Tuesday, June 26, 2012

UK: Romney's non-stance on immigration

PJ:  Earlier this year, candidate Romney stated his support for Arizona's tough immigration law  ( .  Now, perhaps in a move to improve his standing with latino voters, he seems reluctant to take a stand.  I have never seen a candidate run from his own positions more than Mr. Romney has done over the course of this campaign.

The Guardian

Romney campaign on back foot over Arizona immigration law
Republican contender unable to give specific answer on whether he accepts supreme court ruling or sides with Arizona
Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney: caught between a desire not to alienate hardliners and a need to court Latino voters. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP
Mitt Romney's campaign managers were forced on the defensive on Monday after the Republican presidential candidate issued a vague and ambiguous response to the supreme court ruling on Arizona's tough anti-immigrant laws.

Romney appears caught between a desire not to alienate conservatives who adopt a hardline approach to illegal immigration and a need to court Latino voters.

Journalists travelling with the Romney campaign team pressed his staff for more specific answers than were on offer in a written statement issued earlier.

One of Romney's spokesmen, Rick Gorka, was asked about 20 times for the former Massachusetts governor's response to the justices' ruling during a flight to the state on Monday. He was asked in particular whether he accepted the supreme court ruling or whether he sided with Arizona.

Midway through the exchanges, a reporter with Politico, Ginger Gibson, asked: "Is it fair to say he has no opinion? You're refusing to give us an answer." Gorka replied: "We have to get going. I'm more than happy to talk about. I'm with you guys all afternoon at the hotel."

In his written statement, Romney pointedly did not say whether he agreed or disagreed with the supreme court ruling, particularly over the emotionally charged issue of the requirement on police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the US illegally.

Read it at The Guardian:

A proven formula to spur economic growth

Wall Street Journal International

Alan Blinder: Stimulus Isn't a Dirty Word

Legions of construction workers remain unemployed while we drive our cars over pothole-laden roads. Does this make sense?

So let's see. If we are serious about an evidence-based program that spurs growth and improves the lots of average Americans, we should want a near-term jobs program, long-term deficit reduction, more spending on infrastructure, improvements in education, and a tax reform that clears out loopholes, returns to the 39.6% top rate, and protects the middle class.

Which candidate does that remind you of?

Mr. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. 

Read it at The Wall Street Journal:

Monday, June 25, 2012

UK: Romney "liar in chief"?

PJ: Mr. Romney's penchant to lie reminds me of an old saying: he would lie if the truth sounded better.  
The Guardian

Mendacious Mitt: Romney's bid to become liar-in-chief

Spin is normal in politics, but Romney is pioneering a cynical strategy of reducing fact and truth to pure partisanship
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
When challenged about an untruthful statement, Romney's tactic is to deny he said it – lie trumping lie, writes Michael Cohen. Photograph: YouTube/BarackObamadotcom

Four years ago, when I was writing about the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote with dismay and surprise at the spate of falsehoods coming out of John McCain's campaign for president. McCain had falsely accused his opponent Barack Obama of supporting "comprehensive sex education" for children, and of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class, while his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, took credit for opposing the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which she had actually supported.

At the time, such false and misleading claims from a presidential candidate seemed shocking: they crossed an unstated line in American politics – going from the usual garden-variety campaign exaggeration to wilful lying.
Ah, those were the days … after watching Mitt Romney run for president the past few months, he makes John McCain look like George Washington (of "I Can't Tell A Lie" fame).

Granted, presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it's pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.

Read it at The Guardian:

China: Recessions take toll on American savings

 Xinhua News

For young U.S. families, savings rates ever lower amid ailing economy   2012-06-25 06:00:45            
WASHINGTON, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Cash is slipping like sand through young American families' fingers at a growing clip, with savings rates lagging behind previous generations amid a moribund economy, U.S. experts said.

"This is particularly worrisome because younger families were falling behind earlier cohorts even before the Great Recession," said Monique Morrissey, economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Indeed, the U.S. has seen a recession roughly every ten years in recent decades, which caused young families to lag behind in savings well before the 2007 economic downturn.

"Households in the 35-44 and under-35 age groups suffered declines in the wake of two previous recessions without fully regaining the lost ground in the intervening years," she said.

Families headed by someone age 35 to 44 had seen declines in net worth after two previous recessions -- 1990-91 and 2001 -- without fully regaining the lost ground.

Losses are sizable. Those between 35 years old and 44 years old -- the age when families start getting serious about saving for retirement -- saw a 54 percent drop between 2007 and 2010, noted Morrissey.
Indeed, that group's rate of loss is considerably higher than that of the typical American family, who saw their net worth fall 39 percent -- from 126,400 U.S. dollars in 2007 to 77,300 U.S. dollars in 2010 -- over the last three years. The decline was sparked when the housing bubble popped in 2007 and sent the world' s largest economy reeling.

Oddly, however, savings losses before the Great Recession happened during times of unprecedented growth in the U.S. economy, and the fact that net worth declined for these younger age groups between 1989 and 2010 is "remarkable" amid an economy that grew by a third on a per capita inflation-adjusted basis over that period, Morrissey said.

Also alarming is that younger families should have been saving more to make up for declines in employer-provided pensions and social security benefits, she said.

The financial meltdowns that came before the Great Recession only exacerbated an existing problem, as Generation Xers (those who were born from early 1960s to early 1980s) in 2010 had socked away less than half what Baby Boomers saved at the same age adjusted for inflation.

