Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Blind

Washington is crippled by snow today. Ok, anytime it snows in Washington we're crippled.

It is the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day. The German government finally acknowledged the extermination of the Roma or Gypsies today. American Rabbis of all parts of Judaism took today to blast Fox News through an ad in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal for Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes constant reference to people as Nazis and their attacks on individuals misusing the Nazi analogy. Previously, Roger Ailes had joked that only liberal or left-wing rabbis were concerned with this. Today, he got the reaction of the entire spectrum. Whether anything will come of it, I'm doubtful. But it might be worth it to take the time to contemplate the real Holocaust.

For this I recommend Saul Friedlander's two volume history--"Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933-39" and "Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945: the Years of Extermination." Even today in 2011, we are still finding out more details about the Holocaust and the worlds' reaction to it.

But apparently, the person who threatened California State Senator Leeland Lee, who had criticized Rush Limbaugh's mocking of Chinese, hasn't learned much about the Holocaust or hate language. He mailed to Mr. Lee a flyer that called the Senator a "Jobama Rectum-Sniffing Moron", "Fish Head Leland Lee", and said that "Rush Limbaugh will kick your chink ass". The flyer had a pickup truck with the American flag on the door pulling a noose. "Achtung". "Death to all Marxists--Foreign and Domestic". State police, who are still investigating threats against Jerry brown, now get a chance to look into this.

The police did arrest the man who threatened Washington Governor Gregoire by the internet. The man said the governor should be burned at the stake.

For bipartisan balance, Dallas police detonated a suspicious package mailed to John Cornyn's office.

Think of all the threats to politicians in the last two years. Do any of them pop right out as flagrantly obvious targets?

Having changed the political narrative in his direction,President Obama was out in Wisconsin yesterday hyping American innovation at a clean energy plant. The irony is that the new Republican governor has already shut down the high-speed rail plant, which now has moved to Illinois, and passed a law that will keep wind energy installations far away from any residences--like luxury vacation homes on the Lake.

Sarah Palin finally broke her tweeter silence by attacking President Obama's state of the Union address by saying that the Soviet Union collapsed because it invested so much in its space program. Do you put a laugh track over these remarks, ignore them or treat them as surrealism?

Mark Kirk says that Congress is in "shock" over the $1.5 trillion budget this year. He says he never knew that tax cuts actually led to an increase in the deficit.

John Boehner actually said something correct,"We're broke."

The CBO has released a study that shows that unemployment will remain around 9% for the next two years and that it will not return to "normal" until 2016. Which brings me to my old point that unless we structurally change our economy we will face about 8% unemployment for the foreseeable future.

Peter Orzag fears that we will do nothing about the national debt unless there is a fiscal crisis. John McCain's 2008 financial adviser said that our annual deficit is not worrisome it's that even if unemployment was 4.5% we would be facing a tremendous national debt. The four causes of the debt,in his opinion, are military spending, the entitlement programs and the interest on that debt, which will balloon once there is a recovery and interest rates rise.

While Republicans, including John Boehner, are backing off their attacks on Social Security, there is an insidious movement by people like Newt Gingrich to promote the idea that states should be able to go bankrupt. The idea behind this is to wipe out state obligations on pensions. So the government employed baby-boomers would be left with social security only.

One of the wackiest ideas circulating in the House is a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. In my lifetime, that has only been done three times-once by Eisenhower, once by LBJ and once by Clinton. Before that I think Calvin Coolidge did it. James Galbraith wrote a piece recently on why it physically can not be done given our interrelationship with the global economy. You might also want to consider that the states who want to declare bankruptcy also have balanced budget requirements.

The House cut the budget again today by eliminating public financing of campaigns, something that has been around since Richard Nixon. This is probably related to the House Ethics Committee dropping their investigations of about 12 members who suspiciously raised money from the finance industry before the last election.

Hell did freeze over in Washington yesterday. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO came out with a joint statement in defense of infrastructure spending. Now the Chamber, which owns the House Republicans, will have to see whether their Congress really was the best they could buy.

Government Watchdog groups are raising the issue of whether criminal charges should be brought against Chuckles Thomas. They claim that the Supreme Court Justice by not filing information about his wife's income for the last 20 years is in criminal violation of the law. The bad news for Clarence is that they cite case after case of federal officials being fined and given prison terms for the same offense. Is a Supreme Court justice above the law?

I'm relieved to hear that Sharron Angle has not ruled out a run for the presidency in 2012. We're already going to be treated to Randall Terry of Operation Rescue running as a Democrat against President Obama. Terry promises to run ads of dead babies to show Obama is a baby-killer. This should be as appealing as the anti-Muslim DVD and brown-colored flier on Bill Ayers that was sent around against President Obama here in Virginia in 2008.

If you liked the Big Deal t-shirt from OFA. You can now get "We Do Big Things" t-shirt.

I happen to believe David Axelrod's comments at a meeting with bloggers yesterday that the White House has held "no grand repositioning" meetings about tacking to the right. Actually Rachel Maddow captured this accurately when she said that Obama had defined a political middle which is based on principles. Now for some reason--unrelated--Don Imus claimed Rachel was "a gutless coward". Por que?

The army sent Lt. Choi a bill for $2,500 for his discharge on DADT. President Obama said that the military will not longer enforce DADT and Secretary of Defense Gates says DADT ends this year. lt. Choi says he is not paying the bill.

Ohio Governor John Kasich who campaigned on transparency and accountability declared that his JobsOhio program would not have to obey these principles.

The author of "O", the anonymous novel about Obama's 2012 president run that imitates without the sex the novbel about Bill Clinton, apparently was written by long-time McCain aide , Mark Salter. This we are told by good novelist turned political hack Mark Halperin. I suggest that the two Marks change vocations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Five Minutes Before Midnight or Five Minutes Before Dawn

The comparison between Paul Ryan and Barack Obama's speeches. Paul Ryan captured the new post-Reagan conservatism with his dire predictions that America was like Greece. No more American Exceptionalism on the GOP side. Conservatism now has settled back into its primordial pessimism. In fact, this is now the subject of new books urging conservatives embraced this fundamental aspect of their philosophy. Paul Ryan embraced it whole hog yesterday. Speaking to Rachel Maddow last night, Anthony Weiner,Democrat from New York, pointed to the difference between Obama's uplifting speech and Ryan's bummer. "I think I need a drink," he said. Weiner also got in the best shot at Michelle Bachmann saying, "She's not connected to the Mothership."

Did anyone catch the live feed on MSNBC of Michelle Bachmann setting up for her speech? You got to see her adjusting her bra and skirt. And prepping herself. The teleprompter was set up in the wrong position so she looked like she was staring in the wong camera and looking wall-eyed. But Red State's Eric Ericson thought she was the best because she had a power point presentation, neglecting to mention if you watched the SOTU on the White House website you would have slides also. I guess he thought it was reminiscent of Ross Perot. Or may Lyndon Larouche's fireside chats with his socks falling down. It was not the teabaggers greatest moment. Freepers slammed Fox News for runnning the live feed as a deliberate plot to make Bachmann look bad.

Could someone tell me--please--why Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell was allowed on ABC Good Morning, America to comment on the President's speech or on anything at all. She called Obama "hypocritical" because he used "tea party sound-bites" to introduce big government spending programs.

Or could someone tell me why anyone should actually comment on Rand Paul's "plan" to cut $500 billion from the budget when he has been in elected office all of two weeks? Did we ask Kristin Gillibrand for her budget when she was first elected?

Slate accused President Obama of whipping up nationalist fervor to fight the Asians economically.

Oh yes, Michelle Obama did wear a dress by an American designer last night. She had been criticized for wearing a non-American dress at the Chinese banquet. Maybe it really is five minutes before midnight.

The Drudge Report opened today with an article saying that Hawaii didn't have any of Obama's birth materials. Then he had a header that Republicans began the day cutting spending. This is the old House-Fox scenario so you get to believe in the alternative reality.

Rachel Maddow called the speech a prayer to the free markert and Howard Fineman called it the most pro-business speech by a Democrat. Fineman in a piece entitled "Love Train" talked about the oddity of Obama getting Boehner to clap so many times and the standing ovations for "science fairs". He also remarked on how odd it was to see Bernie Sanders giving a standing ovation to the line about allowing ROTC back onto college campuses.

Bloggers had some fun. At the "Sputnik moment", they posted the song "Telstar". Another commented that Boehner keep looking around as if he had lost his olive. Others commented on the line of glasses placed in front of Boehner. Another noted that Obama can't really deliver a joke. They were referring to his Reaganesque reference of the government agencies needed to monitor Salmon in fresh water, Salmon in salt water and another agency on smoked salmon.

Paul Krugman expressed his surprised satifaction with the speech. He said the best thing was that Obama did not " surrender to the fiscal austerity now now now types."

It's a good thing he didn't as the UK's Conservative Government's crash austerity drive seems to have created a double dip recession for the country. Maybe that's why Andrew Sullivan has been sick lately. He was an enthusiast for this type of thing.

Senator Thune opened this morning by opposing infrastructure spending. The AFL-CIO with a statement by Richard Trumpka came out blazing in favor of the speech and endorsing the president's plan for instrastructure spending. Other unions were fairly supportive of the contents of the President's address. I was even surprised by the statement by the NEA on his section about education.

So from 80% approving Obama's Tucson speech, we move to 91% approving Obama's speech according to CBS, and 84% being very or somewhat positive about the speech. 9% in CBS polls were disappointed; 15% in CNN.

With Obama out in Wisconsin today, a NBC/WSJ poll puts Obama at 56% approval rating in the Midwest, which is up 13 pts since December. And the Midwest is where the election is.

