Monthly Archives: March 2011

Budget Cuts and Cherry Blossoms

Well, I’m heading Inside the Beltway for a few days. And I figured that since I had to go to DC at some point late March or early April anyway, this was as good a time as any. The federal government appears still to be operating. The cherry blossoms cling to the trees. And the Cleveland Indians are still in first place.

Play ball.

By this time next week, things could change. The federal government — since the folks in Congress can’t agree on a 2011 budget let alone spending for 2012 — could be closed for business in early April. Here’s from the NYT, “Budget Impasse Increases Risk of U.S. Shutdown“:

With time running short and budget negotiations this week having reached an angry impasse, Congressional leaders are growing increasingly pessimistic about reaching a bipartisan deal that would avert a government shutdown in early April.

Senior Democratic officials involved in high-level efforts to bring House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House to a budget agreement said that while some progress had been made toward an accord on an overall level of spending cuts, the parties remained divided on the final figure and had to resolve the fate of ideologically charged policy provisions demanded by House conservatives.

Some senior Republicans, after relying on House Democrats to help pass the most recent short-term measure, are also uneasy about having to team up with Democrats again to pass any compromise that dips too far below the $61 billion in spending reductions endorsed by the House for the current fiscal year. Senate Democrats want to wring some of the savings out of mandatory spending programs like Medicare, an approach Republicans are resisting.

Aides said that even if myriad outstanding issues were resolved and an agreement struck late next week after lawmakers returned, it would be a challenge to write the legislation and move it through Congress before the current financing bill expires on April 8.

Well, good luck to those in Congress who have dithered over this for a year or more now. And I know that eventually the budget-cutting axe will hover over the big three — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Wow. Grandma won’t have the money to pay for gas to drive for her appointment with the death panel. Oops. I digress.

Sorry. I’m back. As our elected officials opine and seek the TV Talking Head high ground on budget and spending issues in the days ahead, consider a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. Here’s from WaPo, “Government overlap costs taxpayers billions, GAO reports“:

You think the government redundancies President Obama recently griped about were bad? Federal auditors found plenty more.

During his State of the Union address, Obama noted that 12 federal agencies or offices deal with international trade and at least two regulate salmon. Top administration officials are planning to revamp how the government handles trade issues — and may later turn to other programs.

They’ll have plenty to choose from, according to a Government Accountability Officereport released Tuesday. The U.S. government has more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues, 82 monitoring teacher quality, 80 for economic development, 47 for job training, 20 offices or programs devoted to homelessness and 17 different grant programs for disaster preparedness. Another 15 agencies or offices handle food safety, and five are working to ensure the federal government uses less gasoline.

“Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services,” the GAO said. Merging or terminating operations as recommended in the report could save up to several billion dollars.

The study, mandated last year as part of legislation raising the federal debt limit, is likely to be cited by lawmakers pushing for deeper spending cuts as part of ongoing budget negotiations. Several congressional offices received advanced copies of the report on Monday; The Washington Post obtained a written summary from congressional aides.

“This report will make us look like jackasses,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who read the report, told reporters Monday. He sponsored the amendment requiring the report’s publication.

An outspoken critic of government waste, Coburn has said that Congress and the executive branch are equally to blame for failing to control spending. Last Halloween, his office published a report concluding that the federal government has paid nearly $1 billion to at least 250,000 dead people since 2000.

Wow. Did Sen. Coburn really say “this report will make us look like jackasses”? Most likely. Although admittedly, people living in most any part of the country other than DC don’t need a GAO report to reach that conclusion. Just sayin’.

So while I’m Inside the Beltway I’ll keep a close eye on the jackasses — and the cherry blossoms, which will most likely vanish at about the same time as the federal government is set to close its doors.

I’ll have to leave the Cleveland Indians to others. Some problems are too big to solve.

The Obama Doctrine: Bam, Zap and Pow

I kinda liked the way the Prez made the case last night for the express delivery of Tomahawk missiles to Mad Dog’s doorstep in Libya. He was animated, engaged, kept on message — and he didn’t interrupt Dancing With the Stars.

