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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
THE SAME OLD STORY - IRAN FURTHER AHEAD THAN THOUGHT - AT 10:02 P.M. ET: This isn't good news, but we shouldn't be surprised. Whenever the facts come out, it seems Iran is further ahead in its nuclear program than previously thought. From Financial Times:
Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.
In a development that comes as the Obama administration is drawing up its policy on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, UN officials said Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought.
COMMENT: How will the Obama "negotiations above all" crowd react to this? They'll probably tell us that we must "engage" with Iran, which, of course, is what the Europeans have been doing for years, without result.
COMEDOWN - AT 7:46 P.M. ET: It is incredible, and sad, that a share of New York Times stock now sells for less than the cost of the Sunday Times:
Shares of NYT (NYT) dropped 29 cents today to close at $3.77. The Sunday paper goes for $4 at the newsstand.
Maybe they could save costs by printing the paper on their stock certificates.
COMMENT: When I was a lowly desk editor at The Times, during the Lincoln administration, we used to measure the Sunday Times by its weight - at that time more than seven pounds. There were even suggestions that the Sunday edition could be dropped as a weapon on an enemy. Now the Sunday paper is compared with the sinking stock price, which was more than $50 a share in 2002.
HOLDER'S DISGRACE - AT 7:21 P.M. ET: Attorney General Eric Holder's comments, branding the U.S. a nation of cowards about race, have spread around the world. I'm sure this will do our image a lot of good. Wasn't Obama the candidate who said he'd "repair" that image? He might send the memo to his
A-G. From London's Telegraph:
Barack Obama's attorney general Eric Holder has branded the United States a "nation of cowards" who are "voluntarily socially segregated" along race lines.
Mr Holder, the first African American to hold the post of top justice official, said that although the US was integrated in the workplace, its people spent their weekends and private lives in "race-protected cocoons."
The reaction of NAACP executive Hilary Shelton is a gem to be remembered:
"Nobody wants to be considered a coward. We've learned to get along by exclusion and silence. We need to talk about it. People need to feel comfortable saying the wrong things."
THE REAL WORLD - AT 4:59 P.M. ET: From London's Telegraph:
US demands for Nato allies to send more troops to Afghanistan have been met with a cool response at a summit in Poland.
Washington had hoped to persuade European allies to contribute more in the wake of the President Barack Obama's election and the announcement this week of the deployment of 17,00 extra American soldiers.
American defence secretary Robert Gates condemned their failure to do so far as "disappointing" with European states promising to deploy no more than just a few hundred extra troops.
COMMENT: But wait. We thought The One was so persuasive that all these nations would suddenly cooperate with us. The fact is that not one country, anywhere in the world, has altered a single policy toward the United States since Barack Obama became president.
Of course, we all know how this will be spun by the media: It's leftover resentment of BUSH (!!). That's whose fault it is. The damage done by
BUSH (!!) will last four more years. And there are people who'll believe that.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE - AT 4:53 P.M. ET: From Gateway Pundit:
Maybe he thought he was in one of the northern 57 states ?
Or, maybe he was thinking of Kentucky? Whatever, the Bumbler in Chief made a great first impression with the Canadians today, via JWF:
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just started their joint news conference, the first such dual podium event for the new president.
The newness is showing - the president began his remarks with, "It's a great pleasure to be here in Iowa - Ottawa."
COMMENT: Can you imagine public reaction if George Bush had made a mistake like that? Can you imagine the late-night comedians? Maureen Dowd? Chris Matthews? Frankly, I'd prefer not to imagine any of them.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:40 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 90, to 7466. One year ago today the Dow closed at 12337. It's declined almost 40 percent.
DOW DOWN - AT 12:26 P.M. ET: The Dow is down 64, to 7492. This is disappointing because there were some signs earlier in the day that the market might rally. Remember how we wondered if the Dow would actually dip below 8000? That was ten days ago.
CAR LINES - AT 8:13 A.M. ET: From a Wall Street Journal editorial today on the car industry:
The shrinking of GM and Chrysler are inevitable; the only questions are how long it takes and how much it will cost. President Obama will help himself, taxpayers and the economy if he forces the hard decisions as soon as possible, well before the next election and while he can still blame the last Administration. Bankruptcy increasingly looks like the least painful choice.