The Center for Retirement Research has estimated that the average family in the broad 35-64 age range had a retirement income deficit of 90,000 U.S. dollars in 2010, a measure of how far behind they were in saving and accumulating benefits for retirement.
Editor: Mu Xuequan

Australia: America awaits health care ruling + update

Sydney Morning Herald

Anxious wait on court's US healthcare ruling

June 22, 2012

The ruling ahead of the US Supreme Court may be one of the most significant constitutional rulings of the century. The ruling ahead of the US Supreme Court may be one of the most significant constitutional rulings of the century. Photo: Reuters

TELEVISION cameras surrounded the US Supreme Court last night ahead of a possible announcement of the ruling on the Obama administration's flagship healthcare laws.

The justices would have voted almost immediately after three days of oral arguments in March on whether Mr Obama's healthcare overhaul is constitutional. Although that vote would normally have determined the outcome of the case, there is a lot of back and forth before the majority opinion and the dissents, if any, are finished.

Last Friday was the deadline for justices to hand in dissents. Then whoever is writing the majority opinion - the betting is on Chief Justice John Roberts - has the option of responding to any criticism of the ruling in his own opinion. Decisions are handed out to reporters as the justice who wrote the opinion announces the ruling. By tradition the senior justice goes last, so healthcare is likely to be the last decision on the day it comes down.

The court is not meeting today, so the next possible date for the decision would be Monday. Next week the tension will intensify.

If the decision is not announced before next Thursday, that day is likely to be wild: it would be the first time that reporters and the public would go to court knowing they would witness what could be one of the most significant constitutional rulings of the century.


Read more:


Sunday, June 24, 2012

UK: Executive privilage was used extensively by President Bush but is now under attack by GOP

The Economist

Executive authority v congressional oversight

Playing politics with the law?

The president is under congressional attack for a series of supposed power-grabs, just as used to happen under George Bush

“CONGRESS now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority…or accepting a dangerous expansion of executive branch authority.” Thus Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California, made the case for finding Eric Holder, the attorney-general, in contempt of Congress. On June 20th the committee Mr Issa chairs approved a resolution against Mr Holder for failing to produce documents it had subpoenaed. On the same day Barack Obama, for the first time in his presidency, cited executive privilege as a justification for withholding the documents. What with an ongoing row about the president’s habit of using executive orders to bypass congressional opposition to his policies, Mr Obama and the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives are on the verge of a constitutional showdown.

It is a battle the Republicans will not win. If the full House, as is likely, now votes to hold Mr Holder in contempt, it will in theory fall to federal prosecutors to bring him into line. But in similar spats in the past, the prosecutors, who after all work for the president, have been inclined to accept the claim that releasing records of the internal deliberations of the executive branch would make it difficult for the president and his advisers to do their jobs.

Similar legal obstacles will prevent the reversal of any of the disputed executive orders. Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa, says a change in immigration rules that Mr Obama recently announced is a usurpation of Congress’s right to set such policies; he plans to sue the president to stop it. But he will have a hard time establishing himself as an injured party with standing to bring the case. Even if such a plaintiff could be found, the courts are generally reluctant to take sides between the president and Congress.
The row involving Mr Holder centres on a botched operation to curb gun-running from America to Mexico run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department. ATF agents allowed 2,000 guns to be smuggled across the border in an attempt to learn who was behind the trade. They soon lost track of the guns; two subsequently showed up at a shoot-out in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.

When Congress originally asked the Justice Department about the operation last year, it first denied that the ATF had permitted any smuggling to proceed before reversing itself ten months later. The department has since provided the committee with 7,600 pages of documents related to the operation, but Mr Issa, on the lookout for a cover-up, has asked for more. He is especially curious about how and when the department realised it had misled Congress and what discussions led up to its decision to come clean.

But it is Mr Obama’s shift on immigration that Republicans see as the biggest affront, in part because it seems like such a naked ploy to ingratiate Mr Obama to Hispanic voters. Even though Congress has rejected legislation granting an amnesty to “dreamers”—the 1.4m or so otherwise law-abiding people brought to the country illegally as children—he plans to give them a reprieve anyway. On June 15th he instructed immigration officials not to deport illegal immigrants who had arrived in America before turning 16, provided they meet certain criteria. Instead, they will be allowed to remain in the country indefinitely and to apply for work permits.

The administration argues that the change is simply an exercise in “prosecutorial discretion”. The government cannot possibly find and deport all 11m-odd people in America illegally (to deport the dreamers alone would eat up the entire immigration budget, according to the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank). Instead, it must choose which offenders to concentrate on, and blameless youth do not seem like a high priority.

Moreover, Mr Obama said when announcing the shift, he was acting in part because Congress had neglected to. It has taken up immigration reform several times in recent years, but failed to enact anything. In 2010 majorities in both chambers approved the Dream Act, a more generous variant on Mr Obama’s new policy, but Republicans filibustered it in the Senate.

Nonetheless, many Republicans have declared themselves shocked by Mr Obama’s gall. John Yoo, a former official in the administration of George W. Bush, who argued that the president has the power to torture terrorism suspects, detain them without trial and eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants, thinks that Mr Obama’s new immigration policy is far more sweeping in its implications than all that. It “violates the very core of his constitutional duties,” he writes.

Read it at The Economist:

Generally, we put too much weight on motivation. Recently Newt Gingrich criticised Mr Obama's decision to suspend efforts to deport undocumented immigrants who came to America as children, calling it an "election-year gimmick". “If the president has the power to do that", Mr Gingrich asked, "why didn’t he do it three years ago?” The answer is that three years ago, House Republicans had yet to block the DREAM Act. But, sure, Mr Obama could have put mini-DREAM into place in January of 2011, and that would have spared some significant number of innocent, educated, law-abiding undocumented immigrants from deportation. So why didn't he? No doubt for the reason Mr Gingrich is fishing for: Mr Obama gets a bigger electoral boost doing it nearer the election. It was certainly cold of Mr Obama to ruin some lives playing the electoral angle, but that's just how politics works. When the grubby self-interest of politicians happens to align with the public interest, we shouldn't complain that they're acting for wrong reasons. We should just be grateful that they ever find it in themselves to do the right thing. Never mind why.

