Friday, October 28, 2011

How Bad Is It?

So Bad,

++that John Podhoretz writes in the New York Post that the GOP presidential candidates actually start acting like they are candidates for the President of the ...United States.. of America and not entertainers.

++that David Frum. former George W. speechwriter, says that the GOP has totally burned its brand by obsessing about the poor not paying their taxes while advocating for more tax breaks for the rich.

++that Senator Lindsey Graham is so embarrassed by the 9% approval rating of Congress that he now claims he is a lawyer when he meets people. A lawyer--being better than a Senator. That's low.

++66% of those earning over $1 million a year actually do want their taxes raised.

++Mitch McConnell couldn't block the University of West Virginia from joining SEC 12 when he was lobbying for Louisville.

++Herman Cain has to slow his campaign and that Washingtonmonthly actually found he had five separate opin ions on abortion.

++Mitt Romney reversed his position on climate change again. Now he doesn't know whether humans are involved. This literally means that Mitt Romney has agreed with all your positions about anything within the last year.

++Ricky Cantor has persuaded 60 Minutes to do a segment on him to show he is human and a nice guy--really.

++Paul "Voucher Care" Ryan has expressed concern that the safety net is shrinking.

++The House Republican "jobs" plan last year led to the loss of 324,000 jobs.

++The House Republicans will work all of 109 days in 2012, something like 40% of normal Americans. But who would know?

++Former head of the KKK and Republican candidate for Louisiana Governor David Duke backed Occupy Wall Street.

++The AFL-CIO is actually using union pension funds for infrastructure projects because Congress will not approve any funding for our deteriorating infrastructure.

++Rick Perry is so bad at debating, he actually is going to skip a few debates and actually campaign instead.

++John Boehner actually rejected completely the Democrats plan for reducing the national debt by $3 trillion, which means he rejected Obama's $4 trillion plan and another as ambitious. He claims these measures are not serious. But doesn't have a clue about anything more serious.

++Ron Paul won't rule out a third party candidacy.

++ Occupy Wall Street has had more Google hits than the teabaggers.

++The Tea Party Nation petitioned Michelle Bachmann to withdraw from the GOP presidential race.

++Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson actually did get to New Hampshire and file for the Republican nomination for president.

++The Vatican endorsed Occupy Wall Street in a papal letter calling for reform of the global economic system.

++The House Republicans want to ensure the defeat of Obama's Jobs Plan because it would cut unemployment to a level below that when Obama took office by the date of the election. That is the long and short of it. Party uber alles.

++Karl Rove himself admitted to his Crossroads America staff that Occupy Wall Street was winning the political debate on the inequality of wealth in the country.

++Recent polls show that all the Republican freshman teabaggers are vulnerable in 2012 even with redistricting.

++The Hispanic Caucus called Marco Rubio a laughingstock and dismissed the problems he has over explaining how his family were economic refugees from Cuba. The Mexican-Americans said it didn't matter anyway because he didn't represent Hispanics.

++Republicans concede that Obama will retain the high percentage of support among black voters but say that it won't matter if they can't vote.

++GOP pollsters are actually concerned that the economic news from yesterday may indicate that the economy really is improving despite the Republicans best efforts to sabotage it.

++Under President Obama the private sector in the last 14 months has created 2.1 million jobs,twice the number of all jobs created under George W. Bush for his entire term of office. Naturally, no one will tell you about this.

++that President Obama's sagging approval rating is 5--that's right 5 times the approval rating of Congress.

++Washington is going to have a snow storm as I have to drive to Ohio.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Nasty Will The 2012 Elections Be?

Asked how low and mean Rick Perry will go, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said,"he'll make your television bleed and you'll have to beg for mercy."

Rick Perry has retrenched his faltering campaign by hiring W's 2000 campaign manager and staffers from the failed Dole campaign. His own fund-raising efforts include the interesting proliferation of maximum donations from children of older Perry donors. And his Super Pac, legally to be unconnected to his campaign, is married to it through personnel. But Perry is dropping like a rock in the polls.

He claims he may actually sit out one of the debate because it's unlikely he will get any better. And he is playing with the birther issue, which he admitted was a distraction. But it was actually a shrew move because he's only interested in the primaries and hinting at the birther issue gives the nutballs on the base something to cheer about. While economists have blasted his flat tax proposal, others have pointed out that it wasn't concocted to be realistic or please experts, it was to appeal to conservatives and the wealthy. Steve Forbes, who ran in 1996 on the flat tax, is crowing that Perry will be the nominee.

Perry can campaign in the gutter. He once ran against an Hispanic Texan billionaire and by the end of the race he made Texans believe the man had killed drug dealers because he was in a rival gang. None of this was true but he loves negative. So if he's the nominee, expect to hear things about President Obama that will defy belief.

Herman Cain is now the putative frontrunner, even though he has no organization or money. Gallup says that he has actually accomplished the miraculous--becoming a household name within the shortest time in polling records. While people think of him as the Godfather Pizza man, he actually had been a lobbyist and had worked for the Americans for Prosperity afterwards. Almost the entire last years of Cain's career has been funded by the Koch brothers. Recently he hired a number of Americans for Prosperity staffers for the campaign. The question is whether there can actually be an astroturf candidate without grassroots support. On policy issues, Cain just wavers and fails to connect but no one actually cares. Karl Rove keeps pronouncing Cain dead b ut then again Karl missed our Witch Lady O'Connell in Delware.

The Newt has risen from the dead in polls and may actually get into the top 3 by the time of the early primaries. Newt is now benefiting from his chiding other candidates for bickering in the debates and showing Republican division. Newt still has his religious Right network available in Iowa once Michelle Bachmann officials exits the scene.

Bishop Willard Romney remains the actual front-runner. But it is astonishing that a man who has been running for over 6 years for President still only hits 23-24% of the Republican vote. This appears to be his ceiling, making him the weakest frontrunner that I can remember. Willard now changes his positions every other day, not just from the 1990s. His strange reversal of positions in Ohio over the union-busting law not only cost him conservative voters, including organizations who back him, but only emphasized his absolute political opportunism. By now, the Democrats can not even exhaust the number of issues Romney has reversed himself on--recently or even decades ago. Even his statement in Nevada, which has the highest foreclosures in the country, that foreclosures should be accelerated for private investors contradicts his statements on Bush's program to bail out underwater homeowners. Romney attacked Obama for declaring the Iraq war over. One wonders whether he will urge re-invading Iraq. With the rise of the occupy Wall Street movement, Romney's own wealth and the way he made his money has now been brought into focus and it is a net negative. But Romney is known as a vicious, nasty businessman by his peers and colleagues and his attacks in the general election will be through surrogates.

Conservatives are beginning to panic again. Already the American Spectator is running trial balloons for a Bobby Jindal candidacy since he just overwhelmingly won re-election as Lousiana's governor. Billy Kristol won't accept that the race is filled and wants Paul Ryan of couponcare fame as a candidate. That's all the Republicans need--reminding everyone of the House's budget plan which would have ended Medicare as we know it and plunge the nation deeper and deeper in debt. But the concern is real.

The nasty stuff is being acted out at the state level. The Voter suppression efforts in states from Florida to Wisconsin are aimed at core constituencies of the Democrats--minorities, labor and students. Basically write-off all the nonsense in Huffington Post about Obama losing support in key constituencies. He's not. It's just whether they will be allowed to vote. Ironically as Tunisia boasted a trunout of about 90%, the United States is obsessed with shrinking the electorate. And the Republicans are heavily banking on their Super Pacs of anonymous contributions to level the playing field with the Obama campaign and the Democrats. But as Karl Rove honestly stated in his memo to the staff of Crossroads America, the arguments of the Occupy Wall Street movement are winning the political argument and putting the Republicans on the defensive. Then if you run Mr. Fat Cat himself, Mitt Romney, you have a delicious target.

The conservatives' ideological war against unions is aimed at eliminating a funding base for the Democratic Party. But they have a serious problem with the backlash against this. Firefighters, the Police and Teamsters have historically leaned Republican. And , as I noted before, 1 million members of the NEA are also Republicans. The frontal assault on these unions have dramatically turned this tide so that the so-called Reagan democrats, the blue-collar worker, has been forcibly thrown out of the Republican Party by the conservatives who won in 2010. They are not coming back this election and maybe not for a long time.

