Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adding to the Deficit: Bush vs. Obama (Washington Post)

The latest from Ezra Klein:

The question is can we accurately account for the amount from both Presidents Bush and Obama they increased the deficit. The answer is, probably...

(Click on the chart for a larger image...)

Read the whole article here...

Wonkbook: It's too late for a new candidate to enter the GOP primary - The Washington Post

Wonkbook: It's too late for a new candidate to enter the GOP primary - The Washington Post:

Solid article by Ezra Klein on the unlikely entrance of a "outsider" into the Republican field. Not enough time to organize an effective campaign, let alone a national one, the issue of fundraising, the issue of being able to get your name on enough State ballots to even have a prayer of competing on a national scale against 2-4 other conservatives who have had months and in some cases years to prepare their campaign.

Really, Mr. Romney?

Romney tells Newt Gingrich, "...And I think you should recognize that having differences in opinion does not justify labeling people with highly-charged epithets."

I, of course, agree you shouldn't stoop to name calling, demeaning language or misrepresenting anything your opponent believes. I think Newt Gingrich is a desperate candidate who sees his chances slipping away and is unable to do much to stop it. He knows Florida was big for Romney. It wasn't very close, so this isn't a very good batch of lemons to perhaps make into lemonade. Michigan's primary is coming up soon, which is Romney's home state so chalk that one up as a loss, then shortly after that will come Utah. Utah is the home base for all Mormons in the United States and Gingrich's chance of upsetting Romney there is nil. Or as Elvis Costello once wrote, Less than Zero.

Presuming there's no dead girl or live boy that shows up in the Romney campaign over the next several weeks, I believe he will be the Republican nominee to challenge President Barack Obama in November. Wouldn't it be a surprise if Romney practiced his own advice in the general election campaign? No calling Obama a Muslim, Socialist, a radical, etc...Certainly don't suggest he doesn't love this country or know what it means to really be an American, etc...

The person who wins elections at this level should do so on merit. Not on who has the sharper tongued speech writers, debate coaches and advisors. I hope we have a polite, respectful competition between Romney and Mr. Obama but I'm almost certain we will not. 

With the impact of the Citizens United case, we've come to a place where money is literally no object in politics anymore. For candidates like Rick Santorum, money is a real and serious hurdle that prevents him from sustaining a long term campaign. But for both Romney and Obama...there's no worries that there's not enough dough. Both campaigns have a crapton of money, plus the Political Action Committees (PACS) for each side have a fiscal faucet that has no off position. 

I do hope that Mitt Romney takes the high road later this year when he turns his full attention towards President Obama. Likewise, I hope our President acts and campaigns in a fashion that fits the position he currently holds. 

We deserve a higher level of debate given the stakes. 

Good news for Democrats & Obama, but let's look deeper...

This morning's edition of Roll Call had an interesting article by Stuart Rothenberg related to the keeping of political polls in context.

The gist of Rothenberg's point is that while several metrics do show an improvement for Democrats and even President Obama, its important to understand the dynamics of the various polls. He makes a compelling case that Democrats would be well advised to heed. There's a lot that can happen between now and election day next November and a few nice looking polls just isn't cause for celebration. Certainly not yet.

From the article:

Even more noteworthy, the current 6-point Democratic advantage on the generic ballot is only a little better than the party’s 2-point advantage in October 2010 and is far smaller than its 13-point advantage right before the 2008 elections.
But even if the economy doesn’t move one way or the other decisively, you can bet that the partisan argument will heat up again, putting the president back into focus and into the center of the political discussion.
And when the GOP race ends, probably well before the convention in August, voters will start to compare the two nominees across a large number of dimensions during a very spirited campaign.
I’d bet that only then will independents, who are more sensitive to short-term factors and the national mood, seriously consider the two nominees and decide how they will vote. And only then will we get a reliable handle on the shape of the electorate heading toward Election Day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

One story about CNN, one about Fox News...

First up, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield pulls a fast one on Louisiana Senator David Vitter over his prostitution scandal during an interview about Newt Gingrich. First off, its old news and rather than try and stir up some odd relevancy between the two men's indiscretions, she simply didn't need to go there. When Vitters pushed back that Banfield had in fact out done CNN anchor John King, who'd incurred the wrath of Gingrich in a recent debate for bringing up the issue of his infidelities, Banfield replied, "I'm not trying to outdo anyone sir, I'm trying to hold you accountable."

I think it was a cheap stunt and uncalled for. The premise of the interview was for Vitters to comment on Gingrich's issues, not a drilling down into Vitter's personal situation. It was a stretch. Perhaps with a less clumsy segue it could've been pulled off but Banfield handled it poorly.