UK: There's an app for that...

The Guardian

An almighty Koch app: Democrat developer targets billionaire brothers

Darcy Burner developing smartphone app to allow shoppers to avoid brands owned by the Kochs and other rightwingers
David Koch, left
David Koch, left, has interests in brands including Brawny, Dixie, Lycra and Stairmaster. Photograph: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Mopping up that spilled organic, fair trade coffee with a Brawny kitchen roll? Off to yoga in your Lycra shorts? Serving your kids kale chips on a Dixie paper plate? Did you know you were lining the pockets of the Charles and David Koch, billionaire bankrollers of the extreme right? Well, soon there'll be an app for that.

A former tech head turned politician is developing an app that will allow shoppers to avoid products made by the Kochs or other billionaires currently spending fortunes backing rightwing candidates and policies.
Darcy Burner, a Democrat politician running for Congress in Washington state, said she came up with the idea when she started looking at exactly what the Kochs own.

The brothers' interests include Georgia Pacific, a packaging and paper products firm whose brands include Brawny and Sparkle paper towels, Angel Soft and Soft n' Gentle bath tissue and the Dixie range of paper cups and plates.

Koch Industries also owns Invista, the world's largest fibre and textiles company and owner of Lycra, Cordura and the Stainmaster carpet brand.

"The Kochs have a record of spending enormous amounts of money to move very reactionary, rightwing policies. Most Americans disagree with those policies but they may be buying products that are bankrolling them," she said.

Burner said the app would allow "folks to make informed buying decisions."

"We talk about boycotts but with someone like the Kochs, they own so much that it's difficult to track," she said.

Burner, a Harvard computer science grad and former Microsoft programmer, said the app was still in the early stages. "We are talking to people but hopefully someone will take it on soon," she said.

Read it at the Guardian:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

UK: Romney's surge

PJ: In 2008 the news rang out that the Republican party was dead. In 2010 a zombie apocalypse must has taken place since that very party took over the US House of Representatives and made in-roads into the Senate. The next two years would deliver nothing in the way of serious legislation and lots of obstruction from the GOP toward any Obama initiative that would improve the economic recovery. Even with this obstruction, the administration was able to provide enough stimulous to support a recovering albeit fragile economy while conservative governments in Britain and other EU countries promoted the program that the GOP supported and were flung into double-dip recessions.  A mere two years later and another republican is vying for the White House having made a hard right turn to satisfy his base while both the House and Senate might go to  GOP control.

The Republican party is no longer the party of Reagan, Eisenhower, or even George Bush Sr. Even George Bush Jr's idea of a compasionate conservative has become extinct. It has become a radicalized party so far to the right that women fear for their rights, essential Medicare protection for the elderly may see its last days, health care for all Americans will remain a distant dream and Social Security may become another Dodo bird example of what once was.

Americans can vote or not vote...they can choose the party or the candidate they think will best serve the country's needs. They can vote in anger against who ever is in office because things are not perfect. They can be short sighted and vote against their own best interests or they can be stubburn and not participate at all. Whatever they choose to do, they will live with the consequences. 

The Guardian

Mitt Romney tells voters: 'I feel your pain'
Republican contender plays to public fears about economy and ditches social conservatism as he chases swing voters
Mitt Romney, Ann Romney
Mitt Romney takes a walk on the beach with his wife Ann after a campaign stop at Holland State Park in Michigan. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
The voice was hoarse, but that was the only sign that Mitt Romney was nearing the end of a gruelling tour through the battleground states that will decide who wins the White House. Wearing jeans and with sleeves rolled up, the Republican presidential hopeful bounded on stage in Davenport, Iowa, and launched a furious tirade on the only issue that matters: the ailing American economy.

He warned the 1,000-strong crowd – who had gathered in a park in the heart of this town on the Mississippi river – that Obama had failed to bring about a recovery. Sounding like a leftist populist, he bemoaned low-wage jobs, the collapsing wealth of the middle class and home foreclosures. He pinned the blame on Obama. "His record is not something that he can talk about. In his last campaign he had 'hope and change'. Now they are hoping to change the subject," he said.

Could Romney, a wealthy financier who has repeatedly defended big business and extolled the virtues of the free market, really become the beneficiary of a crisis of capitalism? He seems an unlikely champion of the "little guy". But in the furious cut-and-thrust of the 2012 election that does not matter.
Prospects for an Obama win have been buffeted by poor job figures and the threat of economic meltdown in Europe. Romney's team know that convincing America's swing voters that they might have better job prospects under Republican rule could turn the former Massachusetts governor into a president. The 2012 election is now up for grabs.

Arriving in Iowa on his "Every Town Counts" bus tour, Romney had already travelled through New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Just like Iowa, all are states Obama won in 2008 and that Romney is now hoping to win. In order to do so he appears to have jettisoned the social conservatism that marked his nomination race.

Instead, Romney tried an "I feel your pain" tactic of sympathising with economic hard times.
Farmer Linda Swiezcinsky, who cheerfully admitted to being a Michele Bachmann fan during the Republican party's bitter primary race, now wore a red T-shirt emblazoned with a giant portrait of Romney. "It is neck and neck at the moment but I think Romney will win," she said.

