Friday, February 11, 2011

Democracy Inaction in Middle East – US Policy Appears to Support or Ignore Student Protests Depending Upon Which Way the Wind Blows

The Muslim Brotherhood Protests in Egypt - Photo: Isreallycool

In 2009, Iranian Students took to the streets in protest of an oppressive, theocracy, one where elections meant the outcome was predetermined. The Islamic State of Iran saw massive protests, first by students, who were later joined by the general populace, violently shut down by the “duly elected” Ahmadinejad. As the protestors were beaten back by hired mercenaries of the regime, the U.S., in general, paid little attention to what was, in fact, a call for true democracy and freedom in Iraq. The protests began approximately on June 15th of 2009 , while bloggers, working from twitter, and YouTube videos, attempted for days on end to get information out to the general public, as the U.S. media took a different approach. President Barak Obama, finally, on the the 23rd of June, officially “condemned” the violence against the protestors. To understand the extent of the violence against its people, and the brutal way in which this totalitarian “democracy” handles protests, visit and the support the work of Iran Human Rights. As to the U.S. response, a blind eye was turned in favor of the Iranian Regime.

Photo from the 2nd day of protests in Iran in 2009 - peaceful demonstrators beaten, no word from U.S. - image: Gaurdian UK

Egypt is another story entirely, and although understanding that these are two entirely different types of governments, with Egypts elections pending in September of this year, both the U.S. Media and the Obama administration appear to be formally behind these protests. Obama has taken an active role in offering support to the protestors, and booting the current President, Mubarak,to the proverbial curb. The protestors, some of which are students, are not content to wait for elections, rather are attempting to force President Mubarak to resign and leave the country.

Who is in the middle of this push to remove Mubarak - The Muslim Brotherhood. They are an organization based on Jihad, which had been banned in Egypt for multiple terrorist acts, including the assassination of former President, Sadat.

Further, in June of 2009 President Obama invited the Muslim Brotherhood to attend a speech he gave in Cairo. (An excellent treatment of that visit here at

The Muslim Brotherhood, it should be noted, has ties to Iran, and the Iranians are now making their judgments on the protests in Egypt and elsewhere : Ahmadinejad is supportive of these particular protestors, and looks for the overthrow of the current President, in order to spread this type of “revolution” across the Middle East. Of course, cast in their usual role as evil infidels: The U.S. and Israel. In addition, Ahmadinejad is fairly confident (given the aid these protestors in Egypt are getting from, of all places, the United States), is again,calling for the usual to remove Israel from the Middle East, and not reserving kind words for the U.S. Those protestors in Egypt, students and the Muslim Brotherhood, are apparently fine with both Ahmadinejad and, it appears, the U.S. under the guidance of one Barrack, James Earl Carter, Obama.

One has to ask: has the world gone mad? When legitimate peaceful protests took place in Iran, the brutality of the regime was ignored by the press, condemned halfheartedly and late by the administration. The resultant outcome of those Iranians brave enough to protest an election (which, may or may not have been legitimate, and asking only for freedom and democracy) death or imprisonment. The protestors were peaceful, the regime was insanely brutal. In Egypt on the other hand, the regime does not have a stellar human rights record, however, in this wise, students and an Obama approved Islamic Jihadist organization have every right to oust a President before his term is up. From this point of view, it is all or nothing, it is black and white, it is as plain as the nose on ones face: peaceful student protests in Iran, were given short-shrift by the U.S., while violent demonstrations in Egypt, where, should Egypt become an Islamic state (and that outcome aided by Obama’s legitimization of the Muslim Brotherhood (must like Carter vis a vis, the Ayatollah in 1978), are given the full attention of both the Media and the President. Understanding that journalists were targeted by the Egyptian regime, who were embedded in the middle of the protests, (putting themselves in harm’s way), perhaps giving more reason for the U.S.Press to side with the President over the regime. However, the fact remains that Mubarak had controlled the spread of the cult of radical Islam in Egypt, thereby stabilizing in part the Middle East. Now as a result of the interference, the entire Middle East may be lost to the stone ages. (Again refer to the documentation provided by Iran Human Rights.). What is imperative to keep in mind, the only true democracy in the Middle East is the State of Israel, an ally to the United States, and one which, always is made to be the pariah, regardless of their attempts at peace, and their national right to exist peacefully in a region beset by the insanity of Iran and now, with Obama’s aid and comfort,quite possibly Egypt and other states that are being aided by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Obama High on High Speed Rail Funding, Railroading the American Taxpayer

