Sunday, July 20, 2014

After Malaysian shoot down will the world finally get tough with Putin and the rebels?

The thugs,criminals and  terrorists supported by Russia who have been trying to commit an armed robbery of eastern Ukraine on behalf of  their Russian bosses and have already defined themselves as criminals long before,  are now officially mass murderers after shooting down a commerical airliner and killing 295 civilians including 80 children.

They, as well as Putin have now become world pariahs. And they have made it worse for themselves with their lies and denials, and their attempts at keeping world investigators away from the crash scene. 

The separtists have now become and will always remain criminals and be looked on with contempt.  Sergov, the Russian foreign minister has become a world laughing stock with his attempts to pin the downing of the plane on the Ukrainian government. And the Russian backed terrorists have been engaged in, along with denying access to the crash site, obstructing justice by tampering and destroying evidence, treating the dead with no respect, and continuing to act like the thugs they are,  and insuring their place as objects of world derision.

The question is, how much will the world continue to put up with it? With the separtists denying free access to the crash site only compounding their crime, the Netherlands, who lost 189 nationals have called the rebel behavior "disgusting". And have given Putin a warning that this is his last chance to force the rebels to stand down and allow access to the site. The EU will meet Tuesday to discuss further sanctions which so far have been laughed at by both Putin and the rebels. And a UN resolution has no chance of being anything but tepid since Russia has veto power over any resolution. If the separtists continue to refuse unfettered access to the crash site, the Netherlands should consider using force if necessary to get the free access to the site they deserve. They should be ready to ask Kiev for permission to send troops to dislodge the separtists, gain access to the site and anything else investigators need if that's what its going to take.

The Royal Netherlands army numbers 21,500 full time troops. That doesnt sound like much but it is more than the separatist fighters. They should be prepared to send those troops to Ukraine and then, with the Ukraine military, commence a joint operation to get rid of the rebels, wipe them out and remove their control of the crash site.

Ukraine cant do it alone. Not because they dont have the fire power -- they do. And Porschenko may be regretting a decision -- an understandable one at the time, to deal with the separtists who retreated to Donesk by not bombing the city and destroying infrustructure which eventually might become inevitable if that's what it takes to defeat the Russian proxy fighters. But the site of the crash is too sensitive a place for Ukraine to commence a military operation on its own to dislodge and destroy the Russian terrorists controlling the area. But the Netherlands has the moral authority to do just that. And would have the backing of the whole world. As would the Ukrainian military in helping them.

As long as the separtists refuse to allow unfettered access to the crash  site, refuse to preserve the site and the evidence, no one would or could reproach the Netherlands for taking military action, in conjunction with Ukraine to attack and remove the separistists who are both responsible for shooting down the plane and now obstructing access to the site. In fact they would be cheered on.

And what would Putin do? Declare war on the Netherlands? Assist the separatists and send weapons and fighters into Ukraine to fight the coalition force from Ukraine and the Royal Dutch Army at the crash site after being an accessory to murdering 295 civilians? And become even more of a world pariah?

 Putin would do nothing.  If he tried to aid the separtists in their attempts at denying full and free access to the site, the world would have no choice but impose sanctions that would cripple Russia.And they still might.  And a Russian attempt to aid the separtists militarily now  is  something Putin would not gamble on doing.

Its time the rest of the world got tough with the separtists acting as a proxy for Moscow,  label them for what they are, and get tough with Moscow while Ukraine gets tough with the separtists who are now officially mass murderers.

The prime minister of the Netherlands has vowed that those who brought down the plane would be punished. There's no reason not to start right now.

NOTE: It's being reported that Ukraine has launched a major military offensive to retake the Donesk region where the rebels have been controlling checkpoints and the crash site. It is a smart move since undoubtedly the world will support it and Putin is now in no positon to do a thing to help the rebels either with fighters or equipment.

ADDITIONAL NOTE(7/25): It seems Putin thinks he is in a position to do something about it, continuing to send more heavy weapons to the rebels in Ukraine. But both Austrailia and the Netherlands have announced they are going to send armed police, 200 by Austrailia, 50 by the Netherlands to secure the crash site so investigators who still havent had unfettered access can do their work. It's not too late but it may be too little. Reports are that the rebels are getting "impatient" with the process. If they reach a point where they refuse access to investigators, then 250 armed police may not be enough and it will be time those countries who had victims aboard MH-17,  to send as many armed troops as neccessary with whatever weapons are neccessary to deal with the rebels.  And see what Putin decides to do about that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How Obama lost the Middle East before he was even elected.

With the relentless rocket fire continuing to come from Hamas in their futile but continuing attempt to cause mass casualites in Israel, and Israeli self defense forces using air strikes and a ground invasion to take out the capability of Hamas to fire them, John Kerry as Obama's representative has been virutally useless in getting a cease fire just as the Obama administration has been a vitual non-entity in getting anything accomplished in the Middle East fsince Obama's election.

The fault does not lie with Kerry. It goes back to even before Obama was elected and Obama's say anything at any time to whomever you have to say it to, no matter how reckless and irresponsible as long as there is some percieved political advantage for him.   And the consequences of that are,  even now,despite Kerry's shuttling, that  the United States has little or no credibility or influence on anyone in the  events currently unfolding in Israel and Gaza, or before.

But this didnt happen overnight. It happened in 2008, while Obama was running for president and became hoisted on his own petard over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,  and in the process destroyed his credibility as a peace broker  with both for all time.

