Monday, January 25, 2010
Can This Leopard Change His Spots Convincingly?
Maybe the meek will inherit the earth but right now they repose in D.C. and the Pentagon remains clueless.(See 1 and 1b below.)
A response to my Der Spiegel article from a friend and Merkel repeats - it's time. (See 1b and 1c below.)
Peter Schiff is running for the Senate. (See 2 below.)
Tomorrow night the audience will get an opportunity to observe a political leopard change his spots before their very eyes. That it can be done is without question. The question is will it be convincing, will the audience buy it? Is it a change caused by political necessity as opposed to conviction?
For a president who has lied time and again the ability to sell his audience he is now telling the truth may now be beyond his reach.
There has been all kind of advice offered and guesses made as to how Obama will thread the needle whose eye has gotten much narrower after Massachusetts. Personally, I do no believe this political leopard can change his spots enough to be convincing because:
a) This leopard is philosophically more in tune with government control than freedom of choice and
b) Obama is badly damaged goods. He has fallen so far from the grace of so many voting segments -the over 60's, independents, even some of the effete wealthy - that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for him to get back on track.
Clinton did it because he had the skin and instincts of a chameleon. Obama is verbally skilled but dermatologically speaking more like a snake. He can try and shed his skin but he remains what he is.
One thing for certain Obama's call tomorrow for a partial budget freeze is just more snake oil. Having already raised administrative costs by a huge amount Obama is, in effect, partially closing the door after the bloated horse is already out of the stable.
The partial budget freeze call touches about 1/6th of the budget and avoids any reference and/or cuts in military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs. Also off the tablke is Social Security and Medicare.
The move is simply meant to mute pubic anger. (See 3, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d and 3e below.)
Tom Sowell on "Great Scott." (See 4 below.)
When Congress went to Copenhagen they did not 'cap' themselves and their spending. How can you take serious anything these idiots do?
Like the old saying: she got the mine and I got the shaft!' (See 5 below.)
What columnist thinks of the 'California girls!' (See 6 below.)
Time marches on but the mind takes a different path. (See 7 below.)
This Doc has it about right. (See 8 below.)
Economy not getting better according to this observer. (See 9 below.)
Bayh fights for his own Senatorial seat by trying to move Obama to the center. (See 10 below.)
1) Useless Fort Hood leaves Americans unprotected
By Diana West
"Do you believe in 'radical Islam'?" the famous Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders once asked me. The occasion was a banquet last summer at the Reagan Library outside of Los Angeles where later that evening Wilders would receive a Hero of Conscience award from the American Freedom Alliance. I would have the honor of introducing him. "What did you say?" I could barely hear him over the speaker at the podium elaborating on the perils of, yes, "radical Islam."
"'Radical Islam,'" he repeated. "Do you think there is 'radical Islam,' or only 'Islam'"? Me, I'm an "only Islam" kind of gal, as I told him. Who am I to argue with Muslims ranging from terror-cleric Abu Qatada to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan? Erdogan is particularly interesting as a democratically elected Islamic leader who eschews all word-modifiers of Islam including "moderate," the adjective the media often applies to his AKP political party. "These descriptions are very ugly," Erdogan said in 2007. "It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that's it." Erdogan has also bluntly rejected descriptions of Turkey itself as an example of "moderate Islam," saying last April: "It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition. Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept. Moreover, Islam cannot be classified as moderate or not."
I mention this now because after the fireworks over Scott Brown's U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts have died down, we will have to return to the same, old, equal parts humdrum and deadly wrangle over how to think, talk about and grapple with Islam in what remains a post-9/11 world. Two related events took place just as the Massachusetts miracle sucked the oxygen from non-election news excepting Haiti coverage. First, the Pentagon report on the Fort Hood massacre came out. It is 86 pages long and doesn't mention the words "Muslim," "Islam," "jihad," "Sharia" (Islamic law), "Koran" — despite the fact that we know, among other things, that the killer, who initiated his massacre with a cry of "Allahu Akbar," was a Muslim inspired by Islam to perform an act of jihad as sanctioned by Sharia derived from the Koran.
These facts, however, rate official silence. So what else is new? From the Bush years to the present, see-no-Islam denial has turned U.S. government attempts to assess and discuss national security issues into Kabuki gibberish, a perpetual exercise in make-believe that the core doctrines and traditional institutions of Islam — not "radical Islam," not "Islamism," not other aliases — pose no threat to the core doctrines and traditional institutions of the non-Islamic Free World. Naturally, mum's the Pentagon word over jihad at Fort Hood. Or, rather, "self-radicalization" is the word. It is mentioned more than a dozen times in the report.
I can't imagine a greater dereliction of duty than this failure of U.S. government leaders to recognize, articulate and defend against what in military parlance is known as the "enemy threat doctrine." But this dereliction, this failure will trigger no investigations or court proceedings on how and why our leaders consistently mask, soft-soap and otherwise fail to assess and repel the existential threat posed by the imposition or accommodation of these same Islamic doctrines. Talk about irony: Within days of the report's release, one of the few politicians in the world who understands, articulates and fights the imposition and accommodation of these same Islamic doctrines went on trial in the Netherlands for doing exactly that.
I refer again to Geert Wilders, now enmeshed in a Kafkaesque court trial in which the Dutch government is subverting its own democratic institutions — namely, freedom of speech and the will of the people — in an effort to shut down Wilders and his political opposition to the Islamization of the Netherlands. The government's case rests on Wilders' increasingly successful efforts to win support for his anti-Islamization program from the Dutch people through speeches, writings and the short film "Fitna" (easily viewable online) — a body of work that only a tyrannical, Islamically correct government could designate as "evidence" of a crime.
How Dutch government officials must envy America's Sharia-compliant public servants who willingly generate see-no-Islam blather such as the Fort Hood report.
They can have it.
1a)Pentagon Clueless on Fort Hood Shootings
By Debra Saunders
Political correctness is alive in the Pentagon. Witness "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood," a Department of Defense report released last week on the Nov. 5 shootings that left 13 people dead.
Granted, drafters of the report had to be careful not to say anything that would help the defense of accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who has pleaded not guilty. Even so, if the report's purpose was to craft lessons to prevent future attacks, how could they leave out radical Islam?
"Our concern is with actions and effects, not necessarily with motivations," former Army Secretary Togo West explained to Time magazine.
In that turn-a-blind-eye spirit, the report essentially whited out the many warning signs left by the Army psychiatrist. On the Internet, Hasan compared Islamist suicide bombers with an American soldier who threw himself on a grenade in Iraq to protect fellow troops. As reported in the Times of London, Hasan explained, "Scholars have paralleled this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard, that would be considered a strategic victory." The Washington Post reported that Hasan gave public talks to his colleagues in which he equated the war on terror with a war on Islam.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which challenges radicalized Islam, also is an internist and former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. As one who went through the same system that trained Hasan, Jasser believes the biggest lesson from Fort Hood should be that a "culture of political correctness" kept concerned officers from reporting Hasan. Yet the report papers over the elephant in the room.
