Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toward A New Geopolitics

++I have been besieged by a flutter of e-mails by neoconservatives who want to revisit the Benghazi incident,warn against Syria or Wahhabism. It strikes me that some of these, which quotes Politico's article that Al Qaeda had a good year misses certain important geopolitical points that haven't appeared openly.

++As someone who advocates democracy and human rights,I have to remind myself that American national interests are seldom found solely in these areas. From a humanitarian point of view, we must respond to the crisis of Syria's refugees and internally displaced but we are no longer in a Cold War type situation or the W days of talking about regime changes anywhere. 

++While we all have been trained to think the Middle East is central to our national interest,I'm not so sure it is. President Obama has it right--the concern about the proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons. But are we to get mired in a civil war among different forms of Islam? What sides do we choose? 

++Al Qaeda's real triumph this year was the military takeover in Egypt. They hated Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood intensely. So where will the Brotherhood go but become more radicalized. I can see a rapprochment between extremes in the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. 

++Does the involvement in Syria represent a triumph? Or can anyone really say Hezbollah is stronger because of the Syrian civil war? Or Assad? 

++And what is the realpolitik case for any involvement in the Middle East? Preventing terrorist groups from having a capability of engaging in international acts of terror against us and our European allies. And here I would include Russia,even though it is not strictly an ally. To prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But the old days of the language talking about oil are gone. 

++You can see this with the Saudis' panic over America's policy. They are courting the French and funding the Lebanese military themselves. Yes, Russia still arms Assad and retains its port at Tartus. But the days of a freedom agenda are long gone. Besides, the Saudis would subvert such efforts.

++I expect these issues to come to a head this year over the Iranian nuclear pact. We will hear disinformation from all sides. There will be efforts to tie us down for even more years in the region,even get us to go to war. 

++But over what? The future dynamics in the energy field come from the Southwest Pacific and the Arctic. In terms of world economics, it is Asia and Brazil. Most of this reorientation by the Obama Administration has been done quietly and without much debate. My fear is that our own Congress may drag us back into the Middle East in a war that is counterproductive to our future national interests.

++I expect that President Obama may well approve the Keystone XL pipeline, not because it represents anything but America staking claim to the North and ensuring Canada remains on our side in any conflicts over Arctic Resources. I also would see a play at normalizing relations with Cuba as an attempt to find an opening to Venezuela and the Orinoco Basin. I may be wrong but the thrust for a new geopolitics does not lie through the Middle East. 

++Where does that leave human rights and democracy? We have enough to do in that area at home and where possible advance those ideals abroad. But there will have to be a policy of triage where we can not go off on crusades in which we are not well equipped and have lost alot of moral authority over the years. We have not regained our moral stature after the Iraq debacle and have much less authority than before.

++We need a debate over these issues. You can't keep running the same schemes and expect different results. Areas where planning is sometimes twenty-five years in advance show that our present geopolitical mindset is obsolete and untenable for the future.

Happy New Year

++ Happy New Year to all of you. May it be healthy,prosperous and a productive one and may it be very constructive. I'm just hoping for one for me without the surprises of 2013--just dull and steady.

++Congratulations to Andrew Sullivan at The Dish. He took a gamble on establishing a website sustained by subscriptions. He aimed at $900,000. Tonight he reports a surge putting him at over $850,000 with no debt. If you haven't subscribed, please do so. He has created a site that not only provides culture, religion but also politics. He should be singled out for his addition of poetry, which is absent almost everywhere else. Just the videos of Seamus Heaney reading are worth the price of subscription. Or you might enjoy a dialogue between him and Dan Savage where Andrew can't get in a word without Dan going off on a monologue.

++Let's also applaud Brainwrap, the maker of Obamasignups.net for his prediction a few weeks ago that by tonight 2.1 million Americans would have signed up for health insurance. Indeed,they did. Brainwrap has the unusual characteristic of issuing corrections on minute statistics from small states which he got wrong the first time around.

++In case you have been living abroad or in a cave,PEW put out a poll, which Dana Millbank wrote about in tonight's Amazon Post. The Republican Party is becoming more, not less theological,even less scientific,older,whiter, and more conservative. A plurality of Republicans do not believe in evolution,let alone climate change.

++I heard that Mitch McConnell is plotting to get even with Harry Reid for ending the filibuster. McConnell is gearing up to stop the extension of unemployment insurance and the hike of the minimum wage. Maybe the GOP has managed to figure out how to spin this. But it seems to me this is beyond petty, it is cruel and may rebound in the 2014 elections. 

Afternoon Drips and Drabs

++Josh Marshall catches up on the Obamacare numbers and figures out that with Medicaid expansion we are over 6 million. Add the 3.1 million of adult children and we have a program. But he notes that the number of people in states led by Republicans that will be left out of Obamacare is about 5 million. So one party gives, another party takes away.

++But the new problem for Obamacare according to the Amazon Post is that there are not enough doctors.

++The death of unemployment benefits may hit 1.3 million. But unless Congress acts to restore them,another five million will be affected. 

++Utah has appealed to Sonia Sotomayor to stop the same sex marriages in the state.

++Papa Duck will be appearing on Fox News News Year Eve program.

++Jason Linkins has recovered from his live-blogging of geriatric Sunday Shows to publish a piece today at the Huffington Post about how the GOP never read their autopsy report produced by the RNC and that the make-over didn't happen.

++Matt Tabibi laughs at the GOP's complaints about the "nuts" in the Party and does a number on Karl Rove and his strategy over the years that created this mess.

++The Vatican actually put out a press release to say that Pope Francis hasn't cancelled sin.

++Texas billionaire Harold Simmons died. He was one of the largest GOP donors and one of the original funders of the Swiftboaters, who did in John Kerry's 2004 campaign. In 2012, he gave $26.9 million to various PACs working against the election of President Obama. He called President Obama "the most dangerous man in America because he will eliminate free enterprise." Remember this was after one full term already.

++The S&P 500 is set to close at the highest level since 1997. Obama has failed Socialism 101.

++The Jewish periodical Tikkun says that President Obama is about to challenge the NSA with a series of reforms when he returns from Hawaii. Watch for a real pushback from the National Surveillance State on this one.