COMMENT: Several on-the-air commentators have been making this same point, and believe the administration is headed in that direction. But we can only dread the psychological impact of the headlines: GM BELLY UP.
OH, LET US EXPLAIN - AT 7:58 A.M. ET: A reader directs us to a terrific site, reporting on the administration's chart-based explanation of the stimulus package. You'll get a kick out of the definition of tax relief. It's unique.
HOLD THAT HOLDER
Posted at 7:36 a.m. ET
Reader Hunter Schultz alerts us to this:
Rarely has a Cabinet officer made such an embarrassing debut.
Eric Holder, President Obama's poor choice for attorney general, demonstrated his inadequacy yesterday with a foolish, over-the-top speech to Justice Department employees, celebrating Black History Month:
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Mr. Holder said.
"Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."
The venue itself was inappropriate. The use of a Black History Month celebration, which would understandably attract mostly African-American employees, sends a message of divisiveness, not inclusion. This was the message of a radical, angry man.
Conservatives reacted strongly, and correctly:
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch, said Mr. Holder's remarks suggest he will pursue a "radical" agenda as attorney general...
...He rebutted Mr. Holder's remarks calling America cowardly, saying that if the presidential election of Barack Obama "doesn't prove the nation's bravery, I don't know what will."
Agreed. No doubt we have racial problems, but Eric Holder has made millions as a lawyer. He can't claim to be a victim.
Conservative elections-lawyer Cleta Mitchell chided Mr. Holder for not realizing he is "chief law enforcement officer of the United States not a camp counselor."
Holder engages in some odd logic:
"The fact that we have an African-American attorney general, an African-American president I think is extremely significant but it is not an indication that all of the problems that we have confronted as a nation over the years are now resolved," Mr. Holder told reporters.
It is certainly true that we're not as integrated, black and white, as we could be. But we're not as integrated, ethnically, religiously, and politically, as we could be either. I would have much preferred it had Holder restricted his speech to legal challenges, and outlined his legal ideas.
The liberals whined about the "politicization" of the Bush Justice Department. That looked like amateur stuff compared to what Holder apparently has in mind.
Oh, I wonder how he intends to pursue the legal fight against terrorism. Will there be a speech on it?
February 19, 2009. Permalink
AN OBVIOUS STIMULUS - AT 6:41 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
While the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday includes $10 billion to upgrade military barracks, hospitals, clinics and child-care centers, it doesn't add a single dollar for weapons development. And some observers think that's a mistake.
A stimulus in defense spending, they say, would be a victory not only for American servicemen and women -- but for the nation's economy, as well.
COMMENT: Pretty obvious. Defense spending is very stimulative, and the assembly lines could get going quickly, but don't count on it from this Congress. The left wing of the Democratic Party is in charge, and they despise national defense. General of the Army Barney Frank wants to cut the defense budget 25 percent, apparently believing that the rest of the world will see us as wonderful, and immediately stop all threats.
WELCOME, HILLARY CLINTON - AT 6:35 A.M. ET:
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea stepped up its war rhetoric Thursday, saying its troops are ''fully ready'' for war with South Korea just hours before a visit to Seoul by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
North Korea's military accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of using ''nonexistent'' nuclear and missile threats as a pretext for an invasion and warned it was prepared for an ''all-out confrontation.''
COMMENT: Pay no attention to this. Pay absolutely no attention. Everyone knows it's just rhetoric. Why, when Hillary lands and brings her message from The One, all these verbal swords will be beaten into marshmallows, and negotiations will break out. That's true, isn't it?
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009
MOMENTOUS - AT 9:19 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.
COMMENT: Obviously, as the story says, this could be a momentous development. It could also be catastrophic, especially if the "science" proves wrong or exaggerated. The costs could be crippling. The story does not, as usual, contain the opinion of a single dissenter. Not allowed in polite company.