To Pentagon report writers, the shootings have an air of mystery. As in: "Detecting a trusted insider's intention to commit a violent act requires observation of behavioral cues/anomalies." It helps if you can believe that Hasan's cues were observable only to the trained eye.
Ignoring Hasan's pro-terrorist Web postings, the report instead focuses on workplace violence, programs to prevent workplace violence -- such as the Post Office's "Going Postal Program" -- and the stress imposed on military health care providers.
The report does refer to "radicalization," which is good. But it overuses the term "self-radicalization," despite Hasan' contact with Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before the shootings. Said Jasser: "They are simply trying to exaggerate the fact that these are lone actors. I do not believe they are."
Jasser is especially offended at the notion that Hasan's actions were the fruit of psychological problems -- or, as per the report, "cumulative psychological effects of persistent conflict." (To me, the report read like the first draft of a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea.) To Jasser, the more obvious finding could be that the shooter, like Osama bin Laden, simply decided that the ends justify the means.
1b)I enjoyed your article about Iranian nuclear weapons development. Der Spiegel has excellent sources: in fact, sometimes it almost appears to be part of the intelligence services. Spiegel did an excellent book on the 9/11 group, one that some of our Justice Dept. idiots should read . I used Spiegel with great success in my work on the USSR, and found it to be extremely prophetic on many issues, especially those involving high level military and political personnel. Often what Spiegel was saying was far more informative than all our hyped-up classified sources ever said. I hope that Israel does the job for us: with this collection of idiots in power we 'll certainly do nothing and will try to stop any other country from taking the necessary step.
1c)Merkel: Iran's time is up, it's time to discuss sanctions
By RON FRIEDMAN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that time and patience were running out on Iran's nuclear program and that February would see new sanctions discussed following France's rise to the presidency of the United Nations' Security Council.
"Iran's time is up. It is now time to discuss widespread international sanctions. We have shown much patience and that patience is up," said Merkel in a joint press conference with President Shimon Peres in Berlin.
"The International community's efforts have not brought about change so far and it is now time to discuss tougher sanctions," said Merkel.
She said that she hoped the world powers could reach a consensus in February, which she described as a "decisive' month, once France takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council. Merkel stressed that the sanctions would target the Iranian leadership and not the people. "Iran is aware of the threat of sanctions and is troubled by the notion," said Merkel.
Peres said that the world had to act with determination, lay heavy sanctions on Iran and speak in a single and clear voice against the Ahmadinejad regime. He said that the Iranian leadership was a "cruel dictatorship" that trampled on human rights, killed its own people and sponsored terror organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah.
The president went on to say that he was glad to see the Palestinian people taking control of their destiny and beginning construction of their institutions.
He said that Israel fully supports the state-building efforts of the Salam Fayyad government and its success in bringing peace and order to the West Bank. Peres said that Israel would be wiling to make goodwill gestures and called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table.
Peres asked Merkel to convey the request to Abbas when he visits Germany next week. He said the two-state solution was in the heart of the Israel consensus and that the Palestinians should work towards the same aim.
"Neither side has an alternative to the two-state solution," said Peres.
Merkel said that she was worried that the Palestinians would give up on the two-state solution, and expressed Germany's willingness to assist in future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. She said that she and Peres also discussed possible three-way projects which the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Germans could take part in.
2)The Story Of How An Ill-Conceived Minimum Wage Hike Destroyed The Samoan Economy
By Peter Schiff
Like many football fans around the country, I recently tuned into a heavily promoted 60 Minutes segment on the uncanny ability of tiny American Samoa to produce a steady stream of NFL players. Although it was certainly interesting to learn how Pacific island warrior culture translated seamlessly into the disciplines of American football, and how the island's players adapted to the hard-scrabble terrain and poorly funded athletic fields, the most interesting aspect of the piece concerned economics rather than sports.
In passing, the narrator mentioned that American Samoa had recently experienced major setbacks, both natural and man-made. Earthquakes and tsunamis had left scores dead and inflicted major damage on the islands’ infrastructure. More ominously, one of the two major tuna canneries, which together accounted for up to half of the islands’ private sector jobs,[i] had closed. If the second cannery closes, as 60 Minutes mentioned is a distinct possibility, American Samoa will become completely dependent on Federal support. Whether the reporters considered the subject off-target for their piece or simply could not connect the dots, the pending economic disaster was left largely unexamined. However, the Samoan situation offers a very clear lesson for the rest of America about how government policies can devastate an economy, and how the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
For generations, American Samoa offered strong advantages for tuna canners. The close proximity to vast Pacific tuna schools, the islands’ good port facilities, political association with the United States, and an abundance of relatively inexpensive labor (by American standards) enticed StarKist and Chicken of the Sea to locate their primary canning facilities in American Samoa. Although the workers were paid, in recent years, wages that were below the U.S. minimum, given the low taxes and living costs, these wages were enough to offer the average worker a standard of living that was superior to the denizens of other islands in that area of the Pacific.[ii]
But then, in 2007, Washington came to the “rescue.” As part of its efforts to provide a “living wage” for all Americans, Congress passed a law to step up the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour across all U.S. states and territories by 2009.[iii] Understanding that such a law would devastate American Samoa by raising canning costs past the point where the companies could maintain profitability, the non-voting Samoan member of the U.S. House of Representatives convinced Congress to allow an exemption for the islands. However, Republicans raised allegations that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in whose district both Chicken of the Sea and StarKist had corporate offices, had caved to pressure from big donors and was allowing the continued "exploitation" of Samoan workers. Facing a sticky political situation, the exemption was removed.
The Samoan representative desperately sought to fend off what he was sure would be an economic calamity. He asked the Department of Labor to issue a report examining the potential consequences of the law upon the islands’ economy. The report explained that “nearly 80 percent of workers covered by the FLSA earned under $7.25 per hour. By comparison, if the U.S. minimum wage were increased to the level of the 75th percentile of hourly-paid U.S. workers, it would be raised to $16.50 per hour.” Therefore, the study continued, “there is concern that [the tuna canneries] will be closed prior to the escalation of the minimum wage … and that production will be shifted to facilities outside the U.S.” Ultimately, the Department of Labor concluded that “closure of the tuna canneries will cause a total loss of 8,118 jobs – 45.6 percent of total employment.” (emphasis mine) [iv]
Despite this dire forecast, the law went through. Two years later, the results could not be clearer: Chicken of the Sea closed its cannery and moved its production to a largely automated plant in Georgia,[iv] while StarKist has reduced its workforce and is threatening to leave as well.[v]
If that were to occur, which seems likely, American Samoa would be left with no functioning industry. Although many of the islanders have the size and athletic ability to be drafted into the NFL, clearly football will never serve as the backbone of their economy. By imposing an artificially high minimum wage on American Samoa, without taking into account actual economic conditions on the islands, Washington essentially decided that it was better to have no one working there than have thousands of people working for wages that the politicians felt were substandard.