It happened in 2008 when Obama gave a campaign speech to AIPAC - - the American -Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Washington D.C.  That speech and it's most controversial statement, designed purely for political purposes to gain the votes he believed he needed to win an election,  had serious consequence at the time, and even more now,  highlighted again  by the events raging in Israel and Gaza.

Though it had been 8 years earlier, Florida in the 2000 presidential election with it's  hanging chads and hand counted ballots which ultimately gave the presidency to George W. Bush it was something still fresh in the minds of most Democrats in 2008 and the conventional wisdom was that Florida again could be decisive in winning or losing the presidency in 2008.

Mindful of Florida's importance and its significant  Jewish population, Obama scheduled a campaign speech to be made to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee  in Washington in June of 2008.

Obama spoke to a packed house, and in that speech Obama declared his unequivocal support for a single, undivided, unified Jerusalem to be now and always,  the capital of Israel. He stated that any agreement with the Palestinians " must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognizable and defensive borders, and Jerusalem will remain the capitol of Israel and it must remain undivided".

With Jerusalem being the most contentious issue in peace negotiations, with all of Jerusalem being the current capitol of Israel, including East Jerusalem captured during the Six Day War, and with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as a future capitol for a Palestinian state, Obama's statement gave him what he wanted. A standing ovation from the 7,000 +  Jewish-American attendees in the audience and the prospect of winning the all important Jewish vote in all important Florida.

But Obama also got something he didn't bargain for. But should have.  The following day, when the Palestinian leadership and the Arab world heard about his speech they went predictably ballistic.

Because in the long and tortuous road to trying to find an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the issue of  the final status of Jerusalem and East Jerusalem was the single most contentious, divisive, and controversial of all the issues to be resolved.

Because of this, every negotiator or team of negotiators in every administration over the last 50 years attempting to forge a peace deal, even those who privately supported a unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel,  insisted that the final status of Jerusalem be saved for last.

The reasoning was simple --  if negotiations between both sides could get to the point where all  other issues had been resolved and compromises made and the final issue to be resolved, the last hurdle, was the final status of Jerusalem and East Jerusalem in particular, both sides would be more inclined to make whatever compromises might be necessary to seal a deal and make the elusive two state solution a reality rather than see all the concessions, compromises, hard work and agreements previously made fall by the wayside.

So for Obama to essentially render negotiations useless from the very beginning as far as the Palestinians were concerned and to publicly proclaim before even being elected much less before a single negotiating session was scheduled, that the Palestinians had no chance of gaining even a sliver of East Jerusalem as the capitol of a Palestinian state, not only infuriated and enraged the Palestinians and the Arab world, but  by any measure,considering the seriousness and importance of that single issue, how contentious and emotionally charged it is for both sides, and vital to a peace deal,  Obama's speech could rightly be called, incompetent,  reckless, self serving, negligent, irresponsible, even stupid. It was said purely for his own political gain which showed how unqualified he really was for the office he was seeking.

For Obama or any presidential candidate to have made such a public declaration even if he believed it privately, and do it in a campaign speech over such a contentious issue, one that had bedeviled so many for so long,  especially since the United States needed to be seen as an honest broker between the parties even in light of its alliance with Israel, betrayed an incompetence and lack of an ability to grasp the seriousness of a major foreign policy issue left everyone in disbelief.  Even if that proved in the end to be the final status of Jerusalem, he couldnt have said anything to undermine the United States role in the peace process that any more incompetent.

Yet Obama managed to make things worse.

Less than 24 hours later, after Obama learned of  the Palestinian reaction which should have been no surprise, Obama tried to do what he has done many times before and since and has become famous for --  he reversed himself and backed away from his statement in a way that he thought would allow him to save face,  reverse course,  do damage control or undo the damage he did,  and hope others would swallow his explanation.

Obama claimed that everyone, the news media, the Israelis, the Palestinians, everyone,  simply misunderstood him.   He claimed that when he said he supported a unified single undivided Jerusalem,  he didn't mean a single Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel after all. Instead he claimed he meant  " a Jerusalem with no barbed wire".Which once again proved that Obama believed in nothing and his words are only designed to get whatever personal advantage he thinks his words might bring at the time. 

As everyone knew there hadn't been any barbed wire in Jerusalem since 1967 when East Jerusalem was captured by the Israelis in the Six Day War. So Obama trying to claim that he only meant that he was supporting something that had already been a reality for 41 years was met with more disbelief and even derision than his original statement. And mocked.

And made matters even worse. 

Obama's backtracking infuriated many Jews in the United States and Israelis and even before his election soured his future relationship with Netanyahu for all time which continues to this day. He also soured his relationship with Abbas.  And as a result of alienating both sides  it's understandable that Obama has had less influence over the Israeli-Palestinian issue than any president before him. He began with no credibility with either side even before he was elected and he still has no credibility. It was also the beginning of the end of Obama's credibility in the Middle East on any level  and, as the world has seen, eliminated any chance to broker a peace deal.

Obama's two faced approach was even more solidfied when, as recently as Sept. 2012 the State Department refused to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel in a complete about face from Obama's 2008 speech,  and stated that "the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians". 

With Hamas firing hundreds of rockets a day into Israel and Israel retailiating by destroying Hamas' ability to make war, Obama, almost feebly, claimed he was ready to broker a peace deal. It was, predictably ignored by everyone, including Netanyahu, Abbas, even leaders of other countries since it was accepted reality that Obama had no leverage and no credibility with anyone.

