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I have a new piece up at Hudson New York called "The Trouble With Deterrence," regarding the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb. For those interested it's here.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010
BREAKING KNEES AND OTHER POLITICAL ART FORMS – AT 8:58 P.M. ET: There is an increasing understanding that the age of Obama is becoming a reflection of the Chicago we knew and loved...in the thirties. The New York Post notes:
President Obama's attempts to ram health-care reform through an increasingly reluctant Congress are starting to resemble a really eventful episode of "The Sopranos."
Whether or not you believe former Rep. Eric Massa's bizarre accusations of locker-room confrontations and conspiracies to drive him from office, there is no doubt that the Obama administration and its congressional allies are willing to use every trick in the book to get this bill passed.
They've already bought votes with pork and special deals -- the "Louisiana purchase" ($300 million to bolster that state's Medicaid program, which swayed Sen. Mary Landrieu); the "Cornhusker kickback" ($100 million to Medicaid there, sweetening the pot for Sen. Ben Nelson), and Florida's "Gator Aid" (a Medicare deal potentially worth $5 billion, a hefty price for Sen. Bill Nelson's vote). Plus the millions for Connecticut hospitals, Montana asbestos abatement and so on.
Nor were the Obamans willing to let a little thing like election laws stand in the way. They rewrote Massachusetts law to allow for an appointed senator to hold office for several months, hoping to get the bill through before the special election that Scott Brown ultimately won. Their plans spoiled, they even considered holding up Brown's seating to let the appointed senator continue to vote on health care -- until public outrage forced them to back down.
And, of course, there has been an unprecedented willingness to ignore congressional rules -- from the failure to appoint a "conference committee" to negotiate differences between the House and Senate bills, to their current plans to use the reconciliation process to bypass a Republican filibuster.
Expect the tactics to get even dirtier now.
Those who support the president can expect favors. No sooner had Rep Jim Matheson (D-Utah) suggested that he might be willing to switch his vote and support the latest version of ObamaCare than his brother was nominated for a federal judgeship.
Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) is also on the undecided list. And, purely by coincidence no doubt, the Justice Department just announced that it is dropping an FBI investigation that has been swirling about the congressman. Gosh, if only Charlie Rangel were one of the undecideds.
Those who oppose the president can expect the political equivalent of a horse head between their sheets.
COMMENT: The most important question, though, is this: Who will play these guys in the movie? Cagney is dead. So is Edward G. Robinson. Brando is gone. For Obama, I'm rooting for Yaphet Kotto, who was in "Live and Let Die," with Bondsman Roger Moore:
What do you think?
March 10, 2010 Permalink
WHAT HATH BARACK WROUGHT? – AT 7:48 P.M. ET: Leave it to the European left to mess things up royally, and attribute its thinking to Obama:
Strasbourg - NATO's tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are a 'strategic anachronism' that needs to be gradually eliminated in cooperation with Russia, the European Parliament said in a resolution approved Wednesday.
Unbelievable. They must be dancing in the ministries in Tehran tonight. Iran is testing missiles capable of hitting Europe, and developing nuclear warheads, and look what Europe is thinking. These are the old socialists at work.
The move follows on from the letter sent in February by the foreign ministers of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway to NATO's secretary general, asking for a review of the defence alliance's nuclear policy at an upcoming summit in April.
In a resolution approved in Strasbourg, France, members of the parliament (MEPs) 'drew attention to the strategic anachronism of tactical nuclear weapons and the need for Europe to contribute to their reduction and to eliminate them from European soil in the context of a broader dialogue with Russia.'
Nothing like a little unbiased reporting. Europe is under great threat, but doesn't seem to want to realize it. And the "dialogue" with Russia is a joke. The Russians will "dialogue" when it benefits them.
You kind of wonder whether foreign ministries keep hiring the same kind of people over and over. European diplomacy still has that 1930s ring, doesn't it?
They also stressed that withdrawal of European tactical warheads could contribute to the vision of a 'world without nuclear weapons,' expressed last year in Prague by United States President Barack Obama, during his first trip to Europe.
The parliament's initiative - which has no legally binding value - was welcomed by the leader of the social-democratic grouping.