JINDAL MAKES HIS MOVE - AT 7:23 A.M. ET: From CBS News:
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, has suggested his state may not be interested in all of the roughly $4 billion allotted to it in the economic stimulus package to be signed by President Obama today.
"We'll have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it's beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars," Jindal said, according to CBS affiliate WWLTV.
Jindal is scheduled to give the response to the president’s not-exactly-a-state-of-the-union address next Tuesday.
COMMENT: Shrewd move by Jindal, which sets him off from other governors, who are grabbing everything they can. His response to Obama's speech next week may turn out to be a news event itself.
BLEAK OUTLOOK - AT 6:38 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
The Federal Reserve cut its economic outlook for 2009 on Wednesday and warned that the United States economy would face an “unusually gradual and prolonged” period of recovery as the country struggles to climb out of a deep global downturn...
...Bleak economic data reflecting a sharpening slide in housing, trade, industrial production, spending and employment rates “more than offset” any potential impact from an economic stimulus plan, the Fed said, forcing it to cut its economic outlook.
COMMENT: Say what? Please read that last paragraph again. In other words, the stimulus plan will be neutralized. Didn't the administration project this when it formulated the "plan"? Well now, what do these geniuses intend to do?
DOCTRINE DENIED - AT 2:21 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
President Obama opposes any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a spokesman told FOXNews.com Wednesday.
The statement is the first definitive stance the administration has taken since an aide told an industry publication last summer that Obama opposes the doctrine -- a long-abolished policy that would require broadcasters to provide opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.
COMMENT: Okay, but the issue is whether radicals in Congress will attempt to force the issue, or do an end run around the doctrine by introducing other concepts that will have the same effect, like requiring programming to reflect "local interests," or some such. There are many routes to censorship. We must insist on a complete rejection of any of these schemes, not only as they involve radio and television, but the internet as well.
HOME DISTRESSED HOME - AT 2:09 P.M ET:
Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $275 billion to a program that includes cutting mortgage payments for as many as 9 million struggling homeowners and expanding the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in curbing foreclosures.
The plan will help as many as 5 million homeowners refinance loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, the president said. Treasury will buy as much as $200 billion of preferred stock in the two mortgage companies, twice as much as previously promised, he said.
COMMENT: It is much more than anticipated, but Wall Street reacted, once again, with a kind of indifference. At this hour the Dow is down 10 points, to 7542.
DOW NOW - AT 11:22 A.M. ET: The Dow is in positive territory, up 18.
BOO TO BURRIS - AT 11:19 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
Major newspapers, government watchdogs and Illinois lawmakers are all calling for Sen. Roland Burris to resign after he admitted he tried to raise money for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- the man who appointed him to the Senate despite being accused of seeking favors for the seat.
COMMENT: The key will be whether black leaders rally 'round him and threaten political retaliation if he's forced out. Or, they could accept his being sent packing, but then demand that another African-American be appointed, playing the race card to the hilt. Illinois is a nominally Democratic state, but this Senate seat may be vulnerable in 2010.
MORE CAVING - AT 11:14 A.M. ET: From the Washington Post:
JAKARTA, Feb. 18 -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western governments had failed to pressure the repressive Burmese government, signaling a potentially major shift in U.S. policy.
COMMENT: Look, there may be reasons to ease sanctions if they're hurting the people more than the government. The problem is that virtually every statement made by this administration has signalled weakness. If you're going to talk about easing sanctions, you've got to spell out what you're going to do to hurt the oppressive government. No such spelling out took place. In fact, Clinton's remarks about the Burmese government were mild.
This administration has a certain contempt for democracy, consistent with the doctrinaire left's contempt for it. Our worries grow every day.
ALWAYS FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE, THE COMMON PEOPLE - AT 8:10 A.M. ET: From the Harvard Crimson:
Harvard is quietly planning to lay off some subcontracted custodians in an effort to reduce operating costs, drawing consternation from union organizers who represent University workers.
The moves come as Harvard seeks to reduce costs through clerical staff buyouts, which officials hinted could be followed by layoffs as the University grapples with a dramatic reduction in the value of its endowment.