If  Obama accomplished anything in that 2008 speech, it's that he managed to do something that no other president has been able to do and has continued throughout his presidency to this day, it's that he managed to finally unify the Israelis and the Palestinians on one issue.  Their mutual contempt for him. And someone who couldn't, shouldn't and wouldn't to this day,  be trusted.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Does the NSA have your baby pictures?

With new disclosures courtesy of Edward Snowden, revealing the extent to which the NSA has gathered personal private information about innocent American citizens suspected of nothing, it should be clear to almost anyone that the government has no right to do any of it and never did.

Does the government have the right to peek in through your windows, bug your home and put surveillence cameras on you and your family without probable cause or a warrant? Obviously they do not. And they do not have the right to use other electronic means to gather information on you and your family without a warrant showing probable cause either.

Unfortunately there are politicians who disagree and think the government does have that right. And Democrats are among them, including Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi who along with Feinstein called Edward Snowden a traitor,  and a Democratic president who the ACLU said has a record on civil liberties that is "disgusting".

The new data revealed by the Washington Post thanks to Snowden, showed that 9 out of 10 conversations, emails and other data gathered by the NSA came from innocent Americans suspected of nothing and who were not the direct targets of surveillence but simply caught up in the surveillence. 

According to the Post article, the NSA now has baby pictures, sexually explicit web cam encounters, selfies, sexual photos, personal email exchanges and private medical records of hundreds of thousands of innocent American citizens not targets of any investigation despite Obama's previous statements that they did not. And, as Snowden has now proved, he personally had access to these files (and presumably many others do too) despite claims by Obama and people like General Alexander and James Clapper that he did not.

The Post looked at 160,000 email messages, instant messages, photos, and documents provided by Snowden , 90% of which were taken from American citizens who were entirely innocent and were not even suspects.  They also report that all of these NSA collected documents spanned  the years 2009 to 2012, Obama's first term where the bulk gathering increased far beyond those of the Bush years. Proving again that Obama's greatest talent is for reneging on promises and he will roll over and cave in to whomever he thinks he can't stand up to, whether its Wall Street, the health insurance lobby, Republicans, or the brass at the NSA. And as it's been reported, Obama has prosecuted more people ( or tried to) under the Espionage Act (including journalists) than all previous presidents combined.  This clearly did not come from some inner conviction about national security since many of the prosecutions were more persecution than prosecution, some were used as harassment and then dropped. Obama ran on precisely the opposite position.

( Hillary Clinton made a significant statement about Snowden a few days ago which typically went completely over the heads of mainstream journalists when she was asked in an interview what she would do about Snowden. Clinton said she believed he should be allowed to come back to the United States and get a fair trial. The significance of that is there is no possibility of a fair trial under the Espionage Act. The defendant is not allowed to introduce evidence in his defense, can't call witnesses,  is not entitled to discovery and there is no defense, not whistleblowing, not revealing criminality, nothing. There is only one question to be answered -- did someone charged under the Espionage Act commit the actions the government claims they did -- yes or no. In Snowden's case the charge is, did he unlawfully take the documents, yes or no.  That is the only issue to be decided in an Espionage Act prosecution of Snowden. Clinton's answer reveals that unlike Obama,  she would not charge Snowden under the Espionage Act but under another statute that would allow for a defense.) 

Brianna Keilar, who continued the kowtowing of CNN and others in the media to people in power and who save their shock, outrage and courage for things like Anthony Weiner's sex chats,  characterized the new revelations by saying, "let's be clear -- some of the intelligence gathered is valuable -- and some of it isnt ".

Well no, not exactly.  What the Post and Snowden's documents revealed is that some of the intelligence gathered is in fact valuable -  but 90% of it isnt.  Not some of it isnt, most of  it isn't. And it's gathered at the expense of the constitutional rights of American citizens. And what's even worse is that the NSA  is storing  that irrelevant 90% in a data base where it can be accessed instead of destroying it. All this in spite of the fact that as a candidate in 2008 Obama promised to curtail the Bush secret surveillence, promised as recently as a few months ago there was no personal or identifiable data about Americans being gathered or stored, and promised no one had access to any Americans' private information. All of that is untrue. He also promised more transparency to the entire process including the secret decisions made by the FISA court.

The great irony of the NSA data collection of Americans who are not targets of surveillence,  is that Obama himself is referenced in these same NSA files without using his name, instead using the term, "minimized U.S. president" 1,227 times to refer to Obama. Which at least confirms that what the NSA does is based on intelligence. And is about the only thing related to Obama that can be called transparent.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Memo to Democrats: Get Over the Koch Brothers.

While no one can argue that Citizens United was one of the most intellectually corrupt Supreme Court decisions in history (corporations, as everyone knows, are not people) in Democratic fundraising and political circles the Koch Brothers and the money they spend supporting candidates and policies of their choice have gone from the realm of political science to the realm of  political medieval superstition and horror, political bogeymen who come out at night and steal Democratic children.

But the truth is, and the facts show, and have always shown, money does not, has never,  and cannot buy elections.

The problem for Democrats is not and has not been, the Koch Brothers or their money. Or that Democrats don't have enough, as they constantly cry in their fundraising emails. The problem for Democrats is that as far back as 1988 they have had the worst collection of political stratgegists,advisors and advertising since Marie Antoinette. 

Who can forget the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign and those silly videos of Dukakis riding around in a tank wearing a crash helmet looking like a misplaced Mouseketeer? It was mocked by everyone. Ignored in all that silliness was the fact that Dukais was the first presidential candidate back in 1988 to warn about the dangers of the deficit as a problem for the country. It was Dukais who said, "the country cannot go on living on a credit card".  It was Democratic strategists who gave us  Dukais in a crash helmet riding in a tank.

