Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pray for Michael Medved

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Romney is out but more Importantly so is the U.S. Economy


As my friends know, I like Gov. Romney a lot, but it's time for a new face. Frankly, there are lots of "new faces", from Gov. Walker to Gov. Kasich to Gov. Jindal and Senator Rubio. The GOP is very fortunate to have a strong bench and one will emerge to win the nomination. It's time to say thanks to very good and decent men like Mr. Romney and look forward to the future.

The other big story, and much more consequential, is the U.S. economy. It's time to put "Happy Days are here again" io the shelf and spin something more realistic.
According to BEA, the U.S. economy slowed down in the 4th quarter:
"Real gross domestic product -- the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes -- increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 5.0 percent."
CNN Money sees it this way:
"The disappointing growth at the end of the year comes on the heels of the economy's incredible 5% growth in the third quarter, which was the best since 2003.
"There were these grand hopes for 3% growth and it still seems elusive on a sustainable basis," says Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. "We still can't get out of this 2 to 2.5% GDP growth rate box you could call it. I don't expect anything different in 2015."
Let me say a couple of things:

The 2.4% GDP growth for 2014 must be seen in the context of that big 3rd quarter. It sure looks now like the 3rd quarter was the odd one! The other 3 were a disappointment, specially in the 5th anniversary of "the stimulus" and all of those "shovel ready jobs" promised.

Furthermore, you can't create enough jobs growing around 2.5%. We have not had those big quarters, like we did in the Reagan recovery, that translate into lots of job creation.  

This economy is still waiting for that "big hit" and leaving too many men on base. 

Needless to say, the GOP must have a "growth message" for 2016, along with a strategy to fight ISIS.

P.S. You can hear my show: CantoTalk  or  follow me on Twitter     

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Romney out, US economy down, Mr Blow & other thoughts with Jim Yardley

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Charles Blow of the NYT Blew this one Big Time

My first encounter with Charles Blow was back in 2010 at a huge Dallas Tea Party rally.  

He came to Dallas with a headline in mind: "Everybody at the tea party is racist". He was on a mission, a mission to tell the world that this spontaneous movement of Americans concerned about their kids' future was nothing more than another expression of racism.

Then he wrote one of the most outrageous columns in recent memory:
"I had specifically come to this rally because it was supposed to be especially diverse.
And, on the stage at least, it was.
The speakers included a black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God.
It felt like a bizarre spoof of a 1980s Benetton ad."
First, no one told Mr. Blow that the meeting was going to diverse. He was simply told that it was gathering of Americans concerned about what was going on in their country. It was Mr. Blow who went around counting "skin color" and drawing bizarre conclusions.

I know personally the people that Mr. Blow was mocking. They are good decent people who had never spoken at a political rally but who felt compelled to get involved this time around.

Frankly, I've never been able to read anything from Mr. Blow again. He is a "racialist", a man obsessed with skin color rather than what people have to say. Mr. Blow is Exhibit A in the corrupt relationship between "the race hustlers" and the Democrat Party!

A week ago, Mr. Blow wrote another column, one about his son stopped by the police. Mr. Blow's obsession with skin color would not allow him to put the Michael Brown story behind, even after AG Holder decided not to go after Officer Wilson.   

So he wrote a story about his son being stopped by a police officer. It was "the Blow version" of the Michael Brown story. However, Mr. Blow omitted a few facts and now looks even more foolish than ever.    

The NY Post has the details:
"At The New York Times, it seems, some key facts are just not fit to print when they don’t fit the liberal narrative.
That appears to be the case with Charles Blow’s column in Monday’s edition of the paper. It was about how his son, a student at Yale, had been “accosted by a campus police officer, at gunpoint!”
Blow, who is black, described his horror at learning how the officer questioned his son, Tahj, who’s also black, with gun drawn -- presumably because of his son’s race.
“In these moments,” he wrote, “what you’ve done matters less than how you look.” In tweets, Blow invoked hashtag slogans from the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe, saying his son’s experience shows why young black men are right to fear cops.
Yet in his entire 867-word piece, and in all his tweets, Blow omitted a key fact: The officer who drew his gun is also black.
OK, maybe Blow didn’t think this was relevant -- black cops can be biased, too. But why not let readers decide for themselves?
There were other omissions and distortions.
Yale’s police chief, for example, is also black.
And while Blow did concede his son was stopped because cops were responding to a call about a burglary suspect who fit Tahj’s description, a Yale official says Blow’s claim that his son was “accosted” is “deeply inaccurate.”
In the meantime, let me remind you of a lesson I learned in 2010:  Charles Blow is full of crap and a lot more!  My guess is that The NY Times will keep relying on his "racialist view" of the world!