Amtrak Route Boston to Chicago photo Boston Globe, cost between Springfield, MA and Chicago Round Trip: $300, time in transit: 27 hours, making a two day trip impossible

With a need to rein in spending, both real and political, the President has requested 53 billion dollars for a high speed rail project. Although one may be a proponent of Mass Transit, one also has to understand the consumer base in order for this particular system to be profitable, enough so that it does not consistently feed at the trough of the Federal Taxpayer. Amtrak, the national commuter rail system, has been funded and defunded under several administrations, most recently: In 1997, the request for additional funds was “Derailed in the House”(Los Angeles Times), in 2003 Amrak concluded it would last through the year 2003, but needed additional federal support to continue to run , (Lodi News Sentinel) and in 2008 the Senate Approved a Bill for additional funds for the DC metro of 1.5 Billion (WJLA)

The continued funding, and requests for funding throughout the years, is indicative of an organization that cannot control costs, or alternately cannot attract enough consumers to make it profitable. Options for travel in the Western Massachusetts area, for example, include buses, taxies, air and rail. The cost to ride the bus: a prepaid booklet of 20 tickets is $47.50, assuming a traveler is commuting to work via bus, allows for 10 days or two full weeks of travel to and from work. A sample schedule (here) shows that bus service begins at 6:25 in the morning and ends at 9:40 in the evening, with Saturday and Sunday services more limited, but still adequate. To fill a tank of gas at $3.05 per gallon (going rate as of today) regular unleaded, is approximately $39 for a 13 gallon tank, which depending upon the length of the drive, private transportation may be more affordable, (again depending upon one’s inner city commute).

Amtrak is a different story entirely: one find schedules from Springfield to Boston, ranging in price from $67 to $158, routed through New Haven, CT, and taking up to 4 hours to reach Bean Town. Unfortunately, the Thursday Schedule does not include a return that will allow one to go back and forth in one day. Assuming one could make a connection - that connection is an additional 67 dollars, pre-tax, the total trip to Boston for the day: $225. The 90 minute drive up the pike with tolls included, assuming one uses an entire tank of gas, is under $50. The Springfield to Boston corridor is fairly active; one would think that a Federally funded Rail system would provide adequate service back and forth within the business day to drum up some business.
One has to ask, would high speed add efficiency? It most certainly would have to increase fares in order to absorb the costs, making it as enticing as a trip to the City Dump.

The same trip by bus :(Peter Pan Bus Lines), offers 7 departure times on a weekday, beginning at 5:45 am, in Boston by 8:10, the return trip offers departures up to 8 pm, with a total cost of $44.

The private bus company, even with a rise in the cost of fuel, offers a) more choices for day commuters as well as b) a much lower fare (equivalent to driving, plus eliminating the need to pay for parking).

One has to ask again, would high speed rail be able to offer more choices, at a rate comparable to say, the bus?

There is a reason that the House Republicans are ready to ax the budget for Amtrak and the high speed rail – (North Jersey .com) – it does not make sense to continue to fund a program that is both inefficient and out of the price range for most of the populace.

Perhaps a better option would be to have the brain trust that runs Amtrak, find ways to schedule one day trips between say, two cities in the same very small state 90 miles apart, several time a day, while keeping costs in line for consumers. If those currently running the behemoth of the public rail cannot come up with reasonable solutions, then sell it to a private company that might make it as efficient and possibly as affordable as – taking the bus.

There is something special about the rails, no doubt about it; historically they are a great part of our nation’s history, and responsible for U.S. expansion. However, do high speed rails make sense? Possibly, if the corporation behind the railways were not tied to the Federal government, here, along with so many other facets of our current Bureaucratic state, are opportunities for private enterprise to get the job done right.