++The Right's new complaint against President Obama is that he bowed to Raul Castro at the Mandela ceremony. As someone who is about President Obama's height,I can tell you we always look like we are bowing when we shake hands with short people.

++The first commercial flight between Miami and Havana took off yesterday. During the last two years, Cuba and the United States have had bilateral talks on about two dozen issues. President Obama himself has said that the American policy is obsolete. But will we see a change in the next year or so? 

++Democratic Arkansas Senator Pryor has come out for the state initiative to raise the minimum wage. This isn't unexpected because the national Democratic Party is going to go full tilt at the minimum wage this year in Congress. The polling data shows even among Republicans this issue polls well.

++The CIA has released a report that speculates that the Syrian civil war could last another decade and that we have little influence on determining the outcome.

++President Putin flew seven time zones to deliver a message about the recent terrorist bombings and to assure Russians and the world the Winter Olympics will be safe.

++Washington Monthly rightly blasts the treatment of the Uighurs at Gitmo. The United States shortly after apprehending them determine they were innocent of any crime. While Washington Monthly rightfully chronicles the GOP's crimes in this manner,they didn't spare the Democrats and President Obama. I liked their use of "evil" in referring to holding someone you know as innocent.

++The Saudis have given the Lebanese $3billion in military aid. This came after the Saudis met with French President Hollande about bilateral trade talks and an expression of frustration at the United States because we don't love them anymore. Quite frankly we don't need them anymore.

++Charles Pierce writes at his Esquire blog today about the ongoing disaster of the Keystone XL pipeline. Scientists have found over 7,000 miles of soil contaminated by mercury from the tarsands operation. Remember Paul Ryan wants to hold the debt ceiling contingent on President Obama approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

++Egypt continues to crackdown on the Moslem Brotherhood and now has seized their assets. But bombings are occurring with greater regularity in protest. One of my candidates for stupid political moves of the year is deposing Mohammed Morsi,the democratically elected President, and replacing him with a military dictatorship. The Egyptian military have even added charges against Morsi,including one that he was responsible for a prison break.

++While rebels in South Sudan have seized a major town,there are reports that there really is a ceasefire. There are also reports that the Ugandan President will invade to secure peace.

++While John Kerry is off to Israel, the Knesset voted to seize the Jordan Valley. Expect this dance to continue.

A New Year's Gift

++ The Cool School:Writing from America's Hip Underground, edited by Glenn O'Brien, Library of America.

The Cool School is cool. This a wonderful anthology of the writings from the hip. Floating through the air in the first pieces is the music of Charlie Parker. In particular a nice piece of Miles Davis' autobiography on the subject of him playing with the Bird. Jazz and classical references dot the early pieces until Rock shows up near the end. What better way to reach the Rock Age than with Lester Bangs attacking Lou Reed.

I haven't read the whole volume yet but here are some oldies but goodies. Lord Buckley treats us to The Naz. Yes, we have the Beats. Terry Southern turns out to be a better writer than I remember in You're too Hip,Baby. Ishmael Reed has an excerpt from Mumbo Jumbo. Gary Indiana reminds us he was a writer with a bit about Roy Cohn,explaining why he was against gay rights. Rudolph Wurlitzer is represented by Nog. Nick Tosches reminds us why we read him with a great excerpt from his book on Dean Martin. And it is totally appropriate to end an anthology on the hip with George Carlin's A Modern Man.

Compared to the other selections, Norman Mailer's White Negro  comes off contrived. I never cared for Lenny Bruce and his bit Pills and Shit didn't make his case any better.Even the selection by Mort Sahl on Billy Graham Rally in New York was funnier.

Bob Dylan, Hunter Thompson,Ed Sanders,Andy Warhol, and Jack Kerouac all make appearances. 

I am sure others would have made difference choices but Glenn O'Brien's selections are superb in portraying the hip and the cool. It is a fun read and for this geezer nostalgic.


It's already 2014 somewhere

++In Saipan, it's New Year's.

++The US finally released the last three Uighurs from Gitmo. They will probably be sent to Slovakia.

++The tribes in the Anbar Province in Iraq,once known as the backbone of the "Surge", are at war with the Iraqi government. 55 Sunni members of parliament have resigned in protest.

++Prince Bandar said he warned Russia about Chechen terrorists. Is this like his warning to the UK?

++Peter King says that the bombings in Russia are a wake-up call to Americans about Islamic terrorists.

++Josh Marshall at Talkingpoints has an excellent piece on Benghazi and Beyond the Crazy. He argues that the fake scandal prevents us from having the foreign policy debate we deserve about the role of our foreign service in conflict areas.

++Steve Benen, formerly of Washington Monthly and now the Rachel Maddow blogger, has a fine piece on Benghazi.

++The New York Times responded to criticism that their Benghazi piece was meant to exonerate Hillary Clinton. They said Hillary had nothing to do with their piece and they haven't made up their minds.

++Andrew Sullivan says that 2013 was a pretty sucky year but that beneath the surface some good happened. 

++Brainwrap in his public service of keeping us up to date on Obamacare posted new figures from states last night. 

++Sonia Sotomayor will count down the ball at Times Square tonight. 

++For the first time in my life, I actually kept all dates,to-do lists and appointments in one notebook. It really is a BFD!


Monday, December 30, 2013

President Obama Most Admired American

++President Obama was the most admired person this year for the 6th straight year. Hillary Clinton again was the top-ranked woman,making this list for 18 years.

++While John McCain said that you shouldn't count as talented a man as Obama out, referring to his poll numbers,the Right has proclaimed a plan called Operation American Spring with the goal of toppling the government in nice weather and bringing Obama to trial before a tribunal of Anthony West and people with the same principles as Darryl Issa. They warn their followers that many "patriots" might be killed.

++Afghanistan,according to a CNN poll,has become the least popular war in American history as support has dropped to 17% and a majority want us to leave before next December.

++The Guardian reports that Prince Bandar threatened the UK with making it easier for terrorists to attack the UK if they pursued the corruption investigation into Saudi Arabia.

++The voluminous correspondence between Tony Blair and George W. Bush prior to the Iraq invasion will be published in the UK.

