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Monday, November 30, 2009

"[POTUS Barack] Obama Obama Faces Steep Challenges In New Afghan Policy."

Obama faces steep challenges in new Afghan policy
Steven Thomma and Nancy A. Youssef

WASHINGTON — With eight years of blood and treasure already spent and perhaps his presidency hanging in the balance, President Barack Obama will tell the world Tuesday how he'll escalate the war in Afghanistan — and how he hopes his risky decision will lead finally to a path home for U.S. forces.

The stakes of his decision — ordered into effect at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Oval Office — are enormous, and the challenges of making it work are daunting. He'll speak at 8 p.m. EST Tuesday from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Perhaps his toughest task will be balancing his plan to send 30,000 to 35,000 more American troops with talk of new benchmarks for success and the strong signal that U.S. troops will turn over Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces and get out.

His expected talk on the end of the war is meant to spark Afghans to take charge of their own country — and to soothe anti-war Democrats here. Yet it also could suggest to the enemies that all they have to do is wait out an impatient United States, and to Pakistan, Iran, India and others that the U.S. lacks the stomach for a protracted battle.

Beyond that, he has to explain how his new plan can root out the Taliban, deny al Qaida and its allies a sanctuary, straighten out a corrupt Afghan government so people have an alternative to the Taliban and get neighboring Pakistan to fight terrorists that have fled there.

He also has to do it all while making sure that the tinderbox region isn't further inflamed by a belligerent Iran defiantly ramping up nuclear plans, a resurgence of ethnic and religious violence in Iraq or a growing Islamist insurgency in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

"It's probably the most important decision in his career," said Karin Von Hippel, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center in Washington. "There are so many moving parts that need to be aligned. ...I think we can do it, but it's a huge challenge."

Obama on Sunday summoned the members of his top military and security team to the White House to give them the final go-ahead on his plan. As McClatchy first reported on Nov. 7, it would bolster the current 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan with another 30,000 to 35,000, to be deployed starting early next year.

The first, officials told McClatchy, will be a brigade of Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., followed by Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.

After meeting with top officials from the Pentagon and White House staff, Obama spoke with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal later Sunday evening via teleconference from the White House Situation Room. It was McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, who requested additional troops to institute a new counterinsurgency strategy that would fight the Taliban while shoring up the Afghan government and Afghan forces.

As part of that, Obama will announce a planned expansion of the Afghan army to 240,000 and the Afghan police to 160,000 by October 2013.

Obama will acknowledge the added costs of escalating the war, telling the country there are "limits on our resources, both from a manpower perspective and a budgetary perspective," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

While calling for a larger army, Obama may leave out details of how he'd pay the financial cost of the escalation. Gibbs said the White House hadn't discussed a proposal from several liberal Democrats in Congress to impose an income tax surtax to pay for the escalation.

"I know the president will touch on costs. I don't expect to get overly detailed in the speech tomorrow," Gibbs said.

Obama also wants more help from NATO allies. He'll ask for another 7,000 to 10,000 NATO troops, which would come atop the 36,230 already there from U.S. allies, according to the NATO-International Security Assistance Force Web site.

He spoke Monday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, both NATO members.

Brown said Monday that his country would send an additional 500 troops, raising the British total to 9,500, according to the NATO-ISAF Web site. "The extra troops will deploy in early December to thicken the U.K. troop presence in central Helmand," Brown told Parliament.

Sarkozy said that France would keep its 3,095 troops in Afghanistan until the country was "pacified and sovereign." He didn't say whether France would send more troops.

Obama also met at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and spoke by phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Despite the buildup, Obama will strive to assure a country that no longer supports the war that this is not another Vietnam, where President Lyndon Johnson kept escalating the war without success.

"You will hear the president discuss clearly that this is not open-ended," Gibbs said. "This is about what has to be done in order to ensure that the Afghans can assume the responsibility of securing their country."

Thus, Obama again will have benchmarks for success, for measuring how well the Afghan government is cleaning itself up and how well the fight against the Taliban is going. With the escalation of troops spread out — 5,000 additional troops per quarter, according to U.S. military officials _the president will have the option of maintaining that buildup or changing course.

Obama also will talk about Pakistan, and his hopes that better relations with the government will lead it to crack down on the Taliban and other terrorist groups within its borders. Many fled Afghanistan to hide out in Pakistan. Growing political tensions in Pakistan threaten the stability of the regime there.

"A good portion of the president's speech ... will discuss our relationship with Pakistan," Gibbs said.

"This is all part of what has to be a partnership. ... Without partners that are willing to do stuff in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, no number of American troops can solve all of those problems unless or until those steps are taken inside both of those countries where we see a change in the security situation."

Editor's comment: A BIG *SIGH*


White House: POTUS Barack Obama Is "Concerned About Party Crashers". Well, DUH. Watch Video.

The question I have is: what's POTUS going to do about his "concerns"?

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U. S. Supreme Court Deals Major Setback To The ACLU's Attempt To Have "Torture" Pictures Released. Decision Is A Wise One. Read More Below.

The U. S. Supreme Court today vacated and remanded a decision by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that required the Pentagon to release photos of abused detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case is Deptartment of Defense v. ACLU, 09-160. The Court asked the lower court for further consideration under Section 565 of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010.

The Act gives the Secretary of Defense the ability to prevent certain protected documents from being made public. Included in the definition of protected documents are photographs "taken during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, through January 22, 2009; and relates to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, fearing that the release of the photos would endanger American lives, exercised his authority under the Act in November. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has vowed to continue to fight for the photos to be released.

Editor's commentt: if you ask me, I suspect the fight is a losing one.

I agree with Secretary Gates that release of these pictures serves no useful purpose save to expose our country to even GREATER harm.

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FOUAD AJAMI: The Arabs Have Stopped Applauding Obama.

The Arabs Have Stopped Applauding Obama
A foreign policy of penance has won America no friends.

"He talks too much," a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America's 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory.

He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.

He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not "unclenched their fist," nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can't journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can't journey to Cairo to tell the fabled "Arab street" that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can't tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America's decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn't seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that's reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Mr. Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.

We had once taken to the foreign world that quintessential American difference—the belief in liberty, a needed innocence to play off against the settled and complacent ways of older nations. The Obama approach is different.

Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one's own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger," goes one of the Arab world's most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

Mr. Obama could not make up his mind: He was at one with "the people" and with the rulers who held them in subjugation. The people of Iran who took to the streets this past summer were betrayed by this hapless diplomacy—Mr. Obama was out to "engage" the terrible rulers that millions of Iranians were determined to be rid of.

On Nov. 4, on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the embattled reformers, again in the streets, posed an embarrassing dilemma for American diplomacy: "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them," they chanted. By not responding to these cries and continuing to "engage" Tehran's murderous regime, his choice was made clear. It wasn't one of American diplomacy's finest moments.

Mr. Obama has himself to blame for the disarray of his foreign policy. American arms had won a decent outcome in Iraq, but Mr. Obama would not claim it—it was his predecessor's war. Vigilance had kept the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks for seven long years under his predecessors, but he could never grant Bush policies the honor and credit they deserved. He had declared Afghanistan a war of necessity, but he seems to have his eye on the road out even as he is set to announce a troop increase in an address to be delivered tomorrow.