So in Libya — and in other nations in the Mideast and elsewhere — I guess it’s game on. Wonder when we’ll see the first bumper sticker: Make love, not limited, kinetic military operations. Oops. I digress.

Anyway, plenty of commentary on what the Prez said — or didn’t say — available today online and via dead tree media, but here’s an interesting perspective from Roger Simon in Politico, “Obama’s BAM! ZAP! and POW!

It was “Mission Accomplished” but without the banner.

In a strong, almost pugnacious, speech Monday night, President Barack Obama said he had achieved his initial goals in Libya. “So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: the United States of America has done what we said we would do,” he said.

Slashing the air with his left hand, he used language that was not only robust, but martial: “We struck regime forces….We hit Gaddafi’s troops….We targeted tanks.”

BAM! ZAP! POW!

Obama admitted that he militarily intervened in Libya even though America was not at any risk. “There will be times…when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are,” he said.

And that is why we are fighting in Libya. Our interest is to have a stable world and our values are to promote democracy and to prevent a “massacre” in Libya and “violence on a horrific scale.”

“We must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one’s own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people,” Obama said.

Hard to sit back while someone like Gadhafi (does anyone know for sure how to spell Mad Dog’s name?) attacks and kills his own people to retain power. I guess in the area of democracy — and values — it’s hard for the USA to be just a little bit pregnant these days.

Still, I wonder how the French and others will feel about a no-fly zone over countries like, let’s say, China, Iran (remember Neda?) and North Korea?

BAM! ZAP! and POW!

ObamaCare and the Reality of Medical Costs

Ah, I thought ObamaCare was going to reduce medical costs. Well, it’s only been a year, and most of the provisions don’t take hold until 2014, but if my recent experience inside the medical gulag is any indication, guard your purses and wallets.

OK. Here’s the backstory.

Last month I managed to end up first in the emergency room and then as an overnight guest at Akron General Medical Center. Diagnosis: vertigo caused by a virus, most likely intestinal. And no question I was sick, flopping on the floor as though I just anchored a month-long fraternity kegger.

In fact, I am still a little nauseous from the experience, particularly as I open the medical bills that somehow find their way now to my snail mailbox every afternoon.

First a disclaimer. The treatment I received as best I can tell was comprehensive and excellent and the staff was professional and yada, yada and yada. And my primary care physician — remember when they were just doctors? — said that anytime someone at my age pulls a stunt like that they have to check for a heart attack or stroke. Wait a minute. At my age? Sigh.

Anyway, here’s the rub. Total cost: nearly $10,000.

The visit to the emergency room and overnight hospital stay topped $7,000. The fees for the doctors — and they assembled like lawyers at the site of a traffic accident — came to another $1,000 or so. Then you add a host of tests and lab work and so on — and pretty soon, just like the federal deficit, you’re talking about real money.

And then get this. I had to make my way via ambulance from the emergency room to the hospital — a distance of about 15 miles. Cost: $783. And they didn’t even offer a double Jameson during the trip. Woot.

Fortunately, I have insurance that will cover most of these costs. A lot of people in this country don’t. I’ve seen some estimates that put the number at 25 million or so. And what happens if you don’t have insurance? Or if you are really sick over an extended period of time and didn’t have enough — or good enough — insurance?

And the point of all this.

Like most, I have no clue whether ObamaCare will reduce escalating health care costs — or not.

But I know that something has to be done — and soon. There is no way that this country — whether you are talking about government, employers, insurers or private individuals — and support the continual escalation in medical costs.

Just sayin’.

 

Libya: Here We Go Again

Well, to paraphrase Dutch Reagan: “Here we go again.” Are we going to take Mad Dog Gadhafi out? Or let him stay if he once again promises to behave himself? Hey, sounds like the start of a country song. And who’s in charge? Looks like the NATO alliance has crumbled faster than my NCAA brackets.

Here’s what got me fretting about all this early this a.m. It’s an AP story on NPR: “U.S. Likely To Keep Combat Role After Libya Shift.”