'President Obama has created the opportunity to move closer to a nuclear-free world. We expect EU ministers to support this commitment and to propose an ambitious timetable for achieving it,' Martin Schulz said.
COMMENT: Barack, you've done it again. You've inspired the world...at least that part of the world that was also inspired by the 1960s, the North Vietnamese, George McGovern, and Yassir Arafat.
If I were a sane European, and there are some, I'd want those tac nukes kept just where they are until all nuclear threats to the continent are neutralized. And that could take a long time.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
VIEW WITH CAUTION – AT 7:41 P.M. ET: There may be some movement in the campaign to reform the fatally damaged science of "climate change" or "global warming," or whatever today's favored phrase is. Even the UN, where corruption is an honored craft, is getting into the reform act, as Fox reports:
In an apparent slap at the embattled chief of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered a newly formed outside scientific panel to review its "procedures and practices" -- and more significantly, its management.
The hastily assembled panel will be headed by Prof. Robbert H. Dijkgraaf, head of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-chairman of the InterAcademy Council. The investigation will be carried out by the Council and will be composed of unpaid volunteer scientists. The panel's formation, it was acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday, was a direct reaction to criticism of the way the IPCC put together its last report on climate change.
The Council is composed of the heads of national science academies in 15 countries, according to Dijkgraaf, a theoretical physicist.
The IPCC is a U.N.-funded organization that gathers and publishes authoritative reports on the state of climate research. Governments and policy makers rely on its findings to battle climate change, because it is expected to present the best analysis and assessment of data available.
COMMENT: Not necessarily good news. Who are the people involved? What are their interests? Their biases? Their histories? A review can easily turn into a whitewash. Will dissenters be permitted a voice?
Remember that the UN has a vested interest in promoting "climate change" hysteria because the "solutions" often involve transfers of wealth from advanced countries to "developing" countries that never seem to develop. There are a lot of the latter, and the palms are outstretched.
So we'll have to wait and see on this one. I would have preferred a much more open discussion before this panel was named.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AT LEAST LIMITED GOOD NEWS – AT 7:27 P.M. ET: Maybe the anti-war "movement" in the House of Representatives isn't as strong as we'd thought it was. From The Politico:
In a first election-year test of President Barack Obama’s military buildup in Afghanistan, the House soundly rejected a war powers resolution seeking to force the withdrawal of American forces no later than Dec. 31.
The lopsided 356-65 win gives new momentum to the White House going into what promises to be a more difficult battle next month over new war funding.
For the moment at least, the old antiwar left of past Iraq debates appears fractured over how much time to give the president to implement his strategy.
COMMENT: What must be exposed is the sheer hypocrisy of many of the "anti-war" activists in the Democratic Party. They'd said they were against the war in Iraq, and blamed BUSH (!!) and Cheney (!!!!) for conniving to get us into it.
But, in fact, these people are against any war the United States is involved in, something obvious from the vote today. This was about Afghanistan. We'd been assured that Afghanistan was the "good" war. But these "anti-war" politicians don't believe any American war is a good war, unless the ideological left gives its approval.
Remember that the left was opposed to our entry into World War II until Germany invaded the old Soviet Union. Then the ideologues did a 180, condemned Hitler, and approved the war effort...until Japan surrendered in 1945, whereupon they went right back to their old propaganda and opposed our resistance to to Soviet expansionism.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
OBAMA AT THE BOTTOM – AT 9:52 A.M. ET: Today's Rasmussen tracker brings the grimmest news for President Obama. He has equaled his lowest numbers, and those numbers are spectacularly bad:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday 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 (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President...
...Among those not affiliated with either major political party, 17% Strongly Approve and 45% Strongly Disapprove...
...Fifty-seven percent (57%) believe that passage of the proposed health care legislation will hurt the economy. Just 25% believe it will help...
...Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. That, too matches the lowest level yet recorded for this President. Fifty-six percent (56%) disapprove.
And here's another smile:
Republican candidates lead Democrats by seven points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.
The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Voter support for GOP congressional candidates held steady from last week, while support for Democrats is up a point.
Voters not affiliated with either major party continue to favor the GOP by a 42% to 22% margin, showing little change for several months now.
