27 December 2011

Egyptian Hot Wax

President Obama openly embraced the Arab Spring as a Moment of Opportunity for  hope for change and likened the uprisings in North Africa to be like America’s Civil War to end slavery or ensure Civil Rights.  Now the world can witness the harvest from the fruits of Islam.

The Obama Administration watched and did nothing as street uprisings overthrew Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarack in February as part of the Arab Spring.  Rather than help an autocrat had been favorably disposed towards American interests and kept stability in the volatile region, President Obama threw Mubarack under the bus to hope for change.  Mid East experts predicted that if an early election was held, the Muslim Brotherhood would be a powerhouse as they were the only nascent political group that was well organized.  Not surprisingly, Islamists took 70% of the vote in the second round of parliamentary voting.

Now that their fundamentalist power base has been confirmed, Salafist politicians are poising to turn their rhetoric into reality.   Members of the Nour (the Light) Salafist party are making noise to put an end to idolatry in Egypt as epitomized by the Pyramids. To that end, the Nour party proposes destroying the Giza Necropolis , built for the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt by slave labor quaffing a beverage akin to Ta Henik beer.  

Such a destructive bent follows in the footsteps of the Afghan Taliban, who took umbrage at the Bamiyan Buddhas, a 55 meter sculpture carved into a sandstone mountain which UNESCO considered a cultural treasure but they fanatically blew up in March 2001.  No wonder why Vice President Joe Biden recently insisted that the Taliban are not the enemy in Afghanistan.

But the ikwan (Muslim Brotherhood) is attempting to be more enlightened about imposing a strict Sharia Caliphate.  Nour Parliamentary candidate Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat suggested getting rid of the "rotten culture" by concealing the Giza Pyramids in paraphin wax.  In the scorching desert, these concealed cultural treasures would likely become Egyptian Hot Wax.  But don't mistake Al-Shahat as one dedicate to preserving the arts, as he also sought a fatwa against Noble Prize winning author Naguib Mahfouz.

To maintain Egypt's lucrative $20 billion tourism industry, which represents 11% of the nation's GDP, perhaps they could emulate the example from Despicable Me and replace the Pyramids with inflatable replicas.   But the political instability and intolerance to non-Sharia influences, the occupancy rates will probably continue its plummet from 90% to 15%.

Pot Shots Between GOP Primary Opponents

Last week, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th) failed to qualify to be included on the March 6th Virginia Republican Primary ballot for lack of valid signatures.  The state of Virginia requires that a candidate submit 10,000 signatures from voters registered in the state of Virginia, and those signatures must include at least 400 from each of the Old Dominion’s 11 congressional districts.

In order to rally supporters after this setback, Gingrich campaign spokesman Mark Krull stated: “Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus...[I]n the end we will stand victorious.” It is unlikely that legal challenges to include Newt on the primary ballot will be successful, considering the tight time-frame as well as clear but possibly onerous requirements.

As the primary race continued after a short Christmas break, Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) took a pot shot at Gingrich’s military metaphor.  Romney noted: "I think he [Gingrich] compared it to Pearl Harbor. I think it’s more like Lucille Ball and the chocolate factory.”  A funny one liner which gives homage to that classic I Love Lucy episode, but Romney might have some 'splaining to do and he  should not expect a box of sweets from the Speaker for the foreseeable future. 

This episode illustrates a couple of traits amongst the candidates.  Gingrich has resurrected his Presidential campaign by grabbing the spotlight with boisterous bluster that can appeal to the base.  But Gingrich has been delinquent on fund-raising.  In fact, the Gingrich campaign had not dug itself out of debt from its near implosion in May until early December. The empty campaign chest necessitated Gingrich to score points with earned media, especially during the numerous debates.  Yet sparse campaign funds do not allow for establishing campaign organization, which is crucial in caucus states like Iowa or quirky primary requirements in Virginia.

Romney seized on an opportunity to zing an opponent, which was the hallmark of his 2008 campaign viz-a-viz Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR). This negative campaigning was needless, as Gingrich’s Pearl Harbor quote was injurious in and of itself without piling unto it.  While it was amusing, the zinger was small ball at a time when the base needs convincing about candidates’  meta-messages Romney’s “I Love Lucy” analogy also seems like too perfect of a zinger, which contributes to questions about Romney’s authenticity.

15 December 2011

Celebrating The Bill of Rights Day

On this date in 1791, the Commonwealth of Virginia was the 12th State to ratify the ten amendments that were then incorporated into our Constitution.

 During the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia , the framers were more concerned about how power would be distributed by the national government.  Some of the delegates were concerned that the Constitution did not spell out how the people would be protected from the government’s abuse of power.  So James Madison, the “father” of the Constitution and the author of the Federalist Papers, championed the inclusion of a Bill of Rights, that was modeled after an English Bill of Rights as well as similar Bill authored by Virginia George Mason.

The original resolution presented to Congress included twelve amendments which were not as sharply focused on individual rights.  One provision involved the number of delegates per the population.  The other seemingly stillborn amendment involved Congressional compensation:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Although this amendment was not ratified as part of the Bill of Rights, this provision was ratified by 3/4ths of the states by Michigan in May, 1992.  Later it was discovered that the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s General Assembly had ratified it in its first month of statehood in 1792 but it had not been applied for 200 years.

As for the Bill of Rights:

The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”

The Second Amendment says the people have the right “to keep and bear arms.”

The Third Amendment says soldiers may not be quartered in our homes without the consent of the owners.

The Fourth Amendment says the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures..

The Fifth Amendment says that private property shall not be taken “for public use without just compensation.”