The United States welcomed a partial handover for the Libyan air campaign to NATO, but the allies apparently balked at assuming full control and the U.S. military was left in charge of the brunt of combat.

NATO agreed on Thursday to take over command of the newly established no-fly zone over Libya, protective flights meant to deter Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi from putting warplanes in the air. That leaves the U.S. with responsibility for attacks on Gadhafi’s ground forces and other targets, which are the toughest and most controversial portion of the operation.

Oh boy. That sounds like shoe leather on sand — and plenty of it.

OK. I’ll admit it. I need help sorting all this out. So let’s see what Charles Krauthammer has to say as he opines in WaPo, “Obama and Libya: The professor’s war.”

President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour — to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?

Well, let’s see how that paper multilateralism is doing. The Arab League is already reversing itself, criticizing the use of force it had just authorized. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, is shocked — shocked! — to find that people are being killed by allied airstrikes. This reaction was dubbed mystifying by one commentator, apparently born yesterday and thus unaware that the Arab League has forever been a collection of cynical, warring, unreliable dictatorships of ever-shifting loyalties. A British soccer mob has more unity and moral purpose. Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the league deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.

And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution?

Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade.

China is calling for a cease-fire in place — which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war.

Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.

And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

Well, Chuck provides some excellent perspective, as usual. But he may be giving the Prez a little too much credit for planning all this. My understanding is like any good professor Obama was on spring break, after noodling over his NCAA picks.

Let’s see if Maureen Dowd can give some behind-the-scene insights in her NYT Op-Ed, “Fight of the Valkyries.”

They are called the Amazon Warriors, the Lady Hawks, the Valkyries, the Durgas.

There is something positively mythological about a group of strong women swooping down to shake the president out of his delicate sensibilities and show him the way to war. And there is something positively predictable about guys in the White House pushing back against that story line for fear it makes the president look henpecked.

It is not yet clear if the Valkyries will get the credit or the blame on Libya. But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.

How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.

“The girls took on the guys,” The Times’s White House reporter, Helene Cooper, said on “Meet the Press.”

Rush Limbaugh mocked the president and his club of “male liberals,” saying: “Of course the males were opposed. It’s the new castrati. … They’re sissies!”

Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the ’08 primaries when Power called her “a monster”). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.

How odd to see Rush and Samantha Power on the same side.

Oh well. Here we go again.

Reagan National: A No-Land Zone?

Oh boy. I’m now looking forward to my next trip Inside the Beltway even more than usual. I generally go to DC every month or so, taking a Continental shuttle from Cleveland Hopkins to Reagan National. Guess I better get the street address for the runway in DC and plug it into my GPS.

Seems like the air traffic controller on duty in the tower at Reagan National last night wasn’t available to help two planes loaded with passengers land. Hey. I understand. One minute you’re watching American Idol and the next your eyes bolt open and Dick Goddard is opining about the weather. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s the WaPo story about how Reagan National almost became a no-land zone, “National to add second controller overnight as tower goes dark.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered a second air traffic controller to be on duty overnight at Reagan National Airport, after the lone controller was unavailable early Wednesday as two passenger planes were trying to land.

LaHood also instructed the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the incident, to examine staffing levels at other airports around the country.

The two D.C. airliners, carrying a total of 165 passengers and crew members, landed on their own shortly after midnight after attempting to contact the control tower and receiving no response.

The tower normally is staffed by one air-traffic controller from midnight to 6 a.m. The on-duty controller did not respond to pilot requests for landing assistance or to phone calls from controllers elsewhere in the region, who also used a “shout line,” which pipes into a loudspeaker in the tower, internal records show.

Both planes–an American Airlines Boeing 737 flying in from Miami with 97 people onboard, and a United Airlines Airbus 320 flying in from Chicago with 68 people onboard–landed safely, within minutes of each other.

The planes’ pilots took matters into their own hands, broadcasting their progress as they approached and landed. They also were communicating with controllers at a separate facility in the region that does not handle landings.

“Today I directed the FAA to place two air traffic controllers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s control tower on the midnight shift,” LaHood said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

“It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical airspace. I have also asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing levels at other airports around the country.”

