Friday, September 30, 2011

When Is Someone Disqualified by Health to be President

The feeding frenzy around the question of whether Governor Chris Christie will toss his hat into the presidential ring has come down to the question of when health considerations should disqualify someone from being US President. In scouring the Web for information, I came upon a compilation called, "Medical History of Presidents," and as a refresher, here are a few presidential health extracts.

George Washington : From the age of 17 , he had recurrent attacks of malaria. He also had small pox and recurring tuberculous pleurisy. He had a tendency to become depressed when ill and was haunted by premonitions of death. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Washington was, in all aspects of his life, "inclined to gloomy apprehensions."

James Monroe : Contracted malaria while visiting a swampy are of the Mississippi River in 1785, and became very ill. He had several episodes of fever later in life, which were probably flare-ups of malaria. 

Abraham Lincoln :  Did Lincoln have cancer? Lincoln began losing weight in 1860. There is no data about his weight after becoming President, but many people wrote of his declining appearance and increasing thinness. Casts of his face in 1860 and 1865 show a striking loss of soft tissue. Temporal wasting is present on the 1865 cast. In his last months, Lincoln had headaches, cold feet and hands, exercise intolerance and sweating, pervasive fatigue that a work respite did not ease, fainting, and nausea. These findings are compatible with a pheochromocytoma cancer.

Grover Cleveland : On June 13, 1893, Cleveland noticed a "rough place" on the roof of his mouth. It was diagnosed as cancer, precipitating one of the most celebrated incidents in the history of Presidential medicine. On July 1, the President underwent a risky operation aboard his yacht. At his insistence, his illness and surgery were kept secret from the public, the press, the Cabinet, and probably the Vice President. A second, less risky operation was performed aboard the yacht on July 17. Afterwards, direct questions about the President's health were answered falsely. "Cleveland is alleged to have said that he had done more lying in the period just before his surgery and the period immediately thereafter than he had ever done in the remainder of his life." It was 25 years before the secret was compromised.

William Howard Taft : Not much can be said about Taft's health without saying a great deal about his size. By age 48, when he had been Secretary of War for two years, he weighed 320 pounds. He weighed 335-340 pounds when he left the White House.  By spring 1929, when he was 71, it was widely known that Taft's health was not good. Rumors occasionally arose that he might retire as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Sick as he was, Taft desperately wanted to hold his place on the Court. "I am older and slower and less acute and more confused," he wrote to his brother in November 1929. "However, as long as things continue as they are, and I am able to answer in my place, I must stay on the court in order to prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control."  Taft finally resigned from the Supreme Court on February 3, 1930. Two doctors issued the following bulletin: "For some years Chief Justice Taft has had a very high blood pressure, associated with general arteriosclerosis and myocarditis. ... He has no fevers and suffers no pain. His present serious condition is the result of general arteriosclerotic changes." After lingering in a coma, he died on March 8.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt : A severe attack of poliomyelitis in 1921 resulted in total paralysis of both legs to the hips. FDR was 39 years old in 1921. FDR's polio led him to lavishly fund polio research which, in turn, led to the vaccine and, some say, to modern molecular biology.
As President, Roosevelt's train journeys were limited to 35 miles per hour to minimize his discomfort from the vibration of the car. Two independent lines of evidence suggest FDR had a malignant melanoma excised while in the White House: Between 1920 and 1932 FDR developed an enlarging pigmented lesion above his left eye. This lesion vanished between 1940 and 1944, leaving a scar and a sparse lateral eyebrow.  An older surgeon, still living in the Boston area in 2003, claims to have seen the melanoma in the pathology department at Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital while an intern. According to this surgeon "FBI men" sequestered the sample in the safe of a Boston-area company."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy : Kennedy's Addisonism was diagnosed in 1947 by a physician in London. Kennedy had probably been suffering from the disease for years, if not decades. After the diagnosis, he was given less than a year to live. He was so ill during the sea voyage home from England, in October 1947, that he was given the last rites. Yet, during the 1960 presidential race, the JFK campaign flatly denied that JFK had Addison disease. The Kennedy campaign used a very narrow definition of Addision disease, namely, insufficiency of the adrenal glands caused by tuberculosis. This was deliberate, calculated, and grossly misleading. Some historians have called it undoubtedly one of the most clever smoke screens ever placed around a politician. Adrenal insufficiency, no matter how caused, is a serious matter.

So, dear readers, when we hear reporters vigorously defending the right of the American people to have a President absolutely free of any form of debilitating disease or recurring malady, perhaps we should remember that it would, at the least, have cost us the services of President George Washington.
And, we might also ask, who is disease-free today in a world where smoking, drinking, being overweight or having an occasional migraine are considered disqualifying diseases.
Such a tight definition of passing the presidential health test might leave us with very few candidates - an astronaut, an athlete free of abusive substances…and Betty White. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why Is Herman Cain Being Almost Ignored