COMMENT: Or, as the Democrats used to sing, "Happy days are here again."
These numbers are a disaster. They show once again that the health-care bill, if it passes, will be an extra burden for the Democrats in November. They also show that the president and his party are failing to make any kind of a case for continuation in office.
Obviously, all this can change. But the word "failure" is written all over the Democratic Party. The idea now is for the Republicans to build on the political situation, and not be content with it, which is the old GOP malady.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AN OBSCENE TRANSFER OF PUBLIC FUNDS – AT 8:49 A.M. ET: We've all read stories recently, shocking stories really, that the average public employee now earns considerably more in wages and benefits than does the average employee in the private sector.
Now the Wall Street Journal, in a superb editorial, examines the impact that giveaways to public employees are having even on other public services, especially education. California college "students" have been protesting tuition hikes and cutbacks in services, reminding us of California campus protests of the 1960s. Even the pro-Communist signs are the same. But the "students" have little understanding of the source of their plight:
In 1999, the Democratic legislature ran a reckless gamble that makes Wall Street's bankers look cautious. At the top of a bull market, they assumed their investment returns would grow at a 8.25% rate in perpetuity—equivalent to assuming that the Dow would reach 25,000 by 2009—and enacted a huge pension boon for public-safety and industrial unions.
The bill refigured the compensation formula for pension benefits of all public-safety employees who retired on or after January 1, 2000. It let firefighters retire at age 50 and receive 3% of their final year's compensation times the number of years they worked. If a firefighter started working at the age of 20, he could retire at 50 and earn 90% of his final salary, in perpetuity. One San Ramon Valley fire chief's yearly pension amounted to $284,000—more than his $221,000 annual salary.
In 2002, the state legislature further extended benefits to many nonsafety classifications, such as milk and billboard inspectors. More than 15,000 public employees have retired with annual pensions greater than $100,000. Who needs college when you can get a state job and make out like that?
It has always been my dream to be a billboard inspector in California.
This year alone $3 billion was diverted from other programs to fund pensions, including more than $800 million from the UC system. It is becoming clear that in the most strapped liberal states there's a pecking order: Unions get the lifeboats, and everyone else gets thrown over the side. Sorry, kids.
The governor's office projects that over the next decade the annual taxpayer contributions to retiree pensions and health care will grow to $15 billion from $5.5 billion, and that's assuming the stock market doubles every 10 years. With unfunded pension and health-care liabilities totaling more than $122 billion, California will continue chopping at higher-ed.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has routinely called for pension reform, but the Democratic legislature has tossed aside the Terminator like a paper doll.
And the politicians?
California has a governor's race on, and the candidates are semi-mum on this catastrophe. Democratic candidate Jerry Brown has supported modifying public employee benefits but hasn't offered specific proposals and opposes defined contribution plans. Republican Meg Whitman supports increasing the retirement age to 65 from 55 and asking employees to contribute more to their benefits, but she won't support a reform ballot measure for fear it would drive up union turn-out in November.
COMMENT: It's the same story in many liberal states, like New York. These are the states in the most trouble. You can be sure they'll go begging to Washington for help.
We just learned, here in New York, that a local school superintendent earns almost as much as the president of the United States. And the schools aren't getting any better.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
THE BRILLIANT LEADER, SECOND TO NONE IN WISDOM – AT 8:02 A.M. ET: Once again we turn to the British to inform us that the emperor has no clothes. From Toby Harnden in London's Telegraph, describing an interview with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband:
Miliband stated: “Even for governments as brilliant as the Obama administration, 2009 was a difficult year.”
What planet is he on? Not even the most starry-eyed, Kool-Aid-drinking Obamaphile would describe the current administration as “brilliant." White House advisers privately concede that they have suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds and need to do a lot of things differently.
I love it when the Brits state the obvious, and state it so well.
And let us add a comment by our own Michael Barone, in today's Washington Examiner, over the most brilliant president in all of human history's handling of health-care legislation:
In fall 2009 Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes.
Pelosi got a 220-215 margin in the House in November after accepting an amendment by Bart Stupak that banned funding of abortions.
In the Senate in December, Majority Leader Harry Reid predictably had to pay a high price -- the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase -- for the 59th and 60th votes. That's always the case when you need 60 out of 60.
Scott Brown's election in January in Massachusetts deprived Reid of his 60th vote. The only way forward for the Democrats is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then trust the Senate to fix it through the reconciliation process. Pelosi has had six weeks to get the votes for that and hasn't done so yet.
It's beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There's a reason it's hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It's not the Senate rules. It's called democracy.
COMMENT: Dems can blame their Congressional leadership from now until Sunday, but it's the man at the top who guided, or failed to guide, the process. Obama came to office with vastly more public support than the new Congress, and look what he did with it.
Political reporters are now saying that the House vote on health-care "reform" may well be pushed past the Easter recess, when members go home and face their constituents. The prevailing belief is that it will be even harder to pass the legislation if that delay comes to pass.
Brilliant president? Carter-like brilliance.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU SCREAM? – AT 7:48 A.M. ET: After a year of apologizing to just about everyone around the world for just about everything, the Obamans apparently haven't learned that it hasn't gotten them anywhere. From Gateway Pundit:
The Obama State Department apologized to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for offending the dear tyrant with offensive language.
The BBC reported:
The US State Department has apologized for comments made about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s call for jihad, or holy war, against Switzerland.
Department spokesman PJ Crowley, who made the dismissive comments, said they did not reflect US policy and were not intended to offend.
Col Gaddafi had criticised a Swiss vote against the building of minarets and urged Muslims to boycott the country.
Mr Crowley described it as “lots of words, not necessarily a lot of sense.”
Libya and Switzerland are embroiled in a long-running diplomatic row.
“I regret that my comments have become an obstacle to further progress in our bilateral relationship,” Mr Crowley said.
Last week, Libya’s National Oil Corporation warned US oil firms of possible “repercussions” over Mr Crowley’s reaction. The Libyan ambassador to the US sought to clarify Col Gaddafi’s remarks saying the Libyan leader meant an economic boycott not “an armed attack”.
“I should have focused solely on our concern about the term jihad, which has since been clarified by the Libyan government,” Mr Crowley added.
“I understand my personal comments were perceived as a personal attack on the president,” he said.
Hat Tip Dan Friedman
Libyan dictator Moamer Gaddafi warned the Swiss in December that their minaret ban invited attacks by Al-Qaeda on Europe.
In September it was reported that the Obama Administration planned to give $400,000 in funding to a Libyan charity run by the Gadhafi family.
COMMENT: The families of victims of Pan Am 103, murdered by Gaddafi's henchmen, must be appalled.
It's apparently about oil, and about "respect" for third-world thugs. So goes our foreign policy. Can you think of one success under Obama?
March 10, 2010 Permalink
ANOTHER BRAVE PROTECTOR OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY – AT 7:31 A.M. ET: Still one more Obama nominee is in trouble. You wonder who examines the records of these people. From Fox News:
The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed the hearing for a controversial Court of Appeals nominee after the panel received a letter from a home-state prosecutor blasting the candidate as a judicial loose cannon and after Republicans raised concerns about bias in favor of sex offenders.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny gained notoriety in 2005 for his role in trying to fight the execution of convicted serial killer and rapist Michael Ross, also known as The Roadside Strangler, whom Chatigny had described as a victim of his own "sexual sadism."
His conduct in that case, which included threatening to go after Ross' attorney's law license, as well as his ruling in 2001 against sex offender registries created under Megan's Law, has caused a commotion among Republicans on the judiciary panel.
"I've never seen conduct like this," said a Republican source. "I'm shocked that the White House vetted this guy ... and still put him up for a judgeship."
The nomination is relatively fresh. President Obama submitted his name Feb. 24 for a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, calling him a "first-rate" legal expert and "faithful" public servant.
COMMENT: The Republican request for postponement was granted immediately by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, pristine liberal of Vermont. It's an election year. Even Democrats may well be getting sensitive to some of the eccentric characters nominated by this president.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
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
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
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.
March 9, 2010 Permalink
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
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
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.”
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.”
...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.
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
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 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
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
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