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I have a new piece up at Hudson New York today called "The Trouble With Deterrence," regarding the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb.  For those interested it's here.

 

TUESDAY,  MARCH 9,  2010

A CHIEF JUSTICE WITH SPINE vs. A PRESIDENT WITH MOUTH – AT 8:36 P.M. ET:  Chief Justice John Roberts has struck back against President Obama's entirely inappropriate denunciation of a Supreme Court decision during the State of the Union message.  From Andrew Malcolm at the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket blog:

It is not at all unusual in American history for the executive branch of the federal government (the White House, under the control of either party) to disagree with the judicial branch (Supreme Court).

What is considerably more unusual is for the chief executive of the executive branch (Barack Obama) to look down on the members of said Supreme Court in public at a joint session of Congress and to their faces denounce their independent actions.

And then to receive a resounding ovation from fellow Democrats standing to applaud and cheer Obama as the surrounded justices sat mute, motionless and unable to respond.

That, of course, is what Obama did in his first State of the Union address Jan. 27, objecting to a court decision allowing corporations to donate political funds like individuals as a matter of free speech...

...Speaking today at the University of Alabama law school in Tuscaloosa, Chief Justice Roberts responded:

"The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court — according to the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."

Justices are not required to attend the annual joint sessions but have traditionally done so as a sign of mutual respect for the president and legislative branch. In January, six justices attended, including Roberts. But it sounds now like that judicial thinking might be changing.

Roberts added: "I'm not sure why we're there."

COMMENT:  Either am I.  Perhaps next year the conservative justices could decide to take their business elsewhere.  I assume the liberals will attend.  Anthony Kennedy, the swing justice, could stand outside the hall and spend the entire time of the speech debating whether to go inside.

March 9, 2010    Permalink

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THEY'RE FIGHTING AGAIN – AT 8:19 P.M. ET:  We must raise money to send Democrats to a discipline camp.  This fighting amongst themselves will not do.  It disrupts Washington and is a poor role model.  From The Politico:

Don't confuse the House timeline with the White House timeline, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned reporters Tuesday.

"None of us has mentioned the 18th, other than Mr. Gibbs," Hoyer said in response to a question about whether Congress can pass a health care package by March 18, the date laid out last week by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "We are trying to do this as soon as possible. That continues to be our objective."

Americans are falling asleep on the health-care issue.  Obama is determined to slam a health package through Congress.  We may wind up in two weeks with a sixth of our economy in government hands, and there's little the American people can do about it.

In the meantime, Hoyer said an internal fight over abortion restrictions "has to be resolved."

The majority leader didn't offer any ideas for a possible compromise between abortion opponents and their equally enraged adversaries in the abortion-rights camp, nor would he comment directly on whether Democrats could pass the bill without changing the Senate's current restrictions, which require insurance companies to set up separate accounts for anyone who wants coverage of elective abortions.

"I think it will be resolved one way or the other, and I think the bill will pass," Hoyer said after acknowledging that he wouldn't answer a question directly. "It's got to be resolved."

COMMENT:  The health-care issue is now being handled entirely behind the scenes, and by Democrats only.  It is in Obama's best interest to keep it out of the headlines, thus weakening the intensity of the opposition.  That is what is happening.

Don't underestimate the Obamans.  They're politicians through and through.  They may just succeed with their health-care monstrosity, and we'll end up paying the bills and losing the services.

March 9, 2010    Permalink

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NEW CONCEPTS IN TICKLING – AT 7:55 P.M. ET:  Don't laugh.  We're very serious here.  The issue of tickling as a legal concept is new, but may have profound implications in the future of our country.  Consider this, from The New York Times:

Representative Eric J. Massa, who resigned from Congress amid allegations of sexual misconduct, vehemently denied any wrongdoing during a television appearance on Tuesday even as he described having tickle fights with staffers in a house they shared.

But he insisted that was as far as it went.