As to the Presidents (and Vice-President) fascination with high speed rails, it boils down to the old adage about boys and toys, the Chinese have a shinny high speed rail, we want one, whether it makes sense or no, it’s big, it’s shinny, it goes fast, what more do the taxpayers really need to know?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

CNN-Opinion Research Polling Obama Believed Unlikely to Win Second Term – Compares Obama to Clinton in Polling Data Release - Analysis

Trouble in River City – No matter how one slices it, 51% of American’s polled in a CNN-Opinion Research Poll believe that Obama will be replaced in 2012. The poll (PDF here) taken the last week of January 2011, compares 1995 Gallup Trends polling on Bill Clinton’s presidency to the results of their poll on Obama in order to draw the conclusion that Clinton was polling in similar numbers to Obama now, and went on to win re-election.

In looking at potential two-term Presidents and polling, in January of 2003, George W. Bush was polling at approximately the same numbers as both Clinton and Obama, however, he was expected to win, not lose the Presidency. What one has to consider when viewing polls on individual Presidents, is the key word “individual”. Each President had an individual approach to leadership, which either appealed or, in some cases did not appeal to American voters a year before the general election campaigns began. In comparing the results of Bill Clintons poll numbers to Obama’s poll numbers is akin to comparing apples to oranges. Clinton was viewed as a moderate, the polling was taken in January of 1993, following the news of personal scandals involving President Clinton – it was, in a word, an approval or disapproval of a personal nature, not based on the man’s ability to govern. The Republican’s nomination of Bob Dole in 1995, a weak candidate, gave Clinton the help needed to gain a second term. In addition, Clinton transitioned as a moderate, and with apparent sincerity. Consider Welfare Reform, for instance, and a solid economy, an appearance of working closely with both sides of the aisle, since he took the office in his first term lent to his reelection in 1996.

There are several reasons that Barak Obama may not realize a second term, regardless of an apparent move to the center, and his recent epiphany regarding Ronald Reagan’s policies, the chief among them, his polarizing effect on the electorate, his administrations performance on the Health Care Reform and the Economy will also continue to play a factor. At this stage in the game, regardless of the fact that there are, according to CNN, no clear frontrunners in the GOP field (as no one has clearly announced an intent to run), Obama’s job approval continues to remain stagnant, and sinking on his handling of the economy (latest Gallup).

Although not one of us has a crystal ball to predict a future, it is, based on historical trends and reactions in comparing Obama to a similarly ideological U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, where one finds a basis to realistically anticipate the probability is high that Obama will not gain a second term. Carter not only faced dismal poll numbers, and a challenger from within his own party, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Carter did go on to win the nomination, but lost the Presidency to Ronald Reagan in what can only be termed as a total repudiation of Carters’ policies.

When one reviews, the economies under both presidencies (Carter/Obama), their handling of the respective situations in a similar manner, and subsequent failure, the advancement of the government roll and entitlement programs under both administrations, and finally, foreign policy as regards the Middle East, would appear to data worth reviewing. Perhaps CNN should have compared a similar president, ideologically speaking, in their polling on Obama, say Carter, rather than Clinton to draw an accurate conclusion. However, as badly as the media (CNN) wants Obama in a second term, the use of Clinton as an example, does nothing to support the theory that Obama, like Clinton will overcome this deficit.

On the Republican potential nominees, Mike Huckabee receives the highest approval and favorability, with Mitt Romney and Palin both at his heels in the same poll. What was of interest in this particular portion of the poll, the question on the import of a candidates’ views matching one’s own, or the ability of a candidate to best Obama – Republicans and Republican Leaning Independents overwhelming chose the latter. Therefore, one might overlook Romney’s involvement in Massachusetts Care, or Huckabee’s “liberal” ability to govern across the aisle (not to mention his Christian Credentials), or even Sarah Palin’s “polarizing personality” if it was though that individual would beat the current President.