He was quick to assert, in the course of his exuberant campaign for president last year, that his diplomacy in South Asia would start with the standoff in Kashmir. In truth India had no interest in an international adjudication of Kashmir. What was settled during the partition in 1947 was there to stay. In recent days, Mr. Obama walked away from earlier ambitions. "Obviously, there are historic conflicts between India and Pakistan," he said. "It's not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve those conflicts."

Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many "peace plans" that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity—statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism—Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.

The Obama diplomacy had made a settlement freeze its starting point, when this was precisely the wrong place to begin. Israel has given up settlements before at the altar of peace—recall the historical accommodation with Egypt a quarter century ago. The right course would have set the question of settlements aside as it took up the broader challenge of radicalism in the region—the menace and swagger of Iran, the arsenal of Hamas and Hezbollah, the refusal of the Arab order of power to embrace in broad daylight the cause of peace with Israel.

The laws of gravity, the weight of history and of precedent, have caught up with the Obama presidency. We are beyond stirring speeches. The novelty of the Obama approach, and the Obama persona, has worn off. There is a whole American diplomatic tradition to draw upon—engagements made, wisdom acquired in the course of decades, and, yes, accounts to be settled with rogues and tyrannies. They might yet help this administration find its way out of a labyrinth of its own making.

Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2007).


E. J. Dionne: Fighting Extremism With Civility.

Fighting extremism with civility
By E. J. Dionne

WASHINGTON — The most surprising and disappointing aspect of our politics is how little pushback there has been against the vile, extremist rhetoric that has characterized such a large part of the anti-Obama movement.

President Obama's administration has largely ignored those accusing him of “fascism” and “communism,” presumably believing that restraint in defense of dignity is no vice.

Republican politicians, worried about future primary fights, have been reluctant to pick a fight with a radical right that seems to be the most energized section of their party. Their “moderation” has consisted of a non-benign neglect of the extremists, and of accusing the president merely of “socialism.”

And so it is that the first genuinely ringing call for moderation has come from a man who is effectively without a party, and whose own demeanor and career define temperance.

Jim Leach spent 30 years as a Republican member of Congress who went his own way. If this meant standing almost alone against his caucus, he was content to do so.

But he was never bombastic about it, as befits an extravagantly understated guy. The characteristic Leach look is a comfortable sweater worn under a tweed jacket, in season and out. That's about as fashionable as the persona of old Mr. Chips, the warmhearted and mildly Victorian headmaster who was the hero of James Hilton's 1934 novel.

Leach lost his Iowa seat in the 2006 Democratic tide, but he emerged relieved rather than bitter. He turned to academia, not the lobbying trade favored by so many other defeated politicians, and in 2008 engaged in the ultimate act of a maverick (a real one) by becoming a Republican for Obama. The new President in turn appointed Leach chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It was in this role that Leach offered his critique of extremism in a speech at the National Press Club titled “Bridging Cultures” a few days before Thanksgiving. It deserves far more attention than it has received.

“Little is more important for the world's leading democracy in this change-intensive century,” Leach argued, “than establishing an ethos of thoughtfulness and decency of expression in the public square.

“If we don't try to understand and respect others, how can we expect them to respect us, our values and our way of life?”

But our own political practice belies anything remotely like “civility,” a word that Leach has as much a right to use as anyone in public life.

“It is particularly difficult not to be concerned about American public manners and the discordant rhetoric of our politics,” he declared. “Words reflect emotion as well as meaning. They clarify — or cloud — thought and energize action, sometimes bringing out the better angels in our nature, sometimes lesser instincts.”

But what are we doing in this great democracy? “Public officials,” Leach observed, “are being labeled ‘fascist' or 'communist.' And more bizarrely, significant public figures have toyed with hints of history blind radicalism — the notion of ‘secession.'” This last is a reference to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's effort to ride to re-election by invoking a concept that we thought had been discredited in 1865.

Leach has no problem with a vigorous debate, but he's right that much of what passes for argument right now is mere calumny.

“There is, after all, a difference between holding a particular tax or spending or health care view,” he said, “and asserting that an American who supports another approach or is a member of a different political party is an advocate of an ‘ism' of hate that encompasses gulags and concentration camps. One framework of thought defines rival ideas; the other, enemies.”

As a result, “citizens of various philosophical persuasions are reflecting increased disrespect for fellow citizens and thus for modern day democratic governance.”

Leach still has a lot of the old moderate Republican in him, and he is critical of a political system that, by creating so many safe one-party seats, has produced strong incentives for politicians “to remain firmly positioned far from the center.” He adds: “Institutional polarization is the inevitable result.” That's true, too.

Leach's speech is the kickoff for a 50-state “civility tour,” and my hunch is that this very civil man may have to put up with a lot of incivility along the way. It's strange that a call to consider respecting each other more might become a controversial endeavor. This is precisely why Leach's witness to moderation requires an immoderate dose of courage.

E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is


Update On Kentucky's CESSPOOL Case: Lawson and Nighbert exchanged 357 calls in 2007: Friend Indeed Or Friend In NEED, I Ask?

Lawson and Nighbert exchanged 357 calls in 2007
By Tom Loftus

FRANKFORT, Ky. — On his last night as secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Bill Nighbert used his personal cell phone to call road contractor Leonard Lawson three times.

That same night, Lawson called Nighbert twice, the final time at 11:08 p.m.

An exhibit filed in federal court shows these calls, made on Dec. 10, 2007, were the last of more than 300 phone contacts between the two — often after business hours — in Nighbert's final year in office during the administration of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

The list of calls between Nighbert's cell phones and Lawson's cell and home phones — compiled by federal authorities — is filed in the bribery and conspiracy criminal case against the two.

Although the content of the calls isn't known, the list shows that they called each other 357 times during the 344 days in 2007 that Nighbert was cabinet secretary. The records show that 149 of the calls were made after 6 p.m.

And those numbers do not include any times the two called each other from their offices.

The list could constitute evidence of an extraordinary relationship between the two men, who are accused of fostering a scheme in which official state cost estimates on road projects were leaked to Lawson, allegedly allowing him to tailor his bids to maximize profits.

Some people familiar with the cabinet said the extent of the phone calls is remarkable.

“At first blush it seems like they maybe had a close personal relationship,” said Rep. Don Pasley, a Winchester Democrat who was chairman of the House Budget Subcommittee on Transportation in 2007. “I can't imagine dealing that much with business. I don't see any reason for it. It seems like an awfully lot of calls, but I have no idea what they're talking about.”

John Stovall, president of Road Builders & Parkway Construction, of Greenville, said, “In my lifetime I have never spoken to Nighbert.” ...

(To continue reading, click here.)

Editor's comment: The question in my mind is whether Lawson was Nighbert's friend indeed or friend in NEED!?

I guess the trial will reveal it.

As the Bible warns us: that which is hidden from the wise and the prudent, will soon be revealed to the babes and sucklings.

The babes and the sucklings in us cannot wait for the revelations to begin.

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And In Kentucky, As In Most Third World Countries, The People Continue To Get "Scre^ed". Read More Below.

Yes, read more by following this link.

A BIG *SIGH* of disappointment.

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Is Global Warming A Lot Of HOT Air? Watch Video And Decide.