P.S. You can hear my show: CantoTalk or follow me on Twitter    

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Yemen, Iran "The American Sniper" movie with Barry Jacobsen

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wanted: Transparency in Mexico and Argentina

There are two stories dominating Latin America newspapers these days.  From Mexico City to Buenos Aires, these two stories are consuming interest like nothing I've seen before.

Down in Argentina, the death of Alberto Nisman has become a major scandal for President Cristina Fernandez.  Mr. Nisman was due to speak to the Congress on Monday and shot dead the Sunday before.

Down in Mexico, the disappearance of 43 students has many Mexicans up in arms.  The anger is also rooted on the fears that the cartels have way too much influence over politicians and the law.

What do these two very different cases have in common?

The answer is a lack of transparency in how the two stories have been communicated or explained to the citizens.

In Mexico, the attorney general is facing more and more questions as to how the bodies were disposed of, as explained by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz:
Indeed, the students’ parents reject the government’s theory, and are accusing the government of trying to close the investigation.
The case has generated a great deal of controversy, as there are contradictory statements from witnesses, but lack of definitive forensic evidence.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto declared yesterday, “I’m convinced that we should not remain trapped in this instant, this moment in Mexico’s history, of sorrow, of tragedy and pain. We just can’t dwell here,” which of course is very convenient for him.
For people like myself, the Iguala case shows Mexico as a failed state when it comes to justice and the rule of law – not a country one wants to maintain an open border with.

Down in Argentina, the Fernandez government is fighting allegations that the Iran connection to the 1994 terrorist attack is being covered up, as Andres Oppenheimer posted a day ago:

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman made headlines before his mysterious death last weekend by accusing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of trying to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, but there was another — more important — leader who was at the center of the deceased prosecutor’s probe: Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani.
In several telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges I had with Nisman over the past three years, the prosecutor told me that Rouhani was among the top Iranian officials who had “participated in the decision” to bomb the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The attack left 85 dead and 300 wounded, and was the biggest terrorist bombing in the Western hemisphere before 9/11.
Again, these two incidents point out the importance of transparency and credibility.  Both governments insulted the public's intelligence with quick explanations, such as "suicide" in the case of Mr. Nisman. 

P.S. You can hear my show, CantoTalk, or follow me on Twitter.

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A look at US-Cuba talks, the latest from Argentina, Mexico and the students........

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is this what we got for 18 months of “serious discussions” with Cuba?


My friend Jorge Ponce brought this to my attention in today's show.    Additionally, we just saw this from ABC:
"Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations.Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense.""
Of course, none of this is a shock to those of us who know about the Castros and their criminal enterprises.  
Raul Castro smells a weak President Obama and he will push and push and push to get what he wants.
I do have a question for President Obama:   What exactly did the US and Cuba delegations talk about for 18 months?   Did it occur to anyone that maybe we should discuss outstanding issues like the investments of US citizens in Cuba or the fugitives of US law living in the island?   What's the point of these talks?
As I mentioned earlier, the US team walked into these negotiations without a clue.   Worse than that, they look naive doing business with a thug  like Raul Castro.
Here is today's show with Fausta Rodriguez Wertz and Jorge Ponce:

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Could Mr. Gingrich turn into the Churchill of our time?

We lamented the other day that there is no Churchill around these days, or a statesman who tells us what we don't want to hear about the world.  From Venezuela to Iraq to Iran to Yemen, the world is a mess, but our president would rather talk about sick leave.

I was pleased to read this from my friend Barry Casselman:
In his remarks to the Citizens United Summit in Des Moines a few days ago, former Speaker Newt Gingrich continued to sound the alarm about the growing threat to the U.S. and the world from Islamic terrorism. 
Some have noted that Gingrich, as a senior statesman of his party, is acting as then-senior British leader Winston Churchill did in the mid-1930’s when he warned about the growing Nazi threat to Europe and the world.  (Churchill, then in his mid-60’s, was considered a has-been conservative politician at that time.) 
Gingrich is not running  for president this cycle, but uses his podium eloquently to exhort conservatives to wake up to the increased and unrelenting terroristic activity against the West.
Frankly, Gingrich is perfectly suited for the job.

First, he is a brilliant historian who can connect the current with the past as well as anybody.