++Michael Tomasky predicts at the Daily Beast that Obama will challenge impeachment by raising the debt ceiling himself in March,the budget will again reach January 15, and that there will be a deal on Iran.

++Israel has released the Palestinian prisoners as part of the pre-conditions of the peace talks.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Redskins Lose, Change Name To The Drones

Jason Linkins Ends His Blog--Undefeated

++Jason Linkins who spared many of us the monotony of watching tired old man gassing about the news finished his blog today with his usual panache. Bravo to you, Jason. Thanks from all of us who can not stand Sunday So-Called News Shows.

++Linkins ended with a puzzle--Do you hate Face the Nation more than This Week? That's really tough.

Brainwrap Jumps the Shark

++The creator of ACAsignups.net or Obamacaresignups.net predicted January 1 would mark 2 million enrolled in the federal and state exchanges. Brainwrap has jumped the shark and today's numbers are 2,025,432 enrolled and 4,009,595 from Medicaid expansion. That's 6,035,027 combined. Add in the 3.1 million "adult children" kept on their parents plan and we might see 10 million by the end of next month.

++Darryl Issa showed up on the morning talk shows not to announce his resignation but to refute the Times article on Benghazi. He still claims Al Qaeda was behind it and it had nothing to do with the video. The Times reporter told NBC there was no evidence of any Al Qaeda direct involvement. We will have to leave that to Lindsey Graham and Lara Logan.

++For a fun read, Caitlin Dickson at the Daily Beast on the "Best of the Fringe Factor". It is a brief run through the best political weirdness from masturbating fetuses to Wendy Davis as a terrorist.

++Carnival Cruz still blames the government shutdown on President Obama and Harry Reid. He is also taking steps to complete the legal work to renounce his Canadian citizenship.

++Conventional wisdom has Chris Christie beating Hillary Clinton by 3 pts in 2016. In second-place for the GOP nomination Mike Huckabee is tied with Carnival Cruz, who said he isn't thinking about Washington politics but only about Texas.

++Conventional wisdom also has the Democrats doomed in 2014 in both the House and Senate as well as the state houses. President Obama is always doomed. Maybe John McCain can make up the difference in another two months.

++In the South Sudan, the world's youngest country,President Salva Izir has committed himself to a ceasefire. The 25,000 "White Army" was marching on the capital last night and the press said South Sudan was doomed also. This morning they are reported going back to their homes. Who knows?

++Iran is keeping their new centrifuges off-line, contrary to press reports. The Iranian issue will be front and center for the next six months. 

A Reminder

++A reminder--Today is Jason Linkins last live blogging of the Sunday Talks Shows over at Huffingtonpost. He claims he will now have time for brunch in the future. He also reminds us that whatever one says about the political fate of President Obama he will become a very wealthy,fairly young celebrity so don't worry. His funny and pointed commentary saved me from watching the Sunday Talking Heads. Catch his last day.

The Benghazi Boomerang

++You knew it would happen. The New York Times today published an article about Benghazi. It is worth a read if you are interested in a complicated situation. The headline conclusions are that Al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack on the consulate or CIA-safe house,that is wasn't a planned operation and that no international terrorists had anything to do with it and that, yes, Virginia,it was caused by the anti-Muslim video that had also sparked the riots in Cairo. So I guess Susan Rice's talking points were not too far off. The Times piece got immediate pushback from Peter King of New York and Mike Rogers,the head of the House intelligence committee,who claimed that Al Qaeda was involved-sort of. 

++My question is will Darryl Issa resign because of the New York Times revelations? Don't hold your breath. A tip-off from the beginning of this episode was the fact that Al Qaeda never claimed credit or made a statement on it. So Washington will debate this another week or so.

++I guess with Benghazi done and ACA rolling out, we have to go back to birtherism. Brainwrap, the new Nate Silver of healthcare, is overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the numbers. The Obama administration has announced 1.1 million have signed up on the federal website but they haven't released the news about the state exchanges. And yes, even the Amazon Post printed this morning stories about how getting health insurance is giving people a sense of security.

++But don't worry,1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment benefits yesterday. It is useful to remember that these people have been part of the middle-class before they lost their jobs. Local press coverage about this clearly puts the blame on the Republicans.

++The Amazon Post says that social conservatives lost the week. While they were all outraged about a Yuppie being suspended for Christmas over his "reality" show,conservatives didn't even fight back against the recent rulings on same sex marriage as the winds of change have taken hold. Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo had an excellent article on the implications of both the Utah and Ohio decisions.

++Paul Krugman ends the year with "The Year of the Weasel", reminding us that we did not have hyperinflation and didn't become Greece. He also reminds us that none of those who predicted this have said they were wrong. Instead,they have moved the goalposts. An example of this is on right-wing websites who are now predicting the market collapse around March and urging everyone to start hoarding.

++The American "intelligence community", I thought it was an industry,not community,predicts that the "gains" in Afghanistan will all be lost by 2017. We're still leaving in 2014.

++John Kerry will be off to the Middle East next week to move the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The idea is to get to a final agreement by June. You have to admire the guy's persistence.

++Kobe Bryant is still injured and Abe Vigoda is still alive.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Your GOP Presidential Candidates for 2016

++ Just noodling around,I came up with 11 candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. You will be hearing from these gentlemen soon.

1. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey.
2. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.
3. Rick Perry, governor of Texas.
4. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.
5. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
6. Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin
7. Mike Pence, governor of Indiana.
8. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas.
9. Rand Paul,Senator from Kentucky.
10. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania
11. Peter King, Representative from New York.




The Wingnuts Return

++It didn't take long. The anti-Obamacare hate mail has started again. This time it is the cost of malfunctioning websites in Hawaii,Oregon,Vermont and Massachusetts. Yes,they have been a bother and Massachusetts and Vermont are withholding payment from the contractor. But is this how deep in the weeds they will go?

++Apparently,yes. Americans for the Prosperity of the Koch Brothers have unleashed ads against first-term Democrats attacking them for the failures of Obamacare. These ads feature actors who claim they had multiple heart attacks and now they received a letter from the insurance company saying they were cancelled. Good thing they won't be banned from insurance for pre-existing conditions. This will continue through 2014 and beyond.

