Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh, say it's so!

by Leslie S. Lebl

According to the Associated Press, Russian Prime Mininster (and self-proclaimed future president) Vladimir Putin blames his domestic opposition on Hillary Clinton, saying our Secretary of State has been fomenting unrest inside Russia. I surely hope that is the case!

Just another peace-loving guy.

So far, the Obama administration has only interfered in the domestic affairs of allies (or, to put it more precisely, former allies, by the time we get through with them). This would be an exciting foray into the politics of yesteryear, when we reserved our biggest efforts for our opponents.
And, for those of you who think the reset button worked with Russia and that Russia is now our friend, you probably missed the news reports that Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened to target Russian missiles on our missile defense system installations in Europe meant to counter the Iranian threat. At the end of the Bush administration, Russia was threatening to target its missiles at NATO neighbors if we went ahead with the system. Reset, my foot!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


by Leslie Lebl

I know that President Obama wants to shore up his base and that such a calculation probably contributed to his threat to veto any legislation undoing the defense cuts that resulted when the Super Committee failed to reach agreement. But does Obama really intend to use that position in next year's campaign?

I can see it now: "Vote for me if you want the U.S. military to undergo drastic cuts in wartime - cuts that even my defense secretary describes as devastating." And that will appeal to independents? Swing voters? Not so much is my guess.

Good-bye and Good Riddance

by Leslie Lebl

Well, thank heavens! The Super Committee just committed suicide, so we will no longer be subjected to ridiculous news stories about it. Who, aside from credulous newscasters and pundits, would ever have thought that 12 members of Congress, completely abandoned by a spendthrift president, would somehow make the difficult decisions on how to cut over $1 trillion? Especially when that same president had already ignored the conclusions of the bipartisan commission that he himself appointed?

So let's get real: such decisions are not meant to be made by 12 people meeting behind closed doors, but by the American public at large. And that exercise - known as "elections" - will take place next November. If in the meantime we receive another downgrade, there's no cause for surprise. After all, our national spending is out of control.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ask the Candidates
About These Issues

by Joseph Sternberg

Most of the questioners at these so-called Republican presidential primary debates are of the left. That has some advantages for the candidates since they get exposed to questions that would be raised later. But the choice of topics and the way that they are presented is skewed. For instance, the questioners seem to want to pretend that the Paul Ryan budget bill does not exist, yet it is certainly a top issue. The candidates should be questioned to determine how they would deal with the issues in it (if they differ from what has been written). That would also help voters to understand the degree to which the candidates have thought about these problems (if in fact they have). Foreign policy issues are still to be formulated, although the approach of the candidates to foreign policy is a prime aspect of being president.

1. National debt

What is the candidates' approach to this issue?

The Republican House passed the Paul Ryan Budget Bill earlier this year. This is a specific attempt to maintain US solvency and advances an approach to entitlement reform. If a candidate doesn't like this bill, what alternative would they propose? This kind of focus is necessary to keep the candidates from evading this fundamental issue.

President Barack Obama pushes the view that we can stop the rising national debt by taxing the wealthy, rather than decreasing expenditures. What are the Republican arguments against this position? This is important because President Obama is sure to trumpet this argument. My previous blog entry on the president's position was an attempt to contribute to our understanding of this issue.

2. Energy Policy

The formation of an effective energy policy for the US is prevented by the concern that fossil fuels are loading up the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. The illusion that green energy can be substituted for fossil fuels to alleviate the concern is rampant. But the priority countries such as China and India put on economic development shows that the control of carbon dioxide cannot be achieved in this way. Carbon dioxide is a worldwide problem, and fossil fuels will be needed by the world for a long time, My previous blog entry explains the scientific problem and the solution that can be pursued. Green energy should find its place in the US energy mix without massive subsidies.

The US national security demands an increase in the domestic output of fossil fuels. There are three compelling reasons for this. First, the US economy is vulnerable to disruptions in the Mideast oil supply. We spend billions on maintaining force in the area. The vulnerability seriously compromises national security policy. Second, self-sufficiency in fossil fuels would have a large positive effect on the US balance of trade and thereby help relieve the pressure on the dollar. In 2011 the trade deficit is projected to be $550 billion dollars. During the same period, the cost of oil imports is expected to reach $400 billion dollars. And finally third, thousands of US jobs would be created.

We should hear from the candidates on all this.

3. Health Care Reform

All the Republican presidential candidates seem to agree that ObamaCare must be repealed. It may be declared unconstitutional but, if that does not happen, it should be repealed because it overwhelms the health care system with bureaucrats and the government and increases the cost of health care.  Republicans, however, cannot stop there.  Health care, as it is now organized, has serious problems.  Republicans should assemble a package, perhaps including items such as tort reform and allowing the sale of medical insurance across state lines.  Among all the candidates, this should be especially asked of Romney.

4. Avoiding another financial crisis.
       a) Housing

The US has had a bipartisan policy dating back many years to have the government intervene in the market to increase home ownership. It is clear that home ownership is not for everyone. The ability of homeowners to meet the financial requirements of home ownership, including down payments, cannot be bypassed. Government guaranteeing of mortgages where lending standards were debased led to trillions of mortgage-based securities flooding the market. Well over a trillion dollars worth of these securities are now resting uneasily in the possession of the Federal reserve. Fannie and Freddie were key agents in creating this debacle and so far have cost taxpayers $170 billion dollars. To allow these organizations to continue to operate is to insure a recurrence of the housing collapse.

      b) Ending too big to fail

The financial collapse started by the housing collapse showed another serious defect of the financial system. We have to prevent financial institutions from becoming "too big to fail." This is a failure of capitalism. Now we don't seem to have any serious trouble in deciding that a company is too big to fail. The problem is preventing them from getting to that point. Financial experts need to spell out ways that this can be done. Under the present circumstances, the incentives push in the direction of massive bets. If things go well, millions are earned. If the bets turn out to be bad, the new millionaires are gone and the taxpayers are faced with the debris.  And many of the super-rich whose incomes have soared into the stratosphere are in the financial sector.  Subsidizing these salaries is absurd, yet that is precisely what we’re doing.