Meanwhile In Nigeria, President Umaru Yar'Adua's Health And Absence Fuel My SERIOUS Concern Of A Military Coup.

Read more here, or excerpts below:

Nigerian President's Health Fueling Political Tensions

Presidential spokesman says Vice President Goodluck Jonathan will represent him at official functions

Nigerian officials say President Umaru Yar'Adua is responding well to treatment for a heart ailment at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. The president's poor health creates a constitutional challenge for Africa's most populous nation.

A presidential spokesman says Vice President Goodluck Jonathan will represent President Umaru Yar'Adua at official functions, but dismissed suggestions that the ailing Nigerian leader may resign.

And while the vice president may be acting on behalf of the hospitalized president, analysts argue Mr. Jonathan may not be able to exercise full presidential duties until constitutional requirements are met. Abuja-based lawyer and political analyst, Maxi Okwu, describes the current situation as an infraction of the constitution.

"There is a constitutional process for the president being absent or incapable of discharging his functions at this material time," said Okwu. "There ought to be a letter addressed to the senate president stating so; that he should inform the national assembly that he is absent, that he is in Saudi Arabia recuperating. But until that is done, the vice president cannot take over. He cannot be acting president under the constitution of Nigeria and that is an infraction of the constitution and should not be allowed."

The president's poor health presents what some see as another potential political problem. If incapacitated, President Yar'Adua, a Muslim from the north, could be replaced by Vice President Jonathan, a Christian from the southern Niger Delta. Nigeria's politically dominant northern Muslims have historically rejected a southern presidency.

According to the ruling People's Democratic Party's own formula for sharing power among the country's political regions, the president must be a northerner.

A report in the national daily newspaper "Punch" said the vice president had been asked to resign and make way for a presidential election, which will give the north another opportunity to present a candidate from the region.

The vice president has dismissed the report, calling it "sheer mischief." Most southerners want the constitutional order to be followed if President Yar'Adua were to step down or die.

Mr. Yar'Adua went to Saudi Arabia last week for what was officially said to be a medical check-up after complaining of severe chest pains.

The Nigerian president, who is 58, is widely believed to have a history of kidney-related disease for which he has previously received hospital treatment in both Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Update: "denied" rumor has it that the vice president, Goodluck Johnathan, has been made to sign an undated resignation letter, just in case if the president dies -- as it is looking more and more likely.

Good Luck to the vice president, no pun intended.


In Case You Missed This Laughter With Joel Pett.


Words To Live By.

"[R]eligion, or the duty which we owe to our creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and this is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."

-- Virginia Bill of Rights, Article 16, 1776


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Peggy Noonan: "He [POTUS Barack Obama] Can't Take Another Bow".

He Can’t Take Another Bow
An icon of a White House that is coming to seem amateurish.

This week, two points in an emerging pointillist picture of a White House leaking support—not the support of voters, though polls there show steady decline, but in two core constituencies, Washington’s Democratic-journalistic establishment, and what might still be called the foreign-policy establishment.

From journalist Elizabeth Drew, a veteran and often sympathetic chronicler of Democratic figures, a fiery denunciation of—and warning for—the White House. In a piece in Politico on the firing of White House counsel Greg Craig, Ms. Drew reports that while the president was in Asia last week, “a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man.” They once held “an unromantically high opinion of Obama,” and were key to his rise, but now they are concluding that the president isn’t “the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought.”

She scored “the Chicago crowd,” which she characterized as “a distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team.” The White House, Ms. Drew says, needs adult supervision—“an older, wiser head, someone with a bit more detachment.”

As I read Ms. Drew’s piece, I was reminded of something I began noticing a few months ago in bipartisan crowds. I would ask Democrats how they thought the president was doing. In the past they would extol, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, his virtues. Increasingly, they would preface their answer with, “Well, I was for Hillary.” This in turn reminded me of a surprising thing I observe among loyal Democrats in informal settings and conversations: No one loves Barack Obama. Half the American people say they support him, and Democrats are still with him. But there were Bill Clinton supporters who really loved him. George W. Bush had people who loved him. A lot of people loved Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. But no one seems to love Mr. Obama now; they’re not dazzled and head over heels. That’s gone away. He himself seems a fairly chilly customer; perhaps in turn he inspires chilly support. But presidents need that rock—bottom 20% who, no matter what’s happening—war, unemployment—adore their guy, have complete faith in him, and insist that you love him, too.

They’re the hard 20 a president always keeps. Nixon kept them! Obama probably has a hard 20 too, but whatever is keeping them close, it doesn’t seem to be love.

Just as stinging as Elizabeth Drew on domestic matters was Leslie Gelb on Mr. Obama and foreign policy in the Daily Beast. Mr. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and fully plugged into the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, wrote this week that the president’s Asia trip suggested “a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power.” The president’s Afghanistan review has been “inexcusably clumsy,” Mideast negotiations have been “fumbling.” So unsuccessful was the trip that Mr. Gelb suggested Mr. Obama take responsibility for it “as President Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs.”

He added that rather than bowing to emperors—Mr. Obama “seems to do this stuff spontaneously and inexplicably”—he should begin to bow to “the voices of experience” in Washington.

When longtime political observers start calling for wise men, a president is in trouble.

It also raises a distressing question: Who are the wise men and women now? Who are the Robert Lovetts, Chip Bohlens and Robert Strausses who can came in to help a president in trouble right his ship? America seems short of wise men, or short on those who are universally agreed to be wise. I suppose Vietnam was the end of that, but establishments exist for a reason, and it is hard for a great nation to function without the presence of a group of “the oldest and wisest” who can not only give sound advice but help engineer how that advice will be reported and received.

Mr Obama is in a hard place. Health care hangs over him, and if he is lucky he will lose a close vote in the Senate. The common wisdom that he can’t afford to lose is exactly wrong—he can’t afford to win with such a poor piece of legislation. He needs to get the issue behind him, vow to fight another day, and move on. Afghanistan hangs over him, threatening the unity of his own Democratic congressional base. There is the growing perception of incompetence, of the inability to run the machine of government. This, with Americans, is worse than Obama’s rebranding as a leader who governs from the left. Americans demand baseline competence. If he comes to be seen as Jimmy Carter was, that the job was bigger than the man, that will be the end.

Which gets us back to the bow.

In a presidency, a picture or photograph becomes iconic only when it seems to express something people already think. When Gerald Ford was spoofed for being physically clumsy, it took off. The picture of Ford losing his footing and tumbling as he came down the steps of Air Force One became a symbol. There was a reason, and it wasn’t that he was physically clumsy. He was not only coordinated but graceful. He’d been a football star at the University of Michigan and was offered contracts by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.

But the picture took off because it expressed the growing public view that Ford’s policies were bumbling and stumbling. The picture was iconic of a growing political perception.

The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic, and they would not be if they weren’t playing off a growing perception. If the pictures had been accompanied by headlines from Asia saying “Tough Talks Yield Big Progress” or “Obama Shows Muscle in China,” the bowing pictures might be understood this way: “He Stoops to Conquer: Canny Obama shows elaborate deference while he subtly, toughly, quietly advances his nation’s interests.”

But that’s not how the pictures were received or will be remembered.