Meanwhile, just as the minimum wage is destroying jobs in American Samoa, it is destroying jobs here on the mainland. Of course the numbers are fewer because the relative minimum is lower, but the principle is the same. Rather than causing wages to rise (which only do so as a function of increased worker productivity), minimum wage laws simply set the minimal level of productivity a worker must contribute to legally be allowed to work. In the case of American Samoa, tuna canners simply could not deliver $7.25 cents per hour of productivity, so their jobs were eliminated. Rather than being employed at $3.26 per hour (the level prior to the minimum wage hike), they are now unemployed at $7.25 per hour. Which do you think is better?
Among the unintended consequences of congressional “benevolence” are rapidly rising consumer prices, due to the higher shipping costs now necessary to bring consumer goods to the islands. Before the minimum wage hikes destroyed most of the canning jobs, lots of canned tuna were shipped from American Samoa to the U.S. (over 50% of the canned tuna in American markets came from American Samoa). One benefit of all the shipping traffic was a low cost of imports, as ships were coming to the islands anyway to pick up the tuna. However, with fewer ships coming to Samoa to pick up tuna, goods are now much more expensive to import. That is because the round trip cost of the journey must now be factored into import prices, as ships bringing in those goods now leave tuna-free. As a result, consumer prices rose from a 2006 annualized rate of 3%[v] to roughly 20% by 2008.[vi] So, not only is unemployment wide-spread, but the cost of living has risen sharply as well – a double whammy.
This just serves to highlight, once again, how inflexible central planning is compared to free markets. From housing to banking to money itself, the politicians would rather mandate prices that they deem acceptable than listen to the innumerable individual decisions that set market prices. Though not always as transparent as with the Samoan case, the result is the same, every time: economic dislocation, higher unemployment, the boom-bust cycle, and a lower standard of living.
3)Bill Clinton's Revenge The former president casts a shadow over the State of the Union.
By WILLIAM MCGURN
When the president enters the House chamber tomorrow night to deliver his maiden State of the Union address, members of Congress, the press, and the public will see Barack Obama at the podium. But they will have Bill Clinton on their minds.
Specifically they will be thinking of 1995, when a humbled Mr. Clinton addressed a newly Republican Congress after his own health-care proposals went down in flames. Though President Obama's party still holds the majority in both houses, it is a scared majority that has been unnerved by the unpopularity of the president's signature policy issue (health care) and terrified by the loss to Republicans of what they all, with David Gergen, regarded as the "Kennedy seat." So whatever Mr. Obama says tomorrow night, his words will inevitably be compared with the speech Mr. Clinton used to rescue his own presidency.
You see it in the return of words such as "pivot" and "triangulate," all evocative of a Clinton-like shift, in the pre-State of the Union commentary. Even those urging Mr. Obama to come out swinging rather than compromise are forced into a Clinton comparison. Thus the headline over Democratic strategist Robert Shrum's story in the magazine The Week last Friday: "Is this Clinton's Third Term?"
Even for the comeback kid, this is quite a turnaround. Almost two years ago to the day, Bill Clinton was a pariah in polite Democratic society—blamed for his wife's loss in the South Carolina primary, where he had compared Mr. Obama to Jesse Jackson. That followed a similar storm in the New Hampshire primary, where he also created a stir by characterizing Mr. Obama's antiwar credentials as "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."
A few days after the South Carolina loss, Sen. Edward Kennedy and his niece Caroline administered what appeared to be the coup de grace by endorsing Mr. Obama. Mr. Clinton must have found it galling to watch Mr. Obama claim the Kennedy inheritance he believed was rightfully his. But Mr. Kennedy didn't stop there, sniping at the Clintons with such lines as "with Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion."
Others piled on. It wasn't just that people preferred Mr. Obama to Hillary. The sense was that the Democrats were finally free to purge their party of the Clintons forever. Maureen Dowd captured the mood when she suggested Democrats take their cue from a Dr. Seuss rhyme: "The time has come. The time is now. Just go. I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Will you please go now!"
Yet for all his undeniable weaknesses, Mr. Clinton does seem to understand something that eludes Mr. Obama: In a center-right nation, a liberal doesn't want to get too far ahead of the voters. At times (and HillaryCare was one) Mr. Clinton got himself too far out in front—but when he had, he'd generally been careful to respond by scurrying back to the center and appropriating his opponents' most appealing messages.
That's exactly what he did in 1995, deploying humor and humility with equal effect in his State of the Union. "I know we bit off more than we can chew," he told Congress.
The following year he declared "the era of big government is over." He also reached out to Republicans on policy, embracing everything from welfare reform to the Defense of Marriage Act.
In the process, he learned one thing: In a nation where roughly 20% describe themselves as liberal, 40% as conservative, and 40% as moderate, there's not a high price for shutting out the left. As for history, Mr. Clinton went on to become the only Democrat since FDR to win and serve two full terms as president.
There's no sign that Mr. Obama buys any of this. His team argues, apparently oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance.
It's all just a big misunderstanding, says the White House. We just need to explain it better—like recasting a second stimulus as a "jobs bill," selling health-care reform as "deficit reduction," and throwing in a lot of speech references to the "middle class."
For his part, Mr. Obama is clear. He says he'd rather be a one-termer than give up on his agenda. But this State of the Union, with the president's approval ratings sinking, Democrats have to be asking themselves: Do Mr. Obama's chances of getting his agenda through really go up if the congressmen and senators listening to his words come to the conclusion he's a short-timer?
3a)Obama On Brink Of Crackup: His presidency is teetering and only Obama can pull it to safety.
BY Fred Barnes
In the new movie The Young Victoria, the mother of Victoria and her chief overseer meet with the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, to discuss what role they’ll play now that Victoria has become queen of England. They’ve waged a fierce struggle to retain control over Victoria. Suddenly Melbourne cuts off the chatter and bluntly explains the situation. “You lost,” he says.
That’s the situation that faces President Obama and his White House advisers. Months of polls on the president and his policies, the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s elections, then last week’s momentous Massachusetts Senate race – all have sent the blunt message to Obama that, for now, he’s lost. But Obama and his team insist on pretending it’s not true.
This is a bad sign. One of the important tests of a president, especially a relatively new one like Obama, is how he deals with a serious setback. Does he respond rationally and realistically? In Obama’s case, the answer is no.