Watch the interview here and read HuffPo's write-up on the exchange...

 Next, lets turn to a column written by Eric Boehlert commenting on how Fox News has hurt the Conservative party in the US. In short, Boehlert suggests that with the power of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, conservatives running for office have to work with and through Fox News to reach their goals. What makes Fox News the ratings king may not necessarily be good for conservatives.

Read the full article here...

The bipartisan myth - POLITICO.com Print View

The bipartisan myth - POLITICO.com Print View:

Interesting article discussing the chances of the two chief political parties bridging their differences are finding common ground. Partisanship seems worse than ever before and compromise seems unlikely. Are there reasons to be optimistic? Read on....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Myth of American Decline...

Not Fade Away

The myth of American decline.

(NOTE: I found this essay by Robert Kagen of the New Republic to be a fascinating review of where America has stood in the global pecking, the reasons why and a clear-eyed look at where we are now and what the future holds for us. The fundamental question addressed is this. Is the United States of America in decline? While we hear this notion perpetuated by those on both sides of the political spectrum, is it true? Is it a legitimate concern? Its a bit lengthy but stay with it. I highly recommend it. BC)

Note: At the State of the Union on January 26, President Barack Obama argued, "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about."  According to a Foreign Policy report, the president had read and been influenced by the TNR article below, discussing it at length in an off-the-record meeting on the afternoon of the speech.  
Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions. The present world ordercharacterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powersreflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers. Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.
But how real is it? Much of the commentary on American decline these days rests on rather loose analysis, on impressions that the United States has lost its way, that it has abandoned the virtues that made it successful in the past, that it lacks the will to address the problems it faces. Americans look at other nations whose economies are now in better shape than their own, and seem to have the dynamism that America once had, and they lament, as in the title of Thomas Friedman’s latest book, that “that used to be us.”
The perception of decline today is certainly understandable, given the dismal economic situation since 2008 and the nation’s large fiscal deficits, which, combined with the continuing growth of the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Turkish, and other economies, seem to portend a significant and irreversible shift in global economic power. Some of the pessimism is also due to the belief that the United States has lost favor, and therefore influence, in much of the world, because of its various responses to the attacks of September 11. The detainment facilities at Guantánamo, the use of torture against suspected terrorists, and the widely condemned invasion of Iraq in 2003 have all tarnished the American “brand” and put a dent in America’s “soft power”its ability to attract others to its point of view. There have been the difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which many argue proved the limits of military power, stretched the United States beyond its capacities, and weakened the nation at its core. Some compare the United States to the British Empire at the end of the nineteenth century, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serving as the equivalent of Britain’s difficult and demoralizing Boer War.
With this broad perception of decline as the backdrop, every failure of the United States to get its way in the world tends to reinforce the impression. Arabs and Israelis refuse to make peace, despite American entreaties. Iran and North Korea defy American demands that they cease their nuclear weapons programs. China refuses to let its currency rise. Ferment in the Arab world spins out of America’s control. Every day, it seems, brings more evidence that the time has passed when the United States could lead the world and get others to do its bidding.
Powerful as this sense of decline may be, however, it deserves a more rigorous examination. Measuring changes in a nation’s relative power is a tricky business, but there are some basic indicators: the size and the influence of its economy relative to that of other powers; the magnitude of military power compared with that of potential adversaries; the degree of political influence it wields in the international systemall of which make up what the Chinese call “comprehensive national power.” And there is the matter of time. Judgments based on only a few years’ evidence are problematic. A great power’s decline is the product of fundamental changes in the international distribution of various forms of power that usually occur over longer stretches of time. Great powers rarely decline suddenly. A war may bring them down, but even that is usually a symptom, and a culmination, of a longer process.
The decline of the British Empire, for instance, occurred over several decades. In 1870, the British share of global manufacturing was over 30 percent. In 1900, it was 20 percent. By 1910, it was under 15 percentwell below the rising United States, which had climbed over the same period from more than 20 percent to more than 25 percent; and also less than Germany, which had lagged far behind Britain throughout the nineteenth century but had caught and surpassed it in the first decade of the twentieth century. Over the course of that period, the British navy went from unchallenged master of the seas to sharing control of the oceans with rising naval powers. In 1883, Britain possessed more battleships than all the other powers combined. By 1897, its dominance had been eclipsed. British officials considered their navy “completely outclassed” in the Western hemisphere by the United States, in East Asia by Japan, and even close to home by the combined navies of Russia and Franceand that was before the threatening growth of the German navy. These were clear-cut, measurable, steady declines in two of the most important measures of power over the course of a half-century.
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

MA Health Reform: Got to Admit It's Getting Better - Health Stew - Boston.com

MA Health Reform: Got to Admit It's Getting Better - Health Stew - Boston.com

Interesting look by John E. McDonough at how reform has improved health care in Governor Mitt Romney's former State of Massachusetts. Trends look positive and its making a difference in people's lives. It examines several changes in health care statewide since 2006.