“No, no, no!’’ he said when asked during an interview with Fox’s Glenn Beck. “I did nothing sexual.’’

Mr. Massa made the comments amid new reports that the House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that he groped several male aides in his office.

A man can't even tickle an aide without being smeared.

In the interview with Mr. Beck, Mr. Massa acknowledged exercising poor judgment in his interactions with his staff on another occasion. He recalled tickling an aide during a birthday party in a townhouse he shared with five of his staff members.

“Now they are saying I groped a male staffer,’’ he told Mr. Beck. “Yeah I did. Not only did I grope him. I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday. It was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context.’’

Who among us hasn't tickled to excess?  Honestly now.  Is this what our country is coming to?  With all the real killers out there?

Mr. Massa, who is married, explained that he and his aides — “all bachelors’’ – lived together because they could not afford Washington’s “outrageous rents.’’

“I should not have allowed myself to become so familiar with my staff,’’ he said.

COMMENT:  Yeah.

March 9, 2010    Permalink

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MORE ADVENTURES IN MULTICULTURALISM - AT 7:38 P.M. ET:  Now please, let's not get all judgmental about this.  People are entitled to their own narratives.  From Fox:

A Pennsylvania woman known to authorities as "JihadJane" has been charged in federal court with using the Internet to recruit jihadist fighters to carry out murders and violent attacks overseas.

The woman, Colleen R. LaRose, was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft, according to the indictment, unsealed Monday.

Sources tell Fox News the "Swedish citizen" who "JihadJane" was allegedly looking to kill is Lars Vilks, who drew one of the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons. There was a series of arrests in Ireland earlier Tuesday that are reportedly connected to LaRose's case.

In September of 2007 Al Qaeda offered a bounty for the murder of Viks.

LaRose and five unindicted co-conspirators are accused of recruiting men to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe and of recruiting women who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe for similar missions.

The accused co-conspirators are located in South Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States.

"Today's indictment ... underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

COMMENT:  There is very little information about JihadJane available.  Her name would seem to indicate that she is of American, rather than Middle Eastern origin.  JihadJane conjures up images of World War II, with Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose.  I suspect her name is also a takeoff on GI Jane, the female equivalent of GI Joe. 

March 9, 2010    Permalink

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THE REVOLVING DOOR – STILL SPINNING – AT 10:37 A.M. ET:  The revolving door, federal officials going back and forth between industry and government, has been a problem for many decades because it raises serious questions of conflict of interest and the possible misuse of government information.  The problem is erupting  in the auto industry, as The Washington Post reports:

Dozens of former federal officials are playing leading roles in helping carmakers handle federal investigations of auto defects, including those for Toyota's runaway-acceleration problems.

A Washington Post analysis shows that as many as 33 former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration employees and Transportation Department appointees left those jobs in recent years and now work for automakers as lawyers, consultants and lobbyists and in other jobs that deal with government safety probes, recalls and regulations.

The reach of these former agency employees is broad. They are on staff rosters for every major automaker and every major automotive trade group, and they appear as expert witnesses and legal counsel for the industry in major class-action lawsuits over auto safety.

Several former Cabinet members have gone on to work for automakers. Last week, Toyota hired Rodney E. Slater, the transportation secretary under President Bill Clinton, to head its North American Quality Advisory Panel, which assists the company with quality and safety issues.

No law bans these officials from moving straight from government into industry. But critics of the revolving-door practice say that it has contributed to flaws in federal oversight and enforcement, and several members of Congress say legislation is needed to prevent former employees from conducting business with the agency for up to two years after leaving government jobs.

"The relationship is too cozy, and it is not an equal playing field," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is pushing for revolving-door reforms. "They need to insulate themselves a bit. People of our country expect there will be checks and balances and that someone will be looking out for them." Some former agency and department officials say the revolving-door practice is common in every industry and gives companies a fuller understanding of the federal government.