The Sixth Amendment says that in criminal prosecutions, the person accused is guaranteed a right to trial by jury.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases where the controversy “shall exceed twenty dollars.”

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be construed to deny or disparage others “retained by the people.”

The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people.

These are not arcane relics of history.  Every day, Americans practice their freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.  Americans depend on access and the fairness of the judicial system. Our property rights can be challenged by eminent domain abuse.  And ultimately, citizens need to protect their right to bear arms–it’s not about hunting but the ultimate safeguard against the abuse of a tyrannical government.

14 December 2011

Talking Trash About DC's Green Police

Two years ago, Audio made a splash with its advertisement during the Super Bowl “The Green Police” which spoof’s Cheap Trick’s 1979 hit song “Dream Police” by fusing it lyrics and images of  overzealous Eco-Cops.

After the defeat of “Cap and Trade” legislation in the United States Senate and the revelations about scientists skewing global warming data in Climate-gate, the public could chuckle at this green cacotopia while considering the virtues of clean diesel cars.

Unfortunately, Audi did not prepare a parody but a prognostication. In the District of Columbia, a Dupont Circle resident is being barraged with fines from DC’s Department of Public Works for not recycling. It seems that Patricia White shreds her junk mail and newspapers to use as cat litter. In fact, she is being quite green since colored print matter is considered not recyclable.

But much like the “Green Police” Audi ad, the DPW inspector admitted to digging through her trash cans to fine these violations. The city and the courts have enforced fines totalling $2,000.  Perhaps she should put these soiled papers into recycling and let the city sort it out.

At home I am nicknamed a “Recycling Nazi” for trying to get all the cans and bottles into the recycling bins. But I recognize the relative futility of the exercise. Washington mandates that all offices in the city have recycling bins for paper.  I have worked late at many offices and seen these blue bins dumped into the rest of the “basura” (trash), even though they are clearly labeled-even in Spanish.   I have also been to the city dump where I have seen the recycling trucks deposit their collections with the rest of the refuse.

The DC government used the plastic bag ban as a tool to expand its power and financial base while clothing it in environmentalism.  The 5-cent a disposable plastic bag fee was supposed to stem the tide of trash in the Anacostia River.  But Mayor Adrian Fenty quickly diverted the proceeds from these mandatory fees assessed by business on consumers to non-environmental concerns.  After the first year of operation, the DC government realized the program for people bringing their own bags had been so successful that the DC Council looked to impose other taxes to supplement this shortfall. This was not a job for Captain Planet.

Improvements in the city are stifled by the city government concocting suspect environmental excuses to slow progress.  Philanthropists are seeking to convert an abandoned school into housing for homeless veterans. The charity was able to raise enough funds but their efforts are waylaid by city officials citing sustainable growth citing that there would not be enough parking spaces for these homeless vets.

These episode about municipal obsession about recycling illustrates several points.  The DPW inspector seems like an obsessive go-getter who is vying for promotion.  Allowing governments to expand by raising taxes funds such nonsense. In the end, seeing how recycling is more honored in the breach than the observance makes the recycling law more like feel good nanny-state law.  

No wonder this place earns the nickname “The District of Calamity”

Chi-Com Wonderland Reveals Hollowed Out Growth

Photo blogger David Gray wrote a fantastic post called  "China's deserted faked Disneyland"  about Wonderland, a failed, partially constructed amusement park that is 45 minutes from central Beijing.  Originally, the 100 acre site was slated to be the largest amusement park in Asia.  But a decade ago, regional government officials could not come to terms with the tenant farmers of compensation for the property that would be expropriated and the development came to a halt, leaving a partially built palace and castle along with the skelton of a huge indoor playland.

After a decade of stagnation, the local farmers figured out that the developers were not coming back so they resumed cultivating the land around the failed faux Disneyland.

Wonderland highlight several endemic problems that plague China.  Firstly, there is not a well respected rule of law regarding property.  While Americans may grumble about the injustices of eminent domain abuse encompassed in the 2005 US Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London, at least there is an established order and some semblance of reasoning regarding expropriation of private property for business purposes which “benefit” the public. Chinese law does not seem to have as well respected of a legal regimen and the state did not lay its heavy hands in the matter.

The sporadic spasms of commercial development that is subsequently abandoned can be attributed to a fascistic state system which rewards growth numbers whether or not there is the consumer demand.  The Chinese Government has committed to build twenty cities over the next twenty years, while newly built fledgling metropolis’ remain empty due to no demand.  These Chinese ghosts cities are ironic considering the growth of Shenzhen, which transformed from a fishing village of 700 residents  in the late 1970s to a city of 14 million people today.  The Peoples Republic of China uses an internal passport system to prevent cities that have work being overloaded by peasants

The PRC government has been lauded their efforts into building High Speed Rail lines to show the modernity of China as a first rate power.  While the Chinese take great pride in building the world’s largest high speed rail system in just four years, the problem is that most people can not afford tickets for the bullet train boondoggles.  Consequently, these HRS trains run near empty and most ordinary people need to take buses, which overloads the roadways.

While the American public needs to deal with the rise of China in international affairs and our growing debt and trade imbalance to the PRC, it is important to keep in mind that not all that glitters is gold when seen from afar. The Chinese hyperactive expansion may not be healthy growth.  And as Jimi Hendrix warned: “Castles made of sand, fall into the sea eventually.”

13 December 2011

DNC Head Channeling Baghdad Bob?

Is Baghdad Bob being channeled by Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL 20th), spokesperson for the Democrat National Committee:  ”Unemployment has not gone up under President Obama”.

Does this “fact” remind you of anyone?  Maybe Baghdad Bob?
 “They’re not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]. They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion … they are trying to sell to the others an illusion.”
 This was uttered as American Troops were taking over Paradise Square in Central Baghdad.