Massachusetts may serve as a partial model for what effect the Affordable Care Act might have if fully implemented over the next few years...

Impeach Obama? - Nancy Cook - NationalJournal.com

Impeach Obama? - Nancy Cook - NationalJournal.com

Norquist predicts the Senate would pursue impeachment against President Obama if he let's the Bush tax cuts expire...


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stephens: The GOP Deserves to Lose - WSJ.com

Stephens: The GOP Deserves to Lose - WSJ.com: "Let's just say right now what voters will be saying in November, once Barack Obama has been re-elected: Republicans deserve to lose."

What Are the Chances of a Republican White Knight? : Roll Call Politics

"In other words, this year has been so bizarre that anyone who suggests that a white knight or a deadlocked convention is impossible simply doesn’t understand that all of the old rules have been broken and anything is possible this year."

What Are the Chances of a Republican White Knight? : Roll Call Politics:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Newt Gingrich may find he’s unable to debate his way to the Oval Office - The Hill's Ballot Box

This isn't written by a Democrat or Liberal, its written by a Republican...


Newt Gingrich may find he’s unable to debate his way to the Oval Office - The Hill's Ballot Box:

Two quotes from last night's SOTU and the Republican Response worth considering...

I found these two statements, the first by President Obama, the second by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who gave the GOP response after the conclusion of the State of The Union address, to be quite telling. More specifically, the response to each...(Bold mine)

But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief. 

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense. 

President Barack Obama, SOTU Address
January 24, 2012

It’s absolutely so that everyone should contribute to our national recovery, including of course the most affluent among us. There are smart ways and dumb ways to do this: the dumb way is to raise rates in a broken, grossly complex tax system, choking off growth without bringing in the revenues we need to meet our debts. The better course is to stop sending the wealthy benefits they do not need, and stop providing them so many tax preferences that distort our economy and do little or nothing to foster growth.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, GOP Response
January 24, 2012


Keep both in mind as you hear and read the various reactions to the President's speech over the next day or so. They essentially make the same point and suggest the same path forward. Both identify the wealthiest Americans an an opportunity for a correction/adjustment to our Federal tax policy. 

If the Republicans consider Obama using "class warfare" to achieve this goal, how in the world while saying the same thing, aren't they? 

It is a beautiful example of a clumsy hypocrisy...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Santorum: Not My Job to Correct Voters Who Say Obama's a Muslim - Lindsey Boerma - NationalJournal.com

Class act, Mr. Santorum... (Video added...)
Santorum: Not My Job to Correct Voters Who Say Obama's a Muslim - Lindsey Boerma - NationalJournal.com

Gabby Giffords Video...

This really doesn't require much from me. Its a video from Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announcing her intentions to resign from Congress later this week. About a year ago, Giffords and several others were shot by a mentally disturbed young man.

She is to be admired in her effort to recover. I think her story is not over yet...

The video:

Good luck, Gabby...

The New Yorker: The Obama Memos...

(NOTE: I found this essay fascinating to read. A terrific look into the political realities President Obama has had to learn to deal with. Well written by Ryan Lizza...)


The making of a post-post-partisan Presidency.

by JANUARY 30, 2012

Hundreds of pages of internal White House memos show Obama grappling with the unpleasant choices of government.
Hundreds of pages of internal White House memos show Obama grappling with the unpleasant choices of government.

On a frigid January evening in 2009, a week before his Inauguration, Barack Obama had dinner at the home of George Will, the Washington Post columnist, who had assembled a number of right-leaning journalists to meet the President-elect. Accepting such an invitation was a gesture on Obama’s part that signalled his desire to project an image of himself as a post-ideological politician, a Chicago Democrat eager to forge alliances with conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. That week, Obama was still working on an Inaugural Address that would call for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

Obama sprang coatless from his limousine and headed up the steps of Will’s yellow clapboard house. He was greeted by Will, Michael Barone, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Lawrence Kudlow, Rich Lowry, and Peggy Noonan. They were Reaganites all, yet some had paid tribute to Obama during the campaign. Lowry, who is the editor of the National Review, called Obama “the only presidential candidate from either party about whom there is a palpable excitement.” Krauthammer, an intellectual and ornery voice on Fox News and in the pages of the Washington Post, had written that Obama would be “a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin,” who would “bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.” And Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a former aide to Dan Quayle, wrote, “I look forward to Obama’s inauguration with a surprising degree of hope and good cheer.”

To continue reading, click here...