In my opinion, the Republicans have lost the national security debate. President Obama enjoys high 70% approval ratings for his war against terrorism. As Andrew Sullivan remarked after the fall of Gaddafi, if Obama were a Republican he would be on Mount Rushmore by now. On this issue, the Republicans can only go negative.

Let's say the economy just poops along as it is and unemployment hits about 8% by the time of the election. Does anyone really believe any of the Republicans would have done better? Remember FDR won re-election with a higher unemployment, and Reagan won re-election with high unemployment. If the economy shows --let's say--3% growth rate next year, what becomes the compelling reason for voting republican, when all their economic programs currently call for vastly increasing taxes on the middle class. Some pundit said that the GOP has gone from Santa Clause to Scrooge.

So then the election has to be cast on ideological grounds. Is it time to dismantle the social safety net and shrink government? Should government really become so intrusive on social issues? And there I have no idea how the game would play out. The Republicans, which depend on the religious Right, will have to kowtow to their agenda and someone like Romney would have to place a firebreather on the ticket like McCain with Sarah Palin to excite the base.

So far, there is no there there. Which in my book means you have to go down mean and vile. Rick Perry has won all his elections be destroying his opponents' approval rating, not raising his. I think the GOP will have to get really in the dirt on this election.

The Obama Boom

So the DOW inches to 12,000 and the economy grew by 2.5% last quarter and we are now experiencing modest signs of re-sourcing, American companies bringing their manufacturing units back to the United States.

Think about this. We had the debt ceiling debacle and probably will have again, constant rhetoric about a double dip recession, and constant Republican obstructionism in Congress. And yet, the GDP is now at slightly above the peak level before the recession. Now the GDP took a 7% fall in 2008, a figure grossly underestimated at the time. But here we are back at the same stage we were before the collapse of the global economic system.

That doesn't mean more shouldn't be done. The Democrats on the Super Commission yesterday offered a debt reduction package which would cut $4.5 trillion for the national debt. Add to that the 1.25 trillion from the debt deal this summer and you surpass the "grand bargain" offered by President Obama to John Boehner. Will it go through? No, because Republicans want to cut more taxes and not add to revenues.

This morning it was announced that the Eurozone would cut Greece's debt in half and pony up $1.5 trillion to back up the Euro. The outlook for Europe is slower growth and a restriction on lending because of the requirements bank must keep added cash on hand.

So maybe we are heading where Evans-Pritchard said earlier in the week. Back on top. Critics of his article point to the rise of other developing countries to rival the United States and that America will not be the dominate country in this century. But then no one else will be and the famed multipolar world of Henry Kissinger's will be a reality but not at the expense of America's decline.

This is even more interesting when you consider that America's trust in its institutions is at their lowest point in polling history. Congress now nets a whopping 9% approval rating, while the Supreme Court has dipped to the mid-40s. It's no wonder that President Obama now refers to the "Republican Congress", since the Senate is hamstrung by GOP filibusters despite a Democratic majority. The President himself is clunking along in the low to mid-40s but still ahead of his Republican rivals at this stage of the political game.

But let's say Evans-Pritchard was right about our energy and fuel self-sufficiency in five years. What does that mean? Basically, it eliminates the so-called national interest in having troops in the Middle East, with the exception of special forces to fight terrorist groups. The fantasy of Dick Cheney's "energy empire" is gone. There is no need for it. President Obama's overly generous assistance to Israel, in my opinion, makes sense if you see the strengthening of Israel as a logical consequence of our retrenchment in the Middle East. Paradoxically, this also diminishes the chance of any Israel-Palestinian solution in the near term.

But it's doubtful that we will hear any of this discussed by our political leaders. Willard Romney basically has said that America's global military presence is "desired by our major corporations." That I want to explore at a later date. And President Obama himself will only trim the military and not explore a total retrenchment, even during a second term.

But if the United States made sensible decisions, its future would be secure. But the grave doubts remain about the ideological warfare among the political parties and the rise of repressive elements in our own culture.

Monday, October 24, 2011

U.SA! U.S.A.! U.S.A!

So Pat Buchanan has written his last political will with his new book that says the United States will not last as a superpower after 2025, which coveniently is at the end of Pat's life expectancy. We've all read how China is going to have a larger economy within a decade and will fill in the power vaccuum left by the declining United States. I wrote last year how global warming was going to make Canada a leading superpower.

But hold the phone. Conservative British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pitchard, the international business editor of the London Telegraph, writes today that the American phoenix is slowly rising again and will be well on its way to energy self-suffiency in fuel and energy within five years and its manufacturing will have closed the labor gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus. Evans-Pitchard has always been a fan of the United States but his article today is worth mentioning.

Yesterday, President Obama handed out the Presidential Medals for Science, Technology and Innovation to over a dozen American scientists who have revolutionized their fields from energy to pharmaceuticals to genetics. He indicated that his administration has been accelerating scientific breakthroughs so that the United States might continue to lead the world. A pretty anodyne presentation but it continues a theme of our Geek-in-Chief. Sprinkled over the American landscape are these new innovations--wind energy farms around Ohio and Pennsylvania, breakthroughs in the cost of solar energy, and revolutions in medical science to cure diseases.

So with unemployment at 9% and the mood of America sour, it's worth pointing out that the declinists might well be wrong.

Evans-Pitchard notes that the shale gas revolution has already turned America into the world's number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia. he is also a big fan of hydrualic fracking--breaking rocks with jets of water--which will bring a quantum leap in shale oil suply from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Incredibly, the United States meets 72 percent of its own oil needs, which is up from 50% a decade ago.

As I've written, during the Obama administration there are more operating oil and gas wells that at any time since Baker-Hughes started keeping records. The Dakota fields alone are compared to a new North Sea. The result is that the United States was the single largest contributor to the global oil supply growth last year with a net of 395,000barrels per day.

Evans-Pitchard claims that US shale output is set to expand dramatically possibly reaching 5.5 million barrels per day by mid-decade. This would be a tenfold increase since 2009.

The implications of this are very large for geopolitics, energy security and historical military alliances. As the United States's reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, it will be Europe which becomes more heavily dependent on the area.

Meanwhile, the great China-US seesaw is about to swing back our way. Offshoring , which has been such a political issue here is the states, is becoming "re-inshoring". "Made in America, Again", a report by a Boston Consulting group, contends that Chinese wage inflation running about 16% per year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the 'default location" for cheap plants supplying the United States.

Financial analysts claim the "tipping point" is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals and even furniture.

As the gap in "productivity-adjusted wages" narrows, add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy and the advantage shifts back to the United States. The list of "repatriates" is growing all the time. Boston Consulting expects up to 800,000 manufacturing jobs to return to the United States by mid-decade, with a multiplier effect creating 3.2 million in total.

Evans Pitchard indicates that the over-valued Euro led to an increase of foreign investment into the United States by 5%. Volkswagen, Korea's Samsung have already invested over $25 billion in the States. More importantly,Intel, GM, Caterpillar and other American firms are staying put. Ironically, China by trying to reduce its dollar supplies rotated a chunk of its $10 trillion stash into EU bonds so that the Euro remains too strong for half the Euro Community.

Evans-Pritchard claims that the American recovery will grind on and it will be by no means healthy as fiscal policy is tightened and it slowly purges itself of debt. But he says that the United States retains a pack of trump cards, not the least of which are 16 out of the world's top twenty universities. Strangely the United States is the only global economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0, which means it has the ability to outgrow debt in shapr contrast to the demographic decay waiting Japan, China, korea, Germany, Italy and Russia. And, of course, contrary to Ron Paul and many Republicans we have a real central bank able to back-stop the system.

Evans-Pitchard suggests that the 21st Century may be American after all, notwithstanding Pat Buchanan's laments.

In reading this article, one would hope that the U.S. Congress would see fit to pass the funding for infrastructure, which is desparately needed. In addition to education, this is one of the missing pieces to make the American Phoenix a reality.

One wonders why no Americans are writing articles like this. It seems to me a big deal that we are close to energy self-sufficiency now with all that implies.

the Week That Was

++ Governor Rick Perry has gone birther after meeting with Donald Trump. Birther Queen Orly Taitz now endorses Perry. Perry picked up a serious endorsement with Steve Forbes.

++Michelle Bachmann's campaign staff in New Hampshire quit.