The president’s first response was to claim voters who elected Republican Scott Brown to fill the Senate seat held for decades by Teddy Kennedy were in some mysterious way actually backing Obama. “The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“People are angry and they’re frustrated,” Obama said. “Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.” He didn’t explain why, if the Brown voters were his people, why he’d campaigned for Democrat Martha Coakley, Brown’s opponent.
The next day, Obama lost his cool bearing. He resorted to crude populism, which he’d carefully avoided in his campaign and first year in office. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, on First Amendment grounds, in favor of the use of corporate funds in election contests, he didn’t offer a substantive critique, but called the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
The populism continued the next day in a speech in Ohio. “We want our money back,” he said, regarding banks that received bailout funds. “We want our money back! And we’re going to get your money back – every dime, each and every dime.”
This was the language of a rattled president in search of enemies to scapegoat. Obama didn’t mention that all but one of the major banks have paid back the bailout money with interest. There’s a word for this kind of rhetoric: Unpresidential.
Obama’s aides have been no help. They claimed it’s full speed ahead on the Obama agenda. And they stuck with the president’s insistence that Massachusetts voters were on his side.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said a Washington Post poll showed “more people voted to express support for Obama than to oppose him.” The poll found voters like the idea of health care reform and a bipartisan approach to it.
But supporting health care reform in general and ObamaCare in particular are two different things. Republicans and independents favor reform, just not Obama’s version.
And oppposing ObamaCare was Brown’s chief issue, and in every poll that asked specifically about it, voters were overwhelmingly against it. Arguing otherwise, as Gibbs did, was specious and disingenuous.
At least Obama’s aides had their stories straight, though not credible, on Brown’s victory. They didn’t in citing the discredited White House claims of jobs created and saved in 2009. Valerie Jarrett said Obama has “saved thousands and thousands,” Gibbs said the president has “saved or created 1.5 million jobs,” and political counselor David Axelrod said Obama has “created more than – or saved more than 2 million jobs.”
Meanwhile, the story broke on Sunday that Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe would return to the president’s inner circle to help plot strategy against Republicans in the midterm election and to help push the Obama agenda. The same day he offered his political advice in a Washington Post op-ed. His first recommendation was pass ObamaCare, the same measure that a solid (and still growing) majority of Americans oppose.
If he relies on advice like that, Obama will never recover. But maybe cooler heads will prevail at the White House and the president will deal more rationally in his State of the Union address on Wednesday with what Charles Krauthammer calls “empirical reality.” He’d better. His presidency is teetering on the edge of a crackup and only Obama can pull it to safety.
3b)The Populist Addiction
By DAVID BROOKS
Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds. The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists. The people who try to divide it on the basis of religion we call sectarians. The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists.
These two attitudes — populism and elitism — seem different, but they’re really mirror images of one another. They both assume a country fundamentally divided. They both describe politics as a class struggle between the enlightened and the corrupt, the pure and the betrayers.
Both attitudes will always be with us, but these days populism is in vogue. The Republicans have their populists. Sarah Palin has been known to divide the country between the real Americans and the cultural elites. And the Democrats have their populists. Since the defeat in Massachusetts, many Democrats have apparently decided that their party has to mimic the rhetoric of John Edwards’s presidential campaign. They’ve taken to dividing the country into two supposedly separate groups — real Americans who live on Main Street and the insidious interests of Wall Street.
It’s easy to see why politicians would be drawn to the populist pose. First, it makes everything so simple. The economic crisis was caused by a complex web of factors, including global imbalances caused by the rise of China. But with the populist narrative, you can just blame Goldman Sachs.
Second, it absolves voters of responsibility for their problems. Over the past few years, many investment bankers behaved like idiots, but so did average Americans, racking up unprecedented levels of personal debt. With the populist narrative, you can accuse the former and absolve the latter.
Third, populism is popular with the ruling class. Ever since I started covering politics, the Democratic ruling class has been driven by one fantasy: that voters will get so furious at people with M.B.A.’s that they will hand power to people with Ph.D.’s. The Republican ruling class has been driven by the fantasy that voters will get so furious at people with Ph.D.’s that they will hand power to people with M.B.A.’s. Members of the ruling class love populism because they think it will help their section of the elite gain power.
So it’s easy to see the seductiveness of populism. Nonetheless, it nearly always fails. The history of populism, going back to William Jennings Bryan, is generally a history of defeat.
That’s because voters aren’t as stupid as the populists imagine. Voters are capable of holding two ideas in their heads at one time: First, that the rich and the powerful do rig the game in their own favor; and second, that simply bashing the rich and the powerful will still not solve the country’s problems.
Political populists never get that second point. They can’t seem to grasp that a politics based on punishing the elites won’t produce a better-educated work force, more investment, more innovation or any of the other things required for progress and growth.
In fact, this country was built by anti-populists. It was built by people like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln who rejected the idea that the national economy is fundamentally divided along class lines. They rejected the zero-sum mentality that is at the heart of populism, the belief that economics is a struggle over finite spoils. Instead, they believed in a united national economy — one interlocking system of labor, trade and investment.
Hamilton championed capital markets and Lincoln championed banks, not because they loved traders and bankers. They did it because they knew a vibrant capitalist economy would maximize opportunity for poor boys like themselves. They were willing to tolerate the excesses of traders because they understood that no institution is more likely to channel opportunity to new groups and new people than vigorous financial markets.
In their view, government’s role was not to side with one faction or to wage class war. It was to rouse the energy and industry of people at all levels. It was to enhance competition and make it fair — to make sure that no group, high or low, is able to erect barriers that would deprive Americans of an open field and a fair chance. Theirs was a philosophy that celebrated development, mobility and work, wherever those things might be generated.
The populists have an Us versus Them mentality. If they continue their random attacks on enterprise and capital, they will only increase the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which is now the single biggest factor in holding back investment, job creation and growth. They will end up discrediting good policies (the Obama bank reforms are quite sensible) because they will persuade the country that the government is in the hands of reckless Huey Longs.
They will have traded dynamic optimism, which always wins, for combative divisiveness, which always loses.
3c)Obama and the Copenhagen Syndrome: It's dangerous to believe in your own miracles.
By BRET STEPHENS
Stockholm Syndrome: "A term used to describe the positive bond some kidnap victims develop with their captor."
Copenhagen Syndrome: The peculiar psychology of Barack Obama's first year in office.
Let's expand on that a bit. In September, Mr. Obama paid a semi-impromptu visit to Copenhagen to make a personal appeal for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. It failed. The nice way to think about it: The president was trying to win one for Team America. Less nice: It was a feckless and unpresidential errand on behalf of the Chicago political machine to which he remains beholden.
And then there's the possibility that Mr. Obama really believed that he alone could pull the rabbit out of the hat. Not Dick Daley, not the First Lady. This one would require the full Barack abracadabra.