Source: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/30/120130fa_fact_lizza#ixzz1kIRfGIRh

The two faces of Muslim life in the US - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

"The United States can legitimately pride itself on the extent to which it is still capable of benevolently assimilating diverse peoples, creeds and cultures into its body politic. But the country also needs to awaken to the extent to which a creeping Islamophobia is progressively placing its freedoms, its values, its civic culture, and ultimately its security, at risk."

Interesting article written by former CIA-er Robert Grenier, who was the Director of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center form 2004 - 2006...

The two faces of Muslim life in the US - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Friday, January 20, 2012

Do We Need the Department of Education?

A very interesting essay on why we don't need the Department of Education...

Written by Charles Murray, the WH Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Murray discusses three questions regarding the existence of the Department of Education.

1) Constitutionality...
2) The existence of problems so serious in scope that they could only be effectively addressed via a Federal Agency...
3) Its track record since its inception...


THE CASE FOR the Department of Education could rest on one or more of three legs: its constitutional appropriateness, the existence of serious problems in education that could be solved only at the federal level, and/or its track record since it came into being. Let us consider these in order.
(1) Is the Department of Education constitutional?
At the time the Constitution was written, education was not even considered a function of local government, let alone the federal government. But the shakiness of the Department of Education’s constitutionality goes beyond that. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates the things over which Congress has the power to legislate. Not only does the list not include education, there is no plausible rationale for squeezing education in under the commerce clause. I’m sure the Supreme Court found a rationale, but it cannot have been plausible.
On a more philosophical level, the framers of America’s limited government had a broad allegiance to what Catholics call the principle of subsidiarity. In the secular world, the principle of subsidiarity means that local government should do only those things that individuals cannot do for themselves, state government should do only those things that local governments cannot do, and the federal government should do only those things that the individual states cannot do. Education is something that individuals acting alone and cooperatively can do, let alone something local or state governments can do.
I should be explicit about my own animus in this regard. I don’t think the Department of Education is constitutionally legitimate, let alone appropriate. I would favor abolishing it even if, on a pragmatic level, it had improved American education. But I am in a small minority on that point, so let’s move on to the pragmatic questions.
(2) Are there serious problems in education that can be solved only at the federal level?
The first major federal spending on education was triggered by the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik, in the fall of 1957, which created a perception that the United States had fallen behind the Soviet Union in science and technology. The legislation was specifically designed to encourage more students to go into math and science, and its motivation is indicated by its title: The National Defense Education Act of 1958. But what really ensnared the federal government in education in the 1960s had its origins elsewhere—in civil rights. The Supreme Court declared segregation of the schools unconstitutional in 1954, but—notwithstanding a few highly publicized episodes such as the integration of Central High School in Little Rock and James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi—the pace of change in the next decade was glacial.
Was it necessary for the federal government to act? There is a strong argument for “yes,” especially in the case of...
To continue reading, please click here...


A conversation with CBS News Mark Knoller...

Mark Knoller, the White House Correspondent for CBS News, sits down for a 30 minute interview with Anchor Katie Couric. Its a pretty light glimpse into his world, with some interesting anecdotes. We hear these guys names at the end of reports, we hear a general claim of liberalism in the media, etc. I found this video humanized Knoller to me a bit...


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

President Obama's first campaign ad goes up....

President Obama's first re-election television spot:

The ad focuses on energy and ethics. The first of many such ads trumpeting Obama's performance and in some cases, attempting to correct the narrative that opposition groups have set forth.

Another benchmark...

15,000 hits!!!

Thank you for reading!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Obama vs. Bush on Job Creation...

I came across this graph today being touted by David Axlerod as proof positive that President Obama has produced a steady, consistent track record of job creation over the last twenty-two months. It also seems to compare favorably to Obama's predecessor, George Bush.

Let's take a look...

In this first graph, the one being spread around by the Obama camp, we see a graph that runs from December 2007 through December 2011...(Click on the chart to enlarge it...)

Clearly we can see how the graph begins to show a reduction in job losses within a few months of Obama taking office in January, 2009. Gross Job creation (I don't know if these are new jobs created or old jobs re-created. For my purposes here, I won't differentiate) kicks in around early Spring in 2010, which began the current streak of 22 months of job creation.

This chart provides us with only a year of the Bush Administration's performance. I wanted to see further back, prior to the dates in the above graph. Let's look at this chart which shows the bulk of the Bush tenure in the White House. The title of the chart is different from the previous chart but they're measuring the same thing...(Again, please click on the chart to enlarge it...)


A little more complete picture emerges, eh?

