water all over the place."

After critics, such as Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, lambasted Tancredo for endorsing a practice that was historically used to keep African Americans from voting, Tancredo issued a statement denying any racist intent to his proposal.

Pro-democracy protest for Iran in Washington
However, as a former social studies teacher who launched his political career in 1975 when his school district introduced bilingual education, there's little doubt that he understood the incendiary history associated with these kinds of tests.


In 2004, my former student Scott Hoover created an interactive version of the Alabama literacy test that you can try out for yourself. I'm pleased to report, by the way, that Scott's work is going to be turned into an exhibit at the new International Civil Rights Museum, which opened Feb. 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina, on the site where the sit-in movement began exactly 50 years before.

I don't know what Tancredo thinks of educational projects such as Scott's or the International Civil RIghts Museum, but he's an avowed opponent of what calls the "cult of multiculturalism," a phrase he credits to blogger Michelle Malkin in one of his audio commentaries. In that commentary, he describes a purported "civil war" being waged by left-wingers intent on presenting American history in the worst possible light. He further mused on this theme in a radio interview last December, where he acknowledged the hardships endured by Native Americans and African Americans but asked:

"Now the question that we have to ask ourselves and certainly African Americans have to ask themselves is: Are they better off as a result of the fact that they came under any conditions? And it does not mean for a second–let me reiterate– it does not for a second mean that slavery was a good thing, that we should be happy about it. It is a black mark on our society and all societies that have had it since the beginning of time. Or recorded time… It doesn’t mean it is good. Is someone better off today in the United States of America as a result that they came under–or are Native Americans better off as a result that people came here from the West and created the society that we have here? Or would they have been better off if that had not happened?"


Tancredo is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but his claims about American history reflect a larger movement by some conservative academics and activists to discredit, and in some cases distort, multiculturalist scholarship. His efforts strike me as similar to those members of the Texas State Board of Education who want to revise that state's social studies standards to downplay such topics and civil rights in favor of greater emphasis on teaching about conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly.

The bottom line is that the discussion of the proper way to understand and teach American history, including the experience of African Americans, is part of the debate over the core values that will guide public policy in this country. Becoming acquainted with the credible, peer-reviewed scholarship in the field is one great way to prepare for the debate that may be coming to your school district sooner than you think.


Sarah Vaughan portrait from Wikimedia Commons

ASALH posters from ASALH

Robin Roberts and Tom Tancredo images from Picapp.com

BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|

          igra istine   
nikad nisam mrgudA lol osim ako moram da provedem neko vrijeme sa licemjernim osobama evil

A i na volim Mrguda, ja volEm drugog strumpfa Tongue

Bi li plata danas? lol

          STEM Education - The Power of the Investment   

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is getting a lot of attention from the White House and from private industry. As a non-parent, I really do have a stake STEM education. On the surface it seems like a good idea to invest $250 million dollars, since most of it is coming from Intel. Why should I care? The most basic reason? My own safety and survival.

I have seen the eradication of entry level employment. I look at industrial employment and it is a fraction of what it was 40 years ago. We can't run an economy on just service jobs or service entrepreneurs. Even contemporary vocational education is caught between providing a necessary skilled workforce and lack of resources to train those students interested in paraprofessional training.

There are increasing groups of young people who have never held a job or had access to employment. I also know that those same young people face increasing competition from middle age and older folks who have no choice but to continue working because there are no retirement funds available for their future.

I don’t want to do the doom and gloom scenario. We have had enough of that. But first, I need to tell you a memory.

Long Ago A Teacher Tried To Tell Me...

School did one of two things to me; either bored me or made me feel incompetent. On the first day of junior high I came prepared. I had comic books, magazines and a newspaper for backup. You see, after six years of public school education I was resigned in my 7th grade to the idea that school was a major waste of my time. I was better served by day dreaming and catching up on the essential information that 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat provided.

I visualized my strategy. I had competition for the back row so I had to bust a move to make sure I got my seat. The back row in a crowded class was the perfect place to study the graphic artistry of Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.

The one thing I did not count on was my science teacher, Mr. Halverson. For one thing, he wasn’t old or crusty. No matter. I wasn’t going to let youth and good looks get between me and Dr. Doom snatching Sue Storm. I was studying page 3 when I sensed something was wrong.

The room was too quiet. People were paying attention. The class clown was silent. The Princess, whose nails must be inspected every fifteen minutes, was looking like she might be interested in something other than herself. Even the tough guys were checking him out; their Jeff caps were actually above their eyes.

This was not normal. I came up for air long enough to hear Mr. Halverson talking about expectations. What he wanted from us. What he was prepared to do to show that science was more than just a bunch of facts. That man was giving the pitch any sales man would have been proud to deliver except that he was selling access to knowledge.

I looked around. There were 34 other students in the room. I was the last skeptic. I held out for another five minutes and somehow, he made me believe.

Mr. Halverson was a good as his word. There were no new science books so he photocopied our current science reading material. He didn’t use the old-timey 1950 science slide strips or movies. We generally started class with the daily science news and how we were involved or where this was going. A lot of what he provided came out of his paycheck or his imagination.

There were no prepackaged science lab kits or a list of experiments to perform. We made our science projects with whatever we had around the house. I am proud to say that a project of mine caught on fire. Or did it blow up? Anyway it was unintentional. He made me feel good about the importance of failure.

We learned many lessons but being prepared for what life brought you, even if unexpected, that was ultimately his biggest lesson.

Did we turn into perfect students? No. There was a constant effort made to get him off track just to hear him talk about the future. He was on to us fairly quick and suckered us back to the lesson of the day. We worked it out. I can’t remember anyone voluntarily cutting his class. And yes, he did have to kick us out at the end of the period.

The Big Pay Back

I needed to tell you this memory because what Mr. Halverson brought into the classroom, besides his enthusiasm and actual regard for his students, was that he paid for what little extra we had in class. Many teachers, past and present, make this kind of investment for their students. I know many teachers do this because they don’t want to hear the crap about not in the budget or it is not going to be appreciated.

I think that Mr. Halverson would want to remind his former students that he was serious about preparing for the future. He would tell the administrator that teachers shouldn’t have to subsidize classroom education (or parents either). I think he and I would be asking with a calculator in hand where exactly did all that money go and who is spending it?

Well, he knows I’d ask. Some things and people just don’t change.

I think he would want to know that the focus would be on the needs of the students first and everything else is structured in service of the student’s education. We never talked about that, but I don’t think he would object too much. It is what I observed from him and it worked so yeah, I’ll bring that forward on his behalf.

Moving Forward, Again.

Over the next year it will be important to keep an eye on the many STEM initiatives and funding. My skeptical side feels like there is a gold rush warming up. That is not necessarily a good or bad thing.

What is important is that education will change. It has to because an educated, inventive work force is one of the means any country stays competitive in a global market. Intel, Cisco Systems and other industry contributors know this and that is part of the reason they are forking up cash money and their talent to make this happen.

Ok, it is good for their future business too. Let me put it another way. Ask India and China if their investments in education are paying off. Where are your computer or credit card customer support calls going? When you buy apple juice is it made in Oregon, Brazil or China? Last week I discovered my apple juice came from China.

It isn’t like there isn’t a world of things to create, repair and restore. Besides movies and music what else can we bring to the world? It is not impossible but we do have to get started.

Different Voices About STEM

There are dozens of stakeholders who have or are making an investment in technology education.

The Project Tomorrow - Speak Up is one of those places where students, parents and teachers have really good ideas on what a contemporary school needs. You can view a video of high school students sharing what they feel would be helpful in a school situation. Stories From School has a great post on the reality of implementing a requirement that might increase the drop out rate. The Learning Out Loud blog does have a questions about the STEM focus.

The Public Broadcasting System is working to provide a variety of STEM projects. One of the ways they are involved is through the program SciGirls. The show is targeted to girls aged 11-14. There is also the STEM Resource Center for Teachers and, I would assume, home schooling parents to show how their current programming can be adapted for additional educational resources.

On the academic side, many institutions are presenting themselves as portals to STEM education. Mary Bart of Faculty Focus takes a look at African American, Native American and Hispanic colleges and universities to see how they are implementing STEM instruction as well as honoring their chartered educational missions. Teachers.TV and Classroom 2.0 look at the ways that collaborative learning among teachers and education professional can be supported and resources obtained both within and outside of the traditional structures.

The new tools and resources don’t always cost an arm and a leg. At eLearn Tools for STEM take a look at some of the resources that could be put into place such as equation writers, videos and screen recorders.

Cisco Systems is the main supporter of GetIdeas.org a conversation with educational leaders talking about leadership, mission and global education. GetSchooled is funded by Viacom and supported by a number of other corporations. The goal is to find ways to reduce the drop out rate.

I hope that I and my classmates have paid the investment forward or at least try too. It is never too late and around here all voices are welcomed.

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

          Bill to make more California workers eligible for overtime pay passes Senate committee   
The bill aims to revive an Obama administration promise to raise the overtime eligibility cap, which was blocked late last year.

          Health Insurance Expansion Linked to Fewer Sudden Cardiac Arrests   
Newswise imageThe incidence of sudden cardiac arrest, a sudden and usually deadly loss of heart function, declined significantly among previously uninsured adults who acquired health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
          Comment on Utah lawsuits to test president’s power to shrink monuments by comments   
The corrupt garbage president's plan to put into effect a health plan far worse than Obamacare and make the rich richer got smacked down hard, even by republicans. How do you ignorant wingnutter clowns feel about that?
          Comment on Brian Head fire increases entering Panguitch City’s watershed by Brian   
This fire and the decisions that lead to it are such a good analogy for the ruin that comes out of many liberal policies (see Detroit, Baltimore, etc as examples). Conservative locals have known this day was coming for 15 years because its the natural, predictable consequence of shutting down all logging and not spraying for bark beetles. Yes, it's "natures way", but so are pandemics and serious disease. Should we stop medications and vaccines since they interfere with natural cycles? Similarly, its no surprise that it was during the over-regulating "capitalism is evil" obama era that more businesses went under than were created for the first time on record. Just like its no surprise that Seattle is finding that raising the minimum wage so high, so quick is killing jobs. Just like its no surprise that getting government involved in healthcare has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Just like its no surprise that the government getting involved in student loans caused a massive and continuing spike in tuition costs and debt. Just like its no surprise that the government changing to buy any and all mortgages caused a massive bubble leading to the 2007 crash. It is worth noting that some of these examples fell under "republican" "leadership" (I used that word VERY loosely), but the actions in question were done by progressives, with conservatives screaming at the top of their lungs against it (which led to the creation of the tea party). The next big fire and smoking ruin may very well be our economy... I guess we should get used to it.
          Generosity: A Product of an Innovation Economy, not an Efficiency Economy   
we've been talking a lot about Generous Brands here at fallon, and a point i've been making about why clients need to embrace Generosity is that this country is moving beyond a business climate driven by supply-side thinking focused on maximizing efficiencies, and into a business climate driven by demand-side thinking focused on innovation, ideas, and offering new forms of value to customers. supply-side brands create communications that serve their own needs, but demand-side brands create communications that serve customers' needs... in other words, they create communications that are Generous.

traditional business consultants like McKinsey are going to be less valuable in the future (a business can only get so lean), and new model innovation consultancies like IDEO are going to be more and more valuable (businesses will always need to create new value for their customers). agencies can learn a lot from the processes and the kind of work these innovation consultancies emphasize as we continue to redefine our role in the future. having worked alongside a couple of these companies, i can say that what they do is a whole lot like what we do, but they're probably packaging and merchandising themselves better than we are (for proof, check out how many times IDEO has been profiled in BusinessWeek over the past few years).

this short businessweek post by design columnist bruce nussbaum makes this point pretty well, using some of obama's initial actions to illustrate. thanks to alyson for pointing me to it.

          New York Times' Interactive Graphs   
On the day Barack Obama was elected President, the New York Times introduced an interactive poll they called the “Word Train.” It asked one simple question: What one word describes your current state of mind? Readers could enter an adjective or select from a menu of options. They could specify whether they supported McCain or Obama. The results appeared in six rows of adjectives, scrolling left to right, coded red or blue, and descending in font size. The larger the word, the more people felt that way. Throughout the entire day a river of emotions flowed through the chart. You could click from Obama to McCain and watch the letters shift gradually from blue to red, the mood change from energized, proud, and overwhelmed to horrified, ambivalent, disgusted, and numb.


Recently, the New York Times created another interactive feature that harvested all Twitter chatter surrounding the Super Bowl. By pressing play on this graph, the reader is able to watch the location and frequency of commonly used words during the Super Bowl. In all, there are six different categories to choose from including, “Talking about Ads.”


These features have proven to pull readers closer through comments and interactivity, rendering the relationship between reporter and audience more intimate, immediate, and exposed. Of the massive 20 million unique visitors per month compared with the daily print edition’s readership of 2.8 million, the readers are flocking to these interactive features. As Jonathan Landman, deputy managing editor puts it, “We’re trying very hard to protect it [the interactive features], because that’s where the action is.”

For an advertising or marketing agency the implications for these interactive maps/graphs are big. The ability to get real-time answers about our products or services has existed for sometime now; think twitter, online forums, live chat…but not in this way. These interactive graphs create an entertainment value and coolness factor for the user while generating a visually appealing way to aggregate all their messages, emotions, or displeasure's about a brand, product, or service and communicate it back to the client in a simple way.

Here are links to some others:


And the link to the article about the people who create these graphs:

          Iskreno (i neiskreno) sta mislite o osobi iznad   
Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeento, što te volEEEEEEEEEEEEEEm

Ma nema mišljene o osobama koje volem, tuJ sam nemoćna lol
          Sen. Rand Paul calls Republicans ‘their own worst enemy’ on health care bill   
"We’re splitting the difference with Republicans who want to keep Obamacare."
          EPA Poised to Undo Obama’s Federal Power Grab   

A highly controversial rule from the Obama administration may finally be on its way out. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is going... Read More

The post EPA Poised to Undo Obama’s Federal Power Grab appeared first on The Daily Signal.

          X-Men in The Bridge to Nowhere!   

A was joking with a friend about drawing a short story involving Sarah Palin and her over used Bridge to Nowhere speech. I decided to practice using the new Banga style X-Men with this idea. Please be kind, this is my first time doing sequentials with superheroes in this style. It's particularly timely given that Obama won the election. I guess Palin's bridge really went nowhere!
          Presseschau zu Obamas Wiederwahl: "Kein Präsident, der in den Krieg zieht"   
Die Zeitungen im Nahen Osten zwischen Algerien und Iran reagieren überwiegend positiv auf die Wiederwahl von Barack Obama. Der Präsident habe in seiner ersten Amtszeit zwar viele Erwartungen enttäuscht, Mitt Romney wäre nach Überzeugung der Kommentatoren jedoch das noch größere Übel geworden. Israelische Blätter fürchten eine weitere Verschlechterung des Verhältnisses zwischen Obama und Benyamin Netanyahu. Auch in Bahrains Presse schwingt Skepsis gegenüber dem Demokraten mit. Dafür sind sich israelische Kommentatoren mit der syrischen Parteizeitung al-Baath in einem Punkt einig: Obama sei kein Präsident, der einen Krieg im Nahen Osten wolle.

Eine Presseschau von Christoph Dinkelaker, Lea Frehse, Amina Nolte, Dominik Peters, Friedrich Schulze, Bodo Straub und Christoph Sydow

 Youssef al-Kuweilit äußert in seinem Kommentar für al-Riyadh aus Saudi-Arabien zunächst einmal seine Verwunderung darüber, dass Obama für eine zweite Amtszeit gewählt wurde - „trotz der Aufregung und Zweifel an seinem Glauben, seiner Kindheit, seines Geburtsorts und darüber, ob er vom islamischen Glauben seines Vaters beeinflusst wurde“. Der Präsident habe sich aber seine Wiederwahl durch seine Erfolge in Irak, Afghanistan und Libyen verdient. Kuweilit hebt auch hervor, dass sich Obama in seiner ersten Amtszeit „den wiederholten Erpressungen Israels“ widersetzt habe. Gleichwohl habe er gegenüber dem israelischen Siedlungsbau zu nachlässig gehandelt. Dennoch ist der Kommentator überzeugt: „Für die Länder zwischen Maghreb und Mashreq bleibt Obama der beste Präsident, auch wenn er Versprechungen gebrochen hat. Aber er hat viele Erfahrungen gesammelt und bleibt moderat im Vergleich zum Extremismus der Republikaner“.

Ibrahim Eissa, Kommentator der oppositionellen ägyptischen Tageszeitung al-Tahrir, sieht durch Obamas Wiederwahl schwierige Zeiten auf Ägyptens Präsidenten Mohammed Mursi zukommen. Die USA hätten den Muslimbrüdern zwar den Weg zur Macht am Nil geebnet, nun aber werde Washington dafür einen Preis verlangen. Das informelle Abkommen zwischen Obama und Mursi sah demnach so aus: „Die Muslimbrüder garantieren Israels Sicherheit und bändigen die Hamas. Sie verpflichten sich, sich für Amerikas Interessen einzusetzen und unter dem Banner des sunnitischen Islams in die Phalanx gegen Iran und die Schiiten einzutreten.“ Gleichzeitig habe Obama zugesichert, das Machtmonopol der Muslimbrüder nicht zu brechen. Dafür werde er in seiner zweiten Amtszeit aber eine Gegenleistung verlangen: Die Wiederherstellung von Ordnung auf dem Sinai, ein Ende der dortigen Präsenz von al-Qaida und anderen extremistischen Gruppen. „Dies wird Mursi Ärger mit seinen Freunden in Gaza einhandeln und den Zorn der Jihadisten auf dem Sinai entfachen“, ist Eissa überzeugt. Mursi werde deshalb Bedenken äußern. Die wichtigste Frage sei daher: „Wie geduldig wird Obama sein?“

"Obama will politische Lösung der Syrien-Krise"

Der Leitartikel der syrischen Staatszeitung al-Baath wartet am Donnerstag mit einer Überraschung auf: Es sei zu erwarten, dass Obama in seiner zweiten Amtszeit eine politische Lösung der Krise in Syrien suche, so das Blatt. Das liege zum einen an der Standfestigkeit des syrischen Volkes und der Armee und zum zweiten am Unwillen des US-Präsidenten, sein Land in einen neuen Krieg zu führen. „Ein Präsident, der in seiner Siegesrede sagt: 'Ein Jahrzehnt des Krieges ist zu Ende gegangen', der nach dem Rückzug seiner Armee aus dem Irak erleichtert aufatmet und der jetzt hart daran arbeitet, die US-Armee aus dem Sumpf in Afghanistan herauszuziehen, der denkt nicht an ein militärisches Abenteuer in Syrien, das die ganze Region in Brand setzen kann.“ Die USA steckten in einer schweren Wirtschaftskrise und hätten begriffen, dass sie nicht länger die einzige Weltmacht seien. Daher strebe Washington eine internationale Einigung auf eine politische Lösung der syrischen Krise an. „Schließlich kann die US-Regierung nicht länger die große Rolle der Qaida-Gruppen in Syrien übersehen, besonders nach dem er den Geschmack des Terrors in Bengasi selbst schmecken musste.“

Einen ganz anderen Aspekt beleuchtet al-Khabar aus Algerien. „Die Amerikaner wissen seit Mittwoch, dass Obama bis Anfang 2017 regieren wird. Sie brauchen keine Politiker oder Experten, die mit den Geheimnissen des Weißen Hauses vertraut sind, und die ihnen sagen, ob Obama die Verfassung ändern oder sein Amt aufgeben und irgendeinem ausgesuchten Nachfolger übergeben will.“ Ganz anders sei das in Algerien, kritisiert die Zeitung in ihrem Leitartikel. Niemand wisse ob Präsident Abdelaziz Bouteflika möglicherweise noch einmal die Verfassung ändern, und sich damit eine weitere Amtszeit sichern werde. Es sei ja noch nicht einmal klar, wie es um die gesundheitliche Verfassung des Staatschefs bestellt ist. Niemand gebe Auskunft darüber, warum der Präsident lange verschwinde und dann plötzlich wieder auftauche. In diesem politischen Klima zeige auch keiner der möglichen Nachfolgekandidaten seine wahren Absichten, in diesem algerischen System komme der am weitesten, „der seine politischen Ambitionen am besten versteckt.“

"Obamas Wiederwahl spaltet den Nahen Osten in zwei Lager"

In der Jordan Times schaut man vor allem enttäuscht auf die erste Amtsperiode des Präsidenten zurück: „Obama hat hohe Erwartungen geschürt, als er in den ersten Monaten seines Antritts Kairo und Istanbul besucht hat, um der arabischen Welt seine guten Absichten hinsichtlich des Israel-Palästina Konflikts und die guten amerikanischen Beziehungen mit den Muslimen zu bekräftigen. Aber wie ein Sprichwort sagt: 'Der Weg zur Hölle ist mit guten Intentionen gepflastert', so hat Obama seine guten Absichten nach seiner Rückkehr in die USA fallen gelassen, angeblich weil die Pro-Israel-Lobby und ihre Unterstützer sich weigerten, seine Absichten zu unterstützen. Deswegen ist Obamas Popularität in der arabischen und muslimischen Welt drastisch abgesunken, vor allem nach dem er Israel als „Verbündeten“ bezeichnet hatte und Netanyahu in seinem Konflikt mit Iran Unterstützung zusagte."

Auch in Bahrain wird die Wiederwahl Obamas mit gemischten Gefühlen aufgenommen. Die arabischen Länder bewerteten die Wiederwahl sehr unterschiedlich, schreibt Kassim Hussain für al-Wasat: "Die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas spaltete den Nahen Osten in zwei Lager: Während ein Lager versucht mit Schwierigkeit seine Freude zu verbergen, versucht das andere Lager sein Leid zu verbergen."

Diese Unterscheidung, so Hussain, verlaufe entlang der amerikanischen Einteilung des Nahen Ostens in eine „Achse des Bösen“ und eine „Achse der Guten“. Paradoxerweise begrüßten die Länder der „Achse des Bösen“ die Wiederwahl Obamas, die Länder der „Achse der Guten“ seien darüber eher enttäuscht. Den Grund sieht er in der eher milden Haltung Obamas gegenüber jenen Länden, denen Bush Junior noch Krieg angedroht habe. In Anspielung auf die NATO-Intervention in Libyen schreibt er:„Die Region, die vom arabischen Frühling erschüttert wurde, ist noch immer in zwei Lager gespalten: Regierungen, die von der Wiederwahl Obamas enttäuscht sind und Menschen die an der Idee festhalten, das es sich bewahrheitet dass die Amerikaner ihre Einstellung gegenüber den Menschenrechten ändern, wenn auch nur ein einziges Mal, und nicht ein weiteres Mal Menschenleben gegen Öl eintauschen“.

"Die Apokalypse wird morgen nicht eintreten. Das Paradies auch nicht."

Unter der Überschrift „Ein amerikanischer Traum“ stellt der Leitartikler des libanesischen L'Orient le Jour fest: „2008 haben die Amerikaner einen Traumfabrikanten ins Weiße Haus geschickt – was man ihnen nicht unbedingt zum Vorwurf machen kann – der es vier Jahre später immer noch nicht geschafft hat, diesen Traum zu verwirklichen, was nicht auf eine strahlende Zukunft schließen lässt. Weise oder nicht, sie haben sich für den amtierenden Präsidenten entschieden, den sie wenigstens schon kennen, anstelle eines Gegners, der sein Können bisher lediglich bei olympischen Winterspielen unter Beweis gestellt hat.“

Dieses Mal hätten sie Obama eine neue Aufgabe mit auf den Weg gegeben: Die Reihen zu schließen, die nie zuvor so gespalten waren. Angesichts der Mehrheit der Grand Old Party im Repräsentantenhaus sei jedoch zu bezweifeln, dass Obama dafür in naher Zukunft eine Lösung finde, ebenso wie für die Wirtschaftsprobleme oder die Arbeitslosigkeit. Die Reform des Gesundheitssystems sei bereits enorm in einem Land, in dem jeder nur auf sich gestellt ist. Der Leitartikel endet mit der lapidaren Feststellung: „Die Vereinigten Staaten schrammen immer am Abgrund entlang, ohne jemals hineinzufallen. Die Apokalypse wird morgen nicht eintreten. Das Paradies auch nicht.“

Osama bin Laden, für den Bush noch sämtliche Berge von Tora Bora durchkämmte, habe Barack Obama die Wahl gerettet, meint der Kommentator der algerischen Tageszeitung El Watan. „‘Forward!‘ proklamiert Obama, selbst wenn seine internationale Bilanz alles andere als rosig aussieht. Seine Versprechen einer besseren Welt haben sich vier Jahre später nicht unbedingt als wahr erwiesen. Zwar hat seine Rede in Kairo die Herzen der Araber und der Muslime berührt. Aber letztendlich waren das nur schöne Worte, magische Formeln eines Mannes, der zu reden und zu respektieren versteht.“ Auch die Palästinenser sähen heute die Kluft zwischen Obamas Versprechen eines unabhängigen Staates und der Wirklichkeit. Er habe Gaza 2009 ebenso wenig verhindern können wie den israelischen Siedlungsbau, und als Friedensnobelpreisträger führe er weiterhin Krieg im Irak und in Afghanistan. „Trotz allem: Die Tatsache, dass er wiedergewählt wurde, ist mit Sicherheit eine gute Nachricht für die ganze Welt. Sie ist ein Zeichen dafür, dass die Mehrheit der Amerikaner seinen Willen teilt, die Dinge zu ändern und sein Land menschlicher zu machen. Nachdem er nun seine Landsleute überzeugt hat, dass er ihr Präsident in den vier kommenden Jahren sein darf, bleibt es seine Aufgabe, die Welt und vor allem die Araber und die Muslime zu überzeugen, dass sie nicht nur sein liebster Zeitvertreib sind.“

 "Wir gratulieren Ihnen zur Wahl"

Die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas wurde in den palästinensischen Medien mit Erleichterung, jedoch sehr nüchtern aufgenommen. Der Tenor der wenigen Meinungsartikel lautet, dass eine Regierung Romney sich "noch einseitiger" im Nahostkonflikt zugunsten Israels positioniert hätte. Der renommierte Politikwissenschaftler Oraib Rantawi befindet etwa in der Jerusalemer Zeitung al-Quds: "Mitt Romneys Wahl hätte einen Albtraum für Präsident Abbas und für das palästinensische Streben nach Selbstbestimmung bedeutet, obwohl auch Obama Abbas enttäuschte und im Stich ließ."

Zudem hätte Romney anders als Obama mit seinem konfrontativen Auftreten die globalen Machtverhältnisse destabilisiert: "Obamas Tür ist für Lösungen und politische Kompromisse - wenn auch unausgewogen - geöffnet, während Romneys Tür geschlossen bleibt, weil er Russland als militärische, China als wirtschaftliche und Iran als terroristische Bedrohung wahrnimmt"

In vielen Meinungsbeiträgen schwingt bittere Enttäuschung angesichts Obamas bisheriger Nahostpolitik mit, in die zahlreiche Palästinenserinnen und Palästinenser nach seiner Rede in Kairo große Hoffnungen gesetzt hatte. Ein anonymer Leserbrief fasst diese Gefühlslage zusammen: "Von Beginn seiner ersten Amtszeit richtete sich Präsident Obama an die internationale Öffentlichkeit und machte viele Versprechungen. Seine Rede an der Universität von Kairo war ein Durchbruch und verbreitete Optimismus unter vielen Palästinensern. Doch peu à peu wendete sich das Blatt und Obama gelang es nicht, auf der politischen Ebene etwas für die palästinensische Sache zu erreichen. Im Gegenteil nahm er fortan blind, einseitig israelische Positionen an. Er konnte den Siedlungsbau nicht stoppen und wandte sich stattdessen gehen die palästinensischen Bestrebungen im Sicherheitsrat."

Prominente Persönlichkeiten wie der Multi-Milliardär Munib al-Masri aus Nablus nutzen die palästinensischen Medien wiederum, um Obama zu beglückwünschen und gleichzeitig Erwartungen an die zwei Amtszeit zu formulieren. al-Masri, der sich auch politisch engagiert und mehrfach für das Amt des Ministerpräsidenten im Gespräch war, schreibt ebenfalls in der Zeitung al-Quds: "Wir gratulieren Ihnen zur Wahl (...) und hoffen, dass Sie diese Amtszeit mit innen- und außenpolitischen Erfolgen füllen, insbesondere im Hinblick auf die Beendigung des arabisch-israelischen Konflikts. Dies ist die Grundlage für ein Ende der Besatzung der arabischen Gebiete, die Errichtung eines unabhängigen Staates in den Grenzen von 1967 mit Ostjerusalem als Hauptstadt und die Rückkehr der Flüchtlinge in Übereinstimmung mit der UN-Resolution 194."

Al-Masri appeliert in dem Schreiben an internationale und insbesondere amerikanische Werte. Die Besatzung und Annexion, verbunden mit der Inbesitznahme von Land durch die Sperranlage und den Ausbau von Siedlungen verletze "alle Normen, internationale Gesetze und die in der US-Verfassungen verankerten Prinzipien der Gerichtigkeit".

"Wir brauchen einen Führer, der Israel mit harter Hand führt"

Dass das US-Votum enorme Auswirkungen auf die israelische Parlamentswahl haben würde, war spätestens
dann klar, als Ehud Olmert und Tzipi Livni vor wenigen Tagen verkündet hatten, sie würden die Entscheidung über eine Rückkehr in den Jerusalemer Polit-Zirkus vom Ergebnis – und damit einem Sieg Obamas – zwischen New York und L.A. abhängig machen. Besonders dieses Verhalten stößt vielerorts in den israelischen Medien auf Unverständnis.

Da ist Ruthi Blum, für die die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas, in dem sie einen Sozialisten zu erkennen glaubt, ein Schock ist. Im Massenblatt Israel Hajom schreibt sie: „Mit einem weniger als freundlichen Commander-in-chief im Oval Office, ist es umso bedeutender, dass wir in Jerusalem einen Führer haben, der Israel mit eiserner Faust führt.“

Paroli bietet Blum Lynette Nusbacher. In der Times of Israel erklärt sie: „Wenn die weitere Existenz Israels davon abhängt, dass wir einen Likudnik im Weißen Haus sitzen haben, dann ist Israel kein richtiger Staat“ – und hält eben jenen Befürwortern dieser Strategie vor, sie würden aus Israel ein zweites Süd-Vietnam machen wollen, dass nicht mehr gewesen sei, als ein „Hubschrauberlandeplatz, eine Puppe oder Schoßhündchen“.

Eli Avidar kommentiert für das vor dem Bankrott stehende Traditionsblatt Maariv, dass Israel durch die Wiederwahl von Barack Obama vor vier sehr komplexen Jahren stehe. Nicht deshalb, weil der neue und alte US-Präsident und Benjamin Netanjahu offenkundig keine innige Beziehung zueinander haben, so Avidar, denn persönliche Befindlichkeiten spielten hierbei keine Rolle. Vielmehr gehe es darum, den Analytiker Obama mit Fakten zu beeindrucken. "Der Ministerpräsident wird noch härter arbeiten müssen", denn "Obama hat bereits gezeigt, dass er kein Präsident ist, der in den Krieg zieht, sondern seine Soldaten nach Hause bringt. Israel wird deshalb große diplomatische Anstrengungen unternehmen müssen, wenn es nicht eines Tages mit einer Atombombe in den Händen Irans aufwachen möchte."

"Der Nahe Osten wird ihn verfolgen"

In der liberalen israelischen Tageszeitung Ha’aretz reflektiert Akiva Eldar einen möglichen Wandel der amerikanischen Nahostpolitik in Obamas zweiter Amtszeit. Während Obama zu Beginn seiner ersten Präsidentschaft durch politische Impulse positive Erwartungen geweckt habe, sehe er sich nun einem “neuen Nahen Osten” gegenüber, der die USA vor “neue Herausforderungen und neue Spielregeln” stelle.

Noch 2009 habe sich Obama in Kairo für einen eigenständigen palästinensischen Staat ausgesprochen. Doch sei die US-Regierung danach nicht bereit gewesen den nötigen Druck auf Israel auszuüben und habe die Palästinenser damit sehr enttäuscht. Mit Spannung werde nun Obamas Position zum palästinensischen Antrag auf den Status eines staatlichen nicht-Mitglieds der Vereinten Nationen erwartet. „Angenommen Abbas kriegt keine kalten Füße, wird Obama gezwungen sein sich entweder hinter Abbas oder Netanjahu zu stellen. Beide Optionen haben ihren Preis.” Lasse man Abbas scheitern, bedeute das seinen Rücktritt und womöglich die Dritte Intifada. Unterstützten die USA Abbas, riskiere man israelische Sanktionen und in der Folge ebenfalls den erneuten gewaltsamen Aufstand.

Sollte Obama seine Kairoer Versprechen brechen und den Palästinensern die Unterstützung vor den Vereinten Nationen verweigern, sollte er also, so Eldar, “dem Nahen Osten den Rücken kehren wollen, wird der Nahe Osten ihn verfolgen”.

„Netanjahu hat riskant gespielt, wir werden dafür bezahlen“, kommentiert Sima Kadmon in den israelischen YnetNews die US-Präsidentschaftswahlen. Der israelische Premier hatte sich im Vorfeld der Wahlen klar auf die Seite von Obamas Rivalen Mitt Romney geschlagen und Obama mehrere Male offen brüskiert. „Netanjahus Verhalten wird für uns alle Folgen haben. Israels Außenpolitik und unsere Beziehungen mit den Vereinigten Staaten sind nicht Netanjahus Privatangelegenheit sondern existenzielles Kapital des Staates Israel. Netanjahu hätte dieses Kapital niemals aufs Spiel setzen dürfen.“ Kadmon befürchtet nun Amerikas Rache: „Ohne Zweifel werden die USA weiterhin Israels Sicherheit und Existenz verpflichtet bleiben. Die USA werden Israel nicht für Netanjahus Verhalten in Geiselhaft nehmen. Doch in allem, was über essentielle Sicherheitsbelange hinausgeht, erwartet uns die kalte Schulter.“

"Eine Wahl gegen Romney"

Die reformorientierte Zeitung Etemad aus Teheran lieferte eine breite Berichterstattung unter der Schlagzeile „Obamas iranische Herausforderung“ mit mehreren Meinungsbildern und einem zentralen Interview mit Hossein Daheshyar, einem langjährigen US-Kommentator, der allerdings seit den Wahlunruhen von 2009 keine weiteren Interviews gegeben hatte.

Zu Beginn des Interviews äußert Daheshyar seine Verwunderung darüber, dass Obama die Wahl gewann. „Noch nie hat ein amerikanischer Präsident unter solch schlechten Wirtschaftsbedingungen eine Wahl gewonnen. Die Wirtschaftslage war seit der letzten Großen Depression in den dreißiger noch nie so schlecht“. Obama habe die Schuld auch nicht auf seinen Vorgänger Mitt Romney abwälzen können „Die Amerikaner haben diese Ausrede auch nicht akzeptiert, sondern wollten einfach Romney nicht“. Daraus schlussfolgert er, dass die Wahl „eigentlich keine Wahl für Obama, sondern eine Wahl gegen Romney war“. "Die Außenpolitik hatte überhaupt keinen Einfluss", analysiert Daheshyar.

Die US-Bürger hätten Obama vor allem wegen des Glaubens gewählt, den er verbreite. „Obama präsentierte sich selbst als jemand, der Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt und Ronald Reagan folgt. Alles Politiker, die eine besondere Rolle in der amerikanischen Gesellschaft einnehmen und als ,Veränderer‘ gelten. Mit seiner Wiederwahl besitzt er nun auch die Chance als „Veränderer“ in die Geschichte einzugehen“. Allerdings habe Obama zu wenig unternommen, um die Polarisierung der amerikanischen Gesellschaft zu überwinden. „Daher halte ich es für unwahrscheinlich, dass man ihn nach den vier Jahren in der Reihe dieser Präsidenten sehen wird. Er versuchte im Wahlkampf ja auch nicht einmal, Personen in den republikanischen Reihen zu überzeugen“.

Dariush Soleymani, Experte für Internationale Beziehungen, merkt in seinem Kommentar für Etemad an, dass die geschichtliche Erfahrung zeige, dass Republikaner vor allem „nach einem Erstarken der Wirtschaft den Präsidenten stellten“. Trotz der enttäuschten Erwartungen an Obama gebe es einige „nennenswerte Veränderungen“ in der Politik gegenüber seinem Vorgänger. Dazu gehöre „der Rückzug vom Krieg in der Außenpolitik mit den dazu verbundenen Kürzungen im Militärbudget des Landes und die Konzentration Obamas auf die Lösung der eigenen Wirtschaftskrise“.

"Vier weitere Jahre ohne Veränderung"

Die Zeitung Keyhan, die den Sicherheitsorganen der IRI nahe stehen und mit ihrem Chefredakteur Hossein Shariatmadari einen direkten Draht zum Revolutionsführer Ali Khamenei haben soll, titelte: „Der ,Herr der Veränderung‘ schaffte es wieder - vier weitere Jahre ohne Veränderung“. Die Keyhan stellt heraus, dass Obama mit „etwa 50% der Stimmen die Wahlen gewinnen konnte“ und dabei „sechs bis acht Milliarden Dollar“ ausgegeben wurden. Anschließend wird das amerikanische Wahlsystem erklärt, und darauf hingewiesen, dass „Obama Sieger wurde, obwohl er im Vergleich etwa zehn Millionen Stimmen verloren hat“. Eine lange Liste an Gratulationswünsche folgt, bei denen unteren anderem Mahmud Abbas als „Präsident der Selbstständigen Palästinenser“ und Benyamin Netanyahu als „Präsident des zionistischem Regimes“ vorgestellt werden.

Ebenso würde George Soros, „zionistischer amerikanischer Milliardär“ und Präsident der Soros-Stiftung Obama zum Wahlsieg gratulieren. Keyhan greift dazu eine "Reuters"-Quelle auf und zitiert: „Der berühmte amerikanische Milliardär sagte, dass der Erfolg Obamas gegen Mitt Romney bedeute, dass eine vernünftigere und bessere Politik fortgesetzt wird. Er würde sich freuen“. Nachdem kurz einige Ziele Obamas genannt werden, wird auf die US-Wahlkritik von Jürgen Klimke, einem OSZE-Wahlbeobachter eingegangen. „Nach Berichten der deutschen Zeitung Die Welt war er sehr unzufrieden mit der Durchführung der US-Wahl. Herr Klimke sagte, dass er nicht frei arbeiten konnte und bezeichnete die Durchführung der Wahl als „unlogisch“ und dass die Wahlzählung in dem Sinne „merkwürdig“ war, dass die „Registrierung zur Wahl nicht mal nach den Standards wie in anderen Ländern verlief“ und ihm als Wahlbeobachter nicht einmal Kameras oder Handys erlaubt waren. So erging es allen etwa 80 Wahlbeobachtern“.

Die Keyhan hebt ebenso die „schwache Wahlbeteiligung hervor, die in der „Unfähigkeit Obamas Verantwortung zu übernehmen“ und „dem Taifun Sandy“ verschuldet war. Zudem hätten „die unabhängigen Kandidaten der Wahl, aufgrund der Anspannungen und großen Probleme unter denen das Land leidet, keine Chance gehabt, sich der amerikanischen Bevölkerung vorzustellen. So ist die Bevölkerung gezwungen entweder den republikanischen oder demokratischen Kandidaten zu wählen“.

Abschließend nennt die Keyhan „einen weiteren interessanten Aspekt der Präsidentschaftswahlen“, da „Romney aus Michigan stammt und trotz allem dort weniger Stimmen als Obama holen konnte“. Zweifellos eine Anspielung auf die oft als unglaubwürdig kritisierten Wahlergebnisse 2009, bei denen beispielsweise Ahmadinejad mehr Stimmen im Heimatort seines Konkurrenten Mousavi erlangen konnte.

          Poll: Majority Prefer ObamaCare to Struggling Senate GOP Bill   
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell
As the GOP's Senate healthcare reform bill struggles to gain momentum, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) punting a vote beyond his previously stated July 4 deadline due to a lack of support, it seems the public is even less enthused than Republican lawmakers.
          3 Ways President-Elect Trump May Shake Up Trade Policy   
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump often was fuzzy on details of his economic plans. But he was clear about one goal: getting much tougher on trade relations with our most important partners, i.e., China, Canada and Mexico. Analysts say they don't doubt he will follow through. "We are definitely shifting to a world where the landscape is far less favorable to trade," said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University. These are the three most likely steps to be taken in this new environment: Step 1: Kill TPP. For years, the Obama administration has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, Japan and Australia. President Obama had hoped to get Congress to approve the pending deal after the election. But Trump has said TPP would benefit special interests that plan to "rape" this country. In coming weeks, Republican leaders wouldn't want to pass an agreement that would not get
          Carl Edwards, Jr.'s reason for skipping the Cubs' visit...   
The Cubs oddly made an extra visit to the White House on Tuesday . After winning the World Series, the team visited then-President Barack Obama - a Chicago sports fan - in January before he left office.
          Cherry Picked - Professor: Health care fight reflects role of federalism in disputes   
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
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          igra istine   
dan proveden sa voljenim osobama... Tongue

Da li vec znate gde cete za Novu godinu ili ne razmisljate o tome ? roll
          When Allies Become Enemies (Before the War is Over), Obama’s ISIS Plan Has Another Problem   

The U.S. wanted Turkish and Kurdish fighters to fight, but not fight each other. Now the administration is scrambling to keep local allies with their own interests focused on America's goal: defeating ISIS.

          Checking the Math on the Pentagon’s ISIS Body Counts   

The Obama administration steadily updates the tally of dead combatants in its latest war — but can the numbers be trusted?

          The Design of Obama's Campaign   
Graphic designer Michael Bieruit was recently interviewed by Newsweek about the achievements of Obama's design: He's the first candidate, actually, who's had a coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree system at work. Whereas, I think it's more more common for politicians to have...
          FairVote Reformer: Winner-Take-All Electoral System is a Loser for Democracy   

Spotlight: President Obama, Red & Blue America & and the Perils of Winner-Take-All 2011 State of the Union

In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Barack Obama put particular stress on the theme that launched him into national prominence in 2004 at the Democratic Party convention, declaring “that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.” Later in the week, he visited two strongly Republican states, Idaho and Kansas, to explain his policy proposals.

The fact that it was the president’s first visit to Idaho of his presidency tells us how his vision of a “united states” clashes with the unforgiving logic of winner-take-all elections. The three, remaining unvisited states -- South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah, -- are also firmly “red,” underscoring how the White House political team has prioritized swing states in his first team. In 2008, for example, Obama won 49.7% of the vote in North Carolina and 44.7% in South Carolina. That may look a small difference, but he visited North Carolina 18 times in his first term and held the 2012 Democratic convention there; yet he hasn’t been back to South Carolina since his key primary win there in January 2008.

Why? There simply is no way his campaign could turn 44.7% into a win in 2012. Today, nearly all competition between the major parties only takes place within the 47% to 53% spectrum of partisanship. Outside that narrow range, you’re almost certainly wasting money, whether running for president with winner-take-all rules for allocating electors or running for U.S. Congress.

In presidential elections, winner-take-all voting means that the White House is effectively elected by the small - and ever shrinking - number of swing states, rather than by the voters in all 50 states. Citing FairVote’s research, The Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton in a new column favoring the National Popular Vote plan for president writes that: “Under a winner-take-all system, the vast majority of states are shunted to the sidelines, forced to watch from afar as the candidates fight it out in a few battleground states.” The Washington Post last week used FairVote data to show visually how partisan lines are dividing America.

The same is true of congressional elections. Winner-take-all is so decisive, in fact, that FairVote was able to project the outcomes for the 2014 congressional elections for 370 out of 435 races – missing only one. The same goes for the 2016 congressional election outcomes, which FairVote projected only two days after the 2014 elections in more than 85% of U.S. House Seats.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to winner-take-all. The National Popular Vote plan for president would make every vote in every state in every election count equally, creating new incentives for equitable campaigning. With fair representation voting for Congress, the left, right and center of every region of the country while ensuring that every voter can take part in a meaningfully contested election. This is something President Obama has a record of supporting: as a state senator, he introduced a billto bring fair representation voting to Illinois and another bill to establish ranked choice voting (“instant runoff”) for primaries.

That reform history is consistent with his call during the State of the Union speech to uphold voting rights, when he stated “surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred." Such statements are an encouraging sign that the president will once again address fair representation and voting rights, issues that he was generally a champion for during his early days as a politician in Illinois. Reaching across the aisle for support to change winner-take-all elections is the best say to end the political dead zones in red and blue states, which leave voters helpless and resulting in less fair representation. (See our summary of 2016 dead zones that underscores how much of the country is stuck in a false “red” or “blue” reality based on winner-take-all voting.)

News on our Feb. 5-6 conference, Ranked Choice Voting campaigns and more

•           Attend our Conference! FairVote is co-sponsoring the ninth annual Voting and Elections Summit, Feb. 5-6 at George Washington University. The first day will include a keynote address done by Congressman Keith Ellison and a FairVote plenary with a great lineup of 20-minute dialogues. The second day will include FairVote-run workshops on getting involved in our Promote our Vote project and our full reform agenda.

•           Right to vote amendment reintroduced: US Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison introduced a Right to Vote constitutional amendment at a press conference on Thursday morning, and FairVote staffer Dania Korkor spoke in support. Watch the video here, and call for a constitutional Right to Vote here.