The lone exception to the Democrat's decades long political ineptitude was Bill Clinton's campaigns in 1992 and 1996.

The writing of this piece began before David Brat's stunning defeat of Republican majority leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary but nothing illustrates the point better that money does not and cannot buy elections. Cantor, the incumbent and House Majority Leader,  out raised and outspent Brat  according to some media estimates by as much as 26-1.  He lost. Cantor had the power, the money, the name recognition. And he lost.

The Sunlight Foundation is an organization that uses a formula to calculate political return on investment for money spent. According to theirs and other reports,  the Koch Brothers return on investment for political spending during the entire 2012 election cycle - an amount estimated at $240 million (with some estimates as high as $640 million), -  was zero.  That's right. Nothing. They had no effect on the outcome of any election anywhere in America. Not a single congressional or legislative seat changed hands anywhere because of the Koch Brothers.

The return on investment was so low that the Koch Brothers fired all 100 employees of American Prosperity, the PAC through which they funnel much of their money, right after the elections.

Karl Rove's American Crossroads didn't do much better. According to the Sunlight Foundation they showed a 1.29% return on investment for the $104 million they spent. The NRA did even worse. The NRA American Political Victory Fund saw a  0.83% return on more than $11 million spent on candidates.

On the other hand the big winner during the 2012 election cycle according to the Sunlight Foundation was Planned Parenthood who saw a 98%  return on the money they spent on candidates who supported their policies and won.

There is an old adage in advertising that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. Not that the Republicans advertising was any good. But Republicans were offering a lousy product. And people knew it. If you try a product and don't like it, all the advertising in the world won't get you to buy it again. Unless you change the product and then try to sell it as "New and Improved". Which is what some Republicans are trying to do now.

The Democrats have had a track record of having been proved right on policy about 95% of the time (Obamacare excluded)  while Republican policy has been proved to be catastrophic and yet Democrats cant find strategists that know how to make that case.

In 2000, despite having been Vice President in a spectacularly successful two term Clinton administration, Al Gore, with Donna Brazile as his campaign manager, insisted on keeping Bill Clinton away from his campaign, proclaiming  " Im my own man"  and ran a campaign designed to distance himself from the White House. He succeeded. Permanently.

Four years later John Kerry was even worse. Despite the fact that George W. Bush had arguably the worst four years of any president in American history, from the 911 attacks and the 911 Commission exposing that Bush and his administration had ignored nine months of warnings and specific actionable intelligence that would have prevented the 911 attacks, blowing a balanced budget and zero deficit inherited from Clinton, skyrocketing unemployment, creating record deficits and the fiasco of of Iraq, a product of not just lies, but called  the worst military planning in history and with no WMD ever found, Kerry still lost.

Republicans, in spite of having the worst four years in history, went on the offensive, and Democrats, as usual, went on the defensive. And played badly.  Kerry never made a case against Bush. And Kerry's military record was attacked by the so called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth who tried to claim Kerry's medals in Viet Nam were fake. Having received the Purple Heart ( among other medals) Kerry could have reminded people that the only bleeding George W. Bush ever did for his country while in the Air National Guard was when he had his teeth cleaned. He could have. But he didnt.

After losing, Kerry's response was he thought he did pretty well considering he ran against a sitting president in time of war. No kidding. That's what he said.

But Democrats try to convince their consitutents that  the Koch Brothers are their biggest problem especially when it comes to political advertising, the men who will destroy the Democratic agenda and even the party itself unless "10,000 of you can make a contribution and stop the Koch Brothers before tonight's midnight reporting deadline .Otherwise all is lost". Sounds like another Little Orphan Annie pitch from A Christmas Story.

So the men whose hefty political spending resulted in having no impact on the 2012 elections are, according to Democratic fundraising,  the single biggest problem Democrats are facing. Obviously Democratic fundraisers haven't given much thought to the reality that its been Obama who's thwarted and undermined every aspect of the Democratic agenda, reneging on and breaking every promise and pledge he ever made from blowing health care reform by caving in to the health insurance lobby , watering down financial reform to suit Wall Street,  a record on civil liberties the ACLU has called "disgusting",cracking down on whistleblowers,  expanding Bush's NSA bulk domestic surveillance, not closing Gitmo,  just to name a few and all during his first two years when he had the biggest congressional majority of any president in 60 years. But, the pitch goes, unless Democrats can raise more money, it's the ineffective Koch Brothers who will destroy their agenda and election chances.

So are Democrats really living in mortal fear of the Koch Brothers or is it just a patently and blatantly dishonest fundraising ploy? Here is a sampling of some of their fundraising emails sent on a daily basis:

"The Koch Brothers are holding an enormous secret convention in Palm Springs  tomorrow ( if its so secret how come you know about it?) according to an alarming (alarming!) Politico  expose (not report mind you --expose!)

Then comes the pitch:

 "Its absolutely critical that 10,000 folks step up in the next 96 hours to respond. If we cant fill the gap ( what gap?) in our Emergency Response Plan ( what emergency response plan? what's the emergency? and what's the plan? They don't say, because they never have one and if they do, they wasted their money because no one got it)  the GOP could jump out to an insurmountable lead in the battle for the senate."

An insurmountable lead.  According to Democrats if they don't get the money they need in 96 hours all is lost. Really.  LOST. That's what they say. That was three weeks ago. But they are still beating the same drum.