If only there was justice for proffering these prevarications.


One-on-One Gingrich-Huntsman Debate Is A Love-In

L. Moderator C. Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) R. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th)

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th) held a one on one debate with his opponent former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) at Saint Anselm College in  New Hampshire. This was the second so called “Lincoln-Douglas” styled long form debate of the season, the first of which was between Gingrich and then candidate Herman Cain.

Gingrich’s strategy has been using debates to springboard into contention for the Republican Presidential nomination.  This modus operandi was a necessity considering the near complete collapse of the Gingrich campaign in the spring, after his staff abandoned him when Gingrich took a two week Greek cruise after throwing his hat in the rink.  But by featuring Newt’s prowess at debating, it highlights him as an intellectual while scoring inexpensive earned media.

The one on one debate with Huntsman was an interesting choice.  Outside of New Hampshire, Huntsman has been barely above the margin of error in the polls, but the former Obama Administration Ambassador to China has thrown all of his effort into the Granite State’s first in the nation primary. By debating Huntsman, Gingrich looks magnanimous as a front-runner by  engaging his opponent without risk.  Moreover, Gingrich is concentrating on Iowa and not competing strongly in New Hampshire.  By bolstering Huntsman’s position, Gingrich seeks to decrease New Hampshire front-runner Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) expected margin of victory without helping an opponent with strength outside of New Hampshire.

The Lincoln Douglas style of debate is wonderful for policy wonks.  Instead of a gaggle of eight candidates making minute and a half answers supplemented with gimmicks like answering “This or That”, each debater had five minutes a piece to expound upon each topic. While the 90 minute debate only covered five general subjects, patient listeners could learn a lot.  However, Huntsman ended one of his responses by sardonically chiming “I see my daughter nodding off so let’s move on”.  This was particularly ironic since Huntsman’s scion is a policy advisor.

The Gingrich-Huntsman debate did not have an acrimonious tone.  In fact, the Twitterverse watching it live considered it a love in.  Most of the questions were within Huntsman’s wheel-house of foreign policy.  Huntsman was impressive in speaking extensively about international affairs. The former Ambassador Huntsman showed a strong grasp of geopolitics, particularly in Asian affairs. The obligatory allusion of Huntsman speaking Mandarin was superfluous and seemed as hoary as Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) mantra of “I served in Viet-Nam” during the 2004 election cycle.

Although Gingrich was outmatched by Huntsman on the foreign policy details, Newt did well to incorporate his spin on how to augment America’s position in the world.  Gingrich answered questions about dealing with Iran by offering a dialectic as to whether or not a nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran is acceptable.  Gingrich was adept at incorporating the news of the day by citing news regarding the Straits of Hormuz.  Newt worked in his schtick about being a “cheap hawk” to bolster notions about reforming the Defense Department’s budget.  Gingrich also tied in his impressive knowledge base to showing reform by questioning why the Army’s African Command was still based in Stuttgard, Germany.

One of the major complaints of the major debates between candidates is that there is little policy and more personality.  During this long form debate, the idiosyncracies of candidates were not prominent but still present.  For instance, Gingrich’s presentation about taking an activist role against Iranian nuclear pursuits included cutting off refining of petroleum, which Iran mostly needs to import.  A historian like Gingrich ought to remember that cutting off fuel supplies was the reason that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.   And while Gingrich smartly cited the Straits of Hormuz, a more crisp, adversarial debate might have explored the geopolitical costs of blocking the Straits of Hormuz, like $300 a barrel oil.  Gingrich’s glib policy pronouncements without considering the consequences is what Romney had called rhetorical bombthrowing during the last debate.

Gingrich was quite cordial towards Huntsman, as he had been to Cain during his one-on-one with Newt.  But Gingrich’s snippiness did appear at the end when the moderator jokingly said that he’d bet $10,000 that Obama would not take it and the speaker said off mike that also Romney would not show.   This follows what Gingrich had sniped against Romney earlier in the day:

I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain that I would be glad to then listen to him. I’ll bet you $10, not $10,000”.

Newt soared during prior debate performances by bolstering his Republican opponents and targeting his fire against the Lamestream Media and the ultimate opponent President Barack Obama.  Sustained attacks by this  feisty Newt battling his GOP brethren might not go over well with primary voters.

Unlike in the bigger debates, Huntsman did not have to whine about getting enough time.  As the debaters were seated, viewers could not admire Huntsman’s sartorial stylings.  But Huntsman’s quirky sense of humor crept into the debate with the quip about his daughter nodding off.  That might have worked in an informal campaign rally, but in an elevated public policy debate it seemed strange and undercut his policy pronouncements.

This so called Lincoln-Douglas debate was shown on the internet with a limited audience of policy wonks and masochists.  It was later shown on CSPAN.  The truly ambitious can even read the transcript.

Gingrich hopes to gin up a series of these one on one long form debates with Obama during the general election.  While it was pretty enlightening, it is dubious if it would attract more of an audience than the OWN channel.  Besides, why would Obama agree to these as he has a penchant to use a teleprompter, a billion dollars in the war chest and a disposition to use negative campaigning to ensure his re-election?

11 December 2011

Deciphering the Des Moines GOP Presidential Debate

L. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), C. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), R. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

It was Saturday night, hence another debate for Republican Presidential hopefuls. This time it was held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  While ABC did not cut away from their debate coverage unlike CBS to broadcast NCIS, the Mickey Mouse network was hardly more commendable.