++Mitch McConnell has said the number 1 priority for him in 2014 is the repeal of Obamacare. The New York Times, which pretends this people are normal,says that now the law is in effect the Republicans are debating how best to deal with the law--gut it. The Times neglected to mention that because millions more will have healthcare that won't stop the GOP from going after it. After all,they have gone after foodstamps and unemployment insurance. Why should people who now have healthcare insurance benefit?

++Jared Bernstein in today's Huffington Post goes into detail about how Food stamps and unemployment insurance works during the Great recession and how as we climb out of it they taper off. That's why it is nuts to cut them further.

++Paul Krugman is hip to the game in today's op-ed "the Fear Economy". Krugman writes how corporations actually can manage quite well with a moderate depression. This allows them to suppress wages and cut benefits because employees are living in a state of fear.

++Robert Parry writes for Consortium News about "Obama's Not So Bad Year". Parry focuses on Obama changing the dynamic of our Middle East policy and how the Beltway pundits conditioned by years of the neoconservatives blast Obama for this so-called "Failure". 

++I like Eugene Robinson but his column this morning on the civil war among the GOP is just wishful thinking. Gene talks about the CNN polls which show the public favor the GOP in the mid-terms but that the GOP doesn't have any ideas. That maybe true but they whipped up 2010 without any ideas either. 

++It should be noted that at least three polls have shown Democrats with at least a three point margin in the generic poll. Others point out the inconsistency of Americans hating Congress and giving it a single digit approval rating but wanting the GOP to control it. Democracy Corps a few weeks ago--long enough after the shutdown to be relevant--pointed out that in swing districts ,which would determine the control the House,the races are very close. But readers should remember 150 GOP House members are running unopposed.

++Kudos to Brainwrap for having his Excel sheets referred to in the Washington Post concerning the signups of Obamacare.

++What was President Obama's best decision this year? You can debate about certain nominations to the court and to the administration. But my candidate is the decision he did not make--Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Washington Times yesterday went ape about this because there is now a conflict of interest investigation into the State Department's approval process. Remember Keystone would raise gas prices in the Midwest and would not provide any oil to the United States or create significant jobs.

++Tomorrow 1.3 million Americans will not receive their unemployment compensation.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How Bad a Year Was It For President Obama?

++The Washington pundits are almost unanimous that this was Obama's worst year as President. Only E.J.Dionne dissented,saying the Fiscal Cliff negotiations in 2011 were Obama's worst moment.

++The botched Healthcare.gov website promoted the conservative refrain that this was the death knell of liberalism. Even David Brooks showed up on the Sunday talk shows to say that this challenged whether government could manage anything large. Of course, it manages the IRS,Social Security,Medicare and Medicaid with very low cost and high efficiency. Liberals ran in to say that Medicaid Part B had an atrocious beginning. But they never defended what millions of us already had through Obamacare. The whole debate centered around the individual market and the surge of enrollments looks decent to good.

++During the Government shutdown, many of us thought Obama would cave in some way to the Republicans. Obama and the Democrats held firm. The Beltway pundits claim the GOP has been chastened by its failure and with the new budget deal we will avoid this over the next two years. The finished budget doesn't really take shape until January 15 when the committees have to allocate their spoils. The budget was $200 billion less than President Obama wanted. But it is hard to say that the GOP won when they threatened to close the government down because of Obamacare. The fickle media abruptly turned around in their game of false equivalence to shift the website woes onto Obama since they knew he won the shutdown fight.

++Did any of the scandals probed by Darryl Issa turn out to be real and implicate President Obama? The IRA personnel were all Republicans,the Benghazi fiasco was incoherent and Obamacare turned out to be a bureacratic miscue. So far,the GOP has done nothing but try to drive the President's numbers down. I propose the reason for this is their desire to impeach the President. The vitriol they hold against Barack Obama has increased, not lessened over time. Karl Rove predicts the President's approval rating will continue to decline,especially if he has anything to do with it. But compare President Obama's 41 approval rating, his low, with the 7% of Congress. Rarely do you hear the comparison when Congress' will affect the next election.

++What about Syria? The President was denied approval by Congress to conduct military strikes against Assad. Left-wing Democrats claimed that they may have found new partners with the libertarian Right. I suggest the GOP has become isolationist and will not support any foreign policy initiative by President Obama. So what was the result? The destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria and the destruction of the plants that manufacture them. Not bad for not firing a shot.

++President Obama against the advice of thinkers like Paul Krugman vowed to cut the deficit in half. He has done that and it will probably be more by summer.

++President Obama with the peripatetic Secretary of State John Kerry started the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks again and will soon deliver the final security arrangements for such a deal. 

++President Obama promised the end of America's longest war in Afghanistan. If the price is 10,000 remaining troops, so be it but it looks like it is on schedule.

++The United States and its allies reached an interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. As I have written, the deal is several times better than I expected and may pave the way to a larger Iranian deal. This year will be a contest of whether Iran's hardliners can spoil the deal or the United States Senate by imposing more sanctions while the negotiations are on-going.

++The President represented the United States well at Nelson Mandela's memorial, being called a show-stopper.Ironically, he was the only American president who could honestly say he was influenced by the man.

++The President presided over the most rapid expansion of LGBT rights in history with the end of DOMA. His support for the ENDA resolution won passage in the Senate but stalled in the House.

++He was battered by the NSA revelations,some dating back to the last Administration. His own handpicked review panel recommended significant changes to the way the NSA collects data. It will be interesting to see his follow-up. But it was the act of a man trying to change the situation. I would argue the NSA revelations damaged his approval ratings more than the healthcare website.

++The President also outlined a new strategy on the so-called War against Terror and changing our drone policies.

++His advocacy of immigration reform led to the Senate passing an extensive change to our immigration reform system. If the bill had been allowed to be voted on in the House, it would have been passed. Some see change coming after the deadline for primary challenges to House members passes.

++The Stock market hit all-time highs and Obama's market is nearing 10,000 above W.  Jobs numbers are improving and would have improved more without the government shutdown.

++Contrary to alot of blogs, people did go to jail because of the Wall Street scandals and billions and billions were paid in fines by banks for their role in the mess. Although not as impressive as possible, there is a new Volcker Rule.