If we measure the presidential candidates on these issues, we’ll have a good way of determining who is the best one.  Certainly a lot better than seeing who scores more points at a “debate.”


UPDATE: About foreign policy questions that the candidates should be asked, I would start with the famous quotation from Palmerston, " Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests." So what do the candidates believe are our national interests in the Middle East, former satellites of Russia, Africa, China, etc. Such responses would help to understand how candidates would respond to developments and the degree to which they have thought about such matters.
Joseph Sternberg
Retired Professor of Physics
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yes, Maria, Character Does Matter

by Libby Sternberg

In the November 9 GOP presidential primary debate, Maria Bartiromo of CNBC asked Herman Cain about sexual harassment charges made against him. She suggested he address concerns with his character, pointing out that “shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues.”

How true, Maria, how true. But in order for "shareholders" to make a decision about a potential CEO's character, they have to have adequate information provided to them. In the case of elections and voters, the news media -- both traditional and new -- play the role of search committee to some degree, preparing the "information packets" for those who ultimately make the hiring decision.

Into this packet would go information on past behavior, of course, everything from the candidate's accomplishments to his/her faults. While candidates will make sweeping promises during the interview for the job, those promises have to be taken with caution because, after all, promises are easy. And sometimes glibness can be mistaken for depth.

That's why I, as a voter, now like to rely on a candidate's past when making a decision about what he or she will do in the future. If they held office before, what was their record? What is their personal record, as well? Do they run for cover when courage is required? Do they count as friends people who would make me wonder about their judgment? Do they love this country and want to do what's best for it?

You see, even the best-intentioned candidate can make promises on the campaign trail that, because of changing circumstances, become impossible to keep. Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to keep the US out of war...and then something happened on December 7,1941 that made that promise unsustainable.

So, yes, Maria, character does matter. And maybe if the news "vetters" had spent as much time examining Barack Obama's character and past in 2008's election cycle as they have recently spent on claims of sexual harassment against candidate Herman Cain (Politico famously ran 90 plus stories in six days about the scandal), voters wouldn't have been so quick to jump on the hope-and-change bandwagon with an untested, inexperienced candidate.

Hindsight is 20-20, the old saw goes, and it's easy to look back now and see the portents of what was to come in Obama's presidency...

The blueprint for the president's poor dealings with Congress were visible in his past performance as a legislator-- he had, after all, very little experience working with opposition in his Chicago days, and he avoided controversial stands by voting "present" and not "Aye" or "Nay" when he was a state senator in Illinois...nearly 130 times, sometimes joined in this cowardly vote by only a few fellow senators.

No wonder he had trouble leading even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress -- remember how hard he had to work to get his health care bill passed? People forget that the Democrats held Congress at the time. His own party members grumbled, at least in private, about his lack of leadership.

If the media had vetted his background better, they would have also raised questions about his association with former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers instead of airbrushing it to make it appear tangential and unclear. Ayers is a man who is not fond of his own country, at least many of its policies. He so loathed some of these policies that he plotted violent acts -- bombings -- against innocents. There are stories out there of those his organization, the Weathermen, tried to harm. They're at least as compelling as the tales of Herman Cain's accusers. But perhaps without celebrity lawyer Gloria Alred as a champion, they were less glamorous in the media's eyes. The president's association with a man of these views tells us something about his own character--and again, it's not flattering. And again, it's one of lack of courage--he should have disassociated himself from a man of violence and America-loathing.

I could go on, but you get the idea... While these stories were covered somewhat during the campaign, they were never pursued with the doggedness the media has shown going after Mr. Cain (and other Republicans).

But perhaps the media wanted, just as most Americans did, to believe Barack Obama's promises and not look too closely at what his past would say about him. Even I, a Republican who'd voted for George W. Bush twice, was tired of Dubya and wanted something fresh that John McCain couldn't seem to offer.

Bush had disappointed us....sometimes with his policies but more often with his inability to effectively make the case for them, thus retaining public support. Too often, he turned the other cheek in the face of criticism, a patrician approach to conflict that seemed to suggest he didn't want to stoop to make the battle just about him. By doing so, he made the battle all about him, which often meant the merits of his policies got lost in the fog of Bush-hatred. And after a while, it became too hard to defend him when he wouldn't bother defending himself.

So I definitely understand the desire to bring in a fresh face, even if the fellow is inexperienced, lacks courage and has shady friends in his past. Sometimes you just want to believe.

But this election cycle, it would be awfully nice if the media turned their spotlight on the president in ways they failed to do when he ran for the office the first time around, especially during the Dem primaries when an experienced, credible alternative, Hillary Clinton, could have succeeded. Don't we all -- Republican and Democrats alike -- now look back and think how effectively Mrs. Clinton would have handled crises he's managed to botch?

Take a new look, Maria, at those character issues you're so concerned about now. In the president's case, you might be surprised to find in his past the seeds to his failures in the present.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review:
In The Garden of Beasts
by Erik Larson

by Libby Sternberg

Friends and family will be shocked to learn that I read Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts in hardcover. I own a Kindle, you see, and am editor-in-chief of an ebook company. I'm on the ebook train big-time. But the growth of the ebook industry doesn't mean print books will go away, and Larson's book perfectly illustrates how the rancher (wild ebook lovers) and the farmer (staid print book lovers) can be friends. That is, how print and ebooks can coexist with diehard fans of either format buying from both. 

Of course, one of the reasons I bought this in hardcover was price. The hardcover version was the same price as the Kindle version -- leading to a lot of nasty comments from readers on the amazon website, by the way -- and I decided I wanted this nonfiction book as an object, not just as the story it tells.

I would give the book a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars because Larson doesn't really cover a whole lot of new ground or offer new insights into the early days of the Nazi regime. Rather, he tells in an almost novelistic fashion a gripping "babes in the woods" story of a naive college professor, William Dodd, thrust into the role of US Ambassador to Germany in 1933. Dodd and his family find themselves "in the garden of beasts" --  a play on words since the embassy was near the Tiergarten, which is German for garden of animals/beasts. And we all know who the real beasts were at that time.