COMMENT:  The problem here is an obvious one.  Government employees, looking to have more lucrative employment after leaving government, might go easy on an industry they're supposed to regulate, in the hope of being hired. 

The same problem crops up in the Pentagon and in the Federal Aviation Agency.  Hearings are going to be held, and some corrective legislation will probably result. 

March 9, 2010   Permalink

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AT LAST, AT LAST – AT 9:40 A.M. ET:  We've checked to be sure this actually appeared in The New York Times, and is not a plant by our fellow members of the Great Right-Wing Conspiracy.  It's legit. 

Stanley Fish, once known as a liberal academic, and no righty today, writes about...Bush nostalgia.  This is well worth reading, if only to start your day with a smile:

I know you’re not supposed to, but I just love to say I told you so.

What I told you back on Sept. 28, 2008, was that within a year of the day he left office George W. Bush would come to be regarded with affection and a little nostalgia...

...Well it’s a bit more than a year now and signs of Bush’s rehabilitation are beginning to pop up.

There is hope, there is salvation.  Praise!

The March 8 cover of Newsweek reproduces the famous 2003 photograph of Bush on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Lincoln. The president is in the left of the picture, striding away from the famous banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.”

Those words haunted Bush for the next five years, but now, Newsweek reports, they may play differently because — and this is emblazoned on the cover — we may have “Victory At Last.”

And...

Of course, one might disagree with that assessment, but the fact that it is made in the lead article of a major mainstream magazine tells its own story. It is a story that intersects with another, the story of the precipitous decline in Barack Obama’s support and of a growing suspicion, found on the left as well as on the right, where it is much more than a suspicion, that the politics of change may have been a slogan with less promise in its future than “Mission Accomplished.”

And...

...Bush’s policies came to seem less obviously reprehensible as the Obama administration drifted into embracing watered-down versions of many of them. Guantanamo hasn’t been closed. No Child Left Behind is being revised and perhaps improved, but not repealed. The banks are still engaging in their bad practices. Partisanship is worse than ever. Obama seems about to back away from the decision to try 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, a prospect that led the ACLU to run an ad in Sunday’s Times with the subheading “Change or more of the same?” Above that question is a series of photographs that shows Obama morphing into guess who — yes, that’s right, George W. Bush.

Finally...

And the judgment of history? Well, I’m not that foolish, but I will venture to say that it will be more nuanced than anything the professional Bush-haters — indistinguishable in temperament from the professional Obama-haters — are now able to imagine. He will not go to the top of the list, but neither will he be the figure of fun and derision he seemed destined to be only a year ago. You heard it here.

COMMENT:  We will finance security guards for Stanley Fish.  He'll need them now.  The man must put his papers in order.

For the rest of us...we can come out of hiding now.

March 9, 2010   Permalink

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CHANGE WE'RE NOT BELIEVING IN – AT 8:58 A.M. ET:  We've all seen these polls taken around the world in which people are asked their opinion of the United States.  Some Americans obsess over them, far too much in my view.

But now comes a unique poll of Americans, asking what they think America's reputation is in other countries.  The results, reported by the Washington Times, are stunning, on this and other national-security issues:

A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago and think President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, a new poll finds.

The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency.

"This is surprising, given the global acclaim and Nobel peace prize that flowed to the new president after he took office," said pollsters for the liberal-leaning organizations.

Not surprising.  Americans have great common sense, and realize that you lose respect when you project weakness. 

On the national security front, a massive gap has emerged, with 50 percent of likely voters saying Republicans would likely do a better job than Democrats, a 14-point swing since May. Thirty-three percent favored Democrats.

"The erosion since May is especially strong among women, and among independents, who now favor Republicans on this question by a 56 to 20 percent margin," the pollsters said in their findings.

The details:

The Democrats' gap on national security has widened on several other fronts:

• "Keeping America safe": Democrats now trail by 13 points (34 percent to 47 percent.) The gap was just 5 points in July 2008.

• "Ensuring a strong military": Democrats trail by 31 points (27 percent to 58 percent.)