While Romney becomes more sure-footed, the Obama campaign lacks momentum. Despite recent policy shifts on issues including gay marriage and immigration, Obama's Democratic base remains much less enthusiastic than 2008. After he promised a "recovery summer" in 2010, America has remained economically sickly. Domestically, Obama's biggest legislative achievement has been healthcare reform. But the new law – under withering Republican fire – has become less popular and the supreme court could even strike it down as unconstitutional.

Obama's image as a likeable, liberal leader has also been eroded by rumours of aloofness and a ruthless expansion of hardline national security tactics from the George W Bush era, exemplified by the deployment of increasingly controversial drone strikes overseas. Recently three top Democratic strategists, including Bill Clinton's campaign guru, James Carville, drew up a memo warning that Obama might face an "impossible headwind" in the election.

The memo, based on focus groups from Ohio and Pennsylvania, found voters disliked Obama's message that the economy was slowly improving. "These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction," the memo warned. Other experts agree that Obama's current plan of assuring American voters that things would have been worse without him – even if true – is not a winning strategy. "It is a challenge. Americans tend to be more: what have you done for me lately?" said Professor David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Jim Giese, who runs an Iowa roofing business, is certainly no fan of Obama. As Romney toured Iowa, Giese grabbed a place on a Mississippi boat trip the candidate was taking from Dubuque. As he walked to meet Romney on the old-fashioned paddle steamer berthed on Dubuque's waterfront he slammed Obama's handling of the economy.

"It is just trending in the wrong direction. Our margins are down and we have had to lay people off. The guy is a disaster," he said.

The mood among Romney advisers is buoyant and jibes at Obama are everywhere. "Before he was president he never managed anything bigger than his own narrative and now he's having a hard time managing this economy," said senior Romney adviser Russ Schriefer. In Davenport, Romney's Iowa campaign chairman, Brian Kennedy, pumped out the same relentless message. "For three-and-a-half years he has failed… that is our message. Let's take it to our friends and neighbours and church members and colleagues," he told the Davenport crowd.

The Romney campaign is rapidly earning a reputation for efficiency and a secretive style that maximises control of the message. His schedule is often released only a day or two before events and every effort is made to minimise unscripted interaction with the press. Reporters are shooed away from the "rope line" where candidates mingle with the public.

Romney himself is a private person who still often appears wooden in public, certainly when compared to Obama. But he has also showed himself – and his campaign – to be ruthless and hard-edged. In dealing with an unexpectedly raucous nomination fight, Romney's team showed it could play dirty and spend big when destroying rivals including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Though Romney's own efforts were often marred by gaffes, especially linked to his wealthy lifestyle, those mistakes have decreased markedly in recent weeks.

Of course, not everyone is convinced. National polls average out to have Obama with a narrow lead of a couple of percentage points, though an incumbent president would usually be expected to be performing more strongly at this point. In the small Iowa town of Solon, an hour or so's drive from Davenport, retired electrician Kent Connelly said he was not falling for Romney's schtick. "He does not come across as someone who cares that much. I see him as someone who will say anything to get elected," Connelly said.
And Solon definitely counts as somewhere suffering from hard times. Though Iowa's overall jobless rate is below the 8% national average, Solon's is a whopping 14.3%.

Freed up by a supreme court ruling, Republican-supporting groups are preparing to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the race. Last week alone three different TV ads began airing in swing states, all swiping at Obama over the economy. Some experts think Romney and his supporters could spend at least $1.25bn on TV ads.

"I can see a president getting bought into office," Connelly said.

If Romney generates enough support to grab the Oval Office, the swell of votes would certainly see Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives and might even see them grab the Senate. Then Romney would likely get at least one opportunity to appoint a supreme court judge in his first term, probably replacing one liberal justice. That would skew the court even more conservatively for a generation.
Romney thus could actually find himself in a position of immense Republican power. No wonder then that in Davenport he came on stage with such enthusiasm. "This is the wind of change, you know that?" he beamed.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More lies in American politics


Will Mainstream Media Call Out The Big Lie In Mitt Romney’s Immigration Speech?

The popular misconception that Romney alludes to is the notion that President Obama had controlling majorities in both houses of Congress for two years, when in reality, the Democrats only controlled filibuster-proof majorities for a total of about 14 weeks. Romney escapes pant-immolation because he used the less-specific “huge majorities.”

But the idea that the President “did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system” is a provable lie, one that the President will surely call out when he speaks to NALEO tomorrow.

Compounding the lie, however, is the fact that Romney expects this audience not to realize that the DREAM Act, the very piece of legislation that inspired the President’s policy change, the bill that Romney claims the President “did nothing” to advance, was killed by a Republican filibuster.

Read it at Mediaite:

Republicans have been accused of sabotaging the economic recovery in the US--now there is proof that at least they want to distort the reality


Rick Scott asked to tone down optimism

Bloomberg's Michael Bender, who reported yesterday on the chilly Rick Scott-Mitt Romney relationship, delivers this interesting nugget overnight:
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Scott, a Republican, was asked to say that the state’s jobless rate could improve faster under a Romney presidency, according to the people, who asked not to be named.
What’s unfolding in Florida highlights a dilemma for the Romney campaign: how to allow Republican governors to take credit for economic improvements in their states while faulting Obama’s stewardship of the national economy. Republican governors in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin also have highlighted improving economies.
A month ago, Scott released a statement declaring that "brighter days" had arrived for Florida's economy.

Read it at Politico:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The GOP's lack of respect for the presidency (if a democrat and especially an african-american occupies the office)

Washington Post

Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank Opinion Writer

Nothing sweet about heckling Obama in the Rose Garden

What does conservative pundit Tucker Carlson have to do with an outhouse in Montana?

More than you might think.