But I can't help thinking that Win The Future is an unfortunate slogan. Either you think WTF. Or it recalls Gerald Ford's WIN--Whip Inflation Now!.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Immediate Responses to SOTU

The progressive blogs complained that President Obama made a Republican speech tonight echoing the lingo of business. Many commentators said that he spoke in soundbites that were taken from corporate ads. Others complained that he neglected to talk about climate change, while LBJ once did. It's so interesting to see progressives embraced LBJ now when we all remember how we became clean for Gene and drove him out of office over Vietnam. Rachel Maddow was disappointed that Obama didn't mention gun control when the public would have sided with him. Chris Matthews was right, I think, in saying the White House wanted a jobs headline out of the speech and didn't want to risk being overshadowed by a gun control headline.

Matthews also was very good in pointing out that this was the speech Bill Clinton had wanted to give in 1994 but was warned off by Alan Greenspan, who told him that if he didn't cut the deficit he couldn't expect help from the Fed. Matthews pointed out that with interest rates effectively zero Obama had latitude to discuss infrastructure spending and the like.

Ed Schultz wondered why you needed to invoke Sputnik to generate support for rehabilitating the infrastructure, which is crumbling around us. Other bloggers said that the decline of the Middle Class was absent from the speech and that he didn't talk about those who have been abandoned by the American Dream.

Robert Kuttner complained about triangulation and how the guy at the apex of trainagulation makes out but the party loses. I believe Howard Dean got it right that he was surprised by how strong the speech was and how many things progressives supported were strongly portrayed in the speech. He was pleased with the speech and delighted that President Obama said that tax cuts for millionaires have to end if we are to tackle the deficit. What also came across was that President Obama strongly defended Social Security contrary to expectations.

Rachel Maddow brought up the murders of 14 policemen and talked about how Michael Bloomberg was taking the lead on gun control. The Southern Poverty group came out today with revelations that there has been found a white supremacist manual on waging war against police. Chris Matthews said that President Obama was planning a separate speech on gun control and that there was a growing sense that somethng had to be done.

One progressive blogger, who had complained about the Republican nature of the speech and its Reaganesque quality, noted that Obama should always have two republicans follow him because he always comes off much better. Other complained that the delivery was flat and the language common to many other speeches of Obama's, Howard Dean felt it was one of his finer speeches.

The media believed that his Reaganesque tone was meant to answer critics who claim he denied American socialism and didn't understand the American Creed. They thought the speech gave a sense of optimism and they were right in saying it would lay down the language used in the re-election campaign, which begings tomorrow in Wisconsin. More fact-check types believed that Obama's reiteration of many of his goals such as doubling our exports by 2014 is heavily dependent on the rest of the world. While Obama said we make our future a few commentators said that America is more susceptible to how other countries act whether it is with currency exchange or policies.

Drudge pointedly led with Arizona's plan to pass a requirement for the 2012 presidential election where candidates must proved their qualifications and that Barack Obama would have to submit his birth certificate. He also ran a piece suggesting that Obama never mentioned any budget cuts. Of course, he did with almost $80 billion in defense and savings with a five-year freeze on discretionary spending and government salaries but you would actually have to know economics to get it.

Republican congressmen tweeted that Obama was still a socialist, suggesting how difficult the next two years will be. Michelle Bachmann did have her teleprompter set up properly so she did ,in the words of Chris Matthews, look like she came from another planet. CNN stumbled over itself to explain why she should get any coverage. The Tea Party people themselves denounced her because no one can oficially talk on their behalf. Paul Ryan went conservative depression on us saying the day of reckoning is upon us and that our children's future are jeopardized by Obama's spending.

Roughly 75% of the people on the MSNBC poll said that Obama got the challenges to the United States right and what we need to do for the future. Only 20% said no.

I think the American Creed language helps pull independents back to Obama and neutralizes the conservative assault on him. Hearing it, I'm not so sure he had the right lift. Keith Ellison liked Obama's adlib that Muslims were also part of the American family.

While Obama was conciliatory and reached out to those across the isle, I did not believe he gave an inch on the issues he campiagned on and fought for the last two years. Yes, he has to adjust to the new reality. But if this is triangulation, it's certainly different from Clinton. He was forceful about the Dream Act and immigration reform. While he wasn't explicit about climate change, he repeatedly talked about initiatives for a clean energy future. He was quite bold and will be attacked for declaring oil the energy of the past and asking that the billions in tax breaks for the oil companies be abolished. I guess he doesn't like the Koch Brothers. His call for further investment in our infrastructure was direct and runs right in the face of opposition by the Republicans on high-speed rail, for instance. I have always had a problem with his administration's view on educational reform but that was out there as directly as he ever said it. What you saw was Barack Obama. Somehow progressives would love for him to act like FDR, but as I've frequently noted his hand is much weaker and the American political culture is not supportive of a full-scale progressive change.

He needed to reassure Americans about their place in the world. President Obama was keen about correcting the widespread public opinion that China was the lead economy in the world. Nearly 45% of Americans believe that. And his speech meant to neutralize that belief since we are our economy is three times larger than theirs. Undoubtedly, in the week ahead--that's all the media attention it will get--there will be many conflicting views of the speech.

What I took away after hearing the Republican responses was that President Obama still controls the language of debate in this country. That's critical if we are to move forward.

Our Guy

President Obama did merge his speeches on innovation and new technology into a rousing call for winning the future and a challenge to the naysayers who kept saying the country is in decline. Taking off from his Tucson speech, he embraced in a more full-throated way, that American Exceptionalism which the Right had said he didn't believe in. It was a Reaganesque speech that embraced the creative role government can play in the further development of the country.

I was struck by how much he ignored the punditry in town and kept calling for better internet access across the country, the development of high-speed rail and setting clean energy goals. He surprised me in calling for the end to subsidies of the old energy--mainly oil--and government support for clean energy, which had gone by the wayside in the last Congress. He has also called for the re-writing of the corporate tax code and the simplfying of the individual tax code. He put forward his ideas of increased funding for education, infrastructure, and technology and research. The Geek in Chief was in residence tonight.

He didn't shy away from defending the health reform bill and was open to changing the medical malpractice laws and one of the tax provisions in it. But he was solid in affirming that government must protect citizens from pedatory businesses.

He didn't triangulate so much as create the language for the New Middle in American politics. How do you look forward and make a compelling argument for making the social investments necessary for getting there? I think he laid out that position in great detail tonight. While he called on moving forward together or not at all,many of the programs he outlined this year are likely to be delayed until and if he has a second term.

The real suprise item in the speech was his promise to develop a proposal to merge, consolidate,and reorganize federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. And he promised to bring that plan for a vote in Congress. Now that could be interesting.

Another sly bit was that the average citizen deserves to know when your congressman meets with a lobbyist. He urged Congress to adopt the White House's standrad of putting this information on line. He said that citizens needed to know that legislation wasn't being larded up with pet projects and that he vowed to veto bills with earmarks in them.

In foreign policy, he reiterated what the Administration is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the fight against Al Qaeda. What people thought had been missing was a vocal commitment to democracy and human rights. Here he said,"America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom, justice and dignity. And because we have begun this work (building coalitions abroad), tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored."

he talked about revitalizing NATO on everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense, resetting the relationship with Russia,strengthening Asian alliances and building a new relationship with India. He also surprised by saying he was going to travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador to forge "new alliances of progress". He pointed to his administration's efforts to facilitate the birth of South Sudan and his support for the people of Tunisia and the support for the democratic aspirations of all people.

"We must never forget that the things we struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere."

He closed his speech with his view of the American Dream,paying homage to Joe Biden, the working class kid from Scranton, and Speaker Boehner,who began as someone seeeping the floors of his father's Cincinnati bar.

"We may have differences in policy,but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything's possible. No matter where you come from."

.."From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who are to dream. That's how we win the future.

We do big things.

"The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, mre than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong."

Going back over the text, he frequently talked about things like our common creed and what sets us apart as a nation. We share common hopes and dreams and a common creed. The challenge --"It's whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map but a light to the world."

He warned that the rule had changed and that the way our economy is organized has been altered by technology and that we had to adapt to progress. He raised the issue of China and India and their investments in education and technology and research.

He quoted Robert kennedy that "The future is not a gift. It is an achievement." "Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle and meet the demands of the new age."

He reminded Americans that despite the hits we've aken,"America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world." Then he list our firsts. I thought these parts were necessary given the mood of the country and the virtual cascade of bummer comments over the last few years.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment." While I agree with what he said about biomedical research, information technology and clean energy,I'm sketpical that this Congress will act on these. He promised to fund the Apollo projects of the future in clean energy. He listed some of the ongoing projects in government labs. He claimed the United States would be the first country to have 1 million electric cars by 2015. He urged Congress to join him in setting a new goal that by 2035 80% of America's electricity would come from clean energy sources. In education he said he wanted to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. He wants to double exports by 2014, which is an obtainable goal.

And I was suprised that he urged immigration reform as one of the tools to remain competitive. And on infrastructure, he says that he wants to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, Within the next he wants 98% internet connectivity in America, which would bring it up to the levels of South Korea and Finland.

He outlined what he was doing to cut spending but I think he made a good point. "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investment in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't ake long before you'll feel the impact."

He raised the Catfood Commission and said while he didn't agree with everything he thought the areas addressed needed remedies. He also defended Social Security and ruled out putting Social Security at the whim of Wall Street.

Did he do the job? I thought he included what he needed to and placed it in a framework about the American Dream and the Future, which makes it forward-looking. Whether given the current climate this will come to fruition,I don't know. But contrast his speech with what I thought was a closed, crab-like view of the United States by Paul Ryan. He reflexively went back into campaign mode by talking of the "failed stimulus" program and that when Obama talks about investment he's really talking about increased government. The call to go back to a limited form of government rings hollow as well as his insistence that the primary role of government is national security, which for him means defense spending. I thought his answer was a mean view of America , certainly not as appetizing as Obama's future.

Before The Speech

Leave it to the Beltway to have a few circuses before the State of the Union Speech.

Michelle Bachmann's answer to Obama's speech has leaked. She calls for Obama to support a balanced budget amendment, something which would be disasterous, and to cut back the vast expansion of government of the past two years to the 2008 level, when it was OK because Bush was president. Shep Smith had a great line that Bachmann was "Out there where the trains don't run."