•           Ranked choice voting advocacy and news: Ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff”)- made headlines this month, with a new editorial endorsement from the Washington Post, in support of new RCV legislation in Washington, D.C and with ”don’t miss” comments from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges in a prominent event in DC (see Hodges talk about RCV at the 29 minute mark). In Maine, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has collected more than 60,000 signatures to put RCV on the November 2106 ballot and won support from Maine’s largest newspaper. The system will also be used to determine the winner for Best Picture category at the Oscars. Take the poll here to show us how you would rank the contenders.

•           FairVote analyses garners attention: FairVote’s work has been getting attention recently, with a piece from Aaron Blake in the Washington Post on the decline of swing states, a prominent citation from Dylan Matthews at Vox that stirred vigorous debate (to which our Nathan Nicholson responded in posts here and here.), and the George Skelton Los Angeles Times column on the National Popular Vote plan.

•           Thank you! Our thanks to all of our supporters and donors for their generous year end support. We surpassed our end-of-year goals, but it’s not too late to help make a difference in 2015 with a new donation!


Highlights from the FairVote Blog


See more from our blog at www.fairvoteblog.com, and also see longer form blog posts by clicking here.

          The Reformer: Special Edition, FairVote's Reforms Featured in Washington Post and New York Times   

We'll be back next month with more detailed news from FairVote, but as summer comes to a close we wanted to share two
high-profile commentaries on our core reform proposals.

First, Katrina vanden Heuvel had a widely syndicated commentary published in the Washington Post, where she makes a powerful case for advancing our fair representation plan and builds upon her recent piece on the National Popular Vote plan. Vanden Heuvel extends the logic of her previous analysis to showcase how House elections can be reformed using multi-seat districts and a fair representation alternative, highlighting our interactive flash map (which shows such plans for every state in the country with more than one House district). Take a look -- and please sign this petition to ask your House Member to support a bill to make this change.

Second, Executive Director Rob Richie had a letter published in the New York Times, making the case for a right to vote in the Constitution. The letter dovetailed nicely with new advances for our Promote Our Vote resolutions and our new website, which highlights various efforts to secure a constitutional right to vote.

We've attached both pieces in full below. You also might enjoy Richie's Gainesville Sun commentary on how Florida could resolve its redistricting lawsuit with the 2014 elections, as well as John Burbank's piece on proportional representation, and Larry Bradley's commentary about Instant Runoff Voting. There are also several new pieces on FairVote's blog.


New York Times. August 17, 2014. By Robert Richie.

Trying to ensure the fundamental right to vote


To the Editor:

Your Aug. 12 editorial “Where Voting Is Now Easier,” about the divergent directions states are taking on the accessibility of voting, underscores an unsettling reality: Our 50 states and more than 10,000 local jurisdictions structure and administer elections that are all separate and unequal. Our nation is long overdue for an explicit right to vote in the Constitution.

In 1787, our founders were not ready to establish that right. Over time, the right to vote has advanced largely as a state right. Federal constitutional changes have expanded suffrage, but they have never established it as a fundamental right of American citizenship. Until we join most states and other nations in enshrining the right to vote in our Constitution, some states and localities will infringe on voting rights, whether by design or as a byproduct of running democracy on the cheap.

Congress is entertaining H.J. Res. 44 to put a right to vote in the Constitution, a measure backed by a growing number of local governments. Let’s end the voting wars and accept voting as the fundamental democratic right that it is.

Washington Post. August 19, 2014. By Katrina vanden Heuvel.

We need a fairer system for choosing House members


In the original conception of our Constitution, the House of Representatives was to be the branch of government that best reflected the will of the people. House members cannot serve without being elected — vacancies are not filled by appointees — and they must face the voters every two years. Notably, the House holds pride of place as the first branch of government to be described in the Constitution. The framers move directly from “We the People” to the House, underlining the notion that, for our Constitution (and our government) to function, representatives must be accountable to the people.

Unfortunately, as we near the 2014 midterm elections, the reality of House races today clashes with that goal.

Let’s start with the connection between votes and seats. In 2012, we faced a major choice between the major parties and a mandate on President Obama’s first term. In the presidential race, Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the national popular vote by almost three percentage points, and Republicans suffered the worst performance in Senate elections by any major party in a half-century.

In House races, Democratic nominees overcame incumbent advantages for Republicans and won the national popular vote by more than 1.1 million votes. By those numbers, Americans painted the Capitol royal blue. Shockingly, though, Republicans won 54 percent of the House seats,establishing for themselves a 33-seat majority. And looking ahead, analysts estimate that Democrats may need as much as 55 percent of the popular vote in November to secure a majority.

Such a disconnect between voters and those who are installed as their congressional leaders goes far beyond any distortion we’ve seen in the Electoral College in presidential elections. It’s absolutely unacceptable in House elections, and it deserves far more debate than it has received.

The most-discussed culprit for the abysmal nature of House elections is gerrymandering. Every decade, states redraw congressional districts. Given the sophistication of today’s technology, the growing partisan divide among voters and the relatively low-profile nature of the process, those in charge of mapping have the means, motive and opportunity to use redistricting to help their friends and hurt their enemies. Republicans in states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia did just that. Barack Obama carried all those states in 2008, but today, Republicans hold a 68-31 edge in those states’ House seats.

But while gerrymandering matters, we must think more broadly. The core problem turns out to be districting, not redistricting. Congress’s 1967 law that mandates use of single-member districts for House elections has institutionalized the practice of shoehorning voters into boxes that restrict choices and distort representation. That is, districts are drawn in ways that lead to results predetermined by the powers that be. But today, there’s a growing call, from members of Congress including James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to institutions such as The Washington Post editorial board, to consider allowing voters to define their own representation in multi-seat district elections.

FairVote has created just such a fair-representation plan that Congress has full authority to establish. Every state would keep its same number of seats, but districts would be combined into larger districts drawn by independent commissions. Of critical importance: In each new “superdistrict,” like-minded voters could elect candidates of choice in proportion to their share of the vote. To illustrate: In this “open-ticket system,” a voter would cast a vote for one candidate. This vote counts for the candidate and, if that candidate is associated with a political party, also for that party. Seats are then allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote using a proportional-representation formula — like that used by Democrats to allocate convention delegates in their presidential primaries. Each party’s share of seats is filled by its candidates who won the most votes. An independent wins by exceeding the minimum share of votes necessary to win. (Watch FairVote’s excellent video for a primer on the system.)

In Massachusetts, for example, more than a third of the state’s voters consistently vote Republican, but the GOP has not won a House seat there in two decades. Yet by consolidating Massachusetts’s nine districts into three districts of three seats each, and by using a fair-representation system, that significant bloc of Republican votes would consistently win three — rather than zero — of Massachusetts’s nine seats, a direct translation of the voters’ will. Similarly, Democrats could end Republican monopolies and exaggerated majorities in states such as Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Although novel, fair representation has the potential to draw a strong coalition of support. Women, for example, are deeply underrepresented in House elections, with more than four in five seats still held by men, and women win about 10 percent more seats in multi-seat state-legislative and city-council elections than they do in congressional districts. Other supporters would be those in favor of 50-state parties, as we would engender two-party competition in every corner of the nation. Third parties would be able to field viable candidates, not mere spoilers, and our ideological polarization would be lessened with a new mix of representatives that better reflects the diversity of our thoughts and interests.

How we can move such a bold plan forward? To start, Democrats who are crafting a redistricting reform package should enable commissions to create such plans. State leaders should petition Congress for an exemption from the 1967 mandate. Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) has proposed that two states that have done partisan gerrymanders — one for Democrats and one for Republicans — could even enter into an interstate compact in which they agree to utilize a fair-representation plan together.

We may have an opportunity this year. In July, Florida’s congressional gerrymander was tossed out by a state judge on the grounds that two districts did not comply with the state’s Fair District constitutional amendments, which had been approved by voters in 2010. A FairVote proposal has shown how, in a fair-representation system, the five Florida districts affected by the ruling could be combined into a single district, its representatives chosen by the open-ticket rule. It would make every voter count, provide fairer partisan representation and uphold the Voting Rights Act.

People are thinking creatively about how to re-energize American democracy. It is not acceptable to sit on our hands as we watch the value of a vote get more and more skewed. It’s time to launch a drive for a fair-representation system for Congress so that the House of “We the People” can finally live up to its name.





          The Reformer: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform   

The Reformer, July 30, 2014: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform

With political polarization at its highest point in more than a century, observers often assume opposition to reform is inevitable. Election reform is no exception; when one major party supports a proposal, the other often opposes it. But as Ciara Torres-Spelliscy explains on the Brennan Center blog, some reform efforts earn cooperation, as evidenced by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform. This ability to find across-the-aisle cooperation is reflective of recent developments for FairVote’s Reform 2020 agenda that we spotlight below.


  • National Popular Vote’s big win in New York State 
  • Voter turnout task force in large county recommends ranked choice voting
  • Both Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key state legislative nomination contests
  • Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill
  • Major parties finally put forward nominees for Election Assistance Commission
  • Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) lead push to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions, and a Bipartisan Policy Center commission earns unanimous support for significant reforms
  • Both major parties back ranked choice voting ballots for overseas voters in congressional elections in five states
  • Rest of the News:
  •    Remembering Kathleen Barber 
  •    Primary turnout plummets
  •    FairVote in major media
  •    Norm Ornstein: Top 4 improves Top 2
  •    Hendrik Hertzberg’s Birthday


Win for National Popular Vote in New York State

In April, New York became the 11th jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, giving backers a total of 61% of the electoral votes needed to activate the compact and ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC is always elected president. With overwhelming support from both major parties in the legislature (including 27-2 among Republican state senators and 30-2 among Democratic state senators), this victory demonstrates emerging bipartisan support for a national popular vote. Read Rob Richie’s Reuters’ article here and his piece with Andrea Levien in Presidential Studies Quarterly here.

All-partisan task force in Maryland County backs ranked choice voting

Montgomery County (MD), with more residents than six states, has a history of national leadership. Last year it passed one of FairVote's Promote Our Vote resolutions, affirming support for a constitutional right to vote and a commitment to improve voter turnout. The resolution resulted in a 12-member voter turnout task force, composed of an all-partisan mix of Republicans, Democrats, minor party backers, and independents. Its impressive collection of recommendations includes FairVote ideas like moving toward 100% voter registration, a lower voting age, and independent redistricting. The task force supported adoption of ranked choice voting for all county elections 11-1 to ensure more representative outcomes and less mudslinging in campaigns. The task force proposed the instant runoff form of ranked choice voting for single member districts and fair representation version for at-large seats. The report was presented to the county council and will be the subject of hearings this fall.

Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key party elections

Rip Sullivan became the Democratic nominee for Virginia's 48th state House of Delegates District - and the strong favorite to win the seat - after the Democrats used the instant runoff (IRV) form in their firehouse primary. The district includes part of Arlington County where Democrats used IRV twice this year for county nomination contests that each drew more than 3,000 voters. In Utah, Republicans have used IRV for many key nomination contests since 2002, including the nomination of Jon Huntsman for Governor and the selection of replacements for state legislators in at least five districts. Given Republicans’ fractured 2016 presidential field and the chance to implement IRV in early caucus states like Iowa, FairVote’s Drew Spencer suggests that Republicans use IRV in more of their presidential nomination contests.

Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill

In Louisiana, voter pre-registration earned bipartisan support this year. Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, signed a youth pre-registration bill into law this May. The new legislation requires 16- and 17-year-old citizens to be automatically pre-registered to vote unless they choose not to register. It received strong bipartisan support, with a unanimous vote in the state senate, and features an innovative “opt-out” approach to registration, which will facilitate more complete and accurate voter rolls once young Louisianans reach voting age.

Bipartisan recommendations on voting from Rand Paul, Ben Cardin, and Bipartisan Policy Center

We applaud two recent national calls for reform across the aisle. Two Senators, Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), are leading a drive to restore voting rights for citizens with felony convictions, as explained on the FairVote blog. Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 2235, and Senator Paul’s bill, S. 2550, would expand voting rights in federal elections to citizens with felony convictions and establish a system to notify them of this change. In addition, both bills grant the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and private citizens a framework to sue for full and equitable application of the law.

Last month, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform took on a full range of issues, with a number of substantive calls for change that have unanimous backing from a commission that included former U.S. Senator Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott. They called for redistricting reform, early voting, changes in campaign finance, and reform of Congressional procedures. One particularly promising reform is the establishment of a single election day for congressional primaries. This would allow for more focused media coverage and greater public awareness.

Promised revival of Election Assistance Commission: Major parties supply nominees

Created by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the Election Assistance Commission provides a means to achieve more national coherence in our election administration through research, promotion of best practices, and certification of recommendations for voting equipment standards. As FairVote has reported, partisan bickering has left the commission without a quorum for nearly the entire Obama presidency. Finally, the major parties have both put forward two nominees to fill the long-time empty positions on the EAC board. We hope to see confirmation votes in September, and with it, the return of a fully functioning EAC.

Bipartisan support leads to five states using ranked choice ballots in congressional elections

FairVote has helped win ranked choice voting (RCV) for municipal elections in more than a dozen American cities and in dozens of major associations and universities. We expect more chances to win RCV reform in states and cities, and we are encouraged that both major parties are using RCV in various elections. This year, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and, South Carolina provided ranked choice voting ballots to all their overseas voters in runoffs, which ultimately boosted primary voters’ participation. Louisiana's overseas and out-of-state military voters will use ranked choice ballots for congressional elections in November. See FairVote’s recent blog post and congressional testimony on the proposal.

Electoral Roundup

Thank you, Kathleen Barber: We were saddened to hear about the death of Kathleen Barber, author of one of the most important books about changing winner-take-all elections to American forms of proportional representation. A former city councilor, professor at John Carroll University, and a FairVote founding advisory committee member who spoke at our founding meeting in 1992, Dr. Barber edited a collection about the use of ranked choice voting in five Ohio cities and then a stand-alone volume. She will be missed.

Plunging primary voter turnout draws Dan Balz’s welcome attention: The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate has given a mid-term report card for turnout in congressional and state primary elections this year – and we’re flunking! In the 25 states with statewide primaries for Senate and/or governor, turnout has declined from 18.3% of eligible voters in the 2010 midterm elections to just 14.8% this year. Turnout in 15 states was the lowest ever. The Washington Post’s senior political reporter Dan Balz highlighted the CSAE report, calling on candidates to say more about their plans to encourage participation. See our web resources on voter turnout and Promote Our Vote project to learn more.

FairVote in the media: Our executive director Rob Richie has recently been quoted in publications like the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and The Boston Globe. Richie and FairVote's research intern Duncan Hosie also published Huffington Post articles about low and unrepresentative turnout in California and reforms to boost turnout. Hosie also commemorated the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention in a post on our Representation 2020 website. Our board chair Krist Novoselic talked about FairVote during an hour-long interview on Reason TV, and board member Michael Lind featured fair representation voting in Salon.

Norm Ornstein touts Top Four with ranked choice voting over Top Two: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for the nation to adopt California-style Top Two primaries in a New York Times commentary. While we congratulate Schumer for seeking to change our broken system, our recent California primary analysis shows how the Top Two system is problematic due to split votes and low turnout in primaries that reduce November choices to just two candidates. A better alternative is the Top Four system, which would advance four candidates and use ranked choice voting in November. We were pleased to see prominent scholar Norm Ornstein tout this idea in detail on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio.

Happy birthday, Hendrik Hertzberg: We toast our long-time board member Hendrik Hertzberg, who celebrated his birthday this month. Rick has written eloquently in The New Yorker and The New Republic about proportional representation, instant runoff voting, and the National Popular Vote plan; keep up with his latest on his New Yorker blog.

          Washington Times Story Reveals Details About Kobach’s Plan for “Election Integrity” Commission   
Among the nuggets in here: commission to meet first in July in DC delay in naming commissioners supposedly because of background checks Obama won’t be called to testify because he has “no information or expertise on voter fraud” Lawyers’ Committee … Continue reading
          Comment on Carl Edwards, Jr.’s reason for skipping the Cubs’ visit to the White House is… interesting by esracerx46   
Remember when Bruins goalie Tim Thomas declined the offer to see Obama? https://www.si.com/nhl/home-ice/2012/01/24/why-tim-thomas-white-house-snub-was-wrong https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/susan-milligan/2012/01/27/tim-thomass-white-house-snub-wasnt-brave-just-rude http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/23/sport/white-house-bruins-goalie/ It was a big deal then. But now its ok?
          Health insurance expansion linked to fewer sudden cardiac arrests   
The incidence of sudden cardiac arrest, a sudden and usually deadly loss of heart function, declined significantly among previously uninsured adults who acquired health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as 'Obamacare,' according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
          John Podesta Hauled In For Closed-Door Questioning By House Intel Committee   
Zero Hedge Looks like Johnny’s got some ‘splainin to do. Former Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta was hauled in front of the House Intelligence Committee during a closed session on Tuesday – ostensibly to answer questions about the Obama administratio’s handling of intelligence that Russia tried to hack state voting systems – and, strangely […]
          How trickle down economics is bogus, and why it matters in this election   
I got a thoughtful response to my last post from a friend that always has some wise words (and has watched this stuff for a lot longer than myself). It was so clear, that I just have to post it: I share the anxious, apprehensive mood. This country is dying for lack of everything Obama [...]
          The end is nigh; Trying to look at all angles and always concluding that Obama needs to win   
I apologize for another political post. My mind is very much on the election at the moment, and tech stuff will come back to the fore in a couple of weeks. I am a schizophrenic at the moment. I am thinking a lot about the election and can’t wait to get this campaign over. I am [...]
          Education: Vouchers is throwing money? Early childhood education   
The last question in the debate yesterday was the one that I was very interested to hear about. My wife is a teacher by trade, and has a masters in education, so I get to hear a lot about it :) What I heard from the candidates was this: Obama He talked about the importance of education, and [...]
          Hillary Needs All the Help TRUMP and the GOP Can Give Her   
Obama called Hillary,"Not Nearly Enough BAD" in his own unique way, but with Michele as VP...and TRUMP Perot-ing away critical GOP votes, she can at last grasp "The BRASS RING".

On the very day after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her favvorite hat "in the ring" for president of the United States, she hobnobbed at a Chipotle in Ohio with top advisor Huma Abedin. Both wore sunglasses and the same color dress probably. Few photos exist, if any. They did not hold hands but ordered at the counter where nobody noticed, saying,"WOW, There is the former first former lady!" They sat down at a table and guess what... nobody noticed. They sat at the table for 25 minutes, paid their bill FIRST because who gets to eat it THEN pay, and ambulated out. Nobody noticed that they were "incognito".
Nobody had to take a purloined pistol from an exasperated Democrat because she had failed to be distraught, depressed, and even grab one to pretend to be "ending it all". Hang your head, and say, "AW SHUCKS!"

Down Low but otherwise upper echelon Democrats who "sabe mas como el BURRO" and want to appear to know seem to believe that Hillary Clinton has magic. The Democratic National Committee all but prayed over her and anointed her with cottonseed oil as their nominee just scant moments after her lollapaloosa announcement. Barack Obama almost endorsed her. The media drooled on their bibs, swooned over her statement that she would be going on a tour in a van, and got all excited. 
Nevertheless that episode in the Chipotle says and ingonito Hillary and good buddy, Nana, can go anywhere and do not need a "rope barrier" to corral the over-caffinated and wild-eyed adoring media. Hillary is 100 percent infamous on name identification. She is not an anonymous Chicago senator with a paper-thin resume who recommends abortion, writes bills that are ignored and gets major attention anyway. She is better than hot fudge on a stick - she’s an unapproachable, insincere, - elitist who proudly calls herself the B-word. And most of all, everybody is all too well aware of her "status".

there are three HUGE reasons that Hillary is no B.O. or whatever people want to call him:

Hillary lacks that "I'm Special" racial appeal. The hierarchy of major victimhood in the leftist thought system places blacks at the top with 300 free points on job-related qualifying tests. Latinos get 150 and gays and lesbians are ranked somewhere below blacks and Latinos free-points-on-test-wise because they were mostly whites rowdy at Stonewall Bar and Grill. Latinos and Native Americans rank below both groups, then women. Jews and Asians, mainly an afterthought in the rankings take the lower tiers because they are the most taken for granted. Barack Obama promised that as a half-black man, his election would unify the country, and people bought that jive, hook, line and sinker. Barry Soetoro was elected to moving America beyond the racial polarization of the past. Naive Republicans joined equally naive Democrats in celebrating the symbolism of his election, although some knew it was a power grab beyond all expectations that it quickly became.  Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote in his book that he cried when Obama was elected. and stated:

    I was so proud to be an American, and so moved by the powerful symbolism of the moment, I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up."

Nobody will peel onions and become all leaky-eyed when Hillary is elected, because nobody, down deep, believes a woman cannot be elected in America. Three out of four US Secretaries of State were women and there are presently and have been - numerous overly-powerful female senators. Hillary Clinton is in no way, shape or fashion - a victim.

Even more telling, Barack Obama’s 2012 election, representing a wised-up example of his actual support level, relied heavily on black electoral support. Palefaces and "browns" intilidated by dozens of blacks in voting lines expected to vote for you-know-who, did not bother to vote. Likewise, Obama needed and got - critical black support in the 2008 primaries. Had it not been for black support in 2008, Obama would have been beaten by Hillary Clinton. Hillary can "shuck and jive" practically plastic-like and robotically but lacks that same level of support from blacks in either the primaries or the general election.

Hillary is a somewhat lackluster female. Hillary may have a child that Mike Obama can never have to be truly female, but Hillary will emphasize the fact that she is female in her own boring, repetative fashion but the fact remains that her bond-ability with female voters leaves something to be desired. Her upper middle class elitist upbringing helped her to "marry well"- snaring the future governor of Arkansas. The Arkansas governor's coattails landed her in a prestigious law firm, then First Lady, Senator, and as a consolation prize, Secretary of State. She does not emote or bond particularly well with moms or grandmothers, in spite of her baking cookies and lying about Chealsea jogging at the Twin Towers. The mainstream alphabet TV and print media tries valiantly to portray her as a regular human being, but falls flat on its collective face.

Hillary Clinton rhetorically wants assist students heavily in debt by taxing the rich, especially the rich who favor everyone paying 1% and incrementally more topping at 15% for millionaires.
Hillary Clinton's her backpedaling on coal reveals her coal miner roots may be a total fabrication.
An August 2015, polling on the pubs holds that Hillary Clinton is somewhat dominant with 'somewhat liberal' voters percentage-wise (57 to 22), moderates (54 to 18), women (56 to 21), and seniors (58 to 19). For Hillary Clinton,  designated 'very liberal' voters are (49 to 39), males (47 to 30), and younger voters sometimes called "wippersnappers" and "skulls full of mush" (46 to 31).

hillary is ancient in age. Under 30 voters constituted about 19 percent of 2012 voters. That bodes ill for Hillary, who must rely on contributions from women and youth (Yutes) to pick up the slack she is sure to see with a diminished black vote turnout. With Hillary, they have seen "Par-ee" so it will be difficult to keep them "on the plantation" or farm - in the tank - for her. The ageing face full of wrinkles is bad news for Hillary. Pollsters easily predicted that Hillary would do well with youth voters when an early April Fusion poll piled up victories over Jeb (Common Core lover) Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Governor Scott (Dynimite) Walker, Bobby Jindal and Marko Rubio. In these days of looking important on TV, Hillary polls well when she goes missing-in-action (MIA), but when the ones polled actually SEE HER, they are UNDERWHELMED.

Perhaps more than anything else, Hillary represents the past. Marko Rubio presented a  contrast splendidly in his "gonna run for POTUS " announcement speech which punted "patooty" posteriorly:

Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.

Similarities of Hillary remain for comparison to Obama since the mainstream media will automatically favor her as a Democrat giving her softball questions instead of gruelling headache-inducing ones she deserves. Similarly, her checkered-infamous past will be whitewashed. As an Ivy League elitist, she comes across as a fake intellectual, having no Rhodes Scholar or epic grades from long ago when the chisels recorded court transcriptions.  Unlike Obama, nobody will just GIVE HER the presidency because she is a Democrat and the Republicans will grovel and worship at her feet.  She will have to pump up her own following. And when Hillary forced to portray herself, she is at a loss to "act naturally". 
If she had done a few hundred homicide trials, she would have that stony demeanor that would set her apart as a rock between steel and a hard place.

          Texas Matters: How Free Community College Could Boost Texas   
On Thursday President Obama announced a new proposal for free community college for those "who are willing to work for it." It’s unknown how much the...
          Rep. Al Green: Homelessness report heartening, still work to be done   
"I am appreciative of the programs as well as the efforts of the Obama administration in combating homelessness among our veterans," Green said. "However, it is disappointing to learn that there has been an increase in homelessness in (individuals in) families in 2012."
          Ted Poe compares Obama administration to a monarchy   
Rep. Ted Poe joined other Congressional Republicans in denouncing the Obama Administration's proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
          Houston area tweeters respond to Obama’s social media request   
President Obama encouraged citizens to utilize Twitter to reach out to Congress and encourage members to pass legislation extending tax breaks for the middle class. Houston area tweeters followed the president's instructions, but not all were supportive of Obama.
          Making History at Standing Rock: Tribes Are Leading Action to Preserve the Planet   
Tony Webster/CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/LrrLn7

In North Dakota, thousands of people are now encamped on the banks of the Cannonball River to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline with the Standing Rock Sioux.  Routed through sacred sites, the $3.8 billion pipeline would transport Bakken oil under the Missouri River, where a break or leak would poison water for Standing Rock and potentially millions of people downstream.  Members of at least 280 tribes and First Nations have come from around the U.S. and Canada to peacefully demonstrate, making this the largest gathering of tribes in generations.

Trip Van Noppen's picture

contributed by

          Testing Obama's Climate Commitment In the Utah Desert   
How the Obama administration responds to a precedent setting proposal for oil shale mining in Utah poses a key test for the President’s climate commitments ratified in Paris last year.

The remote high desert south of Bonanza, Utah (population: 1) is a long way from Paris, France in more than distance.

However, the two places are linked. How the Obama administration responds to a precedent setting proposal in Utah poses a key test for the president’s climate commitments ratified in Paris last year.

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          Taka stefnu Obama fram yfir Trump   
Michael Bloomberg og Jean-Claude Juncker, forseti framkvæmdastjórnar Evrópusambandsins. Borgarstjórar fleiri en 7.400 borga víðsvegar í heiminum hafa heitið því að grípa til aukinna aðgerða í baráttunni gegn loftslagsbreytingum í ljósi þess að Donald Trump Bandaríkjaforseti hefur ákveðið að draga Bandaríkin úr Parísarsamkomulaginu svokallaða.
          igra istine   
mini suknja u trendu? shock

Sta mislite o osobama koje u svom govoru vrlo cesto uporebljavaju tudjice tj strane reci?
          OUCH: Obama’s former Defense Secretary Panetta Says Prez is ISOLATED, Needs White House Shake Up   
          Cruising the Web   
I never thought that Trump's travel order was necessary, but I didn't doubt that he had the power to issue that order. Given that he first issued the order about five months ago and it was only temporary while the administration figured out new vetting procedures for issuing visas. Well, that original time has now just about elapsed and there are going to be three to four months until the Supreme Court hears the case. So, the whole question may become moot by then if the administration actually does what it said it was going to do.

Jonathan Turley chastises the legal pundits and appellate judges who thought that the order wasn't within the president's executive authority.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing.
Turley argues quite accurately that Trump's persona and his own attacks on the media have driven the media so crazy is that they've dropped their supposed standards and ethics. The same appeared to be happening with the lower courts.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing....

The court ruled “when it comes to refugees who lack any such connection to the United States, for the reasons we have set out, the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.” The preliminary ruling on this type of stay indicates that, when the final merits are decided, a majority of the court is likely to make the changes permanent and binding.

Indeed, three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — did not want any limitation on lifting the injunction and dissented from that part of the opinion. To use Johnson’s rhetoric, the date of the hanging is set for the October term absent a dramatic shift on the court. That gives us some time to contemplate how this controversy has impacted our core institutions.

I previously wrote that Trump seems at times to bring out the worst of people — supporters and opponents alike. Yet, his signature attacks often cause people to fulfill the very stereotypes that he paints, particularly among some reporters and judges. Ironically, Trump’s attacks on the media as biased may not have been true at the outset but they are true now. Mainstream media have become openly hostile to Trump.

There is often little distinction on some cable networks between the hosts and their guests in attacking Trump, who brings much of this criticism on himself in ill-considered and often insulting attacks. However, the media is trained to resist such personal emotions and retain objectivity. Throughout much of its history, it has done precisely that ... until Donald Trump.

He seems like the itch that reporters and commentators just have to scratch and frankly sometimes it seems like a few are enjoying it too much. With ratings soaring, hosts and legal experts have shown little interest or patience in the legal arguments supporting his case, even though the Obama administration advanced similar arguments in court.

The hostile (and often distorted) analysis in the media was disconcerting but predictable, given the trend toward greater opinion-infused coverage. Networks are fighting for greater audience shares based on formulaic coverage — offering echo-chamber analysis to fit the ideological preferences of viewers. For the anti-Trump networks, the legal analysis is tellingly parallel with the political analysis. These cable shows offer clarity to viewers in a world without nuance. The law, however, often draws subtle distinctions and balancing tests. In this way, viewers are being given a false notion of the underlying legal issues in these controversies.

What has been more concerning is the impact of Trump on the courts. Trump shocked many in both parties by his personal attacks on judges as well as general disrespect shown to our courts. These were highly inappropriate and inaccurate statements from a president. However, once again, courts seemed to immediately become the very stereotype that Trump was painting.

Of course, the White House gave the courts a target-rich environment in the first travel order, which was poorly drafted, poorly executed and poorly defended. Yet, the courts did not just strike those portions that were problematic. Where existing case law requires courts to use a scalpel in striking down provisions, judges pulled out a meat ax. They enjoined the entirety of the order while lashing out at Trump’s most sensational campaign rhetoric....

In the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, judges brushed over the obvious improvements and again relied on Trump’s own comments and tweets. It seemed like sensational tweets were more important than long-standing precedent or official statements from the administration.

The level of reliance on campaign statements by the courts was wrong in my view, as I have repeatedly stated. The record had conflicting statements from Trump and his associates but courts seemed to cherry-pick statements, relying on those that fulfilled their narrative while ignoring those that did not. The analysis of the order should have turned largely on the face of the document. While such political statements can be relevant to analysis (particularly in areas like racial discrimination), the court has always minimized such reliance in favor of more objective textual analysis.
That doesn't mean that the order was good policy. But the basis on which the lower courts decided was to stretch the law just to deliver a blow to Trump.
Courts that once gave President Obama sweeping discretion in the immigration field seemed categorically opposed to considering the same accommodation for President Trump. For commentators, viewers were given a highly distorted view of the existing law — brushing aside decades of cases while supporting the notion that a major federal policy could live or die by the tweet.
The Supreme Court notably didn't pay any attention to Trump's statements. If all you knew about the executive order was what you heard in the MSM, you would be amazed that the Supreme Court struck down most of the injunctions against the implementation of the order. The media will have to search out

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Andrew McCarthy explains why the Supreme Court order on the travel order is not as big a deal as perhaps President Trump would like to brag.
This ruling is unworkable and actually doesn’t much narrow the lower-court stays.

Let’s try to keep it simple here. The lower courts granted standing to challenge the travel ban to American persons and entities that had special relationships with aliens outside the United States. Ostensibly, the lower courts claimed that the rights of these Americans were harmed by the travel ban’s exclusion of aliens — specifically, aliens who a) are close relatives whose exclusion would deny family reunification to an American; or b) are scholars whose exclusion would deprive their contributions to American universities that had extended offers to them. In effect, however, the lower courts were vicariously granting American legal rights to aliens outside the United States, despite the judges’ grudging admission that the aliens technically had no such rights.

In its order this morning, the Supreme Court did not disturb this arrangement.

To be sure, the justices rejected the lower courts’ extension of vicarious rights to aliens who did not have such special “bona fide relationships” with American persons or entities. The lower courts’ reasoning for that extension heavily relied on the imputation to Trump of anti-Muslim bias — that’s part of why we can infer that most of the justices are not persuaded by that rationale. Nevertheless, six of the nine justices, at least for now, appear inclined to rule that Americans in these “bona fide relationships” with aliens have not only standing but legal interests sufficiently compelling to block enforcement of presidential orders that address national-security threats.
Read the rest of his post for the evidence he marshals to criticize the Supreme Court's Monday ruling.

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Rich Lowry refutes the idea that the GOP health care bills are doing anything all that radical in reforming Medicaid. What was radical is how the program expanded on Obama.
The Democrats now make it sound as if the Obama expansion is part of the warp and woof of Medicaid. In fact, it was a departure from the norm in the program, which since its inception has been, quite reasonably, limited to poor children, pregnant women, the disabled and the ailing elderly. ObamaCare changed it to make a priority of covering able-bodied adults.

ObamaCare originally required states to enroll able-bodied adults with incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line starting in 2014. The Supreme Court re-wrote the law to make the expansion voluntary, and 31 states and the District of Columbia took it up.

Traditionally, the federal government had paid more to poor than rich states, with a match ranging from 75 percent for the poorest state, Mississippi, to 50 percent for the rich states. ObamaCare created an entirely new formula for the Medicaid expansion population. It offered a 100 percent federal match for the new enrollees, gradually declining to a 90 percent match — supposedly, forever.

So, perversely, ObamaCare had a larger federal match for the able-bodied enrollees in Medicaid than for its more vulnerable populations.

“This higher federal matching rate,” writes health-care analyst Doug Badger, “allows states to leverage more federal money per state dollar spent on a non-disabled adult with $15,000 in earnings than on a part-time minimum-wage worker with developmental disabilities, who earns barely half that amount.”

According to Badger, West Virginia received seven times as much federal money for spending $1 on an able-bodied adult than for spending $1 on a disabled person.

This obviously makes no sense, and the Senate health-care bill phases out the enhanced funding over four years. But it doesn’t end the expanded Medicaid eligibility for the able-bodied. And a refundable tax credit will be available for low-income people that is meant to pick up any slack from Medicaid. This is hardly social Darwinism.
THe other change is a change in how the federal government funds Medicaid in the states.
The other, longer-term change in the House and Senate bills is moving to a per-capita funding formula for Medicaid, with the Senate bill ratcheting the formula down to per-capita growth plus the inflation rate — in 2026. Maybe this will prove too stringent, but it used to be a matter of bipartisan consensus that the current structure of Medicaid creates an incentive for heedless growth in the program.

The way it works now is that Mississippi, for instance, gets nearly $3 from the federal government for every $1 it spends. Why ever economize? In the 1990s, the Clinton administration advanced what it portrayed as an unobjectionable proposal to make Medicaid more efficient while preserving the program’s core function — namely, a per-capita funding formula.
So remember all this when you hear Democrats moaning that the GOP is set to kill millions of people. As Lowry analogizes, for progressives, the welfare state has become the equivalent of the Brezhnev Doctrine that once the Soviets dominated a country, it could never break free. Now once the welfare state has been expanded, it should never be trimmed back.

Guy Benson is also trying to refute the Democrats' demagogic hysteria about the Senate plan.
Republicans' plan would make Medicaid fiscally sustainable, and gradually revert back to a model that prioritizes help to the poorest people, who need the most help. It's perverse that the federal government provides a more generous funding formula for Medicaid's better-off, better-situated expansion enrollees than the original, neediest population for whom Medicaid was supposedly created in the first place. And while the GOP proposal would reform the structure of the program by offering a capped per-capita annual allowance to each state (which would foster restraint, prioritization, innovation, and creativity), the notion that it makes drastic "cuts" to the overall program is deeply misleading. ...

This funding increase of tens of billions of dollars is nevertheless cast as a "cut" because it would spend less than Obamacare would.

Just imagine what the media would be saying if Claire McCaskill were a member of Trump's administration.
n March, Sen. Claire McCaskill was unambiguous. The Missouri Democrat said she never once met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in her 10 years serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever," McCaskill tweeted. "Ambassadors call members of Foreign [Relations Committee]."
Soon after that tweet, it was revealed she did interact with the Russian ambassador.

And now, CNN has learned, McCaskill spent an evening at a black-tie reception at the ambassador's Washington residence in November 2015.

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Yesterday I speculated that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Trinity Lutheran case might be used to overturn states' Blaine amendments blocking state aid to schools with a religious affiliation. Well, it seems that that was indeed the Court's intention with an order remanding a case back to the lower courts that they issued on Tuesday. The WSJ reports,
In 2011, Colorado’s Douglas County adopted a Choice Scholarship Program to let 500 students attend a local private school. But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union sued. The Colorado Supreme Court killed the program citing the state’s version of the Blaine Amendment, one of many state anti-Catholic laws from the 1800s to prevent public money from funding religious schools ( Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education).

The Douglas County School District and the Institute for Justice, which represents three families in Colorado, appealed to the Supreme Court in 2015, but the Justices held the petition pending the resolution of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer on Monday. On Tuesday the Court vacated and remanded Doyle to the lower court for reconsideration in keeping with Trinity Lutheran’s holding that Missouri’s application of the Blaine Amendment violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

The High Court typically vacates and remands only when the Justices think there is a “reasonable probability” that the lower court got it wrong. Colorado’s do-over is a warning to other states that might use Blaine Amendments to derail school choice programs that threaten teachers unions and the public school monopoly.
I'm for as much choice as possible in education. I've seen what it means at the charter school where I teach and at the charters in Washington, D.C. where my daughter has worked. The more opportunities there are for students to get out of bad schools and for their parents to choose other options, the better.
The win comes at a good time for school choice advocates who have been building momentum in the states. In May three families successfully challenged a Montana rule that prevented a voucher program from being used at religious schools. On Monday the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld a program of tax credits for scholarships to some 13,000 students to attend private schools.

School choice is spreading because parents want the chance to get their child a better education than they receive in local public schools. Sometimes that enhanced opportunity is offered by religious schools, and the First Amendment does not allow the state to discriminate on the basis of religion.

          Today's Headlines and Commentary    

The ongoing ransomware attack across Europe, the United States, and Asia has raised concerns over the growing frequency of large-scale cyberattacks, The New York Times writes. The NotPetya attack is the second worldwide ransomware hacking since May, when the WannaCry virus disrupted the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. The Times runs through what we know and don’t yet know about the malware.

The Journal reports on Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s comments that the lack of a chemical weapons attack showed that the Trump administration’s warning to the Assad regime in Syria worked. Late on Monday, the U.S. threatened to use force against Syria in the case of another chemical attack after the Pentagon saw indications that an attempt may have been looming. Politico describes the process behind the drafting and release of the administration’s abrupt warning: while Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were all involved, the statement left numerous top officials across the State and Defense Departments blindsided.

The White House may shift the State Department’s bureaus of Consular Affairs and Population, Refugees, and Migration to the Department of Homeland Security, CNN tells us. A White House official indicated that the proposal resulted from a “brainstorming session” dedicated to “improving efficiencies across government,” and is not yet a formal plan.

The Trump administration is considering taking a harsher stance on its relations with Pakistan in an effort to cut back Pakistani support for militant groups that have used the country as a base from which to conduct attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, Reuters reports. Options on the table include increased drone strikes, withholding of aid, and weakening Pakistan’s status as a U.S. ally. In a separate report released Tuesday, the Pentagon indicated that Pakistan was the most significant external factor affecting Afghan stability through governmental support of the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The Pakistani embassy in the United States warned the U.S. against using it as a “scapegoat” to explain challenges in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the Qatari Foreign Minister met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a closed-door meeting in Foggy Bottom, the Post reports. The two discussed the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, which has shown no signs of resolution following Qatar’s rejection of the list of demands presented to it by the Gulf Cooperation Council States that recently cut their ties with Qatar. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister told the press yesterday that the demands were non-negotiable and were a prerequisite to re-engagement with Qatar. Later in the day, Tillerson also met with the Kuwaiti Minister of State, whose government has attempted to mediate the weeks-long dispute.

Oil companies have expressed concern over the Senate’s new package of Russian sanctions, which would prevent American participation in any oil production projects in which a Russian firm is involved anywhere in the globe, the Washington Post reports. But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), who is shepherding the bill through the approval process, has said the issues can be “easily addressed.” The bill has stalled in the House over procedural concerns, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) has called on the Senate to complete a fix prior to the July 4th recess.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been under scrutiny amidst the various probes into Russian election interference, registered retroactively as an agent of a foreign government yesterday, reports The Wall Street Journal. The disclosure to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) unit marked an acknowledgement that a portion of Manafort’s lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych aimed to influence U.S. government officials and journalists. Manafort’s spokesman said Manafort began working with the FARA unit to navigate the registration process in September of 2016, prior to the election results and the investigation into Russian election interference.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that a Canadian court can grant an injunction anywhere in the world, if such a move is required to secure the injunction’s effectiveness, The Guardian reports. In the case, the Court forced Google to remove links to one company’s content from all versions of its search engine across the globe—not only the Canadian version—following an intellectual property dispute with a competitor. Critics fear that the decision could lead to corporations and governments increasing censorship requests that then eliminate permissible content from the entire internet, no matter the location. 

The trial of accused NSA leaker Reality Winner has been set for October, according to The Hill. Winner is charged with providing a top-secret NSA report on a 2016 Russian cyberattack on a voting software company to the news outlet The Intercept.

President Trump accepted French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to meet in Paris on July 14th in celebration of Bastille Day as well as the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entrance into World War I, CNN reports. The two are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including coordination on counterterrorism efforts.

A helicopter attacked Venezuela’s Supreme Court yesterday, CNN reports. Prior to the attack, an ex-policeman posted a video online announcing that his group planned to launch an air and land assault to restore democracy to Venezuela. From the helicopter, attackers threw grenades and shot at the building, though no one was injured. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro activated the government security forces in response. The nation has been in the depths of a political and economic crisis which has seen many calls for a change in leadership. Some have claimed that the entire incident may have been staged by the government to generate legitimacy for a harsher crackdown on dissent.


 ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Charlie Savage described the changes in the new, paperback edition of his book Power Wars, which provides a history of national-security legal policymaking in the Obama era.

Paul Rosenzweig asked if the cyberattack in Ukraine yesterday was a precursor to war, but updated the post after news broke that the cause was an outbreak of the Petya ransomware.

Shane R. Reeves examined previous attempts at creating “safe zones” in Syria and argued that without serious commitment, newly proposed zones will be just as ineffective or dangerous.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, covering the recent Saudi succession shakeup, the Gulf States’ demands to Qatar, and U.S. policy in Eastern Syria.

William I. Hitchcock reviewed Melissa Feinberg’s Curtain of Lies: The Battle over Truth in Stalinist Eastern Europe (Oxford Univ. Press, 2017).

Matthew Kahn posted the video of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Section 702 reauthorization.

Andrew Kent examined the Supreme Court’s decision in Hernandez v. Mesa.

Jack Goldsmith announced the supplement to the new edition of Foreign Relations Law: Cases and Materials (6th Ed. 2017), the casebook he co-authored with Curtis Bradley.

Daniel Byman analyzed whether Al Qaeda is in decline.

Josh Blackman looked at the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision in IRAP v. Trump.

Benjamin Wittes posted a copy of his FOIA request for internal FBI communications surrounding the firing of James Comey. 

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

          Financial Sanctions and Penalties for Cybercrime    

As cybercrime spreads in its many mutations, governments and regulators across the globe continue to develop a variety of solutions. One regulatory method that has gained in popularity and sophistication in recent years is the financial response to cybercrime. The United States in particular has explored financial sanctions at the “front end,” to deprive cybercriminals of access to financial channels, and financial penalties at the “back end,” particularly asset forfeiture, to recover the proceeds of criminal activity. 


Financial Sanctions

On the “front end,” the U.S. government has sought to apply to cybercrime the financial sanctions that it has employed in the areas of terrorism finance and anti-nuclear proliferation. On April 1, 2015, then-President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 to block property in (or coming into) the U.S. that belongs to anyone designated by the government as being responsible for “cyber-enabled activities.” These activities cover significant compromises of a critical infrastructure sector, disruptions of computers or computer networks, or misappropriation of funds, trade secrets, or other information for commercial advantage. 

On December 28, 2016, President Obama amended the order with Executive Order 13757, which added another category of cyber-enabled activities for tampering with, altering, or misappropriating information to interfere with electoral processes. This amendment was added in light of allegations that Russia had interfered with the U.S. presidential election. Executive Order 13757 included an annex identifying Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Federal Security Service, and other entities and individuals. 

The next day, December 29, 2016, the Department of the Treasury designated two other Russian individuals for theft of financial information and personal identifying information. To date, these are the only entities and individuals so designated under the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) under the “CYBER” program of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. 

These designations send a strong message that large-scale cybercrime must be defeated by the same tools brought to bear on the war on terror.  This message was reiterated in the recent Senate bill amendment codifying these executive orders and imposing additional cybersecurity sanctions against Russia.  The broad scope of all these sanctions—which could apply to overseas organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction—could have a crippling effect on a target that depends on the world financial system. 


Application to China?

Commentators have suggested that these sanctions could be applied to actors in China that perhaps might be associated with the government. For example, as described in a Congressional Research Service report, there have been suggestions that the breaches of Office of Personnel Management data could be attributable to China state actors.

A number of factors could explain why the list isn’t longer. The nature of cybercrime lends itself to anonymity and the proliferation of unending identities and vehicles for attack.  Recent transnational malware and ransomware attacks suggest the ease with which cybercriminals are able to conceal their identity and co-opt third parties to transmit their attacks. Difficulties regarding attribution may also create some reluctance to oblige the numerous financial institutions and other actors subject to sanctions compliance to block an individual or entity that is difficult to identify. 