++One of the coolest things I've heard. Jon Huntsman boycotted the Las Vegas debate and stayed in New Hampshire. What did he do? He listened to Trout Mask Replica by the great Captain Beefheart. Huntsman is a real Beefheart fan. Naturally, this disqualifies him from the race.

++Herman Cain still has no real organization in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. He has hired a former Dole staffer to help "professionalize" his Iowa operation. Since these primaries are virtually tomorrow in our political life, some pundits are raising questions whether Cain is actually running for President at all.

++Willard Romney has been demoted from being the Republican John Kerry to its Michael Dukakis as George Will ripped into him on a Sunday Talk Show. Willard seems to have walked into more problems in the Republican primaries. His Massachusetts Health reform did allow for the treatment of illegal aliens, compounding his lawn service problem. Republicans are wondering why none of Romney's many sons ever enlisted in the military. And Romney claims he may or may not be for the Fair Tax.

++Frothy Mix Santorum announced that President Obama lost the war in Iraq because we're leaving while Iran has enormous influence over the country. Rick said in 2005, when Iran had about the same influence, that we could have left then.

++Mitt Romney said that we should have heard from our military about leaving Iraq, tending to forget the commander-in-chief is in command of our military--at least until the 1% demand total control.

++Lindsey Graham, who is against President Obama's plan to rebuild the American infrastructure, is enthusiastically for rebuilding Libya's infrastructure. Lindsey was fairly effusive about the ability of the United States to make money in the newly liberated country.

++His sidekick, John McCain announced that military operations would soon begin in Syria, conveniently forgetting that he isn't President.

++The money the United States paid "Mookie" Al Sadar for a temporary ceasefire during the Iraq War was equivalent to the sum of funds for Planned Parenthood this year. Funds unaccounted for is $70 billion. The direct cost of the war was $1.25 trillion and it is estimated that the war will ultimately cost $3-5 trillion, taking into account the costs of medical treatment for the over 42,000 American soldiers wounded in the conflict.

++Senator Mitch McConnell continued his streak of filibusters, first killing the American Jobs Act in the Senate and the second bill to restore funding for teachers and firefighters. McConnell said his job was not to employ teachers, firefighters and policemen. But then again, it would be nice to just have an up and down vote on the issue--something the Minority Leader refuses to do.

++President Obama has gone from "Pass This Bill" to "We Can't wait Any Longer". The President, who knew the Republicans would never pass the Jobs Bill, has now taken to using his executive powers to stimulate the economy. Over the next two weeks, he will be anouncing a series of single measures from refinancing mortgages to suspending payments on student loans to tweek the economy.

++President Obama's approval rating ,according to Gallup, is 44%. The kicker is that his likeability rate is over 55%. It was the second number that provided George W. Bush with his 2004 re-election as his job approval rating sagged. With the DOW nearing 12,000, you would have made 50% on your money during Obama's term. It's a little hard to understand the animosity of the 1% towards the President, when he pulled their chestnuts out of the fire.

++the Occupy Wall Street Movement has now gone to Tehran, Iran and China has censored news of the movement for fear of a similar homegrown movement. Subcommadante Marcos of the Zapatistas has endorsed it and Sean Lennon was captured on Youtube serenading the protestors. Arrests of thousands continued around the country. In Maine, someone threw a chemical bomb at the Occupy Portland protesters.

++The House continued to pass laws that restrict abortion, even though they have no relevance to Planet Earth. So far, the House has a perfect record in not introducing any bills that would lead to any job creation. Remember the mantra of John Boehner "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs". Well, he doesn't seem like he's gotten around to it yet. There are only a few more weeks until this session of Congress ends until next year.

++Rating agencies have threatened another downgrade in the U.S. rating because the Secret Committee, which is supposed to reach an agreement to cut the national debt, is deadlocked since Republicans will not include any new revenues for the government. So the discussion now centers on cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and entitlement programs for veterans. Both sides refuse to cut any defense spending even though in real terms defense spending has doubled since 1999.

++ The U.S. Treasury is in discussions with Wall Street about issuing another type of security that would guarantee the American debt. The Idea is that the security would automatically reflect the interest rates as they go higher. The FED also is expected to engage in another round of easing to avoid another recession.

++ There are strange signs in the economy that there are gradual improvements. Car sales are up, housing starts are up dramatically but only for rental units, and manufacturing still continues to grow. There are modest gains in retail sales. Taken together, they don't indicate a roaring recovery but may pay off in a few months.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Iraq War Is Over if You Want It*

*John and Yoko

President Obama announced that the last American combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq in December as required by the Force Status Agreement between the United States and Iraq. Previously, President Obama had proposed keeping about 20,000 troops in Iraq for training purposes if the Iraqis agreed. The coalition government of Iraq could not agree and they wouldn't give American troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. That was the deal breaker and President Obama agreed to end our presence on the date agreed to.

After skulking about on the killing of Gaddafi, all the Republican candidates for President unanimously opposed President Obama's actions and voiced concern that all the "progress" made in Iraq would vanish and all our blood and treasure would have been wasted. Senator McCain and Graham led the charge in the Congress. This leads the way to "Who Lost Iraq?" being raised in the presidential election. And it will also lead to "Who cares?"

John Bolton tried to explain to Greta Van Sistern of Fox how President Obama blew the negotiations with Iraq and should have put more pressure on Maliki to agree for our troops to remain. To her credit, Greta fired back that the original withdrawal date had been signed by George W. Bush. Bolton then said that Bush should never have signed that agreement.

President Obama campaigned on leaving Iraq and in fact drew criticism from his left flank when he agreed to stay until now. The best the Republicans can come up with is that Iran threatens Iraq. But Iran threatened Iraq when we invaded and subsequently gained enormous infuence in the U.S.-backed government. All this pre-dates President Obama.

President Obama's press conference also included his national security team who talked about on-going security agreements with Iraq and foreign assistance. Where I found them gilding the lilly were their boasts about the new flood of investments in the country. The Obama team also noted that all relevant members of Congress on both sides of the aisle had been informed about the present date for withdrawal and America's on-going relationship with Iraq. There was also a video conference between President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki where the Iraqi thanked the American people for their sacrifice in liberating the country.

I guess the Republicans will run on re-invading Iraq, one of the least popular policy decisions in American history. Reporters fanned out across the country to get the reaction from the Armed Forces. All the reports were ecstatic with expressions of jubilation. Military families said this would allow them to plan their lives without the endless tours of duties and the upheaval on their families. There were no dissenting views among the rank and file about whether we should withdraw or not. It's clear from our military that we are out of there.

While in Ohio, I was thinking that President Obama now has a better counter-terrorism record than his two predecessors combined. In 2 1/2 years, he has done more damage to terrorist networks than those in the previous 16 years. Will that benefit his re-election? I doubt it. But it raises the interesting question whether Republicans can be trusted with national security. Historically their strong point,it is clear that President Obama is head and shoulders above them in this area. One Washington pundit argued that if the Republicans win in 2012, they should keep President Obama to handle foreign policy and defense.

It should be remembered that President Obama took immense heat as candidate when he proposed withdrawing from Iraq. It was one of the issues that provided him his win. He made his promise and he has kept it. Contrary to the Republican critics, I think it is a very, very good thing when America upholds its commitments. The country owes President Obama a debt of gratitude for extracting us from this ill-conceived war fought for reasons that proved to be fantasies of people who never fought in any wars yet constantly advocate more wars for the United States.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi Raptured

Muammar Gaddafi was killed today in his hometown of Sirte, leaving a single son alive in the Libyan desert. This week the TNC , the governing council, expressed alarm that Gaddafi had been recruiting African mercenaries to create an insurgency against the new government. But this was not to be . The actual details about his death are still murky because of early reports that he had been wounded and taken alive. While problems exist for the new Libyan government galore,the death of a man who ruled his country for 40 years was met with celebration. "The Shadow of tyranny had been lifted," as President Obama said.

While it was a day for Libyans, it also marked another quiet triumph for Predsident Obama's foreign policy, except in Washington you would never know it. President Obama had gambled on the Libyan mission much more than people recognized and he summoned a broad international coalition in support of the mission in breakneck speed and gained approval from the United Nations Security Council. He based the intervention in Libya on the humanitarian grounds of the Right to Protect. This triggered severe criticism from Republicans in the House and they were even discussions of impeachment. As American allies were given command of the operation, Republicans blasted President Obama for leading from behind. And there were grumbles that the United States wasn't putting ground troops on the ground. Mitt Romney even accused Obama of appeasing Colo. Gaddafi, ignoring the relationship the last administration had worked out with the dictator, even forgiving him for the Lockerbie bombing. The most severe critics were Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, who doubted the strategy of leading from behind would work.