Firstly, the ABC debate was moderated by Diane Sawyer and World News substitute anchor George Stephanopolis.  The choice of Stephanopolis was egregious as he was a political advisor to Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and the Clinton Administration’s first Director of Communications.  Talk about non-partisan.  Maybe the next Lamestream Media debate can be moderated by the Obama Administration’s current Press Secretary Jay Carney.

The many of the moderators’ questions sounded as if they were lifted directly from the DNC’s talking points for ad hominem attacks on Republican candidates.  Surveying the GOP field about the importance of fidelity seemed targeted at former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th), who was the only candidate married more than once and a personal past which he fully admits is messy.  Although Governor  Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) paid media has alluded to his family, it makes a subtle contrast not a key cudgel. The camera cutaways to the candidate’s spouses and spotlighting other’s answers with Gingrich was cheap politics.

The other objectionable invective inquiry was the softly phrased: “Cite a time in your life when you personally struggled.”  Hmm, might this Lamestream Media question both furthered the Obama campaign’s class warfare meme as well as singling out the well-to-do Mr. Romney?

ABC was obviously trying to stir up a hornets nest for better television and using personal political shortcomings of specific frontrunners to make the case against them.  Was infidelity or richy rich ever asked to former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) about fidelity, who was in flagrento delecto with a campaign videographer when his wife was dying of cancer.  Or how about hounding former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) about her cheating spouse?  The Lamestream Media never lingered about the fortunes that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) twice married into, nor did it highlight that Edwards house had acreage in both Americas based on winning a class action lawsuit, or the fortune that the Clintons amassed after President Clinton exited the White House.

Ironically, ABC did not need to be so obvious in stirring up class warfare sentiments, as it unintentionally came out during the free wheeling exchanges between candidates.  Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) and Gov. Romney were engaged in a tête-à-tête dispute over individual  health mandates.  To prove his point that he never supported a nationwide individual mandate, Romney proposed a $10,000 bet that such language was never in his book.

Of course, this exchange was going to be one of those debate memorable moments.  ABC trumpeted it as showing that a wealthy guy like Romney is out of touch with the rest of us as he can casually make a $10K bet.  This was not the message that Romney wanted viewers to take away, the problem may have been that his testy rhetorical flourish was not big enough.  Had Romney blurted out “I’ll bet you a billion dollars”, it might have been taken as a figure of speech. Or it could be mistaken as a Porkulous line item.

Much of the attention of the debate was focused on front runner Newt Gingrich.  Much of the Gingrich candidacy has been based on the Speaker’s prowess during debates and focusing fire at the media and President Obama Although Gingrich mostly acquitted himself well, especially with his well rehearsed answer about infidelity, the Speaker changed up his debate formula .  Instead of railing against the media and the Administration, Gingrich made more cutting contrasts with his primary opponents.  Newt tried zinging Romney on not being a career politician since he lost his Senate race against Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in 1994. Gingrich’s quip did not go unanswered as Romney countered that his 1994 defeat was the best thing that happened to him as it gave him more of a career in the private sector.  It figuratively mussed up Romney’s coif and showed that Newt would not just play beanbags with his GOP competition for the nomination.

A weakness of Gingrich’s portfolio that was exploited was the perception that Newt lobbied for Freddie Mac just before the government incorporated enterprise had its spectacular crisis. Claiming that he was not a Freddie Mac spokesman or doing (direct) lobbying may not be a satisfactory answer for Tea Party types. And the transcript of the debate indicates that Gingrich was audibly flustered by answering Bachmann’s litany of charges that he was not a proven conservatives, so then Gingrich bragged about writing 24 books and 13 New York Times bestsellers.

While it is likely that much hay will be made over Romney’s $10K bet flub, there was a more revealing moment in the exchange between Gingrich and Romney about voicing support for Israel.  Gingrich was defending his earlier statements about Palestinians being an “invented people” a made up nation. Romney inferred that Gingrich was a rhetorical bomb thrower while Romney was a sober statesman. But Gingrich defended himself by identifying himself as a “historian who has looked upon the world stage for a long time.”

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That’s the quandry.  By bolding speaking what the Speaker believes is the truth, it has real  effects internationally if you are in line to be leader of the Free World. Then again, earlier this week Gingrich proposed having former UN Ambassador John Bolton as his Secretary of State, who can never be mistaken as a shrinking violet at either Turtle Bay or Foggy Bottom.

Initially, Rep. Michele Bachmann promised to have a strong debate performance.  Her portmanteau of Newt/Romney could have been a jibe against the perceived front runners or it may have just been a malapropism. But her pandering to Herman Cain supporters, along with her automatic invocation of her Iowa roots were transparent.  Moreover, Bachmann’s pitch is that she fights against Obama policies.  Alas, that’s tauting a losing record.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) had a couple of nice moments in the debate where he could naturally pitch his Family Values approach. Santorum’s claim to being a consistent conservative may not have brought down the house, but it is a memorable contrast which could resonate amongst Hawkeye Caucus goes in just over three weeks. Gingrich is leading in the polls but is thought by experienced political observers to be light on Iowa organization.  On the other hand, Santorum is a blip in the polls, but he practically has moved to midwest until the close of the Caucuses and has been adept at organizing.  If some caucus goers get skiddish about Gingrich and reject Romney, Santorum could place high enough to continue his quest.

Gov. Perry had a good debate performance where he did not run out of steam like before.  His attacks on Romneycare opened up the door to Tenth Amendment challenges as well as hypocrisy over Perry’s Executive Order mandating that 12 year old girls in Texas get HPV vaccinations. Hammering at Gingrich about infidelity belying lack of trust in public matters wooed evangelicals. But Perry also made a play for Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX14th) libertarians regarding skepticism of the Federal Reserve.  It was somewhat worrisome when Perry has three things he wants to mention, but there were no oops moments.  Perry did not hurt himself during the debate but whether he can move up in actual caucus standings by spending much most of his $17 million identifying with evangelical voters remains to be seen.