Even if those actors can be identified, there may be foreign policy and political considerations before a state entity or state-affiliated organization can be placed on the SDN list. There may also be concerns that financial sanctions may have little effect on certain cybercriminals who commit their crimes without any sort of financial motive but for more murky “hacktivist” principles. 

In the case of suspected cyber-enabled activities from China, however, it may be more likely that the U.S. government believes there is value in pursuing bilateral or multilateral official discussions, such as the U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues (or its future iteration as the bilateral Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue), or individual criminal prosecutions, which perhaps are believed to send an adequate statement of U.S. dissatisfaction with state-sponsored activities. 


Financial Penalties

These criminal prosecutions, along with individual asset forfeiture actions, provide another means of addressing cybercrime: the financial penalties designed to deprive wrongdoers of the financial benefits of their crime. In one recent case, the U.S. Department of Justice brought an in rem asset forfeiture action against bank accounts overseas that contained proceeds of a business email compromise scheme, in which the fraudsters impersonated a vendor to defraud a U.S. victim company. In another case, the U.S. sought to forfeit assets in foreign bank accounts that it claimed were the proceeds of a large-scale online website that unlawfully distributed copyrighted movie and television programming, music, and software (the individual claimants of the property are seeking Supreme Court review of this decision). 

Unlike financial sanctions, this remedy requires proof that the assets represent the proceeds of unlawful activity or at least that these assets belong to the alleged cybercriminals. Moreover, if the assets are overseas, the country in which the assets are located must be willing to cooperate with the United States to seize or otherwise restrain those assets pending a U.S. court order. For countries such as China, even though there is a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement that contemplates the freezing of assets, the use of that mechanism in this way remains for the most part untested. 


Even with these limits, financial sanctions and penalties have proven to be powerful tools.  The open nature of the U.S. economy and society provides the U.S. government with a unique lever to address cybercrime extraterritorially through international financial channels and its own international law enforcement-cooperative relationships. 

          In Praise of the Intelligence Oversight Process: Our New Anti-Populist Paper    

Years ago, when Lawfare was still in its infancy, the two of us made an entirely serious video (well, maybe not entirely serious) for YouTube about the emergent problem of abusive internet comments. Entitled "Comment or Vote," it proposed a constitutional amendment to deprive of the franchise anyone who left a comment on any website. For some time after we posted it, until it was finally removed, the first comment on the YouTube site read: "You guys are faggots." No, we're not making that up. 

The issue "Comment or Vote" spoofed was not a joke. Lawfare does not take comments, and it's always interesting to watch how offended some readers are by that. It's as though people think they have some inalienable right to participate, including in a website published by someone else. 

The broader issue of which this expectation is only a tiny slice—the populist cult of mass participation—is really not a joke. It is wreaking havoc on our political system. And it is the subject of a Brookings paper we released late last month, entitled, "More Professionalism, Less Populism: How Voting Makes Us Stupid and What to Do About It." The full paper is available below. An interview we did yesterday on the subject with the Brookings podcast, Intersections, is available here:

Most of this paper has little to do with the national security law and policy. But one section is a real exception, which we wanted to highlight here: A key case study of how anti-populist institutions function better than highly participatory ones focuses on the intelligence oversight system. We thought the thematic connections between Lawfare's subject matter and this discussion warranted excerpting it here. So what follows is the paper's introduction, along with the section on the intelligence oversight system:

“Americans—especially, but not exclusively Trump voters—believe crazy, wrong things,” runs a post-election Washington Post headline. The article, by columnist Catherine Rampell, worried about polls showing that more than a third of the public (and about half of Republicans) believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Hillary Clinton was involved with a satanic pedophilia ring (“Pizzagate”)—among many other things. “To me, they’re terrifying,” Rampell wrote of the public’s misconceptions. “They result in misused resources, violence and harassment, health risks, bad policy, and, ultimately, the deterioration of democracy.”

Political scientists might be excused for emitting an exasperated yawn. The literature on voter ignorance is one of the oldest, best established, and most dismaying in all of political science. Every so often, journalists and commentators dip into it and emerged “terrified.” In recent years, however, a wave of research has shown ignorance and irrationality to be even bigger problems than previously believed, and has cast new doubt on standard remedies. Neither theory nor practice supports the idea that more participation will produce better policy outcomes, or will improve the public’s approbation of government, or is even attainable in an environment dominated by extreme partisans and narrow interest groups.

Such scholarship has not shaken the faith of many commentators and reformers that increasing popular involvement in politics and government is the remedy for the ills of our political culture—the chicken soup of political reforms. Unfortunately, the country and the political-reform community have come to expect far too much from increased political participation. Participation is effective only when supplemented by intermediation, the work done by institutions (such as political parties) and substantive professionals (such as career politicians and experts) to organize, interpret, and buffer popular sentiment. In this essay, we argue that restoring and strengthening political institutions and intermediation belong at the center of a modern political-reform agenda. More specifically, we advance the following contentions:

  • Always empirically questionable at best, the populist-progressive idea that more participation will reliably improve either the products or the popularity of governance has taken a pounding in recent years, to the point where it is basically untenable. The populist model assumes that voters are better informed, more rational, and more engaged than is the case—or ever will be.
  • Even implausibly well-informed and rational voters could not approach the level of knowledge and sophistication needed to make the kinds of decisions that routinely confront the government today. Professional and specialist decisionmaking is essential, and those who demonize it as elitist or anti-democratic can offer no plausible alternative to it.
  • Professional intermediaries make democracy more inclusive and more representative than direct participation can do by itself. In complex policy spaces, properly designed intermediary institutions can act more decisively and responsively on behalf of the public than an army of “the people” could do on its own behalf. Intermediated systems are also less likely to be paralyzed by factional disputes and distorted by special-interest manipulation than are systems designed to maximize voter participation and direct input.
  • Nonetheless, the predominant ethos of the political-reform community remains committed to enhancing individual political participation. This is a costly oversight. Some populist reform ideas are better than others, but, as a class, they have eclipsed a more promising reform target: strengthening intermediating actors such as political professionals and party organizations.

James Madison and the other Founders were right to reject both direct democracy and elite rule. Instead, they insisted on a hybrid of both, believing that the two together would achieve better representation and better governance than either could achieve on its own. We believe that the country can benefit from relearning what they knew.

. . . 

[M]odern anti-institutional populism, with its instinctive suspicion of anything or anyone deemed “elite,” often underestimates and unfairly denigrates how much intermediation has to offer—and how successful it has been.

Here it is worth distinguishing between two types of intermediaries, types that play very different roles in our democratic culture. The first is the political intermediary: people such as elected officials and political party professionals. These people’s job is to make political judgments on behalf of the electorate or to help candidates and politicians frame their—and the public’s—choices. A second type is the substantive intermediary: the technical expert or specialist whose job is actually to know things about the policy space in which the government acts. The lines between these two types are not bright ones; some people play both roles at once. But broadly speaking, the political intermediary stands in for the voter in deciding fundamental policy choices: Should Congress adopt the Affordable Care Act? Should it repeal and replace it? The substantive intermediary, by contrast, frames responsible policy choices and implements them in a fashion consistent with law and technical realities. Neither of these functions is one which voters can perform competently on their own.

To see vividly the successful interaction of voters, political intermediaries, and substantive intermediaries, let’s take a close look at the area in which our system functions at its least populist: intelligence oversight.

The intelligence oversight system has been largely immune to populist reform, but not because the area has lacked for reformist instincts. (It has actually seen a lot of reform over the years.) Rather, the very nature of intelligence makes it resistant to populism. The public has no access to the CIA and the NSA and their day-to-day work. In sharp contrast to the public’s regular interaction with law enforcement officers, members of the public don’t generally interact with intelligence professionals doing their jobs. And the oversight system for all of it is uniquely opaque. Intelligence oversight is technically dense across a number of different dimensions; some of the law at issue is arcane and unusually intricate, and much of the subject matter involves highly technical electronic surveillance taking place on complex computer networks. It also involves material that is nearly always classified at the highest levels. So while the activities of the intelligence community stoke all manner of public passions, the subject is simply not amenable to populist reform. There is just no way to involve the public in decisions that, by their very nature, have to be kept from the public.

The result is that reforms in intelligence oversight have empowered intermediary actors—politicians and experts—to stand in for the public. And these mechanisms have proven remarkably durable and effective.

The intelligence oversight system operates in all three branches of government. Within the executive branch, a series of compliance regimes, inspectors general, and Justice Department officials oversee operations, particularly those involving technical collection at the National Security Agency. Collectively, those actors investigate suggestions of misconduct, rigorously count more mundane compliance failures, and review activity for legal compliance—and they report errors both internally and to the other branches of government. They also build legal compliance into the very design of technical systems; to see certain data, for example, analysts often have to enter into computer systems the facts and analysis that would justify their access to the information they seek. 

In the judiciary, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court both reviews applications for national security surveillance of U.S. persons and, more broadly, reviews the legality of surveillance programs taking place domestically but targeting overseas actors. The FISA structure does not merely put a federal judge between the intelligence community and electronic surveillance targets. It also creates bureaucracies within intelligence agencies that are designed to speak to that federal judge—bureaucracies deeply invested in keeping their agencies within the law and maintaining credibility before the judiciary. Representing the agencies before the court are Justice Department lawyers, who likewise act to keep the agencies in line. The system of judicial intermediaries thus dramatically reinforces and empowers executive-branch intermediaries, who have ongoing reporting obligations to the judicial branch.

The executive and judicial branch intermediaries are, generally speaking, substantive experts. But the intelligence oversight system uses political intermediaries too, particularly in Congress. The congressional intelligence committees review intelligence programs, get briefed on covert actions, and investigate major matters within the intelligence agencies—everything from torture to Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Unlike other congressional committees, they are staffed with intelligence community professionals cleared at the highest levels, and they have access to the most sensitive programs the government runs. The public never sees the vast majority of the work these committees do, but anyone in the intelligence community will tell you that fear of upsetting congressional overseers is a major restraint on intelligence community behavior. Note that the members of these committees are not specialists; they are just regular members of Congress. Their job is to stand in for the members of the public who cannot know what the intelligence community is up to, and to make major political decisions in the public’s stead and on behalf of the rest of the legislature.

Most people who have engaged the congressional intelligence committees agree—notwithstanding the House committee’s recent flap over the behavior of its chairman, Devin Nunes—that they function on average dramatically better than other committees do. The reasons are all related to their intermediary, non-populist nature. The professional nature of the staff reduces partisanship, for example. And the secrecy with which they operate discourages political grandstanding on the part of the members. A hearing of a normal congressional committee, which takes place in public, is a show whose audience is the public. Witnesses are chosen for C-SPAN. Questions are asked because they offer opportunities for theatrics and gotchas. By contrast, most intelligence-committee hearings have no audience beyond the staff and members. They are actually designed to convey information from the executive branch to Congress. They are arguably the only part of Congress for which hearings still consistently serve that role.

While the intelligence oversight process is decidedly intermediary-based and non-populist, it has not proven itself remote from “the people” or incapable of responding to public concerns. To the contrary, it has proven over the years to be highly responsive to public sensibilities. In other words, if the populist anxiety is that relying on intermediaries makes government distant and unrepresentative, the experience of the intelligence oversight process suggests otherwise.

The most recent example of this responsiveness is the system’s response to the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA activity in 2013. The congressional oversight process was critical in helping the community weather the storm, as when the bipartisan intelligence committee leadership spoke up publicly in defense of the legality and propriety of NSA’s programs. But the system also adapted relatively swiftly in response to the revelations and generated serious change. Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, substantially altering one of the key programs that Snowden revealed and generating new transparency with respect to certain categories of NSA and FISA Court activity. It is currently considering reauthorization of a much larger program, and further reforms are certainly on the table as it does so.

These adaptions are only the latest in a long string of legislative updates to FISA and other authorities—major changes to which took place at least in 1994, 2001, 2007, 2008, and 2012. This flurry of loving attention to the statutory scheme over time—legislative attention to make sure the statutory architecture of intelligence remains up-to-date as technology and public attitudes change—stands in sharp contrast to the more general environment of legislative dysfunction. In what should be a sharp challenge to reformers who believe that increasing public participation makes the policy process more responsive to public concerns, the portion of Congress that is least populist is exceptionally capable of actually responding to public concerns.

The long-term success of this oversight system is actually hard to overstate. America is a country, after all, whose popular culture produces movies like “Minority Report” and “Enemy of the State,” and whose civil libertarian culture is predicated on a deep suspicion of intelligence operations and government power generally. It is also a country with a history of genuine intelligence community abuses. Yet, even within the context of this culture, the oversight system allows the intelligence community the political and legal latitude to wield extraordinary powers.

And, amazingly, it does so with relatively high confidence from the population in general. The Pew Research Center has for more than a decade been polling Americans on whether they believe the government has “gone too far restricting civil liberties” or whether they believe the government has “not gone far enough to protect the country.” With the exception of a brief blip around the time of the Snowden revelations, many more Americans believe the latter than the former. Although good data on public attitudes toward the intelligence community over time do not exist, this poll question—asked since 2004—suggests that majorities do not believe the intelligence community is out of control. At a time of rock-bottom confidence in public institutions, it is notable that the intelligence oversight system, a system with hardly a trace of populism in its design, actually works effectively at its core purpose: assuring the public that the intelligence community is doing its job within the law.

The system shows that when intermediation is designed and empowered carefully, it can accomplish in a durable and robust fashion many of the objectives that populist reformers purport to seek.


          Iskreno (i neiskreno) sta mislite o osobi iznad   
Jajara je osvezenje na forumu. 8)
Malo je opterecen sa zenskim medjunozjem, ali tako je to sa osobama koje puno misle a malo upraznjavaju hanky-panky Smile

Da me nije nazvao latentim pederom(iako ga nisam ni primetio do tada) ne bih ga bockao, ovako moram malo. Smile
Da, uvredio je moj muzicki ukus, a sumnjam da je bio u bioskopu onolko puta kolko sam ja koncerata uzivo odslusao.
Inace, jajara je takodje 8) iako me ne voli, jedino ako nije bio ovde ranije :?

Drugarski pozdrav Smile
          22 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Under Senate Bill   


The Congressional Budget Office says the number of uninsured people in the United States would rise to 22 million within the next ten years under the Senate health care bill.

The Senate’s bill would replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that former President Barack Obama supported. The Affordable Care Act is often called Obamacare. Republicans have spent about seven years attempting to cancel Obamacare.

The CBO said in a study released Monday that the Senate bill would decrease the federal budget deficit by $321 billion by 2026.

This is the second health care bill to be considered in Congress. Both the House and the Senate have different health care bills. In order for a bill to become law, it needs to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the president.

Senate leaders plan to vote after the July 4th holiday on their version of the bill. Currently, Americans are required to buy health insurance or pay a fine if they do not. The Senate’s bill would end that requirement.

In addition, the bill would end subsidies meant to help lower-income people buy insurance. It would also decrease some taxes on higher-income people. And it would cut billions of dollars of government funding for the health care program for poor and disabled people over the next few years.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill

Opposition to the bill

To pass a bill in the Senate, a majority of senators must vote for the bill. If there is a tie, the vice president can vote to break the tie. Currently Republicans hold 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate. All 46 Senate Democrats are expected to vote against the bill. In order for the bill to pass, Republicans can risk losing only two of their senators.

A group of Republican senators has already said they will not vote for the bill in its current form.

When Obamacare became law in 2010, it passed without any Republican votes. Since the 2016 elections, Republicans gained control of the presidency, the House and the Senate. A change to Obamacare could be possible now.

About 20 million people have received insurance with Obamacare. Many of those people are covered under the government’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

The two bills to change Obamacare propose to cut about $800 billion in federal funds for Medicaid over the next few years. President Donald Trump had stated during his campaign for office that he would not cut Medicaid funding.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told ABC that he hopes that Republicans will talk with Democrats and work together on a solution to make Obamacare better.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Olivia Liu

Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English from VOA News and AP reporting. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Words in This Story

uninsured –adj. not having an agreement with a company or agency that helps pay for the cost of a service such as health care

subsidiesn. government payments to producers or individuals that reduce the cost of a good or service to make it easier to get

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

          Can Trump's Non-Diplomatic Team Make Progress in Middle East?   


U.S. President Donald Trump is taking a new approach in trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to sign a peace deal.

He sent two negotiators with no international diplomatic experience to meet with both sides.

The team that traveled to Jerusalem and the West Bank was led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior aide. Also taking part was Jason Greenblatt, an assistant to the president in charge of international negotiations.

Kushner, 36, is a former New York real estate businessman and newspaper publisher. Greenblatt also has a background in real estate. For many years, he also worked as the chief lawyer in the Trump Organization. In that position, he oversaw large business deals for the company.

For the past 50 years, the United Nations and many U.S. presidents have tried – but failed – to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. President George W. Bush, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan's King Abdullah walk to the podium for their final statement at the end of a summit in Aqaba, June 4, 2003. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. President George W. Bush, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan's King Abdullah walk to the podium for their final statement at the end of a summit in Aqaba, June 4, 2003.

​These efforts included many rounds of negotiations involving Israeli and Palestinian officials. Experienced diplomats and international negotiators led the talks, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn and longtime diplomat Dennis Ross.

The first major success in Arab-Israeli peace talks came in 1978, under the leadership of U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords in Washington, D.C.

Egypt and Israel had been in a state of war.

The Camp David Accords led to a formal peace treaty signed between the two nations in 1979. And Sadat and Begin received the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

In this March 26, 1979, file photo, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, left, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, center, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasp hands on the North lawn of the White House as they completed signing of the peace treaty In this March 26, 1979, file photo, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, left, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, center, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasp hands on the North lawn of the White House as they completed signing of the peace treaty

Every American president since has launched their own Middle East peace efforts.

In the Trump administration’s approach, Kushner and Greenblatt will bring their business experience to the negotiating table.

A spokesman for Kushner recently told Politico he had the president’s goals in mind as he put together his team.

“Jared brought in people he trusts, and they are embracing the fact that they are not career diplomats but great listeners with deal-making experience who can try a new approach.”

Guy Ziv is a professor at American University and an expert in Israeli-Palestinian relations. He says the Trump administration’s approach is much different than past efforts.

“It's different in the sense that Trump has assigned the most difficult, the most intractable conflict to individuals with next to no experience and very little knowledge on the issues.”

Trump has said that he considers a possible peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians “the ultimate deal.” He made a visit to the region last month. He appeared to have started a good working relationship with both sides.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before beginning their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before beginning their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017.

Many issues have prevented a peace agreement. Among them are disputes over borders and competing claims to Jerusalem. Others include the future of millions of displaced Palestinians and demands for more economic opportunities for Palestinians.

Ziv says he does not agree with the argument that, since previous negotiations by experienced diplomats have not led to an agreement, a completely new approach is needed.

“I'm very skeptical in this regard because we're dealing, as I said, with some of the most difficult, complex issues that take years to learn. And they're getting a crash course on something that takes years to learn.”

He added that when it comes to actual policy, not much has changed from the Obama administration.

“Despite all the rhetoric, we are not seeing a different approach on any of the specifics. The (American) embassy (in Tel Aviv) is not being relocated (to Jerusalem). The administration is maintaining longstanding U.S. support for a two-state solution.”

The two-state solution would create an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel.

Ziv added that the Trump administration is also expressing opposition to new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This issue has long been a major dispute between the two sides.

Shortly before Kushner arrived in Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a photo of construction work being done on a new settlement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the move a “serious escalation” designed to set back peace efforts.

During his trip, Kushner first met in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, who is a friend of his father’s. He then held talks with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

After the talks, the White House said in statement that Netanyahu and Abbas had “reaffirmed their commitment” to the goal of getting a lasting peace agreement.

However, the statement also said that establishing peace “will take time.” It added that U.S. officials urged both sides to do “everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.”

Professor Ziv said he believes the only way a peace agreement will have a chance is if the Trump administration is willing to put pressure on both sides.

“Without a massive amount of pressure at the highest level, I don't think you're going to see any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

And I'm Caty Weaver.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

framework – n. basic structure of something

approach n. way of doing something

embracev. gladly accept something

intractableadj. not easily managed

opportunity n. chance to do something

crash coursen. class in which a lot of information is taught in a very short period of time

rhetoric – language intended to influence people

escalation n. a rise or increase in activity

forge v. create something

conducive adj. make something possible of likely to happen

massive adj. large amount

          Obamacare: What Every Small Business Owner Needs To Know   
The Affordable Care Act helps business owners acquire and pay for health insurance for their employees. Find out if your business qualifies.
          Obamacare: What Every Small Business Owner Needs To Know   
The Affordable Care Act helps business owners acquire and pay for health insurance for their employees. Find out if your business qualifies.
          Apocalypse Averted   

It turns out that the doomsday predictors were wrong. Even the Mayans are probably wrong.
President Barack Obama was re-elected and the sky didn't fall. Hell did not freeze over. The dollar is still worth basically a dollar. The Dow did not go to zero. Hedge fund managers did not jump out of the windows of their boardrooms. People did not take to the streets en masse toting semi-automatic assault rifles.
President Barack Obama
The President won this election because his appeal was universal. Ironically, the only group that didn't support the President was composed of white men who for some reason still feel threatened by this President. The GOP shamelessly appealed to this group to the exclusion of everyone else and the results showed up on election night. The days when white men dominate this country are over and the GOP needs to recognize that it will not survive as a political force by only appealing to white males and white evangelicals. These two groups have a difficult time recognizing that they are now just two minority groups among so many other minority groups. Unfortunately for the GOP, there are still remnants of hostile, arrogant white males who feel entitled and resent that the rest of the country has a growing piece of the democratic pie. Most baffling of all, is the paranoia among the well-heeled, many of whom act as if they live in a banana republic where the ruler can just arbitrarily confiscate all their wealth.
Exemplifying this latter group is Donald Trump who still acts like the buffoon-in-chief. His antics ranging from his sham run for the presidency to his obsession with the president's birth certificate, college records, and other trivial matters not related to governance would be simply be fodder for comedians if it did not have serious resonance among swaths of the population. When George W. Bush was President, Trump couldn't have cared less about his college records. But he felt these issues were important when it came to the current President. Trump’s narcissism knows no bounds. Here are the comments he tweeted after the announcement of Obama's win:
“This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!”
Donald Trump
“More votes equals a loss...revolution!”
“Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”
“We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
“He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!”
“House of Representatives shouldn't give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare.”
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
“Hopefully the House of Representatives can hold our country together for four more years...stay strong and never give up!”
Donald Trump is an embarrassment to himself, to the Republican Party and to the nation. The bigger point, however, is that the Republican Party has lost credibility when it allow statements of this low caliber to reflect on themselves. If the GOP is to become a relevant political force in the future it has to figure out a way of weeding out this kind of anachronistic thinking. This is not a trivial point. In order for us to succeed as a country we need the adults to take over and work together.

This is a plea for people, all people, 
especially politicians, to behave as adults, 
and not as spoiled children. 

There is no time for infantile antics à la the Tea Party. We have already witnessed what happens when the Tea Party Congressmen stamped their feet during the debt ceiling debate with the unfortunate result of our bond rating getting downgraded. For the Nation to succeed we will need the cooperation of both parties. The President has repeatedly indicated that he is willing to work with the opposition. It is really up to the responsible people in the Republican Party to accept this challenge and work constructively with the newly re-elected President.
This is not a plea to muzzle any thoughts. People are free to think as they wish in America. We have a Constitution that guarantees that. This is a plea for people, all people, especially politicians, to behave as adults, and not as spoiled children. The GOP has some serious thinking to do. Do they continue to allow clowns like Trump. Limbaugh and Bachmann  to speak for the Party with impunity? At what point does the Republican leadership disavow their messengers of intransigence?
Mitt Romney made a good concession speech in which he exhorted his party to work with the President to solve problems. In Romney's own words, “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work, and we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.” The GOP would be wise to follow Romney's advice, not only for their own survival as a Party, but for the sake of a nation that needs more solutions and less chest-thumping.
I predicted on October 31 on this blog [The Next Four Years] that President Obama's second term will be characterized by more bipartisanship and more consensus building now that the obsession with making the President a one-termer is past. I believe that the American people collectively harbor this hope and that is why they re-elected him. Let's hope we are all right.

I thought that was the logical next step

The book is published and available on Amazon and on Create Space.

For international readers it is available on Amazon Europe.

Specifically, it is available in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

In Asia, the book is available in Japan.

          The Next Four Years   

One of the few things we can all agree with is that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected President next Tuesday. Either we will have a Republican or Democratic House of Representatives and we will have either a Democratic or Republican Senate.
What exactly will happen is anyone's guess as nobody has those kinds of powers of prognostication. But prognosticate we must – not only on the outcome of the election but what it will mean if either of the two principle candidates wins.
The Republicans have invested a lot of time and money telling the American voters that if the President is re-elected expect four years of gridlock and paralysis. Their version of “gloom and doom” is not so much that Barack Obama will do irreparable harm to the country – they also say that – but that the next four years will be wasted as bickering and partisanship will continue unabated, and the important business of the American people will just not get done.
I think they are wrong.
President Barack Obama
The first Obama term was characterized by a deliberate unwillingness on the part of the Republican leadership to cooperate with the President for the express purpose, in the immortal words of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.” The incurably petty will argue whether Mitch said this in 2009 or 2010 (he said it in 2010) but it matters little when he said it since it perfectly illustrates the Senate leader's attitude towards the President. If you examine the record you will see this strategy in action, especially in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell led a record number of filibusters which thwarted majority votes in both Chambers even when the Democrats had the majority in the House of Representatives. This was indeed government by hostage and the intent was clear. Make the President as weak and ineffectual as possible so that come election time the case could be made that he did not deliver on key pieces of legislation, especially important ones like the Jobs Bill. [see “What's Wrong with the Jobs Bill?” October 13, 2011, on this blog] Just the Jobs Bill alone would have made a big dent in our unemployment numbers, but the Republicans were not about to help the economy because that would have practically insured an Obama second term.
The History of the Filibuster
(Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data: Senate.gov)

If the president wins a second term all of that goes out the window.
Freed from the tyranny of the “one term Presidency” strategy, the Republican Senators could once again vote their conscience and do what they do best: horse-trading and seeking solutions, rather than obstruction for the sake of denying the President a second term. Not that it would spell the end of partisanship or argumentation. That was present during the founding of America and will stay with us as long as there is a Constitutional democracy in the United States. But because the overall obsession of denying Obama a second term will be gone, the Senate will return to a more “normal” state of collegiate belligerence, where both Parties understand the people expect results and cooperation, not continuous obstruction. An Obama second term will be, therefore, full of controversy, but with bipartisan solutions hammered out in vigorous debate. The American people will get a more functional government, spirited, divided, but anxious to find solutions.
President Mitt Romney?
So what can we expect from a Romney administration? Regardless of whether the Congress ends up in the hands of the Democrats or the Republicans – it looks like the Republicans will keep a smaller majority in the House, and the Democrats will retain a slim majority in the Senate – the final composition will not matter much. Especially in the Senate where Senator Harry Reid will either stay as a majority or minority leader. Either way will be lethal to a prospective Romney agenda. Senator Reid will become the second most powerful man in the country, second only to the new President himself. Does anybody have a doubt, that after all the humiliation heaped on Senator Reid for the last four years, he will not seek to turn the tables on the Republicans? It is hard to say if the good Senator from Nevada will be more dangerous as the majority or minority leader. There is no plausible scenario that the Republicans will achieve a 60+ majority in the Senate, thereby rendering the Senate filibuster proof. Even the most partisan Republican prognosticator does not contemplate such a dream scenario for the hypothetical President Romney.
So a President Romney would have in Reid an implacable foe who would not hesitate to return the favor of filibustering Republican legislation, if in the minority or just killing it outright if in the majority. In any case, Romney would reap what his party sowed with Obama these last four years and he would have Senator McConnell principally to thank for that. Four years of partisanship and gridlock would face the new President and the merry-go-round would keep turning. This is what happens when shortsighted political expediency is chosen over consensus building governance. And blaming the President for the lack of bi-partisanship is a new height of shamelessness, a new definition for chutzpah.
Romney's potential first term has disaster written all over it, and he only has his compadres in his own party to blame. On the other hand, if it were not for the high-handed conduct of Republican Senators, making the best of their minority status by denying the President a clear path to governing, Romney would not be neck to neck with the President at this late date. He would be hopelessly behind with no chance of capturing the White House.
So the McConnell strategy did work. Whether the Republicans succeeded at making the President a one term President or not we will find out soon enough.

          The Closer Versus the Strategist    

Mitt Romney spent the better part of this presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy. He characterized the President as weak, ineffective, and lacking in leadership. But when given the opportunity to debate the President on foreign policy last night he engaged in a surprising amount of “me-too-ism.” All of a sudden, with the election on the line, Romney decided to make another one of his now famous flip-flops and found, when given the occasion to show what he would do differently, he chose the more prudent course of agreeing with the President's main foreign policy initiatives. He even went so far as to agree with 2014 as a hard deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, a position for which he had previously derided the president for.

By now, nobody should be surprised with the flexible Romney who has pivoted from being a “severe conservative” in order to best his conservative rivals in the Republican primary to being a “moderate” in order to win the presidential election. In Ted Kennedy's immortal words, “I am pro-choice, and Mitt is multiple-choice.” That leaves the American public and the entire world, however, in doubt about what would a President Romney in fact do if elected. He has changed positions so many times on so many topics that voters could be excused for being somewhat confused as to what the Republican candidate stands for. For a man who makes a point that the business world needs consistency and certitude in order to conduct business, he has offered us neither.
There was one major point where Romney departed from the President on military policy, however. He made clear once again his desire to spend significantly more money on defense. He is always careful not to say exactly how much more, so as not to scare the average taxpayer already weary about our substantial debt, but the implication is clear, that a massive, Ronald Reagan style military buildup is in store if Romney gets the commander in chief job. There was a point in the debate that was almost comical when he stated that the US Navy had less ships today than before 1917 in an attempt to show that Obama had neglected his defense obligations. The President responded with:
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Judging by the laughter in the audience, the President drove home the point that Romney was hopelessly out of touch with how the modern military actually works, that sheer numbers is not what makes our military strong. It is all about capabilities, deployment, and strategy. Obama last night clearly demonstrated his command of military strategy and Romney sounded like a student who had been cramming for an exam.
Even though the President clearly won the foreign policy debate last night, the election will most likely not be won or lost based on foreign policy, which is why Romney ceded the point. He knows he won't best Obama on foreign policy so he is counting on the economy as his strong suit. And that's where it gets interesting.
As pointed out in earlier articles, Romney is a formidable closer. He has made millions convincing skeptical investors to plunk down their millions in business schemes that offered high risk and potential high profitability. He won the first debate hands down exhibiting these closing skills. He lives in the moment and knows how to maximize opportunities. This is how he has run his campaign and it has, by and large, worked if you are inclined to believe the polls. Many people see him as a credible alternative to the cooler, more deliberate Obama who can be frustratingly opaque at times.
When Obama got us involved in the murky war against Muammar Gaddafi, it was not clear what the President was up to. Was he leading? Following? Hence the celebrated phrase “leading from behind.” The phrase was not intended as a compliment, but looking back, he got the job done with a fraction of the cost and no American loss of life, unlike the plodding effort in Iraq. As an added bonus, Obama got the French to conduct airstrikes alongside our pilots. Unlike Iraq, the Libya action was a truly allied effort that led to the elimination of a dictator. Best of all, it happened without thousands of American soldiers dead and injured, not to mention another mega-increase in the deficit. This was truly smart power at work. If this is leading from behind then let’s have more of it.

if you ask any general worth his or her salt, 
they will tell you that strategy 
wins over tactics almost every time.

Mitt Romney, the consummate business tycoon, is all about quick results -- the quarterly report -- and in his profession, it is essential. A venture capitalist does not have time to waste on unnecessary items such as developing long term relationships or projecting too far in advance. The turnaround expert is quick to act, get the job done, and walk away as expeditiously as possible. As a matter of fact, expediency is a virtue in Romney's world of business closings.
Governing a complex country with a deeply divided population while dealing with responsibilities all over the world requires patience and lots of it. Romney has shown us time and again that he is not a patient man. He grew tired of governing the infinitesimally smaller territory that is Massachusetts only two years into his governorship. By the time he finished his first and only term he was fed up with governing and allowed Massachusetts to slip to 47th in job creation among our 50 states. His approval rate was in the 30's and he was deemed unelectable for a second term. This is what happens when people are convinced by a quick turnaround artist to govern their state. There is nothing quick about governing. Governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Romney, for example, would make an excellent consultant on a commercial deal with Bolivia, but as CEO of the whole enterprise that is the United States of America he would be a flop, even though he would no doubt shamelessly take advantage of the groundwork prepared by the current President.
Barack Obama, on the other hand is the consummate strategist. He showed us in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Hillary had all the advantages. She was considered almost the prohibitive favorite and had a hard core of dedicated fans. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her. Mark Penn, her campaign manager, was one of the best in the business. But unfortunately for her, she was pitted against a real strategist. Obama's supporters kept their hearts in their mouths the whole time, not knowing where Obama was going. He kept things close to the vest much to the consternation of his supporters. He kept everyone in suspense and pulled it out with forward thinking and a superior strategy. The Hillary camp had tactics, Obama had strategy. And if you ask any general worth his or her salt, they will tell you that strategy wins over tactics almost every time.
Barack Obama is one of our first truly strategic Presidents. Richard Nixon was also a strategist but was also a victim of his own self-doubts and paranoia. What is frustrating for many voters, including some of Obama’s most ardent supporters, is that there are always questions about what exactly his strategy is. That’s all part of the plan since a strategic thinker rarely conveys his strategy, because that is the nature of the master chess player. You are not sure how he does it, but he gets it done with little bombast and fanfare.
It has taken a few years for the Iranian leadership to figure this out. Which is why they are willing to negotiate, albeit in secret. I'm sure the President would love to share what he is doing behind closed doors to bring Iran, kicking and screaming, into dropping their plans for a nuclear weapon, but he can't. That is the nature of power politics. We only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We can only guess what goes on under the surface.
Americans will have a major choice this November. And the choice is not between fake issues like Socialism versus Capitalism. (Hint: both candidates are pro-capitalism.) Or Liberal versus Conservative. (Hint: both candidates are moderates.) No, the choice is more profound and personal.
We have in Mitt Romney, the classic business closer. The king of the deal. The super salesman. The guy you want to convince people to give him their hard-earned cash and sink it into something they never heard about. Those qualities come in handy at times and it would be an intriguing idea to hire Mitt as a consultant on tangible and complex deals.
We have in Barack Obama, on the other hand, the classic strategic thinker. Calm, cool, and collected. The guy with the steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state. The guy who does not get rattled easily. The guy who is not just thinking short term, but long term as well. The man who will bring this country back slowly, but steadily.
It remains to be seen which quality will prevail among a most volatile electorate.

          The President Gets His Groove Back   

Mitt Romney's closing act did not go so well this time around. Mitt was still Mitt, acting up, filibustering, and trying to score points with cheap shots. But this time around the President was determined not to let him get away with anything.
Obama had been roundly criticized after the first debate for letting his opponent “slide,” for not engaging him directly, for being too passive and allowing himself to be bullied by the more aggressive Romney. On this blog, I predicted that Romney was going to regret having won his first debate the way he did. [“Mitt's Pyrrhic Victory”] It was clear to me that this time Obama was not going to let Romney get away with what he said without question. Romney succeeded in bringing out the warrior in Obama. The President was nimble, quick and combative. Everything he wasn't in the first debate. What the public saw was their President standing up to a bully. But they also saw their President answering questions from ordinary citizens without evasion.
The President gets a very bad rap about his general demeanor. His calm, deliberative manner gets confused with weakness and Romney has been quick to exploit this perception. There are many people who don't really understand strength – they confuse strength with bombast, thinking that projecting strength is all about talking “tough.” But usually the opposite is true. Leaders who talk “tough” usually do it out of weakness, not strength. Typically, dictators are those who talk the toughest because they live in fear of their own people and need to act tough to intimidate their own populations. The Romney team has built up its whole argument against Obama based on the false premise that our President is weak, that he projects weakness around the world, even that he “leads from behind.” That narrative suffered somewhat when Romney was faced with a President who was not going to take a step back from the ever charging Romney, who at times seemed desperate and grasping at straws.
One of the seminal moments of the debate was when Romney, believing in his own propaganda, accused the President of not admitting that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was an act of terror. Obama corrected him and stated calmly that he had said that the very next day in the Rose Garden. Romney doubled down and acted like he had caught the President in a monstrous, lie only to be “fact-checked” on the spot by the rock steady moderator, Candy Crowley, a seasoned reporter from CNN. Obama, seizing the moment even quipped about Candy repeating her correction louder so everyone could hear. Before that, when Romney was committing himself to the proposition that the president was not telling the truth, Obama, sitting on his stool, simply smiled and said, “Please proceed, governor.” He was slyly encouraging Romney to hang himself and hang himself he did. Candy Crowley had the presence of mind to correct the record and the video below confirms the truth. It was at this precise moment that Romney's carefully constructed edifice started to crumble. All it takes is one truth teller to point out that the Emperor – in this case the governor – has no clothes.

It never ceases to amaze me in an age when everything is videotaped and it seems everything is available on places like You Tube that any politician would try to falsify a record so easily disproved. And then when caught in a blatant lie, supporters inevitably rally around their candidate and try to tell us that either the record is false or tampered with, or what you can see with your own eyes is not really true.
Finally, as the consummate closer, Romney made a classic mistake. An unforced error if you will. When given the opportunity at the end of the debate, to correct misconceptions of himself, Romney, who had been caught talking derogatorily about 47% of the American public, tried to overcompensate and said he was for 100% of the people. This gave Obama the opening he was looking for and he didn't miss the opportunity to go into some detail about who the 47% Romney had disparaged were. They were seniors, soldiers, students, even veterans. That Romney, the seasoned politician, businessman and closer extraordinaire, would leave himself open for such a clean punch at the end of a debate calls into question his judgment and his leadership abilities.
Of course, there was much more to this second debate and for those who didn't see it, it is worth a peek. The link is provided below in order to see the whole thing which is “must see” TV.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Joe Scores a KO   

It was Joe Biden's night. Those of us who have followed Biden's career knew he had it in him. When paired against the light-weight Palin four years ago they tied one hand behind his back and gave him strict instructions not to manhandle his opponent who had a glaring glass jaw. We have come a long way in gender relations, but there are still many who don't like the sight of a man of the caliber of Joe Biden beating up on a relatively defenseless woman. So fightin' Joe was reduced to a shadow of himself during that bout with the challenged ex-governor of Alaska. It was an awkward moment in American politics.
Last night, no such restrictions were placed on the Vice-President. His opponent this time was the darling of the conservative set -- a legitimate intellectual leader of the Republican Party. A man of bold ideas we have been told. President Obama had even said before the 90 minute session that “Joe should be Joe.” And Joe he was, warts and all.
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
It was not all smooth sailing, however. Ryan had a few sucker punches planned much like his running mate had against the President. But unlike the CEO of Bain Capital, Ryan is no closer. In his debate with Obama, the world saw what a first class closer Romney is. You could tell why he was a successful businessman. It is not hard to imagine, that after the staff at Bain worked painstakingly to explain the intricacies of a complex deal to potential investors the seasoned Romney would appear and put it all together and forcefully close the deal. The great WC Fields summed it up many years ago with his famous quip, “Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.” Romney was not in the business of smartening up anyone. He knew that many of the deals he was promoting were risky, but he knows how to sell iffy to sophisticated investors. That is how he made his living and that is how he beat the intellectually superior Obama. Brawn, when properly applied, can sometimes best brains.
But much as he tried when it was his turn, Ryan was bested from the outset. He did find some weak spots and scored some good blows, but on the important matters he was just outmatched. The murky situation in Libya worked to Ryan’s advantage, for example. Being a Monday morning quarterback (if you pardon the mixed metaphor) was relatively easy since the tragic loss of our Ambassador was a result of much confusion on the ground. Romney, in real time, didn't even wait for Monday to commence his second-guessing. He was already pontificating at half-time when we didn't even know what the final score was. It is always unseemly when our people are in harm’s way overseas and politicians score cheap political points at their expense. When our soldiers or diplomats are victims of an operation gone wrong, that is not the time to second guess the operation. In the case of the events in Benghazi, considering the intelligence was dicey at best, the prudent (dare I say say conservative) course would have been to stay silent until all the facts were in. But Mitt, always the businessman looking for opportunities, couldn't resist taking advantage of the tragedy to score points against the President. He has been so offensive that the mother of one of the slain Navy SEALS told him to stop using her son as a prop in his campaign. But clever Ryan, with little substance to offer, took the cheap shots against Biden and scored early.

 “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? 
A man who introduced a bill that would raise it 
sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, 
and passing it, and Romney saying 
he would sign it, or me and the President?” 
- Joe Biden -

However, when the topics turned to substance and matters of concern to the American voter, Ryan was no match for the well versed Biden, who finally, after waiting four years, could deliver his jabs on substance. On weighty matters such as Medicare, Social Security, the Economy, and the war in Afghanistan, Ryan was taken to school. At one critical point, the Vice-President had to explain the military strategy in Afghanistan to the clueless Ryan, and in the process, educate the American people. Yes, there is a strategy in place, and the reason that fewer American soldiers were engaged was that the Afghan troops we trained were getting more and more involved in securing their own country. And yes, the Taliban are so desperate that they have been able to recruit a few Afghan soldiers to their cause and a few American soldiers tragically lost their lives. Biden correctly pointed out that these were the exceptions, not the rule and the overriding factor was that, imperfect as they are, the Afghans are slowing taking over the responsibility of defending their own country. Unlike the old Soviet Union, America is not out for territorial conquest, just providing a vehicle for the Afghans to create a society where terrorism will have a harder time getting organized to threaten the world.
It is not the intent of this article to go into the whole Vice-Presidential debate blow by blow and document the ups and downs of the clash of the two candidates for the job as a potential Presidential replacement. There will be plenty of commentary examining the details including the equivalent trivial points made about the Presidential debate concerning facial expressions, posture, demeanor and other matters unrelated to governance. I doubt if the American public is that interested in measuring how many seconds Joe Biden smiled, or was that a grin or a smirk on Paul Ryan's face. I leave it to others to discuss these non-issues.
Biden talks directly to the Nation
The American voter is more interested in the future of his or her country and whether the teams vying for the privilege to lead this great nation have what it takes to tackle the big issues. On that score the Vice-President showed us all that, unlike Mitt Romney, he won due to his command of the facts and better policies, not due to his superior business closing skills. But he showed us much more. We saw a man whose whole career has been dedicated to defending ordinary Americans. Biden showed us real passion when it came to defending the middle class, seniors, students, women, working people. Ryan, on the other hand was the consummate policy wonk, a cold numbers calculator.
Joe scored the knockout blow when he looked into the camera, referencing Medicare and said “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, and passing it, and Romney saying he would sign it, or me and the President?” This statement alone distilled Biden's direct appeal to the Nation. He forcefully illustrated his passion to defend the ordinary citizen. Ryan could only counter with more policy options, more numbers.
Joe Biden showed why in spite of his reputation for speaking off the cuff he has the confidence of the President. Biden did what he had to do. He forcefully defended the interests of most Americans and did it with passion and humor.
President Obama, please take note.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Romney's Military-Industrial Complex   

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower – Farewell to the nation speech, January 16, 1961

In spite of his immense military credentials – or maybe because of them – President Eisenhower warned the nation as he departed the White House of a pernicious trend that portended “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” and the need to guard against it.
While most political pundits were bemoaning the head movements of President Obama,
the body language of his challenger, and any number of inconsequential facial movements, physical posture, and general demeanor of the two candidates for the most powerful position in the world during their first debate, largely omitted from serious discussion was the President's unchallenged allegation that candidate Romney was proposing a two trillion dollar increase in military spending.
Mitt Romney
There was more hue and cry over the cutting of Big Bird and the gang at PBS, a savings of approximately $1.25 per average household per year, than the ramping up of our defense establishment to the size of the Cold War years. In those days there was the terrifying thought of nuclear annihilation at the hand of an implacable enemy whose nuclear arsenal was roughly the equivalent to ours and had the wherewithal to deliver a decisive blow that would reduce the United States to ashes in the blink of an eye. Certainly fodder for the hawkish among us.
Nothing approaching this level of Armageddon exists today. The various threats coming from assorted terrorists and potential rogue nations like North Korea and Iran are hardly in the same class of the mighty Soviet Union.
So why, if Mr. Romney is reluctant to borrow a few million from China, as he puts it, to save Big Bird and his pals on Sesame Street, would he be willing to borrow an extra two trillion dollars from presumably the same Chinese? To guard against threats he is not willing to specify? Apparently, children's programming on TV designed to encourage literacy, needs further ample justification but extra trillions for defense only require us to be “concerned.” No specifics necessary.
The folks at Foreign Policy magazine have provided us with a chart that illustrates candidate Romney's dream of ramping up defense spending with a historical context dating back to the 1950's, the peak of the Cold War. Please note the smaller spikes for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The spikes for Iraq and Afghanistan are not on the graph because those wars were not “on the books” as it was an unprincipled trick of the Bush people not to make their reckless spending too obvious.
[source: Foreign Policy]

If most Americans don't get alarmed by this graph, the prospect of a Romney presidency will without a doubt gain the attention of the rest of the world, and not in a good way. America's current enemies will not run and hide, rather they will redouble their efforts, because this is all the proof they need that America would be on a course of world domination. Expect more violence, not less.
As in partial reassurance to our friends and foes alike overseas, let me try to convince you that this is not proof of Romney's desire for world conquest but rather proof of the influence of those who support his campaign.
The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. He correctly predicted that there was a kind of vicious circle quality to defense spending by the “Military-Industrial Complex” as he called it. This is a self perpetuating system whereby big defense contractors become reliant on government largesse. Kind of like the welfare queens Republicans like to warn us about. But this is dependency on a massive scale. It is nothing like a poor family relying on food stamps to feed their kids. Rather, it is a mega-empire built on taxpayer funded businesses large, small, and huge depending upon defense contracts to make them profitable. It is government stimulus gone amok.