Let’s face it. Airline travel is a hassle these days, although I’ll admit that the last few strip searches have been rather erotic in a perverted sort of way. And with the airlines cutting back on everything — from the number of bags you can check to the peanuts that now serve as lunch or dinner — I fully expect that at some point there will be a lottery after boarding to select which passenger has to fly the plane.

If it’s me, let’s hope the GPS on my BlackBerry is working on the next trip to Reagan National. As everyone knows, men will not stop and ask for directions.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

Telephone Calls, Ma Bell and Big Mergers

Hey, didn’t we just break up Ma Bell? Nah, that was in the 1980s when government regulators figured it was better to have a bevy of Baby Bells rather than one mega-conglomerate controlling the phone lines.  Well, Ma Bell is back.

AT&T announced earlier this week that pending regulatory review and approval it planned to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock. You can be sure that if this deal moves forward employees of both companies and consumers will get screwed — but that’s not the point of my thoughtful analysis today.

Instead, does anyone really care about phones these days — mobile or ones still tethered to a landline? And no. I don’t mean for texting, or to scan the Internet, or to find out via Twitter or Facebook that some asshat has just checked in at a Starbucks somewhere in the USA.

I mean to use a phone to actually talk to someone else — one speaking while the other listens and back and forth and so on.

My landline phone these days is mute, save the dinner-hour calls from telemarketers, Democratic Party fundraisers and other miscreants. (Note to self: The inventor of caller ID should receive some sort of national humanitarian award.) And my BlackBerry beyond business-related conference calls and calling my Mother once a week would be worthless if it weren’t for the hundred or so email and text messages I receive most days.

Am I alone in all this? A citizen-clad citizen journalist paying two monthly phone bills — one from AT&T — while receiving no phone calls. Hardly.

Here’s from Pamela Paul, opining in the New York Times, “Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You.”

NOBODY calls me anymore — and that’s just fine. With the exception of immediate family members, who mostly phone to discuss medical symptoms and arrange child care, and the Roundabout Theater fund-raising team, which takes a diabolical delight in phoning me every few weeks at precisely the moment I am tucking in my children, people just don’t call.

It’s at the point where when the phone does ring — and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter — my first thought is: “What’s happened? What’s wrong?” My second thought is: “Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?”

I don’t think it’s just me. Sure, teenagers gave up the phone call eons ago. But I’m a long way away from my teenage years, back when the key rite of passage was getting a phone in your bedroom or (cue Molly Ringwald gasp) a line of your own.

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.

“I literally never use the phone,” Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) “Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me.” Then again, he doesn’t want to be called, either. “I’ve learned not to press ‘ignore’ on my cellphone because then people know that you’re there.”

“I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, ‘Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m.,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “Now the rule is, ‘Don’t call anyone. Ever.’ ”

Ah, why so?

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”

Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, Ms. Martin explained, “that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me.”

Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public. Does anyone want to hear me detail to the dentist the havoc six-year molars have wreaked on my daughter?

“When I walk around the office, nobody is on the phone,” said Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher at HarperCollins. The nature of the rare business call has also changed. “Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”

Even in fields where workers of various stripes (publicists, agents, salespeople) traditionally conducted much of their business by phone, hoping to catch a coveted decision-maker off-guard or in a down moment, the phone stays on the hook. When Matthew Ballast, an executive director for publicity at Grand Central Publishing, began working in book publicity 12 years ago, he would go down his list of people to cold call, then follow up two or three times, also by phone. “I remember five years ago, I had a pad with a list of calls I had to return,” he said. Now, he talks by phone two or three times a day.

“You pretty much call people on the phone when you don’t understand their e-mail,” he said.

OK. Time to check my emails and text messages.

Please, don’t call.

Libya: Another Long War?

Wow. Talk about March Madness. One week Prez O was dithering about Libya while making his NCAA picks and the next Hillary has a coalition of the able and willing dropping bombs like three-pointers on Mad Dog Gaddafi and associates.