Yes, the Obama administration is growing jobs consistently, but the Bush administration had done so for roughly four years, from January 02 (reduction in jobs lost) to actual job growth through January 06. It's a little unfair to Mr. Bush to snag the worst of his numbers and compare to the rosiest of the Obama numbers.

Unemployment and job creation are pretty fluid metrics if we look at the bigger picture. Bush had two significant downturns during his eight years, and his period of growth didn't seem to gain back the losses fully. Obama walked into a terrible situation and while it looks better than it has for along time, we're still topping out at around two hundred thousand jobs per month. Which is less than the high end numbers Bush was able to realize between '04 and '06.

There's plenty to cherry pick to make either president look better or worse than they really deserve. I do think its a bit self-serving for the Obama camp to clip off most of Bush's healthier years. I know why they did it, but its still a bit weak.

Huntsman quits, endorses Romney, a few thoughts...


Just hours after receiving an endorsement from South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, word comes from the Jon Huntsman campaign that the former Utah Governor has ended his campaign. He will make an announcement at 11:00am this morning in Myrtle Beach, SC. Huntsman will reportedly endorse front-runner Mitt Romney in these remarks, but its unclear if Romney will be present.

You can read various write ups from Huffington Post, Politico, The Hill, The Associated Press and Fox News...

I found Huntsman appealing. Clearly a smart person, with an impressive resume, his voice was a calmer voice among the other GOP candidates. He wasn't prone to the type of rhetorical flashes that Newt Gingrich is, didn't utilize the hard line partisan cheaptalk that Rick Perry and Rick Santorum have repeatedly used, and didn't seem, at least as often, to engage in the politispeak of Mitt Romney where a candidate talks for a few minutes, says virtually nothing, but puffs his chest out as if a job well done. Huntsman had, in my opinion more substance than his Republican rivals, with only Gingrich able to run in his circle.

A few weeks ago I thoroughly enjoyed listening to a debate/discussion between Huntsman and Gingrich. It was substantive, polite, thought provoking and damn interesting. Far superior to anything we've heard yet in the dozen or so debates we've been subjected to.

When Huntsman announced his intentions last summer in New Jersey, there were some who felt he was the candidate the Obama Administration feared the most of all the potential ones out there. His poll numbers were terrible when he started and not much better when he ended. His was a candidacy that never really gained  traction with the American people. Having served out of the Country for so many years, his wasn't a name we'd see or hear about on a regular basis in the media. So while he was doing a lot of neat things, nobody really knew about it or cared, so in terms of his campaign, it didn't help him very much.

Plus, I think he paid a price for agreeing to serve in Obama's administration. I have to think that if re-elected to a second term, should Obama invite another Republican to serve under his presidency, the Huntsman blow-back may influence GOP-ers to decline the offer.

Huntsman is a serious person, who I imagine will turn to some serious type project in the next few years. He'll be a surrogate for Romney but it will be interesting to watch just how often he's stumping for the GOP front-runner over the next few months. I don't think campaigning ever really was Huntsman's favorite thing to do. Which I say as a compliment. I also don't think he'll become a fixture on Fox News or Right Wing talk radio. He doesn't pander very well, which will limit his appeal. If and where he might surface in a Romney administration is hard to say. I don't see him as a viable Vice Presidential candidate. Romney will select someone more conservative, not less than he is. It wouldn't shock me if he was utilized in a State Department position once more.

I would not have feared a Huntsman Presidency, like I would fear, for example, a Rick Santorum Presidency. I found him to be a bit brighter than most of the other Republicans running. Somehow, that would give me a sense of assurance that good, reasonable decisions would be made. Thoughtful ones.

The field now narrows to five men, only four of which can make even a moderately reasonable case for carrying on through South Carolina and into Florida. (Rick Perry's campaign is over, he just doesn't seem know it.)

For an analysis of what Huntsman's dropping out means to the overall campaign going forward, I suggest you read Nate Silver's take on things here...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Israel: Concerns abound...

Two articles came to my attention over the last few days. The first was one from Foreign Policy written by Mark Perry titled "False Flag" which lays out a pretty compelling case of Israeli Mossad placing agents under cover in the Palestine-Sunni bases terrorist group Jundallah in an attempt to work with Israel against Iran. Specifially, these under-cover agents were passed off as Americans. This reportedly occurred late in the George Bush administration, even though the US had forbidden even the slightest contact with Jundallah.

From the article: "It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.
The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.
The second piece I found in the Wall Street Journal, dated 1/14/12 with the title, "US Warns Israel on Strike." An excerpt: 
WASHINGTON—U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.
[USIRAN]Associated Press
Iranians on Friday carried the flag-draped coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist working in Iran's nuclear sector assassinated in Tehran.
President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Stepping up the pressure, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.
The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as U.S. officials warn Tehran, including through what administration officials described Friday as direct messages to Iran's leaders, against provocative actions.