Over the weekend, the Montana Republican Party proved wrong those of us who believe our political discourse has gone down the toilet. In fact, our political discourse has gone to a place where there isn’t even plumbing.

Outside the Montana GOP convention in Missoula stood an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library” and painted as though it had been shot full of holes, according to the local paper. Inside, a fake birth certificate for “Barack Hussein Obama” was stamped with an expletive referring to bovine droppings. A message in the structure gave fake phone numbers for Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi “For a Good Time.”

The state party chairman, Will Deschamps, said that the structure was not in “real good taste. We do have a president of the United States, and we have to honor that.” But he also dismissed the matter as a “sideshow” and “not something I’m going to agonize over.”

But the outhouse is not a sideshow. It is something we should all be agonizing over.

There are always going to be nuts at both ends of the political spectrum who do and say ugly things. Usually, leaders denounce the vile elements among them and try to distance themselves.

Under the Obama presidency, however, conservative leaders are encouraging the vulgarity — if not joining in by heckling the president from the House floor. The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, recently shared a stage with Donald Trump only hours after the buffoon tycoon had again floated the disproved allegation that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Among many such episodes before that, Romney failed to challenge a supporter who suggested to him that Obama “should be tried for treason.”

Conservative leaders may believe it benefits them that one in six voters still thinks Obama is Muslim. But when conservatives sanction the debasement of Obama, they are debasing the presidency itself.
Read the rest of the post:



UK: America's embarrassing political reality show family

PJ:  First it was the Mama Grizzly who ran into the limelight with her own reality show (which was right before she began toying with her fans by running around the country in a campaign-styled bus fostering the impression that she would run for the presidency).  Now it is her eldest daughter (who is famous for having been a pregnant teen who can't let go of the spotlight all the while (just like her mother) complaining that the media won't leave her along.  And if that is not enough Palins for the country to watch, soon it will be the 'first dude' in yet another reality show based on military training called 'Stars Earn Stripes"

Won't that mean old media leave this family alone?!    To help out, I suggest that everyone just turn the channel and not bother these poor fame-seeking Palins anymore so they can get on with their very public private lives in the privacy of their commercial fishing boat in the wilds of Alaska.  

The Daily Mail 

Bristol Palin's reality show PANNED as 'the Alaskan Kardashians... but less interesting'

By Daily Mail Reporter
Not even an argument with a loudmouth heckler in a bar can save Bristol Palin's new reality TV show, 'Life's a Tripp.'
Critics have universally panned the Lifetime Network program that follows the oldest daughter of former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, along with her 3-year-old son, Tripp. 

The show is Bristol's latest attempt to hang onto the fame she gained in 2008 when she appeared, heavily pregnant and 17, on stage alongside her mother at the Republican National Convention.
Bristol Palin
Vapid: 'Life's a Tripp,' Bristol Palin's new reality show, is said to have very little depth, even though it claims to tackle the difficulties of single motherhood

Sarah Palin
Gamma grizzly: Sarah Palin, the former Alaska Governor, makes several cameos in the show to dispense motherly advice to Bristol

Since the election, she has used her status as a teenage mother to advocate for abstinence, compete on 'Dancing with the Stars' and write her own memoir. 
'Where others might have had the option of part-time work, child rearing and community college, Bristol Palin was apparently forced to go toward the paparazzi’s light,' Hank Stuever writes in the Washington Post.

'Step away from the cameras,' recommends Boston Herald critic Mark A Perigard.

Critics say the show is just not interesting. It's supposed to detail the trials and tribulations of a young single mother trying to make it on her own, but it never actually shows any of those harsh realities.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Middle East: G20 Summit

PJ:  The hard work of campaigning takes a back seat to the hard work of leading.  The US, whose banks actually caused the world economic woes in the first place, is one of the few countries affected by the downturn to see growth, albeit slow growth.  The policies of the Obama administration to stimulate the economy while beginning to address the country's deficit have indeed worked.  It makes you wonder how the economy would be performing if the administration was able to enact more of their policies had the US Congress decided to work with them instead of fighting against every measure proposed.  

Germany, who now has much of the power in the EU to address economic concerns, never really got itself into the hot economic waters that the rest of the western world found themselves simply because they did not over-extend their borrowing and have held fast to their strict banking regulations which, like Canada, helped them recover from the intitial downturn with little pain.  It must be noted  that Germany and Canada have retained their excellent socialized services such as health care and that those programs did not adversely affect their people or economies.  

Countries whose sole perscription for their economic woes have been to address their deficits by using the same austerity perscription aspoused by US conservatives are now in or headed toward double-dip recessions.  Facts are pesky things in politics but the facts point to a better success under the Obama administration's handling of a difficult economy than those of more conservative governments such as Britain and France under the administration of the conservative Sarkosy administration (which has since been voted out of office). 

Al Jazeera

G20 leaders scramble to boost global growth
Final day of summit focuses on reviving economies, restoring confidence and pulling eurozone from brink of disaster.
The leaders of the world's major economies embarked on the final day of the G20 summit determined to kickstart growth and pull the eurozone back from the brink of disaster.
European members gathered on Tuesday were under extraordinary pressure from their international counterparts to loosen their austerity programs and to allow the European Central Bank to open the lending floodgates.

Germany's Angela Merkel, the driving force behind the eurozone's austere determination to privilege deficit busting over stimulus spending, has publicly stood her ground, although US officials say her position is softening.

A draft version of the G20 final statement, which was to be finalized and published by the leaders on Tuesday, suggested that a form of words would be found that would commit the leaders to a pro-growth agenda.

"All G20 members will take the necessary actions to strengthen global growth and restore confidence," it said, vowing that eurozone members would safeguard the stability of the single currency in the face of volatile markets.