Former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) had his best debate performance yet. There were no quirky jokes, flamboyant ties or whining to get more time or better stage placement because he was not there.  Perhaps Huntsman can improve his standing with a one on one Lincoln Douglas debate with Gingrich on Tuesday.

The free wheeling exchanges among candidates and pointed questions contrasting their records did make it entertaining, even for non political viewers.  I believe that the Des Moines debate will inform but not solidify perceptions amongst primary participants.  The Fox News debate on Thursday might be the last chance for the public to decode their favored candidate’s message before Hawkeye Republicans go to their caucuses on January 3rd, 2012.

07 December 2011

A Date that Will Live in Infamy

Rescue operations on the U.S.S. West Virginia after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941

December 7th 1941, a date that will live in infamy.    Those words uttered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his address to Congress have resonated in the 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii.

Americans were shocked out of their inclination to isolationism during the 1930s by what was understood as being a sneak attack by Japanese forces.

Recent scholarship calls into question how much of a surprise the Japanese strike was to the American government.  In his new book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, Craig Shirley points to a recently declassified FBI on Franklin Roosevelt.  On December 4, 1941, a memo from the Office of Naval Intelligence warned the President that:

In anticipation of open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii.

Unlike Loose Change 9/11 conspiracy mongers, Shirley does not purport that FDR knew of the attack and did nothing or blew the response. Instead, the author of December 1941 suggests that there were more pieces to the puzzle.

This was certainly true on the diplomatic end.  American and Japanese diplomats  had been engaged in a tense series of negotiations over a US embargo of oil shipments to Japan in the three months prior to December, 1941.  FDR’s Secretary of State Cordell Hull had presented Tokyo with a 10 point ultimatum on November 26, 1941 which stunned Japanese diplomats who had just suggested a 90 day cooling off period.

Most American history books key on the difficulty of translating the Japanese cable that delayed delivery of the demarche, which was supposed to have been handed over just as the attack on Pearl Harbor began. But American sources had intercepted a Japanese Foreign Ministry draft memorandum that was tantamount to a declaration of war. But FDR saw nothing new in the message and took no further preparations.  In addition, Japanese researcher Takeo Iguchi debunks the myth that war was caused by a misunderstanding, as internal Japanese government documents indicated that Japanese Army and Navy prevailed over the Foreign Ministry to keep their war aims secret.

Another interesting angle of the Day of Infamy is why President Roosevelt only asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan.  On the evening of December 7th, FDR was shaken as he expected America to be hit but not hurt in any conflict with Japan. Historian Shirley pointed out that FDR and his War Cabinet considered declaring war against all three Axis powers, Japan, Germany and Italy.  But in the end, FDR only chose Japan, as America was still healing from the Great War and isolationism.  Oddly enough, it was German Führer Adolph Hitler who declared war against America in self written speech before the Reichstag on December 11, 1941. There might have been a markedly different outcome had America kept its attention towards the Pacific and Europe had to fight for itself aside from Lend Lease with the British Empire.

06 December 2011

Movie Review: Young Adult--Delightfully Dreary

Director Jason Reitman's latest film is "Young Adult",  a dark comedy starring  Charlize Theron and Patton Oswald.  A big city novelist who had recently divorced decided that she would rekindle a romance with an old beau from her small hometown who is now married with a newborn child.

The film gets its title from Mavis' career as a novelist for a long running "Young Adult" fiction series.  The plot follows the trek of Mavis Gary (Theron), a mean prom queen that got old but had not grown up, who finds that it is not easy to relive her glory days.

Nothing is as it seems as the Mavis' life.   Life in the Minni-Apple (sic) is not as marvelous for Mavis when closely examined.  And her career is being a ghostwriter for a teenage series that is long in the tooth and giving up the ghost.   Mavis decides that what will make everything right is "rescuing" her old beau by stealing him away from his unhappy existence in a hick town.

F. Charlize Theron, R. Patton Oswald
Mavis moves her Gen-X mid-life crisis from Minneapolis back to Mercury, Minnesota. She unknowingly encounters many of her former classmates in their quotidian small town lives, including  Matt Freuhauf (Oswald), the outcast who had a locker next to her throughout high school.   After drinks at the bar, Mavis confided to Matt her hair-brained plan to win back her former flame and they develop an amusingly awkward friendship.

Screenwriter Diablo Cody developed a dark comedy that featured an anti-hero.  While the audience watch the plot unfold with the horrified fascination of witnessing a train wreck, the script does not have telegraphed laugh lines,  is not a paean to a simpler pastoral life nor does it have a deus-ex-machina denouement that ties everything up or is an easy epiphany.

Young Adults explores how high school can shape us and have reverberations throughout life.  Mavis is clearly a conceited prom queen who still basks in her glory years later.  Matt is a fat geek who was scared by a horrific hate crime, but years later he is still a geek who revels in the attention of the popular girl.  Matt's sister still has not outgrown her heroine worship of Mavis, despite witnessing the wreck that she is now.  The bar scene where Mavis and Matt  feel resentment for someone who stole attention from them years ago still smarts.

L Charlize Theron, R. Jason Reitman
Jason Reitman took a chance by directing a dark film which slowly develops that makes an impression as much through atmospherics as with dialogue.  The opening scene makes a clever use of sounds and silence.  Mavis' morning ritual and the conditions of Mavis' high rise condo conveys the film's premise about arrested development.   Cinematographer Eric Steelberg captured a tentative kiss between Mavis and her object of desire Buddy (Patrick Wilson)  with an adept use of shadows that amplifies the obsession and ambiguity of the moment.