Which brings me to Dodd's daughter, Martha. In many ways this book is really about her. She was something of a hedonist, flitting from love affair to love affair, not realizing she was being used (among her lovers - the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy), at first embracing the new Germany with its shiny Nazi order (what's a few beaten and bruised innocents in the face of such dazzling order and optimism!). She really comes off as a very unattractive character, someone who believed herself a literary and cultural connoisseur but who was probably more of a poseur than anything else (later records revealed what some of her Nazi and Soviet friends really thought of her, and it's devastating). Her later life, summarized at the end of the book, is no more flattering and sadly pathetic.

Meanwhile, back to our pal, the ambassador -- a Woodrow Wilson-loving Progressive, Dodd had this notion that ambassadors should live exemplary egalitarian-looking American lives, forgoing their personal riches (many ambassadors at the time were from wealthy families -- uh, maybe like today, too) and living off their salaries at their posts to demonstrate to foreign peoples how everyone in the USA valued....well, I don't know...simple lives?

As you can imagine, this approach played really well with a regime whose leaders were sociopathic bullies.

Like his daughter, Dodd went to Germany with a lot of sympathy and love for the German people. He'd studied in Leipzig and remembered affectionately his lederhosen-wearing days. (Actually, I don't know if he wore lederhosen, but let's imagine he did.) As soon as he arrived, though, he had to deal with the unsettling issue of Americans being beaten up on the streets when they failed to salute as various SA and other military parades went by. Despite regular occurrences of this sort, though, Dodd refused to issue a travel warning through the State Department, not wanting to upset the Nazis, convinced that he just needed them to feel part of the brotherhood of man, teaching the world to, wait, that's a Coca-Cola commercial. Anyway, he was timid and remarkably blind to the implications of Nazi actions, even when they occurred right in front of his eyes.

To his credit, the veils were lifted from his eyes eventually, and he spoke out about the dangerous situation in Germany and the Nazi persecution of the Jews. "Eventually" being the speaking tours he did after he left the ambassadorship in the late 1930s. 

While he was ambassador, Dodd had to deal with several adversaries, the State Department being one. Having a sister-in-law who worked in the foreign service for many years, I have to say the stories of State Department backstabbing -- which seemed to rise to the level of an Olympic sport in this book -- didn't surprise me. From my reading of other histories, neither did the casual anti-Semitism that permeated the ranks. (Dodd himself suggested to Hitler that perhaps he should handle the Jews the way we did in the US, which was giving them some positions but not letting them dominate a sector. What a guy!)

For me, one of the most ironical moments in the book occurred when Martha Dodd brags about her family's lineage as slave-holding southerners. The totalitarian who hears the story is shocked -- she's proud of the fact her family owned slaves?

While Larson doesn't break a lot of new ground in this book, he does add to a discussion that's been going on for some time now -- how could a cultured society tolerate the rise of a totalitarian regime headed by sociopaths? It's a question worth analyzing over and over again, and those with smug answers--such as the "Nazis = right-wingers" canard I discussed in the previous post -- should be surprised at how easily liberals and even progressives tolerated anti-Semitism and, on occasion, embraced or at least admired the new world order National Socialists offered German citizens.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Using a Broad Brush

by Libby Sternberg

On Facebook the other day, I took part in a discussion of the OWS crowd, and eventually we got around to discussing its anti-Semitic elements and whether they were representative of the crowd. I was trying to make the point that Tea Party gatherings had been painted with the broad brush of racism for a few outlandish fringe elements, whereas the OWS crowd seemed to get off scot-free on the anti-Semitism charge despite some signs with messages decrying Jew Bankers and the like.

This discussion eventually led to one poster claiming: "Anti-Semitism is a right wing sickness."

I didn't ask her why she thinks that, but I know that many people think of Nazism as a "right wing" movement, one that was responsible for the slaughter of millions of Jews.

As the holder of center-right views, I have often bristled at the conflating of a movement like Nazism with "conservative" or "right wing" ideals--at least in the understanding of those ideological labels today.

Today, conservatives, or "right wingers" are the ones favoring freedom and limited government. The one broad link between conservatives, right wingers, Tea Partiers and the like, in fact, is that belief in limited government, especially fiscal restraint in government.

I know that opponents would argue that a limited government outlook doesn't jibe with some conservative views, such as restrictions on abortions. But it's a mistake to assume these conservative pro-lifers favor government intervention on a grand scale. They see abortion restriction as necessary in protecting the "life" in that "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" ideology they hold dear. (It's worth noting that other movements to restrict "happiness" and "liberty," such as Prohibition, were advanced and supported by liberal Progressives.)

Using these broad brush definitions, then, Nazism was never a right wing movement but, rather, a left wing one, if you define the term "left wing" the way it is used today--an ideology that favors more government.

But before my left wing friends start throwing bricks at me, hear me out! I don't think Nazism was any more left wing than it was right wing, any more liberal than it was conservative.

Yes, it was ultimately a totalitarian state governed by sociopaths, and in that regard it lies to the left of what I view as a broad stroke political ideology continuum:

Totalitarianism<--Communism<--Socialism    --   Dem/GOP     --       Libertarianism-->Anarchy

But it did not represent current left-wing thought any more than anarchy -- no government at all -- represents conservative thought.

Nazism was precisely the opposite, in fact, of conservative, right-wing limited government views. It was government everywhere and all the time, even down to the stipulation of how to use words as aids in spelling out other words (anti-Semitic laws stipulated that Germans could no longer say "D as in David" or "S as in Samuel," because those were Jewish names -- you don't get much more "big government" than that.).

So, I hope we move past the linkage of Nazism with "right wing" or conservative views as they are understood and meant today. It's awfully tiresome and downright wrong.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I am the 98%.

I don’t squat in parks. In fact, I try to be a good neighbor by not beating drums at all hours. I don’t ask to use my neighbor’s bathroom facilities, either, unless, of course, it’s an emergency.

I try to pay my bills on time. I try to make good financial decisions. Sometimes, I don’t, and I have to pay the consequences. That’s okay, because we all make mistakes. I just try not to ask other people to pay for them.

Am I hacked off at the way things are now? Yeah. I’m angry that people who thought they were achieving the American Dream were led down a yellow brick road to financial ruin by promises from mortgage companies and student loan officers, who were, in turn being pressured by the government to make bad loans, all in the name of “equality’ and “fairness.”  I’m royally ripped that a lot of those folks – the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ones, in particular – don’t seem to be getting the same serving of guilt heaped on them as others are.

And I’m really, really stunned that a lot of the “99 percenters” say they still plan on blindly voting for the characters who either got us into this mess or made it worse.

What do I do when I get mad at policy makers? I don’t grab the chance to relive the Sixties. I get involved. I educate myself about the issues – and not just from organizations that support my political leanings. I don’t like conspiracy theories that make easy connections between a causation and something that has no real, profound effect. Conspiracy theories are for dunderheads or mystery writers.

No, when I’m ripped about something in this democratic republic, I call or write my elected officials. I get like-minded folks to do the same. I participate. I vote. I don’t wallow.

I’m the 98% out of the 99%--in the same income bracket, yeah, but not the same mental zone as the 1% occupying parks. Not. At. All.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Deconstructing the Smoking Cain Ad

by Libby Sternberg

First, the visuals and the sounds: The chiaroscuro contrast of shadow and light, the gray tones that suggest foreboding but also promise--one walks from shadow to light, after all--the wearied stare of our narrator into the camera as if to say, "We're all weary, aren't we?" as haunting yet upbeat music comprised of a simple few notes against a techno-beat begins to play....

It all combines to create an aura: something different is happening here, pay attention.

And so, we do.

Then he speaks. He tells us his name but so quickly that we must listen again or look it up. He makes us wonder--Is he an actor or a real person? Is he who he says he is?

This, of course, is the critical question in any political campaign: Is the candidate who he says he is? A stroke of genius to plant this visceral question early in the minds of the viewers as a subtext to what will come, thrumming in the background as steadily as that techno-beat in the simple, nonaccostive music that seems to whisper: I will not hurt you.

On to the script: Mark Block, our narrator, starts with history, his history: "Since....January..." he informs us, he's been Herman Cain's chief of staff. But there's a world in those ellipses, that small pause, as if he's storing up the wondrous things he wants to share, deciding at that very moment to tell the universe about this magical experience working on Mr. Cain's campaign.

He tells us this is a campaign "like nobody's ever seen" -- another touch of lightning-fast verisimilitude, joining the narrator to the common bonds of humanity, eschewing a more elegant construction ("Nobody has seen a campaign like this"), opting instead for the barroom banter of the working man, conjuring up images of a victory whoop and beer held high while football friends-of-the-moment share triumph looking together, communally at the high-def images on a megasized flatscreen TV. Any given Sunday, that construction says to us all, I am one of you, Herman Cain is one of you.

But we are fickle viewers, are we not, ready to turn away at the briefest glimpse of the Most Interesting Man in the World or to the compelling lure of the skillets blacksmith with his seductive "mmm," urging us to "smite" the pan of pasta, "smite them with the liquid gold until there can be no more smiting..."

I digress.

Our friend, our singular vox populi, continues with his simple declarations, the camera providing enough movement to keep us watching, moving here, there, placing our narrator to the left of the screen -- the left! another brilliant stroke signifying "come hither, ye discouraged and disappointed liberal-minded independents, Mr. Cain speaks to you, as well!"

And then, the coup de grace, the moment when Mr. Block--Block, how serendipitous a name, telegraphing ordinaryness, neighborliness, orderliness, simpleness, comfortableness, kindnessness--as the music surges, voices joining the chantlike melody, proclaiming "I am America"--at that moment, as a visual fermata over the word "America," Mr. Block becomes the rebel within us all--he inhales a cigarette!

Were we not a country born of rebellion, our inner Minute Men howl? Have we not all fought against the stifling forces of conformity and raged against the machine of even more conforming conformity, our hidden Don Drapers keen?

But there's more. He doesn't just inhale. In a puff of utter genius, he exhales as well, his eyes blazing with the message: "I won't back down. Neither should you. I am America." A universal message for that blue-collared fan. He's telling us with that nonchalant whiff, the smoke lazily blowing toward the screen, toward us, toward our very souls, toward the heart and soul of America itself: "Do not be afraid."

Then the obligatory image of the candidate appears. By now, we've been waiting and wondering--who does this mysterious, unpolished Everyman speak for? Let us see him. Let us judge for ourselves. Bring him to us so that we might judge him. Is he worthy?

His face at last, serious at first, but with a shine in his eyes that makes us want to like him. Should we like him? Should we give him a try? Has Mr. Block told us the truth "like nobody has seen" before, or was this yet one more slick charade, designed to keep us from seeing beyond the veil of predatory politics?

Sunshine cuts the chiaroscuro! Mr. Cain smiles, slow and easy, a smile that dispels the gray and brown tones of the ad (and also, one must hope, of Mr. Block's lungs), and we are left basking in the optimism and exuberant stolidity of this beguiling man.

But don't take my word for it. See for yourself:

I hope this analysis satisfies all those who have been searching for the ad's deeper meaning.

Perhaps this is a good place to mention that I'm a novelist and write romantic comedy, among other things.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm the 99 Percent,
But You Don't Speak for Me

by Libby Sternberg

Supporters of the Occupy Wall Street crowd have been posting signs on Facebook. That is, photographs of people holding signs with their "stories" on them. These tales are usually some variation of "I am an average guy/gal who tried to do everything right and now I've got tons of debt and can't find a job." Some tell of losing their houses or practically going bankrupt when serious illness hits them without a health insurance coverage safety net.

While these stories generate a painful pang of sympathy--no one likes to hear of others' hardship -- they also stir in me a sense of befuddlement.

As sad as these tales are, they're all, more or less, confessions of mistakes, big life-altering mistakes. So it bewilders me why these sign-makers would want to share these embarrassing stories with the world. Surely they must know that even the most sympathetic readers probably silently ask questions like these:

Why did you rack up so much college debt?
Why did you choose a major in a field with few employment opportunities?
Why did you forgo buying a high-deductible/low-premium health insurance policy?
Why did you take out a mortgage, or refinance one, with little to back it up?

I know, I know -- some of these storytellers would argue that when they made these mistakes, the economy was strong, and they expected to be able to land jobs, get health insurance from an employer, and pay off their debts responsibly.

I'm sorry you are having trouble.
I'm a writer, too. It doesn't
always pay the bills.
Even if we are
 in the "99 percent"
income bracket together,
you don't speak for me.
That part of the tale has a "there but for the grace of God, go I" quality to it that everyone can relate to. We all make mistakes. We all take on debt. Heck, I was a music a conservatory, no less.

But that's where the differences start. Although my parents paid for my degree,  I knew I'd have a hard time finding work in my field, which was highly competitive, when I graduated. I knew I'd have to make tough choices if I wanted to stay in it. Eventually, I chose another path.

So I understand "mistakes" (although I don't look at my music conservatory days as a mistake; music study enriched my life immeasurably in other ways). Everyone understands mistakes.

But not everyone takes to the streets with the implied message that these mistakes--no matter how well-intentioned the original goals were at the time--are someone else's fault, or that someone else should pay for them.

Not everyone points their finger at those who are doing better than them and says "you're to blame; your wealth makes me poor."

So please don't say you speak for the entire "99 percent" who aren't mega wealthy when you broadcast your mistakes and your implied message that others are to blame and should pay on your behalf.

I've made my fair share of mistakes, too, and haven't blamed the wealthy or Wall Street or corporations or capitalism in general. You don't speak for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The President's "Fair Share" Is a Red Herring

by Joseph Sternberg

President Barack Obama is running around the country, saying that it is time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their "fair share" of taxes. His purpose is to persuade voters that if millionaires and billionaires did pay their "fair share" there wouldn't be any deficit problem and no need to cut expenditures.  Increased  expenditures is central to President Obama's objective to redistribute the wealth. His claim is a red herring because assuring that the wealthy pay their "fair share" of income taxes would do little to erase the massive deficit. Making  "fair share"  the issue diverts attention from the critical problem of reducing expenditures.

Well of course that depends on what is "fair share"? This is not a new question. It was decided politically a long time ago in specifying a progressive tax rate schedule. Almost since the beginning of time, this schedule has been progressive in calling for payment by high earners of a higher percentage of their income in income taxes. This has had bipartisan support. So there is a long legislative history that tells us what the people consider to be "fair share."

I use the IRS tax data for 2008 which is readily available.The data show that the actual payment of income taxes for different income levels is not progressive. For whatever reason, myriad provisions have been written into the tax code to shelter income. Some provisions undoubtedly have a desired social objective. The progressive tax rate schedule reduces the incentive for class warfare which is an important plus. Sheltering the income of high earners from income taxes is an encouragement to class warfare.

We must not let Obama divert attention from the need to reduce federal expenditures. In 2006,the ratio of expenditures to GDP was about 20%. For 2011, this ratio is estimated to be 25%, where the estimated GDP for 2011 is 15.1 trillion dollars.To cover an expenditure ratio of 25% would require an additional $780 billion dollars in taxes.

There is certainly a case to be made for increasing the average tax rate for the top 0.1% of taxpayers (millionaires and billionaires) from the current rate of 23% to 34%, the rate envisioned by the tax rate table.This is close to a 50% increase in their income taxes, or about 50 billion dollars. Well, that is only 6% of 780 billion dollars.

Now the IRS tax data show that the top 1% of taxpayers would have to pay more to correspond to the rise in tax rate with income level. You get in this group if your income exceeds $380,000 well below the millionaire level. For the top 1% the tax rate specified varies from 28% at $380,000 to 34% at the top of the group. Suppose we assume that the average paid should be 31%, halfway between 28% and 34%. In 2008, this group paid 392 billion dollars in income taxes, an average rate of 23% of their AGI. If the average rate was raised to 31%, that would increase taxes by 35% or 137 billion dollars. This is 18% of 780 billion dollars. Expenditures would still have to be reduced by 643 billion dollars to get federal expenditures back down to their historical level.

"Fair share" is a red herring to divert attention from what must be done to reduce expenditures by an amount that would get the deficit under control. At the same time, the almost impenetrable tax code needs to be modified so that the progressive objective of the tax rate schedule is satisfied for the top 1% of taxpayers. We don't need class warfare to add to our troubles.
Joseph Sternberg
Retired Professor of Physics

Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Oracle Hypocrite of Omaha
(With Poll Question!)

by Libby Sternberg

Poor Warren Buffett. He's become a victim of Roving Bands of Tax-Loophole-Enforcing Accountants (they wear gigantic green eyeshades instead of ski masks when overtaking their victims, I'm told, and their weapon of choice is the electronic calculator, which packs a mean jolt).

Due to these nefarious bean counters, he pays taxes at a lower percentage than his secretary, even though he is a Gajillionaire, and she is is a working girl. No, not a working girl. A woman who works.

Unable to defeat these evil tax-dodging accountants on his own, he's let out a heartrending cry to the government, asking it to please, oh, please, oh, please, raise taxes on just him, as well as lots of people who make less than him but not as much as his secretary.

His story gets even sadder. Berkshire Hathaway, the company of which he is chairman and CEO, appears to have been victimized by these Roving Bands of Accountants, as well. It has a few back taxes on the books (nothing consequential, mind you, just a mere billion) that it disputes. Don't take my word for it. You can look at the Berkshire Hathaway annual report and find this gem around page 56:

At December 31, 2010 and 2009, net unrecognized tax benefits were $1,005 million and $926 million, respectively. Included in the balance at December 31, 2010, are $774 million of tax positions that, if recognized, would impact the effective tax rate. The remaining balance in net unrecognized tax benefits principally relates to tax positions for which the ultimate deductibility is highly certain but for which there is uncertainty about the timing of such deductibility. Because of the impact ofdeferred tax accounting, other than interest and penalties, the disallowance of the shorter deductibility period would not affectthe annual effective tax rate but would accelerate the payment of cash to the taxing authority to an earlier period. As of December 31, 2010, we do not expect any material changes to the estimated amount of unrecognized tax benefits in the next twelve months.

Translation: As of Dec. 31, 2010, Berkshire Hathaway was carrying just over $1 billion in "unrecognized tax benefits." That means they believe the money is a tax benefit they should receive, but the IRS has not yet agreed with them and has not determined a schedule for when payments would be due, so the amount must be carried on their books as a liability. Berkshire Hathaway appears to be pressing hard to avoid having the corporation pay $1 billion in taxes (surely as the result of those wicked bands of accountants holding their calculators to the heads of the executives).

Yes, I know that the corporation is looking out for shareholders--little people, perhaps akin to Mr. Buffett's secretary, who have money invested with Berkshire Hathaway through mutual funds and pensions, etc. But Mr. Buffett's patriotic passion for paying taxes surely would seep into the corporate ethos of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, if it, too, had not been infiltrated by those Roving Bands of Accountants that attacked his own personal wealth, forcing him to pay lower taxes.

Oh, the humanity!

But wait, Warren--help is on the way!

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has introduced "The Buffett Rule Act of 2011" (S.1676) that would force the IRS to include on tax forms a line asking folks if they'd like to donate to the federal government. Read more about Sen. Thune's nifty plan here.

More good news--poor little rich guy Mr. Buffett need not wait for this legislation to be passed. He can pay more right now if he'd like. We've provided a handy how-to on this blog here. (It has shocked us to learn that he might not read our blog.)

Now that so many efforts have been made on Mr. Buffett's behalf to free him from those tax-hostage-taking accountants, we're sure that he will no longer plea for others to pay more taxes until he's set his own house to rights, so to speak, by paying the amounts he wants to pay (if not for those malevolent accountants) and maybe even paying his secretary's taxes, too, since he's so concerned about her. He wouldn't want to look like a hypocrite, now, would he?

Tell us what you think by answering our poll question in the upper right corner of this blog!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Checking the President's Presser,
and Another Great Response to Elizabeth Warren

by Libby Sternberg

As noted previously, the mainstream press is dominated by liberals, or at least by journalists sympathetic to liberal talking points. So it often surprises me when a major mainstream news source actually does render a dispassionate, nonpartisan take on a political story. Such is the case with the Associated Press, which offers a "fact check" of President Barack Obama's press conference yesterday in which he complained of Republican opposition to everything in his jobs bill and touted previous bipartisan support for ideas he's offering. Hint: both claims are not true. Read the full article here.

Back to Elizabeth Warren, who is trying to win the Democratic Senatorial primary in Massachusetts so she can challenge incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown for the seat. Ms. Warren made a statement recently that flew around social media and leftwing blogs like, well, a viral post. The original statement can be found in this previous post (along with a parody of the remarks). To summarize: she believes no one in America achieves anything without the help of government-funded programs, which she calls the "social contract."

Conservative columnist George Will demolishes her argument in a very thoughtful, well-reasoned column here.  My fave line: using a William F. Buckley quote, Mr. Will likens Ms. Warren to a "pyromaniac in a field of straw men."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occupying Wall Street

by Leslie S. Lebl

It's very flattering, for this Tea Partier anyway, to hear that the Occupy Wall Streeters believe they are copying Tea Party methods in order to emulate its success.

Aside from the obvious incongruities (no Tea Party event has ever done anything like try to take over the Brooklyn Bridge), there is an even more important difference. Typical Tea Partiers turn out for a specific event - and then go home. But the occupation of lower Manhattan has gone on for weeks. Who is paying those folks to camp out? Don't any of them have jobs or other obligations? Do you think we'll ever find out?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Modest Proposal

By Leslie S. Lebl

Listening to Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan has inspired me to propose a winning three-part economic platform which I hereby offer to any Republican presidential candidate.

1. Repeal ObamaCare - assuming the Supremes don't do it first, which would be a wonderful thing. This requires very little effort on the part of the President; all he has to do is say he'll sign any such legislation that arrives at his desk. All the contenders now say that's what they'll do. Getting rid of this legislation will reduce a lot of uncertainty for businesses, which are still grappling with the law's potential effects and weighing whether to offer health benefits to employees.

2. Drill, Baby, Drill! - I'm no expert, but I suspect that opening up new oil and gas fields will probably require legislation in addition to executive orders, since nothing will happen until many of the environmental barriers are reduced to more reasonable levels. Whatever is required, America will benefit from more locally produced energy and the jobs it generates.

3. Fix the mortgage mess - tell the truth about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and then close them down instead of expanding them. We need our housing market back! And the sooner, the better.

With those three initiatives underway, it would be easier to tackle entitlements and debt. Reducing government spending is always going to be painful, but it will be less so if the economy is growing again and tax revenues increase.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Bizarro World Elizabeth Warren

by Libby Sternberg

About a week ago, Massachusetts Democratic Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren set the liberal blogosphere abuzz with the following quote from a speech given to supporters (you can get a flavor of the swooning for this sentiment over at the Daily Kos):
I hear all this, oh this is class warfare, no! There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea -- God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Ms. Warren's argument is so simplistic it makes rebutting her almost too easy. Many have already thoroughly done so. She presents a target-rich argument. Therein lies the challenge, however--how to succinctly demolish her collectivist creed.

Well, let's not go there. Instead, let's imagine a sort of Bizarro World Elizabeth Warren -- let's call her, oh, Skippy; yes, Skippy Warren. Perhaps Skippy Warren would say something like this:

I hear all this, oh this is class warfare, no! There are no rich people in this country who want people to be poor. None.  So, you liberals built a government program out there -- good for you. But I want to be clear.  The rest of us-- half of us, at least -- paid for it.  We paid to educate poor children your way, and it failed. And now your communities are crumbling. You are unsafe in your cities ... Now look. You had an idea for a government program that would help the poor and it turned into something unworkable, a bad idea -- God bless--pat yourself on the back for good intentions. But part of the underlying social contract is you don't take other people's money to spend on programs that don't work -- that, in fact, end up killing communities, stifling innovation and stalling job growth, as well as busting the budget -- just so you can feel good about yourself. That's egotistical. Instead, you evaluate what's not working, you empower individuals and you pay forward for the next kid who comes along by balancing the budget and unshackling the free market.
To that I say, "well done, Skippy! You tell it, sister!"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Green Energy Illusion

by Joseph Sternberg

President Barack Obama repeatedly touts "green energy" as the way of the future. Billions are being spent to subsidize wind and solar power to replace the use of fossil fuels (and, by the way, enrich Al Gore). Obama repeatedly asserts that this is the way to solve the carbon dioxide problem caused by using fossil fuels and that we are moving in the right direction by subsidizing green energy. He implies that if all the countries did the same the level of CO2 in the atmosphere could be stabilized at an acceptable level.

This claim is false. How do we know that it is false? The reports of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is part of the Department of Energy, provide the answer. The EIA  was set up years ago to  provide independent data and analyses for all forms of energy and associated emissions, not only in the US but also in the world. They are the administration experts, have access to all of the administration's programs, and the information they develop is publicly available on the web. Of course, it has to be recognized that "forecasting is difficult, particularly about the future." But the forecasts of CO2 emissions by the EIA have to be substantially more reliable than forecasts about green energy provided by proponents of wind and solar power. The EIA forecasts are provided out to the year 2035.

Before looking at the EIA reports, three points need emphasis. The world's production of energy is increasing. As a consequence, the rate of worldwide emissions is increasing. The priority for both China and India, with 2.4 billions of the world's population, is economic development which means increasing power generation resulting in increased emissions. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, took a delegation to China in an attempt to persuade them to sign on to the Cap and Trade program that the Democrats were pushing. The Cap and Trade program would be expected to decrease energy production, not increase it. The Chinese told her to get lost. Any approach to controlling emissions has to be an approach that can be embraced by China and India or it will fail.

The second point is that it is not sufficient to be just "moving in the right direction" as Obama is wont to say.  This statement is irrelevant because it ignores the magnitude of reductions that must be achieved,  and by when, in order to stabilize the level of atmospheric CO2. The  level keeps increasing despite the fact that CO2 is continually being absorbed by the ocean which, in fact, eventually will absorb most of it. However, the  absorption is a slow process taking hundreds of years. So before being absorbed in the ocean, the CO2 piles up in the atmosphere. All of this is not scientifically controversial.

Numerous studies have been conducted to determine how much decrease in emissions is required to stabilize the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Such estimates are not precise, but they are not scientifically controversial. What do they say?  The studies show that if the increase in emissions could be stopped by about 2035 and the level of emissions then decreased close to half by the end of the century, the atmospheric level of CO2 could be stabilized at 550 parts per million (ppm) by the next century. This is the goal set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and would be double the atmospheric level of CO2 at the beginning of the industrial age.

The third point is that green energy is being pursued by many countries, including China and India, but green energy has inherent limitations. For example, consider the first proposed US offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Because the wind doesn't choose to blow all the time, a representative wind farm will only produce about 30% of its rated capacity as compared with 90% of rated capacity currently being achieved by our nuclear plants. A wind farm delivering the same energy as a representative nuclear plant would cover an area of about 150 square miles. Wind energy requires a lot of area. As technology improves, green energy can be expected to have a place in future energy production.  But what is the basis for asserting that green energy is ready to replace the use of fossil fuels?  As we will see from the EIA data, there isn't any.

The largest contributor to emissions in the US is from the generation of electricity. Transportation is the second largest contributor. Nuclear reactors account for about 20% of electricity generation. The remainder of power plants use fossil fuels about equally divided between coal and natural gas. Renewables  include biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar. All together renewables provided about 10% of electricity generation in the US,  about 2/3 of which has been provided by hydropower.  The total of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and wind provided about 4% of electricity generation. The use of renewables is forecast by the EIA to increase between 2011 and 2035. But the bottom line is that US emissions are forecast  to increase, not decrease, by perhaps 5%, between 2011 and 2035. The forecast increase in wind and solar power is not going to replace fossil fuels for electricity generation to any significant extent in the US.

What about China?  China is energetically pursuing the expansion of solar and wind farm development. They also are pursuing an ambitious program of nuclear power, and plan to have 60 nuclear plants in operation by 2020. Despite all that, the EIA forecasts that emissions from China are expected to increase substantially between 2011 and 2035. At present emissions from China exceed those from the US. It is clear based on the estimates from the EIA that green energy in not going to stop the rise in emissions from China. Worldwide, estimates indicate a 35% increase in emissions.

Obama's green energy program is an illusion. The result is to spend billions wastefully instead of spending the money accelerating the development of technologies that could also be employed by both the developed and the developing nations to reduce atmospheric emissions.

It is important to recognize some of the scientific uncertainties about the effect of increasing atmospheric CO2. The  IPCC concedes a possible variation of more than a factor of two in what the temperature rise might be due to increasing atmospheric CO2.  This is due to scientific uncertainty about how the atmosphere works. Scientists are working on the problems, but there is little prospect that the uncertainty will be reduced anytime soon. Second, if you assume a particular global temperature increase, there is considerable controversy and uncertainty about what the climatic consequences would be, including a rise in the sea level. Computer models are used to make the predictions, but the computer models are unproven. The global climate is very complex. So you are in something of a quandary about global warming. The paleoclimatology data from a hundred of million years ago indicates that a several-fold increase in atmospheric CO2 goes along with a large increase in global temperature, even including the disappearance of the earth's ice caps. But the levels of atmospheric CO2 now being considered are smaller than the historical levels and so are not much help in reducing the uncertainty.

Second, global warming is not the only concern. The surface ocean is being acidified. This is chemistry and is not controversial. What is uncertain is the consequence for the world's food supply.The Interacademy Panel on international issues representing a global network of science academies has issued a statement (2009) on ocean acidification. According to their statement, the rapid increase of acidity of the world's oceans has "-- potentially profound consequences for marine plants and animals especially those that require calcium carbonate to grow and survive and other species that rely on these for food. Marine food supplies are likely to be reduced with significant implications for food production--". Not much about this appears in the press, which focuses on global warming.

The difficulty here is that if it is discovered that the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 are causing effects on the high side of the predictions, no one knows what to do about it then. As one might say, it would be too late.