The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. 

If Obama had dared spend this kind of money on his stimulus program we would not have any unemployment to speak of and we would indeed be a shining city on a hill. Think Dubai. Yes, the kind of spending proposed by Romney would indeed stimulate the economy. Much employment would be generated, many businesses large and small would thrive, but the country's infrastructure would stay essentially the same. More schools would crumble as would bridges, ports, roads, and so on. We would look fairly good on paper - many people who invested in Romney would get filthy rich - but we would be poorer as a nation because all we would have bought would be a greater capacity to blow up the world many more times over. Overkill on top of more overkill. Not to mention the massive debt we would incur.
I like Big Bird as much as the next guy, but conversation of his survival dwarfs in comparison to the idea of turning this great country of ours into a military nightmare even Eisenhower himself could never have imagined. This is the stuff of dark science fiction movies. Only we’re not talking about a movie plot. I have to laugh when I hear folks tell me it makes no difference who gets elected president.

Ralph Nader, are you listening?

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Mitt's Pyrrhic Victory   

Most people agree: Mitt won the first debate against the President. The question, therefore is, how did he win it?
Governor Romney and President Obama
He was clearly the aggressor and people generally like their President to be aggressive. Romney correctly figured out that if he was to have a shot at the presidency, he would have to take the fight to the incumbent. Just like in boxing, the challenger has to clearly put the champ on the defensive.
But how did he do it?
In short, he did it by changing his positions one more time, by re-inventing himself. If one is keeping track of Romney's positions over his career you could be forgiven if you thought he had multiple personalities. Since Mr. Romney does not have the burden of leading the free world, he is free to change his positions on just about anything to suit his purpose. His hammering away at Obama may have consequences that may not be helpful to the challenger, however. For one, there will be increased scrutiny of Romney’s more outlandish claims.
Let's start with the opening of the debate. Romney and Ryan both have been talking about lowering taxes on the “job creators.” [for a discussion about job creators, read “The Real Job Creators” on this blog] It is practically Republican gospel that lowering taxes on wealthy people is the path to job creation. George W. did it with disastrous results and, while Obama wants to let the Bush tax cuts die, Romney has indicated that not only does he want to keep the Bush cuts to the very rich, but then lower them even more.

“I will not reduce the taxes paid by 
high income Americans.” - Mitt Romney

During the initial exchange of last night's debate, however, we learned that no, no, no, the Governor is not about to give any breaks to the rich. His exact words were “I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high income people.” I did a double take so fast that I think I sprained my neck. Later on, in the same segment he said that he wants to bring tax rates down “both for corporations and for individuals.” Romney has raised flip-flopping to a new height -- he is now flip-flopping within the space of five minutes! He topped his thought when he boldly stated that he would not introduce any tax cut that would “add to the deficit.” He doubled down when he reiterated “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high income Americans.” Well, that clears it up then. I guess if you have this level of shamelessness, and you don't care about math, it is easier to score debate points.
This is not some small detail in an otherwise great plan. It is the core of Romney's plan, similar to Ronald Reagan's and both Presidents Bushes' plans which gave us astronomical deficits. The older Bush had to actually renege on his “no new taxes” pledge just to prevent the deficits from getting any steeper.
But the whoppers did not end there and we haven't even left the first segment yet. Romney has found a new love for the middle class and wants to lower taxes on them too because he knows that is what people want to hear. And to top it off, he wants to raise defense spending, a cute trick on the way towards his claim of balancing the budget.
In the next segment, when the President repeated his desire to end any tax incentives for companies to ship jobs abroad, Romney played dumb and said he never heard of such a thing in his years in business when his company, Bain Capital took full advantage of that loophole. After many attempts to eliminate the loophole failed in Congress due to Republican opposition it is the height of hypocrisy for Romney to pretend he never heard of this tax break. Again, when you don't have the responsibility of governance, you can make outrageous remarks like this.
On the hot topic of Medicare, after lambasting the President for finding savings in the program, he vaguely alludes to younger recipients that they will be taken care of without specifying how. He is telling young people to just trust him.
On healthcare, Romney elevated hypocrisy to a another level. He finally came across praising his own “Romneycare” which he had been ducking until now and had the gall to say how well it worked in Massachusetts and how “Obamacare,” which is based on the Massachusetts model was going to be a disaster for the Nation. He had previously avoided talking about his own healthcare success for fear of being compared to the President's reform. Last night, he threw caution to the wind and just boldly stated that what worked so well in Massachusetts could never serve as a model for the Nation.
When Obama made his case for the federal government having a role in helping education, Romney replied by assuring Americans that he too, supported education, not exactly in the same way as the President, but he too was a believer in teachers, in quality education even though his budget belies his allegations. Obama actually put resources and programs to work to help education, including taking away billions the banks were making at the expense of students seeking college loans. Romney would never have supported that, but claims he is a strong supporter of education. There was no end to the Romney double talk.
One of the truisms Romney uttered last night was that the private marketplace in order to work properly needs rules and regulations. The same applies to debates, one of the ultimate expressions of the free market of ideas. But unlike in boxing, in debates there is no referee. There is nobody taking away points for sucker punches. In boxing, the ref can even disqualify a fighter for fighting dirty. No such things happen in a political debate. There are no rules, no points taken away for low blows, or even for bringing a knife to the fight. Anything goes in politics.
There is an important difference between boxing and debates, however. In boxing the decision is made immediately after the fight and that's all she wrote. In politics winning a debate is more like winning one round. The people are the ones who will ultimately decide what the impact of this first round win will be. There will be at least two weeks of poll numbers to judge whether Romney moved the numbers significantly in his direction. Will the celebrated swing states swing in his direction or will they stay with the President, for example. The next debate between the two Presidential candidates will be round two and you can bet that it will go differently depending on where the two stand in the battleground states.
I think Romney may yet regret that he got what he wished for. Winning the first round can produce many unpredictable consequences.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Why We're Voting for Obama   

Brenda A.


I gained great inspiration from President Obama to take a chance on opening my wine shop, and hope and change have been very good to me.

We just hit the three-year mark on my business, and it's paid off! President Obama is making sure that small business owners like myself can succeed. I know the economy needs to continue improving, and he's doing everything he can for small businesses.

I remember when I saw Barack Obama speak in 2008 in Kissimmee, I knew then that he would be elected president. I've had his back ever since. I believe in Barack Obama.

Tom C.


I just graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Warrington School of Business. But the four years of rigorous, demanding coursework and the sacrifice I made isn't the real story here. Nor is the fact that the school is ranked 11th overall nationally for its distinguished finance program, an industry I plan to work in. Neither is the story about how I worked full-time throughout the last four years while studying, exchanging vacations and socialization, nice dinners, time with friends and family, and so much more for life as a student.

No, the real story is this: that without the combination of low cost federal loans and federal Pell grants, as well as state grants, I wouldn't have my degree today. What an abomination and stunt to American ingenuity, cultural and socio-economic progress cutting these funds for future generations would be. Although I'm through college, I care deeply, perhaps now more so than before I started on my degree, about the importance of ensuring Pell grants and low-cost loans are widely available, and stay available to any and all who seek them.

I'm confident a vote for President Obama this year is a vote towards protecting our commitment to future students that depend on these social nets. I, for one, am happy to pay my taxes throughout my lifetime to do my part. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. But my convictions simply come from my experience - nothing else.

Thank you, President Obama, and members of Congress, who champion, in the face of unadulterated and unrelenting populist pressure, that our long tradition of helping to fund higher education needs to continue to preserve opportunity for all, and investments in the next generation of ambitious innovators, thinkers, and doers are just too important to simply “give up”.

Susan R.


My story isn't going to be about economics, or healthcare. It's not going to be about anything that catches the eyes of a news reader. My story is a simple, but my life depends on people like President Obama.

I am a military spouse. I am a proud Air Force wife. I am a mother, an advocate, a supporter, and I too take orders and try not to question those in charge. Though I don't actually own a uniform, I put one on every day.

In my lifetime, I have never witnessed and now been a part of an administration that focuses so much on the military and the military family.

I would like to thank President and Mrs. Obama, for caring about us. For putting into place initiatives like Joining Forces that really do help military families. I would like to thank the First Family for listening to us.

Not many have had to experience the military life and though this is a life that we choose, it is still one that is fraught with fear, anxiety, depression, and stress.

I truly believe that if our nation works hard and joins forces that good people like President Obama can continue making change!

Kim J.


I wasn't a supporter of President Obama in 2008. I didn't go to any phone banks or attend any rallies, and there was one simple reason for that: I was a Republican.

Raised in Orange County in a staunchly Republican family, naturally I became very involved in GOP politics. By the end of my junior year in college, I had volunteered on a Republican campaign and interned twice for a Republican member of Congress. Those experiences were meant to be stepping stones toward my dream job: a political career in Washington, D.C., working for a GOP congressman. But after working so hard for Republicans for so long, I came to a very humbling realization – I had been fighting for the wrong side the entire time.

Last summer, it finally struck me how much this administration's policies helped me as a young woman in her college years. From student loan reform to the Affordable Care Act, I have benefited tremendously from the work of President Obama. I re-registered as a Democrat and soon after, jumped at the chance to work for Obama as an organizing fellow with the campaign. I have been volunteering ever since.

Four years ago, I never would have thought I would be a supporter of President Obama, much less a volunteer on his campaign, but I now understand how much the President has fought for me, even when I wasn't fighting for him.

Joyce B.


Our adult son was born with the birth defect, Spina Bifida, 44 years ago, and in his 20's was diagnosed with leukemia. We were fortunate enough to have health insurance through an employer that covered the cost of 38 surgeries due to his birth defect, a bone marrow transplant to cure the leukemia, wheelchairs, leg braces, many doctor's vists, therapy sessions, etc. We know firsthand the tremendous expense parents have when faced with the birth of a child with birth defects. Our son was helped first by the government program, Supplemental Security Income, before he had worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Income. He has never been able to obtain a full time job because of his physical and learning disabilities, but has worked part-time for many years in minimum wage jobs. He now qualifies for Medicare which is life-saving for him, since he is uninsurable under current law due to his pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Health Care Law will now allow those with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance. Although we were fortunate to have healthcare coverage for these many surgeries, we know there are many families with children with disabilities who do not have adequate insurance. Those who oppose this law need to step into the shoes of those who aren't able to obtain health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. President Obama stood by his promise to pass the Affordable Health Care Law which will benefit many people, and we with many other families thank him. He has accomplished many things during his presidency even though he has had tremendous opposition from the Republican party membership. We believe he is leading our country in the right direction on all the major issues facing our country. We will support President Obama during this campaign by volunteering and by our financial contributions as we did in 2008.

David & Joyce B.

Jillian M.


My husband & I live in a VERY rural area in eastern Colorado. We're pretty much surrounded by people who support the republican point of view. We proudly drive our pick-up around with our Obama sticker on it, and do all we can to support "our" President. Things are tough out here...our daughter is a teacher & can't find a job. We believe in what Obama stands for...what our country needs to support for all of our futures. We donate whenever we can & you have all our support. Thanks for all you have done for us and for what you continue to do for Americans.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Voodoo Two   

When candidate George H. W. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan he coined a phrase which became synonymous with the economics policy of the Reagan administration and could easily be applied to Republican orthodoxy since then: “Voodoo Economics.”
Mitt Romney
Bush, the last moderate Republican president, was appalled that Ronald Reagan was proposing to increase federal spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget, a feat that in fact turned out to be impossible. Reagan characterized Jimmy Carter's economic deficits as “obscene” and promised his Presidency was going to erase Carter's deficits and balance the budget.
Bush 41 stated that Reagan's economic views were nonsense and correctly predicted that, if implemented, they would drive up deficits substantially. Calling the Reagan economic proposals, “Voodoo Economics” was his way of alerting the voting public that Reagan’s policies were a type of “magical thinking” and had no basis in reality. Just a quick gaze at a chart provided by Wikipedia illustrates the consequence of Reagan's policies on deficits. In comparison, Carter's deficits look downright puny, although compared to Richard Nixon, they were much larger, leaving Carter vulnerable to the charge that he was increasing the debt more than the frugal Nixon.
(source: Wikipedia)
Unfortunately for the nation, Reagan's flirtation with supply side economics led to deficits the likes of which America had never seen before. How and why Ronald Reagan is still considered a hero to conservatives to this day in light of his pursuit of extravagant government spending is beyond my comprehension. The only explanation I can come up with is that in the conservative world, military spending does not count -- as by some twisted logic, the Defense Department is not really part of the Federal Government.
Of course, most of us remember that the Soviet Union collapsed during Reagan's term, so he received credit for containment policies dating back to the Truman Administration. If there was one consistent bipartisan thread in American foreign policy since World War II it was an implacable opposition to the Soviet Union. Actually, it was the much maligned Jimmy Carter who stood up to the Soviets the hardest, not with just rhetoric but with bold action. First, he dealt the Soviets a humiliating blow to their collective egos by boycotting the Moscow Olympics, ostensibly for their invasion of Afghanistan. But the most consequential action Carter took was to halt precious shipments of grain to the Soviets, an action that disrupted their food supply chain and led directly to food riots in Poland which marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire. But no matter, Reagan uttered those memorable words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” in Berlin and almost by magic the wall came down. Voodoo indeed.
The Reagan legend was cemented and all the spending was forgiven since Reagan single-highhandedly brought down the despised Soviet empire. Even New York's Mayor Giuliani, running for President himself kept repeating the anecdote that Ronald Reagan had such magical powers that the day he was inaugurated the Iranians released all the hostages from the US Embassy in Teheran. Never mind that the Carter administration had been working feverishly for over a year to negotiate their release, working with as diverse countries as Switzerland and Algeria (the final go-between) to secure the release of the Embassy personnel. No siree, according to the good Mayor of New York City, the mere walking into the White House of the Voodoo Master himself was sufficient to scare the hell out of the Ayatollah, who, out of fear that Reagan might utter magic words like, “Let my people go!” and the hostages would mysteriously disappear from Iran, released them before lunch. It is astounding that there are people who would believe such a fantastical yarn, even devoid of the embellishments I added for effect. Reagan, for the diehard Republicans (and a few Democrats), was the proverbial knight in shining armor and everything he did turned into gold, even when he was selling missiles to the Ayatollah.
Such is the power of magic that Mitt Romney, who in an earlier incarnation put as much distance between himself and Ronald Reagan as he could, has now seen the light and is promoting another version of wizardly wisdom, call it Voodoo Economics 2.0. For brevity sake, let's call it Voodoo Two.
Voodoo Two, or the return of Voodoo Economics, is essentially warmed-over Ronald Reagan. If you listen carefully to Mitt Romney (and it is my job to listen carefully to the would-be President) you will get to the essence of what Romney is proposing. He is telling us that he would increase defense spending, lower income taxes for everybody, keep most of the safety net for the poor, save all the entitlements for future generations, and (wait for it) balance the budget. Of course, the main difference between suceeding Obama and suceeding Carter is that between George W. and Obama (mostly George W), the debt has exploded right through the ozone layer. Obama likes to blame Bush for the debt, but he increased the debt by 10% himself, although 90% of it is George W.'s accomplishment.
So Magical Mitt, as we should probably be calling him, together with his wonder-boy Ryan are going to perform a Reagan encore act on an exploding deficit and they expect the American public to believe that Reagan's tripling of Carter's deficit is in no way related to Romney's new voodoo. There are plenty of people who wish to believe. Faith, they call it. But faith in the divine is one thing. Many people believe that faith in the divine is a good thing and who is to say they are wrong? Faith in something we cannot see or comprehend can be construed as optimism, of belief in life with purpose. But confidence in a politician who is doing a bad impersonation of another politician who was responsible for huge deficits is not the kind of faith that can be said to be optimistic. That is just gullibility.
As George W. famously said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee – I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can't get fooled again."
Or something like that.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Bopp 'til you Drop   

James Bopp, is a rather obscure lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana. I say obscure, because he is not known by the general public, but to the anti-abortion crowd he is kind of a hero. He has served as the general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004. Bopp was the editor of Restoring the Right to Life: The Human Life Amendment. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1984)
James Bopp
This story is not, however, about Bopp's abortion bona fides. He is better known as the guy who brought us rivers of money to political campaigns as he argued successfully for Citizens's United in front of the Supreme Court.
His success had a improbable start. He was literally laughed out of court when he had the temerity to state that the hit piece on Hillary Clinton, Hillary: The Movie, was legitimate news and should be allowed to air on TV as would any news piece. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) told Citizens United that it couldn't air the film during primary season, because it amounted to a 90-minute campaign ad. In court, Bopp argued that the movie wasn't so different from what you'd see on 60 Minutes, and its creators deserved First Amendment protections. At that point, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth laughed out loud. "You can't compare this to 60 Minutes," he said. "Did you read this transcript?"
But funnier things happened on the way to the Supreme Court since the justices saw fit to overturn the FEC's decision, thereby ushering in a new age of unlimited campaign spending whereby billionaires could contribute unlimited cash – anonymously if they wish – to support the candidates of their choice, virtually annihilating the years of campaign reforms that had been painstakingly achieved on a bipartisan basis over many years. One stroke of the pen eliminated years of legislative work. President Obama famously predicted that the decision would go down in history as a terrible experiment much to the visible disapproval of justice Alito during a State of the Union address.
The assumption, of course, by both Democrats and Republicans, was that the Republicans, with their billionaire minions would have a huge advantage and that cash advantage does seem to have materialized in that candidate Mitt Romney, the self-confessed candidate of the plutocrats, has been awash in campaign cash, much of it of dubious origin and difficult to account for. He used his cash advantage to blow away his Republican primary competition which is certainly evidence of poetic justice since Republicans generally welcomed the Supreme Court decision with open arms, not to mention open wallets. The Romney rivals never had a fighting chance as they were severely outspent by the faux conservative Romney and, in an ironic twist worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, the more conservative candidates were pulverized by the very money they worshiped, allowing the moderate and more “flexible” Romney to win the nomination. Never was the saying, “Be careful what you wish for...” more true.

Never was the saying, “Be careful 
what you wish for...” more true.

Romney has demonstrated that the well-heeled are the ones in the best position to rake in the cash, not necessarily the ones with the most conservative ideas, which is why we have a Romney/Ryan ticket and not the converse. There is even loose talk among the conservative claque that Romney should step aside and allow for the ideologically more “pure” ticket of Ryan/Rubio.

But it is too late.

Romney, the poster child of unfettered capitalism, has won the money race fair and square under the new Bopp rules, and Bopp, as a modern Dr. Frankenstein, has joined his newly created monster who turns out to be exactly what the system created. He is an unfeeling money hound with no scruples or core principles aside from a strong desire to win at any cost, much like the mythical Gordon Gekko, that fictitious lizard of Wall Street fame.
The final irony is this. All that humongous horde of cash cannot hide the fact that Romney is a deeply flawed candidate and the instincts of the American people are proven correct once again. Romney is perceived as the phony he is by friend and foe alike. The only thing keeping his campaign even remotely competitive is that 1) there are people who genuinely dislike the President and would vote for Joe the Plumber before voting for Obama, and 2) the economy is in a sluggish recovery so therefore there is more pain out in the country than usual.
If it wasn't for these two factors, all the money in China wouldn't be enough to save Mitt's candidacy. What will be interesting to see is after the Bopp experiment has run its course, and the big money fails to win, what will the Congress do about campaign finance reform? To quote the great poet ee cummings,
“how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death”

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Dirty Harry Meets Harvey   

Clint Eastwood at the Republican Convention
Film buffs remember Jimmy Stewart's iconic portrayal of a simple man who had a six foot two invisible rabbit as a friend. Stewart carried the 1950 film classic, Harvey which centered around the question of whether Jimmy Stewart's character was sane or insane.
There is no question that the rambling Clint Eastwood is sane. His performance at the Republican National Convention, where he conversed with an invisible Barack Obama, may have been a bit bizarre but it nicely encapsulated the fiction that continues to be the criticism of the President. Clint Eastwood was short on specifics, but he tried to reinforce the myth that the President is a nice guy but in over his head, that he is not up to the job.

The media generally has panned Eastwood's convention performance, alleging that he sounded like an “old,” almost senile man who was generally an embarrassment and out of synch with the Republican convention. Certainly, he was a shadow of himself if you compare his performance in Tampa with the powerful Superbowl commercial he did for Chrysler. The Chrysler commercial was criticized by Republicans for sounding too pro-Obama. Somehow, truth-telling, which is what Eastwood was doing in the commercial, seems to benefit the President. But Eastwood went beyond truth-telling in that hard-hitting Dirty Harry style spot. The commercial not only reminded Americans of the critical role the President had in saving the US automobile industry, but Clint made that all-American pitch, that we were merely at halftime, alluding to not only the break in the football game but also, some concluded, to the halfway mark of Obama's presidency. Therefore, it became imperative for the Republican Party to make clear to the voters that Eastwood was a supporter of the Republican ticket.
But Eastwood is no old senile man. Far from it. He is as clever as a fox. His performance was not only designed to pander to the delegates at the convention but was also designed to plant seeds of doubt among the undecided voters. Unfortunately for Clint, it was too clever by half and he got lost in his contradictions. It is hard to make the point that Obama is a “nice guy” who is in over his head while simultaneously attributing epithets such as “go fuck yourself” and “shut up” to him since most people think of their President as a mild-mannered man. Eastwood did, however, capture the essence of the Republican message and talking to a non-existent Obama pretty much says it all. The Romney/Ryan campaign is entirely dependent on perpetuating a critique of a non-existent Obama. The following is a small representative sample:
The Stimulus was a Failure
It is a classic fallacy that if something does not solve every problem it must have failed. In order to make this statement believable one must suspend all reality. The only legitimate critique is that the stimulus could have been larger, but that is counter to Republican orthodoxy that government is powerless to solve anything. Thousands of jobs were either saved or created. All manner of projects, both in the public sector and private, were brought to success. For example, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, would never have been able to balance his budget without stimulus funding. All manner of infrastructure work was accomplished in spite of a few projects which were not quite “shovel ready.” The Republican critique only works if one concentrates on the few failures. A short quote from Energy.com tells a small part of the story:
Today, the Obama Administration announced the selection of the first public-private pilot institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio, to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process to receive an initial investment of $30 million in federal funding and matched by $40 million from the winning consortium of manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania ‘Tech Belt.’ August 16, 2012 [source: Department of Commerce]
There are countless initiatives that did not make the news. Unlike the simplistic slogans characterizing the media as “liberal,” the media gravitate more to sensational stories. For example, the closing of a single plant such as Solyndra in California is simple to report, while telling the bigger story of NAMII (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) is more complex and nuanced and therefore a more difficult story to tell in a five minute segment.
The Elimination of the Work Component of Welfare Myth
This blatant falsehood is essential to paint Obama as a protector of the shiftless and lazy class, complete with racial overtones since so many people assume that welfare recipients are mostly blacks. The best numbers available on welfare recipients: Black – 39.8%, White – 38.8%, Hispanic – 15.7%, Other – 3.3%, Asian – 2.4%. [source: answers.com]
All the fact-checkers agree that Obama did not eliminate the work component for welfare recipients. He simply gave, within the provisions of the law, some flexibility to governors, such as Mitt Romney himself, regarding how to attain the work requirement. For a party that is constantly promoting states rights not only is this critique a lie but it is disingenuous as well as hypocritical.
The Gutting of Medicare Myth
This is clearly one of the most pernicious of all the Republican lies. The $716 billion number Republicans bandy about as “taking” from Medicare is really a tightening of the program by negotiating with hospitals and other providers smaller reimbursements based on the expectations of an expanded population insured under the American Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Republicans, on the other hand, have made no secret of their desire to eliminate Medicare by forcing future seniors into the private insurance market with the promise of a fixed subsidy that may or may not cover the insurance premiums, which will undoubtedly be extremely high based on probability factors. Ironically, only the full implementation of Obamacare with its insistence of insuring people with pre-existing conditions might palliate the Republican voucher plan. Of course, to add insult to injury, Ryan has the exact same cut to Medicare in his plan as Obama does.
Obama Believes Jobs Come from Government
This particular myth is actually quite easily disproved, although Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that repeating a lie over and over again has an effect on the body politic. Public sector jobs grew by 4% under George W. Bush and shrank by 3% under Barack Obama, a fact that is just not generally known thanks to a failure of the Obama administration to push that point coupled with the media's infatuation with more sensationalist stories. Not only do too many people believe Obama is “growing” government but too many people don't realize he cut most of their taxes as well.
This is why Clint Eastwood's dialog with a non-existent Obama rings true. Critics have had a field day accusing President Obama of the most outrageous fantasies. The above examples are merely a few selected policy fabrications, but the concoctions have been many and varied. The smears on his reputation seem to be endless, from raising doubts about his own birth, his faith, his convictions, almost everything about him has been called into question – not as legitimate inquiry, but as deliberate fraudulent statements designed to misrepresent. The Republicans have been criticizing a non-existent Obama for years and getting away with it.
Clint indeed made their day.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Ryan's Medicare Problem   
In the point, counter-point world of campaigns, much is lost in the hyperbole and obsession over details. Most issues are not black and white, so to reduce them to slogans based on one esoteric point over another, doesn't give voters a chance to properly evaluate the competing claims.
Representative Paul Ryan
The Medicare debate is particularly complicated because it involves scores of factors, many of which are difficult to control. Most slogans actually say very little that is useful to the voter. “End Medicare as we know it” is a truism that says nothing just as “government takeover of healthcare” is a falsehood that doesn’t provide any information. The first slogan, used by Democrats, is true but meaningless. It tells us nothing about what the Republicans are up to. Its intention is to scare people afraid of change, nothing more. It actually begs the question as to whether the Republican changes to Medicare are an improvement or not, thereby shutting down any effective debate. “Government takeover of healthcare” is a slogan used by Republicans to denigrate “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) which not only is a falsehood, since the ACA is actually a reform of the already existing private health insurance system, but equally shuts off debate by scaring voters into believing that the President is a closest Socialist hell bent on turning America into a big gulag.
So what then happens is the commentary class then will go into excruciating detail trying to unravel a most complex issue that requires reams of documents to explain. The result is that the public is as confused as ever, not knowing who or what to believe.
The intent of this piece is not to be an exhaustive analysis of the issues but to make a few observations as to what the philosophies are behind the various reforms. It is really up to the individual voter to read as much as possible about the various plans and their critics and come to his or her own conclusion.
However, as one who leans towards the liberal side of the equation I cannot help but notice that Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants to weed seniors away from the admittedly government-run current system to a private insurance based system much like the rest of us have, has the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the President's Affordable Care Act. An interesting twist since his partner, Mitt Romney, is staking his candidacy in large measure on the repeal of ACA. I predict that if Mr. Romney is elected president, repealing ACA will be his first official flip-flop since he will find out it will not be easy to unravel such a large piece of legislation whose many individual parts are more popular than the whole. In a word, he will find out, as President Obama did, the power of the filibuster rule (in the case the Democrats should lose the Senate) or the power of the Senate (should the Democrats remain in the majority).
But the problems for Ryan don't end there. There is a real difference in philosophy between the two major parties and in particular between the Obama/Biden and the Romney/Ryan teams. The President is all about spreading the risk among all Americans. Unlike the caricature of his “spreading the wealth,” he genuinely believes that 1) all Americans should have medical insurance regardless of income level and 2) a single risk pool should be the strength of the American people as a whole. One can disagree with this philosophy, but that is what the man believes in.
The private insurance businesses, however, believe in creating risk pool groups. This is how they manage their business. Lower risk groups, therefore, pay the lowest premiums and the higher risk groups pay increasingly higher premiums because their risk is higher. It makes perfect sense as a business model which is why the business minded Romney and Ryan support this type of approach. This is what they call the free market.
The problem with this free market approach to human services is that, although great for business, it is not so great for people who end up sick and old. The free market is a wonderful mechanism to deliver most goods and services. No one has come up with a better economic system that is more innovative, nimble, and efficient. But healthcare is in a different class. One might even say it is in a unique class because as we all get old we all use healthcare disproportionately. Young, healthy people rarely need medical intervention unless they get involved in a catastrophic accident or contract an unpredictable disease. Consequently, as a group they are in a rather low risk pool.
So here's where the differences in philosophies clash. By insisting that everybody is in the same boat, the President is telling younger people that they should pay more now in insurance in order to have a guarantee that they won't pay significantly more when they get old. That is the bargain that Obama would like to see for America. The Republican alternative (when you get deep in the weeds with Ryan's reforms) is to rely on the private sector for seniors. This means, of course, they will get caught up in increasingly higher and more expensive risk pools. To his credit, Ryan left the public option open for seniors -- after howls of protest from Democrats and senior groups like AARP -- but all that will accomplish is to push the really sick into the government plan, making it even more expensive than it is now. Ironically, it is Obama's cost saving ACA that can palliate the effect somewhat. No matter what, though, the highest risk people will cost the most, because the population as whole was treated unequally to start with.

Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants 
to weed seniors away from the admittedly 
government-run current system to a 
private insurance based system 
much like the rest of us have, has 
the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the 
President's Affordable Care Act.

People who see the market as some sort of religion that has to be correct for everything will embrace the Republican philosophy until it will be too late if they find themselves out of luck. We have been living in a mixed economy for some time now. We have maintained a market economy that works well (with a few exceptions) but have also embraced government intervention in certain areas of common good. Most Republicans have accepted that the free market in its purest form cannot meet all of people's needs. Services like fire, police, public works, primary and secondary education, have been in public hands for a long time and although not without problems, are considered by most best done through a public service, not private enterprise. Nobody in his right mind would suggest we turn the fire departments into a private insurance scheme where premiums are optional and varied. And if you chose not to participate, well, your house will just burn down as the fire department would limit itself to protecting those who paid their insurance premiums.
Healthcare is not very different from protection against fire. We all need it. It is not an “option” unless you are so heartless as to think people should be allowed to die at the scene of an accident or from a curable disease. Fortunately, very few people think that.
There is much to reform in healthcare. The costs are too high. There are many inefficiencies in the system. There is too much corruption. The list is quite long. All ideas that contribute towards solving these problems should be welcomed, and it should not matter who comes up with them. But America has a choice to make. Should the private insurance companies be allowed to make up the rules that satisfy their bottom line? Or should the public sector create rules that are in everyone's interest that take into account that as we grow older our needs are greater and costs are higher? Are we all in this together? Or should each group be forced into fending for itself?

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          America's decline?   
Gabby Douglas (gymnastics)
After watching the Olympic Games on TV it is hard to conclude that America is in decline. If it is, somebody forgot to tell our young Olympian athletes. Watching them perform was a treat that every American should have savored. From the hard-boiled professionals of the NBA to the pre-collegiate athletes like our female gymnasts, they all showed us what talent, dedication, and hard work can accomplish. Only the megasized Chinese athletes, a product of a Soviet-style massive government program, came even close in medal count to the Americans.
Michael Phelps (swimming)
Except the Americans are not part of a gigantic government experiment, much to the chagrin of the conservative critique of contemporary America. President Obama has not turned the Olympic movement into another government project. He clearly has no intention to. There are some who delude themselves into thinking that our President is actively conspiring to turn our country into an oppressive central government-run state even as there is little evidence of that. Our Olympic athletes are a product of the best America has to offer: privately run professional leagues, collegiate organized sports, public and private school organized sports, with a smattering of diehard individuals perfecting their special talents. No centralized control necessary because freedom, combined with a strong work ethic and a strong desire to succeed is all we need.
Ashton Eaton (decathlon)
Our Olympic athletes embody the best of America, something that has not changed since the first Olympiad of the modern era in 1896.
During the Cold War there were the titanic struggles between the US and Soviet Union, which used the power of its massive government to create a program designed to foster its image as a super power. The Soviets used the Olympics to show the world they were at the same level or better than the dreaded capitalistic flag bearer that was the

Our Olympic athletes surely 
represent the best 
our country has to offer 
and they have shown the world 
that American values are alive. 

United States. For them the Olympics was just an extension of their foreign policy much like the Chinese today. They have emulated the West in just about everything except their version of the Olympics which is a carbon copy of the old Soviet system.
Jordan Burroughs (wrestling)
America stood fast during the Cold War, preferring to stick to its ideals of personal liberty even when it was tempting to opt for a massive government program to promote success at the Games watched by the entire world.
The Olympic revival, starting with the 1896 games in Athens, Greece, was conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin and was initially an all-male affair. Coubertin's vision was that nationalism would play a minor role and that only amateurs would participate. The Games have greatly expanded since then and the ideal of minimizing nationalism has all but evaporated, even though there is no official mention of which country “won” the Games. However, the daily medal counts reports belie the spirit of anti-chauvinism, although only China has a serious government program (along with a few diehard communist countries like Cuba and North Korea).
Kayla Harrison (judo)
Every country on the planet takes pride in the successes of their compatriots, including the USA, which proves that there is no need for the government to be involved to produce a sense of patriotism.
Judging by the performance of our athletes in London, it is difficult to make the argument that the United States is a country in decline, that our values of self-reliance, hard work, and success-oriented behavior are compromised. Our young people are still the envy of the world.
Missy Franklin (swimming)
I always suspected that most of the hand-wringing about America's decline as a country and a culture has a mostly political agenda behind it. There are people with a vested interest in accusing our President of curtailing our Constitutional freedoms, and adopting a “statist” style of governance which in turn is leading us down a ruinous path. No matter that there is little truth to this assertion and the best example the President's critics can come up with is his health care reforms which are based on a private sector model and not a “government takeover” model as is falsely alleged.
If you believe the President is a closet Socialist, hell-bent on eroding our freedoms, turning our government into a gigantic leviathan that will control every aspect of our lives, then I have to admit he has been a colossal failure.
Vincent Hancock (shooting)
But if you believe the President is a democratic reformer working within the limits of our Constitution, who represents the best of our country, then I believe he has been largely successful.
Our Olympic athletes surely represent the best our country has to offer and they have shown the world that American values are alive. America is hardly in decline. You can even make the assertion that American values and America itself is as strong as ever.
We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          The Ugly American   
Most Americans only get interested in foreign policy when either a) someone bombs us or b) we bomb someone. I realize this is a bit of oversimplification but the average American is just not interested in world affairs or the fact that as the world's superpower, we have daily dealings with countries and people across the entire globe. Americans just don't think that our presence in the world is all that important.
Of course, that changes from time to time as when the Olympic Games roll around and all of a sudden our competitive juices get revved up. Suddenly it matters a lot that a small group of female gymnasts besting all the world's other gymnasts becomes all-consuming and all-important. There are other times, on smaller scales, when Americans care about what happens in the world, but on the whole, the average American is not terribly interested or informed about world events.
However, our presence in the world matters. A lot. America has commercial interests all over the world and not just limited to oil or iPod sales, to name two obvious concerns. America is a true world leader and whether we care or not, the whole world looks to America for leadership.
Governor Mitt Romney
Which is why Mitt Romney's uninspired tour of three of the most American-friendly nations, Great Britain, Israel, and Poland does not bode well for the Republican prospect. The press has had its fun with the many gaffes and missteps by both the presidential candidate himself and his closest aides, but the whole is more important than its parts. Sure, blaring headlines in the London papers announcing, “Mitt the Twit” are not helpful, but the image of a would be world leader incapable of navigating friendly waters should give Americans pause.
Headline in Rupert Murdoch's "The Sun" newspaper
More egregious, however, was Romney's blatant disregard of the delicate and tricky role America plays in the Middle East. In his zeal to contrast himself with President Obama, shore up support with Jewish voters back home, and assist his unquenchable thirst for campaign cash, he threw caution to the wind by adopting an uncompromising pro-Israeli government stand. I say Israeli government because his chummy relationship with Bibi Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister should not be confused with a pro-Israel position. Netanyahu represents a conservative government, which in a parliamentary democracy such as Israel could change in a blink of an eye.
Much more important is the delicate balance America has to achieve between being a supporter of Israel the country and its true interests, while maintaining a position as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Maybe posturing with his buddy Bibi will score him points back home with the yahoos and fool some Jewish voters into believing Romney has Israel's back, but Israel is not simply defined by its current government and its current policies. Israel is a complex democratic society similar to ours with many points of view and it is clearly in the country's interest to co-exist peacefully with its Arab neighbors. Putting down Palestinian “culture” as Romney did does not help Israel in any way.

If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections 
is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing 
to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting 
in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions 
in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? 

Every American President, liberal or conservative, understands this delicate balancing act and none has ever lowered himself to being merely a blatant cheerleader for Israel. Most Israelis understand this simple fact. By ignoring the true interests of the Israeli people in order to score cheap campaign points, Romney is not only showing his lack of mastery of the complex art of diplomacy, but also putting his immediate personal needs ahead of Israel. Jewish voters should not be fooled.
So far, the most under-reported story of Romney's latest international tour is his shameless fund-raising on foreign soil yet the press reported his ability to raise millions from foreigners in the most nonchalant way. Is is not enough that the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates of money pouring into our elections? The Supreme Court declared that corporations are equivalent to people and as citizens have the right to donate money to influence elections, in unlimited ways and in secret. That is a travesty that the Congress is trying to address, but since when is it OK for foreign interests – big foreign interests – to participate in our elections with cash? Where is the outrage from the people who are trying to make voting in elections as difficult as possible in order to prevent foreigners from voting? I think everybody agrees that foreigners voting in our elections is a no-no, but how about foreigners giving cash to presidential candidates? Are we so blasé and cynical that raising millions in foreign cash hardly raises an eyebrow? If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? I am reasonably confidant that Romney broke no laws when he collected millions from foreigners. I don't believe Romney is careless enough to openly break such a law were it to exist. But, one might ask, how is it possible that foreigners can legally influence our elections with cash and what does this say about a candidate willing to take large sums from foreigners?
Romney supporters like to say that his trip abroad was a resounding success. I guess it all depends on what his goals were. Based on the results, we can be confident in assuming that foreign policy was not his main priority.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Malicious Kook Power   

Definition of KOOK
: one whose ideas or actions are eccentric, fantastic, or insane :
Definition of MALICE
1: desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another
2: intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse
Who would have thought that the likes of Michele Bachmann, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh would have so much influence in the Middle East? These three and others like them continue to be national embarrassments and have little influence in their own country outside of their rabid group of fans, but in faraway Egypt, of all places, their antics have provoked otherwise levelheaded people to believe the preposterous lie that America had a secret agenda to support the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian elections.
And where did they unearth such an obvious lie?
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
It all started with Congresswoman (and ex-candidate for President) Michele Bachmann's allegation that the US Congress has been penetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Not content with this simple baseless allegation, Bachmann goes all in with this whopper: “It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bachmann told radio host Sandy Rios in June. “It appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency." Words worthy of Senator Joe McCarthy himself.
Nobody in his right mind pays much attention to these obvious cries for attention as the media, generally speaking, does little to report on this nonsense, but these malicious kooky ideas do find their way into the blogosphere, particularly through the right-wing “ditto-heads” who are all too happy to promote the most preposterous lies about our President and his administration.

The spectacle of our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton 
being pelted by tomatoes and jeered in Egypt is 
not just a humiliation she does not deserve.

Not to be outdone, Glen Beck has been advancing some pretty paranoid scenarios of his own. The enclosed video clip tells the story in chilling detail, it tells a tale that should frighten us all. Beck manages to assemble a a group of “experts” who sound very rational, discussing the demise of the United States at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, even implicating the President of the United States in a ridiculous plot working with elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to obliterate our country as we know it. Gone is the bombast Beck exhibited at Fox News, the bombast he thrilled Rupert Murdoch with because it ginned up ratings, fattening both of their wallets in the process. (When Beck's over the top shtick stopped bringing in the big bucks, ol' Rupert, always the sentimental one, dropped Glen like a hot potato.) But here, the soft spoken Beck with his ever so calm guests weave a tale that is worthy of the Syfy channel except that gullible listeners in Egypt were apparently tuned in.

Finally, of course, there is the always reliable über-malicious kook himself, Rush Limbaugh who completes the puzzle with this gem:
Huma Abedin, Mrs. Anthony Weiner, Mrs. Huma Weiner, she is Hillary Clinton’s number one aide. And Huma’s mother is best friends with the new First Lady of Egypt, the wife of the new Muslim Brotherhood guy, Morsi. That’s really all you need to know. But there’s much more to know. That’s why Hillary is out celebrating the brotherhood. That’s why Hillary is joining Obama in telling the military to give it up for the Brotherhood guy. Because Huma’s mom, there’s actually a group, the Muslim Sisterhood, essentially, that is an offshoot of the Brotherhood. And Huma’s mom is best friends with the new so-called First Lady of Egypt, who is also a member of the Sisterhood. Folks, it’s Peyton place. It’s too much to keep up with.
As Limbaugh boldly states, there's more, much more (including the the omitted fact that Weiner is a Jew), but this modest article is not about detailing all the sordid particulars of the paranoid delusions of America's malicious kooks. That is more print than any of them deserve. Those of you who are fascinated with the ranting of the professional paranoids, feel free to investigate on your own. There’s plenty more.
However, there is a larger point to be made. The antics of those many of us regard as kooks, or entertainment as some will, are taken seriously abroad by too many people. The spectacle of our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton being pelted by tomatoes and jeered in Egypt is not just a humiliation she does not deserve. It is a humiliation of our President (who incidentally, in spite of vicious rumors to the contrary, does not deserve this either). Most importantly, it is a humiliation directed at the United States of America -- that is -- us American citizens. All due to the antics of our fellow kooky citizens who amuse themselves by slandering our country for fun and profit.
And where is the “never apologize for America” Mitt Romney in all this? Why is Mr. Romney not rising to defend his country? Or at least being so bold as to denounce the malicious kooks in his own party? It is not enough to dismiss the eminently dismissible Sarah Palin who is a bastion of reason compared with these three. Romney wants us to believe he will be a bold leader defending America abroad when he cannot even muster the courage to defend America from her enemies within.
At great risk of sounding anti-free enterprise, at what point does this type of behavior become seditious? Just asking.

PS Since this article was published Senator John McCain made an passionate defense of Huma Abedin on the Senate floor. Here is the link. If only Romney had half the courage of John McCain he might get half his votes.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          The Dysfunction Myth   

Democracy is not pretty to look at. It's messy. It was always messy from the very formation of the United States. The Founding Fathers argued about everything but ended up with great compromises like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
And now we have the Affordable Care Act, a badly needed beginning of healthcare reform almost one hundred years in the making.
Underscoring this historical moment is the myth of American dysfunctionality. Every major accomplishment has been fought tooth and nail and that is when statesmen step up to the plate. Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, JFK, and LBJ were among the many who moved the ball forward. Too early to say about Obama, but in the case of healthcare reform the statesman this time around is Chief Justice John Roberts.
Chief Justice John Roberts
Roberts confounded everybody. The Liberals thought he was a lost cause, a hopeless partisan in the same league as the most partisan Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia. But the Liberals were wrong. When Roberts famously said, “My job is to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat,” many Liberals did not really believe him. Since he was appointed by a Republican President, the nefarious George W., it was feared he was bound to be another partisan judge like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. But something mysterious usually happens on the way to powerful positions. People become more realistic and more importantly, more responsible. It is one thing to be on the outside, throwing rocks; it is another thing to accept a position of great responsibility and have the fate of one's fellow citizens in one's hands.
Conservatives also got Roberts wrong, much like they did Earl Warren. Conservatives thought that Roberts was going to be a “team player” and play for their team regardless of what was in the interest of the Nation. But Roberts surprised the Conservatives too. We may never know what Roberts' personal view of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is, but that does not matter because he correctly understood that his job is to find a way to validate the will of Congress and the President.

America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare 
taken a big step forward, but the political system 
has been proven to work as the Founders intended.

Predictably, the right-wing noise machine is going to go into overdrive and badmouth Justice Roberts. They will call him traitor and worse. There will undoubtedly be calls for his impeachment from the Tea Party types and their sycophants. These extreme ideologues claim to be patriots but do not really understand how our country works, how democracy works, or even what the meaning of the Constitution is. Then there will be the inevitable conspiracy theories, casting Roberts as a stooge or an evil genius. There will be much cynicism spread because so many of us cannot believe that honorable men still exist.
America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare taken a big step forward, but the political system has been proven to work as the Founders intended. Justice Roberts showed us all that he has a deep understanding of American history, that he understands the great responsibility that comes with being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, that it is not a trivial job for trivial people. That he, along with the President, does not have the luxury of letting his emotions get the better of him. That he is not part of some ideological “side” which if it doesn't get its way will stamp its feet like a three-year old. No, Roberts showed us that along with Obama, he was one of the few adults in the room and rose to the occasion.
This is the stuff of history! It is not the time to play a sleazy game to get a great headline in the Drudge Report or praise from the professional bloviators. This is America at its finest, when people from different backgrounds, different philosophies come together for the benefit of all of the American people. It is so rare these days that too many people will miss it, which is why it deserves a special mention.
And, to paraphrase the great Mark Twain, “Reports of the death of American democracy are greatly exaggerated.”