The gag here is that Obama is sooo bad that it takes two Republicans to respond to the SOTU speech--Bachmann and Ryan. Both parties are pissed that CNN ran Bachmann's speech.

Obama is going to call this "Our generation's Sputnik Moment", perhaps invoking that JFK made the speech fifty years ago. He will call for end to earmarks, which Harry Reid laughed at already. He calls for a five year moratorium on domestic and defense spending and adds some significant cuts to defense, saving about $400 billion through 2021. Obama will call this a downpayment on the national debt. Only yesterday, the Administration regained $5 billion in Medicare fraud. This socialist sure knows how to make money.

Not to be outdone by the President's efforts to cut the deficit, Rand Paul unveiled his plan to cut $500 billion in just 8 months. Meanwhile his father is over at the House rounding up the neo-isolationist Republicans to mount an effort to stop the Afghanistan war.

House Republicans today called for cutting off funding to the United Nations. It was deja vu all over again. But instead of any job legislation, the GOP has led out of the box with repealing healthcare,outlawing federally funded abortions even though they already are,ending taxbreaks for any businesses who purchase private health insurance, which funds abortion even though the policy holder doesn't get or want one. The next law up is an effort to ban same-sex marriage. Duncan Hunter wants to put spokes in the wheel to slow down the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell by making more service chiefs sign off on it.

Senate Republicans want a vote on tax provisions in the new healthcare bill. Remember they already voted on this last year. But Ezra Klein points out that these elements of the bill are actually fiscally important. The Democrats have polled each specific part of the healthcare bill and find only 16% are against any single part and only 18% are against the repeal of the whole bill. So they want to get Republicans to vote against the pre-existing condition clauses, no recessions, no lifetime caps on coverage, covering your child up to the age of 26 so that they are on record.

The President comes in tonight with the 43% of Americans believing the country is on the right track and 56% on the wrong track. Incredibly these are the best numbers on that question since 2007.

Should the Government rein in corporate greed? 59% say yes; 33% no. 67% of women say yes; only 51% of men. 80% of Democrats yes; only 35% of Republicans.

Thank God for Wyoming. They are now the bulwark against sharia law. The state legislature will outlaw sharia law to safeguard against the threat posed by their massive--OK, only 260 people--Muslim population. Maybe Wyoming wanted to one up the Montana Republican Party which wants to outlaw sodomy. No Brokeback Mountain in Butte.

Turns out that the National State Legislature Association--there is such a thing--found that secessionist wannabe Rick Perry used the federal stimulus funding to make up for more than 97% of Texas' shortfall this fiscal year. Texas was the largest recipient of stimulus money.

Little Ricky Cantor actually said that he would favor the Government taking back the stimulus money going to infrastructure projects in his district. But while campaigning, he made sure voters saw him giving out huge, blow-ups of federal checks. I'm sure the voters will appreciate it when the roads aren't paved.

Mitt Romney managed to dodge a bullet--maybe--when Marriott Hotels dropped porn from their hotels. Romney faced questions last go-around about how he remained on the board and knew that the hotel chain made over $100 million profits from porn alone. It's bad enough Mitt believes Jesus is the brother of Lucifer but this goes too far. Romney also began a firesale of his fifteen homes after he saw the criticism McCain endured in 2008.So he no longer has to be called The Porn King.

What's the difference between Tim Pawlenty and Dannon Yogurt. Dannon has a live culture.

It looks like David Riveria may be the first Republican freshman to resign. The FBI has begun investigations into his dubious campaign contributions and his statements on campaign finance laws.

The Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay on the Superior Court's decision to boot Rahm Emmanuel from Chicago's mayoral race.

If you root for non-profits or community owned businesses, it's the Green Bay Packers for the Super Bowl.

AND NOW THE SURPRISE OF THE EVENING--The speech won't really count. Enjoy it though. It might be the last time you see Obama before he retreats into the White House to deal with the collapse of governments throughout the Middle East. The real Big Enchilada--Egypt--looks shaky tonight as Cairo is now a War Zone. Riots have broken out through Jordan and Algeria. All because of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Through it hezbollah forming the government in Lebanon and you know what will preoccupy President Obama for the next year.

America Backs McColm Plan for Social Security

Yes, the numbers are in and it's overwhelming. Between 75-80% of Americans believe to solve any problems with Social Security we simply raise the FICA cap and few believe we should cut benefits. These numbers exist for every age group. Even 67% of teabaggers are for raising the FICA cap. It is rare for any polling on a policy matters to yield such an overwhelming consensus.

Last year I wrote about the mythical problems with Social Security. I suggested raising the cap and the result would be to ensure Social Security through the year 2175 and beyond. We could even give people a raise. Even if we do nothing , Social Security will pay out full benefits through 2037 and then the cut would be to 90% for a decade and then to 80%. It's not as if Social Security vanishes.

Cynically, I know why Americans support this. Only a few percent of Americans now earn more than the cap of $106,000. So the solution is painless for the nation.

That's why you are not going to hear a peep from President Obama on this issue. There really is not a problem and he can actually kick the can down the road until a second term. Progressives started to howl that President Obama was going to put Social Security on the table for negotiations with the Republicans. Yesterday, the White House denied that and denied President Obama would support raising the retirement age.

Meanwhile Paul Ryan will be answering the President's speech tonight. But Ryan can not speak openly about his plans to privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher system. Another thing Paul won't talk about is his plan to raise taxes for those earning $20,000 to $200,000 and severely cutting taxes for the rich. Coporate taxes also would be eliminated and instead Ryan wants to create a consumption tax, which will hurt the poor and the middle class. You will not hear any of that tonight.

President Obama takes the podium tonight with a 56% approval rating in the latest CNN/ Opinion Research poll and a 46% approval rating among independents, about a ten point leap since the election. He also has a 57% approval rating among investors for his economic policies.

Finally, the White House is beginning to wake up to their communications problem. They have been ushering in Democratic talking heads and political types to discuss the content of tonight's speech so that the media will not be dominated by Republican talking heads like the last two years. The flashy addition will be the Enhanced capability to the White House's live feed of the speech. We are promised all those nifty graphs and blackboard drawings about the stimulus and economic growth. Whether this can overcome the GOP noise machine is still problematic.

At tonight's State of the Union, we will be missing several Supreme Court Justices because they felt dissed last year when President Obama criticized their Citizens United decision that gave total power in the United States to corporations. Some say the three most likely AWOLs will be Chuckles Thomas, Fat Tony Scalia and Judge Alito. It would be seen as too tacky if the Chief Justice Roberts didn't show.

The question is whether we will see the "most dangerous person in America" or the person Glenn Beck believes is the "most powerful man in America"--Cass Sunstein,the University of Chicago professor who now is in charge of evaluating business regulations for President Obama. Actually I am comforted to think Cass really is the most powerful man in America.

Which brings me to Glenn Beck's jihad against elderly CUNY professor Frances Fox Piven, who is "sowing the seeds of revolt." Apparently, Glenn Beck believes that there are nine people, which he calls the "The Intelligent Minority" who control America. Now some of these people are dead but their influence lingers on. They are Edward Bernays, the father of modern advertising, Sigmund Freud, George Soros, Andy Stern, Walter Lippman, Frances Fox Piven, former Governor Rendell, and Richard Trumpka, the head of the AFL-CIO. I'm dsappointed he left out the boogey-man of the Right, Saul Alinsky. Of his list, only Richard Trumpka is not Jewish. I guess Dick is the red herring because Alinsky would have made it totally too obvious. Perhaps, this is being snarky but the only "Christian" group allowed to proselytize in Nazi German were the Mormons. Is Beck anti-semitic much?

It's better to keep your ethnic smears more oblique so you can plot a political comeback. In this state of the "Cooch", George Allen, "Mr. Macaca", is plotting his return to the Senate and has thrown his helmut into the ring in a race against Webb.

Rahm Emmanuel has been thrown off the ballot for mayor of Chicago. No one knows what this means and Rahm vows he will triumph. If he somehow becomes mayor, how will he deal with Abu Dubai, which owns all of Chicago's parking meters? This was another great move by Mayor Daley who sold them to the country's Sovereign Fund.

I want to know where Halliburton will move its headquarters once Dubai sinks, which it is doing. I like how the U.S. Chamber now refers to companies like Halliburton as "our American foreign companies".

The military still can not find any connection between Private Manning, who is being kept in solitary at Quantico, and Julien Assange and Wikileaks. Manning is being without any charge.

Later we will explore what the Jasmine revolution and the Wikileaks publishing of the cables on the Middle East Peace Talks means or does not.

One of the most interesting sidelights of tonight's speech will be the rebuttal by teabagger Michelle Bachmann. I think I've misunderstood the teabaggers. A Michelle Bachmann should be viewed as Cindy Sherman gone bad. This is performance art. Just like Sarah Palin is the reality television candidate. The teabaggers are avant-garde. Tacky, true. But the Koch Brothers are self-proclaimed anarchists and big bankrollers of the arts. They know the history of vanguard art movements. Here they got a chance to buy one for their own. And imagine the laughs at the Koch household having a political movement named after a gay sexual practice. It's so DADA.

And save the TA-TAs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Political Rip Rap

43% of Americans in a CBS News Poll say that jobs should be the number 1 priority for government. With 12 straight months of private sector job growth, 9 out of 10 economists believe the recovery has become self-propelled and increasing. They've changed their predictions now to a 3.2-3.4% growth rate for each upcoming quarter. In the last year, the private sector has added 1.3 million jobs, topping the total private sector job creation record of 8 years of the George W. Bush Administration.

So while President Obama is going to speak about various aspects of getting the economy going and making a transition for a prosperous future,what is the GOP policy for the same? No program. No problem. The House GOP just issued a press release claiming credit for all job creation since the 2010 mid-terms. They said, "we created jobs." How? Don't ask. It's stunning but not unexpected.