It is widely known that if Iran would attack Israel, both Israel and the United States would respond in kind. While we risk relatively little here in the mainland, the US has a great deal to lose should this become a shooting war. As tensions increase, if it actually came to open hostilities, troops, bombings, air missions, etc. the ill will toward the West would be significant. We're not too far away from the one year anniversary of the beginning of last year's Arab Spring. Several countries in the region, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, etc...have all seen their government's fundamentally changed in the last twelve months. New governments are not yet fully established and should the area see Israel and the US unite against Iran...I think most of the region would fall in line behind Iran and oppose the Israeli/American actions. 
There have been reports late this week that Iran has finally agreed to have talks about its nuclear program with the International Atomic Energy Agency at the end of January. Maybe this is a disingenuous ploy, meant to delay the inevitable, harsher sanctions. If the European Union decides to reduce the amount of Iranian oil it purchases, it will further hurt Iran's struggling economy. Plus, sanctions do a lousy job of "winning hearts and minds" that the West and Israel are not evil. 
As United States battleships begin to increase in number in that part of the world, especially near the Straight of Hormuz, the ante has upped. Things are more serious. Israel and the United States should be patient and truly united in their tactics. This doesn't mean Israel gets everything it wants. Their response to the Iranian issue has an effect on the United States all around the world. If the premise of the first article above is true, it speaks to the dysfunctional relationship we seem to have with them. We are their insurance policy. We will be the ones who come in with the military resources and stand by Israel. 
We do so at a cost. Should that cost be required, we should absolutely step up and pay it aggressively. It should, of course be a last resort. Perhaps it is time for talk. I fear what might happen if the Republicans win back the White House next November. Other than Congressman Ron Paul, who advocates a more isolationist foreign policy, the other candidates all seem to favor a more aggressive tone to be used with Iran. Some have said they would in fact bomb the reported Iranian nuclear sites. I say the days of the US being able to stick its military finger into another country's chest and "tell" them what they must do are over. We may still try that tactic, but its not wise. Its the kind of thing that makes people hate us. We are not the world's policeman, we don't necessarily know what is best for every country around the world. (If you doubt this, think of the quality of life in Iraq before Saddam Hussein was forced out and how it is now. Don't take my word for it, here's a recent poll that addresses that very issue. The number of displaced persons/families is staggering...

If talks are unable to bridge the differences then I imagine at some point we'll see Tehran under attack on CNN, I just hope it doesn't come to that. The United States can't afford to be involved in yet another war involving an Islamic country. I think only bad things can come of that. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jimmy Fallon as Tim Tebow/David Bowie...Awesome...

A lighter moment for a change...

Here's a clip of late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon posing as a combination of legendary pop singer David Bowie and Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow...


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Election: The Candidate Match Game - USATODAY.com

 Nifty quiz that allows the user to assign importance to eleven different topics such as Afghanistan, Energy, Health Care, Medicare, Immigration, etc. and then answer about a dozen questions to see which candidate you match up best with.

Possibilities include eight different challengers as well as President Barack Obama. Takes about 5 minutes to complete....

Click the link below to take the quiz...

(Thanks to Pat Shuler for the heads up...)

2012 Election: The Candidate Match Game - USATODAY.com:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Hampshire Primary Results (Predicted)

Today is the first official primary of the 2012 Election season, with Mitt Romney the prohibitive favorite to win in convincing fashion. Given his residential proximity, his organisational strength, his deep pockets, etc., its difficult for me to conceive that anyone else could pull an upset in the Granite State. While his fellow GOP hopefuls have treated him rather rudely over the last few days, its not goin to matter enough to change anything. I fully suspect Romney wins by a wide margin and then heads South for the January 21st South Carolina primary. With a head of steam and better resources than anyone on the Republican side, the former Massachusetts Governor will be in a position to potentially seal the nomination. If he can place 2nd or better in South Carolina, and then finish first in Florida on the 31st, I say its over. Let the GOP coronation begin...

Credit, I suppose, goes to Jon Huntsman for his commitment to New Hampshire. Mimicking Rick Santorum's approach in Iowa, Huntsman has shown a slight surge after ceding the Iowa caucuses to keep his presence up in the Northeast. Huntsman should do no worse than third tonight, with a possibility of a second place finish not out of the question. I find Mr. Huntsman the most appealing of the Republican field, but he needs a miracle. He has virtually no organisation nationally to speak of, his fundraising is miles behind Romney's, and outside of Utah, most Americans don't really know who this guy is. I can't see him continuing to Carolina if he comes in a weak third or worse. Kind of a shame...