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          The Real Job Creators   

“It's the economy, stupid.” Those prophetic words uttered by James Carville characterized the rise of Bill Clinton and were the driving force behind his upset win over George Bush senior, considered by many a shoo-in for a second term.
Mitt Romney, hardly a fan when Clinton was President, currently praises the Clinton economy and has staked his run for the Presidency on making the case that he has what it takes to turn this economy around. He claims that Barack Obama is hopelessly in over his head. Romney boasts he is a “job creator” a phrase that no doubt has come from the laboratory of the dark Dr. Frank Luntz (see, “The Most Dangerous Man in America” on this blog). But whatever its origin, this phrase has become the mantra for the entire Republican Party with little push back from the Democrats who usually don't know when they are being played.
Romney posits his company Bain Capital as Exhibit A. Exhibit B is his successfully turnaround of the Winter Olympics. Exhibit C is his stint as Governor which he will only talk about if severely water-boarded.
The reasons Romney is loathe to speak of Exhibit C are obvious. First, he was the one who came up with “Romneycare,” the father of “Obamacare,” that he claims is an abomination and which he will repeal the first day he gets into office. Let us put aside the impossibility of eliminating “Obamacare” with a stroke of a pen because it would be violating the Constitution, a minor point to be sure, but as a newly elected President he would be wise to conform to the law for at least a day or so. Romney's problem is that his party has demonized “Obamacare” so much that he cannot take credit for his only real achievement as Governor of Massachusetts.
It gets worse. His claim to be a "job creator" flies in the face of his miserable performance as the Governor of the Bay State when it was ranked 47th out of 50 states on this topic. Very hard to explain that considering Massachusetts has some of the best universities in the world and is a high tech center with innovations only rivaled by Silicon Valley in California. His claim to fame as a great job creator while leading a state leaves something to be desired so he has decided wisely to keep quiet about it hoping nobody will notice.
His claim to fame as a great job creator 
while leading a state leaves something 
to be desired so he has decided wisely to 
keep quiet about it hoping nobody will notice.

Exhibit B is just as problematic as Exhibit C but for different reasons. Yes, Romney was the hero of the Salt Lake City Olympics. He inherited a scandal and ended in a profit. There is no question that without Mitt Romney the Salt Lake games would have been a bust. He did indeed put shoulder to the wheel – he bowed and scraped, saved here and there and raised funds from private sector companies that had never pitched in before. He lived and breathed Olympics. But there is one small detail that gets lost in all the laudatory praise heaped on Romney's white knight role. He successfully lobbied the Federal government for a cool $1.5 billion. Yes, the games generated a $100 million dollar profit which he likes to brag about, but without the $1.5 billion from the Feds he would still be paying off debts. Thus, Mitt has to tread lightly on the turnaround of the Olympics as a feat of his private sector job creating prowess. Maybe, due to the events of 9/11, the country needed a shot in the arm and the $1.5 billion was money well spent, even though many leaders of his own party were against this kind of bailout. Ultimately, however, the taxpayer was the final decider of success in that particular venture, not Romney.
Exhibit A is Mitt's strongest suit. Some might even say, his only suit. And this is where Bain Capital comes in. Here's a taste of how they see themselves:
  • “Established in 1984, Bain Capital is one of the world's leading private investment firms managing approximately $60 billion in assets under management. Our affiliated advisers make private equity, public equity, leveraged debt asset, venture capital, and absolute return investments across multiple sectors, industries, and asset classes. Since our inception, our competitive advantage has been grounded in a people-intensive, value-added investment approach that has enabled the firm to deliver industry-leading returns for our investors.”

Presumptive GOP Candidate Mitt Romney
Nowhere in this description is there even a hint at job creation. Not even company creation. The emphasis is on the delivery of “industry-leading returns for our investors.” That is the bottom line for Bain and for Romney himself. And their track record speaks for itself: What ever it takes to make a buck. Sometimes companies thrived and Romney is quick to point out his successes which are not trivial. Companies like Steel Dynamics, Staples and Sports Authority were indeed rescued by Bain. In these cases there was more money to be made keeping the companies alive. But that was almost incidental, because in other cases, piling on debt and liquidating was the better way to turn a profit. Companies, for Romney and the folks at Bain, are just instruments to generate profits for themselves. It matters little if the company thrives, goes under, or is shipped overseas. Romney and his gang always walk away with a huge chunk of change. There is no down side for them. So when GM and Chrysler were on the ropes Romney famously wrote in the New York Times “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.” By that he meant a restructuring à la Bain, that is, figure out the maximum profit potential for the equity stakeholders. Except that in this case there were no takers. Not even Bain was willing to risk a dime on the industry that made America the powerhouse of the world. Nothing, nada, zilch. So very much against his Republican instincts, President Bush initiated a restructuring using public funds, an effort President Obama saw to its final (and successful) conclusion. Not only was the Romney formula doomed to failure, but now the Republican presumptive candidate has the audacity to claim credit for both Bush's and Obama's successful rescue of the auto industry. That is a new definition of the word chutzpah.
Lest people think that all equity capitalists are the same, lets look at another firm: Second Avenue Partners. First, their public statement:

  • “Second Avenue Partners is a Seattle-based provider of management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies. The partners invest their own money, typically directed at emerging Internet businesses in the high-tech field. Second Avenue Partners' investment approach is to make early-stage investments in promising ventures and build long-term relationships, actively assisting its portfolio companies in becoming market leaders.”

OK, to be fair, their goal does not explicitly say anything about job creation either, but it does have a different tone altogether. Gone are references that the business is all about maximizing profit potential. Rather, it seems that helping companies succeed is the main objective. A real treat is to listen to the CEO himself, Nick Hanauer. See if you can distinguish the difference between this equity capitalist and Mitt Romney. This guy is as far from Romney as you can get and yet he is in the same business and also a member of the almost mythical 1%. So the problem is not with equity capitalists in general, but as Governor Rick Perry told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, “There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism...Venture capitalism we like. Vulture capitalism, no. And the fact of the matter is that he’s going to have to face up to this at some time or another, and South Carolina is as good a place to draw that line in the sand as any.”
In a rare act of candor, Mr. Perry explained the difference between the venture capitalism that Mr. Hanauer and others like him practice and the “vulture” capitalism that Mitt Romney practices. The real dark secret Romney is hiding from all of us is that rich folks are not job creators. The job creators are the rest of us. Just ask a real venture capitalist.

          The Paul Ryan Paradox   

Many people say that radio commentator Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Nothing could be so absurd. The college dropout Limbaugh – his own mother went so far as saying, “he flunked everything” – is at best a cheerleader for the Republicans, but not in the conventional sense of the word. After all, cheerleaders are a cheery lot, full of positive thoughts and attempt to encourage their team to excel with shouts like, “go team, go!” Rush is the kind of cheerleader that would stand on the sidelines and egg the crowd to chant, “You suck! You suck!” Rush is one in a long line of frustrated individuals if it were not for radio and millions of other frustrated individuals out there he would be a stock boy at his local Wal-Mart. There is very little leadership in him. He has no genuine ideas, offers no solutions and the thought of his being an inspiration for a great traditional political party is just nuts.
Paul Ryan presents his budget
Not so for Paul Ryan. Ryan is a graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a BA in economics and political science in 1992. And as a good Republican he made his money the old-fashioned way, he inherited it. Well, maybe inheriting is too strong a word – he got a job as a marketing consultant with Ryan Incorporated Central, which is run by a branch of his family. Not exactly the silver spoon treatment à la Bush and Romney, but he did not have to exert a huge effort either, which partly explains his disdain for underprivileged people. I mean, everybody should have the opportunity to work for the family business. Life would be so less complicated that way.
Ryan is a much better candidate than Rush to be the de facto leader of the Republicans. At least Ryan has ideas, bold ideas. And he is not shy about committing them to paper. He shows leadership by getting his colleagues, even presumptive nominee for President Mitt Romney to follow his lead. That is the stuff of leadership. Present bold ideas and not limit yourself to the sidelines with perennial posturing.
Here is where it starts getting a bit weird, though. Ryan's budget, the blueprint for Republican public policy has been endorsed by all the bigwigs in the Party, including the “anything goes” Mitt Romney. Ryan tells us that his Catholic faith was his inspiration.

[the budget] appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, 
Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Not quite from Jesus Himself but almost. He wants us to feel the Christian compassion in his choices for America. But the Catholic Bishops – remember the guys who accused President Obama of being anti-religious – those Catholic Bishops? They said that Ryan's budget wasn't so Christian after all. As a matter of fact, they said, "A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons." The good Bishops even said that his budget "fails to meet" the moral criteria of the Church. That is some strong stuff coming from the group that not too long ago complained that the President was forcing them to provide contraception to non-Catholic workers at Catholic institutions.

Ayn Rand

This time the Bishops sound really steamed. It is one thing to foist contraception on women who want it and need it, it is quite another to complain that Ryan's bill is immoral. Not to pile on but a group of Jesuit scholars at Georgetown University went so far as to say, "[the budget] appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love."

And the good Jesuits have a point. In 2005 Ryan admitted, "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." Not to be content with his personal preferences, New York magazine has claimed that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged.” Atlas Shrugged is probably Ayn Rand's best novel and it is a scathing attack on Christian values that she claims are antithetical to Capitalism. The Church leaders and Rand seem to agree on this point. That Ayn Rand's atheistic philosophy regards the Christian message as a major impediment to a true Capitalist based economy. And it seems like the young Ryan, himself a benefactor of the Capitalist system was keen on jettisoning his Catholic faith for the more prosperity oriented Ayn Rand who is happy to assert (since she didn't have to run for anything) that the markets are a better moral compass than the teachings of Jesus. No wonder Mitt Romney is on board. This is right up his alley. I can almost picture a young 10 year old Romney convincing a school mate that he would be better off if he took his bike apart and sold the parts. Of course, the youngster Mitt would take a sizable chunk of the profit because, after all, it was his idea. But I digress...
Saint Thomas Aquinas - painting by Botticelli
The de facto leader of the Republicans (watch your back, John Boehner!) is not undaunted. He claims that although his budget might be more in tune with Rand than with Jesus, he is definitely not a subscriber to Rand's philosophy. The fact that he got interested in public service due to Rand's teachings and not the gospels is irrelevant. Also irrelevant is that he goes so far as suggesting to his staff that they read Ayn Rand. He went even further and said quite recently, "It’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist... I reject her philosophy. It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."
I think the Bishops would be quite pleased if Ryan had based his budget on Aquinas. The Catholic Saint famously said that things that pertain to all men are reduced to seven headings: Faith, Hope, and Charity; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. If only Ryan's budget were based on these principles I think the Bishops would have few problems with him. But unfortunately for Ryan, these precepts are hardly present in his budget which gives to the rich and takes away from the poor. Not exactly what Jesus would do. The saintly Aquinas would be disappointed.
Whatever happened to Compassionate Conservatism? It almost makes one yearn for George W.

          “Stand Your Ground”   

776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.— A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if: (a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and (b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre
There is a lot of confusion about Florida's controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. Not content with the anachronistic Second Amendment to the Constitution which is spelled out in my article in Salon, the NRA (America's armaments business lobby) was the inspiration of a law in Florida and several other states that takes the pretty much universal rule of self-defense and embellishes it - as if self defense weren't clear enough. In this case, the law is appealing to the home owner for special protection. It is not enough, apparently to know that if a thug with murderous intentions approaches you in the woods, or the mall or wherever, you have an intrinsic right of self protection. Any schoolkid knows that and it is quite straightforward enough. If someone is about to kill you, you have the right to kill him first. Doesn't take a law degree from Harvard to comprehend the obvious.
But it takes the slick lawyers at the NRA to turn something simple into into a set political piece. Not content with the simplicity of self-defense, the NRA went about doing what they ordinarily would complain about the government doing, which is to complicate the issue with a lot of double talk and legalese when none was required. One should recall the American popular folklore phrase, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” By and large Americans, to a fault, believe that is precisely what is basically wrong with government. It is not a mystery that the crusade against health care reform found resonance in part because most Americans didn't think that their health care was broken and therefore the Obama cure was worse than the disease. Unfortunately, they were wrong, but they usually only find out how bad it is when it affects them directly - like when their sister couldn't get her operation paid for because the insurance company found a preexisting condition. By then it is too late. It is possible for things to get fixed if they are indeed broken, but you have to know they are broken first. I digress.
In the case of self-defense law, there was nothing broken, The NRA was just making a political ploy towards those most politically vulnerable members of society, the suburban homeowner, er, swing voter. By singling out the homeowners, the NRA was saying to them that “we care about you.” They know suburban homeowners are particularly insecure, especially the ones with children. There is no one more easily scared than a family with small children. So the “Stand your Ground” law reads like a manual for the homeowner. “The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence...”

 Reason to believe? Now there is a loophole worthy 
of a politician about to defraud the taxpayer.

 It cries out that you should be protected in your own home and you shouldn't have to worry about the consequence of killing another person if someone is attempting to break into your residence. You see, under the conventional self-defense law, it was necessary to have an actual bodily threat to invoke self defense. Your life had to be in jeopardy in order to justify killing another human being. Under the “Stand your Ground” law, no such imminent lethal threat is necessary. Just the act of breaking into your home is sufficient. Whether it is a kid with a bad case of the munchies, or a burglar after your TV, or a mass murderer makes no difference. You are the king of your castle and if anybody breaks into your domain uninvited you now have the right to execute him under this brilliant piece of legislation brought to you from the good folks of the NRA.
There will be some defenders of the law who will say that people will misinterpret the law, and that will be undoubtedly the case in the Zimmerman saga. The Martin kid was clearly not trying to break in the house, so the law doesn't even apply, or does it? “The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.” Reason to believe? Now there is a loophole worthy of a politician about to defraud the taxpayer. If I say I had “reason to believe” then that's OK? And what would allow me to have reason to believe? That the kid was wearing a hoodie as the wise Geraldo Rivera might say? Or perhaps he was just a kid. (You know what they are capable of.) Or, of course, a minority - perhaps even an illegal alien. What a great opportunity to bag an Illegal. “I swear he looked like he might be entering the house illegally.” Makes sense - he's already here illegally. So the good folks at the NRA not only brought us a law that justifies homicide based on the flimsiest of evidence, but set the stage for slowly recreating the good old days of the Wild West (see “Vigilante Justice” on this blog) all in a cynical ploy to garner more votes for the pro-gun crowd and create more clients for their deadly products. Bravo, you should be all proud of yourselves.

          The climate is a-changin'   

John McCain today set out his plan for tackling climate change, proposing to cut US greenhouse gas emissions 60% by 2050. McCain asserted his independence from the President Bush’s legacy of inaction and suggested that he would reclaim a position of leadership for the United States.

Most strikingly, he stated that:

"If the efforts to negotiate an international solution that includes China and India do not succeed, we still have an obligation to act."

This is a bold move by a Republican presidential candidate – Bush has for the last eight years made US participation in international efforts to reduce emissions contingent on the involvement of these countries. Obama and Clinton both propose larger cuts, as do Senators Warner and Lieberman, but it is striking that there is a firming cross-party consensus on the importance of acting on climate change.

          igra istine   
ako nema vina, nema rakije, nema piva...a društvo dobro i pije mi se...

kako se pozdraviš sa dragim osobama koji nisu partner ili ljubavnik/ica
          Nas, Ava DuVernay and more Black stars cover EBONY’s ‘Power Issue’   
With the Obama family exiting the White House, this issue hopes to empower.
          Top Stories: Company Won't Take Americans To North Korea; Senate On Health Care   
Good morning, here are our early headlines: -- Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders On GOP Efforts To Replace Obamacare. -- Attention Holiday Shoppers: UPS To Add Delivery Surcharges. And here are more early headlines: Georgia Special Election Opens For House Seat. ( USA Today ) Ukrainian Leader To "Drop In" On Trump. ( Guardian ) Philippines Renews Attack Against Militants In Southern City. ( Reuters ) Air Bag Maker Reportedly Seeking Bankruptcy. ( Bloomberg ) Tropical Storm Warnings Issued For Louisiana Coast. ( NHC ) Death Toll In Portugal Forest Fires Is Now 64. ( BBC ) Some Armed Groups In Central African Republic Sign Agreement. ( AP ) Collection Of Nazi Artifacts Discovered In Argentina. ( Deutsche Welle ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Healthcare debate highlights the split that threatens to paralyze Republicans   
Six months after taking control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans who campaigned for years on repealing Obamacare still can’t agree on how to do it.

A chief reason that the struggle has been so hard is the growing importance in the party of populist blue-collar voters,... Reported by L.A. Times 5 minutes ago.
          With latest jabs, Trump-Obama relationship reaches historic nastiness   
It's a long-distance feud, transmitted over the airwaves and on social media, that's now devolved well beyond a small political spat.

          What a gas!   
Never having been a Shi'ite (I'm not even a Baptist!), I had never hitherto enjoyed the experience of being tear-gassed - until last night, that is.  

It seems there are certain social niceties one learns when traveling - the small local customs which make life go smoothly in distant parts.  For instance when one travels to Hawaii, one might be greeted by having a lei placed around one's neck while being welcomed with a hearty "aloha".  The proper response for the tourist is to smile much more brightly than any sane creature would do, raise one's voice that quarter octave so necessary when communicating with toddlers, the elderly, the terminally ill or any native anywhere whose skin is any shade of brown and to babble incoherent phrases amongst which the word 'aloha' should appear no less than three times, while asking the lei donor if he or she will pose for a group photo with said tourst.  It is particularly kind not to force upon the native person any of the many witticisms invoking this being the being the best lei one has ever had which will have crowded one's mind.  

In Nepal, I am told, one may be welcomed with a nice dish of yak tea, a beverage my cousin Warren informs me, although one wonders exactly how he researched this particular datum, which tastes exactly like licking a yak's ass.  The proper response involves the same bright smile and the quarter octave vocal rise, but instead of witticisms about getting lei'd, the preferred thing to suppress is the overwhelming urge to vomit.  

In Bahrain and various other areas in the Middle East, a Shi'ite native may greet one with a firm "Death to America" or ditto to the government or to Obama or, indeed, to any of the many persons or entities which have caught his or her attention during the previous few days.  It is unnecessary to respond in this case at all, since normally the local government forces will make the obligatory response which is to douse the man or woman or the mob which has spoken thus in generous quantities of tear gas.  

It is an unfortunate characteristic of tear gas that it tends not to remain in the locale in which it has been released, nor does it seem to be able to distinguish between local Shi'a and the odd foreigner who might be in the vicinity.  

Khalid and I had enjoyed a leisurely meal last night at a restaurant called Nando's which is a member of a chain which I believe is based in Southern Africa and which features some mighty fine Portuguese-influenced methods of preparing chicken.   Nando's is situated on a very westernized street in a very westernized area which is lined with western chain restaurants.  Khalid tells me this is called Restaurant Street, although I personally incline to calling it "Where are we - a mall in Tampa? Street".   I am influenced here by its very non-unique charm, reminscent of any place one has ever thrown up one's hands and said, "We might as well eat here."  Khalid, being a Saudi, had eschewed any lit or legal parking spot near this restaurant in favor of parking illegally amongst a series of similar looking concrete buildings on a dimly lit side street that ran perpendicular to Restaurant (or Tampa) Street.  As we were returning to the car, a stray breeze wafted a soupçon of something that seemed, when it hit the eyes to be some kind of smoke.  It felt like that stinging sensation one get when one sits too close to the campfire and the wind shifts in one's direction.  At least that is how it felt at first.  With every step we took, it seemed to grow in force, and at the same time my throat and lungs began to feel suspiciously like someone had poured a tablespoon or so of sulfuric acid into them.  

Apparently the local Shi'ite majority had been in the process of its weekly celebration of the coming of the Muslim version of a Sabbath, by gathering and informing the interested as to what this week's quiet reflection had led them to wish death upon.  In response to this kerfuffle, the government lavished upon them tear gas in quantities greater than one could wish.  It was into billows of this that Khalid and I were venturing.  It is remarkable how difficult it is to find a car one has carelessly parked any old place amongst a clutch of similar-looking buildings on a dark back street when one's eyes are rapidly swelling shut and one has broken into the fastest run one can manage while semi-blind and somewhat touched in the wind.  When we finally got ourselves inside the car, it was the work of but a second for Khalid to light up a Marlboro Red.  This would not have been my first move, but who am I to cavil?

Upon our return to our hotel, we were merrily chaffed by the Syrian desk man and several others who were gathered there, all of whom found much to amuse them in our tear-streaked faces.  This morning, the man on desk duty suggested I stay close to home for the day.  

So I have crossed off another item on my bucket list.  I don't think anyone who was out and about during the Sixties would want to leave this Vale of Tears without having experienced tear gas, although I can  think of one such who is more than willing to forego experiencing it twice.  

And now, on to that yak…

          Wilt Thou...?   
I am actually seated at my computer a little earlier today than usual.  I have fallen into the habit of watching Morning Joe which seems less polemic and a bit more even-handed than other cable shows which deal with politics.  I cannot stand bumptious rhetoric whether or not I agree with the speaker.  I want to hear right wing pundits who will admit that Obama does some things well, and left wing pundits who admit that there is merit in the argument that there are some beneficial programs that we cannot afford, or that conservatives are not just a bunch of crazy people.  I usually complete my morning TV viewing with a bit of the Live show with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa – or more than a bit of it, if the guests look like people I want to hear from.  But this morning, there was a guest host in Regis’ place and after a bit of badinage, we were forced to see a video of this man’s marriage proposal.

This trend toward choreographed and over-the-top marriage proposals is one more sign to me of the trivialization of marriage, and of pretty much everything else.  Whenever I see a public wedding proposal, I always know that the lady to whom it is aimed would be wise to respond with a resounding, “NO!”  A public proposal is manipulative and the men who make them are precisely the kind of man who can and will manipulate friends and family of a woman who is fleeing an abusive situation into disclosing her whereabouts because he is SO sorry and loves her SO much and will never, ever do it again.  These women are being placed in a position where saying anything except a happy and thrilled, “Oh, yes! will publicly humiliate the would-be groom.  Despite this being exactly what he deserves for placing her in this position, one assumes that she feels some affection for the poor jerk and doesn’t want to add humiliation to an already hurtful response, if her wish is to refuse or to request more time as a dating couple.  These proposals are acts of aggression and I think the smart woman will recognize that.   It might ease the lady’s conscience were she to reflect that in these situations, she is not the focus, HE is.  In these self-absorbed times, this alone should be enough to give her pause: "What?  This is not all about me?". 

A columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle during the 70s whom I liked very much named Charles McCabe once wrote that those who can write great love letters are not capable of great love.  I have often thought about this, and I am inclined to agree, although I suppose there could be exceptions.  A truly great love letter in my mind would not be one which trumpeted great sentiments in beautiful language, but a simple one which spoke in words that meant a great deal only to the recipient.   Similarly, is there someone in your circle who constantly takes pictures of every event to which he or she is invited?  Regardless of how valued these pictures may be later, isn’t it also true that this person is never really participating in these events, but is far more consumed with recording them?   One reason I have much valued and long-lasting friends of whom I now have not a single photograph is that I just cannot step outside happy moments and record them on a camera, and I confess a frisson of irritation passes through me toward those who do so.  It makes everything seem not real for that moment, but just a performance.  Although I own a camera, I rarely take any pictures with it, and on my three or four week trip to my niece’s wedding on the train, a trip that seguéed into Thanksgiving with my best friend, I took exactly two photos, both of a lake that the train passed by in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (which I took mostly because the some announcer on the train suggested we passengers might like to do so) and I have never looked at these photographs since, nor do believe I ever will bother to do so.  If I do see them again, they will mean nothing to me at all. 

I am, as usual, straying from my point, which is, insofar as I have a point, that we are moving toward aggrandizing events and rituals at the expense of actually experiencing the human transaction that is taking place.  Call me a Romantic, but I think that when two people love each other enough to marry, it should almost go without saying that the marriage will take place.  I don’t recall Tumwell and me talking about IF we’d move in together, but only where we’d move (we each had room mates) and how soon we could do it.   Now that marriage seems to be just a phase in a life of serial monogamy, or a right to be demanded or defended, all the little rituals seem to have metastasized.  It is so often all bark and no bite, smoke without fire.

I have never placed any value on someone making any special effort – or even noticing the date – for St. Valentine’s Day.  (Does anyone even acknowledge that it is the feast day of a Catholic saint – one who is probably as fictional as most of them?)  And I have cherished forever those little impulsive gifts or gestures that come now and then just because someone has seen something and thought of me.   I think that part of any pre-nuptial agreement should be a clause specifying who will get the wedding album.   My suggestion is that it go to the one who doesn’t get custody of the kids; this will accord nicely with the current feel-good sentiment in children’s competitions that the loser should also get a trophy.   This is a great concept when we are speaking of the Special Olympics – but the benefit of everyone getting a trophy is doubtful when the people involved are not “special” in the sense implied by the term 'Special Olympics'.  People of average intelligence or better know when they have lost, however much we pretend otherwise – and they should.  It is called “learning” – a concept that has long since departed from anything that we currently term “Education.”

In general people do not think to insist they are telling the truth if, in fact, they are, because it doesn’t occur to people stating a fact that this fact is in question.  I have never felt any pressure to make an official show of love toward those whom I actually love, because I am pretty sure we both know it.  I need no public demonstration or concrete proofs from those who love me.  If I doubt anyone’s sincerity, a public performance will not do anything but increase my doubt.  When someone says, “I’ll be perfectly honest with you,” my one sure belief is that he won’t be. 

While I am on the topic of overdone and relatively insincere ritualization of life’s little ups and down, I wish to ask the question, why is a wedding day so often referred to as “her day” or “her special day”?  Isn’t the event supposed to be a union of two people?  Just thought I’d ask.  

OK, now I am done.

          Comment on Leaders call latest Obamacare repeal bill ‘tax cuts that would help the rich’ by Tim Vincent   
Politfact is a misnamed Democrat oppo research organization. "Facts" are strictly incidental to them.
          Comment on Analysis sees 21 percent premium hike with Obamacare repeal by Lester French   
Don't know where the percentage increase in workers wage increase came from, unless it's teachers wages. The increase in Vermont non teachers/government employees wage was way less I am sure.
          Comment on Analysis sees 21 percent premium hike with Obamacare repeal by Robert Lehmert   
Jamie, if health insurance had continued to inflate the way it did under George W. Bush's administration, the health care system would have collapsed, and the economy would have tanked for that reason. The problem that makes universal health care systems expensive is pre-existing conditions. In order to get insurance carriers to cover all applicants without conditions, the ACA guaranteed payments to cover the excess losses arising from pre-existing conditions. When these payments began to be withheld due to a 2015 tax bill, insurers began to lose money and -- as a direct consequence --stopped participating. This is a political problem that was inflicted by politicians. It will exist with any plan that covers people with pre-existing conditions.
          Comment on Analysis sees 21 percent premium hike with Obamacare repeal by Robert Lehmert   
This is not addressed in the pending legislation. I was not a fan of high deductible plans, but now that I have one and have an HSA account, I like them better. I recommend funding an HSA as much as possible. However, I don't think you are correct about high deductible plans ignoring the $12 Tylenol problem. If you are covered by health insurance, the company is going to negotiate for discounts from the provider and pass those through to the insured, regardless of the deductible.
          Comment on Analysis sees 21 percent premium hike with Obamacare repeal by Gary Murdock   
The problem is that to many don't consider the swelling Medicaid roles a problem, the entitlement class has just grown to large. See todays commentary by David Nunnikhoven as a textbook example...that is not the original intent of Medicaid, rather it's what Medicaid has evolved into.
          BREAKING: Rural Nevada to lose all Obamacare plans next year   
One of three insurance carriers offering plans to Nevadans on the federal health exchange has said it will withdraw from the market in January.

          Rasa Bangga Di Dadaku   
 oleh : Andoko Darta

Kapan terakhir kita merasa bangga jadi orang Indonesia?
Tim sepak bola Merah Putih melawan Malaysia tanggal 26 dan 29 Desember ini adalah lebih dari sekedar pertandingan sepak bola.
Ini adalah salah satu momen langka lahirnya sebuah gerakan nasional tanpa iklan atau komando pemerintah. Sebuah gerakan nasional dari dan untuk semua kalangan mulai dari warung kopi di pedesaan sampai Setarbak di perkotaan.

Gerakan nasional tanpa komando ini mampu memompa kembali kebanggaan kita menjadi orang Indonesia yang telah meluntur menurut banyak pakar di media masa.

Untuk tes pendapat para pakar tersebut, silakan tanya diri sendiri pertanyaan di awal tulisan ini : Kapan terakhir kita merasa bangga jadi orang Indonesia?

Kebanggaan jadi orang Indonesia yang meluntur tersebut semoga telah mencapai titik nadir dan berbalik arah. Apakah tim Merah Putih akhirnya menang ataupun kalah, sejumput rasa bangga sudah mulai merekah di dada.

Di tambah lagi dengan bantuan Mr Obama beberapa waktu lalu, dimana dengan pidatonya yang memukau dan sangat menghormati Indonesia, di luar perkiraan rasa bangga menjadi orang Indonesia timbul di dada banyak anak muda.
Terlebih setelah anak2 muda tersebut (termasuk yang sudah berumur) baru mengetahui bahwa semboyan negara Amerika "E Pluribus Unum" (Out Of Many, One) artinya persis sama dengan "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika".

Semoga sejumput rasa bangga tersebut terus menyebar seperti virus ke seluruh bidang, termasuk bidang pertanian Indonesia, tempat dimana Sosek Inc berkiprah.

          In 2010, Obama Defended His Health Care Plan Before The GOP On Live TV. Things Have Changed.   
  The very next month he spent two full days defending the ACA at Heritage House before congressional leadership, doctors, the health care lobby, and patients rights groups. He debated the minute budgetary facts extemporaneously while Paul Ryan relied on half foot thick bin …
          Deploying a public safety broadband network — the US experience   

By Chief Jeff Johnson
With overwhelming support from the public safety community, the US Congress passed legislation in 2012 to establish the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Signed into law by President Obama, the legislation tasked FirstNet with ensuring the building, deployment and operation of the first high-speed, nationwide wireless network dedicated to public safety. This was a huge win for first responders in the US and for the communities they serve.

          Nearly Halfway to Meeting Spectrum Target   

This blog is a repost from the National Telecommunications Information Administration titled, "Nearly Halfway to Meeting Spectrum Target" by Paige R. Atkins, Associate Administrator of the Office of Spectrum Management, posted July 08, 2015.
Recognizing the growing importance of wireless broadband to the U.S. economy, President Obama five years ago last week set a bold new goal aimed at ensuring that enough spectrum is available to meet the surging demand for wireless connectivity. As the President noted in a June 28, 2010 memorandum, “The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind.”

          Interim Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing   

By Sheriff Richard Stanek, FirstNet Board member
On March 4, 2015, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing – led by co-chairs Charles Ramsey, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and Laurie Robinson, Professor at George Mason University – released its interim report on 21st Century Policing (Report). The Report features six “pillars”, or categories, on how policing practices can build public trust and promote effective crime reduction, and it includes input from community members, law enforcement officers, associations, stakeholders, academic experts, and civic leaders.

          Nabra Hassanen, 17 year old American Muslim teenager murdered arising from Anti Muslims Hatred spawned by US President Donald Trump!   
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Dear Muslims,

Yesterday, 17 year old Muslim teenager, Nabra Hassanen, was viciously beaten to death by Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22 year old El Salvadorian illegal immigrant who without rhyme or reason had accosted Nabra and her friends who were walking from a mosque. 

Police are saying that Nabra's killing was the result of the killer's road rage not as a result of Anti-Muslim hate. Yeah right!

If you ask me, I'd say that Nabra Hassanen died as a result of Donald Trump poisoning the hearts and minds of the American public including illegal vermin like this Torres fellow!

Listen to the scum spewing his hatred in the following video:

We did not have this much Anti-Muslim hatred festering in the US, UK and Europe before. One or two sporadic cases yes but not as much and as frequent as lately.

It is the rise of this Evil @#$%^&* currently presiding over there at the White House! I can say that if this paranoid Islamophobe was to kick the proverbial bucket today, the whole wide world will rejoice!

He is the reason why the London Bridge attacks took place!

Before he left office, President Barack Obama took then Presidential candidate Donald Trump to task for using 'Radical Islam' in his poisonous campaign!

In this Ramadhan, we learned of the terrible incidents over there at London, England where deviants claiming to do dastardly deeds in the name of Allah, mowed down innocent passersby at London Bridge and stabbed to death anyone they could get to before these crazed maniacs were shot to death by the London Police.

Such stupid, uncalled for acts of terror do us no good. Those who carried out these attacks on civilians were those local born British themselves who claimed to be Muslims but in actuality they were not.

Islam does not teach us to be terrorists. Islam itself means Peace but these type of deluded fiends were not those who can be categorized as such. 

A Muslim is one from whose hands and actions, others are safe from. He or she who commits acts detrimental to the good of their fellow human beings are those who excommunicate themselves from the ummah and the society in which they live.

Why is all these happening? Are we living in the Age of Darkness where information and knowledge is hard to come by? No sirree!

Here we are before our computers or smartphones, tablets and latest telecommunication devices with broadband live internet connections where we are able to talk to and see each other live in real time through our devices but despite all these advancements of science and technology there still exists idiots from all walks of life, ethnicity, faith and beliefs who choose to destroy and destruct all the good beneficial advancements that we as Mankind have come to achieve by succumbing to sheer idiocy and stupidity borne out of blind hatred!

In the history of Mankind, we either progress or regress depending on what we do with our lives. If we as a human being choose to learn the true basics of our individual faiths and try our best to live up to the norms of the society we live in, chances are that we will be safe and secure.

Yet there are those who choose to do otherwise. Who think God commands them to harm and hurt or even kill others for Him! Are these idiots thinking that God is incapable of doing so Himself?

All He has to say is 'Be! and it will be!'

Far from it. God has been telling us Mankind to reach out to one another in peace and goodwill. To do good and to forbid evil. 

Yet these lunatics and that covers everyone of these treacherous ones not differentiating whether they label themselves as this or that are plainly ignorant and clueless about what their so called faith really asks of them!

Yesterday,  47 year old Darren Osborne, a Christian terrorist from Cardiff , drove a van into a crowd of Muslims worshippers at the Finsbury Mosque killing a man and injuring many others. 

Ironically it was a Muslim Imam, who rescued him from reciprocal action by the victims by shielding him from the people till the Police arrived to take him away.

All these crazed terrorists are acting following the general anti-Muslim sentiment whipped up by the rise of the 45th US President Donald J. Trump who without thinking of the implications of his vicious hate filled presidential campaign managed to unleash a wave of Islamophobia across the United States of America, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

So damaging has his presidency been so far that attacks on Muslims have increased a thousand fold since 44th US President , the learned and wise Barack Obama Jr. left office in 2016.

It is a shame that so many families are grieving as members of their families were killed and harmed as a result of the current Anti-Muslim and Islamophobia sweeping through today's world as a result of Donald Trump's fear-mongering and demonizing us Muslims.

I wish the Malaikatul Maut will do us all a favor and get the root cause of the murders and killings taking place all over out of this world! Soon.
          MouseStation Episode 443 - February 28, 2012 - Let's Move Event at Walt Disney World with First Lady Michelle Obama   
Mark talks about the Let's Move event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, and interviews Disney Channel stars Debby Ryan and Roshon Fegan, and Disney Channel choreographer Rosero McCoy.
          Taking Back DOMA: Let the People Decide   
If Democrats don’t want gays and lesbians to stay home in 2010 and 2012 (they don’t), they will pass at least a partial repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) sometime next year. President Obama explicitly promised to repeal DOMA during the 2008 campaign, and the Democratic leadership in Congress has also expressed support […]
          Blaming Obama   
A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Having boasted on national TV that he'd removed Comey as a means of relieving pressure from the "fake news" investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Trump greeted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak like old friends.

Although U.S. news media weren't allowed into the Oval Office, the Russian news agency TASS published photos of the three men smiling broadly, backslapping and shaking hands. That's how American reporters learned of the controversial Kislyak's presence. The White House neglected to mention it, presumably because his clandestine talks with fired National Security Director Michael Flynn lay at the heart of the FBI probe.

Lavrov even made heavy-handed jokes about Russian meddling, expressing mock surprise at Comey's firing and observing sarcastically that it must be "humiliating for the American people to realize the Russian Federation is controlling the situation in the United States."

The episode struck me at the time as an astonishing gesture of contempt, if completely in keeping with Trump's furious denials that Russian skullduggery had anything to do with his election. In her Salon column, Heather Digby Parton compiled a short list of the president's Twitter posts on the subject. According to Trump, the FBI investigation has been dismissed as a "Witch Hunt!", a "a total hoax," "an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election" and so on. We've all heard it 50 times.

If he's been consistent about nothing else, Trump's been consistent about that: Vladimir Putin's spies had no role whatsoever in his mighty victory.

That is, until last week.

Following The Washington Post's publication of a highly detailed blockbuster about what the Obama administration knew about "President Vladimir Putin's direct involvement" in the conspiracy to damage Hillary Clinton and make him president, Trump came up with a whole new story: Yes, Russian cyberhackers and spies interfered directly in an American presidential election — but it was all Barack Obama's fault.

"Just out," the president tweeted, "The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?"

Trump soon came up with an answer: "The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win ... and did not want to 'rock the boat.' He didn't 'choke,' he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good."

It's almost hysterically false — the Obama administration made repeated attempts to inform the voting public about Russian interference, most explicitly, as bad luck would have it, on Oct. 8, 2016, the day Trump's boasts about grabbing women's genitals first aired — but there's a half-truth there, too.

President Obama did, indeed, "choke," as one anonymous administration official told Post reporters, and we're all paying the price.

As happened more than once during his presidency, Obama appears to have over-thought the situation to the point of paralysis — pursing the will-o'-the-wisp of patriotic bipartisanship long after it had become obvious that not only Trump, but key Republican leaders had long since put party above country.

Could anybody be surprised that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, would stonewall any effort to inform voters that a hostile foreign power was brazenly taking Trump's side in the election?

Obama was.

In effect, congressional Republicans had chosen Putin over Hillary Clinton. By August, let us recall, Trump himself was not only openly urging Russian hackers to search for Clinton's emails — barefaced collusion — but predicting that the election was going to be rigged against him.

Obama could have done in August what he did after the election in December: hit Russia with sanctions, expelled Russian diplomats. But he reportedly feared that without GOP support, any vigorous action could easily backfire.

"Obama's approach," sources told the Post, "often seemed reducible to a single imperative: Don't make things worse. As brazen as the Russian attacks on the election seemed, Obama and his top advisers feared that things could get far worse."

"They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow's meddling to that point was seen as ... unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day."

Supposedly, no vote rigging happened after Obama warned Putin to his face that dire consequences would follow.

Or at least so we're told.

Instead, Kislyak and Lavrov yukking it up in the Oval Office happened.

This happened, too: Obama presided over a political Pearl Harbor — an unprovoked assault on American democracy, and with no compelling reason to believe that it won't happen again.

          How Important Was NY-23? Ask Bill Clinton   
Don’t let them tell you that Barack Obama wasn’t watching the election returns last Tuesday. From a sickeningly sappy interview with Dede Scozzafava in the Washington Post, we glean this little gem: Scozzafava’s black Nokia phone vibrated nonstop. She rarely picked it up, except for family or close friends. She called the publisher of the […]
          New plan for LRSD   
Massive poor to rich transfer, Griffen ruling and more.

Stat of the week

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that, in the House Republican bill to replace Obamacare, which is largely mirrored in the newly unveiled Senate GOP's Better Care Reconciliation Act, the 400 top income households in the U.S. would receive $33 billion in tax cuts between 2019 and 2028. That sum is equal to the bill's proposed savings by ending Medicaid expansion in four states — Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia and Nevada.

Next: lawsuit

A 6-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument was installed outside the state Capitol on Tuesday. Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), the evangelist who sponsored legislation to enable it, was on hand to preen before the cameras. He insisted the monument — paid for with private contributions — will withstand the legal challenge promised by the ACLU and others to state promotion of religion on the Capitol grounds. He rests his case on Texas' similar monument — a relic from a movie decades ago that had become so enshrined and essentially invisible that the courts allowed it to stand when a challenge was raised many years later. More recently, courts ordered removal of a monument in Oklahoma.

New plan to pay for LRSD facilities

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key has approved a plan by Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore to raise $90 million through second-lien bonds to build the proposed new high school in Southwest Little Rock and pay for other facility improvements, including roof and heat/air repairs. Since the LRSD was taken over two years ago by the state for low test scores at a handful of its 48 schools, Key has served as the school board. Second-lien bonds do not require voter approval; they are repaid with surplus debt millage. That's currently some $27 million in excess of the amount necessary for current bond payments, but it would come at the expense of operational funds, which likely means budget cuts somewhere else.

On May 9, LRSD voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to extend 12.4 mills in debt for 14 years to allow a $200 million bond sale to pay for various district improvements and build a high school.

Griffen rules new juvenile sentencing law unconstitutional

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled last week that a 2017 law addressing sentencing of juvenile killers was unconstitutional.

He said the law unconstitutionally took sentencing out of the hands of a jury by setting a mandatory life sentence for capital murder, first-degree murder and treason, with a possibility of parole after 25 years for first-degree murder and 30 years for capital murder.

The law was an effort to amend Arkansas law to comport with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held life without parole sentences unconstitutional for juvenile offenders 17 and younger.

Since that Supreme Court decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court has begun hearing cases from people sentenced to life as juveniles. It has held that they should receive sentencing hearings and be given a chance to present evidence about age, the nature of the crime and other issues and given a sentence within the range for Class Y felonies.

The legislature failed in its effort to create "age appropriate sentencing standards," Griffen ruled. The right to a jury trial includes jury sentencing, he said. "The issue of sentencing is not determined by the General Assembly. The General Assembly only determines the range of punishment for given sentences."

The mandatory sentence in the 2017 law deprives defendants of the ability to present mitigating evidence on sentencing, Griffen said. The so-called Fair Sentencing of Minors Act doesn't pass constitutional muster because "it denies individualized sentencing," according to Griffen.

Griffen also said the law encroached on separation of powers. The state argued that the law provides parole hearings at which defendants can offer mitigating evidence. But Griffen said parole hearings are not sentencing hearings. They are a condition of release subsequent to sentencing, he said. He said the legislature overstepped its authority because parole is an executive branch function.

Bathroom bill revived

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted last week to have interim hearings on a bathroom bill by Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas). The bill is an effort to prohibit transgender people from using facilities that match their identity.

It's mean stuff, and the intervention of Governor Hutchinson and his nephew, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), kept it off the statute books in 2017. But the enemies of transgender people haven't quit fighting, with a recent victory in Texas to their credit. They are red hot to continue pursuit of a nonexistent problem in Arkansas and will at least have some hearings before the next regular legislative session. (In theory, only budget matters may be discussed at the 2018 assembly.) If we're lucky, a Republican challenger will defeat Collins-Smith in the 2018 primary.

Corrections: In Gene Lyons' June 22 column, "Megyn vs. Alex," he mistakenly wrote that the Sandy Hook massacre happened in 2015. It was in 2012.

The June 22 Arkansas Reporter, "Two suits challenge new abortion laws," mistakenly referred to a 48-day waiting period for those seeking an abortion, rather than a 48-hour period.

          Gun politics   
"You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.

"You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby. While no one should doubt the NRA's long-term health, the landscape of gun politics in the United States is changing in a direction that will force significant strategic shifts for the gun lobby. And, the organization's stumbled reaction to the verdict in the Philando Castile case June 16 shows that it is not fully prepared for this new era.

The Obama era was extraordinarily successful for the gun rights lobby. Despite overwhelming public support for modest reforms to control access to guns nationally, the GOP-controlled Congress resisted President Obama's calls to pass a bill that would have would have closed the gun-show and internet-sales loopholes in existing background check policy even after a series of mass shootings, including the late 2012 elementary school assault in Newtown, Conn. Moreover, in the 2010 McDonald decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an individual's right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment applied also to regulations passed by states and localities. But, the real success for the NRA and allied organizations came at the state level, where the organization succeeded in passing law upon law that expanded gun rights across the country.

In a piece I co-authored with Gary Reich published recently in Social Science Quarterly, fears that President Obama threatened gun rights drove those state-level dynamics. Specifically, gun and ammunition purchases popped up dramatically across the nation in sync with the 2008 and 2012 Obama victories. However, they did not increase evenly; in some states, including Arkansas, there were dramatic increases and in others new purchases stayed relatively flat. It was in those states where upticks in gun purchases occurred that gun liberalization efforts in states were most likely to succeed. Employing effective grassroots and social media networks and messaging that highlighted the threat to guns created by the Obama administration, the NRA was able to capitalize on concerns among gun enthusiasts of a new and onerous regime of firearms restrictions in those states as the rush of firearms and ammunitions sales provided fertile ground for the NRA to influence subsequent state legislation. In such friendly environs, the organization's state-level spending produced expanded gun rights.