Patton Oswald took some care in preparing to portray his crippled character.  Matt is realistically portrayed that neither pans for pathos nor belittles his handicap.  Charlize Theron beautifully portrays a thoroughly flawed woman who can still look marvelous but is messed up.

Despite the funny scenes from the trailer, Young Adults is definitely not a feel good film   The slow development of the plot may challenge some patrons.  It is more thought provoking than offering notable quotable lines.  One catch phrase may be KeTacHut--chew on that.

Young Adults passed up the festival circuit in order to open in theaters on December 16th, so that it is in the minds of Oscar nominators.   While Young Adults is well worth seeing once as a delightfully dreary character study, but it may need help generating big box office from repeat ticket sales.

Actor Patton Oswald signing poster in Wash. DC

04 December 2011

Terminus of the Cain Train

Atlanta originated from the settlement known as “Terminus” because that was the end of the line for the railroads to the south in the 1830s.  Hence it was fitting that Herman Cain terminated his campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination in Atlanta.

Do not be fooled by Cain’s announcement that he was “suspending” his campaign.  That is a fiction for the FEC which allows Cain to continue collecting campaign contributions to defray costs.  Cain claimed that his campaign was engaging “Plan B” to establish TheCainsolutions.com to continue to be a voice for the people to advocate for the 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan as well as American energy independence.

Cain’s Plan B was a graceful way to withdraw from the Presidential race, especially after making his supporters wait three hours for his announcement at the opening of his new Atlanta campaign headquarters.  Cain prided himself on not being a politician but a problem solver but it is dubious if Cain will still command the spotlight after he has exited the Presidential stage.

Although the unproven allegation of adultery on top of the sideshow of sexual harassment claims unquestionably precipitated Cain’s withdrawal from the nomination race, it was not the only reason the Hermanator was dropping in the polls.  Clumsy answers about abortion, foreign policy flubs and increased scrutiny over the ramifications of the 9-9-9 plan prompted Tea Party types to find another alternative to Gov. Mitt Romney.

Most of the coverage of the Presidential race revolves around feeding frenzies over scandals, highlighting high profile flubs and the horse race between candidates as measured by the polls.  Cain may have been scoring well in the polls during September and October, but he was not doing what political psephologists consider essential for winning the nomination.  While Cain was topping the polls, instead of capitalizing on his success by going to Iowa which was a must win for him, Cain kept his commitment to do a book signing in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Iowa Caucus not only requires lots of retail campaigning but also needs to have a strong ground gain herding potential supporters to show up to the Caucus on the evening of January 3rd.  In late September, Cain still had a skeletal staff of a half dozen workers in the Hawkeye state.

Cain may have been stunned at the support that he garnered in the run up to the nomination process. Perhaps Cain’s candidacy may have been started been more to promote the nascent Cain 9-9-9 policy while raising his personal profile rather to actually win the nomination.  Now he will be able to sell his book, promote his plan to radically redo tax policy and stop the scrutiny which threatened to tear his marriage apart.

Considering how quickly the Cain accusers disappeared after the Gloria Allred feeding frenzy fizzled, it is reasonable to consider the latest allegation as Ginger White’s lie.  But regardless of the merits of her claims, the meme had been successfully planted amongst casual political observers that “Where there is smoke, there is fire.”  This hardball political tactic may make a reappearance later in the election season.

On the one hand former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th) has a messy personal life with two divorces with dicey circumstances. However, Gingrich approached the campaign as an open book, and so far ad hominem attacks on messy mores has been limited.  Whether this laissez-faire attitude with the electorate will continue when Obama surrogates on the media as well as in the media seriously start slinging mud remains to be seen.

On the other hand, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has a squeaky clean reputation.  In fact, Romney recently admitted to People magazine that he had once tried beer and a cigarette as a wayward teenager but never did it again.  Romney’s venial admission was much more believable than President Bill Clinton claiming that he smoked marijuana but never inhaled.  So politically stoning Romney as a reprobate probably won’t work but keying off of being a flip-flopper could have the same insidious effect that it had on the Democrats 2004 Presidential Nominee Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

Aside from offering the Cain solutions, Herman Cain may give an endorsement to some of the candidates remaining in the race.  While Cain was only polling 4% in Iowa when he effectively withdrew, that could make a difference to a second tier candidate like former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) or Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6th).  Cain could throw in with a perceived frontrunning like Gingrich and consider himself kingmaker and harbor hopes of the Veep-stakes.  Or Cain could curry favor with a campaign organization that was likely to help him pay off any campaign debts.

Irregardless of  how Cain capitalizes on his increased GOP statute after his run, expect to hear the Hermanator's booming voice during the Tampa convention and doing  his all to ensure that there is change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

H/T Caglecartoons.com

02 December 2011

Meghan McCain Reveals Herself on MSNBC Debut

Meghan McCain doing blog posting
Meghan McCain attracted a lot of attention through her blogging during the 2008 Presidential race of her father, Senator John McCain (R-AZ).  The Lamestream Media latched onto McCain for her outspokenness, her maverick tendencies and as a youth spokesman.  Meghan had been the panelist on Sunday Talking Heads shows, like ABC’s This Week, supposedly as a Republican voice, even though her progressive predilections were anything but representative of the GOP.

Meghan landed her first regular on-air media gig as a contributor on MSNBC’s “Now with Alex Wagner”.  For Miss McCain’s first official contribution, she interviewed GOP Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6th).  Meghan made her debut memorable.