Alexis Levinson reported on the Daily Caller website today that the latest Rasmussen poll in the United States, taken on September 26 and 27,  places Herman Cain just 5 percent behind President Obama.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters shows 34% saying they’d vote for Cain compared to 39% saying they’d vote for Obama.
No other presidential pairing holds Obama below 40%, even though 76% of the Black likely voters in the poll say they’d vote for Obama and only 3% say they would vote for Cain. And, even though one-half of Republican and GOP-leaning voters do not recognize the name “Herman Cain.”
That, dear readers, is a “man-bites-dog” story that ought to make front page news all over the country. But, it isn’t. Instead, Daily Caller, a conservative political website, is reporting it.
Why? Good question.
Levinson reports Cain’s communications director, Ellen Carmichael, as saying, “To be within five points of President Obama shows Mr. Cain’s rising momentum and the fact that more and more Americans are eager for a business leader, not a career politician, to turn this country around as America’s CEO.”
That’s a good point. But, what is really going on here, and why is it being ignored by US mainstream media?
Barak Obama was an obscure junior Senator when the mainstream media fell all over themselves trying to scoop him up and dish him out to America.
Could the difference be that Obama is a very liberal leftist Democrat and Cain is a conservative Republican? That is certainly part of the explanation. It is the same mainstream media mindset that makes the moderate Obama-look-alike Romney the “real” GOP candidate, while the likes of Perry, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich and Bachmann are “non-electable.”
And, just a note about Bachmann, and we might add, Sarah Palin - to be sure they have flaws, but don’t they all, these GOP presidential wannabes? And doesn't President Obama himself?
But, to say Michele Bachmann is unfit to be president because she gets migraine headaches, or that Sarah Palin is too stupid (although she has the same university degree in journalism some of the mainstream media folks have), smacks of sexist prejudice, and, when we consider that these two women have been elected governor or congressperson, it could be said to be just plain offensive.
As for Herman Cain - his credentials as a businessman make Obama’s community organizing seem like comparing General Patton’s war record to Demi Moore’s CNN histrionics in favor of the abolition of “modern day slavery.”
If we wanted to be really vicious, we could guess that the fact that Herman Cain is a real Black American, something Barak Obama has to stretch for, gives the mainstream media a special affront. Black politicians should not dare to be conservative, much less Republican, and horror of horrors, a valid Republican presidential candidate.
This should be Task One for the Republican national leadership to take on. If their best chance of beating President Obama in 2012 rests with Herman Cain, somebody, thousands of somebodies, need to be shouting it loud and long all over the country. It is not the role of the mainstream media to choose the GOP presidential candidate, and the GOP needs to tell this to the world.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Syrian Massacre Worsens

The French newspaper, Le Nouvel Observateur, asked today, “Who Can Still Remain Silent?”.
Silent about what?  Syria.
We lived this weekend through the horrific news that an 18-year-old sister of a young marcher was kidnapped by al-Assad forces, and then tortured, had her body burned with acid and probably fire, had her head and arms cut off, and then, when her family went to the morgue to get the body of her brother (in the meantime found and killed by al-Assad’s thugs), they were shown their daughter’s body and asked if it was she.
If that was not enough, opposition leader Haytham al-Maleh reported that the dead body of an 8-year-old boy was found in a sewer, also showing signs of being tortured.
The UN Security Council will probably adopt a resolution against the al-Assad regime later this week, but France has taken a bigger step.
Haytham al-Maleh was invited to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Quai d’Orsay. The French Ambassador for Human Rights made the invitation, saying that he had never seen such “cynicism, cruelty and perversion” as is occurring in Syria today.
Haytham al-Maleh, a lawyer and 80 years old, founded the Human Rights Association in Syria in 2001, but opposed the Syrian regime of al-Assad’s father long before then.
At the Quai d’Orsay, he said, “When I left Syria in July, there were 3000 dead and 3000 missing, but today, I believe there are 5250 dead, 5000 missing, more than 100,000 in prison and 20,000 refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The army is attacking with tanks and helicopters, killing at random innocent civilians, more than 2000 of them children younger than 13.”
Al-Maleh is asking for UN support, but not the Libyan style NATO intervention. He wants al-Assad and his regime cronies pursued by the International Criminal Court.
When will France take the lead in the Security Council and force action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad?
It was France who saved Libya from the same outcome as we are witnessing in Syria. Let us hope France will again lead the UN, this time toward a resolution of the massacre now being perpetrated on the Syrian people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Governor Christie Faces Up to Reality

I don't know if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will announce today that he is a candidate for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination.
The smart money in the media is saying he won't run. That makes a lot of sense for several reasons.
First, he has for so long said that he won't be a candidate that changing his mind now will be the first strike against him.
Second, he has little experience in politics outside New Jersey. Blue state - red state. It doesn't matter. National political experience takes time and it is personally painful. It wears down the rough spots and makes one more humble in the face of the tasks ahead. New Jersey may be making a turnaround that the rest of the USA would like to follow, but Trenton is not Washington and sometimes experience at the state level transfers unevenly. Ask Texas Governor Perry or Barak Obama.
Third, Chris Christie is young and has the luxury of time on his side. He can wait for 2016 with the knowledge that at least Romney will probably not be in the 2016 GOP race, nor Cain nor Gingrich nor Paul. So, why would Christie roll the dice against a sitting President when he can wait until 2016 and have a much more open field to himself?
Finally, Governor Christie is, despite the alleged GOP financial pols’ urgings, not in a position to run at this late date. He has no national organization. His state-by-state organizations are weak or non-existent. His coffers are not yet full, and if he gets badly jostled when he actually has to answer the hard questions as a GOP presidential hopeful, he may seem weak and the money will stay in the pockets of those now clamoring for him to enter the race (Ask who? Perry.)
So, I don't expect any great announcement today, unless it is to endorse someone already in the race, or perhaps to call on Jeb Bush to get in and save the GOP's bacon. Because, dear readers, if Jeb could scoop up the nomination, Christie would be a terrific running mate and the 2016 and 2020 (Christie as Jeb’s follow-on) GOP teams would be assured.
But, then, politics is politics - and anything can happen. So, don't be too hard on me if I'm wrong.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Let's Get Serious about What America Needs in a Presidential Candidate