Mr. Obama was back in Copenhagen a couple of months later, this time for the U.N.'s climate summit. It was a chronicle of a fiasco foretold. In the run-up to the conference, dozens of press accounts noted the gaps between the otherworldly idealism of "Hopenhagen" boosters and the calculated realism of China and India. A politically rational president would either have stayed away or made an appearance at the beginning of the conference, so as to be far from the scene of the crime when it ended.
Instead, the president chose to raise expectations by showing up at the end of the conference, as if he were sure that the magic would not fail him twice. It did. "The debacle of Copenhagen is also Barack Obama's debacle," editorialized Der Spiegel, a left-of-center publication. No points in old Europe for the old college try.
In fact, Mr. Obama's first year in office amounts to a long parade of rebuffs. His inaugural address famously offered the world's dictators an outstretched hand in exchange for an unclenched fist. From North Korea, he got missile and nuclear tests. From Iran, he got a contemptuous rejection of his extraordinary offer to enrich uranium for it. From Cuba, Fidel Castro said last month that "the empire's real intentions are obvious, this time beneath the kindly smile and African-American face of Barack Obama." From Venezuela, Hugo Chávez is now comparing Mr. Obama to the devil, a shtick he first tried out on George W. Bush back when liberals thought it was kind of funny.
Of course these are America's enemies, so we probably should not have expected better even if Mr. Obama seemed to believe we might. What about our (ostensible) non-enemies? The president pre-emptively conceded the Czech and Polish missile-defense bases to Russia in hopes of getting Moscow to take a tougher line on Tehran's nuclear programs. The Kremlin isn't biting. Neither is China, never mind Mr. Obama's gratuitous snub last year of the Dalai Lama.
As for the Muslim world that Mr. Obama has been at such pains to court (the Cairo and Ankara speeches, his opposition to Gitmo and the war in Iraq, etc.), the 2009 Pew Global Survey that measures opinions about the U.S. finds as follows: Turkey, 14% favorable views of the U.S.; Palestinian territories, 15%; Pakistan, 16%; Jordan, 25%; Egypt, 27%. Granted, this is up slightly from the last year of the Bush administration, but only by a couple of percentage points on average. So that's the great Obama perception dividend?
And then there are America's friends. Hondurans will not soon forgive the administration's efforts to shove ex-president Manuel Zelaya down their throats. Among Israelis suspicion of Mr. Obama is pervasive. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wonders aloud, "Est-il faible?" (Is he weak?)
Now the same question is being asked in the U.S. in the wake of Scott Brown's Senate victory in Massachusetts. The president from Oprah Nation, says Newsweek, suffers from an "inspiration gap"; the prevailing wisdom is that he's too cool and detached for his own political good. Are they kidding? Should the president now take squealing lessons from Howard Dean?
Mr. Obama's real problems are of a different stripe. It's not as if he lacks for charisma. It's that he believes too much in the power of charisma itself and specifically too much in his own.
He seems to have come to office believing that America's problems abroad could mainly be put down to the rough-edged persona of his predecessor. Change the president, change the tone, give magnificent speeches, tinker with the policy, and the world would revert to some default mode of liking America and wanting to work with it. It doesn't work that way. Nor does it work in domestic policy, where personal salesmanship has failed to overcome the defects of legislation. Americans still generally like Mr. Obama, or at least they'd like to like him. It's the $12 trillion deficit and Rube Goldberg health schemes that rub them wrong.
So what's Copenhagen Syndrome? It is a belief in your own miracles. It is thinking that those who crowned you king actually knew what they were doing. It is buying into your own tulip bulb mania. It is the floating evanescent bubble of self. God help you when it bursts.
3d)Obama’s Credibility Gap
Who is Barack Obama?
Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don’t get it soon — or if they don’t like the answer — the president’s current political problems will look like a walk in the park.
Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.
Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.
Mr. Obama’s campaign mantra was “change” and most of his supporters took that to mean that he would change the way business was done in Washington and that he would reverse the disastrous economic policies that favored mega-corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor.
“Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working harder for less,” said Mr. Obama in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. “More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.”
Voters watching the straight-arrow candidate delivering that speech, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, would not logically have thought that an obsessive focus on health insurance would trump job creation as the top domestic priority of an Obama administration.
But that’s what happened. Moreover, questions were raised about Mr. Obama’s candor when he spoke about health care. In his acceptance speech, for example, candidate Obama took a verbal shot at John McCain, sharply criticizing him for offering “a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits.”
Now Mr. Obama favors a plan that would tax at least some people’s benefits. Mr. Obama also repeatedly said that policyholders who were pleased with their plans and happy with their doctors would be able to keep both under his reform proposals.
Well, that wasn’t necessarily so, as the president eventually acknowledged. There would undoubtedly be changes in some people’s coverage as a result of “reform,” and some of those changes would be substantial. At a forum sponsored by ABC News last summer, Mr. Obama backed off of his frequent promise that no changes would occur, saying only that “if you are happy with your plan, and if you are happy with your doctor, we don’t want you to have to change.”
These less-than-candid instances are emblematic of much bigger problems. Mr. Obama promised during the campaign that he would be a different kind of president, one who would preside over a more open, more high-minded administration that would be far more in touch with the economic needs of ordinary working Americans. But no sooner was he elected than he put together an economic team that would protect, above all, the interests of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, and so on.
How can you look out for the interests of working people with Tim Geithner whispering in one ear and Larry Summers in the other?
Now with his poll numbers down and the Democrats’ filibuster-proof margin in the Senate about to vanish, Mr. Obama is trying again to position himself as a champion of the middle class. Suddenly, with the public appalled at the scandalous way the health care legislation was put together, and with Democrats facing a possible debacle in the fall, Mr. Obama is back in campaign mode. Every other utterance is about “fighting” for the middle class, “fighting” for jobs, “fighting” against the big bad banks.
The president who has been aloof and remote and a pushover for the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who has been locked in the troubling embrace of the Geithners and Summers and Ben Bernankes of the world, all of a sudden is a man of the people. But even as he is promising to fight for jobs, a very expensive proposition, he’s proposing a spending freeze that can only hurt job-creating efforts.
Mr. Obama will deliver his State of the Union address Wednesday night. The word is that he will offer some small bore assistance to the middle class. But more important than the content of this speech will be whether the president really means what he says. Americans want to know what he stands for, where his line in the sand is, what he’ll really fight for, and where he wants to lead this nation.
They want to know who their president really is.
3e)In Speech, Obama May Set Reaganesque Path
There's considerable theater surrounding President Obama's first State of the Union address tomorrow night, coming as polls reflect increasing skepticism about his presidency and the Democratically-controlled Congress. With a fresh rebuke from the voters of Massachusetts, Obama will enter the House chamber seemingly humbled, and also very much aware of the political stakes.
"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," the president told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an interview Monday.