First, Meghan McCain set up the interview with the second tier Presidential candidate by observing:

I famously said a statement earlier where I said that Michele Bachmann was the poor man’s Sarah Palin, and after meeting this woman I am completely wrong. This is the thinking man’s Sarah Palin.

In today’s media environment, it’s acceptable to offer journalism with some declared point of view.  This would be welcomed on the NBC networks, which had infamously introduced Rep. Bachmann appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show with a “Lying Ass Bitch” musical bumper.  Many consider the Peakcock networks as simply being shills for the Obama Administration. But it is remarkable that Meghan starts by making herself the focal point of the story’s  framing.

It is bizarre that Bachmann even consented to be interviewed by Meghan McCain. Aside from the prior “poor man’s Sarah Palin” slam, Meghan labeled Bachman as  “one rogue woman” after her State of the Union reply.

Miss McCain continued her comparison between Rep. Bachmann and Gov. Sarah Palin by declaring “I just thinks she‘s [Bachmann] older and more established and you know she’s been a member of Congress for a very long time.”  While it is true that the Minnesota Representative is eight years older than the former Alaska Governor, Bachmann has only been in Congress for two and a half terms (five years for the civics challenged).  That constitutes a long time?

The coup de grâce for Meghan McCain’s credibility was her assessment viz-a-viz Bachmann over Palin “I think she’s — this is going to get me in trouble — but I actually I think she’s just more smarter.”  While today’s casual cable reporting may accept some informal language, one can not help but think of the Mark Twain’s axiom “It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt .”

In her remarkable maiden report for MSNBC, Meghan McCain has proven herself to be a big boob–thus she is perfect for MS-DNC (sic).  The Megabrains of MessNBC (sic)--the self proclaimed place for politics that leans forward--gave an evening news show to Al Sharpton, a rabble rousing progressive community activist who has difficulty reading a teleprompter.

Meghan McCain seems like the poster child for a celebutard which the Lamestream Media shines lots of attention to advance an agenda, but throws away when their presence no longer supports “the cause” or becomes unnecessary.  Do you remember Levi Johnston, the former fiancé of Bristol Palin and her daughter’s babby daddy?  After Johnston had a falling out with Sarah Palin’s family, the then 19 year old was vaulted into modeling jobs, acting bit parts, considered running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (one of Palin’s early political posts)  and being a source for scurrilous slander against Saracuda. When Gov. Palin opted not to enter the 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination race, the Deer in the Headlights career disappeared.

Cindy Sheehan "leading" protest at Camp Casey
How about Cindy Sheehan?   She was the aggrieved Iraq war mother who won incredible amounts of media attention camping out at President George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas estate for (another) meeting with the wartime Commander in Chief.  Of course the Lamestream Media never revealed the media circus which hyped and artificially amplified “Camp Casey”.  Cindy Sheehan was a media celebrity throughout the George W. Bush Administration.  But when Sheehan continued her activism as Peace Mom during the regime of President Barack Obama, Sheehan became persona non grata on the Lamestream Media since the agenda was not to protest the President about war.

Celebutards need to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame because after you are no longer a useful idiot, deeply superficial types are tossed in attic.  Reading about Andy Warhol should be quite instructive.

Amongst Meghan McCain’s attributes for landing a national cable job was being a reliable political gadfly with a famous father.  But not all celebrity scions stink at broadcast journalism.   Peter Doocey, the son of Fox and Friends morning anchor Steve Doocey, has done a credible job doing general weekend reporting for the Fox News Channel.  And Luke Russert, son of legendary Meet the Press host Tim Russert has done remarkable job reporting for NBC Networks.

While as NBC New Congressional Correspondent last year, Luke Russert challenged 80 year old ethically embattled Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY 15th) to answer hard questions about his political fate.   And recently, Russert refused to be bullied by MSNBC host Martin Bashir into parroting left wing talking points against House Republicans.

Sometimes the apple does not fall far from the tree and we can enjoy its fruits. But other produce does not seem as mature or for some girls, one is appealing on the outside but don't bite the big apple lest one be Shattered as its  full of maggots.

30 November 2011

Obamacare Elderly Rationing--It's Not Brain Surgery

Recently, while at a social gathering with people from various walks of life, the topic of Obamacare came up.  One of the interlocutors was a liberally oriented health care worker at Walter Reed Army hospital.  She seemed anxious to quell concerns about government run health care by pretending to listen to objections to Obamacare and then ambushing her policy foes with the shining case of the Hawaiian State Health Care Mandate.

The Hawaiian paradigm is an interesting example, except that private insurers can still compete and the state government offers generous but not necessarily strictly mandated policy coverage.  Arguments against Obamacare often get stuck on the question of the constitutionality of the federal government mandating citizens engaging in commerce.  Obamacare is said to be modeled on Romneycare in Massachusetts but the health mandate can properly be a state power.

Another objection to Obamacare is a decline in quality care because of rationing.  Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) called the perilous cost benefit analysis for the elderly as “Death Panels” which earned her a great deal of derision from the liberal intelligentsia.  The Walter Reed therapist attacked the characterization of “Death Panels” but noted that spiraling costs had to be contained for the last 18 months of life.

It was a pleasure to chat with a well informed ideological opponent about health care, so I enquired if medical research had dictated the change in mammography guidelines for women under 50.  She stammered and said that she had not read anything in medical journals but that was not her area of practice.  I recalled that an HHS preventative care government panel recommended against mammographies for women between 40 and 49 because it lead to false alarms and unnecessary biopsies. I noted that  HHS also downplayed the importance of self exams for women and recommended women get breast exams every other year. These changes seemed suspect since breast cancer is the 2nd highest cancer killer among women, thus I asked someone in the health field how the science changed. I suggested that the government panel of doctors and scientists might be anticipating rationing regime. Of course, the change in government guidelines gives the go ahead for private insurers to stop coverage for unnecessary treatment. She scoffed that I dared think that health policies might be driven by politics and quickly ended the healthy dialogue.