OK. I’ll admit to having some reservations about this latest military adventure — consider Afghanistan and Iraq before sending nasty emails — although I agree that something had to be done to prevent the massacre of civilians.

And I’m hopeful that this won’t become another American war where we commit ground troops to go on a search for the light at the end of some tunnel that never ends. Let’s face it. In just about every military action these days, the French head home following Happy Hour. Just sayin.’

Saying all that, it seems to me that the Prez should be taking some time to explain what is going on in Libya — the Middle East in general — and how we are going to get the hell out of this mess.

Here’s Richard Cohen opining in WaPo, “Mixed Signals from Obama and the Middle East.

The Middle East is a mess and a muddle, all of it happening at pretty close to warp speed. The search for a Unified Theory of What Is Happening is futile. Bahrain is our pal; Libya is not. Saudi Arabia has all that oil; Egypt doesn’t. Iran is our enemy and its enemies must be our friends. The scorpion that lethally stings the frog that’s transporting it across the Suez Canal is not a metaphor for the Middle East but a virtual position paper. Look: The Arab League’s Amr Moussa — its departing secretary general — called for a no-fly zone and then, appalled at the violence of this military strike, expressed second thoughts. Moussa has the countenance of a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, a rare manifestation of form following function.

Still, the Obama administration has applied incoherence to confusion. It is an odd, dangerous, mix. A day into the operation, the bedraggled chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, appeared everywhere but on Animal Planet to say that the operation he himself clearly did not favor might end with the man the president said he wanted gone — a certain Col. Gaddafi — still in power. “That’s certainly, potentially, one outcome,” Mullen said on “Meet the Press.”

And the editors of the New York Times have some tepid reservations as well. Here’s from this morning’s editorial, “At War in Libya.”

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has long been a thug and a murderer who has never paid for his many crimes, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United Nations Security Council resolution authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and was perhaps the only hope of stopping him from slaughtering thousands more.

The resolution was an extraordinary moment in recent history. The United Nations, the United States and the Europeans dithered for an agonizingly long time and then — with the rebels’ last redoubt, Benghazi, about to fall — acted with astonishing speed to endorse a robust mandate that goes far beyond a simple no-fly zone. More extraordinary was that the call to action was led by France and Britain and invited by the Arab League.

And:

There is much to concern us. President Obama correctly agreed to deploy American forces only when persuaded that other nations would share the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law. The United States is already bogged down in two wars. It can’t be seen as intervening unilaterally in another Muslim nation. But even with multinational support, it should not have to shoulder the brunt of this conflict.

Not exactly a commentary or opinion that will stir the masses to action. Looks like the NYT editors are going to drive down the middle of the road on this one — unless a truck comes barreling the other way.

So let’s see what George Will has to say on what is certainly one of the big fish in the skillet here — “Is it America’s duty to intervene wherever regime change is necessary?

The missile strikes that inaugurated America’s latest attempt at regime change were launched 29 days before the 50th anniversary of another such — the Bay of Pigs of April 17, 1961. Then the hubris of American planners was proportional to their ignorance of everything relevant, from Cuban sentiment to Cuba’s geography. The fiasco was a singularly feckless investment of American power.

Does practice make perfect? In today’s episode, America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know. “We are standing with the people of Libya,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, evidently confident that “the” people are a harmonious unit. Many in the media call Moammar Gaddafi’s opponents “freedom fighters,” and perhaps they are, but no one calling them that really knows how the insurgents regard one another, or understand freedom, or if freedom, however understood, is their priority.

But, then, knowing is rarely required in the regime-change business. The Weekly Standard, a magazine for regime-change enthusiasts, serenely says: “The Libyan state is a one-man operation. Eliminate that man and the whole edifice may come tumbling down.” And then good things must sprout? The late Donald Westlake gave one of his comic novels the mordant title “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” People who do not find that darkly funny should not make foreign policy.

So we’ll see. Another foreign policy of shock and awe potentially to be replaced by hope and pray.

But I am standing behind Prez O on one thing no matter what.

We’ve both got Kansas at the top of the NCAA totem pole.