Today should have been a time when President Obama's strategy was vindicated. The cost of the Libyan intervention was $1 billion and there were no American casualties and Libyans have ownership now in their own revolution unlike the Iraqis.

But of course, this was not to be. Senator Marco Rubio praised the French and the Italians and the Libyans but complained that President Obama had acted too late. Senator Grassley complained that President Obama acted six weeks too late. Senator McCain grudgingly complimented the Obama Administration but saved his praise for our allies and the Libyans. Mitt Romney said it was about time that Gaddafi had been killed, implying President Obama was somehow at fault on this score.

Eli Lake, a conservative columnist for Newsweek, tweeted,"The Birth Certificate President accomplished what Reagan and Bush did not: He killed Qaddafi and Bin Laden." Andrew Sullivan, a wayward conservative who is supportive of President Obama, tweeted," Killing bin Laden,Al-Awalki and Gaddafi in six months,if he were a Republican, Obama would now be on Mount Rushmore."

In an earlier briefing in the day to NBC news, Obama national security advisers on background commented that since May 1, the administration had eliminated more terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and like-minded groups than during all the days of the so-called war on terror.

President Obama spoke from the White House earlier in the day when he declared to the Libyan people, "You have won your revolution." He also outlined the next steps in creating a democratic system stressing a true democracy would be the best revenge on Gaddafi . He also urged the Libyan government to respect human rights, even for those they have detained. He also expressed condolences to American families who had lost relatives in Gaddafi terrorism in the past.

Whether Americans like it or not and there is a great deal of concern expressed by Republicans about the Arab Spring, citizens of northern Africa and the Middle East feel a type of ownership of the process of change. Direct American intervention has not produced the same in Iraq or Afghanistan. President Obama is owed alot of credit for understanding this basic fact and supporting change without a heavy hand. Ironically, this is the divide with Republicans on national security. Lingering in the GOP is still the idea that the United States can unilaterally dictate the terms of change to the world. It was true then and it is not true now.

But also there is a notion that change wasn't necessary because many of these dictators were already friends with the United States even if they brutally treated their citizens.

Ironically,as President Obama is cleaning up the Middle East neighborhood of terrorist threats and dictators, the GOP's number 1 hero Bibi Netanyahu has successfully negotiated with Hamas and prisoner release exchange of 1,000 Palestinians for 1 Israeli. This deal got all the Presidential candidates in a knot at the Las Vegas debate. Would you negotiate with terrorists? After all that's what their number 1 strategic ally did and at great disadvantage to Israel.

There will be countless op-eds on Obama's strategy and endless Monday morning quarterbacking. Today, let's just appreciate that it worked, it didn't cost anything and no Americans were killed.

Now if the President has been so successful in foreign policy, could you imagine what he could do in domestic policy if his hands were tied by the GOP and their filibusters?

And no folks, the President's policy is not a continuation of Bush's or the fantasies of the neo-conservatives. Only yesterday Bill Kristol and his new neoconservative front published a scree that Obama was appeasing Tehran over the latest terrorist plot and had done nothing against Terhran's nuclear threat or support democratic change in that country. In fact, both things are untrue and President Obama has racheted up sanctions and pressure on the nuclear issue by demanding the release of data from the IEA about Iran's plans to weaponize enriched uranium. Of course, he might think about his options unlike his critics

They might persuade a gullible public about President Obama's weakness in national security but he has already surpassed both of his immediate predecessors in this department. He could do even more if the House doesn't cut foreign assistance and continue to erode our influence in the world.

I expect the next change will come in Yemen and that Syria will be more diffcult because Russia and China are opposed to any moves by the UN Security Council.

A surprise change may come in Venezuela with the death of Hugo Chavez.

But for tonight, we have to say there are no flies on President Obama. No Drama Obama can tgake the 3 O'clock phone call, his Republican competitors can not. And that's the truth.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mormon Tossing In Las Vegas--The GOP Debate

The fifth debate in six weeks was like a bad reality show. Who was going to be voted off the island? I guess the strategy of the GOP is to make the debates so bad that you start to sympathize with the participants.

The crowd at the Adelson casino was composed of Romney supporters bussed in from surrounding states. The heavily Mormon crowd were white senior citizens rooting for their Boston Bishop. But Willard got his hair mussed last night. The pundits this morning gave Romney a win and suggested he looked presidential. But I disagree. I think Romney's slick facade was exposed and his temper tantrum with Rick Perry revealed a vain man, who believes he's entitled to the Presidency. Once a layer of the facade is torn off, the slickness on economic issues frays also. It's fascinating to see that once the balloon is punctured on one issue his whole persona melts away. In a general election, I hope the Obama campaign has the good sense to realize this about Romney.

About Herman Cain. It doesn't really matter that Cain's 9-9-9 plan is nuts or that he changes his position on negotiating for terrorists. Cain makes his living as a motivational speaker. His speaking fees will climb after this campaign. As Ed Rollins pointed out yesterday, Cain has no organization and no fund-raising capability and has not appeared in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina on an actual campaign stop. These places can only be won by retail politics. As Rollins pointed out, it is the benefit to the Romney campaign to keep Cain in the race as long as possible to siphon off votes from Rick Perry. So Herman can say whatever he thinks and it doesn't matter if he contradicts himself.

Last night Newt Gingrich let the cat out of the bag about healtcare reform. He started to attack Romneycare and then Romney responded that he got the idea of the individual mandate from Newt. Rather than dodge the issue, Newt accurately explained that the individual mandate ,which conservatives call socialist in the Obama legislation, really was a conservative idea proposed by the Heritage Foundation.

Rick, ole Frothy Mix, Santorum went after Romney all night, especially on the issue of Mitt being a fake conservative. Rick outlined his own campaigns over the years and compared his conservatism to Romney as a liberal, Romney as a moderate. It was obnoxious but effective.

Rick Perry actually showed up last night mean and nasty and somewhat articulate. His mean and nastiness actually goes over well in Republican circles. With expectations very low, Perry actually surpassed even those and has launched himself back into second. Perry scored repeatedly on Mitt, even when he has his facts wrong.

Rick Perry tried to go after Romney for hiring illegal immigrants to do his lawn. This was tried by Rudy Guilani in the last election and flopped. This time Perry forced Romney to hang himself in one pithy quote. "I told my lawn service not to use illegal immigrants because I was running for office, for Pete's sakes." Now how many average voters have a lawn service and Romney was only against it because of appearances. The soundbite is devastating.

Romney got petulent and tried to pull rank on the other candidates, even scolding them for interrupting his answer. It was a perfect set piece of noblesse oblige. The day's story about Romney's authoritarian rule as Mormon bishop in Boston was reinforced by Romney trying to play Alpha Male. He even got in the Space with Rick Perry touching him on the shoulder. At moments he got red-faced and his hair even got mussed up.

When Romney says he has spent his whole adult life in business, you automatically think that it's because he lost so many elections and has been running forever. It's not for a lack of trying. It's like when he goes after Rick Perry for being the campaign manager in the 1980s for Al Gore, your response is not how horrible for Rick Perry; it's you are reminded that what you didn't like about Al Gore is the same thing you don't like about Mitt Romney--rich, white guy who feels entitled.

People like David Gergen believe Mitt Romney won the debate and was a smooth customer. The Democratic National Committee believe Romney had his worst week campaigning. This statement was largely based on Romney's interview with a nevada paper where he says that the foreclosure process should be speeded up so that private investors can buy up the homes. This was said in the state with the largest number of foreclosures. A retail politician, he's not.

But I think you can replay last night's debate and see the optics of Romney's possible destruction. It's like watching fight films to spot vulnerabilities. He actually does get flustered when asked repeatedly to defend himself. He can not hide his privileged life no matter how hard he tries. At the Microsoft speech the other day, he made a lame joke about trying to recruit the CEO the other year and saying that it would have met that person would have a few million in his pocket. The joke was that the CEO had many millions more than if he joined Bain Capital. But the audience just stared at Romney as some space alien.

Romney would have a tough time in a debate where facts matter. I don't have the energy and desire to list all his factual blunders and his misrepresentation of his own so-called economic plan.