Follow our comprehensive Euro Crisis spotlight coverage
The version seen by the AFP news agency allowed no hint that Merkel or her allies might crumble and allow the ECB to pump out cash or to pool German debt with that of the weaker eurozone members in order to create low-interest eurobonds.
But it contained a phrase that opened up the possibility of more lending and spending if the European economy continues to struggle.
"Should economic conditions deteriorate significantly further, those countries with sufficient fiscal space stand ready to coordinate and implement discretionary fiscal actions to support domestic demand," the draft reads.

'Job growth'

Officials from eurozone countries also patted themselves on the back for remaining more or less united in the face of pressure from the United States, emerging powers, Britain and a skeptical media.
EU Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso bristled at hostile questioning over why his rich continent needed so much support from abroad, declaring: "We are certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody."

US President Barack Obama canceled a planned meeting with European G20 members after an official dinner hosted by Mexico's President Felipe Calderon ran long, but White House aides said compromise was possible.

"We're seeing a shift in the European discussion regarding the critical importance of supporting demand and job growth," US Treasury official Lael Brainard said told reporters.

Obama called for Greece to be given more time to get its affairs in order, after parties committed to honoring the terms of its debt write-down agreement won a majority of seats in Sunday's parliamentary election.
But Merkel, fast becoming a hate figure among Greeks, remained unmoved.

"Elections cannot call into question the commitments Greece made. We cannot compromise on the reform steps we agreed on," she told reporters.

China-US meeting

Progress was made in Los Cabos in boosting the resources available to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a firewall to protect debt-ridden states from the threat of default if lending costs rise.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde thanked emerging powers, led by China, for pledging enough to bring her pool for emergency loans up to $456bn in exchange for a greater say in IMF affairs.

In addition to summit sessions, the leaders were to hold a series of side meetings, notably a bilateral between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao and a possible reschedule of the cancelled US-EU talks.
The summit was due to draw to a close with a ceremony at 2330 GMT, after which Calderon was to address the press.

UK: Obama, Putin, Assad

The Guardian

Obama fails to secure support from Putin on solution to Syria crisis
US president sought pledge against Bashar al-Assad at G20 summit, leaving Syria facing the prospect of increasing violence
Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin
Barack Obama said he and Vladimir Putin had 'candid, thoughtful and thorough conversation' about various issues including Syria. Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/EPA
Barack Obama and Russia's president Vladimir Putin completed a bilateral meeting on the margins of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Monday with an agreement that there should be a cessation of hostilities in Syria.

But, crucially, Obama failed to secure the support of Putin for regime change in Syria. The US president had been seeking Putin's help in trying to persuade Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power and leave the country.

A joint statement issued after their meeting said simply that the Syrian people should independently and democratically be allowed to decide their own future, but there was no joint call for Assad to stand down, as the White House has been urging.

Read it at the Guardian:

Monday, June 18, 2012

UK: The choice

The Economist

Barack Obama and the economy

The choice

Jun 15th 2012, 0:37 by W.W. | IOWA CITY

IN A long-winded speech in Cleveland today, Barack Obama attempted to reboot his campaign by offering voters a clear choice between his approach to the economy and Mitt Romney's. Mr Obama's basic strategy in the speech was to cast Mr Romney's economic vision as a stale rehash of Bush-era Republican policies—tax cuts for the rich, corporate deregulation, war—on which the president laid most of the blame for America's belated and faltering recovery (without ever mentioning Mr Bush). He placed the remainder of the blame on a "stalemate" in Washington, which he urged voters to break by electing him a second time, though he notably omitted to name the lever with which he might budge the boulder of Republican obstructionism in a second term. Naturally, Mr Obama was quick to accept full responsibility for all signs of economic improvement. But he was careful to emphasise the immense scale of the economic problems he inherited, suggesting that any expectation that the economy might have done better during his tenure was unrealistic.

Though he addressed a partisan crowd, Mr Obama's speech was pitched to the centre. Indeed, he seemed keen to steal some of Mr Romney's thunder among independents by characterising himself as a tax-cutting, business-friendly, lightly-regulating, paragon of fiscal responsibility. "I don’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems", Mr Obama said. "I don’t believe every regulation is smart or that every tax dollar is spent wisely. I don’t believe that we should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves." Mr Obama even touted his own record of fiscal conservatism: "Over the last three years I’ve cut taxes for the typical working family by $3,600. I’ve cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his." Jack Kemp lives!

When it comes to Mr Romney, however, tax cuts and a soft regulatory touch add up to a monstrous hybrid of Grover Norquist and Montgomery Burns:
Governor Romney and his allies in Congress ... maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all. That’s what they believe. This -- this is their economic plan.
Most regulations? Government stripped down to a few basic functions? All those Ron Paul delegates are going to be delighted when they get the news.

Mr Obama was at his most effective when highlighting the tension between his opponent's tax-cut and deficit-reduction plans. If Mr Romney is going to have his tax cut and cut the deficit too, he's going to have to cut a lot of spending. It's true. Mr Obama's proposition is that these cuts will come at the expense of the vulnerable and the middle class. In a somewhat sleazy but probably effective move, Mr Obama exploited the lack of specificity in Mr Romney's deficit-reduction plans by indulging in a bit of terrifying speculation, all while insisting on his own scrupulous fairness:
Now, I—I want to be very fair here. I want to be clear. [Romney and congressional Republicans] haven’t specified exactly where the knife would fall, but here’s some of what would happen if that cut that they proposed was spread evenly across the budget.
Ten million college students would lose an average of a thousand dollars each on financial aid. Two-hundred thousand children would lose the chance to get an early education in the Head Start programme. There would be 1,600 fewer medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS; 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers.
Now, again, they have not specified which of these cuts they choose from ...
In a Romney administration, the "knife will fall" on students, kids and people suffering from Alzheimer's, cancer and AIDS. Maybe. Or maybe not. Let's just say they haven't ruled it out. Because let's be fair!
Mr Obama went on to argue that Mr Romney's plans to reform the tax code would brutalise the middle class by ending tax expenditures that help middle-income "families afford health care and college and retirement and homeownership". And then there's Medicare and Mr Romney's proposal to "end the programme as we know it."