Note: Although by now, readers of this blog understand that Public Policy Polling is a favorite pollster, (based on two facts: 1) accuracy of their polling data) and 2) They are a Democrat Leaning firm which, if one finds Republican’s with gains in a firm that skews Democrat, then one cannot question their integrity, or the integrity of the polling data. This firm has been polling both the GOP field (as it is seen now), along with matchups between those GOP potentials and the President since 2010 – the results are telling: To follow the trends visit

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

RI Seeks Exception from Federal Health Insurance Mandate – Even Mass. Mandatory Health Insurance Offers Opt out Based on Income

The Rhode Island State Legislature’s GOP members are seeking an exemption from the Federal Mandate to purchase health insurance or face a fine according to the Providence Journal. The Bill, submitted to the Rhode Island Legislature is based on the 10th amendment, which, coincidentally, was the basis for the recent ruling by a Federal Judge in Florida that found the Health Care Reform Act to be un-Constitutional. Twenty-six states had filed a suit seeking to nullify the Federal Act due to the Commerce Clause. The Health Care Act, itself, does not include a severability clause, which, should the Supreme Court agree with the Federal Court in Florida, would make the entire bill moot. This is the most likely scenario.

As the National Program was largely based on the Massachusetts Model, one should note that Massachusetts offers an exception from penalty, or, an opt-out of sorts, for residents who either cannot afford to purchase health insurance and/or refuse for religious reasons. To avoid the penalty, each year, the resident must file for an exception with the State’s Department of Revenue, (Commonwealth Version of the Internal Revenue Service), that agency then forwards the request to the Mass. Health Connector, who reviews the application for exception and based on a series of financial hardship hurdles, will waive the penalty for that year only.

The penalty from the States D.O.R., is put “on hold” until the Connector makes a decision as to exempt or not exempt an individual request. Should the State find for the State, then the individual can further appeal the decision in court. Instructions for filing an exception are available at the Mass Health Connector portal.

In using the Massachusetts “Tool” to find if one is eligible for an exception, one will need: a prior year’s tax form and or estimate of total income, one is then given the standards for minimum coverage allowed under the State Mandate, and then given income levels that determine if one is eligible for exemption:

Question 2 - Is your annual income greater than:
• $54,600 if you are an individual
• $85,800 if you are a married couple without children or
• $114,400 if you are a family (at least one parent, one child/dependent)?

If one answers yes, they are immediately given the option to Estimate their tax penalty, as well as the option for filing for an exemption due to hardship by going to the “Waivers from the Tax Penalties: What They Are. How to Get Them.” page. The lengthy list includes exceptions for the homeless, for those who do not meet federal poverty guidelines, for those who’ve suffered a natural disaster, as well as the following:
“What else qualifies as a hardship?
Large families may claim that the Affordability Schedule does not fully account for their financial burdens. We will also consider other claims.”

What qualifies as “other claims”, is not specified, however, more than one resident has used this “last resort” qualifier to avoid paying the penalties.

In other words, Massachusetts mandates one has coverage, however, also offers residents (who must jump through hoops, submit forms, and deal with two agencies) in order to avoid paying fines, or being forced to buy health insurance a way out. Massachusetts, therefore, as a model, on the one hand mandates and fines, and on the other, exempts those who can find the information regarding exceptions

As to the cost of administering the behemoth that is Mandated Health Care Massachusetts Style, takes up the majority of the State Budget. The lack of ability to streamline, by cutting the process to a one-agency stop, allows the Commonwealth to hire additional staff to handle the claims.

The total system according to the CATO Institute is a dismal failure. The article, written in 2008, notes the following on the programs “universal coverage”:

The subsidies may have increased the number of Massachusetts citizens with insurance, but as many as 400,000 Massachusetts residents by some estimates have failed to buy the required insurance. That includes the overwhelming majority of those with incomes too high to qualify for state subsidies. Fewer than 30,000 unsubsidized residents have signed up as a result of the mandate. And that is on top of the 60,000 of the state’s uninsured who were exempted from the mandate because buying insurance would be too much of a financial burden.

Therefore, before real financial hardship hit the Commonwealth, approximately 400,000 residents did not comply, out of those, 60,000 sought and received exceptions from paying the state, and a mere 30,000 had signed up for coverage.

The cost to the Commonwealth, according to the study for 2008 was 1.8 Billion dollars for a plan that failed in its primary objective. In addition, private insurance premiums rose to meet a demand that clearly did not exist, and private endurance carriers, specifically Blue Cross/Blue Shield has instituted 10 to 11% increases each year since the plan was imposed on the State.