The NRA was fully prepared for a Hillary Clinton presidency. If Clinton had won in November, the dynamic experienced during the Obama years would have continued to play out with Clinton easing into the Obama role of constant threat to gun rights. Like most, however, the gun rights movement was surprised by the Trump victory. The patterns surrounding the prior two presidential elections reversed and gun sales have dropped since the election of a man who said after his victory, "The gun rights community can breathe again." (In the first three months of 2017, sales dropped by 14 percent compared to a year earlier.) Interestingly, though, there is some evidence gun sales have popped up among another group: African-Americans. While demographic data is not regularly collected on gun purchasers, sales did increase in heavily black states and anecdotal evidence from gun storeowners notes a rise in African-American shoppers. Moreover, the National African American Gun Association, which formed in 2015, has more than doubled its membership since the election. (To be sure, with fewer than 20,000 members, the NAAGA remains tiny compared to the NRA's millions of members.)

Despite some clear efforts to reach out to persons of color starting in 2013 with targeted advertising, the NRA is challenged in turning these new gun owners into activists. Thus, the heightened success of NAAGA. The NRA's "non-reaction" (in the words of commentator Jelani Cobb) to the innocent verdict in the trial of the St. Paul policeman who shot Philando Castile, a concealed-carry permit holder, shows the difficulty the group has in fully embracing diverse gun owners. Colion Noir, the lead in the NRA's outreach to African-Americans, was sharply critical of the verdict, but the organization's official response — "it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing," — was halfhearted at best.

Certainly, as the debate on guns on campus in the Arkansas legislature last year showed, the politics of guns has not gone away entirely in the states. Moreover, the NRA remains a potent force in stymying gun control efforts because of its institutional advantages in the political arena. Since the group became politicized in the late 1970s, it has also shown an impressive adaptability to changing dynamics and it will figure out how to play offense in this new landscape. But, in the short run, the demise of the Obama threat and the increasing diversity of new gun owners creates very real challenges for the NRA as it attempts to achieve its ultimate goals on expanding gun access across the country.

          Beyond repeal of Obamacare   
The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.

On June 22, Republicans in the U.S. Senate introduced a long-awaited bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law often referred to as Obamacare. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would rework the ACA's subsidies for individual insurance policies, cut taxes for higher-income households, end the mandate that individuals have insurance, and allow states to opt out of ACA requirements that insurance policies include benefits such as mental health and maternity coverage. It would also put an end to the enhanced funding rate that made it possible to expand Medicaid to cover some 14.4 million low-income adults nationwide.

But the Senate bill, like similar legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, would also institute major cuts to the traditional Medicaid program, potentially affecting coverage for millions of children, elderly people and disabled adults nationwide. In Arkansas, 30 percent of the state's population — about 912,000 people — were enrolled in some form of Medicaid in March 2017, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That figure includes enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which together with Medicaid pays for ARKids A and B.

Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the Senate bill "goes well beyond the political promise of repealing Obamacare. It restructures Medicaid funding. And so, it really is a U-turn on the promise that the federal government has always made to states — that Medicaid would be funded through a state-federal partnership." (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has contributed funding to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

The Senate bill would reshape Medicaid in two ways. First, beginning in 2021, it would phase out the Medicaid expansion created by the ACA, which provides coverage to low-income adults. Approximately 300,000 Arkansans are now enrolled in Arkansas Works, the program funded by the Medicaid expansion. Second, the Senate bill would cap federal spending on the rest of Medicaid, which existed long before the ACA's expansion and which is composed of programs such as ARKids. Rather than Medicaid paying for patients' medical care on an open-ended basis, as is now the case, the federal government would disburse funds to states in lump sums, either on a per capita basis or through block grants. The Congressional Budget Office projects 22 million people would lose coverage if the Senate bill become law.

Parents like Julie Kauffman of Mountain Home are anxiously watching developments in Washington and wondering how the proposed cuts would translate to Arkansas. Kauffman's daughter, Olive, suffers from cerebral palsy that resulted from viral encephalitis that developed 12 days after she was born. After the infant was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital, Kauffman and her husband were told their private Blue Cross policy would pay for less than half of the helicopter ride, leaving them on the hook for $7,000.

"That was kind of our first introduction to, 'Oh, our health insurance doesn't cover what our child needs,' " Kauffman said. The financial office at the hospital told the parents they should get Olive on Medicaid. "I thought, 'We have health insurance, this is ridiculous. We don't need Medicaid.' Two helicopter rides later, and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars later, we desperately need Medicaid."

Now 3 years old, Olive's condition requires periodic visits to specialists at the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, plus regular speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions at a clinic in Mountain Home. She now spends nine hours in therapy per week. "What Blue Cross covers for her and therapy, she maxes out every year in February. That's when Medicaid picks up the rest of her tally," Kauffman said.

It's especially crucial that Olive receive intensive therapy at a young age, Kauffman explained, to maximize her chances of developing the skills necessary to lead a more independent life. "It's now or never. I mean, we have to do it now. She's 30 pounds. She doesn't have head control. She can't sit up and feed herself. She's nonverbal. She's, you know, total care, and unless we get as much bang for our buck now, what does her future look like?" On July 1, a new rule from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which administers Medicaid in Arkansas, will limit the number of billable minutes of speech, occupational and physical therapy a beneficiary may receive each week without special authorization. The cap is 90 minutes for each category — about half what Olive receives right now. DHS said in a September legal notice that the change is estimated to save the Arkansas Medicaid budget $56.2 million annually. Kauffman said she will seek DHS approval to keep paying for the additional therapy hours, but she's concerned about the future.

"What's happening in the state alone, along with what's coming down from the federal level — it's just terrifying."

Kauffman said her biggest concerns about the Senate bill "are the cuts and the block grants. If it comes down to a block grant system where the federal government gives each state a set amount of dollars, how is that going to be disbursed from child to child? I don't know how they would even begin to figure that out. My kid is expensive, and that's not her fault. ... I understand the thought process that Medicaid cannot sustain at the rate that it's going. But there are also a lot of kids in my daughter's situation who didn't ask for this. They need as much help as they can possibly get, and in a perfect world her private insurance would cover what she needs — but it just doesn't."

Olive previously was on ARKids but now has Medicaid coverage through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability. "Because my husband and I are both self-employed and our income fluctuates, she qualifies for SSI at the moment — but that could change at any moment," Kauffman said. She is a subcontractor for a medical billing company; her husband owns a furniture company, where she also works part time. Although their daughter receives substantial government benefits, the couple also ends up devoting much of their household income to her care as well, from specialized equipment to travel costs to St. Louis to therapy that must be paid for out-of-pocket. For the self-employed, time away from home is time spent not working — an additional drain on family resources.

"We're fortunate to have grandparents who chip in when they can and relatives who help out as needed, but, for the most part, we're just doing the best we can do to get by," she said. "We could have $10 million and it still wouldn't be enough."

Approximately 400,000 kids in Arkansas are on Medicaid — about half the children in the state. Only a small percentage have medical needs as pronounced as Olive's. Nonetheless, Marquita Little said, reductions to federal Medicaid spending proposed by the Senate bill would be "devastating to our medical system in Arkansas.

"Our overall impression is that it's still a dangerous bill for kids, for our most vulnerable populations ... [including] seniors, people with disabilities. By capping funding on traditional Medicaid, we would basically be reducing funding that we have in place for those populations. ... So what that means for Arkansas is that we would be forced to make some tough decisions about how we absorb those cuts. You either have to reduce what you actually cover, or you have to reduce payments that we're making to providers."

Having a child who requires such specialized care has changed her perception of Medicaid and those who benefit from the program, Kauffman said. "The biggest thing is that Medicaid helps so many more people than just what everybody assumes... . You know, people who don't want to go out and find a job and take care of themselves. Medicaid is so much more than that. So I think it's just this misconception ... and I was guilty of that. But now I know how needed it is."

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

          Look to Kansas   
The grand austerity experiment of the once great state of Kansas has finally collapsed.

Look to Kansas

The grand austerity experiment of the once great state of Kansas has finally collapsed. The Republican dominated state legislature of Kansas passed a bill to reinstate some previous taxes in an effort to raise $1.2 billion in two years, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill, which forced the legislature to override the veto. The Kansas state budget already faced a whopping $900 million shortfall over the next two years, according to CNN reports. Can this kind of Republican madness occur in Arkansas?

The mainstream media may not have caught on yet, but there are two factors driving the Kansas fiscal calamity. The first factor is the Republican lack of will to cut Republican spending. Austerity cannot work until everybody cuts spending. The second is the Koch factor. The infamous king makers, the Koch brothers, are headquartered on 37th Street in Wichita, Kan., which makes Kansas the veritable ground zero for austere Republican directives. A better analogy is that the Kochs have created a black hole in Wichita, which is destroying all common sense in the surrounding red states and swallowing up Arkansas. For instance, just five months ago, President Obama left our nation and Arkansas with low unemployment and a booming economy. Governor Hutchinson and his General Assembly of Koch zombies cannot even fund a highway bill.

Hey, Toto! We're in Kansas!

Gene Mason


From the web in response to Ernest Dumas' June 22 column, "Obamascare":

As H.L. Mencken once observed, in somewhat different terms, one should never rely on the intelligence of American voters, Ernie. One of his supporters once enthusiastically told Adlai Stevenson, in the 1956 campaign against Ike Eisenhower, "Mr. Stevenson you have the support of every thinking American." To which, he calmly replied, "That's not enough, ma'am. I need a majority."


From the web in response to the June 26 Arkansas Blog post "Supreme Court orders Arkansas to stop birth certificate discrimination":

Another big win for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, heh heh.


Is there anything in the Obergefell decision that would treat same sex married couples any different than the protected classes of the Civil Rights Act? If not, an overturning of the Colorado baker decision would relegate all protected classes equally vulnerable to discrimination on the grounds of sincerely held beliefs. Not just LGBT people, but also blacks and Jews and women. Woolworth's could then say that blacks at their lunch counters offends their religious beliefs, and the entire Civil Rights Act would be moot.


While, of course, celebrating this and all other decisions favoring gay rights, I do wonder if we may need a parallel system to track strictly genetic origins. Otherwise aren't sperm and egg donation going to make true ancestry tracking problematic? When the doc asks if there's a history of heart disease in your family, you kinda need to know where your genes came from.


We're reaching the point that DNA can identify medical conditions better than personal/family history. Especially when, and it's true, ancestral history may not be what it seems. Just saying.


From the web in response to the June 23 Arkansas Blog post, "Little Rock to sell $90 million in bonds to build Southwest High School, do other work":

Excellent explainer on the difference between the failed bond extension and this method of financing the school construction, but coming on the heels of the vote, it's hard not to see this as a calculated FU by Key to the voters of the district.


          The Blueprint   
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ve read my rants about how I hate reading political books. I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about how awful all political books are (as I did plenty here and here). But Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski’s book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency got me riled again. Another rant is forthcoming, and you are warned.

Like I’ve said before, I am on the liberal end of the political spectrum. However, I have plenty of friends and relatives who are conservative, and I like to think that reading books like The Blueprint will give me some insight into these friends and relatives viewpoints. I know that these books won’t change my mind or my political slant, but its always good to be exposed to multiple viewpoints. Unfortunately, political books are really terrible way to get reasonable arguments (and I mean political books written by both conservatives and liberals). In these books, authors will manipulate facts and quotations to serve their argument. These authors will demonize their opponents and discredit any point-of-view that doesn’t match their own. It’s awful. Usually, though, these tactics will ease in: the hatred will build up as the book continues. With The Blueprint, though, it began on page two. And I knew it was going to be a painful read.

In The Blueprint Blackwell and Klukowski (or “The Kens,” as I like to think of them) argue that President Barack Obama is manipulating (and ignoring) the constitution to build more power for his party and himself. Separated into eight chapters—the subjects of which range from the appointment of czars to gun control to the bias of the media—The Kens lay out a string of actions Obama has taken (or will take) to grab as much power as he can.

One of the things that bothered me most about The Blueprint was its hypocrisy. Many of Obama’s actions that Blackwell and Klukowski had problems with were things conservative presidents had done in the past (and will do in the future). Take, for example, their complaint that Obama will have the opportunity to appoint multiple justices to the Supreme Court, and that the justices he appoints will be liberal. Of course they will be liberal. Just as the three justices appointed by President Ronald Reagan, two justices appointed by President George HW Bush, and two justices appointed by President George W Bush were conservative. It’s just how the system works. Would it be better if presidents selected moderate appointees rather than those that match their political party? Probably, but that’s not what happens.

What was the worst, though, were the offensive, borderline-hateful statements the authors occasionally made. Things like the insistence that illegal aliens must always be referred to as such (and never “illegal immigrants,” or “undocumented workers”) or that schools that acknowledge homosexuality are “toxic learning environments.” There were multiple times I found myself wanting to rip the pages of the book, and it was a library book! (Since I am a year away from becoming a librarian, understand the gravity of that statement).

I could go on listing my problems with The Blueprint (like how any book attempting to be serious should never compare the President-- any president-- to Emperor Palpatine), but enough is enough. It gets a 1/5.

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Ken Blackwell

Buy the Book

          Beyond Fundamentalism   
Reza Aslan’s, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting the Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalism is a thought-provoking, worthwhile read. In three, moderately short sections—“The Geography of Identity,” “God is a Man of War,” and “The End of War as We Know It”—Aslan gives a background of group identity, fighting on behalf of a religion (or extreme interpretation of it), and the current state of fundamentalism, focusing especially on the Middle East.

Aslan writes in a clear, yet intelligent, voice. Though I often found myself pausing to fully comprehend ideas he put forth, Beyond Fundamentalism could be read quickly, even in a day or two. However, I would recommend reading the book only a chapter or two at a time to get the most of it. I’ll admit, I wasn’t able to do this for the entire book, but I wish I had. It's worth taking the time to think about what Aslan writes.

Though there were many aspects of Beyond Fundamentalism that made me think, one key issue was the feeling of group identity. Aslan points out that one such form is national identity—however, with the increasing globilization, this nationalism in becoming weaker, for better or worse. Some then turn to religion for the feeling of belonging, and, in the extreme, this religion can take the form of the incredibly fundamental groups that encourage terrorism.

Similar to the issue of group identity is the idea of unity and belonging, and the importance that this unity involves inclusion (which allows for differences), rather than assimilation (which emphasizes sameness). Though the creation of the European Union has increased unity of many European countries, it has also highlighted the “otherness” of those who do not belong. Until I read Beyond Fundamentalism, I was not aware of the struggles Muslims face in many European countries—that some school cafeterias in France won’t serve halal meat to Muslim students, that The Netherlands has legislation attempting to ban the Qur’an, and that “Islam Out of Britain” is a rallying cry of the British National Party. Though terrorism is never the way to fight back against these inequities (and, in itself, engenders more hatred and fear), this persecution of Muslims only feeds the fire of these radical groups.

Much of Beyond Fundamentalism resonates with the speech President Obama gave last night announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden, particularly Obama’s insistence that the War on Terror is in no way a War on Islam, and his call for unity.

Though Beyond Fundamentalism occasionally felt out of date (particularly the final chapter, which focuses on the issue of a potential Egyptian democracy), it is certainly still recommended. I give it a 4/5.

Watch Jon Stewart interview Reza Aslan

Buy the book

Note: Beyond Fundamentalism was originally published as How to Win a Cosmic War

          Healthcare debate highlights the split that threatens to paralyze Republicans   

Six months after taking control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans who campaigned for years on repealing Obamacare still can’t agree on how to do it.

A chief reason that the struggle has been so hard is the growing importance in the party of populist blue-collar voters,...

          President Obama: Does He Get It?   



I would not use that label to identify the President.  I will say, however, that President Obama continues to embrace and promote pro-abortion policies that many Americans strongly disagree with.


Take the outcome of the election - an unmistakable repudiation of the President's policies. As columnist George Will put it, "This election was a...

Read the full post here »

The post President Obama: Does He Get It? appeared first on Lynn v. Sekulow.

          President Obama is the “Angel of Death”? Give me a break!   

Jay, I think you would agree with me that businesses have the right to hire and fire as they see fit. Fox News, per usual, has manufactured a controversy here, and that's all there is to it. But since you mentioned you believe Juan Williams' had the "right to express a thought," I'd like to at least say that I am a strong proponent of free speech, too. For example, I don't dispute that Personhood Colorado, the anti-choice group behind Colorado's Amendment 62, had the free speech right to create...

Read the full post here »

The post President Obama is the “Angel of Death”? Give me a break! appeared first on Lynn v. Sekulow.

          A War Fighter's Budget   

The initial remedies were necessarily ad hoc, including mine-resistant vehicles and better intelligence. "In every case," Gates told me, "the problem had to be addressed by going outside the bureaucracy, creating something unique."

Gates' budget is a more systematic response -- his attempt to provide "a place at the table for the guys fighting the wars we are in." While downsizing or eliminating some expensive, high-tech programs, the budget would increase resources for health care, intelligence, reconnaissance, Special Forces, theater missile defenses, helicopters and UAVs. It is more of a shift than a revolution -- Gates estimates that only about 10 percent of the budget is devoted exclusively to irregular warfare -- but moving the balance in this direction is entirely necessary.

There are two broad objections to this budget. First, some argue that the total level of spending is insufficient. The success of the surge in Iraq has demonstrated that the size of our force matters when it comes to counterinsurgency operations. Also, the new budget does not expand the Army sufficiently to avoid the continued need for National Guard and reserve deployments.

In an interview in his Pentagon office, Gates gingerly calls this a "legitimate debate." But he counters that the size of the military has been increasing over the last several years. "Am I saying this is the right number? Maybe, or maybe not. Having increased by 100,000, we might take a pause and see if we can sustain it." Gates argues that the inclusion of more spending in the regular defense budget, instead of in emergency supplemental spending bills, is essential to sustainability -- "so it doesn't disappear when supplementals disappear."

Gates is unapologetic about cutting back on big-ticket items such as the Army's Future Combat Systems. The program's lightly armored vehicles, he notes, have 18-inch clearances and flat bottoms -- perfect targets for roadside explosives. On the other hand, Gates' missile defense cuts are relatively small, especially compared to the declared intention of some congressional Democrats to eliminate the Missile Defense Agency entirely.

The second objection concerns the rise of China, which some believe may lead to a conventional conflict. Gates is not dismissive of China, which is expanding its naval influence and focusing resources on space- and cyber-warfare. But he contends that the "Chinese are being selective in what they are doing. They learned from the Soviet Union, which we bankrupted in an arms race. ... They are looking at asymmetrical areas, so they don't get engaged in a full-scale arms race." And this allows America to be selective in our response. He argues that the proposed "mix" of F-22 and F-35 fighters, along with advanced UAVs, will be an effective counter, and that massive ground forces, in this case, are irrelevant. "Realistically, when would we have proposed to send a large ground army into Asia? In every case, that has been very painful."

Some Republicans want to polarize the budget debate. The Obama administration, according to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is "willing to sacrifice the lives of American military men and women for the sake of domestic programs favored by President Obama."

In this case, the charge rings with irresponsibility. While the total defense budget should be larger in a time of war, it focuses resources and attention precisely where they are most needed: on our war fighters in Iraq, in Afghanistan -- and at places like Walter Reed.

Correction: This week, I wrote that President Obama "has complained of inheriting a $1.3 trillion debt." I should have used the word "deficit."

          Obama Has Been a Divider, Not a Uniter   

The Pew report notes that this is the extension of a long-term trend. Decades ago, a majority of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon's job performance early in his first term. A majority of Republicans did the same for Jimmy Carter. But that has not been true for any president since.

Ron Brownstein, the author of "The Second Civil War," cites a variety of structural reasons for intensified division. There has been a "sorting-out" of the political parties, making each more ideologically uniform. Long, nasty presidential campaigns stoke our differences. Media outlets have become more partisan. Ideological interest groups have proliferated. Congressional leaders have changed the rules, making it easier to impose party discipline.

But Obama was supposed to be the antidote to the poison of partisanship. During the presidential campaign, chief strategist David Axelrod told Brownstein, "If there's an enhanced Democratic majority, I think that he's going ... to urge a special sense of responsibility to try and forge coalitions around these answers, not because we won't be able to force our will in many cases, but because, ultimately, effective governance requires it in the long term."

That makes last week's votes on the budget resolutions a landmark of ineffective governance. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate supported the bill, largely because the Democratic majority forced its will. Republicans were flattened, not consulted. Democratic leaders talk of enacting controversial elements of the budget through the reconciliation process -- which would require 51 Senate votes, not the normal 60, for passage. Only in Washington would the word "reconciliation" refer to a form of partisan warfare.

Without Republican input or influence, the budget is a tax-and-spend caricature. Obama has complained of inheriting a $1.3 trillion debt. According to economist Michael Boskin, Obama's proposals would add $6.5 trillion in debt over the next decade -- about $163,000 for every American taxpaying family.

I am not generally a deficit hawk. A government can run a responsible deficit in a growing economy -- and may have to run one to counteract an economic downturn. But Obama's proposed level of debt is irresponsible. It makes broad tax increases nearly inevitable. It expands our dependence on China, America's loan officer. And it creates pressure for the government to purchase or monetize debt, leading to inflation. No Republican, even of the moderate variety, could accept a budget that spends America into unsustainable debt by completely avoiding the setting of realistic priorities. And none in Congress did.

There is an argument in favor of political polarization. Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, in their time, were polarizing presidents precisely because they were ambitious presidents. They believed that some national goals were worth the sacrifice of amity. A decisive leader is sometimes a divisive leader.

But Obama's polarizing approach challenges and changes the core of his political identity. His moderate manner and message appealed to a country weary of division and ambition -- a nation now asked to endure another round of both. But Obama's domestic agenda is also resoundingly typical -- as though he were some conventionally liberal backbench senator suddenly thrust into immense influence. Which, of course, he is.

It would have been relatively easy for President Obama to divide the Republican coalition, peeling off less-partisan Republicans with genuine outreach. Many Republicans were prepared to accept short-term deficits to stimulate the economy in exchange for long-term fiscal responsibility. Obama could have focused more narrowly on resolving the financial crisis -- the key to all economic recovery -- and delayed his ambitions on other issues to a more realistic time. In the process, he might have gotten some Republicans to share his political risks, instead of nursing grievances on the sidelines.

Polarization in American politics has its own disturbing momentum, aided by some strident Republican voices. But that does not require a president to make it worse. And it is a sad, unnecessary shame that Barack Obama, the candidate of unity, has so quickly become another source of division.

          Why Catholics Are Worried About Obama   

The office of the president has meaning and importance that transcend the views of its current occupant. Though elected by a part of America, the president becomes a symbol of its whole. The respect we accord him does not imply agreement or endorsement. It reflects our appreciation for constitutional processes. So a presidential visit is always an honor. The televised arrival of Air Force One, the motorcade, the playing of "Hail to the Chief," the audience standing as the president enters -- all these express a proper respect for democratic legitimacy.

If you cannot honor the man, then honor the office. If you cannot honor the office, then one more democratic bond has been severed.

But the controversy surrounding the Notre Dame invitation highlights growing strains in an important political relationship. In the last election, while evangelical Christians generally remained loyal to the Republican nominee, Catholics decisively shifted their votes toward Obama. In 2004, George W. Bush won the Catholic vote by five points. Obama carried it by nine points in 2008. A number of Catholic thinkers set out a "pro-life, pro-Obama" position -- disagreeing with Obama's pro-choice views but trusting in his moderate instincts and conciliatory temperament.

So far, Obama has done little to justify this faith. His initial actions on life issues -- funding overseas abortion providers, removing restrictions from federally funded medical experimentation on human embryos, revisiting conscience protections for pro-life health care professionals -- have ranged from conventional to radical. And this may be one reason why Obama's support among Catholics has eroded. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama's job performance increased by nine points from February to March. Among Catholics as a whole, his disapproval rating jumped 14 points. And among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, the figure doubled -- from 20 percent to 41 percent.

Catholics are having second thoughts, but it could get much worse. If the president and Congress are not careful on several issues, these concerns could open a major rift between the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party.

First, Obama has raised deep concerns among Catholic leaders by signaling he will overturn Bush's executive order protecting health workers from firing and discrimination if they refuse to perform actions they consider morally objectionable. The administration claims the order was overbroad and unnecessary. But Catholic hospitals believe these protections are essential, because of pressure by states and private medical associations for Catholic health care providers to perform or refer for abortions. Catholic leaders want the president to be helpful, not neutral or hostile, in the protection of conscience.

Second, Catholic leaders fear that the Hyde Amendment -- which bans the use of Medicaid funds for abortion except in the rarest of cases -- could easily be reversed by the pro-choice congressional majority.

Third, health care reform will raise the largest debate -- whether abortion should be a covered service. As a candidate, Obama said his health proposal would include "reproductive health services." Planned Parenthood argues that "full reproductive health" must be covered. But any proposed federal entitlement to abortion-on-demand would be unprecedented, push Catholic leaders toward revolt, and possibly doom health care reform entirely.

Americans disagree strongly about the legality of abortion. But for decades there has been a rough consensus that no one should be compelled to participate in abortions or have their federal tax dollars used for abortion. These three changes would shatter that consensus, making the destruction of life an essential part of the medical and legal order while stigmatizing and marginalizing all who object. This would be an outrage and a scandal -- a troubling reinterpretation of religious liberty, which is not merely the freedom to believe, but the freedom to bring religiously informed moral beliefs to professional and political life.

Obama's Catholic supporters would feel betrayed and discredited -- and rightly so. The Catholic hierarchy and Catholic health professionals would feel assaulted by the president -- and they would be correct. And President Obama would not need to worry about future invitations from Notre Dame.

          What the Teleprompter Teaches   

Coverage by Ron Fournier of The Associated Press began: "What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference?" A recent Politico story asserted, "President Barack Obama doesn't go anywhere without his teleprompter," calling it a "crutch." And in a popular new blog, Obama's teleprompter playfully chronicles its day.

If anyone is to blame for this technological dependence, it is probably Fred Barton, an actor from the 1950s. As author Laurie Brown tells the story, Barton was having trouble memorizing the vast number of lines required for live television. So he conceived of a scrolling screen of typed text -- an idea he shared with Irving Berlin Kahn (the composer's nephew) and Hub Schlafly at 20th Century Fox. Soon the device was used by Milton Berle and actors in various soap operas. In 1952, Schlafly got a call from a man identified simply as the "Chief" who wanted a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria. It turned out to be former President Herbert Hoover, who ended up using a teleprompter for his remarks at that year's Republican convention.

For politicians, the teleprompter has always been something of an embarrassing vice -- the political equivalent of purchasing cigarettes, Haagen-Dazs and a Playboy at the convenience store.

This derision is based on the belief that the teleprompter exaggerates the gap between image and reality -- that it involves a kind of deception. It is true that there is often a distinction between a president on and off his script. With a teleprompter, Obama can be ambitiously eloquent; without it, he tends to be soberly professorial. Ronald Reagan with a script was masterful; during news conferences he caused much wincing and cringing. It is the rare politician, such as Tony Blair, who speaks off the cuff in beautifully crafted paragraphs.

But it is a mistake to argue that the uncrafted is somehow more authentic. Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use "rhetoric" as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing -- expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order -- is essential to governing. For this reason, the greatest leaders have taken great pains with rhetoric. Lincoln continually edited and revised his speeches. Churchill practiced to the point of memorization. Such leaders would not haven been improved by being "unplugged." When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined.

This is the lasting contribution of Fred Barton and his teleprompter. The speechwriting process that puts glowing words on the teleprompter screen serves a number of purposes. Struggling over the precise formulations of a text clarifies a president's own thinking. It allows others on his staff to have input -- to make their case as a speech is edited. The final wording of a teleprompter speech often brings internal policy debates to a conclusion. And good teamwork between a president and his speechwriters can produce memorable rhetoric -- the kind of words that both summarize a historical moment and transform it.

Obama's goal at his recent news conference was less elevated -- to express his thoughts on the economy with precision, as he faces a crisis in which a stray word could have a tremendous cost.

During a wobbly first two months, Obama has had many problems. But using an autocue isn't one of them. A teleprompter speech represents the elevation of writing in politics. And good writing has an authenticity of its own.

          Shooting the Hostages   

Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla, a physician and human rights advocate in Darfur, described to me a region "on the verge." Without international aid groups to organize supply, only about 9 percent of people in the camps have access to clean water. There is a serious meningitis outbreak, just as medical aid groups have been expelled. "People," says Mohammed Ahmed, "are likely to die very soon."

Bashir claims that his goal is to "Sudanize" the relief efforts, insisting that the international community can drop off supplies "at airports or seaports" to be distributed by Sudan's regime. "They don't have the technical capacity or the know-how," Mohammed Ahmed counters. "And even if they did, it wouldn't be accepted by the people." It is not realistic to expect the victims of Bashir's genocide to trust in Bashir's generosity. The same is true, Mohammed Ahmed argues, of promised relief from the Arab Middle East. "Darfur will never trust Arab aid. Though they are also Muslims, they have never been helpful. People think such assistance is easily poisoned."

The WFP has responded to the immediate crisis, providing two months of emergency food assistance to the Darfur camps in an attempt to persuade people to stay put. But this effort, I was told by a WFP official, is "not sustainable." So the WFP has also begun positioning food for the possible influx of tens of thousands of desperate refugees into eastern Chad. Mohammed Ahmed views this prospect with horror. "People moving to safety and food security from the Kalma camp (Darfur's largest) to eastern Chad would have to cover 500 kilometers, risking attacks from the Janjaweed and rebels in Chad near the border." It would be a long, dry, lethal march.

The international community, led by the United States, now faces a decision. It might be possible to back down from confrontation with Bashir in the hope that aid groups would be allowed to return. An atmosphere of heightened hostility also complicates the implementation of the peace agreement between Sudan's north and south, on which many lives depend. There is a humanitarian argument for this course. But it would confirm the effectiveness of Bashir's strategy of punishing the innocent and confirm the permanence of a violent and unjust status quo in Darfur.

Or the world can increase the pressure on Sudan's regime, knowing that Bashir may cause more short-term suffering and death as such pressure is applied. This approach can be morally justified only if there is a reasonable hope of eventual success. And this requires the development of a thoughtful strategy that leads, step by step, to a government in Sudan that values the people of Darfur and implements the north-south agreement in good faith. This does not necessarily mean regime change, but it probably requires Bashir change -- the emergence of a Sudanese leadership willing to start anew.

In this task, the Obama administration has two great advantages. The first is Bashir himself, whose unhidden, unhinged brutality is destroying the credibility of all who have shielded him in the past. The second is President Obama's extraordinary global standing, which he could use to persuade Europeans on broader economic sanctions and to peel off traditional Sudanese supporters such as Egypt. But this would require the immediate expenditure of diplomatic capital, the elevation of this issue in relations with both friends and rivals, and the possible use of military force down the road.

Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, "never again."

          Government Versus Confidence   

AIG executives were foolish to use this loophole to "retain" employees, some of whom nearly destroyed the American financial system. But the company did not act with deception or secrecy.

AIG's November SEC filing set out its intention to provide more than $469 million in "retention payments" to employees, eliciting a smattering of congressional protest. Concerns on the broader compensation issue were serious enough to ensure unanimous Senate passage of an amendment to the stimulus bill sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden that penalized bailout bonuses in excess of $100,000.

But the Snowe-Wyden amendment disappeared into the misty bog of a House-Senate conference committee, only to be trumped by language that grandfathered AIG's retention bonuses. At first, this seemed to be an example of immaculate legislation -- miraculously fatherless. After explicitly denying responsibility, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd eventually admitted including the exception under pressure from the administration. But it doesn't sound like there was much of a fight. Administration input came from unnamed staffers at the Treasury Department, not high-level officials. Dodd said he viewed these as "innocent modifications."

The lack of focus, judgment and competence on the part of Congress and the administration has explanations -- for those dealing in trillions, millions must seem like dirty pennies on the street. But the hollow outrage and blame-shifting from Congress and the administration are inexcusable.

President Obama vowed to "pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses," when the proper "legal" avenue was to write a responsible law -- a process his own administration apparently undermined. "I'll take responsibility," says the president -- before, in the next few breaths, explaining, "We didn't grant these contracts." And, "We've got a lot on our plate." And, "It's my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don't make them." So Obama seems to be saying: I'll take credit for taking the blame for something that is entirely the fault of others. Positively Clintonian.

"This is an example," thunders Rep. Barney Frank, "of people at the commanding heights of the economy misbehaving, abusing the system" -- which is completely true ... of the conference committee that reshaped the stimulus bill in secret. Sen. Charles Grassley urged AIG executives to contemplate suicide.

This combination of viciousness, shamelessness and cluelessness has consequences. It drains what little political will remains to confront the credit crisis -- an effort that may eventually require spending a trillion dollars or more to help purchase toxic debt. Thanks to AIG, Congress and the administration, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may find his next round of necessary bailouts greeted by a revolt of left and right.

And congressional demagoguery is compromising Geithner's own approach to resolving the credit crisis. Since the direct government purchase of toxic debt would be massively expensive, Geithner has floated the idea of enticing private investors to help buy that debt. The government would give loans or subsidies to mutual funds and hedge funds if they will buy toxic securities. But few would make such a risky investment without the hope of large returns.

If those returns are realized, it is easy to imagine how hedge fund managers would be treated when hauled before Congress. "Perhaps the witness can explain to us how he justifies such windfall profits with the people's money? Have you no shame? Give us the names, addresses and phone numbers of every millionaire you enriched at public expense so we can leak them to the press."

What sane money manager would want to partner with a government that blames others for its mistakes, urges the violation of inconvenient contracts and threatens to tax benefits retroactively? One Wall Street expert told me, "Even if people trust the president, they don't trust Congress." This kind of trust and confidence is essential to the next stage of our economic recovery. It is also being actively undermined by the incompetence and hypocrisy of the government itself.

          Caution and Confusion on Iran   

First, Iran has a presidential election set for June 12, in which the apocalyptic populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a strong reformist opponent. Ahmadinejad's political standing has been weakened by inflation running over 20 percent and estimated unemployment near 30 percent. His prospects might be strengthened by direct, high-level American engagement. The administration has properly avoided giving a demagogue a global stage during an election.

Second, Iran has not been in a cooperative mood. Ahmadinejad greeted Obama's inaugural appeal -- the outreached hand for the unclenched fist -- with the demand for an apology for "crimes" against Iran and "deep and fundamental" change in U.S. policy. Recently, for good measure, he repeated his assertion that the Holocaust is a "big lie." Earlier this month, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave his first public comments on the new era of openness and diplomacy. He attacked Obama for adopting George W. Bush's strategic commitment to Israel, calling that nation a "cancerous tumor." He expressed unequivocal support for terrorist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and criticized Palestinian leaders for any compromise with the "Zionist regime."

Iranian leaders and proxies seem to be taking the offer of negotiations as a sign of American weakness. "The United States," taunts Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, "is ready now to talk with any party, not out of a sense of morality, but because it failed in its attempts to implement its plans in the region."

Meanwhile, the Iranian Quds Force continues to lead, train and arm Shiite terrorists within Iraq. And, in Senate committee testimony last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair stated, "Some officials, such as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari-Najafabadi, have hinted that Iran would have a hand in attacks on 'America's interests even in far-away places,' suggesting Iran has contingency plans for unconventional warfare and terrorism against the United States and its allies."

Rather than unclenching its fist, Iran has been pounding it on the table.

Third, Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell have returned from trips to the Middle East sobered by the intensity of Arab fears of Iranian intentions. After visiting with Arab foreign ministers, Clinton recounted hearing "over and over and over again" grave concern about the Iranian threat. A high-profile outreach to Iran would likely be taken by Arab leaders as American betrayal. Given the conspiratorial assumptions of Arab diplomacy, they would assume that America is cutting a secret deal with Iran -- and be led to cut such deals of their own.

So the administration has adopted an incremental approach. Clinton has proposed an international conference on Afghanistan that would include Iranian officials, providing a chance for face-to-face meetings on the sidelines -- just as Condoleezza Rice called for an international conference on Iraq including Iranian officials, whom she met face-to-face on the sidelines. And Clinton has undertaken an outreach to Syria -- just as Rice reached out to Syria before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference.

Far from being impulsive on Iran, the administration has sent mixed signals about its sense of urgency. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently concluded that Iran has sufficient stockpiles of low-enriched uranium -- the most difficult part of the enrichment cycle -- to build a nuclear weapon after a short period of further enrichment. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, says he believes "Iran is on a path to develop nuclear weapons." At the same time, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates contends, "They're not close to a weapon at this point" and asserts that the "barrier" for military action against Iran is the question "Are we going to be attacked here at home?" -- which doesn't offer much consolation to Israel or America's Arab friends.

At this point, the administration is combining a policy of caution with a message of confusion. And it does not seem likely to persuade or intimidate.

          Wrong Move: Obama's Liberal Agenda   

Following Obama during the New Hampshire primary, I saw a candidate who -- though I disagreed with him on many issues -- defended idealism and rhetoric against the supremely cynical Clinton machine, who brought a religious sensibility to matters of social justice, who took care to understand and accommodate the arguments of others, who provided a temperamental contrast to culture war politics.

After just weeks of governing, that image seems like a brittle, yellowed photograph, buried at the back of a drawer.

Obama's proposed budget shows all the vision, restraint and grace of a grasping committee chairman, using the cover of a still-unresolved banking crisis to push through a broad liberal wish list before anyone notices its costs and complications. The pledge of "responsibility" has become the massive expansion of debt, the constant allocation of blame to others and the childish cultivation of controversy with conservative media figures to favorably polarize the electorate. The pledge of "honesty" and "sacrifice" has become the deceptive guarantee of apparently limitless public benefits at the expense of a very few. The pledge of "bipartisan" cooperation has become an attempt to shove Republicans until their backs reach some wall of outrage and humiliation.

None of this is new or exceptional -- which is the point. It is exactly the way things have always been done.

Obama's stem cell decision was worse, because it is a thing that has never been done before. "Obama," explains Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "is willfully ignoring the moral complexity of the subject. He says he understands the views of his opponents, but he never addresses or answers them. He seems to have adopted the premise that the stem cell debate presents a choice between science and ignorance, when in fact the debate requires the kind of weighing of competing goods which we elect presidents to contend with."

Obama's approach is ethically simplistic -- the kind of argument that gets nods at a fashionable cocktail party instead of engaging and respecting serious disagreement.

One tragedy of these polarizing moves is that they obscure elements of Obama's agenda that deserve praise and support. It makes perfect moral and economic sense to expand child nutrition programs, ensuring that low-income children get breakfast and lunch during a time of economic stress. Also, to expand rental assistance to low-income families. To fully fund the Second Chance Act, which helps ex-prisoners reintegrate into society. To increase funding for domestic AIDS treatment, especially in African-American and Latino communities. To make the child tax credit at least partially refundable. To limit farm subsidies that distort global food markets and hurt the poor. To provide additional support to strained food banks. To make the saver's credit refundable, encouraging low-income Americans to build assets. To maintain life-saving commitments promoting global health and development.

These should be common-ground issues in our politics -- safe havens on the ideological battlefield and sources of genuine consensus. But these issues have been roundly ignored during the ideological death match Obama has encouraged -- a partisan struggle that has made congressional Republicans less likely to support his best initiatives. Obama's overall budget is praised by economist Robert Reich as driving "a nail in the coffin of Reaganomics." Republicans attack the budget for the same reason. And both are correct in their analysis. It is not a sign of post-partisanship when liberals swoon and conservatives seethe for exactly the same reason. It is a sign that our differences have been exploited and deepened.

Some relish this kind of politics. But the false dawn of post-partisanship is no reason for celebration. Ideological war creates an atmosphere in which the angry predominate -- and it can cause anger to rise unbidden within all of us. While in government, I saw the persistent, moaning critics outside the window. Now I have dug my tunnel and joined them. It is not where I want to be -- or where American politics might have been.

          Obama's Messenger for Moral Incoherence   

Taxpayers will now likely fund not only the use of "spare" embryos from in vitro fertilization, but also human lives produced and ended for the sole purpose of scientific exploitation. Biotechnicians have been freed from the vulgar moralism of the masses, so they can operate according to the vulgar utilitarianism of their own social clique -- the belief that some human lives can be planted, plucked and processed for the benefit of others.

It is the incurable itch of pro-choice activists to compel everyone's complicity in their agenda. Somehow getting "politics out of science" translates into taxpayer funding for embryo experimentation. "Choice" becomes a demand on doctors and nurses to violate their deepest beliefs or face discrimination.

It is probably not a coincidence that Obama has chosen a Roman Catholic -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius -- to implement many of these policies as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama has every right to a pro-choice Cabinet. But this appointment seems designed to provide religious cover. It also smacks of religious humiliation -- like asking a rabbi to serve the pork roast or an atheist to bless the meal.

Sebelius, though strongly pro-choice, was capable of occasional compromise. But she consistently fought against the serious enforcement of Kansas' late-term abortion restrictions. Kansas became a magnet for late-term abortions.

Still, Sebelius insists that "my Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred." This puts her in the same category as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden -- Catholics who assert the sanctity of life while defending legal abortion. It has also earned Sebelius a firm rebuke from her archbishop.

The explanations of pro-choice Catholics are varied. Some say they will not impose their private religious views on others. But moral beliefs about human dignity are not religious dogmas such as transubstantiation or the Trinity. They are assertions about the nature of political justice. Removing the transcendent basis for human rights would also remove the central argument of the Declaration of Independence and the primary motivation for American social reform from abolition to the civil rights movement.

Others claim they are merely employing an alternative method to secure the rights of the unborn -- through social welfare programs rather than legal restrictions. In Sebelius' case, the overall abortion rate in Kansas did decline slightly more than the national reduction, though it is difficult to trace this drop to her policies. And the question arises: Couldn't a Catholic politician support women in crisis and effective protections for viable children?

Pro-choice Catholics respond that the legal remedies on abortion have been exhausted, so we might as well focus on the common-ground issue of abortion reduction -- a cause that does deserve support. But legal remedies have not been exhausted; they have been pre-empted by the courts. The exercise of democracy on abortion would probably not lead to restrictions on early abortions. But it would probably lead to broader protections for viable children. And it is difficult to imagine how anyone committed to the principle that "all life is sacred" could oppose such a democratic outcome.

Supporters of the Sebelius position also contend that there are myriad pro-life issues, including the environment and health care. Why favor some above others? It is true that nearly every political issue concerns the preservation of human life. But not every issue concerns the definition of the human community -- who we count as one among us, and who we cast beyond our protection.

If developing life is merely protoplasmic rubbish, it has the legal claims of a cyst or a toenail. But if a politician believes life is sacred, the destruction of more than a million lives a year cannot be merely one issue among many.

Sebelius and other pro-choice Catholic leaders are disagreeing with their church on a fundamental issue of justice -- which is their right. It is also the right of their church to point out their incoherence.

          ABC, CBS, NBC Hyped ObamaCare as 'Reform,' Not GOP Plan (Mike Ciandella/NewsBusters)   

Mike Ciandella / NewsBusters:
ABC, CBS, NBC Hyped ObamaCare as ‘Reform,’ Not GOP Plan  —  The committed Obama PR flacks at the broadcast news networks are experts at using biased terminology.  When President Obama and the Democrats changed the health care system it was consistently presented as “reform,” …

          GOP at the Abyss   

First, it is conceivable that conservatives are hyperventilating, as they did in 1993. President Clinton's budget, which included tax hikes, was attacked by Republicans as "grossly, totally, completely irresponsible." Conservatives warned of large job losses. But whatever Clinton's eventual problems, they were not economic. When monetary policy is responsible and federal spending restraint is credible, a continental economy can roll through many obstacles, including a moderate rise in tax rates.

"It's not smart to say this economy can't recover," says economist and author David Smick. If the pipe of credit is somehow unclogged, the Federal Reserve has provided plenty of money for a quick recovery. Americans will eventually need to buy houses or cars again.

Clearly this is what President Obama hopes and expects. It would probably solidify eight years of political dominance. But there is one problem. The markets do not appear to find his economic approach remotely credible. "What we are seeing," says Smick, "is $3 trillion in revenues for $4 trillion in spending. An honest budget? Give me a break." Even more importantly, the markets have little confidence in the administration's sketchy bank bailout plan. It has been the largest, early mistake of the Obama presidency to focus on expensive reforms of health and energy before convincing markets that the financial sector will be fixed -- the achievement on which all else depends.

The second conservative future might be vindication. Even if the banking system returns quickly to solvency, President Obama is proposing an unprecedented accumulation of debt -- just as other countries, to stimulate their economies, are doing the same. Given this glut of global debt, America will have to beg China, Japan and others to buy American bonds. There will also be a strong temptation to print money to buy the debt ourselves, leading to inflation.

Obama can, for a while, blame the financial crisis on the policies of the past. But a stagflation scenario -- combining slow growth with higher prices -- would be an achievement all his own, putting him more in the political category of Jimmy Carter than Clinton. Already the prospect of immense debt is spooking Democratic centrists. It has also begun reuniting the coalition of libertarians and social conservatives that Obama nearly sundered during the last election. As a compassionate conservative, I support focused, effective spending to help the poor at home and abroad. But as a conservative, I cannot support an explosion of debt and the reorganization of large sectors of the economy by federal planners.

There is a third possible future that conservatives do not want to consider. We could be seeing a much more fundamental ideological trauma -- something that enters the realm of psychology, not economics. Franklin Roosevelt used the shocks of the 1930s to discredit the capitalism of the 1920s -- even though the real causes for the Great Depression had more to do with tariffs, monetary policy and bank failures. Conservative economics fell into disrepute, even as many New Deal policies proved ineffective. Republican elected leaders became less-ambitious reflections of the Roosevelt consensus. Intellectual dissent was captured by extremists, from Ayn Rand to the John Birch Society. It took 40 years for the development of an intellectually serious and politically respectable conservative movement.