It is true that Mr. Obama often seems not to have a firm grasp of—or respect for—protocol, of what has been done before and why, and of what divergence from the traditional might imply. And it is true that his political timing was unfortunate. When a great nation is feeling confident and strong, a surprising presidential bow might seem gracious. When it is feeling anxious, a bow will seem obsequious.

The Obama bowing pictures are becoming iconic not for those reasons, however, but because they express a growing political perception, and that is that there is something amateurish about this presidency, something too ad hoc and highly personalized about it, something . . . incompetent, at least in its first year.

It is hard to be president, and White Houses under pressure take refuge in thoughts that become mantras. When the previous White House came under mounting criticism from 2005 through ‘08, they comforted themselves by thinking, They criticized Lincoln, too. You could see their minds whirring: Lincoln was criticized, Lincoln was great, ergo we are great. But of course just because they say you’re stupid doesn’t mean you’re Lincoln.

One senses the Obama people are doing the Lincoln too, and adding to it the consoling thought that this is only the first year, we’ve got three years to go, we can change perceptions, don’t worry.

But they should worry. You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily. The first year is when indelible impressions are made and iconic photos emerge.


TMZ: Tiger Woods Hides From Police, As He Recovers From A Wife Who Went "Ghetto On Him"!

Read more from TMZ.

You can listen to the 911 tapes below:

The question I have is how Tiger knows about going "ghetto" considering ..., well, I'll leave it alone.

I still believe that Mrs. Tiger Woods will be charged with giving police false information and domestic battery.

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"Political Clash Expected Soon Over Rising U.S. $12 Trillion Dollar Debt".

Political clash expected soon over rising U.S. $12 trillion dollar debt
Rob Hotakainen

WASHINGTON — In the past, members of Congress never have been particularly eager to remind the public that they regularly vote to raise the ceiling on the national debt, which now exceeds $12 trillion.

That's $12,000,000,000,000.

The debt has more than doubled since 2002, and in the last two years it's been rising at a clip of more than $3.8 billion a day. Each U.S. citizen now has a share that's estimated at more than $39,000.

With so much red ink, Congress has been racing to keep up. In the last eight years, members have voted seven times to increase the statutory debt limit to allow more borrowing, oftentimes doing it quietly, attaching the measure to broader spending bills to avoid an unpleasant debate.

That could change in December, when Senate Democrats and Republicans alike are expected to resist the latest plan to raise the ceiling by nearly $1 trillion.

The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation's health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.

"I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this. ... This is our moment," California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said.

She and nine other senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asking that Congress create a special commission to make recommendations that then could be decided by an up-or-down vote.

Feinstein said it could be similar to the process for closing military bases, in which members must vote to take or leave the entire package. The senators who joined Feinstein are Democrats Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mark Warner of Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire have promoted the effort as well. Feinstein and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas also have teamed up to introduce a bill that would create a permanent commission.

Some liberals have criticized the idea, fearing that it would take away too much power from Congress and turn it over to an independent commission.

Increasing the statutory debt limit has become an increasingly difficult vote for many lawmakers: If they failed to raise the ceiling, the government would go broke and couldn't make payments for Social Security and other programs. If they raise it, they look like spendthrifts who can't balance a budget.

The Obama administration has asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling, and Treasury Department officials said earlier this month that they'd been working with congressional leaders behind the scenes to get the job done. While no date has been set for a final vote, it's expected to come up sometime before Christmas, before members adjourn for the year.

"Nobody really knows. My bet is that it will happen sometime on Dec. 24, when Santa goes down the chimney," said Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that promotes fiscal responsibility.

In the meantime, with the national debt rising, Bixby said, the U.S. has no choice but to continue to borrow more and more money.

"That means that more of our future national income is mortgaged by all the borrowing we're having to do from abroad," he said, "and at some point, it will have negative economic consequences."

However, Bixby said the vote to raise the debt limit had become "political theater" on Capitol Hill, with most Democrats and Republicans blaming each other and merely changing their speeches depending on which party was in power.

"They exchange scripts," he said. "The party in power knows that the debt limit has to go up; there's no choice. So they say we have to do the responsible thing and raise the debt limit and, besides, it's not our fault because the last people who were here screwed things up and we're just cleaning up their mess. And the party out of power says this just shows how irresponsible the current administration is in running up this horrible debt."

Editor's comment: The ever increasing debt could prove to be POTUS Barack Obama's undoing, starting in Mid Term elections of 2010.


Charles Krauthammer: "Kill The Bills And Do Health Care Reform The Right Way". Frankly, I Can't Say I Disagree.

Kill the bills and do health care reform the right way
By Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON — The United States has the best health care in the world — but because of its inefficiencies, also the most expensive. The fundamental problem with the 2,074-page Senate health-care bill (as with its 2,014-page House counterpart) is that it wildly compounds the complexity by adding hundreds of new provisions, regulations, mandates, committees and other arbitrary bureaucratic inventions.

Worse, they are packed into a monstrous package without any regard to each other. The only thing linking these changes — such as the 118 new boards, commissions and programs — is political expediency. Each must be able to garner just enough votes to pass. There is not even a pretense of a unifying vision or conceptual harmony.

The result is an overregulated, overbureaucratized system of surpassing arbitrariness and inefficiency. Throw a dart at the Senate tome:

You'll find mandates with financial penalties — the amounts picked out of a hat.

You'll find insurance companies (who live and die by their actuarial skills) told exactly what weight to give risk factors, such as age. Currently insurance premiums for 20-somethings are about one-sixth the premiums for 60-somethings. The House bill dictates the young shall now pay at minimum one-half; the Senate bill, one-third — numbers picked out of a hat.

You'll find sliding scales for health-insurance subsidies — percentages picked out of a hat — that will radically raise marginal income tax rates for middle- class recipients, among other crazy unintended consequences.

The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool.

Then do health care the right way — one reform at a time, each simple and simplifying, aimed at reducing complexity, arbitrariness and inefficiency.

First, tort reform. This is money — the low-end estimate is about half a trillion per decade — wasted in two ways. Part is simply hemorrhaged into the legal system to benefit a few jackpot lawsuit winners and an army of extravagantly rich malpractice lawyers such as John Edwards.

The rest is wasted within the medical system in the millions of unnecessary tests, procedures and referrals undertaken solely to fend off lawsuits — resources wasted on patients who don't need them and which could be redirected to the uninsured who really do.

In the 4,000-plus pages of the two bills, there is no tort reform. Indeed, the House bill actually penalizes states that dare “limit attorneys' fees or impose caps on damages.” Why? Because, as Howard Dean has openly admitted, Democrats don't want “to take on the trial lawyers.” What he didn't say — he didn't need to — is that they give millions to the Democrats for precisely this kind of protection.

Second, even more simple and simplifying, abolish the prohibition against buying health insurance across state lines.

Some states have very few health insurers. Rates are high. So why not allow interstate competition? After all, you can buy oranges across state lines. If you couldn't, oranges would be extremely expensive in Wisconsin, especially in winter.

And the answer to the resulting high Wisconsin orange prices wouldn't be the establishment of a public option — a federally run orange-growing company in Wisconsin — to introduce “competition.” It would be to allow Wisconsin residents to buy Florida oranges.