One thing struck me was that Romney thinks that the United States should cut its foreign aid, which is a miniscule part of the federal budget, and keeps our country having some influence abroad. At the same time, he thinks China should vastly increase its foreign aid. This is the man who last week wanted to have a trade war and previously in the year a real war with China. So Romney now believes the United States should have less influence in the world than China. From other candidates, you can expect this type of nonsense but from some one actually running forever to be President.

The next debate is going to be about foreign policy. I shudder.

One thing became clear was that Rick Perry can bang Romney around for months. he has the financial capacity and has the style of debating. He may not win but he can create alot of damage.

It's clear that Rick Perry has a fatigue issue in debates. His back operation clearly took more out of him. He was on for most of the debate but started to fade near the end. But he did keep himself hydrated throughout, which he had not done before.

Whether any independent or moderate got anything out of these debates is doubtful. The actual economy went by the boards and no one suggested that the United States had to do anything different for the 21st Century. And there were no new ideas about anything. It was as entertaining as mud-wrestling and as informative.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

America AWOL

The challenge tonight if you plan on watching the GOP presidential debate is to ascertain whether any of the characters say anything that resembles reality as you know it and whether any of them can say anything that makes any sense for a wealthy country that pretends to be the leader of the world in the 21st century.

Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on the Morning Joe show the other day and followed up on his 2009 statement on the same show that the disparity of wealth in this country and around the world would destabilize our political system. In the wake of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, Zbig focused his attention on the accumulation of vast wealth by people who basically speculate in the global market. Zbig's point is not that people get extraordinarily wealthy but that even the most intelligent person can't figure out how they did it.

He pointed to how fast the global economy moves, while our political system can not catch up. He suggested that Americans should put pressure to have the hedge fund managers reveal their wealth and also the location of their wealth. He complained that he has often been boating with the wealthy and noted that all their boats are registered in places like the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. His point was that these people and CEOs of global corporations have no inherent patriotism or feelings of any social responsibility. One of the other quests mentioned a conversation he had with a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who told him " we have no country" and did not feel constrained to pay executives any less thasn the fortunes they are.

Another issue Zbig brought up was the notable lack of absence around the world at various roundtables or regional meetings about the global economy. While no country has made a move to exert leadership, countries are basically waiting for the United States to get its act together. There is a widespread perception that are our political system is broken and that our Congress is clueless about international policy.

Zbig lamented the total absence of any foreign policy ideas by the Republican candidates and remarked that all of them were just repeating slogans that appealed to a base that was thoroughly ignorant about the requirements of the United States to be a major international player. Zbig also criticized the current administration for forfeiting international leadership by not proposing a new way toward Middle East Peace when the President addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Let's pretend that the Gallup unemployment report is somewhat accurate. Surprisingly it suggests that unemployment by the end of October will really be 8.3%. Also, let's pretend that the European apocalypse will not happen. And let's really go far out and suggest something of President Obama's Jobs Bill will actually be enacted. All this would mean is that the United States had leveled out. But where does it go from here?

I've surveyed the policy papers and platforms of the conservative think tanks and have found nothing that suggests any fine-tuning of foreign policy ideas. In fact, they are more retrograde than even the George W. Bush period. On economic policy, I believe both conservatives and liberals are now reflectively advocating their old agendas without any notion of the challenges of the future.

What I also find amazing is that all the economic programs being pushed by the GOP candidates as well as Congressional Republicans would actually balloon the deficit to untenable levels, while virtually gutting the social safety net. There is no more pretense of concern about the deficit, except to whip the President. Mitt Romney's economic position would be even more massive transfer of wealth to the .3% and a staggering increase of $2 trillion to the defense budget with no visible means to pay for this. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan would increase taxes on the poor and the middle class and run up $11 trillion in new national debt over 8 years. Ron Paul's plan to cut $1 trillion in the first year of his plan would end government as we know it and plunged us into a Greater Depression.

That's not to say the Democrats are the solution. They will preserve the safety net. They will cut the national debt somewhat. And so far their plans would cut about 1 percent off the unemployment rate. But we have heard no real plans for the future of the American economy. Democrats would stop the bleeding but we still have not heard how we are to cope with the uncertainty in the world financial markets.

Zbig urged that an effort be made to start educating Americans about the international situation before we are drowned by our own wilfuly ignorance. He suggested our political system must be reformed to deal with the rapid-fire responses of the global economy.

Watch tonight if anyone has any ideas.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Elouise Cobell, 1945-2011, Winner of the Indian Trust Case

Born on the Blackfeet Reservation, Elouise Cobell was the great granddaughter of Mountain Chief, one of the legendary Indian leaders of the West. For 15 years, Cobell pursued the case on behalf of more than 500,000 Indian people who were due royalties from the federal government dating back over a century for the use of their lands. Finally in 2009, the federal government settled for more than $3.4 billion, one of the largest class-action settlements in the country's history. When he signed the settlement law in 2010, President Obama said it "closes a long and unfortunate chapter in our history."

But like so many of the beneficiaries, Elouise Cobell died waiting for the money to be distributed. Earlier this month, a federal judge allowed appeals of the settlement to move forward. Cobell argued forcefully against such appeals because many beneficiaries were elderly and that others had already died without seeing their money returned.

Cobell and his husband operated a working ranch in Montana and founded the first Land trust in Indian Country. She served as co-chair of Native American Bank and was the treasurer for the Blackfeet Indian Nation for 13 years. She received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2007 and was given an International Women's Forum Award in 2002. She received honorary doctorate degrees from Dartmouth College and Montana State University.

President Obama issued a statement expressing his and Michelle's sadness about Cobell's death. President Obama pointed to her courageous fight on the Indian Trust case and noted that the settlement law he signed also created a scholarship fund to give more Native Americans access to hgher education and tribes more control over their own lands.

U.S. Senior District Judge Thomas F. Hogan at a hearing on the settlement said of Elouise Cobell ,"She has accomplished more for the individual, I think, Native American than any other person recently in history."

Her passing is a loss both for Indian Nation as well as the United States as a whole. Her persistance on the Trust case and the basic endurance during years of stonewalling and delay by the United States Government was incredible. Watching this case over the years was like watching paint dry--except that you never knew if it would dry. And as we see with the appeals, it still ain't over.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Get Rapture Ready--New Date--The Week That Was

Harold Camping predicts that rapture will occur on October 21. He had miscalculated about the May date. He promises that the upheavel and the end of the world will be gentler this time.

The Republican fund-raising numbers have come in and they reveal some stark realities for some of the presidential candidates. Newt is now in debt for $1 million. Jon Huntsman is down to $2.2 million in the bank. Herman Cain, the new media sensation, only has $1 million in the bank. Michelle Bachmann may not even make it to Iowa. And Rick Santorum is registering on the cash register.

The big winners are Rick Perry, who exceeded Mitt Romney, in only a few weeks of fund-raising and has most of it in the bank. Mitt Romney's quarter totals reveal he is picking up Wall Street support but has very few small donors. Campaign analysts say his burn rate is not that bad but seems excessive when we are in the primaries yet. In comparison President Obama raised three times Romney's amount, with no primary opponent, and is close to 1 million small donors. He's added 250,000 new donors from this time in the 2008 campaign.

Jon Huntsman and now Herman Cain are vowing to boycott the Nevada debate because they claim that Romney rigged the primary calender by getting Nevada to push their date up. He's also done that with Michigan and rumors have Senator Marco Rubio weighing in with Florida to do the same.

The Republican establishment want to seal the deal with Romney before another candidate catches fire. But election observers have noted that this reminds them of the year the establishment got behind Bob Dole to be on the safe side, rather than risk a more right-wing candidate.

Governor Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, a former Republican, made the observation this week that today's Mitt Romney is nothing like the alleged moderate in Massachusetts and that Mitt has really gone off the edge in his political positions.

What gives political observers pause is how few endorsements Republican establishment figures have made at this stage of the game. These are far behind all other presidential years, indicating a hesitation about Romney and also concern that the race is still fluid.

Rick Perry is not out of this as his fund-raising numbers show. Perry's wife had a tantrum this week saying that the Governor had been brutalized by the process because he is a Christian. Romney surrogates have been putting presssure on Perry to renounce the endorsement of the Southern Baptist Convention's leader because of his statements on Mormons. Perry isn't biting.