Urging voters to reject the apocalyptic prospects of a Romney presidency, Mr Obama promised to protect the vulnerable and the middle-class while cutting the deficit with a combination of tax hikes on the wealthy, health-care cost-control, and a return to economic prosperity by way of pays-for-itself pro-growth government "investment":
I see a future where we pay down our deficit in a way that is balanced—not by placing the entire burden on the middle class and the poor, but by cutting out programmes we can’t afford and asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share.
That’s my vision for America: education, energy, innovation, infrastructure, and a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction.
There's your "framed choice". Whereas Mr Romney offers a return to the devil-take-the-hindmost, trickle-down policies that put us in this economic pickle, Mr Obama offers an economy revitalised by a growing middle-class and smart government spending. "This has to be our north star," Mr Obama averred, "an economy that’s built not from the top down but from a growing middle class; that provides ladders of opportunities for folks who aren’t yet in the middle class." Not down from the top, but out from the middle. That's the pith of Mr Obama's pitch.

Had Mr Obama stopped there, instead of droning on for another quarter-hour, it would have been a strong speech that communicated in clear terms the contrast he needs voters to keep in mind. However, Mr Obama's subsequent meandering reflections on togetherness, the glory of big infrastructure projects, green industrial policy, and a tedious list of sundry nickel-and-dime initiatives seemed to me only to underscore that if he "doesn’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems", as he claims, that's only because he believes government is the answer to most of our problems and is splitting hairs. By the time he got around to the forced big finish, Mr Obama sounded more like the guy Mr Romney wants him to be than the sensible centrist he aimed to appear. Successful triangulation sometimes means knowing when to shut up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Israel: US clears countries of sanctions


Obama administration clears India, Turkey of Iran sanctions

U.S. says that after significantly reducing oil purchases from Iran, seven additional countries will be dismissed of the financial sanctions.

By Reuters | Jun.11, 2012 | 10:47 PM 
The United States will exempt India, South Korea, Turkey and four other countries from financial sanctions because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian oil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.
Clinton said exemptions would also be granted to Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Taiwan, which join Japan and a number of European countries already on the list of those exempted from the U.S. sanctions.
"Today's announcement underscores the success of our sanctions implementation. By reducing Iran's oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran's leaders: until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure," Clinton said in a statement. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

UK: Are republicans trying to slow the US recovery?

The Guardian

Did Republicans deliberately crash the US economy?

Be it ideology or stratagem, the GOP has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity – all while blaming Obama
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor of Va., and House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio, leave a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, where they talked about their meeting at the White House with President Obama. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Republican party congressional leadership (left to right): Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, House majority leader Eric Cantor, and House speaker John Boehner, after the 2010 midterms. Photograph: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
So why does the US economy stink?

Why has job creation in America slowed to a crawl? Why, after several months of economic hope, are things suddenly turning sour? The culprits might seem obvious – uncertainty in Europe, an uneven economic recovery, fiscal and monetary policymakers immobilized and incapable of acting. But increasingly, Democrats are making the argument that the real culprit for the country's economic woes lies in a more discrete location: with the Republican Party.

In recent days, Democrats have started coming out and saying publicly what many have been mumbling privately for years – Republicans are so intent on defeating President Obama for re-election that they are purposely sabotaging the country's economic recovery. These charges are now being levied by Democrats such as Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Obama's key political adviser, David Axelrod.

For Democrats, perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence of GOP premeditated malice is the 2010 quote from Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell:
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

UK: America's favourite TV family is back!

PJ:  No...not another Palin reality show...

Sorry Sarah....
Hat tip for images at tip blogspot Sea4Pee:

Stetsons at the ready – the Ewings are back

After 20 years away, 'Dallas' is returning to TVre1

The shoulder pads have disappeared, but those Stetson hats, big cigars, and oversized egos remain. Twenty years after they disappeared from the airwaves, JR Ewing and his oil-rich Texan cronies are once more invading America's living rooms. A shiny new version of the 1980s soap opera Dallas will be unveiled this week, in an unapologetic effort to recapture the magic that, for a few, highly lucrative years, put Southfork Ranch at the centre of the most-watched drama in television history.
Read it at The Independent:


The Independent

UK: American nuns challenge Vatican

Rebel US nuns in showdown with Rome over women's role

Catholic church in US divided after Rome seeks to crack down on 'radical feminism'

Cardinal William Levada, centre, will meet with Sister Pat Farrell in Rome. Photograph: Alessandra Benedetti
She is the American nun who after 15 years spent working with war refugees in El Salvador now leads the majority of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the US. He is the American cardinal who marched in San Francisco protesting against gay marriage and was accused of turning a blind eye to paedophile priests before he took over the Vatican's doctrinal office, the modern version of the Inquisition.

On Tuesday, Pat Farrell and William Levada will clash in Rome at the climax of a raging row over what Catholicism means for women. It will be a confrontation that pits America's increasingly independent and broad-minded nuns against the Vatican's male guardians of the faith. "Pat Farrell knows it will be daunting, but she sees the importance of this meeting for the whole Catholic community," said her spokeswoman, Sister Annmarie Sanders.