But neither bill lifts the prohibition on interstate competition for health insurance. Because this would obviate the need — the excuse — for the public option, which the left wing of the Democratic Party sees (correctly) as the royal road to fully socialized medicine.

Third, tax employer-provided health insurance. This is an accrued inefficiency of 65 years, an accident of World War II wage controls. It creates a $250 billion annual loss of federal revenues — the largest tax break for individuals in the entire federal budget.

This reform is the most difficult to enact, for two reasons. The unions oppose it. And the Obama campaign savaged the idea when John McCain proposed it during last year's election.

Insuring the uninsured is a moral imperative. The problem is that the Democrats have chosen the worst possible method — a $1 trillion new entitlement of stupefying arbitrariness and inefficiency.

The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.

Charles Krauthammer is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is


George F. Will: Christmas Gifts [Are] An Economic Calamity.

Christmas gifts: An economic calamity
By George F. Will

WASHINGTON — Another huge value-destroying hurricane is about to slam America, destroying billions of dollars of value. Another Katrina? No, another Christmas.

This voluntary December calamity is explained in a darkly amusing little book that is about the size of an iPhone. “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays” comes from a distinguished publisher, Princeton University Press, and an eminent author, Joel Waldfogel of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school. He says that the crux of Yuletide economics, which common sense suggests and research confirms, is:

Gifts that people buy for other people are usually poorly matched to the recipients' preferences. What the recipients would willingly pay for gifts is usually less than what the givers paid. The measure of the inefficiency of allocating value by gift-giving is the difference between the yield of satisfaction per dollar spent on gifts and the yield per dollar spent on recipients' own purchases.

By calculating the difference between the consumption of holiday goods (e.g., jewelry, but not gasoline) in December as opposed to November and January, you get a rough estimate of Christmas spending. Waldfogel's conservative estimate is that in 2007, Americans spent $66 billion on gifts and produced $12 billion less satisfaction than would have been produced if the recipients had spent the $66 billion on themselves.

At least the Christmas stimulus strengthens the economy, right? Wrong, says Waldfogel. If all spending justified itself, we would pay people to dig holes and then refill them — or build bridges to unpopulated Alaskan islands. Spending is good if the purchaser, or the recipient of a gift, values the commodity more than he does the money it costs. Otherwise, there is a subtraction from society's store of value.

Christmas etiquette involves composing one's face to feign pleasure when unwrapping an unwelcome windfall — say, a sweater of an appalling color and a style that went out of style in the 1940s — and murmuring “Oh, you shouldn't have” without revealing that you mean exactly that. Price of the sweater: $50. Value to recipient: $0. Actually, less than zero, considering the psychological cost of the forced smile.

But, you say, what about sentimental value? Don't you value the thoughtfulness of dotty Uncle Ralph who gave you the sweater? Actually, Ralph's sentiment in selecting it was like your sentiment when you selected for him the candle shaped like Gandhi — desperate bewilderment about what he might like.

Were it not for sentimentality about sentiments, which are highly overrated, we would behave rationally, giving cash, thereby avoiding value subtraction. We almost do that with wedding registries. And cash for Christmas, or semi-cash in the form of gift cards, no longer seems so tacky. Between 1998 and 2005, gift card sales grew 27 percent a year. They now are about one-third of Christmas spending and rank near the top of lists of preferred gifts. Grandmothers, especially, should give cash to grandchildren. Instead they think, “What did I get when I was young?” and then they give a kaleidoscope to Jimmy, who wanted Grand Theft Auto IV and now wants to trade grandma for Grand Theft Auto IV.

A tenth of gift cards' values, worth billions of dollars, are never redeemed. The cards are lost Christmas morning in the blizzard of wrapping paper, or just forgotten. Waldfogel proposes that after a year, gift cards expire and the unredeemed values be given to charities.

Furthermore, he says, there are some goods — e.g., Spam — that people spend less on as they become richer, and there are other things on which people spend larger portions of their incomes as their incomes rise. These are called luxuries. One such is charity. So, particularly for the rich or ascetic person who has everything he or she wants, why not gift cards usable only for charities? Some organizations (e.g., Charity Navigator and facilitate this.

“There are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants, and nobody cares for after they are got.” So said Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1850. Waldfogel says every generation thinks it invented both sex and Christmas excess. But retail sales statistics demonstrate that the “Yuletide bump” was a larger share of GDP in 1935. Data from 1919 concerning the retail giants of the day — mail-order companies (e.g., Sears and Montgomery Ward) and “dime stores” (e.g., Woolworth) — actually show that Christmas sales as a share of the economy is about half as large as it once was. This means proportionally less value subtraction. Hallelujah.

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is


Laugh Again With Joel Pett.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

FRED BARNES: Why Obama Isn't Changing Washington. *SIGH*.

Why Obama Isn't Changing Washington
There is no way he can grow the government without attracting more lobbyists and more political acrimony.

One insight distinguished Barack Obama from the other presidential candidates last year. While he lacked experience or a special grasp of issues, Mr. Obama said he uniquely understood what ails Washington, and what was causing the endless squabbling and bitter stalemate on important issues. If elected, he said he would change the way business is done in Washington, end the partisan deadlock and the ideological polarization.

"Change must come to Washington," Mr. Obama said in a June 2008 speech. "I have consistently said when it comes to solving problems," he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that same month, "I don't approach this from a partisan or ideological perspective."

Mr. Obama also decried the prominent role played by lobbyists. "Lobbyists aren't just a part of the system in Washington, they're part of the problem," Mr. Obama said in a May 2008 campaign speech.

I was reminded of this last statement by a recent headline on the front page of USA Today. It read: "Health care fight swells lobbying. Number of organizations hiring firms doubles in '09." The article suggested that what Mr. Obama had promised to fix had only gotten worse.

Indeed that's the case. Washington is more partisan than ever, and more polarized. Even on a purely procedural vote to begin Senate debate on health-care reform this past Saturday, every Democrat voted one way (yes), every Republican the other (no).

With rare exception and with no objection from the president, Democrats draft bills with no input from Republicans. In return, Republicans vote in lockstep against Democratic legislation. Every House Republican voted against the stimulus, all but one against liberal health-care reform, and all but eight against cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House earlier this year.

Why has the president's publicly expressed vision of a kinder, gentler Washington failed to materialize? I think Mr. Obama—while hardly the only person at fault—is chiefly responsible.

He might have spawned a different Washington, a less divided town with Democrats firmly in charge but Republicans actively involved. The bonus for Mr. Obama and Democrats would be higher popularity and better prospects in 2010 midterm elections. Instead, the president made three strategic mistakes—or, really, misreadings of the political landscape—and they've come back to haunt him and his party.

First, Mr. Obama misread the meaning of the 2008 election. It wasn't a mandate for a liberal revolution. His victory was a personal one, not an ideological triumph of liberalism. Yet Mr. Obama, his aides and Democratic leaders in Congress have treated it as a mandate to radically change policy directions in this country. They are pushing forward one liberal initiative after another. As a result, Mr. Obama's approval rating has dropped along with the popularity of his agenda.

Mr. Obama should have known better. The evidence that America remains a center-right country was right there in the national exit poll on Election Day. When asked about their political beliefs, 34% identified themselves as conservative, 22% as liberal, and a whopping 44% as moderate.