• "Making America safer from nuclear threats": Democrats trail by 11 points (34 percent to 45 percent,) "despite the president's strong actions and speeches on steps to reduce nuclear dangers," the pollsters said.

The poll, conducted late last month, found "the administration's response to the Christmas Day terrorist attempt has contributed to the erosion."

COMMENT:  There was a time when, as the saying went, "politics stops at the water's edge."  That time is long past.  Republicans should not hesitate to exploit their advantage on national-security, always taking care not to carry it to excess.

March 9, 2010   Permalink

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PELOSI SLIPS – AT 8:27 A.M. ET:  The generally liberal Politico has a headline piece this morning flatly stating that Nancy Pelosi's grip over the House is slipping.  Why are we able to contain our grief?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not accustomed to the word she’s been hearing far more frequently in recent days: “no.”

Over the past two weeks, Pelosi has faced a series of subtle but significant challenges to her authority — revolts from Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Blue Dog Coalition and politically vulnerable first- and second-term members.

The rejection is coming from both left and right. 

The dynamic stems from an “every man for himself” attitude developing in the Democratic Caucus rather than a loss of respect for Pelosi, according to a senior Democratic aide. But it’s making Pelosi’s life — and efforts to maintain Democratic unity — harder.

I'll question that notion.  If Pelosi had acted more intelligently, respect for her would have grown, and with that her clout.  It's her blundering, and arrogance, that have brought her to this low point. 

And it’s noteworthy, in part, because Pelosi’s signature strength has been a firmer hand than past Democratic leaders — an aptitude for wielding raw power in a consensus-minded caucus.

It's how you wield it. 

But her inability — or unwillingness — to dictate when Rep. Charles Rangel would resign his Ways and Means Committee chairmanship and who would replace him is one sign that she is commanding the caucus with less authority.

Although he would give up his gavel the next day, Rangel defiantly pronounced he was still chairman after leaving a come-to-Jesus meeting last Tuesday night in Pelosi’s ceremonial office next to the House floor. Her first choice to succeed him, Pete Stark of California, was rejected by the Ways and Means Committee members, as was her plan to split power on the committee between Stark and Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan. Pelosi’s backers said that what she really wanted was to avoid a fight for the gavel — and that she succeeded by refusing to apply a heavy hand.

You don't succeed by failing.  Her choice of Stark was an indication of Nancy's incompetence.  The man is a raving crackpot.  You can't put a man like that in charge of a major committee, and she should have realized that.

But a veteran Democratic lawmaker told POLITICO the denouement was “an indication that things aren’t all hunky-dory.”

COMMENT:  We look forward to less hunky and less dory.  The decline of hunk and dore leaves us wanting for more.

March 9, 2010   Permalink

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FAILING – AT 7:59 A.M. ET:  Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels, in an otherwise indifferent speech in New York yesterday, did make one salient point – that civilizations that fail begin their death march with financial failure. 

The United States is now failing financially.  We are way over our heads in debt to foreign nations, and our own economy is in, at best, a slow, yawning recovery, with no real prospect of boom times ahead.  Without substantial economic growth, growth only free enterprise can give us, there will be no full financial recovery.  Without financial recovery, we will slide inexorably downward.  Witness Britain after World War II.  The once-great empire had become an economic basket case.

On average, government employees today earn more than their equivalents in private industry – the people paying the government employees' salaries.  This is a first for the United States, and a danger sign that tells us of a shifting of power.

Under Barack Obama, financial failure is being joined by foreign failure.  Yes, he has sent more troops to Afghanistan, and we praise that.  But his policies in regard to hardened enemies have already failed.  No one seriously believes he will reverse North Korea's nuclear program, and his policy toward Iran has collapsed.  The confidence that Europe once had in him has evaporated.  Russia treats Obama with contempt, as does China.  In Latin America, he's greeted with laughter, the savior who did not save. 