Everyone is - talking -preaching - shouting - about the state of American politics. The consensus is that something needs to be done to break the logjam caused by polarized party politics in Washington.
Most often, this criticism is followed by advice along the lines of - get out in front and lead, Mr. President - forget the Tea Party ‘extremists’ and lead from the GOP center point, Mr. Boehner - abandon your left flank,  Democratic Senate, and work with the House instead of stonewalling every move it makes.
When frustration sets in with these ideas, the cry goes out that gerrymandering of electoral districts has polarized Congress by making most districts safe either for the far left or the far right. Would that be a signal for the Supreme Court to flex its muscle, much as it did in the 1960s and 1970s in order to make it possible for Black voters to have a real voice in the electoral process? I haven’t heard anyone suggest this yet, but it’s bound to surface eventually.
Just what is the problem? My guess is that it doesn’t have much to do with any of the above.
The problem is that both the Democratic and Republican Parties are caught in a time warp.
The Democrats continue to believe, and act upon, the 1903-1950 world in which they became a powerful force in American politics for the first time.
The symptoms?
Unending Democratic support for ‘big government’ reflected in huge welfare programs meant to protect their traditional constituencies - the working poor whom they saved with the unionization of most large industries, big medical programs to help underprivileged Americans who were cut out of the economic system, and creating cradle-to-grave protection in the form of a myriad of social programs for Blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities.  I hasten to add that these groups voted and continue to vote Democratic, so why should the Party change? You wouldn’t if you were an elected Democrat with a gerrymandered district meant to save you from any real opposition.
But, let’s not forget the Republicans, who continue to believe, and act upon, almost the same world - 1910-1950, during which they were the overarching political power to reckon with.
The symptoms?
Unending support for ‘big’ business, financial institutions and university-educated Americans whose economic success depended upon GOP support of the free enterprise system to continue their rise to greater affluence. The GOP’s battle was with the Democratic program that threatened to take from the GOP-base taxpayers to give to the Democratic-base smaller-taxpayers.
But, today, America is not the America of the 1930s or the 1950s or even of the 1980s of the Reagan era.
Today, America is better educated, with a much broader base of university graduates. America is a technologically driven economy whose success depends not on brawn but on brains. America is not a have-vs-have-not system, but a flattened social mesh of Caucasians, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Most of these groups know how to look out for themselves today - get an education, move to find the jobs, save for the future, and, above all, try to keep the government from taking too much of what they make so that they can provide for themselves and their families. Racial problems still exist, but if you remember Selma, it is entirely different now. Furthermore, Blacks and ethnic minorities are rapidly becoming the majority in the USA.
So, we are watching two dinosaurs of parties search for solutions to problems that no longer exist (Obamacare may be the best example of this, along with the Democratic effort to stamp out financial entrepreneurship and the GOP’s effort to enforce the sex-related moral codes of a prior generation).
That is why, in my opinion, there are more and more frequent calls for a third party. It is not that Americans are deliberately trying to destroy either the Democrat or Republican Party. It’s just that these parties no longer respond to reality on the ground.
And, that is why we need a new voice with a new American rallying cry that resonates in the sinews of today’s America. The person could be Democrat or Republican, and with more inherent danger attached, someone from a new third party, but America needs someone who understands what she really is and what she needs to survive in the 21st century.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen that person yet.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mass Grave of 1700 Qadhafi Political Prisoners Found in Tripoli

There is really not much need for words, only prayers.

Today in Tripoli, the remains of 1,700 prisoners were found in the infamous Abou Salim prison, where Qadhafi kept many of his political enemies. The 1,700 were executed in 1996, and since then Libyans who are family members of the men executed have tried to find their graves and force the Qadhafi regime to recognize the horror.

Even more extraordinary is the fact that the first marches in Benghazi, which began the Arab Spring movement in Libya earlier this year, were organized by those families to garner support for their cause and to protest against the arrest by Qadhafi of their lawyer.

The new governing National Transitional Council says it will take some time to establish the identity of all the men killed because they were burned, had acid poured over their remains and had their bones scattered over a large area. It is reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s. The NTC called for western help in making identifications because surely DNA and other advanced forensic techniques will be needed

The 1,700 prisoners were killed because they mutinied against the barbaric treatment at Abou Salim and wanted proper investigations to prove that they had committed no crimes.

Meanwhile, the battle for Sirte, the last stronghold of the Qadhafi clan, goes on. The NTC forces withdrew last night so that the UN could make air strikes today on suspected Qadhafi emplacements.

The freedom of the Libyan people has required the loss of many lives and the displacement of thousands of its citizens, but when we consider the gruesomeness of the Qadhafi regime, it is no wonder that Libyans are willing to suffer such great losses in order to gain freedom from the maniac who for so long tortured them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Russian Politics Just Don't Ever Seem to Change

It comes as no surprise that Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister and former President, has announced that he will again be a candidate for president in 2012.
He and current Russian President Dimitri Medvedev have decided to change jobs. Medvedev will become prime minister when Putin is again elected resident.
There have been rumors for more than a year that the two men were fighting about who would control the spoils of the Russian one-party political system, but today’s announcement dispels any doubt that they are working hand-in-glove.
The ruling United Russia Party is their party and the only one in Russia. United Russia holds 315 0f the 450 seats in the Russian Duma (parliament). Many analysts criticize Putin for making Russia once again a Soviet-style state in which he, alone, controls the media and all the major governmental functions, but his former life as a KGB agent makes his governing technique predictable.
Putin is 58 and if he serves the allowed two terms, which have been increased to six from four years, he will be 71 when he has to step down the next time.
Medvedev, on the other hand, is 46. So, he can afford to wait out his mentor, Putin, hoping that in 2024, when he will be 58, his turn will again come to be President of Russia.
That is, if the Russian people are still content in 2024 to be governed by a one-party system with tight grips on every element of Russian life. But, it would be short-sighted for the West to think that Russia is soon going to change. She has a history of autocratic rule. Russians have never known anything else - first as land-bound serfs under the tsars and then as economic and military pawns under the Soviet system.
In fact, one could argue that, given the enormous geographic expanse of the country and its very diverse ethnic make-up, western democracy would be difficult to install and even harder to maintain.
It is highly unlikely that Purin will lighten his grip in the near term, but perhaps as the next decade rolls on, he will loosen his control and admit some measure of self-determination into Russian politics. One thinks of Mikhail Khodorkovksy, the oligarch languishing in prison until 2019 because he dared to confront Putin as a potential political opponent. Such tactics cannot long continue if Mr. Putin wants to take what he considers to be his rightful place in world politics, instead of just manipulating the world through the control of Russia’s enormous petroleum reserves.  
Medvedev, a lawyer, might, as the leader of the younger generation, be able to undertake the job of finding the democratic template that fits Russia when he becomes president in 2024.
But, that is an eternity away in politics, even the politics of Russia. First, we have to get through 12 more years of Putin’s barely disguised contempt for the West and its leaders.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Israel, Palestine, America and Humpty Dumpty