Here are subject heads in Democratic fundraising emails using the Koch Brothers.

Heartbreaking Loss - Devastating blow - Crushing Loss -Crushing Defeat - -Excruciating Regret (one of my favorites) -  Staggering Blow - Staggering Setback -  Obliterated - Throw in the Towel  (yes, Throw in the Towel)- Painful Defeat - EVICERATED (yes, all caps) -All Hope is Lost.

Democratic political strategy at work.  Here's some of the text:

"We told you that the Koch Brothers have a master plan to spend $125 million to destroy Democrats.  Here's the bare truth: if we fail to respond our chances for a Democratic House will be OBLITERATED"(again, their caps).

Here's another:

The Koch Brothers are now planning to spend $125 million to defeat Democrats (how dare they! They should be building Little League fields!) We have a $150,000 hole in our Rapid Response Fund. If we cant respond immediately Rove and the Koch's WILL (their caps) buy the election". (and it's not even buy one get one free.)


"We're beginning to think we should just throw in the towel" (how's that for determination and resolve?) The Koch Brothers shady $125 million is beginning to show up in dirty, lying attack ads. If we don't act immediately people will believe their lies and our hopes for a Democratic House will be dead in the water. We're getting desperate.   According to our records you haven't given since the last Koch spending spree ( that's right, I haven't though I am now. It's called advice)."


"The Koch Brothers are outspending us 3-1" ( pretty good odds actually when you look at David Brat being outspent 26-1 and winning).

"If we don't hit 100,000 responders (responders! Any chance their trying to tap into our inner first responder as motivation?)  in the next 48 hours we wont stand a chance against the Koch Brothers and our chances of winning a Democratic House for president Obama will be EVISCERATED".

Okay so now they've gone from "OBLITERATED" to "EVISCERATED". I wonder how many people were in on the word change.

They also seem to forget, or want you to forget if you're a Democrat,  that president Obama had a Democratic House in his first two years -- the biggest congressional majority any president had in 60 years and used it to cave in to the health insurance lobby on healthcare reform and drop the public option, didn't close Gitmo, caved in on everything and passed fewer pieces of legislation in two years with a 60-40 senate majority than George W. Bush did in two months with a 52-48 senate majority.

Then came this:

"We keep emailing you. President Obama emailed you, vice president Biden emailed you, AND (their caps)  Nancy Pelosi emailed you.....we don't mean to nag but.... we need to respond to the unprecedented $125 million worth of attacks we're facing from the Koch Brothers". Okay, so now they're scolding me. But instead of more money, how about coming up with, you know, a real strategy or idea?

Finally an email supposedly from Harry Reid that said if the Democrats can get another 48,132 donations before the midnight mid year deading " the Koch Brothers will be terrified".
Even before David Brat's victory,  in the Colorado recall election last year, where two Democratic state legislators who voted for stricter gun laws faced a recall election, Democrats and groups who supported them outspent the NRA and the opposition by 10-1. They lost.

The NRA spent a little over $300,000 and those who supported the gun laws spent over $3,000,000. It was  poor strategy and the inability to make an effective and compelling case for some common sense laws that cost Democrats not a lack of money. Just the other day a judge in Colorado dismissed a lawsuit brought by Colorado sherrifs trying to get the laws on ammunition clips and background checks overturned. The judge dismissed the suit ruling it had no merit. Neither did the Democrats TV commercials trying to defend the law that cost those legislators their seats.

Yes you have to have some money, but as Executive Director of the Denver Group in 2008,  we created controversial  political  ads on behalf of Hillary Clinton on a shoestring budget of $100,000 that generated at least $20 million worth of media exposure because of all the media attention they received which resulted, along with the impact of the ads themselves, coverage by the NY Times, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, Huffington Post and media outlets as far away as Japan.

Democrats can't depend on Republican candidates who claim they used to be a witch, or saw headless bodies in the Nevada desert or talk about things like "legitimate rape" or candidates getting undone by a cell phone video. They need to forget about using the Koch Brothers as their ploy when they have had no impact on anything and try and find strategists and advisors who can make their case on the merits.

Recently, Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee was quoted in the Times as saying, " Up and down the map, Democrats are out polling and out fund raising their Republican opponents and we enjoy cash on hand advantages at both the campaign and committee level. We feel very confident that, going forward, this will ensure Democrats have the resources we need to win in November".

So if Democrats lose it won 't be the  Koch Brothers fault . Or not having enough money.

Instead what Democrats need to do is get over the Koch Brothers.  And groups like MoveOn and other progressive groups should stop fraudulently using them and their non- influence as a dishonest excuse to raise more money. If they don't they're no better than the things they complain about .  It's not more money Democrats need. It's knowing what to do with  the money they have.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cheney and Iraq: Lies and denial and a reminder of the cowardice of the news media.

The other day,  Dick Cheney authored, along with his daughter a scathing op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal criticizing Obama's handling of Iraq by writing:

"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many".

Perhaps Cheney used the word "rarely" because he recalls the decisions made, or lack of, by George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Cheney himself and then Attorney General John Ashcroft when they all ignored and dismissed as unimportant, dire warnings from the intelligence agencies of an impending Al-Qaeda attack within the United States that became reality on Sept.11,2001 and which in turn led to the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cheney's short term memory loss, or perhaps genuine deep denial conveniently ignores, or forgets as the case may be,  that no president  in all American history had been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many or  killed more people as a result of bad judgement  than  George W. Bush,  Cheney himself, Condoleeza Rice, John Ashcroft and others in the Bush administration who ignored nine months of  terrorist warnings and actionable intelligence  from the CIA, FBI, and White House anti-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, that the U.S. was about to be hit with a major terrorist attack. An attack without which Bush and Cheney never would have been able to lie the country into a war in Iraq in the first place.