Perry released his job creation program this week. His plan to create over 1.5 million jobs was entirely based on stimulating the oil industry and opening all of America up to oil and gas drilling. What I found peculiar was his insistance to cut all government subsidies to alternative energy sources but increasing those for the oil industry.

House Republicans are playing along with this and as Amtrak finally is getting off the ground with increased passengers House Republicans want to cut its subsidies by 80%. The amazing animus to high speed rail and other rail projects is baffling to me. I guess it's aimed at Joe Biden, Mr. Acela. It's the same with global warming. The reason they oppose the science of global warming is because Al Gore is for it. It's gotten that petty and personal.

We are rapidly losing time on Congress doing anything the rest of the year. Both chambers did pass the long-delayed Free Trade Pacts, which also included worker retraining provisions favored by the unions. Outside of that, the House has spent its week on re-passing its anti-abortion bill that prohibits federal funding for abortions, which is already law anyway. I seriously doubt whether Congress will extend the employee payroll tax cuts or any other benefits for the unemployed.

This week had a showdown between John Boehner and President Obama over the President's public insistence that people ask the Republicans what their job creation plans were. Boehner claimed his little pamphlet issued at the beginning of the new Congress was the plan. There is no serious economist who has studied this who believes any jobs can be created by this nonsense. In fact, economists insist both the House and Senate Republican plans would plunge the United States back into recession.

Which reminds me. Remember the 2010 elections were fought around the national debt and deficits? Herman Cain's 9-9-9 program would generate $11 trillion additional debt in eight years. Mitt Romney's plan for increased defense spending would alone add $2 trillion, without his other economic plan. And, of course, Paul Ryan's Budget Plan would surpass Herman Cain in generating deficits and vastly increasing the national debt. So forget the Republicans on debt reduction. they are just not into it.

Speaking of Herman Cain, today's press revealed how close he is to the Koch Brothers and his role in Americans for Prosperity, their front group. Frankly, I do not see this hurting him in the least in the primaries. But I do believe his failure to campaign in early primary states and his total lack of an organizations basically doom his candidacy. My take is that he is on a long book tour for his newly released memoir.

Howard Dean was spookily optimistic about President Obama's re-election chances. Dean emphasized that the Republicans denouncing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators ran flat against public opinion and their opposition to the President's job bill also was against 60% of the American public. His overall point was that the Republicans have defined themselves as solely defending the interests of the extremely wealthy and the large corporations but have abandoned the middle class. He claimed that President Obama's tour of the country fighting for his bill improved the president's ratings and has served to energize his supporters who wanted to see more fight.

I've made much of the GOP efforts over the past year to suppress the vote through Voter IDs and other restrictions. The first trials of the Wisconsin law have been a disaster. They ran mock elections that have been plagued by long lines and a whole bunch of people being denied the right to vote. But interestingly, in Wisconsin and many states, the GOP may have been too clever by half. National republicans are complaining that Republican voters may actually be at a disadvantage through these laws. Stay tuned. This great strategy may not be working out as planned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last Night's GOP Debate

While the Senate GOP blocked President Obama's job bill, the Republican candidates debated in New Hampshire on the subject of the economy. Recovering from these debates is a little like getting over a medical operation--your body forgets the procedure. If you recall the 2008 campaign, the GOP accused President Obama of coddling terrorists by his acquaintance with Bill Ayers, The Obama campaign released a photo of Obama body-surfing on the back of his grandfather at the time. Now Republicans are accusing him of being the cause of the great inequity of wealth in the country, which began when Barack Obama was a teenager. I guess the Obama campaign will have to release that photo of a hip young Obama smoking a cigarette.

So we learned that President Obama is responsible for all our economic woes. We learned that the Dodd-Franks bill to tighten regulations on banks must be repealed because banks aren't lending to small businesses because of crushing regulation. We learned that all of the canidates want to repeal Obamacare. We learned that some of the candidates supported the TARP program but Mitt Romney would have done it differently. We know that Ben Barnacke should be fired and the FED should be audited again. No one mentioned that the FED is making money hand over fist. We learned that Herman Cain loves Alan Greenspan and that Ron Paul liked Paul Volcker. We learned that Newt is worried about another financial collapse because of Europe but Mitt is skeptical. And we heard about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan 85 times during the debate. We also learned that Michelle Bachmann spent her whole life in the private sector--somehow. We learned again how Romney would not have bailed out the auto industry.

What the audience never learned was reality. A Bloomberg poll conducted immediately after the debate showed that Ron Paul was overwhelmingly thought to have the answers for the economy and Herman Cain second and Mitt Romney a distant third.

Media coverage billed this debate as a do-or-die moment for Rick Perry, who was absent for the first 40 minutes and only appeared at the end. Frankly, I didn't think Rick Perry came off as badly as the punditry thought. Herman Cain took his place as a first tier candidate and basically didn't hurt himself, although it's clear that his 9-9-9 Plan would vastly increase taxes on the middle class and result in huge deficits. He is not going to wear well as people actually examine his ideas and how he listens to. Newt is obviously off his meds. This makes for fun television but his speech the previous day about how he would ignore the Supreme Court if he felt like it showed that he is channeling his inner cracker. John Huntsman actually got off a couple good jokes this time, including his snark that Cain's 9-9-9 plan was based on the price of pizza.

There were some strange moments like three former governors, all of whom claim the government can't create jobs, all bragging about the records in job creation. Then we had Frothy Mix Santorum say that poverty in the United States is created by the distruction of the family. And then at the end almost all the candidates with the exception of Romney claim they were all born in poverty or in a log cabin or something humble.

I agree with the pundits that Willard Romney won the debate and that no one laid a glove on him. What personally shocked me was how versatile a liar Romney is. In this debate he lied about small and big things and no one caught him out on it. It was a stunning performance. Democrats, the punditry and other Republicans are making a big mistake that Romney would morph in office into a moderate. Somewhere in the last ten years he has gone over the bend.

So how bad was it for Rick Perry? He looked really laid back and didn't look like he felt like fighting. I happened to think he handled the question about his corruption rather well. Perry had already done his damage to Romney that day through the appearance on every television show of the Baptist minister who said that Mormonism is a cult. Since the minister in question is the head of the Southern Baptist Convention his word has more weight than someone like Pastor Hagee, who backed John McCain and is anti-Catholic. Jon Huntsman has demanded Perry denounce the minister but that shows how oblivious Huntsman is to Christian politics. Also Perry has unleashed a series of well-produced ads aimed at Romney's flip-flopping. So ,in my opinion, Perry can just sit back until the Nevada debate. Let the media pick apart Cain's nutty economic ideas and let Romney pretend he is the nominee.

As for Romney, I believe he is going to become complacent and if someone doesn't take him out in the primaries, Obama will. If you are prepared, you can run trucks through Romney's economic positions. And I'm still not sure that given the current economic situation that the general electorate really believes someone posing as a businessman is really the solution to the country's problems.

Before the debate, there was a poll of Republicans about the economy. Basically, Republicans felt evenly split about improvements in the economy if Obama or a Republican won but a significant plurality believed that the election would not make a difference in the economy. Basically, for Republicans, the economy is no big deal. It may be a weapon to smash Obama in the head with but they have no interest in creating jobs or improving the economy. Very weird perspective.

I thought Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum's call for a trade war against China strange. Last year, Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation where he was even more belligerent against China than last night. Since the Chinese are probably following these remarks, can you imagine if they Googled Rick Santorum to find out who he was?

Now all the candidates have their act down so the debates come off a little more polished. But this adds to the surreal nature of the discussion. Basically, if you repeal or revoke everything that has happened during the Obama administration, you have the platform for the candidates. Everything until Obama was just fine. And despite all the talk about the national debt, all their plans would increase deficit spending for many years ahead. These debates are really like watching old episodes of the Twilight Zone and the candidates are now like a troupe of actors putting the same play on in new venues.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Willard Will Pick the GOP's Pockets

The media continues this new meme that Mitt Romney really is a moderate and would not be so bad as President. Earlier in the week people like David Brooks and Michael Gerson tried to portray Mitt as reassuring and not someone to react impulsively. Gerson suggested that Romney has picked a sterling group of economic advisers, who know what they are doing.

This process of Republicans trying to settle on Romney ignores some basic points that the media has failed to notice. Those great economic advisers were the ones used by George W. Bush and were involved with the great fiscal implosion of 2008. Romney announced his foreign policy team right before his Citadel speech, which called for the 21st century to be another America Century. The only problem are that all the foreign policy advisers are those from George W. Bush and those who advocated in the 1990s a New American Century.

