Sunday, April 29, 2012

Obama: Permanent Campaigner

Daily Mail
29 April 2012

Barack Obama has already held more re-election fundraising events than every elected president since Richard Nixon combined, according to figures to be published in a new book.

Obama is also the only president in the past 35 years to visit every electoral battleground state in his first year of office.

The figures, contained a in a new book called The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign by Brendan J. Doherty, due to be published by University Press of Kansas in July, give statistical backing to the notion that Obama is more preoccupied with being re-elected than any other commander-in-chief of modern times.

Doherty, who has compiled statistics about presidential travel and fundraising going back to President Jimmy Carter in 1977, found that Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March 6th this year, compared to 94 held by Presidents Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Snr, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined.

Since then, Obama has held another 20 fundraisers, bringing his total to 124. Carter held four re-election fundraisers in the 1980 campaign, Reagan zero in 1984, Bush Snr 19 in 1992, Clinton 14 in 1996 and Bush Jnr 57 in 2004.

Doherty, a political science professor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has also analysed presidential travel to battleground or swing states, which change and fluctuate in number with each election cycle.

In their first years in office, Carter visited eight out of 18 battleground states and Reagan seven out of 17. Bush Snr, Clinton and Bush Jnr all visited around three-quarters of battleground states while Obama went to all 15 within his first 12 months.

While the Obama’s campaign activities in office have been largely in line with historical trends, he is especially vulnerable to criticism because in 2008 he promised to change how politics works and to curb links with special interests.

Vowing in 2008 to ‘launch the most sweeping ethics reform in US history’ Obama said that if elected he would ‘make government more open, more accountable and more responsive to the problems of the American people’.

In his State of the Union speech in January, Obama bemoaned the ‘corrosive influence of money in politics’. The following month, he reversed course and announced he was allowing cabinet members and top advisors to speak at big money events for so-called super PACs – unaccountable outside groups raising money for his re-election.

During the 2008 election, Obama abandoned a pledge to opt for public funding of his campaign, instead opting to raise an unlimited amount privately. He then raised and spent approximately $730million, almost double the campaign funds of Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent.

Up to the end of March, Obama had raised $191.6million for his re-election bid, compared to $86.6million raised by his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. His frenetic fundraising activities are in part because he is lagging behind campaign expectations. Early last year, some advisers spoke privately of raising $1billion.

In his book, Doherty writes that in his first full month in office Obama visited Indiana, Florida, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina – all battleground states - in 2012. 'Clearly, the White House made a point of the president travelling to key electoral states early in his term in office.'

This week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) lodged a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) about alleged misuse of taxpayer money by Obama.

The Obama campaign dismissed the complaint as a ‘stunt’ and the White House said that it would follow the same rules as previous administrations and refund the appropriate amounts.

In the complaint, Reince Priebus, RNC chairman, wrote: ‘Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as “official events,” thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his re-election efforts.’

Doherty, however, said that although the tactic of labelling Obama’s activities as fraud was ‘novel’ in reality the opposing party always complained about a president facing re-election dressing up political events as official ones.

‘This is not new. The Republican complaint is more of a situational complaint than a principled complaint because they certainly weren’t complaining when George W. Bush did this eight years ago.'

He added: ‘In 2004, President George W. Bush broke all records for presidential fundraising in terms of time devoted to fundraising and in terms of money raised and at the time Democrats hit him hard for that.

'Obama has already surpassed Bush [Jnr] in numbers of re-election fundraisers, but not yet in money raised.'

The rising costs of campaigns, lower contribution limits, the breakdown of the public financing system, the 24/7 media environment and the professionalisation of campaigns had all led to successive presidents having to devote more and more time and energy to raising money.

He added that the ‘big picture’ was incumbent presidents fearing defeat. ‘Until 1976 [when Carter beat President Gerald Ford] no sitting president had been defeated for re-election since 1932. It had been 44 years.

‘And then three of the next four presidents who tried [Ford, Carter and Bush Snr] lost. Of all the presidents re-elected since Ford lost to Carter, only Reagan has won in a landslide. George W. Bush’s re-election [in 2004] was close, Clinton got less than 50 percent [in 1996]. There is a very keen sense among presidents that they really might lose.’

Kirsten Kukowski, an RNC spokesperson, said: 'It’s no surprise that the Campaigner-In-Chief has taken raising money for his re-election to a whole new level. The worst part is the American taxpayer has been footing the bill.' The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment.