The next great legislative feat the House GOP plans is to repeal public campaign finance--that's the little box on your income tax form to check if you want a couple of bucks to go to political campaigns. And if you don't get where this is going, yesterday the Tea Party announced a nation-wide campaign against voter fraud. As I've written the Tea Party and the Wisconsin GOP teamed up for a voter suppression effort against students and minorities in the mid-terms and can claim the defeat of Russ Feingold.

Voters have been fast to register buyers' remorse. John Kasich, the new Governor of Ohio, has a whopping 30% approval rate, only couple of weeks into his term. Kasich used the Wayback machine to produce the first all-white cabinet in Ohio since the 1960s. He also won the hearts and minds of voters by refusing the federal funding for high speed rail ,which would have linked major cities in his state and been a major connection between the Northeast and the Illinois part of the new system. The same rapid downfall happened with New Jersey's Chris Chrissie, who dreams of the White House with his own approval rating in the dumpster.

In 1994, with the Gingrich Revolution, 37% of Americans believed the GOP would bring the right kind of change. Today, only 25% say the same for the Boehner Revolution, according to NBC polls. The GOP honeymoon seems about over--CBS reports that the GOP now has a 49% disapproval rating.

While taking credit for the economic recovery in the country, the new GOP House plans to pass a budget cut bill soon, which would call for a 15% reduction in all agencies dealing with domestic services. While businesses do this to maximize their profit margin, what happens to government? Do these 15% soon count as unemployed? Will they be considered lazy counch potatoes when the unemployment runs out?

One of their class act cuts will be to Head Start, throwing some 389,000 children out of the program.

You have to love Colin Powell, he still doesn't get how wacky the GOP has become. He said that cutting funding for PBS would not cut the deficit. Of course, not. You do that because they fired Juan Williams. It's about revenge not about the deficit. Poor Colin suggested cutting the military.

The NYTIMES/CBS poll shows that 55% of Americans want cuts to the military; 21% Medicare; and 13% to Social Security.

For some reason, the House GOP wants to cut 4,000 FBI agents. Probably because they are under the Department of Justice, which is run by Eric Holder. Sorry, it's as simple as that.

Peggy Noonan is on the sauce again. She seemed to have discovered Obama was an eloquent man during the Tucson speech but now moans why when the country is in crisis does it elect people like Jimm Carter or Barack Obama.

That poll I wanted about Palin versus Obama in Texas is in. Palin beats Obama by 46-45. He ties the Governor Rick Perry and is behind the other GOP contenders by about 5 points.

Ben Stein isn't impressed with the GOP field for 2012 and suggests that Barack Obama show run as a Republican. Maybe that's what's behind Rasmussen having Obama at 52% approval rating. It probably means it really is about 70% given Rasmussen's business links to Fox News.

Mitt Romney won the first official strawpoll in New Hampshire. But then again, the dirty secret is that Mitt's operatives are known to pay voters in straw polls. It's part of the strategy for maintaining a presence.

Will Mitt Romney being a Mormon hurt him now that America has been exposed to Glenn Beck? Before we only knew Mormons from Orrin Hatch and Brent Scowcroft. If they are as crazy as Beck, can you really trust them in power? Another question is whether Glenn and his wife wear the Mormon magic underwear when they have sex? Romney said he doesn't because they itch.

Michelle Bachmann, the Queen of the Tea Party, denies that Tony Scalia is talking to the tea party members behind closed doors. Instead, she insists all of the House is invited. Meanwhile Chuckles Thomas continues to make news by neglecting to report his wife's income.

While our President will urge spending on modernizing our infrastructure, Mitch McConnell vows that Senate Republicans will block any further government spending. One of the great laughters in the last few days is that Ricky Cantor says he will compromise if President Obama wants Republican help in getting out of the mess. Notice the implication that the GOP never had anything to do with creating the mess.Rocky was gracious by acknowledging that the President really is a citizen of the United States --as opposed to Upper Volta.

After my post a couple of days ago about the reasons President Obama would win re-election in 2012, several mainstream journalists have also chimed in to reinforce that opinion. But a few warnings, we saw that people with negatives over 50% actually won in the 2010 elections. Yes, it's true that the GOP came to power in the House with only 22% of the vote, mostly white people over 55. But while redistricting will not seriously hamper Obama's re-election campaign, it should be noted that voter suppression efforts will be in high gear, especially against Hispanics, blacks, single women and students, key Obama constituencies. In the last election, Obama had a number of Democratic attorney-generals in the states who protected the vote. This time he does not.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Do List-What We Want To Find Out

My son says that we will not know for forty years what really went on in the George W. Bush Administration. I've told college students if they are interested in history it's the one period where they can make a positive contribution to our understanding of our own country.

I am becoming obsessed with finding out why we invaded Iraq. Is there some larger game we all missed? It certainly was not because of Saddam Hussein's brutality. After all we were his allies before. It was certainly not because of Weapons of Mass Destruction since our own intelligence agencies and the United Nations warned us there were none. And certainly it was not because of any connection with Al Qaeda. Although, I have been shocked to review the many, many videos where everyone from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney actually argued this case before the American people.In the Chilicote Inquiry in the UK,it's been revealed that Tony Blair agreed to the invasion of Iraq prior to 9/11. We know it wasn't for the oil because almost everyone but American firms have gotten the concessions. And it wasn't to create a democracy because that was slapped on at the end by the White House to rationalize the mission. Even the neoconservative supporters of the invasion such as Doug Feith have been explicit that Wolfowitz and company never entertained this as viable. And certainly it was not because of Saddam harboring terrorists. The best they could do is document Abu Nidal and the PFLP hanging around and one Islamic terrorist group on the border with Iran where Iraqi troops kept them under observation as well as the CIA. So what really was the reason or reasons?

It's not that the reasons given have been shredded by the countervailing evidence. It's because within the whole process of going to war we know that large parts of our institutions knew better and that even they didn't believe the reasons given to the public. Was it more strategic? The political leadership felt that American strategic doctrine unnecessarily restrained The United States from projecting its power at a time we were the sole remaining global superpower. I have begun reading many articles suggesting this very thing--that the United States was pre-empting the rise of a united Middle East with the possibility of crippling our energy supplies. It didn't matter that we didn't directly get the oil, it was important that no political or military force could restrain the United States and the Developed World. This is still too complicated for me to digest. The articles seem to rationalize the invasion after the fact as yielding a strategic good.

There are other issues that still baffle me. During the George W. Bush Administration ,the United States fought a prolonged counter-insurgency war in the Phillippines that would very rarely make it in the press here. I understand that it had been successful but I have yet to hear or read anything about it since.

I'm trying to forgive myself for having remained in my humanitarian intervention mode left over from the Balkans to accept the Iraqi invasion as an act of liberation. The fact was that it created the largest outflow of refugees in Middle Eastern history, the elimination of a part of ancient Christianity,the monstrous events at Abu Ghraib and a stunning legacy of American-induced corruption. Hopefully, the Iraqis can make something out of the mess that remains. Right now it looks like the Iranians and Turks are hovering like vultures over the country. That's not to say everyday life to a large extent hasn't returned and the natural rhythmn of Middle eastern life hasn't resumed.

Another issue that has surfaced in our political life is the overt proclamation of the United States as exceptional. Peggy Noonan's first critiques of Barack Obama were that he didn't understand what makes America tick. This was elaborated by the conservatives such as Newt Gingrich who said that Barack Obama didn't believe in American Exceptionalism. There has been a small library generated by right-wingers developing this theme with their own peculiar axe to grind. When Barack Obama did use the term American Exceptionalism abroad, he gracefully indicated that other countries might feel they were exceptional. This was not enough. America must be proclaimed by every political leader as The City On The Hill, whether the surrounding village is destroyed on not or whether people are unemployed or not. The issue of American Exceptionalism had always been discussed at seminars with academics and only referred to obliquely in political rhetoric ,which we accept as the American Creed. Actually referring to American Exceptionalism as why the country can not have health care or why the country doesn't have to obey international laws or treaties is a very new thing for me.

The subject of American Exceptionalism has sparked a flood of books in the last year and this coming year. Donald Pease from Dartmouth wrote "The New American Exceptionalism", which traces the history of the idea and reflects how the George W. Bush administration totally warped the idea. Pease notes the other side of the concept. In international law, we recognize states of exception where civil liberties are suspended for a specific time-frame because of insurrrection or war. Pease talks about Bush declares that all of America was a State of Exception in this sense. He introduces the whole idea about the new American view of "exemptionalism". The United States perceives itself as exempt from the international restraints on other nation states. Actually, quite clever. It certainly applies to the whole Patriot Act,and the legalization of torture even though we ratified the Torture Convention and as signatory are duly bound to prosecute the violators, including ourselves.

Godfrey Hodgson, who is a pro-American Brit,wrote "The Myth of American Exceptionalism", which explores the history of the idea and how it stimulated the best America offered in our foreign policy. He starts the book with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., "There can be no deep disappontment where there is no deep love." Hodgson accepts Richard Hofstadter's statement," it has been our fate as a nation not to have an ideology, but to be one." Hodgson ends his book with a few chapters on how the rise of the so-called "neo-conservatives" in the Bush Administration perverted the positive elements of American excpetionalism and committed the ultimate sin for Hodgson of "the corruption of the best."

I was surprised by the wise analysis of Seymour Martin Lipset in his 1995 book "American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword" (re-issued by Norton). This was written toward the end of Bill Clinton's first term and the impetus for writing the book was the worry among policy elites that the United States was being overtaken by....drumroll...Japan. If you read Paul Krugman's columns you will just think about Japan's lost decade and its failure to adopt economic polices to grow out of a deep recession. The idea that Americans felt in the mid-1990s anxiety that Japan, a very aging population, would out perform economically the United States appears ludicrous. But I suspect we'll look back on today as the time the United States felt anxiety about China and wonder as China fragments and becomes unstable where that idea came from.

Since Marty Lipset's book came at a time of peak prosperity on the United States,its analysis of American Exceptionalism has a permanence that runs through today. He does note that neoconservatives are almost all dead and that references to a younger generation ignores the fact that neoconservatives were anti-communist leftists who sometimes were socialists or very liberal in domestic economic policies. He cites Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol and Pat Moynihan but warns against accepting others because the term became a derogatory name used by the Left to demonize others who were not from this class of person. In fact, he would not accept calling the George W. advisers neo-conservatives at all. Point well-taken.

Throughout Lipset's book, he cites decades of polling numbers that show Americans since 1960 have shown a steady distrust of our political institutions. He cites with approval Jimmy Carter's suggestion that this lack of faith in our political institutions threatens our democracy. One poll blew me away since we are talking of the 1990s compared to today and yes, only 8% of Americans then and now approved of the way Congress has been performing. So two years of amazing progressive legislation,so what? Lipset does a superb job of examing the history of this distrust of government as one of the negatives of American exceptionalism.

If you want to know why America has and is the most violent country in the developed world,he shows you. Also, he goes at great length on why Americans lack the social welfare system the Europeans and Canadians do and traces this back to the 19th century and Europe's social conscience--the feeling that governments have an affirmative responsibility to their citizens. Our own history, Lipset argues, works against this concept.

Lipset traces the history of American exceptionalism through DeTocqueville and even Edmund Burke's speech before the British parliament on why Americans are different. On America's religiousity, Lipset is a very acute observer. He notes that we have been conditioned by Christian sects, not churches that really had once been state churches, so that we believe humanity is perfectable and individually we accept an absolutism in morality, which explains things like the temperance league and prohibition. He also sees this as creating problems in foreign policy because we must cast an adversary as "evil". He walks through all the evils we fought in our wars such as "catholic absolutism" in the Mexican War. So it's natural that George W would talk about the "Axis of Evil". The flip side of this is that America and to a lesser degree Great Britain recognize conscientious objection to wars because we believe individuals should determine their own actions by their own conscience. This then accounts for our anti-war movement adopting the same type of absolutism as those waging war.

He takes this moral absolutism into the constant rhetoric we hear today about the unemployed being lazy or the poor don't want to work. in fact, if you read his book, the negatives of American exceptionalism, which he maintains are a comparative sociological fact, are seen in the hyper-rhetoric of the teabaggers. He also points to the progressive period starting with Theodore Roosevelt and lasting through FDR and slightly beyond as a rare interlude in American history, not something that one could expect again. And he is armed with decades of polls that precede Ronald Reagan and run up to Bill Clinton that seem to demonstrate an older pattern of American behavior was returning in terms of values and attitudes about a whole host of social issues.

I don't know whether Lipset is reassuring because America has always been this way or alarming because we can not transcend ourselves to solve our current problems. You get the sense that we have fossilized the notion of American Exceptionalism in the same way the Right has erected our Consitution as an idol and not a living document. And how much of Lipset's analysis would account for the intense reaction of the whites to the demographic changes in our society?

Lipset's career really started with academic studies about why socialism never took root in the United States. He was trying to answer the question that puzzled Marx and Engels and flummoxed European socialists for ever. This led naturally to his study of American Exceptionalism. With this book he makes a genuine contribution to our own self-understanding.

The other thing I want to find out is how and when the George W. Bush Administration started using the term "Empire" to refer to the United States. For years, the Left has used this to refer to almost all our foreign policy but I have never heard an American official ever use this term referring to our efforts abroad. I would humbly suggest alot of what currently is going on probably derives from this "imperial moment" as a Bush diplomat said to the British before the invasion of Iraq. The whole issue of American corporations sitting on $3 trillion and not creating jobs here but abroad. You can argue it's because American corporations have become more efficient and don't need to create jobs but I think there is more to it.

And one other oddball thing I would like to know is why "Fast Eddie" Rendell, when he was Governor of Pennsylvania, believed he could sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Dubai.

This week we get to hear President Obama try to speak to Congress without being heckled. Already the rough outlines of his speech have been tried out and circulated. He's going from his stabilize the economy mode to his expansion mode. I hope he cribs from his Geek speeches where he talks about the future technological advances we need to make in order to survive as a prosperous country. The competitiveness language leads me cold and conjures up corporate America's desire to have under paid workers. As Lipset also pointed out in his book, study after study has demonstrated that the American worker is literally the most productive on the planet. Don't believe otherwise. Hopefully, Obama can find the inspiring language for what he calls the new Sputnik moment.

What's interesting is that while he'll talk about curbing some government spending, he will speak about new government spending on education, technology and infrastructure. That's going to be interesting as the new House doesn't believe in science because we're already exceptional, doesn't believe in education because it's secular and doesn't believe in infrastructure because union workers might get paid.

What is rumored is that Obama will not advocate the findings of the Catfood Commission. He will advocate lowering and reforming corporate taxes--which will be treated by his own supporters as a sell-out and a mark he is a corporatist. In fact, the corporate tax code does need reforming and flattened so companies pay some taxes.

Stay tuned. The joke going around is that the next act of the new House is to reverse all vasectomies.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Other Ways To Cut The National Debt

If you look at the House Republican Study Group's proposals to cut $2.5 trillion from the national budget over 10 years, this looks puny. If you review their proposals, it's basically a cultural war against everything the Right hates. PBS gets defunded because they fired Juan Williams and Roger Ailes called them Nazis. National Endowment for the Arts has been a target since the days of Jesse Helms. This gang likes Thomas Kincaide and he doesn't receive government grants. The National Endowment for the Humanities underwrote the research in Mark Twain's autobiography and the designated conservative reader found offensive passages. Then of course we need to go after every social program for poor people that exists because only colored people are poor. Other than looking vindictive the proposals don't look like much.

And more importantly they aren't using that free market know-how that made the Right such geniuses. Perhaps they need some help from Rebecca Rimel of the Pew Trusts, who brilliantly stole the entire Barnes Collection of impressionaist and modernist art worth hundreds of billions for the City of Pennsylvania.

The House Study Group does say sell off properties not being used by the Government. This is modelled after Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer selling parts of the state's capital because they ran out of money.

No, we should rejoice in our debt slashing ways. First over a ten-year period, sell off the paintings in the National Gallery of Art, none of them are liked by conservatives anyway except for the Koch Brothers who can pick them up at auction. Here we can match the total value of the Barnes Collection and maybe surpass it by throwing in the National Portrait Gallery. When we're done, then we can sell the real estate for condos on the Mall, an attractive offer for corporate lobbyists.

Then we need to commercialize the Washington monuments. Picture a holographic display put over Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial. Company names would slide by over the names of the fallen, casting an eerie shadow. Companies would have to bid for the time of day and how often the commercial ran.

The same applies for the Lincoln Memorial. The Koch Brothers could buy the rights to the Lincoln memorial for Glenn Beck in honor of his work for the teaparty. Big Shepard Farey Posters of Glenn Beck could greet visitors along the reflecting pool.

For the Washington Monument, we adopt the Empire State Building treatment of different color lights for different holidays auctioned off to all comers and naming rights up the obelisk. We would have four sides to sell on this property.

We would offer the Jefferson Memorial first to the Japanese companies because they could use the shots of the Memorial shaded by cherry trees in Honda and Toyota Ads.

We're probably cruising to about $400 billion so far. Now we sell the Smithsonian's jewel collection. They have the Hope Diamond after all. If the whole Hope Diamond doesn't sell, we can cut it into smaller diamonds and mass market it. There is alot of great pop culture trivia in the American history museum that could be sold to the public on e-Bay.

We can also sell all the fossils owned by the Smithsonian so fundamentalist Christians can hide evidence of evolution.

This should take us close to $1 trillion. We can match this by selling the crown jewels of the Library of Congress to rare book collectors and market the contents of the library to the 1% richest Americans first and then to the Arab sheiks.

Since our national park system was created by progressives, it should be auctioned off gradually. The Obama Administration over-ruled Cheney's ruling for oil drilling near the Arches in Utah. I say we sell them the land and give them all the rights for free. The Arches are doomed to fall sometime anyway.

Since we don't recognize our own crimes against native Americans, we should sell all the land they have left remaining. Blackwater can provide the security to the private interests seizing the land. Some of the Southwest pueblos could make beautiful second homes for the rich.

This effort needs creative marketing. For instance we know the Christian Right wants to say we were created as a Christian nation. Let's sell them Monticello and then they can decorate the interior with crucifixes they will claim Thomas Jefferson collected over the years.

Then we can add some overseas military bases to privatize. Gitmo could become a Club Med and Diego Gracia could become an Indian Ocean resort. The military could then earn funds transporting tourists to these places.

With these modest sales, we have far surpassed the House Republican Study Group, affirmed free-market principles,and thrown some bones (literally) to the Christian Right and opened the rest of America up to commercial exploration. A new manifest destiny.

See Dick Cheney was right, "Deficits don't matter."

Foolish Fun

Allan Richter has already predicted President Obama's re-election twice using his matrix of leadership qualities. Although it's totally irrelevant,it's great fun to speculate on 2012 when nothing is real. Intrade has Obama at a 58.9% chance of winning re-election. Even if he lost every Red State he won in 2008, he would still win an electoral victory.

Republican Consultant Mark McKinnon and Myra Adams,writer and political observer, weigh in at the Daily Beast on the 12 reasons Obama wins in 2012.

1. The Power of the Incumbency. Of the last 56 presidential elections, 31 have involved incumbents, 21 of those won more than one term. They claim Obama now has better-than-67 percent chance of winning re-election.

2. Love Story Continues. Here I disagree. They say that while the media can be critical of Obama he has never faced the extreme 24-hour-a-day derangement that has plagued other recent presidents. The media's treatment of Obama is worth millions to the campaign. Personally I have never seen a President who has been trashed and accused of more nonsense than Obama. That includes Clinton and George W. What the writers neglect is the millions upon millions generated by the Koch Brothers and others to gin up racist hatred of the President.

3.Billion-Dollar Campaign. President Obama's 2012 relection effort could be the first campaign to raise $1 billion, since he raised $750 million in 2008. The two authors say that both sides will break new financing records.

4. Experienced Campaign Organization. Obama is running with the same Chicago-based campaign team and will benefit from experience and memory. Mistakes will not be repeated.

5. Obama's Charm Offensive. Obama can win crowds with his oratory. He is personable likeable, has an attractive family and his favorables are climbing. His average right now is 49.9. CNN just had him at 52%. This is comfortably in the range of Reagan, Clinton and Bush's approval ratings at this time. He also has extremely high likeability numbers, running into the 70%.

6. The Economy is Improving. As the economy goes, so goes Obama's relection prospects. What's most important is whether the American people believe the economy is improving in 2012, not whether it actually is. His campaign theme might be :he brought us back from the brink.

7. They'll be Back. The 2010 midterm voters were older, whiter and more conservative than those in 2008. Despite white flight from the Democratic Party, young voters, more minorities, more women and generally more liberals will be back in 2012. Obama's billion-dollar campaign fund will find some way to get his core constituents to the polls.

8. Obama "The Moderate". 40% of Americans now see the President as a moderate. That's up 10 percent from a year ago. More importantly, 44 percent of independents now call Obama a moderate, up from 28% a year ago. If the Republicans become viewed as strident and over-reaching on the Hill--Bet on It, Obama will be well positioned as a moderating force.

9.Republican Sparring Match. With no obvious frontrunner, the Republican primary season may drag on and become messy. This is likely because the RNC changed the rules of the primaries so they are no longer winner-take-all. Republicans will debate who is more Reaganesque , while Obama will stay above the fray, looking presidential.

10.Neverending Campaign. Organizing for America (OFA) never stopped working since 2008 and continuously targets its 13 million members. It played a key role in lobbying for health care and has weighed in against repealing healthcare. In other words, contrary to some progressives' complaints, OFA never ended its campaigning.

11. Hispanic Vote Growing. Obama earned 67% of the Hispanic vote in 2008. The Five State Voter Project, sponsored by the Hispanic Institute, is under way to increase Hispanic voter participation in five states;New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Colorado. Winning all of these states could seal the deal for Obama. Remember what happened in 2010, when the Hispanics came out and elected Harry Reid and Michael Bennett in Colorado.

12. Several Paths to 270. This was true in 2008. David Plouffe figured out every conceivable way Obama could reach 270. As we said he could lose all five key red states and still win 272.

That's fun. They promised to return with 12 ways Obama could lose.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Things Get Tough,The Weird Get Going

Australia has announced it will arrest Sarah Palin if she travels there because she urged violence on one of the country's citizens, Julien Assange, Mr. Wikileaks.

Seymour Hersh has a new book coming out that says that 8 or 9 neoconservatives hijacked our government and that a cabal of the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei guide our military adventures abroad. Why not? It's as plausible as anything else.

The California Highway Patrol has stepped up its investigations into the death threats against Jerry Brown.

Rudy Guiliani says that he will run for the Republican presidential nomination if Sarah Palin does. Guiliani hopes to gather support as a moderate. Poor Rudy. He's been away from the GOP for a while. Even George W. Bush couldn't run as a Republican now.

While Barack Obama's re-election office will be in Chicago, Newt Gingrich is going to locate his in Georgia. I wonder whether he's going to invite the men in sheets to participate in the grand-opening.

Barack is running ahead of all Republicans in the swing states with the exception of being behind by a point to Huckabee in North Carolina. But watch out Mitt is running only one or two behind in the pivotal Midwestern states. Here in the land of the Cooch, Obama beats all comers by big margins. I would like to see a PPP poll of Palin versus Obama in Texas.

Speaking of classy, the Teabagger who lost to Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson called today for a special election and said he wants to run again. The former Marine captured news for holding a fund-raiser by having guests shoot M-16s at targets with Giffords' face on them.

I hope the news of Giffords' recovery is accurate but I can't conceive of a recovery that will be anything but brutal.

Rachel Maddow has spent the week exploring our tendency to violence. Nancy Pelosi gave her the best subject to focus on--mental health. The healthcare bill actually created parity for mental health treatment--which is long overdue. Meanwhile mental health funding is being cut across the states.

There is little or no chance for any serious gun control legislation,despite Dr. Maddow eloquent arguments. The fact of the matter is we are an enormously violent people and have mythologized violence so it has been so deeply internalized in our speech and actions. But one welcomes her delving into the issue once again. The attractive part of the Rachel Maddow show is that Dr. Maddow remains intellectually curious and wants to raise questions which others are too lazy or cynical to ask. Good for her.

It looks like the lab tests of the Spokane bomb are yielding clues that indicate the culprits live in nearby neighborhoods.

Mike Malloy went on a justifiably rampage on the air last night concerning one Glenn Beck. People had drawn a moral equivalence between Malloy's wishing ill on conservatives and the current violent rhetoric on right-wing talk radio. Last night he talked about Glenn Beck's obsession with Frances Fox Piven, the 78-year old City College professor and political theorist. Beck has been fixated on Dr.Piven calling her "an enemy of the constitution" and claiming her recent article in the Nation called for violent revolution, which it did not. Mike Malloy read the death threats against Piven on Glenn beck's own website and asked why a moderator did not shut down the violent threats against her. One person posted her home address and phone number. In the past week, Dr. Piven has reported receiving direct death threats because of Beck's tirades. The former chair of the American Sociological Association once proposed in 1966 the provocative idea that people overwhelm the public welfare rolls to bring about a guaranteed national income. Beck claims that ideas like these have made our economic system unsustainable.

The good news is that the Center for Constitutional Rights has mailed a letter to Roger Ailes, Beck's boss and mentor,requesting Ailes "order Mr. Beck to cease and desist his allegations against Dr. Piven." I wondered when some action would be taken on this issue. Beck is already linked to three cases of attempted assassination--the famous Tides Foundation case, the Pittsburgh police killings and the death threats against a Washington congresswoman.

While writing this, Keith Olbermann signed off on his last Countdown. Wonder what that is all about. MSNBC thanked Keith and sort of implied don't let the door hit you on your way out. One wonders about the corporate hijinks involved. The Young Turk now takes the 6pm slot and the rest is murky.

This also reminds me of some recent beefs with the progressives on their concerns about Barack Obama. It is true that Social Security has absolutely nothing to due with our national debt. While Republicans are chomping at the bit to eliminate social security, why all this concern about President Obama. Even the Catfood Commission with DLCer Erskine Bowles and conservative Alan Simpson repeatedly defended the centrality of social security to our social welfare system and only suggested the raising of the retirement age about a generation down the pike. The raise in retirement went up a year after a couple of decades and about 50 years further it would be two years up. In any event, it would affect my son by a year, and if I had grandchildren maybe two years. This proposal has drawn constant fire and the progressive caucus is up in arms challenging President Obama to defend social security. I respect the caucus to do so if they trained their guns at the real enemy, instead of the President.

The same applies to this criticism of Obama calling for a re-evaluation of business regulations. Here he already has implemented an overhaul of our food security system for the first time since the 1930s,created a Consumer Protection Agency, restricted offshore drilling, toughened mine regulations, passed financial reform. Why the concern that he would undo everything he has just fought for. This guy doesn't get a break from the Right or the Left. But at least the Left nowadays raises policy criticisms or concerns, while the Right has nothing left upstairs anymore.

As I wrote before President Obama looks like he has done Boehner's work for him, cutting $58 billion in the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coupled with the previous cuts ordered by Gates, Obama is now clocking in at about $100 billion in cuts, the target number for Republicans. FYI--President Obama also cut the deficit this year. You won't hear that on the major networks.

President Obama is moving toward Tuesday's speech with some significant news on the economic front and his own ideas about thoughtfully and gradually cutting the national debt. While the Washington Post thought the China-U.S. Summit was a symbolic success, it complained about its accomplishments. This seems to be the meme of every Summit. We didn't hear about the trade deals with India when he was there, we heard about his temporary failure in South Korea but not his ultimate success, and now we do not hear about the trade deals which will mean 230,000 more jobs for Americans.

The Council for Budget Priorities is out with their analysis of the Republican Study Group's prosed $2.5 trillion budget cut. They concluded it would gut vital government services. Interestingly, a recent poll shows that across the political spectrum the number 1 item to be cut is military spending. The House Republicans are claiming a mandate unlike the President Obama's victory with the largest popular vote in history. Somehow winning the House means a mandate. However, according to polls, the number one priority for the American people is jobs,cutting government spending is low on the list. It also should be remembered that both McCain and Obama ran on health reform but the House GOP has no plan to replace what they just repealed. Without any healthreform,the national debt will balloon unchecked for two decades. Likewise, they refuse to cut defense spending even though a plurality of Republicans support this and do not support cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The real problem is that having lost a decade already we can lost another one.

In the State of the Union, President Obama will have to lift us again,reassuring the American people that we are not in decline and that we must raise to the occasion to develop the technologies and energy sources for the 21st century. It's almost as if he must ignore the noise of the Right and maintain his steady composure as he tries to carve out the Vital Center. It is no mean task. Over two-thirds of our states face bankruptcy or its equivalent and without structural change we are looking at a permanent 8 percent unemployment figure. The social network is frayed and a whole sector of our society has abandoned the idea of a common good. Even if it is delusional, President Obama has to invoke the myths that strike a chord within the hardest of hearts. He also must remind America that its strength derives from diversity and replenishing our talents with immigrants. Somehow he must find the words to silence the growing voices for isolationism and xenophobia. This is his last chance before the end of his term. It's one of the few moments he can speak above the Congress directly to the American people.

Gore Vidal still is right, "President Barack Obama is too smart for the people he leads". Let's hope our Black Pilgrim meets the challenge.

Afternoon at the Last Manatee

The major news from the China-U.S. Summit is that the pandas can stay at the Washington zoo for five years more.

Freepers are upset that Sasha Obama tried out her Mandarin on Hu Jingtao. Sasha Obama is learning Chinese at her grammar school.

Michelle Obama is being blamed for causing more pedestrian deaths because of her campaign to get more adults to exercise. Oscar de la Renta also criticized the First Lady's Red dress at the White House dinner for Hu.

165 Republican congressman have signed on to eliminating all funds for USAID. I would make it conditional on finding out who killed Vince Foster. The strategy for the administration in its wars is to transfer more of the responsibility to our development programs in order to build up civilian power. To make this transition work, you have to have an increase, not a decrease in aid funding. But the Hate America Firsters actually believe that foreign aid is a critical part of a national debt, which it is not. The only problem is that the American people actually believe this and the teabaggers and conservatives have been exploiting this. The new freshman Republicans have brought back the isolationism from the Lindbergh period and the American Firsters.

Dick Armey, creator of the corporate, Koch-funded teabaggers, went on the Hill today to lecture the freshmen Republicans not to shut down the government, something they have been threatening to do. Armey knew that it was a disaster for Republicans under Newt but also that it would be an economic disaster today.

Gentleman John Boehner, Old Swizzle Stick, has run up against his first challenge from the teabaggers. Boehner and Ryan were trying to avoid meeting their pledge to cut $100 billion from the Federal Government this fiscal year. The Republican Study Group actually sent a letter to Boehner demanding that this goal be met. Since half the fiscal year is over, this would entail crippling budget cuts for the remainder of the year. Boehner is aware that the cuts proposed by the Republican Study Group would have catastrophic effects on the economy and the ability of the federal government to function. It's not clear whether Boehner can triumph over his new flock.

We are seeing the divide appear between the corporate Republican Party and the teabaggers. While Rep. Ryan has been designated to respond to President Obama's State of the Union speech, Michelle Bachmann has decided all on her lonesome to hold her own response, which she will pre-record for the Tea Bag Express. Having heard her speech about destroying socialism by repealing the health care bill, we can expect some rhetorical fireworks.

Wouldn't you want to be at a White House meeting to discuss strategy about how to deal with the fact that one part of Congress is now controlled by people who fundamentally don't understand anything about government. What would you advise? All Obama needs now is an infrastructure bill. He doesn't need a budget. They should aim at continuing resolutions for the next two years. Then maybe you let the House fire as much fireworks as they want. But it is unsettling. Do you call Boehner in and tell him he's responsible for his nutjobs?

Mike Huckabee admitted today that budget cuts at any level will results in the loss of jobs. That's why I'm less than gung-ho that we have a recovery that will strengthen. I think we can expect some slips because of the financial crises in the states and also from federal budget cuts ,which Obama will institute.

I think it's tacky that both Harry Reid and Gentleman John Boehner turned down the White House's invitation to the dinner honoring Hu Jingtao. But you know Hu is going to hug Obama for the next two years because he's afraid of the other barbarian Americans. You want to deal with the know-nothings.

James Fellow at the Atlantic wrote a nice appreciation of the summit and thought the musical program of jazz performed by jazz greats was a typical American moment. He should be aware that China now has become the primary consumer of American jazz and that American jazz artists are in high demand at the clubs in Shanghai. But he was right, it was a nice touch and Herbie Hancock playing with Lang-Lang was a nice moment, and a nice piece.

It really is great that the Supreme Court recognizes corporate rights over individual rights. Today Verizon announced it was suing the FCC over its net neutrality policy saying its constitutional rights were being violated. Cool! William Douglas used to say that if corporations had civil rights than so did trees.Red Woods Versus Weyhauser. An idea whose time is come.

We haven't heard the last from the Tucson shooting days. Orange County police are now searching for the people who are threatening to kill Jerry Brown on Valentine's Day. The police have linked the culprits with spray-painting graffiti that urges the killing of Catholics.

Mark Steyn writing in the New Criterion made a full-throated defense of U.K. and American exceptionalism. He warns that the socialist President, who doesn't acknowledge the exceptional nature of America, is allowing China to seize Taiwan and that because of the American national debt, which he projects to cost 20% of the GDP in 15-odd years, we will not be able to compete with the world's largest corporation, The People's Liberation Army of China.

Let's roll this one back. Mark Steyn used to write for the tabloids in London. He and Niall Ferguson, another Brit neocon, have warned that America's debt and its entitlement programs will cut into its ability to spend for defense. And both take the Malthusian curve of debt as inevitable and nothing will be down to bring it down. They also don't give a squat whether Americans have a pot to piss in as long as American maintains its empire and total military supremacy above everyone and every threat. In other words, the Brits and new Brit-Americans will fight the world to the last American. Sort of like the Saudi attitude toward Iran--will fight Tehran to the "last American."

I humbly disagree with this viewpoint. And I also don't believe we will see the People's Liberation Army flooding across Asia and sweeping into Europe any time soon. I also don't want an Empire. Beijing is well aware of Taiwan's economic development and will not jeopardize that any time soon.

Some blogger wrote that the negative effect of the GOP's proposed budget cuts will give the Democrats a political gift. Not so fast. The polls going in the election, the polls going out after the election, all indicate Americans are sensible in their approaches to the economy. BUT and it is a big BUT they did elect these characters. Will there be a backlash or will the spinmeisters manage to blame Obama for these cuts. Besides, the cost of average people will be enormous.

Time For Racheting Down The Rhetoric Is Over

House Republican Study Group has issued its plan to cut $2.5 trillion from the federal government over ten years. In my day, the House Study Group was where the GOP would put the radical right-wingers that didn't have the social skills to be hired as congressional aides. Among its suggestions is to defund USAID, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Endowment for the Arts, Public Broadcasting,all state aid forcing states to cut more government employees, AMTRAK and all funding for High Speed Rail, among other things.

But never fear the House Republicans said their agenda was to create jobs. So after the repeal of healthcare, now they are after global warming. This just edged out a new House bill to oppose all federal funding for abortion even though it doesn't exist now and to provide a "conscience clause" for all medical practitoners opposed to abortion. Randall Terry of Operation Rescue plans to run in the Democratic primaries against Barack Obama to make him answer questions on abortion. His past answer has been abortion should be "legal but rare." What more does Randall want? Rick Santorum blasted Obama--who has not said anything on abortion for over a year--for being a black man who condones abortion. Rick is suggesting that African-Americans are most likely to get abortions and that threatens their race. But since Rick is a member of the Christian Right, his main concern is the demographic winter coming for white people in the U.S.

Down in Tucson, the Arizona Tea Party wants to remove Sheriif Dupnick for his comments that the political rhetoric of the country trigger the slaughter. In Arlington, Massachusetts, a right-wing blogger who said "1 down and 537 to go" was arrested for keeping a large stockpile of weapons on hand. Teabaggers were quick to defend him and also are posting blogs arguing that revolutionary violence is OK because the Catholic Just war doctrine applies.

While most Americans supported President Obama's Tucson speech and the ceremony there, Franklin Graham resented the lack of references to Jesus Christ. Since the target of the assassination attempt was a Jewish Congresswoman, you might think references to Jesus might be inappropriate. I did and that's why I thought Eric Holder's long quotes from II Corinthians, which talked more about Jesus Christ than the usual prayers was wrong. I think Franklin was trying indirectly to defend his soul sister Sarah Palin.

The former Navy Chaplain says that the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a threat to national security and is actually a war on God. I always thought the repeal finally made the Navy legitimate."In the Navy..." The only military service represented in the Village People.

Talk about making money, the President's Midas Touch even concerns DADT. The repeal actually saves the American taxpayer $200 million. From TARP to the BP Oil Spill to DADT, Obama just coins money. That's what "Grand Theft Auto" Issa should be investigating. How come a socialist can make so much money?

Meanwhile,in the States, there is an ominous pattern of governments withdrawing Medicare from single Adults. That doesn't sound like anything significant but we are dealing with one of the few parts of the social nets, which supports the mentally ill. Are we going to rehospitalize the mentally ill? Maybe we could privatize mental asylums.

President Obama again betrayed his socialism by appointing GE's CEO Immelt as the head of his economic council, which has been renamed to emphasize jobs. Arianna Huffington seems to be hysterical that Obama ordered a government-wide effort to eliminate unnecessary regulations on business as a way to quietly stimulate the economy. Since this was also done during the Clinton Administration,I really don't see the great danger.

More dangerous is the effort by House Republicans to defund the new Consumer Protection Agency being created by my Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Elizabeth Warren. All she has to do is get it to July and the FED will fund it.

Rep. Peter King wants to start his investigations into American Muslims as part of the intelligence committee. No doubt he will ask Frank Gaffney, Washington's Go-To Islamophobe, to provide scholarly cover. I think we should encourage a widescale witchhunt. How about targeting Kareem Abdul Jabbar for the Muslim plot to corrupt basketball? Cat Stevens for introducing Sufi themes in his music. How about we go after Salmon Rushdie for a change? Why let Iran have all the fun? The possibilities are endless. Then the accused could be waterboarded to see whether they tell the truth. It would be like combining the Inquisition with the Salem Witch Trials and add a little Joe McCarthy. It would be boffo box on Fox News. This is an opportunity the country can't miss. We can then invite Franklin Graham to testify on how evil Islam is and how the Pentagon's National Prayer Committee kicked him off for his position.

Under They envy us our freedom department. I want to thank the Christian community in the United States for their great support for the Chaldean Christians in Iraq, who are being exterminated in the democracy we created. The last Christian left Anbar Province yesterday. Those who haven't been "disappeared" have gone into exile, making the Iraqi refugee flow the largest in the history of the Middle East. Hopefully, our Christians will come to the defense of the followers of John the Baptist, who still live in Iraq but are keeping a low profile. At least those awful Muslims came to the defense of Egypt's Coptic Christians, who had been subjected to suicide bombers and police brutality. The Muslim community in Egypt provided thousands of people to act as human shields against further attacks on the Coptics as they celebrated their Christmas.