What is especially troubling is that we have, and not for the first time, a clique within America that wants us to fail.  We recall that George McGovern was widely reported to have said, when off-mike on a radio show in the 1970s, that he wanted America to lose the Vietnam War.  We have today an institutional left, which has its representatives in high places in universities, the press, and now the executive branch of the government, which believes that America is more a force for mischief than for good.  Capitalism must die.  The American military must be restrained.  The government must control health care.  We never before thought this element could succeed.  Now, at a time of economic weakness, it has its best shot since the Depression.

America has been lucky.  At critical points in our history we've had leaders who have led us through crises successfully.  And we've had a citizenry that believed in itself and in the promise of America.  We've also had a press that understood what American values were about, and how important they were to the future of our civilization. 

One of the reasons for West European decline has been the corruption in its media – the infiltration by leftists who, at heart, don't even believe in the freedoms that allow them to write and report.   We recall the moment, during President Reagan's administration, when there were huge demonstrations in the streets of European cities, protesting the placement of American medium-ranged missiles in Europe...to defend European civilization.  But there had been no demonstrations protesting the placement of Soviet missiles on their side of the border, aimed at destroying that civilization.  The Europeans had been misled by their own Reagan-hating media. 

America now is at the brink.  What we do, politically, in the next five years, may well determine our future in this century.

March 9,  2010   Permalink

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MONDAY,  MARCH 8,  2010

DOES THIS SCHOOL HAVE A FOOTBALL TEAM? – AT 8:14 P.M. ET:  The Dems are setting up a little academy.  From The Politico:

House Democrats have found a way to address Republicans’ polling advantage on national security: Teach candidates a better way to talk about the issue.

While President Barack Obama still outpolls congressional Republicans on national security, a new Third Way/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll out Monday gives the GOP the edge in a generic Republican vs. Democrat matchup on the issue. And the problem is particularly acute for Democratic women: A study to be published in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy shows support for Democratic women drops 11 percent when public fear of terrorism is high.

To combat the problem, House Democrats have asked Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, and California Rep. Jane Harman, a leader on intelligence issues in the House, to help lead training sessions on the issue.

Will there be grades?  Term papers?  Graduation with those flat hats? 

What's hilarious here is that the centrists have been asked to do the teaching.  Earth to Dems:  Your problem is that the party is run by leftists, who despise the centrists.  Whatever gets taught here will probably be dumped by the left wing.  The issue is the policies. Americans understandably don't have much faith in a party that has a clear cultural problem with national defense.  No amount of coaching will overcome that.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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GRACIOUSNESS AND WARMTH – AT 7:33 P.M. ET:  Another Democratic congressman bites the dust, but goes out in a blaze of fury.  No quiet withdrawal "to be with my family" for this worthy.  From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Representative Eric J. Massa, a New York Democrat accused of sexually harassing a male aide, has charged that Democratic Party leaders were behind an effort to drive him out of office and called the White House chief of staff the “son of the devil’s spawn.”

Problem is, Rahm Emanuel probably thinks that's a compliment.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Mr. Massa also provided his first detailed account his interaction with the male aide whose accusations are being investigated by the House ethics committee.

Mr. Massa said that he made an inappropriate remark to the male aide during another staff member’s wedding in January while the two were sitting at a table. He said he grabbed the aide, joked about having sexual relations with him and mussed his hair before getting up and leaving.

Since it was Washington, it was the hair mussing that probably got him into trouble.

Mr. Massa said that Democratic leaders, including White House officials, had orchestrated a campaign against him because of his opposition to health care legislation in the House.

“Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill,” he said, “and this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill, and now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass. You connect the dots.”

And furthermore...

Mr. Massa singled out Rahm Emanuel, the powerful White House chief of staff, for criticism, calling him the “son of the devil’s spawn” and “an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote.”

In Washington that's called a fair trade.

COMMENT:  And just last week, after forcing Charlie Rangel out of the chairman's chair at the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Dems refused to let the next guy in line, Pete Stark of California, take the job because he's too volatile.

What a party!  These guys must have a lot of fun when they go on those retreats. 

In New York, we still have a death watch over our corrupt governor, David Paterson.  Indictments may come down.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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WHY ARE THEY HERE? – AT 7:10 P.M. ET:  A remarkable case of immigration fraud is emerging on the West Coast.  It may go beyond fraud, as immigration officials want to know why certain individuals are actually in this country.  From Fox;

Daniel Higgins doesn't look like a Middle Eastern student, but officials say he routinely portrayed himself as one for almost a decade, getting paid up to $1,500 per student to attend their classes and take exams so they could keep their visas current and remain in the U.S.

Officials say that records seized from Higgins' home in Laguna Niguel, Calif., show that more than 100 students from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates hired him to do their classwork and take their tests.

Higgins, 46, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud when he appeared in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana on Monday.

Six others -- Mohammed Alnuaim, Abdullah Alhogail, Khalid Almenaibi, Saeed Alfalahi, Ibrahim Almansoori and Mohamed Almehairi -- were also arrested Monday and appeared with Higgins before a U.S. magistrate. All were charged with immigration fraud.

"This is unique and not something we have seen in the past," said Jorge Guzman, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "We don't know the motive of these men coming from these countries, why they were here or why they were not attending classes."

And...

Sources said they do not know if any of the men are considered national security threats, but several are "persons of interest."

COMMENT:  This is certainly worth following.  Recall that the terrorists who plunged planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11 went to flight schools in the United States, and asked for instruction in flying, but not in takeoffs or landings.  Now we have guys from the Middle East who come here for degrees, yet don't want to go to class or take tests.  Hmm.  Requires investigation.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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HE SHOULD STICK TO READING OTHER PEOPLE'S WORDS – AT 6:36 P.M. ET:  Actor Sean Penn reminds us of everything we find revolting in today's Hollywood.  Friends might advise him to shut up.  From Fox:

First Amendment be damned . . . If Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn had his way, any journalist who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a dictator would quickly find himself behind bars.

Penn, appearing on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, defended Chavez during a segment in which he detailed his work with the JP Haitian Relief Organization, which he co-founded.

"Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it" said Penn, winner of two Best Actor Academy Awards. "And this is mainstream media, who should -- truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."

In Sean Penn's ideal society, a lot of actors would also probably find themselves in jail.

It was just the beginning of a busy weekend for Penn. When asked on CBS' "Sunday Morning" about those who question his motives for his humanitarian work in Haiti, he said:

"Do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah. You know, but I'm not going to spend a lot of energy on it."

Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said the same constitutional protection that applies to journalists also applies to Penn, who can say pretty much anything he wants in the "political arena" -- aside from an immediate incitement of violence.

COMMENT:  Penn isn't the first actor to make a fool of himself by fronting for a thug.  Stalin had his Tinseltown groupies as well.  What's annoying is that Penn gets so much air time, whereas the opponents of Chavez's regime of fear get very little chance on American TV or in the American press to make their case.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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MITCH – AT 6:08 P.M. ET:  I went to a Hudson New York lunch today.  Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, spoke.

Daniels is significant because he's considered, by government experts far beyond the Republican Party, as a superb governor.  He's being mentioned more and more as a presidential candidate for 2012.  He's a slight man, with an uncanny resemblance to another famous son of Indiana, the World War II correspondent, Ernie Pyle. 

Daniels is clearly knowledgeable, but I'm afraid his speech today was ineffective.  He's not a dynamic speaker, and his remarks were not well organized.  Most people in the audience seemed disappointed.  He might well make a good president, but you've got to get the job first.  His performance today was not, in that regard, encouraging. 

If Daniels runs, he's got to sharpen his speaking abilities.  Laid back and folksy is fine, but you've still got to grab the audience.  I was not grabbed.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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OBAMA HURTING IN RASMUSSEN POLL AGAIN – AT 9:37 A.M. ET:  After some days of slight improvement, President Obama is down again in the Rasmussen daily tracker:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 22% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19.

And...

Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove.

In addition, Rasmussen reports that 42% favor the president's health plan, whereas 53% are opposed.

Not a great way for Mr. Obama to start his week.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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GOOD ADVICE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – AT 7:46 A.M. ET:  As the Democrats wallow in their scandals, more and more each delightful week, the health "reform" package they've dropped on us moves forward.  President Obama seems determined to get it through, no matter what it takes or who it hurts.  But a Republican is giving him good advice.  From Roll Call:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted dire consequences for the Senate if Democrats move forward with a tentative plan to try shut down GOP amendments during this month’s expected debate on a health care reconciliation bill.

Saying the move would be “catastrophic for the Senate,” Graham in an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation pleaded with Democrats: “Please don’t do this. Just please.”

Very shrewd.  Republicans are focusing on the fact that Dems plan to go around Senate rules, and hoping this will outrage the public.  There are signs in polling that these Republicans are right.  Graham isn't being kind.  He's being smart, something that's nice to see on our side. 

But retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) acknowledged that Democrats are seriously considering using a rarely used Senate rule prohibiting “dilatory amendments” against Republicans when the reconciliation bill, which otherwise cannot be filibustered, comes up for debate.

Though the Senate overcame a GOP filibuster of its comprehensive health care reform bill and passed a bill Christmas Eve 2009, Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) won a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

As Mark Steyn pointed out in a column we quoted yesterday, the Democrats have become fanatical on this.  They'd rather go down politically in 2010 and have this huge bureaucratic monument to their presence, hoping it can never be repealed.

House Democrats have indicated a willingness to pass the Senate measure, but only if separate budget reconciliation measure is passed by both chambers to make changes to the Senate bill.

COMMENT:  Obama says he wants a vote by March 18th, and he may get it.  No one really knows what will happen.  There's a general feeling that Nancy of Frisco doesn't have the votes in the House, but arm twisting works very well on recalcitrant Democrats.

We'll follow this closely – one of the most profound political dramas of our time, and one that can change one sixth of the nation's economy, essentially placing it under government control.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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POLITICAL HARLEM – AT 7:23 A.M. ET:  Harlem has, over time, come to symbolize America's African-American community.  You say "Harlem," and everyone knows where it is and what you're talking about.  Harlem is politically critical as it often guides, in subtle ways, the African-American political class.

But Harlem is numb these days, as two of its favorite sons, Governor David Paterson of New York and Congressman Charles Rangel, essentially sink under the weight of ethics charges.  And Harlem's adopted son, President Barack Obama, is doing poorly, both in policy and politics.

It is a complete reversal from Harlem's ecstasy on election night, 2008, and residents are starting to ask some questions, as The Washington Post notes:

"I think it's been catastrophic for the black community in America and particularly in Harlem," said Bill Lynch, a political consultant who played a major role in Dinkins's historic 1989 election victory. "Harlem's seeing their political favorite sons go down. And what I'm worried about is that this could set our community back decades."

Question:  Did the election of Barack Obama have exactly the reverse of the effect that black Americans thought it would have?  When America elected Obama, it removed a stain from its past.  But it also placed African American politicians in a different class, and much more vulnerable to criticism.  Gone is much of the patronization of the past, the looking the other way because these people are "oppressed."  The New York Times, the citadel of journalistic liberalism, has actually been leading the charge against both Paterson and Rangel, even on its very leftish editorial page. This would have been unthinkable not too long ago.

Obama's election may well have freed whites to criticize, where criticism is due. 

One could roam around the wind-whipped avenues and boulevards of Harlem in the wake of it all and sense a grave uncertainty about the political future. Emotions ranged from shame to embarrassment to pity. From stoop to street corner, from office tower to diner, from living room to the famed Showman's Cafe, the mood was alternately one of anger, defiance and soul-searching.