Now a brain surgeon who called into the Mark Levin Show revealed that Obamacare has language that if someone are over 70 years old and on government supported health care and required neurosurgery, they would only qualify for “comfort care” and not neurosurgery. Hospitals would not have difficult cases decided by ethics panels but actually administrators with their eye on the bottom line. Basically, this translates to rationing by death panels.

This issue of dictating comfort care for bleeding on the brain for those over 70 strikes close to home. A loved one had two episodes in a week of bleeding on the brain where he had to be rushed to a hospital. But between access to outstanding teaching hospitals and presumably Medicare supplement, he is living a vibrant and engaged life. It would be tragic to have a government bean counter arbitrarily overrule good medical practice in saving lives to just sling out comfort care.

Granted, costs for the last years of life can be costly and a government which is spending our grandchildren’s inheritance needs to find better ways of containing costs.  Nearly two decades ago, P.J. O’Rourke quipped “If you think that health care is too expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”   I would hate for the cost to be arbitrary rationing which dictates comfort care for those deemed superannuated. The next thing you know, government guidelines will prescribe a Life Carousel for renewal ala Logan’s Run.

The Long Strange Trip of Candidate Jon Huntsman

L. Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) R. SNL's Seth Meyers

Former Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R-UT) has blazed an idiosyncratic path to the Republican nomination for President.  Although Huntsman had been re-elected Governor of the Beehive State in 2004 with a 78% margin, he is better known for his diplomatic credentials.  Huntsman had been the Ambassador to Singapore in the President George HW Bush Administration (Bush 41) and as U.S. Trade Representative in the President George W. Bush Adminsitration (Bush 43).  But Huntsman infamously ditched the Utah Governor’s Mansion soon after his second term began to become President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China. Generally, career diplomats are unlikely U.S. Presidential candidates, especially when their last posting was with an incumbent of the opposite party but “Jon” does not fancy himself as a typical politician

Huntsman entered the GOP Presidential race relatively late in mid-June. He might have thought that he could afford to be late since he is the son of billionaire Jon Huntsman, Sr. and that he is personally worth between $16 to $71 million.  But  Huntsman also made his announcement late by insisted on highlighting his quirky credentials by showing a Meet Jon Huntsman promo video which hogged his time in the spotlight.  By the time Huntsman got around to launching his candidacy, major news organizations had stopped covering the event live and rushed back to hear indistinct drivel.

Perhaps it may seem picayune but Huntsman’s campaign launch was marred by two infamous flaws.  Firstly, the press pass for the event misspelt the candidate’s name as “John Huntman”.  The staffers ought to know better as their website is “Jon2012.com”.  The other flub was positioning of the podium.  Huntsman deliberately went to Liberty State Park as he studiously sought to capture the same optics that Ronald Reagan used to launch his 1980 race for the White House.   The positioning of the dais and the press podium wasted the opportunity, especially with cable news crews which inform most of the electorate today.  Maybe the press did not want to show the turnout of “dozens” of supporters at the rally.

Still the Lamestream Media kvelled over Huntsman’s candidacy, as there was a moderate Republican in the race, especially one who served under President Obama.  Huntsman committed himself to a campaign of civility, where he would neither run down his Republican opponents nor his former boss and eventual opponent President Obama. That mimiced the media meme about civility in the period after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th).  It seems implausible to run a campaign without distinguishing yourselves against opponents, much less speak their name like Voldemort.  Of course, Huntman's non critical promise lasted as long as Democrats practice of civility against their political opponents.

Huntsman also made an unorthodox choice to base his national Headquarters in Orlando, Florida since his wife was from the area and Florida is a must win state.  Looking at the latest polls, Huntsman position in the Sunshine State is less than the margin of error.  Oops.

Huntsman also revealed a sui generis strategy to win the Republican nomination as he wanted to appeal to non-Republicans.   That’s novel but unlikely to win over dyed in the wool Republican primary voters, except perhaps in New Hampshire which has many independent and cross over primary voters.  Hence this might explain Huntsman playing the fool on Saturday Night Live.


Of course appearances in NBC Studio 8A worked out so well for Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) quest for the White House.  But Huntsman’s stabs at humor probably work better on SNL than sniping at Gov. Mitt Romney’s book as a Kurt Cobain reference during a debate–that was not Nirvana.

Huntsman has revealed that he is a Deadhead.  So is former Vice President Al Gore.  Huntsman must think that by identifying with Jerry and the band reminds voters of his dropping out of high school to join a rock band.  Dude, what are you thinking?  This is a GOP nomination process.

Huntsman has not been shy in using his three daughters as surrogates for the campaign.  The parody of the Smokin’ Cain campaign ad was quite funny. It raised some campaign funds but no real raise in the polls.

But politics is a full contact sport and once Huntsman can prove that he is no longer a “margin of error” candidate, the press has declared families fair game, particularly when they have entered the arena.

Unless Huntsman can pull off a miracle and wrangle the top spot in the New Hampshire primary from Gov, Romney and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Huntsman seems to be positioning himself as a third party candidate.  Considering his appeal to moderates, it is more likely that a quixotic independent candidacy would appeal to donkeys more than pachyderms or agitated independent voters.

It’s been a long strange trip  for the Jon Huntsman campaign.  Whether it ends in the snows of the Granite State or in a costly independent vanity race, it is likely that he will be singing the U.S. Blues.