Views on the News – 4/20/2013


By: David Coughlin
President Obama is pursuing a political agenda that is very different from the public’s priorities, and neither guns nor immigration is near the top of that list, or even close.  This has been the case since President Obama’s reelection. A December 2012 Bloomberg poll found the public’s top priorities were unemployment and jobs (34%), the federal deficit (19%), and entitlements (11%). Immigration was number seven, with only 4% of respondents saying it was their top priority. Guns did not make the list.  Newtown changed that. Guns moved into third place in a late January, early February Quinnipiac poll, three points higher than health care but far behind the deficit (20%) and the economy (35%).  Once again immigration was near the bottom of the list.  The American political class is debating a set of issues that has little or nothing to do with the priorities of most of the public that politicians purport to represent.  The American political class is having this debate at a time when millions of Americans are out of work, when energy and food prices are on the rise, and when the deficit remains enormous.  Rather than pursue his American Jobs Act with anything approaching vigor, or authorize a no-brainer such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, or try new approaches that might conceivably attract Republican support, Obama chose the social issues, with an eye to changing control of the House in 2014.  His current agenda is totally political and embodies perfectly the concerns and worldview of the wealthy men and women who fund his party.  Guns and immigration are perennial favorites of the class of liberal rich that fatuously believes it is somehow “above politics.”  Barack Obama has nothing new to say on the economy or deficit, but delivers speech after speech on gun regulations that would not have stopped the Sandy Hook massacre, while his allies in the Senate work to import low-wage labor on the one hand and high-end Silicon Valley labor on the other.  Meanwhile, the vast majority of the nation hopes for better days.  Another hallmark of the elite style is its insufferable condescension.  The preening attitude of superiority manifests itself in a form of moral blackmail.  Adversaries of the Obama agenda are not simply mistaken, but it is implied that there is something wrong with them personally.  Opponents of superfluous gun regulations are viewed as accessories after the fact to the latest mass shooting.  Opponents of an immigration amnesty are either racist or “nativist” or cruel.  Skeptics of the relevance or efficacy of efforts to halt climate change are “denialists” similar to the cranks who say the Holocaust did not happen.  What makes this method so insidious is its hold over the media. News coverage is spun and distorted beyond repair.  Last time Obama ignored the importance Americans place on the economy in favor of liberal obsessions, in 2010, it cost him the House and six seats in the Senate.  His approval rating has fallen appreciably since January, so Republicans are guardedly optimistic about 2014.
(“The Bloomberg Presidency” by Matthew Continetti dated April 12, 2013 published by The Washington Free Beacon at http://freebeacon.com/obamas-elitist-agenda/ )
President Barack Obama’s second term has so far been a story of high liberal hopes and scant liberal achievements.  Liberal policy gains have been sparse, and mostly unrelated to Obama.  His campaign for new gun regulations is fizzling out.  The main policy achievement that liberals have made since the election was the tax increase at the start of the year, which led some to suggest that Obama had broken Republican opposition to higher taxes.  The fiscal fights since then haven’t gone well for the White House.  Its scare talk about the sequestration has been quietly abandoned because most Americans aren’t seeing any effect from it in their own lives. Obama wanted to replace some of the sequestration cuts with increased revenue.  The bill that Congress passed to fund the government through September instead left the cuts in place and added no revenue.  Republicans have effectively sidelined him by insisting that future budget bills will come from “regular order” in Congress rather than an extraordinary negotiation with the President. He has also sidelined himself by putting out a budget only after the House and the Senate had passed theirs, and including less deficit reduction than either of them.  Obama could end up signing fewer pieces of major legislation in the first year of his second term than did George W. Bush.  There is still a chance of a breakthrough on immigration, although official Washington is overconfident on that issue.  There seems to be a tacit agreement among Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike that a bill is more likely to pass the less the President is involved in drafting it.  Obama’s inability to make the most of what ought to be liberalism’s moment may reflect his weak relationships with lawmakers in both parties and lack of interest in strengthening them.  That complaint is often heard on Capitol Hill.  Obama outlined an ambitious liberal vision in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses this year, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to do much to advance it.