The 911 Commission hearings revealed that intercepts of Al-Qaeda traffic in early 2001 and through August of 2001 by the CIA indicated the U.S. was going to be hit by a major terrorist attack inside the United States and that this attack, according to the CIA translation of one intercept "was going to be spectacular".

Perhaps Cheney forgets that the Acting Director of the FBI at the time,  Thomas Pickard testified during the 911 Commission hearings  that prior to the 911 attacks when he went to see then Attorney General John Ashcroft with intelligence he deemed important related to Al-Qaeda and terrorism within the United States and the threat of an attack, he was dismissed and told by Ashcroft that "he didn't want to hear about this anymore". Which was the official position of the Bush Administration.

Perhaps Cheney forgets that Richard Clarke testified that in August of 2001, a month before the 911 attack,  intercepts of Al-Qaeda traffic had reached it's highest level in 20 years and the translations indicated the attack against the U.S. was "imminent" with one intercept translating into "the match has been lit".

Perhaps Cheney wasn't watching when Clarke testified that as a result of this intelligence he and CIA Director George Tenant were " running around the White House like men with our hair on fire" in August of 2001 trying to get Rice and Bush to do something. And were rebuffed.

And perhaps Cheney forgets while writing about an American president that "was so wrong about so much at the expense of so many",  that on August 6, 2001, Bush and Rice received an intelligence briefing compiled by all the intelligence agencies that told them that not only was Al-Qaeda poised to strike within the United States, but that Al-Qaeda cells were already in the United States,(p.2) that some of them had been spotted putting New York City buildings under surveillance, and last but certainly not least, they were told that there was suspicious activity in the United States by Al-Qeada members that were consistant with preparations for multiple hijackings.

After receiving this briefing Bush went on vacation to Crawford and did nothing.

Cheney also forgets that when Richard Ben Viniste, the chief counsel for the 911 Commission asked Rice incredulously how she and Bush could have been given intelligence a month before the attack that the terrorist plot might involve the hijacking of airliners and still did nothing, Rice's answer was, " we had no idea they were going to use the airliners as missiles". Presumably holding hundreds of Americans hostage would have been okay with Cheney.

What Cheney obviously does remember is that for years the country has been cursed with the bigget collection of news media cowards and bunglers and incompetents  since the inception of the country, people who on a daily basis bow and scrape to whoever happens to be in power for the sake of their own professional ambition.  The mainstream news  media even  after the 911 Commission revealed all this information, did nothing to hold Bush and the Bush administration accountable for the 911 attacks and even demand their resignation because they were afraid of being attacked, not by terrorists but by Republicans attacking their patriotism if they tried to hold Bush, Rice and Cheney accountable for their catastrophic failures of judgement.  And none of them were going to risk their careers and the ability to keep making payments on the beach house  for the truth, even if thats what their profession is supposed to be about. 

Which is why all of them not only ignored the 911 Commission findings, they also ignored the fact that there wasnt a single shred of corroborative evidence offered by Cheney or anyone anywhere that showed Sadaam was either involved with Al-Qaeda or was trying to build a nuclear weapon. Instead the news media were complicit in beating the drums for war. It took Joe Wilson, a former ambassador to Niger who used his contacts there to expose Cheney's lies about Sadaam trying to buy yellowcake from Niger. For his trouble, Cheney outed Wilson's undercover CIA wife destroying her 20 year network of informants on -- guess what? -- Iran's nuclear program. Yet the news media en masse rolled over and played dead over all of this including Cheney assertions about Sadaam and Iraq. And no one rolled over more than Judith Miller of the New York Times and her Washington Bureau chief Jill Abramson who rubber stamped and approved  the stories published on the front of page of the New York Times fed to them by Dick Cheney that gave credibility to Cheney's lies about Iraq and WMD which flew in the face of all the available information. 

Which is what made Cheney feel he could write such a preposterous op-ed peice with impunity. That there are those in the media now attacking Cheney means nothing. It's too little too late and it's only happening now because the journalists doing the attacking now feel safe enough to do it.When it mattered most they all hid under a rock. When it doesn't matter, that's when they get tough. Like they did with Anthony Weiner. 

Probably the most significant and telling admission as to how Bush, Cheney and Rice know they were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many, was on May 15, 2014, when dignitaries including two presidents, three  NYC mayors, members of congress and other guests, including first responders,  attended a ceremony in New York City to commemorate and dedicate the opening of the 911 Memorial  Museum and Bush, Rice and Cheney were absent. To say they were conspicuous by their absence would be an understatement if one didnt understand the extent of their gross failures that resulted in the 911 attacks. And knowing their failures, their catastrophically bad judgement and what that caused then and since, they had the decency not to attend. A fact completely missed by the media.

Their absence from the 911 dedication was as close to an admission as anyone will  probably ever get in acknowledging their own failures in not taking the actions which would have prevented the 911 attacks. And given that the 911 attacks resulted in the worst loss of life on American soil at the hands of a foreign enemy in American history, and the lives subsequently lost in Iraq and Afghanistan as a direct result of those attacks, it's fair to say that never before in American history has a president and an administration been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. And then got away with it. Thanks to the incompetents, the bunglers and the cowards who still carry press passes in this country and still show up on cable news. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Truthful Guide to Obama's Lies About Obamacare.