Exactly what tone he'll set from the rostrum is yet to be seen. But there are two interesting parallels to be drawn with two of his predecessors with whom he's compared often.
In 1995, President Clinton delivered his second State of the Union address before the first majority-Republican Congress in generations. He immediately set a conciliatory tone, with a line that bears striking similarity to the sentiment Obama expressed after Scott Brown's victory last week.
"If we agree on nothing else tonight, we must agree that the American people certainly voted for change in 1992 and in 1994," he said. "As I look out at you, I know how some of you must have felt in 1992."
Reflecting on a political climate that is often compared to today's, Clinton also said that the American people were not "singing," but "shouting. "And now all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, must say, 'We hear you. We will work together to earn the jobs you have given us. For we are the keepers of a sacred trust, and we must be faithful to it in this new and very demanding era.'"
Along those lines, Obama has said in recent days that his administration has hit a "buzz saw," and taken some responsibility for failing to acknowledge as much as he said he should the frustrations Americans continue to feel. But the similarities may stop there, as administration officials are reportedly determined not to mirror the incrementalist path that Clinton set forward in the rest of his speech.
"I know that last year, as the evidence indicates, we bit off more than we could chew," Clinton said. "So I'm asking you that we work together. Let's do it step by step. Let's do whatever we have to do to get something done."
Obama himself seemed to flatly rule out that approach in yesterday's ABC interview, saying: "I will not slow down in terms of going after the big problems that this country faces."
Some Democrats prefer to compare the current political environment not to 1994 but to 1982, when Republicans lost more than 20 seats in the House but maintained a majority in the Senate. As he delivered the State of the Union address in 1983, President Reagan was suffering what proved to be the lowest numbers of his presidency. And yet in that speech, he immediately set the tone by hailing an agreement reached just days earlier with Democratic leaders on steps to be taken to reform Social Security.
"Pundits and experts predicted that party divisions and conflicting interests would prevent the Commission from agreeing on a plan to save social security. Well, sometimes, even here in Washington, the cynics are wrong," Reagan said.
It's that sort of statement Obama would liked to have uttered on health reform, and perhaps still might in some form if Democrats can nail down a last-minute path toward salvaging the plan. But the administration instead is teasing the speech with new proposals on two critical economic issues: jobs and the deficit. Monday morning, the president announced some jobs programs, and later the administration announced a proposed spending freeze in the 2011 budget.
Reagan himself spoke extensively on both subjects of deficits in 1983, most notably saying: "The deficit problem is a clear and present danger to the basic health of our Republic."
"We need a plan to overcome this danger -- a plan based on these principles," he said. "It must be bipartisan. ... It must be fair. ... And finally, it must be realistic. We can't rely on hope alone."
On that final count, surely the Obama administration would agree.
By Thomas Sowell
Some of the most melancholy letters and e-mails that are sent to me are from people who lament that there is nothing they can do about the bad policies that they see ruining this country. They don't have any media outlet for their opinions and the letters they send to their Congressmen are either ignored or are answered by form letters with weasel words. They feel powerless.
Sometimes I remind them that the whole political establishment -- both Democrats and Republicans, as well as the mainstream media -- were behind amnesty for illegal immigrants, until the public opinion polls showed that the voters were not buying it. If politicians can't do anything else right, they can count votes.
It was the same story with the government's health care takeover legislation. The Democrats have such huge majorities in both houses of Congress that they could literally lock the Republicans out of the room where they were deciding what to do, set arbitrary deadlines for votes, and cut off debate in the Senate. The mainstream media was on board with this bill too. To hear the talking heads on TV, you would think it was a done deal.
Then Scott Brown got elected to the "Kennedy seat" in the Senate, showing that that seat was not the inheritance of any dynasty to pass on. Moreover, it showed that the voters were already fed up with the Obama administration, even in liberal Massachusetts, as well as in Virginia and New Jersey. The backtracking on health care began immediately. Politicians can count votes. Once again, the public was not helpless.
One seat did not deprive the Democrats of big majorities in Congress. But one seat was the difference between being able to shut off debate in the Senate and having to allow debate on what was in this massive legislation. From day one it was clear that concealing what was in this bill was the key to getting it passed.
That is why there had to be arbitrary deadlines-- first to get it passed before the August 2009 recess, then before Labor Day, then before the Christmas recess.
The President could wait months before deciding to give a general the troops he asked for to fight the war in Afghanistan but there was never to be enough time for the health care bill to be exposed in the light of day to the usual Congressional hearings and debate. Moreover, despite all the haste, the health care program would not actually go into effect until after the 2012 presidential election. In other words, the public was not supposed to find out whether the government's takeover of medical care actually made things better or worse until after it was too late.
Although even the members of Congress who voted on this massive legislation did not have time to read its thousands of pages, just the way it was being rushed through in the dark should have told us all we needed to know. For many voters, that turned out to be enough.
Even after Scott Brown came out of nowhere to make a stunning upset election victory, there were still some cute political tricks that could have been pulled to save the health care bill. But enough Democrats saw the handwriting on the wall that they were not going to risk their own re-election to save this bill that Barack Obama has been hell-bent to pass, even when polls showed repeatedly that the public didn't want it.
President Obama's desire to do something "historic" by succeeding, where previous presidents had failed, was perfectly consistent for a man consumed with his own ego satisfaction, rather than the welfare of the country or even of his own political party.
As for the public, it doesn't matter if your Congressman answers your letter with a form letter, or doesn't answer at all. What matters is that you let him know what you are for or against and, when enough people do that-- whether in letters, in polls or in an election, politicians get the message, because they know their jobs depend on it.
As for what is likely to happen to health care, neither the bill passed by the House of Representatives nor the Senate bill can be expected to be enacted into law. Meanwhile, Obama's reaction to his political setback has been to respond rhetorically and to call on the political operatives who helped engineer his successful election campaign in 2008. But the public did not know him then, and his rhetoric may not fool them again, now that they do.
5)(CBS) Thanks to a recently filed Congressional expense reportsthere's new light shed on the Copenhagen Climate Summit in Denmark and how much it cost taxpayers.
CBS News Investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports official filings and our own investigation show at least 106 people from the House and Senate attended - spouses, a doctor, a protocol expert and even a photographer.
Read the Congressional Expense Report
For 15 Democratic and 6 Republican Congressmen, food and rooms for two nights cost $4,406 tax dollars each. That's $2,200 a day - more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgage payment.
CBS News asked members of Congress and staff about whether they're mindful that it's public tax dollars they're spending. Many said they had never even seen the bills or the expense reports.
Copenhagen Congressional Junket
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is a key climate change player. He went to Copenhagen last year. Last week, we asked him about the $2,200-a-day bill for room and food.
"I can't believe that," Rep. Waxman said. "I can't believe it, but I don't know."