It is suggested that one read the CATO Institute Study here at

What should be questioned, by every Massachusetts resident who is bound by law to buy insurance, and given limited carriers from which to choose is: "why the Commonwealth does not open up the pool of available insurers in much the same way it did with auto insurance coverage"? When the Commonwealth allowed auto insurance carriers to sell their wares across State Lines, residents noticed an immediate and significant drop in premiums.

Additionally, should the Federal Mandate be found unconstitutional, again, and again, and again, up to the Supreme Court, then would not the Massachusetts Model, with its limited availability, opt out clauses and massive inefficiency, be eligible for a similar suit?

To those Legislators in Rhode Island, kudos, look to the Massachusetts Model, and one can find multiple reasons why the Federal Program is in trouble before it has had a chance to truly take on Massachusetts ineptitude. The fact of the matter, there are options on the table that would reduce the cost for those uninsured, allowing consumers to buy across state lines, and make their own choices as to their health care.

The Federal Plan does offer an opt-out, however, only to those corporations that cannot “afford” total coverage: 700 plus organizations that have been allowed to opt out of the Federal Mandate so far. Full list of employers opting out and exception options via the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services here at

From Massachusetts to Pennsylvania Avenue, what we have is a colossal waste of time that has cost billions in hours and revenue and has accomplished nothing more than increased court cases, without effectively reforming the system, which, is still in need of reform.

Monday, February 07, 2011

2012 GOP Potential Challengers – Reading Tea Leaves via Book Tours

Ohio, a swing state in 2008, where President Obama bested GOP Candidate, John McCain by a margin of 51 to 47%, is now, according to an article online at the Cincinnati Enquirer receiving visits from the President and Multiple Potential GOP Candidates. The Premise for the majority of the visits – book tours. Viewing a book tour as a stepping stone to a Presidential run, might on the outside appear a bit ridiculous, as bookstores are located in every state of the union – and of the three “front-runners” mentioned in the article, all have authored books and were “on tour” in the State. Included in this list are Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who have been leading in polling for the GOP nomination since the Mid-terms. Newt Gingrich, in this particular article, was in Ohio promoting a movie that he had directed, while others visiting the State had attended purely political events, including: Tim Pawlenty, John Tune and Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann, who has been actively promoting the Tea Party movement in both the national spotlight as well as in early primary states such as Iowa, is seen by some as a potential candidate, however, tea leaves aside, Bachmann, a stalwart, no apologies, Conservative – Tea Party leader is, like the balance of those names (with some exceptions, notably New Jersey Govenor Chris Christie) side-stepping the question of whether or not one will run for the Presidency.

Book tours have taken Mitt Romney, for instance, from New York, across the country and into Canada asking the question on the main tour dates page: “Is Your City Lucky Enough to Have the 45 President of the United States Visit After That?” This, from Mitt Romney Central dot com, leaves little left for Romney to do than formally announce his bid. The Title of Romney’s Book: ”No Apology, Believe in America” a New York Times Best Seller.

Mike Huckabee’s latest book, A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't!)” is set for release on February 22, 2011. His tour dates are based, for now, mainly across the south, beginning in Iowa. Huckabee has noted more than once, that he would be making a decision regarding a run, by summer 2011, however, if one were reading Book Tour Tea Leaves, it would appear that decision may come earlier, in Iowa, in late February.

Sarah Palin’s latest book tour took her to Iowa and South Carolina (as well as Little Rock, AR, Nebraska and Texas, to name a few). ”America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag” her latest, which, incidentally debuted at the number 2 slot on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Therefore, the three most mentioned potential candies, all have current books, and are either on tour, have finished touring and or are about to tour the nation, and stopping at States one traditionally associates with politics.

In 2007, Mike Huckabee went on tour with his book, “From Hope to Higher Ground” The Washington Post headlined on January 28th, 2007, “Mike Huckabee Launches Presidential Bid” however, he formally announced in February.
Obama, dubbed in June of 2008, as the “presumptive nominee”released a “flood” of books prior the election.