With Obamacare certain to be an issue in the upcoming elections, it's important for Democrats in particular to be aware of what's true and what isn't so as not to stick their necks out and needlessly cost themselves the election. Briefly that means ignore everything Nancy Pelosi has to say and remember it was Pelosi and her concessions to Obama in dropping the public option that led Democrats over the cliff in the 2010 elections which I predicted in Februrary of 2010.

It's fair to say that when it comes to Obamacare, no policy has been the basis for more lies from both the conservative right and what is euphemistically called  "progressives" since Bush lied the country into war in Iraq.

It's almost as if the Tea Party lunatics on the right, and the Obama sycophants on the left are singing the same song: any lie you can tell I can tell better, I can tell any lie better than you.

The joke's on both sides. The right has been lying about any and all healthcare reform from the beginning and tried to compare lowering the costs of healthcare and making it more widely available to those who don't have it to Nazi Germany. Not exactly a winning or endearing strategy to the majority of Americans.

On the so called progressive side,  most are oblivious to the fact that  Obamacare is not just a rank failure, but a right wing conservative idea first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation 17 years ago, adopted by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts(and executed better than Obamacare), capitulated to by Obama,  and is now a monumental failure on a national basis. Obama sycophants on the popular left wing web sites would be tearing Obamacare to shreds for it's failure in doing what healthcare reform was supposed to do had it been the product of a Republican president. And the right would be praising it. So the joke on both sides is that conservatives have been attacking a right wing conservative  idea and the left has been defending it. 

Without a doubt the reform that should have and could have been passed in the first place was the public option. It was what the majority of Americans wanted and it would have given people with or without coverage the option to enroll in a Medicare-like alternative to quality health coverage at a fraction of the cost of private insurance. And for conservatives who just love what they pay to insurance companies and what they get for their money, they could continue merrily along with their current insurance that had caps, exclusions for pre-existing conditions and a whole lot of other wonderful benefits for the insurance companies. Instead, Obama buckled to those insurance companies and dropped the public option which had the votes to pass and instead capitulated to the insurance industry lobby's preference for healthcare reform. And this, known as Obamacare, is the worst of all possible worlds. A mandate to buy insurance from the very people who were part of the problem and who offer as little as possible for as much as possible. It was turning the chicken coop over to the foxes.

But amid all the lies told about Obamacare,  because he is the president, the lies that matter most are those of Obama. And so here for the benefit of Democrats running in November, so they know what's true and what isn't, what they can defend and what they can't,  are Obama's most blatant and egregious lies about Obamacare and it's failures that Democrats ignore at their own peril.


Progressive web sites are constantly repeating this number and so does the news media as if it has any semblance to reality and truth.  They repeat it only because Obama says so,  like some kind of "Simon Says" game called "Obama Says" and they simply repeat it. The actual number is far short of 8 million. And Obama has always known it.

Based on the final numbers, 20% of those who enrolled never sent in their 1st premium payment, invalidating their enrollment and reducing the actual number of enrollments to about 6.4 million.  What brings the number down even lower is that of the 6.4 million valid enrollments, that is, people who purchased insurance policies through the exchanges,  many were duplicate enrollments by people who, because of problems on the web site, enrolled two or three times. 

The exact number of duplicate enrollments hasn't been tabulated but guesses are it will bring the actual number of people who purchased healthcare plans down to 6 million or under,  far short of  the 8 million claimed by Obama and far short of the original and   preposterously low, politically motivated goal of  7 million set by the Obama administration, a goal set so low, most in the Obama administration thought it impossible not to be met.  It wasn't met.

But what makes the 8 million a lie and not simply a matter of having not had all the facts is, Obama knew that the 8 million figure was false. The 15- 20% invalid enrollments had been going on for 5 1/2 months and remained constant ever since the exchanges went live. And within days after the exchanges closed, even before all the numbers were in, Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced that 15-20% of their enrollments were invalid.

But lies and padded numbers aside, the biggest problem is that in terms of what healthcare reform was supposed to do, the numbers show Obamacare is a massive failure.

More than 75% of those 6+million who purchased insurance through the exchanges were in the category of people who already had insurance.  Obamacare hasn't made a dent in the 50 million Americans who didn't have insurance, most of whom are Democratic constituents and the people healthcare reform was designed to help the most. The best that can be said about Obamacare is expanded Medicaid which wouldn't have even been necessary under a public option, and remains optional on a state by state basis, so some eligible people get it and some don't.


Obama made this claim at a news conference  in 2010 when a reporter asked him about health care reform that didn't have the public option. Obama became exceptionally testy possibly feeling defensive that he had sold out the public option in a cave in to the health insurance lobby.

The 32 million Obama was referring to were the younger, healthier uninsured Obamacare needs to be sustainable and to keep premiums for everyone else from skyrocketing even further. But Obama didn't get health insurance for 32 million people. Not then, not now. Probably not ever as long as Obamacare stays in its present form. 

Of the 6 million who purchased insurance, the overwhelming majority, as pointed out,  were people who already had insurance. Only 1.2% of the 50 million previously uninsured bought policies according to the Gallup Well Being Index,  with 28% of that in the category of the younger healthier population. How many of those were previously uninsured is about 2.8%. Simply put, of the 32 million Obamacare was supposed to attract, more than 31 million said no thanks. Which could produce an October Surprise for Democrats when insurance companies unveil their premiums for 2015 in the fall. 