But his name is in black and white in the expense reports. The group expense report was filed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She wouldn't talk about it when our producer tried to ask.
Pelosi's office did offer an explanation for the high room charges. Those who stayed just two nights were charged a six-night minimum at the five-star Marriott. One staffer said, they strongly objected to no avail. You may ask how they'll negotiate a climate treaty, if they can't get a better deal on hotel rooms.
Total hotel, meeting rooms and "a couple" of $1,000-a-night hospitality suites topped $400,000.
Flights weren't cheap, either. Fifty-nine House and Senate staff flew commercial during the Copenhagen rush. They paid government rates -- $5-10,000 each -- totaling $408,064. Add three military jets -- $168,351 just for flight time -- and the bill tops $1.1 million dollars -- not including all the Obama administration officials who attended: well over 60.
In fairness, many attendees told us they did a lot of hard work, and the laid groundwork for a future global treaty.
"I was there because I thought it was important for me to be there," Rep. Waxman said. "I didn't look at it as a pleasure trip."
(CBS)But considering the size of the deficit, and the fact that that no global deal would be reached -- critics question the super-sized U.S. delegation -- more than 165 -- leaving the impression there's dollars to burn. In this case, more than a million.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Rep. George Miller
Rep. Henry Waxman
Rep. Ed Markey
Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. Bart Gordon
Rep. James Sensenbrenner
Rep. Sander Levin
Rep. Joe Barton
Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Diana DeGette
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito
Rep. Moore Capito husband
Rep. John Sullivan
Rep. Tim Ryan
Rep. GK Butterfield
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Sen. James Inhofe
Sen. John Kerry
Mary Frences Repko
31 additional unnamed Senate staff
Special Envoy Todd Stern
Secretary Hillary Clinton
Pershing Deputy U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change
Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, Deputy Permanent Rep. United States Mission to the U.N.
Daniel Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment
Lilburn Trigg Talley, Director of the office of Global Change
Sue Biniaz, Deputy Legal Adviser
William Breed, Director of Climate Change Programs USAID.
Steven Chu, Energy Secretary
Jean Chu, Spouse of the Energy Secretary
Rod O'Connor, Chief of Staff
Amy Bodette, Special Assistant to the Secretary
David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs
Rick Duke, Dep. Assistant Sec. for Policy and International Affairs
Holmes Hummel, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Policy and
Elmer Holt, Economist in the Office of Policy and International Affairs
Matt Kallman, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Policy
and International Affairs
Dan Leistikow, Director of Public Affairs
Devin Hampton, Lead Advance Representative
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
Deputy Secretary David Hayes
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland
Science Advisor Kit Batten
Senior Advisor of Global Change at USGS Tom Armstrong
USGS Director Marcia McNutt
Deputy Communications Director Matt Lee-Ashley
Jack Lynch (Security)
Dave Graham (Security)
Mike Downs (Security)
Director of Advance Tim Hartz
Security Officer # 1 Security, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Marcus McClendon Director of Advance, Office of the Administrator
Security Officer # 2 Security, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Jennifer Jenkins Physical Scientist, Climate Change Division, Office of Air and Radiation COP 15 Negotiator
Shalini Vajjhala Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of International Affairs COP-15 Negotiator
Maurice LeFranc Senior Advisor, International Climate Change, Office of Air and Radiation COP-15 Negotiator
Kimberly Todd Klunich Technical Expert, Climate Change Division, Office of Air and Radiation COP-15 Negotiator
Leif Hockstad Environmental Engineer, Climate Change Division, Office of Air and Radiation COP-15 Negotiator
Seth Oster Associate Administrator, Office of Public Affairs
David McIntosh Associate Administrator, Office of Rep.ressional and Intergovernmental Relations
Michelle DePass Assistant Administrator, Office of International Affairs
Security Officer # 3 Security, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Lisa Jackson Administrator, EPA
Gina McCarthy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation
White House Executive Office staff:
From the Office of Energy and Climate Change:
From the Office of Science and Technology Policy:
From the Council on Environmental Quality:
National Security Council:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
Tags: cap'n'tax, cap'n'trade, communism, copenhagen, denmark, fraud, global, hoax, obama, oppression
6)"Frankly, I don't know what it is about California, but we seem to have a strange urge to elect really obnoxious women to high office. I'm not bragging, you understand, but no other state, including Maine, even comes close. When it comes to sending left-wing dingbats to Washington, we're number one. There's no getting around the fact that the last time anyone saw the likes of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, they were stirring a cauldron when the curtain went up on 'Macbeth'. The three of them are like jackasses who happen to possess the gift of speech. You don't know if you should condemn them for their stupidity or simply marvel at their ability to form words." -- columnist Burt Prelutsky
7)Subject: Fw: Dinner
A group of 40 years old buddies discuss and discuss where they should meetfor dinner. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen restaurant because the waitress's there have low cutblouses and nice breasts.
10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed thatthey should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because the food there is verygood and the wine selection is good also.
10 years later at 60 years of age, the group meets again and once againthey discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because they can eat there inpeace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free.
10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again and once againthey discuss and discuss where they should meet.
Finally it is agreed thatthey should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because the restaurant is wheelchair accessible and they even have an elevator.
10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again and once againthey discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed thatthey should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because that would be a greatidea because they have never been there before.
8)Very Interesting and dead on the mark. Too many people are like this patient of his!
Meet Dr Starner Jones from Jackson, Mississippi.
His short 2-paragraph letter to the White House accurately puts the blame on a "Culture Crisis" instead of a "Health Care Crisis".. Its worth a quick read:
Starner Jones, MD
I am a seventh generation Mississippian and wanted to come back here after going somewhere else for college and medical school.. My extracurricular interests are golf, hunting, fishing and College football.
"During my last night's shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with an expensive shiny gold tooth, multiple elaborate expensive tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone.. Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid. She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer.
Congress expects me to pay for this woman's health care? Our Nation's health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture! A culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks "I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me". Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow. Don't you agree?
STARNER JONES, MD
Jackson , MS
9)Why the economy is only getting worse
By Jack Kelly
The performance of the stock market was the one bright spot in the otherwise dismal year for the economy in 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 65 percent from its March low, causing many to hope it was a harbinger of recovery.
President Barack Obama has fixed that. Last week the Dow fell 552 points in the three trading days since the president announced his plans to "reform" the financial services industry.
Wall Street took in stride the president's announcement Jan. 15 he intends to seek a tax on the 50 largest banks, perhaps because Wall Street insiders expect the tax — which his aides said should raise between $90 billion and $117 billion over ten years — to be passed along to consumers.
What tanked the market last week was Mr. Obama's announcement Wednesday he will seek legislation to limit the size of banks, to limit the compensation of executives at banks which have received federal bailouts, and to prohibit proprietary trading (trading for one's own account) by bank holding companies.
There is something to be said for both proposals. It makes sense to have banks which are considered "too big to fail," which are recipients of emergency loans from the Federal Reserve, to pay into a fund from which those loans might be drawn, as all banks pay for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which reimburses bank depositors when banks fail.
And forbidding bank holding companies from proprietary trading is, in essence, simply a reinstatement of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which was in part repealed (for bank holding companies) in 1999. But the Devil is in the details, and in the timing. What is a good idea in normal times can be a bad one in particular circumstances. Vigorous physical exercise is good for most people most of the time, but not for patients suffering from pneumonia.
Proprietary trading is a major profit center for bank holding companies, at a time when few other banking activities are profitable. And the taxes bankers pay are a major source of revenue for the governments of New York State and New York City, both of which are nearly bankrupt. Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the president's plan at a news conference Saturday.
Also uneasy about the plan is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who fears it will harm the competiveness internationally of U.S. firms.
However, had the proposed new rules been in effect, they'd have done next to nothing to prevent the financial meltdown. Lawrence White, a former regulator who now teaches at New York University's business school, described them as "a solution to the wrong problem."
The firms whose failures triggered the financial collapse — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, the insurer American International Group — were not commercial banks or bank holding companies. There is no evidence proprietary trading contributed to the meltdown.
The root cause, you'll remember, was sub-prime mortgage lending, home loans to poor credit risks on ridiculously easy terms — often no money down for mortgages four or five times the (unverified) annual income of the borrowers. Sub-prime lending was encouraged — some might say insisted upon — by politicians in Washington.
Fly by night outfits such as Countrywide Mortgage were able to make such loans again and again because two quasi-government corporations, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), both run by politically connected Democrats, bought all the bad paper they could generate.
Fannie and Freddie are both bankrupt, kept alive only by massive federal subsidies.
Mortgages were bundled together, chopped into pieces, and sold throughout the financial system with the blessing of regulators, who assumed the new financial instruments (chiefly collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps) would reduce risk. Instead, they multiplied it.
The housing boom and bust was fueled by an easy money policy by the Federal Reserve, begun when Alan Greenspan was chairman, but continued when Ben Bernanke replaced him in 2006.
Absolutely nothing has been done about these root causes of the meltdown. It would seem wiser to begin financial reform by addressing them, rather than with "solutions to the wrong problem" that have been proposed more to solve the president's political woes than our economic ones.
10)Bayh's Prognosis: Democrats Must Move to the Middle
By GERALD F. SEIB
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, the very embodiment of calm understatement, seems an unlikely character to play the role of scold. But in recent weeks—particularly after last week's Massachusetts mauling—he has been scolding his Democratic Party, and sternly.
His message: Democrats and their president need to move decisively to the political center and root themselves there by showing they are serious about controlling spending and the deficit, which angry mainstream voters see as the real sign that Washington is out of touch.
Thus, while many Democrats complain that the Obama administration's problems arise because it hasn't been aggressive enough in pursuing a liberal agenda, Mr. Bayh arises to make the opposite case.
President Barack Obama, Mr. Bayh said in an interview, needs to "step it up" in his State of the Union address Wednesday and get tougher with Congress. Here's his message to the White House: "My strong advice is for you to draw a line in the sand on spending in the State of the Union, and to have the president pledge to veto spending bills that exceed the limits he puts out." The White House may be tacking in that direction; officials say it's preparing a plan to freeze some domestic spending.
Many in his party, Mr. Bayh said, are "tone deaf" about the real message voters are sending, which is that Democrats have "overreached rather than looking for consensus with moderates and independents." He added: "It is amazing that some people here in Congress still don't get it.…For those people it may take a political catastrophe of biblical proportions before they get it. I don't think we'll get to that. But we might."
These are stern words from a man known more for rounding the edges of a debate than sharpening them. But they come from someone who knows a thing or two about Democrats wandering into political minefields.
Bayh Urges Fellow Dems to Plant Flag in Center2:35Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.), has become one of the Democratic party's loudest scolds since the Massachusetts vote, warning Democrats to move to the center and get serious about the budget deficit in order to avoid disaster. Executive Washington Editor Jerry Seib explains.
Mr. Bayh saw it happen in his own family. His father, Birch Bayh, was a respected veteran senator from Indiana in his own right when the conservative Reagan Revolution snuck up in 1980 and washed him and a Democratic Senate majority out to sea.
The son subsequently followed his father into politics and became governor of Indiana at the age of 32. From that seat, he watched as Democrats in Washington were again hit by a wave from the right in 1994 and lost control of both houses of Congress.
"Every 14 or 16 years we seem to have to relearn this lesson," Mr. Bayh said. "I do have a sense of deja vu, and the movie doesn't have a happy ending." But, he added, "there is an alternative ending we have an opportunity to write."
He has a personal stake in the ending, for he is up for re-election this year. He has been considered among the safest of Democrats, having won his seat last time with 62% of the vote. He has polled well ahead of any known Republican foes and has a daunting $12.7 million campaign war chest.
Still, the climate has turned so rapidly that some national Republicans are urging conservative Rep. Mike Pence, the House's third-ranking member and a vocal leader of the opposition to Democrats' health-care overhaul efforts, to challenge Mr. Bayh. It's unclear whether he will; Indiana's filing deadline is still a few weeks away.
Mr. Bayh said his poll numbers suggest he has a strong lead against any Republican foe.
In any case, Mr. Bayh has been sounding political alarm bells for weeks now over rising anger in the heartland. Part of voters' anger, he said, is directed "at all large institutions that they think have an unfair advantage. Part of it is a feeling that the rules of the game have been rigged to favor the big guys over ordinary people."
But Mr. Bayh bored in on this: "Part of it is anger at fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. People are having to make hard choices.…They don't see Washington joining in that."
Thus, Mr. Bayh was one of only three Democrats to vote against a massive, catch-all, end-of-year spending bill his party's leaders steered through Congress in December. He then asked Mr. Obama to veto it. In the aftermath of the vote, he put out a statement saying bluntly: "Washington is totally out of touch with mainstream America." Remember, that was well before Democrats lost that Massachusetts Senate seat.
Now, Mr. Bayh wants Congress to pass a jobs bill without "the usual grab bag" of spending items, but with tax cuts for small businesses that create jobs.
He isn't sure bashing banks will bring real economic improvement to average Americans, and he staunchly opposes denying Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a second term.
He said he prefers "positive populism" in the form of, for example, more aggressive moves to create jobs and lower college costs. Above all, he wants that presidential line in the sand on spending and deficits.
"The only way Democrats can govern in this country is by making common cause with moderates and independents," he said. "It may be too late to regain them on health care. It's not too late to regain them on spending." To a president being pulled by some toward the left, and by others toward easy populism, Evan Bayh makes the case for driving a stake firmly in the political center instead.