The favorite to come in second is Congressman Ron Paul, who's support is steady but limited in its appeal. There doesn't seem to be a new found sense of connection for the Libertarian, so his ceiling is quite limited. While his supporters are perhaps the most passionate of anyone's, his stances on Foreign Policy turn so many people off that his upside is quite small. He's got enough money to carry on, but he announced earlier this week that he's skipping Florida, because he knows he can't compete against Romney in the Sunshine State. The most lucid analysis I've heard recently about Paul is that he's trying to be heard, trying to secure a high profile speech time at the Republican Convention next Summer and try and elevate his son's (Rand Paul) national standing.

Seemingly locked into a fourth place is the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich who has been the most vocal in attacking front-runner Romney, hasn't gained enough ground in New Hampshire to come in much higher. I think Gingrich is serving a purpose for Romney, in the long term. As Romney has seemingly strolled through the last few months and several debates, having to actually put up his political dukes isn't the worse thing that could happen to him. With the understanding that President Obama is a skilled debater, Romney could certainly use some better competition. Better he works up a good sweat and comes through it intact than is "kid-gloved" all the way until he faces off against the President and wonders what hit him. Gingrich is the best debater of all the Republican candidates, so he's a good foil. Santorum and Paul have taken a few whacks at him as well, but not with the same skill as Newt. Gingrich will be heading South Carolina and probably Florida, but beyond that, his audition for a VP slot and/or a Cabinet assignment seems to be wrapping up.

The surprise second place finisher in Iowa, Rick Santorum went to New Hampshire knowing that his ultra-conservative positions would not play as well there as they had in the Midwest a week earlier. You could make the argument that he would've been smart to do what Texas Governor Rick Perry did, which was to skip New Hampshire and get a jump on the rest of the GOP field by campaigning hard in South Carolina. On the other hand, the media buzz is with the front-runner and Santorum's probably getting more national attention this way than he would've by heading South. I think Santorum could be on the short list of VP candidates. A hard line Conservative would assuage fears from the far Right about a Romney Presidency. I wouldn't say he's the front-runner, but he's in the conversation.

Rick Perry has been in South Carolina since the weekend hoping that his Southern "street cred" serves him well in the Carolina primary on the 21st. His poll numbers are abysmal however with the most recent RealClearPolitics poll showing him in a weak 5th place slot with single digits. In spite of having a good bit of money, with poor showings in the first three States, there won't be any reason to go to Florida. Perry drops out after the South Carolina Primary and heads back to Texas.

In summary, the GOP nomination is Romney's to lose, Gingrich hangs around for at least the rest of January, as does Paul. Huntsman is finished by Florida. Santorum, depending on his finish in South Carolina, might also stick around into February. Perry's toast.



Friday, January 6, 2012

Republicans block Dem leader Clyburn from speaking on House floor - The Hill's Floor Action

Republicans block Dem leader Clyburn from speaking on House floor - The Hill's Floor Action:

Interesting look at the gamesmanship currently underway in our Congress. While we hear from the Right that President Obama has dismissed a congressional tradition with these Pro-Forma sessions, this perhaps help explain why he did a recess appointment and bypassed this body.

If the point is that the Senate/House are still in session, thereby making recess appointments illegal, then how is it that no business is to be conducted during these sessions? How does that serve the public good? It doesn't.

Obama's appointments may fall under judicial review, but in terms of populist appeal, he's winning this battle big time in the court of public opinion...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

This is a receipt for a $105,431 bar tab

This is a receipt for a $105,431 bar tab:

The whole tab is mind boggling, but I'm especially entertained by the $22.00 Diet Cokes...


Phenomenal day at work...

Phenomenal day at work...

As most of the RC readers know, I am a full time professional musician in addition to writing this blog. It was an extraordinary day and I wanted to share.

I'm a few months into my 16th year of  providing live musical entertainment for Seniors in Southwest Ohio. I'm incredibly blessed to be able to do this...and nothing but this...for this long. I've met some amazing people, seen profound courage and grace and learned a lot about my self along the way. Working with members of our "greatest generation" is a privilege.

Today began as most days do, I had a single show near downtown Dayton at 2:00pm. An Assisted Living facility, this group would be fairly high functioning but with some physical or early stage memory loss issues. A mixed group, I planned on performing a variety of material from Country, Big Band and Oldies. The show was fun, everyone got involved and left in better spirits than when they walked (or rolled) into the room.

That's what I do...or rather, that's what I get to do on a daily basis, over 400 times a year.

What made today different was the phone call I received from a long term client around lunch time, asking was I available for a special performance later today? I explained that I had a performance scheduled from 2:00pm to 3:00pm, but after that I was free. "What was up?" I asked...