Monday, April 23, 2012

The End of California: Not from the Earthquake

A leading U.S. demographer and 'Truman Democrat' talks about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State.
'California is God's best moment," says Joel Kotkin. "It's the best place in the world to live." Or at least it used to be.
Mr. Kotkin, one of the nation's premier demographers, left his native New York City in 1971 to enroll at the University of California, Berkeley. The state was a far-out paradise for hipsters who had grown up listening to the Mamas & the Papas' iconic "California Dreamin'" and the Beach Boys' "California Girls." But it also attracted young, ambitious people "who had a lot of dreams, wanted to build big companies." Think Intel, Apple and Hewlett-Packard.
Now, however, the Golden State's fastest-growing entity is government and its biggest product is red tape. The first thing that comes to many American minds when you mention California isn't Hollywood or tanned girls on a beach, but Greece. Many progressives in California take that as a compliment since Greeks are ostensibly happier. But as Mr. Kotkin notes, Californians are increasingly pursuing happiness elsewhere.
Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.
The scruffy-looking urban studies professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., has been studying and writing on demographic and geographic trends for 30 years. Part of California's dysfunction, he says, stems from state and local government restrictions on development. These policies have artificially limited housing supply and put a premium on real estate in coastal regions.
"Basically, if you don't own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven't robbed a bank and don't have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak," says Mr. Kotkin.
While many middle-class families have moved inland, those regions don't have the same allure or amenities as the coast. People might as well move to Nevada or Texas, where housing and everything else is cheaper and there's no income tax.
And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their "smart growth" plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. "What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s," Mr. Kotkin declares.
"The new regime"—his name for progressive apparatchiks who run California's government—"wants to destroy the essential reason why people move to California in order to protect their own lifestyles."
Housing is merely one front of what he calls the "progressive war on the middle class." Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state's energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California's electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average.
Oh, and don't forget the $100 billion bullet train. Mr. Kotkin calls the runaway-cost train "classic California." "Where [Brown] with the state going bankrupt is even thinking about an expenditure like this is beyond comprehension. When the schools are falling apart, when the roads are falling apart, the bridges are unsafe, the state economy is in free fall. We're still doing much worse than the rest of the country, we've got this growing permanent welfare class, and high-speed rail is going to solve this?"
Mr. Kotkin describes himself as an old-fashioned Truman Democrat. In fact, he voted for Mr. Brown—who previously served as governor, secretary of state and attorney general—because he believed Mr. Brown "was interesting and thought outside the box."
But "Jerry's been a big disappointment," Mr. Kotkin says. "I've known Jerry for 35 years, and he's smart, but he just can't seem to be a paradigm breaker. And of course, it's because he really believes in this green stuff."
In the governor's dreams, green jobs will replace all of the "tangible jobs" that the state's losing in agriculture, manufacturing, warehousing and construction. But "green energy doesn't create enough energy!" Mr. Kotkin exclaims. "And it drives up the price of energy, which then drives out other things." Notwithstanding all of the subsidies the state lavishes on renewables, green jobs only make up about 2% of California's private-sector work force—no more than they do in Texas.
Of course, there are plenty of jobs to be had in energy, just not the type the new California regime wants. An estimated 25 billion barrels of oil are sitting untapped in the vast Monterey and Bakersfield shale deposits. "You see the great tragedy of California is that we have all this oil and gas, we won't use it," Mr. Kotkin says. "We have the richest farm land in the world, and we're trying to strangle it." He's referring to how water restrictions aimed at protecting the delta smelt fish are endangering Central Valley farmers.
Meanwhile, taxes are harming the private economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. Its income tax is steeply progressive. Millionaires pay a top rate of 10.3%, the third-highest in the country. But middle-class workers—those who earn more than $48,000—pay a top rate of 9.3%, which is higher than what millionaires pay in 47 states.
And Democrats want to raise taxes even more. Mind you, the November ballot initiative that Mr. Brown is spearheading would primarily hit those whom Democrats call "millionaires" (i.e., people who make more than $250,000 a year). Some Republicans have warned that it will cause a millionaire march out of the state, but Mr. Kotkin says that "people who are at the very high end of the food chain, they're still going to be in Napa. They're still going to be in Silicon Valley. They're still going to be in West L.A."
That said, "It's really going to hit the small business owners and the young family that's trying to accumulate enough to raise a family, maybe send their kids to private school. It'll kick them in the teeth."
A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year middle class, but "if you're a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you're married and you're thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes 250-k a year, you can't buy a closet in the Bay Area," Mr. Kotkin says. "But for 250-k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to public schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house."
According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the "entrenched incumbents" who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there's a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don't pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.
It's "a very scary political dynamic," he says. "One day somebody's going to put on the ballot, let's take every penny over $100,000 a year, and you'll get it through because there's no real restraint. What you've done by exempting people from paying taxes is that they feel no responsibility. That's certainly a big part of it.
And the welfare recipients, he emphasizes, "aren't leaving. Why would they? They get much better benefits in California or New York than if they go to Texas. In Texas the expectation is that people work."
California used to be more like Texas—a jobs magnet. What happened? For one, says the demographer, Californians are now voting more based on social issues and less on fiscal ones than they did when Ronald Reagan was governor 40 years ago. Environmentalists are also more powerful than they used to be. And Mr. Brown facilitated the public-union takeover of the statehouse by allowing state workers to collectively bargain during his first stint as governor in 1977.
Mr. Kotkin also notes that demographic changes are playing a role. As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California's politics become even more left-wing. It's a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, "the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees."
So if California's no longer the Golden land of opportunity for middle-class dreamers, what is?
Mr. Kotkin lists four "growth corridors": the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, and the Southeast. All of these regions have lower costs of living, lower taxes, relatively relaxed regulatory environments, and critical natural resources such as oil and natural gas.
Take Salt Lake City. "Almost all of the major tech companies have moved stuff to Salt Lake City." That includes Twitter, Adobe, eBay and Oracle.
Then there's Texas, which is on a mission to steal California's tech hegemony. Apple just announced that it's building a $304 million campus and adding 3,600 jobs in Austin. Facebook established operations there last year, and eBay plans to add 1,000 new jobs there too.
Even Hollywood is doing more of its filming on the Gulf Coast. "New Orleans is supposedly going to pass New York as the second-largest film center. They have great incentives, and New Orleans is the best bargain for urban living in the United States. It's got great food, great music, and it's inexpensive."
What about the Midwest and the Rust Belt? Can they recover from their manufacturing losses?
"What those areas have is they've got a good work ethic," Mr. Kotkin says. "There's an established skill base for industry. They're very affordable, and they've got some nice places to live. Indianapolis has become a very nice city." He concedes that such places will have a hard time eclipsing California or Texas because they're not as well endowed by nature. But as the Golden State is proving, natural endowments do not guarantee permanent prosperity.
californ ia

Imperial Presidency or Not?

By Charlie Savage


One Saturday last fall, President Obama interrupted a White House strategy meeting to raise an issue not on the agenda. He declared, aides recalled, that the administration needed to more aggressively use executive power to govern in the face of Congressional obstructionism.

 “We had been attempting to highlight the inability of Congress to do anything,” recalled William M. Daley, who was the White House chief of staff at the time. “The president expressed frustration, saying we have got to scour everything and push the envelope in finding things we can do on our own.”

For Mr. Obama, that meeting was a turning point. As a senator and presidential candidate, he had criticized George W. Bush for flouting the role of Congress. And during his first two years in the White House, when Democrats controlled Congress, Mr. Obama largely worked through the legislative process to achieve his domestic policy goals.

[When the Congress was all Republican under Bush, he did not flout the role of Congress, he did not bypass Congress.  Only when the Democrats took control of Congress did he feel forced to bypass Congress.  That's when Obama opened his big mouth and started to shriek.  Back in 1994 when the Republicans took over Congress, they worked with Bill Clinton.  They passed more legislation during those years than when the Democrats had control.  Yet Obama shrieked about the flouting of Congress, the separation of powers ... and now, he does it everyday, violates those powers delegated to Congress and not given to the Executive, and he does it with a smile.]

But increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress. Branding its unilateral efforts “We Can’t Wait,” a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more.
Each time, Mr. Obama has emphasized the fact that he is bypassing lawmakers. When he announced a cut in refinancing fees for federally insured mortgages last month, for example, he said: “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.”
Aides say many more such moves are coming. Not just a short-term shift in governing style and a re-election strategy, Mr. Obama’s increasingly assertive use of executive action could foreshadow pitched battles over the separation of powers in his second term, should he win and Republicans consolidate their power in Congress.
Many conservatives have denounced Mr. Obama’s new approach. But William G. Howell, a University of Chicago political science professor and author of “Power Without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action,” said Mr. Obama’s use of executive power to advance domestic policies that could not pass Congress was not new historically. Still, he said, because of Mr. Obama’s past as a critic of executive unilateralism, his transformation is remarkable.
“What is surprising is that he is coming around to responding to the incentives that are built into the institution of the presidency,” Mr. Howell said. “Even someone who has studied the Constitution and holds it in high regard — he, too, is going to exercise these unilateral powers because his long-term legacy and his standing in the polls crucially depend upon action.”
Mr. Obama has issued signing statements claiming a right to bypass a handful of constraints — rejecting as unconstitutional Congress’s attempt to prevent him from having White House “czars” on certain issues, for example. But for the most part, Mr. Obama’s increased unilateralism in domestic policy has relied on a different form of executive power than the sort that had led to heated debates during his predecessor’s administration: Mr. Bush’s frequent assertion of a right to override statutes on matters like surveillance and torture.
“Obama’s not saying he has the right to defy a Congressional statute,” said Richard H. Pildes, a New York University law professor. “But if the legislative path is blocked and he otherwise has the legal authority to issue an executive order on an issue, they are clearly much more willing to do that now than two years ago.”
The Obama administration started down this path soon after Republicans took over the House of Representatives last year. In February 2011, Mr. Obama directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages, against constitutional challenges. Previously, the administration had urged lawmakers to repeal it, but had defended their right to enact it.
In the following months, the administration increased efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions through environmental regulations, gave states waivers from federal mandates if they agreed to education overhauls, and refocused deportation policy in a way that in effect granted relief to some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Each step substituted for a faltered legislative proposal.
But those moves were isolated and cut against the administration’s broader political messaging strategy at the time: that Mr. Obama was trying to reach across the aisle to get things done. It was only after the summer, when negotiations over a deficit reduction deal broke down and House Republicans nearly failed to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, that Mr. Obama fully shifted course.
First, he proposed a jobs package and gave speeches urging lawmakers to “pass this bill” — knowing they would not. A few weeks later, at the policy and campaign strategy meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, the president told aides that highlighting Congressional gridlock was not enough.
“He wanted to continue down the path of being bold with Congress and flexing our muscle a little bit, and showing a contrast to the American people of a Congress that was completely stuck,” said Nancy-Ann DeParle, a deputy chief of staff assigned to lead the effort to come up with ideas.
Ms. DeParle met twice a week with members of the domestic policy council to brainstorm. She met with cabinet secretaries in the fall, and again in February with their chiefs of staff. No one opposed doing more; the challenge was coming up with workable ideas, aides said.
The focus, said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, was “what we could do on our own to help the economy in areas Congress was failing to act,” so the list was not necessarily the highest priority actions, but instead steps that did not require legislation.
Republican lawmakers watched warily. One of Mr. Obama’s first “We Can’t Wait” announcements was the moving up of plans to ease terms on student loans. After Republican complaints that the executive branch had no authority to change the timing, it appeared to back off.
The sharpest legal criticism, however, came in January after Mr. Obama bypassed the Senate confirmation process to install four officials using his recess appointment powers, even though House Republicans had been forcing the Senate to hold “pro forma” sessions through its winter break to block such appointments.
Mr. Obama declared the sessions a sham, saying the Senate was really in the midst of a lengthy recess. His appointments are facing a legal challenge, and some liberals and many conservatives have warned that he set a dangerous precedent.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, who essentially invented the pro forma session tactic late in Mr. Bush’s presidency, has not objected, however. Senate aides said Mr. Reid had told the White House that he would not oppose such appointments based on a memorandum from his counsel, Serena Hoy. She concluded that the longer the tactic went unchallenged, the harder it would be for any president to make recess appointments — a significant shift in the historic balance of power between the branches.
The White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, said the Obama administration’s legal team had begun examining the issue in early 2011 — including an internal Bush administration memo criticizing the notion that such sessions could block a president’s recess powers — and “seriously considered” making some appointments during Congress’s August break. But Mr. Obama decided to move ahead in January 2012, including installing Richard Cordray to head the new consumer financial protection bureau, after Senate Republicans blocked a confirmation vote.
“I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Mr. Obama declared, beneath a “We Can’t Wait” banner. “When Congress refuses to act and — as a result — hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them.”
The unilateralist strategy carries political risks. Mr. Obama cannot blame the Republicans when he adopts policies that liberals oppose, like when he overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to strengthen antismog rules or decided not to sign an order banning discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation.
The approach also exposes Mr. Obama to accusations that he is concentrating too much power in the White House. Earlier this year, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, delivered a series of floor speeches accusing Mr. Obama of acting “more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace” and imploring colleagues of both parties to push back against his “power grabs.”
But Democratic lawmakers have been largely quiet; many of them accuse Republicans of engaging in an unprecedented level of obstructionism and say that Mr. Obama has to do what he can to make the government work. The pattern adds to a bipartisan history in which lawmakers from presidents’ own parties have tended not to object to invocations of executive power.
For their part, Republicans appear to have largely acquiesced. Mr. Grassley said in an interview that his colleagues were reluctant to block even more bills and nominations in response to Mr. Obama’s “chutzpah,” lest they play into his effort to portray them as making Congress dysfunctional.
“Some of the most conservative people in our caucus would adamantly disagree with what Obama did on recess appointments, but they said it’s not a winner for us,” he said.
Mr. Obama’s new approach puts him in the company of his recent predecessors. Mr. Bush, for example, failed to persuade Congress to pass a bill allowing religiously affiliated groups to receive taxpayer grants — and then issued an executive order making the change.
President Bill Clinton increased White House involvement in agency rule making, using regulations and executive orders to show that he was getting things done despite opposition from a Republican Congress on matters like land conservation, gun control, tobacco advertising and treaties. (He was assisted by a White House lawyer, Elena Kagan, who later won tenure at Harvard based on scholarship analyzing such efforts and who is now on the Supreme Court.)
And both the Reagan and George Bush administrations increased their control over executive agencies to advance a deregulatory agenda, despite opposition from Democratic lawmakers, while also developing legal theories and tactics to increase executive power, like issuing signing statements more frequently.
The bipartisan history of executive aggrandizement in recent decades complicates Republican criticism. In February, two conservative advocacy groups — Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network — sponsored a symposium to discuss what they called “the unprecedented expansion of executive power during the past three years.” It reached an awkward moment during a talk with a former attorney general, Edwin Meese III, and a former White House counsel, C. Boyden Gray.
“It’s kind of ironic you have Boyden and me here because when we were with the executive branch, we were probably the principal proponents of executive power under President Reagan and then President George H. W. Bush,” Mr. Meese said, quickly adding that the presidential prerogatives they sought to protect, unlike Mr. Obama’s, were valid.
But Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the George W. Bush administration, said the Obama administration’s pattern reflects how presidents usually behave, especially during divided government, and appears aggressive only in comparison to Mr. Obama’s having been “really skittish for the first two years” about executive power.
“This is what presidents do,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “It’s taken Obama two years to get there, but this has happened throughout history. You can’t be in that office with all its enormous responsibilities — when things don’t happen, you get blamed for it — and not exercise all the powers that have accrued to it over time.”
This story, "Shift on Executive Power Lets Obama Bypass Rivals," first appeared in The New York Times.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

India's Missile Test: China's Scorn

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, April 20, 2012
A day after the launch of the Agni V missile, the government-controlled media, both Chinese and English continued to question the state of preparedness of India’s armed forces and the many problems plaguing them and poured scorn over the launch. Questions were raised about India’s ballistic missile programme regarding its effectiveness. While acknowledging the successful launch, the official television channel, CCTV, said India’s missile programme was riddled with problems.

India, it was pointed out, doesn’t possess a homemade high-precision guidance system for long range missiles to hit targets more than 5000 km away. New Delhi is dependent on foreign technology.
Further, at 50 tonnes, the weight of Agni V could pose a problem in transporting. An unnamed expert claimed that India does not possess the infrastructure, like roads, to quickly transport missiles.And any way, it would take a long time, maybe several years for India to operationalise the missies and induct them into the armed forces.
Chinese language newspapers didn’t lag behind in dismissing the launch. The BBC quoted an editorial in the state-run Chinese newspaper Huanqiu Shibao as saying that India's strategic strike force was in “early childhood” and commented on “the backwardness of Indian missiles”. It was “merely one of the concrete displays of its social and economic development as a whole lagging behind China.”
The BBC quoted another translated comment from the Communist Party newspaper Renmin Wang: Commentator Wu Xuelan wrote that India has always "cherished the dream of becoming a major power" but its social problems “are still very serious” and instead of wasting money on developing missiles, India “should do a better job in terms of [improving] the lives of ordinary people.”
On Friday, CCTV news programme from Washington, titled “missile launch causing stir around the world” said major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai could be targeted by the Indian missile.
It raised a question whether New Delhi’s acquiring a nuclear-capable missile takes it any close to a seat the UN Security Council? The programme was quick to point out that that India has become the largest importer of arms and its expenditure would touch the 50 billion USD in a few years, (China’s defence budget crossed the 100 billion USD mark for the first time this year.)
Several controversies to hit the Indian armed forces were pointed out this year including the recent letter that army chief VK Singh wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Malik’s assertions that the armed forces were low on ammunition, the air force didn’t have enough fighter jets or training aircraft and equipment were dated.
The state-run China Daily, the most circulated English newspaper, splashed a photograph of the launch on page 1.
On Thursday, the Global Times newspaper published an editorial warning India not to be too adventurous.
The main mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Daily, was yet to react to the launch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Debt and Obama's Contributions