In short, Romney is running on resetting America at 2000 and starting out again on George W. Bush's policies. Take for instance Mitt Romney's pledge to repeal Dodd-Franks bill on re-regulating the financial industry. The result would be the mayhem of the 2007 and 2008. Romney basically thinks everything was fine until the market collapse. So after the bailouts, there is no need to correct anything. You just dust yourself off and begin again. And the George W. advisers will help it along.

Romney's speech at the Citadel was frankly horrifying and dangerous. It ignored the last decade and the limitations that are now on American power. Romney's view that our military needs further increases in spending ignores the basic fact that this year our deficit, some $1.3 trillion is exactly equal to the budget for the entire military-intelligence and terrorist complex. If this spending is to increase, then roughly 40% of the federal government would go to these ventures. The rhetoric he used on whether the United States would cooperate with other countries but opts to go it alone is pure George W. There was no consideration of foreign aid or even the Arab Spring. In fact, Romney is on record that there can be no distance between the United States and Israel,a marked reversal of historical American policy, even George W's.

If you examine Romney economic policies, you basically have Paul Ryan on steroids. The United States would be reduced to being a military power protecting the global interests of our corporations. While he is made to look moderate on things like Social Security because of his rivals, he is nothing of the sort. He is pledged to fundamentally change entitlement programs. And the loopiest idea among many of his is a pledge for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, when his own economic plans would run deficits way into the future.

Mitt Romney lucked out at the Values Summit when the head of the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed Rick Perry and called Mormonism a "cult". This allowed Romney to plead for religious tolerance and appear in the Beltway media to be "moderate".

Romney did not speak about his religion but he did make very specific promises to the social conservatives which went unreported. He pledged t overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision to make abortion legal, a decision passed by 7-2. He pledged to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He pledge to uphold the Hyde Amendment and expand its application to prevent abortion. He pledged to appoint an Attorney General that would fight to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, even though Reagan appointed judges have ruled it was unconstitutional. He also supported amendments in the states to say that life begins at conception. He also would restore DADT.

Those are very specific commitments. Very specific for a man who can't tell you his position on Afghanistan, for instance. Very specific too for a man that has not articulated how America can compete in the world economically. Or a man who can't support refurbishing our infrastructure.

But if Peggy Noonan refers to Ronald Reagan's days as "When Character was King", what is she to make of Mitt Romney?Writing in the Daily Beast, Matt Latimer documents Romney's own strange and unexamined political journey in "Is Romney the Next Kerry?" Surprising to me, at least, Mitt Romney did not vote for President Reagan or Bush the father. Instead, he actually voted for Paul Tsongas in the Democractic primary in 1992 (?). Mitt also has gone by several different first names in his life including Bill. Latimer documents the encyclopedia of all the political positions Romney has changed during his short political career. The man is a cameleon and no one has begun to bring up all of them because they are so numerous. He makes John Kerry look like a Rock of consistent stands.

The bottom line is that Romney is campaigning on the fact he is white and rich. Whatever else you want to make him out to be is OK by him. He's middle-class, he's unemployed, he's a businessman, not a politician.

I still think he's weird and troubling. The last so-called technocrat we elected as President was a man of real capability--Herbert Hoover. Hoover was a great humanitarian, a pioneering engineer, a business titan. And look what happened with him. Romney is running on warmed over George W. Bush platitudes without any re-examing of those flawed assumptions and he has bought into the whole social conservative agenda. Someone called him the Achilles Heel Incarnate.

At this point our corporate media is buying his line. But the Republican base believes he is a phony. because he is. But there, too, it looks like they are demoralized and are flagging to the base that effort is better spent on the Senate elections.

And he is a Mormon. And that is a cult.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Strange Things on Friday

++Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers and their ace reliever Jose Valverde, whom I've reported to I.C.E. as an illegal immigrant. So Motor City can keep playing until the blizzards come. So the fickle fan I am, I am now rooting for Detroit.

++The Onion captured the death of Steve Jobs perfectly--the last American who knew what the F**K he was doing dies.

++Herman Cain has taken a twenty point lead over Willard Romney in the latest Zogby poll, which shows Cain beating Obama, both Romney and Perry losing. Do you remember when Zogby was actually a good pollster--about the Carter Administration?

++Willard Romney gave a "major" foreign policy speech at the Citadel, where he basically urged insubordination against a commander-in-chief. Romney this week revealed his foreign policy team was composed of W retreads. Romney blasted Obama for defense cuts. There have only been defense increases on Obama's watch, much to my dismay. Romney also blasted Obama for not beliving America was unique, even though Obama is the only President in modern memory who actually did mention American exceptionalism.

++PPP pollsters were asked to find out who actually liked Mitt Romney since he has remained constant at 21-23% among Republicans. Basically, he does better with Republican women and has greater support in the Northeast and the West. Men can stand him.

++Democrats want to call the Buffett Rule , the Romney rule, because Mitt doesn't pay more than 15% on this income.

++ Today opened the Value Voters Summit here in Washington, a freakathon with the very Christian Far Right and Ralph Reed as sponsors. Mitt Romney speaks right before the Christian radio announcer who says that the First Amendment doesn't cover Mormons.

++Little Ricky Cantor said he was worried about the Occupy Wall Street "mobs" because they pit Americans against Americans. Like 99.7% against.3%. Sounds fair to me. Donald Trump says that all the demonstrators are at Wall Street to pick up dates. he's not joking. Rush Limbaugh says he was more self-sufficient at the age of 10, than all the Wall Street Demonstrators.

++It is a hoot to read about concerns over violence from the Fox News commentators when they hailed Tea baggers marching with guns to speeches of President Obama.

++In the who cares department, this week the House passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open until the end of November. I really don't think this town understands how much Americans have tuned out Congress and all the little games being played. The same applies to Harry Reid pulling the nuclear option to block McConnell's own byzantine parliamentary maneuver. The idea was to get the Senate to vote down President Obama's Jobs Act to embarass the President. No one cares.

++The private sector created over 130,000 jobs this month but because of the continued lay-offs of public sector workers the jobs report doesn't look great.

++The IMF warns that we will have a major global financial meltdown in 3-4 weeks. How will this be different than we had in 2008?

++Strangely enough jobs numbers, manufacturing data and other things people look at do not suggest we will go into a double dip recession. But I am sure Ricky Cantor will try harder.

++ Tan Man John Boehner cried that President Obama was campaigning while the House was legislating. Even reporters roared with laughter at the Speaker's statement since the House has passed nothing meaningful since Boehner became Speaker.

++I personally think the Occupy America movement has shifted the political narrative in the country and the more Republicans rail against it the further isolated they become. Coming out of retirement for the Daily News was Jimmy Breslin, who wrote a column praising the Occupy Wall Street movement. Breslin points out that the last time young demonstrators were at Wall Street was during the Vietnam War. At that time unions came and beat the anti-war demonstrators. Today, the entire union movement is joining with the young and the difference is striking. The demonstrations have spread throughout the country and even into the South. This weekend they will be in the congressional district of Ricky Cantor.

++Yesterday demonstrators closed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offices in Washington and marched on K Street against lobbyists.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Notes On The Occupy America Movement

We owe the demonstrators a debt of gratitude for changing the narrative of this increasingly bleak political moment. Ridiculed by the media as hippie, pot-smokers, and by the conservative punditry as people who don't know how the real world works, the demonstrations across the country have focused clearly people's attention on the current unfairness of America's economic situation and the excesses of Wall Street. The Christian Science Monitor printed yesterday a column that suggested that this type of populism goes back to Thomas Jefferson who feared the almost monarchical powers of banks and corporations. From local radio shows, the overwhelming sentiment of people middle-aged or older is sympathetic to the demonstrators.

Some on the Left complain there is no clear agenda of the protestors. But what if they had simply gathered and sat silently for ten days outside of Wall Street firms? Would not a silent witness generate also stimulate the debate we are now having? Why do the Occupy Wall Street people need any agenda? They're not running for office.

With the trade union movement coming in strong to defend the demonstrators, I thought it was healthy for the OWS people to accept the support but insist that the unions could not take control of the movement.