++President Obama was criticized for his lack of diversity in his administration. But most of his judicial nominees were women or people of ethnic minorities.

++After the killings at Newtown,he failed in getting any new gun control legislation through Congress,despite public opinion supporting him. However, he did enact 37 steps through executive action to ameliorate the situation.

++President Obama made mental illness and treatment coverable by health insurance.

++His EPA has made several decisions which will minimize the use of coal-burning plants in the future. His delegation to the Global Change Summit in Poland negotiated an agreement with the global community, the first since the Kyoto Accords.

++Today, he signed the Defense Bill and the Budget. The Defense bill allows him to ship prisoners from GITMO back to their home countries. Unfortunately,it does not allow him to move the remaining prisoners to Supermax prisons and close the facility. But it is a step.

++I would suggest the President OK the release of the Senate's long report on Torture used by the Bush Administration to flip the political debate a little bit. He has been hamstrung by going along with the national security community when the times have changed and the needs are different.

++So how was President Obama's year? How much stuff did you get done this year? I think he beats you. Was this year as great as the first two years of his first administration? No, but he did not have an obstructionist House at the time.


Wishes for 2014

++This year I would like to deal with my own anxieties and not have a series of artificial ones jammed down my throat by politicians. I shutter to think about the next debt ceiling debate. I can't afford the House GOP tanking the world economy and flushing what prospects I have for retirement down the drain. I also can not absorb any further instability in the health insurance market. If the GOP wins in 2014,I hope I will be able to crawl to Medicare in time before they take away what remains of healthcare in this country.

++In other words, I want stability in my political world. But given the music from conservatives near the end of the year,I expect more cultural warfare on inane subjects and more aggression toward the middle-class and lower classes.

++The CNN poll which shows the GOP up by 5 in the generic poll, also shows that only 33% of Americans want to vote in 2014. Only 22% of Democrats are enthusiastic. The GOP is already pumping out the news they will take-over the Senate and enlarge their majority in the House. If true,it will be a disaster for the country. 

++The economy, unless Congress destroys it, looks like it will continue to grow. I expect unemployment to be about 6.5% by mid-year. I also expect the deficit to drop another $200B at the same time. If Congress had passed any of President Obama's agenda, we would be facing an economy of 5% unemployment by June. 

++Like the reaction to Obamacare in 2010,I expect this year's reactions will be against same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. I think the fake controversy over the Duke Dynasty is the first shot in this last-gasp of reaction.

++But Democrats have to be concerned. They must retain the Senate at all costs. In 2016 and 2020,they will be defending less and can go on the offensive. But a temporary loss of the Senate will make Obama's last years hellish. I expect the House to be Republican even if Democrats gain some seats. Over 150 Republicans are running unopposed--composing the small white man Caucus.

++The zeitgeist has changed. The austerity thrill is gone. Democrats can push back on more populist measures on the economy such as raising the minimum wage and floating the idea of expanding Social Security. The culture wars are finished in popular opinion. Same Sex marriage is gaining support by majorities in poll after poll and legalization of marijuana is increasing in support. But remember in 2014 only the most motivated voter votes and this has been a killer for Democrats. 

++In the CNN/ORC poll, the flip between Democrats and Republicans since the GOP fell way behind in the polling done on the government shutdown all came from white males. Women of all races ad classes still favored Democrats. Expect more misogynistic rhetoric in the coming year.

++The key for me will be the races for governor in Florida and North Carolina. If the Democrats turn these states around, even with poor national polling,they will be in good shape in 2016.

++I am still convinced the last thing Obama will see passed from his agenda will be immigration reform. I don't expect anything else. The Democrats must hit the ground running in 2014 for the restoration of the unemployment benefits. But I don't think much more will be done in this coming Congress.

++One of  my concerns is Congress sabotaging the Iran deal. As of now,there is a bipartisan effort to do just that. I think if a full deal with Iran on the nuclear issue can be achieved, it will finally put the nails into the neo-conservative coffin. That is why there will be such pushback from the pundits and the Washington Post. Their raison d'ĂȘtre disappears. 

++While pundits point to President Obama's low poll numbers. They neglect one telling poll on the economy. 50% still blame George W. Bush for today's economy and only 38% blame Obama. 

++There will be other crises but if we can avoid any more on the economy and Iran, we will be better off.

The Trouble With Elmore Leonard

++An article in The Atlantic.

**The answer: He's dead.

Winding Down 2013

++USA Today reports that 2013 will be the best year for the stock market since 1997.

++Charlie Cook says the Democrats have only 1% chance of taking the House in 2014.

++Brainwrap reports Obamacare has hit 1,830,054 private insurance and 4,014,222 in Medicaid expansion. That's 5,844,276 total. The Administration reported 2 million surfed the Healthcare.gov on Christmas Eve.

++Karl Rove predicts the GOP will take the Senate in 2014. Senate Republicans are going to campaign against Obamacare.

++The Washington Post reports that TMac's victory in Virginia spells disaster for Mark Warner in 2014 because Former GOP chair Gillespie will run. Warner has a five point lead over the generic Republican.

++Today's CNN/ORC poll has two-thirds of Americans saying this Congress has been the worst in their lifetime. 73% say Congress has done nothing for the problems of the country. 

++Jeffrey Toobin writes in this New Yorker why the Utah same sex marriage has big implications for this coming year and the potential for a real showdown in SCOTUS on same sex marriage.

++Under the radar,Stanford law professor Pam Karland,who advocated before SCOTUS to strike down DOMA and former litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will be the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division's Voting Rights Section. That's great news for voting rights advocates. Unfortunately, the North Carolina case has been set for 2015 and not this year.

++American development contractor Warren Weinstein has appeared on a video by Al Qaeda pleading with President Obama to negotiate his release. He has been held captive since 2011.

++The US is shipping more weapons to Iraq to assist that government in its war against Al Qaeda. 

++US Marines have been ordered to the South Sudan where that country looks like it is descending into civil war.

++The US Embassy in Kabul was attacked on Christmas but no one was hurt.

++Suicide bombers attacked the Christmas Mass in Baghdad.