Are conservatives, once again, heading into the ideological wilderness? I strongly doubt it. The historical analogy to the Great Depression (so far) is strained. In that crisis, unemployment rose to 25 percent, a third of banks failed, GDP contracted by more than 30 percent and the social safety net did not exist. America is a much wealthier nation than it was in 1929, bank deposits are safe, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, an expert on the 1930s, is expanding the money supply, not contracting it.

Obama is not likely to be a Roosevelt. But conservatives remain in a difficult position. Since they favor economic success, they must root for Obama to be a Clinton -- even as they suspect and predict he will be a Carter.

          A Week of Revelation   

On domestic policy, the revelation was different. Candidate Obama was a tonal moderate -- a pragmatist determined to muddle the old divisions of blue and red into a pleasing, post-partisan purple. His mainstream economic appointments seemed to confirm this intention. His stimulus package and bank bailout proposals were expansive and expensive, but not ideologically radical.

And then the budget came -- ideologically ambitious, politically ruthless and radical to its core.

Obama chose a time of recession to propose a massive increase in progressivity -- a 10-year, trillion-dollar haul from the rich, already being punished by the stock market collapse and the housing market decline. This does not just involve undoing the Bush tax reductions but capping tax deductions to collect about $30 billion a year. Despite all the rhetoric of "responsibility" and shared sacrifice, the message of the Obama budget is clear: The wealthy are responsible for the economic mess and they will bear the entire sacrifice so that government can "invest" in the people.

But governments do not "invest," they spend. Such spending can be justified or unjustified. It is wealthy individuals, however, who actually invest their capital in job creation. Most have much less capital than they used to. Under the Obama budget, they would have less still. This does not seem to matter in the economic worldview of the Obama budget. Equality is the goal instead of opportunity or economic mobility. And government, in this approach, is more capable of investing national wealth than America's discredited plutocrats -- meaning successful two-income families, entrepreneurs and professionals.

This is not merely the rejection of "trickle-down economics," it is a weakening of the theoretical basis for capitalism -- that free individuals are generally more rational and efficient in making investment decisions than are government planners.

This ideological shift is also evident in Obama's treatment of charitable giving. The new budget seeks to raise billions for health reform by limiting the charitable deduction for the wealthy. This is a direct claim that the good done by government spending will be more important than the good done by the wealthy. But it is often wealthy people who make the large donations that sustain colleges, universities and teaching hospitals. If government is inherently superior at making such charitable choices in the public good, why not make our entire education and medical systems public? Which seems to be the goal.

As a practical matter, the promise of expensive, shared public goods entirely at the expense of the rich is a transparent deception. A good portion of the budget's spending reduction is illusory -- based on the phony assumption that Iraq and Afghanistan war outlays would have continued at similar levels in perpetuity. The budget's growth assumptions are not remotely realistic. It does little to address the crisis of unsustainable Social Security and Medicare obligations. And its $634 billion health care reform "fund" is merely a down payment -- perhaps a third of the future cost.

So who is going to eventually pay for this accelerating debt, temporarily held by the Chinese and others? As the national debt's percentage of GDP moves from about 40 percent to perhaps 70 percent, there will not be enough wealthy people left to bleed. Once the economy recovers, broad tax increases will be unavoidable. Or Obama's "once-in-a-generation chance" will actually involve the imposition of massive burdens on the next generation.

Conservatives hope Obama's overreach and Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's arrogance will provoke a backlash -- leading markets to revolt, uniting the Republican base and causing doubts among fiscally conservative Democrats. But as an academic at Princeton recently reminded me, "It is only overreach if you fail."

In the meantime, we have learned some important things. On defense policy, the peace candidate is not a radical. On economic policy, the post-partisan could hardly be more partisan. Obama does not want to cultivate conservatives; he wants to crush them. And that is a revelation.

          A Limited Dose of Reassurance   

But national morale was not economically decisive in defeating the Great Depression (though it came in handy defeating Hitler). Economic historian Amity Shlaes reminds us, "Roosevelt did famously well by one measure, the political poll. He flunked by two other meters that we today know are critically important: the unemployment rate and the Dow Jones industrial average."

And the incantation of confidence is not likely to be decisive in the current economy. Markets, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs are generally immune to tone and charm. They seek reassurance on three issues of substance: the credibility of the credit system, the eventual return of economic growth and a serious approach to debt.

Obama was strongest when it came to rescuing the banking system, promising to "act with the full force of the federal government" and to do "whatever proves necessary" to assure the flow of lending. This was an assertion of executive power in a time of crisis that Roosevelt would have understood and appreciated. The bank bailout is radical, involving the socialization of private-sector losses and a government plan to "force the necessary adjustments," "clean up their balance sheets" and ensure "continuity." But the alternatives to executive power in this case seem dismal. As an economic pragmatist, I was reassured.

On the issue of economic growth, Obama was less compelling. He talked of the need to "jump-start job creation" through public spending, admitting that "there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work." He answered those concerns by saying that "wasteful spending" would be met with "unprecedented oversight." But this is the old debater's trick of responding to an opponent's weakest objection.

The source of skepticism for many Americans is not the prospect of government waste but Obama's theory of job creation. It sounds somehow passe to assert it, but most jobs are created by private capital in the private sector, often by small businesses. And they got little policy attention in Obama's speech. An example Obama used -- retaining police officers -- is a worthy cause, but hardly typical of American job-creation. A small-business owner heard nothing about his daily struggles with litigation or regulation.

There is an element of psychology -- of confidence -- in taking the risks of entrepreneurship and small-business expansion. It is difficult to imagine how that confidence is built by being ignored.

Obama was even less credible on the issue of debt. Most Americans seem to accept the need for the temporary deficit spike to provide a jolt to the economy. But Obama's pledges to go "line by line through the federal budget" and to remove "waste, fraud and abuse" were the most tired portions of his energetic speech -- and simply not credible with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in vivid green over his left shoulder.

On long-term debt -- the crisis of unsustainable entitlements in an aging society -- Obama was timid. These massive, future obligations raise the prospect of higher interest rates and inflation, and threaten to crowd out spending on a variety of national and humanitarian goals. Many would eagerly accept large short-term deficits in exchange for a grand bargain to get entitlement spending under control. There are innovative ideas being floated on Capitol Hill, such as the SAFE Commission, which would recommend entitlement reforms and present those proposals to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Obama did not choose to spend his political capital on confronting the entitlement crisis -- which is understandable, but hardly courageous.

Obama's rhetoric this week was reassuring. But on the economy, many of us are only partially reassured.

          The Jindal Phenomenon   

Some have compared Jindal to Obama, but the new president has always been more attracted to platitudes than to policy. Rush Limbaugh has anointed Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan." But Reagan enjoyed painting on a large ideological canvas. In person, Jindal's manner more closely resembles another recent president: Bill Clinton. Like Clinton (a fellow Rhodes Scholar), Jindal has the ability to overwhelm any topic with facts and thoughtful arguments -- displaying a mastery of detail that encourages confidence. Both speak of complex policy issues with the world-changing intensity of a late-night dorm room discussion.

In recent days, Jindal has displayed another leadership quality: ideological balance. He is highly critical of the economic theory of the stimulus package and turned down $98 million in temporary unemployment assistance to his state -- benefits that would have mandated increased business taxes in Louisiana. But unlike some Republican governors who engaged in broad anti-government grandstanding, Jindal accepted transportation funding and other resources from the stimulus -- displaying a program-by-program discrimination that will serve him well in public office. Jindal manages to hold to principle while seeing the angles.

While Clintonian in manner, knowledge and political sophistication, Jindal is not ideologically malleable. His high-pressure Asian-immigrant background has clearly taught him not to blend in but to stand out. He has tended to join small, beleaguered minorities -- such as the College Republicans at Brown University. He converted to a traditionalist Catholicism, in a nation where anti-Catholicism has been called "the last acceptable prejudice." Jindal, sometimes accused of excessive assimilation, has actually shown a restless, countercultural, intellectual independence.

But this has earned him some unexpected enthusiasm. In Louisiana, Jindal is the darling of evangelical and charismatic churches, where he often tells his conversion story. One Louisiana Republican official has commented, "People think of Bobby Jindal as one of us." Consider that a moment. In some of the most conservative Protestant communities, in one of the most conservative states in America, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, a strong Catholic with parents from Punjab, is considered "one of us."

This is a large political achievement. It is also an indication of what has been called the "ecumenism of the trenches" -- the remarkable alliance between evangelicals and Catholics on moral issues such as abortion and family values against an aggressive secularism. Two or three hundred years ago, the Protestant/Catholic divide remained a source of violence. Two or three decades ago, many conservative Protestant churches questioned if Catholics were properly considered Christians. If Jindal runs for president in three or seven years, he will be widely viewed as an evangelical choice.

Ultimately, however, Jindal is a problem-solving wonk, fond of explaining 31-point policy plans (his state ethics reform proposal actually had 31 points). This can have disadvantages -- a lack of human connection and organizing vision. But this approach also has advantages. Jindal is a genuine policy innovator. "His reforms," says Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "are the only constructive thing Republicans are doing on health care anywhere."

And Jindal's resume, intellectual confidence and command of policy make him the anti-Palin. Fairly or unfairly, media and intellectual elites (including some conservative elites) regard Gov. Sarah Palin as the inhabitant of another cultural planet. Jindal, while also religious and conservative, speaks the language of the knowledge class and will not be easily caricatured or dismissed. To journalists, policy experts and Rhodes Scholars, Jindal is also "one of us."

At this point in the election cycle, no Republican can be considered more than the flavor of the month. But this is an appealing one.

          ONU USAfric Franceàfric Europeàfric DIVISENT les DROITS HUMAINS des Africains par 20 par des troupes d'occupation et des terroristes   

par Yanick Toutain
14 mars 2017

Pour diviser par 20 les droits humains des Africains, Obama, Sarkozy, Hollande missionnent des terroristes et envoient leurs troupes d'occupation.
Pour diviser par 20 les droits humains des Africains, les juges voyous français se mettent au service des terroristes pour harceler les résistants anti-terroristes
La condamnation à 35000€ de Julie Amadis a été suivie par son exclusion 2 ans (Hollande Peillon Hamon) puis révoquée de la fonction publique (Hollande Belkacem)

sous l'article

La liste secrète de l'ONU des auteurs présumés des crimes commis entre 1993 et 2003 en RDC25.07.16

Habibou Bangré, Kinshasa ( de notre correspondante)

@MUSHIZI Charles-M.
La principale problèmatique n'est pas celle-là.
Sécuriser contre les éventuelles représailles d'accusés contre qui ils pourraient déposer, il faut assurer un déplacement et un logement décent aux témoins et victimes qui pourraient venir de très loin pour participer aux procédures, il faut définir, préalablement, les différentes indemnités et le barème des réparations civiles possible, etc.
La condition sine qua non d'une véritable justice en Afrique est l'éviction historique du continent de tous ceux qui, en Afrique, s'autorisent à y pratiquer (et à y protéger les auteurs) d'actes qui vaudraient condamnation pour esclavage dans leurs pays respectifs.
Quand Bolloré paye 50 euros par mois à Kienké Cameroun (SOCAPALM) et coupe le courant des malheureux grèvistes réclamant 2 OU 3 EUROS de plus par MOIS...... son pays, son gouvernement, son Etat sont totalement disqualifiés pour venir en RDC, en Côte d'Ivoire ou n'importe ailleurs pour PRETENDRE Y FAIRE REGNER LE DROIT
La présence de l'ONU en RDC n'a qu'UNE FONCTION PRINCIPALE...... proroger les "DROITS HUMAINS DIVISES PAR 20"
Telle est la fonction principale des troupes de l'ONU, de l'EUFOR, de l'AFRICOM , de LICORNE, BARKHANE etc....

...... comme on en a la preuve pour le 16 décembre 2010 - un commissaire barbouze français Jean-Marie Bourry ONUCI encadrait la première tentative de putsch.... sa radio ONUCI appelant les manifestants pacifiques à venir CAMOUFLER les terroristes de Guillaume Soro armés de RPG et de Kalachnikov.
Terroristes que TF1 avec un commentaire mensonger montrait SORTANT de l'hôtel du Golfe
vidéo effacée depuis par TF1

...... comme on en a la preuve pour le 17 janvier 2012 où l'attaque MNLA Ansardine AQMI fut préparée par le recrutement des miliciens de Kadhafi par le général Puga et Sarkozy......
ainsi que le témoigne le n°3 du groupe terroriste MNLA Hama Ag Mahmoud

..... comme on en a la preuve pour l'attaque de la gendarmerie Samorogouan au Burkina Faso le 9 octobre 2015, attaque organisée par Guillaume Soro et Djibril Bassolé au téléphone (jihadistes Ansardine recrutés dans le cadre du putsch Diendéré qui avait le feu orange de l'Elysée sous la direction des généraux Benoit Puga et Emmanuel Beth)
Même Jeune Afrique le révèlait (avant de l'oublier)

Voix 1 [Guillaume Soro] : Voilà ce que je voulais te proposer : on frappe dans une ville en haut, quelque part là-bas ; on récupère un commissariat ou bien une gendarmerie. Eux, ils vont fuir. Ils ne peuvent pas résister. Et comme on me dit que l’armée est autour de Ouagadougou, si on frappe à un bout là-bas, l’armée va vouloir se réorganiser pour y aller. Si un centimètre carré est pris, ils sont obligés d’aller se battre. Au moment où ils décollent là, on refrappe dans un autre coin. Ça va les paniquer et le RSP, lui, il sort en deux temps. Ceux de Pô avancent sur 50 km et ceux de Ouaga sortent et frappent des cibles fortes, surtout le PM. C’est-à-dire des cibles fortes !
Voix 2 [Djibrill Bassolé] : Oui, d’accord.

La procureur Bensouda avait même des réunions de travail avec le principal chef terroriste régional Blaise Compaoré.

On notera que les réseaux de soutien au terroristes de l'ONUCI sont tellement puissants en France qu'ils sont parvenus à me faire condamner à 6 REPRISES pour ATTEINTE à la VIE PRIVEE du barbouze...... avec la condamnation, sur la base de faux en écritures supplémentaires , d'une innocente n'ayant particupé en aucune façon à l'article condamné
Faux en écritures multiples dont un fabriqué par les juges de Cour d'Appel de Bordeaux eux-mêmes inventant de prétendus aveux de Julie Amadis...... dans une phrase où elle disait l'exact CONTRAIRE de ce qu'avaient prétendu y lire les juges Miori et Ors.......
"A titre liminaire ils soutiennent que Mme Amadis n’est que contributeur
de cet article et non l’auteur, elle doit donc sur le fondement de l’article 93-3
de la loi du 29 juillet 1982 être mise hors de cause."
Julie Amadis n'est NI auteur NI contributrice
Elle n'a RIEN à voir avec l'article condamné !
+++++++CITATIONCour d’Appel de Bordeaux Arrêt du 03 juillet 20135ème Chambre RG n° : 12/06552Sur la mise hors de cause de Mme AmadisLa loi du 29 juillet 1982 concerne les poursuites qui peuvent être intentéescontre le directeur ou co directeur d’une publication.En l’espèce, l’instance engagée est une procédure civile et Mme Amadisse reconnaît contributeur de l’article en question.Elle a donc participé à la rédaction de cet article et doit être retenue enla cause.
Julie Amadis n'a cessé de REPETER qu'elle n'était NI CONTRIBUTRICE NI AUTEUR de l'ARTICLE

PAR AILLEURS, en FRANCE les réseaux terroristes sont tellement puissants qu'ils parviennent à FAIRE DESERTER une AVOCATE (Michèle Bauer) qui BOYCOTTE l'AUDIENCE D'APPEL..... mais GARDE pour elle l'ARGENT (2000€) que sa cliente lui a versé.
"Par message reçu par RPVA le 18 mars 2013, le Conseil des appelants a
fait connaître qu’il n’intervenait plus pour ces derniers."
LA COUR D'APPEL AU SERVICE des TERRORISTES continue néanmoins et tient son audience SANS AVOCATS de la défense........
L'avocate Michèle Bauer n'a JAMAIS rendu l'argent, malgré une réclamation de Julie Amadis auprès de l'ordre !!!!!

...... IL FAUT L'EVICTION DES ESCLAVAGISTES...... puis leur condamnation par un NUREMBERG DE L'AFRIQUE.......
que j'avais annoncé le 2 janvier 2011.... dans un article...... condamné à 35 000 €.... pour ATTEINTE à la VIE PRIVEE.... pour cause de propos excessifs

Jean-Marie Bourry : criminel fasciste ONUCI en Côte d'Ivoire. Protège des harki-putschistes, défend le fasciste FMI Ouattara. Coupable du génocide sanitaire contre l'Afrique. Il sera jugé avec Chirac, Sarkozy, Bouygues, Bolloré dans le Nuremberg de l'Afrique !!!

"ETONNAMMENT" l'article qui l'avait suivi le mois suivant en février 2011 n'a jamais été poursuivi ni condamné par qui que ce soit
Un Nuremberg de l'Afrique contre Ben Ali, Moubarak et la France à fric. Il faut ajouter Biya et les autres KAPOS, il faut ajouter Sarkozy, Chirac, Jospin, l'Internationale Socialiste, l'Internationale Démocrate Centriste, et l'article UN de l'acte d'accusation doit être le GENOCIDE SANITAIRE qui fait 3 millions de bébés morts chaque année en Afrique

          Les bobards de Stéphanie Maupas et Justice Info pour protéger les donneurs d'ordre du terrorisme (Sarkozy Obama Hollande)   

par Yanick Toutain

REPONSE (non affichée sur le site) à STEPHANIE MAUPAS

Faire un article sur un terroriste.... 3° couteau d'une organisation......... sans JAMAIS mentionner le nom de ses CHEFS est totalement révélateur d'une démarche malhonnête et partialeDémarche visant à CAMOUFLER l'appartenance de Fatou Bensouda à un RESEAU TERRORISTE.Iyad Ag Ghali récompensé de 20M€ par Hollande en octobre 2013 pendant que le n°2 Cheikh Ag Aoussa a été recyclé par Le Drian sous l'étiquette MIA puis HCUA en prétendu rebelle
...... est une mascarade hypocrite
CITATION En fonction depuis le 16 juin 2012, la procureure de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) a déjà accompli la moitié de son mandat. En quatre ans et demi, Fatou Bensouda a ouvert deux dossiers, Mali et Géorgie, et émis un mandat d’arrêt pour crimes de guerre contre le djihadiste d’Ansar Dine, Ahmed Al Mahdi. ++++FIN DE CITATION
C'est logique Hollande et ses 2 acolytes généraux Puga et Beth ont RECRUTE le groupe jihadiste Ansardine le 9 octobre 2015 pour ATTAQUER le Burkina FasoATTAQUE GENDARMERIE SAMOROGOUAN on a même l'enregistrement téléphonique de celui qui a organisé le financement des terroristeshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_DWOYjw9M4xxx

Bensouda à mi-mandat à la CPI : le test américain
Stéphanie Maupas, La Haye, CorrespondanceFatou Bensouda Procureure de la CPI au procès de Thomas LubangaFatou Bensouda Procureure de la CPI au procès de Thomas Lubanga© ICC-CPI/Jerry Lampen/ANPEn fonction depuis le 16 juin 2012, la procureure de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) a déjà accompli la moitié de son mandat. En quatre ans et demi, Fatou Bensouda a ouvert deux dossiers, Mali et Géorgie, et émis un mandat d’arrêt pour crimes de guerre contre le djihadiste d’Ansar Dine, Ahmed Al Mahdi. Trop peu d’actes, à ce jour, mais de nombreux dossiers sur la table, visant notamment Russes, Britanniques, Américains et Israéliens. Les observateurs attendent impatiemment l’ouverture annoncée d’un dossier sur l’Afghanistan, visant notamment les tortures perpétrées par les forces des Etats-Unis, comme un tournant et un test, pour la Cour et la justice internationale. Bilan à mi-mandat.
 Un pas en arrière, deux pas en avant. S’engouffrant dans le sillage creusé par l’Afrique du sud, le dictateur gambien Yayah Jammeh, avait décidé, mi-octobre, de retirer son pays du traité fondateur de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI). Vainqueur de la présidentielle, son successeur, Adama Barrow annulait la décision, et pour marquer le tournant qu’il entend donner au pays, « après 22 ans d’injustice et d’abus de pouvoir », il prenait pour ministre de la Justice l’ancien procureur du Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda (TPIR), Hassan Boubacar Jallow. Mais à La Haye l’annonce du retrait gambien avait résonné comme une attaque personnelle contre la procureure, nommé en 1998 ministre de la Justice du dictateur de ce petit pays pétrolier d’Afrique de l’Ouest, après dix années passées aux plus hauts postes de la justice gambienne. « Fatou Bensouda n’est pas gambienne, elle est globale ! » souriait néanmoins un juriste. Après un détour rapide comme conseiller juridique d’une banque commerciale, Fatou Bensouda rejoignait le TPIR en 2000, où elle officiait au côté de celui qu’elle prendra pour adjoint à la CPI, James Stewart, et de Stephen Rapp, qui deviendra, lui, l’ambassadeur américain pour les crimes de guerre des années Obama.
Russes, Américains, Britanniques et Israéliens dans le viseur
Pour évaluer les premières années du mandat Bensouda, il faut regarder du côté des examens préliminaires, étape préalable aux enquêtes. En mai 2014, la procureure décidait de rouvrir le dossier sur les tortures pratiquées par les forces britanniques dans les prisons irakiennes, discrètement refermé huit ans plus tôt par son prédécesseur. La procureure ouvrait ensuite un examen préliminaire sur la Palestine début 2015, après avoir été saisie par l’autorité palestinienne, qui dans le même temps, ratifiait le traité de la Cour. Un an plus tard, elle concluait son examen préliminaire sur l’Ossétie-du-Sud et obtenait des juges l’autorisation d’ouvrir une enquête. Enfin, et c’est sans doute la décision la plus remarquable, elle annonçait en novembre 2016 des conclusions « très imminentes » sur l’Afghanistan, pointant notamment les crimes commis par les forces américaines. Enquêtes et examens préliminaires impliquent désormais la Russie, le Royaume uni, les Etats-Unis et son allié israélien. « Il faut voir toute la signification de cela », souligne William Schabas, « la justice internationale a toujours été contrôlée par les Etats du Conseil de sécurité, même à Nuremberg, avant même que le Conseil de sécurité n’existe ! Ils ont toujours pensé organiser cette justice pour les autres. » Dans son rapport de novembre, Fatou Bensouda indique se pencher sur les crimes – notamment les tortures – commis par les forces américaines en Afghanistan et ailleurs, dont ceux perpétrés par la CIA dans les prisons secrètes en Europe où « des membres présumés d’Al Qaeda ou des Talibans auraient été transférés » depuis l’Afghanistan. Des « membres de l’armée américaine et de la Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ont eu recours à des méthodes constitutives de crimes de guerre de torture, traitements cruels, atteintes à la dignité de la personne et viol », souligne le rapport de Fatou Bensouda, qui précise que « la gravité des crimes allégués est renforcée par le fait qu’ils auraient été perpétrés en exécution d’un plan ou d’une politique approuvée dans les plus hautes sphères du gouvernement américain, au terme de longues délibérations ». Cette politique visait à obtenir « des renseignements au travers de techniques d’interrogatoire s’appuyant sur des méthodes cruelles ou violentes destinées à servir les objectifs américains dans le conflit en Afghanistan ».
L’Europe des prisons secrètes
Les déclarations du nouveau président américain Donald Trump soulignent d’autant plus l’urgence d’une intervention de la CPI. « Vous savez, j’ai parlé avec d’autres personnes du renseignement, et elles croient par exemple au simulacre de noyade parce qu’elles disent que ça marche », déclarait Donald Trump sur la chaine ABC, le 25 janvier. Le nouvel élu réitérait des déclarations prononcées durant sa campagne, au cours de laquelle il avait plaidé pour le retour des méthodes d’interrogatoire renforcées pratiquées sous l’ère George W. Bush. L’existence de prisons secrètes avait été révélée en 2005. Au terme d’une enquête conduite à la demande du Conseil de l’Europe, le sénateur suisse Dick Marty avait dénoncé « une toile d’araignée mondiale » de détentions et de transferts illégaux pratiqués par les Etats-Unis, en collusion avec plusieurs Etats européens. Depuis, ces Etats ont été sommés d’engager des poursuites, mais se sont retranchés derrière le secret d’Etat. Dans son rapport de novembre, la procureure indique avoir demandé à la Pologne, la Roumanie et la Lituanie, trois Etats membres de la Cour, de l’informer sur d’éventuelles poursuites en cours. En marge d’une conférence internationale sur la sécurité à Munich, du 17 au 19 février, Fatou Bensouda a notamment rencontré le président afghan, Ashraf Ghani, et les ministres des Affaires étrangères de Roumanie et de Lituanie. Mais la procureure n’a toujours pas présentée aux juges sa demande d’enquête. « La question des tortures commises par les Etats-Unis est d’importance mondiale », estime le professeur William Schabas, « cela montrera que les Etats Unis peuvent aussi avoir à répondre devant la justice. Vous ne pouvez pas le faire avec la Commission des droits de l’homme de l’Onu, un organe politique, vous ne pouvez pas le faire avec le Conseil de sécurité, pour des raisons évidentes, seule la CPI peut le faire. » Pour la première fois, on parlera d’« un dirigeant qui envoie son armée combattre dans un autre pays », souligne-t-il en outre. Mais annoncée comme imminente, la demande d’enquête n’est toujours pas, trois mois après, sur le bureau des juges. « Il y a beaucoup de débats pour savoir s’il serait sage de faire cela, mais c’est pourtant la raison pour laquelle la Cour a été créée », souligne le chercheur Mark Kersten. « On peut imaginer que les Etats-Unis pourraient avoir avec la CPI de très mauvaises relations, avec au pouvoir l’administration Trump et en fait, avec n’importe quelle administration », explique le chercheur, « mais il y a eu beaucoup d’attentes durant les quinze premières années de la Cour, et finalement, la CPI pourrait enfin confronter la justice aux pouvoirs. » Pour William Schabas, elle « doit Insister sur le caractère impartial de cette justice, parce que si la Cour continue sur cette voie », en ciblant les seuls conflits dont l’impact est national ou régional, « il y a de fortes chances qu’elle devienne une institution bien peu pertinente ». La procureure n’a pas le droit d’échouer sur ces dossiers très sensibles et personne n’envisage qu’un recul soit aujourd’hui possible. « Ouvrir une enquête sur la Géorgie, avancer les examens préliminaires sur l’Afghanistan, cela montre une relative indépendance sur ces affaires-là », estime Karine Bonneau, de la Fédération internationale des droits de l’Homme (FIDH), « mais il faut encore voir ce qu’il va en sortir. Et c’est le vrai test de la CPI. » En attendant l’ouverture formelle d’enquêtes, les récents développements sont salués. « Examiner la conduite des Etats-Unis, de la Russie, d’Israël, même si cela peut être vu comme une mesure minimaliste, c’est déjà un tournant », selon le professeur Schabas.
Les examens préliminaires, source de pression
Ouverts parfois depuis des années, dix ans pour la Colombie et l’Afghanistan, « les examens préliminaires fonctionnent comme une liste de dénonciation, et cela un bon impact, même si c’est difficile à évaluer, comme par exemple sur le processus de paix en Colombie » ajoute le professeur de l’université de Middlesex. « La Cour est une source, parmi d’autres, de justice et de pressions sur les Etats », souligne aussi Karine Bonneau. « Un examen préliminaire qui dure dix ans, ce n’est pas acceptable, mais sans la CPI, il n’y aurait pas eu autant de tentatives de rendre justice en Colombie. Et si la procureure ouvrait un examen préliminaire au Mexique, alors les autorités commenceraient à bouger », assure-t-elle. Le traité de Rome, fondateur de la Cour, a été adopté en 1998, à une époque où la guerre froide s’ancrait dans le passé. La juridiction s’est installée à La Haye en 2002, quelques mois après le 11-Septembre. Aujourd’hui, la procureure « est confrontée à une époque totalement différente de celle qui prévalait à la création de la Cour, avec cette levée de boucliers des Etats africains, l’arrivée de Trump, la crise financière qui incite des Etats comme la France à reculer sur le budget », regrette Karine Bonneau. Si les dossiers sont sur la table, les décisions trainent en longueur et pourraient donner le temps aux pourfendeurs de la juridiction de consolider leurs troupes. En novembre 2016, au premier jour de l’Assemblée annuelle des Etats parties à la Cour, Moscou annonçait qu’elle retirait sa signature du traité (la Russie n’a pas ratifié le traité, mais l’avait signé). Une annonce symbolique, destinée à soutenir les rangs des frondeurs africains, alors qu'Israël a aussi placé la juridiction à son agenda.
Deux dossiers, un mandat d’arrêt
Avec son élection fin 2011, nombre d’Etats-parties à la Cour espéraient insuffler un nouveau tempo dans les relations de la juridiction avec « l’Afrique », compliquées depuis l’annonce, en juillet 2008, de l’inculpation à venir du président soudanais Omar Al Bachir, puis de celle d’Uruhu Kenyatta, élu à la tête du Kenya en 2013 malgré sa mise en accusation. En prenant ses fonctions le 16 juin 2012, Fatou Bensouda devait gérer les dossiers mal ficelés de son prédécesseur, Luis Moreno Ocampo, dont elle partage ce premier bilan pour avoir été, pendant huit ans, son adjointe. « Quand elle a commencé en 2012, il était de plus en plus évident que les méthodes d’enquête et de poursuite ne tenaient pas dans une salle d’audience », explique Elizabeth Evenson, de Human Rights Watch (HRW). « Il y a eu des revers, particulièrement avec l’effondrement des deux affaires sur le Kenya. » L’élection des deux principaux accusés, Uhuru Kenyatta et William Ruto à la tête du Kenya « a conduit à une escalade dans les attaques politiques contre la légitimé de la Cour. » Mais depuis l’entrée en fonction de Fatou Bensouda, « on a vu des changements de stratégie dans les investigations, et le bureau du procureur a aussi avancé en délivrant des documents clés de politique pénale », sur les crimes sexuels, les enfants soldats et la sélection des affaires. « Difficile, souligne néanmoins le professeur William Schabas, d'évaluer sa direction, parce que jusqu’à présent, il n’y a pas eu beaucoup d'actions ». En quatre ans, Fatou Bensouda a ouvert deux dossiers, sur le Mali en janvier 2013, puis trois ans plus tard sur la guerre de l’été 2008, opposant en Ossétie-du Sud, la Géorgie à la Russie. Une enquête balbutiante, alors qu’en près de cinq ans, sur les dix affaires en cours, un seul mandat d’arrêt pour crime de guerre a été émis et exécuté. Incarcéré au Niger, Ahmed Al Mahdi avait rapidement été transféré à La Haye en septembre 2015. Face à la Cour, l’ancien chef de la police des mœurs décidait de plaider coupable de la destruction des Mausolées de Tombouctou, alors occupée par les djihadistes d’Ansar dine et d’Al Qaeda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI). Rondement menée, l’affaire s’est conclue en septembre 2016, par une condamnation à 9 ans de prison. « Je crois que c’est la meilleure affaire jamais conduite par la Cour à ce jour » salue le chercheur Mark Kersten. « Ils sont parvenus à obtenir la coopération de deux Etats, le Niger et le Mali », et « la condamnation de l’accusé dans un temps très court », pour « un crime qui résonne largement aujourd’hui étant donné les destructions de patrimoine par l’EI [Etat islamique] et celles orchestrées avant par les Talibans. » L’auteur de « Justice in conflict » (Oxford), rappelle aussi que les aveux d’Al Mahdi pourraient conduire, dans un proche avenir, à de nouveaux mandats d’arrêt.
Une Cour bientôt sans procès
L’absence de décisions sur les dossiers en cours suscite aussi l’inquiétude. Si aujourd’hui trois procès sont enclenchés - contre Laurent Gbagbo et Charles Blé Goudé, Bosco Ntaganda et Dominic Ongwen - le box des accusés pourrait, dans les prochaines années, rester pour longtemps inoccupé. Que ce soit en Centrafrique, au Mali, ou en Côte d’Ivoire, les mandats d’arrêt se font attendre. Quant à l’affaire libyenne, les annonces de la CPI « n’ont pas eu d’effet positif sur les violences » souligne Mark Kersten. Depuis mai 2016, Fatou Bensouda a annoncé au Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies, qui avait saisi la CPI des crimes commis en Libye dès 2011, être prête à lancer des mandats d’arrêt. Si les Kadhafistes sont toujours au cœur des enquêtes, la procureure a, au cours des dernières années, tour à tour évoqué les crimes commis contre les tawerghas, une minorité accusée durant la rébellion de soutenir le régime Kadhafi, ceux perpétrés par les troupes du colonel Haftar, longtemps opposé au gouvernement d’union libyen, devenu aujourd’hui commandant en chef de l’Armée libyenne, puis l’Etat islamique, et récemment, les auteurs de crimes contre les migrants. « Le Bureau du procureur a pris la position de considérer le renvoi de la Libye par le Conseil de sécurité comme étant sans limite, et pour la Cour, cela revient à traiter la Libye comme un Etat membre », analyse Mark Kersten. Et « c’est très décevant de voir que ni Luis Moreno Ocampo, ni Fatou Bensouda, n’ont enquêté sur les crimes de l’opposition », ajoute-t-il. La procureure a signé un accord avec les autorités libyennes, répartissant les poursuites contre les supporters de Kadhafi, en attribuant à la Cour leur traque à l’étranger. Si de nouveaux dossiers sont ouverts, il sera difficile à l’accusation de donner à la Libye un blanc-seing pour juger sur son sol. Le 21 février, le Haut-commissariat aux droits de l’Homme et la Mission des Nations unies en Libye identifiait notamment  « de graves violations des garanties d’une procédure régulière », estimait que de profondes réformes du système judiciaire étaient nécessaires, et réclamaient un moratoire sur la peine de mort. Des conclusions sans surprises. Seule la CPI avaient jugé les procédures fiables en renvoyant l’affaire Senoussi aux libyens, à l’été 2014, après avoir émis un mandat d’arrêt contre cet ancien chef des renseignements militaires en juin 2011. « Je crois que le bureau du procureur aurait dû, depuis longtemps, prendre l’initiative de remettre en cause la recevabilité de l’affaire Senoussi », dit Marc Kersten. Au cours de son mandat, le premier procureur, Luis Moreno Ocampo, « s’est emparé de tous les dossiers faciles, commente un fonctionnaire de la Cour. Des affaires visant des accusés déjà en détention », comme Thomas Lubanga ou Laurent Gbagbo, « et des dossiers visant les milices opposées aux autorités en place, et lui permettant d’obtenir une bonne coopération ». Mais « aujourd’hui, c’est plus compliqué ».

          Trump, en mentalt störd clown…   
I Sverige så hade 93 procent av befolkningen förtroende för Barack Obama, idag är det bara tio procent av befolkningen som har förtroende för den nya amerikanska presidenten. Det tyder på att...
          Adrien de Tricornot a telle haine de la vérité qu'il me bloqua après 5 tweets #SMICenAfrique #7novembre16h34 #HillaryClinton #OrganizeTrainAndArm #LesEsclavesdeBolloré #GreveiTELE   

par Yanick Toutain

Ce "journaliste" du Monde Adrien de Tricornot fait partie comme les autres des imposteurs qui camouflent le complot terroriste.
Tous ces terronalistes qui camouflent Aguel Hoc, Samorogouan, #OrganizeTrainAndArm de Clinton.
Tous ces terronalistes qui camouflent l'origine esclavagiste et terroriste de la fortune de Bolloré./

Il participe à la folie carbone, à la pathologie consumériste, il participe à l'appel des folles esclavagistes qui veulent aggraver le crime consumériste.
Mais il a une particularité
Il ne veut pas lire la vérité
Un grand malade consumériste qui bloque plus vite que Lucky Luke.
Je ne connaissais pas son nom il y a un quart d'heure.
Je l'oublierai presque aussi vite !
Pas Google ni Twitter !







Pour les gens curieux, voici le CV du bloqueur

Journaliste au Monde Économie depuis septembre 2006, spécialisé sur les dossiers de macroéconomie et finance, Adrien de Tricornot a été correspondant du Monde à Francfort-sur-le-Main, en Allemagne (juillet 2003-août 2006), chargé de la couverture de la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) et de l'économie allemande. Il était auparavant au service entreprises-économie du Monde (janvier 2001-juillet 2003), rubrique marchés financiers. Il a également travaillé au magazine L’Expansion (mars 1995-décembre 2000), au Revenu Hebdo, (octobre 1993-février 1995), et a été journaliste indépendant pour Le nouvel Économiste, Épargne & Finance, etc. Il est diplômé de l’Institut français de presse et de l’Institut d’études politiques de Paris, section service public (1990).
Source : Amazon

          Référendum : Claque géante pour les terroristes Ouattara Soro ! Perte de 5% des électeurs de 2015 ! Malgré les tricheries !   

par Yanick Toutain
"Mais avant même la proclamation des résultats nationaux, l’opposition, le front du refus et la coalition pour le « non » les dénonçaient, affirmant que le taux de participation n’était que de 3 à 7%. Certains opposants évoquant même « des falsifications grossières et le non-respect des procédures de proclamations des résultats. »" RFI


La dictature terroriste installée par Johnny Carson pour le compte de Obama et Hillary Clinton en Côte d'Ivoire a du mal à fabriquer le vernis légaliste dont elle a besoin.
Les terroristes que les 2 toutous des USA "Sarko" et "Ban" comme les appelait Johnny Carson dans les courriels de Clinton dévoilés par Wikileaks se veulent de respectables agents de l'impérialisme
Ils font donc des élections et des référendums comme leurs maitres
Sous surveillance de l'USAID.
Mais passer de 2 618 229 bulletins en 2015 à 2 480 287 est à hurler de rire !
Cela rappelle 1969 avec De Gaulle !



6 313 758 12 569 0,20%
3 635 157 664 896 22,39%
2 678 601 -652 327 -19,58%
blancs nuls
23 600 -177 586 -88,27%
2 655 001 -474 741 -15,17%
2 480 287 -137 942 -5,27%
174 714

Mais les résultats comparatifs sont grotesques !



population 25 232 905

inscrits 6 301 189

abstentions 2 970 261

votants 3 330 928

blancs nuls 201 186

exprimés 3 129 742

Ouattara 2 618 229

Nguessan 290 780

BKK 121 386

Lagou Adjoua 27 759

SKK 22 117

Gnangbo 18 650

JC Kouangoua 12 398

Arriver à cela tout en trichant !!!




On ne va pas recommencer les élections.
C'est bien plus simple que cela : UN DELEGUE POUR 25 DELEGATEURS.
La feuille est PUBLIQUE et sera REPORTEE sur Internet.

(1 pour 25 à chaque étage)



Côte d'Ivoire : Il faut 2,5 millions de délégateurs et chasser Ouattara-ONUCI

un texte par Yanick Toutain sur Abidjantalk.com

Les tricheurs vont chantant le petit air de l'invasion colonialiste "Ouattara a obtenu 2 483 164 votes"  ! "Ouattara a obtenu 2 483 164 votes"  ! "Ouattara a obtenu 2 483 164 votes"  !(source : le pdf des tricheurs harki)*

La petite chanson des tricheurs ONUCI, la petite chanson du criminel sanitaire Ban Ki Moon qui n'a pas démissionné quand ses troupes d'invasion en Haïti ont tué - par le CHOLÉRA plusieurs milliers d'habitants de ce territoire occupé par les fasciste ONU : il fallait bien mentir et empêcher l'insurrection : leurs élections truquées devaient avoir lieu.


Ici, comme en France, comme en Haïti, comme demain au Cameroun, comme demain en Tunisie... IL SUFFIT QUE LE PEUPLE SE REGROUPE par 25.


On ne va pas recommencer les élections.
C'est bien plus simple que cela : UN DELEGUE POUR 25 DELEGATEURS.
La feuille est PUBLIQUE et sera REPORTEE sur Internet.

(1 pour 25 à chaque étage)

Ce système de révocation a été utilisé pendant la Commune de Paris. Et a inspiré les révolutionnaires de 1917. C'est le VRAI système des soviets avant que Staline et les diplômés ne viennent de détruire.

NOTES: on remarquera l'amusant adjectif "provisoire" sur les publications de ces tricheurs. Ils appellent à attaquer la Côte d'Ivoire avec des résultats "provisoires"
          Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and ...   

by Yanick Toutain
MONSYTE oct 30, 2008
REVACTU oct 14 2016

Obama is a puppet with a program of Wall Street

To drive out the capitalists and their puppets is needed a revocable govt
(written  oct 30, 2008)



The current joke is a modern form of dictatorship.

The cranium stuffing of Obama and the million and the million dollars of the bank are the response to the stuffing of the ballot boxes and fakings of the Bush gang of 2004.

All that to make more than 700 billion dollars gifts to the friends Obama: a capitalist socialism!

All that is a carnival in front of the tanks and the guns of the traders.




The citizens must meet by 25 to choose a revocable delegate among them.

They can also choose an intermediary which will represent 5 people, 5 délégateurs, then 5 intermediaries will choose a delegate (who will represent the 25 délégateurs)

These delegates are revocable at any moment.

With 5 stages of delegates, a delegate represents 9.76 million délégateurs.

25 delegated 5° stage thus represent more than 240 million délégateurs

These delegates are revocable constantly.

There is no list system. There is no time of mandate.

It is not possible any more to corrupt a delegate: he would be ejected at once.

These delegates are it by all the citizens knowing to read. Youth, as from 7 years will be able to choose its delegates.


Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and ...

automatic translation with Babelfish Systran Yahooo
(if you find some mistakes, you can give your help ! thanks !)

Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and to found an egalitarian liberal system.


What would make an egalitarian government in the USA?


As of the first day, the government will take 5 simple measurements.

1) 1000 DOLLARS for consumption

The urgency is to pour 1000 dollars per month for each citizen of more than 14 years, 500 dollars per young person of less than 14 years.

An egalitarian government will give a Web page to each unemployed, with each person in looking for a job, each person having a project, each student, each person leaving her employment to be made, truly, useful, with each person wanting to leave her employment.


Each recipient of these 1000 dollars per month will return account to its fellow-citizens of the social activity which it will have decided to implement.

The disappearance of wage-earning, it will be the single wages.

The trade unions formois with their “always more! ” lie you.

A revolutionary government will ensure each citizen a decent life

A dream formois, a middle-class dream: to be owner of a house, to be owner of a ground.

Each house will be rented a moderate price: 5 dollars the square meter.

All houses.

In the event of competition, free biddings between the new citizens (paid 1000 euros) will decide between the concurrents*.

Egalitarianism does not accept the property of the grounds, the property of the buildings.

The 70% of States-Uniens owners are the superones, robbers of the Third world, robbers the Land ones.

The revolution will be done for the benefit those which America crushed, for the benefit of the 30% of poorest of the States-Uniens and those which are crushed by the iron Heel to be precipitated towards poverty.

Perhaps to conclude their projects, their social proposals, the new citizens will need investments.


In a world without banks, without capitalists, credit, the construction of the future is not made the democratic investment.

Each manufacturer of project, the new Bill Gates, new Walt Disney, the new pupil of Google will need investments, of buildings to be rented, machines to be bought, working capital.

The world to come will be a true liberal world.

But not a world of asses which advance for carrots!

To work will not bring back anything except the pleasure of being useful: Here is the key of the New World, the New Border!


They will be the citizens who will hold the investment: they will pour 300 dollars with their preferred projects.

More taxes to be paid for the new citizens. The reverse. The exact opposite one.



A company which functions needs investments. They are the citizens, who, by Internet, will pour their investments citizens.

For the car, for space research, the biological research, research in physics, the armed forces, the assistance with the cousins of the colonized countries, for education, health, the construction of shopping malls, of various factories, for the financing of films, video games, of software, for the implementation of ecological projects, of natural parks, it is the citizen who will decide.


Will each citizen be the Master of his 300 dollars?

The only condition will be its satisfying.

Each financing will be public: each citizen invests his 300 dollars on his site of citizen, each one can consult the financings of each one.

It is out of the question that somebody can fake his investment by transforming it into disguised consumption.

Not question of financing the restaurant of your cousin or a friend in exchange of free meal, not question of financing the recording of the group which sings your own songs, not question of financing a project in exchange of the financing of another project.


In the event of faking, the citizens corrupt officials will quickly be sanctioned: the reputation which is theirs will go down in freefall.

Consequently, their capacity to assemble their own projects will take a severe blow.

As well as the reputation of their accomplices.

The companies will be companies with nonlucrative goal.

Free associations of contractors.

But nobody has anything.


The current joke is a modern form of dictatorship.

The cranium stuffing of Obama and the million and the million dollars of the bank are the response to the stuffing of the ballot boxes and fakings of the Bush gang of 2004.

All that to make more than 700 billion dollars gifts to the friends Obama: a capitalist socialism!

All that is a carnival in front of the tanks and the guns of the traders.




The citizens must meet by 25 to choose a revocable delegate among them.

They can also choose an intermediary which will represent 5 people, 5 délégateurs, then 5 intermediaries will choose a delegate (who will represent the 25 délégateurs)

These delegates are revocable at any moment.

With 5 stages of delegates, a delegate represents 9.76 million délégateurs.