If the Israel-Palestine mess sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s a lot like the debacle in the American Congress, with each side accusing the other of causing all the problems.
For Palestine, there cannot be peace negotiations because the Israeli government won’t stop colonizing the West Bank.
For Israel, there cannot be peace negotiations because Palestine won’t stop cozying up to Hamas or hurling missiles and sending suicide bombers into Israel.
For “colonizing” read “too much spending,” the charge the GOP loves to level at the Democrats in Congress.
For “Hamas and missiles,” read “you’re heartless to want to cut social programs,” the Democrat’s best loved thrust-and-parry at the GOP.
The truth is - Israel and Palestine and the Democrats and the GOP are all correct. As far as it goes.
The problem is that it is not as far as it goes.  
Israel cannot in all honesty expect to hold one-third of the West Bank in the hands of its colonists, even while it is aiming for more colonization, and ask Palestine to negotiate as if the area were empty. What would Palestine do with all the Israeli colonists after they controlled the West Bank, as they surely will if there ever is a peace agreement.
Palestine cannot in all honesty expect Israel is agree to a peace agreement knowing that Palestine has formed a pact with the terrorist group that controls Gaza, Hamas, which has thousands of missiles and the declared intention of using them against Israel.
So, instead of putting all the problems on the table and beginning a serious joint effort to find answers, the Israelis and Palestinians find it easier to shout meaningless slogans at each other.
You know the script - “no budget with tax increases,” and “no budget if social programs are touched.” So, no budget, no White House intervention that would ruffle the feathers of the Democratic contingent in Congress, and no congressional effort, either Democratic or Republican, to put the real issues on the table and sit down to resolve them.
My fear is that in the Israel-Palestine conflict, as in the US budget mess, nothing will happen. The slippery slope to war or financial chaos will get steeper and more slippery. The temptation to pretend that the consequences of inaction are unimportant will increase as the problems become older and more difficult. And, finally, Israelis and Palestinians, Democrats and Republicans (read that, Americans) will lose big time.
Because one day it will be too late.
Humpty Dumpty will not be able to be put back together again.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Statesmanship vs Leading from the Polls

Something is radically wrong with the 2012 presidential season.
We have in President Obama a man elevated to an office for which he was ill-prepared by experience and motivation. His effort to radically change the basic social compact that binds Americans to their government and political leadership, and to one another, was not conceived to comfort or improve the status of average Americans but to wrench them toward a compact they had neither asked for nor sufficiently thought about nor expected from the rhetoric that Mr. Obama used as a candidate for the office to which he was elected. The lack of morality in his election tactics has deposited a stain on all that has followed.
Against this background, we have had three years of what can only be described as social warfare, fought out in the chambers of Congress, in the media and in the profoundly felt anxiety of American citizens.
We now see the results of the wrenching and anxiety as Republicans push to halt the drive toward the left that they believe Americans neither agreed to nor wanted.
The President’s attempts to “tax the rich” and make everyone pay their “fair share,” his unbending goal to establish a health care system that a majority of Americans do not want, his use of “divide and conquer” techniques that pit Americans who are unemployed against a financial system that was broken primarily by prior governments’ efforts to make American workers equal to wealthier Americans - these tactics are beneath the dignity of his office. They render Mr. Obama a divisive and dangerous power in an America that can ill-afford either division or danger as it struggles to overcome the malaise that grips it.
We would have hoped that the Republicans who believe they can do better in the White House would take the higher ground to prove that it is not America that is broken but only its misguided leader. And indeed the GOP have done this on several fronts, including leading from the confines of the social compact that has always bound Americans together, and in reaching out to the world not from raw self-interest but in an attempt to find common ground that will advance the aspirations of mankind.
But, we do not see the statesmen and stateswomen who ought to leading the national debate. Instead, we see a parade of flat characters who are positioning themselves by following polls and the loudest voices to gain votes in primaries that will lead to the selection of the GOP presidential nominee.
What is a statesman?
Winston Churchill said of leadership, “A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality.” He followed his own advice during World War II. But, Churchill also said that “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
And, it is not that we are without potential statesmen and women on both sides of the American political aisle. But, somehow, their voices are not being heard. They have, perhaps, forgotten that their responsibility as elected officials is to stand up. Stand up and tell America the truth. Stand up and tell Americans that some things can be cured quickly and easily, but that others will take time and effort and sacrifice. Then they need to sit down and listen - to their peers in Congress and to the American voters who sent them to Washington.
Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey summed it up in language that fits these economically and socially bad times in America.
“Today is the day for complaining to end and for statesmanship to begin. Today I am taking action to cut state spending and balance the budget this year.”
The result? Christie and his constituency have made real progress in balancing New Jersey’s budget and cutting spending. He has not flinched from asking business and wealthy residents and organized public and private workers to participate in the effort. They have debated the issues as adults, not by following the latest polls, and they are showing the rest of America that honest debate and compromise work.
Now, how do we sell this truth to the rest of the American political landscape?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Will Palin Run?

A South Carolina poll released yesterday shows that Perry is about 3% ahead of Romney with Republican voters who will "definitely" vote in the state's primary. Perry has 30% and Romney 27%, which is within the margin of error.
The next best was "undecided" with 11%. Herman Cain had 8%. The others - Bachman, Gingrich, Paul, Huntsman and Santorum are far behind. And, by the way, that reveals Bill Clinton's recent remark that Newt could make a comeback as just another of Bill's ideas to position Hillary against the weakest possible GOP opponent. 
Who was just behind the undecided South Carolina GOP voters in 4th place? Sarah Palin.
Last night on the Situation Room on CNN, James Carville, the political advisor to the Clintons and other Democratic politicos, said that he feels pretty sure that Palin will announce her candidacy. He's not sure when, but he is "almost" sure that she'll be a candidate.
That, dear readers, is what we call a game changer. Sarah Palin has money, connections deep in most GOP state committees, and a face and name that the Tea Party and other conservatives love. She would make life very difficult for Governor Perry, Michele Bachman and all of the above except Romney and Cain, who appeal to a broader GOP base, including moderates, as well as to independents.
So, we could be gearing up for a race to the Republican nomination that features Palin on one side, who would push out the already-announced conservative GOP wannabes, leaving Perry to battle it out with her for the Tea Party and conservative delegate vote, while Romney, plain vanilla though he may be, has the freedom to amass the rest of the convention delegates.
Cain may well be the king maker in this scenario, and my earlier idea that he would be a terrific choice for Vice President just might be right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Not UN Observer Status for Palestine

The Palestinian request for nation status at the United Nations is the major story in the news tonight. It seems that the Quartet (The United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) are meeting frantically with Palestinian President Abbas and his diplomats and with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in a last ditch effort to prevent the crisis that will occur if Palestine insists on going forward with its demand for UN recognition.
Former President Clinton said on CNN tonight that the United States will use its veto, if necessary, to prevent Palestine from being recognized as a nation without negotiating a peace treaty with Israel. He said that the other Middle East governments understand that the veto is the only means to ensure that peace talks are held and that, while there may be regional repercussions, they will not be as serious as some suggest.
Clinton also said that what the US must do, if it uses its veto, is to immediately take the offensive and bring Israel to the table with Abbas and his Palestinian group. Clinton said that Abbas is perceived in the Middle East as the best Palestinian president ever and that Israel should negotiate with him because he will bring reasonableness, good management and Palestinian stability to the table.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Minister William Hague said on the Charlie Rose show that he believes the current Israeli government is not bringing a complete enough proposal to Abbas and that this is preventing negotiations from getting underway.  
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is talking to all sides at the UN in hopes of preventing the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation from “poisoning” the march toward democracy in Arab countries.
The one idea that, although mentioned last week, has not been offered in the past several days is that Palestine be admitted to the General Assembly as an observer.  This could be done without prior Security Council approval, thus avoiding the US veto that would be used if Palestine asks for the full recognition that must be agreed to by the Security Council before going to the floor of the General Assembly. Observer status would meet both Palestine and Israel halfway and it would not interfere with talks meant to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine and fix borders for the two countries.

Monday, September 19, 2011

French Foreign Minister Juppe Is about to Give President Obama Heartburn

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have gone on yet another set of killing rampages this past weekend.
French media report:
- Five men and a woman were gunned down near Homs in the north.
- Machine gun firing can be heard all over this northern region as security forces close roads while they hunt down and kill or capture militants.
- Eight members of the al-Assad military defected and two were shot and killed, four were captured and two are still in hiding.
- Killings go on routinely in the north near Alep, in eastern Deir Essor and in other provincial towns.
- School started Sunday and in one school students demonstrated until security forces arrived and beat them, arresting some.
 - Friends of the military officer Hussein Harmouche, who was kidnapped from his refugee camp in Turkey, are calling for mass demonstrations in Damascus.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says that these killings are unacceptable and that even while Bashar al-Assad is promising he will stop the crackdown, his security forces continue their massacres.
And, perhaps much more significantly, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said at the UN in New York that “the silence of the Security Council is unacceptable in the face of these crimes against humanity.”
“The Russians invoke the possibility that it is terrorists who are perpetrating violence against the al-Assad regime. We do not share this view of events which is blocking action by the Security Council,” added Mr. Juppe.
Why is Juppe’s statement so important? Because France has been the western power most active historically, continuing to today, in Syria and its region.
Like Libya, Syria remains close to France and so France’s broadside against Russia, and by association China, that they continue to stonewall Security Council action concerning Syria could mean that the UN is close to decisions much like those taken in Libya, where France was the first western power to explicitly call for intervention.
Alain Juppe is a savvy and respected statesman and his words have force in the international community.
If President Obama is once again pressured by France to join a coalition to save a country's citizens from mass murder at the hands of their own leadership, he will have to be very careful about framing his response in light of American opinion that the US should have stayed out of the Libyan coalition, and given the fact that he is trying to save money and avoid having to ask the Republican House of Representatives for anything, certainly including money for a Syrian incursion. But, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments about the al-Assad regime will not make it easy for Obama to opt out.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg Talks about the Job of Governing

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the guest on Charlie Rose a few nights ago. He and Rose talked about New York City's revival after 9.11 and about what it means to be the mayor of New York. Bloomberg is good at these topics because he was elected mayor for the first time 2 months after 9.11. He's serving his third term and will not run again in 2013 when his term is over.
Bloomberg had many interesting things to say about his experience as mayor. But, what struck me most was his deference to the team he put together and their love of the city and imagination in finding ways to resuscitate it after the Trade Center tragedy.
The mayor repeated many times that what the did was put the team together and then give them the supervised freedom to find the right cures for a traumatized city. They then set out to restructure New York City's districts for greater infrastructure efficiency. They found the right architects and concepts for the new Trade Center area that is now rising. They took risks in inviting new industries into the city, re-establishing NCY as the world's financial capital, redeveloping tourism, rebuilding the entertainment component so that now NYC competes with Hollywood for film-making. They are now working with world-class universities to create engineering and information technology mini campuses in the city because, as Mayor Bloomberg explained, most innovative industry is created near the universities that nurtured those with the ideas.
That is all simple enough in the abstract. but, Bloomberg added, "I'm a numbers person" and so he watched over the innovative government projects, encouraged private industry to help, and found ways, for example, to get agreement from the multiple NYC and New York state and New Jersey public entities so that the new Trade Center project could get off the drawing boards.
You may say, so what.
But, that would miss the point. Michael Bloomberg created the atmosphere of innovation, creativity and civic responsibility that brought New York City back from the brink of collapse after 9.11. Without his strong executive leadership and light touch in allowing innovation to succeed, always supporting the innovators when something just didn't work out, Michael Bloomberg would have been simply another mayor of a major American city losing ground to international competition and domestic malaise.
But, Mayor Bloomberg understood the problems. He found the people to fix them. He gave them both the freedom and support they needed to succeed. And, it worked.
Wouldn't it be marvelous if America could find just such a person to become President in 2012? Wouldn't it be invigorating for the USA to once again find that executive leadership exists, that it can harness the best in Americans, and that the combination works.
That should be the goal of every American as the 2012 presidential season begins in earnest.    

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Has the Tea Party Lost the One Marble It Had

Russian roulette is one thing, but going after the Speaker of the House when he’s of your own party is just plain brainless.
But, dear readers, that is just what is happening to House Speaker John Boehner, the Republican from Ohio, who will face a Tea Party opponent in the 2012 congressional GOP primary.
Why, you may well ask.
Because the Tea Party is so dim-witted that it cannot see beyond its stuffed and outsized nose.
They are angry with Boehner for not delivering more federal budget cuts.
Never mind that he out-foxed, out-negotiated and out-maneuvered President Obama and got 1.2 Trillion Dollars worth of budget cuts, without one red cent of tax increases this summer.
Never mind that he continues to out-fox, out-negotiate and out-maneuver Obama and his White House full of academics who wouldn’t know a real political move if it ran over them.
Never mind that John Boehner has put his neck and his career on the line repeatedly to save the agenda of the Tea Party.
Never mind all that.
John Boehner is to be challenged by the Tea Party because he didn’t bring in the last dime, so to speak.
So, now we know, now we have the proof, we Republicans who have labored a lifetime to protect America from the country-threatening tax-and-spend policies of the Democrat Party, that the Tea Party is not a political movement at all. It is a meat axe aimed at anyone who does not toe the line it unilaterally draws in the sand.
It is not politics.
It is not Ronald Reagan’s legacy (his 11th commandment was “never speak ill of a fellow Republican”).  
It is not the US Constitution.
It isn’t even conservative or Christian.
It is back-alley cut-throat gang warfare.
America does not need it.
America will not benefit from it.
America will be dragged down into its morass of no-compromise government that smells like dictatorship.
And, it is time for the real GOP to stand up and be counted. We will not be brow-beaten and terrorized by a bunch of water pistol-slinging thugs who would probably have considered themselves capable of robbing banks in Kansas if they had lived during the Dalton Gang era.
The Grand Old Party can beat Obama with or without the Tea Party.
And, if that means Mitt Romney, count me in.   

Friday, September 16, 2011

And If Hillary Is the Candidate...

Political consultant James Carville is undoubtedly the loudest mouth and the brightest brain in the Democratic Party. And he’s had it with Obama. Carville says he can think of only one word of advice for the president: Panic.
Here are
a few of the other things he threw at the President on CNN yesterday.
"For God's sake, why are we still looking at the same political and economic advisers that got us into this mess? It's not working."
"It's time to show them the exit. Wake up — show us you are doing something."
Carville says Obama must stick to his own explanations and stop suggesting things are improving because, "evidently they are not."
"The course we are on is not working. The hour is late, and the need is great. Fire. Indict. Fight."
All that makes good reading, but there is certainly more to the outburst than trying to torpedo Obama. Carville is too smart to sink the ship without preparing the lifeboats.
And, in James Carville’s case, the lifeboats are named Clinton. He is a long-time counsel and friend of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. So, we should not be surprised that his attack came just as a new poll shows that Hillary beats Obama.
There’s the real news. Add to it the fact that Democrat Senators and Congress members are calling for Obama to face opposition in the primaries because it might renew in him the candidate Democrats voted for in 2008. And, labor union leaders are frustrated by Obama’s inability to out-position Republican leaders. John Campbell of Iowa’s United Steelworkers told the National Journal, "The president’s been too willing to compromise. He has yielded and yielded and yielded, and what has it given us?"
However, some Democrat leaders fear challenging the President because they would be seen as trying to oust the first Black President and would probably pay with lost Black votes in their own campaigns.
Others are worried that a challenge in the primaries would just further weaken the President, who would likely carry the day and be nominated but then be an even easier target for the GOP candidate.
Is Hillary up to the task? Probably, but she insists that she is out of politics for good and nothing will make her change her mind.
But, make no mistake, if Carville and others can persuade Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama, she will have enormous Democratic grassroots and leadership support. She would be a formidable opponent in the Democratic primaries, and Obama would be forced to face up to her solidly traditional and no-nonsense arguments about the future course for the Democratic Party.  
It makes my questions about finding a top-notch Republican candidate, laid out in the Wednesday, 14 September blog, even more important, because the GOP candidate would face a real adversary and not just the fading light that is Barak Obama.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Has a Political Mess on His Hands