++The Egyptian military government declared the Moslem Brotherhood a terrorist organization. They have added a few more charges against the deposed President Mohammed Morsi. 

++The Iranian parliament passed a resolution to accelerate the nuclear program if the United States passed additional sanctions.

++Pussy Riot was released from the Russian prisons and 93 Greenpeace members were allowed to leave Russia after they had been charged with piracy.

++For those Americans who ever wondered what happens to Turkeys pardoned by the President,yesterday I visited the Turkey at his new home at Mount Vernon. He looks very healthy and was gobbling. There is even a plague that declares him the National Turkey.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

++BrainWrap is getting overwhelmed by his Obamacare figures. On Monday, he realized that at least 3.1 million adult children were added on since 2012 and the figure continues to climb. Over 3.9 million poorer Americans will be added through Medicaid . His total--already out of date by this writing--is 5,701,263 and add the 3.1 million and we are already near 9 million.

++It looks like Vermont will conclude the sign-up deadline with a stunning 100% insured.

++If you need health insurance, make sure you sign up today because this is the deadline for January 1.

++The state exchanges are surging today. It is doubtful real numbers will be available for a while.

++Utah was denied a stay for same sex marriages. A partial victory for same sex marriage occurred in Ohio. A new poll has 55% of Mormons favoring same sex marriage.

++Utah did something great for the homeless. Give them an apartment without no questions asked. Phoenix became the first city to beat the deadline for eliminating homeless vets, a goal set by the Obama Administration.

++A non-profit in Detroit has a writers in residence program--where they give writers a home which they bought cheap.

++HuffingtonPost printed what Jesus said about homsexuality----Nothing. So much for Duck man. But Sarah Palin agrees with what he said about the anus because she claims that's in the Gospels. Oh my!

++Happy Holidays--whatever you are celebrating. Drive safely or not at all.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Sunday Wrap-ups

**For this holiday season, put Andrew Sullivan out of his misery and subscribe to The Dish. Religious freaks,those interested in scrotums,and other cultural topics, can't go wrong. He even has insightful political analysis. The quicker you subscribe, he'll take down the subscribe post.

**If you need a tax-deduction, Washington Monthly is a nice blog to subscribe to. For Baby-Boomers, they throw in gratuitous Ry Cooder videos.

** For Charles Pierce, who writes for Esquire, support  ReadersSupportedNews.

**Today is the next to last edition of Jason Linkins' TV Soundoff, where you will learn what talking heads on the Sunday Shows say inane things on their way to the nursing homes. Since today everyone is asked whether this was Obama's worst year,Jason reminds everyone that Obama's fate is to be a very rich celebrity and that you would be lucky to have this year as your worst. E.J. Dionne says 2011 was Obama's worst year. Mike Huckabee says it's 50-50 whether he will run for President and all Republicans say Obamacare sucks and will be the issue next year,like it has been for them the last three years. Why change? Ms.Legrande was on Face the Nation adding some spice to the menu and she says the global economy looks like it really is recovering unless Cave Men in Washington default on the US debt. She expects the year to see unemployment in the US in the high 6% and continuing to drop. But,please read Jason's post at Huffington Post before he disappears and we will have lost a national treasure and might actually have to watch the Sunday Shows.

++Brainwrap is one of my favorite blogger this year with his Obamacaresignups.net website. Before the December 23 deadline, his numbers are 1,408,799 signups on the exchange and 3,902,550 on Medicaid. The grand total is 5,311,349. 

++The Duck Dynasty has wasted all the network time and bloggers. A few things to remember. Daddy Duck is worth $15 million and has an estate of 200 acres. The series completed its season and the second one is already in the can. He's been suspended for his Christmas vacation. Sort of like Lara Larison at 60 Minutes. But expect,Duck Dynasty type statements to be the running theme of the GOP during the 2014 election. They have to go culture war as there really isn't much to talk about.

++The New York Times is beginning to print the whines of well-to-do white people about Obamacare. I guess they have finally figured out health insurance costs more money than they previously figured.

++The US is furious with Israel for selling "our" military equipment to China. This comes after Bibi was bragging about Israel's new partnership with China. 

++President Obama is in Hawaii for his vacation. So he could not have had a bad week here in Washington. He knew he was going away from this town.

++Congress left town letting unemployment benefits to expire the end of this month and the Farm Bill unresolved.

++Senator Manchin of West Virginia said that keeping a majority in the Senate is going to be a heavy lift in 2014 because of Obamacare.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Federal Judge Rules Utah ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional

++In polling on same sex marriage,Utah has always come up as among the lowest 5 states in polling. With New Mexico's ruling in favor of same sex marriage,gay rights advocates felt they were coming to the end of low hanging fruit. Only Michigan and Virginia show public polling that makes it possible for same sex marriage becoming legal in the next few years.

++But now a Federal Judge using the Supreme Court rulings of the past summer ruled Utah's prohibitions were unconstitutional. The order came down at 2pm and people were getting married at 3pm. 

++It's too soon to tell whether the wall of state constitutions prohibiting same sex marriages will come tumbling down. But--UTAH!, center of the Mormon Church?. It is an incredible moment.

Harry's Sick,Senate and Obama to Leave Town

++Harry Reid was hospitalized this morning and will stay in the hospital and miss today's votes.

++Janet Yellin won't be confirmed until January.

++The Senate will go home with no Farm Bill, extended unemployment benefits and judicial nominations may or may not have to be re-submitted.

++Democratic chairpersons revolted against the Nuclear Free Iran Act and President Obama said he would veto. But Rachel Maddow quite correctly pointed out that with the number of Democratic cosponsors,if the stand alone bill came to the floor it might have passed with a veto proof majority and paved the way to war with Iran.

++Unsurprisingly,the Senate did passed by a whopping vote of 84-15 a Defense bill of $552.1 billion and $80.7 billion for the War in Afghanistan and other overseas operations. 

++The Bill does allow President Obama to send Gitmo prisoners to third countries but still doesn't allow for the remaining prisoners to be tried in American courts.

++The Bill actually does allow the U.S. to pay for the destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria.

++Jack Lew says the debt ceiling will have to be raised sometime in February or early March. Watch this space.

++The GDP's Third Quarter was revised upward to 4.1% from 3.6%, the second best quarter since the 2007 Recession.

++Even Huffington Post had to admit that the state exchanges for ACA are running at top speed and enrollments are surging in states that are part of the Union.

++New Mexico's Supreme Court OK'd same-sex marriage. Weirdly,LGBT activists are predicting Indiana will be next.

++President Obama is supposed to address the press before he leaves for his Christmas Holidays in Hawaii.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sorry, I spoke

** I was musing out loud about the Iran deal. Little did I know that Bob Menendez and Mark Kirk would offer a bill for more sanctions even though everyone in the Senate wants to leave. 12 Democratic committee chairs told him this would jeopardize the negotiations and splinter the international coalition. Senator Kerry had said you can play these games after we see Iran is acting in bad faith not beforehand. The White House said such a bill would be a sign that we were negotiating in bad faith and the President threatens to veto it.

What's Up With The Resistance to the Iran Deal

++I have a well-documented history of involvement in activities protesting Iran's history of human rights violations and the nature of their political system. So I should be one against any deal with Iran over its nuclear program. But the current resistance in the United States to the interim agreement is flat out nuts.

++Jennifer Rubin writing today in the Washington Post writes about Hollande's skepticism about the prospects of a final deal and Eli Wiesel taking an ad out in the New York Times urging the "total dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure" and strengthening the economic sanctions.

++Now Rubin opens her piece saying that Iran is not required to account for illegal weapons or take irreversible steps to disable them. What does that mean? What illegal weapons? This is not the case like Syria of a stockpile of chemical weapons. 

++Andrew Sullivan caught the "AIPAC" bill sponsored by Charles Schumer and Mark Kirk that would rule out any deal that allows Iran to enrich any uranium at all. As Sullivan rightly points out, that would mean there would be no deal at all. 

++But the bill is more proactive than that. It says that if Israel decides it is in their own national interest to attack Iran, the United States will stand with Israel and authorize the use of military force; diplomatic,military and economic aid to Israel in defense of its territory, people and existence.

++Sullivan is also right that international law does not condone attacking another country just because you don't like their programs. He is also right that this allows Bibi Netanyahu to dictate American policy and its actions. 

++Remember President Obama has given Israel the latest "bunker buster" bombs and anti-missile technology. In addition, the Obama Administration gave Israel a ten-year military assistance deal.

++Luckily,neither the House or the Senate were competent enough to pass additional sanctions. Additional sanctions would have split the large coalition insisting on Iran diminishing their nuclear capability. So far,there is China, Russia,and the EU as well as Canada and the U.K. This would fall apart and there would be no deal.

++The Interim deal calls for aggressive inspection,the watering down of highest enriched uranium and actually sets their program back months.

++There is legitimate skepticism about the prospects of a final deal. The Rowhani government has a limited honeymoon period or it will face the fate of the Khatami government's overtures to the West.

++But why not give diplomacy a chance? We are talking about a government with no nuclear weapons as of yet and we might convince them not to pursue this option. 

++If you are against any such deal, then please be overt in your support of a war and how you are going to pay for it? And tell me what rationale you will use. We noticed that President Obama could not get Congress to support a strike on Syria's chemical weapons so why does anyone expect the response to be any different for a more difficult target? And AIPAC lobbied like hell for the Syrian strike. There were 250 lobbyists on the House floor and they couldn't pull it off.

++The man who said he would allow Bibi Netanyahu dictate American Middle East policy lost the last election. You can see him on the new Netflix documentary "Mitt". 

++As I have made plain over the years,my fears are for another Fukushima in the Persian Gulf, not nuclear weapons.

++What would happen if our allies insisted that Israel finally open up about their nuclear weapons and allow United Nations inspections of their capability?

What Did Ben Say?

++If you want to read a piece on what is the biggest drag on the economy, check out Dana Millbank in the Post this morning. It's Congress.

++What did Ben Bernacke say yesterday? Interest rates will stay low through 2016. There would be a gradual taping of the FED's stimulus package but the FED would still use all its tools to stabilize growth in the economy. Asked why the employment situation wasn't better, he responded by saying the biggest problem was the fiscal policy of the government or the Congress. 

++As I have argued in this blog many times,if Congress had passed a jobs bill and infrastructure spending, we would be close to full employment. Remember the recent budget passed was $200 billion less than the President had asked for. What Bernancke argued yesterday was that in normal recessions in the past the government has added on the average 400,000 employees but since 2009 it has cut 600,000, which means a total of 1 million jobs have been missing in this recession.

++What Bernancke did yesterday was give Janet Yellin a Christmas gift by beginning the tapering without here having to take the heat the first time out. He also blasted libertarians for their views on the FED and pointed out that the FED gave the Treasury $300 billion from their profits. He also pooh-poohed the idea that the Fed was never audited.

++Wall Street reacted with relief. Home Construction hit a five year high and other indicators saw the economy growing at about 3%. I guess the main story was that few on the Fed boards indicated any desire or need to raise the interest rates. If you remember the Fed had been more split on this last year. But now only 2 of the boards favor raising interest rates so Bernancke was safe in saying there would be none for the foreseeable future.

++Businessweek reports that the GOP staff in the House wants nothing to do with a debt ceiling fight and that Paul Ryan was just playing games. We will see.

Beating a Dead Horse--ACA surging

++People waiting for the Obamacare death spiral will have to wait longer. At a minimum, enrollments are hitting 21,000 per day and a new Kaiser report shows that if the younger Americans don't quite hit the percentage anticipated,premiums would rise a whopping 1%.

++The rates as of last night are:
California 15,000 daily.
New York   4,500 daily.
Connecticut  1,400 daily
Kentucky      3,000 daily.

The gap between Medicaid and the exchanges in states run by Republicans is disgraceful. But the caravan moves on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Left-Overs

++Mark Obershain has conceded to Democrat Mark Herrin in Virginia's race for Attorney-General. The race was the closest in Virginia's history.

++Max Baucus has been chosen by President Obama to be the new American Ambassador to China.