(“Obama’s Second Term Already Looks Like a Failure” by Ramesh Ponnuru dated April 15, 2013 published by Bloomberg at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-15/obama-s-second-term-already-looks-like-a-failure.html )
The traditional American mass media, the crumbling, Internet-besieged edifice of newspapers and news shows, magazines and roundtables and journalism schools, evolved to believe with equal vigor in two not entirely compatible ideals: One is an ideal of balance, nonpartisanship and near-perfect neutrality; and the Other is a much more ideological ideal, which treats journalism as a kind of vanguard profession, fighting for the powerless against the powerful and leading America toward enlightenment – neither one of which it has upheld.  Many of the establishment media’s worst habits arise from the doomed attempt to pursue both of them at once.  The trouble is that when you set out to “lead” a conversation, you often end up deciding where it goes, which side wins the arguments and even who gets to participate.  An official journalistic commitment to neutrality coexists with the obvious ideological thrust of a thousand specific editorial choices: what kinds of questions are asked of which politicians; which stories get wall-to-wall coverage and which ones end up buried; which side is portrayed as aggressors and which side as the aggrieved party, and on and on and on.  “Leading the conversation” is how you end up with the major Sunday shows neglecting to invite a single anti-amnesty politician on a weekend dominated by the immigration debate.  Now we have officially non-ideological anchors and journalists lecturing social conservatives for being out of step with modern values.  It’s how you end up with a press corps that went all-in for the supposed “war on women” having to be shamed and harassed into paying attention to the grisly case of a Philadelphia doctor whose methods of late-term abortion included snipping the spines of neonates after they were delivered.  The problem here isn’t that American journalists are too quick to go on crusades; rather, it’s that the press’s ideological blinders limit the kinds of crusades mainstream outlets are willing to entertain, and the formal commitment to neutrality encourages self-deception about what counts as crusading.  The core weakness of the mainstream media, in this sense, is less liberalism than parochialism. The same habits of mind that make bipartisan-think seem like the height of wisdom also make it easy to condescend to causes and groups that seem disreputable and to underplay stories that might vindicate them.  We’d be better off if our battered-but-still-powerful media establishment did more to lean into the Internet era, which for all its challenges offers opportunities as well, the chance to multiply perspectives, to promote a diverse array of causes and to pursue a wider variety of journalistic ideals.
(“Balance and Bias” by Ross Douthat dated April 13, 2013 published by The New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/douthat-media-balance-and-bias.html?_r=3& )
The state of our economy has become a constructed fantasy created largely by mainstream media (MSM) narratives of economic performance over the past four years have ranged from confusing to inaccurate to flagrant happy talk and spin.  Rationalization and selective reporting have created economic ‘good’ news and false ‘hopes‘ where none existed or should exist.  The techniques employed have included consistently biased memes, factual omission, factual commission, and even misdirection.  Often such narratives suggest that improvement would occur tomorrow… or next week, or next year. The effect on Americans has been a growing separation between economic reality and the media’s economic illusions.  The overall direction of the economy can be illustrated by a few important factors:
·    Gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since 2010 when it equaled 2.4% in average quarterly growth (growth greater than 3.0% is considered fair and above 4.0%, good).  GDP in 2011 fell to 2.0% and then sank to only to 1.7% in 2012.  This is the slowest GDP growth rate after a recession when compared to 11 previous recessions.
·    4.5 million fewer Americans are working today than when the recession began and amazingly, fewer are working today than in 2000. This is more astonishing when accounting for a labor force increase of 11.4 million since that date.
·    89,967,000 eligible Americans are currently not in the labor force, an increase since March 2009 of 9,770,000 who have essentially given up hope of employment.  Meaningful job creation simply hasn’t occurred since the recession ended.
·    Food stamp usage has grown to 47.8 million participants, an increase of 70% since 2008.  This astounding growth is driven not only by the moribund economy and a lack of jobs, but by a loosening of the standards for inclusion in the program.
·    Concurrently, poverty has grown precipitously to almost 50.0 million, a level not seen since the mid-1960s. One in six Americans is now living in poverty.
·    America is in danger of losing 1.7 million of our young workers (18-29 years) to the misery of our economy, since they have abandoned their efforts to secure employment. Many of these people have college degrees and are faced with the reality of much lower wages, older workers staying in their careers longer, and only the availability of part time or hourly wage opportunities.
A careful reading of media economic reports surfaces manipulation and bias. For example, weekly unemployment assistance filings have not noted that claims have yet to fall below 325,000 during the President’s tenure. Prior to late 2008, weekly claim counts with magnitudes above 250,000 were considered terrible at best.  A critical read of a majority of economic stories in the press will simply emphasize the findings presented. Given the facts, media bias and manipulation is a valid and important reason, of many, for the gap between the public’s perception of the economy and its actual condition.
(“America’s Economic Disconnect” by Jim O’Sullivan dated April 12, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/americas_economic_disconnect.html )
ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, is both imploding from its own dead weight and conversely exploding in the face of the Democrat Party as we head toward the 2014 midterm elections.  The entire first three years of the new health-care law have been one long story of unfulfilled expectations.  It’s the bill Nancy Pelosi told us had to be passed “so we can find out what’s in it.”  The bad news for Democrats and worse news for Barack Obama is that, since it was signed into law on March 23, 2010, Americans have had three years to learn what a total socialist time bomb ObamaCare is.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee noted that “People already don’t like ObamaCare, but they’re really not going to like the tax hikes, mandates, fees, penalties, and added red tape bureaucracy that goes into effect over the next eight months. It goes from being an abstract discussion to a real life pain.”  The biggest political problem faced by so-called ‘liberals’ and so-called ‘progressives’ in President Obama’s second term is how to prevent voters from holding them politically responsible as the public comes to realize how badly they were lied to during the first Obama term to win passage of ObamaCare.  What needs to be revisited are the many LIES that Obama told in order to get it passed:
·    Costs – Originally estimated to cost $870 billion, the most current estimate is $1.76 trillion over ten years, while imposing an additional $1 trillion in new or increased taxes.
·    Premiums – Rising health-care costs are already beginning to show up as higher premiums. California health insurers are proposing increases for some customers of 20% or more: 26% by Blue Cross, 22% by Aetna and 20% by Blue Shield. According to The Wall Street Journal, insurers are warning that premiums in the individual and small group markets could double in the next few years. According a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging as much as 169%.
·    Taxes – ObamaCare was billed as “the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history.”  ObamaCare’s three biggest taxes, Medicare surcharge, the so-called Cadillac tax, and an insurance premium fee, will increasingly hit the middle class because of how the law indexes them for inflation and medical costs.
·    Change -If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period?”  A recent study of more than 11,000 plans on the individual market found that less than 2% of existing plans are fully in compliance with the law’s benefit requirements. While current plans are technically grandfathered in, allowing people to keep them for now, any change in the plans requires that their coverage be brought into compliance. Moreover, because non-compliant plans cannot enroll new members, most of the existing plans will eventually disappear, requiring even those members who have been grandfathered in to switch plans eventually, even if that means more expensive plans that include benefits that people don’t necessarily want.
·    Debt – The CBO estimated the legislation would reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the first decade.  The GAO concluded that ObamaCare would add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.
·    Affordable – The promise was that ObamaCare would make all insurance plans more affordable.  The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 3.9 million family dependents could be left unable to afford either employer-provided family coverage or insurance offered through an exchange.
·    Coverage – The expressed goal is to provide health insurance for all Americans. The CBO now estimates that by 2023, there will still be more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Moreover, roughly 40% of those that ObamaCare does cover don’t really receive health insurance but are simply dumped into Medicaid, hardly known for high-quality care.
Three years old and already ObamaCare is a monster, and one trembles at the thought of what it will be like as a teenager.  ObamaCare is the “perfect storm” for the Democrat Party, and it will swamp them in 2014.
(“Lies of ObamaCare” by Michael D. Tanner dated April 13, 2013 published by New York Post at http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/lies_of_obamacare_dYCsCHrFn3qNAQCJ0ZTwHJ
ObamaCare is Imploding” by Alan Caruba dated April 14, 2013 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/54468 )
Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a 72-year-old abortionist doctor and the formal charges against him, the murders of a woman and seven babies, are but drops in a sea of carnage and are a story untold by the Mainstream Media.  The “Women’s Medical Society” was the impressive-sounding name, but more a misnomer to what actually took place inside.  Mounting evidence reveals him to be a mass murderer of epic scale and Mengele methods.  It also spotlights the evil of legalized abortion in all its coarsening gore.  Plainly, the vaunted journalists of our debased mainstream have determined that there must be no meaningful coverage. No time in the 24/7 cycle to notice the inexorable path from dehumanizing the vulnerable through word games to mass-murdering them with casual sadism.  It starts when the icons of a dissipated culture reduce a baby to a “fetus.”  Before long, a baby is not a person but a punishment, as President Barack Obama framed the matter in his familiar off-the-cuff iciness.  To describe newborn children in their boundless possibilities and wonder would be to acknowledge, foremost, their humanity.   That is why abortion enthusiasts must grope for words when circumstances force them to speak publicly about their gruesome business.  A “partial birth” abortion was soothingly rebranded a “late term” abortion once it became clear that “partial birth” conveyed too much information.  In Philadelphia, the standard technique was the “snip,” a terse, antiseptic word.  Like “choice,” it is tailored to those rare, discomfiting occasions when the intentional killing must be spoken of rather than silently done.  It is an effort to evade the monstrousness where nearly 60 million children have been aborted since the Supreme Court’s 1973 fatwa in Roe v. Wade.  In a “snip,” the abortionist, sharp scissors in hand, grasps the squirming and sometimes squealing baby he has just delivered, stabs the child in the back and then, snapping the blades, severs the spinal cord from the brain.  Obama, in the pitiless logic of legalized abortion, labored to preserve this oft-practiced but never discussed form of infanticide as State Senator against the Illinois legislature’s proposed “Born Alive” ban.  Four justices of the United States Supreme Court would have upheld this barbarism.  They would not have described it.  It is not to be spoken of, only done.  After all, to speak of it would infringe upon “choice.”  What began with the promise of abortion being “safe, legal, and rare” has morphed into a culture in which abortion is unsafe, illegal, and frequent!  Speaking of “choice,” if President Obama has the opportunity to choose one more Supreme Court justice over the next four years, unrestricted partial birth abortion” will become the law of the land and babies will not be safe until they leave the hospital in their parent’s care.