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a much-publicized visit to Egypt and other Arab Spring countries, pressing his case that it will be Turkey that leads the Arab world toward economic success and democratic reform.
He even stopped off in Palestine to support their demand to be recognized as a nation by the United Nations later this month. While in Palestine, Erdogan took time to make the rather absurd comment that it is Israel that is preventing peace in the Middle East.
While in Cairo, Arab Spring protesters confronted Erdogan. Why? Because Syrian Lt. Col. Hussein al-Harmoush, who had been in a Turkish refugee camp, has inexplicably been captured by al-Assad’s forces and shown on Syrian state TV. The military officer had fled to Turkey as a refugee seeking political asylum after deserting the Syrian army and calling for others to do the same and join the freedom marchers in ousting al-Assad.
CNN has talked to a man who confirms the story - Omar al-Muqdad, a prominent Syrian opposition activist, who last spoke to Harmoush by phone while Harmoush was in a Turkish refugee camp.
"I talked to him on the morning of August 29th," al-Muqdad told CNN.
"He said 'I have a meeting with a Turkish security man. When I finish I will call you.' I waited for three days and didn't hear from him. Then we discovered that the security man took him and didn't send him back to the camp. They sent him to Syria directly. The Turks made a trick with Harmoush. They caught him in Turkey and sent him to Syria."
Another Syrian activist, Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, said that from what is being shown on Syrian TV, there are signs that al-Harmoush has been tortured.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials with Erdogan in Cairo said that Turkey never turns over refugees who enter the country on humanitarian grounds.
CNN reported that the importance of al-Harmoush to the Syrian regime became evident September 8, when opposition activists and residents inside Syria called CNN to report Syrian security forces had attacked the village of Ibleen, where al-Harmoush's brother Mohammed lived.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of Syrian army defectors had taken shelter in Ibleen, awaiting the chance to flee across the nearby border to Turkey.
Video filmed of the aftermath of the Syrian government raid showed blood-spattered houses, burned-out cars and trucks, and a ransacked home.
At least five people were killed in the raid, including al-Harmoush's brother. His corpse was shown in another video released by opposition activists. Thousands of people attended his funeral.
Syria's state news agency claimed responsibility for the raid on Ibleen, saying Syrian security forces had killed a number of "armed terrorists" who had been residing there.
Last month, al-Assad told U.N. Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon that military operations in the country had been halted. The regime has indicated that it wanted to end the fighting and foster stability.
"These promises have been broken promises," Ban-ki-Moon recently said.
As for Erdogan, it seems he has a mixed agenda, to say the least.
Either he wants to lead the Arab Spring into full summer, economically and politically, or he wants to maintain ties with al-Assad’s regime in Syria. My guess is that siding with al-Assad is dangerous because sooner or later, he will be gone.
Erdogan’s motives in jumping on the Arab Spring bandwagon could be multiple. First, he is very angry with Israel for killing Turkish citizens on board a ship that tried to break the sea blockade hemming in Gaza. His recent rhetoric and withdrawal of Turkish diplomats from Tel-Aviv are evidence of that. Second, Turkey stands to gain greatly if the Arab world looks to it for economic leadership.
But, perhaps Erdogan is sending a message to the European Union. The EU has consistently refused to discuss Turkey’s entry into the Union, despite American urging to do it in an effort to keep Turkey, a key regional ally of the West, on their side. Turkey’s open EU wound is festering. But, no amount of Arab world pre-eminence could replace entry into the EU for Turkey.
Finally, there is the Syrian officer Hamoush. Did Erdogan return him? Was he kidnapped on Turkish soil without Turkey knowing it? Did he try to re-enter Syria and was then captured? Was the security agent who talked to him a secret al-Assad agent?
It is in Turkey’s best interests to get to the bottom of the question and show the world that it is not a country that returns dissidents to a future of torture and a sure death.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We Need Competence in the White House

Two-thirds of the American public do not approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, the deficit or the lack of jobs (the US unemployment rate has been at or above 9% for most of his term in office). More than 50% do not approve of his management of the agenda in Washington. Half think he has not done as good a job as he could have as president. Democrats are leaving the sinking Obama ship. The special New York City congressional election which saw a Republican take a seat held by Democrats since the 1920s is proof, if we needed any, that Democrats who cling to Obama will return with him to community organizing, and not in Washington.
The indictment of Obama as president is a minefield for him and his team as they approach the 2012 presidential election period. No one has ever been re-elected president if the unemployment rate was above 6%, with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984 when the rate was 7.1%. And, as Democratic Vice President candidate Lloyd Bentsen once said to the GOP VP candidate Dan Quayle, “Senator, you’re no John Kennedy” or we might say today, “Mr. President, you’re no Ronald Reagan.”
So, why aren’t we already celebrating the GOP 2012 victory? Why is there gridlock in Washington? Why is nothing being done for the 9% of Americans who want to work and can’t find jobs? Why are Americans convinced that their country is in a life-threatening mess without any sense of how to save it?
The answer is clear if you watched the 8 GOP presidential candidates who debated each other Monday night in Florida.
Obama is a failure, but not one of the 8 GOP wannabes has the presence and command of the situation to convince Americans that voting for him or her will be the solution.
If I were forced to choose, it would be Gingrich or Cain or Romney (a distant 3rd). But, Newt is not acceptable to the Tea Party. Herman is a neophyte who would make a great VP but who would present a risk if he were elected president (much like Obama). Romney is a made-for-TV face with good ideas but who lacks the fire to convince anybody to have confidence in him. Forget the others because they’re either too rigid ideologically (Paul), too reckless (Michele), or just not presidential (Santorum, Perry and Huntsman).
Meanwhile, on the wings watching and occasionally commenting, we have the likes of:
  -  former Mayor Giuliani (oops, the tea Party raises its head again)
  -  Mayor Bloomberg (too liberal for the GOP right wing?)
  -  Donald Trump (is it only his hair that makes him unacceptable or are we worried about his blunt approach to the world, which might not be a bad thing if combined with his proven financial skills?)
  -  Governor Christie (can’t somebody just draft him? he would be hard pressed to say no)
  -  former Governor Jeb Bush (surely Americans are fair enough to see him in an independent light).
Wake up, Republicans. We’re voting for a president, not a guardian of morality (that’s the job of pastors and priests).
We need someone who can save the country from its financial morass before it’s too late. We need an expert political leader who can muster all sides to get America back on its feet. Four more years of Obama could be the death knell for the USA.
But, litmus testing every possible GOP candidate for his or her views on the morality of HPV shots or the relevance of divorce to saving America from bankruptcy is way off base.
We need someone who can beat Obama without looking over his or her shoulder at the keepers of the keys to the litmus paper.
Religion - faith - Christianity - are vital to America. But, so is competence in the White House. A GOP version of Obama would be disastrous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The World Sovereign Financial Mess

I found a blog called Economic Collapse today when I was browsing through the Stansberry Research site, The Daily Crux. The blog article I read is called “20 Signs Of Imminent Financial Collapse In Europe.” The authors ask readers to send it to Facebook and other social networking sites so that people will understand what is going on in the Eurozone and how it will, or could, affect the rest of the world.
You can find the article yourselves, but I want to summarize it, because for some time now I’ve been telling you, dear readers, that the Eurozone and the European Union are in major trouble and that neither will be able to survive in its present form. I’m not using quotation marks below, but what you will read comes from the blog, with my editing and personal observations.