One fascinating psychological aspect of this is that Harlem is seen differently, and is becoming different, ever since a certain political figure moved in.  One black woman comments:

She scans the street and says what many have been saying for years: Harlem is more multicultural than ever. The gentrification alarms her and some others. "Ever since Clinton came to Harlem," she said about the former president, who has an office on 125th Street, "the well-to-do have taken over. I loves me some Clinton. Cotton comes to Harlem. But where does all this leave the rest of us -- especially if Rangel and Paterson leave?"

And, a very thoughtful observation:

The young haberdasher at B. Oyama was expecting a visitor last week. It's where Paterson shops. (He didn't show.) "So many people were looking for Paterson to be a hero," said Damien Brown, 20. "People wanted to see him have a long and successful career. It's all so shocking. Why is it that it's always the people who are closest to you who will bring you down?"

That is so true.  Sometimes, if a politician is "one of our own," we tend to trust him or her.  And sometimes that trust is misplaced.  Rudy Giuliani, as mayor of New York, was intensely disliked by blacks because he was never close to them, and treated their leaders with disdain.  But the reforms he brought saved more blacks from criminal predators than all previous mayors of New York combined.  He did this while those black "leaders" wouldn't lift a finger to help.

This is an absolutely fascinating story, and raises a question, one with profound political implications:  Will the people of Harlem, and, by extension, African-Americans generally, now realize that there's another political party, the party of Lincoln, and give that party a chance?  The answer to that question could change the American political landscape.

March 8,  2010    Permalink 

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IRAQ VOTES – AT 7:08 A.M. ET:  Those two words alone – Iraq votes – are historic. 

Iraq voted in a nationwide election yesterday.  It was played down by the Democratic administration in Washington, which doesn't place too much emphasis on this democracy stuff.  But millions of Iraqis went to the polls, despite explosions and threats, as The New York Times reports: 

BAGHDAD — Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in strength on Sunday to choose a new Parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here.

“Iraqis are not afraid of bombs anymore,” said Maliq Bedawi, 45, defiantly waving his finger, stained with purple ink, to indicate he had voted, as he stood near the rubble of an apartment building in Baghdad hit by a huge rocket in the deadliest attack of the day.

Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially.

And...

The short and fierce political campaign could end up either solidifying Iraq’s nascent democracy or leaving the country fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines. But it was arguably the most open, most competitive election in the nation’s long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war.

Fair enough.  Of course, no one gave credit to President Bush.  President Obama made a boilerplate statement and could have praised his predecessor for his vision, but, once again, being a small timer, refused to do so.  Even Richard Nixon, when Americans went to the moon, reminded the nation that it was John F. Kennedy who set us on course for the moon flight. 

Iraq will still be a struggle.  There are no guarantees.  But we hope that Obama does not pull the plug too soon, and leave Iraq the way we disgracefully left Vietnam in 1975.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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OSCAR  AT 6:50 A.M. ET:  Well, I did break down and watch the last half hour or so of the Oscars, which haven't been fun since Billy Crystal stopped hosting them.  Earlier, as we reported last night, the first segment of the Oscarcast had been blacked out because of a dispute between ABC and Cablevision, which services our area.  Apparently, a deal was made at the last moment.

I was pleased that "The Hurt Locker" won for best picture.  While it's controversial among military personnel, at least it doesn't portray American troops as occupying monsters.  We didn't get the usual left-wing bath.  Kathryn Bigelow, the movie's director, became the first woman to win the best director prize, and conducted herself with great dignity.  Wonderful.  She had kind words for the armed forces.  Even better.  And the audience applauded those words.

As the camera swept the audience, there were so many people I didn't recognize.  It's a new industry.  It needs a great deal of improvement, and needs to show a renewed respect for real talent, great stories, and the American character.  A good start was made with "The Hurt Locker," whatever its flaws.  Maybe there's hope.

March 8, 2010   Permalink

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