Cannot be understated.  He has more than doubled the debt in almost four years.  And according to claims, the Republican Budget Committee have unconvered nearly 17 trillion in unfunded liabilities for his medical system.

The Republicans used the White House figures, Congressional documents, and Obama's health care program.  They did not discover new funding issues based upon their own magical incantations.  They used the White House incantations.

That over the course of 75 years, the liability for Obama's medical system would be over 82 trillion.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Obama Misspeaks and No One Paid Attention

By Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth
CARTAGENA, Colombia | Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:50pm EDT

CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - Unprecedented Latin American opposition to U.S. sanctions on Cuba left President Barack Obama isolated at a summit on Sunday and illustrated Washington's declining influence in a region being aggressively courted by China.

Unlike the rock-star status he enjoyed at the 2009 Summit of the Americas after taking office, Obama has had a bruising time at the two-day meeting in Colombia of some 30 heads of state.

Sixteen U.S. security personnel were caught in an embarrassing prostitution scandal before Obama arrived, Brazil and others have bashed Obama over U.S. monetary policy and he has been on the defensive over Cuba and calls to legalize drugs.

Due to the hostile U.S. and Canadian line on communist-run Cuba, the heads of state failed to produce a final declaration as the summit fizzled out on Sunday afternoon.

"There was no declaration because there was no consensus," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. He bristled at suggestions the summit had been a failure, however, saying the exchange of different views was a sign of democratic health.

For the first time, conservative-led U.S. allies like Mexico and Colombia are throwing their weight behind the traditional demand of leftist governments that Cuba be invited to the next Summit of the Americas.

Cuba was kicked out of the Organization of American States (OAS) a few years after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution and has been kept out of its summits due mainly to U.S. opposition.

But Latin American leaders are increasingly militant in opposing both Cuba's exclusion and the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on the Caribbean island.

"The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective," Santos said. "I hope Cuba is at the next summit in three years."

Santos, a major U.S. ally in the region who has relied on Washington for financial and military help to fight guerrillas and drug traffickers, has become vocal about Cuba's inclusion even though he also advocates for democratic reform by Havana.


In an ironic twist to the debate, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went dancing in the early hours of Sunday at a Cartagena bar called Cafe Havana, where Cuban music is played.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has insisted without success that Washington recognize its claim to the Falkland Islands controlled by Britain, was one of several presidents who left the summit well before its official closure.

She missed a verbal gaffe by Obama, who referred to the "Maldives" instead of the "Malvinas" when using the name Latin Americans give to the disputed islands.

[He does this quite often if the news reports are correct.  Our media doesn't promote it like they did when Bush made the same mistakes.  Then again, we never expected much from Bush - so I guess its fair they attacked him every time, but we expect Obama to be able to speak well, so it is maybe better we pretend he can.]

The leftist ALBA bloc of nations - including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean nations - said they will not attend future summits without Cuba's presence.

"It's not a favor anyone would be doing to Cuba. It's a right they've had taken away from them," Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said from Managua.

Although there were widespread hopes for a rapprochement with Cuba under Obama when he took office, Washington has done little beyond ease some travel restrictions. It insists Cuba must first make changes, including the release of political prisoners.

Obama told a news conference after the summit he was "puzzled" that nations that had themselves emerged from authoritarian rule would overlook that in Cuba.

"I and the American people will welcome a time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions. We haven't gotten there yet," he said.

Obama urged Cuba to look at political and economic transformations in Colombia, Brazil and Chile for inspiration.


The prostitution saga was a big embarrassment for Obama and a blow to the prestige of his Secret Service, the agency that provides security for U.S. presidents. It was the talk of the town in the historic Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena.