25 delegated 5° stage thus represent more than 240 million délégateurs

These delegates are revocable constantly.

There is no list system. There is no time of mandate.

It is not possible any more to corrupt a delegate: he would be ejected at once.

These delegates are it by all the citizens knowing to read. Youth, as from 7 years will be able to choose its delegates.


The totality of the soldiers imperialists, abroad, will be called, as of the first day to remain in their barracks and to prepare their immediate return in the USA.

The generals and with graded fascistic will be delivered to justices of the occupied countries. Whatever the shapes of governments!

In order to be there judged according to the laws of the countries that the fascistic government of Wall Street will have decided to occupy.


All the taxes and excise duties will be removed and replaced by a single tax.

The tax carbon.

This tax will be based on the purchase of ration coupons carbon bought to the poor Mexicans and in all the South American who emit less than 1,8 kilos of carbon per day.


These tasks will be, well, obviously, the complement of defensive measurements that such a government would be obliged to take against the plotters and other counter-revolutionaries who put the country at his boot since the time when the writer visionary Jack London denounced the Iron Heel.

*Only the citizens without fortune, having only 1000 dollars per month of incomes, will be able to profit from such biddings.

The owners will pour them-also to them rent of 5 dollars: the revolution does not recognize the real estate.

With wages of 1000 dollars, the biddings will not go up very high.

As for great fortunes, lawsuits in criminal monopolization will reduce the number of gangster in the country.

A Michael Jackson will quickly find in one 2 room appartment and her properties transformed into universities for all the ages.

          Queen of tattoos   
A hotel in Acomb, Notherumberland (England) has caused outrage amoungst villagers when after an expensive refurb they unveiled their new sign. The sign depicts what looks like Queen Elizabeth II (after all the pub is called the Queen's arm, what else is one suposed to conclude), in a 'wife-beater' wearing a gold chain and with 'Phil' tattooed on her arm.

This has gotten me thinking, dreaming perhaps, of leaders with tattoos. After all we (the UK) now a have an inked 'first lady', and yes, she is not heavily inked - but she also does not appear ashmaed of it and it certainly does not affect her ability to be a mother, a wife or an important public figure.

With tattoos once again becoming prevalent in society how long can it be before we have a tattooed world leader?

Women have reached the top spot (in the UK) and the US have Barack Obama (the US willingness to have a black leader before a female leader is very interesting), surely there will come a time when due to the wide spread nature of tattoos amoung the younger generations that, when we (the 'young' generation) are the ones responsible for running the world there will be a Prime Minster or President with at least a small tattoo!

I'm not suggesting society is ready to elect anyone with full sleeves, or even a full back piece, but with celebrities more important to many people than politicians, society will embrace the idea of tattoos as acceptable, paving the way to a more tolerant society.

The last man to have walked on the moon died recently. No one has been back to visit that alien world in the forty-four years since Eugene Cernan stepped onto its surface. Such a shame. As a species, we are regressing. With the amount of resources misused by Bush and Blair on illegal wars, or the ordnance that Obama has dropped in the last eight years, or the money squandered by European countries on foreign aid, and funding the overthrow Continue Reading
          By: Christian Louboutin bhn   
"There will be a lot of what I'm calling sex shoes," she reveals. "I've made a lot of pieces that can seduce, seduct and that will secure the deal. The shoes will be iconic, architectural and anatomical. We want to be the go to destination for when women want to feel hot to trot. I want the same dialogue that [url=http://www.uchristianlouboutin.com]Christian Louboutin[/url] has with his women." The shoes for every outfit – and if the event calls for costume, fancy shoes are a must, especially when we talk about our excellent [url=http://www.uchristianlouboutin.com]Christian Louboutin sale[/url], Michelle Obama, for which they recommended. It is no wonder that women everywhere a secret passion for Christian Louboutin, and it was champagne satin heels no exception. Winged before, and the sky-high returns, a pairof[url=http://www.uchristianlouboutin.com/producttags/C] Christian Louboutin shoes[/url] you wear in this eternal classic.
          Compromise, and Other Four Letter Words   
A firestorm of debate has opened recently about the Obama administration’s handling of an interesting conundrum regarding birth control.  The debate purportedly posits the rights of free practice of religion with the rights of women to make choices regarding their health.  An interesting by-product of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, Obamacare) is […]
          CT Sen. Murphy Condemns Legislation Allowing Mentally Ill To Purchase Firearms   
Congress has sent President Donald Trump legislation that reverses an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
          Making Schools Safer   
The Obama Administration has released new advice about school safety procedures in the wake of the mass shooting at Newtown Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School. The "Guide for Developing High-Qaulity School Emergency Operations Plans" may provide guidance for Rhode Island school officials, who are now required to submit emergency plans to state officials, under a recently passed state law. The measure raised some controversy because it allows school committees to discuss safety procedures in closed-door sessions and keep details of the plans secret. The guidance from the federal government is also raising some eyebrows , according to Education Week , because it suggests that school personnel attempt to fight back against an active shooter if there is no better option.
          As POTUS Visits Kentucky, Paul Drums Up Votes Against GOP Health Plan In D.C.   
Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul is not happy with the current Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The plan comes from House Speaker Paul Ryan and has the support of President Donald Trump.
          Rand Paul Might Stop An Obamacare Repeal. Here’s How   
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that he would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare, without voting for a replacement plan on the same day. He made the comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
          GOP Sen. Rand Paul Blasts Party Leaders for Ignoring Debt    
Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday blasted fellow GOP lawmakers for ignoring the government's spiraling debt problem in their rush to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.
          Trump's anti-LGBTQ lawyer facing trouble for alleged steering of $60 million in donations   
Jay Sekulow
One of Donald Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, has been the media's eye repeatedly. A lot of folks aren't aware of exactly who he is. However, I am because I used to watch his appearances on The 700 Club in the late 80s and early 90s.

Sekulow has an extensive history of being one the religious right's hardcore weapons against the LGBTQ community.

According to The Advocate:

Jay Sekulow, who joined Trump’s team this month, is chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a far-right legal group founded by no less than Pat Robertson and based at Robertson’s Regent University in Virginia. Sekulow holds a Ph.D. from Regent and is a professor at its law school. His law degree is from another university that claims to promote “Judeo-Christian” values, Georgia’s Mercer University. He’s a frequent commentator on Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and Fox News Channel. 
The ACLJ has represented many anti-LGBT and antichoice clients and causes. “ACLJ’s materials are often explicitly homophobic, and their fundraising emails signed by Sekulow have warned that the homosexual agenda is ‘bent on destroying our communities’ and ‘the family as we know it,’” the Human Rights Campaign reported in a 2014 press release. 

And it gets worse, according to Right Wing Watch:

Sekulow and the ACLJ have been active in the U.S. and overseas in opposing legal equality for LGBTQ people. Sekulow has said that the state has a “compelling interest to ban the act of homosexuality” and the ACLJ argued on behalf of state laws criminalizing gay sex that were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003. Sekulow said the Supreme Court overturning the Defense of Marriage Act meant that “we’re now living in a monarchy.” The ACLJ and its international affiliates engage in anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice culture wars in the U.S., Africa, Europe and Russia. In Africa, it worked to shape constitutional language in Zimbabwe, where it has fought to maintain criminalization of homosexuality, and Kenya, where it lobbied to eliminate an exemption to an abortion ban to save a woman’s life. Both the European Center for Jaw and Justice and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice supported Russia’s notorious anti-gay “propaganda” law, which has been used against journalists and gay rights activists.

You know I'm leading to a delicious finish and here it is:

Sekulow was recently the subject of an explosive article by The Guardian which claims that his charity steered $60 million in donations from the poor into the pockets of him and his family.

Talking Points Memo reported:

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that, in the midst of the Great Recession, Sekulow signed off on contracts that instructed telemarketers for Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE) to urge retirees on fixed incomes and others who said they could not afford a donation to find it in their hearts to contribute a “sacrificial gift.” CASE raises tens of millions of dollars every year, primarily through small direct-mail donations. The Guardian reported that money goes directly to Sekulow, his wife—who has made more than $1.2 milion as CASE’s treasurer and secretary—his sons, brother, sister-in-law, and other firms associated with the family, as well as to finance loans and media-production ventures associated with the family.

Don't shake your head yet, It's getting really good. According to Wednesday's edition of The Guardian, Sekulow is now facing investigations in two states because of the original article on his alleged bilking:

Authorities in two states are looking into a nonprofit led by an attorney to Donald Trump, after the Guardian reported it had steered tens of millions of dollars to the attorney, his family and their businesses. Josh Stein, the attorney general of North Carolina, and Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, said on Wednesday they would be examining the operations of Jay Sekulow’s group Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case). Stein said in a statement: “The reports I’ve read are troubling. My office is looking into this matter.” Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman, said in an email: “We’re reviewing their filings.”

At press time, Sekulow has not comment. I, on the other hand, happen to have a few.

It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Sekulow is typical of Franklin Graham, Todd Starnes, Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council, Mat Staver, the American Family Association, and every so-called traditional values group or organization which is always spouting off about Judeo-Christian heritage or whatever.

Certainly I'm not saying that these folks are illegally steering money like Sekulow is being accused of doing.

But I AM SAYING is that the next time any of them whine  about "protecting Christians," or claiming that "Christians are under persecution,' or that the "gay agenda is going to swallow America," make an attempt to check their finances.

What you may find there will probably make you wish someone was "persecuting" you.

          Obamacare replacement bill wildly unpopular…   
…says article after article and poll after poll. Well, why shouldn’t it be unpopular? The drumbeat of the MSM that’s been denouncing it goes like this: It will kill millions and millions of people. It only favors the rich. It cuts many more millions off from health care. It is secret. There’s probably more I […]
          ​Leidos appoints former Pentagon weapons buyer to board   
Leidos Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LDOS) has appointed Frank Kendall, a former Defense Department under secretary, to its board of directors just months after he left the government, the Reston-based government IT company announced Wednesday. Kendall stepped down as chief weapons buyer for the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He is the 13th Leidos director. Kendall joined the Obama White House in March 2010 as its deputy under…

          Republikaner streiten über Reform der Gesundheitsreform   
„Das wird großartig, wenn wir es hinkriegen“, sagte Donald Trump über die amerikanische Gesundheitsreform.

Der Kampf gegen Obamacare hatte die Republikaner vereint – jetzt streiten sie heftig über die Reform der Reform. Donald Trump begnügt sich mit unkonkreten Aussagen.

          Hold His Feet to the Fire? Please   
Republicans have all but acknowledged that Mitt Romney is not a conservative, and that he is no different in substance than Barack Obama, and they have settled. Some, those still in denial, steadfastly hold on to his rhetoric, but most have accepted that their nominee is so zealous for political power that he has no…
          Senate leaders scramble for deal on health care bill   
The Republican Party's long-promised repeal of "Obamacare" stands in limbo after Senate GOP leaders, short of support,...

          Beyond repeal of Obamacare   
The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.

On June 22, Republicans in the U.S. Senate introduced a long-awaited bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law often referred to as Obamacare. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would rework the ACA's subsidies for individual insurance policies, cut taxes for higher-income households, end the mandate that individuals have insurance, and allow states to opt out of ACA requirements that insurance policies include benefits such as mental health and maternity coverage. It would also put an end to the enhanced funding rate that made it possible to expand Medicaid to cover some 14.4 million low-income adults nationwide.

But the Senate bill, like similar legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, would also institute major cuts to the traditional Medicaid program, potentially affecting coverage for millions of children, elderly people and disabled adults nationwide. In Arkansas, 30 percent of the state's population — about 912,000 people — were enrolled in some form of Medicaid in March 2017, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That figure includes enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which together with Medicaid pays for ARKids A and B.

Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the Senate bill "goes well beyond the political promise of repealing Obamacare. It restructures Medicaid funding. And so, it really is a U-turn on the promise that the federal government has always made to states — that Medicaid would be funded through a state-federal partnership." (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has contributed funding to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

The Senate bill would reshape Medicaid in two ways. First, beginning in 2021, it would phase out the Medicaid expansion created by the ACA, which provides coverage to low-income adults. Approximately 300,000 Arkansans are now enrolled in Arkansas Works, the program funded by the Medicaid expansion. Second, the Senate bill would cap federal spending on the rest of Medicaid, which existed long before the ACA's expansion and which is composed of programs such as ARKids. Rather than Medicaid paying for patients' medical care on an open-ended basis, as is now the case, the federal government would disburse funds to states in lump sums, either on a per capita basis or through block grants. The Congressional Budget Office projects 22 million people would lose coverage if the Senate bill become law.

Parents like Julie Kauffman of Mountain Home are anxiously watching developments in Washington and wondering how the proposed cuts would translate to Arkansas. Kauffman's daughter, Olive, suffers from cerebral palsy that resulted from viral encephalitis that developed 12 days after she was born. After the infant was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital, Kauffman and her husband were told their private Blue Cross policy would pay for less than half of the helicopter ride, leaving them on the hook for $7,000.

"That was kind of our first introduction to, 'Oh, our health insurance doesn't cover what our child needs,' " Kauffman said. The financial office at the hospital told the parents they should get Olive on Medicaid. "I thought, 'We have health insurance, this is ridiculous. We don't need Medicaid.' Two helicopter rides later, and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars later, we desperately need Medicaid."

Now 3 years old, Olive's condition requires periodic visits to specialists at the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, plus regular speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions at a clinic in Mountain Home. She now spends nine hours in therapy per week. "What Blue Cross covers for her and therapy, she maxes out every year in February. That's when Medicaid picks up the rest of her tally," Kauffman said.

It's especially crucial that Olive receive intensive therapy at a young age, Kauffman explained, to maximize her chances of developing the skills necessary to lead a more independent life. "It's now or never. I mean, we have to do it now. She's 30 pounds. She doesn't have head control. She can't sit up and feed herself. She's nonverbal. She's, you know, total care, and unless we get as much bang for our buck now, what does her future look like?" On July 1, a new rule from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which administers Medicaid in Arkansas, will limit the number of billable minutes of speech, occupational and physical therapy a beneficiary may receive each week without special authorization. The cap is 90 minutes for each category — about half what Olive receives right now. DHS said in a September legal notice that the change is estimated to save the Arkansas Medicaid budget $56.2 million annually. Kauffman said she will seek DHS approval to keep paying for the additional therapy hours, but she's concerned about the future.

"What's happening in the state alone, along with what's coming down from the federal level — it's just terrifying."

Kauffman said her biggest concerns about the Senate bill "are the cuts and the block grants. If it comes down to a block grant system where the federal government gives each state a set amount of dollars, how is that going to be disbursed from child to child? I don't know how they would even begin to figure that out. My kid is expensive, and that's not her fault. ... I understand the thought process that Medicaid cannot sustain at the rate that it's going. But there are also a lot of kids in my daughter's situation who didn't ask for this. They need as much help as they can possibly get, and in a perfect world her private insurance would cover what she needs — but it just doesn't."

Olive previously was on ARKids but now has Medicaid coverage through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability. "Because my husband and I are both self-employed and our income fluctuates, she qualifies for SSI at the moment — but that could change at any moment," Kauffman said. She is a subcontractor for a medical billing company; her husband owns a furniture company, where she also works part time. Although their daughter receives substantial government benefits, the couple also ends up devoting much of their household income to her care as well, from specialized equipment to travel costs to St. Louis to therapy that must be paid for out-of-pocket. For the self-employed, time away from home is time spent not working — an additional drain on family resources.

"We're fortunate to have grandparents who chip in when they can and relatives who help out as needed, but, for the most part, we're just doing the best we can do to get by," she said. "We could have $10 million and it still wouldn't be enough."

Approximately 400,000 kids in Arkansas are on Medicaid — about half the children in the state. Only a small percentage have medical needs as pronounced as Olive's. Nonetheless, Marquita Little said, reductions to federal Medicaid spending proposed by the Senate bill would be "devastating to our medical system in Arkansas.

"Our overall impression is that it's still a dangerous bill for kids, for our most vulnerable populations ... [including] seniors, people with disabilities. By capping funding on traditional Medicaid, we would basically be reducing funding that we have in place for those populations. ... So what that means for Arkansas is that we would be forced to make some tough decisions about how we absorb those cuts. You either have to reduce what you actually cover, or you have to reduce payments that we're making to providers."

Having a child who requires such specialized care has changed her perception of Medicaid and those who benefit from the program, Kauffman said. "The biggest thing is that Medicaid helps so many more people than just what everybody assumes... . You know, people who don't want to go out and find a job and take care of themselves. Medicaid is so much more than that. So I think it's just this misconception ... and I was guilty of that. But now I know how needed it is."

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

          A Positive Aspect   

Today on the 5: Among all the turmoil over the shootings in Ferguson and Cleveland, there may be one positive byproduct.

          Hitting The Wall   

Today on the 5: I've read and seen a lot of reports lately that President Obama has just about given up on getting anything done. I can't really blame him.

          Verizon Employees Access Obama's Phone Account, Get Fired   
Curiosity might've killed the cat, but this time it got several Verizon employees fired.

Verizon would not disclose the number of its now-former employees, but admitted the fact that President-Elect Barack Obama’s personal cell phone account had been accessed and viewed. The company's PR was quick to issue a short statement:

“We apologize to President-Elect Obama and will work to keep the trust our customers place in us every day.”

"All employees who have accessed the account -- whether authorized or not -- have been put on immediate leave, with pay," said Wireless president and CEO Lowell McAdam. "As the circumstances of each individual employee's access to the account are determined, the company will take appropriate actions. Employees with legitimate business needs for access will be returned to their positions, while employees who have accessed the account improperly and without legitimate business justification will face appropriate disciplinary action."

The statement also says that the account in question had been inactive for several months.

In addition, it appears that the device tied to the account was not a smartphone designed for e-mail or other data services, but only a simple voice flip-phone.

This is the second time that Obama's data has been checked by unauthorized personnel. The first case dates from this March, when 3 employees of State Department contractors have been caught accessing the passport files of Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. All three politicians were in the middle of their presidential campaigns at that time.

          U.S. Student Loan Explosion   

The U.S. government passed a unique milestone in May 2017, where it has now cumulatively borrowed more than $1 trillion from the public since President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009, just so it can loan the money back out to Americans who need to borrow money to go to college in the form of Federal Direct Student Loans.

Money Borrowed by the U.S. Government to Finance the Federal Direct Student Loan Program, FY 1998 (October 1997) through FY 2017 (May 2017)

President Obama is directly responsible for this state of affairs. After being sworn into office on 20 January 2009, his first major domestic policy act was to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on 17 February 2009 in an attempt to jump start a U.S. economy that had fallen into deep recession. Better known as the "Stimulus Bill", the act boosted the subsidy amount and quantity of Pell Grants paid to low and middle income-earning Americans attending college, but not by enough to cover more than one-third of the average annual cost of a university education, where American students who received these grants would then have to make up the difference through taking out student loans that are subsidized by the U.S. government.

Then, on 30 March 2010, President Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which resulted in the U.S. government taking over the student loan industry from the private sector.

President Barack Obama signed a law Tuesday that he said will end subsidies for banks that guarantee federal student loans, saving $68 billion over 11 years by making loans directly through the U.S. Department of Education. 

The overhaul of the student loan industry is part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which was passed by Congress to reform the nation's health care system. 

According to the White House, starting July 1 all federal student loans will be direct loans administered through private companies that have performance-based contracts with the DOE. 

At present, the law appears set to fail on delivering these promised savings to U.S. taxpayers. For that portion of the story, please scroll down and click through!...

Previously on Political Calculations

U.S. Student Loan Implosion - We looked at the Federal Direct Student Loan program from the perspective of the student borrowers, where $137 billion worth of loans that have come due are either delinquent (more than 90 days without any payment being made) or are in default (more than 270 days without any payment being made).

          old school friday...this is dedicated   
Oh Yeah! It's FRIDAY!!! And that means it's time for some old school jamming and par-taying in the blogosphere! This week's theme is "This is Dedicated To".

Now, I'm sure there will be many a love song - and maybe even some not so love songs - posted today as folks remember or pay tribute to the past or current loves of their lives. I admit, that I too thought about doing so and asked my Best Half what I should post. Expecting to hear a suggestion from him that expressed his "obama-type" love for me, he instead went all philosophical on me. Oh well, remember I told ya'll a while ago that we needed to have that second honeymoon. lol

So, with that inspiration failing, I remembered that today is my AKAversary. During the many, many, many weeks of working to get My Pearls, there were two cuts that will be forever ingrained in my mind. Now most will consider these two cuts pure jams back in the day, but I know some women for whom these they bring back different type of memories. In the days before exercising to music became popular, we all learned that What's Going On by Marvin Gaye had a particular type of beat that lended itself quite nicely to a "duck-walk". And then, as the semester quickly passed away, it seemed that it was "Just My (our) Imagination" that we would ever cross those "burning sands".

But, alas we did! So this OSF post is dedicated to my Sorors who share this special date with me. Skee-wee & Pinkies Up!

Much obligedeke92 for the YouTube hook-up!

Much obliged cklbg for the YouTube hook-up!

Mrs Grapevine and Ms. Marvalus are the creators of this bloggie meme. Click here for more info and join the fun.

Check out the rest of the "old schoolers":AJ - BklynQueen’86 - Bria - CC Groovy - Chocl8t - Cooper - Shawn - Danielle Vyas - Dee - DP - Fresh and Fab - Hagar’s DaughtersInvisible Woman - John - Keith -Kevin - Kim - LaKeisha - LaShonda - Lil Creole Pimp - Lisa C - Mahogany - Malcolm - Marcus - MarvalusOne - Mike - Mrs Grapevine - MsLadyDeborah - Pjazzypar - Pop Art Diva - Quick - Regina - Revvy Rev - Shae-Shae - Sharon - Staci - Tha Connoisseur - Thembi -Villager - Vivrant Thang - Zenobia

Obliged to you for hearing me,
and now old SjP ain't got nothin' more to say...
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Black News Junkie ~ ~ Technorati ~ ~ Del.iciou.us ~ ~ Digg This! ~ ~ StumbleUpon ~ ~ Twitter ~ ~ My Good Towels ~ ~ FeedBlitz ~ ~ Email SjP

          networks to potus: you costin' us money   
The broadcast networks are getting a little testy with the POTUS taking up all of their prime-time spots for press and news conferences. According to one of the executive broadcasters, speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post, their network executives have expressed concern to the White House about the frequency of prime-time news conferences and the financial sacrifice being made to carry the event.

Yes! That's right! The networks are getting tired of the POTUS always being on the television cause its making them lose money. After all, you can't have a "word from our sponsors" when the President is speaking to the Nation. Perhaps they should take a cue from the Fox Broadcasting Network - not the Fox News Channel, because they have said "to hell with that" and told the White House nope we ain't gonna show Obama's 100 day press conference; we gonna show "Lie to Me" instead. HMMMM! Now, isn't that interesting? But, anyway, the unnamed Washington Post exec said the networks are hoping that the President will "be more flexible in working with networks to find the best times to schedule the events".

Is it me? Am I just too sensitive? But, somebody has got to tell me why the President of the United States needs to schedule press and news conferences to accommodate network TV? I mean it ain't like he's trying to have a press conference during the NBA Finals of the Super Bowl. This is of course the President of the United States. And since January 21 all we have heard coming out of the mouths of all of the talking heads is "first 100 days".

Well today is the 100th day of the Obama administration. I for one am looking forward to him defining and defending this period rather than the pundits. After tonight they won't be offering up their critiques of the Obama Administration's first 100 days. They'll be pontificating, analyzing, and jaw-jerking about tonight's press conference.

Once again, proof positive is offered that That One is smarter than most of us - and definitely smarter than the pundits. I'm just wondering when they will realize that.

Obliged to you for hearing me,
and now old SjP ain't got nothin' more to say...
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Black News Junkie ~ ~ Technorati ~ ~ Del.iciou.us ~ ~ Digg This! ~ ~ StumbleUpon ~ ~ Twitter ~ ~ My Good Towels ~ ~ FeedBlitz ~ ~ Email SjP

          unveiling of the truth   
Today, the bust of Sojourner Truth was unveiled in the during a gala celebration held in Emancipation Hall of the United States Capital.

Created by
Artis Lane, the bust was completely funded through private funds ans will remain on permanent display in the underground visitor center's main space, called Emancipation Hall in part because slaves helped build the Capitol.

"We're here because of barriers she challenged and fought to tear down, and paths she helped to forge and trod alone," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to an audience gathered at the visitor's center to celebrate Truth's legacy and watch Mrs. Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others unveil the bronze bust of Truth.

Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them. I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America. First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama
The National Congress of Black Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of black women and their families, has pushed for Truth to be memorialized in the Capitol for almost 10 years. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law a requirement that a bust of Truth be placed in a "suitable, permanent location in the Capitol." Clinton co-sponsored the measure when she served in the Senate.

But now we are. And who better to begin the representation — this is not the end of the representation ... who better to begin than Sojourner Truth? Kim Fuller, National Congress of Black Women
Obliged to you for hearing me,
and now old SjP ain't got nothin' more to say...
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Black News Junkie ~ ~ Technorati ~ ~ Del.iciou.us ~ ~ Digg This! ~ ~ StumbleUpon ~ ~ Twitter ~ ~ My Good Towels ~ ~ FeedBlitz ~ ~ Email SjP

          Drones: A hazard to your health?   
Mid-February, President Obama signed a new FAA re-authorization bill that allows the use of drones into commercial U.S. skies. Here, Robert Dewar, AdaCore's CEO, explains that it's time to take security seriously and to let people know that the technology to do this currently exists.
          Needed Suspicion   

Today on the 5: A recent book by a former Secretary of Defense criticizes President Obama for being suspicious of the military. I say it's something we need more of.

          Single Payer   

Today on the 5: Obamacare has finally started rolling out in force, and the opinions on it are endless. Following suit, here are my views on healthcare in America.

           Big Data : In Election And In Business Creates Big Impact   

The US Election results and the process have created worldwide impact. Not only it was noticed for electing someone for arguably the most powerful office in the world, it brings along with it many innovations and advances. In 2008, when Mr. Obama won the elections for the first time, it was very clear that technology played a substantial role in his assuming office. We saw in 2008, that online world was leveraged in a big way in the campaigns for a very successful outcome,. In the just concluded 2012 election, clearly data, data insights and data centric predictions played a very big role in shaping the election outcome. Lot of deserved kudos went in the direction of Nate Silver for his super accurate predictions of the election results based on data insights. Many people looked at it from different perspectives. Media industry focused on how works like this will in an of itself influence the media coverage of elections and assessment of preference trends in election. Nate is the author of Amazon best-selling book, “The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction“. In the days leading up to the election, he was on every major media show, explaining how a detailed analysis of huge amounts of data, distilled from many different sources, enabled him and his team to predict with a fair degree of confidence and certainty what would happen district by district in the US elections (It’s actually a great reward to see this appearance of Nate Silver, on Stephen Colbert’s story show, reported by the LA Times). Very clearly, he was accurate to the last level of detail, in an election when the swings were noticed by both and in the days close to the election, the “momentum vote ” of the challenger was supposed to be mucking the trends.

A lovely article by John McDermott at AdAge brings out that Silver’s work will help transform the shift the “touch and feel aspects” of reporting to reporting that is anchored in data - facts & statistics. The article quotes ComScore’s Online traffic analyst Andrew Lipsman as saying , “Now that people have seen [data analysis centered political analysis] proven over a couple of cycles, people will be more grounded in the numbers.” Chatter in the online world quoting Bloomberg as the source suggested that , Barack Obama’s site was placing 87 tracking cookies on people’s computers who access the site. Mitt Romney’s site was placing 48 tracking cookies on people’s compute. Tarun Wadhwa reports at Forbes that the power of big data has finally been realized in the US political process:

“Beyond just personal vindication, Silver has proven to the public the power of Big Data in transforming our electoral process. We already rely on statistical models to do everything from flying our airplanes to predicting the weather. This serves as yet another example of computers showing their ability to be better at handling the unknown than loud-talking experts. By winning ‘the nerdiest election in the history of the American Republic,’ Barack Obama has cemented the role of Big Data in every aspect of the campaigning process. His ultimate success came from the work of historic get-out-the-vote efforts dominated by targeted messaging and digital behavioral tracking.” This election has proven that the field of “political data science” is now more than just a concept – it’s a proven, election-winning approach that will continue to revolutionize the way campaigns are run for decades to come. It is common knowledge that the campaign had been heavily leveraging the web platform in very many sophisticated ways. The campaign spectacularly succeeded in integrating political infrastructure with the web infrastructure that they managed to create. A peer-to-peer, bottoms up campaign seemed to be the strategy that finally delivered results. Volunteer participation, feedback synthesis and citizen vote drives were successfully brought out in massive scale hitherto unknown with the web platform. The campaign heavily shaped by the power of social networks and internet energized the youth power in unimaginable ways signifying the triumph of technology power. It’s a treat to watch : Mobile, Social and Big Data coming together and making an impact in this presidential election 2012.

Let’s look at the complexities involved in this exercise : There was a notable shift of demographics in America resulted in the traditional vote bases being less influential (this trend will continue dramatically in the future) – the absolute numbers may not have come down but the proportion in the votable base lowered somewhat –leaving the destiny in the hands of newly emerging swing voter base. Technology played a significant role in doing the rigorous fact checking – imagine during a presidential debate – typical citizens were looking at fact checking analysis in their other screens while watching the debate on the television. Pew research found that many were looking at dual screens while watching the debate. All well, till one looks at the paradox here – as more and more effort is made and money is spent to flood the media with political messages, the impact is significantly less, as people don’t rely on a single news source. Many American homes today are getting to embrace the “four screen” world (TV, laptop, tablet and phone, all use in tandem for everything in our lives) and so the ability to create impact on any promotion is actually becoming tougher and tougher (to create positive impact).

This is observed along with the fact that the U.S is also undergoing a deep structural and institutional change, affecting every walk of the American Life. While the online world is growing, it’s a common citing in the cities and downtowns where one can see established chains closing shops, unable to hold on to competition striking at them from the cyberworld. Trends like this clearly influence the economic role played by different industries, trends in wealth creation, job creation, city growth etc. Younger voters are more clued by default to these changing trends and their impact and so begin to think of their prospects from a different prism compared to older voters, who generally hold conventional views and so this further creates a deeper strata within the society.

Time Magazine has Michael Scherer doing an in-depth assessment on the role big data and data mining played in Obama’s campaign as well. Campaign manager Jim Messina, Scherer writes, “promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means” and employed a massive number of data crunchers to establish an analytics edge to the campaign. The campaign team put together a massive database that pulled information from all areas of the campaign — social media, pollsters, consumer databases, fundraisers, etc. — and merged them into one central location. The current US President’s (Mr.Obama) campaign believed that biggest institutional advantage over its opponent’s campaign was its data and went out of its way to keep the data team away from the glare and made them work in windowless rooms and each of the team members were given codenames. That in and of itself signifies the importance the campaign attached to “Data – Big Data”- that’s!

Scherer adds: “The new megafile didn’t just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals.” Scherer’s piece is an astoundingly fascinating look at how data was put to use in a successful presidential campaign. The election results are in a way a big victory for the nerds and big data. Similarly, some time back there was a sensational article on how Target figured a teenage girl was pregnant even before her father could find it. Inside enterprises, there must be big advocates to create frameworks to get to we are big advocates of the “know everything” through the world of data and align the business to succeed.

Large-scale data gathering and analytics are quickly becoming a new frontier of competitive differentiation. While the moves of online business leaders like Amazon.com, Google, and Netflix get noted, many traditional companies are quietly making progress as well. In fact, companies in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to retailing to telecommunications to insurance have begun moving forward with big data strategies recently. Inside business enterprises, there’s a similar revolution happening – collection of very fine grained data and making them available for analyses in near real time. This helps enterprises learn about the preferences of an individual customer and personalize the offerings for that particular customer /unique customer experience that would make them come back again and again to do more business. Practically speaking, one of the largest transformations that has happened to large enterprises, has involved implementing systems, like ERP, enterprise resource planning; CRM, customer relationship management; or SCM, supply chain management—those large enterprise systems that companies have spent huge swathe of dollars on. These systems typically manage operations extremely well and then set the stage for enterprises to gain business intelligence and learn how they could be managed differently. That’s where Big Data frameworks come in handy and it’s up to business now to seize that opportunity and take advantage of this very fine-grained data that just didn’t exist in similar forms previously. Too few enterprises today fully grasp big data’s potential in their businesses, the data assets and liabilities of those businesses, or the strategic choices they must make to start leveraging big data. By focusing on these issues, enterprises can help their organizations build a data-driven competitive edge, which in this age is clearly a very powerful determinant of success.

          Inauguration Day…yes, I was there!   

Often the media hype things up but on this occasion I can honestly say that being there, on the frozen ground of the National Mall just by the Washington Monument, freezing my butt off along with another one and a half million others,  watching Obama being sworn into the Presidency was far more profound an […]

The post Inauguration Day…yes, I was there! appeared first on Margie Warrell.

          President Obama Picks Jay-Z Over Kanye West   
Sure, he may have called him a "jackass" in 2009, but that doesn’t mean Obama overlooks Yeezy’s aptitude. Still, if he had to pick between him and his Thronemate, the president says he’d have to go with Hov. Via Atlantic: "Kanye or Jay-Z?" The president smiles. "Jay-Z," he says,
          March With Us to Reject the Keystone Pipeline and Protect Our Wildlife   
On Saturday, April 26, thousands will be joining a brave and bold alliance of tribal communities, ranchers and farmers here in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate and make sure President Obama …
          Weekly News Roundup: Whitfield Bill Prioritizes Polluters Over Wildlife and More News   
The Final Countdown The proposed Keystone XL pipeline could significantly harm America’s treasured wildlife and wildlands. Join NWF in calling on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject Keystone XL. The decision …
          We Can Win This   
With the State Department’s release of the FSEIS last Friday I’m feeling more optimistic than ever that Secretary Kerry and President Obama will choose the moral high ground and deny …
          Obama Brings On Anti-Keystone Advisor, But Doesn’t Seem to Want His Advice   
An anonymous White House aide is assuring reporters this morning that President Obama’s new special adviser, Keystone XL opponent John Podesta, will “recuse himself” from the Keystone XL decision. The …
          Many eyes   
From the New York Times -- >

Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data By Anne Eisenberg

PEOPLE share their videos on YouTube and their photos at Flickr. Now they can share more technical types of displays: graphs, charts and other visuals they create to help them analyze data buried in spreadsheets, tables or text.

At an experimental Web site, Many Eyes, (www.many-eyes.com), users can upload the data they want to visualize, then try sophisticated tools to generate interactive displays. These might range from maps of relationships in the New Testament to a display of the comparative frequency of words used in speeches by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The site was created by scientists at the Watson Research Center of I.B.M. in Cambridge, Mass., to help people publish and discuss graphics in a group. Those who register at the site can comment on one another's work, perhaps visualizing the same information with different tools and discovering unexpected patterns in the data.

Collaboration like this can be an effective way to spur insight, said Pat Hanrahan, a professor of computer science at Stanford whose research includes scientific visualization. "When analyzing information, no single person knows it all," he said. "When you have a group look at data, you protect against bias. You get more perspectives, and this can lead to more reliable decisions."

The site is the brainchild of Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda B.
Viégas, two I.B.M. researchers at the Cambridge lab. Dr. Wattenberg, a computer scientist and mathematician, says sophisticated visualization tools have historically been the province of professionals in academia, business and government. "We want to bring visualization to a whole new audience," he said — to people who have had relatively few ways to create and discuss such use of data.

"The conversation about the data is as important as the flow of data from the database," he said.

The Many Eyes site, begun in January 2007, offers 16 ways to present data, from stack graphs and bar charts to diagrams that let people map relationships. TreeMaps, showing information in colorful rectangles, are among the popular tools.

Initially, the site offered only analytical tools like graphs for visualizing numerical data. "The interesting thing we noticed was that users kept trying to upload blog posts, and entire books," Dr. Viégas said, so the site added techniques for unstructured text. One tool, called an interleaved tag cloud, lets users compare side by side the relative frequencies of the words in two passages — for instance, President Bush's State of the Union addresses in 2002 and 2003.

Almost all the tools are interactive, allowing users to change parameters, zoom in or out or show more information when the mouse moves over an image, Dr. Wattenberg said.

Users can embed images and links to their visualizations in their Web sites or blogs, just as they can embed YouTube videos. "It's great that people can paste in a YouTube video of cats" on their blogs, Dr.
Viégas said. "So why not a visual that gives you some insight into the sea of data that surrounds us? I might find one thing; someone else, something completely different, and that's where the conversation starts."

Rich Hoeg, a technology manager who lives in New Hope, Minn., and has a blog at econtent.typepad.com, was so taken with the possibilities for group collaboration that he wrote a tutorial on using Many Eyes as part of his series called "NorthStar Nerd Tutorials."

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          Republican's not immune...   

So, while sadly Hillary didn't take a shot across Obama's bow, McCain sure did. But, a POORLY aimed shot. You know the type, one which not only doesn't scare the competition much, but comes back and hits your hunting partner in the face. 

Gov. Palin may be a decent small state Bureaucrat. Alaska has less people than Portland keep in mind. Does that make Sam Adams qualified to take over the presidency? No. 

Palin is a shot to pick up the disenfranchised Hillary supporters. A shot to Obama's demographic. But of all the female leaders, he picked one which completely will get run over by Biden, has little or no experience in foreign policy or even beltway politics - heck barely state politics. I mean, lets face it, we are talking Alaska (as state which I love btw, but has the political savvy of a lead weight). 

Give me Condoleezzaa Rice. Now that is a candidate I would have felt up to the task. I wouldn't have voted for her, but had McCain won, I would be confident that someone with the skills to lead was a VP- not the skills I feel our country needs, but the skills to lead. I don't get that from Palin. 

Palin will be a HUGE liability - as essentially she undercuts EVERY single argument the GOP makes against Obama. She is the epitome of not ready. She is frankly out of her league. She is a decent governor for Alaska, but in no way is this a person I want potentially leading my country.

The GOP had a compelling argument, and some compelling VP potentials. They went for a parlor trick. Too bad. No matter how much I like Obama now, my vote can be looked at as nothing more than 'against' the GOP ticket. 

          Democratic Destruction   
I  am an Obama fan. And, I should point out a very liberal Republican (yes, the two words can coexist). 

However, there is a slim part of me... just a part... that would love to see Hillary take advantage of Obama's naiveté and steal the nomination. I  should say as well, I am NOT a Hillary supporter - she no more represents the values of middle class America than any other multimillionaire entitled yuppie does. 

But yet... we need to see a change in the current Democratic leadership and party bigwigs. These are the same people who absolutely blew the change 4 years ago to end Bush's reign of incompetence. And they are doing it again. How in the world is Obama in a dead heat with McCain??? Because the Dems don't know how to campaign anymore. They are too full of the 'smell the fart' success (South Park fans will get the reference) idea to be down to earth enough to recognize the real core issues. They think that corporations are the enemy, that current foreign handholding will work, and frankly that the UN is a good idea. But mostly, they can't seem to land a punch when it counts. The GOP is running ramshod over them. And when they get the spotlight, its the same touchy feely, miss the timing, ramble on crap that has plagued them for years. 

SO far, the democratic national convention has been a train wreck. Yes, it has been full of inspired speeches, and of touching stories. But nothing to get me to vote for Obama (which I want to do). Heck I even like Biden quite a bit - he says what he means, a rare trait in DC; but so far its been a 'look at us, wow we are neat'. At no other point in my lifespan has one party had momentum enough to make a change like we have now... even reasonable Republicans think Bush has 'ucked it up. I could list the issues I have with the current administration, but I could also go to medschool in the same time ti would take me, so I'll pass for now. Suffice it to say, this should be a slam dunk for Democrats. Yet, even with one of the most compelling people in the last 20 years, they can't seem to get the engine going.

So Hillary should attempt a coup. Its her right... with the fully restored Florida and Michigan delegates, damned if it wouldn't be a floor fight. And that is what they need. Obama needs to be bloodied. He needs to see that this is a fight for all the marbles... a scrap... a clawing backstabbing run for power. He is not that guy... and he has surrounded himself with people who aren't that way - great, but it is how one loses an election. 

So, I don't care for Hillary, but she needs to take a shot across the bow. Make Obama prove he is worthy of the crown. McCain has... McCain has challenged Bush on policy directly, knowing it could cost him the nomination a few years back. He has gone against his party at key votes and times. He has shown himself to be more concerned with America than party. Which is what I want to see in a president. If I didn't feel that he is going to have to sell his soul into the purgatory of Republican hell to win this election, he'd have my vote. But I want the global perception of change - even if it is on the back of a party who has got it's head stuck up its ass. 

Change is good... but learn to scrap for it. Because mine is a vote which is winnable... and I am not sure the current Dem campaign knows how.

          Democratic Primary: Obama has won it... time to move on   

This primary race is over. It has been over for some time now.

CNN has a great Delegate tool which allows you to allocate delegates based on likely outcomes. Play with it, it's great. 

If one looks, if Hillary was able to win 60/40 in EVERY remaining election... and the remaining super delegates split evenly, OBAMA wins. OBAMA. Not Hillary. And that is with Hillary defying all statistical odds.

More likely, she will win about 55/45 at best? Absolute best?! And, even if she gets a favorable smattering of super-delegates at a 60/40 ratio, Obama wins. 

Thus, this race is by all measures of statistical likelihood over. How can she not see that? How can she be so selfish as to damage significantly the democratic party by taking this all the way to the convention? This is the greatest gift the GOP could have ever asked for. The ONLY way they have a chance this year would be this scenario. Don't get me wrong, I like McCain. He isn't a bad guy. And smart enough to rely on advisors for things he doesn't understand. And Gutsy enough to stand against his party when it counted. But this country needs a change of direction... even if down a uncertain road. 

Times are changing. The dominance we have long held is slipping away. 100 years isn't bad, but a billion Chinese and a billion Indians are going to have a new say in world politics. We need to refocus and the only way we can do that is if we are able to put behind the last 30 years of politics with a RADICAL departure. 

Obama has won. Statistics makes this all but certain. Trust in numbers. Trust in the choice we have made... and let's move on. 

          [Politics] ... but Obama WON Texas   
So... it has been a week, but if one counts the delegates from the primaries, Texas did NOT go to Hillary Clinton. 

Obama won 99 Delegates from Texas, she won 94. 

Talk about spin last week. :-)

Everyone is so eager to give this race away so quickly. Nobody is patient. 

          [Politics] Nobody won anything...   
So... nobody won anything last night. Nothing. By my best estimate (and lots of new's shows) Clinton came FOUR delegates closer to Obama. Four. And, in my honest opinion, that is the type of split we will see for the next several months. Each candidate splitting nearly evenly the delegates from each state. Clinton cannot and should not claim a victory or comeback last night. She held commanding leads in those states earlier, and barely held on to Texas... holding on is not winning, is not making a comeback. She derailed momentum, that is the best she should claim.

Since I have indicated a bias for Obama, I want to be fair here. I am trying to be objective. Nobody won last night. Not even McCain. Sure, he is now the presumptive nominee. But, he had that weeks ago if anyone looked at the numbers. Last night for him was a formality - the only loser is Huckabee, as he might have had a better chance at the VP spot had he brokered a concession earlier. 

But as I was saying, nobody won. Clinton finally got some popular vote victories, but this is about delegates... and four is just not going to do it.

Unfortunately, I think we saw the start of the call for an Obama/Clinton 'dream' ticket. For Clinton, this would be a HUGE win... takes the legs out from her competition if she is on the top of the ticket, and gives her the support from Obama's fans. For Obama, it will be hard to argue for the top spot, as experience WILL count in the back-rooms of the DNC. And the Clintons are tough politicos. Clinton has the advantage here in age as well... as many could argue this puts Obama in a good position in 4 (lose) or 8 (win) years. 

So, tough choices are ahead in the DNC in the next few months. Regardless of a hugely unpopular president and a swing towards change, the GOP now has this time to take aim at either Democratic candidate relatively unchallenged. It can build a war chest... it can wait... and watch. 

CNN has a great tool online.


It allows one to allocate remaining delegates in the upcoming contests. Try it. Split evenly, Hillary will be over 100 short, Obama less than 25. He has got good chances. If he can pick up a few more superdelagates than Clinton, or if his margins hold, it will be even closer.

However, if I were Obama, I would hold my course. 25 is an awful small number. A slight swing your way, and you have got the nomination. It will be easier for you to change 25 delegates minds, than Clinton's 100 or so.

McCain... use this chance. 

          Trump anuncia fim de acordo e apoia embargo dos EUA a Cuba   

O presidente dos Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, anunciou hoje (16) o “cancelamento” da política de Barack Obama para Cuba e se mostrou disposto a negociar “um acordo melhor” com a ilha, mas apenas se houver avanços “concretos” para realização de “eleições livres” e a liberdade de “prisioneiros políticos”. As informações são da Agência EFE. “Não […]

O post Trump anuncia fim de acordo e apoia embargo dos EUA a Cuba apareceu primeiro em PaginaBrazil.Com.

          Carleton Sheets Weighs in on President Obama's Stimulus Package    

Real estate investing expert, Carleton Sheets, discusses the Housing Stimulus package and its impact on the real estate sector.

(PRWeb March 24, 2009)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/03/prweb2245764.htm

          Ad Campaign for Those Left Out of Obamacare   
Mission Loc@l By Lynne Shallcross Maybe you’ve seen it while waiting for the bus at 24th and Mission. At first glance, it’s a poster with people wearing nutritional information labels on their T-shirts. But look a little clos