Are we on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?  Rumors of an imminent default by Greece are rampant and Greek government officials openly admit that they are running out of money.  Without more bailout funds it is certain that Greece will soon default on its debts.  But German officials are threatening to hold up more bailout payments until the Greeks "do what they agreed to do", the German attitude being that the Greeks must now pay the price for going into so much debt. 
Greek government officials are becoming frustrated because the more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy shrinks.  As the economy shrinks, so do tax payments and the budget deficit gets even larger.  Meanwhile, hordes of very angry Greek citizens are violently protesting in the streets.  If Germany, which is the only country in the Eurozone big enough to save Greece, allows it to default, it will start financial dominoes tumbling around the globe and it is going to be a signal to the financial markets that there is a very real possibility that Portugal, Italy and Spain will be allowed to default as well. 
Why is Greece so important? First, major banks all over Europe are heavily invested in Greek debt.  Since many of those banks are also very highly leveraged, if they are forced to take huge losses on Greek debt it could wipe many of them out. Second, if Greece defaults, it tells the financial markets that Portugal, Italy and Spain would likely not be rescued either, making it much more expensive for those countries to borrow money, which would make their already huge debt problems far worse. And, if Italy or Spain were to go down, it would wipe out major banks all over the globe, including some in America.
Most Americans don't spend a lot of time thinking about the financial condition of Europe. But they should.
Right now, the U.S. economy is struggling to stay out of another recession.  If Europe has a financial meltdown, there is no way that the United States is going to be able to avoid another huge economic downturn.
The following are signs of imminent financial collapse in Europe:
#1 The interest payment cost for Greece to borrow money for 2 years by selling bonds is now over 60%.  One-year Greek bond costs are at 110%.  Basically, world financial markets now fully expect that Greece will default.
#2 European bank stocks are getting killed once again this week.  This has happened time after time in the last few weeks. In what has become a clear trend, as in 2008, major banking stocks are leading the way down.
#3 The German government is now making preparations to bail out major German banks when Greece defaults, reportedly telling them to be prepared for a50% "haircut" on Greek debt obligations.
#4 With thousands of angry citizens protesting daily, the Greek government is hesitant to fully implement the austerity measures that are being required of them.  The austerity measures already implemented are causing the Greek economy to shrink rapidly, with the Greek Finance Minister now projecting that the economy will shrinkby 5.3% in 2011. But if Greece does not do what they are being told to do, Germany may withhold further aid. 
#5 Greece cannot last much longer than the end of October, according to Greek Financial Ministry estimates, without continued bailouts.  The Greek debt-to-GDP ratio is now at 140% and will be at 180% by year’s end, that is, if Greece can find anyone willing to lend it more money. 
#6 If Greece goes down, Portugal could very well be next. The yield on 2- year Portuguese bonds is nowover 15%. A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.
#7 Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about3 trillion euros combined, more than the Eurozone or Germany could possibly repay, even if they wanted to.
#8 Most major European banks areleveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt.  Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.
#9 The ECB is not going to be able to buy up debt from troubled Eurozone members indefinitely.  The European Central Bank is already holding approximately 444 billion euros of debt from the governments of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.  On Friday, Jurgen Stark of Germany resigned from the European Central Bank in protest over these bond purchases which many experts consider illegal under European Union and Eurozone governing documents.
So, Greece is caught in a death spiral.  The more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy slows down.  The more their economy slows down, the more their tax revenues drop.  The more their tax revenues go down, the worse their debt problems become.
Quite a few politicians in Europe are touting a "United States of Europe" as the ultimate solution to these problems, but right now the citizens of the Eurozone are overwhelming against deeper economic integration.
So what we are stuck with right now is the status quo.  But the current state of affairs cannot last much longer. Germany is tired of giving out bailouts and nations such as Greece are getting tired of the austerity measures that are being forced upon them. Default and leaving the Eurozone are real possibilities but they carry with them severe financial ramifications for the rest of the Eurozone and for the EU’s continued existence.
At some point, something is going to snap, perhaps from a totally unrelated disaster that spooks the world’s financial institutions.  When that happens, world financial markets could respond with a mixture of panic and fear, with credit markets freezing up because nobody will be able to tell who is stable and who is about to collapse. Governments around the world will have to figure out who they want to bail out and who they don't want to bail out. Remember Lehman Brothers vs Bear Stearns?
For decades, the governments of the western world have been warned that they were getting into far too much debt and major banks and big financial institutions were warned that they were becoming way too leveraged and were taking far too many risks.
Nobody listened. So now we may have to watch a global financial nightmare play out.

Dear readers in America and Europe, please read these comments carefully. There is not much individuals can do to influence events, but you can, for example, demand that your elected governments begin to rein in debt. You can vote for candidates who call for more conservative fiscal and budgetary policies, but without spooking economic development. You can get your own financial houses in order. There is a lot of advice about financial planning in today’s world on the Internet. This is not a “scare” message, but rather one meant to help you better understand and deal with what is now happening in the financial world, both private and sovereign, because we are a long way from solving these massive problems.