Eleven Secret Service agents were sent home and five military servicemen grounded after trying to take prostitutes back to their hotel the day before Obama arrived.

Obama said in general his security personnel did an extraordinary job under stressful circumstances but he would be annoyed if the allegations were proven by an investigation.

"We represent the people of the United States and when we travel to another country I expect them to observe the highest standards," Obama said of the reports. "If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I will be angry."

A local policeman told Reuters the affair came to a head when hotel staff tried to register a prostitute at the front desk but agents refused and waved their ID cards.

Locals were unimpressed and upset at the negative headlines.

"Someone who's charged with looking after the security of the most important president in the world cannot commit the mistake of getting mixed up with a prostitute," said Cartagena tourist guide Rodolfo Galvis, 60.

"This has damaged the image of the Secret Service, not Colombia."

The divisive end to the summit added to strain on the U.S.-dominated system of hemispheric diplomacy that was built around the OAS but is struggling to adapt to changes in the region.

"I'm not sure the next summit will even be possible," said Carlos Gaviria, a Colombian politician and former presidential candidate.

Perceived U.S. neglect of Latin America has allowed China to move strongly into the region and become the leading trade partner of Brazil and various other nations.

Regional economic powerhouse Brazil has led criticism at the summit of U.S. and other rich nations' expansionist monetary policy that is sending a flood of funds into developing nations, forcing up local currencies and hurting competitiveness.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called it a "monetary tsunami" that Latin American nations had the right to defend themselves from.

Cheering the mood a bit, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will come into force in the middle of May.

With a presidential election looming, Obama had portrayed his visit to the summit as a way to generate jobs at home by boosting trade with Latin America.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Obama Foreign Policy in Tatters say the British

US officials expect Pyongyang to carry out third nuclear test in near future, respresenting significant policy failure for president

Chris McGreal in Washington The GuardianFriday 13 April 2012 12.56 EDT

Barack Obama's policy of engagement with North Korea lies "in tatters" after it was effectively shot down by Pynongyang's defiant but failed attempt to launch a long-range rocket.

Former US officials closely involved with North Korea policy said Washington's attempt to win agreement from Pyongyang to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and rockets in exchange for desperately-needed food aid has failed. They now expect North Korea to try and overcome the embarrassment caused at the rocket breaking into pieces over the Yellow Sea by carrying out a third nuclear test in the near future.

If that goes ahead, it will represent a significant foreign policy failure for Obama and prove a severe political embarrassment in an election year.

In February, the Washington and Pyongyang reached an agreement under which the communist regime would halt its missile testing and uranium enrichment, and agree to the resumption of international monitoring of its nuclear sites, in return for Washington providing 240,000 tonnes of food to the North Korea which has faced widespread shortages and famine.

The US says it warned North Korea that the rocket launch – which Pyongyang said was intended to carry a satellite but which the Obama administration claimed was a ballistic missile test – would violate the agreement.

Charles Pritchard, a special envoy for negotiations with North Korea in the Bush administration and a special assistant to Bill Clinton on national security, said Obama's policy of engagement has now failed.

"It is essentially in tatters. They made a calculation. They reached out to North Korea and it fell apart," he said. "I think the US will be essentially regrouping on an international basis. They're not going to go back to a bilateral engagement with the North Koreans any time soon."

Pritchard said that the regime's young new leader, Kim Jong-un, is likely to attempt to restore Pyongang's credibility – and possibly also his own with North Korea's military – by pressing ahead with development of a nuclear weapon.

"The failure of the rocket makes it much more likely that there will be a third nuclear test. This has been a huge public and domestic embarrassment for North Korea. A brand new, untested, inexperienced regime that has gone out on a limb to really have a spectacular successful celebration, and now it'll be a dark shadow over all of their celebrations. They need some new achievement."

That view was backed by Christian Whiton, a US state department deputy special envoy to North Korea in the Bush administration.

"It looks pretty likely. The way this usually comes out is that South Korean intelligence starts leaking information to the South Korean press. That has happened and it looks like preparations are underway," he said. "If you step back and look at this it looks like a failure by North Korea with its rocket but actually what you're seeing is more of a power move by the regime."

One of Obama's deputy national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, denied that the administration's dealings with North Korea have been a failure. He argued that the president has taken a tougher stand with Pyongyang than the Bush administration because Washington will not now deliver the promised food aid.