Second, he is a conservative but no longer a partisan.  Gingrich is not seeking the presidency anymore or looking for a Cabinet position.  He is finally free to be the wise man the country desperately needs.

We are living in a very dangerous world.  Our inclination to look the other way, or the same thing that we saw in the 1930s when most Americans did not want to see threats, is totally understandable but also very dangerous.  I am confident that Newt will remind us of the danger over and over again!

P.S.  You can hear my show, CantoTalkor follow me on Twitter.   We discussed all of this with Barry Casselman on Tuesday's show:

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The political landscape with Barry Casselman, The Prairie Editor

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Fun is Just Starting in Greece


We learned on Sunday night about the big election in Greece:
"Greek voters handed power to a radical leftist party in national elections on Sunday, a popular rebellion against the bitter economic medicine Greece has swallowed for five years and a rebuke of the fellow European countries that prescribed it.
With nearly all votes counted, opposition party Syriza was on track to win about half the seats in Parliament. In the wee hours of the morning, it clinched a coalition deal with a small right-wing party also opposed to Europe’s economic policy to give the two a clear majority."
What happens now?  The answer is not clear, as Mr. Tsipras will quickly find out:
"Now that he has formed a coalition, Mr. Tsipras must quickly determine which of his populist promises he can carry out quickly, setting up a likely showdown with Greece’s European partners -- most notably Germany.
Mr. Tsipras has said he wants to negotiate directly with Ms. Merkel and other European leaders to reduce Greece’s debt burden.
Some officials, however, have characterized Mr. Tsipras’s demands as unrealistic and rife with the potential to drive Greece toward default or even out of the eurozone, the group that shares the currency.
Officials in Germany reacted swiftly, warning Greeks against abandoning their course of overhauls."
The Greek election will not impact Americans directly.   
First, it is a rather small GDP (US$ 250 billion) or about the size of the state of Washington, according to a 2009 study.     
Second, 99% of us do not own bonds or hold accounts in Greek banks.    
Nevertheless, there is "a ghost of Christmas future moment" in this election.
It's like we are watching Mr. Scrooge look into the future.
Greece has one basic problem:  a bloated public sector and the weak politicians who keep voting for benefits to pander for votes. They get reelected by a public sector capable of swinging elections.    
Back in 2012, John Sfakianakis, a Greek economist, wrote a wonderful appraisal of his homeland:
"The expansion of Greece’s huge government sector took decades to create, but its growth in recent years has been particularly striking. 
Public employment grew by fivefold from 1970 through 2009 -- at an annual growth rate of 4 percent, according to a recent academic study by Zafiris Tzannatos and Iannis Monogios. 
Over the same four decades, employment in the private sector increased by only 27 percent -- an annual rate of less than 1 percent."
What happens when you have a public sector growing and expanding, coupled with a private sector shrinking and driving investors outside the country? The answer is Greece, a country so mismanaged that it may take a lot more than an election to fix it.
Again, there is a big lesson for us in the events of Greece.   Weak politicians and a bloated public sector will eventually drive a country or state into the ditch.    

P.S. You can hear my show CantoTalk or follow me on Twitter   
 We spoke about the elections Monday:

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Elections in Greece and what it means for the US and Europe