One reason the number was so low among the uninsured was because of the substandard policies being offered through Obamacare on the lowest tiers - silver and bronze --  those designed to attract the younger healthier uninsured, but offering little coverage for high premiums and $6,000 deductibles, something the White House admitted to the NY Times. In other words, the low end policies designed to appeal to those without insurance, in a word, stunk.


One of the most brazen lies in the history of  presidential policies. Obama made this absurd, provably dishonest statement twice in interviews after Obamacare was passed.  He told Jim Leherer of PBS,  "I got 95% of everything I wanted in this bill". When Leherer reminded him there was no public option Obama said, " I never campaigned for the public option".

The next day  You Tubes exploded all over the Internet  showing  Obama campaigning for the public option and/ or a single payer system as far back as 2007 and after being elected, continuing  through the end of 2009 selling and defending the public option in one town hall meeting after another.


This came on the heels of Obama's false 8 million enrollment announcement. Even if the figure had been correct it would still have been evidence of a monumental failure of policy and proof that Obamacare was not working.

Healthcare reform was supposed to do two things: make healthcare and healthcare coverage more widely available to the 50 million Americans who didn't have it, and bring down the obscenely high cost of healthcare for those who did. Obamacare did neither.

After the first year of the Affordable Care Act, of the 50 million who didn't have health insurance, the number dropped from 17.1%  of Americans to 15.9%  according to the Gallup Well Being Index. As a frame of reference of just how well Obamacare is working, the number of people without health coverage in 2008 was 14.9% . So its actually 1% higher now after Obamacare than the year before Obama took office.

And now we are finding out that of those who purchased policies and qualified for subsidies --the government windfall Obama handed to the insurance companies to help those who are eligible pay for these substandard polices -- there are problems with 2 million applications, a staggering one third of all those who purchased insurance. According to the New York Times, two million applications for subsidies are now being called into question because the information supplied about income and other factors that would qualify someone for goverment subsidies do not match the information the government already has regarding these individuals. Which could  invalidate the polices or eventually invalidate the subsidies. And without the subsidies most of these people would probably cancel the insurance bringing down the actual number of people who bought policies even lower, probably to under 6 million.  Possibly even under 5 million.

In other words, another mess  and one that would have been avoided had Obama not caved in and sold out the public option. There would have been no need for subsidies since the public option had nothing to do with private insurance policies.

As for lowering the cost of health care, the second major problem healthcare reform was supposed to solve,  Obama tries to claim as success that the already ridiculously high cost of health care will keep getting more ridiculous but at a slower rate.


Everybody can hum along with this one. But it isn't the lie most people think it is and it isn't the lie Republicans and news media made it out to be. Because Obama never said that about Obamacare.   That's right. He never said it about Obamacare. He said it repeatedly in town hall meetings in 2009 about the public option, the healthcare reform he claims he never campaigned for.

Obama said it repeatedly in response to Republican attacks that the public option was a government take over of healthcare. In response Obama said it was no such thing,  that it was an option, that people could choose it or not choose it, that no one would be forced to enroll in the public option instead of traditional health insurance, that it was an individual choice and " if you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance".

That Obama  preferred to take the massive political hit to his approval rating,  his credibility, his trustworthiness and integrity and at the same time put Democrats'  running  in November with their backs to the wall in having to defend it  rather than set the record straight and admit he said it about the public option not Obamacare, which in turn would remind people that he sold out the public option, which in turn would have invited comparisons between what we have now and what we could have had,  tells you all you need to know about what Obama thinks of Obamacare vs. the public option as a policy.

That admission would have revived talk about what happened to the public option, something Obama was willing to take a major political hit to avoid.  It also shows he was willing to throw Democrats under the bus to protect himself and he put them in a position of having to defend a broken promise about Obamacare he never made.

Obama decided he would rather take the political hit and put Democrats backs to the wall on Obamacare rather than bring up what he claimed he never campaigned for but did and then invite comparisons of what could have been.

The solution for Democrats in 2014? Don't try to defend Obamacare.  The 48 million still without healthcare coverage, most of whom are probably Democratic constituents, won't take kindly to being told how Obamacare is working. Admit its failings but also remind people that the public option which Democrats had the votes to pass would have been the better policy had Obama not dropped it.  Draw a line in the sand between themselves and Obama on the public option and pledge to bring it back.  Most incumbents can point to having voted for a public option  since it had already passed the House but was dropped when Pelosi capitulated to Obama.

 Refusing to defend Obamacare also takes it away from Republicans as an issue against congressional Democrats.  Democrats can admit the truth about Obamacare's shortcomings and failures and still emphasize the need for better healthcare reform and the public option. They can also point out that Republicans opposed real  healthcare reform of any kind from the beginning.

If this means throwing Obama and Obamacare under the bus,  congressional Democrats would only be returning the favor. Pledge to replace Obamacare with the public option if Democrats regain control of the House and this time do it.  And ignore everything Nancy Pelosi has to say about running on Obamacare. If she says "affordable" one more time to the 48 million who still can't afford healthcare coverage and those paying exhorbitant premiums for coverage,  she is going to sound a lot less like FDR and a lot more like Marie Antoinette.

ADDENDUM: In a June 25th story on Huffington Post we are learning that, far from Obamacare being the boon to the economy many including the White House and Obamacare cheerleaders were claiming two months ago, that now has turned out to be untrue as well.
You can read the story here.