"What this administration has done is broken the cycle of rewarding provocative actions by the North Koreans that we've seen in the past. Under the previous administration, for instance, there was a substantial amount of assistance provided to North Korea. North Korea was removed from the terrorism list, even as they continued to engage in provocative actions. Under our administration we have not provided any assistance to North Korea," he said. "The message that we've been delivering is that North Korea is wasting its money on these weapons as many of their people starve and as their economy is one of the most backward in the world."

Asked if it is proper to leave ordinary North Koreans to go hungry or even starve because the actions of their government, Rhodes said that it is the regime in Pyongyang "that is holding its own people hostage".

He said he would not be surprised if Pyongyang now attempts a nuclear test.
"The North Koreans have tended to pursue patterns of provocative actions to include missile launches, nuclear tests as they undertook in 2006, 2009. And so we're certainly concerned about the pattern of provocative behaviour that the North Koreans engage in. What we want to make clear to them is that each step that they take in terms of provocations will only lead to a deeper isolation, increase consequences. And frankly, that's not just a message they're hearing from us, they're hearing it from the Chinese and the Russians as well," he said.

The US was expected to lead the condemnation at a UN security council meeting on the crisis on Friday. The White House warned of new sanctions.
Obama's domestic critics swiftly accused him of creating the crisis through weakness. Some have contrasted the president's stand against Iran with his more cautious approach on North Korea.

Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential candidate, said Obama was incompetent and naive in handling North Korea.

"Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived," said Romney. "This incompetence from the Obama administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and our allies."

Jon Kyl, the Republican whip in the US Senate, called on the White House to "abandon its naive negotiations with North Korea".

Pritchard said the crisis now threatens to become an election issue.

"In a presidential election year, the president can't afford a spectacular loss on the foreign policy side over North Korea where he's been very cautious over the last three years. It will essentially erase all the good things he can point to in other areas of his foreign policy," he said. "So I think Obama steps back. You're not going to see any bilateral engagement on the part of the United States for the remainder of this term."

The former officials now expect the White House to abandon bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang and to attempt to build on collective international pressure.

Pritchard said that will be made difficult by China's dual role of attempting to pressure North Korea while also shielding it. That, he said, will give Pyongyang a relatively free hand.

"This regime (in North Korea) cannot afford to negotiate away, to be seen to be knuckling under to pressure from others to stop what they are doing. They have nothing else going on for them. They are going to march forward and there's very little the international community can do," he said.

Whiton said he regards that as very dangerous.

"There's a cost to doing nothing with North Korea because North Korea proliferates nearly every weapons system it has. In 2007, one of the reasons the last round of talks fell apart was because we caught the North Koreans helping the Syrians build a carbon copy of the North Korean nuclear reactor.

"They were building it in Syria. There were North Koreans on the site. Thankfully the Israelis blew it up," he said.


Obama: It's Money, Money, Money that they love.

Versus the evil Republicans who love money!

Former Dem. Congressman Kennedy Alleges 'Quid Pro Quo' for Access to White House

8:42 AM, Apr 15, 2012
Access to the Obama White House is in direct correlation to the amount of money donated to the president's reelection effort and the Democratic party, the New York Times reports today.
The Times reports: "those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others. Among donors who gave $30,000 or less, about 20 percent visited the White House, according to a New York Times analysis that matched names in the visitor logs with donor records. But among those who donated $100,000 or more, the figure rises to about 75 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the president’s top fund-raisers in the 2008 campaign visited the White House at least once, some of them numerous times."
But the most explosive allegation in the news story comes from former Democratic congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kenney, who calls what the Obama White House is doing "quid pro quo."
Patrick J. Kennedy, the former representative from Rhode Island, who donated $35,800 to an Obama re-election fund last fall while seeking administration support for a nonprofit venture, said contributions were simply a part of “how this business works.”
“If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”
Mr. Kennedy visited the White House several times to win support for One Mind for Research, his initiative to help develop new treatments for brain disorders. While his family name and connections are clearly influential, he said, he knows White House officials are busy. And as a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he said he was keenly aware of the political realities they face.
And Kennedy admits that folks in the White House are checking out the donor records:
“I know that they look at the reports,” he said, referring to records of campaign donations. “They’re my friends anyway, but it won’t hurt when I ask them for a favor if they don’t see me as a slouch.”
Literally translated, "quid pro quo" means "something for something." As in, if you want something from the Obama White House, then give something (e.g., cash).


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.