Tea Leaves aside, books outlining an individual’s view of American, which is timed for release immediately before or during the general election cycle, compete with book tour that places those individuals in States traditionally on the list of politico’s as a first step towards a Presidential run, have been released by all perceived top runners.

This book tour stage as a stepping stone to the Presidency (or not at the case may be), allows a “potential candidate” to get an idea of just how popular, or unpopular, they may be in key states, allows them to meet the people on the ground, with a fair amount of non-committal book signing, that will, in all likelihood generate both income and interest.

Of Note: Donald Trump, who has announced a possible intent to run for the GOP nomination, has not written a book – yet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Major Parties Court the South – Convention Placement for Democrats not Without Controversy - 2012 Begins

It goes without saying, that one cannot win a Presidential election without those Southern States, specifically those considered “swing” states one way or another -always considered more Conservative than the rest of the country, and there have been shifts in recent years, especially with the short-lived emergence of blue dog Democrat candidates. The 2010 Mid-terms, for all intents and purposes, changed the landscape from the mid-west to the west, to the northeast, with the usual glaring exceptions of the States of California, Massachusetts and New York. Therefore, the South, Florida specifically as a swing state of sorts, would be a logical location for the RNC to set up camp.

The RNC choice of Tampa, in the state of Florida, is somewhat of a “safe” choice, given the strength of the Republican party in the state, and the recent election of Mark Rubio, Tea Party/Republican, to the Senate. The setting is urban, and Tampa, like so many urban areas in Florida, could be any eastern city, with the exception of geography. The psychological implications of this setting, therefore, are twofold, demoralize the opposition and shore up the base.

On the other hand, the Democrats chose Charlotte, North Carolina, stepped in the history of the South, currently has one Democrat and one Republican Senator, their Congressional Representatives are split 7 republicans to 6 Democrats, and the state can be considered a swing state, having 15 electoral votes (2010). The south was, historically a Democrat stronghold up until the 1940’s, university logic suggests that with the Democrat Party adopting a civil rights platform, southern Democrats were disenfranchised and looked towards another party. In addition, as the decades progressed, the strong Christian base in the south, rejected the platform Why not at least attempt to reclaim some of the south by placing a Convention in Charlotte?

There are some objections, mainly form the key supports of the Democrat Party – the unions North Carolina has right to work laws, and are extremely unfriendly environments to unions. Who according to Politco, are not at all pleased with the choice of the Convention site, due to its anti-union atmosphere. One might however, take a closer look at early polling down by Democrat leaning polling firm Public Policy Polling which has been polling the country since the mid-terms in 2010. On hypothetical Republican primaries, as well as hypothetical match-ups between Obama and those Republicans used in the polls (most notably: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and New Gingrich) the results are rather interesting. In most instances, the President does not fare well, however, he does best Huckabee in North Carolina, not as strong a showing as say the newly released poll from California, or polls taken in Massachusetts, but in order for this projected one-term president to get a toehold, in states other than California and Massachustts, he would need to stake out the south. No sense preaching to the choir.

Note: Massachusetts has, for decades, consistently voted Democrat in Presidential elections with the only exceptions being: Ronald Reagan, where the Bay State, not once, but twice, went red.
With the choice of convention cities, and the Obama campaign staff in place in Chicago, the race for 2012 is on. The only question now remaining is who will be included in the pack of Republican Primary candidates. Mitt Romney, former 1 term Govenor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has all but officially announced. He would be the first from this observation. Newt Gingrich may be the second, he already has given an indication he will run (while in Georgia). Mike Huckabee, who is polling extremely well, is holding any announcements until summer; likewise Palin, who may be under contractual agreements with Fox and also, may want the time to test the water. One would gather though, that Huckabee, who, along with Romney ran in 2008, would decide one way or another earlier, perhaps forming an exploratory committee sometime in February and announcing shortly thereafter, if, his 2008 pattern holds true. Others who have announced they are thinking of running, Donald Trump (who will also announce in June (or the spring), Rick Santorum, former Senator from the State of Pennsylvania, that said, those with the most name recognition now, will stand the best chance at reaching the electorate needed to push a primary challenge. Those who are utilizing social media, and the media in general, will again, have an advantage with this obvious media engaged nation.

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