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Monday, January 26, 2015

A few 'Problemas' with Those US-Cuba Talks


According to news reports, the U.S.-Cuba teams are talking but not agreeing on a lot of things. The Boston Globe reported this:
"Negotiations between seasoned Cuban diplomats and the highest-level US delegation to visit the island in 35 years failed to produce a single significant agreement — beyond the need for more talks.
As Roberta Jacobson, America’s top diplomat for Latin America, told reporters, ‘‘It’s very hard to say how exactly this will work.’’
The two days of talks were hyped, starting hours after President Obama declared in his State of the Union address that the new engagement effort had ‘‘the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere’’ and provided ‘‘new hope for the future in Cuba.’’
Yet by Friday it appeared negotiators had not advanced Obama’s basic objective: restoring diplomatic ties between the United States and President Raul Castro’s governments.
On Thursday, Jacobson called reestablishing diplomatic ties a ‘‘relatively straightforward process.’’ A day later, her Cuban counterpart suggested a key US demand of unrestricted travel for US diplomats was already being snarled over Washington’s support for dissidents the Cuban government sees as mercenaries trying to dissolve the communist system.
Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for the United States, said US support for dissidents is ‘‘action that isn’t acceptable for Cuba, and they know it.’’
Asked whether Cuba would allow US diplomats to go where they want, she said, ‘‘for Cuba, this consideration is associated with better behavior.’’
At its most fundamental level, the US-Cuba divide comes down to separate visions of where closer ties should lead.
Jacobson said the US goal is a ‘‘free and democratic” Cuba. Vidal outlined a different idea — that of two states with deep differences but no economic or diplomatic restrictions."
The whole thing got a lot more complicated when 3 GOP Senators confronted Attorney General Holder:
A group of Senate Republicans pressed Attorney General Eric H. Holder on Friday to explain the administration’s policy for U.S. fugitives in Cuba, including a convicted cop killer, following President Obama’s announced normalization of relations with the communist island nation.
“As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, do you support the normalization of relations with Cuba without the return of fugitives from justice for prosecution who have the blood of Americans, including law enforcement officers on their hands?” said the three senators in a letter to Mr. Holder.
The letter was signed by Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and David Vitter of Louisiana. Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz are Cuban Americans.
The senators demanded information about the number of U.S. criminals currently harbored by the Castro regime and the indictments against the fugitives, as well as Mr. Holder’s legal opinion on the plan to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
They also demanded an explanation of Mr. Holder’s involvement in the decision to free three convicted Cuban spies, including one convicted of a murder conspiracy, from U.S. prison and transfer them to Cuba.
Mr. Holder’s office did not immediately respond to the letter or an inquiry from The Washington Times about it."
The Obama administration made a couple of amateur mistakes again when it jumped the gun with Cuba.    

First, the U.S. team leader said that their goal is a "free and democratic Cuba". Unfortunately, that's not going to happen as long as the U.S. is the one making concessions to the Castro dictatorship. In other words, the Castro regime smells a weak president and they will not concede on anything, specially if we lift the embargo without significant conditions.   

Second, it was worse than "amateurish" to announce the reestablishment of relations with a country harboring fugitives of U.S. law. Is the Obama administration going to grant amnesty to a woman accused of killing a police officer? or people who are U.S. tax cheats?  or whoever else is sitting in Cuba rather than a U.S. jail?

It hurts to see the U.S. represented like this. It is sad.  

The U.S. is the superpower at these meetings and we should start acting like it. The U.S. has all of the cards, specially negotiating with a "cash-starved" Raul Castro who can't get credit from any country and is about to lose his oil subsidy from Venezuela.
In the meantime, the talks are going nowhere. They will continue to go nowhere as long as the Castro side thinks that Obama just wants any deal regardless of whether it's good or bad for the U.S.

P.S.:  You can hear my show  CantoTalk  or  follow me on Twitter     We spoke about Cuba in Sunday's show:

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The week in review with Bill Katz of Urgent Agenda.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Where is our Winston Churchill?


Winston Churchill died 50 years ago today.   He was one of the most consequential men of the 20th century.    Take Churchill out of the story and it would have been a different outcome for the UK and the West.
"“I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
Of course, the reason that we use all of those Churchill quotes is because he had so much to say. Unlike President Obama, he was always serious about the big things, as we saw when he stood up in the 1930s and warned the British people about the Nazi threat.
It makes you wonder:  Is there a Churchill around, here and in Europe?  Is there someone who is willing to tell us what we don't want to hear?  Is there a future president who will talk about something other than "college tuition" and "sick leave"?
Let's hope so, especially on the 50th anniversary of Churchill's passing.
The Daily Mail in the UK has a great editorial about the 50th anniversary of Churchill's death:
"To an astonishing degree, it was Winston Churchill whose single-minded sense of purpose inspired the nation with hope in 1940, when Britain and her empire stood alone against Hitler and all seemed lost.
Indeed, it is hard to exaggerate how much the free world owes to the vision, energy and determination of this one man, who mobilised millions and galvanised Whitehall with his red stickers demanding: ‘Action This Day.’
Now fast forward to the present day, as Sir Winston’s successors at Westminster jockey for position ahead of the election.
Mercifully, the challenges they face are of a far lesser magnitude than those we confronted in May 1940. And of course any comparisons with the great man are bound to be invidious.
But with the tectonic plates of geopolitics fast shifting – and the public finances in a desperately precarious state – might we not expect just a glimmer of Churchillian clarity and vision from today’s politicians?
Instead, we see them engaged in a puerile and self-serving spat about which of them should be invited to appear in the TV election debates, each concerned only with petty party advantage.
Meanwhile, the Opposition leader hastily turns his back on fracking and stakes our future on wind farms – not to further the national interest (far from it), but merely because he fears the threat to the Labour vote from the Greens.
And where Churchill offered only ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Co promise us the moon – whether tax cuts or vast increases in public spending – while giving us hardly a clue where the money is to come from.
As for any Big Idea or sense of direction, we’re patronised instead by the politics of focus groups, Twitter, inane selfies and crude photo opportunities.
Yes, it is possible that Britain will muddle through. Our recovery may even continue (though it is hard to see how, if we put the economy back into the hands of the party that destroyed it).
But what if, God forbid, we should ever again find ourselves faced with a threat to our survival comparable with the fall of Europe in 1940?
Where, in our ideologically impoverished political class, is the statesman of even a quarter the stature of the national saviour we remember today?"
Let me be optimistic.Some future leader, our next Lincoln or FDR or Reagan, will rise to the occasion and lead us again. 
Like Churchill, he will call terrorists terrorists, he will tell us that we expect too much from government and finally he will not do interviews with people who take "Fruit Loops" baths.

