I have a new piece up at Hudson New York this morning, called "Myths About the Bomb." It's here.
Daily Snippets are here.
Answers to the current question are here.
The new current question is here.
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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2009
PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL - AT 3:18 P.M. ET: Rasmussen, now judged the most accurate pollster in the 2008 election, is out with his latest presidential approval ratings. They're here. They show total approval of the president's performance at 60%, total disapproval at 39%. That certainly isn't terrible, but it isn't spectacular either, especially for a messiah. Approval has gone down five points since inauguration day. Disapproval has gone up nine points.
Posted at 10:51 a.m. ET
Michael Barone writes, as he always does, a thoughtful column, this time concentrating on the lessons for today of the Depression era. We don't have to agree with everything here, but Barone is provocative:
"Not since the Great Depression." "Not since the 1930s." You hear those phrases a lot these days, and with some reason. As Congress prepares to pass the Democratic stimulus package, it may be worthwhile to look back at Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and consider how well it worked as policy -- and politically.
Some New Deal programs may have made a positive contribution to the country in some areas. However...
After eight years of the New Deal, unemployment remained at 15 percent in 1940 -- double the figure for today. What really got us out of the Depression was World War II. The total number of employed persons and military personnel increased from 44 million in 1938 to 65 million in 1944.
So it would be unwise to copy the New Deal as a recipe for economic recovery. And the policies that produced the wartime boom are not replicable today.
Unless we slide into a larger conflict through appeasement.
There has been general agreement, however, that Roosevelt's policies were politically successful. Most of us in the political commentary business make frequent use of the phrase "New Deal Democratic majority" and tend to believe that Roosevelt's policies worked for his party for a long generation extending into the 1960s.
But is it true?
I think the picture is more complicated than that. Democrats did win big in the 1934 and 1936 elections. They made big gains in large cities and factory towns, many of which were staunchly Republican in the 1920s. But these gains were not sustained, as the effects of some New Deal policies -- high taxes on high earners, the unionization-promoting Wagner Act and jobs programs like the WPA -- became apparent...
...As pro-New Deal historians have conceded, New Deal policies no longer had congressional majorities, given the opposition of many Southern Democrats. Nor was the outlook for Democrats rosy as the 1940 elections approached. Polling, then in its rudimentary stages, suggested that Republicans would win if the election were decided on domestic issues.
However, something intervened.
But in September 1939, World War II broke out in Europe. In June 1940, France fell; Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, then allies, seemed to have most of Europe under their sway...
...(Roosevelt) won his third term in November not, as he put it later, as "Dr. New Deal," but as an experienced leader when the nation was facing grave peril.
In my view, it was the war effort, the mobilization of big government, big business and big labor, that much more than the New Deal enhanced the prestige of the state.
No two political times are ever the same. But as we watch the stimulus package moving to passage, we get the whiff of bailout favoritism and crony capitalism that was also present in the New Deal. The forced unionization envisaged by the card-check bill may prove to be no more popular than the unionization forced by the sit-ins was in Michigan and Ohio in 1938. Today's Democratic programs may get as mixed a political reaction as the New Deal did in the years before World War II.
I think Barone may take too bleak a view of the New Deal. Much of it plainly didn't work to end the Depression, but the introduction of humane "social safety net" policies, later fully supported by Ronald Reagan, was a gain for the nation. Also, some of the better-run unions did advance workers' interests in collective bargaining, a right now accepted by both political parties. We've said here many times that we're a free-enterprise site, but that free enterprise doesn't mean blindness or callousness. It certainly doesn't mean indifference to the vast corruption we've seen in some parts of the private sector. And employees must be seen as assets to businesses, and as human beings, not just "labor costs" on a ledger.
FDR was many things, some of them brilliant, and some of them very bad. He was a cold, calculating and somewhat dishonest man, but a natural leader who knew how to hold the country together in a very rough time. He was Ronald Reagan's role model.
We don't have an FDR or a Reagan today, and that is what worries me. Both men knew how to handle foreign crises. The man currently in the White House does not. A bad stimulus package won't destroy the nation or kill its citizens. A bad foreign policy might.
February 14, 2009. Permalink
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE - AT 9:55 A.M. ET:
BERLIN, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed U.S. signals to review a missile defence shield in eastern Europe, in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel.
Lavrov said Russia wanted to work more closely with the West due to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and he expressly welcomed signals from President Barack Obama's administration on Iran.
COMMENT: Be careful of Russians bearing gifts. If Lavrov suddenly "welcomes" American signals, we might examine just how far those signals go. Some observers are defining the Obama foreign policy as "Jimmy Carter on speed." We can't be sure yet. Let's hope it isn't true.
POISON IVY BY ANY OTHER NAME - AT 9:29 A.M. ET -- Do you know what the formal name of the stimulus bill is? Get this:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
COMMENT: Those old Soviet propagandists had nothing over us.
OH, THANKS FOR TELLING US - AT 9:25 A.M. ET: From London's Telegraph:
President Barack Obama on Friday warned that economic recovery in the United States "will be measured in years, not months" as he scored a major victory in his young presidency with the approval in Congress of a $787 billion (£542) bill to revive the economy.
COMMENT: That's the first speech of the 2012 election campaign. " Look, I told you this wouldn't work immediately. But over time, and with more pork for our constituent groups..."
A FEW LITTLE DETAILS - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: From the Washington Times, your stimulus dollars at work:
Congress has removed the key check on making sure illegal immigrants aren't hired by firms getting money from the economic stimulus package, but left in nearly $200 million in spending for Filipino veterans of World War II...
...On the immigration issue, Democrats removed from the final bill a House-adopted provision that would have required those who received money from the stimulus spending bill to check their new employees against E-Verify, the federal government's chief tool to weed illegal immigrants out of the work force.
COMMENT: Great, isn't it? So, how many illegals will get those jobs this bill is supposed to create? Which party will these illegals vote for in the next election? Take the quiz, find out what's really happening.
WE'RE SO STIMULATED - AT 8:33 A.M. ET: From the Washington Post:
With the final vote coming late in the night, Congress yesterday approved a $787 billion stimulus package that aims to spur millions of jobs through massive new investments in energy, transportation, education and health-care projects, while reviving social safety-net programs that have been shrinking for nearly three decades...
...The legislation represents the start of a new ideological era that places the federal government at the center of the nation's economic recovery. It also provides a down payment on much of President Obama's domestic agenda, including his pledges to upgrade the nation's aging roads, bridges and electricity grid; overhaul health-care record-keeping and invest billions in alternative energy research to reverse climate change and wean the country from foreign oil.
COMMENT: Note the second paragraph. That's what it's really about, and yet not one member of Congress had the time to read the bill and consider each of the items. Change we can't believe in.
SHOPPING BULLETIN AT 8:21 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
For years, executives of Saks Fifth Avenue have been wooing one of the world’s most exclusive men’s wear lines...
...The retailer is about to find out how many men are left in New York with the money, and the moxie, to pay more than $7,000 for an off-the-rack suit, or as much as $21,025 for the made-to-order version.
COMMENT: I wonder how many of these suits will be bought with federal bailout money.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2009
TREATING ALLIES LIKE ENEMIES - AT 7:52 P.M. ET: I've quoted it before. There used to be a saying, pre-Reagan, that one of the worst things you can be in this world is an ally of the United States. We had, at one time, a nasty tendency to punish our friends and reward our enemies. Turning our back on South Vietnam in 1975 stands as a symbol of the style. Apparently, there is nostalgia in Washington for a return to those good old days.
We learn, via Andrew Malcolm's "Top of the Ticket," that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is none too pleased by comments made by President Obama, who said that Karzai, essentially an American ally, has a "bunker mentality." Karzai taped an interview that will appear on CNN Sunday, and replied: "So I was surprised to hear that statement. Perhaps it's because the administration has not yet put itself together. Perhaps they have not been given the information yet. And I hope as they settle down, as they learn more, we will see better judgment."
This may not be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And we learn from the Israeli press that the Obamans have ham-handedly interfered with Israel's attempts to form a new coalition government, following that country's elections:
The U.S. official position is that it looks forward to "working with any government," but in back-channel messages the Obama administration has made it clear it would like to see a unity government in Jerusalem over a narrow right-wing government which would in all likelihood result in a freeze in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Not exactly wise to interfere in the free processes of a friendly nation. Any proud country would be offended.
COMMENT: The Democratic Party's left wing regularly ridiculed President Bush's interest in, and respect for, democracy. Apparently they meant it.
PRIORITIES - AT 5:41 P.M. ET: In the midst of all the trivial news - economic depression, nuclear threats, famine - Illinois shows us what's really important. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Can't get enough of Barack Obama? How about an Obama license plate?
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White today unveiled an "Illinois Salutes Barack Obama" temporary license plate, which can be used for 60 days beginning Tuesday.
The plates feature a smiling President Obama, seemingly gazing towards your temporary numbers. A waving American flag fills the background.
COMMENT: And just imagine - your personal license plate may be made by a former governor! What a bargain.
THE WALL STREET SALUTE - AT 3:09 P.M. ET: Such enthusiasm on Wall Street over the House passage of the stimulus bill. Such confidence. Yeah, right. At this moment the Dow is down 51 points. They barely noticed how stimulating things were.
BULLETIN AT 3:01 P.M. ET: The House has passed the Senate/House negotiated version of the stimulus package, without a single Republican vote. The battle is now joined. If it works, the Dems will take the credit. If it fails, the GOP can boast of its warnings and its principled stand.
COMMENT: The problem will occur if the economy revivives for entirely different reasons. The Dems will still take the credit, then break the bank again with another huge spending bill, earmarked for their constituent groups. They can make the country entirely dependent on the federal government. This is getting frightening.
MORE SOUTHERN BORDER - AT 2:48 P.M. ET: From the Washington Times:
One of the 16 illegal immigrants allowed by a federal court to sue an Arizona rancher for stopping them at gunpoint after they sneaked across the U.S.-Mexico border is a convicted felon deported from this country after a 1993 arrest by U.S. authorities on drug charges, court records show.
Gerardo Gonzalez, described in a lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) as a 38-year-old Mexican citizen, was convicted in September 1993 for possession of a controlled substance for sale and ordered deported to his home country.
COMMENT: This can grow into a major story, the kind Fox News or Rush will champion, and more power to them. This is an outrage.
OBAMA AND TERROR
Posted at 10:15 a.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal analyzes Obama's first moves in the war on terror, and actually finds them good:
President Obama has done a masterful job disguising his Administration's growing antiterror maturity, but this week produced further evidence that he is erring on the side of keeping the country safe rather than appeasing the political left. The Justice Department filed to dismiss a federal appeals case involving rendition, embracing an argument developed by . . . the Bush Administration.
BUSH? You mean that BUSH(!!)?
In other words, the anti-antiterror lobby is being exposed as more radical than its putative banner carrier. As Mr. Obama is learning, the left's exertions to disarm the country's counterterrorism arsenal are as dangerous now as they were prior to his election.
And they're intentionally dangerous. The left wants us to lose.
The Obama Administration says it will invoke the state secrets privilege more sparingly than its predecessor. But it is really admitting that lifting the hood on classified intelligence-gathering would let terrorists know what to expect, and to shift their operations to avoid detection.
The game of the left is now to sue private companies for cooperating with the government in anti-terror activities:
The left has failed to achieve its policy ambitions through Congress or by directly challenging the government in court. So the latest tactic is suing third parties...to hamstring the executive branch via the courts. These companies thought they were doing their patriotic duty by lending a hand.
The ACLU apparently defines patriotism a bit differently.
The larger story here is that the anti-antiterror lobby is losing the man it thought was its strongest ally. During his campaign, Mr. Obama talked as if he really believed that the Bush Administration was uniquely wicked on national security.
On the left, that is the religion, the gospel, the Commandments.
Now it seems that the Bush Administration's antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy, just as Eisenhower validated Truman's Cold War framework. Mr. Obama claims to have banned coercive interrogation techniques, except in those cases where more extreme measures are necessary to save lives. He says he'll shut down Gitmo in a year or so, but his subordinates -- including Elena Kagan during her confirmation hearings for Solicitor General this week -- admit that indefinite detention will still be necessary for some terrorists. He walked back his wiretap absolutism even before he was elected. Now the Administration has endorsed the same secrecy posture that he once found so offensive, merely saying that it will be used less frequently. We'll see.
These are all laudable signs of Mr. Obama's antiterror progress. Perhaps some day he'll acknowledge his debt to his predecessor.
Don't hold your breath, unless he does it once he leaves office. He still can't risk enraging the entire left.
February 13, 2009. Permalink
DOW NOW - AT 9:57 A.M. ET: The Dow is down 50, to 7884.
LINE OF THE DAY - AT 9:34 A.M. ET: About the economic crisis, from Victor Davis Hanson:
Our best educated, wealthiest, and most-connected in matters of finance proved our dumbest—and our political leaders were less than ethical in meeting their moral responsibilities as citizens.
COMMENT: Throw in the mainstream media.
MAKING A LIST, NOT CHECKING IT EVEN ONCE - AT 9:14 A.M. ET:Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, sometimes known as Coupe Deval for his extravant spending on himself when he first took office, apparently has a shopping list to be paid for by the stimulus packing coming from Washington. From the Boston Herald:
The Patrick administration’s list has funding requests for swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, and even to restore fairways at the Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton.
Some listed items fall into the gray area between public and private projects.
The New England Patriots [team stats] might one day want to develop 150 acres, now parking lots, across Route 1 from Gillette Stadium and the new Patriot Place shopping center in Foxboro.
The land has been designated by the state as a potential “growth district” for biotech companies - so a $6 million pedestrian overpass bridge is on the governor’s list.
COMMENT: There are some respectable projects as well. But somehow I think much of this huge package could have been more intelligently spent. Oh, by the way, Deval Patrick has been widely reported to be on Obama's short list for the Supreme Court.
THE SOUTHERN BORDER - AT 8:23 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
As drug cartels continue to terrorize Mexico, Texas officials are planning for the worst-case scenario: how to respond if the violence spills over the border, and what to do if thousands of Mexicans seek refuge in the United States.
Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said a multi-agency contingency plan is being developed, and it will focus primarily on law enforcement issues, including how to handle an influx of Mexicans fleeing violence.
COMMENT: This story is not getting the attention it deserves. It's the kind of thing that suddenly blows up, while our eyes are focused somewhere else. We have to be awfully careful about identifying those who "seek refuge" from violence. We could wind up with "asylum seekers" holding Al Qaeda membership cards ,listing their death benefits.
DANCING WITH MOSCOW? - AT 8:14 A.M. ET:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States is ready to look at re-modeling its missile defense plans to include Moscow, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Friday in a concession to Russian anger over Washington's plans to build a missile shield.
The Kremlin has been pressing Washington to give ground on the proposed missile shield in exchange for Russia helping supply the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan -- a priority for new President Barack Obama.
COMMENT: We'll be watching this one with two eyes. Our East European allies went out on a limb, and antagonized Russia, by siding with us on missile defense during the Bush administration. What kind of a signal would it send to undercut them now? Not enough details here to make a judgment yet.
BILL? WHAT BILL? THERE'S A BILL? - AT 7:51 A.M. ET: From The Washington Post:
As the House prepared to vote on a $789 billion stimulus bill, lawmakers and aides combed through the massive document, searching for favorite provisions and discovering that some didn't make the final cut.
COMMENT: There have been complaints throughout the last 24 hours that no one has seen a copy of the complete bill, except maybe some lobbyists. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was on TV last night complaining bitterly about the recklessness of the process, the lack of reflection and examination. Dem Senate leader Harry Reid announcement overall agreement on the bill, but The Post says, "Despite the brokered deal, confusion reigned in the Capitol's hallways. With no text circulating 30 hours after Reid's announcement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office sent out a half-joking e-mail to reporters last night making light of Democratic accusations that Republicans were blocking the legislation -- since none yet officially existed."
And this is the way we spend almost a trillion dollars. Just send the bill to our kids.
SOCIAL NOTE - AT 7:39 A.M. ET: From The New York Post's Page Six:
WHILE the hat-in-hand bankers have figured out how to get to Washington by train or commercial flights, the perks of network TV stars remain in full force. After lunch the other day at Rouge Tomate, CBS evening anchor Katie Couric (above) departed in a huge, chauffeur-driven SUV, while NBC colleague Ann Curry was picked up by a regular Town Car. Our observant spy said, "Richer-than-them-all Evelyn Lauder hoofed it."
COMMENT: We have to wonder what mentality TV newsreaders develop when they're driven around town in limos, not mixing with us ordinary folk. After a while, they have to believe that they're superior, somewhat superhuman, and possessed of brilliant judgment and insight. And that's one of the reasons you see what you see.