Poor comparisons have been made with the teabag movement. The teabaggers could never mount a two-week occupation of anything ,let alone stimulate simultaneous demonstrations nationwide. Once the libertarians who were the original teabaggers were run out of town, the teabag movement became an astroturf corporate funded entity controlled by people like Dick Armey, the Koch Brothers and the Nevada casino owner Adelson. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street people, the teabaggers had a television network that sponsored their every rally and exaggerated their importance. Through polling, we know that the teabaggers were almost exclusively the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party and were demographically 55 or over. It was the revenge of the Baby Boomers who did experience the first counter-culture.

The demographics of the OWS , according to a New Yorker poll, consist primarily of those between the ages of 20 and 25. Politically, they cover a loose range of affiliations from independent to the new new Left. The primary critique of the movement is that all our politicians are bought and sold by corporations and the very wealthy and that nothing that benefits the American people can be done through out political system. Unfortunately, this has led many of the participants to argue that one shouldn't vote. (There are such things as reproductive rights, gay rights, etc. that are also decided through the ballot.)

But one difference I've noticed about this movement from others that the Left has embraced in recent years is the lack of identity politics, which I think is a good thing. The other thing is that it is not ostensibly anti-war, although this element is in it. The problem with anti-war demonstrations ,I've written before, is that they literally have no effect on any one in Washington or our military-terrorist-intelligence complex.

Media critics of the movement complain they criticize the American economic system. Yet, isn't it fair game to complain as taxpayers about bailing out non-productive elements of our economy--the Right does it about the poor--who give themselves $150 million bonuses and salaries? Think about that for a moment. The bankers and Wall Street ,who basically created the global economic crisis, are rewarded for absolute and utter failure by getting a bonus that is equivalent to three generations of wealth in just one tax year! Don't you think someone should at least comment about this? In fact, the demonstrators assert their belief in capitalism but not in unjust practices.

The Occupy America Movement has inadverently turned the narrative in Washington around. It's as if the whole movement to elect Obama in 2008 had been disarmed the last two years and now has re-emerged as a separate political force. I think it is a good thing that there are no leaders to the Movement and that they are not linked to whether President Obama wins or doesn't win the 2012 election. What they have done is reinforced both the President's jobs agenda and also put attention back onto the Republicans, who are obstructing anything going forward. Mitt Romney tried to weigh in by calling these demonstrations" destructive and dangerous class warfare." But then everyone becomes aware that Mitt Romney only pays a 15% tax rate on his vast income and that only frames the economic questions more in President Obama's favor.

Republicans have wagered that they can get mileage out of denouncing the demonstrations, harkening back to the authoritarian responses to demonstrations during the Vietnam war. The silent majority will oppose these people. But preliminary polls show that a sizeable plurality of Americans support the demonstrators. This is in sharp contrast to the miniscule % who support the teabaggers. Fully embracing bankers, hedge fund managers and large corporations is seen by Republicans as a winning formula.

President Obama this morning and Joe Biden yesterday voiced sympathy for the demonstrators and their frustration with the economic situation. Here there is a dialogue. While tone-deaf John Boehner declared this morning that the President's jobs bill will not even come up for a vote in the House and it's dead on arrival. But an interesting to note is that the President held an open press conference to discuss this, while the Republicans have not.

Perhaps it's the death of Steve Jobs triggering thoughts about what he has meant to our universe or the rumors about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature (he was robbed at the last minute) but I don't see any there there in the Republican future. I can see how they could win in 2012 using a very deterministic model but from a salient point of view they have no future. This movement is of another generation, one that is mmore inter-connected to the rest of the world.

What the Occupy America movement has done is put the train of progress back on track. And they have put a spanner in the works for the austerity crowd. It's good for the country to be reminded that our society can be unjust and that everyone should share sacrifice to make it better.

Dreamweaver Steve Jobs, The Hippie Who Changed the World

This morning I read a post criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, which said,"No Hippie ever made a difference."

But one hippie actually changed the whole world. In fact that hippie produced the digital generation, which is now rising up all over the country. Steve Jobs has died of pancreatic cancer. His death has sparked worldwide mourning and celebrations the likes that haven't been seen since John Lennon was assassinated.

If you are reading this, Steve Jobs changed your life. Buried in his acc0mplishments is his work at NEXT, the educational computer project funded by Ross Perot. It was his work there that inspired CERN to create the world wide web with internet addresses. Many of us are grateful that Jobs had the foresight, creativity and brilliance to design a personal computer, which spared the likes of me from typing all my writings. The big established computer giants like IBM said there was no market for personal computers and that Americans really didn't need them. But when they got them, the society changed forever.

If you want a wonderful detailed account of Steve Jobs' life, the New York Times published about a five page obituary for him. But some things stood out for me. Steve Jobs attributed his dropping acid as one of the deepest influences on him and ranked the experience as one of the most wonderful in his own life. This may account for his encompassing vision of what we has doing. The other thing that always got to me about Jobs was his constant reference to one of the greatest products of the 60s counter-culture Steward Brand's Whole Earth Catalog, which he quoted in a speech when he recently was awarded a doctorate degree. Jobs grew up in the countercultural milieu of San Francisco Bay and after dropping out of Reed College first worked in his father's garage and developed the first home computer with his high school friend Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Jobs. And throw in a love affair with Joan Baez and you have the hippie roots of one of America's greatest inventors and entrepeneurs.

Life before Steve Jobs consisted of creating thousands of Fortran cards by hand and typing long papers in college. The explosion of social and cultural diversity through the internet consisted in those days of a collection of Nonesuch records with the music of other cultures. The psychedelic age was really not so colorful and exciting. Now is the time when a true encompassing vision can take root because of the technological innovations pushed by Steve Jobs. Marshall McCluhan's global culture is actually being created by the social networking technologies. This was envisioned but during those times the means for achieving it had not been realized.

As with most situations with a charisma leader, Apple made the move to institutionalize its business and brought in the former CEO of Pepsi. He fired Jobs and Jobs explained to the core Apple staff that he didn't have "the trousers" for the job, standing before them with his trademark jeans and barefoot.

Younger people on the morning talkshows linked Jobs to the IPad, the IPhone, ITunes but none mentioned that beige MacIntosh that liberated me and millions others. The original Mac users were and are fanatics about the elegance of the word processing software and the graphics package. After all these years, I still have seen better. Does anyone still remember the dot-matrix printers, which almost sounded like a typewriter?

As evidence of how liberating Macs were, the first magazine printed on a Mac in the mid-1980s was a journal of Lesbian Erotica. The editor reminisced about this last night and remembered the limited typefaces available on the publishing software at that time.

Like Thomas Alva Edison, Jobs also dabbled in films. After leaving Apple the first time, he invested money with George Lucas to develop Pixar and brought you such films like Toy Story.

Steve Jobs is being hailed today as a great innovator, a genius at marketing and the consummate capitalist. He was all that but his contribution to the world is that he launched a global revolution and the generation he most influenced is now beginning to exert itself. Whether they can push us forward still remains to be seen. But Jobs changed our reality and the world's through his genius.

So one person can really make a difference--even a hippie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sister Sarah Announces She Will Not Run

Sarah Palin decided to let her fans know her decision on the Mark Levin show where she said that after much prayer she decided not to run for the GOP nomination because Todd and she were too devoted to their family. I guess it wasn't Nicole Wallace's revelations yesterday that the McCain camp thought her so unstable by the end of the 2008 campaign that they wondered whether ,if they won, it would be appropriate to let her take the oath of office. Her character inspired Wallace to write a new novel about a Sarah Palin character as an absolutely insane Vice President.

I wonder what SarahPac will do with the proceeds from their fund-raising effort to help Sarah make the decision.

But make no mistake Sarah Palin represents the base of today's Republican Party. But Roger Ailes, who New York magazine suggests is too rich and too old to care what he says, said that he hired Sarah because she was "hot" and got good ratings. Now that she has bowed out how long will it be before Fox jettisons her.

I guess the real loser today is Andrew Sullivan. Andrew, the one-man band on the mystery surrounding the birth of Trig, will never know who the youngster's mother really is.

But think how far she has fallen. Chris Christie gets every news outlet to travel to Trenton for a press conference announcing his decision not to run. She issues her statement on a little heard right-wing talk show.

And pity me. I have moved backed and forth on this issue. I thought the collapse of Michelle Bachmann would have provoked Sarah Palin to wrap herself around the mantle of Queen Esther.