P.S.  You can hear my show  CantoTalk  or  follow me on Twitter  

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The State of the Union speech PLUS a crumbling foreign policy

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The 'partners' strategy collapses


We hear that President Obama hates the Clintons.  Frankly, I don't know, but can you blame him if he does? 

Back in the late 1990s, an economic boom saved President Clinton from his reckless Oval Office behavior and total indifference to terrorism.  President Clinton coasted in the late 1990s and avoided all the tough calls on Osama bin Laden and Social Security reforms.  

Again, President Clinton got away with it because everybody was busy working and enjoying what Charles Krauthammer called our "holiday from history":
Like the 1920s, the 1990s were a golden age permeated by a postwar euphoria of apparently endless peace and prosperity. Both eras ended abruptly, undermined ultimately by threats that were ignored as they grew and burrowed underground.
Clinton let a decade of unprecedented American prosperity and power go without doing anything about al Qaeda, Afghanistan or Iraq (where his weakness allowed France and Russia to almost totally undermine the post-Gulf War sanctions).
And although al Qaeda declared war on America in 1996 and, as we now know, hatched the Sept. 11 plot that same year, it continued to flourish throughout the decade.
Looking the other way was largely a function of the age -- our holiday from history, our retreat from seriousness, our Seinfeld decade of obsessive ordinariness.
Clinton never could have been elected during the Cold War.
The 1990s produced a president perfectly suited to the time -- a time of domesticity, triviality and self-absorption.
President Obama is not going to enjoy any "holiday from history."  He is not that lucky.  Don't blame President Obama if he prays every night for those late 1990s to come back, and come back soon!  It was certainly easier to be president when all you had to do was enjoy the monthly unemployment reports.

Again, Clinton was born under a lucky star.  Obama wasn't!  And don't expect any lucky stars over the White House any time soon.

This week, Yemen burst open President Obama's door.  Unfortunately for the cultists who blame everything on Bush and the few still faithful "yes we can" screamers, 

President Obama is starting to hear it from liberal sources like the Washington Post:
IN DEVOTING 250 of the 6,800 words of his State of the Union address to the fight against “violent extremism,” President Obama offered a boilerplate description of his policy.
But here is the clincher or hook from the newspaper that endorsed him twice:
The Yemen mess reveals the weaknesses of Mr. Obama’s “partners” strategy, which has been too narrowly focused on drone strikes and training of specialized units, and not enough on providing security for the population, institution-building and support for moderate political forces. Unfortunately, the president’s cursory and formulaic description of his counterterrorism policies this week, following a year in which jihadist forces and terrorist attacks expanded across the world, suggested that he remains uninterested in correcting his mistakes.
Add Thomas Friedman to the list:
When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble.
And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq.
We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.
And Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii:
I think this is a bipartisan concern. It's a bipartisan concern for all of us to make sure that we keep the American people safe and specifically when we talk about this terminology, the use of Islamic extremism. Terminology and the use of this specific term is important because words are an expression of your feeling and your understanding. So as, for example, last night, the president came and talked to Congress about coming to request an authorization to use military force.
Thanks to Mr. Friedman for saying that "we've entered the theater of the absurd."  

The bad news is that we really entered that theater of the absurd when people like Mr. Friedman and others got drunk on the Obama Kool-Aid back in 2008!  Wonder how many of them thought that this was the change we were waiting for?

The good news is that some are waking up, looking at the windshield, and screaming, "Look out, look out there's a truck about to hit us!"

P.S. You can hear my show CantoTalk or follow me on Twitter    We spoke about foreign policy on Saturday's show:

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