As Mr. Obama has unveiled his policies, the country has tilted more to the right. A Gallup Poll on Oct. 21 found the country to be 40% conservative, 36% moderate, and 20% liberal.

Nearly every Obama policy has thrilled either the president's base in the Democratic Party or a liberal interest group but practically no one else. Nearly every policy is unpopular with a majority or large plurality of Americans. The $787 billion economic stimulus was enacted in February with strong public support. But it has long since lost favor.

It should have been no surprise the public gave a thumbs down to Mr. Obama policies. The decision to close the prison in Guantanamo, the takeover of General Motors and Chrysler, the bailout of banks and financial institutions (begun under President George W. Bush), the trillion-dollar deficits, cap and trade, the surge in the size and scope of the federal government—these were out of sync with the country's right-of-center majority.

Mr. Obama argued in his Feb. 24 address to Congress that health-care reform, billions in new education spending, and cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions were necessary to revive the economy. This was a clever attempt to exploit the recession to pass unrelated liberal policies. It was too clever. It didn't work.

Second, Mr. Obama misread his own ability to sway the public. He is a glib, cool, likeable speaker whose sentences have subjects and verbs. During the campaign, he gave dazzling speeches about hope and change that excited voters. His late-night speech at a Democratic dinner in Des Moines on Nov. 10, 2007, prior to the Iowa caucuses, convinced me he'd win the presidential nomination.

But campaign speeches don't have to be specific, and candidates aren't accountable. Presidential speeches are different. The object is to persuade voters to back a certain policy, and it turns out Mr. Obama is not good at this. He failed to stop the steady decline in support for any of his policies, most notably health care.

The president spent much of the summer and early fall touting his health-care initiative. He spoke at town halls, appeared on five Sunday talk shows the same day (Sept. 20), turned up on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and on "60 Minutes." All the while, support for ObamaCare fell. His address to Congress on health care on Sept. 9 is now remembered only for Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shouted accusation, "You lie!"

Third, Mr. Obama misread Republicans. They felt weak and vulnerable after losing two straight congressional elections and watching John McCain's presidential bid fall flat. They were afraid to criticize the newly elected president. If he had offered them minimal concessions, many of them would have jumped aboard his policies. If that had happened, the president could have boasted of achieving bipartisan compromise on the stimulus and other policies. He let the chance slip away.

By March, tea parties had begun cropping up across the country to protest spending in Washington. Over the summer, independents moved away from Mr. Obama when they learned of the soaring cost of his policies. By late summer, Republicans emerged as a full-blown opposition with growing public backing.

The point in all this is Mr. Obama could have given a little and gained a lot. To change Washington, he would have had to corral congressional Democrats, who weren't interested in bipartisanship or compromise. He would have had to disappoint his base and, at times, anger liberal interest groups. Mr. Obama wasn't willing to go that route.

In Washington it's business as usual, except for one thing. The bigger the role of government, the more lobbyists flock to town. By pushing for his policies, the president effectively put up a welcome sign to lobbyists. Despite promising to keep them out of his administration, he has even hired a few. So nothing has changed, except maybe that Washington is now more acrimonious than it has been.

Mr. Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard and a commentator on Fox News Channel.

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"Seeking The Right To Vote Automatically".

Seeking the right to vote automatically

After spending three years in prison and another seven years on parole, René D. Riley of Lexington knew she wanted a better life, a fuller life, the life of an ordinary citizen.

As a convicted felon, though, Riley, 44, knew that kind of life would not be easy to achieve. Finding a job and safe housing were very difficult. Plus, she said, she realized she could not vote.

Section 145 of Kentucky's Constitution states that anyone convicted of a felony loses the right to vote. Those rights can be restored, though, through an executive pardon by the governor. Without a pardon, a convicted felon can never vote again in Kentucky.

Riley was not having that.

"I am the type of person when I set my mind to do something, I push myself," she said.

When she couldn't find a job, she went to school. When she learned she could not cast a ballot, she contacted her parole officer.

She was supplied with the necessary paperwork to send to the governor's office asking to be re-enfranchised.

"I wrote Gov. (Ernie) Fletcher a letter and he wrote back," she said. "He asked why he should give (the right to vote) back to me."

Riley wrote an essay detailing her crime, how she had served her time and that her offense, possession of a forged instrument, was not a violent one. The next letter she got from the governor's office confirmed her voting rights had been restored.

The voting rights of convicted felons are regulated in each state to varying degrees. In Maine and Vermont, the two most lenient states, felons can vote while incarcerated.

In Kentucky and Virginia, the two most restrictive, voting rights are restored only by making a request of the governor's office.

Several groups in Kentucky want to change that. They want voting rights automatically restored to non-violent felons.

During the last General Assembly, House Bill 70 — which passed the State House by 70 votes but never got out of committee in the State Senate — tried to get a resolution on the ballot that would amend the Constitution and allow for an automatic re-enfranchisement for non-violent felons.

State Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lex., sponsored several measures over the years to restore or simplify the restoration of voting rights. He has pre-filed another bill for the upcoming session. He said the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons should not be left to the discretion of a governor.

Fletcher, he said, added requirements for the felons to abide by, including the writing of an essay, three references, and an OK from the office of the Commonwealth Attorney where the crime was committed as well as where the ex-felon planned to reside.

The approval of applications for restoration plummeted from a high of 97.2 percent in fiscal year 2002-2003 to 28.1 percent by March 2006, according to a study by The League of Women Voters of Kentucky in 2006. The restrictions set by Fletcher are no longer in place.

"The right to vote is so essential, so much a part of the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions, one of the most fundamental rights that a person has," Crenshaw said. "Once you pay your debt to society, then, in my opinion, we as a society should welcome you back as a full citizen."

Crenshaw will talk about the need for an amendment at Wednesday's "Singing for Democracy Gospel Fest." Supporters of the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons as well as church choirs, soloists and hip hop gospel performers will be featured. The evening of worship, praise, and social justice is sponsored by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and People Advocating Recovery.

Riley hopes the event with change the perception of ex-felons. Since earning a degree in automotive technology, Riley said she has found employers who value her skills over her failures. Viable employment has brought her much closer to the life she wants.

"It's hard," she said. "It's a struggle. It will get you down when you're always getting rejected for trying to make a better living or getting a better job."

The gospel program "is a chance to show people that everyone deserves a second chance," she said. "Everyone is not perfect. We all fall short."

Crenshaw said that is exactly the point of his pre-filed bill, awaiting the General Assembly.

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Louisville Courier-Journal: A Useful Moratorium.

A useful moratorium

The Kentucky Supreme Court performed a valuable public service Wednesday when it put executions on hold by ruling that the state's lethal injection procedure must be outlined in a regulation.

The majority decision, written by Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, is wise on its own merits. Lethal injection is a controversial method of capital punishment, raising questions about the qualifications of those who administer it and about whether it causes “cruel and unusual” levels of pain and paralysis. More pertinent to the Kentucky ruling, however, is Justice Abramson's argument that the lethal injection protocol “indisputably affects private rights” and therefore must not be implemented without meeting publication and public hearing requirements set forth in state statutes.