COMMENT: Is this hilarious, or what? These are the "intellectuals" who are endlessly telling us about their deep devotion to the "workers" and the "people." And who goes first? The janitors and the secretaries.
I've got a better idea. As one scholar suggested to us in a recent e-mail, why not eliminate all departments whose names end with the word "studies"? That would save money, and save minds at the same time.
Posted at 8:03 a.m. ET
More on the Obama foreign policy, which becomes more troubling by the hour. Hillary Clinton is in Asia, and will deal with the North Korean problem. The great John Bolton comments on her effort thus far, and doesn't like what he sees. Bolton also had the courage to break with the Bush administration on the issue:
Every incoming administration is entitled to a few weeks of touting its superiority, but the bumper stickers need to disappear when overseas travel begins, replaced by real policy, not slogans. Otherwise, observers would conclude that the president, and perhaps his secretary of State, are still running for office, rather than realizing they are already there.
Truth: They're still running for office.
Clinton accurately called North Korea's nuclear program "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia," and she established the objective that the North "completely and verifiably eliminate" its nuclear weapons activities. This familiar formulation implicitly -- and very unfortunately -- accepts that North Korea can keep a nuclear program as long as it is "peaceful." Whatever else it may be, this deal is not "smart." Leaving Pyongyang with any nuclear capability simply invites future abuse and a recurrence of the very problem we need to "eliminate."
Nice to have a little clarity of thought, right?
Equally unfortunately, Clinton made no reference to the global scope of North Korea's threat, notably in the tumultuous Middle East, where the North's contribution to nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation has long stoked regional tensions...
...The secretary's comments at a subsequent news teleconference only compounded the speech's lack of strategic breadth.
Clinton emphasized that she was prepared for "active listening" on her trip. One hopes that she will be particularly active in listening to South Korea and Japan, where the North's repeated acts of duplicity have sunk in far more profoundly than at the State Department. Although there seems to be little reason to hope that the Obama administration will actually offer "change" on North Korea policy, perhaps Clinton will at least return from Asia sobered by the depth of the North's regional and global threat.
Clinton's performance thus far on her Asian trip is muddled. She exhibits no strength of purpose. She is representing a president who seems to have little use for America's allies, but much use for its enemies. As we watch this new administration, we can't help but thinking that we're going back to the left-wing mentality of the late sixties, where democracies were suspect and dictatorships had to be "understood." That mentality began the long decline of American foreign policy that was stopped by Ronald Reagan. I wish we had another Reagan now.
February 18, 2009. Permalink
FINALLY GOT AROUND TO IT - AT 7:22 A.M. ET: During the campaign, Mr. Obama described Afghanistan as the right war. But he seems to feel that the president of that country is of little importance to winning. He described President Karzai as a man with a bunker mentality. President Obama seems to reserve his harshest criticism for America's friends. It now turns out that Obama didn't even speak to Karzai until yesterday, although American troops are fighting and dying in Karzai's country. From Fox News:
KABUL -- Presidents Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama spoke on the phone for the first time exactly four weeks after Obama's inauguration, Karzai's office said Wednesday.
The two presidents spoke about security issues and Afghanistan's presidential elections in August, Karzai's office said. Obama called the Afghan leader Tuesday, the same day Obama announced he was deploying an additional 17,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan to bolster the 33,000 already in the country.
COMMENT: So, the president decides to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and finally gets around to speaking with President Karzai. How enthusiastic do you think Mr. Karzai will be now about Obama. A few days earlier we learned that Obama returned to Britain a bust of Winston Churchill that had been displayed in the Oval Office by President Bush, although Britain never requested it.
Great moves, Mr. President. With friends like you, some of our allies don't need enemies. We recall that your first phone call to a foreign leader when you took office was to President Abbas of a non-country called "Palestine," at that your first interview, in which you groveled to the Muslim world, was with an Arab news outlet, not an American one. Precisely whose side are you on?
BYE BYE, AT 4:18 A.M. ET: General Motors has announced that it will phase out its Saturn brand by 2012, and indicated that it may phase out Pontiac as a separate division.
COMMENT: When you stop listening to customers, this is what happens.