++Ben Bernacke in his final meeting of the Fed in his career has announced scaling back the stimulus of buying bonds by $10 billion. Can we please have Janet Yallin now. Rand Paul says he will keep the Senate through Christmas unless his bill to audit the Fed is passed and he is hanging Yallin out to dry.

++CoveredCalifornia is now enrolling 15,000 people per day in Obamacare--that's double the rate of two weeks ago.

++Both the Ohio and Iowa Attorney-Generals admitted their investigations turned up no voter fraud. In Iowa, it was four voters whose voting rights had not been legally restored after they served time for felonies.

++Fun Fact--The Pentagon says it won't be ready to be audited until 2017. Their Inspector General said that there is no accounting for 8.5 Trillion that has been spent.

The Year Is Over--Senate Passes The Budget

++The Senate finally passed the Budget agreement by 64 votes to 36. This is the first bipartisan budget agreement since 1986. 55 Democrats voted for and 9 Republicans.

++Before it happened,slight hysteria hit the Senate floor as John McCain announced he would introduce legislation to Repeal and Replace the ACA. By the time he actually introduces such legislation,the ACA or Obamacare will be five years old. In case, you have missed it enrollment numbers are surging. So do all those who finally get insure, lose it if a McCain plan is introduced?

++Even before that, Peggy Noonan wrote an op-ed saying that President Obama would blow us all up because of incompetence.

++Paul Ryan says that the GOP will have a hostage to the debt ceiling--namely the Keystone XL pipeline. He repeated the GOP talking points on this boondoggle, which are all absolutely false.

++If anyone really thinks next year will see a more harmonious Congress you are deluding yourselves. Hatred of President Obama is now stratospheric and will remain so.

++John Podesta said that the teabaggers in the House are like those people at Jonestown. Naturally, this being Washington, he had to retract his quote.

++Andrew Sullivan at The Dish disemboweled Ron Fournier on his piece that Obama is at the same place Bush was in the second term.

++I guess we now wait for the NDAA and the Farm Bill. More Obama nominees have trickled in during the slow-motion foodfight in the Senate.

++I'll deal with President Obama in one of my next posts after I talk myself down from the eruption of GOP insanity.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Set The Calendar Again For Another Game

++Watching the Senate slow crawl to a budget deal reminds me of waiting for paint to dry. A sprinkle of nominations continue to be approved. Yes,despite the alarmist news of yesterday, the budget deal made cloture at 67 to 33.

++Now the pundits are gaming the 2014 elections. You see with President Obama at 43% approval rating and the majority of Americans hating both parties,the Amazon Post again raises the possibility of a wave election for the Republicans.

++Paul Ryan is back as Washington's darling, the Jesus of the GOP. The applause is that he has his name on a real piece of legislation. Previously,he got rid of taxes on arrows for bows and arrows and got a post office named.

++Republicans have seen their generic poll gap to Democrats being reversed so their mantra for 2014 is not to do anything at all. They do not want to upset voters with another shutdown. Although they are threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage. But no one knows when this will take place--somewhere from March to May.

++Scott Brown has moved to New Hampshire and is sounding out whether to run for Senate there, having grown up in southern New Hampshire.

++Like others in the GOP, Brown plans to run against Obamacare.

++Meanwhile Obamacare with its Medicaid expansion has topped the 3 million mark and is climbing. It will be interesting to see how running against it will fly next November.

++Since I bungled on the 2010 elections, I doubt whether I will make any predictions on the House this year. The prize is the Senate. This will be Karl Rove's third consecutive shot at taking over the Senate. If the Democrats can hold for 2014, then 2016 on will look good.

++The contests I am most interested in are the Governors' races--particularly Pennsylvania,Florida and Ohio. 

++We should note that the compromise budget is $200 billion less than the Obama budget and lacks unemployment benefits for over 1 million Americans. Somehow the Administration believes that the deal allows them to move ahead on their legislative agenda for the rest of President Obama's term.

++The news stories for the year will be about fake wars in both parties. 

++A Federal judge has ruled--sort of--that the NSA domestic spying is unconstitutional. He punted the issue upwards for an appeal by the government before recommending changes.

++The NSA last week suggested Snowden should get amnesty in return for telling them everything he stole.The Obama Administration said no to amnesty. Snowden has asked Brazil for asylum in return for helping them on NSA spying in Brazil.

++Immigration reform advocates still say they can get it passed by the end of next year.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Misc.

++The article of the Day is by Francis Schaeffer,"The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama" at www.patheos.com. Frank defends the President from his critics on both the Right and the Left.

++Pope Francis, Time Magazine's Person of the Year, says to his critics he isn't a Marxist but has known many fine Marxists as people.

++Nate Silver sort of agrees with Charlie Cook that the GOP stands a 50-50 chance of getting the Senate. He predicts the GOP will have 50-51 seats after the 2014 election. Harry Reid says this is hogwash. Silver says the cause is the retirement of three Democrats.

++Peter O'Toole is dead at 81.

++Madiba is buried in his hometown of Qunu.

++Paul Ryan says the GOP will be meeting during the Holidays to discuss what they will demand for raising the debt ceiling. But he admits that no one knows when that will be.

++The AP has a story that the "so-called" stand-down order in Benghazi was issued by the CIA station chief and fights broke out among CIA officers in Libya. But no one would say anything could have been done to save the Ambassador's life. 

++President Obama is withholding the release of the CIA report on the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He is also trying to prevent the Senate from releasing its 6,000 page report on the use of torture by the United States.

++Walter Jones,(R-N.C.) is asking for the release of the censored portion of the 9/11 Report concerning the Saudi government and diplomats' involvement in assisting the hijackers. The New York Post today printed a summary of the findings.

++The NSA is offering an amnesty if Snowden will tell him everything he stole.

++Danish and Norwegian ships are ready to transport 500tons of Syria's most dangerous chemicals as part of the agreement they dispose of their chemical weapons.

++American officials will be meeting with the Islamist part of the Syrian opposition after they overran the Free Syrian Army and chased General Idriss into exile.

++There are now 23 million Syrian refugees, who may become permanent exiles. Their humanitarian plight has become catastrophic with the winter weather.

++John McCain is in the Ukraine urging peace. He does say that more sanctions against Iran are inevitable.