The timetable for adoption of a regulation, which includes an opportunity for the public to comment, normally is four to six months. Gov. Steve Beshear could short-circuit the process by issuing an emergency regulation that would go into effect while normal procedures continue, however. He should resist any such temptation. Death-row inmates in Kentucky spend many years, sometimes decades, awaiting execution, and there is no emergency that requires quickly putting one or several of them to death.

Indeed, the most important consequence of the court's ruling should be to put the brakes on any rush to carrying out death sentences in Kentucky by any method. State Attorney General Jack Conway appeared launched on such a course when he asked the Governor earlier this week to set execution dates for three convicted murderers.

Mr. Conway and Gov. Beshear have an obligation to enforce state law, but there is no rationale to be in a hurry. All of the crimes committed by the three men occurred at least 18 years ago. Nor would seeking to carry out a few executions in the near future be an appropriate response to a Courier-Journal study earlier this month that noted that only three of 92 Kentucky inmates sentenced to death since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 have been executed.

The lengthy and sometimes successful appeals of death sentences reflect obvious problems in convictions at the trial court level. That is why a better response to the state's death-row dilemma is the moratorium on executions in Kentucky sought by the American Bar Association. During that time, the ABA proposes, a 10-member team of state lawyers and former judges could study a range of critical issues, ranging from training of prosecutors and defense lawyers, to the handling of DNA evidence, to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities and of mental retardation and mental illness.

That is a far more fruitful response to what is obviously a badly flawed system in Kentucky than would be a false urgency to carry out a showcase execution. The delay ordered by the Supreme Court should be used to advance such a study.


Tiger Woods' Injuries Were Likely Inflicted By Wife, Crash Caused By Wife, Over Mistress Rachel Uchitel.

Check out the Enquirer, and TMZ for more.

The pictures of the wreck here.

If you wanna know what I think, I believe this chatter more than I believe Tiger's wife! The police are supposed to be investigating this matter, and will likely have reason to charge her with providing FALSE information to police.

Stay tuned.

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BREAKING News. University Of Louisville Fires Its Football Coach, Steve Kragthorpe.

Read more here.


CONgress. This Is Funny. LOL.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Michael Bloomberg Spends Over $100 Million To Win Re-election As New York City Mayor. What A Way To Buy Office.

Read more here.

I MUST admit that I'm impressed the man spent his own money, and did not have to be bought by anyone -- well, anyone that we have heard about so far


"Secret Service Takes Blame For White House Party Crashers[, Tareq And Michele Salahi]". I Say: Many Secret Service Agents Need To Be FIRED!

Secret Service takes blame for White House party crashers
By Margaret Talev

WASHINGTON — The director of the Secret Service took the blame Friday for security failures that allowed a publicity-hungry couple from Virginia who weren't on the guest list for President Barack Obama's first state dinner to slip through security and directly encounter the president.

White House officials confirmed Friday that Tareq and Michaele Salahi met the president in the receiving line at Tuesday's state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but with the investigation continuing, the officials didn't offer additional details.

Secret Service director Mark Sullivan said in a statement that his organization, which protects the president and processed 1.2 million entries last year alone to the White House complex, "is deeply concerned and embarrassed."

Established protocols at an initial checkpoint, including verifying whether the Salahis were on the guest list, weren't followed, according to a preliminary investigation, Sullivan said, adding, "That failing is ours."

The White House social office oversees guest lists and attendees, and in past administrations has staffed entrances for such events, but White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told the Associated Press earlier this week that no one from her staff was at the checkpoint at the time the Salahis entered.

The Salahis, who are being considered for the cast of the cable channel Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C." reality show, went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, Sullivan said, but "should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely."

"As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated," Sullivan said.

On her Facebook page, where she posted photos of the night, Michaele Salahi wrote, "I was honored to be invited to attend the First State Dinner hosted by President Obama & the First Lady to honor India."

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David Brooks: Health Care Reform Debate Is One About Values.

Health care reform debate is one about values
By David Brooks

It's easy to get lost in the weeds when talking about health care reform. But, like all great public issues, the health care debate is fundamentally a debate about values. It's a debate about what kind of country we want America to be.

During the first many decades of this nation's existence, the United States was a wide-open, dynamic country with a rapidly expanding economy. It was also a country that tolerated a large amount of cruelty and pain — poor people living in misery, workers suffering from exploitation.

Over the years, Americans decided they wanted a little more safety and security. This is what happens as nations grow wealthier; they use money to buy civilization.

Occasionally, our ancestors found themselves in a sweet spot. They could pass legislation that brought security but without a cost to vitality. But adults know that this situation is rare. In the real world, there's usually a trade-off. The unregulated market wants to direct capital to the productive and the young. Welfare policies usually direct resources to the vulnerable and the elderly. Most social welfare legislation, even successful legislation, siphons money from the former to the latter.

Early in this health care reform process, many of us thought we were in that magical sweet spot. We could extend coverage to the uninsured but also improve the system overall to lower costs. That is, we thought it would be possible to reduce the suffering of the vulnerable while simultaneously squeezing money out of the wasteful system and freeing it up for more productive uses.

That's what the management gurus call a win-win.

It hasn't worked out that way. The bills before Congress would almost certainly ease the anxiety of the uninsured, those who watch with terror as their child or spouse grows ill, who face bankruptcy and ruin.

And the bills would probably do it without damaging the care the rest of us receive. In every place where reforms have been tried — from Massachusetts to Switzerland — people come to cherish their new benefits. The new plans become politically untouchable.

But, alas, there would be trade-offs. Instead of reducing costs, the bills in Congress would probably raise them. They would mean that more of the nation's wealth would be siphoned off from productive uses and shifted into a still wasteful health care system.

The authors of these bills have tried to foster efficiencies. The Senate bill would initiate several interesting experiments designed to make the system more effective — giving doctors incentives to collaborate, rewarding hospitals that provide quality care at lower cost. It's possible that some of these experiments will bloom into potent systemic reforms.

But the general view among independent health care economists is that these changes will not fundamentally bend the cost curve. The system after reform will look as it does today, only bigger and more expensive.

As Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the Harvard Medical School, wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week, “In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it.”

Rather than pushing all of the new costs onto future generations, as past governments have done, the Democrats have admirably agreed to raise taxes. Over the next generation, the tax increases in the various bills could funnel trillions of dollars from the general economy into the medical system.

Moreover, the current estimates almost certainly understate the share of the nation's wealth that will have to be shifted. In these bills, the present Congress pledges that future Congresses will impose painful measures to cut Medicare payments and impose efficiencies. Future Congresses rarely live up to these pledges. Somebody screams “Rationing!” and there is a bipartisan rush to kill even the most tepid cost-saving measure. After all, if the current Congress, with pride of authorship, couldn't reduce costs, why should we expect that future Congresses will?

The bottom line is that we face a brutal choice.

Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we've already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.

We all have to decide what we want at this moment in history, vitality or security. We can debate this or that provision, but where we come down will depend on that moral preference. Don't get stupefied by technical details. This debate is about values.

David Brooks is a New York Times columnist.


Here's How To Get That I-Phone 3G S For $49.00. Follow The Link.

The deal is a good one ...

... if you can live with the extra requirements,

which should be NO trouble.

Follow here.


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Get An I-Phone 3G S For $49.00.

I'll update this post to show you how.

Please note that the phone is refurbished -- no big deal, really!