Common Cause is taking aim at Supreme Court Justices Fat Tony Scalia and Chuckles Thomas claiming both men have a conflict of interest in the Citizens United case because they attended and participated in the Koch Brothers secret campaign conferences. If it were proven that both men had a conflict of interest, then Citizens United would have to be tried again. My problem is how does the Supreme Court actually regulate conflict of interest issues among justices. We know Elena Kagan recused herself from a series of cases when she got on since she had argued the government's case as Solicitor General but what if she hadn't. What mechanism exists to ensure this aside from impeachment which never will happen?

Rachel Maddow continues to report on the Spokane Martin Luther King bomb. The FBI has said it was the most sophisticated device they have seen in the States. They also claimed its positioning was very professional and that the damage done would have been profound. Federal authorities are already talking about this as "domestic terrorism". White supremacist groups aiming to push for the secession of the Pacific Northwest have been commmenting on this but not claiming credit. We should look back at the Belfast, Maine "dirty nuke" case, which disappeared from the media. There a neo-Nazi, who actually collected Hitler's kitchenware, had all the ingredients for a dirty bomb in his basement. He was upset by the election of Barack Obama and wanted to set the bomb off around Washington,D.C. He was only captured because he had abused his wife once too often and she ratted him out. I would imagine if we probe deep enough in Spokane we'll find some of the white supremacists from Idaho involved.

Speaking of secessionists, the National Enquirer, which gained credibility by exposing the Edwards'affair, reports that Todd Palin may be canoodling with a massage therapist. That's what a member of the Alaska Independence Party might do.

Glenn Beck has returned to his bipolar form. After displaying a slight contrition on Tucson, he is warning the American public about a "Reichstag". Glenn, it already happened, the Republicans took the House.

Paul Ryan has been chosen to respond to President Obama's State of the Union Address. Ryan's Blueprint for America has been buried with all the new GOP craziness. If this surfaces,people will have a field day. Ryan blasted the CBO for actually costing out his Blueprint, which they said would run massive deficits for decades and render the United States a type of Albania. Ryan has been given the most power any Budget Chairman in the House has ever had. He has veto on any budget proposals submitted in the House and also by the Senate in any reconciliation. It should be interesting if he talks about his ideas to privatize Medicare, Social Security and raise taxes on the middle class. Trust me he won't.

Conservatives are panicking over the rise of China. Even Mitt Romney believes the United States has to increase its military spending to compete because "the Chinese army works for very small pay." Of course, Republicans might pass funding for high-speed railso we can compete with China in this and other areas. What is it about economic development that the New GOP doesn't understand?

Personally, I am very skeptical that China will surpass the American economy anytime soon. And I also do not believe they manage capitalism better. I don't believe China can maintain its growth rate at 8% for the foreseeable future, which they claim they need to. Also by the time they are scheduled to surpass our economy, they will have a greater percentage of elderly in their population than we would. What terrifies the Chinese is the prospect of internal instability and their own military strategy suggests that.

Yesterday the Chinese leader tried to reassure Americans that they are playing a mature role in the global system. He pointed to the issues of Iran,Afghanistan and economic issues where the United States and China are cooperating closely. While Americans should be concerned about human rights issues, the preponderance of concern here in Washington is that China is about to surpass us. First, we have to drum up the Islamophobia. Then we can generate the fear of the Yellow Peril. We don't have energy for both right now.

I found it ironic that the Uighurs demonstrated here in Washington against the Chinese government. Under the previous administration, the Uighurs ended up being tortured in Gitmo and interrogated by the Chinese. When President Obama started releasing them, Congress made sure they could not be repatriated to the United States, despite having host families volunteering to take care of them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Spending the day in the Senate office buildings gives you a different perspective on Washington. The reason no one thinks there are problems with Congress is that people come to work, they get paid and the service crews maintain the buildings and the restaurants. So what's the problem?

Every office now has large flat screen televisions. When I visited Democratic offices, there was CNN covering Hu's visit to the United States. You watched the welcoming ceremonies at Andrews, then at the White House and the press conference. There was even some but little discussion of the heavy agenda of economic issues. When I visited the Republican offices, there was FOX providing wall-to-wall coverage of the House repealing the Healthcare Bill. Then you have Ricky Cantor challenging Harry Reid to hold a straight up and down vote on the healthcare bill. Whatever happened to the GOP filibusters? Never mind.

Since the Senate samurai warlords had not come in town yet,there were murmurs that Kent Conrad, Joe Lieberman and Kay Baily Hutchinson were not going to run again. In fact, I got the sense that the GOP was gearing in 2012 to take-over the Senate and are writing off the White House.

But the two different media realities present all day suggests that we can actually have a political world basically divided in half. Even though the GOP only controls the House,through Fox News they can convey to the public what they do is actually reality. Obamacare is repealed. Even though it's not true, does it matter? Americans will believe it has been and then as the good stuff in Healthcare Bill takes hold,the GOP can claim that it would have been worse if they hadn't repealed it. And don't think that's not going to happen. Basically,the American public have been very slow in picking up the positive effect of the bill on their daily lives.

Gentleman John Boehner refused to attend the White House dinner for Hu. I guess this is to establish the dual reality. While the Obama Administration worked through a lengthy agenda with the Chinese, a bipartisan Congress attacked the Chinese for everything from human rights violations to its over-priced currency. I got the impression they were protesting too much. Even though President Obama pointed out that our economy is still three times bigger than China with fewer people,there is an anxiety about America's decline and that's showing up in the political rhetoric on both sides. John Bolton blasted HU as logical successor to Mao. That's worth a college seminar right there.

It's clear Hu knows to cosy up to President Obama and try to ignore the rest of Americans.

President Obama's presidency continues to go down in flames. His approval rate is now 53%, only 18 points higher than Ronald Reagan's at this point in his presidency. Obama has also overtaken congressional Republicans in terms of trust by 46-39. The majority of Americans now believe we are in an economic recovery. The majority now believe we will be better off in five years, a dramatic turnaround. But a plurality still believe we are in decline as a country. By 46-28% the American people believe that Obama's policies are helping the economy. A majority now believe that Obama has the right balance in reaching out to Republicans; while a majority feel that Republicans do not have the right attitute toward working with President Obama. 80% of Americans believe President Obama struck the right tone after Tucson. In short, President Obama has the wind at his back right now.

He's going to need it because the House will basically be trying his Administration for every policy. The health insurance industry and Big Pharma sat out the repeal of the healthcare. Maybe it's because they desparately need the individual mandate in order to remain in business. A Washington Post poll shows that only 18% of Americans supported a full repeal of healthreform. The Republican strategy of "Repeal and Replace" has been sidelined for now since the House GOP is fighting over the elements to be included in any replacement. Their problem is that they want to privatize everything--including Medicare--but do not want to pay any political price for this. I wager they will simply try to defund Obama's healthcare plan to show it failed and then propose something else in 2012.

Meanwhile "Grand Theft" Issa has begun his investigations into the Administration by focusing on the TARP program. Not only was this passed under George W, but the public never understood it but it sparked the teabagger revolt. Unfortunately, we aren't going to be able to understand anything from the investigation. By the time it concludes the program will have made money. So we have a reverse health bill, watch the sausage being unmade but then realizing the millions spent for the investigation was spent showing that Obama made a profit.

Since the GOP are depending on the House-Fox complex to determine political reality running up to the 2012 election,they should be warned that Fox News's credibility with independents has collapsed. So you can win a mid-term with your base but you can't win a general President election that way. The House-Fox complex emboldens the absolute crazies, who will now dominate the discussion in this alternate reality.

I'll give you an example. Who's a "race-baiter", an advocate of affirmative action,a person who doesn't have the least understanding of the principles underlying our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? Sounds like an attack on President Obama from the Right. Wrong. It is Jeb Bush. Mark Levin attacked Jeb Bush for his speech--a normal, vanilla talk on why Republicans should engage in outreach to the Hispanic community. Former Canadian Mark Levin, reknown expert on American constitutional principles,decides to launch an offense against immigrants, who, I guess, are unlike himself. Then we have Rush Limbaugh launch a Yellow Peril attack on Hu and make fun of Chinese accents. Meanwhile Yo-Yo Ma is entering the White House for dinner. Watch for a full-scale purge of Republicans not towing the Radical Right line.

So pick your reality. Because we are the empire, we make up our own reality. It's not an accident that the World Health Organization found that the United States had the highest percentage of people with mental disorders in the world. We're Number 1. U.S.A! U.S.A! Nearly 26% of us suffer from some mental disorder. That's roughly the number who have a high opinion of Sarah Palin and who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. Slightly more people believe that children played with dinosaurs, which is a primary requirement for a GOP presidential contender these days.

The Washington Post/ABC has a new poll on the leading GOP contenders for President. Mike Huckabee leads with 21%, Sarah Palin has 19%, Mitt Romney 17%, Newt Gingrich is at 9% and Christie 8%. PPP has a poll out showing Obama tops all of them. Obama is even ahead in all the swing states that went Republican in the last election.

After the State of the Union, President Obama is heading out to Wisconsin to unofficially start his own re-election campaign. Basically the calculus remains the same for Obama as 2008. The decisive line is from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.

Most observers think unemployment has to be down to 8% in 2012 to ensure Obama re-election. That may be a tough road to hoe. However, almost everything he is doing now is geared at generating jobs. As I wrote the other day, he is on target to surpass the job creation records of George W. Bush and G.H.W Bush--4 years out performing 12 years. Even still, that doesn't assure his re-election.

I don't get any sense that the big Republican operatives believe they can take Obama in 2012. Instead, they sense they can take the senate because so many Democrats are up for re-election. However, they claim among themselves that the teabaggers cost them the Senate this time. They blame Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado for their loss. But remember it was Karl Rove's job to win back the Senate. But he will never be blamed.