The showdown follows the claim by Levada's department that Farrell's Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organisation for most US orders, has been promoting "radical feminism" and glossing over the Vatican's hard line on gay marriage and abortion.

Read it at The Guardian:

Israel: US disappointed in Iran talks


U.S. 'disappointed' by failure of Iran-UN nuclear talks

Outcome of talks show that Iran is unwilling to address international community’s concerns, says American envoy to IAEA Robert Wood.

By Reuters | Jun.09, 2012 | 9:33 PM | 2

Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, and IAEA's chief inspector, Herman Nackaerts.
Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh (right), and IAEA's chief inspector, Herman Nackaerts, leave after their meeting in Vienna, June 8, 2012. Photo by AFP

Lack of progress in talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency is disappointing and it shows Tehran's continued failure to abide by its commitment to the UN nuclear watchdog, a U.S. envoy said on Saturday.
The IAEA and Iran failed at talks on Friday to unblock an investigation into suspected atom bomb research by the Islamic state, a setback dimming any chances for success in higher-level negotiations between Tehran and major powers later this month. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

UK: Wisconsin results

The Economist

Wisconsin’s recall election

It don't mean much

Jun 6th 2012, 21:24 by W.W. | IOWA CITY
WISCONSIN Democrats sought to teach a lesson to Scott Walker, the state's Republican governor, and they failed. The recall election pitted Mr Walker against a challenger he had already bested at the polls, Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee. The rematch vote totals showed that the Wisconsin electorate hadn't much changed its mind, which is not especially surprising. The recall was not motivated by the perception of corruption or abuse of power. Rather, it was served up by an aggrieved labour movement as a referendum on Mr Walker's fiscally conservative politics and policy. But that's what regular elections are for. I think Andrew Sullivan puts it well when he says that "The Democrats refused to allow Walker to serve his full term and then seek the judgment of the voters. They acted throughout as if he were somehow illegitimate. They refused the give-and-take of democratic politics, using emergency measures for non-emergency reasons". And it didn't work.

Read it at The Economist:

International Edition: Deep regrets about Palin pick

International Herald Tribune

“If I knew two days before what I knew two days later, I would have handcuffed myself to the truck to prevent him from leaving the compound,” Mr. Schmidt said, recalling the moment that Mr. McCain left to announce his selection. “I guess the evidence of that is the trauma I still have four years later.” 

“She absolutely should not be president: no way, no how,” he said. “I’ve watched her on the public stage over the past four years. There has been zero effort — zero — to improve any of her obvious deficiencies.”

A Career Resurrected After McCain and Palin

Max Whittaker for The New York Times
Steve Schmidt, the senior adviser to the 2008 campaign of Senator John S. McCain, in Incline Village, Nev., now his home.
“It’s not been an easy journey,” said Nicolle Wallace, who worked with Mr. Schmidt on the McCain campaign and on George W. Bush’s 2004 election campaign. “He spent a lot of time obsessing over the autopsy of 2008.” 

Mr. Schmidt’s re-emergence is in part a result of a considered campaign of penance that began almost immediately after the loss: appearances, speeches and interviews brimming with self-criticism and challenges to his own party. At a postelection forum sponsored by The Atlantic, he said it would be “catastrophic” for Republicans to nominate Ms. Palin in 2012. In one of his first speeches, he came out in support of gay marriage. 

He did a turn on “60 Minutes.” In “Game Change,” based on the book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Mr. Schmidt is portrayed as an honest broker who realized too late he had made a ruinous mistake and whose culpability was shared. Mr. Schmidt came up with Ms. Palin’s name, and two other McCain campaign advisers — Rick Davis, the campaign manager, and A. B. Culvahouse Jr., a lawyer — were primarily in charge of checking her credentials in the space of a week. 

Mr. Culvahouse, in a column in The Wall Street Journal, described the HBO movie as revisionist, and said the background check on Ms. Palin was “no less rigorous” than the investigation of other candidates. Mr. Davis declined to talk about Mr. Schmidt, reflecting what Republicans describe as resentment in McCain circles about the way, in their view, Mr. Schmidt patched his own boat. 

“My mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” Mr. Davis wrote in an e-mail.

Read it at the IHT

Australia: US and Russia begin Syria talks

Sydney Morning Herald

Russia and US discuss differences on Syria

Henry Meyer
June 9, 2012 
MOSCOW: Russia and the United States began talks on the Syrian conflict in a bid to narrow their differences before a meeting between their presidents, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, in Mexico this month.

Fred Hof, the State Department's special envoy to the Syrian opposition, met with Russian deputy foreign ministers, Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, in Moscow. The sides ''exchanged opinions about ways to facilitate a peaceful settlement in Syria with an emphasis on mobilising international support in the interest of implementing Kofi Annan's plan by all sides,'' the Foreign Ministry said, adding ''practical aspects'' of a Russian proposal for a conference on Syria were also discussed.

But talks were marred when a deadly blast rocked a Damascus suburb, claiming the lives of two security forces members, among 10 killed across Syria yesterday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bloodshed came as people took to the streets to demonstrate against the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, after the weekly Muslim prayers, the main day of protests in the 15-month uprising.

Another explosion in front of a police station in the north-western city of Idlib killed five people, including two members of the security forces, the Britain-based observatory said.

Russia and the US are in disagreement over Russia's initiative to involve Iran in talks to end the bloodshed and find a possible successor to Mr Assad.

Mr Putin has picked up ''positive'' feedback from France, China and Iran on a proposal to gather all nations that have sway over Mr Assad and the opposition to come together for talks, the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Thursday.

Still, the initiative was rejected by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, even after it won the support of the UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.

Read more: