Sunday, September 30, 2012


Yesterday I accomplished much. Today ... not so much. Yeah, I'm doing laundry but that's about it.

I napped most of the morning after walking the dogs at 7 and then reading the news with breakfast. Now, I'm in my office, reading the news and blogs, will be cleaning up my emails, reading the weekend WSJ.

I finished the Jecks book last night. I've got a 14-day library book now, GARMENT OF SHADOWS by Laurie R King. This is 13th of 13 in series featuring Mary Russell, student and then wife of Sherlock Holmes. Here is a description:

In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: Who am I? She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north. Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim—who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for herself, each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.

It was published in September 2012 and has 288 pages. For some reason, as many times as I tried to read the previous book, PIRATE KING, I couldn't get into it though I enjoy this series. I'm hoping this book will bring me back.

I urge you to take the time to read the previous post, the current events post for today. It is excellent and well worth it.

Tonight, I'm making enchiladas and we'll watch some TV. Then the weekend will be over, all too quickly.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster 

Current Events - September 30, 2012

Mainstream media is threatening our country's future

Published September 29, 2012

Editor's note: The following text is from a speech delivered by Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor Patrick Caddell on September 21. It was delivered at Accuracy in Media's Conference: Obamanation: A Day of Truth. The title of the speech was “The Audacity of Corruption.” For more on Accuracy in Media, click here.

I think we’re at the most dangerous time in our political history in terms of the balance of power in the role that the media plays in whether or not we maintain a free democracy or not.  You know, when I first started in politics – and for a long time before that – everyone on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, despised the press commonly, because they were SOBs to everybody.  Which is exactly what they should be.  They were unrelenting.  Whatever the biases were, they were essentially equal-opportunity people.
That changed in 1980.
There are a lot of reasons for it. It changed—an important point in the Dukakis-Bush election, when the press literally was trying to get Dukakis elected by ignoring what was happening in Massachusetts, with a candidate who was running on the platform of “He will do for America what he did for Massachusetts”—while they were on the verge of bankruptcy.
Also the change from evening news emphasis to morning news by the networks is another factor that’s been pointed out to me.
Most recently, what I call the nepotism that exists, where people get jobs—they’re married to people who are in the administration, or in politics, whatever.
But the overwhelming bias has become very real and very dangerous. We have a First Amendment for one reason. We have a First Amendment not because the Founding Fathers liked the press—they hated the press—but they believed, as [Thomas] Jefferson said, that in order to have a free country, in order to be a free people, we needed a free press.  That was the job—so there was an implicit bargain in the First Amendment, the press being the only institution, at that time, which was in our process of which there was no checks and balances.
We designed a constitutional system with many checks and balances.  The one that had no checks and balances was the press, and that was done under an implicit understanding that, somehow, the press would protect the people from the government and the power by telling—somehow allowing—people to have the truth.  That is being abrogated as we speak, and has been for some time.  It is now creating the danger that I spoke to.
This morning, just this morning, Gallup released their latest poll on the trust, how much trust [the American people have in the press] —when it comes to reporting the news accurately, fairly, and fully, and [the level of their distrust] it’s the highest in history.  For the first time, 60% of the people said they had “Not very much” or “None at all.”  Of course there was a partisan break: There were 40% who believed it did, Democrats, 58% believed that it was fair and accurate, Republicans were 26%, independents were 31%.
So there is this contempt for the media – or this belief—and there are many other polls that show it as well.
I want to just use a few examples, because I think we crossed the line the last few weeks that is terrifying.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece which was called “The Audacity of Cronyism” in Breitbart, and my talk today is “The Audacity of Corruption.”  What I pointed out was, that it was appalling that Valerie Jarrett had a Secret Service detail.  A staff member in the White House who is a senior aide and has a full Secret Service detail, even while on vacation, and nobody in the press had asked why.  That has become more poignant, as I said, last week, when we discovered that we had an American ambassador, on the anniversary of 9/11, who was without adequate security—while she still has a Secret Service detail assigned to her full-time, at a massive cost, and no one in the media has gone to ask why.
The same thing: I raised the question of David Plouffe.  David Plouffe, who is the White House’s Senior Adviser—and was Obama’s campaign manager last time, he and [David] Axelrod sort of switched out, Axelrod going back to Chicago for the campaign—and just after it was announced that he was coming, an Iranian front group in Nigeria gave him $100,000 to give two speeches in Nigeria.
Now, let me tell you: There’s nobody that hands—no stranger gives you $100,000 and doesn’t expect something in return, unless you live in a world that I don’t.  And no one has raised this in the mainstream media.
He was on with George Stephanopoulos, on ABC, a couple of weeks ago, and they were going through all these questions.  No one asked him whatsoever about that.  He was not inquired.  George Stephanopoulos, a former advisor to Bill Clinton—who every morning, while Rahm Emmanuel was Chief of Staff, had his call with Rahm Emmanuel and James Carville, and the three of them have been doing it for years—and he is held out as a journalist. He has two platforms.  I mean, he’s a political hack masquerading as a journalist. But when you don’t ask the questions you need to ask of someone like David Plouffe, who’s going in the White House—when we’re talking about Iran.
I just finished surveys, some of you may have seen, with John McLaughlin this week, with Secure America Now, and found out just how strongly Americans are concerned with Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, what’s happening in the Middle East, and cuts in defense spending.
This is not the place for that, but it strikes me as the American people identify, in the polling we’ve done over the last year, Iran as the single greatest danger to the United States.  And here’s a man who’s being paid by an already named front group for that—for a terrorist regime, and is not asked about it, or queried about it!
The third thing I would say is that—then there’s of course [National Security Advisor] Tom Donilon, who I know very well from years back, who I caused a little bit of a stir over a few months ago when I said he was the “leaker-in-chief.”
I mean this ridiculous running around—“How did these secrets get out?”—when it is clear he has no credentials for foreign policy; who has been in the White House; who was a political operative for Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter, and others; who was known to have, in my opinion, to be just the most amoral person I know in politics; and who is using and orchestrating national security.  In Mr. [David] Sanger’s book [Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power], as a reviewer at [The New York Times] said, “The hero of this book, and the clear source of it, is Tom Donilon”—but let me just make a point.  Neither does—and I would say this to the Congressman—“You know, all the Republicans have to do”—you know, I talk often about the “Corrupt Party” and the “Stupid Party,” but the Stupid Party couldn’t be stupider when it comes to things like this.  They could have called Tom Donilon and other people down to the Congress, put them under oath, and asked them if they had leaked.
Instead you have Eric Holder, who runs the most political Justice Department since John Mitchell—only in John Mitchell’s administration did we have Justice Departments that were so politicized and so corrupted by politics—and he appoints someone who gave two people to do a study on the leaks, sometime in the next century will come out, and one of them is a, was a contributor to Barack Obama when he was a state Senator.  That’s a really unbiased source!  And the press, of course, won’t look into this.
 It will not ask the question. But the Republicans could have called them down.  Yes, the president could have extended Executive Privilege, but let him say “I will not answer that question, sir” on the question of “Did you leak these secrets that Dianne Feinstein, the Chairman, the Democratic Chairman, of the Senate Intelligence Committee said were endangering national security and American lives?”  As she said when she read Sanger’s book, “My God, every page I turn I learn something that I don’t know!”  I mean, these are serious matters but in Washington they’re playful, and the press does not pursue any of them.
Peter Schweizer has done a study talking about corruption.  Sixty percent or 80%—it’s closer to 80%  I think, now—of the money given under the stimulus to green energy projects—the president and this administration’s great project—has gone to people who are either bundlers or major contributors to Barack Obama.
But nobody says a word.
Of course Republicans don’t raise it because in Washington, they simply want to do it when they get back in power.  And, of course, the press doesn’t because they basically have taken themselves out of doing their job.
When we see what happened this week in Libya—and when I said I was more frightened than I’ve ever been, this is true, because I think it’s one thing that, as they did in 2008, when the mainstream press, the mainstream media and all the press, jumped on the Obama bandwagon and made it a moral commitment on their part to help him get elected in a way that has never happened, whatever the biases in the past.
To give you an example of the difference, I’ll just shortly tell you this: In 1980, when [Jimmy] Carter was running for reelection, the press—even though 80% of them, after the election, reporters said they voted for Carter over [Ronald] Reagan, or 70% percent of them, a very high percentage—they believed, so much, that the Carter campaign and the Carter White House had abused the Rose Garden against [Ted] Kennedy that they made a commitment, as they discussed, that they would not serve as the attack dogs on Reagan for the Carter White House because they thought it was unfair and they weren’t to be manipulated.
I totally disagree with their analysis, but that was when you actually had a press corps.  Whatever their own personal feelings, they made judgments that were, “We’re not going to be manipulated.”
This press corps serves at the pleasure of this White House and president, led by people like Ezra Klein and JournoList, where they plot the stories together.  The problem here is that no one will name names.
But I want to talk about this Libyan thing, because we crossed some lines here. It’s not about politics. First of all we’ve had nine day of lies over what happened because they can’t dare say it’s a terrorist attack, and the press won’t push this. Yesterday there was not a single piece in The New York Times over the question of Libya.
Twenty American embassies, yesterday, were under attack.  None of that is on the national news.  None of it is being pressed in the papers.
If a president of either party—I don’t care whether it was Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or George Bush or Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush—had a terrorist incident, and got on an airplane after saying something, and flown off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas, they would have been crucified!  It would have been—it should have been the equivalent, for Barack Obama, of George Bush’s “flying over Katrina” moment.  But nothing was said at all, and nothing will be said.
It is one thing to bias the news, or have a biased view.  It is another thing to specifically decide that you will not tell the American people information they have a right to know, and I choose right now, openly, and this is—if I had more time I’d do all the names for it—but The New York Times, The Washington Post, or the most important papers that influence the networks, ABC, NBC, and, to a lesser extent—because CBS has actually been on this story, partly because the President of Libya appeared on [Bob Schieffer’s “Face the Nation”] and said, on Sunday, while [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.] Susan Rice was out—the U.N. Ambassador has no portfolio on this matter—lying, said of the Secretary—you know why, notice the Secretary of State wasn’t out there doing this—was on national television, lying and promoting the White House line while the Libyan President, the very same moment, is saying “This is a premeditated attack.”
Nobody has asked that question.  This morning—take a look at The New York Times this morning, it’s a minor reference.  Oh, now we’ve decided that it was a terrorist incident.  But this is—that would have changed, that should change the politics.
This is not without accomplices, because the incompetence of the [Mitt] Romney campaign, which I said a week ago is the—my God!—the worst campaign in my lifetime, and the Republican establishment in general’s inability to fight, has allowed these things to happen in part because they don’t do it.  But I want to go through two other quick points.
[Mohamed] Morsi and Egypt: The President of Egypt, we find out now, that his whole agenda has been getting the “Blind Sheikh” [Omar Abdel-Rahman], who’s responsible for the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, out of jail.  Prison.  I’ve been told specifically, by a member of the intelligence community that the White House and State Department are negotiating that now.
They have now come out and denied it, but [Morsi] comes out, that they ordered—he’s the head of the Muslim Brotherhood!  The American people know what they think of the Muslim Brotherhood: They are against them eleven to one, all right? And he’s the president of the Muslim Brotherhood, giving $2 billion to United States.
He tells them—we had advance warning because they had said they were gonna do this, attack our embassy.  The president—after the incident, after 48 hours, Mr. Morsi does nothing and says nothing—picks up the phone, calls him, and demands that they call it off.
On Friday—last Friday, a week ago today—there was supposed to be a big demonstration.  We thought that would be the big day—no, it disappeared, because Morsi called it off.  But no press person has investigated this, just as no press person will go and ask the most obvious questions, when there are really good stories here, good media stories, and good news stories.  They are in the tank and this is a frightening thing.
Another example has been the polling, which everyone wants to talk to me about.  Look: There is no doubt that Romney is blowing an election he could not lose, and has done everything he can to lose it.
But the bias, the polling, it’s very complicated.  Some of it is error, some of it is miscalculation, but some of it is deliberate, in my opinion—to pump up the numbers using the 2008 base to give a sense of momentum to the Obama campaign.
When I have polls that have the preference of Democrats over Republicans higher than it was in 2008, which was a peak Democratic year, I know I am dealing with a poll that shouldn’t be reported.  And yet they are being done, and they are being done with that knowledge and with that basis for some people, and the answer, as I said, some of it is incompetence, some of it is they just don’t know, really know, how to handle it, and some of it is on purpose, and it’s purposeful.
But all of it is just to serve a basic point, just as JournoList was—Mr. Klein’s JournoList—but as I said there is no pushback.
We have a political campaign where, to put the best metaphor I can on it, where the referees on the field are sacking the quarterback of one team, tripping up their runners, throwing their bodies in front of blockers, and nobody says anything. The Republicans don’t.
The reason you will lose this battle is for one reason.  Despite organizations like Accuracy In Media and others who are pointing this out, and the fact that 60% of the American people are in on the secret here—I mean, they’re no idiots—Republicans and those candidates who are not the candidates of the press refuse to call them out.
If I were the Romney campaign I would’ve been doing this for months!  I’d have been looking at individual reporters!  I would be telling the American people, “They’re not trying to stop me; they’re trying to stop you!  And they are here to do this!”  And I would have made the press themselves an issue because, until you do, what happens is, they are given the basic concession of authenticity and accuracy, or that they are credible, by not doing that.
Now too many reporters, too many political people in the Republican Party in this town, want to maintain their relationships with the press.  This is how Sarah Palin got handed over to Katie Couric and to ABC before she was ready—because Steve Schmidt and others want to preserve their view, their relationships with the press.
You know, people have their own agendas, and often it’s not winning. But this not-pushing-back is a problem, and they don’t do it.  And, you know what this is a different era: The old argument of “You don’t attack someone in the press”—or “You don’t get in a pissing match with someone who buys ink by the barrel”—doesn’t apply anymore.  There are too many outlets, too many ways to do it, and the country doesn’t have the confidence in the press that they once had.
But all I want to conclude to this is that we face a fundamental danger here. The fundamental danger is this: I talked about the defense of the First Amendment. The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power.  When they desert those ramparts and decide that they will now become active participants, that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know,  they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.
And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.
Delivered by Patrick Caddell on September 21 at Accuracy in Media's Conference --Obamanation: A Day of Truth

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Usually they just blame the dog

I've got about five minutes to do this post. Almost forgot but now time limited. I've got Papa Murphy's pizza in the oven.

Vacuumed, laundry, mowed. Walked dogs. Napped. Read. It's a Saturday.

Now, pizza and something on TV. Maybe one of the DVDs.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday! I've waited all week for you!


Last night we went to Jakes for dinner for our anniversary. I had a nummy pasta dish with chicken, mushrooms, artichoke hearts in a creamy tomato wine sauce that I wanted to lick the dish when I was done. But I didn't. Steve had chicken fried steak and garlic mashed potatoes. No room for dessert, darnit.

Ok. I'm worn out from the week. I'm fixing dinner and then will watch Say Yes to the Dress and Strike Back.

I hope to finish a book this weekend. I'd like to complete five reads for the month.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events - September 28, 2012

An intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News that no threat assessment was conducted before U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team began "taking up residence" at the Benghazi compound -- describing the security lapses as a "total failure." The source told Fox News that there was no real security equipment installed in the villas on the compound except for a few video cameras. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, the intelligence source said the security lapses were a 10 -- a "total failure" because Benghazi was known to be a major area for extremist activity.

On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama ordered federal officials to “usher in a new era of open government” and “act promptly” to make information public. As Obama nears the end of his term, his administration hasn’t met those goals, failing to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, according to an analysis of open-government requests filed by Bloomberg News.

Nineteen of 20 cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the law requiring the disclosure of public information: The cost of travel by top officials. In all, just eight of the 57 federal agencies met Bloomberg’s request for those documents within the 20-day window required by the Act.

“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk,’” said Daniel Metcalfe, director of the Department of Justice’s office monitoring the government’s compliance with FOIA requests from 1981 to 2007.

The Bloomberg survey was designed in part to gauge the timeliness of responses, which Attorney General Eric Holder called “an essential component of transparency” in a March 2009 memo. About half of the 57 agencies eventually disclosed the out-of-town travel expenses generated by their top official by Sept. 14, most of them well past the legal deadline.

Politico ran a story Wednesday that raised the question of whether the Republican VP nominee had "cut corners" with his budget plan by making some tweaks to his projections on Medicare growth. One issue, though: President Obama makes the same assumptions in his own budget projections. For new enrollees, [Ryan] assumes Medicare will grow at a rate equal to that of the per capita GDP, plus .5 percent. That's down a half a percentage point from the original projection of GDP plus 1 percent. Without that change, Politico noted, "the House Republican budget would still be in the red in 2040." Obama, though, uses the same GDP-plus-.5 percent assumption in his own budget plan.

Politico acknowledged this, but not until the latter half of the story -- in which Ryan aide Michael Steel defended Ryan's change, saying they're trying to show a "consistent connection" between the GOP approach and Obama's approach.

The difference between the plans is the president would ensure the spending restraint by empowering a board to make cuts as needed to Medicare providers. Ryan proposes to get his savings through competition of private plans that must offer the same benefits as Medicare.

On Wednesday, MSNBC aired a clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading what looks like a failed “Romney-Ryan” chant at a campaign stop in Ohio on Tuesday. If you listen closely, it’s obvious the audio in the clip has been adjusted. However, that’s not uncommon — and that doesn‘t necessarily mean it’s MSNBC who did it. Sound technicians usually cut out the audience to ensure speakers aren’t drowned out (which you can do by simply turning the mics up and down — or you can do after the fact).

However, where the controversy comes in is in the caption on the screen quoting the audience as chanting “Ryan!” Why is that controversial? Because people who attended the event say that’s not what happened, and that the MSNBC video grossly misrepresents what actually occurred.

Indeed, the MSNBC closed captions claims the was crowd chanting “Ryan!“ when attendees say they were actually chanting ”Romney!” Obviously, this changes a lot about the situation. Instead of awkwardly inserting his name into what sounds like a failed chant, Gov. Romney was actually including his running mate in a crowd chant of his own name. In fact, footage from C-SPAN’s archives would seem back up this claim. (list of multiple other first hand and news organizations reports confirm – NBC, NYTimes, etc.)

If you believe the first hand accounts, the question then remains: did MSNBC intentionally mislead the audience into thinking the crowd was chanting “Ryan” in order to make Romney look foolish, or did they misinterpret it on accident?

Obama's Dereliction of Duty

By Mark Salter - September 27, 2012
I recently criticized Mitt Romney for making the ludicrous argument that a statement by an anxious American embassy official in Cairo constituted an Obama administration apology for American policies and values, and was thus part of a mea culpa mind-set that helped incite the mobs that besieged our embassy in Egypt and the terrorists who murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya. I wrote then and still believe that it was not Governor Romney's finest moment.
This week the president of the United States and purported leader of the free world breezed into New York City for a quick game of softball catch with the ladies of “The View,” and a drop-by at the United Nations General Assembly to give a speech. Then he was off to Ohio to resume his most pressing engagement, his re-election campaign, having refused to be detained by pesky world leaders whose requests to meet with him were rebuffed en mass.
Of the two transgressions, Romney’s specious charge and Obama’s dereliction of duty, the latter is by far the most egregious.
The world must be more tranquil than it appears to be on television to afford the commander-in-chief the luxury of exiting the world stage, which this week is located in New York, for the ruder rigors of the campaign trail.
To the untrained eye it seems quite the opposite, what with anti-American mobs raging for the better part of two weeks throughout the Muslim world, deadly terrorist attacks on American diplomats in Libya and American soldiers in Afghanistan, the bloody Syrian civil war, increasing sectarian strife in Iraq, the Eurozone crisis that occasioned riots in Spain this week, and various other worrying developments.
Meetings between the president and various heads of state would not instantly ameliorate any of these problems. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s been designated as a sort of acting chief executive this week, will, I’m sure, manage the responsibility competently.
But when a president who is battling perceptions that America’s world leadership has been timid and uncertain lately, and who’s been credibly criticized for failing to develop the close relationships with foreign leaders that are useful for anticipating and shaping world events, gives foreign leaders the impression that he prefers Whoopi Goldberg’s company to theirs, he hardly increases his influence with them.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed any such concerns by giving reporters an emphatic civics lesson. “[W]hen you're president of the United States, your responsibility as commander-in-chief never ends, and you are constantly engaged in matters of foreign affairs and national security," he informed them.
Regarding Obama’s brief U.N. appearance and hasty exit, Carney insisted it had nothing to do with the re-election campaign. That explanation was belied by campaign aides who seemed to background every reporter and talking head in Washington that they refused the requests for meetings because they didn’t want to risk any hard-to-spin surprises that might arise during them and potentially trouble the president’s re-election. You never know when a hot mike will pick up the president making promises to a Russian autocrat that some voters might find worrying.
Also, “being constantly engaged in matters of foreign affairs and national security” can be downright inconvenient at times and rather tedious.
“Look, if he met with one leader,” an Obama aide lamented to the New York Times, “he’d have to meet with 10.”
This kind of political self-interest and cynicism has been a regular feature of Obama’s tenure in office. To my mind, the most telling example is his Afghanistan policy.
As he promised to do as a candidate four years ago, Obama dispatched more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But he insisted he would withdraw them by a specific date irrespective of whether they could complete their mission in that time. It might be overly suspicious of me, but I assume the purpose of substituting a date for an exit strategy was to allow the president to claim to American voters in 2012 that he was winding down our engagement in a war he had promised to win in 2008.
He is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to calculate his own interests before the nation’s, but such a failing can exacerbate the problems confronting the United States beyond our shores. Steadfastly refusing to play a leadership role -- or even recommending a coherent strategy -- to stop Bashar Assad from destroying his own country has worsened the very concerns the president cited as explanations for his inaction: a rebellion becoming an all-out civil war that destabilizes the region, and the participation of jihadists in the rebellion and its aftermath. In the process, Obama has managed to put the U.S. at odds with almost all countries concerned about Syria, friend and foe alike.
That’s quite an accomplishment.
Refusing bilateral meetings with foreign leaders is a small offense compared to his more damaging failures abroad. But it is further evidence that the White House incumbent believes his re-election is in the nation’s and the world’s paramount interest -- and that’s reason enough to vote for his challenger. 
Mark Salter is the former chief of staff to Senator John McCain and was a senior adviser to the McCain for President campaign.

From The Heritage Foundation:
President Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday - and what a disappointing speech it was.

He actually scrapped his original speech outline to focus on the controversial YouTube video that many have suggested sparked recent anti-American attacks in the Middle East, including one in Libya that killed a U.S. Ambassador and other Americans. Making this video the focus of his speech was inappropriate. He should have used the international platform to make an unapologetic case for freedom. The President failed the American people—and America’s allies—in five major ways.

1. He failed to give a robust defense of free speech.

In tripping over the YouTube video that was offensive to Muslims, the President seemed to validate other countries’ disregard for freedom of speech:
I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond.

He also admonished people for offending others, saying, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.”

The President probably thought he was being clever, turning the argument around on those calling for restrictions on free speech. But it would not be surprising if there were a number of nodding heads in the audience agreeing that all such “incitement” should be banned. That comment could, and probably will, be interpreted as a backhand endorsement of efforts to restrict free speech like the “defamation of religions” resolutions offered by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the U.N. and the Human Rights Council.

Heritage expert Brett Schaefer responded that:
President Obama spent less time defending free speech than he did outlining a vague vision for a world with tolerance and diversity as its key ideals. Perhaps this lopsided emphasis sought to reinforce the administration’s dubious claim that only hateful speech is to blame for the attacks on our embassies, but the overall effect was to lend credibility to the notion that governments should be policing speech.

Instead of free speech, the Obama Administration has had a policy of apologetic speech. The Administration supported a U.N. “anti-blasphemy” resolution last year that threatens freedom of speech by condemning any expression that could be deemed “defamation of religion.” The President’s words yesterday continued this weak, apologetic stance.

2. He tiptoed around Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will speak to the U.N. today, but he’s already made his positions quite clear. This week, Iran has escalated threats against Israel and the United States, and Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be “eliminated” and that a “new order” should emerge, without the U.S. as a superpower.

In response, the President made a “milquetoast statement,” said Heritage’s Nile Gardiner, projecting “a dangerous leading-from-behind mentality at a time when the free world needs bold U.S. leadership.” The President continues to pay lip service to diplomacy with Iran, when the time has clearly passed for this approach.

3. He failed to give Israel strong backing.

Heritage’s Gardiner lamented that “Yet again, Obama drew moral equivalence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a theme he has frequently expounded upon since taking office.” Palestine continues to edge its way into U.N. organizations, pursuing statehood without negotiating with Israel. The President should have taken a hard line against this. Instead, he made U.S. support for Israel—America’s steadfast ally in the Middle East—a mere footnote in his speech.

4. He did not promote economic freedom.

Heritage experts said ahead of the speech that President Obama should call for “a new era of economic liberalization to expand economic freedom around the globe and ensure that the opportunities of a globalized and interdependent world economy are available to all citizens.” This is the key to raising people out of poverty and giving them alternatives to joining radicalized groups. However, the Obama Administration has failed to increase economic freedom at home or to promote it vigorously abroad.

5. He failed to project American strength.

The United Nations General Assembly is an odd place where oppressive dictators are given the same platform as free nations. It is a unique opportunity to remind the world why people risk their lives to come to America, and to recommit to protecting the freedoms that make that risk worthwhile. As Heritage’s Kim Holmes has said:
We should never allow the U.N. or anyone to abuse the mantra of human rights to undermine our sovereign constitutional system which not only protects our God-given rights and the liberty to govern ourselves but also offers the best model for others to do the same.

No American should speak apologetically about America. Especially not the President.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Steve

Fifteen years ago today I married Steve.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current events - Sept 27 2012

Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion dollars on everything from staffing, housing, flying and entertaining President Obama and his family last year, according to the author of a new book on taxpayer-funded presidential perks. In comparison, British taxpayers spent just $57.8 million on the royal family.

Gray told The Daily Caller that the $1.4 billion spent on the Obama family last year is the “total cost of the presidency,” factoring the cost of the “biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever,” a 50 percent increase in the numbers of appointed czars and an Air Force One “running with the frequency of a scheduled air line.”

Specifically, Gray said taxpayer dollars are subsidizing Obama’s re-election effort when he uses Air Force One to jet across the country campaigning. Gray worked in the Eisenhower administration and for other Republican presidents.

“I can't quite decide which element of this video is most galling.  Is it that a CNN and MSNBC regular decided to bring a camera crew along to capture her criminal act for posterity?  Or could it be that this one-time Reuters "journalist" clearly has absolutely no concept of what "freedom of speech" actually means? "I need to know what you're arresting me for!"  She looks genuinely puzzled, as if she has no clue that vandalism is against the law.  Feigned ignorance for the purposes of maximizing drama and victimhood, or the real thing?  Another tough call.”

“[Her reaction] is completely predictable, replete with ironic cries of “free speech” as she tries to literally blot out someone else’s message. She seems honestly shocked when the cops show up and cart her away for graffiti. This is “free speech” in the same way it’s “free speech” for you to put a piece of duct tape over someone’s mouth. One’s a property crime, the other’s battery, but the point in both cases is to silence a speaker with whom you disagree.”

In any kind of confused overseas event, initial reports are often wrong. But the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, is a case study of how an administration can carefully keep the focus as long as possible on one storyline — and then turn on a dime when it is no longer tenable.  For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

As a reader service, we have compiled a comprehensive timeline of administration statements, showing the evolution in talking points, with key phrases highlighted in bold. Many readers sent suggestions for this timeline, for which we are deeply grateful.

We will leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions on whether this is merely the result of the fog of war and diplomacy — or a deliberate effort to steer the storyline away from more politically damaging questions. After all, in a competitive election, two weeks is a lifetime.

Initially, ‘an attack’ — and focus on a video

 “Yesterday, our U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings. American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together. Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, State Department Treaty room, Sept. 12

“Frankly, we are not in a position to speak any further to the perpetrators of this attack. It was clearly a complex attack. We’re going to have to do a full investigation.”
— Unnamed senior administration official, briefing reporters in a conference call, Sept. 12

“I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. America has a history of religious tolerance and respect for religious beliefs that goes back to our nation’s founding. We are stronger because we are the home to people of all religions, including millions of Muslims, and we reject the denigration of religion. We also believe that there is no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence.”
— White House spokesman Jay Carney, news briefing, Sept. 13

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.”
— Clinton, transfer of remains ceremony, Sept. 14

 “I have seen that report, and the story is absolutely wrong. We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.  That report is false.”
— Carney, news briefing, Sept. 14

“Based on the best information we have to date ... it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.... We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
— Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sept. 16

“We had a substantial security presence with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically, two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.”
— Rice, on ABC’s “This Week,” Sept. 16

(Note: the U.S. post was not a consulate and its precise role is still a mystery.)

“The way these perpetrators acted and moved, and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.”
— Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf, president of Libya’s General National Congress, Sept. 16

QUESTION: “Simply on the basis of what Ambassador Rice has publicly disclosed, does the United States Government regard what happened in Benghazi as an act of terror?”
SPOKESWOMAN VICTORIA NULAND: “Again, I’m not going to put labels on this until we have a complete investigation, okay?”
QUESTION: “You don’t — so you don’t regard it as an act of terrorism?”
NULAND: “I don’t think we know enough. I don’t think we know enough. And we’re going to continue to assess. She gave our preliminary assessment. We’re going to have a full investigation now, and then we’ll be in a better position to put labels on things, okay?”
— exchange at State Department briefing, Sept. 17

“Well, you’re conveniently conflating two things, which is the anniversary of 9/11 and the incidents that took place, which are under investigation and the cause and motivation behind them will be decided by that investigation.”
— Carney, news briefing, Sept. 17

Suddenly, a shift to a ‘terrorist attack’

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy….The best information we have now, the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy. The attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours at our embassy — our diplomatic post in Benghazi. It evolved and escalated over several hours.

“It appears that individuals who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded that evening and into the — into the morning hours of September 12th. We do know that a number of militants in the area, as I mentioned, are well-armed and maintain those arms. What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.

“We are focused on who was responsible for this attack. At this point, what I would say is that a number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area, as well. We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda's affiliates; in particular, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
— Mathew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testimony before Congress, Sept. 19, after being asked a direct question.

CNN reports on Sept. 19 that Ambassador Christopher Stevens had been worried by the security threats in Benghazi. CNN later acknowledged the information came from Steven’s journal.
 “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Our embassy was attacked violently, and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that's self- evident.

“He also made clear that at this point, based on the information he has — and he is briefing the Hill on the most up-to-date intelligence — we have no information at this point that suggests that this was a significantly preplanned attack, but this was the result of opportunism, taking advantage of and exploiting what was happening as a result of reaction to the video that was found to be offensive.”
— Carney, news briefing, Sept. 20

CBS News reports there never was anti-American protest.
“Witnesses tell CBS News that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate. Instead they say it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the administration’s account.”
— Margaret Brennan CBS News correspondent, CBS News report aired Sept. 20

But Obama resists saying the ‘t’ word…

OBAMA: “What we’ve seen over the last week, week and a half, is something that actually we've seen in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is obviously something that then is used as an excuse by some to carry out inexcusable violent acts directed at Westerners or Americans.
 “And my number-one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe and to keep our embassies safe. And so when the initial events happened in Cairo and all across the region, we worked with Secretary Clinton to redouble our security and to send a message to the leaders of these countries, essentially saying, although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, how we treat each other with respect when it comes to their religious beliefs, but we will not tolerate violence.”
QUESTION: “We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al-Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
OBAMA:  “Well, we're still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”
— President Obama, Univision Town Hall, Sept. 20

“What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.”
— Clinton, statement at a  meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Sept. 21, 2012

“As we all know, the United States lost a great ambassador and the Libyan people lost a true friend when Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the terrorist assault on our consulate in Benghazi.”
— Clinton, meeting with Libyan President Magariaf , Sept. 24

QUESTION:  “I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?”
OBAMA: “We are still doing an investigation. There is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we are still gathering.”
— Obama, on ABC’s “The View,” Sept. 25

“That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.  Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.”
— Obama, speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 25

 “It was a preplanned act of terrorism directed against American citizens.”
— Magariaf, on NBC’s “Today” show, Sept. 26

“For some time, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”
— Clinton, at the United Nations, Sept. 26

 QUESTION: “Is there any reason why the President did not — he was asked point-blank in The View interview, is this a terrorist attack, yes or no?  Is there any reason why he didn’t say yes?”
CARNEY: “He answered the question that he was asked, and there's no reason that he chose the words he did beyond trying to provide a full explanation of his views and his assessment that we need to await further information that the investigation will uncover.  But it is certainly the case that it is our view as an administration, the President’s view, that it was a terrorist attack.”
— Carney, news briefing, Sept. 26


U.S. intelligence officials knew within 24 hours of the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that it was a terrorist attack and suspected Al Qaeda-tied elements were involved, sources told Fox News -- though it took the administration a week to acknowledge it. 
The account sharply conflicts with claims on the Sunday after the attack by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice that the administration believed the strike was a "spontaneous" event triggered by protests in Egypt over an anti-Islam film. 

Two senior U.S. officials said that the Obama administration internally labeled the attack terrorism from the first day in order to unlock and mobilize certain resources to respond, and that officials were looking for one specific suspect. The officials said the intelligence community knew by Sept. 12 that the militant Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were likely behind the strike. 

Further, an official said, "No one ... believed that the mortars, indirect and direct fire, and the RPGs were just the work of a mob -- no one." 

The Libya Debacle

The more we learn, the more Benghazi looks like a gross security failure.

In his United Nations speech on Tuesday, President Obama talked about the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and declared that "there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice." What he didn't say is how relentless he'll be in tracking down the security lapses and intelligence failures that contributed to the murders. Let's say there's some doubt about that.

None of the initial explanations offered by the White House and State Department since the assault on the Benghazi consulate has held up. First the Administration blamed protests provoked by an amateurish anti-Islam clip posted on YouTube. Cue Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador and leading candidate for Secretary of State in a second Obama term: "What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . . . as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent."

Administration officials also maintained that the diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, the site of the first attacks this September 11, were properly defended and that the U.S. had no reason to prepare for any attack. "The office of the director of National Intelligence has said we have no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week, calling the security measures in place there "robust."

Cell phone video footage and witness testimony from Benghazi soon undercut the Administration trope of an angry march "hijacked" by a few bad people. As it turned out, the assault was well-coordinated, with fighters armed with guns, RPGs and diesel canisters, which were used to set the buildings on fire. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation. Briefing Congress, the Administration changed its story and said the attacks were pre-planned and linked to al Qaeda.

You'd think this admission would focus attention on why the compound was so vulnerable to begin with. But the Administration wants to avoid this conversation. The removal of all staff from Benghazi, including a large component of intelligence officers, would also seem to hinder their ability to investigate the attacks and bring the killers to justice.

Journalists have stayed on the case, however, and their reporting is filling in the Administration's holes. On Friday, our WSJ colleagues showed that starting in spring, U.S. intelligence had been worried about radical militias in eastern Libya. These armed groups helped topple Moammar Ghadhafi last year but weren't demobilized as a new government has slowly found its legs. As we've noted since last winter, the waning of American and European interest in Libya could have dangerous consequences.

Deteriorating security was no secret. On April 10, for example, an explosive device was thrown at a convoy carrying U.N. envoy Ian Martin. On June 6, an improvised explosive device exploded outside the U.S. consulate. In late August, State warned American citizens who were planning to travel to Libya about the threat of assassinations and car bombings.

Despite all this, U.S. diplomatic missions had minimal security. Officials told the Journal that the Administration put too much faith in weak Libyan police and military forces. The night of the Benghazi attack, four lightly armed Libyans and five American security officers were on duty. The complex lacked smoke-protection masks and fire extinguishers. Neither the consulate in Benghazi nor the embassy in Tripoli were guarded by U.S. Marines, whose deployment to Libya wasn't a priority.

Rummaging through the Benghazi compound, a CNN reporter found a seven-page notebook belonging to Ambassador Stevens. According to the network, the diary said he was concerned about the "never-ending" security threats in Benghazi and wrote that he was on an al Qaeda hit list. In deference to the family's wishes, CNN didn't quote directly from the diary and didn't divulge any private information in it.

His worries are newsworthy, however, and can inform America's response. But Mrs. Clinton's long-time and closest media adviser chose to attack CNN. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines called the network's conduct "disgusting." He then deployed words not fit for a family newspaper in an exchange with a reporter for the Web site BuzzFeed. Mr. Reines may wish to protect his boss's legacy for her 2016 Presidential run, but that won't be enhanced by the appearance of a cover-up.

Imagine the uproar if, barely a month before Election Day, the Bush Administration had responded to a terrorist strike—on Sept. 11 no less—in this fashion. Obfuscating about what happened. Refusing to acknowledge that clear security warnings were apparently ignored. Then trying to shoot the messengers who bring these inconvenient truths to light in order to talk about anything but a stunning and deadly attack on U.S. sovereign territory.

Four Americans lost their lives in Benghazi in a terrorist attack that evidence suggests should have been anticipated and might have been stopped. Rather than accept responsibility, the Administration has tried to stonewall and blame others. Congress should call hearings to hold someone accountable for this debacle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oh yeah.

And another day goes by.

I don't have anything on TV and I hope I don't get sucked into anything while having dinner. I'd really really like to read the WSJ and then a book. Didn't get to any book reading last night.

Steve has shooting tonight. I've walked the boys and figuring out something for dinner. Maybe chili or soup.

The sun has sure been strange in the mornings with all the smoke. Just a red ball. Looks like something out of science fiction movies.

I have to quickly post some stuff to Facebook -- spreading the current events of today's post earlier.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events September 26th

None of the excuses make any sense -- 'he's too busy campaigning,' 'he can talk to them on the phone anytime,' 'he can't meet with everyone, so he's meeting with no one.' Everyone is missing the point. In an election year, if the president meets with world leaders, his opponent has the right to ask for meetings, too. And no world leader, who might  be facing a President Romney in just a few weeks time, dares to refuse that request.

And that is exactly what President Obama wants to avoid -- doing anything that lets Romney look presidential. Obama and his surrogates have been quick to criticize Romney as lacking foreign policy experience. It's hard to make that point if there is photo after photo of Romney grinning and shaking hands with one world leader after another. So from Obama's perspective, there is nothing to be gained by meeting with those leaders in New York.  He's already met with them; he's got those photo ops. But there is everything to be lost -- because Romney does NOT.

The White House is preparing to direct federal agencies to develop voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for owners of power, water and other critical infrastructure facilities, according to people who said they had seen recent drafts of an executive order. The prospective order would give the agencies 90 days to propose new regulations and create a new cybersecurity council at the Department of Homeland Security with representatives from the Defense Department, Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Commerce.

The “controversy” has piqued the interest of liberals, including Slate’s Eric Posner who wonders if the United States “overvalues” the free speech rights enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.  Our own history suggests that they might have a point.”

Posner, who is a University of Chicago law professor argues that government should have the ability to restrict the distribution of ”a video that causes violence abroad and damages America’s reputation.” Since when does a video cause violence?  And to what end should the government have the ability to control such speech?

Posner eloquently exemplifies the flaws in modern liberalism and its limited protection of America’s traditional & constitutional values — Free speech is only free when liberals agree with it.

A college professor has been placed on leave after she allegedly forced her class to sign a pledge to vote for President Obama in the upcoming elections. Early last week Professor Sharon Sweet at Brevard Community College (BCC) allegedly told students to sign a pledge that reads: “I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.” The pledge was printed off of, a website funded by the Obama campaign.

Sweet’s actions may have also violated Florida’s election laws. Section 104.31, of Title IX in chapter 104, states that “no officer or employee of the state... shall... use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or nomination of officer or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.”

Team Obama is laying it on heavy that the president may be the less-prepared candidate because of the demands of his office. “The President will have a little bit of time to review and practice before the debates, but he has had to balance the management of world events, governing, time out campaigning and will have less time than we anticipated to sharpen and cut down his tendency to give long, substantive answers,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told ABC News. One official, lowering the expectations bar even further for Obama, went so far as to note to ABC News that five out of the last six presidential challengers were judged to have won the first debate.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski countered what she called the Democrats’ spin, calling the notion that the president will not be ready for the debates “ridiculous.” “The idea a president who is known for his world class oratory, is a world-class debater who laid waste to Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John McCain, will be unprepared debates is absurd,” she said in a statement to ABC News. “The only handicap he has are his policies that have failed Americans that past four years.”

Management of world events? Governing? When? In between going on The View and fund raising events?

From Heritage Foundation:
"60 Minutes" Contrast Between Romney, Obama on Entitlements
The official, head-to-head debates begin next week, but Sunday’s “60 Minutes” appearances by President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) provided a contrast in the ideas offered on the nation’s entitlements and spending crisis.

For his part, the President punted on a serious question about the nation’s concern over spending—blaming everything on President George W. Bush. Instead of addressing the spending question, he waited for the next question about the national debt, which has increased more than 50 percent since he took office. Then came the familiar refrain of why he’s not responsible for Washington’s overspending or the country’s abysmal fiscal situation:
When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history. And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

These continued excuses ignore the massive increases since the President took office. According to Heritage expert Emily Goff: By fiscal year 2008, the deficit had reached $458.6 billion. The deficit was increasing as Obama came into office, mainly driven by the recession and the first wave of TARP bailouts. But his Administration’s massive stimulus bill sent spending into overdrive and led to a record $1.4 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2009. Deficits have stayed at more than $1 trillion each year since then.

America’s entitlement programs are the major driver of out-of-control spending. Without reform, they would push federal spending to nearly 36 percent of the economy within a generation. Debt held by the public would explode to nearly 200 percent. Serious structural reforms are inevitable—it is merely a question of how we change what we are doing.

In his “60 Minutes” interview, Obama glossed over Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare and the resulting costs for seniors.

Romney, when asked how he would change Social Security, first made clear there should be no changes to benefits for those in or near retirement.

But he went on:
What I’d do with Social Security is say this: that again, people with higher incomes won’t get the same high growth rate in their benefits as people with lower incomes. People who rely on Social Security should see the same kind of growth rate they’ve had in the past. But higher income folks would receive a little less.

As Heritage expert Alison Fraser explains, Social Security is already income-adjusted today. This is called means testing. Benefits are capped for high-income earners, and the calculation of initial benefits a new retiree receives is based on his or her past income. Upper-income retirees pay a much higher tax than those with lower incomes. Romney proposes to extend this income adjusting so that upper-income retirees receive a bit less than they do now.

While many politicians claim that the only way to address entitlements is to raise taxes or cut benefits, expanding means testing is a serious and sound way to pursue reform.

These kinds of solutions can be found in Saving the American Dream, Heritage’s blueprint for solving our spending and debt crises. Saving the American Dream lays out solutions like slowly moving to a flat Social Security benefit that keeps seniors out of poverty, means testing Social Security so that very affluent seniors have a reduced benefit, and moving to a more robust means-tested premium support mechanism for Medicare that offers seniors choice and control over their health dollars and better health outcomes.

Without reforms, entitlement programs will push spending to untenable levels and put undue pressure on vital areas of government such as national defense. The Obama Administration’s comments about reform, like "now is not the time" for fixing Social Security and the need for a "balanced approach," have been proven hollow by its push for tax hikes on job creators. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and the longer Washington wastes time, the harsher the changes will have to be.

This debate is vital. To save the American economy and sustain the safety net for those who need it, spending must be reined in and entitlement programs must be reformed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Photo just makes me happy. Just for me.

Sorry, another quick one tonight.

Work was better but calls equally as rude, irritating, etc. I've walked the dogs and now cooking dinner. I have The Voice in 45 minutes. Steve's not home yet. I've got a slight headache brewing or else it's a low-level cranky -- either way I hate being in that mood. And I'm tired but wired.

The show is only an hour tonight. I'd really like to read my newspaper and some of the book. I picked up a hold from the library today but it would be nice to finish the Jecks before moving on.

Calgon, take me away.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events - regular post this evening

In a monumental screw-up, Port Authority security at Kennedy Airport last week allowed a plane suspected of carrying terrorists and explosives to taxi right to the gate — while diverting a second aircraft that had nothing to do with the scare to an isolated area, a Post investigation has revealed. Making matters worse, those allegedly responsible lied to agency officials and tried to cover up their incompetence by blaming the blunder on the Federal Aviation Administration, a source said.

While Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the United Nations, "Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor walked out of the General Assembly hall," according to the Associated Press. The American delegation, however, remained in the hall to listen to Ahmadinejad. "The U.S. delegation did not walk out of Monday's meeting, as it has in the past when Iran attacked Israel directly," reports the AP.

Somehow the United Nations General Assembly President, Vuk Jeremic manages to say "his excellency" three times in forty seconds There's got to be some appreciation felt by our president when he is finally asked to sit on his excellent throne and speak to his worldly subjects.

The reason why President Obama is not meeting with any foreign leaders during this week's United Nations General Assembly in New York is, as one aide to the president explained, because "If he met with one leader, he would have to meet with 10."Former deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams says this is unprecedented: “I cannot recall an occasion when a president went to speak at the General Assembly and simply refused to meet anyone. Perhaps this is the product of Mr. Obama’s fight with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, for having refused a meeting with him Mr. Obama must now pretend (for obvious political reasons) that it isn’t personal and he simply has no time for these unimportant personal meetings. So dozens of foreign leaders–presidents, prime ministers, sheiks, kings–are in New York, have serious things to say to us, want to hear about our policies, and will not be able to see the president. This is a serious failure by Mr. Obama and limits the effectiveness of American diplomacy. One can only hope that if he is re-elected, Mr. Obama will somehow recognize the costs this failure have imposed. Or perhaps in her exit interview secretary Clinton can explain it to him. Someone should.”
Meanwhile, President Obama sat down with the ladies of The View yesterday for a chat.

RUBIN: “I think you’ve probably hit the nail on the head that the overall approach in these months before the election is do no harm, is get through this period of time and then, you know, there’s time in a second term to do the business of the United States. But again as a foreign policy professional, I’d prefer the campaign didn’t interfere. Obviously it has.”

In remarks this morning to the Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed a radical idea: a global tax on elites around the world. "One of the issues that I have been preaching about around the world is collecting taxes in an equitable manner, especially from the elites in every country," Clinton said to laughter from the audience. "You know I’m out of American politics, but – (applause) – it is a fact that around the world, the elites of every country are making money."
Clinton continued her rift on the rich. "There are rich people everywhere. And yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries." The secretary of state suggested that the rich around the world do not give back to their communities. "They don’t invest in public schools, in public hospitals, in other kinds of development internally," said Clinton.
She continued, saying that it is up to foreign leaders to make the change. "And so it means for leaders telling powerful people things they don’t want to hear," Clinton said. "It means being transparent about budgets and revenues and bringing corruption to light. And when that happens, we shouldn’t punish countries for uncovering corruption. We should reward them for doing so. And it means putting in place regulations designed to attract and protect investment."
Clinton's boss, Barack Obama, has made raising taxes on the rich--at least, raising taxes on wealthy Americans--a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.

From the Heritage Foundation:

Time for a True Opportunity Agenda
Occupy Wall Street's pathetic first birthday last week confirmed that the longstanding reports of the movement's death have not, in fact, been exaggerated. So why are we keeping it alive by talking incessantly about income inequality instead of focusing on what really matters -- opportunity and upward mobility?

All this huffing and puffing about widening income gaps -- coupled with strident calls for wealth redistribution -- detracts from the urgent need to shore up our threatened American Dream and develop an opportunity agenda. The nation's attention should be squarely focused on expanding everyone's prospects -- especially those at the bottom who most need a hand up and a way out.

What matters is not how much more those at the top earn in relation to those at the bottom -- they are, after all, not in competition with one another -- but rather the real needs of those at the bottom and the opportunities for advancement available to all Americans. And while government "spreading the wealth around" would surely equalize outcomes -- the Left's Dream -- it would neither address the real causes of poverty nor expand the real opportunities and earned successes that define the American Dream.

A new Heritage report defends the American Dream from liberalism's misguided attempts to redefine it along statist and egalitarian lines and explains why income inequality is not an obstacle to advancement in the United States. What really matters -- and continues by and large to thrive -- is upward mobility.

Rather than focus on those at the top of the ladder we should be concerned about the hurdles that threaten those struggling to achieve the American Dream. "Defending the Dream" draws attention to six factors that most threaten upward mobility:

  1. Statism: The modern administrative state entangles businesses in a suffocating web of regulations and laws. All of this red tape takes a toll on the economy, which in turn leads to fewer jobs being created. And fewer jobs means fewer opportunities for those most in need of jobs.
  2. The Collapse of the Family: The decline of marriage, especially among the poor, has devastating, long-lasting consequences on children and their prospects for success. When it comes to the American Dream, the family is not a tangential social or religious issue; it is a crucial economic one that is deeply intertwined with mobility.
  3. The Dependency Fostered by the Welfare State: Far from eradicating poverty, the welfare state traps people in poverty by discouraging work and undermining the family.
  4. The Erosion of our Culture of Work: By legitimizing indolence and devaluing hard work, our culture decreases the likelihood that the poor, who are most in need of sound cultural indicators, will take advantage of the opportunities America continues to offer.
  5. The Failures of Public Education: Our failing public schools deny countless children the rudimentary skills they need to move ahead in the life.
  6. The Looming Fiscal Crisis: Unless we change course, continued massive government spending and the surging public debt will destroy the foundations of our economy and put the American Dream beyond the reach of our children and grandchildren.

The rise in income inequality in recent decades has in no way contributed to these problems. They grow out of ill-conceived government policies, point to the complete failure of government to address some of our social problems and, in the case of the collapse of the family, are deep-seated cultural problems encouraged and made worse by governmental policies.

The United States must remain what it has always been: the Land of Opportunity. Misguided efforts to use government to transform it instead into the Land of Income Equality will inevitably leave us all worse off. Our first priority must therefore be to refocus the national conversation and our nation's policies on the promise of upward mobility that is at the heart of the American Dream.