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DEEPAK Chopra "DEEP Sixes" SILLY Sarah (Failin') Palin. Read More Below.

Sarah Palin: fooling none of the people all of the time
By Deepak Chopra

Last fall it seemed as if Sarah Palin would light a fuse and cause a social explosion. Behind her beauty-pageant smile lurked the shadow, the dark side of human nature. Her tactic of appealing to the worst impulses of the electorate had a long history in the Republican Party. Indeed, Palin inherited the selfish, mean-spirited values of another politician with a gleaming smile, Ronald Reagan.

When it first dawned in American politics, the shadow was shocking. Values were turned upside down. The AIDS crisis? Ignore it. They deserve what they got. The deficit? Doesn't matter as long as the rich get what they want. Huge unemployment and falling incomes among the working class? Feed them crank social issues so they have someone to hate. Palin breathes this noxious atmosphere like the clear air of Alaska and thrives on it.

Now, however, Palin brings a smile. When she quit her job as governor, it was obvious that someone had whispered in her ear, "You're fading. Soon you'll be a nobody. Grab the money while you can." And so she did, earning a hefty advance, much of which, fittingly, goes to paying off lawsuits related to her ethical violations while in office. The shadow that seemed so dangerous a year ago has been defanged, reduced to spiteful backbiting against the McCain campaign, the very people who gave Palin her spot in the limelight to begin with.

I hope the left will take a deep breath and stop treating Palin like a diabolical force. The American character has always had a large dose of orneriness in it, and the more ornery you were, the farther west you moved. Alaska has a reputation for being an icebox for malcontents. Palin came straight from the source, and countless Americans root for her. In hard times, being the bellyacher-in-chief is a valid role. Hence the rise of Glenn Beck.

But nobody is being fooled. A recent Gallup poll showed that 67% of responders don't want Palin to run for president. Fear of Palin is ill-advised on two counts. First, fear is what the shadow wants. Without it, the shadow has no power. Second, the left needs to learn how to win graciously. The current upheaval in American society, which has been an enormous threat on many fronts, called forth a president and a constituency that knows how to handle crisis. The voices of sanity are prevailing. The solutions that have emerged on all fronts -- economic, social, and international -- represent the best in the American character.

But you can't expect everyone to join the party. As long as we know that Palin is fooling nobody all of the time, the darker side can be tolerated. The shadow is always with us. Today it's on a book tour.


Laugh Today, Too.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tareq and Michaele Salahi Crash White House State Dinner Party. Secret Service Heads "Need to Roll", Period.

Watch video below:


On Today, Thanksgiving Day, We Can Be Thankful For My Hero, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln proclaims Thanksgiving

It was a son of Kentucky, leading the nation through the worst crisis of its life, who set aside an official day of Thanksgiving for America's people. Perhaps he had learned the leavening benefits of counting one's blessings, of stopping to note what gladdened the heart, when he and his family were carving an existence out of a veritable wilderness. A tough life can teach lessons of unlikely transformation. How else to explain the impulse to proclaim an official day of thanks for a suffering land, in the middle of a Civil War? That's what Abraham Lincoln did.

Spurred by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale to make an annually observed day of thanksgiving “a National and fixed Union festival,” President Lincoln did what he could in a few sentences to bring people together. Just several months after the battle of Gettysburg, and just one month after Chickamauga claimed his own brother-in-law, Lincoln on Oct. 3, 1863, issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

In it, he noted the “unequaled magnitude and severity” of the Civil War and asked God's “tender care” for “those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” But he also enumerated the gifts visited upon the people and the land. In fact, he started the proclamation, a competing narrative to the ongoing anguish, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies …”

If Abraham Lincoln could believe that, and declare that, in the middle of a real Civil War, then we certainly may find it in ourselves to follow his example in our own current, very trying, times. More — we must.

We need no cold comfort of numbers to support what we know about our times. So many Americans are out of work. Many more worry about losing jobs. We worry about making ends meet, and how to help our children realize their dreams.

So many uncertainties lead to so many incivilities, and we don't need the cold comfort of specific examples to know what we know about this, either. If we the people have not taken to fighting each other in Pennsylvania and Tennessee fields, as they did in Lincoln's day, we tear each other apart with words and images, and we attack each other over ideas, and we believe the worst about each other. We shout. We fume. We accuse. And maybe we are numb, or immune, or oblivious, to the goodness around us.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation delivered a land and a people from being defined by the worst of their times and their impulses. It created a special space for spoken grace, for shared grace.

From the depths of the Civil War, Lincoln reminded our forebears of the good in their midst in the Proclamation of Thanksgiving:

“… Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

Every year since, good or bad or somewhere in between, that special space shows up for a day.

This year, for many of us, Thanksgiving comes just in time. Maybe we can again learn lessons of unlikely transformation during hard times, and be of one heart and one voice, and mindful of our shared fruitful fields and healthful skies, in this special space.

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POTUS Barack Obama Is Working HARD On Thanksgiving Day. Watch Video.

From Osi Speaks!, Happy Thanksgiving.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

-- I Thessalonians 5:18


Happy Eid-Ul-Adha To Our Muslim Brothers And Sisters.

Happy Eid-Ul-Adha.

Update: watch video below:


Happy Thanksgiving From POTUS Barack Obama.

Osi --

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones.

American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share.

Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve.

So tomorrow, I'll be giving thanks for my family -- for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

But tomorrow is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love.

The soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids. The sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling. The folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach.

So when we gather tomorrow, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.

It seems like a lifetime ago that a crowd met on a frigid February morning in Springfield, Illinois to set out on an improbable course to change our nation.

In the years since, Michelle and I have been blessed with the support and friendship of the millions of Americans who have come together to form this ongoing movement for change.

You have been there through victories and setbacks. You have given of yourselves beyond measure. You have enabled all that we have accomplished -- and you have had the courage to dream yet bigger dreams for what we can still achieve.

So in this season of thanks giving, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to you, and my anticipation of the brighter future we are creating together.

With warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from my family to yours,

President Barack Obama

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Happy Thanksgiving From FROTUS Michelle Obama.

Tomorrow, many of us will gather around the table with family and friends to give thanks over a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy -- and let’s not forget pumpkin pie!

But for some in this country, the feast will not be as bountiful. In fact, it won’t be much of a feast at all. Hunger is on the rise in America -- hitting its highest levels in nearly 15 years. A recent report released by the USDA reveals that in 2008 an estimated 1.1 million children were living in households that experienced hunger multiple times over the past year.

To combat hunger this winter, we’re launching, in coordination with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor initiative -- a program that empowers you with all the resources you need to mobilize against the hunger crisis in your community. Learn how you can get started today:

Barack and I are committed to doing all we can to end hunger by making food programs more accessible to eligible families. But government can only do so much -- it will take all of us working together to put an end to hunger in America.
That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to get involved at Find local volunteer opportunities like delivering meals to homebound seniors, offering your professional skills at a food pantry, or planting a community garden and sharing produce with your neighbors. You can also create your own volunteer opportunity using our anti-hunger toolkit.

This holiday season let’s recommit to serving our communities and working together to feed American families. Get started giving back today.

Thank you,

First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House


Happy Thanksgiving From My Hero, Abraham Lincoln.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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Happy Thanksgiving From George Washington.

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.