(“>From Dehumanizing Word Games to Gosnell” by Andrew C. McCarthy dated April 13, 2013 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/345483/dehumanizing-word-games-gosnell-andrew-c-mccarthy )
Not since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and its aftermath has the Middle East experienced the level of turmoil that has occurred since 2011.  Whereas earlier periods of upheaval, the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanon War and the 1991 Gulf War, were relatively contained by the big powers, that of the past two years has spread across the region.  The “Arab Spring” toppled pro-Western governments in Tunisia and Egypt and has brought Islamists into power.  Libya’s Qaddafi has been overthrown and killed, to be replaced by a weak central government in what has effectively become an al-Qaeda fiefdom.  Syria is wracked by a bloody civil war in which a host of players (Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Iran, and al-Qaeda, among others) are fighting to gain or keep control of the country.  Jordan faces increasing pressure from its large Palestinian population and the Muslim Brotherhood, while Yemen and Bahrain are experiencing increasing instability due to their Shia populations, backed by Iran.  Add to this list the Iranian nuclear crisis, the strategic encirclement of Israel by Iran and its proxies and growing instability in Lebanon, where Hezbollah effectively holds power and a perfect storm for major regional war is brewing.  Two countries that serve as a fulcrum for such a conflict are Iraq and Afghanistan.  Both are now key to the great power struggle for the Middle East between the United States and Iran. Both hold important geopolitical positions in the region.  Iraq is the gateway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, while Afghanistan has for centuries held a position as a buffer between the Indian Subcontinent and such powers as Russia and Iran.  In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is on defense, while Iran is on offense.  By the time Barrack Obama took office in January 2009, U.S. forces in Iraq, thanks considerably to the 2007 surge, had brought about a considerable improvement in security in the country.  As a result, Iraq’s government was able to establish its control though much of the country.  This could have been used by the incoming administration to help establish Iraq as a buffer to Iran.  Instead, President Obama showed little interest in using this situation for American advantage.  Given that armed conflict resulting from Iran’s continuing effort to develop nuclear weapons is a distinct possibility, Iraq’s strategic importance becomes apparent.  An Iranian thrust into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is made much easier thanks to a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad.  In Afghanistan, Iran has been involved in supporting the Taliban, burying the hatchet (caused by the divisions between the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban and Shia Iran) in order to fight a common enemy.  However, the Taliban present the greater danger for the United States and its allies.  The growing effectiveness of Taliban forces has called into question whether or not U.S. forces can be fully withdrawn by December 2014, when their combat mission is to conclude.  Indeed, depending on a SOFA between Washington and Kabul, there may be a need for as many as 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after December 2014 in both an advisory and combat role.  The much-touted surge undertaken by the Obama Administration has not had the success hoped for, while political efforts to incorporate “moderate” Taliban elements into a peace process have also been a failure.  The morale of the U.S. military, which faces major reductions in funding over the next several years under Obama Administration plans, would no doubt be eroded if withdrawal without victory was the course taken.  As for Iraq, the consequences of the failure of an effective SOFA has helped lead not only to increased Iranian influence, but to a resurgence of al-Qaeda, which has used Iraq as a base to wage war in both Libya and Syria.  Situations are evolving that could cause enormous destabilization in the Middle East, and add such wild cards as the unfinished “Arab Spring,” use of WMD by states as Iran and Syria and an Iranian-sponsored guerrilla and terror offensive against Israel, and the consequences only become more disastrous.
(“Iraq, Afghanistan and the Fall of the Middle East” by David Walsh dated April 12, 2013 published by Front Page Magazine at http://frontpagemag.com/2013/david-walsh/iraq-afghanistan-and-the-fall-of-the-middle-east/ )
About The Author David Coughlin:
David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site “Return to Common Sense,” and an active member of the White Plains Tea Party. He retired from IBM after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 40 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Masters, Administrative Science, 1976).
Website:http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/

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