The client explained that one of her residents, let's call her Mary, (not her real name) was facing surgery tomorrow where they would amputate her remaining leg. She previously had had one leg removed about two months ago. Mary was getting quite anxious about the procedure and the Activity Director wanted to think of something that might soothe her nerves for a while. The director knew Mary had followed me around for several years in my public performances and asked if I would come in and spend some time with her.

This woman is facing a surgery in a little over 12 hours to cut off her one remaining leg and they think I'm the guy to help her out? "Sure," I said, "...what room number is she?"

The director didn't tell Mary I was coming in. I'm not scheduled to perform there until later in the month, so there's no way she was expecting me. "Mary, you have a surprise visitor stopping by later on..." was all they told her.

I arrived at the facility around 4:30pm. I walked to her room and knocked on the door frame and said, "Hey Mary, what's up?" Mary didn't recognize me at first but as I walked toward her bed she realized who I was. She teared up and remarked to her room mate, "...this is the guy I told you about! This is the guy I told you about! You should hear him sing!!!"

I gave her a hug and sat with her for about 30 minutes. I held her hand the entire visit. We laughed, we talked about various things and she cried a few tears before I left. She was surprised to see me but I told her that for all the times you've come seen me, it's the least I can do to come by and wish you luck before your big day.

Mary has a great sense of humor. Last month when she saw me she exclaimed as she showed me her missing lower left leg, "Bill! They took my leg!" To which I replied "Well, let's go get it back!" Which made her laugh. Today, when she tried to put on a happy face about no more pain in the soon to be amputated lower limb, I offered up, "Just think of all the money you'll save on Podiatrist visits!" Which also, made her laugh.

I told her I'd see her in a few weeks and play her all-time, favorite song "The Very Thought of You" for her. I gave her one more hug for good luck and kissed her on the forehead as I said goodbye.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again...


There's something profoundly intense about having a connection with someone you don't really know on one hand, yet are almost intimate in a different way. The last time I performed for her at the home, I stopped my show and wheeled her from her table in the back of the room right up to the front of my keyboard. I sang "The Very Thought of You" directly to her. I looked her right in the eyes and watched the tears stream down her cheeks as she thought of her husband who used to sing it to her before he died several years ago.

I don't know her husband's first name. Or any of her children's names. Or her favorite dessert, color or actor. She doesn't know any of that about me, either. But somehow, through the magic and power of music and whatever I contributed to this, a really, really cool thing happened. I participate and enjoy moments like what I've described on a pretty routine basis. I never take them for granted. While I hear over and over again that my music and interaction with these wonderful folks is therapeutic, I have to confess its a two way street. I can't imagine anyone having a better time than I do...

How could they?

50 Reasons to not repeal Obamacare...

50 reasons to not repeal the Affordable Care Act...(From the Health Stew Blog)

I confess, every time I hear Mitt Romney say that his first act as President will be to "repeal ObamaCare" (aka: the Affordable Care Act), I grit my teeth and go grrrrrr.
It's this: as I discussed in an earlier post, while a large proportion of Americans say they don't like the ACA, they also say they like many of the law's provisions. But Mitt and his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination never get asked about those individual provisions the public likes. And the press corps has been thoroughly complicit in letting them get away with this.

As a public service, I am listing 50 provisions I ask the media to ask Romney et al if they are committed to repealing as President. (Click on the ACA link above if you would like to read the actual language in the ACA text.)

Here we go: "Governor Romney, if you are elected President, are you committed to repealing the section of the Affordable Care Act (section # in parenthesis) that:

1. Prohibits health insurance companies from imposing lifetime or annual benefit caps on health insurance policies and consumers? (1001)
2. Prohibits health insurance companies from rescinding an individual's insurance coverage because of an error or misstatement on a coverage application not connected to fraud? (1001)
3. Requires health insurances to cover proven clinical preventive services without co-pays or deductibles? (1001)
4. Permits parents to keep their adult children up to age 26 on their health insurance policies? (1001)
5. Requires health insurers to provide enrollees with a clear summary of benefits and coverage not to exceed four pages? (1001)
6. Requires health insurers to spend no more than 15 or 20 cents of every premium dollar on profit, marketing, administrative costs as opposed to medical expenses? (1001)
7. Sets national standards for administrative simplification to reduce the paperwork burden on patients, providers and insurers? (1104)
8. Prohibits health insurers from refusing to cover individuals based on pre-existing medical conditions? (1201)
9. Requires the establishment of health insurance exchanges in each state to provide an easy, online way for consumers to compare and buy health insurance? (1311)
10. Provides tax credits to income eligible individuals to be able to afford to purchase health insurance? (1401)

For reasons 11-50, please click here...