The belief that green energy will provide a replacement for the use of fossil energy is an illusion. The billions that are being spent in subsidizing green power should instead be used to  accelerate the development of technologies for carbon capture from fossil fuel plants. Where feasible, the substitution of natural gas for coal would help since for the same energy generated, natural gas emits half as much CO2 as coal. Coal is extensively used in China. Nuclear power can make a significant contribution. Limiting atmospheric CO2 must be accomplished in the face of a worldwide growth in energy production. China and India will not give up economic development.
Joseph Sternberg
Retired Professor of Physics
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

Monday, August 29, 2011

If I Were Interviewed by Chris Matthews

by Libby ...Somebody

So, in addition to having opinions, I also have...novels. I'm published in young adult mystery (where I earned an Edgar nomination) and women's fiction. My latest, a comedic novel available for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers, is part romance, part satire of the Ivory Tower, and I'm shamelessly trying to promote it now. 

Every author dreams of sales jump-started by attention from a television or print interview. Here's my nightmare dream of one such TV host talking to me about my latest release:

An interview with Libby Malin, about her new comedy, AEFLE AND GISELA, as if conducted by Chris Matthews on his MSNBC show, Hardball:

Okay, what’s the title of this book about? I mean, AEFLE AND GISELA. How do you even pronounce that?
Ay-fool and Jih-zel-lah is how I would pronounce—

So it’s kind of German, huh? You wrote this thing because you think all academics are Nazis, is that what you’re saying?
No, not at all. I just thought the academic setting, which should be the epitome of open-mindedness, would be perfect for a book that explores an issue like conformity and the pressures that—

Didn’t you hope to upset so-called “liberal elites” with this book?
Well, I’d hoped to spur discussion about conformity and other—

Yes or no—didn’t you just want to stick it to liberal academics?
Actually, I wanted to tell a funny story and also perhaps demonstrate that the pressure to conform occurs everywhere, even—

I’m not interested in your talking points. Okay, let’s try another one—Weren’t you trying to make these professors look like bozos? Isn’t the leading character, this Tommy fellow, a bozo?
Thomas is trying to learn what true courage is.

I mean, here you have this guy, this Tommy—
Charlemagne. Thomas Charlemagne.

--Okay, let's look at this. He's a professor. Medieval history or something. And he wonders if wandering into a Patriot Day celebration by mistake might torpedo his tenure quest? Is that what you really think of college professors—that they're small-minded morons?
Well, there have been instances of conservative speakers shouted off of campuses and…

Sure, sure. Talking points again. But isn’t this Tommy something of a caricature?
Well, yes, the book does creep into caricature territory. It’s a satire, after all.

Okay, satire. Whatever. But you were trying to make some pretty strong political statements here, weren’t you? I mean, you have one of the women—the gender studies professor, I think it was—
Women’s Studies.

You have her wearing a keffiyeh, I think it’s called, I had to look that one up—
Yes, the emblematic scarf associated with the Palestinian struggle.

And you make her out to be a very ugly—I mean not in a physical way, I’m not saying women’s studies professors are ugly, for God’s sake, but you have her ugly in outlook, how she acts—very petty, very passive-aggressive. So you’re kind of saying, aren’t you, that people who support that cause are like her?
I’m writing comedy. I think the reference to her wearing that scarf was extremely peripheral, very tangential.

So you’re saying it had no meaning whatsoever?
No, it does reflect her sympathies, but—

Oh, I see what you’re doing here. Very clever. Very sneaky. You think you can put this angry women’s studies professor in a keffiyeh and just shrug it off, just say, oh, it didn’t mean anything. My fingers just slipped when I was typing that. I get it.
No, I don’t think you do.

And when you say “tangential,” are you trying to make fun of me?

You know, the thrill up the leg thing. You righties all do it. Go ahead, go ahead, I can take it. They all come on this show and mention it. But they say “tingle.” I didn’t say “tingle” up the leg, by the way, but go ahead and say it. It’s part of the right’s talking points.
Well, you did say you got a thrill up the leg when the president spoke—

Uh-huh, that’s right, that’s right. Say it. You all do when you come on the show. Thrill, not tingle. At least you got that right. Are you a racist?

All you conservatives, you have a thing against the president, don’t you, because he’s African-American?
No, I don’t. What on earth does that have to do with my book?

Well, you’re kind of pushing a conservative agenda here, aren’t you? Isn’t this book—how do you say it, AEFLE AND GISELA, yeah, AEFLE AND GISELA—isn’t it really about the struggle of right versus left on American campuses?
It’s really about the struggle of conformity versus open-mindedness that happens to take place on an American college campus.

Sure. I get you. Do you think Michelle Bachmann is open-minded? Yes or no. You obviously have thought a lot about this subject. Yes or no—is Michelle Bachmann open-minded?
I really don’t know.

Are you hypnotized?
You mean like you said Michelle Bachmann was…

Yes or no, is Michelle Bachmann open-minded—is she one of these open-minded folks you want us to think are conservatives?
The book’s not about her. I obviously don’t think about her as much as you do.

Sure, you haven’t thought about her. Yeah, I have a bridge to sell you, too.  Well, I guess we’re out of time. And I guess if people want to read your book, AEFLE AND GISELA, they will buy it.
Let’s hope so. And maybe other books by me, too. You can find them at my website:

If you have an open mind and want a laugh, you can find Aefle & Gisela available for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers. It tells the story of history professor Thomas Charlemagne as he attempts to shed the "Timid Tommy" reputation of his past by stopping a wedding on a dare. When it turns out to be the wrong wedding, legal problems ensue that could wreck his career as the world's leading expert on a poetry-writing medieval monk, Aefle, and his secret love, Gisela.

Some praise for Libby Malin's other comedic novels:
  • Booklist -- Malin creates a world of wit and chaos that is …smart and insightfully written (My Own Personal Soap Opera)
  • Publishers Weekly -- Malin's latest is heavy on humor… (she) coaxes plenty of laughs (My Own Personal Soap Opera).  
  • Jo-Anne Greene Lancaster Sunday News -- Fire Me ...had this reader chuckling out loud.
  • Washington Post -- The love story is charming and will be appreciated by any woman with bad taste in men who somehow inexplicably ends up with Mr. Right. (Loves Me, Loves Me Not) 
  • Publishers Weekly --  A whimsical look at the vagaries of dating... an intriguing side plot adds punch and pathos to the story...(Loves Me, Loves Me Not) 
  • Booklist -- Malin's clever debut toys with chick-lit stereotypes and offers quite a few surprises along the way. (Loves Me, Loves Me Not)